The Darkest Wolves - A.K. Koonce Page 0,1
It’s a fiery thing, she tells them.
And she’s not wrong.
There are no more words to say. Nothing I can say could explain why I’m not overjoyed Mika picked me. Even when I’m not speaking, I’m still screwing life up.
It’s not my fault.
I told father I wanted to join our leaders. Or at the very least, I wanted to become a Fighter Wolf and keep our pack safe. I told them all what I’d hoped for in life.
But father died.
And I’m too pretty to waste the Goddess’s gifts.
A beautiful face isn’t meant for politics or war.
Sometimes I wonder if it would hurt less to hear that praise of my features if I’d known beauty as a friend my entire life.
But I didn’t. I didn’t grow up pretty. I grew up sturdy and brutish like my father. I was always his little shadow trying to be just like papa.
Then one day, I was beautiful. My mother emphasized it and told everyone daily. And I’d never realized how much it hurt to know I wasn’t before.
I was oblivious to my chubby cheeks and soft adolescent belly. I was blind to that unwanted appearance. Until everyone reminded me day in and day out: Ceria, you’re so beautiful. Your mother must be so proud. You’re going to make a man very lucky one day.
Yes, yes. But imagine if I could keep my mother safe. Or if I could outwit any man. Oh, the things I’d give to outwit Mika to his stupid, brick-like face.
Not that I can’t. I certainly can. But damn, Goddess Moon, back me up sometimes.
None of the quiet women stop me as I wander back to my sister’s bedroom and shut the door. I sit at the edge of the quilted mattress for a long time and consider my options.
The thing is, I don’t have any. I can only do my duty as a woman and mate with Mika to keep a family secret kept very far in the dark.
It was my father’s burden, and now it is my own.
And I’ll carry it just as he did: crying and bitching every step of the way.
So I stare out the little square window on the far wall of the cottage and wait for the dread to ease into acceptance. I wait. And I wait. And I wait.
An hour passes as the sun settles low in the pale blue sky, and my stomach still turns sickly. My teeth are still clenched tightly.
And the inky black shadow pacing at the tree line is still watching me.
He’s my one distraction from all of this.
He’s a stranger. The black-haired wolf hidden in the brush isn’t one of ours. Darker wolves are an ominous sighting in our pack. They’re as rare as dragons nowadays. Wolves like this don’t come here. They’re not our kind.
The darkness of the creature alone feels like an omen.
How very ironic that I’d see the hellish creature on my perfect little mating day. The Goddess hates me indeed.
The brutish beast has held eyes with me for several minutes now. The mass of him alone is frightening. I should be scared. He looks like a pet of the devil himself. And yet, all I do is hold his glaring gaze.
Neither of us move.
Then, as if tiring of our game, his front paw motions forward, and a puff of dirt billows around his fur where he dares take a step into the line of fading sunlight.
The fucking audacity of this bitch.
I storm across the room, and I’m flinging open the window at once.
“Are you challenging me, Hell Cunt?” I scream into the wind.
Barrley, the old neighbor lady, stops dead in her tracks. A wicker basket of daisies hangs limply in her hand. Her big brown eyes widen while her jaw rears back so far she gives herself several chins, and none of them are pretty.
The young girl at her side whispers beneath her breath, but I hear her quietness.
Crazy, she tells her mother.
“Are you…alright, Cersia?” Barrley asks with a voice that sounds like it’s walking on eggshells to even address the crazy woman barking out the window like a feral dog giving a taunting squirrel a good ass-chewing.
My attention shifts from the hesitant woman to the tree line.
But the wolf is gone. Nothing but swaying tree limbs and rustling leaves peer back at me.
And maybe…just maybe I really am the village crazy bitch.
A Simple Choice
The heaviness of the moon presses down on me when my eyes open to the shadowy room. I can’t say when I