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“A while ago, they were called Familiars.” Rustum explained later. “Now we call them Mirrors.”
The two wolves, tempered from their aggression, were laying to one side of the clearing, curled around Jasper. The copper haired boy lay between them and on them, favouring Beowulf.
“What are they?” Rebecca asked, wishing, not for the first time, for somewhere to write these things she was sure was important, down. “They’re not wolves?”
That much she could guess at, but she sensed so much, more, than wolves.
“Not really,” Rustum admitted, glancing to them, his eyes lingering on Jasper, the sleeping boy unaware of everything around him, shields even she could see forming around him. “True wolves will shy away from them. But then most animals will. They’re stronger than true wolves.”
“They looked like wolves,” Rebecca muttered, casting intermittent glances to them, to the wolves, to Jasper.
“Some ways they are,” Rustum allowed, drawing her attention again. “Most of them look to form packs. Cana and Beowulf are a bit different though. They like their solitude.” He paused. “They come to us when we call for the first time, there‘s a place in the City, called the Archways, just after passing through the Gates to the City, and that’s where mostly everyone calls their Shadow to them. Sometimes, some Shadows are called without being at the Archways. If the tenor of the person calling is particularly strong, or their link to that part of themselves.”
“They form from you?” Rebecca asked.
“They form from us, you’ll have one, too,” Rustum corrected her gently. “Yes, from the strongest parts of us. From the tenor that defines who we are. Before we call them, though, they’re within us, always. After we call them, they can be within and walking beside us. In the City, after they’ve Called, most people don’t call their Mirrors within them ever again.”
Rustum burnt his eyes, and the large grey wolf vanished from Jasper’s side, then faded into form, then colour, next to him. Rebecca stared at the animal so close to her. He was larger than she remembered, sitting down like this, and he towered over her easily. He was dark, with small specks of copper she hadn’t seen when he was further from her, spattered lightly over his back.
“This is Beowulf,” Rustum introduced. “And he already knows you.” Rustum glanced to her, judging. “But then you know him, too. Beowulf is my Mirror, he exists as part of me, and he knows my thoughts, my confusion. So he knows you, and you know him.”
Rebecca hesitated, Rustum’s words did nothing to dispel her fear of the creature. She felt her fear was very justified, he could crush her without moving.
“Say something,” Rustum half chastised her.
Rebecca stared at him. What would she say to the wolf?
“Hello,” Rebecca greeted, a moment later.
Beowulf didn’t answer her, exactly. The wolf knelt down next to Rustum, but kept his eyes on Rebecca, almost waiting. He still towered over the both of them. The wolf suddenly knocked his head against Rustum so sharply against the boy’s arm Rebecca started. Rustum lost his balance, nearly toppling over, he caught himself with an arm stretched out, but only laughed.
“He wanted me to say he’s pleased to meet you,” Rustum said, “But I wanted to see what he would do.” Rustum reached his hand to the large wolf, carding it through his fur, “I thought he’d attack me, maybe that’s why he didn’t.”
“Do you fight with him ever?” Rebecca asked, not taking her eyes off the large wolf.
“Hmm,” Rustum hummed, not turning from him either. “Don’t you ever have indecisions?”
“Not like that,” Rebecca shook her head. “Fight, properly fighting with him.”
Rustum grinned. “Almost every night. He doesn’t go easy on me either.” But the way Rustum traced his hand through the fur was anything but violent. “After you’ve trained enough, after your tenor has returned enough,” He murmured, a soft instruction. “You’ll be so strong that even animals as wild as Beo will never be able to hurt you. You can feel it by now,” He tilted his head to her, “How much stronger you’re becoming. Tenor flowing through you, your muscles strengthen, your senses heighten, even your bones will harden. Your skin won’t break with their claws or teeth, you won’t be as soft, or breakable. You’ll be immeasurably stronger, and by the time we reach the city, you’ll be almost perfected, and then nothing can hurt you. Unless they have eyes as burning as yours.” The wolf leaned closer in to Rustum, “Mirrors will always be able to fight you. They’re our last resort.”
“Does everyone have one?” Rustum would hear the question she didn’t ask.
Rebecca tore her eyes away from the wolf to face Rustum. “What will mine be?”
Rustum shook his head, “I can’t tell you. Almost no one can. But,” He paused, “Closer to the city, further down the South Road, there’s a house, Sebastian Stonecraft lives there, he has a mirror that can show you what it will be.”
“Are we stopping there?” Rebecca asked.
“We have to,” Rustum answered, burying his face in Beowulf’s fur. He didn’t seem pleased with it, and she was almost surprised at the distaste in Rustum’s words. He normally controlled even what he thought.
“Can you guess,” Rebecca asks again. “Like, maybe, what she will be?”
“What makes you think it’ll be a her?” Rustum laughed, low. “I can’t tell you. Even a wild guess would be baseless. Nah,” He shook his head. “You’re better off waiting. It won’t be long, now.”
Then another wolf pulled into form and colour next to her, closer than Beowulf was to her, and she heard Jasper snarl, but the wolf wasn’t so unkind.
The wolf was smaller, marginally, than Beowulf. Lighter, much lighter, than the dark grey. This smaller wolf was covered in copper pieces of fur, trailing across it’s back, down its legs and paws, almost the colour a fox might be, if it could grow this large.
“Hello, Cana,” Rebecca didn’t need Rustum to introduce her to this one, if Jasper reminded her of her mother, then this wolf seemed to her exactly like an owl she’d known.
The wolf moved closer to her, but he wasn’t menacing, and Rebecca remembers her fear before, was for this amber wolf. And even if she knew Beowulf couldn’t hurt him, like she knew Zane could never harm James, she would still feel fear for her brother. And that’s what this wolf was.
“Cana,” Jasper snarled again.
But the wolf only moved closer to Rebecca, and she barely heard Rustum laugh, and Beowulf answers in a sound similar. She reached for the wolf, and Cana moved into her hand, and then against her chest, and she felt from him, something to what she felt for herself, missing white wings.
Her arms wrapped around the wolf, “She missed you, too, Cana,” Rebecca confided, assuring him, hearing the owl call again and again and again, “Oh, she missed you.”