The Agony of Ecstasy-42

I sipped the moonlight from her lips and stumbled home drunk.

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Sins of Our Mothers

Scene 42

The darkness in the room was a refuge. Here, there was no counting of regrets, no false atonement, only the peace brought by the coming events that played through Ras’ fertile imagination. The feel of her, the smell of her hair made him drunk with the knowledge of what he must do with Dari. He wanted it to be meaningful, he wanted her to remember him as the portal she stepped through to find her destiny as House Razvan’s Wolfmaster. In a way, he would always be her master, as was his great uncle to Dari’s mother.

In this moment of reflection, a late fall breeze rustled in the trees and played a symphonic melody that blended with the rise and fall of Dari’s slow breathing. Ras sat on the vanity bench and studied his objet d’art. She lay on her side, facing away from him. Dark eyes and patience took in every detail of the revenant’s body. The slope of her ribs dipping into a slender waist and the acute rise of her hips falling along labor toned legs became a sensual notebook of measurements. Already, he could visualize her bondage harness he would make for her. Dari was special. He would use the highest quality leather and rope he could find.

Vanya placed her hand on Ras’ shoulder to remind him that she was there and not to forget her presence in his revelry of this mysterious revenant she was to serve. Ras placed his hand over Vanya’s to reassure her. He stood and drew Vanya to him and kissed her forehead. I must be ever watchful, he thought. The girls will sacrifice everything to their emotions and insecurities. Like men fighting for a woman’s love, women too were wicked with their jealousies.

“I will wake her. I want you to fix her hair then bring her to the table for lunch. Moira and I will wait for you.” Vanya nodded and picked up the hairbrush from the vanity.

A hand as large as Dari’s face caressed her cheek. Eyelashes fluttered. Ras slipped a hand behind Dari’s neck, and the other took a light grip on her hip bone. With a deft movement, he rotated Dari on her back and lifted her to a sitting position and settled in beside her, propping her up with a hand on her thigh and an arm around her back. Dari struggled in the dense fog of dreams. She reached for Ras’ and turning into the arms that held her, she touched her lips to the neck of her Dominus.

Dari startled as the curtain of sleep lifted to reveal Ras holding her while allowing this intimate moment meant for another. “Oh, oh, I’m sorry. I was dreaming and thought you were my Marius,” Dari confessed, her face blushing as she tried to extricate herself gracefully from Ras’ hold.

“There is no harm meant and none taken. I hope you slept well, Ras said. It is time for lunch and Vanya will help you get ready. We start your training after lunch.” Ras touched Dari’s shoulder with a lingering tenderness then left the room.

* * *

The hairbrush tapping in her palm, Vanya set it down harder than necessary and worked to open the shutter louvers to allow the noonday light to flood the room, burning Dari’s eyes. “Would My lady sit here by the vanity and I’ll fix your hair.” Dari did as she was asked, ignoring Vanya’s possessive nature with Ras. Hmm, I hope I can remain friends with this girl. She thought about Marius warning her that comfort was secondary to her reasons for coming to Moira. Becoming the Wolfmaster was her lighthouse to guide her through her ordeal. Dari relaxed as the brush forced the tangles from her hair and promised herself she wouldn’t drain every ounce of blood from this poor jealous girl.

* * *

After a satisfying lunch of Moldavian pork stew and a shot of plum brandy, Vanya and Ras cleared the table and cleaned up the dishes while Moira took Dari outside to sit on the porch to look through an old photo album.

“I have waited for this moment for many years, My Lady. You know your mother loved you with all her heart.”

“I can only remember she abandoned me to the castle’s dank cellars,” Dari replied.

“She told me many times you would say that. Moira’s face reflected the hurt she was reliving. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive her. Your mother is gone, dead of a broken heart and her insatiable need for the comfort her bondage to the rope provided. We are all addicted to something; love, status, power, the adoration of others who ultimately are meaningless to a life better lived.”

Beseeching eyes probed Dari for a reply. How could she answer when she knew nothing but the suffering of countless lives beyond the one she lived now. Moira was right; bound securely where only the mind wanders free is a better fate than the constant war that raged across eons for the dominance of Carpathia consuming everything in its march across time. Dari hoped her mother found solace and penance in the knots that marked her skin. 

The old master she had mistaken for her father surely warned her mother. But, wasn’t mother a foolish young girl like I was at one time too, feeling invincible with no worry for consequence. Dari met Moira’s distant gaze. “There are always consequences even when we believe there aren’t any.”

“Yes, My Lady. The consequences of living are pain and hardship. Pain is the currency of life, and the cost is high. I found joy and pain with your mother. Like my mother, Daciana was given to unreserved passion without the guarded suspicions we all have learned. The Count stole her heart and left her with a child – you. He could not acknowledge his love because to do so would have cast doubt into the minds of his courtiers and staff. The fury of the Countess would maul everyone. No, he had to sacrifice your mother for what he felt was the greater good, and it matters not if he was right or wrong. It only matters that he did it.”

There are memories inseparable from emotion, Dari thought as Moira’s words seeped into her mind. Moira’s mother chose the duty of Wolfmaster and died of the loneliness it requires. Moira abandoned it and lived in a small paradise forbidden to return to her people. My mother, whose genes fill my quiet days with introspection, died from the same loneliness and now it is my turn to join Moira in life or take the secrets of the Wolfmaster’s bondage to an early grave. Marius, oh Marius why must I choose the Wolfmaster, Dari lamented to herself. She was compelled by her lover’s instruction to be only the Wolfmaster and nothing else. This test is far more complicated than any physical challenge I have endured before. 

“Would you like to see the pictures of your mother?” Moira changed the subject. Dari needed to connect again with the truth of her mother before she committed herself to the same fate.

“Yes, please. You must tell me everything,” Dari said, leaning against Moira to look at the dusty album filled with old black and white photos of a dramatic life Dari never knew about.

Image Source: Romanian Historical Archives

Pleasure and pain, the good and the bad, are so intermixed that we can not shun the one without depriving ourselves of the other.

Francoise d’Aubigne, Marquise de Maintenon

The Agony of Ecstasy-41

Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?

John Keats, Letters of John Keats
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The Edge of Madness

Scene 41

The solid clunk of a door closing left Dari alone with her thoughts. The drug of enlivened sensuality faded leaving her shoulders and legs feeling numb and heavy. What just happened? She asked herself. What did I expect from this? Familiar loneliness crept over Dari. She tried her best to ignore it.

Marius had been her secret lover since she was 25 years old and in these ten years hence, he had nurtured her heart in so many ways. She knew he was the only man she could love and yet, Ras had drawn out of her a sense of carnal excitement. Deep in her mind, the latent memories of lives past began to simmer, to rise, and seep into her consciousness. 

It seemed to Dari that all she experienced on this sojourn to Wolfmaster had led her to this reflection of her hidden desire to express her freedom, to let her spirit run wild, to reconnect with the ancient being she knew she was. 

The mirror, fogged with the heat and passion moments before, ran with tears of condensation seemingly mourning the Dari that just passed into another immortal memory. What reflected back was a different woman.

The Revenant of Carpathia’s past stared back with ice blue eyes. Dari saw a silent determination in a dewy face flushed red with the fire of her indomitable spirit. Unlike her beloved Duchess, Alexandra, She had learned how to suffer and so she had suffered less. 

She felt free to accept her role as the new Wolfmaster. Her bondage was in name only. You cannot force bondage on a willing spirit and her bond with the wolves of House Razvan was already entwined in every part of her being. The guild of Wolfmasters will see me well suited for my role.

The silent reflection was shattered when the door opened announcing Moira’s return to show her to her room as Ras had promised. Moira halted in the narrow space of the partially opened door.

“Are you ready to come out, My Lady?”

Dari ran her fingers through her damp hair and straightened her clothes. “Yes, all done.”

Moira stepped in and surveyed the room before addressing Dari. Her face reflected deep satisfaction and an air of accomplishment surrounded the Witch of Carpathia.

“Come, I’ll show you your room where you can settle in.” The witch and the revenant walked past the fireplace to Dari’s new quarters as Vanya passed them to go clean the bathroom. Dari observed Vanya’s demeanor. She seemed subdued as one with a great burden. Her downcast look was more than just a habit of the servant class. Dari also witnessed Moira’s concerned look toward Vanya.

Her composure regained, Moira let Dari into a small room modestly adorned with a dresser, mirror, two single beds on each side of a large shuttered window and two armoires next to each bed. “This is your bed here. I’ve put on fresh linens. There are clean towels in the armoire for you and you can put your clothes in there as well. Vanya will share the room with you. The other mattress is more firm. If you prefer the other bed, Vanya will switch with you.”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary. This bed is more than adequate.”

“I’m pleased to hear it. Your comfort is important to us. May I ask how did your bath go? Was Ras a gentleman?”

Moira’s question caught Dari off guard. It occurred to her there was the slightest tinge of jealousy in Moira’s voice. There was more mystery in this cottage in the wilderness than Dari was accustomed to. “I can say that I have never been so welcomed in all my life. You and Ras are not the usual hosts, I can attest to that,” Dari replied.

There was an awkward silence before Moira spoke. “Ras is perfect for the task of teaching our students how to express their sensuality. This is the key to understanding how rope bondage and the relationship of rigger to his rabbit bring about the convergence of pleasure and pain. In rope bondage, the woman is free in her mind even though her body is no longer her’s to command. It is sometimes hard for me to accept that Ras is his own man and I cannot own him or his desires. I suppose he is like all men of his type. They cannot survive with the love of one woman.”

“Moira, Ras did not touch me in unpure ways. He gave me pleasure, yes, but I sense a detachment in him. I feel his heart is well protected as is his desire for any other woman’s comfort,” Dari explained. 

A shared moment of understanding was felt between the two women in a way only women who have felt the lasting burn of abandonment. Moira’s mouth turned up slightly as her eyes misted with an unspoken thought.

“Vanya needs your help. You know this pain of abandonment as I have known it. She is becoming a master of the ropes but its eccentricities grip her more each day. I don’t want to lose her like I lost my mother and you lost yours. Please, help her,” Moira pleaded.

“I’m not sure I know what to do.”

“You have suffered the lessons of life too many times. Your heart will guide you with compassion for this girl who struggles now as we have in the past.” Moira embraced Dari as if to seal the promise that Dari hadn’t openly accepted. Without another word, the Witch of Carpathia left Dari alone to seek her conscience and take it as counsel on what to do with her new roommate.

A brush worked on the tangles in Dari’s hair from the back of her head and down across her shoulder and further to the tips. With each stroke, she considered the silent girl with downcast eyes. The weight of all she must consider fell on her at once.

Dari slipped under the covers and relished the cool crispness and scent of powdery fresh sheets. The luxury was even grander after she had slept on the forest floor under her riding cape with only Rolf to protect her and keep her warm. In the cozy dark, Dari drifted into a deep sleep.

Then Agony of Ecstasy-40

Curiosity is the lust of the mind.

Thomas Hobbes
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Bound to Wolves

scene 40

The sound of the stool creaking on the floor of the bath under a sudden weight jolted Dari out of her introspection. She looked up into the penetrating gaze of Ras’ stoic face. He studied her, saw her nakedness under the sheet. He inhaled her vulnerability. She had seen this look many times on the wolves before they killed. They were beautifully calm at that moment they regarded their prey. It was the ultimate composure before the frenzy of the chase. 

Dari felt frozen under his fixated contemplation. She shuddered. The warm water in the tub and the sudden rush of heat between her thighs felt like she had peed in the water. It was what Rolf’s prey did as he bit down on their neck.

“My Lady, you must not fear Moira and me. We are servants of the Count Razvan as you are. It is he that has sent you here to us for your test of the Wolfmaster. To be the master of wolves is to be the master of your spirit and mind as well.” Ras’ voice was deep, slow, and mesmerizing. The sound of his words flowed over Dari resounding in her chest and calming her fear down to mere alertness to any nuance of the man’s movements.

“Without trust, you cannot earn trust. You know there is nothing more important than the bond between you and your wolves. They accept you blindly because they sense your devotion to them. The master does more than a duty to her animals. She is one of them, their Alpha, and they give their life to your will and command. Is this not true?” 

“Yes,” escaped Dari’s lips without regard to her growing entrancement. This man looked like a feral beast but his words were wise and careful. The ebb of adrenaline gave Dari a sudden wave of dizziness and tiredness that sapped her focus and strength. Her eyes dropped down followed by her head.

“My Lady, you must surrender yourself to the test of the Wolfmaster. This test is nothing more than you proving what you already know and can do. The other Wolfmasters of Carpathia need only your reassurance. When they have confidence in your knowledge and wisdom, they grant you the ascension to their ranks. This is no club of coddled royalty. It is a lifelong servitude that is lonely and behind every scene of the Razvan’s family security. You cannot have any misgivings about this. Will you give your heart and spirit to your Lupine children to serve the House Razvan and the Duchess of Carpathia?”

“Yes.” came the answer with firm conviction.

“Then come to me and join me as I lead you through this sojourn. Moira and I will always be at your side and Vanya will serve you as you have served the Duchess.”

Ras pulled back the sheet and ran his fingers down the inside of Dari’s arm and closed his hand in hers. Dari shivered and clamped her legs together. She hesitated, considered his words, then allowed him to do as he wished with her. No wailing, she repeated over and over in her mind as Ras guided her from the tub; wet, naked, vulnerable, and confused. No wailing, no wailing, no wailing, she chanted to herself.

Powerful arms, like reptile constrictors, tightened his prey against his chest and bulging leg muscles. Dari’s skin scintillated with awareness. The cloth of his shirt and pants pressed against her soaked the warm water away from her, chilling her momentarily until his heat and earthy scent began to soothe her. She felt his ample manhood against her stomach. No wailing, no, no, no wailing. She tried to distract herself from the feminine lust that welled up inside her with subtle anticipation to no avail. Dari gave in to the spell cast over her.

A warm towel caressed her neck and back. Dari felt the fingers under the cloth explore her intimately. Her lower back instinctively lifted her hips to give him better access. Dari hesitated, unsure where her actions would lead. Her hands, barely able to touch at the back of Ras’ waist, held tight to him as her legs weakened from nervous apprehension. Ras kept firm control of her as he toweled her body from head to toe. 

Gently turning her, Ras pulled her back to him, his left leg forward allowed her to rest her weight on his thigh as he wrapped his arm across her stomach under her ribs. His slow tightening caused a struggle for her lungs to breathe. She panted in quick, shallow breaths, feeling all the time like she was drowning. The fingertips, hidden in the towel, caressed her shoulders and breasts. Dari startled herself back to reality with a moan of self indulgence. She snapped her mouth shut, embarrassed, and tried to place herself somewhere else in her mind. Dear gods below, no wailing dammit! Dari chastised herself needlessly.

As in a slow ballet, they moved in measured synchronicity, always flushed nakedness against cloth over hard muscle. Their contact created friction of burning desire. Ras handled Dari like a treasured artifact of Carpathian antiquity. His tranquil nature pacified the beast that lived in the center of Dari’s immortal existence. 

An uncovered hand caressed her on a slow trail up to the chin where Ras pressed Dari’s head back. The fingers slipped over her lips and without thinking she brought his finger into her mouth to suckle. Her surrender was complete.

“Lift your arms, please.”

Dari did as commanded. A fine cotton blouse with the blue threaded pattern of Carpathia slipped over her head and down over her nakedness. Ras pulled it down and adjusted the shoulders so it would hang properly. Next, he helped Dari slip into loose cotton pants, which he tied at her waist.

“There My Lady, How do you feel?”

What could she say? Her mind was conflicted with desire and the awful shame of having submitted to such an intimate experience.

“I’m sleepy and hungry for more than I can manage.” Dari felt it was an honest answer without mentioning she wanted him to take her to bed and tear the sheets apart with her.

“Ah, ha, ha. Good. Moira will show you to your room.”

With a hearty laugh and a smile that lit up his rugged face, Ras was done with her.

The Agony of Ecstasy-39

The great object of life is sensation- to feel that we exist, even though in pain.

Lord Byron
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The Ritual of Bath

scene 39

“A bridge exists between two souls when they touch in anticipation of the desired experience. A connection is all that is required to start the fall into pleasure and only an ironclad resolve can resist the addictive temptation of that point where pleasure and pain are felt at once. The moment where pain and pleasure reap the mind, body, and soul gives rise to an addiction where an obsession with the experience soon displaces everything in one’s life and they descend to madness. This is the secret of the ropes where we need to use caution,” Moira explained as she led Dari to the washroom.

“I think this is the reality of most women, Dari replied. Our men love the wail of our pain more than the song of our pleasure leaving us to bend to their will in hopes they will make us sing.”

“Then you understand your first test,” Moira replied as she opened the door to a small room well lit by the morning sun blazing through windows.

“What test will this be?” Dari asked.

“To see if you wail or sing, my dear.” Moira continued to talk of pleasure and pain as symbols of the duality of life for the women of Carpathia as she helped Dari out of her sweat and dirt stained clothes.

“Sit here and I’ll wipe the salt from your body before you get into the tub. This will keep the water clean as you relax.”

Vanya came in with two large pails of steaming water and emptied them into the tub. Next, she turned on the water from a faucet. Dari watched, thinking the tub looked like it was stolen from a Roman Bathhouse a few centuries ago. Vanya returned and handed a bucket to Moira then placed a quilted pad in the tub that covered the bottom and backrest. She finished by draping a sheet over the foot of the tub.

Moira poured an aromatic liquid into the pail of warm water beside her and soaked a soft cloth in the pail. The witch’s real magic began when she wiped Dari’s arms and fingers with gentle strokes. The warm, wet sensation was soon replaced by the distinct aromas of lavender and wild rose leaving a light oil on her chafed skin that left the tickle of effervescence like champagne. 

Silence ensued as Dari drifted into the pleasure of Moira’s attention. She leaned forward as the cloth descended her back to her tailbone flooding warm water over and between her bottom setting the epicenter of her feminine pleasure alight. 

The lavender and wild rose gave way to peppermint and lemongrass as Moira drifted the cloth under Dari’s chin, across her neck and chest, under her arms, around and around in slow ellipses.  Dari felt a felicity of sensations running across her skin like rabbits before the fox.

Moira knelt down and began a slow symphony of rinsing along Dari’s thighs and calves. The downy fabric drifted under her bottom. Dari closed her eyes while a hand cupped her there letting the water flow over her and down, running in tantalizing rivulets to the floor. By the time Moira got to Dari’s feet, Dari was stretched out on the chair, her long hair draped over the back with eyes shut and her mouth slightly agape. She was unsure of what to do with her hands or how to stop the little purring sounds from echoing in her throat. If only men knew how to give such pleasure, we would never grow tired of them, Dari thought in a fugue of sensual arrest.

The marks on Dari’s skin from three days of riding glared as red furrowed striations on flushed skin. Moira’s fingers explored the ridges giving Dari relief from the irritation.

“The ropes and their artful knots will mark you well. Your supple flesh is just right for binding,” Moira said in hypnotic tones.

Moira left Dari in a sleepy repose contemplating all she had heard and learned from her short time here. She rinsed the cloth in the pail and poured the darkened water down the drain set in the ancient herringbone wood floor. The Witch of Carpathia continued her spell by adding more aromatics to the steaming bathwater now resting at half full. She pulled the curtains closed.

“Come dear, your bath is ready.” Moira stroked the sleepy Dari’s cheek and smiled. She helped Daciana’s apparition in the flesh to the tub and watched her settle in. Moira spread the sheet across the tub and tucked it around Dari’s shoulders.

“I’ll be back to get you in an hour. Vanya will bring you hot water to keep the bath warm.”

Dari could only nod her acknowledgment. Exhaustion drained from her leaving her in a dream realm fast asleep.

* * *

“Let me wash your hair for you.”

The voice was deep and startled Dari awake. She felt electricity low in her stomach as she instinctively sank lower under the sheet. Ras grabbed a pitcher of warm water from the stool and pushed the stool over to the tub. 

She didn’t look at him, but she could hear him sitting down next to her. Dari was struggling to stay calm when she had the thought she’d rarely been attended to so luxuriously before and never by a man that oozed feral strength and sexuality like Ras.

“Lean forward.” He was close now. Gentle touches eased her in position. “Close your eyes and tilt your head back.”

The water flooded over her, warm and reassuring, but the skin on her arms and chest were dimpled with goosebumps as ironlike fingers massaged her scalp through a thick foam of shampoo.

“Okay, let’s rinse,” he said, his voice soft in her ear, his palm rested on her bare shoulder with his fingers lightly anchored to her collarbone. More chills and sparkling pulses raced up and down Dari’s body. The water flowed more gently this time.

“All done, My Lady.”

She leaned back against the linen pad, twisting the water from her hair with wrinkled fingers that trembled in tandem with her lower lip. Ras set down the pitcher and turned as if to appraise his new test subject. Dari couldn’t think of what to do. This was different from any experience she’d ever had before.

Dari found her voice and asked, “Can you hand me a towel?” She felt too shaky to appear confident. She did not want to let on how she feared Ras.

“Certainly, here you go.” He said, like helping a stranger bathe was an everyday job.

She closed her eyes, feeling her nipples harden from the chill she felt. Gods below, he hadn’t made any wrong moves. Why am I reacting like a school girl giving up her virginity?

“Thank you Ras, you are a true gentleman to a lady.” Dari winched at her corny words.  His gaze seemed to penetrate through her facade of calmness to cut into her insecurity and her worry about his unknown intentions. Dari thought of Marius. I must be strong and loyal to him. This man is only doing what he is required to do. I have to go along and sing. No wailing for this girl.

Go To Scene 40

Authors note: This scene is dedicated to Victoria Ray whose humor and wit keep us smiling day after day. Her friendly challenge resulted in Dari volunteering for the bath scene.

The Agony of Ecstasy-38

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Image Source: Pinterest

Into The Past

Scene 38

Hunger. Ravenous pangs gave rise to frantic craving in Dari’s struggle to remain quiet and noble before her gracious hosts. She knew the arrival of the body’s needs drive the wolves to throw caution to the wind and risk the life they strive to preserve. Such a mighty force raises the specter of the Pale Horse; death and desperation. 

Empty bellies are the third of four weapons used by the four horsemen of the apocalypse and have ended many a tribe, Dari mused to herself as salty bacon melted in her mouth against the slow grind of her teeth. Dari witnessed emptiness too many times in her immortal life to doubt the force of it and yet she resolved not to show her neediness by joining in idle talk while slowly sating the ache in her body. There was no food on the table for her spirit. That famine consumed her as well.

There was a peculiar attentiveness from Ras and Moira. Dari felt it reminded her of Rolf when he was deciding if his black-tipped butterflies were better as food than friends. Studious anticipation. That was it, she thought. Well, she was here for more than a social visit and so she resolved to play along, keeping Marius’ warnings in mind.

“Would you like more bread to go with your eggs, my dear?” Moira asked Dari.

“Yes, please. I think that fresh butter will go nicely with it as well.”

Ras passed the butter to Vanya who prepared another slice for their honored guest. Dari caught the longing in Vanya’s glance and felt the desire for acknowledgment in her touch when the girl passed the bread to her. What a strange creature this servant girl is. She is disciplined in her submissiveness and yet there is a fire in her subtle ways. Dari felt it was a signal of an unspoken ally. She decided to explore the girl’s intentions later out of view of Ras and Moira. 

At the end of the meal, the bonding of the multifarious group nestled in the remote foothills of Carpathia was well on its way. Dari felt comfortable, even sleepy after the big breakfast.

Ras went out to split more firewood while Vanya cleared the table. Moira left Dari alone at the table and followed Vanya into the kitchen. Dari heard Moira give instructions to Vanya but couldn’t follow the words exactly. She did hear bath spoken and was relieved Moira was following up on her promise to let Dari clean up and rest from her journey.

Moira returned and beseeched Dari to join her. “Come dear. I want to show you something.” The Witch and the Wolfmaster went into Moira’s bedroom where Moira motioned for Dari to see some old pictures on the vanity under the window that overlooked the meadow.

“This is me, many years ago when I was a young woman like yourself.”

Dari held the picture frame with reverence before she handed it back. “You are dressed in the uniform of the Wolfmaster. Marius never mentioned it.”

“Yes, I was also the old Wolfmaster’s daughter. My mother died from the agony of the ropes we must master and endure. I was like you as I watched my mother consumed by the power of the ropes over her heart. My father took your mother when she was a young maiden as an apprentice to train under the ropes and her duties as the Wolfkeeper.”

“Then we are half sisters?” Dari rasped through her dry throat and surprise.

“No, my dear. My father was not your father. You are the love child of Count Razvan and your mother. This is the secret that led your mother deep into the bondage and love of the ropes to punish herself for her indiscretions. My father bound Daci to him to save her and you from the wrath of the Countess.”

“But why did you leave?” Dari asked, still struggling with this revelation that rocked her foundation of all she held true in her life.

“I gave up my duties but not my knowledge or skills. I came here with my mother to care for her until the madness took her from me. Your mother knew of this and later came to me after you were old enough to care for yourself under the Razvan roof with your true father and stepmother. I loved your mother because I saw the same suffering in her eyes that lived in my mother’s. I swore an oath to care for her as well. You see, your mother loved the Count and gave him a daughter, you. Daci could never be his avowed mistress. The Wolfmaster cannot be of royal blood. We are the darkness that resides in every bright light. We are servants too. We serve the Revenants of old Dacia. Perhaps you are a revenant too and that would be because your blood is royal and so the covenant of the wolves grows more mysterious. No one knows what will happen when your mother’s wolf choker becomes your armorial bearing.”

Dari felt faint and was not aware of Moira’s hands guiding her to the edge of the bed to sit. She was a revenant. She knew it. There was no way to deny it. So it was the old Count Razvan that brought her out of Elysium to the world of the living. But for what purpose other than to return to Alexandra’s side. She reasoned this twist of fate must surely be a sign of their imminent future. Dari resolved to do as she had always done; serve the House Razvan, the Dacian people, and be the right hand of her Duchess Dragana. Wolfmaster was the means to accomplish her duties. She accepted it. There was no other path, only the surprises along the way.

“You look exhausted, My Lady. Vanya is preparing your bath. There is more I will share about your mother, but let’s give you rest. We have all the time we need to accomplish why you are here. For now, it will wait.”

Go To Scene 39