This one is right up there with the rest of my faves. Cera is really young here, about 14, which makes this story about 7 years before Sword's Call and even a year before A is for Ash, the first letter short.
Once again, my friend Kerry helped me out. She wanted a bonding story, so here it is!
Cera snuck into the cave, throwing a glance over her shoulder. Had she really been able to slip by her father’s men? She grinned and kept going, quickening her step.Whimpering caught her attention at the same time she heard the low growl.“Hush, Otsana. Come, child. Pay her no heed. She thinks she needs to protect her lot,” Karolyna gestured to the white she-wolf and four cubs nestled against her. Two were sleeping, two were not. Their coats were diverse. One was pure black, one several shades of gray. The third was reddish brown and the last, a miniature of its mother. It was the biggest cub and it took a step toward Cera, tiny tail wagging. She slid forward, smiling at the small wolf.“Won’t you sit, my lady?” Karolyna indicated a pile of pillows and sleeping furs covering the cave floor. Cera looked around the vast cavern while nodding and sitting down opposite the mage and her wolves.The place was artificially warmed and lit by magic but not uncomfortable. Cera lowered the hood to her gray cape and spread it out as she tucked her breech-clad legs beneath her.“It looks as if you have already been chosen,” Karolyna said, her tone pleased.As she spoke, the white cub headed straight for Cera, tumbling into her lap, a warm bundle of fur. Her hands sought the cub, righting him against her. He licked her knuckles. She wanted to lift him up and look in his eyes, but the she-wolf’s deep growl stopped her.“Otsana, my love, it is time,” the mage said. “She will belong to him, as I belong to you. She is meant to be his.” Karolyna rested her hand on the she-wolf’s flank. The beast whined but quieted. They locked eyes and the large wolf’s tail thumped.They were communicating silently. Cera looked forward to that with her own bond, but she already knew how to thought-send. Her father, Lord Falor Ryhan, had been teaching her occasionally. The duke was a powerful mage. She could receive better than send, but she was working on it. She just needed practice.Squirming in her lap, the cub bumped her hand with his little muzzle, demanding attention. She locked eyes with him and smiled. His were an odd hue, but it was one of changing colors. The blue of birth was fading. Would they settle into brown? Or amber like the she-wolf’s?“I will be his? Won’t he be mine?” Cera whispered, but she didn’t look away from the creature that would be magically tied to her for life. Excitement flipped her stomach and she hugged him close. She would name him and raise him. They would do everything together.Karolyna chuckled and she met her pale blue eyes. “Bonding is a partnership my lady, in the true sense of the word, but wolves are possessive. You will belong to him. And since he is male, no doubt he will feel as if he possesses you, his bondmate.”Cera stared into the little cub’s eyes and lifted him to her face. The wagging of his tail increased and her smile slid into a grin. He lifted his head and swiped his hot little tongue up her cheek. Karolyna wore a smile as well when she looked back at the mage.“He chose me?”“It seems so, my lady. Sometimes they do the choosing for us.” Karolyna nodded and stroked her bond. The she-wolf was calmer than she’d been since Cera had entered the cave.“How does this work?” She was eager to get it done and get home with her new bond. She’d left home alone and on foot. She didn’t have much time.Her father was in Terraquist with the king and her mother had forbidden her from bonding when Cera had heard of the available litter. Bonding was final. If one party were to perish, the other would soon follow, so her mother would not be able to tear it asunder. She would forgive Cera’s disobedience…eventually. She bit back the urge to wince.“To begin, we join hands. The cub must be touching your bare skin. Place your other hand on him and keep it there. I will chant the spell and draw the magic into the bond. We must not be parted until it is complete or it will damage you both.” Cera nodded.“Have you ever done this before?”Karolyna looked down for a moment before meeting Cera’s eyes. “I know how it is done.” Butterflies flitted in her stomach but Cera nodded. She wanted this. The bond and the wolf. He’d chosen her after all.“Let us begin.”She put her hand in the mage’s by way of answer. She buried her other hand in the downy fur of the wolf cub in her lap, and he leaned into her instead of trying to move away. It was almost as if he understood what would happen. She smiled and closed her eyes.Karolyna began to chant. Cera didn’t recognize the words or the spell, but she concentrated on being open to the magic as her father had taught her. The mage’s grip tightened on her hand but she didn’t pull away.Her limbs tingled, then began to burn, but it was a burn of power, not pain. She cracked open and eye and gasped. Her skin was glowing. The cub was aglow as well, and so was the mage. She opened both eyes, unable to look away from Karolyna.The mage’s chanting increased and she began to rock back and forth. Cera was flushed with warmth and the cub yelped, but still stayed where he was, her fingers clinging to his fur, buried against his warm little body. She began to sweat and the cub started to pant.Her head tilted back of its own accord and the strangest sensation hit her. Something…or someone entwined with her, but she couldn’t tell if it was mental or physical. And then Cera wasn’t alone in her own head. The cub was there. His thoughts…his feelings.He loved her.She looked down into her lap. The cub made an odd barking sound and licked her hand. She released her hold on him but he leapt into her arms, pushing as close to her as he could get.Karolyna panted, her chest heaving and face gleaming with sweat. “My lady, it is done. You both did well. How do you feel?”“A bit…odd. I feel him…in my mind.”“Good.” Karolyna smiled. “It will only get stronger with time. You must meet with me several times a sevenday to train.”Cera bit her lip. How would she sneak away? “Would it be something my father could do?” Karolyna’s face reddened and she looked down. Cera waved her hand. “No no, nothing against you. I’m not sure I can sne—get away.”The mage’s pale eyes widened. “You did not have permission, my lady?” It was Cera’s turn to look down.“The fault does not lie with you, Karolyna. You won’t get into any kind of trouble.” The older woman didn’t look comforted. Cera rushed her words. “My mother was against it, my father is not in Greenwald, but he wouldn’t have been. I will come back to you and learn what I can. I didn’t mean to put you in an awkward position. I wanted him. I had to have him.”Karolyna nodded, but her mouth was a hard line. The cub whimpered and Cera’s breath exited on a whoosh. She stroked his head and the cub cuddled closer.“Take care with your emotions, my lady. You are now sharing them.”“I am, aren’t I?” she whispered, more to herself than to the mage.“You must name him.”Cera nodded, lifting the cub so they were face to face. His tail wagged so hard it was like a small fan, brushing air over her wrists. “You’re mine little one. I’ll call you Trikser.”“A good, strong name.” Karolyna’s tone was pleased and Cera smiled.The cub’s thoughts swirled around in her mind, more solid needs and vague feelings than anything else.“Can you make out any of his thoughts?” the mage asked, as if she could sense what she was experiencing.“It’s hard to make sense of,” she admitted.“They will get clearer with time, as you and your bond mature.” Cera nodded.She put him down in front of her and he placed his paw on her hand. The wolfing gazed up at her and thought-sent. It wasn’t a word in her mind, but the meaning was clear. Trikser was saying mine.Cera grinned.
All rights reserved; copyright © C. A. Szarek. The text within may not be reproduced in whole or in part or distributed in any form whatsoever OR SOLD without first obtaining permission from the author.