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Fine Tinder


h1={color:#000;}. [] *Book 1*

Part 1

“Leave it to an immortal to think forty years wouldn’t make a difference.” Hyacinth said. The wrinkles of her face deepened into a grin. The grin grew into a smile, then into laughter, which startled her cat.

Muffin leaped off the sofa which made Hyacinth laugh harder. She snorted and covered her mouth, embarrassed. She eyed her steward, Hangry, for any sign of amusement. He maintained the stoic look that had kept him his job these ten years.

She turned her attention back to the thick letter in her lap, anxious. How ridiculous. Receiving an “accidental” love letter from the King of Adelli.

A werewolf.

A half breed responsible, as far as she was concerned, for the death of her sister. Her heart constricted and she frowned. Who had ensured she received this? Lady Nell? Nell was always trying at subtle sabotage.

Hangry, holding the missive basket, eyed his mistress. Nothing made the queen mother laugh. He didn’t miss the edge to that smile that likely meant he’d be reordering the linens and pantry for the fifth time this week. Anger made her much too tidy.

“Does he know how old I am now?” She muttered.

Hyacinth looked back at Hangry.

Hangry stiffened and fixed his eyes on the portrait directly across the room. It was of Hyacinth’s late husband, King George. He saw Hyacinth watching him with a stillness that he knew to be deadly. Having the scrutiny of the former king and queen on him nearly had him blurting out the plain truth, that he’d taken a bribe and seen to it that the letter made it to her mail basket.

His jaw relaxed, lips parting to confess when the thought of his Cynthia’s face when he told her she could order those fabrics she’d sighed over every time they’d gone to town had him biting his tongue. He stared back at the portrait in defiance.

“My heart pines, as I recall your fair face. I pine under the pines…” Hyacinth shook her head. “Just as awful as forty years ago. Poor fool. Mad and untalented.”

The silence that stretched and the knowledge that he couldn’t win a staring contest with the old king’s portrait nearly had Hangry confessing again.

“Why was this letter amid my correspondence?” Hyacinth asked him.

Her voice sounded too high and he glanced her way.

She bit her cheek but kept her eyes on him. The final glimpse of her sister bleeding in the jaws of a werewolf filled her mind and she bit her cheek harder. Why was it so difficult to make ones heart stop feeling loss as though it had happened a week ago instead of many decades?

She missed Hangry struggling to maintain his neutral expression.

“Why is this among my correspondence?” She growled it this time.

“Things like this can happen on accident your majesty.” He said.

She narrowed her eyes.

His bushy eyebrows worked up and down as if they could do a better job to convince her. “I am sure your majesty has many admirers.” He opened his mouth to go on, closed it, and moved to take the letter from her.

She held it out of his reach.

“What did I say should happen to letters like these?” She said, “Better yet! How is it that you’ve faithfully followed my orders these ten years and on this day you’ve suddenly forgotten?”

His mistress looked like a sorceress with deep wrinkles and gray hair pulled back into a severe bun that was quite the fashion thirty years ago. Hangry stood even straighter, regretting that he’d taken the bribe from the werewolf emissary. What a mess. What would a couple silver do if he were out on his ear? He saw his mistress shake her head. She looked, if he weren’t mistaken, miserable.

Hyacinth tapped the armrest, the velvet prickled her fingertips. Her eyes were drawn to the window at the castle shining nearly white in the sun and her mind went back to the exact moment she and Leon had met.

It had started rumors at court when on arrival for a peace meeting, he’d bowed to her and George but looked only at her. He’d been a muscled man with scruffy looking black hair, dressed in a plain brown robe. Werewolves all wore robes. His body language spoke of strength and the ease of a predator resting in the shade beside a herd of deer. His attention had been terrifying and intriguing to her at the time. She smirked remembering how George stared first at Leon then at her, mouth hanging open. That had been a glad time. She’d been someone then. Was Leon as wrinkled as she now?

Hyacinth tore her eyes away from the window, not liking the giddy feelings in her chest. Love was as fleeting as morning fog and just as disorienting. She was much too old for that.

The date on the letter said it was written was just a week ago. Had he ever stopped writing? Did he really not know her age?

Hangry noticed the spark in her eye. Whether it had been a good move or a bad one, it was certainly the most interesting reaction he’d seen.

Hyacinth leaned forward, her hip sore from the cool damp weather early spring brought. She couldn’t help but toy with the thought of writing him back to have him show up and see her as an old woman. Hah. It’d be a good laugh.

“Queen mother, your granddaughter is here.” A maid said from the open parlor door.

That snapped her out of all reverie. “Send her and my babies in.”

When the maid left, Hyacinth glared at the letter as though King Leon would be able to sense her loathing then stood, joints popping.

Hangry held out a hand to assist.

She waved him away and walked to the hearth, determined that the past remain in the past.

“This” She tossed the letter into the fire, “is how to sort letters from monsters. It seems rather simple doesn’t it?”

She met Hangry’s eyes and he didn’t miss the swirl of emotions that made her look ten years older. She looked bewildered.

Hyacinth stared at her steward, questions on the tip of her tongue. She nearly asked: “Had he really had been writing me all this time? Or is this letter was a one off?” It burned in her heart unlike anything else had in quite some time.

She looked away and took her seat, feeling as though she’d thrown a piece of herself in with the letter.

The letter was a brown lump by the time the four cats whom she referred to as her babies were lined up behind her couch. Their handlers held them gently.

Hangry noticed that she looked everywhere except fireplace.

Hyacinth’s eyes swept over Grenowin’s plain gown when she entered. Her granddaughter preferred plain gowns to the ornate ones her mother loved. Actually, her granddaughter preferred breeches and throwing knives but was stepping into her role as heir-something heavily monitored by her mother.

“Granna,” Grenowin said. She leaned down and placed a kiss on Hyacinth’s cheek.

“Hello dear.” Hyacinth indicated the open chair to her right.

Grenowin sat, tucking her legs under as a lady. Her mother had been working hard then.

“Say hello Muffin!” Hyacinth ordered her cat. Muffin was held closest to her. “Just this morning he was mewing at me. Saying hello to your mamma weren’t you?” Hyacinth wiggled her fingers at the cat who ignored her. She eyed her cat darkly. “Where are your manners Muffin?”

The cat dug its claws into its impressively stoic handler and let out a low hiss.

Hyacinth didn’t miss Grenowin trying to stifle a yawn.

Hyacinth squared her shoulders, “You are very fortunate to have survived your last hunt my dear. In your Grandperri’s day you couldn’t turn around without a relative being eaten.” Hyacinth said.

“I think you exaggerate Granna.” Grenowin sighed. Hyacinth could read how much she missed being able to hunt since having to step up as heir.

“Fah. Just because you can not see the enemy doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Watching. Biding their time.” Hyacinth insisted. “You encountered a werewolf yourself.”

Grenowin shifted in her chair, “Granna, if you want to speak to father about who he lets into the kingdom, you should meet with him. I do not help with policy yet.”

Hyacinth sat back with a huff, “Yes, he’ll listen to me then go his foolish way. And don’t pretend you don’t have sway. You’re the crown princess, you’ll be wed and have a baby on your hip soon.”

Grenowin flushed, “I haven’t even courted Granna.” She sat up straighter. “Father has let the werewolves in to bring peace-”

“Peace is not sure unless it is taken by force.” Hyacinth said. She realized then how loud she’d said it.

Grenowin stared looking bewildered. Hangry and the maid too.

Hyacinth looked at the fireplace.

“Forgive me.” She said quietly. “Those your father welcomes are responsible for a great deal of pain.” She hated how her voice had gone strange again. The faces of those who’d died before and during the wars filled her mind. Her eyes grew hot. This was too much reminiscing in one day for an old woman.

She looked back to her granddaughter to anchor herself in the present. Grenowin was a dear for her weekly visits when the rest of the family stayed away but for once Hyacinth wished she’d leave. The silence stretched uncomfortably.

“Let’s take a turn about the fountain.” Hyacinth rose and led the way through the front door. The fresh cool air filled her lungs and cooled her eyes. She let out a long steadying breath.

The small two story manor at their backs was practically a cottage. It was preferable to living at court where she’d be used as a prop.

She realized Grenowin was letting out small sighs.

She could guess why.

“I had to do penance when I was a girl.” Hyacinth said gently.

Grenowin met her eyes looking morose. “I knew you’d likely heard. The whole court probably knows what the Pagoda decided. Shooting at that werewolf was an accident! He was out in the hunting grounds, what’s a girl to do? The Light can see it wasn’t on purpose.”

The Pagoda of the Light declared they were the authority on matters of the Light but in all Hyacinth’s years of attending the homilies, the Light seemed better reflected in the trees and in the kindness between the people around her.

“Now dear-” Hyacinth said.

A long deafening howl split the air.

Hyacinth had heard it too many times to react beyond a stiffened spine and a look in the direction of the noise. They didn’t have much time by how close the call sounded.

The guards hurried to surround the two royals. Hyacinth pushed her granddaughter towards the front door. Once Grenowin started running, Hyacinth bent slowly, careful not to jar her bad hip, to pull a knife from her boot.

Grenowin ran a few paces before she noticed her grandmother wasn’t following. She looked wide eyed at the knife then towards the woods.

“Granna, come inside.” Grenowin said, a look of disbelief on her face.

“Guards, escort the crown princess indoors. Carry her if you have to.” Hyacinth said.

“No you can’t!” Grenowin said, pushing against the three men who pulled her back into the manor.

Hyacinth let out a relieved breath when the door was shut.

She noticed Hangry shaking but holding his ground.

Two other guards emerged from the manor, joining the two defending Hyacinth in an X formation, spears at the ready.

Another closer howl broke through the quiet.

Hangry let out a small scream and even Hyacinth couldn’t suppress the shiver that ran down her spine.

“Get inside Steward.” She snapped.

He ran to the house.

If she survived, she decided she’d need to vet her staff better. Take them on a hunt and see if they screamed like a piglet. How could she have gone for so many years with such a man in service?

“Queen Mother, please return to your home and bolt the door.” A young guard she’d never seen before today said with a bow.

Hyacinth blinked at the speaker. His helmet was strapped on tightly and the way he held his spear told her this might be his first battle.

Two of the guards who Hyacinth knew as regular guards exchanged looks.

She turned away from the youngling and scanned the treeline. The breeze rustling through the oaks seemed deafening in the silence.

“Your majesty-” The young guard tried again.

“Shut your mouth young man. I was mounting werewolf heads in my parlor while you were still wetting nappies.” She smirked at him, daring him to argue with the queen mother.

Th guard opened his mouth to say something then stopped and glanced at the others. One guard shook his head slightly and the young one bowed to her and turned away.

Hyacinth heard a whimper from their right and an answering low yip from the left that an inexperienced ear would have missed.

“Gird up your loins boys and tighten formation.” The experienced guards moved as she instructed, the young one a step behind with a look that said he didn’t know why the others were listening to her.

Wolves, the size of moose stepped from the shadows of the treeline. Emerging from the forest as though they were made of shadows themselves. The young guard startled.

Hyacinth frowned. Her son had stopped training against werewolf attacks just before he opened Irren’s boarders to Adelli. Now Hyacinth had a liability on her hands unless the boy started obeying orders. She ignored the warning pang from her hip as she dropped into a defensive stance.

The wolves stayed at the edge of the treeline, watching. What were they doing? She hadn’t missed the tone of that call, it was to attack. Hyacinth took a deep breath, leaning into the rush of energy that invigorated her little used limbs. It settled over her like a favorite sweater.

“This day will be your last!” She yelled.

The new guard shot her a look.

The wolves started towards them. Good. She focused on the leader. He was an impressive one with muscles easily visible under his shiny, thick fur. He was larger by a couple hundred pounds and darker than the others. She gripped her knife and angled it, blade up. She’d take the big one out right in the soft spot on it’s chin if her hip didn’t give out on her.

The six wolves stopped just out of reach of the spears, a wall of giant beasts in a semicircle around them.

She sensed the pack’s next move a moment before they bounded forward. Her command, “Strike!” was lost in the snarls.

The soldiers weapons were knocked aside and the men picked up in giant jaws up and carried off into the woods. Which left her alone with the leader.

Light, please keep Grenowin safe.

They watched each other, then Hyacinth strode forward and raised her knife. The wolf was even bigger up close.

It moved with causal ease and batted her knife away in an instant.

She stepped back out of instinct and stumbled as her hip gave way. Down she went. Her mind playing the wolfs finishing move in her mind as she scrambled to stand up. At least her her sacrifice might change her son’s mind about peace with werewolves.

She couldn’t stand so she stayed on the ground and looked up.

The wolf was sitting, head tilted curiously.

Was it…playing with her? She kept her eyes on the beast and carefully got to her feet, aware of the dropped spear only a yard away. She shifted her weight to get closer to it.

“Old lady not a menu preference?” She slapped her thigh, “I’m well seasoned.”

The wolf sneezed.

She lunged for one of the fallen spears.

The wolf sprang forward and batted the spear farther away. They were inches apart now.

If it was her time, she wanted to go now. She’d finally be with her George in the Light’s Paradise. She screamed and lifted her bare fist to strike the beast. She saw a flash of teeth and braced for pain. None came. Instead, she found herself held gently in its mouth. One of her arms was pinned and she could feel sharp teeth through her day gown.

“Too cowardly to eat me?” She spat, working to master her stomach. Its breath was month old venison rubbed in rotted fish.

The wolf turned and loped into the trees. Branches whacked her exposed head and her boots.

“Going to dishonor me by fighting me unarmed?” She said and dry heaved. “If you’d met me alone in the woods with a spear I would’ve walked home carrying your head.”

Her captor didn’t slow. He didn’t even squeeze her like he so desperately wanted to. Nothing he’d ever hunted had made this much noise.

They met up with the other wolves. Their mouths were empty.

Hyacinth shut her mouth, eyes hot. Those poor men.

The pack waded through the Knallie river, the teal border between Adelli and Irren.

She wondered where were taking her.

“The heads of your mother and father are likely the matching pair above my chamber pot.” She tried. She wished to end this now instead of ending up as a meal later. So she kept at the insults and couldn’t help but be impressed by the control of the werewolf who held her.

No one had ever returned alive after being carried off. They were either found in tatters the next day or their remains never found. Tears ran down her face, she swiped at them angrily with her one free hand. The jarring motion of the wolfs stride was making her back rub uncomfortably against its teeth.

She stopped the insults when they started the climb into the giant hills. The Adellian side of the Knallie was a bramble of maples and brush, terrain she’d never been in. The forest was dense and held a heaviness. At most Irren sported a few small forests of thin trees only a fool could get lost in.

A while later she was suddenly dropped into meadow grass. She rolled so that she was laying on her back and the blue sky filled her vision. The arm that had been pinned was asleep and she rubbed it and grimaced at how badly her body ached.

Drool soaked her bodice and part of her skirt. Her hip felt like it was on fire. She made herself sit up, then stand. She was determined to go out with dignity if they had something nasty planned next.

She pushed loose hair out of her eyes and cringed as she smeared the drool across her face.

“My dearest Queen.”

She jumped, then winced as her hip protested. She knew that voice.

She glared at the werewolves sitting sedately in a group not far off. They all but ignored her as they napped or played with each other. One small gray wolf gnawed a bone, she grimaced. There was a cliff just beyond a few scrub trees on her other side. The forest they’d arrived from was at her back.

She looked back at the wolves and nearly jumped when she saw King Leon striding towards her.

He was smiling. His face tan and smooth tan. No wrinkles for him then. He looked thirty, nearly the same as when she’d met him. She knew he was near two-hundred though, give or take a decade. Had he gained some muscle since then? He certainly looked like he lifted boulders all day.

“King Leon.” She stood straight. “My son made a law welcoming all monsters into Irren. We could’ve had tea in my parlor while your fellows ate my guards.”

Leon clasped her hands in his firmly and looked her over as though to see if she were alright. “You’re laws have never bound me.”

She blinked, startled when she met his eye. There was no doubt who the Alpha was when you met Leon’s eyes. Even if he tried to mask it with a easy smile.

She huffed and tried to step back but he held her fast which she was grateful for because he hip had nearly given out again. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the saliva from her face gently. “Would you have agreed to meet?”

She pursed her lips. “Why should I meet with a monster?”

He smirked and then turned and gently led her over to a seat beside a large fire pit. The camp had no other furniture or tents set up, though there were a few travel bags near the trees. The chairs were wicker with cushions. How such fine chairs had gotten to a small meadow in the middle of the forest, she hadn’t a clue.

She sat, only staying down because the pillows felt like paradise.

He sat in the chair a foot from hers and leaned towards her. Why were werewolves unaware of others private space? He took one of her hands again.

She realized he was not forcibly holding it and snatched it back.

“I am no longer queen.” She said, realizing as he foggy feeling brains started to clear, that she wasn’t to be eaten after all. She was being treated as a guest. Meals likely weren’t pampered. What did Leon want with her then? She kept thinking of the letter but pushed the idea that he’d kidnapped her out of love away.

“I know you gave the crown to your son.” He said, hands clasped in his lap as though they were having a nice visit tucked in a cozy parlor.

If he had kidnapped her because of those letters, not that he had, but if he did, then he had no brain. Did he think she’d be grateful to him? As if she’d forget his murders and the war he’d started? Perhaps he wanted to use her against her son. Yes. It made the most sense.

“If you have state matters to discuss, you should direct your concerns to my soft hearted son. It will do no good to try and use me against him, you’ll get nothing of it. I am a loyal Light fearing woman.”

“Your fire will always draw me like a moth.” He said, eyes crinkled in amusement.

Hyacinth raised a brow. “Did you bring me all the way out here to torture me with more of your poetry? Now I wished your fellows had eaten me like the guards. Or like they ate my sister.”

Leon’s brows shot up in amusement and he barked a laugh.

“How dare you.” She hissed, eyes growing hot with frustration and grief.

Another burst of laughter made her rise from her seat to strike him.

“Your younger sister is well!” He held up both hands in defense.

She frowned, hand still raised to hit him.

He eyed her hand. “The guards are all alive as well. Having a bit of a nap.”

She blinked, too tired and angry to think straight.

“Please sit.”

“My sister is well?” Hyacinth stared. “I saw it bite my sister. The werewolf-”

“-my cousin Ren.”

Hyacinth blinked again.

“He has a name. It’s Ren.”

Hyacinth narrowed her eyes, lowered her hand, and sat. “I saw that monster snatch her up in his teeth. She screamed. She was bleeding.” She shook her head at the memory, pain pouring from that open wound in the center of her heart that had only widened when her parents and then George passed away.

She glanced up at Leon who looked thoughtful, “He probably scratched her a bit on accident. Humans are fragile things.” He shook his head, “I should have brought him along! They eloped. You’ll have to have her tell you her story.”

She didn’t believe him even though he looked back at her steadily.

“She wouldn’t do that to me.” She whispered.

Leon watched her face, looking somber.

“No. I can’t believe you. You’ve brought me out here for something evil. What could you possibly want to discuss with me?” She snapped it, hating how he seemed to be drawing out whatever he’d planned to do with her. “You are a monster toying with its food.” She felt some satisfaction at the sadness in his eyes. “Holding me ransom will not get you gold or favor from Irren.”

The king nodded once in a way that said he understood her, “You are correct, you are not worth much in gold. It’s not Irren’s favor I seek.”

She swallowed, heart seeming to drop into her stomach. He wasn’t serious. She frowned and studied his face carefully. Did this werewolf find her, an old woman, attractive? She wasn’t sure if she should be flattered or alarmed.

She opened her mouth to ask him but he turned towards his pack, “Go and get Madeline.”

Two wolves got up and bounded into the woods.

“My sister?” Hyacinth breathed. No.

“I know you burned my letters.” He leaned forward, voice low. “I also know those nights you read them.”

He had an odd expression on his face that she recognized. Love.

Her heart twisted uncomfortably with grief and bewilderment. She had read the letters a few times. On her darkest nights. But how did he know? She was unable to hold his stare so she looked at the trees.

“We cannot proceed to why I brought you here until the matter of your not-dead sister is settled.” He sat back. “There is a stream if you’d like to refresh yourself there while you wait.” The king gestured towards the woods.

She stared at him, feeling numb. “Refresh myself?” She said each word slowly. “While you fetch my sister.”

“We have clothes and soap.” He gestured and a werewolf with a pack in its mouth trotted over and dropped it at her feet.

She wanted to refuse then laugh at how ridiculous all of this was. Yet some part of her believed him. In the end, she decided being smelly wouldn’t accomplish anything. She’d been cringing from the smell since she’d arrived.

She stood, grabbed the pack, and walked in the direction he’d pointed. Leon wasn’t following her she was glad to see when she paused at the treeline to look back. He filled the chair, a giant of a man, and stared at his hands expression distant.
















































Part 2


The stream was far enough away to make her hip ache again from the walking. The cushions had done a wondrous job of soothing it but the pain was back.

The stream was knee deep and moving fast so she walked upstream until she found a small pool that wouldn’t sweep her off her feet and that was deep enough to soak in. She opened the pack and pulled out soap, a small cloth to towel off with, and a plain werewolf robe. She frowned at the robe and repacked it in the bag. Then removed her boots, socks, and bloomers and waded into the stream in her drool soaked gown. She hissed at a row of tears in the purple linen, it had been on of her favorite dresses. The maid who’d made it had really known her stuff and Hyacinth had bribed her to stay on but the woman had left to live on the coast with her new husband.

Love. She frowned at cool water at her ankles. She didn’t want to think or let her heart go where it was starting to lean so she walked farther into the pool, gasping as the melt water hit her thighs and then her chest. The cool did soothe her aches and if she would have lingered if her fingers didn’t start turning blue. She twisted a bit in the water and scrubbed at particularly nasty spots then got out, skirt dripping. She eyed the pack that held the soft dry robe as the cool air of the hills had her shivering.

She wanted to be strong and refuse to wear the robes of a werewolf but the cold was making it harder to breath right so she unbuttoned her gown, looking around in embarrassment and pulled the robe on. The fabric was thick and immediately started warming her. She pulled on her underthings and boots, wrung out her dress as much as an old woman’s hands could manage and returned to camp.

She made her way through the brown and gray wolves, dropping the pack by the now empty chairs. Seeing them so at ease frightened her in a way that a werewolf attacking didn’t.

At first she sat by the fire, wondering where Leon had got to, and relishing the warmth of the large fire. Once she’d warmed up and her hip stopped complaining she decided to walk to the other side of the clearing to sit on the ground. The hillside fell away and from here she had a perfect view of Irren They’d gone quite a ways into the hills large enough to be considered mountains. She could make out the teal streak that was the Knallie and the castle, white against the blazing green landscape. Farm lands stretched beyond the castle like a multicolored quilt. She’d never seen her home like this before.

After a while, she grew impatient. The sun was getting low. How long would she have to wait?A huge black wolf joined her. It sat a few paces away on its haunches and looked her way. The one who’d kidnapped her? It looked similar.

She ignored it. When she chanced to look back she found Leon sitting beside her, looking her way.

“You have only grown more beautiful with time.” He stared out at the view as he said it.

“Lying fool.” She huffed but her words held no real fire. Her foolish heart had a flame of hope that she hated Leon for kindling.

A far away howl made both of them look up the mountain.

“Your sister.” The king said. He made a gesture to his wolves and one of them howled back. Hyacinth covered her ears, unable to stop the goose bumps.

Hyacinth watched the treeline, not wanting to believe that Madeline was still alive. It had to be a trick. She spotted a tan wolf bounding towards the camp.

The king stood as Hyacinth did and moved to stand beside her. The lone wolf slowed and lay down in front of Leon. He placed a hand on her neck before walking away.

The wolf turned into a woman in a lilac robe. Hyacinth stared. It was her sister, except she’d forgotten to age past forty.

Hyacinth frowned, mouth open.

Madeline lurched forward and hugged her.

“Look at you! You old goat!” Madeline laughed and looked Hyacinth up and down. There were tears in her eyes.

Hyacinth was fuming a wave of emotions seemed to erupt from her. She pushed her sister backwards. “You.

“Me.” Madeline grinned.

“Do you think this is a joke?” Hyacinth’s voice was raspy and she threw up her hands in frustration. “I saw you…” She wanted to hit her. She grabbed Madeline into the tightest hug she could, unable to hold back the tears.

After a good long cry, the sisters sat shoulder to shoulder looking out at Irren. It felt to Hyacinth like she’d stepped back in time. Madeline was an older version of the annoying and impish girl she remembered her sister to be.

“How dare you run off!” Hyacinth shook her head and gave Madeline a gentle shove.

Madeline gave her a mirthless smile, “Yes, I was foolish.” She met her sister’s eye looking sheepish. “It really did seem like a good idea at the time, if you’ll believe me.”

“Hmm.” Hyacinth acknowledged. Young folk in love often did crazy things.

“I couldn’t exactly explain to mother and father that I was in love with a werewolf, especially after you married the king!” Madeline said and sighed. “I couldn’t besmirch your royal name now could I?”

“You were an idiot.” Hyacinth wiped her eyes.

“So were you for marrying…” She looked away.

Hyacinth looked down, knowing what she was going to say.

“Well the past is in the past.” Madeline said and shrugged.

“It seems the past is in the present if you ask me.” Hyacinth said and they both laughed.

They were silent a while but it didn’t feel strained. Hyacinth reveled in the gift that was her sister being back.

Thank you Light.

She looked Madeline over.

“How are you not an old woman?” Hyacinth asked.

Madeline wiggled her eyebrows in that annoying way she always had when they were younger, “I hope you will find out soon.”

“What does that mean?” Hyacinth snapped.

Madeline grinned but Hyacinth could see it was edged with something else. Sorrow?

Someone loomed behind them and Madeline stood up quickly and curtsied to Leon. Madeline looked back at Hyacinth looking happy.

Hyacinth was sure her expression mirrored her sisters. “I hope to see you again very soon.”

“You’re leaving?” Hyacinth asked, heart falling.

“For now.” Madeline said and nodded. She turned back into a tan werewolf and ran off into the trees.

“You idiot.” She couldn’t help the smile she gave Leon as he sat beside her. He’d returned her sister.

He reached for her hand and she let him. She was exhausted and her heart full.

“Twenty years after Tanya passed,” Leon started slowly. Hyacinth recognized his late wife’s name. “I had almost convinced myself I’d never love again. And then I met you all those years ago.”

Hyacinth kept her eyes fixed on the castle below nervously.

“It might seem strange to you for me to love you but you don’t understand the loyalty and devotion of a werewolf.”

That explained it she supposed. She looked at him as though seeing him for the first time.

“You can try to convince me that you didn’t feel as I do but I will remind you that I am part wolf.” He said.

She frowned. Did he smell love? Her face softened when she saw his eyes held the same longing his letters had.

“I knew I could not stop pursuing you until I captured your heart.”

Her heart was becoming traitorous even as her brain screamed that love wasn’t that easy. It was never easy!

“Didn’t you find it inappropriate to send a married woman letters?” She said.

“Not when it was obvious the king had another lover. Lovers actually.” He said gently.

She winced. She didn’t want to know how he knew that. She hated the relief that washed through her. Someone else knew. Had known.

“Hyacinth, would you” He searched her face, “be my queen?”

“Marry you?” She frowned at him, the rage from earlier seeping back into her heart. “More likely be a prisoner. What could you want with an old woman as your wife?”

He stroked the hand he held with a thumb absently.

She hated how her heart glowed at so simple a gesture even through her anger. How he’d awoken it, how he now had the power to cause her great pain, terrified her.

“Not again.” He stood. “I will not trap you only to watch you wither.”

A tear fell down her cheek. How much could one cry in a day?

Her eyes were drawn back to the view of Irren. The sky was golden and the clouds pink. She’d met George at that castle below. George had broken her heart more times than she liked to recall. Yet she’d been unable to make her heart love anyone else.

There were good memories in that castle too. Making and birthing her children. Raising them. They’d partially filled that hole in her heart. Then they’d grown out of needing her and set their eyes on their birthright.

If she were honest nothing held her in Irren. Except…

“Can I bring my cats?”

























Book 2

Part 1


Light help me.

Hyacinth bit down on a yip of pain. Her day boots weren’t made for long journeys through overgrown forests and her aching feet were used to being propped up on a footstool. Oh how she longed for her footstool.

She stumbled and Leon leaned against her, thick fur like a cushion.

He’d offered to carry her at the start but she refused. It was embarrassing enough to be a fragile bird amid these…well, wolves.

The pack of six encircled her, a moving wall as they walked their furry forms brushing against her. The proximity had been awkward to her initially but now she welcomed it. That and they blocked the cool breeze that swept from up mountain. Leon was always the closest, there for her to grab if needed.

She sensed a shift from the pack, a quickened step, an impatiently tossed head. Ten minutes later Leon transformed into his human self. He carefully took her hand and looped it through his bent arm, basically taking all her weight of her bad hip. She wanted to cry in relief.

“Ahead there. Our home.” He pointed up the tree covered incline. “Go ahead.” He told the pack. They bounded through the brush.

Hyacinth couldn’t see anything, she glanced at Leon’s face. He looked excited. A few minutes later she saw white structures amid the tree trunks. Her new home! Her grin disappeared as she stepped into the clearing.

Their “home” was a field of white canvas tents set in neat rows. She could pick out a few larger tents, one had smoke billowing from it. No other permanent structure was in sight. She turned her attention to the crowd who surrounded the wolves she’d traveled with, about fifty in all. Leon had told her his son had driven him from his castle but she’d imagined a comfy exile in a small manor, for he’d said he still had his own pack.

She hadn’t imagined this.

“You can’t exactly rule a meadow.” Hyacinth muttered. “How can I be queen of…this?”

He kissed her hand, “Regardless of the circumstances, you’re the queen of my heart.”

She didn’t look convinced and studied his face suspiciously.

He shrugged, “You can’t stop your kids from taking your kingdom if they set their mind to it.”

She looked back at the camp. Was that a line of wash next to the mess tent?

“I handed Irren over to my son.” Hyacinth let go of his hand and pulled her wrap closer. “It’s freezing. Take me to my tent.”

“It’s my tent.” Leon led the way.

His tent? She supposed it didn’t matter since she’d snuggled up with the pack to sleep at night for the past few days. Unless he intended other than friendly activity. She pursed her lips, she’d set him straight.

“Why did you let him take over?” Hyacinth asked, eying the flimsy looking tents as a cool gust of air cut right through her clothes.

“My popularity was waning, not having a queen bothered the females.” He glanced at her, his look was the one she’d come to recognize as his, “remembering she wasn’t Adellian” expression. “The females have their strongest fight until one is the victor. Then the king is supposed to marry her. The strongest of both you see. That’s how I married Tanya. After she died I told them I wouldn’t do it. At first they respected it.” He sighed. “And then they didn’t. It’s a bit difficult to explain why that is so important for the alpha to marry quickly to someone outside the pack. I’m sure you understand how it feels to even try to consider another after their spouse passes.”

She gave a tiny nod. People said the grief got better but ten years had yet to close the hole in her heart. Even if George had been a rotten cheat.

Leon continue, an edge to his usually genial tone, “Donovan would have tried to kill me another way if I hadn’t let him believe the poison worked.”

“I would have had my son imprisoned!” Hyacinth waved a hand in the air. “Poison indeed. Adellian’s fight to the death over everything.”

“Like Irrens? Not always.” He said.

She was glad his back was turned so he couldn’t see her smile. Then she sobered. How could a son try to kill his father?

“My. He rules thinking he killed you.” She said. How would a murderer on the Adellian throne change the land? Not that she’d known what the land was like before Donovan took over. She had so much to learn. She felt a flicker of remembering this was exactly how she felt when she’d first married George.

“Doesn’t it bother you that you’re not exactly king anymore?”

Leon turned swiftly so that his face was inches from hers. She looked up to meet his eye with her usual defiance but couldn’t help noting his large frame.

He held himself perfectly still.

She swallowed, forgetting about the frigid air for the first time in days.

“There are many packs in Adelli.” His voice was calm. He took her hand firmly, gaze cool. “I am the alpha here.”

A tiny bubble of fear grew in her chest. She’d seen first hand how a werewolf could leave a man barely recognizable.

“Are you hoping I cower?” She was glad her voice was steadier than her nerves.

A grin broke out on his face and he kissed her hand, “I would be severely disappointed if you did.”

To be continued…




Read the conclusion March 22nd 2016.

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Fine Tinder

Queen Mother Hyacinth spends her days with her cats on the fringes of the city she once ruled. A letter from the werewolf king fell into her lap, he's been writing her love letters for the past forty years. She'd forgotten about his letters after instructing her staff to burn anything received from him. She's caught between old feelings of wanting to hunt him down and hang his pelt on her wall and hope. Age doesn't matter when it comes to adventure or love. Fine Tinder is a short story and it's sequel, Natural Refinement, is a novella.

  • Author: Anne Willow
  • Published: 2016-03-12 01:05:08
  • Words: 6977
Fine Tinder Fine Tinder