The Long Winter Pt 2 | C.R. Gardner

Myst enters a world of dreams, and we learn more of the nature of the Guqula.

The Long Winter Pt 2

C.R. Gardner

Wolves II: Vows

‘I trusted you, Fallon!’ she said, watching him bleed out on the snow.

‘Trust no-one, Myst,’ he said, the storm engulfing them. ‘I’ve set you free, our hearts’ love no longer binds.’

Exhausted, she sank to the blood stained snow beside him, resting her head on his chest, feeling their hearts beating out of synch for the first time ever. She closed her eyes and dreamt she was home.

The sun was shining, snow was falling and Fallon was laughing at her as she lost her balance again on the frozen lake. ‘A warrior must be able to battle on any surface. Ice is slippery, but you use it to your advantage. You must learn to become one with your surroundings, Myst.’

Soon she was able to run across the ice like it was solid ground and catch snowflakes on her tongue. Pirouetting on four feet, she stuck out her tongue, caught another and shook her head in disgust – it tasted foul!

‘We need to go!’ Fallon called from the shore.

Myst ran towards him and skidded to a halt as a pack of Ghost Wolves exploded out of the frozen lake like a volcano erupting, but instead of lava, it was spewing out red eyed, slavering Ghost Wolves. Myst’s way was blocked. She scrambled backwards, panicking, her paws scrabbling uselessly on slippery ice as the Ghost Wolves attacked. And then Fallon was beside her, shouldering her out of the way and intercepting the fangs and claws.

‘To the black cliffs!’ he growled, slamming into a Ghost Wolf and shattering the front leg of another in his jaws.

She ran, remembering what Fallon had taught her, and once in the shadow of the cliffs she turned to watch. Fallon was using the ice to his advantage and already there was a trail of bodies staining the ice red, but the Ghost Wolves were still pouring out of the ruptured lake in an unrelenting white wave.

Amazing as Fallon was, even he could not defeat them all; he was tiring – she had to help. Closing her eyes she remembered Fallon’s lesson and concentrated on the ice beneath her paws, drawing its essence into her being, becoming as cold as the ice on which she stood and as fluid as water beneath it – but it was not enough. She turned her thoughts to the black cliffs and became as hard and unforgiving as the black jagged stone. It still wasn’t enough!

She turned her eyes upon the Ghost Wolves and began pulling their life force into her being. Ignoring the whimpers of agony, Myst exulted in the power flowing into her feeling herself growing stronger. Finally it was enough!

Her world turned sideways as she was sent spinning. Opening her eyes, Fallon’s furious golden ones filled her vision. ‘Never do that again, Myst! Never! Never steal the lives of others! Even if it is to save one you love! Look at what you have done!’

Beyond Fallon, as far as she could see, were dead, emaciated and mummified bodies of the Ghost Wolves; some were still whimpering and twitching. Shocked by what she saw she let it go, and the power she’d gathered dissipated like blossom in the wind.

Fallon sighed, ‘You are Guqula, like me. That is why they came for you.’

‘Why me?’

‘Because your Guqula is strong and they hunger for it.’

‘If you are Guqula, why are you not outcast?’

‘Some Guqula powers are small, barely noticeable. In fact, most of the Pakisha’s best Warriors and Ancians have small amounts of Guqula in their blood. It’s only considered a problem when you have lots of it.’

‘As I do?’

‘Yes, as you do.’

‘Will you tell them?’ she asked, her voice trembling.

‘No. But they will find out soon enough. You won’t be able to hide what you are. It’s one of the reasons I’ve trained you personally. Promise me,’ he said, touching his nose to hers, ‘That no matter what happens, you will choose to live.’

‘I will try.’

‘Not good enough! Your promise must be strong enough to last forever!’

She stared into Fallon’s golden eyes, feeling their hearts beating in time as they always had, but now she could feel the Wasteland fever burning in his veins, and knew she was going to lose him.

With a heavy heart she whispered, ‘I promise on the honour of my Ancestors who roamed the world before it burned; I promise on the speed of my paws and my skill as a hunter; I promise with all the blood in my body, breath in my lungs and beats of my heart, that I will choose life over death, no matter what.’

‘Much better,’ he said, pressing his muzzle to the side of her face and rubbing. ‘Let’s go home.’

It was dark when they reached the Pakisha Home, and by then she was supporting him. After the Healers had cleaned his wounds and made him comfortable Myst lay beside him, resting her head on his chest, feeling his heart beating in unison with her own.

‘I kept my promise, Fallon. I chose to live, even though it meant killing you,’ she whispered, blinking away the tears; becoming aware of the soft murmuring of many voices, the pungent smell of many wolves and wood smoke and the feel of another heart beating out a rhythm different to her own.

Myst scrambled from the furs and spun round in a crouch to find a naked young man with ebony skin and blue eyes regarding her with interest. ‘Calais!’

‘No, not Calais,’ he laughed, his teeth white in his dark face, ‘My brother would not dare such a thing.’

‘You are Guqula, like…’ she paused, noticing her naked human form, as pale as he was dark, ‘Me,’ she said, grabbing the nearest fur.

‘Yes, although unlike you, I was never made outcast.’

‘Why not?’

‘The Southern Pakishas have always done things a little different to you Northerners. Come back to bed,’ he said, patting the furs.

‘No,’ she said, shaking her head, staring at him incredulously, ‘I think not.’

‘I told you she would not be impressed.’ She knew without turning that Calais had entered the room, and was not alone. She recognised the scent and stilled the surge of adrenalin rushing through her body.

‘So it’s true then, the Prodigal has returned,’ drawled a caustic voice.

Myst turned to face the speaker, a tall man with wild red hair, and realised as she opened her mouth to protest, that his words were not directed at her, but at the dark skinned youth in her bed.

‘With all the Pakishas gathering, I thought that now might be a good time to return home, Uncle,’ he said, examining his fingernails, completely unconcerned.

Myst met Calais’ serious blue eyes. Unlike his brother, Calais’ skin was fair. Warrior Wolf tattoos of blue and gold swirled across arms and bare chest, and unlike his brother, he was wearing pants. He acknowledged her with a slight nod and a hint of a smile.

She turned her eyes to his wolf companions and smiled. ‘Hello Mother. Hello Father.’