A Curious Sensation

Ljota didn't sleep. After Hildegund left, the skin-changer only stretched out her long legs and stared at her bedroom ceiling in the dark. She hadn't felt like starting a fire when she came in, and she certainly wasn't going to bother with it now. In any case the lodge still held enough residual warmth from the moot — not that she'd need it if she was just going to lie awake anyway.

She turned on her side, but the wall wasn't any more help than the ceiling had been, so she shut her eyes and tried to picture those few she cared for the most. Unfortunately Faron was among them, sneering back at her and laughing that cruel, icy laugh that shook her to her bones. She wondered how Heriwulf endured it. Does he, really? Or does he run off to cry in his room, too? 

Ljota decided it wasn't her business. None of it was — not the pups, not the bears... not her clan. Perhaps Hildegund, but not the rest. Faron was right; Ljota wasn't one of them. They already had to go out of their way just to appease her sense of moral superiority at the dinner table, and this time she'd pushed it too far. As a skin-changer of Beorn's line she didn't share the Woodmen's values and probably shouldn't have a voice in their affairs, she decided.

Only she wasn't a skin-changer — not really. Faron had been right about that, too. She hadn't managed a successful change in at least a year now, and before that, not for many more. If it weren't for the second time, she might've thought the whole experience a childhood hallucination and moved on by now. And yet... tonight she'd felt it: that familiar surge — the hurt and anger welling up inside her body. It was fleeting, but for a split second she'd felt powerful. She knew she came close when Faron said what she'd said. Ljota half-wished the argument had lasted longer; she wanted to see the smugness drain from Faron's face when she realized she was wrong. But she wasn't.

And somehow Ljota suspected that even in the body of a bear she'd be rather unimpressive. She'd tried to be adamant, but weakness was in her nature. She wasn't quite sure how it had got there, given her family, but she'd run and cried nonetheless. In the moment she'd thought about fleeing to her usual spot in the woods to try and put some of those feelings to good use without ruining her clothes, but it was cold and wet, and getting late. She wasn't stupid. At least she had that going for her.

She shook her head to herself, turned on her other side, and tried to put it all out of her mind. She returned to that image of her loved ones — her clan — and though Faron remained, Ljota dared not look at her this time. Instead she drew all her attention to Hildegund's face and kept it there. It didn't help her sleep, but it was somewhat calming. While her love's reassurances drifted in and out of her mind, Ljota found herself thinking of Rynel again. She wasn't convinced she could give the pup the same amount of love and care the Woodmen gave their hounds, but she knew he certainly deserved it. In any case it seems too late to back out now, so I may as well try.

Ljota sat up in bed some moments later; she'd just noticed her room starting to get a touch lighter. It wasn't much, but it seemed enough to justify putting this night behind her. She rubbed her sleepless eyes, slid out of bed, and went in search of chores to busy herself with.