Chapter 15 pt.1

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Chapter Fifteen

In which the cottage is seized by despair and hope...

Birds chirped nearby. Soryn was bathed in warmth. This confused him since he last remembered being in a dank, dark burrow under the earth. He listened—the reality of what happened not yet registering in his mind. A crackling sound—a fire— and the scrape of something metal struggling against another hard surface caught his attention. A soft sleeping pallet lay underneath him. Opening his eyes, he was astonished to find he was back in the cottage. Looking up, he saw Fanndis standing over the hearth stirring a small cauldron of soup.

“I see you’re awake.” Her voice was low, angry.

“Fanndis?” Soryn mumbled, still not understanding how he had gotten back there.

When he rose up, a sharp, stabbing pain rippled throughout his head and neck.

“Don’t move. You’ve hurt your head. I expect it’s that idiot Fenris that’s to blame for that—though you’re certainly to blame, too!” Her mood was clearly volatile.

Suddenly, the memories of the previous night rushed back to Soryn and he shot up, ignoring the blasting pain throughout his body and cried, “Arna!”

“Calm down. She’s here with us. Though, you’ll not be talking with her today.” A despairing look settled upon the old woman’s face and she appeared to have aged in the night.

Soryn felt an icy weight drop in his stomach. “What’s happened, Fanndis?”

“See for yourself.” She jerked her head towards the cottage’s front door.

Soryn followed her gaze and nearly jumped out of his skin. A man sat in a chair, wrapped in a patchwork blanket. At first, Soryn thought it was Fenris, but then he saw the mole beneath the left eye: Olan. He was shivering and had streams of tears flowing down his cheeks.

“Olan?” Soryn whispered.

Olan stared off into empty air and did not appear to have heard Soryn’s questioning utterance. Fanndis exhaled.

“In all my years…I would never have expected something like this. Never!” Fanndis sighed, clanking the ladle onto the soup catcher on the hearth.

She stomped off into the back room. Her heavy footfalls made Soryn shudder. He stared at Olan. His brother sat there, eyes wide and gazing into space as if his entire world had been ripped from him. When Soryn thought about it honestly, he supposed it had—if Olan truly had been the white wolf they had all come to know. Ulf had a mate, a family of cubs; another life. Soryn and Arna had destroyed that. It had been unintentional, of course, but they had destroyed it, nonetheless. Lord Maslyn grimaced at the bile that rose in his throat. He raced to the window, opened the shutters and retched into the snow.

Soryn looked over towards Arna’s room, but the shutters were closed. The sound of harnesses caught his attention and he looked up to see Stigg bringing Ivan around to the barn. When Stigg saw Soryn, he just looked away—as though it were too painful to look upon the boy. Soryn retched again. After he pulled his head back into the room, he closed the shutters. Fanndis beckoned him into the kitchen. Olan remained in his chair, eyes still staring and empty. In the kitchen, Fanndis sat at the table and gestured for Lord Maslyn to take a seat.

“We need to have a conversation, Soryn,” Fanndis quipped.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, trying to hold himself together.

“Soryn, what you and Arna did was reckless to say the least—but let me finish. I understand that what you did was done out of love and the desire to return your brother back to his original form. However, once I talked with Ulla in the kitchen, I knew he was Fenris. I knew, because Olan told me. Ulf had come back with us to the cottage and Ulf told me never to trust Ulla. He explained that the pig was really Fenris and the white wolf, himself, was Olan. Because I have known Ulf for many years and I trust him, I believed him at once. I had not kept a guard on my mind and Ulla found out I knew the truth. Because of that, I had to run to Valkyrie to see what could be done to keep you all safe.

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