He heard her soul calling him.
The sunlight streamed from the open sky; when it hit the frosted tundra, it scattered upon the prisms of ice, sparkling like billions of diamonds. Through the cold he raced, his coat the same hue as the surrounding landscape: a brilliant white, unblemished. In the distance, he saw the old ruins—gray stone of man midst the dazzling snow of the heavens.
She was there, and she was in pain.
He felt her cry, rather than heard it, and it shook his very soul. The cries grew louder as he approached, until finally, he heard them with his ears. With one great bound, he was there. Bared fangs, and lusting blood, he stepped into the ruins.
The woman's screams resounded off the stone columns though the ruins were not enclosed. The man carrying her over his shoulder saw the snow glitter to his front, and wondered if it would continue to shine when stained with slick, red blood.
He'd never imagined the blood would be his own.
Tiadora couldn't keep her thoughts from panic, so she tried not to think at all. But when her captor suddenly froze, her mind surfaced over the blackness again, and a slight seedling of hope snaked its way into her chest.
He dumped her to the ground; the chill of the wet and sticky snow crept into her bones, and she turned to see a shocking sight. A white wolf, enormous, snarling at her…but not at her. It snarled and growled at her kidnapper, Grundun—what the white-eyed woman had called him before Tiadora herself had blacked out, back in the city.
The wolf circled Grundun, she could see the man shaking, and Tiadora doubted it was from the cold. There was a promise of death in the eyes of the beast.
And with as much grace as Tiadora had seen in the ballets and musicals of the Tammenan Theatre, the wolf leapt, sprung with great power of muscle and bone, from the ice, and slashed Grundun's chest. His blood steamed when it hit the air.
Grundun, finally shocked into movement, grabbed his knife and brandished it above his head. Stupid. The wolf was on him again, and this time, he did not have a second chance. Without even an attempt to sink his blade into canine flesh, Grundun was dead, his throat gashed so far and deep that his head hung oddly from the bone of his neck.
Tiadora strangely felt nothing. Not fear, not disgust, not even joy that her kidnapper had been killed. The wolf, his pristine coat smeared with blood, had turned to her; in his eyes, blue and gold, like ichor of gods, there was kindness. All she felt was wonder.
"What are you?" she whispered, her breath billowing into a soft cloud in front of her mouth, and vanishing. The wolf paused, as if it understood her words, then took one more step. It gave a small whine, and sat, not very far from her, as if it were allowing her a distance of comfort.
Tiadora, if she had been that kind of woman, might have fainted. She had been kidnapped from her home by the oddest assortment of people who she knew nothing of, knocked out, and awoken in a land of ice to be killed, only to then be saved by a wild beast. However, she was not that kind of woman.
Tiadora scooted closer to the wolf cautiously, and held out her hand.
"Thank you," she breathed, "for saving my life."
The wolf bent its head to sniff her outstretch palm, and then the oddest thing yet occurred. A golden light burst from the wolf's being; Tiadora jumped back in front, but found herself paralyzed with awe as the animal floated above the ice.
It was changing.
The light subsided slowly, leaving shimmers of gold in the air, brilliant against the clear cerulean sky—like the eyes of the wolf. Exactly. And upon the snow, there lay, not a beast, but a man.
A man with hair as white as the snow he lay upon, skin as golden and bright as the light that lingered in the chill. And when he rose and moved toward Tiadora, she saw his eyes.
They were wide, a clear cerulean, flecked with shimmers of gold.
The man held out his hand. Warily, Tiadora looked at him again. He was tall and lithe, but his muscles were well defined. He wore nothing but a cloak of fur, white. He stood still and said nothing, but left his hand outstretched.
She took it.