Fur vs Skin

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11.

Your eyes show the strength of your soul.


These ‘elders’ didn’t look very elderly to me. They looked more of a group of early forty-year-olds, yet their eyes differed from what their looks gave off. I couldn’t help the returned feeling of uneasiness as I was scrutinized beneath their gazes, unaware of their thoughts about me.

Marcus watches my reaction for a short moment before he turns back to the ‘elders’, and brings his attention to the first woman: Maarika. She still holds my gaze in an observing manner, trying to figure me out through the depths of my eyes, it didn’t take much for me to avert my own and focus on the snow beneath my feet before finding someplace else to look.

The weight of her stare finally leaving my body causes me to sigh. Her stare unnerved me, it felt as if she was trying to tear into my insides and figure out what makes me what I am—looking around, the curious gazes of others betrothing in my place didn’t help a single bit. The quietest of growls rumbles through the air from Arsen, the heat of his body passing through the layer of clothes as he moves to shield me as much as he could from the sight of the others. Once successful, he releases a small gruff.

I look over my shoulder and capture his gaze that looks down at me in a perplexed manner. The expression brought the space between his brows together.

‘Adorable,’ I thought, turning away.

I come to the sight of Marcus leaning to speak with Maarika.

"Η αύρα της μου βγάζει κάτι περίεργο,” the woman speaks first, her tongue gliding effortlessly over their language.

Her aura confuses me, the words translate within my head without effort, somewhat startling me. I’ve sort of forgotten this “technique” of mine but quickly school my features when she cuts her gaze toward me again.

"Πως και?" Marcus responds.

‘How so?’

"Δεν αξίζει να μπούμε σε λεπτομέρειες. Θα την προσέχω."

‘It’s not worth going into detail about. I’ll be keeping an eye on her.’

I force myself not to break out into a cold sweat of nerves, my irises trembling with the notion of being watched, simply by the fact that I seemed unusual.

‘Is it my face?’ I couldn’t help but think insecurely.

"Για ποιο λόγο βρίσκεσαι εδώ?"

‘What’s your purpose in bringing her here?’

"Ο Arsen την βρήκε μέσα στο δάσος, όχι πολύ μακριά από την καμπίνα μου.” Marcus replies back, compassion etched on his face as if thinking deep into his thoughts.

‘Arsen found her within the forest, not too far from my cabin.’

At his response, a scoff fills the slight silence beside the occasional chatter from the other beings around us. The noise belonged to the male adjacent to Maarika with the pepper and salt colored beard: a scowl marred his features as he studied me with a twinge of disgust.

"Ο άγριος βρήκε ένα αδέσποτο. . . Η παραμονή της δεν θα πρέπει να είναι μεγάλη, έχουμε αρκετά προβλήματα έτσι και αλλιώς.”

‘The feral found a stray. . . her stay shouldn’t be long, we have enough problems as it is.’

A ball of confusion forms in my chest that intertwines with the small unmistakable emotion of hurt. The more I tried to figure out where the hurt was coming from, the more confused I got.

"Cade." the name is thickly coated in an accent as Maarika turns her attention to him.

I shift my eyes and catch Santha’s stare, mocking a questioning look, she sends me a forced reassuring smile before she turns to share a look with Marcus.

"Θα το συζητήσουμε αργότερα αυτό.” Maarika ends the conversation firmly, moving her eyes away from Cade slowly.

‘We’ll discuss this later.’


Somehow, I find myself sitting on a fallen tree bark that’s used as a bench with Arsen by my side. The hood of the coat I wore created a hollow cavern for my face, I silently thank genetics for my small figure that seemed to be swallowed by the coat as my eyes sweep the area. People shuffled in closer to the circle of logs, most of them coming from the straw wooden structures of homes that were hidden well within the wedges of trees.

Their eyes occasionally peer in my direction as they took their destinated places. With Arsen’s frame providing me shield, I felt a bit at ease, releasing a partially heavy sigh as the nagging thought of being surrounded by more than three Lycans became a distant feeling of a simple overexaggerated emotion.

A towering presence suddenly lingers behind me before it moved; swiping against the coat’s sleeve, startled, I whip around and watched as a copper-haired male made his way past me and bent down to tend to the growing fire that accumulated in the center of the logs. I couldn’t help but asset the individual before me, taking in the coiled muscles in his back as they flexed and released, I also took notice of his clothing; a skirt-like cloth made from an animal’s hide draped around his lower half, held up by a bamboo string.

Movement from my peripheral catches my attention, my eyes swiveling to the source. Marcus marches his way through the snow, a slight smile on his face as he creates a path towards me. I watch those around him, close enough to graze his clothes: keep their eyes downcast, shuffling out of his way. I registered their behavior as a sign of respect, my own gaze lingering between each person as they all bow. Within myself, I somehow found it normal— the lingering essence of déjà vu resonating at the back of my head.

“How are you feeling?” he immediately asks once he reaches within earshot of me.

Looking him up and down, drifting my gaze to all the gathering people, to mull over the question slightly; I shrug, denying the shuddering stir of emotion that cascades over my veins.

“I’m okay-ish,” I mummer, crossing my arms and cupping my elbows to my lap.

His grin stretched a little more, “At least you’re honest.”

There was a quick moment of Marcus’s eyes glazing over before his ears twitched, turning, he looks back at the elders and locked gazes with Maarika for a short second before giving his attention back to me.

“Well, I guess it’s time to introduce our guest, then.” he started, rolling his shoulders back to stand straighter.

With a friendly wink thrown toward me, he turns on his heel and walks to the other side of the bonfire. He seized everyone in the vicinity’s attention with his short strides and overwhelming aura of authority, that loomed from his pours and glided among everyone. Whatever small chitter-chatter and giggles that circulated the atmosphere, vanished as Marcus stood in the center— where the flames roared with life, the winter’s breeze igniting the glow of heat—waiting.

"Καλώς ορίσατε όλοι," he called out, his voice strong and deep, the power behind it resembling a wolf’s howl; one that guarded and leads the pack through the wild.

‘Welcome, everyone.’

The people responded to the call with their own noises, the children yipping as the older ones growled with the base of their throats, the sound vibrating the air and the hairs against my skin. I couldn’t help but be awed by the connection that ran through this pack, the response everyone gave further driving the sense of incredulous through my being. From my side, the familiar sound that clouds the air, pulsated from Arsen like a heartbeat, the action seeming to be second nature to him as well. The vibration of his growl circulates a pool of warmth in the pit of my stomach, his noise alone creating a foreign agitation within my soul. Something calls out deep in the crevices of my mind to join in, a slight scratch in my throat appearing.

"Θέλω να σας ευχαριστήσω όλους που συγκεντρώσατε εδώ σήμερα," Marcus’s voice pierces through the air, bringing me back to the reality of where I stood.

″I want to thank you all for gathering here today,′ the words translate effortlessly in my head.

"Είμαι βέβαιος ότι πολλοί από εσάς έχετε πιάσει το ξένο άρωμα του νεότερου επισκέπτη μας," his eyes cut toward me, and soon followed a few eyes, assessing me once again. I take on the act of looking confused, brows furrowed as I press deeper into the coat, the winds picking up in speed.

‘I’m sure many of you have caught the foreign scent of our newest guest.’

"Πρόκειται για κάποιον, τον οποίο αποφάσισα να πάρω κάτω από το φτερό μου λόγω των ατυχών περιστάσεων της."

‘This is someone, who I have decided to take under my wing due to her unfortunate circumstances,’

Wind sweeps strands of hair into Marcus’s face, ”Θέλω όλοι να την καλωσορίσουν σαν να ήταν κάποιος στην κοινότητα, μπορεί να είναι εδώ για λίγο,” he ends with a smile, an undertone of something else woven around the end of his words.

‘I want everyone to welcome her just as if she was someone of the pack, she might be here for awhile.’

At that moment, the vicious wind slips itself under the hood of the coat and knocks it back, my hair flowing over my shoulders and lining against my back; the wind whipping it back and forth. The barrier that caged my face was gone and I felt bare to the eyes that greedily drink in my features. I stare into the eyes of everyone, shifting across the clearing. Pulling wisps of hair from my lashes and the edge of my lips, I finger them behind and wave a gloved hand.

“Hi.”

At my small peep of embarrassment, a scorching flame presents itself at the side of my cheek, drawing my consciousness to the far side of the field; there stood leaned up against a tree, was Grey, her piercing molted eyes burning like silver in the remnants of a blacksmith’s fire. They narrowed upon the clashing of our gazes, the brewing of something dark cumulating inside them.

With a slow blink, I pray to whoever was above, to give me strength.

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