After the words of encouragement from his brother, Gillireth started looking for his wife in the castle, only to find that she had not been seen by anyone since that morning. Zolan, meanwhile, was following him, trying to convince him to wait until the alcohol had cleared his system. As usual, nothing could change the king’s mind when he had set out to do something.
“I’m perfectly fine,” he said. “Everyone knows I hold my drink much better than you.”
“Are you sure you didn't just hear people talking about how much more drink you tend to hold?” his twin sighed. “But I suppose we ought to find her, just to make sure she’s alright.”
They searched every room in the main levels of the castle before moving on to the towers, where they did not have any more luck in finding the missing queen. Their concern mounted with every empty room, and the only thing left to do seemed to be to gather some guards to search for her. They took a moment to scratch their heads, and then Zolan got an idea.
“You know that secret compartment in that room in the north tower? It was always the best place for hide-and-seek. It’s a long shot, but I say we check there before we put a search party together.”
Calysta had been packing over the course of the last few days for a journey from which she knew she could never return. Leaving Gillireth and her privileged lifestyle would be difficult, but she felt that it was the only way she could ever hope to keep Faelan safe. Finally, everything was together, and all she had to do was slip away in the night, leaving her life behind. For most of the morning, she had sat with Faelan in the concealed alcove of the unused room, humming a traditional Dechi tune to him softly. She had lost track of time, enjoying her peace in this tiny world in which she and her son were all that mattered.
Her humming ceased as she thought she caught the sound of approaching footsteps. She gripped her son tightly and bated her breath. The sound faded as swiftly as it had come. Had she only imagined it? Surely no one would come up here. She was almost certain it had been nothing, but stripped her clothing and took to her wulfen form just in case. Faelan snuggled into her warm coat, oblivious of the very idea of danger. A few minutes later and Calysta had fallen into that same oblivion. In less than a day’s time, she would be free of this place, free of these threats, free of this caged life.
A blade of light pierced through Calysta’s dream of peace as the door to the small compartment was suddenly opened.
Gillireth’s eyes widened as he exclaimed, “WOLVES!” He staggered back and stared. For a moment, no one knew how to react, all four of them in absolute stupor.
“Gillireth! Gillreth, you must believe me. It’s me, it’s Calysta! Please, I can explain! Let me show you!”
Gillireth blinked, the only response he could muster. Flashes of memory raced through Zolan’s mind, their paths intersecting. The talking greywolf, the apparently dead king, the wolf present the night of Hemming’s disappearance. It all made sense now. The Dechi were the greywolves.
“It’s true, isn’t it?” Zolan asked in awe, staring at the golden wolf and her dusky pup. “It’s been this way all along.”
“It’s a lie!” Gillireth yelled drunkenly. He pointed an unsteady finger at Faelan. “That is not my son. This is sorcery! An illusion! My son is gone! THAT IS NOT MY SON!” He stumbled toward the infant, planning to snatch it away, throw it out the tower window, and be done with this lunacy raging through his clouded mind. Calysta had seen the likes of this before in her nightmares. A low growl emerged from her very soul. I will fight until the end.
Baring her teeth, she launched herself at Gillireth and clamped down upon his jaw, tackling him. With his experience in battle, Zolan was able to react quickly, spotting the dagger on top of Calysta’s clothing and running to it. This was the only way he could hope to save his brother.
He took the dagger in his hand and sprung upon Calysta’s hulking frame, stabbing her again and again. She cried out and released her death grip.
While Zolan struggled to keep Calysta grounded, Gillireth cried, “Give me the dagger! Now!” His brother managed to quickly toss it to toward him in the midst of his wrestling.
Gillireth took the dagger in both hands, raising it high above his head, and in an act that would define his life, stabbed Calysta in the head. He looked down at the corpse and lost his breath. So strong and unrelenting was the blow that her skull had been cracked open, the weapon lodged within. It was not the gore itself that disturbed Gillireth, no; it was the body. A human body. Calysta, in her final moment, had returned to her womanly shape in a final plea for mercy, one which was never realized. In death, she had found the truest peace she could ever hope to obtain, and had stolen every last bit for which her husband ever pined.
Gillireth stepped away from the naked, lifeless form and stumbled back into a corner of the room that once housed fond childhood memories. His disturbance from the ordeal would never leave him; it would cleave to him as a disease, darkening his heart.
“If you love me, brother, you will take that creature to the woods, kill it, and dispose of it.” The words came out shakingly between spatters of blood from his lips. He motioned toward Faelan, who had begun to whimper unceasingly, a defenseless hairball strewn out on the floor. Zolan first dislodged the dagger from the corpse, afraid to leave his brother with a weapon at this time. Then he grasped the infant wolf hesitantly by the nape of his neck. The pup made no struggle, but instead gazed at Zolan with pitiful honey-colored eyes. The young man carried Faelan out of the room, alerting the guards to get the king immediate medical attention upon his exit from the castle.