5: WILDFIRE

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Skye

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Skye

In the hours after Xáan announced his hatred of the Ru-Yeva – and that she had caused his father's death – I sought to be alone. I had to find out what really happened.

When I'd tried to make Xáan answer for his ridiculous claim, Xunnu had held me back. Perhaps it was because he knew his brother's words to be lies, or perhaps he was trying to protect Xáan from my wrath. And so I withdrew from the rest of the world in an attempt to connect with my past life.

The icy water of the stream tickles my bare feet, but I pay it no heed. I stare at the constellations as transient memories trickle into my mind. I focus on my breathing as I lose myself to the all-too-familiar grasp of Sejka's thoughts and feelings from long ago.

I could transform since the day I was brought into this world.

Such a phenomenon was unheard of, and it certainly spelled danger for me right from the start. Yeva'si – and Lycans, for that matter – are not born with the knowledge of the Transformation. Rather, they grow into it. They have to learn the forms just as a person would learn to read and write or to ride a bike. Some never fully mastered more than two or three such forms.

"Your aunt fainted when she saw what you could do, Sejka," Father told me when I was old enough to understand. "But I know who you really are. And so the name I chose for you reflects your past life – a glorious chieftain called Sitka. Someday you shall remember his experiences and gain some of your own. You will be our Ru-Yeva."

He kept this between the three of us – himself, my mother and me. He had begged the others not to say anything about my shapeshifting abilities to Sehwen, for surely I would be put to death if our chieftain found out. But the members of my tribe had been reluctant to keep such a secret.

"She has the Sickness, Sajnu," they had told him. "She shouldn't be allowed to stay here."

Father had shaken his head. "No. She is just more attuned to nature than the rest of us. Give her a chance. I will raise her well. I will teach her."

They agreed to give him one chance. Any sign of a feral nature and justice would prevail. The raven tribe – or Yáahl, as we called ourselves – would not allow any of its members to become dangerous. Life was dangerous enough as it was.

As the years went by, I soon learned of my...talents.

I knew I was different from the others. I could do things that they could not. Father told me not to use my many forms until others of my age had accomplished their First Transformation. I had asked him why. I wanted to brag about my abilities, and I let them slip to some of the other children. He forbade me to speak of them until I came of age. He would not say why, and whenever I pressed for answers he would grow silent.

It was one summer, far in the past, that the memories all came back to me.

I had seen eight winters, and my younger brother Koyah had seen four. I was a disobedient child, and Father had caught me once again. He had imprisoned me for five sun-downs already. I was forced to spend all my time in our little dugout home. Father wanted to punish me for running off the night before with Xunnu.

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