CHAPTER 4

When I opened my eyes I was staring into the bright eyes of a wolf, I wasn't really sure but I thought it was the female that I had saw change. I tried to sit up but I could hardly move, it felt like I had been trampled on by a stampede of angry, hateful horses.

"Can you move?" asked the female wolf in a smoky voice. I nodded and tried to get up again, this time a managed to sit upright.

"What happened?" I asked, wondering if the wolves ever talked like normal people or were they always so short and to the point.

"You killed the man, you need to learn control. You could have killed yourself using that much power." Who did I kill? I'm pretty sure I didn't kill anyone…and what power was she talking about?

"What?" I asked.

"Never mind, we'll talk about it later. Right now we need to get out of here before more men come to see what happened."

"Ranulf?"

"He's fine."

"My wolf?"

"Who?"

"The gray wolf, is he alright?"

"He'll be fine; it's just a swallow cut." I sighed in relief.

"We need to leave." Said the female wolf, I got up slowly and stretched out my sore muscles. I move to where Ranulf was sitting,

"How are you doing?" I asked. Hoping he was alright even though he looked pretty bad off. His clothes, hair, and face covered with blood.

"I can't get theses manacles off." He muttered.

"What about the keys? They're probably on the man who was guarding you." I said, looking around for the man's body.

"They were attached to his belt, but you burned them up along with everything else." Ranulf glared at a pile of bones and ashes.

"I did that?" I whispered, how could I possible do that? I was no magician.

"Yeah don't ask me how you managed it…"

"But- no! That's not possible, I-" I stammered.

"We'll worry about that later. Just take your sword and try to get me out of these damn chains." I sighed and picked up my sword, holding it over my head and brought it down with all my might on the chain. The first few times I saw no progress but after three or four hits the chain broke. I helped Ranulf to his feet and put his arm around my shoulder, he was so weak he could hardly stand and I was in no condition to carry him. We left the chamber and slowly went back the ways we had came, Ranulf started to stumble and one of the wolves became human and held up Ranulf's other side.

It seemed to take years to get back to the secret entrance in the side of the mountain, I could have sworn we were completely lost but just when I thought I would drop from exhaustion we stepped out into the open air. The sun was setting and it was getting cold but I was too tired to care. I shouldered my pack and we started walking into the woods away from the mountain. I don't know how long we walked but it seemed like eternity, like I had always been walking and I was doomed to continue walking forever. I think I even dozed off a few times while walking because I would suddenly notice I was walking through a completely different part of the woods then where I had been a moment before.

Just when I was ready to give up we stopped, I didn't even take time to look around or take my pack off, I sat down right where I stood and went to sleep. My last thought before I lost consciousness was 'I wonder if the wolf people ate their meat raw?'

When I finally woke up, I lay still with my eyes closed wondering if what had happened the day before was a dream and I would wake up outside the city with my wolf. I wasn't sure if I wanted it to be dream or not, I was too confused to decide if what had happened was good or bad. Had I really killed a man? How could a person turn into a wolf?

"Is she awake?" I hear a man's voice say and opened my eyes to see a beautiful woman with reddish brown hair bending over me with a damp cloth.

"Yes." She said and I recognized her voice. She was the wolf that had woken me before in the cave.

"Good, I was getting worried. She's been sleeping for two days." Said the man.

"Two days!" I cried and sat up, looking around.

"Now you've upset her!" Exclaimed the red haired woman, looking reproachfully at the man.

"No I haven't," then he turned to me, "Hello, I'm Laban" he paused, "The white wolf." He explained.

"Oh, I'm Darcie." I said and shook his hand, trying not to let them see how confused I felt.

"My name is Lark." said the girl with reddish brown hair, "The others are out hunting, and I'll introduce you to them when they get back."

"Nice to meet you," I said awkwardly then looked around our little campsite and noticed a big pot of stew simmering next to the fire and me stomach growled and I realized I have starving.

"Is there anything to eat?" I asked timidly.

"Of course, here." Lark handed me a bowl of steaming stew, "You must me starving!" I nodded and attacked my bowl of stew with a vengeance.

After I finished my stew I looked around me again, we were in the middle of a mossy clearing. On one side was a small waterfall and on the other was a grove of birches. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was out and there were only a few fluffy, white clouds in the sky. I was sitting against a tree contently when suddenly I remembered Ranulf and my wolf, Jacian! I stood up and looked around fearfully, how could I have forgotten about them?

"Lark, where are Ranulf and Jacian?" I asked anxiously, afraid of what she would say.

"Over there, they're fine." Lark said pointing to far side of the clearing. I gave a huge sigh of relief and ran off towards them. I felt so horrible for not remembering them the moment I had woken up!

I kneeled by Ranulf's side and looked down at his sleeping face, his poor face was almost completely covered with bruises and he had a big cut from his temple to his jaw bone. He looked dead just laying there without moving, I stroked his hair for a moment and just watched him breathe. Why did the people I cared about always get hurt? I mean I got annoyed with Ranulf a lot when we were together but he was my friend, the first one I had had in years. I tried to keep the tears from my eyes and turned to where Jacian was laying. It seemed silly now that I had believed he was my wolf protector, he looked so pitiful and vulnerable curled up, he could be hurt just like everyone else. He was still in his wolf shape and had a slash down his front leg from shoulder to paw. I petted his head and tried to find some proof that he was getting better, that he would be okay but I didn't know what to look for.

"Why is he staying a wolf?" I asked Lark quietly who had come to stand behind me.

"He doesn't have the strength to change back, and even if he did it wouldn't be a good idea. When he changes his wound would probably stretch and tear even more."

"Oh." The thought of ripping open the wound even more made me cringe.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" I asked hopefully.

"Well, you can use this to wipe off their faces and I'll show you how to change their bandages." Lark handed me a damp cloth and began to wipe Ranulf's face off. I stayed by Jacian and Ranulf all day, I felt that somehow it was my fault they were both hurt. I felt like I was the only one who could make them better, I wished there was some way to tell them I was sorry but right now the only thing I can do is help nurse them back to health.

I must have fallen asleep while I was taking care of Ranulf and Jacian because I was woken by voices, I opened my eyes to see it was night and I was underneath a blanket laying in between Ranulf and Jacian. I got up and went over to the fire, I smelled cooking meat and I was starving again.

"Hello sleepy head!" Lark said cheerfully and moved to make room for me.

"Thanks," I looked around the fire, the others were back from hunting. There were two men and two women; one was the woman who had come to me outside the city. I figured she must be their leader.

"Darcie, this is Faolan," Lark pointed to the woman I thought was the leader, "And this is Safara," she pointed to the other woman, "And this is Cade, and that's Nam." Lark pointed to the last two men.

"Nice to meet you, I'm Darcie." I said and smiled at them, I felt kind of awkward and out of place among them but they didn't seem to notice my discomfort. I was surprised that I could manage to stay so calm when I was surrounded by a bunch of strangers who could shape shift into wolves. But the fact that I was starving helped to distract me from the awkwardness.

"How are you feeling?" asked Faolan.

"Fine, thank you."

"Good, we were worried about you. That much power would have killed someone else, you're really lucky."

"Power? What are you talking about?" I asked looking up from my bowl.

"When you killed the man who was guarding Ranulf, you used your power to burn him on the spot. The raw power that took would have killed most beginners." She explained.

"Burned him? Like with magic?" I was becoming a little disturbed, I had come to grips with the fact I had killed that man but I had refused to think about how I did it. I didn't want to admit I had done something extraordinary.

"Yes, of course, hasn't Ranulf explained it to you?"

"No, he definitely hasn't." Ranulf knew I could do these things?

"Yes, he said he told you everything."

"I'm sure he had a reason not to..." I said hoping to defend Ranulf; he had rescued me from my life as a slave so I owed him big time. Besides it wouldn't have changed anything if he told me because I wouldn't have believed him.

"He has no excuse, not when he could endangered all of us by keeping your powers a secret, he probably thought since he was your brother he would be safe."

"I wouldn't have believed him anyway!" I exclaimed, then stopped dead- I had just processed what she had said.

"My brother? Ranulf is my brother?" I squeaked, I had a brother? How was that possible? Ranulf was older than me, I would have remembered him!

"Yes, that's how he found you. Your blood called to him."

"I don't understand, I never remembered having a brother! I think you have the wrong person! This is ridiculous! I don't have any magic, I'm just a runaway slave girl!" I stood up, afraid and confused. I wanted to turn and just run away from her, away from all this new strange news.

"No, no you're not Darcie." Faolan sighed and shook her head, she ignored the fact that I had stood up and continued calmly.

"I'll start from the beginning, and I know this is hard for you to find out all this at once but you need to know. If you don't know then you are denying part of yourself. I'll start with your family, you were born into a rich, old family; you had three older brothers but two were killed in the war, only Ranulf is left. When you were very young you were kidnapped and sold; you were sold again and again until no one knew who you were or where you came from. This actually was very lucky for you because there were many people looking for you and most didn't have good intentions. You disappeared from the face of the earth, it seemed, and everyone assumed you were dead; that is, until our pack was traveling nearby and Ranulf he felt something. He couldn't answer any of our questions, he just disappeared saying he needed to find something. We followed him from a ways away to make sure he was alright."

"Why don't I remember him?" I asked, sitting back down.

"Even before the war there were people looking for you and your brothers so your parents hid them. You probably had only met Ranulf a few times before you got kidnapped- you're parents thought it would be safer for you that way."

"And what about the gray wolf, Jacian, you sent him to follow Ranulf?" I interrupted.

"Yes, I'm surprised you noticed him."

"Surprised I noticed him? He almost attacked a maid the morning I escaped! He was in plain sight in the middle of the town!" I exclaimed.

"But you saw him following you the rest of the way to the city?"

"Oh course, he was there almost everywhere I looked, it was really weird. And he was in the dream I had."

"How unusual, we are usually hard to see but I guess it would be different for you. Anyway, we followed Ranulf and we were completely surprised when he came out with you. As soon as we were near you we felt something too, you see, we can sense another of our kind and it was the same with you. We talked to Ranulf and he told us you were his sister, we had all heard of you but we never knew Ranulf was related to you. He said he felt your soul crying out for help and knew he had to save you. We all thought that was usual that he felt you but your family always was more powerful than most. I told him that he had told you everything but apparently he didn't, here is a summary of it: You come from a long line of powerful wild mages. Wild mages are magicians whose powers specialize in nature, we can shape shift, communicate with animals, and do other magic, like what you did in the cave. Our pack has chosen wolves as our primary shape, but there are others who take the shape of lions, horses, tigers, anything they want. Each mage's primary animal is influenced by their personality. A harsh or violent mage wouldn't choose a horse as his primary shape, just as a kind, sensitive mage would not choose a tiger. You, my child, are a wild mage, a very powerful one, which is one of the reasons why you were hunted as a child. Even then your powers were known, now we just must work to develop your powers so you can gain control and don't end up killing someone by accident. I'm actually really surprised you haven't done anything like that so far."

"I was too afraid." I whispered. Faolan looked at me strangely.

"Afraid? So you did know you had these powers?" I shook my head.

"No, I had no idea. I was afraid of being hurt so I just locked myself up so I couldn't feel anything. Or maybe that's what kept me from causing trouble, or maybe I just don't have any powers."

"Darcie, you must accept who you are!" Faolan said in a slightly annoyed voice. "You have extraordinary powers, you need to accept that or you will never be complete. We all know you are a mage, we saw what you did- there's no denying it." I looked down; I felt like a child being scolded for not doing my chores. But how could they expect me to believe something so outrageous, yet part of me believed it, that part of me insisted that was why I never felt like I fit in, that was why I was so different.

"We will start your lessons tomorrow, since we will be staying here for a while we mine as well work on your education."

"Lessons? My education?"

"Yes, I will teach you how to control your power and how to use it. Lark will teach you how to shape shift, Cade and Nam will teach you how to fight and use a sword, and Safara will teach you about medicines and herbs. Together we will teach you everything you need to know, we all have our specialties and will do our best to make sure you know everything you will need."

"But why do I need to know all this?" I asked, confused.

"You can't just run around blasting people to bits when you're angry! Besides, its good for you to understand how your power work and how to use it best."

"Why are you doing this for me?" I asked, slightly suspicious.

"Because you are our kin, you are Ranulf's sister which makes you part of our pack family." Faolan answered with a smile.

"I'm going to sleep, it's been a long last couple days!" said Nam, the others nodded in agreement. I went to take check on Ranulf, my long lost brother, and Jacian before I went to sleep. I thought I would have trouble falling asleep after everything I had learned but I fell asleep the second I laid down.

My dreams that night were I mix of memories and nonsense, one of those dreams that seems so real you wake up wondering 'why don't I fly anymore' or 'why don't I go in those rooms?'. Then you realize that you never could fly and the rooms you dreamt of couldn't possible exist; it is heartbreaking when you wake up feeling completely happy then you realize what had made you so happy never existed. That was how I felt when I woke up that rainy morning, I had dreamt of a warm, sunny, familiar place where I floated through forests and across fields with a gorgeous man I had never seen before but I knew I loved him.

The cold, wet rain snatched the dream from me the moment I opened my eyes even though I fought to remember it because it was so wonderful, the only thing I could hold on to was the feeling of deep peace. But that vanished in turn when I saw Lark and Safara huddled near Jacian, Nam was sitting by the fire with his head in his hands. Cade was nowhere to be seen and Faolan was mixing something over the fire. I got up and went over the fire and put my hand on Nam's shoulder,

"What's wrong?" I asked quietly, I hasn't sure I wanted to hear the answer but it would be better than not knowing at all.

"Jacian, He's dying! He tried to change back and didn't have enough energy, he burned up part of his life force and now he's dying and is half man, half wolf." I sat down hard, Jacian dying! I had thought he was just worse off, not dying.

I felt anger mixed with sadness welling up in my soul, he was hurt trying to save me! If they had never found me then everyone would be alright. I felt tears running down my hand and my hands were shaking uncontrollably as I staggered to my feet. I couldn't I be the one dying? My conscious screamed.

"Is there something I can do?" I pleaded with Faolan, she shook her head sadly and went to kneel by Jacian's side taking his hand in hers.

I just stared, terrified, at Jacian until someone asked me to get firewood and I raced off, happy for the distraction. He stayed the same most of the afternoon, it was torture just sitting there watching his struggle to breathe. Not that I wanted him to die, but as the hours wore on I wished it would just end- he deserved to die peacefully and painlessly. The others looked just as shocked and horrified at his condition, Lark never left his side and was trying to save him with all types of medicines and spells until Faolan told her to stop, she said he was far passed healing. As the sun started to sink, he got worse. Jacian started coughing and moaning, thrashing around like he was fighting some invisible foe. Then as suddenly as it started, he was still.

"Oh god!" moaned Lark as she felt for his pulse then started to cry. He was dead. I rushed over to where he lay, I felt dizzy and my head was pounding. He can't die! He can't die! I said to myself over and over like it would somehow change reality. I shook him, like I was trying to wake him up.

"GET UP!" I screamed, "YOU CAN'T DIE!" I continued angrily screamed at him like it was his fault. Then I collapsed on him chest, sobs shaking my whole body wishing I could use this magic they claimed I had to save him. I looked up at the sky and screamed, letting all my pain and anger out. My last thought was what good is magic if I can save him. Then I fainted.