This is the last book in the trilogy Prophecy’s End (Trilogy of the Wolf) (Volume 3)
This has had some bittersweet moments for us as endings do for most people.
Twins share a kinship few understand; a bond no one other than a twin could comprehend. Even their mothers can only guess at the bond. Some twins even have their own language.
For Olesa’s twins, Draik and Mara, this was the way of things until a few months after their seventh birthday. They were inseparable, always together, always whispering to one another.
The large house they lived in sat on the edge of what had once been known as the Hunting Grounds. Years ago few who lived east of the dividing line dared to venture inside. Those who had lived in the Hunting Grounds refused to leave until the werewolves had forced them, taking what they valued most.
Werewolf attacks now were few and far between. Olesa knew, even now, they hadn’t reached everyone with the cure, but every month, more and more were cured. Werewolf occurrences were a rarity.
The house sat on the edge of a forest which stretched off to the east. Sometimes, Olesa caught herself staring into the forest for hours on end in deep thought. She often tried to imagine she could see Heartfield through the thick trees.
Although she’d been a small child when they had fled the city, she still remembered the frantic bells as an army approached. She remembered hearing frightened people talking about how the army bore a red flag. At the time, she’d had no idea what it meant. Now, she understood. It had been the Red King.
A few months after her twins had turned seven was still fresh and clear in Olesa’s mind. It still ate at her. She had come to learn it was one of the curses of being a mother. She could never forget the moments that changed the lives of her children forever.
She and her father had been sitting together during one of his visits from Suncrest. Of late, it seemed her father had stayed with her longer and longer.
The children had run behind the house and were circling back around. Draik and Mara had invented some game involving the two of them. It involved a lot of running. The adults couldn’t begin to guess the rules of the game as the rules seemed to change. It didn’t matter as the game involved a lot of laughing and joyful yelling. She remembered watching them play with a small smile on her lips as she talked with her father. She had felt at peace.
Olesa wrapped her arms around her chest, remembering the moment when it had happened. She’d been thinking about Arc; about how much she missed him; about how worried she was. Her husband had taken a trip into the nearby town to purchase supplies as he usually did.
Sometimes Constin went with him, but his bad leg was giving him more trouble these days. It made it harder and harder for the man to get around. He often jested with her he didn’t feel like he was fifty-six. Whenever he did, she’d give a small smile. To her, he looked far more fragile than he ever had. His hair had gone white a few years ago.
Constin had been telling her something about the upcoming trip to the Grove. Excitement had filled his voice at reconnecting with Draikin and Marath. Olesa had shared his excitement at seeing the rest of their family again.
The adult’s conversation halted when they noticed Mara had stopped moving. Her head was turned from them. Her eyes were locked onto something near the tree line. Draik hadn’t expected his sister to come to a sudden stop. He tripped as he attempted to dodge away and keep from running into her. He had rolled along the ground to keep from doing so, but was quick to gain his feet.
It had only taken a few moments to see what Mara stared at. It’d been such a long time since she had seen a wolf. Maybe she never had. Maybe she only remembered Draikin and Arc in their wolf form. At first, it had appeared like a white dog.
“Not a werewolf,” Constin muttered to himself, shaking his head. His eyes narrowed in deep thought. “The full moon is still eighteen days away.”
One thing Olesa could do was remember when the full moon would be. Constin, having been a werewolf for a short time, shared in the ability. He said he could still feel the cycles of the moon, even after the cure.
The creature stepping out from the trees was a little smaller than a medium sized dog. Its fur was pure white, though in places, it appeared somewhat dirty. Had it not been for the large paws and the longer snout, it could have easily been mistaken for a dog. The wolf pup crept out from the shelter of the trees. Its eyes were locked on Mara. Olesa’s heart skipped a beat.
Draik, ever being the protective brother, had stepped in front of his sister. The boy held a stick in front of him with both hands. Olesa and Constin moved toward the children, keeping their pace steady. The last thing they had wanted to do was startle the wolf. A few moments later, Olesa and Constin had stopped to stand just to the side of the twins. Constin now gripped his walking stick like a weapon rather than leaning on it. Together the four watched the wolf pup approach them.
Olesa’s ability to see auras had never extended to animals. However, when she looked to Mara, she didn’t see any fear shimmering around her. She saw curiosity.
The pup stopped about five feet from them, just out of Draik’s reach. The animal tilted its head as if it was attempting to look past Draik to see Mara. Olesa remembered how slow her heart seemed to beat and how the world seemed to crawl by.
“Get away!” Draik had yelled. He raised the stick over his head as he took a step forward, threatening the animal.
Although she didn’t understand what was happening, Olesa knew something important was happening. Her hand flashed out, catching hold of the stick. The resistance threw Draik off balance from his attempted attack. He fell forward onto his knees. He looked back at his mother wide-eyed.
“Mother?” he had asked, furrowing his brow in confusion. She held her hand up for silence.
With him no longer in the way, the pup and Mara were now staring into each other’s eyes. Olesa had helped her son to his feet. She pulled him to stand beside her, out of the way. The pup moved a few steps closer before it lay down in the grass at Mara’s feet. The girl looked down, a slow smile coming to her. Her tiny hand reached out and stroked the wolf’s head.
After a few moments, the pup’s tongue lolled out of its mouth, showing it was enjoying being petted. Olesa smiled fondly at the scene unfolding, despite not knowing what it meant.
“Her name is Radiance,” Mara said in a soft voice. “She says she’s been looking for me.”
Olesa remembered the look her father had given her when Mara had spoken. Neither of them understood what had happened. Draik stared at them, fascinated.
The change was slow. Draik and Mara still played together. They were still close. Radia, as the twins took to calling her, was there as well. She was never far from Mara. The strange part was the small wolf seemed to speak to Mara within her mind. They were all curious about it. Arc was especially interested, even concerned. He spent a great deal of time speaking to Mara. He even spoke to Radia through Mara in an attempt to understand the connection.
The change in Draik perpetuated slowly. It was still there. Still noticeable. He loved having the wolf as a new playmate. The three of them would run and chase each other. The children would throw sticks and Radia would fetch them. Both children even tried to ride the little, white wolf. Radia made it clear that would never happen.
Toward the end of the first month, Olesa noticed a drastic change in her son. On several occasions, she noticed Mara in her room having a deep conversation with Radia. Draik was nowhere to be seen. It struck Olesa as odd. The twins were almost inseparable. When she went looking for him, she’d find the boy sitting in the grass behind the house.
After Olesa found him there for the third time, she realized he was sitting in the same place Mara had been when Radiance had arrived. Olesa’s brow furrowed. She knelt beside him. She stared into the trees, waiting for her son to speak to her. When it became apparent he wasn’t going to, she had placed her hand on his knee.
“What is it, son?”
“She keeps asking Mara where my wolf is. She says it’s odd seeing me without him.”
From there, he seemed to drift further and further from them and from the person he had been. Olesa had mentioned it several times to Arc he needed to spend extra time with Draik. Her husband was so fascinated by Radia and the connection she had with Mara, he spent most of his time trying to understand it. Olesa tried to make more time for her son. By that time, he was beginning to become bitter, pushing her away, pushing everyone away.
Constin, too, was highly interested in the wolf. His interest was in a more academic way. He tried to document everything. Her father insisted he’d heard of something like this happening before. The only problem was he couldn’t remember where.
Even after Olesa pleaded with him not to, Constin set off to visit the cities he had explored as a younger man. He hoped he could find the passage he believed was out there. Olesa was worried her father’s age and the old injury to his leg would make him an easy target. Being as stubborn as ever, Constin laughed away her fears. He told her he’d be fine and then he had left them, searching for knowledge. Olesa had watched him leave, wondering if she’d see him again. Tears had sat in her eyes.
Ten years had passed. Constin sent letters, telling them of what he had found and what still eluded him. The twins had drifted further and further apart. During those ten years, Arc searched out any rumor of surviving wolves.
Olesa felt as if her family was falling apart and she could do nothing to stop it. It tore at her heart. At her soul. Often, she found herself crying in her room. Alone.
Shortly, after the twins had turned seventeen, something happened which Olesa had watched and dreaded coming. They woke one morning to find Draik had run away. When she learned their son was gone, she fell to her knees and wept.
For the two weeks leading up to him leaving, Draik’s aura had held a bright yellow tint to it. Over the years, Olesa knew it meant he was restless, but she had thought it was because he was an adolescent, trying to find his way in the world. Trying to understand his place in it.
Olesa was also upset with Radiance and Arc. The wolf admitted through Mara she had encountered Draik as he had left. However, she hadn’t tried to stop him or inform any of them he was leaving. She told them it was because Draik had asked her not to. He had explained he was going in search of his wolf. Draik was convinced something had happened to him. Olesa was upset with Arc because he stopped her from rushing after the boy. He told her this was a good thing for Draik.
“It’s about time he try to find his destiny rather than just wait for it.” He had told her as gently as he could. Despite so, it still felt like a slap in the face. Draik was her little boy.
After three days of worrying, pacing, and wringing her hands, Olesa couldn’t stand it any longer. She struck out to find her son. At first, tracking him had been easy. She could tell he’d been in a hurry to put as much distance between them as possible. Even with the evidence of his passage being easy to discern, it was difficult to track him at first. She, too, had left in the middle of the night, hoping she wouldn’t wake Arc.
She spent three days traveling east through the forest before she came to a small river and lost his trail. Something told her he had allowed the river to carry him south before he got out. She shook her head. Her boy was smart. Maybe he had spent too much time listening to their stories.
Olesa spent a while studying the other bank of the small river that was about ten feet wide and three feet deep. She hoped he hadn’t done what she suspected. If he had, she wouldn’t be able to find him. All she accomplished was giving Arc enough time to catch up to her.
She ignored him, continuing to study the bank, looking for any sign of Draik. She needed her child to come back home where she knew he was safe. Tears started to stream down her face, knowing she had failed. It was at this point she looked back toward Arc. Anger burned in her bright green eyes.
“This is your fault.” She shook her head at him. Tears sat in her eyes. Arc stood there, staring at her. “If you had only spent more time with him, like I asked all those years ago, this wouldn’t have happened. But no, you were more interested in Mara and Radiance. And then, all those times you left to track down rumors. Draik needed his father! I wasn’t enough!” She wept into her hands, knowing she was being unfair, but her heart hurt.
Arc clenched his jaw with anger. “I’m not the only one at fault here.”
Olesa took in a deep breath, trying to stop herself from sobbing. “Don’t you think I know that? I tried being there for him. He kept pushing me away. I should’ve pushed harder, but I didn’t. I let everything, you, father, him, Mara, distract me and keep me at a distance. I wasn’t a good enough mother, and now… Now, he’s gone.”
She fell to her knees, giving into their shakiness. For several minutes, she wept into her hands, unable to control herself. She had never imagined feeling so helpless as a mother.
Arc’s arms wrapped around her. They said nothing to one another. Together, they cried in silence for their missing son.
“We should head home. Mara will be worried,” Arc had whispered.
Olesa felt numb, hollow, as if her entire world had been shattered. She nodded and allowed Arc to help her to her feet. She followed him back to their home in silence. Her eyes were red and she fought back the lump in her throat.
Two long, slow, and agonizing years passed. Olesa had sent letters to each of the cities she knew of. She gave each of the letter carriers a detailed description of Draik so they could find him. Each of them came back saying they couldn’t find the man described. With each letter that came back, Olesa closed her eyes and allowed a few tears to slide down her cheeks. The only letter which hadn’t returned was the letter she had sent to her father. Instead, Constin came back to her.
Olesa was surprised to see his leg bothering him more now. He relied almost completely on his cane. He seemed so old now, so frail. He wasn’t the man she remembered him being. Olesa felt her heart breaking even more every time she looked upon him.
Several weeks after they had celebrated Mara’s nineteenth birthday, they were gathered for a more somber reason. Constin had been ill for over a month. One morning, he simply didn’t wake. Olesa was the one who found him. As she cried out in despair, Arc and Mara rushed in. Olesa glanced at them, unable to see them through her tears before racing to her room and locking herself in. Her chest felt tight. She buried her face in her pillow to scream and weep.
“Mother?” Mara called through the door. There was no answer. She turned to her father. He gave her a sad smile. Tears glistened in his own eyes. “Mother?” she tried again.
Arc tapped on the door. “We’re here if you need us. We’ll be downstairs.”
Mara stared at the door for several moments in deep thought. Her father’s footsteps falling on each wooden step barely registered. She looked down at Radia and knew what she had to do. It was time for her to leave and find her brother. She had never told her mother where she thought Draik might go. She had understood why he had left.
She waited until she thought her mother was better. She waited a few weeks as her mother mourned. There were several times Mara found her sitting in one of the chairs despondently. When those episodes passed, Mara knew it was time.
Olesa looked toward her daughter who had entered the room. She smiled lovingly at her. Mara knelt beside her and wrapped her arms around her. For several moments, mother and daughter remained in each other’s arms.
“I’m going to the Grove,” Olesa whispered. “Draikin will want to know about Constin’s passing. Come with me.”
Mara studied her mother, suspecting she wanted to see if grandfather was there too. He had spent a short time as a werewolf. She placed her hand on her mother’s shoulder.
“I won’t be coming with you.”
Olesa’s small smile fell. She looked to her daughter and stared into her yellowy-orange eyes she’d inherited from her father. “Where are you going?”
“Not to the Grove.”
Olesa continued to study her daughter. It didn’t take long to realize Mara wasn’t going to tell her where she was going. It saddened her she was losing her daughter, as well, but she had known one day, this day would come. Even knowing it, didn’t make it any easier.
“Goodbye, mother.” Mara kissed her cheek. “I love you.”
“Wait! What about your father?”
Mara turned back. “He’s waiting outside for me.”
“He knew you were going to leave?” Tears came to Olesa again. As much as she didn’t want to cry, tears slid down her cheeks. The look Mara gave her told her every-thing. Mara had waited to tell her until she was strong enough to hear it. Olesa rose and pulled her daughter into a tight embrace. “I want to tell you not to go, but I understand. No matter what happens, know that your father and I will always love you.”
Mara nodded, unable to find her voice. Once outside, she hugged her father tightly. Arc pulled back and stared into his daughter’s eyes.
“Just promise me to be safe.”
She nodded before leaving, making her way east, toward Heartfield. She and Draik had always been interested in the stories grandfather had told them. It was where their grandfather and mother had lived before the grand adventure they’d taken.
For Mara, it seemed as good of a place as any to begin looking for her twin.