The time had come for us to give way to sleep, but just as I had laid down, Ylva addressed me.
“I want to show you something tomorrow. Have you ever seen the ocean?”
“You will see the sunrise tomorrow,” she said. “And we will talk.”
There was a strange, fragile quality to her voice that I couldn’t quite place. But I could imagine that, in contemplating her people’s history, she may have guessed my part in it. I wished that we would talk about it tonight. But she wanted to wait. I got little sleep that night.
She woke me at first light and told me to close my eyes. When I opened them, they lit upon a sight of splendor. Words cannot properly describe the way that that eternal blue resonated within my heart, but amid the chaotic waves, I found a peace I could not possibly imagine having gained at such a time in my life. I had seen the great mountains that housed my old valley, the tumbling forests by Eirethstead’s capitol, and the austere hills of Dechi country, but in that moment, nothing could match the beauty of the sea. The rising sun sat upon its surface like a dazzling crown, and the pink clouds were as jewels. Ylva woke me from my awestricken dream.
“It’s incredible, is it not? My parents took us out to this beach once and called the ocean ‘the only constant you’ll ever know.’ It never really made sense to me; I mean look at it. It’s never the same, at least not on its surface. It changes from moment to moment like some fickle child of contradiction. But I know what it means now. The people in your life will change whether you like it or not, but the endlessness of the sea will always be there for consolement.”
“It’s absolutely magnificent,” were my only words, my eyes still fixed upon its glistening surges.
“I think I’ve figured out your secret, or at least part of it,” she said after a moment, crossing her arms to guard against the chilling gusts. “And I’d like for you to know that if Gillireth’s your father, I don’t give a damn.”
I jerked slightly at her words, then smiled slowly. “You’re pretty sharp, Ylva.”
“So are you, when you’re not overly excited to punch a rock.” I laughed and felt my face reddening as she continued to speak. “If there’s one thing my time with you has taught me, it’s that people aren’t defined by their ancestors before them. Someone good can easily come from someone bad. The exception, of course, is that you are your mother’s son. You have the blood of the Alpha in you. And that makes you a beacon of hope for my people. For our people.” I was surprised to feel her icy hand grip my own.
My breath shook and I spoke the words I’d held prisoner within me for what felt like all my life. “If I’m to be honest, I can’t understand why anyone would expect anything of me. Look at me!” The words had begun, and there was no stopping them now. “I was just a pet wolf about a week ago! I can’t help humans, I can’t help the Dechi, and I sure as hell can’t help them come to reconciliation! I can’t even help Oliana! Or even myself.”
Ylva looked at me in shock. “Is that what Jarrah foretold? Peace between our races?”
I laughed bitterly and rubbed my forehead with my free hand. “Yes. I’m supposed to ‘seal a bond of peace’ or some horse shit like that. Oliana really thinks I can do it, poor girl. Why does she believe in me?”
“Just calm down.” I watched Ylva’s eyes dance over the sand in thought. “I know exactly why she believes in you. Now, I could spend the morning paying you compliments, or you could figure it out for yourself what makes you capable of such greatness. I’ll give you a hint,” she looked me in the eye. “It’s got nothing to do with your blood at all.” She paused briefly. "And I want you to know that whatever you become, you need not worry; you'll always just be Dechar to me."
A cry rang out suddenly and Ylva took her hand away from mine as she heard her name in the call.
“Ylva! Hey, Ylva! Is that really you?”
We looked in the direction of the voice to see a Dechi youth in wulfen form bounding toward us. If I had had to guess from his size and voice, I would have said he was about sixteen years old.
“Maccon?” Ylva asked in recognition as the form drew closer. His coat was mostly grey with white markings on his face and legs, but areas on his shoulders and face were tan-colored. Once he was upon us, I could see that the color of his eyes was almost entirely off-white with brown flecks lining his pupils. It was extremely awkward to me to be standing as a man in front of someone in their wulfen state.
“You’re alive!” he marveled. Then he looked at me in puzzlement.
“We’ve been searching for you for days now,” a gleeful laugh was held in Ylva’s voice.
They then asked each other, almost simultaneously, “Where are the others?” Both of their responses began with a downward glance.
Ylva explained first. “I was the only one who made it from our tribe. This is--” she gestured toward me, then hesitated. “Well, he doesn’t remember his name. He was hit on the head when he was captured and can’t so much as recall what tribe he came from. But I wouldn’t have made it out without his help.”
“So... my father? Liekos? Anyone else?”
“I’m sorry, Maccon. They’re gone.”
“I guess when I saw you, I just thought there might be a chance… but I’m glad you’re safe. I’m not sure how to tell you this… things have been rough for the Rinnek Tribe since the raid. After Father and Liekos were taken, I was the new Alpha. I hadn’t been in charge for two weeks before a challenger showed up.”
“A challenger?” Ylva showed concern.
“Leader of a small bedouin tribe of some sort. An older Dechi man. His name is Rezso." Maccon sighed. "And he defeated me.”