From the mind of Megan Arkenberg

August 11, 2014

The Wolf Maiden

Posted by Megan Arkenberg with 10 comments
First published in Byzarium #24, March 2008.

She said it would start with a chill. It was the first time she lied to me.

It started with a hunger, deep and hot like the burn of a branding iron. I felt it when I smelled the heavy stench of the slaughterhouse, when I watched my raven-haired Vivian slipping across the black ice pond, when I heard wolves baying late in the night. It came to me when I drank snow from her cold cupped hands, when I followed her down the lonely game trails deep in the foothills.

She said; you will learn to bear it.

She said; you will not die.

The chill came after. After the breathless chase; after the darkness and the sudden weight against my chest as our struggle abated; after the stinging heat of blood drying on my lips, running down my throat. The cold came like a windstorm, harsh and fast and burning.

She found me in the forest, bloodied and howling like an injured wolf.

She said; the pain will strengthen you.

She said; you will not die.

She said they wouldn’t come after me. That, too, was a lie.

The butchers came with their knives, the farmers with their pitchforks, the hunters with their dogs, the women with their daggers and their torches. She told me to stand and fight. She said; they will not die for fairy stories.

But there were no fairy stories, not anymore, not after blood was spilled in the streets of their village and the snow of their frozen fields. They burned my house, uprooted my orchards, slaughtered my animals. They struck my name from their books. They sent my Vivian into the mountains.

She said; forget her, and I will love you forever.

She said; join me, and you will live forever.

But I couldn’t forget Vivian.

I followed her into the mountains, followed her like a wolf on a trail of blood. Winter was harsh that year, harsh and fast and burning. Even the wolves took shelter in their caves; even the mountains looked bent and battered by the wind. By the time I found my Vivian, my life, the blood had frozen in her veins.

I said; I cannot live without her.

She said; you will not die.

She said; she was not strong enough for you.

I ran from her, but she followed. Her eyes were round and golden like a wolf’s in the moonlight. I could feel her following, but I couldn’t hear the crunch of her footsteps in the snow, couldn’t catch her scent on the harsh winter breeze.

But when the others followed, I heard them.

She said; they will not come after us.

I said; they will not come.

I lied.

I lead her to a cave deep in the stone, a cave too dark and cold for any wild thing to enter. Their dogs lead them to us. I hid in the snow and watched as they dragged her out, her teeth flashing, her hair wild and streaming about her face. I stood on the edge of the mountain and watched the smoke rise as they burned her in the village square.

And then I ran. I am still running.

She did not lie when she said; you will live forever.

She lied when she said; you will never die.


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