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Wolf Land Book Three: Divided: Wolf Land, #3

Wolf Land Book Three: Divided: Wolf Land, #3

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Wolf Land Book Three: Divided: Wolf Land, #3

Length:
280 pages
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 16, 2018
ISBN:
9781386314363
Format:
Book

Description

The wolves have been divided, but will they fall?

In the castle’s dungeons, werewolves are being tortured and killed, but is this just another game of Lord Tolbert’s, or does he need the wolves for a darker purpose?

Sorcha Moore has been betrayed, kidnapped, and separated from everyone she cares for. But who has driven them apart, and why?

Sorcha needs to learn all she can about her enemies – and about herself – if she is ever going to defeat the Lord. But when she is finally told the truth of the Lords and the werewolves, it may not be the truth she wants to hear.

Will Sorcha return to Wolf Wood and in time to save Rory and the wolf pack, or will she do as everyone seems to think she ought … and run?

Publisher:
Released:
Feb 16, 2018
ISBN:
9781386314363
Format:
Book

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Wolf Land Book Three - Fiona McShane

Rory

Itried to recall when I had first seen her.  That was impossible, though.  I had known her all my life.  So when, then, had I fallen in love?

Was it the day she kicked the rector in the shin?  I could picture it as though it were yesterday.  The rector said there was no place in heaven for animals.  Sorcha disagreed.

No, I already loved her by then, because otherwise why did I pull her into the forge to hide as the rector was chasing her down the street?

Was it the day that she dropped a basket of bread and cried in the middle of the village, yet still refused to let me buy her another?  She would take whatever punishment her father chose to dole out, she told me.  It would be just like every other day at the farm.

No.  I must have loved her already.  Otherwise her tears would not have broken my heart.

So when, then?

I winced, but only slightly.

‘Ah,’ he said with a grin.  ‘You are with us once again, Rory.  That one stung, did it not?’

I felt along the line of my jaw.  The left-hand side, this time.  It had been the right the last time I came to.  He was alternating.  But, I realised as I traced my jawline, my face was all human now.  When had I changed back?  I still wore the same clothes I had worn for battle, but they had been stretched and torn so that they now hung off me in blood-soaked ribbons, leaving much of my skin exposed.  There were still belts – ties designed to make sure our clothing could be tightened and loosened as necessary when we changed form.  But no matter how I pulled I could not reach them.  I might as well have been naked before the man.

I looked at the cell opposite mine, and then wished I had not.

I had led her here.  I had brought this horror upon her.

I forced my gaze back into the open cell that held Rose’s dead body within.  Why would they close it, after all, when there was no danger of her escaping?  Most of her clothes had been torn off.  Blood had seeped through the few scraps of remaining material and pooled on the ground.

So many reactions went through my mind, while I took it all in, while he continued to smack me, one side of the face and then the other, back and forth and back and forth till I was dizzy, till I thought my head might roll off my neck and land at his feet.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to scream.  I wanted to get the hell out of these chains and punish every man in this damned castle.

I had eaten at the same table as Rose, hunted through full moons with her, gone into battle knowing she was one of the bravest wolves I could have by my side.

‘Did it make your men feel good?’ I drawled, spitting blood from my mouth and onto his hands, pulling at my chains.  ‘Beating a woman to death?’

He grimaced at the sight of my blood, though I failed to see why – he already had a great deal of it spattered on his clothes.  He grabbed my chin, staring into my eyes.  Clearly, he did not like what he saw there.

‘You are awfully alert,’ he said.  ‘Where did the elf-bolt hit you?’

I shrugged.  ‘Ask my father.  It was he you tricked into almost murdering me.’

He made no reply.  He was far too busy staring at me in a horrified way.  He was right to be concerned.  Every inch of my body was swollen and sore.  My blood was boiling with elf-bolt poison.  I could feel it.  And yet ... I could fight the poison, I knew I could.

When Cormac was hit with the same weapon he had lasted a long time.  Long enough to make sure he instructed me to look after Sorcha.  But I sometimes wondered if part of him welcomed death.  After all, he had his witch waiting for him on the other side.  But my witch was in this world, and I had no intention of abandoning her.

I had loved her since ... what day was it?  When she refused to harness that old lame pony, only to receive the back of her father’s hand?  It was a heavy blow – the whole village flinched that day – but it was not heavy enough to stop her leading the pony away, ignoring her father’s shouts.

No.  I shook my head.  I was definitely in love with her by then, because what else could have inspired me to kick a barrel of water out in front of her father to stop him chasing her through the village?  What else could have kept me up the whole night afterwards, pacing up and down outside the farmhouse in case I heard him beat her again?

I concentrated, letting my teeth grow, and allowing a low growl to sound.  I pulled at my chains, ignoring how the collar bit into my neck.  I heard a crumbling sound as the chain that attached my left leg to the wall began to come away.

Lord Tolbert rushed out of the cell, slamming the door shut behind him.

‘We have your bitch,’ he said in a panicked voice.  ‘We have her in chains and we will kill her if you do not calm down.’

I grinned, letting my teeth grow even longer.  ‘Have you ever been in love, Lord Tolbert?’ I asked him.  ‘If not, you should try it.  It gives you a real sense of purpose, you know?  No.’  I shook my chains, loosening them more, pulling my body closer to the bars.  ‘No, I do not think you do know.  I will explain further.  I love Sorcha Moore.  I love her in ways you will never understand.  I love her so much that no amount of poison, and no amount of torture, will keep me from getting to her.  So if, by chance, she has been hurt by you or any of your men, well ... I will feel all the more motivated to kill you in the slowest, most painful way possible.’

I pulled again.  The metal spike that attached my collar’s chain to the ground came free.

Sweat began to run down his forehead.  His hands began to shake as he turned the key in the lock.

‘Move another inch and I will kill her,’ he said with a shaking voice.

I raised an eyebrow.  ‘If you have Sorcha, and she is still alive, then that can only mean that you need her for something.  You will not kill her.  And I will get out of this cell so I can find her.’

I pulled again.  Another chain came free.  I brought my hand to the collar, ripping at it, tearing it from my neck, hanging my head back and howling as I pulled at the last of my chains.

‘Eleanora!’ he bellowed as he marched out of the dungeons.  ‘Eleanora!’

Finally free of all bonds, I thrust my body against the door of the cell, letting my mind drift, once again, as I shook the bars.

Was it the day when I found her in the south corner of the woods, picking daisies?  I smiled at the memory.  Her hair had been loose that day.  I had brushed it back over her ear, standing closer to her than ever before.

But ... no.  No, I already loved her by then.  Otherwise I would not have been so nervous at the thought of a simple touch.

The stone around the bars began to crumble.  I kept shaking it, opening my mouth and screaming in mad victory as the loose stones spilled over me like a fine, cool rain.

Ah.  Yes.  I smiled as another memory crossed my mind.  It could have been the first time she wore that yellow dress.

Storyfall

Iglanced back at the woodland, wishing we were there instead of here amongst the crowds and the smells.  The fair was early this year.  Mammy knew it would be.  But then, Mammy knew everything.

People lined up at stalls and outside tents, buying trinkets, winning prizes, having their futures told.

But one tent stood alone.  It was shabby, with holes in the material.  There were no people queuing at that tent – in fact, no one even looked at it, seeming to subconsciously veer away from it as they walked through the fair.  A sign stood outside in front of a closed flap.  The sign had no words, only a picture.

‘What is it, Mammy?  Is it a snake?’

She squeezed my hand.  ‘Snakes are not all bad, Peggy,’ she replied.  ‘Nothing is all bad.’

Both of us had whispered as we spoke, but we must have made more noise than I thought, because a dark hand with long, graceful fingers pulled the flap aside and a deep voice said, ‘Come in.’

There was something so warm about that voice that suddenly I was not afraid.  The grubbiness of the tent did not deter me, and neither did the snake.  But Mammy was hesitant.  She looked more frightened than I did as she approached the opening.

‘You are Casper?’ she asked as the man stood aside to let us through.

Casper nodded.  ‘And you are Deirdre.  I was told you would be late, but you are exactly on time.’

He was tall and thin with deep brown eyes.  He wore long white robes and a white and gold covering on his head.  Underneath the headdress, his hair was curly and black.  He stood with a paintbrush in his hand, staring after my mother as she walked further into the tent.  I looked back at him as he followed us.  His brown eyes were filled with tears.

Once we were inside he closed the flap.  The space was brighter than I thought it would be – probably because of how the holes in the material let the light shine through.  One hole was situated directly above a large easel.  I could not see if he had painted anything on the canvas that sat there; maybe it was waiting for us.

There was a chair that I think we were supposed to sit on, but my mother stood awkwardly, fishing about in her dress pocket.  ‘Here,’ she said, withdrawing three silver coins.  ‘I had to sell a lot of poitín to save this money.  My elder said that this was your price.’

He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth.  ‘Of course she did,’ he whispered.  When he opened his eyes again, he was no longer crying, but he still looked sad.  ‘I used to know your elder.  She had everything wrong when she lived, and it seems she has everything wrong now she is dead.  Silver is my gift, Deirdre.  Not my price.  How that woman managed to become a Bright-One is beyond me.’  He stared at my mother, so hard that she turned her head away.  ‘You had little respect for her when she was alive, am I right?’

Mammy shrugged.  I looked up at her face and saw that she had reddened.

‘Well then.  Perhaps you ought not bow to her every whim, just because she is now a Bright-One.’  He nodded to the chair.  ‘Sit.  The other child, too.  It must be all three of you.  If you really are set upon the path I have been told of, then that poor baby will need all the help I can give her.’  He stared even more closely at Mammy’s stomach.  ‘We must be quick,’ he said.  ‘The child will arrive soon.’

‘I have a few days to go,’ said Mammy.

He walked to his easel.  ‘Less than that,’ he said with a shake of his head.  ‘Hours, I would say.  She will be here before night falls.  I will have to be quick.’

I watched his left hand move in quick strokes across his canvas.

‘I can see her clearly.  She is eager to come into the world.’

Mammy patted her stomach and said with a small smile, ‘She is certainly making her presence known.’

On the table beside him was a long wooden box.  I tried not to look at it, but it was so beautiful.  Perhaps it, too, was being shone upon by one of the small shafts of light that pierced the tent, because the wood gleamed.

He finished painting and blew softly on the canvas.  With a smile, he said, ‘It is ready.’

He opened the box and drew out a long, thin knife and a silver locket.  My breath caught in my throat as I watched.  He opened the locket, placed it on the table, and used the knife to cut out a tiny section of the canvas.

Mammy said, ‘Stay there, Peggy,’ while she walked over to him.

Her hand flitted to her chest as she looked at the small picture he had cut free.  ‘Thank you, Casper.’

‘I wonder,’ he said, pressing the picture into the locket.  ‘Is there any other way?’

Mammy did not answer, but I think she was trying to find the right words to say.  Her lips began to tremble, and Casper moved so close to her that I could hardly see air between them.  He took her face in his hands and tilted it upwards, forcing her to look into his eyes.

‘You feel the same, Deirdre.  You are not happy about this, are you?’

She tore her gaze from his, fixing her eyes on the floor of the tent.  ‘It must be so.’

He moved his hands abruptly from her face, closed the locket and handed it to her.  ‘Have it, then.’

Mammy looked at the gleaming silver, and opened the face of the locket so she could see the small portrait within.  ‘Will she know how to use it?  Without me there to tell her?’

Casper let out a weary sigh.  He seemed old, then.  His perfect black skin was just as smooth.  His eyes were just as bright.  But I knew: it was an old man who stood before us.

‘She would know,’ he said.  ‘But if you still intend to do as the Bright-Ones have told me ... if you intend to suppress her, then ... no.’

His eyes moved suddenly to me, focusing on the pocket of my dress.  I knew that he could see through the material to the bottle I held in there.  There was something else, though ... I almost thought that he was willing me to take the bottle out and smash it on the ground.  And it was tempting.  Something in the weight of those dark eyes made me want to do anything he asked.

I crossed my hands firmly, placing them on my lap.  I could never destroy the bottle.  Mammy said it was important.  Mammy said that taking care of it was a test for me.  Looking after the bottle would prove that I could look after my sister.

Casper took his eyes from my pocket and I breathed a sigh of relief.

‘She will not feel the power of the locket for a long time,’ he said, switching his attention back to Mammy.  ‘She will not feel its power because she will not feel her own.  You cannot suppress the wolf without suppressing the witch.  And so she will not know how to use the locket.  But nevertheless it will be whatever she needs, whenever she needs it – even when she does not know she needs it.  It will warn her when a Lord is near.  It will comfort her when the pain of a Lord’s deeds is too great to bear.  And look.’

He picked his paintbrush up and touched it against the locket.  Webs of bright metal began covering the paintbrush until it was completely silver.  The bristles grew hard and made a tapping sound against the locket – silver against silver.  I tried to stay quiet, but a gasp escaped.  Neither of them seemed to hear me.

‘The Bright-Ones also told me of your lover’s worries.  How he fears that, once you have suppressed her, these wolves he is to make will not recognise her as one of their own.  He is right to fear what these new wolves may do to her.  It is of course possible that they will sense, at some level, that she is part wolf.  But this has never happened before, so we cannot be sure.  It is perhaps more likely that the suppression potion will hide her just as well from them as it does from the rest of the world.  That is why I have given the locket this added enchantment.  Being able to turn any object to silver will ensure she is protected, should a werewolf attack.  For that enchantment, however, she will need instruction.’  Casper rolled his eyes.  ‘I have done everything asked of me and more.  And yet ... I fear it may not be enough.’  He pulled her face to his again.  ‘Deirdre, I fear that this is all wrong.  In order to protect herself from a Lord, she will need strength.  And no matter what the Bright-Ones say, strength comes from loving and being loved.’

‘You are wrong.  There is no greater love than one which would sacrifice its own life.  And I am giving my life and love in return for her power.’

Casper touched her belly.  It surprised me, the way she let him keep his hands there.  ‘This child has more power than we have seen for lifetimes.  It is not more power she needs you to give her.  It is tutelage.  Imagine, with you telling her all you have learned, with Cormac teaching her how to use her other side ... she could be amazing.’

Mammy gritted her teeth.  ‘The path is laid, Casper.  I have seen it.  Cormac will have the power he needs to make more like him.  They will keep the woods intact.  And they will keep Tolbert at bay, until she is ready.  And when she is ready, then she will have my power on top of her own.  My elder told me you have known many Lords.  Was she wrong about that, too?’

‘She was not wrong.  I have known too many to count.’

‘So then you know ... when the time comes, and she must fight Tolbert, then she will need every ounce of power I can give her.’

With a sad shake of his head, Casper took his hands from Mammy’s stomach.  ‘I remember a time when the Bright-Ones did not speak so incessantly of fighting the Lords.  I remember a time when they knew that light was enough – that as long as they kept shining bright and true, the dark could find no way in.  But here.’  He placed the locket gently around her neck.  ‘This may well help her when she needs it most.  It will not, however, be a substitute for a mother’s love.  Go now.  And hurry.  She is coming.’

‘But Casper, I ... I was told you would come to help me when I–’

He spun around.  ‘Once again, your elder has it wrong.  My job is to protect.  Not to suppress.  This potion you have concocted ... from what I recall of your elder, she would have no idea how to make such a thing.  You are a thousand times the witch she was.  And so I must ask you again – why bow to the whim of such an ignorant woman?’

‘It is not just her.  I ... I went to Uisneach.  The goddess showed me.  The path is laid.’

He waved his hand dismissively and said, in a voice dripping with sarcasm, ‘Well then.  If the path is laid, you must surely follow.’

CASPER HAD BEEN RIGHT.  The pains began as soon as we left the fairground.  By the time we arrived back at Cormac’s cottage, Mammy was ready to have the baby.

I had been to births before.  Mammy always took me with her, because otherwise I would be under Daddy’s feet.  Since moving to the woods I did not go so often, because Cormac did not mind looking after me when Mammy was busy.  But I still went to some.  When it was full moon, even though Cormac was safely tucked away in the hole, Mammy would keep me by her side just in case.

There had been a bad birth a week earlier, so I knew all of the things that could go wrong.  I knew that even when births went well they would be sore and messy.  I was not afraid of any of it, so I could not understand why this time, during the birth I wanted to see so much, she shut me out of the room.

I stayed with my ear pressed up against the door the whole time.  I could hear Mammy’s funny breathing when she pushed, and I could hear her crying out when it hurt too much.  All the while Cormac spoke to her in a calming voice.  Once or twice I even heard him sing.

My vigil did not last long.  As soon as I heard the baby’s cries I pushed open the door, not caring what they would say.

Night had just begun to fall when I walked in and saw her in Mammy’s arms.

‘What is her name?’

‘I cannot decide,’ said Mammy.  ‘Would you choose?’

‘But ... naming is important,’ I said unsurely.

‘You will have many important tasks over the years.  There is no better way to begin than by choosing your sister’s name.’

I knew I was scrunching up my forehead as I thought about it, because Mammy and Cormac laughed at me in a fond way.  I thought of all of the names I knew, but I could think of nothing that would suit her.  Instead, everything that had happened earlier rushed into my mind – Casper and Mammy arguing about Bright-Ones.  I hated them.  Making decisions for us.  Telling us what we could and could not do.  Casper was right.  I knew it in my belly.  He was right about it all.  The way to win was with light.  And those so-called Bright-Ones were not very bright if they could not see that.  My sister ... she could be her own guiding light.  She could ...

I smiled widely as I thought of the name.

‘Sorcha,’ I said.  ‘Her name is Sorcha.’

‘Do you know what that means?’  Mammy looked at me oddly as she asked the question, but Cormac smiled.

‘Bright,’ I said.  ‘Sorcha is light.  Brightness.’

Mammy bit her lip and looked down at the baby.  ‘It is almost an affront to them,’ she said.  ‘It is almost as if we are saying ...’

Cormac finished her thought.  ‘That she can light her own

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