"Nice shirt," Crina spoke up. Her eyes shot over to Jacque, who gave her a thumbs up.
"My sister." Wadim grinned. "She sends me these shirts with different sayings on them. She says it's to help me keep my sense of humor. Apparently I'm surrounded by boring facts."
"What did you mean earlier?" Jacque asked from around Fane, who still wouldn't let her past.
"You were looking at the tables; you feel the pull of them."
Jacque nodded but didn't speak. She felt Fane wrap an arm around her waist. He pulled her beside him, firmly against him.
"These tables were carved by the Fae. Now, the Fae never do anything without reason.” Wadim gestured to the first table. “This image is of who we were created to be. I'm sure you know the legend behind the Canis lupis – how the moon goddess created us?"
Jacque nodded. "Yes. She created you to save the species of the grey wolves."
"It's deeper than that." Wadim stood up to look at the carving. His fingers traced the wolves as he spoke. "The great Luna saw that man was dividing itself. Family was no longer important. She saw the wars, the hatred, and the children affected by it."
Jacque stepped away from Fane and pulled out a chair from the third table. The others followed suit. As they continued to listen to the pack historian share his knowledge, it was obvious to Jacque why Wadim was the historian. He was so passionate about their history.
"So she looked upon the wolves, who were dwindling in number, and back to the humans who no longer cared for their own, and combined their spirits. She took the loyal, protective, possessive nature of the wolf and took the intelligence, emotions, and love of the human and brought them together. She designed us to be pack.
“The Canis lupis, both wolf and man, were meant to be a family with one another. We gain strength through our bond with each other. This first table depicts what the goddess wanted for us. The second table is who we are today. We have attacked our own, divided our species, even had a civil war. We suffer for going against our very nature.” Wadim shook his head.
“In any event, the third table is who we need to be. We can't survive without children. But the moon goddess has seen the human children suffer because of the wars and division in their species. Her way of ensuring that we understand how precious a child is is by giving so few. She never wants us to forget the blessing of children and the hope they bring. History reveals our path – we are in the circumstances we are today because of the choices we, as a collective species, made. This third table pulls at our wolf. The wolf in us longs for pack, for family, for touch, for children. These tables created by the Fae were designed to draw one's wolf closer to the surface, to open our human eyes in order to see what needs to be done."
They all stared in silence when Wadim finished speaking.
Finally Sorin spoke. "Thank you for that, Wadim. It is important that we remember why we are here."
"Well, I'm sure you didn't come for a history lesson on the moon goddess and our species. What can I help you with?"
"Didn't Vasile contact you?" Fane asked, his brow furrowed.
"No, I haven't heard from our Alpha."
Sorin looked wary. "Vasile told me he would call Wadim to let him know we were coming."
Fane met Wadim's eyes. "Has anyone been here to see you today?"
Wadim thought for a few minutes, trying to remember, but his mind was foggy and the thoughts stayed just out of reach.
"I don’t remember. I don’t even remember what I've done today." Just as his words came out Fane, Sorin, and Crina all whipped towards the archways.
Crina gasped. "Is that smoke?"
Then they were all up and running in the direction of the smoky smell. Fifty feet down the hall, the smoke began to surround them.
"Wadim, go find some blankets – and hurry!" Fane yelled.
Wadim took off in the direction of his room. A minute later, he arrived in the largest archive room and saw piles of parchment, paper, and books on the floor. Flames were steadily reaching out toward them. He threw a blanket to Fane, one to Sorin, and took the remaining one. When he covered the fire with it, stomping as quickly as he could, Sorin and Fane followed suit.
Jacque and Crina looked on in horror.
"This is so not good," Jacque muttered.
"I think that is what you Americans call an understatement," Crina said, unable to tear her eyes from the scene before them.
"Of the century," Jacque added. She began to cough from the smoke, which filled the room as the fire was extinguished.
Fane leaned back against the bookshelves behind him. His breathing was labored and his chest tight as he tried to suck in what little clean air was left in the room. "This has to be the work of that witch."
Wadim's head snapped up. "Witch?" he asked in horror.
Late in the night of the day the two groups had set out, Alina stood at the window of the room she and Vasile shared in the tavern. Her eyes looked out into the night. The sky was clear and stars dotted the darkness. The moon was a crescent, which gave off an eerie glow. She didn't know why, but she felt like she could push her pack on by sheer will, and if she took her eyes away from this view for a second all would fail. She heard the door behind her open and close softly. Strong arms wrapped around her waist from behind and she let her head fall back and rest on the strong chest of her mate.
"I feel your resolve, Mina." Vasile's breath whispered softly across her hair.
"I feel like if I step away, or stop thinking about them for even the shortest breath, their feet will falter and their courage fail. How vain is that?"
Vasile chuckled. "My love, you are an Alpha. It is in your nature to control and protect. Give yourself a break. We have sent out the ones who love Jen and Dec the most. They will keep going until all is right again. I do not doubt them."
Alina knew he was right, but it didn't make it easier to sit and wait to hear from them. To hear if they were all safe and any closer to finding Jen and restoring Decebel.
"You need rest. We both do. Come." Vasile pulled her towards their bed and laid down beside her. "Sleep, Luna. Trust in your pack to be strong."
Alina drifted off to the sound of her mate's low, gentle voice singing softly. She smiled to herself as she thought about how the other males would tease him if they knew he sung his mate to sleep.