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Legends Reborn

- Carol Hightshoe

Stories are a form of magic. Through them we create worlds and people.

Within these pages you will find a variety of worlds and characters: heartbroken werewolves, Roman soldiers and dragons who seek immortality only to find the cost is more than they expected. Pirates seeking release from their eternal punishments. A fairy tale princess who learns the real reason for the curse is to prevent her from being used by others. A pair of ladies whose story is well known, but have you ever heard their side of the story. And many more.

Werewolves, dragons, unicorns and other magical creatures inhabit the worlds contained within. Various gods walk these realms as do spirits both pleasant and vengeful.  

Carol Hightshoe invites you to enter these worlds and visit with the characters she has created in 24 tales of science-fiction and fantasy. Here legends will be reborn.  

Legends Reborn is a collection of 22 previously published short stories as well a 2 new stories by science-fiction and fantasy author Carol Hightshoe.

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Midnight Song

How many times have I come here? I can no longer count the days, months or years. The passage of time has no effect on me. I remember when I would come to greet the rising sun. Dawn reflecting hope in the brightening sky and warming earth. Now, I am banished to the nadir of night; when all is dark, and hope only a dream.

It was a year ago, mayhap two, when the priests came and laid their blessing on this place. This small valley was sanctified and made anathema to me, or rather to what I have become. Despite this, I am still compelled to come. Each night I sit beside this stone marker and sing of my sorrow. The moon and stars listening to the pain in my soul as I tell them about the loss of my beloved Adairia. I take some comfort in the silence of the night. A silence that only listens and does not judge.

My song awakens the priests and they stand at their small windows saying prayers for protection. I shake my head at the sharp, bittersweet smell of their fear and hatred.

Tonight, as I sit here and raise my gaze to the moon, I feel a stirring in the air. Something is happening. Nothing like this has ever occurred before. My spine tingles. The hair along my neck rises. My claws grasp at the dirt. I whine softly. Looking closely, I see a shimmering before me. A shape is forming. It is wispy. Not wholly there. My nose only detects the dustiness of the earth and the biting scent of the trees surrounding this area. The shape begins to solidify. Suddenly, the perfume of heather fills the air. I inhale deeply. Heather was always her favorite flower.

It is her! I have not seen her since that horrific night—so long ago. The night the curse struck and she vanished from my life.

She is much as I remember her: Tall, with dark eyes and dark hair. Her delicate features highlighted by the glow surrounding her as she stands next to the stone bearing her name. Her eyes meet my own and there is a deep sadness reflected in them.

A soft creak comes from the door of the small church. I see one of the priests step outside. Startled I rise and turn to flee. She begins to fade.

“Wait,” he calls. “Please stay. I am Father Gregory; I mean you no harm.”

I glance up at her and she nods slowly, so I sit back down and look at the approaching priest. He is an old man whose eyes, even in this darkness glow with an inner light. Despite the hesitation in his steps, there is a confidence in his stance. As he approaches, he holds out both hands to show he is carrying nothing. I smell his fear, but it is accompanied by something else. A fragrance both soft and strong, the smell of flowers in a meadow, of rain, of a sunrise; the scent of love, compassion and hope.

Father Gregory glances at her, then at the stone marker with its single word scratched into its surface. “Adairia?” he asks.

She nods. Glancing at me, Adairia smiles that small wistful smile I have not seen in so long.

I nod my understanding of her unspoken request. Closing my eyes, I concentrate on triggering a change I have not experienced since that day.

The change comes slowly, and I whimper as I feel my limbs lengthen and my nose flatten. I find myself stretched out on the ground as my senses return. Slowly, I push myself into a sitting position; every joint in my body feels as if it is on fire. I had forgotten the pain involved.

The night air is chill against my bare skin as I stand, and I shiver. Father Gregory hands me his cloak and I wrap myself in its warmth. I look at my hands and frown. The smoothness of the skin is strange after all these years. Sniffing the air around me, I can no longer discern as many different smells as before, yet the scent of heather lingers in the air.

I see Father Gregory watching me closely, his right hand holding the cross on the chain around his neck. Smiling, I extend my hand to him. “I am Leathan.”

He takes my hand in a strong clasp and returns the smile.

Gathering the borrowed cloak around me, I sit on the damp ground. Adairia sits beside me and lays a hand on mine. There is warmth in the contact. Looking at her, I see color in her face. I reach up and caress her cheek, she smiles. We look at each other for several minutes, savoring the feel of flesh on flesh.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” she says, turning back to the priest. “It has been too many years since my last confession.”

“It was this sin which condemned you to remain here?” Father Gregory asks, his voice non-judgmental as he looks from her to me.

“Yes.” She sighs softly. “It condemned Leathan, also.”

Listening to her talk to Father Gregory, I think back on that day so long ago. The day we were married.

~ * ~

The wedding ceremony and celebration had continued until late. The midnight hour was fast approaching when Adairia and I finally made our way back to the home we were to share. The lantern I carried illuminated the sprays of heather woven around the door.

“Leathan, they’re beautiful,” she said, taking one of the sprays and holding it close to her face.

“Lady Adairia, if I may?” I held my arms out to her.

“Of course.” She wrapped her arms around me and kissed me lightly as I started to gather her in my arms.

A sudden burning coursed down my limbs and began to engulf my whole body. Adairia stepped back and dropped the spray of heather.

“No!” I heard her cry as I fell to the ground.

Just as suddenly as it had started, the pain stopped. The dropped spray of heather lay at my feet, its soft lavender now faded to gray. I tried to stand, but could not. Fur covered my limbs and I realized the truth of what I had become. How did this happen? The curse had already struck my family this generation; it shouldn’t have been able to strike again.

I glanced around for Adairia and saw no sign of her. I tried to call her name, but only a howl came from my throat.

Not knowing what to do, I ran. Throughout the night I ran, until I came to this small valley. The scent of the heather reminded me of Adairia as I sat and sang of my sorrow.

With the rising of the sun, I felt the fire consuming my body again as the wolf form I had worn during the night left me. I remained here the rest of the day. I could not return to Adairia, not like this. Harailt had vowed vengeance when she chose me over him. This was the form it had taken.

Moonrise found me still here. I raised my voice to the moon, singing of my loss to the watching stars. My throat sore when my song finally faded away.

After several minutes of watching the heather sway in the breeze, I reached out and rubbed my paw on the large rock, my claws leaving a visible mark. With more effort, the scratches dug deeper in the stone. Very slowly, I used my claws to scratch Adairia’s name into the rough surface. When I finished, the letters were firm and strong. The racing, tumbling beat of my heart not evident in the straight, clear lines.

The next morning, I fought the change back to human form, and have remained a wolf ever since. The form most suited to my sorrow and solitude.

~ * ~

“Leathan, I’m sorry,” Adairia says, bringing me out of my memories.

“Why? I was the one who left and never came back.”

“It was my fault, though,” she says.

I look at her and she looks away. Reaching out, I gently grasp her chin and turn her face back towards me. “How can that be?”

Her eyes refuse to meet mine, darting between me and the priest standing quietly. He nods and smiles gently at her.

“I knew what Harailt planned as his vengeance.” Her voice breaks as she speaks. “We should have postponed the wedding. Found a way to prevent the curse from striking. Something. Anything, but what you were condemned to.”

I shake my head and smile, hoping it is a human smile and not the bared tooth smile of a wolf. “Adairia, we both knew about Harailt’s threat,” I say. “We made the decision to go ahead with the wedding together.”

The curse of the werewolf is an ancient one in my family. Earlier that spring my younger brother had been afflicted. As the curse only claims one victim each generation, my family believed I was safe.

I reach down and take her hands in mine. She looks at me, her face wet with tears. “It was a long time ago and it is something which belongs in the past,” I say. “What I don’t understand is why we are both still here.”

“I did not want to live without you. In my sorrow, I lost the will to live. A few months after our marriage, I died from an illness I no longer had the strength or desire to fight. My spirit was trapped here, in this valley. We are bound together, Leathan—you and I.”

“Leathan,” Father Gregory says softly. “There is no way the curse itself can be broken. However, it is possible to release you from this immortality. Once you two are no longer bound together, you will live the remainder of a natural life. You must release Adairia.”

My mind races in confusion. I must release Adairia. How can I do that? I hesitate.

Glancing at Adairia, I see her dark eyes watching me closely. Those eyes filled with love and sorrow. Studying her face, I realize how strongly I still love her. Just as her love for me caused her to die from her sorrow, my love for her bound her here after that death.

“Adairia, be free,” I whisper. I lift her hands to my lips and kiss them gently. Releasing her hands, I stand and step back slowly.

I watch as Father Gregory raises his cross and says something in a language I do not understand. The moonlight grows stronger and bathes Adairia as she begins to fade from view.

“No!” she cries. “Leathan, I do not want to leave you.”

The moonlight fades and the mist swirls, concealing her from my sight. When the fog lifts, a female wolf stands where Adairia was. I glance at her and then at the priest. Once again, I trigger the change. This time there is no pain, and I find myself standing nose to nose with Adairia.

“Go in peace, my children.” Father Gregory makes the sign of the cross over us both. “My blessings and God’s on you both. May you always find sanctuary and welcome in this place.”

Adairia and I bow our heads to the priest, then leave. Our strides matching perfectly as we lope off into the forest together. Always together.

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