Chapter 23:

Chapter Twenty Three


Chapter Twenty Three

“Really, how did you find us?”

To Fey, the morning didn’t seem real. How could anything be so bright and cheerful after all the horrors they had witnessed the night before? Her body was tired, her mind was exhausted, and her missing horn still throbbed in tune with her heartbeat. All she wanted to do was sleep. But she knew that as soon as she closed her eyes, they were all she would see.

Not the wendigos.

The children.

This was all her fault. How could she have been so stupid? She had known the wendigos were on their trail, but it hadn’t occurred to her for even a second that she would be putting her old pack in danger. And now Jake, Nat, and Derrick…sweet, innocent Derrick, who had been a source of joy for everyone who met him…were dead. The pain in her heart was worse than her missing horn. But she deserved that pain. She would never forgive herself. Not one bit, not for as long as she lived.

So, to keep herself from succumbing to the guilt, she turned her attention to Zave.

“I told you already,” he said. “The lights showed me.”

“Okay, but what does that mean?”

Zave shrugged, looking out over the sparkling waters of Lake Shane. “I wish I could tell you.”

“Then try.”

He gave her an annoyed look.

Following Jacob Donner’s disappearance, a brief funeral had been held for their fallen packmates. Norrin and Ember had gone back to retrieve Skylar’s body, and together they had buried her with what little remained of the children. Afterwards, Glenn had silently led the pack to the pebble beach where Fey had taken them swimming the day before. Nobody wanted to stay in the nest. How could they sleep there—how could they ever call it home again—after all this?

Now it was a couple hours before noon, and Ember and Norrin had gone back to the wendigo camp again to burn everything. Looking up, Fey could see a column of smoke rising from that direction. They all knew it was a pointless gesture, but the act of erasing that horrible place from the face of the earth still felt right. Glenn was sitting by a fire he had built, his eyes closed and mouth moving silently. Every minute or so, the smoke would swirl around him, coalescing into the shape of a deer. Not just any deer, Fey noted with a tear rolling down her cheek, but a young buck whose antlers had only barely begun to grow in. The incorporeal fawn would prance happily around Glenn for a few seconds, and then dash away into the sky.

Clueless was sleeping fitfully on the ground nearby, jerking and whining as she relived the horrible events of the night before over and over again. She had seemed overjoyed to see Zave at first, but the moment her former owner had tried to touch her, she had shied away from him. She had refused to speak a word to him ever since, but she also refused to stray more than a few feet away from him. Zave didn’t understand, but Fey could only imagine how confused Clueless must be feeling. She had discovered that the man she loved more than anything else on earth had spent her whole life calling her stupid. Did she still love Zave? Of course. Nothing would ever change that. But she was experiencing feelings now that she had never known as a dog. Anger. Betrayal. It would take time for her to come to terms with those new emotions. Even when she did, her relationship with Zave might never be the same.

Fey wanted to tell herself that was a good thing. It would help her grow out of the mindset of being someone else’s pet. But in the midst of all the pain and loss that was going around, she couldn’t help but wish she had never Awoken Clueless at all. Then she and Zave could have continued living their happy little lives without ever knowing the truth. Ignorant, and thus blissful.

“Maybe I don’t want to try explaining it,” Zave snapped, pulling Fey back to the present. “Maybe I’m tired of not knowing things.”

“All right, that’s fine,” Fey conceded, not in the mood for another fight.

But Zave wasn’t done. All the emotions he had been bottling up had found an exit, and by God they were coming out. “I don’t know why I’ve been dragged into all this. I don’t know why my dog had to be part of a secret shapeshifter’s cult. I don’t know why looking into lights gives me visions. I don’t know why these monsters, wendigos, whatever the hell they are, are after me. I don’t know anything, Fey, and maybe I’m a little scared, okay?”

Fey looked at him, his eyes wide with fear, and felt something inside of her crack. She bit her lip, trying to fight back the tears, and losing. Letting out a hiccupping sob, she leaned over and gave him a hug. Zave froze, surprised, and then slowly returned the hug.

“I’m sorry,” Fey whispered. “I’m sorry for everything, Zave. This is all my fault. I’m sorry I dragged you and Clueless into this. I’m sorry I lied to you. I’m sorry for all the horrible things I said on the way here. I’m sorry for…I’m just so, so sorry!”

“I’m sorry too,” Zave responded.

Fey pulled away and looked at him, puzzled.

“I should have been a better owner for Clueless,” he said, staring at his knees. “You were right about everything, Fey. How can I claim to love Clueless after I gave her a name like Clueless? I think…I don’t know, but I think a part of me always knew she was different from other dogs. I should have known. I should have treated her better.”

Fey reached out and took his hand. “You were the best owner Clueless could ever hope for. It’s not your fault you didn’t know she was a skinwalker. You didn’t even know what a skinwalker was before I Awakened her!”

He didn’t respond, just turned to stare out at the lake again. For half an hour, there was silence except for the gentle lapping of the water on the shore as they each processed their own feelings and the lives that fate had laid out for them.

“It’s hard to describe,” Zave eventually spoke up. “If I look directly into a light…any light…for long enough, I’ll start to have visions.”

“What kind of visions?” Fey asked.

“The future, I think. And maybe the present too. That’s how I found you and Clueless. The smiling man told me to look into the light, and I saw you two getting off the bus at the gas station.”

Fey gave him a sharp look. “Who told you that?”

Zave shook his head. “I don’t know.”

Fey thought for a second, then stood up and grabbed Zave’s hand. He gave her a strange look, but didn’t fight her as she led him across the pebble beach to where Glenn was sitting. The smoke had stopped turning into deer, and now her former alpha was sitting there with his eyes closed and his head bowed. A small piece of one of Derrick’s budding antlers was clasped in his fist. Besides the hand, that had been the only piece of him they could recover.

“I’ve alerted the other alphas,” he said without looking at them.

Fey paused. “What?”

“If the wendigos have truly returned, then every skinwalker alive needs to know.” His voice sounded different. Hollow, somehow. “I’ve told them to convene at the Ranch for an emergency council.”

“What’s the Ranch?” Zave whispered.

“Skinwalker Ranch,” Fey answered, too stunned to pull her eyes from Glenn. “It’s somewhere in Utah, sort of a…gathering place. It belongs to every pack and no pack at the same time. If he’s calling all the pack leaders to meet there at the same time…”

“We’re going to war,” Glenn finished through clenched teeth.

A shiver went down Fey’s spine, but she shook it off. Pulling Zave closer to the fire, she pointed at it.

“Do it now,” she told him. “Tell me what you see.”

Zave reluctantly looked at the dancing flames. “I need to be looking for something. There has to be something I’m trying to see.”

Fey thought for a second. “Tell me what we’re going to do later today.”

Zave was quiet for a minute, and his eyes unfocused as he stared at Glenn’s fire. He swayed a little, almost like he was going to faint. Fey reached out to catch him, just in case he—

“I see all of us,” he said, suddenly. “Your whole pack. At least, I think it’s you guys. You all look different in your human forms. We’re in a building, waiting in line for something. I think…”

He paused, leaning his face a little closer to the flames.

“I think it’s an airport,” he said. “And we’re all getting on a plane.”

Glenn’s eyes snapped open.

“But that’s impossible,” Fey said, crossing her arms. “We’re skinwalkers. We would never do something like ride in an airplane.”

“Actually,” Glenn broke in, “that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Fey spun to look at him, too shocked for words.

“I’ve had a set of human clothes and some money stashed away for years,” Glenn explained. “Just in case something like this happened.”

“But…But a plane?” Fey stammered.

“This is an urgent matter. It will take too long to travel to the Ranch on foot.”

“But that goes against everything we stand for as skinwalkers!”

Glenn narrowed his eyes. “Bold words, coming from a Tame.”

Fey’s blood ran cold, and she took a step back in horror. “Did Ember tell you?”

“I’m not stupid, Fey,” Glenn said, shaking his head. “I knew the moment I first smelled you.”

Fey’s mouth hung open, too stunned to say anything, as Glenn got to his hooves—and shifted into his human form for the first time she could remember. As a human his hair was gray and his face was beginning to wrinkle with age. And without his fur to hide them, the exhausted rings under his eyes were impossible to miss.

He was only in his fifties, but now he looked very, very old.

“Let’s go tell Ember and Norrin the news,” he said, turning to walk into the woods.

“We have a plane to catch.”