Sienna sat in the high backed wooden chair near the roaring fire. She cupped the mug of warm broth between her hands and she stared at the dancing flames. There was an old worn quilt thrown over her lap to keep the chill away.
“I don’t understand, how did I get here?” she said as she looked up at the young woman sitting across from her. The woman had showed up, syringe in hand, not long after the wolf left. She introduced herself as Marian and informed Sienna she was a nurse at the local hospital, which the older man Walter scoffed at. Marian had rolled her eyes when Walter couldn’t see her.
She held out the syringe to Sienna had told her it was a painkiller they used for their severely injured patients when the pain was too much. She offered it to Sienna but warned it was all she could get. It would last for a few hours, but depending on her rate of healing, the pain would come back when it wore off. How much pain she would be in then, Marian couldn’t say. But at least this would help for now.
Sienna licked her dried lips and tried to reply. But her throat was having a hard time cooperating with her and the only sound she emitted was more of a grunt. Marian just smiled at her and told her to blink twice for yes, and once for no. Sienna had blinked twice.
Once the painkiller had taken affect, Marian had helped her to sit up, clean up, and change in to a new set of clothes. Walter had walked back in to the room with a cup of broth and handed it wordlessly to Sienna before turning around and leaving.
“Ignore him, he’s always been like that,” Marian said with a kind smile as she had taken a seat across from Sienna. “My father says he was like that even as a child.”
“He’s a family friend?” Sienna had asked, before taking a sip of the steaming broth.
“Heck, no,” Marian said shaking her head, “It’s worse than that, he’s family. He’s my father’s older brother. I was supposed to follow after him and because the Pack Healer. But when I decided to go to nursing school rather than learn from him, he declared me disowned. I tried to tell him that having real medical training would be an asset as a healer, but he would hear none of it. He’s very traditional. He learned everything he knew from his mother, who was the Pack Healer before she passed before I was born. She was just as old school from what I hear. Didn’t believe in having baby’s in a hospital, nope, you had to have them at home.”
“She sounds interesting,” Sienna said kindly.
Marian snorted, “She was the Alpha female. Interesting was the most mild way of describing her. She was hard and fierce and proud of it. My mother had to fight tooth and claw to give birth to my brother in a hospital. She swore she drove five hours in a snowstorm with my grandmother chasing after her just to ensure my brother was born in a hospital.”
“Where was your father?”
“Chasing my grandmother,” Marian said with a laugh. Sienna laughed with her.
“The people here, their a little eccentric and some are down right grouchy, but their good people,” Marian told her as she looked out the window behind Sienna at the snow-covered town in the valley below.
Sienna had turned as well to look at the tiny figures shuffling across the ice covered sidewalks. They waved at one another, called out to each other. They looked happy. But the large wolves that walked at their sides were not pet, no, they were shifters, other members of this community.
Sienna turned away from the windows and instead turned her attention back to the fire before her. Her mug of warm broth cupped tightly between her hands. She still didn’t remember what happened to her, how she had gotten here, or where here even was.
She looked back up at Marian was watched her with a kind smile voiced her worries, “I don’t understand, how did I get here?”
The smile fell from Marian’s lips and was replaced with sad frown, “My brother and some of his wolves were driving back to town when they saw smoke. They went to investigate and found skid marks and a broken guard rail. When my brother went to investigate, he found you. He said you were the only survivor of a motor vehicle accident. You had somehow gotten lucky and flown thrown the front windshield when the vehicle crashed into a tree. The new fallen snow softened your landing.”
Sienna could only sit there numbly. Kailee, Richard and Steven, they were gone. She had known them her whole life and now they were gone. The mug shook in her hands, so much so that Marian leaned over to take it from her.
“I’m sorry,” She told her, giving her hand a squeeze as she removed the mug.
“I don’t remember,” Sienna said, tears gathering in her eyes, “I don’t remember any of it.”
“It happens sometimes. You went through a very traumatic experience. You were injured really badly. By the time my brother found you, you were nearly dead yourself.”
“But I’m not dead,” Sienna said as she wiped the tears from her eyes and looked down at her hands and arms. There was not scratch on her. No bruises from what she could see, either.
“No, you’re not,” Marian agreed as she sat back. The look in her eyes now wary. Sienna frowned.
“If I was nearly dead, how long have I been asleep? It must have been a long time if I’ve healed already,” Sienna said.
“You’ve been asleep for two days,” Marian informed her, her tone mild but Sienna could hear the stress underneath it.
“Two days? That’s impossible. I’ve never seen anyone heal like that,” Sienna shook her head.
“No, you probably wouldn’t have. Even with the help of a healer, Guardian’s do not heal that way,” Marian agreed. Sienna heard the words, but she also was hearing the words that Marian wasn’t saying. Her heart sped up and hands clenched tightly in to fists.
“When my brother found you, you were nearly dead. He said there was blood in your lungs and it was choking you to death. He was ready to put your out of your misery, to ease your pain. But you stopped him. You told him that you couldn’t die yet. That there was something you hadn’t done yet. You asked him to change you.”
Sienna sat there, letting each word penetrate her numb brain. She didn’t remember that accident. She didn’t remember it at all. Two days, it had just been two days since it had happened. She had nearly died. Heck, she should have been dead. Kailee, Richard and Steven were. But she hadn’t. She had survived. No, that wasn’t right. She shouldn’t have survived. She should have been dead. Instead, she had been saved. Marian’s brother had saved her.
The whole fact that she had been changed, wasn’t bothering her as much as she knew it probably should. It was instead the fact that she should have been dead, but she wasn’t. Guardians weren’t turned to shifters. It just didn’t happen. Their magics were just too different. The two magic couldn’t exist in the same place, and that place just happened to be her body. She had heard horror stories of Guardians failing the change. The pain was supposed to be excruciating as their body was literally being torn apart by the two magics. No guardian had ever made it through the change.
If she had asked to be changed, she must have been out of her mind or utterly desperate. This was just too much. Her heart began to pound in her chest, her breath started coming in gasps.
She felt a slight nudge in her mind. It was hard to explain but it was enough to drop her out of her oncoming panic attack. She froze as she felt that slight nudge again. She didn’t know how to make sense of this new feeling. It was almost as if someone was brushing up against her. A shiver ran down her back as she realized that’s exactly what it felt like.
“Sienna?” Her head shot up as she stared wide eyed at the woman before her. “Sienna, are you okay?”
“I don’t know,” She said honestly as she suddenly realized she was curled over, her arms crossed over her chest protectively.
Marian gave her a sympathetic smile, “I know this is a lot to take it at one time. It would be a lot to take in for anyone. Maybe I should help you back to bed and I can have Walter bring you a cup of tea that will help you sleep.”
Sienna shook her head, “I can’t sleep. I need to contact my family. I need to let them know what happened to me. My brother must be freaking out by now if I’ve been out of contact for two days, especially if they learned about the deaths of my friends.”
Sienna noticed the frown on Marian’s lips, but the other woman nodded.
“I’ll talk to Walker.”
“Walker?” Sienna said, her brows knitting as the name tickled something at the back of her mind.
Mate, the new voice in her head insisted. Mate? What the hell did that mean? And what the hell was happening to her? Was she looking her mind? She heard a snickering then.
Ok, she was definitely losing her mind. She was certain of it.
“Sienna? Is something wrong?” Marian asked worriedly as she leaned forward.
“I think I’m losing my mind,” Sienna admitted. “I’m hearing voices.”
That brought a smile to Marian’s lips, definitely not the expression Sienna was expecting.
“You’ll get used to it,” Marian assured her.
“So, I’m not losing my mind?”
Marian shook her head, “No. In wolf form, we can’t speak like we do in human form, so we communicate mind to mind.”
Okay, that would explain the gruff voice she had heard before when she first woke up. But that didn’t explain this other voice. It was feminine, but at the same time childlike. Their thoughts were simple, not complex like a human’s. She said as much to Marian who nodded her head.
“That would be your wolf,” Marian told her.
“I’m not really sure how to explain this to someone who wasn’t born a shifter. We have a few shifters here who we made, but because the transition process is so hard on normal humans, most do survive the change. Usually it would be one of the Elders who would do the explaining, but because of the whole situation, things are a little different in your case. So I’m going to try and do my best to explain to you what its like being a shifter.”
Sienna really didn’t know what to say to that, so she just nodded.
“Okay, so Shifters are part human and part other. In most cases, the other is mammal, but I have heard of bird shifters and fish shifters. That’s usually were those fairytales about harpies and mermaids come from. Because bird shifters and fish shifters have such different make ups from the rest of us, they usually keep to themselves and are rarely seen.”
“I don’t know how it is for them, but for the rest of us, it’s like there are two parts of our brain, a human part and an animal part. The human part is complex and guided by logic, while the animal part is more simple minded and guided by instinct.”
“Our wolves are part of us, yet at the same time they are separate. When we are in human form, the human part of our mind is in control most of the time unless we allow the wolf part to take over. It is the same when we shift, when we are wolf, the wolf part is more control of our actions unless the human part asserts itself.”
Sienna’s face must have betrayed her lack of comprehension because Marian said, “I know I’m explaining this really bad. But I’ve always known what I am, so it’s sort of hard to explain it to someone who’s new to this. But I promise you, you’ll get used to it. The wolf is not a separate entity, it is you, just as when you are wolf, you are still there. The wolf is just the most instinctual part of you. You’ll understand in time, I promise.”
Sienna just nodded to make Marian feel better because she highly doubted she would ever truly understand this new voice in her head.
Dumb, the voice commented at that moment. Sienna really couldn’t argue but at that moment, she did feel dumb.
“You’ll get used to it. Soon, you won’t even remember a time when there was just a single voice in your head,” Marian told her, patting her hand. Sienna couldn’t keep the grimace from her face, which just caused Marian to laugh, “Things will look better in the morning. I promise. ”
Sienna hoped so, because really, she didn’t see how it could get any worse.