I spent the rest of the day accompanying Madison and Sky on a tour of the mountain while Thorn left to bring the rest of his pack and the children here. Dominic stayed behind to help Crasuel with alpha duties. I know that he has responsibilities but I hoped that they could have joined us.
We walked for hours and I never grew tired. I have all of this energy now and I have no idea what to do with it. This is why werewolves transition, to release it. I wanted to learn more about my genetics and witchcraft rather than various fields and rivers but I indulged Madison.
The mountain is beautiful though. We stopped for a while on the edge of a cliff that overlooked the human town and I could see my former home from there. She said that she’d often sit there and look out for me. I recognized the mansion but the lands were distant to me, like another lifetime.
We started making our way back just before sundown as though it was a habit. She showed me some of the places that the cure grows and it plays on my mind as we walk through one of the clearings that the dozens of soldiers died in. Their corpses are gone now, there’s only the faint scent of burned earth that remains.
“Is that why your pack could never leave the mountain?” I ask her. “Because you had to guard the cure?”
“Why do you call it a cure?” she says. “It doesn’t cure our transitions, it just suppresses them.”
“It’s a cure to many werewolves out there, even if it’s temporary.”
“I suppose it is. It was Atticus’ great-grandfather that first discovered the mountain and the herbs. It was this pack’s greatest duty to guard them and keep them secret. They knew that if werewolves heard of it then they’d show up here in their hundreds and there’d be too many to fight off. They knew that they would fight and kill each other over it. So they kept it for themselves and hid it from the world to stop the packs from going to war.”
“Then how did Thorn hear about it?”
“When Atticus became alpha, he began to realize that they needed things to better defend the mountain. They needed weapons and tools and more clothing because they’d spend so long in their human forms. The alphas of this mountain were never savages like the humans believed, they were civilized and smart. Atticus spotted an opportunity to make deals with other alphas and he took it. Eventually, rumours spread around the world.”
“Truants started showing up here with the intent of sneaking in and stealing it,” Sky says. “They were always caught and executed with the exception of those that were spared and given a place with us. Some werewolves love transitioning but most will do anything to end it.”
I understand why they’re desperate to end it, even just for one night. The pain that I felt was so agonizing that I can still feel it now. It lingers in your skin for a while, even my bones are still healing. It’s not about curing what they are, it’s just about having a small break from something that is out of their control every night.
“And that is why we cannot leave,” Madison says. “As long as that cure grows then we have to protect it from falling into the wrong hands.”
“The wrong alpha’s hands,” I say.
“Imagine being chained to a mountain for your entire life because of a stupid pact,” Sky says.
“It is more than a pact, Sky.”
“Is it, mother? Funny, I don’t remember selling my soul willingly.”
Madison sighs, ignoring her daughter’s outburst, and smiles at me. “As long as you remain with Thorn then you and his pack will have access to the herbs whenever you desire. You just have to promise to keep them a secret.”
Sky watches us for a moment before charging over. “Is that why you won’t let me leave? Because you don’t trust me to keep our secrets?”
“Sky, I am not having this conversation with you again.”
“Cole is gone. You can’t use him as an excuse anymore. You have no problem with Devon moving thousands of miles away so why can’t I?”
Madison walks away from us, not even entertaining the idea. Sky flares her nostrils and balls her hand into a fist.
I rub her shoulder in support before following Madison along a narrow trail. “You were willing to risk it when my life was at stake,” I say. “You sent them to me. You sent them away from the mountain not knowing if you’d ever see them again.”
“No,” Madison says, not slowing down. “Crasuel told them to find you and warn you. He did not tell them to merge themselves into the human world. They are not ready for it.”
“No offence but you didn’t see them in that human world like I did. They adapted quickly. Sky more than Dominic. She knows what she wants. All you have to do is listen to her.”
Madison slows down just before we get to the edge of the camp. She turns and folds her arms, casting her glare to the clouds. I’m not sure if she’s considering it or if she’s seconds from bursting.
“I’m leaving with Devon tomorrow,” Sky says. “Dominic will stay, he doesn’t really have a choice. But I do.”
“You are sixteen-years-old, Sky!” Madison yells. “You think that living for a few days in the human world makes you ready for it? They will eat you alive.”
“I cannot stay here!” Sky screams. “Why won’t you listen to me!”
“Because it’s ridiculous!”
“What the hell is going on?” Crasuel runs out from the trees behind Madison, looking between us with concern and alert.
“Your daughter wants to leave for England tomorrow,” Madison says quietly.
“I thought this might happen.” Crasuel rubs his chin in thought as Sky directs her teary eyes towards him. “Sky, this isn’t rational. Devon is protected but you will not be.”
I narrow my eyes. “Thorn and his pack will treat her as an equal member of their pack. She will be protected just like myself.”
“You are mated to Thorn, Devon. It is different. They have to accept you. They don’t have to accept her. Humans are cruel but werewolves even more so, especially if they are resentful.”
“You think that they’ll seek revenge for the curse?” I say.
“If they can’t get to you then yes.”
“How well do you even know them?” Madison asks. “You trust them because Thorn trusts them, right?”
I fold my arms. “Right.”
“He hasn’t been around them for over a century,” she says. “Even he doesn’t know them as well as he thinks. That curse was designed to cause suffering. When you were a wolf last night and you were running through those woods, did they seem small to you?”
I don’t really understand where she’s going with this but I nod. A human would find the woods massive and endless, like I once did. They’d get lost. For a werewolf, they can memorize every inch that they cover. And they can cover dozens of miles of it in an hour.
“Like real wolves, werewolves familiarize themselves with scents. They’ve spent an entire century trapped in an endless loop of the same scents and sights. It’s in our nature to look for something new, to keep ourselves stimulated. I’m surprised they still have their sanity.”
“What about my sanity, mother?” Sky yells. “That boredom you just described, that’s my life too.”
“She will be a target,” Madison says, looking directly into my eyes. “When they get frustrated or stressed, who do you think they’re going to take it out on?”
I don’t want to admit it but she has a point. I don’t know Thorn’s pack enough to guarantee that they wouldn’t harm Sky. I couldn’t live with myself if something bad happened to her but I don’t think I’d be able to leave tomorrow knowing that she’s miserable. The girl is twice as strong as me and yet I still feel responsible for her.
“Devon, don’t listen to them,” Sky says, pleading with me. “I can take care of myself.”
“You’re right,” I say. “I don’t know Thorn’s pack and I don’t trust his pack. But the one thing that I do trust is that he’ll never let anything happen to her. Sky deserves to see the world too. I can teach her how to read and write, I can help her blend in with the humans. You only have to look at her to know how much she wants this.”
Madison isn’t convinced but Crasuel is softening towards it. They exchange a look and Madison spits out her words.
“No, Crasuel. Don’t even think it.”
“Please, dad,” Sky cries. “I just want to find my mate and be happy. I can’t do that here. You know I can’t.”
“Your brother is going to miss you.”
Sky’s eyes go so wide that I fear she’s having a stroke. “Are you..?”
“As your alpha, you have my permission. As your father, you have my blessing.”
Sky shrieks with joy and charges at our father. She swings her arms around his shoulders and bounces excitedly. He laughs gently as he holds her closer.
“I’m going to miss you too,” he says.
Madison’s eyes fill with tears as she watches them. I don’t think there’s anything that she can do about it now and letting go is going to be hard for her. I imagine it would be hard for any mother.
“I love you both so much.” Sky drags Madison into the embrace. “I’ll be okay. I promise.”
“You should tell your brother,” Crasuel says. “Go with her, I need to speak to Devon alone.”
“Go easy on her,” Madison whispers.
I straighten, not understanding what she means by that. Sky smiles at me before they both leave. Crasuel walks a little closer, he has the look of someone that doesn’t quite know how to scramble his words together.
“I’m going to keep her safe,” I say.
“It’s not about that.”
“Thorn didn’t quite know how to tell you this so I offered to do it for him.”
I remain composed but on the inside I am panicking. Thorn and I don’t have secrets, we share everything, we tell each other everything. What could he possibly be holding back from me?
“How much do you know about the witch gene?”
“Not much, apart from the obvious.”
“Malese told Thorn that you would come into your powers and will have difficulty controlling them. He thinks she saw your future.”
“Okay? I don’t have any powers though.”
“Neither did I once. Witches have access to ancestral magic, they can cast spells and tap into natural power. The first-born of each generation is different. We have a power bestowed to us from our ancestors. Malese’s power was teleportation. Mine, as you saw, is electricity.”
I stare at his hands as a sizzling sound occurs between his palms. A blue streak of electricity jumps from one hand to the other and he squeezes his fist, crushing it in his palm and releasing smoke.
“Even if you spend your life avoiding spells, this one power will grow in you. Your werewolf gene will make it stronger. I killed a hundred people yesterday despite hardly ever learning or casting spells. Without knowing what it is, you must be careful. It can develop over time or it can catch you off guard during a moment of stress or anger. Your power can come at any time.”
He says it so casually, like I’m merely going to grow an inch taller or something. I’m not sure what being a witch feels like but I’m pretty certain that I’ve never felt like one—or anything remotely close. Then again, I was a human up until last night so anything is possible.
“What are you saying? That I’m going to have an uncontrollable power that could harm people?”
“Not necessarily harm people,” he says. “Like I said, you won’t know what it is until it activates.”
“But it could?”
“How do I stop it?”
“You can’t. You can only try and control it. For that you will need some guidance.” He flicks his eyes towards the camp. “Follow me.”
He takes me around the edge of the camp to purposely avoid all the witnesses, and I follow him into a small cabin decorated with flower baskets. I sniff them as I walk inside.
“This chest has been locked for decades,” he says. He unearths a small key from a gap in the wall and pulls out a metal box from beneath a pile of odd-smelling clothes. “Excuse the scent, it was meant as a turn off so no one would find it.”
“What’s in there?”
He places the box on top of the bed and opens it with the key. I wipe my nose as a wave of dust scatters through the air. He takes out a pile of books with blank covers. “These are Malese’s spell books. I guess she found a way to place them into her son’s life without ever seeing him.”
“Because of the teleportation,” I say.
“He locked them away and kept them hidden. He studied the books and learned some of the spells but the pack would never allow ‘human’ desires on the mountain, such as learning to read. So his children never read them and so on. He could only pass on the knowledge of the spells that he learned in secret. These books have been locked away in here for a long time.”
“And you think that those books will help me? I’m not a witch, I don’t have any magic.”
Crasuel grins. “Thorn said you’d say that. I’m sure it took you a while to believe that you were a werewolf too, didn’t it?”
“These books are your legacy. As the first-born, they should be rightfully passed to you and then to your first-born. You can choose to keep them locked away and you can choose to abandon all belief of what you are, but that power will make its way out of you with or without them.”
“You seem so sure of that but my werewolf gene triggered differently. I can’t transition like the rest of you. Maybe this is like that.”
“I can’t tell you what I don’t know, I can only tell you what I do know. Your transitioning is a complete mystery. Mates have never shared it. But Thorn isn’t connected to you through your witch side, it’s separate. Please, take the books. If not for yourself then do it for Sky, she’ll need help too.”
I pick one of the books up from the bed and I open it cautiously. In the very first page, I am greeted with symbols and confusing diagrams of talismans. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to try and understand this. But having something inside of me that I cannot control is a deeper concern, one that is already making me paranoid. What if I hurt someone? What if I lose my temper and someone I love gets killed? What if that person is Thorn or Sky? If there is no way to stop it then I’ll need help to get a handle on it.
“Be careful though,” he says. “Once you teach her how to read, she’ll be reading them day and night. I don’t want her to become obsessed with magic. It can be dangerous.”
“I’ll keep an eye on her,” I say. I close the book and I throw it back into the chest. “How many witches are out there?”
“A lot. They’re hard to track down though, they tend to stay isolated with their covens. A few centuries ago, there was this big war between witches and werewolves. It didn’t end well. Both sides agreed to a truce as long as they were left alone.”
“They were at war with each other? That’s surprising considering. . .”
“Malese and Atticus,” he says. “Yes. We are a very rare species. As far as I know, we are the only ones that share both genetics. Werewolves can just about tolerate it but witches are another story.”
“They shunned Malese from her coven.”
He nods. “And that was only because they weren’t strong enough to kill her. If you ever come across one, don’t reveal what you are.”
“I won’t.” I place the key back into the box and I lock it, dropping the key into my pocket. “Thank you.”
He smiles and places his hand out towards the door. “The party is starting. Best not to keep them waiting.”
I start to follow him but I turn around at the last moment, glancing back at the chest. Malese left those books for a reason, maybe there’s answers in them that I’ll never find in the real world. Maybe I can figure out why I’m different. Maybe it doesn’t matter. What does matter, is figuring out what the hell is going to break out of me—and I don’t mean the wolf.