01 – Echoes of the Future

March 1288

The Gods saw it fit to give us the harshest winter we have ever seen, which effectively ruined my father’s plans to send me to the land of my ancestors. Three long months of bitter, icy cold, plague our villages. Only the strongest of warriors have been able to hunt.

Day after day, I seek Morrigan to help me find Lily, and each day, I am disappointed. Taking that disappointment, I throw myself into the hunts. No prey is safe from my wounded heart. As the days pass by, I worry that I am turning feral without Lily here to complete me. The bitter cold barely phases me as I terrorize the forest around our pack.

Sacha’s mating ceremony brought little joy to the pack, as she lost her pup and mate soon after to the cold. She has not sought comfort with me, thankfully. I fear she has fallen into the pack members who believe I am cursed because I murdered my mate. Even my father has found solitary tasks for me to do. With no other children to continue my father’s line, he won’t banish me, but I have heard Luna pressing him on the matter when she thinks they are alone. When I close my eyes, Lily’s haunting face tortures me. I wake shouting her name, and have hurt two servants who tried to rouse me.

The longer Lily remains missing, my desire to fulfill my duties diminishes. If Morrigan cannot find her I will turn to the Lenape. Lily trusted the old wise woman who dared to interact with the pack, but they have not yet returned from where they migrate to during the winter. I have a flicker of hope that Lily may be with them. Maybe they found her in the woods, wounded, and took her in.

I stand outside of Viggo and Morrigan’s hut, as I do every morning since I woke here. The sun has not quite crested the horizon, but I know Morrigan is awake. Her pup is giving her fits in her belly, and she is always awake when I intrude upon her kindness. Frozen in place, fear grips my heart that today will be the day she tells me Lily is lost forever.

Without thought, I rub my mate mark which burns my skin and causes me to shift my weight. The hairs on my neck tingle with the nagging sensations that I cannot linger here if I am to find my mate. If she were truly lost to me, the mark would scar over, and I could take another. The burning tree is as bright as the night it formed and brands me. Hope and dread fill me that it has brought me great discomfort over the past three days. I want Morrigan to give me answers and stop with her cryptic witch babble.

  When the bear fur is drawn back from the doorway, Viggo steps through and blocks my path. “Do you not have anything better to do than to hound my mate, boy?” He crosses his arms as he frowns down at me.

“Your mate is my only chance to find what is mine.”

“Yes, and the answer has been the same every morning you have come here. Do you not think she would tell you if she had found her own daughter?”

I snarl and run my fingers through my unkempt hair. I know Viggo is right, but hope that the answer might be different today drives me forward. “The mark burns worse today! Maybe she has done something!” I shout at my uncle.

“Let him in, Viggo. He’s hurting.” Morrigan’s gentle voice calls from behind the bear skin.

“That does not give him the right to disturb you further. You are the one who pays the toll when the magic is used, not he. Does he not care that you carry a pup?” Viggo’s piercing gaze burns into me and guilt wells more in my chest as he squares his shoulders to hide Morrigan further.

“Your pup is fine. I want to find Lily too. Let him in.” Her delicate hand reaches up and touches Viggo’s shoulder, causing him to relent.

“Fine. This is the last time, Rolf.” He points at me and the finality in his voice makes my heart hurt.

“Thank you, uncle,” I murmur as I pass him to follow Morrigan into their home.

“You said your mark is burning?” Morrigan brushes aside my shirt to inspect the burning tree. “It is brighter today.” She gives me a hopeful smile.

“I need to find her,” I beg, desperate to have my other half back. “I would forsake all the Gods to have her back,” I whisper.

Morrigan boxes my ear, and to my surprise it actually hurts.

“Be careful what oaths you mutter aloud, pup. You never know when a trickster will take you at your word.” Her eyes swirl with magic as she stares at me.

I am forced to look away first, with how uneasy her magic makes me.

“Now, let’s begin,” her voice softens again.

I ease off my cloak, followed by my shirt to give her access to my mark and scars.

Her delicate fingers brush along my chest, and Viggo snorts his displeasure in the corner.

I can’t blame him for not liking his mate touching another man. I wouldn’t like it either.

Morrigan gasps when her fingers land on my mark and the entire room tilts, causing me to grab her waist. Words spew forth in hissed tones, dark and ominous. Nothing she says makes sense. To an uneducated soul she speaks gibberish.

I try to look to Viggo, but find I am frozen in place.

The longer she speaks this vicious tongue, the worse the elements grow. The wind wails. The temperature drops fast enough my panting breath causes puffs of steam.

Louder and louder she grows, the pain biting through my mark and chilling my blood, making me howl in pain.

Viggo snarls but is held as frozen in place as I am.

The pinnacle of chaos halts, leaving the hut in complete silence, frost kisses every inch of every surface inside.

My heart races and my chest stings with the biting cold. Now free to move, I reach up to remove her fingers from my mark, believing this terrible experience to be finished. When my hand curls around Morrigan’s, her eyes lock onto mine, a black magic shadowing any hints of my cunning mother-in-law. She utters the one word a Viking never wants to hear, “Ragnarök!”

Fear blankets me heavier than the frost covering Viggo’s home as Morrigan collapses in my arms.

Viggo rushes forward, snatching Morrigan from me. “You will speak of this to no one. No one, Rolf. Now be gone. You are no longer welcome here.”

I shake my head no in disbelief. Viggo cannot deny me the one person who can help me. How will I ever find Lily now?

When I do not move, Viggo snarls at me. “I said be gone!”

My shoulders droop, and gaze lowers. Each step out of Viggo’s home is heavier than the last. I rub my hand over my face to ward off the tears threatening to overwhelm me.

I don’t care that I left my cloak or my shirt behind. I tear through my remaining clothes as I shift and run for the forest as fast as my paws will carry me. There is no understanding what she chanted, but whatever she said cannot be good. I remember Lily speaking in tongues in my dreams, and it always ends in blood.

I run hard and fast, not caring which way I go. All I want is for my mate to come home, and to make fat, healthy pups with her. The last hints of winter’s frost crunches under my paws as I tear through the forest. After I can run no more I find myself alone in a clearing, panting and my legs wobbling from how drained I suddenly am. Sitting roughly, I throw my head back and howl at the sky for my loss.

Why couldn’t the Gods have let us be?

I flop down and whine, succumbing to the torture I call sleep.

The scent of blood fills my nostrils, the icy cold snow kisses my skin. The taint of dark magic fills the air. Lily’s father lays dead next to me, the foul taste of his blood lining my mouth. Nicodemus, his brother, lays dead not far away from us.

All I can focus on is Lily.

My sweet Lily is covered in blood and looks as though she has been beaten. Her eyes are wild with magic and tears steam as they run down her cheeks.

I watch, frozen in terror, as she plunges the dagger into her chest, completing whatever horrific ritual her father had forced upon her. The memories I have are of standing in front of my mate while she sobs, beaten and bloody, rage filling me as I could not protect her. The scene my mind has conjured this morning is different, and worse. I can smell all the scents of the Windraven brothers and Lily around me. Her pain as her life ebbs radiates through our bond.

“Lily!” I scream, but no sound escapes me. How did I get here? When did I kill her father? Who killed Nicodemus?

That’s when I see the creature before Lily turn his head from my beloved mate and narrow his eyes at me.

“You, young wolf, should not be here.” He hisses.

I gasp awake, expelled from the dream. My body aches and my mark burns like a brand freshly applied. Every memory of that fateful day floods my mind, causing stabbing pain in my temples. Forced to shift back into human form, I vomit. Morrigan’s warning about threatening the Gods must be coming true and my scalp feels like it is being ripped from my head with how hard the pain throbs. I collapse onto my side, curling into the fetal position, sobbing.

The last memory that floods my mind, is my precious mate sacrificing her own life to save mine.

“Lily,” I whine.