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Highland Wolf Pact:Compromising Positions(12)

By:Selena Kitt

"This was a healer's room," Sibyl remarked, sniffing the air. Even she  could smell it. "I wonder if there is any dried silvermoon in here?"

"Whatever they left here will'na be of any use anymore." Kirstin looked around. "'Tis all cleared out. They planned their move."

"It's not as big as the mountain," Sibyl observed

"Not as safe, either." Kirstin imagined the possibilities.

The entire pack could get trapped in a den like this. In their mountain,  they were safe within, and they had a valley where they had a running  stream and sunlight and they could raise their sheep for wool and meat.  In a den like this, they'd have to go up top to hunt. No wonder the  MacFalons were wary of the wulvers, she thought. They'd once been much  closer neighbors-and she imagined her ancestors had made a meal of a few  of Donal's. The wulvers hadn't hunted and killed humans for meat in  generations, but they had, once.

"You always have such giant kitchens," Sibyl exclaimed as they reached  the end of the passageway that opened into a wide space. A large  fireplace took up almost all of one wall, and a long table where all the  wulvers had once sat to sup together spanned the big room.

"Wulvers like t'gather in one place." Kirstin smiled and could almost  picture her wulver ancestors tussling and laughing and playing and  eating here. Many of the wulvers slept in the kitchens together in a big  wolf pile by the fire at night, especially before they were paired off.  Kirstin had spent many a night in a big, warm, fuzzy pile of wulvers.  There was nothing else like it.

"Moira said the spring was near the kitchen."

"Aye, 'tis likely," Kirstin started across the open space. "Water's life. There's always a spring in a wulver den."

"Through here, do you think?" Sibyl edged around the corner of a rock  wall and they both heard the sound of running water. The passageway got  lighter as they went through it, making the torch unnecessary.

"Beautiful!" Sibyl put the torch into a notch on the wall as they  entered the grotto, looking around in wonder. "I wondered how anything  could possibly grow down here."

"Someone carved that into t'rock t'let the light in." Kirstin looked at  the running body of water where a slant of sunlight lit its clear  surface. It came from high above, an opening in the deep rock. She  wondered at the construction of it. Where did it come out, she wondered,  on MacFalon land? Had anyone accidentally discovered it before? But  there was a grate-metal bars-over the opening.

"Moira gave me a picture of silvermoon." Sibyl dug into a pocket in her plaid, searching for it, but there was no need.

"It's righ' there." Kirstin pointed to the plant growing up between the rocky crags at the edge of the spring.

"Why do they call it silvermoon?" Sibyl wondered, squatting to gather it.

"'Tis silver in t'moonlight." Kirstin glanced up at the skylight above.  "The leaves're reflective. You can see't clearly at night if the moon's  full."

"Really?" Sibyl rubbed the leaf of one of the plants between her fingers. "I've never seen it before."

"'Tis an ancient wulver plant," Kirstin told her "I've only e'er seen  pictures of it. Like the huluppa ye found growing on the borderlands."

The huluppa was the other plant, mentioned in what was considered the  "wulver bible," that Sibyl was using to try to develop some sort of cure  for the wulver woman's curse.         



"It wouldn't surprise me if it only grew here." Sibyl frowned at the  plant. "I can't get that damnable huluppa to grow anywhere else. I tried  growing it in the wulver valley, but it will not take root. And I can't  find the cure for a wulver curse without it. Your wulver plants behave  oddly."

"Like wulvers." Kirstin laughed.

"They use this in the wolf pact reaffirmation ceremony then?" Sibyl asked.

"Moira says so." She nodded. "But the men do'na know where t'harvest it.  Beitrus is our oldest healer and t'wulver who always came wit' Raife to  t'wolf pact reaffirmation e'ery year, and wit' his father, Garaith,  a'fore him, t'bring the silvermoon to the ceremony."

"What does it do?" Sibyl brought it to her nose, smelling its sweetness.

"Our book describes it as a mender." Kirsten took some too, feeling its  slippery surface. She could smell it already, light and almost minty  sweet. "'Tis what Moira said t'was for. It's largely symbolic in  t'ceremony, a'course. As a binder, it brings things together. Helps hold  them in place."

"It would be useful for Darrow's wound, then." Sibyl brightened. Then her face fell. "Although, the faster I heal him..."

"Well, mayhaps it'll bind more than just physical wounds this day."

Sibyl looked up. "What do you mean?"

"We'll take it to the men, like me ancestors a'fore us," Kirstin  explained. "They'll use it t'help bind t'wolf pact. But mayhaps it'll  also work t'help mend things a'tween ye and Raife. Heals broken  bones-and broken oaths."

"Mayhaps." Sibyl looked so hopeful, and Kirstin truly was.

A binder like this was a powerful herb, especially in raw form. Besides,  she reasoned, Raife couldn't possibly hold out much longer. His resolve  was already weakening. She'd seen it in his eyes the night before, and  again this morning, when he'd come into the kitchen, seeing Sibyl  laughing.

It was when he realized it was one of Donal's remarks she was laughing  at, that he'd turned around and stalked away. She was learning a great  deal about that emotion, jealousy, from these two. It was a powerful  thing. Made it hard to keep your wits about you. It made you see things  that weren't there, that a rational person would just shrug off. Raife  couldn't, for a moment, think Sibyl and Donal were a match, could he?

Of course, thinking of it herself, put her own feelings in a jumble.  Donal was free to marry whomever he liked-or, at least, whomever the  king liked, and since he'd already sent Sibyl to the MacFalons, she was  obviously a good choice. And technically, Sibyl was free to marry  whomever she liked as well. She hadn't been marked, even if she and  Raife had consummated their love.

But thinking of a match between Sibyl and Donal was ridiculous,  because... well, just because. Besides, Sibyl loved Raife. And Raife  loved her too, if he would just stop seeing through green, jealous eyes  instead of his clear, bright blue ones. Kirstin hoped the silvermoon  truly would do what they all hoped. If it did not, they were going to  have to resort to more drastic measures.

"Shall we take this to Donal and Raife?" Sibyl suggested, a small smile playing on her lips.

"Aye." Kirstin picked her way over the rocks in her soft boots, careful  not to fall into the spring. The water would be cold, not like the hot  springs back at the mountain den.

Sibyl took the torch from the wall and led the way. She was in a hurry  now, no longer looking into rooms and exploring. Kirstin would have  liked to spend more time down here-and mayhaps she would in the next  week or so, if they stayed long enough-but Sibyl was a woman on a  mission.

They passed the entrance to the catacombs, the light practically a  pinpoint far above the long stairway, but they didn't stop. Sibyl pushed  on, heading in the other direction, where the MacFalon ancestors were  entombed. It seemed fitting that the wolf pact reaffirmation took place  where so much history had taken place between the two-the wulvers and  the MacFalons.

Kirstin heard the men talking, just their voices, a low rumble, not the  words. They rounded a corner in the passage and the cavern opened up  into a wide space. An altar stood at one end, unadorned, a slab of rock.  That's where Donal and Raife were talking. Surrounding them were the  catacombs, hundreds of slotted tombs, sealed off with the remains of the  MacFalon's ancestors.

"Raife." Sibyl put her torch on the wall-the men had lit several around  the room, making it far brighter than the passageway they'd traversed.  "I brought you something you need."         



Kirstin hung back, letting Sibyl move forward toward the men. She saw  Donal glance over at her, his face breaking into a smile, those  grey-blue eyes lighting up in delight. She knew the feeling-it felt as  if a bird had just taken flight in her chest, soaring, leaving her  breathless at the sight of him.

She remembered the way he'd pulled her aside that morning, telling her  about his meeting with Raife at the catacombs, the planned reaffirmation  of the wolf pact.

"I'd like ye to come t'me there after the ceremony," he told her softly.  She was very aware of everyone's eyes on them. "There's somethin' I'd  like t'show ye."

She'd agreed. It was when she told Moira, Laina and Sibyl about her  intention to go out to the catacombs to meet Donal that Moira had  expressed her concern about the lack of silvermoon at the ceremony.  That's when this plan had been hatched. Sibyl and Kirstin had quickly  made preparations to follow the men to the catacombs, while Laina stayed  behind to tend to her husband's needs-and he, to hers, Kirstin thought  with a smile.