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BLOOD LINE by Rie McGaha

Each of us inherently knows our history, which is handed down through the blood, just as eye or hair color is genetically encoded. We are part of the Great Beginning, when the earth was new and mortals did not yet exist. In those days, we roamed wherever we willed, and had no natural enemies. We were fierce, and loyal and proud. We took but one mate, and should our mate die, we took no other.

In those days, before human footsteps marred the land, there existed beings that people now think to be imaginary, as we are also supposedly imaginary. They were the fae, fairy princes, witches, and sorcerers, all of whom moved about in their own world beyond, and occasionally, in this one as well. One of them, Ariel, a magical princess in her own right, who possessed the gift to heal, moved in our world, gathering what she needed and using those items to heal in both worlds.

Normally, we would never have occasion to meet, though, of course, we knew of one another. This magical princess was beyond anything the wolf, Ocala, had ever known—kind, soft of touch, gentle of speech. She appeared in our world one summer night during the full moon, necessary because the flowers and herbs she needed were best when harvested beneath the soft light.
And it was on this same night that Ocala had chosen to approach her, driven by nothing more than curiosity. Different from any other creature that walked upon the earth, she attracted him like no other, and his desire for her grew beyond all reason.
Ocala was large and muscular, his fur as black as the night and his eyes as golden as the sun. Walking on quiet paws, he moved through the shadows of trees, following her, watching her, inhaling her scent. She was intoxicating, and he was drinking on an empty stomach.

She made her way through the forest as softly as the moonlight that bathed her, and her long, blonde hair swayed gently as she moved. She wore a sheer white gown, with thin straps that kept slipping off her shoulders. The bodice dipped low and revealed the pale, creamy skin of her breasts, and the fabric clung to her flat stomach and flared with her hips, then fell down the back of her legs to her ankles, but only to her knees in the front, revealing shapely, well-toned calves and dainty bare feet.

Mesmerized by her, Ocala could not pull himself away from her. As she knelt before the patch of moonflowers, he stopped, no longer hidden in the shadows, and sat back on his haunches to watch her. Very slowly, she turned her head and smiled at him. She whispered to him. Whispered his name. And he approached her. Closer. One slow step at a time. Closer still. His name became a breath on the breeze as she called to him again, the sound of her voice like music to his ears.

He approached her slowly and she remained where she was. Bathed in moonlight, herdiaphanous gown and hair of silk moving in the wind. They looked into one another's eyes, and she reached for him. Tentatively, so very carefully, she reached for him. She touched him, and he heard her quiet gasp when her soft hand met his fur. She petted him, moving her hand timidly, at first, across the top of his head. He didn’t so much as breathe. Stroking his ears, she grew bolder, letting her hand slip down his neck, run across the muscles of his shoulders. She made soft noises while she touched him, and he lay down and put his head on her lap.

From that day forward, she came to the forest each evening and he would meet her there. As they walked together, she spoke to him as if she knew he understood, even though he still hadn’t revealed himself fully to her. Her people warned her against their relationship, she told him. She had crossed the line into forbidden territory. Yet she continued to come to him; he was her friend, and she saw no such line between them. But Ocala's intentions toward her went beyond friendship. He wanted her. He had never taken a mate, and he knew that he had waited for this woman alone, but he could not see how, given the form in which each existed—he, wolf, she, witch—that they could be together. But he would not give her up.
In those days, evil had not yet come into the world, and for a time, all was well. But then came the mortals, who walked upon the earth, bringing with them deceit, destruction, and all manner of evil doings. They came in small numbers, at first. None who were on the earth took the time to notice them in those early days, but before long, they could not be ignored. At first, there were two, the man and woman, living in their own paradise, never venturing out, harming none. When they did venture from their paradise, they multiplied, and their sons were the beginning of the world's demise. The elder killed the younger and though he was banned from their garden, he found a woman of his own and the years were short before the world was filled with more just like him. They came to the forests, killing the trees, killing for food, killing for fun, and that was just the beginning of their depravity. It multiplied faster than the humans, themselves did, and their imagination for evil knew no bounds.

But Ocala and Ariel ignored the warnings. In their world, in the cool of the night, beneath starlit skies, they saw none but each other. And on one of those nights, Ocala revealed his truth to her and she embraced him with all the love she had felt in her heart. And there, in the deep of the night, they made their plan. He a wolf and she a witch. A witch who had followed all of the old ways, for hers was a people that had existed long before the earth had come to be. She knew the spells, she knew it was a rule she should not break, and never had she before, but this time, just this one time....

They met each night beneath the starlit sky during the full moon, when magic was strong, for when the lunar planet rose full and bright on this night, she would cast the spell that would bring them both the happiness and fulfillment they sought. At the appropriate time, she stood beneath the moon, in the circle she had cast, the flames from candles shooting gold and silver into the sky. The flowers she had chosen lay as she had placed them, and she began the chant. Softly, almost a song in its rhythm.

Raising her arms toward the moon, she arched her body, head thrown back in wild abandon to her craft. The wind swirled leaves around the forest floor and she reached for the wolf. He walked into the circle with her as she had instructed and raised himself onto his hind legs, placing a paw on each of her shoulders. She brought her arms down to encircle him as she continued the chant, louder and louder, building to a crescendo that had thunder rolling and lightning flashing. And in one brilliant explosion of white light, wolf became man.

As quickly as the light exploded, both witch and newly made man were summoned to Ariel’s world, to find themselves standing together before the Council. The Elders pleaded with the witch, they tried reasoning with the man, but neither would yield. This was the life they wanted, the life they chose, and they could not be persuaded to undo the deed. But, with all great prizes, there comes a great price. If they chose to remain together, their love would pay a toll: upon the full moon of every month, the man would become wolf once more, and any children they made together, half wolf and half witch, they too, would suffer the curse of becoming wolf on the full moon. While in wolf form, they would crave the taste of blood, no matter if they resisted. So it was done and both man and witch were tossed back to the forest floor.

But as with all young lovers, they, too, believed their love alone was strong enough to break the unholy spell. Yet, as much as they loved, every month, on the full moon, man became wolf. His muscles would stretch beyond his mortal form, and fur would appear. His head would elongate as the snout appeared, and teeth became fangs, yet he was not completely wolf, nor was he man. He was some grander form. Stronger, faster, bigger, more agile and cunning than he had ever been in either form before.

He had never known this freedom when he had been pure wolf, leaping heights as never before, soaring chasms impossible to cross, running at speeds heretofore unknown. But the thirst that grew within him was unquenchable, and the death and destruction he left in his path was unfathomed. From moonrise to sunrise during the full moon, he could not control the change any more than he could control his lust for blood. Then the sun would peak and the man would awake on the forest floor and the witch would be waiting to comfort him. To stroke. To hold. To love. But she could not undo that which had been done. She wept for the wolf, she wept for the man, she wept for herself. The dreams she'd had of love, of children, of a home...all of them shattered. Yet she loved the man, and she loved the wolf, with all that was within her, and the need that grew within her was her ultimate undoing. And the child they had created would be as much wolf as she was witch.

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