I think in every story, every series, there is a turning point. A point where you know that the very worst is over. A part where, though the end is very far, you can imagine it in the distance. For me, in the Pellinor series, it was the end of the Riddle, and for me, that's where it's most fun to play around. Anyway, though I loved the Singing, it doesn't stop me from wondering other ways it could have gone. So here's a story.
Through the ruins Maerad wandered, the scenes around her inconsistent with her memories of the place, which were full of light and beauty. Her stomach growled as the scent of food—perhaps rabbit?—came to her nose, and she sniffed her way towards a clearing amidst the chaos.
There was a man, and a horse, and most important to Maerad's nose, a pot of stew, which the man was tending to over a fire. Unsure of herself, but hungry enough to risk it, Maerad slowly stepped closer. Maybe she could beg for some food, or take it. She was desperate.
The man noticed her quickly, and faced her. "Samandalame, ursi," he said in the speech. A bard then. "Welcome, wolf. You look hungry."
Her eyes previously on the stew, Maerad finally focused them on—Cadvan. It was Cadvan, and the horse was Darsor. She stared at him, numb with shock. Cadvan, clothes even more worn, face even more weary, but alive.
Maerad's shock turned to wild joy and se bound closer, ready to apologize, to sob, to laugh, to celebrate that neither of them were dead. Cadvan shouted and leapt back, drawing his sword and forcing Maerad to tumble to the side to avoid it.
"I do not wish to harm you," Cadvan said warily but still gently. "And you need not kill me for food."
Maerad got up and shook herself. Of course—she was still wolf. Cadvan couldn't recognize her, and must have thought she was attacking him. She sat down, trying to find that inner part of her, trying to find Maerad.
But she couldn't. She searched and searched for that center, that place beyond layers, and it kept slipping away. She couldn't get a hold on it, couldn't find the point of transformation.
Finally, horrified, Maerad looked up to find Cadvan staring at her carefully, sword still drawn. He wouldn't know she was Maerad until she managed to change back, whenever that would be.
Her despair made it easy to convince Cadvan she was harmless, and she put her ears back and whined, before lying on her belly and resting her head on her paws. Thankfully, Cadvan seemed to understand and relaxed, putting his sword away and turning back to the stew she could now ascertain was rabbit.
"So then, I see we've come to an agreement," he remarked, "Stew for peace?" Maerad's ears perked up, and she stood up too, trotting closer, though still giving Cadvan his space. Perhaps she could still stay with him until she regained her true form.
When the stew was ready, Cadvan spooned some out for both of them, putting Maerad's bowl on the ground and sitting down with his. Soon all was quiet, save for the lapping sounds Maerad made with her tongue.
They both finished quickly, and Cadvan looked thoughtfully at the full-grown wolf sitting next to him. "You know, wolf, you have been silent all this evening. Is this some trick of the North?"
Maerad had tried speaking to him and Darsor already, through mindspeak, but she hadn't gotten any response. The lack of results from Darsor had especially surprised her—they were both animals, weren't they?—but Maerad had already suspected that when animals spoke the speech, they were not using mindspeak, but something communicated more physically, that bards could interprate instinctively, using the speech. She had noticed it in her old pack. It was a language she could understand, but not speak. Her old pack's ability to understand her must have been given to them, by either Ardina or Inka-Reb. She did not know. All she knew was this new, unpleasant sensation of being isolated from the people dearest to her while right next to her.
Cadvan was still looking at her after asking his question, so she did her best to shake her head, and snorted unwillfully. Cadvan looked even more thoughtful, but there was little left to do but sleep.
He set out his sleeping arrangements, glancing at Maerad all the while, as if he expected her to leave. Any normal wolf would, Maerad supposed, but she wasn't one. After all, she had no pack, no home, except for Cadvan.
Finally, Cadvan sacrificed one of his blankets for her to lie on by the opposite side of the fire and bid her good night. Maerad turned around a few times then settled, curled up, her tail keeping her nose warm.
She was restless, though, lonely with isolation and lack of communication. She was worried she would be a wolf forever. Eventually, she sat up one last time to howl at the moon, to howl her pain and sorrow just once into the night, before resting her weary body.