Ty snuck into the open library door, gently nudging it so it was almost closed but wouldn't quite click tight. It was a large, square room cut in half by a balcony that made up the second floor. The walls were lined from top to bottom on both levels in custom made cherry wood shelves. There were mismatched tables and chairs throughout the room that held stacks of books that had yet to be returned to their proper place. It smelled like stale papers and something indistinct that reminded him of his mother. It was such a calm, quiet spot in the midst of a usually busy place in the east wing of the house, reserved as mostly classrooms for the school and often times flooded with children.
He stole up the side stairs, heading around a sharp corner and coming to a stop in front of a deceptively normal looking bookshelf, the contents inside hidden by ornate wood doors. It was actually a steel safe covered by finely cut wood, attached in pieces with powerful neodymium magnets in a manner to look like an heirloom piece of furniture but providing the full fire and theft protection of a standard steel safe.
After amassing such a large collection of texts, his mother had eventually developed some sort of catalog system that he still didn't quite understand. He'd known where to look for the Norse mythology book, but where to go from there was a mystery. He'd thought he'd use the computer for some research in to the Germanic peoples and wolves to see if anything sparked, but he hadn't had the time yet. He decided to start with these locked fire-safe cabinets on the second floor. Most texts that his mother had collected on factual werewolf history were held here, kept safe from wandering guests. He'd managed to steal the key he knew she kept in her desk without her knowing, an act that had made him feel more than enough of guilt.
He still wasn't sure what his motivation was for keeping Mika a secret. Part of it was selfishness. He felt like if he was the only one that truly knew her, then she could only belong to him. He was so afraid, once she was part of a pack, their connection would somehow get lost or diluted. He knew this wasn't fair to her, but there were reasons for her benefit as well. He wanted to give her a little more time to adjust and learn about herself before he thrust her into pack life that she wouldn't quite identify with. He could only imagine the rumors and gossip that would surround an orphan werewolf that appeared out of nowhere. People would be suspicious, distrustful. And even if they weren't they would want to know everything about her. He already knew Mika well enough to know that it would stress her out, being the center of unwanted attention. So he was keeping her discovery quiet for now.
Just as he'd slid an ornamental metal filigree to the side and inserted the key to unlock the door, a faint creak made his head snap to the corner of the room seeking out the source. Katie was wedged between two bookcases, her legs folded up underneath her and a book sat in her lap. Her eyebrows raised in acute interest.
Ty sighed in relief. "Katie."
Her head cocked to the side and a teasing smile played on her lips. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing. Why aren't you in class?" Deny. Deflect.
"Mom lets me do independent study when I get bored in class."
He snorted. Of course. Ty paused, thinking this over. Katie probably knew better than he did about the various myths and werewolf genealogies than he ever would. She could possibly help him search for information about Mika.
He left the key in the lock and stepped the few paces down, dropping to a knee in front of her. He narrowed his eyes in challenge. Katie loved to be challenged.
"What do you know about Norse gods. And werewolf mythology."
She narrowed her eyes right back, mimicking his posture. "Who wants to know?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Me. I'm doing an independent study."
Her tinkling laughed echoed through the room and he smirked back at her. She pulled her legs out from under her and set her book to the side. "Well, I know Norse mythology is the body of mythology of the North Germanic peoples stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia and into the Scandinavian folklore of the modern period. It consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes. The most popular among them was Thor."
Ty blinked at her. How the fuck was she so smart? "Uh, ok. What about Skoll and Hati?"
She smiled, her eyes lighting up in delight. "Yes, they were two wolves born from the mating of a witch and the giant black wolf called Fenrir. They are the wolves that chase the magical chariots that carry the sun and moon across the sky each day and night."
He already knew this part but he wanted to appease her. "Huh. Cool. But what does that have to do with werewolves?"
She thought about it for a full minute. "Well, only a fraction of the mythical tales and poems that existed have survived. The spread of Christianity tended to demonize many of the mythical creatures, so those stories probably evolved into something less recognizable to us than mere shapeshifters."
He stared at her blankly before responding. "So you're saying you don't know?"
She smiled. "Kind of, yes. Although, you might find more by researching genealogically in Mom's records instead of relying on the general folklore of such a broad reaching culture."
He shook his head at her crazy intelligence before a voice floated up from the bottom floor.
"What are you looking for in Mom's records?"
They both peered down through the railing to see their mother at the door to the library, hands on her hips.
Katie answered for him. "Ty is doing an independent study on Scandinavian werewolf folklore."
His mother smiled, surprised and pleased. "Really?"
Ty resigned himself to confession. Mika deserved to know more than he could provide. He couldn't keep her all to himself forever. He stood, leaning over the railing to explain more clearly.
"Yes. Actually, I've met…..a friend…..I'm trying to help." Ok, so he didn't have to tell them Mika would be his future mate. He was afraid of the excessive squealing he'd have to endure. "In Heber Springs."
Like mirror images, both his mother's and sister's heads cocked to the side at the exact same time and in the exact same way. "She doesn't know-"
His mother interrupted with her eyebrows raised. "She?"
Ty resisted rolling his eyes. "Yes. She doesn't really know much about her history and I thought maybe I could help." He gave them his best charming smile. "Or rather you could help."
He had their full interest now. Already his mother was making her way up the stairs.
"Well, what do you know?"
He shrugged. "Not much. She, uh, she lost her parents at a very young age."
Both girls' eyebrows gathered in distress "Oh! That's so sad," Katie said softly.
Isa placed a comforting hand on her daughter's shoulder before turning back to him. "What made you start with Scandinavia? Is that where her pack is from?"
Ty cleared his throat. "Um. She doesn't know actually and, well, I ran across the story about Skoll and Hati." He pulled his phone out of his pocket, scrolling through the photos to find the one of Mika's blanket. "It seemed familiar. I realized it reminded me of a something Mika showed me. It was on the blanket she was wrapped in as a baby."
He looked up from the phone to see their wide eyed stares.
His mother cried out, "You mean she was left as a baby?!" at the same time Katie said, "Her name is Mika?" They both looked at each other before drawing their piercing gazes back to Ty.
"Well…I don't know the whole story, but yes – she was left on a doorstep as a baby in this blanket." He held up the picture of the phone and it was immediately taken from his hands, their two heads coming together to study it. "And yes….her name is Mika."
He wasn't sure what made him say Mika, instead of Mikayla. Mikayla just didn't feel right coming out of his mouth.
Katie looked up at him and smiled. "That's pretty."
His mother took over the phone completely, studying it intensely. "Yes, you're right. I think it is Skoll and Hati. Chasing the sun and the moon. I've seen this before somewhere."
Ty's eyebrows lifted eagerly. "Really?"
"Yes." Isa walked over to the private bookcases, sliding a wary eye to him when she noticed the key still sticking out of the lock, but not saying a word. She opened the heavy door and began following along the spines of the countless books and pieces of art lined up on the shelves.
"Kateri? You remember the journals I showed you that Grandfather kept?" Ty's grandfather had spent time all over the globe, studying and learning about various pack cultures. He had kept journals on his findings and his mother had used much of his information to track the genealogy of the diverse packs across the world. They were like werewolf anthropologists and historians.
Katie nodded, coming up behind her and immediately aiding in the search – her vantage point several feet lower than his and Isa's. "Yes, maman. Here."
She pointed to a shelf stacked with some loosely bound papers and other records held together with handmade leather covers. Isa pulled one out, leafing through it and absentmindedly walking back down the stairs to sit at a study table, flipping on a table lamp nearby. Ty closed the safe, but left it unlocked, unsure if they were finished with it and then followed them down.
Katie sat patiently next to their mother while Ty began pacing the floor, waiting for a reaction from one of them.
"Aha! Here." Ty immediately crowded onto his mother's other side to peer over her shoulder. The journal was open to a page of notes scribbled messily, a crude drawing of some country he didn't recognize with an area shaded in. Ty assumed it was the location of a pack his Grandfather had been ambassador to – most likely somewhere in Europe. But it was what was on the second page that caught his attention. An old Polaroid picture was mounted on the page with little plastic corners and underneath was written in his Grandfather's distinct print:
Käsivarsi Pack – Alpha family
Father: Hannu, Mother: Jani, son: Amak
It was black and white. A man in a funny sort of hat was kneeling down, his arm across the shoulders of a small wolf. A white wolf. Standing next to him was a woman in a similarly funny hat and what must be the traditional dress: a leather skirt and coat, fur lined and with intricate embroidery around the edges and on the leather belt around her waist. She was carrying a child, bundled in a warm blanket, his booted feet hanging out the bottom. Ty leaned closer, noticing the detail on the blanket. A chill passed through him.
He pointed at it. "It's just like Mika's."
"Yes, it does look like the one in the picture you showed me. Here." She turned the page and there it was: the two wolves, the sun, the moon and the stars scattered across it.
"What does he say about it?" Ty would have taken the journal right out of her hands but he didn't want to appear anxious. Plus, he could never read Grandfather's handwriting well.
"His notes indicate the story of Skoll and Hati was adopted from Scandinavian mythology by this Sami pack due to their close association with wolves. They lived close to the borders of Sweden and Norway and much of their culture was a blend." She paused reading some more. "It looks like they were shamanistic. They held high regard for the bear as well as the wolf. There were even tales he heard….of…." Her finger skimmed across a few lines, her eyes scrunching to read better. "…..shapeshifting bears. Huh. I don't remember reading that before. Very interesting."
"Were they white wolves?"
His mother glanced up, a flash of curious concern in her eyes because of the seriousness of his voice. She turned back, flipping through the pages without comment before she turned to Katie. "Baby, fetch me the European genealogy chart." Katie hopped up and ran up the stairs searching through the cabinet before bringing a couple of large rolled up maps to the table. Isa looked through the titles printed on the outside before laying one out on the table.
It was a map of Northern Europe, the country he didn't recognize before shaded in at exactly the same space as in his grandfather's notebook, only now he could clearly see the label and that of the countries surrounding it – Finland, Russia, Norway, Sweden. All across the map were similar shaded areas, each containing notes of species and sub-species. Of course many in this area were gray wolves, Canis lupus, but Ty knew that there was wide variability among the various subspecies of gray wolf. In fact, many "gray" wolves were not gray at all. They could be solidly white or solidly black, and virtually every hue within the gray, brown, and tan spectrums. Tyrik's lineage was c.l. lycaon, the Eastern timber wolves who were typically a grizzled grayish-brown coloration mixed with cinnamon.
"According to Papa's notes, this pack lived in the Scandinavian Montane Birch forest and grasslands, specifically the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, in the 'arm' of the Maiden of Finland. Their people were Swedish, but moved to Finland during Swedish occupation because of the lower populace."
She pointed a finger at Sweden before dragging it to the northwest corner of Finland, leaning down to read the notes written there. "The packs in this area were a subspecies of Eurasian gray wolves, Canis lupus albus - the white tundra wolf - found in the boreal forests of western Russia and northern Scandinavia."
Ty hummed in thought, still staring down at the map. Could this be Mika's family? Were they still there? And if so, how did she end up as an orphan in Canada? He glanced up to ask his mother if she knew anything recent about the pack to find her contemplating him curiously and the questions died in his mouth.
"So, she's a white wolf?" she asked nonchalantly.
"I've not heard of a pack of white wolves in this part of the world for 20 years."
Ignoring her sly attempt at getting him to spill, he said, "Yes, well…..wait. So, there was a pack here 20 years ago? What happened to them?"
The lines around Isa's eyes tightened and her mouth turned down, a haunted sadness settling on her face. She sighed before answering.
"The Wolf Wars. I'd heard of a group immigrating to Alaska only to be driven out by the Black Moon pack. Eventually, the migrant pack was….. wiped out at some point in the many battles for land."
Shit. The tightness in Ty's chest made it difficult to breathe. He leaned over the desk, staring at the small picture of the Käsivarsi pack Alpha family. Now dead probably. Shit. Shit. Shit. How was he going to tell Mika this?
"Ty?" Katie's soft voice next to his ear startled him and he turned to her. "Are you okay?"
He cleared his throat. "Yeah. Yeah. I'm fine. I, uh. I have to go." He looked at his watch. "I've got a meet with Dad before I head out."
His mother reached out to grab his hand as he turned. "Do you want me to keep looking? I may be able to find some more information for her."
He blinked. "Sure. Yeah. Whatever you find, I'm sure she'd appreciate." She squeezed his hand and he could tell she wanted him to open up about Mika, but Ty wasn't ready to do this now. Not after that bombshell. He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, and then turned to ruffle Katie's hair.
"Thanks. I can always count on you nerds for information." He winked at Katie. "Toksa, Kateri." (See you later)
As he left the library, both ladies turned to each other to share an inquisitive look about Tyrik and his new 'friend.'