Chapter Twenty: Light
The Black Luna’s eyes bore into mine. She walked forward slowly, taunting me with her pace. She seemed to be shaking slightly, perhaps she was exhausted or maybe the tension in her body was too much for her to handle.
My eyes moved over to her mate who was still pinned to the ground. If I had thought he would save me from his mate twice—I was wrong. His eyes were on his daughter. I followed his gaze and stared at the small girl to my right.
She was tall for her age and slender. She had light blonde hair that sat in curls to her shoulders. One curl was stark black, either it came from her father or it was a trait all Black Luna’s shared.
The girl seemed to be the only one who was not constricted by her mother’s hold. In fact, she was moving slowly towards her mother, a look of wonder on her lovely face.
“I’m sorry,” the Black Luna whispered when she came close to me. “I’ve come to far to die now, it’s either kill or be killed.”
There was a look of desperation and sorrow in her expression that made me feel pity for her. She had finally found her daughter, but I was here, ruining the reunion. She looked tired—like she had been running for years with no chance to catch her breath.
“You’re like me,” the small voice sent the Black Luna twirling around. She stared down at her daughter with wide eyes.
A small smile graced her lips, “No, you’re like me.”
The tiny girl quirked her head to the side, “Are you going to hurt that lady like you hurt my Grandpa?”
The Black Luna stiffened as she looked back at me, “Your grandpa is a bad man.”
“But she isn’t,” the young girl guessed. Her eyes which were an odd grey colour held intelligence far beyond her years. The Black Luna realised then that her daughter could pose as a problem, with a flick of her wrist, her mate was released.
Logan darted forward, ignoring everything but his daughter. He dropped to his knees in front of her and grabbed her arms, flinching when she pulled away. “I’m your, Dad,” he croaked, “Ebony, I’m going to take care of you.”
“Go with him,” the Black Luna ordered, “Go.”
The young girl looked from her mother, to me, and then to her grandfather who was still unconscious. Her tiny fingers grabbed Logan’s hand and the two of them rushed off into the trees.
Slowly, the Black Luna turned to me. Tears collected in her eyes as she raised her hands. “I just got my family back,” she told me, “I can’t die now. You have to die instead.” I nodded and looked to Seb who looked as though he was about to go out of his mind. His nose bled the more he tried to escape the hold the woman in front of me put on him.
Rayne wriggled and snapped her jaws, trying to protect me like she had since I was young. Even Cal tried to break through the invisible field as he clutched his broken wrist to his chest.
I looked back to the Black Luna and smiled, “Go ahead.” I let my eyes slide close and took a deep breath, waiting for impact. It was silent for the briefest second and then I was hurtled through the air. My back hit a tree with a sharp snap and I drew in a breath of surprise. Before I could catch my breath I was flung through the air again, this time I came crashing down on a large rock.
I heard my leg snap and felt my eyes snap open in surprise. I looked around and saw nothing but white all around me. I shook my head and focused my vision. To my left Logan was struggling to keep a hold of his daughter who was screaming and flailing her arms. And above me stood the Black Luna.
She raised a hand out towards me and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. My hands flew up to pry off the hands that weren’t at my neck. I was being choked without being touched. Black spots danced in front of my eyes as my brain started to slow.
I could taste blood in my mouth and could hear my heart beat in my ears. I closed my eyes and thought of Seb when he played the piano for me. And when he pulled me up from the bottom of the swimming pool. I thought of how he protected me from his Dad and cradled me when I was hurt. I thought of the way his smile pulled down slightly at the corner and how his eyes squinted as he laughed.
I was suddenly filled with a longing for life that I had never felt before. I didn’t want to die even though I was dying. I gasped and choked as I struggled to breathe, but my efforts were vutile, there was no escaping her hold.
And then suddenly, the pressure at my throat ceased and I was able to breathe. I heard a cry of anguish and opened my eyes to once again see nothing by light.
But this light wasn’t blindingly white, instead it was a deep gold colour that seemed to fill the forest around me. I looked around and realised suddenly that the light was coming from me. I raised an arm to see that the light was seeping out of my skin and dancing around my legs. It swirled around me, creating a wind that lifted my hair and grazed my cheeks.
The Black Luna in front of me was pale and dark in comparison to my shining light. She backed away slowly until she was surrounded by the people she had frozen. Suddenly, I was standing, the pain in my leg and chest forgotten.
I looked to Seb who had stopped struggling and was staring at me with awe, his mouth was hanging wide open. I looked down at my body just as it began to change. My legs shortened and bent inwards and my bare feet morphed into paws.
My hands were covered with golden fur as my fingers shorted and claws sprouted where fingernails had once been. My face felt like it was being pulled forward as it elongated into a snout. My ears slid backwards on my head until they stood up and twitched at every sound.
I was covered in golden fur and was still oozing light when the transformation had finished. I stood up on the rock I was lying on and lowered my back legs and raised my head straight into the air. I let out a long, piercing howl that was more melodic than feral.
When the note had finished I dropped my head and looked around at all the awe struck faces. Daryn Reynolds had woken up but sat motionless at the base of a tree, staring. Logan and his daughter stayed crouched among the foliage, partially hidden from view.
I noticed than that the hold the Black Luna had on the people in front of me no longer existed. But they were still regardless. I stepped off of the large rock and felt the grass slide between the spaces in my paws. The ground seemed to tremble slightly as I moved forward, as if my touch shook the earth to its very core.
The Black Luna stood small and delicate before me, the trembling in her bones was worse. For the first time, I realised that she looked sick. Her cheeks were hollow and her blonde hair was lank around her face. She was unnaturally thin and her skin had a greyish pallor. She looked worse than the death she was about to deliver to me moments before.
I opened my mouth and unspoken words flew out. I wasn’t speaking exactly, but I knew they all understood me. My words were silent but powerful, Haven Mathie, the Black Luna.
The Black Luna bowed her head, “That’s me.”
You tried to escape the prophecy the Goddess placed upon you, the words were not my own, I was merely their vessel.
She shook even harder, “Yes,” she said rather bluntly, “I did.”
Instead of taking your daughter and mate and fleeing, you chose to try and bend fate to your will. If you had simply left—the prophecy would have died.
“I’m sorry,” she said. Her eyes travelled to her mate’s and they shared a prolonger look of a shared agony.
Since you let the power consume you, you have been dying slowly. You were not given your gifts so that they could control you, your body needed an equal balance which you did not give it.
The Black Luna’s shoulders sagged and her skeletal hands went over her face as she sobbed. In the back of my mind, the pity I had felt earlier resurfaced. But for now, I was meant to deliver a message.
You’re heart is strong, and so is your drive. And for this reason I have decided to be merciful.
I realised suddenly that it was the Moon Goddess herself that was using my voice as her own. Without meaning to, I lunged forward, my paws outstretched towards the Black Luna’s throat.
I waited for my body to collide with hers but it never did. Instead my golden paws sunk right through her as if I were no more than smoke. As I tore through her body a guttural scream tore itself from the Black Luna’s mouth.
I landed on the grass behind her and spun to see her fall to her knees, a dark smoke was rising from her skin, seeping out of her like the golden light had me. She titled her head back as the smoke unfurled from within her and climbed towards the sky. The black streak in her hair dissolved and faded until it was the whitish blonde colour it had been before.
She seemed to sigh in relief as whatever dark force that had controlled her was taken away. She turned to face me and smiled, her green eyes no longer holding sadness but an unspeakable gratefulness.
“Thank you,” she whispered. And then she collapsed. Logan raced forward, sliding beside her. He pulled his mate’s head into his lap and rocked back and forth. His daughter stood behind his shoulder, looking bewildered as she cried.
I sat back on my haunches just as an unidentifiable pain rippled through my body. I let out a feral howl as I started to burn. I felt as though every part of me was on fire. I heard my name being screamed over and over again as I slowly transformed back into my normal self, shedding my golden skin.
I opened my eyes and saw Seb’s green eyes before they were consumed by the golden light.
I was standing beside a small stream. Silver pebbles glinted along the shore and winked in the moonlight. I looked around to see that the silver trees had no tops, instead they seemed to be only trunks that went up and up forever.
I looked around and found the rock I had been lying on minutes before behind me. I sat down on it and ran my hands along it’s cool surface, mulling over the idea that it was going to be the place I was going to die.
The air in front of my rippled and bent, turning silvery white as a woman stepped forward. She was easily the most beautiful woman I had seen in my entire life. She had long white-silver hair that fell down her back in slight waves. Her face was beautiful and pure, childlike almost. She was tall, slim and full of power like and arrow waiting to be shot from a bow. Her eyes were as dark as the night sky, it was the only dark thing about her.
“Hello, my child,” she cooed, “You’ve done so well.”
“You’re not my mother,” I whispered. In some distant part of my brain I knew that my mother didn’t look like that, she had brown hair and blue eyes.
She smiled patiently, “I am everyone’s mother. I am nature’s mother. I am the mother of wolves and the moon.”
I nodded, as if this made perfect sense. “Have I died then?” The last thing I had remembered was the fire consuming my body.
She shook her head, glitter fell from her hair. “No, my dear, you are perfectly fine. I’m sorry about the pain I caused you, your mortal body can only hold my power for so long before you begin to burn. I overstayed my welcome in your mind. I’m gone now, your body is your own and you are safe. I just wanted to speak with you before I left.”
For some reason, the thought of this woman leaving made me frown, “Why are you going?”
“Because I have many children to look after.”
“Oh,” I breathed. That made sense.
“I’m very proud of you, Serena. I must admit that I was not sure if you were going to be strong enough to withhold the trials I had planned for you. You surprised me pleasantly.”
I frowned, “You made my life hard?”
“Only so you would grow to be strong,” she explained softly. “I needed you to defeat the Black Luna so that the people would see you as a strong Queen, one worth following. You need to unite the people with their royals, connect them.”
“Why me? Why not Seb?”
The Goddess smiled, “My Sebastian has a temper as most males do in your race. Werewolves as a whole worship a female figure, it is in their nature to follow a man but to listen to a woman. Without a strong Queen, there cannot be a King. You are that Queen, that is why I sent you to Sebastian.”
“Why didn’t you let me shift?” I asked her petulantly.
She laughed and the air around her rippled, “Because as much wolf as there is in your brothers and sisters, there is human as well. This is something that many forget. I made sure you never shifted to allow you to appreciate the strength of a human and so you would not rely on the wildness of a wolf.”
It was odd having my life explained to me as if it were a carefully planned novel and not a collection of sporadic events. I looked to the woman before me to see her gazing lovingly at my face.
“I love you, my Serena. Just as I have always loved you. Return now to your mate, and be the Queen I need you to be.”
Before I could protest, everything around me fell away and the Goddess disappeared. For a moment, I was suspended and then I was falling.