Curse of the Wolf King - Tessonja Odette
Just breathe. They can’t hurt me from here. No one can.
I release a heavy sigh, my breath fogging the window glass and obscuring my view of the enormous snowflakes that fall on the other side, floating from the vast white sky to the streets below. I press my forefinger to the fogged glass, tracing a circle, then several lines radiating out from its circumference. By the time I draw my last line, the image fades, taking with it my temporary sun.
I let out another sigh, my brow pulling into a scowl. I despise snow. Almost as much as this town.
I squint beyond the snowflakes to the bustling streets outside my home. A row of townhouses identical to mine line the opposite street. One family all but spills from their doorway in their haste to get outside, gathering their composure when they reach the cobblestone street. The father straightens his cravat, tips his hat, and mouths what I can only imagine are kind greetings to passing neighbors, who in turn stop to chat. Their words are too distant for me to hear from inside my townhouse’s parlor, but the delighted squeals of the children are loud enough to reach me. A boy and girl grin up at the sky as they bounce up and down on the balls of their feet, faces alight at the sight of snow. It’s almost enough to make me wonder if the falling flakes of freezing doom perhaps aren’t the worst after all. However, all mirth from both myself and the children is stripped away when the mother swats at them, prodding her progeny into silence and well-behaved postures before contriving exaggerated smiles for her neighbors’ sake.
“Why, of course, Mrs. Aston,” I say under my breath, tone mocking, “you most certainly should strip the joy from your happy children while you can. Wouldn’t want their enthusiasm for life’s early pleasures to stain your well-kept reputation.”
I shake my head and turn away from the window with a huff. Mrs. Aston, like everyone else in the town of Vernon, is yet another simple-minded, judgmental prude. I can’t believe I was ever so naive to think this place would be a fresh start. A place where I could escape the rigid structures of human society and just be…me.
But no. There’s no room for me, not when society has already decided who and what I should be. A daughter. A woman. A wife-in-training. Quiet. Demure. Chaste.
One would think moving to an isle ruled by the fae—magical creatures I once thought could never belong outside mythical stories—would provide a fresh perspective on social norms. When Father announced he was moving me and my youngest sister from Bretton to Faerwyvae, and to the Winter Court of all places, I felt a mix of emotions. Terror. Shock. Relief. And, yes, most pathetic of all, hope. I should have known better. For it turns out, the human towns in Faerwyvae are just as uptight as the cities in Bretton.
If only I could go home. To my real home. Not here. Not even Bretton, but to the home of my childhood where the sun shone year-round, browning my skin as I played outdoors with my sisters, not a care in the world to dampen our spirits. That was joy. That was happiness. That was when our family was whole, and Mother was still…
My shoulders stiffen. Shaking the ruminations from my mind, I stride to the fireplace at the opposite end of the parlor. I cross my arms and pop my hip to the side as I glower at the meager flames. An unladylike countenance, I’m sure, but considering I’m alone in my family’s parlor, I really couldn’t give a damn.
I suppress a shudder, wishing the heat of the fireplace could more adequately warm the room. How is it that I live in a land filled with magic, and yet we’re still plagued by the same unreliable hearths I left behind? The Winter Court, more than any other court in Faerwyvae, should make proper heat a priority for its residents. Shouldn’t it?
I grit my teeth, releasing a grumble of muttered curses.
Saints Above, why am I so on edge today?
As if in answer, my gaze is drawn to the tea table in front of the couch, where a well-worn book rests, taunting me.
Oh, that’s right. Because I’m out of reading material. Again.
I move to the couch and retrieve the shawl draped over one of the pillows, then wrap it around my shoulders. I pick up my book and