“Again. Do it again. If you fail, you will surely perish. Every fight is life or death, no matter how insignificant in the moment.”

Even now, Take couldn’t meet his eyes but took in his visage in submissive side glances and oblique peeks through lashes. He looked vaguely similar as he did when her birth pack left her for training. Even though this picture had to be at least a hundred years before he took her in.

Tall, slender and suntanned, his face was rawboned perpetually set in his timelessly aloof expression. His rare smiles would reveal crinkles in the corners of his eyes. More often his face was impassive as the side of a cliff. The thick Worg-fur ruff of his cloak made him look far broader than he actually was.

Some of her strongest memories were of the taciturn man who taught her everything she knew of the world outside of the woods.

A small mocha skinned child, caked with mud, hair tangled with leaves and sticks struggled to straighten herself from a crouch. The language wasn’t Common, not exactly. It was more complex, grunts, growls soft hisses and postures the most obvious signals. Eyes the color of storm clouds over the sea glared at him above a filthy button of a nose. The little girl let out a soft guttural rasp, grabbed a small stick once more, small fingers clumsy as they dragged the stick across a space of dirt floor. It was a simple task for most children, draw a basic sigil: or so Alvitur assumed. The only reason this little feral creature was thrust in his care is because the pack of wolves that took her in were at a loss as to what to do with her once she changed one afternoon from a little black wolf pup into this small child.

“Again. Life and death are a balancing act no creature can escape. You either succeed and live for another day, or you fail. And die. Find your balance.”

She rose slowly from from the dirt, her knuckles reddened and sore as they wrapped around her staff. Bruises littered her limbs and torso from the sparring with the Druid. Leaning against the smooth length of wood she panted for a long moment before nodding and screwing her face up. Using her heel, she kicked the staff into a horizontal defensive position. “Once more, Master.”

“Try again. You were a wolf most of your childhood. This is no different. Shift your mind to the proper shape and the body will follow.”

Her toes were numb and her fingertips had a bluish tinge as she cleared her mind and took a deep breath. His words stung at her frustrated pride. Shifting into a wolf was as easy as breathing. But she struggled with any other form. This time she was sitting in a small creek, the water babbling cheerily around her. She wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t still late winter higher up the mountainside. Little fish peeked from behind rocks in the calmer eddies nearby. Her mentor stood a few feet away, roasting some fish over a small campfire, hawkish face in profile as he stared into the flames.

Exhaling slowly she let the shape of her body slip away and for the briefest of moments, just before habit made her a wolf she thought of the shy little fish peeking. It was similar, just less fuzzy, but the cold no longer gripped limbs as she slipped downstream with a flash of quicksilver.

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