The Ranger ran north, only stopping when he needed to rest, eat or drink. It took him nearly two weeks to reach the lands where his people roam. He crouched at the perimeter, sniffing for spoor. Nothing, it had been too long since any member of his pack had been in the area. He continued northwards, stopping frequently to sniff the ground. Finally he found a faint trail, leading eastward toward the downs. He slowed his pace, following the trail, continuing to sample the scents around him. The spoor was definitely getting stronger.
Toward that evening, he saw one of his pack in the distance, sniffing for game. He moved quickly to get downwind of him. The Ranger could not be sure of his welcome. He had left the pack and may now be considered a stray or worse, an enemy. He knew the pack member well, his persona was a wolf and he would be a formidable adversary.
He continued in the direction that he figured the pack member came from. Fortunately for him, the wind died and he only had to concern himself with staying out of sight. Soon he saw others that he knew, hunters like himself looking for food. No sign of Endre among them. He was hoping to find her alone.
Suddenly he sensed one of them behind him. He wheeled , reaching for his dagger.
The man held his hands out in front of him to show he had no weapon in them.
“Ho Alareik! are you come to us again?” It was his birth brother, Weir. They embraced.
The Ranger told him of the dreams, and asked about Endre. Weir looked sad, “I am sorry to tell you, brother, Endre has been under an evil spell. She can no longer shape-shift. She remains the white cat of her persona. ”
The Ranger is stunned. “Who has done this? and why?”
“It was undoubtedly the witch, Virit. She has long wanted to be the mate of Rain”. Rain was the Alpha of the pack and another brother of the Ranger.
“So has Rain chosen her then?”
“He rages at the loss of Endre as his mate. He has not chosen a replacement. Virit has been censured, yet she refuses to or cannot reverse her spell on Endre.” Virit would be in seclusion under a guard.
“Perhaps I can help Endre, I have met women with powers far to the south where the Angles dwell.”
“Is this so? Come speak with Rain, he will be receptive to you if you can free Endre. His need of her is great.”
Weir nodded , he led the way to a cave, guarded by another pack member armed with a spear. After speaking with the guard, the Ranger was allowed inside. Virit was coiled in a corner in her snake persona. She hissed at him violently, rising up as if to strike.
“Virit I need to speak to you about Endre. What have you done to her, and why?”
“Sss alwaysss Endreeee. Ssssshe hasss you and your brothersss dessiresss.”
“Virit I will speak to Rain on your behalf, if you tell me how to free her, I will see to it that Rain chooses you as second mate.”
Virit changed to human form, her face was angry, bitter.
“He scornsss me now, why should I help that little cat?” She laughed, “She should stay that way. Let him suffer in his lust for her!”
“Virit please. Free her, she has done you no wrong. If you tell me how, I will take her away to the south and she will trouble you no more.”
Virit stopped raging and looked at the Ranger closely, her eyes sharp and sly.
“You would do thissss. You would take her away?”
“Yes, I will take her to the witches in the south.”
“Then I will tell you.” She named the potion and its ingredients, and the type of incantations she used.
“And you will ssspeak to Rain for me!” she called after him as he turned to leave.
“Why do you return after you deserted us? You should be set upon as an enemy!”
“I come in friendship, with an offer to free Endre of her spell.”
“Weir has spoken of it.” Rain appeared somewhat mollified. “How will you do it?”
“Virit gave me the method, on condition that I speak to you on her behalf. She wishes you to take her as second mate.”
“Why does she not do it herself?”
“She does not have the knowledge, her studies are not complete. I have contacts in the south who can free Endre. She must come with me there and they will free her.”
“You will take her away?” Rain flew at the Ranger in a rage. “You have long wanted her for yourself, and she you, she has confessed it to me!”
The Ranger stood his ground, his head lowered, as Rain towered over him.
“It is true that I desire her, but she is yours by right and choice. I left rather than challenge that right, Brother. I love her, and I love you. I will help you both if I can.”
Rain turned away and was silent for a while. No one moved. Then he turned to the Ranger again.
“Let Endre be brought to him. And bring Virit to me. I will use her now, my need is great.”
Endre was lead to him by one of the Betas. He removed the collar and leash. Endre rubbed against his legs and licked his hand.
“I will take you to the far south where you will be freed, Endre.” He stroked her coat gently. He would not be able to talk to her unless he assumed his persona. He would do that when they were alone.
Virit was brought before Rain. Her face was softer now, almost pretty as she gazed up at his face. He seized her by the arms and dragged her into his tent.
They were given food and allowed to rest. In the morning, they headed south.