For a moment she would swear that she had died, that she had had a moment of lucidity before the absolute darkness engulfed her and that, at that moment, she was undergoing the journey that would take her to purgatory, before they dictated what they were going to do with her. However, a sharp pain that traveled from one end of her body to the other assured her that she was still alive. She could feel her own heartbeat as if it were hitting her directly in the ears with force, and even if she concentrated, she was sure she could hear her blood rush through her veins.
It had started to snow harder, but she no longer felt the cold that had paralyzed her body just a few minutes ago, before unconsciousness enveloped her for the first time. The woman slid one of her hands through the snow, partially burying it in an attempt to feel the icy sensation it transmitted, but it was impossible. For a moment she feared that she had lost the sensation of her body, yet a sharp pain tore through her limbs to her temples, where it manifested as a hammer hammer that struck incessantly. It was a terrible pain, even so, she felt relieved since it let her know that her nervous system was working properly.
In the last few hours, she had succumbed to unconsciousness at least three times in very different spans of time. The first time it was due to the hammering of her head, which she couldn't shake even when she fell unconscious again. It took hours until she was able to wake up again, she could tell from the direction of the sun, which had changed considerably since then. Adding to the headache that prevented her from thinking clearly was a throbbing pain in her spine as she tried to grab a tree trunk to stand up. At the moment the clouds were too thick to be sure where the sun was, but she had the slight impression that it wasn't long before sunset.
The last time she fell prey to unconsciousness, the clouds had moved and, although the sun had fallen enough to end up hiding behind the farthest mountains, the sky drew a beautiful orange and pink tones that described a beautiful sunset. The howl of a wolf managed to shake her, it would soon get dark and, through the forest, the first wild animals would begin to swarm in search of something to put into their mouths, if she didn't move from there, she would be dinner that night.
She buried her fingers in the snow again, looking for a holding point so she could crawl, but every time she tried to move, the throbbing pain in her spine joined with a greater pain that ran through her abdomen and caused the urge to shrink makes it greater.
When the moon began to shine, the woman who had been fighting to get out of that place to save her life, lost all hope when she felt the first footsteps in the snow. The wolves were coming and feasting on her body, which had only advanced a few inches from where it had fallen, leaving a trail of blood in the snow.
The thought about the numbness of her body faded when she felt how her body was warmer than normal. She put a hand to her head, clenching her jaw as a dull ache ran through her bones from fingertips to shoulder. She opened her eyes heavily, even the slightest movement of her body annoyed her, and when an intense light blinded her for a moment forcing her to close her eyes immediately, she gave a soft moan that tore at her throat.
She was no longer in the forest nor was it night as she remembered, the sun's rays filtered through the window of what seemed to be the room of a house totally unknown to her. She forced her eyes open once more and the first thing she saw were glowing figures that she knew were only the result of an optical illusion. Then she tried to remember, to find out where she was, how she had gotten there or if she was able to recognize any detail of the place where she was, but it was totally useless, that only served to increase her headache.
She realized that she was wearing totally different clothing than what she remembered, her tattered clothes were gone, and instead she was wearing a nightgown that came down to her ankles. With a superhuman effort, she managed to lower her feet to the ground, shuddering at the heat it gave off. The first thing that caught her attention in that room was a painting in which strange shapes had been captured under the signature of a certain Alex. She approached the painting, frowned and tried to know what all this could mean, but gave up her task and decided to head for the door.
The knob, like everything else she had touched so far, was hot, but not hot enough to burn the palm of her hand. When she opened the door, the sound of voices led her to walk towards the stairs, with curiosity and caution on the surface. She was in an unfamiliar place with people who could be hostile.
'She can't stay here' said a melodic feminine voice.
'She has to stay here!' a man answered rudely and his voice low.
'She was in enemy territory, we have to ask her some questions. 'Are you going to leave me with a murderer?' the woman asked.
'We don't know who she is, we don't know if she's part of Daven's group nor do we know anything about her...'
'And why did you bring her here?' the woman replied.
'They attacked her.' the man interjected. 'She was dying, I wasn't going to let her down'.
'I hate your charities, Connor.'
'And still, you keep helping me' said the man and, when she poked his head slightly through the hole on the stairs, she saw that he was smiling.
The gazes of Connor and the woman with her turned to her as the wood creaked as it leaned against the railing. Connor put his hands on his hips and looked at her with a small smile trying to convey assurance. He understood how difficult it could be to be in a place where he didn't know anyone and he tried to make her stay there as comfortable as possible. Seeing that her face showed no emotion, he gave her a slight nod, indicating her to join them in the room. She obeyed his gesture and started down the stairs slowly, holding back a groan every time she stepped onto the steps.
'Does it hurt a lot?' Connor asked. She nodded once she reached the bottom of the stairs.
That man was taller than her, for a moment, she was intimidated, "from the top floor, he didn't seem so big," she thought. Beside him she felt so insignificant and fragile that her mind began to wander between the possible options she had if he turned out to be dangerous.
After reviewing Connor's dimensions, she glanced at the woman who was crossed with her arms, looking at her as if she were a beast without a leash.
'What's your name?' Connor asked, freshly catching her attention. She frowned and tried to recall, however, not being able to remember it, she said the only name that came to mind.
'Alex' she replied, and her throat burned as she spoke, making her cough.
'Get some water, Astrid,' Connor said, turning to look at the woman who reluctantly went after what she had asked.
They were both silent for a moment until the woman returned with the glass of water, she handed it to Alex, who took it without stopping to mriar the liquid that was inside. It was then that she looked up at Astrid and frowned before shaking her head.
'I'm not going to drink' she said and, as a result of the dryness of her throat, she coughed again.
'What have you done, Astrid?' Connor asked.
'I did nothing!' Astrid exclaimed.
'She put poison on it' said Alex. Connor picked up the glass and held it to his nose before turning to Astrid.
'Why did you do it?' he asked with enviable calm.
'Because you insist on bringing someone who was in enemy territory!'
'She was hurt, Astrid!' Connor yelled, then Astrid left the house visibly upset and slamming the door. Hearing that, Alex frowned and looked at her body, apart from the internal pain she didn't see anything out of the ordinary. 'Don't take it into account, she's that distrustful.'
'You said I was hurt' Alex said, not paying attention to what Connor had told her. 'Where?'
'When I found you, your abdomen was torn and you were covered in blood. Astrid had to spend most of the night awake to save your life.' he explained.
'Why did she do it if she hates me?'
'Because I asked her, besides, she doesn't hate you, she just doesn't know you,' he said, placing a hand on Alex's shoulder, however, she took a step back.
'You don't know me either'.
'What were you doing in Daven's territory?' he asked.
'Who is Daven?'
After knowing some details about why Connor had brought her there, where he had found her, and who Daven was, Alex was left alone in that house so she could rest. When she awoke from the mid-morning sleep, she saw that, on a chair in the room, there was a set of clothes similar to the one she had been wearing before she was brought there. She felt much better than the first time, and although she still felt a slight numbness in her limbs, getting up was much easier.
As she took off her nightgown to slip into the outfit they had prepared for her, she looked at herself in the standing mirror in one of the corners of the room and saw bandages covering her abdomen. Although vaguely, she remembered how her belly burned as she tried to crawl on the snow, but at that time she no longer felt anything at all so she carefully removed the bandage to discover that she had no injuries. Her pants were a bit short, but everything else was perfect, including some hiking boots that were under the chair, so she saw no obstacles to the idea of inspecting the house a bit. The woman who lived there considered her a potential danger, but perhaps it was Alex who had to fear Connor, after all, to find her, he had to cross the enemy line and doubted that it was with good intentions.
There were only two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, so she went down to the main room, which split into two bedrooms and a kitchen. The room next to the one she'd been in when Astrid and Connor began arguing had three shelves littered with books whose spines caught her eye. That kind of library was unique since, placed in all possible places, there were ancient weapons and stuffed animals, creating a rather gloomy image.
'Don't touch anything' Astrid said from behind her, managing to startle her when she was about to pick up a book.
'Why?' Alex wondered.
'Because it's my house, it's my library, and it's my rules.'
'Where is Connor?'
'You are not welcome in these lands' Astrid said, crossing her arms.
'Still, here I am' Alex replied. 'Connor wants me here, he brought me, the only one who doesn't want to be in my presence is you, which leads me to wonder that maybe it's you who should leave.'
'Connor doesn't want you here, he's just sorry for you,' Astrid explained. 'and once you're healed, he'll kick you out of here.'
Alex clenched her jaw, it had become clear to her the kind of people that roamed these lands and, if they were all as friendly as Astrid, she wouldn't stay there much longer, after all, for some unknown reason, she wasn't hurt at all. Faced with Alex's silence, Astrid smirked on her face, which lasted until after Alex left that house.
'Have been able to rest?' Connor asked, after entering the house with a pile of wood in his hands that he placed in a wicker basket by the fireplace.
'I haven't gone to bed' Astrid replied, sitting in an armchair in the living room while smearing her body with natural creams.
'I mean Alex, how is she? I have some questions to ask her' he asked as he took the steps two at a time.
Upon reaching the top floor, he looked in all the rooms, but there was no sign of her. With the feeling that something bad was going to happen, Connor leaned out the window and watched as the other members of the pack went about their lives without worries, as if they lived in an alternate world without being aware of what had happened in that house. Then he closed the window and went back downstairs with his fists clenched, trying to control the anger that, little by little, was building inside him.
'Where is she?!
'She's gone' Astrid replied without looking at him.
'Why did you let her go? What did you say to her?'
'I didn't say anything to him' she lied, looking up to look Connor directly in the eye. 'she said she didn't want to be here and then, she left. Why are you so interested in her? You hardly know her! From what we know of her, she could be a murderer. You found her in Daven's territory!'
'Yes, but with her back to her territory!' Connor exclaimed. 'She was running from something... or someone and I need her to tell me what happened to her.'
'If she were like we would have, we scented her' Astrid countered, standing up.
'Not if she hid her trail' he explained. 'You know very well what can be done if you find the right plants.'
Astrid looked at him with a strange expression on her face and, in one breath, brushed the lock of hair from her face before sitting back down. Connor shook his head and turned his back on her before walking towards the exit.
'Where are you going?' Astrid asked.
'To find her.'
The air burned her lungs, every time she inhaled, no matter how little, she felt a burning through her entire respiratory system. Still, she had to make an effort, and after leaving Astrid's house, she had been wandering aimlessly. This place wasn't too big, it wasn't quite a city, yet Alex was sure there were more than three hundred people there. At first, when she was still close to the nucleus of that town, she went unnoticed among the people, however, now that she was near the limits of the town, she began to attract more attention.
She felt how the gazes were fixed on the nape of her neck and the whispers began to resonate wherever she passed. Alex quickened her steps, stared straight ahead, and tried not to meet anyone's gaze. It was then that someone suddenly grabbed her wrist and dragged her into an alley. Alex tried to resist, but that only served to turn the numbness in her limbs into a dull ache.
She was unable to see the person who had dragged her, since he was behind her, imprisoning her body with one arm and covering her mouth with his free hand. Alex closed her eyes tightly and began to breathe raggedly, then felt her body being released little by little, at the same time that they cornered her against the wall. A man with deep, intense blue eyes and a weeks old beard had his hands on the wall, blocking her way and preventing her from leaving.
The murmurs Alex had been hearing passed the level of the alley, fading as they moved away. They both looked down the pedestrian street and, once the murmurs and insults had disappeared, they looked into each other's eyes again.
'What are you doing here? You are crazy? They'll kill you if they recognize you' the man asked.
Alex frowned and held her breath, her heart pounding and she couldn't only hear it clearly, but she could also hear the man's racing heartbeat.
'What is happening to me?' whisper.
'What do you mean?'
'I can hear your heartbeat...'
The man laughed as he shook his head, then took his hands off the wall and took a step back.
'Sure you can, we all can.'
'I don't understand' Alex said, running a hand through her hair.
'Aeryn, we are Lycans, we can do that and much more.'
'Who's Aeryn?' She asked.
'It's you…' The man paused, fearing the worst. 'Wait... do you know who I am?' She looked him up and down, finally focusing her attention on his eyes. 'Aeryn, it's Kevin, tell me you know who I am, please…' he said in the absence of a response.
She shrugged and sighed.
'I'm sorry... I don't know you.'
Obrigado pela leitura!
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