She closed her eyes and sat still as still next to the fire ring. He played the first notes and they drifted up into the dusky sky. She felt the song in her bones and let her voice gather the words as she found a harmony that wove around his melody and together the music built until the fire ignited and sent a shower of sparks into the lateness like harbingers of the fireflies to come. It grew and wove out from them into the trees and the wolves howled and a mourning dove adding to the power until she was not her anymore but a part of the music, the chorus taking her to the top of the mountain.
She had asked him once “Why can’t I make it come to me?”
“Because it isn’t a thing to be held or controlled. There’s a danger there to think so. It only comes in the between.” He rubbed oil into the wood of the lute and the fireplace light gleamed in the reflection in the grain.
“Between?” Her brows drew together as she tried to puzzle it out.
Simon smiled. “What good would a sunset be with no one to see it? What good would eyes be, with nothing to behold? The power lives in the give and take between the two. Even that is not a complete explanation, because it grows and encompasses everything it touches.”
Jae tried once to sing by herself in the woods and it sounded pretty but there was no magic in it. This night though, it was all around and the very fabric of the music held it and was held by it. She felt it gather in her throat and the instrument Simon played became more than it was meant to be and as they came to the end of the song they finished on the same note, leaving a complete silence as though the wind itself was holding it’s breath.
Simon’s skin glistened with sweat and her face was wet with tears she had not even realized she was crying.
He laid the lute to the side and smiled at Jae.
“It’s time isn’t it? Jae looked a little sad.
“Almost. Tonight there will be no chains.”
“But I don’t want to hurt anyone!”
“You won’t. I will leave you here and as I descend, magic will follow me that will turn you away should you try to come to the valley. It’s time for you to learn things that I can’t teach you.”
“How can I learn? It took me months to get used to waking and knowing that I had eaten the animals you left me. I don’t know that I could….I mean, they would be alive. I would have to kill them myself.”
“You have helped me trap them before you went into the cave.”
“It’s not the same. How will I know what to do? What if I can’t?”
“There will be help. The howling we heard with the music is a pack that lives here in the mountains. They have come each time and stayed their distance, waiting for you.”
Jae stared at him with fear in her eyes. “I’ve heard them and a couple of times I have caught a glimpse of them. Are they like me?”
Simon knew she meant were they wolves all of the time or just when the moon was full. ” Most are birth wolves but there are some who are not. They can teach you to hunt and someday to control your change so that you don’t need the moon. I know you are afraid, but you will be protected and this is the only way. They have watched over us and you see they have not attacked me in the night when I slept outside the cave. I will return for you in the morning.”
Jae took a deep breath and looked away from him. “You had better leave then. It will be dark soon.”
Simon reached out and touched her shoulder til she turned back to him. “I wish I could stay with you but it’s better you learn from them. I will be waiting for morning, daughter.”
Jae nodded, “Go on then, I feel my bones aching.”
Simon picked up the lute and started down the path and turned back one last time. Jae held up a hand to wave and found her throat was closing and her eyes were burning. It wouldn’t do to be seen crying by a pack of wolves. The thought made her shiver. She went into the cave out of habit. The way it felt to change was painful and she didn’t want to be seen, even if it was by wolves. She lay down inside and curled up for a moment, wishing she was just going to dose off for a nap but darkness had fallen and she felt the now familiar aching that turned to fire that melted her as she became the wolf. She stood and shook off the alien feeling and stood for a moment growing accustomed to the feel of her limbs, the closeness to the ground and the smells and sounds of the night. There were other wolves nearby and a deer just outside the clearing. She walked to the cave opening and lifted her nose to the scent on the breeze.
When she looked down again there were four wolves that had silently stepped out of the tree line. Three stood stock still as one took a step forward. The three growled quietly. The one said “I am Aedan.” Jae lowered her head, something inside telling her this one was powerful.
“Come with us. The man Simon has asked us to teach you.”
Jae looked in wonder. She could understand everything he said. He turned and the three followed and after a moments hesitation, so did Jae.