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'Rise of the Wolves:' Chapter 2

From 'The Lost Brotherhood Saga'

“We are gathered here tonight to witness the blessing of our Lord and Lady’s newborn girl and our first Clan Daughter in this generation of Clan Stonewolf,” Grace announced to quiet the great hall and begin.

The keep’s hall served many purposes in its time. It was the throne room, celebration room, dining hall, and place of meeting between Abraham and his guardsmen and constituents. It was a room built of stone and brick just as the rest of the keep and outlying homes. Torches lit the keep for they were a clan prosperous in love and loyalty but not necessarily wealth. The walls were decorated with both trophy busts, furs of fallen pack members, retired weaponry of past Lords, and various things of value especially to the Stonewolf family. The keep itself sat in the middle of a great stone wall that guarded Hawthorne from the rest of the continent by way of land, which gave clan Stonewolf the responsibility of letting people come and go from Hawthorne or keeping them out.

Tonight, it was the Blessing of the Elder Priestess that took place there. The blessing was a ritual performed for each baby born into the clan but it was especially an event for the children born to the Lord and Lady.

Grace lifted her hands, palms toward the room, as she began to speak to both them and the Wolf Mother.

“Tonight, is not just a blessing of this child, but it is also a blessing from Wolf Mother. She has not only delivered her to our Lady, thought to be unable, but she has blessed us with a child of her own blood as well.”

Abraham and Elizabeth stood before the throne and behind Grace, holding hands in support of one another. Grace turned to take the baby girl from Elizabeth’s arm and held her up for all to see. When they saw the unmistakable features many gasped, many eyes widened, many minds were not sure what to make of it. Grace replaced the baby into Elizabeth’s arm so she could continue.

“Silence your astonishment and concern, ease your fear and thoughts, for this child was not born deformed or with her Gift’s curse. Wolf Mother has given her her ears, her eyes, her love, and strength to lead our clan. She has given her not only the Gifts of a Hunter but the Gifts of all Gifts. It is important that we support our future Clan Daughter, our Mother given heir to the clan.”

Grace paused as she scanned the room and each face that stared upon her eagerly, considering her. There were whispers and gossip already on fire. After a short period of thoughtful silence, a roar of cheering and applause echoed throughout the room in approval. Not all were so convinced by the beginning of her blessing though. One could pick out about a third of the crowd who did not show the same excitement. Typically, it was the people who gossiped the most and had a reputation for being the most cynical and bitter. Grace ignored them and Elizabeth squeezed Abraham’s hand a little tighter.

One priestess emerged from the side door carrying a bowl in her hands. No one could see what was inside it but they knew already. Grace reached for the bowl then held it up over her head.

“We pray to you, Wolf Mother, that you hear our calls and bless this child. We pray to our Elders, whom have passed on to the Other Side, that they hear us and bless this ceremony.” Grace lowered the bowl to rest in her hands in front of herself and gave her attention back to the clan before her. “This bowl is filled with the ashes of ancestors, the Elder Priestesses. I will now name the child and anoint her with the ashes, blessing her soul and releasing her to follow the fate chosen for her.”

She approached Elizabeth and the baby once more. She licked her thumb before she touched it down into the ashes. She smiled at the baby as it giggled at her. Grace stared down into the ice blue eyes contrasted against her raven hair. The baby stared back up into Grace’s eyes as if she were trying to see her very soul. She was serious and well grounded, but not angry or sad. Grace smiled softly at this and nodded as if, in that moment, she was convinced of something.

“This one shall be called Nina, the human name of Wolf Mother before she passed to the Other Side and became one of our Gods. She will follow in her father’s footsteps and become the greatest Hunter this land has ever seen. She will lead, that is for certain, but not this clan.” Grace reached down to anoint Nina by pressing the ashes gently onto her forehead then bowed her head in respect. Several whispers began again from the spectators. “May Wolf Mother bless her and guide her along her path and fill her with the strength of our feral brothers and sisters.”

The ritual was finished and Grace lifted her eyes to her Lord and Lady. They both nodded in gratitude with the faintest smiles on their faces. Though their clan was a candid one, there was something serious about their ceremonies. The time to laugh and share affection was inappropriate until all was done with, which meant it was then that time.

“Let us drink, then!” Abraham shouted and his voice filled the room for all to hear.

“Ye don’t have’t tell me twice!” one random clansmen shouted.

Several servants appeared from the front of the hall with trays of food and ale and brought them to the tables at the back of the room. Elizabeth smiled at her husband before she left with Nina and Grace.

“Enjoy yourself tonight, Abe. We’ll be upstairs waiting.”

He certainly did not need permission from her, but the gesture was heartwarming. Old traditions and beliefs of marriage were tossed out once Abraham became Lord. He did not control his wife, if anything she controlled him, but they were equals. After spending some time in Westmoreland with the Vikings, he learned much about the equality of man and wife. The women there were strong shieldmaidens, just as the Stonewolf women were, and could hold their own which was something to be respected.

Later into the night, Abraham stumbled into their quarters upstairs to find complete silence and only enough light from two candles flickering. He chuckled quietly in satisfaction with his family then began disrobing. He climbed into bed beside Elizabeth trying not to wake her, but for the giant of a man that was an impossible task. She smiled as she felt him slide up to her from behind and she felt the hairs of his chest tickling her back.

“Do you think Grace was right?” Elizabeth asked though kept her eyes shut.

“Hmm?” he grunted.

“Her premonitions tonight at the blessing…”

“Oh, yes yes. I remember now,” he paused for thought, though it was admittedly difficult in his state of mind. “She better be right! I never planned on raising a daughter to become a housewife and a scared little woman.”

Elizabeth chuckled but kept quiet; she knew the man was about to continue rambling.

“In fact, I never planned on raising a daughter at all.”

“Oh, Abe!”

They both shared a quiet laugh so not to wake the baby.

“If she will not lead the clan… then who will?” she asked.

“Hmm…” he considered. “Well I guess I’ll have’t live forever then!”

“Over my dead body!”

“That’s the point, love.”

Elizabeth snatched a throw pillow from her side of the bed and whipped it at Abraham behind her. He grunted in pain but they both laughed again.

“Goodnight, husband.”

“Aye. Goodnight, ball’n chain.”

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