Although she had tried, when she looked back, Olega couldn’t pinpoint the moment this had gone so terribly wrong.
Who would trust a fox?
The arrangement had never been about trust. The fox was an opportunist, and Olega had needed a way to prove to her only daughter that Fellfang was not so kind and loving as it seemed. Olega knew Fellfang better than the Jarl himself; she had spent more of her life as a part of it than the exiled royal had. Moth was too sweet and too kind to see the darkness behind the eyes of the Jarl she thought she trusted, the Jarl whose blood was cursed and always had been. Olega had needed a way to make her see.
This plan… it had never been about Fellfang. It had always been about Moth.
But, typical… the little fox had gotten carried away. Buoyed by her newfound taste of power, because as luck would have it, the Jarl had been all too eager to welcome her and all the lies she fed him. Lies that, in turn, had been given to her by Olega herself, but his willingness to follow every order Valda gave proved to Olega that Arn’s Curse was true. At the first opportunity. Fable turned his back on his own revolution.
Still, at time wore on, even Olega came to think that the fox had gone too far. Orchestrating exile. Brewing war. The she-wolf watched the disarray, watched the way it had fractured her daughter and her grandson, how it had divided them. These were consequences she had not expected. She couldn’t have known how vehemently Misha would believe in Fellfang law, but then, when these wheels first began to turn she hadn’t known he existed at all.
Through the eyes of her family, through the strain in their relationships, the guilt had begun to trickle in.
The fox might have been the face. The voice. But Olega was the reason. It was she who had led the fox here, and she who had furnished her with enough information to be convincing. While many had their doubts, only she knew without question that this fox was as real as any one of them, made of blood and bone, and just as easily snuffed out.
In the depths of Grenmyrk, the she-wolf paced, her pawsteps irritable and impatient. She’d found the fox here only a few hours before, shrouded in what she perceived as electric mystery. Such devotion to her performance.
“This needs to stop,” Olega had growled through gritted teeth, her eyes fixed on the black-furred sickness she had inflicted upon Fellfang.
Valda had slithered up onto a rocky mound, so she did not feel so small or helpless.
“Stop?” She had hissed in reply, eyes glinting through the gloomy forest. “Why would we stop, when we’re having so much fun?”
Olega bared her fangs. “There is no we.”
Laughter pealed through the shadow. “Of course there is, Olega. You brought me here. You wanted this.”
It was difficult to argue, because it was not a lie. She had wanted this. She had looked forward to seeing Fellfang in disarray, hoped that it would show her daughter the truth of this place. Prove to her that this was not a family, that the word Skuld meant nothing. But it had not worked, and at every corner, Olega had been proven wrong. These wolves truly did seem to care for one another, and their faith in their Jarl was unwavering.
It was not like before, when Olega’s own faith in her Jarl had been borne from fear. This was different.
“You have gone too far.”
“It’s too late for you to decide that.”
Even long after Valda was gone, disappearing back into the woods where she felt safe and hidden, her words stung.
It was too late. She’d allowed this to go on for too long, and now it felt as though it was beyond her control. Things were spiralling, and she had lost grip on the vines, leaving her open and exposed. She could kill the fox herself, put an end to this now, but how would she explain to Misha? He still believed.
Her jaws snapped with frustration, as she shook her head. She couldn’t kill Valda. But letting her live was dangerous too, and Olega did not wish to see any further pain splitting her family apart. A slow exhale wafted the tips of some hopeful flowers, yet to bud, and Olega closed her eyes.
She knew that she must come clean. She had to tell Moth the truth, and hope… hope that her daughter would understand. That she would forgive a mother, who had experienced unforgivable horrors by the hand of the Skuld, and did not wish it for her daughter.
She could only hope that Moth would know that it had been for her.