A voice called out my name, its familiarity and warmth washing over me. If home could take the form of a voice, this would be it.
I stirred from slumber, my shoulder jostled gently by an unfamiliar touch. I mustered the strength to crack my eyes open, braving the assault of harsh artificial light that bore down on my face. After a few moments of adjustment, I recognized my mother’s face.
“Winona?” she repeated.
“Am I alive?” I croaked, my throat parched and hurt. Without hesitation, she brought a glass of water to my lips, allowing me to take small sips and relish the soothing coolness.
“How are you feeling?” she inquired, her gaze shifting to examine my physical condition as she meticulously recorded notes on a chart by my bedside. How was I feeling? I was certain I had met my demise once again. In the Abyss, I had witnessed the flashback, an experience eerily reminiscent of the last time. So, how was I feeling? I was overwhelmed and perplexed by the unfolding events.
“I should be dead,” I countered. Her gaze snapped back to me, clearly taken aback by my direct statement.
“Why would you say such a dreadful thing?” My mother’s eyes widened with concern. “You’ve recovered, there’s no need to utter such words!”
Did this mean that I had never actually been in the Abyss? Was it
all just a nightmarish illusion? My mother seemed to contemplate whether or not to share something else with me at this time.
“Well… as a doctor, I’m relieved to see that you’re healed, but… as a mother, all I want to do is scold you for foolishly putting yourself in harm’s way like that! What’s going on in your mind, Winona?”
I realized my mistake the moment I laid eyes on the injured sandy wolf. There was no need for her to scold me any further. However, if I hadn’t ventured into that place, Bash would have faced those four wolves alone and Ava would have been dead. I owed him my life for saving me.
It was his efforts to staunch the bleeding that had allowed me to survive this far, not to mention his arduous journey carrying me through the wilderness. Then, a grim realization washed over me as I remembered the severity of Bash’s injuries.
“Is Bash alright?” I inquired, my heart sinking as her expression shifted to one of worry.
“He was in a critical condition, but he managed to regain his mobility after a day or so. I’ve advised him to take it easy for the next few weeks.”
Relief washed over me at the news of his recovery, but her words left me puzzled.
“A day? How long have I been unconscious?”
“It’s been three days now.”
I couldn’t believe that so much time had already passed. In the Abyss, time was a vague concept, even if it was only a feverish
“Winona, we need to talk,” she said. “I’ve been racking my brain trying to find alternative explanations, but I’m still at a loss for words. Also, the high–ranking council is demanding answers.”
I furrowed my brow. What could be so important to stir up the council’s agitation?
“What is it exactly?”
“We found something on your body. It appears that you’ve been marked.”
If my jaw could have dropped to the floor, it surely would have. What she said was preposterous, and it immediately brought to mind the notion of a devil’s mark.
“What?! How is that even possible? ”
“No, no, not that kind of mark,” she clarified. Hearing her clarification offered some relief. “You seem to have a double moon crescent tattooed on your back.”
And in that moment, a shiver ran down my spine.
I had an urge to curse the Goddess. Why couldn’t she allow me to forge my own destiny? It seemed she had her own plans to keep me bound. If my mother was telling the truth, then the Goddess must have marked me as her own. Any future attempt to escape now seemed practically impossible.
“Do you know what it signifies, Winona?”
Of course, I understood the significance. She asked the question because this phenomenon was scarcely known, and no one would expect a fourteen–year–old to be aware of it. The Goddess’s mark
hadn’t been seen in millennia, and even then, the accounts were uncertain. I had only come across mentions of it in my studies as a Luna, and I was well aware of the implications it carried. However, it was mostly considered a myth in the present day.
I nodded my head in response. I knew my life was about to become infinitely more complicated.
“Do you know why you have the mark?”
There was a hint of concern in her voice, and I couldn’t fathom the emotions she must have felt upon discovering it. All the ranked members and elders would be bombarding my parents for information and seeking to unravel the impact it would have on the entire pack. I didn’t want to lie to her, yet I also didn’t want to shatter her heart by telling the truth. I wanted our relationship to remain as it was. I wanted her to continue looking after me just as she had before. Would she be scared of me if she knew that I was actually twenty–four?
I shook my head and bit the inside of my cheek, shrugging my shoulders as if uncertain of what to say. She paused at my reaction, but luckily, she didn’t press the matter further.
“Alright… Well, the Alpha has requested to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss the urgent attack,” she explained.
“Your physical health has recovered nicely, but I was concerned about your mental well–being after being in a coma. Do you want to meet with him now?”
I pondered it for a few seconds. Did I actually want to meet him? No, not at all. But I knew it was something I would have to do sooner or later. Aside from the shock and tension brought on by the revelation of the mark, I was fully capable.
“Yes, I can meet with him,” I asserted confidently.
“Alright, I’ll arrange for someone to assist you in getting ready. They’ll probably meet you within the next hour.”
The speed at which things were happening caught me off guard. However, deep down, I understood the reason for the short notice. They must have wanted to extract information from me about how I had predicted the attack and uncover the identity of the culprit. Time was of the essence when it came to preparing for the impending battle.
I hurriedly dressed, but I couldn’t resist stealing a few seconds to gaze at the mark on my back. It shimmered silver, resembling two crescent moons facing outward–the symbol of the Moon Goddess. The nurse who was helping me change caught sight of it and let out a small gasp, but I chose to pay it no mind.
Before long, I found myself in the meeting room. It felt familiar, as I had spent countless weeks here in my previous life. I could recognize every crack in the walls and every grain in the wooden table. It felt odd to enter and not take my usual seat to the right of the Alpha. However, this time, the Luna’s seat would remain empty, as the Alpha’s mate had passed away several years ago.
As I walked in, my eyes immediately fell upon Bash standing in the center, facing the council. I was filled with joy at the sight of him and walked over to him. Since the Alpha had yet to arrive, the
council members were engaged in hushed conversations amongst themselves.
“Bash! I’m glad to see you’re safe!” I greeted him in a low voice. Now in my heart, he is like my comrade–in–arms.
I offered him a smile, but he didn’t even meet my gaze…