[A/N] So if you've been wondering just where the heck I've been for these past few months, I have a legitimate answer for you. I was writing a multi-chaptered story called saints & sinners. The first chapter is up now, and it's set in the same universe as the darkest light. The good news is that S&S is 100% complete, so now I can focus on this oneshot series once more. But I do hope that you check S&S out, because I'm very proud of it. :)
light a way
light a way on my love
light a way from above
shine it down, lead me home
back to him
They find him while they are hunting. He is lying on a bed of dead leaves, his pure white coat standing out against the rich browns, golds and crimsons of Briar Creek's fallen oak and maple leaves. Sunlight dapples his fur.
Kestrel can smell the were in him and wants to kill him immediately. Jade wants to leave him in peace. However, something draws Rowan to the slumbering snow-white wolf, and she darts over to stand above it. Slowly, she extends a foot and prods it with her toe.
The wolf's eyes open, and he stands up, snarling. But his legs can't support his weight, and he falls back on the dead leaves, sending them fluttering in the air. Rowan catches a golden oak leaf and frowns when she sees blood smeared across it. "He's hurt."
Kestrel snorts, her golden eyes cold and unflinching. "He's a werewolf. Probably working for the dragons."
The wolf snarls slightly and tries to stand up, but fails again. Rowan glares at her sister. "If we leave him to die, we're no better than those dogs running rampant on the streets."
She crouches down and looks the wolf in the eye, slowly extending her hand. The werewolf chuffs and strains forward, his nose brushing along her palm. The sensation sends tickles up her arm, and she smiles. "We won't hurt you," she promises. "If you can change into your human form, we can help you to our home."
The werewolf bares his teeth and tries to stand up again, and Rowan sees that his entire left shoulder is bathed in blood, and there is shrapnel of silver embedded in his skin, keeping the wound from closing. Rowan darts over to his bad side, too quickly for him to see, and takes out one of the pieces of silver. The wolf howls and collapses, making Rowan wince.
"I'm sorry," she murmurs, extending her hands. "But this would be so much easier if you were human. I can try to get the others out, but you might get infected here in the woods." The wolf stares at her with fathomless black eyes and bumps her palm with his snout. He glances at her sisters, looks back at her, and nudges her hand again.
Oh. Rowan sits up and says, "Kestrel, Jade, go home and prepare a room for our visitor. I'll help him here."
Kestrel sighs; Jade smiles because Mark is waiting for them back at the house. But both of them comply, and they are gone in an instant. Rowan turns back to the wolf and sees his fur already melting into human skin the color of mocha. His eyes and hair are the color of obsidian. The man wears a pair of bloodied jeans and nothing else.
In his human form, the damage is even worse. She can see pink scars across his torso that are in the process of healing, and bone peeks out from his shoulder. Leaves stick to his skin and flutter away only when they catch a breeze in the clearing. Normally, Rowan would be disgusted, but now she is merely concerned.
"What happened to you?" she whispers. The man looks away from the bloodied bed of leaves below him and scowls, refusing to meet her gaze.
"There's a small werewolf pack in northern California. A wolf from my pack met her mate there, and they decided to marry. I went to the pack to attend the ceremony. On my way back, mutts working for the dragons attacked me. I killed them and got away, but eventually . . . I couldn't cope with the blood loss any longer. Then you leeches came."
Rowan bites back a retort and instead shakes her head. "I'm sorry you feel that way about us, and that you were attacked. But my sisters and I will take care of you. When you're healed, you can return to your pack. Put your arm around my neck."
He grudgingly does so, and she takes a hold of his hand. Suddenly, a shiver goes up her spine, and her fingers begin to tingle. The man feels it as well, and they look at each other with wide-eyed surprise. Rowan abruptly realizes that they are close—almost too close, and his body heat makes her arms prickle.
"What's your name?" he whispers. The noises of the forest drown out as Rowan's vision slowly turns pink, and all she can focus on is him.
"Rowan Redfern. Yours?"
Their meeting is the beginning of the Redfern family's tragic future.
May 16, 2000
Rowan's soft brown eyes dance in the sunlight as Jade attaches the last flower in her lace mantilla veil. "There," she declares in a whisper, her green eyes glittering with tears. "You're so beautiful, Rowan."
"If that mutt hurts you, Rowan," says Ash good-naturedly, adjusting his tuxedo, "don't hesitate to call me. I'll train him to be a good dog."
Rowan looks down at her embroidered white lace gown, then frowns at Ash. "Behave. Please?"
"Hey, anything for my sister," he says, just as cheerful. But Rowan has always been good at reading him, and she can see the longing and sorrow in his eyes as he glances over her wedding dress. She hasn't forgotten that he and Mare planned to have a summer wedding underneath the stars this year, so she merely stands on her tiptoes pecks him on the cheek.
"I'm so proud of you," she whispers in his ear. Ash raises a pale blond eyebrow, but says nothing. Rowan smiles and tucks her hand into the crook of his arm, butterflies fluttering around in her stomach.
Jade claps her hands. "Time to go!" she says. Ash picks her up, and the two of them run to the middle of the forest where the ceremony is going to be held.
Mark is waiting for them, and he gives a signal to someone up ahead. Music begins to play from around the corner. Ash sets Rowan down on a bed of pine needles and smirks, holding out his arm again. Mark takes Jade's hand and the two leave to take their seats. Rowan and Ash are left standing underneath a pair of Douglas firs.
"Ready?" asks Ash. Rowan, breathless from her unexpected ride, nods and takes her brother's proffered arm.
"I'm so nervous," she whispers as they turn the corner and start to head down the aisle. Zev Lowell waits for her, his dark eyes shining as he watches her walk toward him. Rowan bites her lip and digs her nails into her brother's arm, feeling her heartbeat quicken with every step.
Ash begins to crack jokes to relieve the tension, and Rowan is smiling when she finally stops in front of Zev. He takes her hands in his, and she steps forward. The witch officiating the ceremony begins to wrap their hands together with red string, and Ash takes his seat.
They look at each other and begin to say their vows. "With this string," they tell each other—Zev proud and confident, Rowan quiet but determined—"I bind you to me, for all time. Together, now and forever, we are entwined. Nothing but death will separate me from you. With this solemn vow, I firmly say that you are my love, to stand by my side, to support me in all that I do—"
Zev continues, but Rowan stops, the smell of smoke stinging her nostrils. "Do you smell that?" she whispers, and everyone gapes at her. No one stops in the middle of a Promising—ever. If one stops, it's a sign that the marriage is not meant to be.
Zev, perturbed, takes a whiff—and bristles. "Fire," he announces. The band stops playing, and they all turn to look for any fire around them.
A shape emerges from the pine forest in front of them. It is a werewolf, holding a box of matches—one of which has already been lit. Rowan recognizes him as Lyall, one of the less important members of Zev's pack.
"Lyall, put the match down," Zev orders. Everyone holds their breath. Dried pine needles have been scattered across the ground for decoration. If the fire touches it, the whole place goes up in flames. Rowan clings to Zev, watching Lyall with wide brown eyes.
Lyall stares at Zev, his blue eyes stormy. He glares at Rowan and spits at the sight of her. "I'm sorry, Alpha, but I can't do that—"
Zev's liquid black eyes gleam gold as he issues an Alpha order. "As pack alpha, I order you to extinguish that match immediately."
Lyall doesn't move, and the whole crowd sucks in a breath. Any wolf is forced to obey their Alpha's commands, with only two exceptions—the wolf has gone rogue, or a stronger magic is controlling them.
Lyall avoids his gaze, closes his eyes and continues, "But for too long I have stood by in silence! I thought the vampire was a mere toy for you. I didn't think that you would marry her! Do you know how vampires treat us? Maya told me that our pack would be better if we got rid of her, and I agree with her! I'm sorry, Alpha, but for the sake of this pack—for the sake of our future—I cannot let you marry this parasite."
He kneels down and puts the burning match on a bed of pine needles before anyone can get to him, and the clearing erupts in flames. Kestrel is the first one to act. She hisses and lunges for the werewolf, scattering matches everywhere.
When Kestrel moves, it's like a hidden signal for something, because countless werewolves emerge from the forest. Rowan can't tell if they're Maya's goons or a part of Zev's pack, but it doesn't matter—because they attack.
Rowan is frozen to the spot, staring, as her husband-to-be changes into a wolf and attacks. The whole place has turned to chaos, and she grips the red Promising string in her hands, too stunned to move. Her feet feel like lead and she abruptly feels lightheaded. Her dream wedding has turned into a nightmare.
Someone rams into from the side her, and she goes sprawling, landing a foot away from an open blaze. The fire catches onto the hem of her dress, and suddenly Rowan is on fire. Flames lick at her legs, arms and face, and agony courses through her veins. She screams her throat raw, watching her flesh turn red underneath the heat of the inferno.
Before the smoke suffocates her, someone scoops her up and runs to the only river on Zev's property. Her burning dress is extinguished as Rowan is dumped into a chilly relief from the searing pain. When she comes up from the river, Ash is staring at her with stormy gray eyes.
His tuxedo is torn in places, bloody in others, but the universal damage to his outfit is the singe marks. Blaise Harman is by his side, her beautiful features etched into a frown, her bright red dress impeccable despite the fire raging behind them.
She shakes her hair out and sneers. "That mutt was an imbecile. If he couldn't tell that Maya was manipulating him, then he is clearly one special nutcase—"
"Ash," Rowan whispers. She breaks into a fit of coughing from the smoke she's inhaled. Ash looks at Blaise and puts his hand on her arm.
"Do you have something that will relieve the burns?"
"I don't know," said Blaise. "They look far too severe for any of my salves. But it's worth a shot."
Rowan begins to shiver and cry at the same time. Ash lifts her from the river and they begin to head for the safety of Zev's lodge. Rowan passes out from the pain on the way there.
Ash sits by her bedside, holding her cold and clammy hand. Zev stands next to a window, staring at the pine forest surrounding the Black Dahlia Hospital. Golden sunlight spills onto the floor through the windows, but he is not included in its light. "Maybe it's a sign," he says.
Ash peels his eyes away from Rowan's face. His eyes are a pale brown, as if they are tired of constantly changing colors. His hair shimmers gold in the sunlight. "What is?"
"You two are included in the sunlight. I'm not," he says, gesturing to his shadow.
Ash sighs and brushes her hair away from her face. "Zev," he mutters, "You can't blame yourself for what happened."
Zev glares at him. "Can't I? Why do you care? I'm only werewolf scum to you."
Ash's eyes turn a flat black, and he looks down at her hands. "No one deserves to experience what I've gone through, no matter their race," he replies, his voice merely a soft whisper. "Except maybe Meraux. But you? No. She loved you, Zev."
He snorts at Ash's use of past tense, and he gestures to the IV in a corner. "She's still alive."
Ash narrows his eyes. "She's a vegetable, and we both know it. Rowan's not going to wake up anytime soon, Zev. It's been over half a year. You need to resume control of your pack again, or else they'll forget what your face looks like."
"Dante is doing a fine job of managing the pack. Rowan's more important." The Werewolf King turns around and sits on Rowan's other side, picking up her other hand and rubbing it to warm it up.
Ash stands up and starts pacing, running a hand through his hair in frustration. "God damn it, Lowell, are you listening to yourself? Before you met Rowan, your life was devoted to your pack. Now—you aren't even paying attention to yourself. Jade says you're not eating. All you do is stay in this room."
Zev chuckles. "Are you worried about me now, Mom?"
"Don't patronize me." Ash's eyes turn the color of blue glacier ice. "You need to take care of yourself. What if you starve? What happens if Rowan wakes up and—"
"She'll wake up. It's not a matter of if, but when." Zev glares at the vampire. "Stay out of my life, Redfern. You don't know what I'm going through—"
Ash snarls. "Don't know what you're going through? Are you kidding me?"
"How can you say that you really cared for your little human when we all know you spend your time screwing that Harman—"
Ash reacts before he thinks. He lunges for the werewolf, grabs him by the throat, and throws him headfirst into the wall. Zev changes into his pure white wolf form halfway and lands on his feet, his hackles rising. The wolf bares its teeth, revealing black gums and yellow fangs. Ash bares his own fangs and uncurls his fists, eager for a fight.
Ash turns around to see Blaise holding a bowl of Rowan's anti-burn salve. She raises a perfectly-plucked black eyebrow, her gray eyes—gray, Ash reminds himself, the opposite of blue—as clear and colorless as a winter's day.
"Oh, don't mind me," she says acerbically, sashaying over to Rowan's bedside and sitting down. She takes a handful of the ointment and begins to rub it all over the woman's burnt body. "I just wanted to alert you that there were ladies present before you continued your little catfight."
Zev growls and shifts back into his human form. Ash narrows his eyes at him and raises a finger. "You leave Blaise out of this," he warns. Blaise chuckles softly and continues her treatment. Zev's black eyes lift to meet his, and he turns around to stare at the pine forest once more.
Blaise is the first one to break the silence when she says, "I already packed."
Ash swallows and glances up at the ceiling. "Okay. I should go do that."
Zev starts and looks over his shoulder. "Packed? Are you two leaving?"
"Oh, now he cares," mutters Ash. Blaise shakes out her hair, massages cream into Rowan's scarred hands, and stares at the werewolf.
"Lady Hannah has asked us to hunt down Iona Skelton to collect her pictures. She's making a case to the United Nations in May, because they still refuse to believe that the Apocalypse is happening. They think terrorists are responsible for the attacks on the cities. Ash and I leave in a week."
Zev clenches his jaw and turns around, staring out the window at the evergreen forest. "What about Rowan?"
"Jade went to that academy so she could be a doctor, right? She's a big girl. I've taught her how to apply the cream correctly, and I've made enough to last for at least two years." Blaise holds up one of Rowan's scarred, pink-tinted hands—all reminders of the burns she suffered last summer. "Though I doubt she's going to get any better than this."
Zev closes his eyes. Ash walks to the door and waits for the witch. After a moment, Blaise finishes applying the treatment and stands up, sauntering away without a backwards glance.
When they are gone, Zev looks at Rowan, who hasn't moved in half a year. He stands in front of the window for hours, deep in thought. He only moves when the door opens and Jade comes in, ready to check Rowan's vitals and bringing Zev's bagged lunch—the same ritual she does every day.
As she is propping the pillows up, Zev grabs his lunch and looks at Jade. "If she wakes up . . ." he trails off. Jade glances at him with warm green eyes.
"You'll be the first to know," she assures. That is all he needs. He bends down and kisses Rowan's forehead, then turns around and walks out of the room.
May 3, 2016
The door opens and closes with a soft click, and a woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and determined brown eyes slips inside the room. Rowan Redfern lies in her bed, her breathing soft and even. The only difference between now and when she first fell into a coma is that her body has aged, as she hasn't been awake to regulate her aging.
The woman locks the door behind her and walks to Rowan's bedside, sticking her hands in her coat pockets and examining the woman in front of her. Then she glances up at the moon and smiles slowly.
She takes her hands out of her pockets and starts humming a soft tune under her breath. The engagement ring's diamond stone and the woman's fingertips glow lavender.
She starts above Rowan's face and works her way downward. As her glowing fingers pass over Rowan's skin, burnt flesh begins to shift. The puckers began to even out, and the dead scars along her arms start peeling away to reveal shiny pink tissue underneath.
The woman's wordless hymns grow louder, and her fingers turn red as they return to Rowan's face. She puts her hands on the vampire's head and closes her eyes, concentrating.
Someone knocks on the door. "Who's in there?" Jade says from behind the door. The woman's hymns grow faster as she sends waves of energy through her fingertips into Rowan's body. The IV machine begins to beep erratically, and Jade's calls grow more frantic.
Suddenly, the woman's eyes open, and she takes her hands off and steps away, staring at Rowan. "This has to work," she mutters under her breath, lifting her eyes to the moon. "Hecate, hear my plea."
One minute trickles by, and nothing happens. The woman is about to re-administer her spell when the IV slows down and Rowan's eyes flutter open. Her engagement ring shines lilac in the darkness. She groans, turns her head, and rests her gaze on the woman.
"Who are you?" she whispers, squinting. The woman grins and steps forward, dropping a bag on Rowan's lap.
"Call me Elle. I'm a friend. Now, I have a message for you, but I have to hurry, as—well, you know." She nods to the door, where Jade is rattling the doorknob and threatening to bust down the door. She grabs Rowan's left hand and shows her the glimmering ring. "This has been imbued with magic. You need to find Zev for me."
Rowan's brow furrows. "Who's Zev?" she croaks, coughing to clear her throat.
Elle's heart sinks, but she swallows her disappointment and says, "He's also a friend. This ring will grow brighter the closer you are to him. Change into these clothes," she pats the bag on Rowan's lap, "and go find him. When you do, remember me. Something big is about to happen, and I intend to be there for it. Remember me for this, because I'm calling in a favor for it. Okay?"
Rowan takes the clothes out of the bag and stares at them, silent. Jade is pounding on the door now, and Elle has no doubt that she will, in fact, break it down. "Go look for Zev after I'm gone," she says, clasping Rowan's hand.
Rowan blinks, and the woman turns around to head for the door. Just as Jade is ready to kick it down, she unlocks the door, opens it, and bolts down the hallway. Jade cries out for security and chases her, leaving Rowan in the room—alone.
Rowan slowly sits up, winces at the pain in her abdomen, and flexes all of her muscles. Everything is sore, but the ache is bearable. She stretches again and gradually swings her legs over the side of the bed. The hospital tile is freezing, and she glances inside the bag to check out the clothes that the woman got for her.
Using her ring as her light, she changes out of the scratchy hospital gown into a warm sweater, jeans and boots. They all fit as if they are made specifically for her, but Rowan doesn't complain. She makes the hospital bed and glances around, closing her eyes as a headache begins to set in.
When the throbbing in her head fades, she opens her eyes and leaves her room. The hallway is empty, and the bright yellow lights hurt her eyes. She waits a moment, adjusting to her surroundings, then looks at the ring. Maybe if it would lead her to Zev, it would take her out of the hospital.
She turns left, and the ring's shine dims until it is nearly extinguished. She frowns and turns right, and the ring's lavender glow springs to life. Rowan smiles and goes right until she finds a staircase, using the ring to navigate her way out of the hospital.
She only runs into four nurses on her way out, but none of them pay her any attention. No one tries to stop her as she walks out of the automatic doors and into the natural world outside.
Rowan twirls her ring and glances up at the crescent moon. "Find Zev," she murmurs to herself. Who is Zev, and why does Elle think he's so important? Why should she even bother finding him, anyway?
Don't be rude, Rowan, a voice chides in her head. She woke you up, so you could at least do her this favor.
Rowan glances down at her ring and nods, turning left. The ring's bright glow seems to grow more vivid, and she sets off, trying to make sense of her life. As she walks through the forest, eventually reaching a paved asphalt street, pieces are starting to fit together like a puzzle.
She knows that she had been getting married—to whom, she's not quite sure. Then there was a fire, and a white wolf, and blinding pain—but other than that, she's clueless.
Maybe Zev has the answers, she thinks. Maybe that's why I need to find him.
She looks down at her ring and sees that its pale lavender light is so intense it's almost white.
She wanders the town all night until it is nearly sunrise, when she notices that the ring is shining too brightly to look at and stops to survey her surroundings. She is in front of a large mansion built within the cover of the forest. All she can smell is pine needles, fresh water, and . . . some sort of musk that makes her nose wrinkle.
Taking another glance at her ring, she puts her hand on the wrought-iron gate barring the yard from the street and steps inside the property. The ring grows even brighter, and she walks toward the house.
To her surprise, the front door is unlocked. She steps inside the house and immediately sees a figure in the hallway up ahead, sitting at a table, staring out the window to watch the sun rise.
She builds up her courage and steps into the room. "Excuse me," she whispers. The man turns around, revealing a tired face with endless black eyes, and he freezes. "I'm sorry. I'm looking for . . . Zev?"
The man blinks and stands up, walking toward her. Rowan stays rooted to the spot as he reaches out and touches her face. Electricity runs down her spine, and she suddenly feels dizzy. "Rowan," he whispers, awed. "You're awake."
"Do you know where Zev is? I'm looking for him."
The man's face falls. "Rowan . . . I'm Zev."
As she stares at him, her head begins to pound, and she sits down in one of the dining chairs, holding her head. White light and faces flash behind her eyes, and she squeezes her eyes shut. The visions end abruptly, and she opens her eyes to see Zev crouching in front of her, cupping her cheek.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm—dizzy," says Rowan, and the world dips around her, filling with hundreds of tiny black spots. She closes her eyes again, and she sees a forest filled with fallen leaves—and a white wolf, smeared with blood, lying in front of her. The white wolf looks at her and changes into a much younger man with hair like charcoal and tanned skin.
I'll take care of you, she hears herself say, and the pain ends as suddenly as flipping a switch. All that is left is a startling clarity, and she glances up and meets his eyes. The puzzle pieces have finally all clicked together. "Oh, Zev, I'm sorry—"
Zev kneels in front of her and cups her face, sending sparks down her arms. "Why? None of this is your fault—"
Rowan grabs her soulmate's hands and rises. Zev gets to his feet and kisses her—softly at first, as if she is a porcelain doll he's afraid to break. The kiss is soft and shivery, and Rowan threads her fingers through his hair. But the gentle, exploratory nature of the kiss quickly changes. Zev hooks his hands underneath her thighs and lifts her up onto the table, deepening their kiss.
Rowan pulls away and gasps for breath, closing her eyes as he moves on to suck on a sensitive part of her neck. "I love you," she breathes, pulling his head up for a bruising kiss.
Zev breaks for air and rests his forehead against hers, cupping her face. "I love you," he replies, opening his eyes to stare at her. "How did you wake up?"
Rowan opens her eyes and meets his gaze, brought back to reality. "A woman. She said her name was Elle, and that this was a favor she expected to be returned."
Zev bristles slightly. "Elle? I've never heard of anyone named Elle."
"Well, that's what she told me to call her." Suddenly all Rowan wants to do is sleep, and she shut her eyes and rests her head on Zev's shoulder. "She said that something big was going to happen, and that she was going to be there to see it."
Zev clutches her arms and buries his face in her hair. "We won't worry about it now. As far as I know, Maya's rule is uncontested. I don't even think there are anymore Daybreakers left to challenge her—" He freezes, then calls himself an idiot under his breath.
Rowan feels like she has been socked in the gut. "What?"
Zev meets her gaze steadily, his brown eyes resigned. He starts rubbing circles in her arms, and she begins to calm down. "Rowan, you've been in a coma for sixteen years. A lot has changed since 2000."
She listens in silence as he explains everything to her, and starts shaking her head when he's done. "Oh, Goddess. . . ."
Almost everyone she knows and loves are gone. It seems like the only Daybreakers left alive are the ones living in Zev's pack—her, Mark, Selene and Jade. Tears begin to well in her eyes, and she rests her head on his shoulder to hide them.
Zev picks her up and carries her upstairs, entering the bedroom and setting her gently on the bed. He pulls the covers up to her chin, sits on the bed, holding her hand, and runs his thumb over her knuckles, as if reminding himself that she's real.
After a long while, he lets go of her head and pecks her forehead, whispering a goodnight to her. She watches as he slowly stands, walks away, and shuts the door behind him, leaving her the privacy to grieve properly.
Rowan sits up and watches the sun sink lower and lower into the sky, wrapping her arms around herself.
May 16, 2016
Rowan is walking around the garden, playing with red string in her hands. She has figured out by now that the sun only rises for three hours, and she can see the toll it has taken on the plants she once regularly cultivated. Wilted and dead flowers make up what used to be a blooming flowerbed, and yellow grass crunches under her feet.
A lot has changed in sixteen years.
Rowan looks down at the red string between her hands and bites her lip, reciting the words in her head. She has poured over them for days—but she also hasn't said them since 2000.
She walks around a leafless maple tree, and sees Zev standing with one of the pack's witches, Selene Lucna, in front of a dried-out pool of water. Rowan steels her nerves and walks forward. Both turn at the sound of grass crunching underneath her feet.
"Why did you call me here, my Lady?" asks Selene, brushing blonde hair out of her chilly ice blue eyes. Zev says nothing, but she can tell by his expression that he agrees with the witch. Rowan smiles at her and hands her the red string. Then she takes Zev's hands and presses her own hands against them.
The sky is lightening as the sun begins its slow journey. Rowan couldn't have had better timing. Rowan stares at Zev as she whispers, "You're a witch. That's all I need. Please, Selene, wrap the string around our hands."
Both Zev and Selene look puzzled, but the witch begins to do as she says. As the red string is interwoven between the hands, binding them closer and tighter together, Rowan takes a deep breath and begins her Promise. "With this string—"
Zev catches on quickly, and they begin their Promise in unison. Selene smiles as she focuses on her task.
"I bind you to me for all time. Together, now and forever, we are entwined. Nothing but death will separate me from you. With this solemn vow, I firmly say that you are my love, to stand by my side, to support me in all that I do, as my only, as my equal. Together we shall stand the test of time. With this string, I bind you to me for eternity."
Selene ties off the knot just as they are finishing and steps away from them. "The Goddess has seen this Promising and smiles upon it," she proclaims, lifting her eyes to the pink-and-lavender-streaked sky. "As you have said, so it is done."
As they kiss, a figure watches them from behind the bushes. A smile slowly spreads across Elle's face as they seal the Promising, and she begins to back away from the bushes. When she knows that she won't be seen, she adjusts her backpack, turns around, and walks away.
She rubs her hands together, and her palms begin to glow amber. She looks at the stars as she walks and grins.
"Now it can begin."