Heartsong (Green Creek, #3)

Heartsong (Green Creek, #3)

T.J. Klune



motes of dust/something more





When I dreamed, these pinpricks of light filtered through the trees of an old forest. It was safe there. I didn’t know how I knew that. I just did.

I wanted to run as fast as I could. The maddening itch to shift crawled underneath my skin, and I needed to give in.

I didn’t.

Leaves crunched underneath my feet.

I ran my hand along the bark of an old elm. It was rough. And then it was wet from a trickle of sap. I rubbed it between my fingers, sticky and warm.

The trees whispered.

They said here here here.

They said here is where you belong.

They said here is where you are meant to be.

They said this is PACK and LIFE and SONGS in the air SONGS that are sung because this is home home home.

I closed my eyes and breathed.

The light seemed brighter in the darkness.

Little motes of dust swirled.

I brought the pitch on my fingers to my tongue.

It tasted old.

And strong.

And—

A low growl off to my right.

I opened my eyes.

A white wolf stood a ways off in the trees. It had a smattering of black on the chest, legs, and back.

I didn’t know it

(him)

but I thought it

(him)

familiar somehow, like it was right there on the tip of my tongue, mixed in with elm sap and— Its eyes began to burn with red fire.

An Alpha.

I wasn’t scared.

It—he—wasn’t there to hurt me.

I didn’t know how I knew that. Maybe it was the trees. Maybe it was this place. Maybe it was the sap coating my throat.

I said, “Hello.”

The Alpha snorted, shaking his head.

I said, “I don’t know where I am. I think I’m lost.”

He pawed at the ground, carving jagged lines in the dirt and grass.

I said, “Do you know where I am?”

And he said, you are far away.

He sounded like the voice of the trees.

He was the voice of the trees.

The Alpha said, you don’t belong to me you aren’t mine you aren’t MINE but you could be you could be because of who you are.

“I don’t know who I am,” I admitted, and it was a terrible thing to say aloud, but after the words were out, I felt… lighter.

Almost free.

The Alpha took a step toward me. i know i know child but you will i promise you will you are important you are special you are— Lightning flashed, and I saw I was surrounded. Dozens of wolves were prowling among the trees. Their eyes were red and orange and violet— The trees snapped from side to side in the harsh wind.

I thought I was going to get blown away, carried into the black sky above and lost in the storm.

The wolves stopped.

They tilted their heads back in unison.

And howled.

It tore through me, and it was breaking me, it was crushing my bones into powder. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t find a way to stop it, and I didn’t want to. That was what hit me hardest, that I didn’t want it to stop. I wanted to be consumed, to feel my flesh tear and bleed onto the earth beneath my feet, to sacrifice myself so that I would know I mattered, would know that I meant something to someone.

The Alpha said, no you can’t that’s not what this is this is DIFFERENT this is MORE because you are MORE and— Hands settled on my shoulders.

A voice whispered in my ear.

It said, “Robbie. Robbie, can you hear me? Hear my voice. Listen. You’re safe. I’ve got you. Would you hear me, dear? Please.”

The hands tightened against my shoulders, fingers digging into my skin, and I was jerked backward, flying through the trees. The wolves were screaming, screaming, screaming their songs of fury and horror, and as the world began to crack around me, as it shattered into pieces like so much glass, one wolf stepped out of the shadows.

It was dark gray with flecks of black and white on its face and between its ears.

And in its mouth, it carried—



I gasped as I sat up, chest heaving. For a moment I didn’t know where I was. There were wolves and trees, and they were breaking, and I had to put them back together. I had to find all the ways to make the pieces fit, to make them whole again so I could— “You’re all right,” a kind voice said. “Robbie. You’re okay. It was just a dream. You’re safe.”

I blinked rapidly, trying to catch my breath.

The man next to my bed looked worried, the deep lines on his craggy face pronounced. He was wearing his nightclothes. His feet were bare, thin and bony. His hair was long gone, liver spots on his scalp and the backs of his hands. He was hunched over, more so with advanced age than concern. But his eyes were clear and kind, and he was real.

Ezra.

I immediately calmed.

I knew where I was.

I was in my room.

I was in the house I shared with him.

I was home.

“Jesus Christ,” I muttered, looking down at the tangle of blankets around my waist and legs. I was sweating, and my heart thundered in my chest. I rubbed a hand over my face, trying to get rid of the afterimages dancing behind my eyes.

Ezra shook his head. “The dreams again?”

I flopped back in the bed, putting my arm over my eyes. “Yeah. Again. I thought I was getting past this.”

The bed dipped as he sat down next to me. Even though I was overwarm, the air in my bedroom was cool. Spring was late this year, and there were still patches of snow on the ground at the beginning of May, though it was mostly dirty slush. The moon was nearly new, still tugging like a hook in the back of my mind.

Ezra gently pushed my arm away from my face before pressing the back of his hand against my forehead. I could hear the frown in his voice when he said, “You can’t force it, Robbie. The more you try, the worse off you’ll be.” He hesitated. Then, “Did something happen today? You were quiet at dinner. I would hear you, dear, if you’d like to speak on it.”

I sighed as he pulled his hand back. I opened my eyes, staring up at the ceiling. My heartbeat was slowing and the dream was fading. I felt… calmer, somehow. Able to think. I thought it was because of the man beside me. He grounded me. He was the closest thing I’d ever had to a father, and just having him near was enough to bring me back to reality.

I turned my head to look at him. He was troubled. I reached out and took his hand in mine, feeling the old bones under paper-thin skin. “It’s nothing.”

He snorted. “I find that hard to believe. You may be able to fool all the others, but I’m not like them. And you know it. Try again.”

Yeah. I did know that. I searched for the right words. “It’s….” I shook my head. “Do you ever think that there’s something else out there? Something more?”

“Than what?”

“Than this.” I couldn’t find another way to put my muddled thoughts into coherent words.

He nodded slowly. “You’re young yet. It’s not uncommon to think such things.” He looked down at our joined hands. “In fact, I expect it’s quite normal. I was the same when I was your age.”

I felt a little better. “All those centuries ago?”

He chuckled, rusty and dry. It was a sound I didn’t hear as often as I’d like. “Cheeky,” he said. “I’m not that old. At least not yet.” His laughter faded. “I worry about you. And I know you’re going to tell me not to, but that won’t stop me. I’m not going to be around forever, Robbie, and I—”

I groaned. “Not this again. You’re not going anywhere anytime soon. I won’t let you.”

“I don’t know if you’ll have much say in the matter.”

“Yeah? Try me.” I was uncomfortable with the idea. He was so fragile. So breakable. Humans generally were, and I couldn’t stand the idea of something happening to him. He was a witch, sure, but magic could only do so much. I’d asked him once what would happen if he took the bite. I told him we could run together when the moon was full, and he’d hugged me close, rubbing my back while he told me that witches could never be wolves. Their magic would never allow it. If he was ever bitten by an Alpha, he said, the wolf magic and witch magic would tear him apart. I never asked him about it again.

He squeezed my hand. “I know you would do much for me—”

“Anything,” I corrected. “I would do anything.”

“—but you need to prepare. You can’t become stagnant, Robbie. And that means you need to start thinking about what lies ahead. It’s that something more you just spoke of. And as much as I wish I could be with you forever, it won’t always be this way.”

“But not anytime soon, right?” I asked quickly.

He rolled his eyes, and I loved him for it. “I’m fine. I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve. It’s nothing you need to worry about.”

“That’s funny, coming from you.”

He frowned. “Don’t think I don’t see how you’ve turned this conversation around on me.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I really hope you don’t expect me to believe that. What was the dream about this time?”

I turned my head away from him. I couldn’t look at him when we talked about this. It felt strangely like betrayal. “It was the same one.”

“Ah. The wolves in the trees.”

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