“Marius . . .”
The voice I heard was music to my ears, a crescendo that reminded me of tinkling wind chimes as they fluttered softly in the wind. It begged me to draw closer, to explore the secrets it promised were hidden deep within my blood.
“Wake up, Marius.”
I wanted to. Oh, God, I really wanted to, but the encroaching darkness refused to allow me the luxury of doing just that. A soft hand pressed against my forehead, the scent of lavender and vanilla tickling my senses. The smell was heavenly. Breathing deeply, I drew it into my lungs so deeply I could taste it.
“Be a good boy, Marius,” the voice continued. “Open your eyes, Love. Come back to me.”
Every ounce of my being wanted to do as she asked. Yet my body refused to listen. It was as if I was stuck within a vortex that refused to let go of me; a vortex that insisted on keeping me forever. That thought frightened me as the shadows crept closer.
The flutter of a soft hand descended upon my cheek, moving across my skin so softly I thought I imagined it. The woman’s touch was divine. It soothed the raging fire coursing through my veins threatening to consume me as the minutes continued to pass.
“Where am I?”
“Home. I need you to come home.”
Her fingertips slid across the curve of my chin; the palm of her hand curling gently about my face. A soft moan escaped me as I allowed myself to revel in the feel of her touching me. “What if I don’t want to?”
The sound of her tongue clicking against the top of her mouth drew forth the basal instincts slumbering deep inside of me. Her scent and the lure of her voice beckoned me. I yearned to awaken, to free myself from this darkened prison in which I lay. Most of all, I yearned to lose myself within her. That very thought frightened me in more ways than one.
“Marius . . .”
“Who are ya?”
“Come to me, Marius. Follow the sound of my voice.”
Clawing through the murky depths surrounding me, I sought to find her. She was the reason the beast within me was no longer at bay. Fury boiled beneath the surface as I clamored to see the light. I would not rest until I lay my eyes upon the angel whose voice comforted me.
“I’m lost,” I replied, gasping for breath.
“Feel me, Love. Sense my presence as I sit here beside you. Allow the beast within you to break through.”
The feel of her fingers stroking my brow soothed the animal that was no longer dormant within me. He clamored to be freed with every movement of her hand. I could feel him bristling with anticipation, stirring further as she examined every part of my body. He purred and growled at the appropriate points, pleased with the attention she lavished upon me.
“You’ve nothing to fear.”
“I don’t want to hurt ya.”
“I trust you.”
The wolf awoke. All thoughts of the woman were forgotten as he strained against the confines of my body, eager to loosen the restraints that held him within me. The thought of running free urged him on. He scratched at every corner of the darkness, searching for a sign of weakness I could not see. Everywhere he turned, he pushed back the gloom. He would not rest until he was completely free.
Soon, a sliver of light shone within the obscurity. Elation rippled through him as he continued to push the shadows away. It was then that the wolf’s soul and mine were merged. We were one and the same, eager to taste the world that was now spreading out before us.
Together, the wolf and I shoved the rest of the tenebrosity aside. Inch by inch, we forced more of the light to shine through. Soon, a tumescent glow was all we saw.
Happiness invaded our very cores as we left the darkness behind and stepped into the sun. It’s warmth upon our backs was beautiful as it caressed every inch of our skin. We were now free of that sordid prison and able to do as we pleased.
Taking a deep breath, my eyes closed as I savored the feeling of leaves and wet soil beneath my feet. Looking down, I saw my feet weren’t feet at all, but rather a pair of large white paws. Examining myself further, I found my entire body encased in thick white fur. A large, curling tail swayed back and forth behind me.
The sight momentarily startled me. My mind could not fathom the fact that I was now the wolf itself. Panic engulfed me as I refused to accept the changes occurring all around me. I was not a wolf. I couldn’t be.
And yet, I was. The proof was there before my very eyes. What Erendir had said was true, every part of it. Yet how had he known? I wondered. Who had told him? Was it my father? Or Somers? Perhaps the King himself?
Those questions and more tumbled around inside of my head as I considered the repercussions of what my transformation could mean. Sensing my indecision, the presence within me sought to quell my worries. Yet I refused to give it the leeway it required. I was the master and the wolf needed to learn that fact very quickly.
As the wolf and I battled for supremacy, I sought to retain a sense of my former self. I was determined not to give in completely to the animal that resided inside my body. He would not command me. Instead, we would learn to live harmoniously within this rotting carcass that housed the very organs allowing me to live.
A lucid clarity surrounded me as I accepted what I’d once thought could not be true. The wolf smiled, content that he’d be able to stay. A small truce had been won between us. We would get along. For now.