There’s always the one who loves and one who lets himself be loved.W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
for the love of Wolves
There was a divine comfort that came with the late fall season in Carpathia. The leaves had changed to autumn hues and fell like snow, carpeting the forest floor. The sun chased the morning chill away and warmed the heart and spirit.
Dari felt a closeness with Moira as they shared their intertwined past. Such closeness felt like trust emerging from a long and unjust imprisonment. Moira had Dari laughing as she told stories of folly and mishap only young women experience in their youthful exploration of life.
A sequestered life makes the discovery of one’s self and sensuality a singular experience where the wisdom of others is ignored or never heard. In this way, the emotions are honed to a razor sharpness that can cut deeper than any warrior’s sword. Dari came to know this truth about her mother as Moira drew her behind the veil of Daciana’s life.
The thought occurred to Dari that becoming the Wolfmaster of House Razvan would give her title and respect. She would not suffer her mother’s fate where the Count Razvan was forced to disavow his love and fatherhood. Marius could wed her and together they could whelp a healthy litter of little Dacian Wolves. This must be what he meant when he urged her to focus only on that which gave her the title, Wolfmaster.
“When do we start my test?” Dari asked.
“We have already started, My Lady. Everything you learn, feel, see while you are here is preparing you for what is to come,” Moira replied.
“I’m not sure at all what I have learned although I have felt much, some of this is troubling to me.”
“Don’t be troubled, My Lady. Let your heart guide you and that will determine your outcome. There is no pass or fail like in our days of grade school. You either are or are not the Wolfmaster and it is convincing yourself that matters most,” Moira said.
“I see,” Dari whispered unconvincingly.
“My Lady, You are here for one purpose; to confess that you are the Wolfmaster to the guild so they will accept you. You must demonstrate the strength of your willingness to be forever bound by the code of the Wolf People. Your Marius is the most dangerous man in all of Carpathia. To be his foe is to be as good as dead. To serve the people and the Duchess is no gentle task either. Marius and the Royals cannot have any doubts about your blood oath to them. The Wolfmaster trains the Dacian Wolves who fight alongside the soldiers for the safety and integrity of Carpathia. You will have many masters but only one you. Choose well whom you serve. Vanya is a link in this darkness that invades our homeland from outside. She is learning the way of the ropes and she will come in contact with those that do not honor their oath to the Duchess or who wish only to take our lands and resources and stop at nothing to achieve it. Cultivate a closeness with her. She will be in your bondage soon. Treat her well and gain her loyalty.
“You know she is infatuated with Ras.”
Moira smiled a knowing smile. There was the sparkle of wisdom in her eyes. “We are all infatuated with Ras. What woman would not be? Don’t worry. Ras does what is necessary and he is not without enough love to fill the Black Sea and every young girl’s heart that feels his body against her back. It is my eternal punishment to share him with his disciples of the rope.
“I have to tell you, Ras has given me the kind of attention that is hard to turn away from without denying my own pleasure,” Dari confessed.
Moira, sensing Dari’s struggle with her loyalty to Marius and the hypnotic pleasure Ras offered, knew this was a conflict that started the madness. She understood too well that if Dari gave in to her lust she would alienate Vanya and make an enemy of Marius. Such a choice would kill them all, eventually. The need to keep Dari on the right path was crucial to saving House Razvan and the Duchess. She had to act right away and she surmised how she would do it.