Author: Jennifer Estep
Mythos Academy #3
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Released: May 29, 2012
Despite my brisk pace, the winter chill continued to creep through my clothes and seep into my bones. I’d just turned around to head back to my warm dorm room when a low growl sounded.
I froze, suddenly colder than ever before, wondering if I’d only imagined the sound – and really, really hoping I had. In my experience, growls were never, ever good. Growls usually meant that large, scary creatures like Nemean prowlers were lurking around and intent on tearing into me with their teeth and claws. I was so not fond of the oversize, black panthers-like creatures – especially since the Reapers trained them to be deadly, kitty-cat assassins.
The growl rippled through the air again, shattering any hope I’d had of it’s just being my imagination or my Gypsy gift gone wild. I slowly turned my head to the right – and saw the Fenrir wolf.
The Fenrir wolf was hunkered down in a pile of leaves on the other side of the gate I was standing in front of. The creature was even longer than I was tall, with a thick, powerful body and razor-sharp teeth and claws to match. Its fur wasn’t quite black, but more like the dark, deep smoky color of ashes. The shaggy coat helped it blend in with the shadows cast by the towering trees. The last time I’d seen a Fenrir wolf, I’d noticed that its fur had crimson strands glistening in it, but I didn’t see any in this creature’s coat. Its eyes were a rusty red, although the color was far dimmer than I remembered it being and without the creepy burning glow that had told me just how much the wolf had wanted to gobble me up.
My gaze roamed over the creature, and my eyes caught on its ear. A small V was grooved into the wolf’s right ear, and I knew it was my wolf after all. The one I’d met at the ski resort, the one that had kept me from freezing to death after we’d both been caught in the avalanche Preston had set off. The wolf had gotten the V-shaped scar that day.
“Um, puppy?” I asked in a tentative voice, since that was all I’d ever called the wolf. “Is that really you?”
At the sound of my voice, the Fenrir wolf sprang to its feet, and its muzzle creased back into what looked like a – a smile. Okay, that was a little creepy. Usually, mythological creatures weren’t any happier to see me than I was to notice them stalking me and licking their chops at the thought of sinking their teeth into my body. But the wolf actually seemed glad I’d noticed it, like – like it had been waiting here for me to walk by.
The wolf let out a soft whine and crept closer to the gate, making the leaves crackle underneath its enormous body. I walked over to the iron bars. I hesitated, then stretched my hand out through one of the gaps. The wolf paced back and forth for a few seconds before heading towards me and shoving its head underneath my hand.
As soon as my fingers brushed its fur, images of the wolf began to fill my mind. Flashes of the crushing avalanche that had almost buried us both, then one of the branch that had pierced the creature’s leg and of me shoving the sharp wood out so the wolf could walk again, even a memory of me facing down Preston and the wolf spoiling the Reaper’s aim when Preston had tried to kill me with a crossbow.
More images zipped through my mind, of snow and trees and the wolf running through the forest, along with the creature’s feelngs. There was only one emotion, really – happiness. Pure, fierce, intense happiness that it was finally free of the Reapers who had caged it, hurt it, tortured it for so long. Tears burned my eyes at the intensity and depth of the wolf’s elation.
Then, the image of another wolf popped into my head, a second Fenrir wolf, although this one didn’t have the Reaper red tint to its gaze or fur. It must be one of the wild Fenrir wolves that Metis had told me about, the ones who lived deep in the mountains and were rarely seen by members of the Pantheon. At first, my wolf was cautious around this other creature, bur soon, the two of them were hunting through the snow together. Playing, mock fighting, even snuggling together.
For the first time, I realized my wolf was actually a she, and I also got the sense that it – no, she– wanted me to help her.
“I don’t understand,” I murmured, opening my eyes and staring at the wolf. “Why are you here? Why did you leave your mate? You were so happy with him. What could you possibly want here with me?”
The wolf let out a little snort, like she couldn’t believe I was so dense. Kind of sad when a mythological creature thought it was smarter than you. The wolf pulled away and walked back and forth in front of the gate, almost like she was parading around for me. I started at the creature, wondering what she was doing, what she was trying to show me.
After a few seconds, I realized the wolf was much fatter than I remembered her being before – especially around the middle. I reached out and put my hand on the creature’s stomach. It took a second, but another little flicker filled my mind, another little spark that told me the wolf wasn’t exactly by herself anymore.
“Oh,” I said. “Oh. You’re going to have a baby puppy… or whatever.”
I didn’t know how much of my words the wolf understood, but she almost seemed to nod her head, like Finally, the silly mortal girl understands what I’m trying to tell her.