The Complete Bloodling Serial:Episodes 1-5By: Aimee Easterling
In Deep Shift
Two Scents’ Worth
Feint of Heart
Fifteen years ago...
“A bloodling!” My father’s voice is filled with disgust and his large hands are quick to drop me back into the midwife’s arms. “Why did you even bring it out for me to see?”
The room, which was full of jovial laughter and the scent of cigars only moments earlier, is now silent. My eyes are still closed, but I can scent the dominant male werewolf in front of me, along with several other alpha-leaning shifters. Anger from my father nearly drowns out the other aromas, but I pick up sorrow and repulsion in equal measure. The former seems to emanate most strongly from a male who I later learn is my mother’s younger brother Oscar, but my uncle soon slips out the door, taking his tear-laden scent along with him.
“He’s a boy, and healthy,” the midwife speaks up after a moment, her voice quavering with fear. Even with my eyes glued shut, I’m able to understand that no one stands up to my father, so I’m impressed by the woman’s spine. “The heir and a spare....” the midwife continues, but my father has turned away, dismissing the woman from his thoughts.
As a pup, I’m less interested in adult voices than in the smell of blood wafting from the room I was recently carried out of. Childbirth...and death. No wonder my father seems less than pleased by my presence. I changed to wolf in the womb—fourteen years earlier than most werewolves—and tore my mother apart during my unwitting struggles to escape the wet dark. Later, I’ll learn that it wasn’t my murderous act that turned my surviving parent against me. Bloodlings are forced to spend their entire childhood as wolf pups, unlike most werewolves who enjoy human form until their first change. Those of us who start off four-footed are never quite the same even after shifting, our brains having ossified into wolf form. To me, that’s a good thing. Dear old Dad sees it differently.
On the day of my birth, though, these deep thoughts all lie in the future. Cradled in the midwife’s arms, I mewl a complaint at the cold, at my hunger, and at the confused emotions swirling around me. The sound is enough to turn my father’s eye back onto his unwanted child. “Toss it out to freeze,” he orders.
I’m plucked from the midwife’s embrace by one of the male wolves, who now smells of annoyance and distaste. The unknown shifter dangles me by the scruff of my neck, opens the door to the even colder outdoors, and I tumble head over heels as I fly through the air and then land in a pile of soft, yet frigid, snow. I struggle at first, but my minuscule weight just drags me down deeper into the frozen powder, and soon my nose is all that remains above the snow’s surface. At last, I succumb to the chill and settle down to die.
To my young brain, I seem to lie there forever, but my exile must last mere moments. The sorrowful uncle who fled my father’s house had set a simple yet effective plan in motion, cracking open the neighboring residence’s door and counting on a toddler’s curiosity to draw that young werewolf outside into the snow. When Chase finds me, an interesting ball of fluff nearly on his doorstep, he isn’t gentle, but the toddler’s warmth awakens the spark of life that has nearly fled from my damp form. My playmate-to-be drags me into his home by one paw, my sodden body thumping up the stairs behind him, and my lack of struggles attest to our newfound understanding—I’ll be Chase’s pet, and he’ll be my lifeline.
“What is that?” Chase’s mother exclaims as her intrepid son wrestles a nearly dead wolf pup into her kitchen. I can sense the adult’s distress when she realizes who and what I am, but Chase’s mother possesses the softest heart in our village. When her son jabbers his baby-talk request, she can’t resist—Tia braves my sharp teeth and takes me into her arms to nurse.
Soft-hearted mother or no, I would have been tossed back out into the snow if I’d found my way into any other household. But Chase’s father died not long before, and his mother now answers to no dominant male. So she takes me in, and by the time my father realizes what was happening, there’s no going back. Chase and I are milk brothers, and Tia is willing to protect us both with her life.