The Recent Past.
Amber Getten. Struggling through the snow. She is wolf, she is woman. But neither is enough. She will not make it in time—if she truly tries at all.
Daldion bowed his gray head. He knew the stakes. What the others would expect. But in the end it would be up to him.
He would have to choose.
The wolf looked to where Justin was finding himself, his mind ignorant of the imminent future, of the danger of the storm and the fact that help could not come. Was not coming.
He would have to choose.
Amber gasped and ducked inside of the farmhouse. The door slammed behind her—and slammed again. Francisco, taking up the rear.
She was soaking wet. Her layers of coats and sweaters had been ripped through like they hadn’t existed. She had experienced cold storms on the Reservation in her childhood…but this was something different.
Francisco was cursing in Spanish or one of the several other languages he knew. Portuguese…maybe a bit of French.
He had it worse off, she knew. He wasn’t used to the cold under normal conditions.
The tears that had frozen to her face were melting.
It had been a paradox—track him with full Seeking abilities and face the cold as a human, or try in their other forms and risk getting lost without smell or Seeking. In the end they had—and had gotten lost.
The storm had continued to the night, then to the morning…and showed no sign of stopping. It was only by erasing the image of a dying Justin her mind and replacing it with the warmth of the farmhouse that they had found their way back with painful Seeking. And even then, she had been about to collapse.
Amber let her layers of clothing fall to the ground. They made a miserable heap in the middle of the kitchen floor. “We failed.”
Francisco looked up from trying to light the gas stove. He saw the emotions in Amber’s eyes. “Amber…”
“We failed!” she shouted. She was in her jeans and turtleneck again. Both were wet at the edges. “Justin is dying out there and all we can do is nearly get ourselves killed!”
Francisco was a soldier—more than that, he was a Warrior. Amber was new to the Pack, the newest other than Justin, who wasn’t officially part of it anyway. She had to learn. She hadn’t been in combat. Hadn’t seen her friends die before her eyes. She would—if she lived that long.
He grabbed her by her shoulders as she collapsed to the floor. “Hey…Hey! Look at me, por favor!”
Her grey eyes were red as they met his.
They both, on mutual understanding, went into themselves, into their own fields of mist. But Francisco’s was a plain, barren with the hint of mountains and storms at the unreachable edges. Amber’s was a grassy plain, with herds of ghostly animals roaming across it. They were not real, not even in her mind. They only distant and dear wishes of memories.
Two awaited them there. As one they met in the center of four worlds. Man, Woman, She-Wolf, and He-Wolf.
Amber was the first to speak. We have failed. All of us.
A white wolf, tinged with gold, stepped close to Amber’s side. We did what we could. It is up to Daldion now.
Iridess… Amber growled, her temper rising. What can he do? He and Justin have not even had direct contact from what we know. He considers all of us his enemies. His kidnappers. Including Daldion.
Iridess, the Healer, drew back from her companion, Amber Getten, the Seeker. She didn’t seem to want to answer.
Francisco exchanged glances with his companion, the Teacher, but it was the human who finally spoke. Daldion will choose. If he attempts to force a change upon Justin and they have to fight for control, both could be…damaged, especially if they do not have shelter. Francisco looked…calm.
Zerihun, a black, thin wolf with dark eyes, bowed his head. As the Teacher, he knew the history of the Pack—and its failings. Daldion, if he is physically hurt in his own body, may not be able to heal without assistance. If he tries to save Kobe, he may only ensure his own death—a true death.
Amber shook her head. You can’t be saying…
Zerihun withdrew as Iridess had, vanishing into the dark, lightning-lit hills of his mind. Yes. Daldion’s wisest move, to ensure the survival of the Pack and himself, is to let Justin die. He will find another human, another more suited for the role.
Amber looked aghast. You are willing to let an innocent, teenage boy die because he isn’t a perfect match for Daldion?
Not willing, no. Iridess said. But the survival of the Pack is worth more than one life—and Justin is not truly one of us. It is up to Daldion. If he remembers these facts…Justin Kobe may die.