03 – Mothers & Daughters

I stare at the well-placed pyre. My father has been cleaned up and his body lies atop the massive pile of wood, enshrouded in his finest attire. His hands rest on the hilt of his sword. His cloak weighs heavy on my shoulders. It is the last give he will ever give me. My eyes burn from lack of sleep, and I am empty of any emotion.

Luna left with her mate immediately and without a fight. I do not begrudge her the happiness of finding her mate. I wish it were not at the expense of my father’s life. Anger bubbles to the surface again. Had Morrigan been here she could have done anything to turn the tides. My shoulders tense, expecting her to appear suddenly and box my ears for such a wicked thought.

My father was correct in saying we honor the Old Ways. Fated mates are not to be denied, and while his death crushes my heart, he left us fighting. Viggo stands to my right, his hand on my shoulder. His silent strength helps me face the grim task of sending my father to his final resting place. What if my father had been wrong and I cannot care for the pack as I should?

“Are you ready, Alpha?” His voice is low and gentle, but he is trying to guide me to give my father the proper send-off to Valhalla.

I stare at my father’s corpse, unwilling to let him go. I need him now, more than ever. How could the Gods do this to me?

“It is time, Rolf,” Viggo urges with a light shake of my shoulder to pull me out of my melancholy stare. I shrug his hand away and growl.

The pack members grow quiet in response. The mix of fear and disgust rolls off them like a skunk cloud and pains me to feel their distrust. I am the cursed Alpha. No one stepped forth when Viggo performed the ceremony, transferring my father’s power to me. The cut on my hand has already healed, but the pain lingers in my heart.

“You must be the one to send him,” Viggo commands.

“I damn well know what I must do, Beta.” I snarl.

The audible gasp from the pack makes me grit my teeth. I cannot even send my father off without drama.

“Fine! You all are so eager to be rid of my father? We will send him off!” I snatch the torch out of the cauldron, causing the flames to whip the air. My fingers curl tight around the base and I hesitate. The weight of having to walk across the field to my father’s pyre is too heavy a burden.

“I know, nephew. I know.” Viggo murmurs and rests his hand back on my shoulder. “We are all with you. Now send him home.”

I swallow hard and nod, taking a firm step forward.

The wind howls and the temperature plummets causing those around the pyre to cower against their loved ones for warmth. Puffs of steam from breaths gasped flutter like taunting ghosts in the early morning sunlight. The flames of my torch dance and flicker in violent protest to the icy wind that swirls them into a miniature whirlwind before it snuffs them out.

“Stop!” Morrigan’s voice cries over the murmurs of fear, and the pack parts like a ship cutting through waves. “Stop, Rolf! Do not light that pyre!”

“What is the meaning of this, woman?” I snarl, turning to face her rushing figure, only to stare at the absolutely terrifying sight of my mate’s mother. Her hair is loose and whipping about her. Platinum strands rival the dark auburn curly locks. Her skin holds a bluish tone, as though she has been sleeping outside, in ice.

“Ragnarök!” She gasps as she flings herself at me. “Do not burn him here! The forsaken who burn and do not find their way home will open the gates of Jötunheimr. Sun and fire are smothered to the might of ice. Valhalla falls, and Odin bows. You cannot send your father off here. He must be returned to the home of your ancestors!”

I drop the torch and roughly take her by the forearms, ignoring the snarling Viggo behind me. The pack is growing more agitated and their voices flood my mind along with aloud as she spews forth her cryptic witch babble.

“Cursed are those banished here. To make it right, you must see him home, Rolf. Please,” Morrigan’s pleas ring in my ears.

My mark burns when she shoves her fingers under my shirt, and she plants her palm against it.

I grit my teeth and my body shakes. Her deathly icy touch pours through my skin and into my bones, making me groan. Blackness consumes my vision, followed by lightning flashes of images. Werewolves shredding werewolves to pieces. Witches burning everything in sight. Massive giants stomping them out with pillars of ice hurled like pebbles. The Valkyries fly.

Chaos swarms everywhere and the Trickster himself sits upon a shimmering throne made of ice crystals. Dead before him on the alter is a lone woman with fire for hair, her pale green eyes staring blankly back at me.

“She lives. She lives. You must find her, Rolf. She is in danger. If you do not take your father to be sent off from Ireland, Ragnarök!”

Another audible chorus of gasps echo across the field. The icy pallor is gone, the blackness in her eyes fades. She swoons and Viggo catches her.

“What do we do?”

“She has cursed him again.”

“She has cursed us all.”

“We should burn her.”

“We should banish all of them. The Ivarsens are all cursed.”

I flick my head at Viggo who notes, scoops up Morrigan, and quickly leaves with Morrigan.

I face the unsettled mob.

“Brothers, Sisters, calm yourselves,” My voice cracks and I clear my throat. The horrific scene of seeing a woman who resembles Lily haunts me as I struggle to gain control. “She has not cursed me. Morrigan’s magic is in visions, not in curses. She is one of us as much as all of you are. The next words of threatening harm to my kinswoman will result in your banishment.”

Angry whispers and stares greet my words.

“What is this Ireland?”

“Do you truly believe in…”

“I will get the answers to do what is best for the entire pack. Now, go to your homes, and prepare for tonight’s feast in honor of Ivar.” I drop my tone and use the commanding power of an Alpha to force them into compliance. The last thing I need is for a fool to set my father ablaze before I can talk with Morrigan.

I remain standing at the head of my father’s pyre, staring up at him, a lone sentinel in his afterlife. “I wish you were here,” I murmur and lower my head as I close my eyes. The chill has not left my bones since Morrigan touched me a second time. The angry, violent power coursing through my body causes me to fear that she has awakened the evil Silar planted inside me when he made me hurt my Lily.

“She is asking for you,” Viggo’s somber voice calls from a few feet behind me.

“Then bring her to me. I am not leaving my father unattended.”

“She is weak, Rolf. The pup is in danger.” The waiver in Viggo’s voice breaks my heart.

I brought all this pain and suffering to his family. I lead the Fates to my father. I failed Lily when she needed my strength. My mark sends waves of pain into my chest and I gasp, finally turning to face Viggo. “Remain and stand guard. Do not let anyone set my father ablaze.”

“Yes, Alpha,” he nods as he steps into the field to replace me at the head of Ivar’s pyre.

I rub my chest as I walk quickly to Viggo’s hut. “Morrigan,” I call when I ease back the bear fur.

“Rolf, I am sorry. I could not stop it. When I touched you, something happened. They forced themselves through the vision. Oh God, Lily. Please, Rolf, please. You have to find her. You must take your father to Ireland.”

“Calm yourself, woman. I am not abandoning my pack to go to Éire on the rantings of a…” I stop myself and look at Morrigan with a critical gaze, my brows drawn together in angry frustration. I was about to call her a witch, but this is the mother of my mate. I can see Lily’s eyes in hers, and Morrigan is staring up at me as if she is holding on to the last shreds of her sanity.

“Morrigan, please. My uncle and your pups need you to be whole. I have been wrong all these months to abuse your gifts and have angered the Gods enough they have taken my mate and my father. You must let this business go.” Unwilling to say the word Ragnarök for fear I might call it forth.

“No!” She shrieks at me and I am taken aback. “You listen to me, and you listen good, Rolf Ivarsen.” Morrigan waddles herself up off the palette of furs and brandishes a finger at me. “Those visions are not some nightmare a mourning mother conjures! What I saw has yet to pass. I saw you burn your father, followed by a werewolf gut my daughter like a fish from the bay. You will take your father to Ireland and return him to his ancestors, or so help me, you will wish I only cursed you. You asked me to help you find your mate and bring her home.”

I have to bite my lip to keep from smiling at how much she reminds me of Lily when Lily gets worked up. If she had a true vision of prophecy, I cannot discount it. “I cannot transport my father that far. He will decay before we arrive.”

“That will not be a worry for you. I have a solution for that.”