Eden ran her fingers over the bindings of the many books that filled shelves spreading from wall to wall of the library.
"The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, The Hobbit " Eden read aloud, but none of the familiar books seemed to interest her today. She sighed, and continued to scan the titles of the books. Suddenly, a leather bound book caught her eye. She looked at it more closely. "Terraelupus..." She whispered. Carefully, she pulled the old volume from the shelf, turning it over in her hands. The book was old, and the leather on the hard cover was cracking, and the Celtic designs had dust between the swirls. Bronze clasps held the front and back together. Eden could see that the pages inside were yellow and wrinkled. She fiddled with one of the clasps.
"I'd be careful with that if I were you." Someone behind her said. Eden whirled around to find a young man, about eighteen, standing behind her. He was tall and lanky, and his eyes were a deep brown. His shaggy brown hair fell into his eyes, and he looked almost like Eden had imagined one of Tolkien's elves.
"I said I'd be careful with that if I were you."
"With this?" Eden held up the book.
"It's only a book." She shrugged. "What harm can it do?"
Tucking the book under her arm, she began to walk away, but the boy's hand latched onto her shoulder and pulled her back to face him.
"Just be careful. It may look like only a book, but " His voice faded away.
"But what?" She looked at him, her green eyes filled with curiosity.
"Never mind. You wouldn't believe me, anyways."
Eden left the young man walking up to the counter to check out her book.
The man at the counter said nothing about the book, only nodded quietly and ran Eden's card and the book under the scanner.
Eden thanked the man and walked out of the library. Late that night, Eden clicked on her bedside lamp, and tying back her thick, black hair she pried open the front cover of the book.
"Terraelupus..." She murmured again, running her finger along the embossed title. Eden lifted up a leaf, but hesitated a moment, remember what the young man had said. "But the librarian didn't say anything about it " She breathed, and turned the paged. Her eyes wandered over the page, eyeing the swirling words and soaking them in. As she did so, a heavy darkness fell over the room, and the air seemed to be thicker. She became drowsy, and sleep fell over her like the closing of a trunk – hard and fast.
Eden opened her eyes. Crickets chirped around her. She was no longer in her bed, dressed in her pajamas. Instead, she wore a lightweight dress, its sleeves draping down across her body and the skirt falling down to her ankles. Her hair cascaded down to her waist. Above her the sky was like a wall hanging of stars and constellations, and tall and slender trees rose up around her. Eden heard a fire crackling nearby, and she turned her head and saw it – a bright, warm campfire, and someone sitting near it. Eden sat up to get a better look. She gasped. It was the young man from the library.
"So you didn't listen to me, did you?" He asked.
She glowered at him. "Isn't that a bit obvious?"
"Yes, I suppose it is. But since it's only you and I out here now, introductions will have to be made. My name is Conrí."
"I'm Eden. I s'pose I should say I'm pleased to make your acquaintance.""Don't. By the time you've been here long enough, you won't be."
She looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "Alright, then."
"You're bound to have some questions." Conrí prompted. "Where are we?"
"You, Eden, are in Terraelupus, land of the wolf.""Land of the wolf? Why's it called that?"
"Terraelupus was once covered in wolves. That was before the hunters arrived."
"Brutal people. Killed all the wolves, even some werewolves. Screwed up the ecosystem. Left us nearly devastated."
"We've been trying to breed more wolves. I'm afraid trying is a strong word, though. It's not working very well at all."
"So why are wolves so important in all this?"
"From the beginning of time, it's been said that when the wolves depart, the line of kings will break, leaving us completely and utterly devastated."
Eden felt a huge burden land on her shoulders. "So how long ago did this happen?"
"About ten years ago, when I was just a child. That was when the hunters arrived. Thankfully, there are still a few wolves left. So we're safe until then."
"Where do you fall into all of this?""Right in the middle of it. I'm the last of the line of the kings. That's also how you come in.""Me?" Eden inched closer to the fire. "Yes. I had a sister once, before the hunters took her away. A terrible night, that was. We think they killed her. Her name was Chanteloup, meaning song of the wolf, and she looked just like you, only a little older. Along with that saying about the wolves departing, there's a prophecy. If one of the line of the kings willingly gives themselves up to the hunters, the curse of the wolves will break, and it doesn't matter if the wolves die out – the line will continue onwards. But there will need to be one of the line left to rule."
"So you want me to rule?"
"Actually, no. There's only one way for you to get home: and that's if you turn yourself in to the hunters.""But I'm not your sister."
"I know. But," he lowered his voice, "the hunters don't. They do know they got my sister earlier. What they don't know, however, is that my mother died in child birth to my second sister. We buried her secretly, making it seem as if she'd disappeared. Strangely enough, my sister actually did disappear." Conrí almost smiled. "Then it seemed so trivial. But now it points to the Creator, the Singer of the Wolf Song of Life. It shows that someone is sovereign." "By the Singer you mean God, right?"
"In your world that's what he's called, yes."
"How much time do we have? I mean, do I go to the hunters right now?"
"I think right now you're only doing it because you want to get home. No. I'm afraid for the curse to break you need to do it because you love Terraelupus. You need to learn to love the land, and learn our ways."
"Where will I do that? You're in hiding, aren't you?""Aye. But I can teach you some out here, and then tomorrow night we can make our way to the Fortress of Blaez. I have some good friends there who will be happy to train you.""What all will I learn?"
"Our traditions, geography, history "
"Yes, the language. Some, anyway. Get some rest. We'll begin tomorrow."
Eden laid back down, the warmth of the fire and the chirping crickets quickly lulling her to sleep. She thought she heard Conrí singing, but she couldn't be sure. It was something, anyway, and it was like a quiet song, familiar yet distant. It sounded like a lullaby. Eden's eyes closed and she dropped off into her dreams dreams filled with running wolves, hunters, and a young girl crying for help. She saw Conrí as a young boy, sitting on the hard ground with his head in his hands, crying out his sister's name. Eden could see the hurt and pain in his eyes, and she wanted to turn her face away, but couldn't. Next she saw herself, running through the woods. A great black wolf stepped out of the shadows and laid a gentle paw on her shoulder. Eden drew in a sharp breath and felt a peaceful calm fall over her. She stood still under the wolf's touch, and when he left she continued onwards, slowly this time, and not nearly as scared as before. Eden began to sing. What she sang, she did not know, but it reminded her of what Conrí had been singing. A wolf song She thought.
Eden woke to the singing of birds. The sun was high in the sky, and Conrí stood near the edge of the clearing, looking around suspiciously. Eden climbed to her feet and brushed grass and dirt off of her dress. She noticed it was a deep red in color, bordered with black lace. Conr smiled when he noticed her and walked over to the fire, where a small pot sat near by, steam rising from it. He scooped out a thick mixture and handed it to Eden.
"Thank you." She said, and began to drink it. It was porridge, with a few berries and bits of fruit in it. She wished she had a spoon, but since none were available, Eden had to drink it.
"Shall we get started?" Conrí asked, taking off his cloak, revealing a sword in its scabbard underneath. He wore a simple tunic with leggings, and a long sleeve shirt was under his tunic.
"Sure. Where do we start?"
"With history. You already know most of our history. But there's a lot more to it than just that. The Singer created Terraelupus around one thousand years ago. That's why the sun here is so much younger than yours. At first, it was a peaceful land. The wolves ran free without trouble. But then the first wave of hunters came – they were not quite as cruel as the ones here now, but their ambition was the same. We were able to fight back and save the wolves, and peace reigned again for a hundred years or so. The hunters, however, had influenced some of the wolves they did not kill, and an evil generation of wolves appeared. They began to dominate the good wolves, and a struggle between good and evil broke out. This ended about five hundred years ago. Evil ruled for quite a few years, but then some people and wolves that had been in hiding emerged and took back rule of Terraelupus. Then ten years ago the hunters came and you know it from there.""Wow. So Terraelupus hasn't been peaceful. It's such a beautiful country – world, whatever it is."
"It is. I'm glad you're seeing this already. It won't take as long as I might have thought. Now, I think it's time we did a little more than sit around and talk." Conrí stood, grabbing a bundle as he stood. "Those of us in Terraelupus believe that women should not fight. However, in times like this, it is necessary to learn the skills – for protection and protection alone." Conrí unwrapped the bundle. "Catch." He tossed a sheathed sword to Eden. It was plain, made out of steel. There were no engravings or designs, only a decorative ball for the pommel. The cross-guard was a bit tarnished, and as Eden carefully unsheathed it she noticed the blade was shiny and reflective, almost new looking.
"The basics of sword play are simple. Keep your distance from your opponent and look for their open spots. If you get too close, they will easily be able to hurt you. We have to be careful practicing, though, these are real swords."Eden nodded, a bit nervous. Conrí unsheathed his own sword, and showed Eden how to properly hold and wield the sword. She watched intently, drinking the information in. Finally, they were ready. Eden lifted her sword to touch Conrí's. He began circling her. Eden's imagination took her away, and in her mind she now saw Conrí as her enemy. The sound of metal upon metal sounded in Eden's ears as Conrí knocked her sword out of the way. Eden quickly brought her sword back to its position and took a deep breath. Now She locked his sword with hers and attempted to weave her sword in to him. He unlocked his sword, and Eden's sword slipped through her fingers. Eden reached down to pick it up, but tripped over a fallen tree branch. Conrí was upon her in an instant, and the cold blade of his sword was at her neck. Eden grimaced slightly, and Conrí took his sword away, allowing Eden to stand up.
"Eden," Conrí began, placing a hand gently on her thin shoulder. "Whatever you do, don't let the sword slip from your grasp. Unless your opponent is daft, you will have no chance. You did well, though. Come on, let's try it again."
They sparred for hours, until Eden was exhausted and could barely hold up her sword. She sat down where the campfire had been burning that morning, and pulling her knees to her chest, she rested her head upon them. Eden closed her eyes for a moment, letting the cool breeze play with her hair. Suddenly she saw the great wolf again. This time, however, he was charging at a hunter. The hunter screamed as the great wolf jumped onto him. Eden's eyes flew open, and she noticed she was breathing heavily. Conrí looked at her curiously, but said nothing.
The rest of the day passed rather uneventfully – Eden learned more about Terraelupus, mostly the language and geography. Late that night, she and Conrí set about taking down the camp and preparing to leave to a place Eden could learn more about Terraelupus. They had no horse, so would have to travel a few miles on foot, but Conrí knew his way around the part of Terraelupus they were in very well and did not think they would get lost.
Eden stretched. She was beginning to really like life in Terraelupus, short as her time there had been so far.
The next morning they stopped shortly in a small village to get horses, and Eden learned to ride as they journeyed on towards Blaez. On the second day of their journey, the grass was slippery and the rain was pouring down. Eden found it hard to stay on her horse, and struggled to keep up with Conrí without falling off.
Eden tried to sit up, but strong hands pushed her back down. Delirious, she struggled to get free.
"It's just me, Conrí ," a calming voice said. Eden relaxed a little.
"The horse reared, and you fell. You've been unconscious for two days now, and you've had a fever that whole time. I've been worried sick about you."
Eden was weak, and she could feel it. Her whole body was tired and tense.
Conrí held a mug to her mouth. "Drink."
Eden drank as well as she could. The liquid was warm, and it slid down her throat. She finished drinking, and then lay back down.
"Go ahead and sleep."
Eden forced her body to relax and let sleep overtake her once more. To Eden's surprise, her sleep was peaceful and unhindered by any dreams. She woke well-rested to see Conrí leaning over her, his hand laid gently on her forehead.
"Your fever has broken," he said. "You're still weak, though.
Again, Eden tried to sit up. This time,Conrí picked her up and carried her to a tree that she could rest her back on while she sat. Conrí brought Eden a bowl of steaming stew, and then sat to watch her eat it.
When she finished, she handed the bowl to Conrí . "I want to get up. I feel useless just sitting here." Eden used the tree trunk to stand. Instead of stopping her, Conrí waited until she was on her feet and then steadied her as she walked towards the fire. Ede sat near the fire, poking at it with a stick every now and then. She was quiet for a minute, and then she turned to Conrí .
"Why can't we just go to the hunters now? I still don't fully understand why we have to go to Blaez first. I'd just like to hurry up and get it over with, just get captured, and go? And how do I get home, anyway? And how does it work if I'm not really of the line of kings?"
"Eden – things take time. I don't know exactly how you getting home will work I just know that it will. To answer your last question, we'll have to go to Blaez."
"Then when can we go?"
"First light tomorrow. You should be strong enough by then. We'll have to walk, as I won't be able to get horses until we reach the fortress of Blaez."
"How long will the journey be?"
"It shouldn't take more than two days. Blaez is quite close to where we are, thankfully."
The journey to Blaez was tiring for Eden, as she was still a bit weak. Once they reached Blaez, though, she was able to rest for a few hours. Then the training started and she had no time for anything else.
The first hour of Eden's day was spent dressing and brushing her long hair. To dress properly in Terraelupus, Eden needed lots of petticoats and other underclothes. After breakfast, Eden spent three hours studying the language and history. Conr coached her on more advanced sword work for two hours, until lunch. After lunch, Eden had a geography lesson, followed by sewing and then etiquette. Finally, she had horseback riding. By dinner time, Eden was so worn out that right after she ate she headed up to bed.
"She's ready." Conrí said one afternoon, watching Eden in one of her language classes. They had been at Blaez for almost two months now, and Eden had mastered most of her studies. That evening, Conrí took Eden to the library where there were records of the kings and their families. Conrí chose a newer volume than the rest of them, with a brown leather binding. He opened it and turned to an almost blank page.
"In answer to your question about you not being in the line of kings, I wanted to show you this."Conrí pointed to a group of names, his own among them. "This was my mother. My father, my first sister, and this," he pointed to a name. "Is my second sister."
Eden gasped. "But... how? I mean...""You are my second sister. How? We sent you to Earth so you would stay safe."
"It's so... unbelievable. And yet it makes perfect sense."
"If you don't believe me, there are many others here who decided to send you to earth. All of your teachers, actually."
"I believe you."
"Now, Eden. You're ready to go."
Early the next morning, Eden was waiting on a horse, ready to leave the fortress of Blaez. Conrí stood at her side, giving her a few last minute instructions.
"... I will miss having you around, Eden. But you must return to earth after you turn yourself in to the hunters." Conrí reached up to Eden and hugged her.
"I'll miss you, too, Conrí. Thank you for all you've done for me."
"For Terraelupus, for Chanteloup, and for you. It's been nice knowing you. Now go."
Eden nudged the horse and set out towards the woods. As she entered, she turned her head to look back. Conrí waved, and Eden waved back. Eden rode all day, finally stopping in a small clearing. Tomorrow she would find the hunters. Eden slept, and she dreamed the dream about the black wolf once more. When she woke, the sun was just rising. After eating a quick and light breakfast, Eden swung up on her horse and rode to the east. By mid afternoon, she had reached the place the hunters made their camp. Eden whispered to the horse to go back to Blaez, and after watching him leave, she took a deep breath. This is it. This is the way I get home. Eden took a few steps towards the small cabin, and then knocked on the door.
She waited impatiently as she heard footsteps heading for the door. When it opened there stood behind it a rough-looking hunter.
"Eh? Who're you?"
"I'm Eden. I've come to turn myself in to you. I'm one of the last of the line of kings," Eden explained.
"Eh? 'Ey boys, did ya hear? It's the last of the line of kings, and she's turning 'erself in " The hunter grabbed Eden roughly by the arm and dragged her inside, shutting the door behind d them.
"So, you've become a traitor, then," a second hunter said. "Well, traitors aren't all bad."
Eden nodded, knowing she had a role to fill.
"Well, boys, when do we get rid of 'er?"
"I say tomorrow evening – we'll get to the wolves' caves and do it there. For now, tie her up."
Eden let herself be tied to a table leg, wondering how everything would work out. She spent the rest of the day watching the hunters as they worked, it seemed that they had taken the day off to dispose of some wolf carcasses, and Eden watched, disgusted, as they did this.
Late at night, the hunters took Eden a few miles away where they tied her to a tree.
"We'll wait until morning light," she heard one of them say.
Just as a wee bit of the sun was beginning to appear on the horizon, and Eden was feeling that all hope was lost, the big black wolf from her dream appeared, coming out of the forest. At first Eden was afraid, knowing this wolf could easily kill her. But then she remembered her dreams, and relaxed. The wolf cut through the ropes with his massive paw.
"Climb on," he whispered, his voice deep and calming.
Eden scrambled onto the wolf, holding onto his thick fur. The wolf ran, the wind tousling his fur and Eden's hair. By the time the sun had risen, they had reached a small pool. The wolf stopped, and Eden slipped off of his back.
"Eden, are you ready to go home?" The wolf asked, nuzzling Eden's hand.
Eden nodded, stroking the wolf's head. "Yes, I am ready."
Eden jumped into the pool. The water sucked her downwards everything was rushing by her. Then it was black. Eden opened her eyes. She was home.
Questions filled her mind. Was Terraelupus saved? What happened to the hunters? To Conrí
The book lay open beside her, on the last page.
Eden glanced down at it, reading what it said.
"The hunters quickly wasted away after the prophecy had been fulfilled they were no longer able to hunt. The wolves multiplied spreading to the number they had been before the hunters. Conrí became king and ruled with wisdom, never forgetting the young girl who had saved Terraelupus."
Eden closed the book, suddenly feeling tired, even though seemingly no time had passed. Setting the book on the floor, Eden lay down to sleep, softly singing to herself, singing a wolf song.