I stood alone in a shadowy cavern, my legs trembling.
Ancient torches flickered around me, so brittle, they looked as if a single touch would destroy them. Massive boulders shot upward in the eerie, inky light, standing like endless mountains barring my way. My gaze bounced across round and jagged alike, trying to pick out where one ended, and the others began. I couldn’t tell the difference though.
My attention drifted and skittered around the cavern, focusing everywhere except on what waited for me beyond the thick fingers of solid earth standing like the bars of a prison ahead. Soft, ominous rumbles sounded from that direction, so deep, the cavern floor vibrated beneath my feet.
Run, Arionna. Run.
I fought to listen to the voice of reason urging me to flee for my life, but I couldn't seem to keep my legs locked in place. The compulsion to move, to look, to see, was too strong.
I took a step forward, then another, slipping through narrow cracks between one rock and the next. The rough surface scraped against my arms and tugged at my hair, pulling small strands away from my scalp. I kept moving through, squeezing between narrow openings until the craggy ground gave way, ending suddenly at a frothy river.
I glanced across the foamy water.
My lungs stopped functioning.
The endless spread of boulders scattered all around were tiny pebbles compared to the solitary mass of earth on the far side of the underground channel. A chain wound around and through the mountainous rock, so thin it was almost invisible to the eye.
I ran my gaze across the shimmering links, checking to ensure the magic bond still held firm.
Air shuddered into my lungs.
Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid, I chanted to myself, but when I turned my head, my heart pounded uncomfortably anyway.
I bit my lip to keep from crying out when my gaze landed on the monstrous black wolf lunging against the tiny chain. Foam ran in buckets down his chest and into the river around him, as if his hatred cut a canyon of desiccation through the rock like a knife through butter. He towered over me, taller and wider than any wolf I'd ever seen. He was a giant. A Titan.
I shivered at the sound of his name echoing in my head.
He gnashed his razor-sharp teeth and roared, struggling against the chain binding him to earth. The sound echoed throughout the massive cavern, bouncing from rock to rock in the same deep, ominous rumble I heard earlier.
Pebbles showered down from overhead, falling to the dirt floor all around.
Fenrir shook them off, then tried to leap.
The chain stretched taut, groaning in protest, but it held firm.
Fenrir hit the ground―hard―and was up again in an instant.
He coiled, crouching as if preparing to spring again, then twitched.
He stilled, not even his chest moving when he drew breath. Sanity flickered in his gaze for a brief moment, burning away the obsessive rage pouring from him. What swept through those yellow eyes in its place was far worse: intelligence.
Fenrir knew his prison would not hold him forever. Eventually, he would break free.
Not today. Please, not today, I pleaded, hoping someone in charge heard me.
Fenrir sniffed the air.
I stopped breathing, praying he didn't see me standing amongst the rocks.
He turned his head slowly in my direction, one ear twitching.
His rage-filled gaze met mine and held. Recognition flared in his baleful eyes.
I trembled, trapped in his sights like a prisoner, unable to move. The wolf sharing my soul snarled, trying to shake herself free of the thrall freezing me in place. She was too weak to do more than flutter and twist inside me though.
Fenrir’s lip curled in a menacing snarl as he looked into me, looked through me, and saw everything I was and everything connecting me to him. For a moment, no more than a split second really, he looked pleased. As if he knew his wait was almost over.
And then rage blazed to life in his eyes again, wiping away recognition and replacing it with burning, poisonous hate.
He growled low in his throat, the sound that of a gathering storm.
The cavern floor vibrated beneath my feet again.
Pebbles showered down, striking my arms, my legs…my face. Each hit stung and burned.
The river of foam at my feet churned across the rocks like mini-tidal waves.
Dust filled the air in thick puffs, choking me.
Fenrir dove toward me, howling.
I covered my ears and screamed…