Adarrina glared at her reflection in the mirror. The mirror glared back.
Taller than both of her brothers, and skinnier than either. Too-long arms and legs made her look like a gangling colt. Her figure could only be described as bony, her face was gaunt, and her hair rough and unruly despite combing. Glaring did not help her features, but Adarrina didn’t think anything would help.
“Who ever heard of an ugly Domani?” She threw the bedspread over the mirror. It was embroidered and trimmed with lace. Her mother had decorated the room for the pretty, feminine daughter she had hoped to have. She felt sometimes as if she would drown in lace.
The window of her room faced the lake, glowing now like a pale jewel in the moonlight. The moon itself was a silvery sliver on the horizon, rising above the distant mountains. Adarrina looked out and sighed. “So much beauty. Why couldn’t just a little of it be mine?”
Suddenly, she swung her legs over the sill and dropped lightly to the ground. Wearing nothing but her shift, she started down the hill. She needed to run, to get away even for an hour from the lace-decked room and the gowns and jewels and mirrors. Away from the pitying looks of her family and her mother’s silent disappointment. On light feet, Adarrina ran fleetly across the moon-pale ground.
The full-throated cry of a wolf rang out nearby.
She froze. The howling came again, much nearer this time. Oh, Light! Turning, she gauged the distance back to the house. Too far. But as she still crouched, poised to run, a flood of images and sensations tumbled through her mind. The cry of the wolves came ever closer, until she could pick out individual voices. But there were other voices, too, that she heard even clearer.
Midnight. That was a nearly black-furred wolf with a scarred foreleg, but it was also the image of a night sky, black as jet and glittering with stars. White Mist. A wolf with cloud white fur and movements slow with age, and too a faint, shimmering mist settling above the mountains. Snowrunner. A pale grey wolf with white markings, but also a race through the new-fallen snow, the air cold and crisp with the scent of winter. Chaser. A dark grey wolf little more than a cub, and a joyous, boisterous bound after prey or another wolf’s tail or whatever happened to be nearest.
And there was another one. A lake shimmering silver in the moonlight, the water glinting as it lapped against the shore. Mountains rising in the distance, shadows against the sky, their tops wreathed in mist. And faintly superimposed on the image, a tall, thin woman with dark hair and copper skin.
“Me?” she breathed in disbelief. “Is that me?”
“So beautiful. How can it be me?” She reached out a trembling hand as if to touch the image in her mind. “I’m ugly.” But that wasn’t true, not any more. Adarrina was plain and gaunt and tall. But Adarrina was gone. She was Moon Water!
She felt her hearing growing keener, her sense of smell sharper. With a wolf’s golden eyes she looked out over the mountains and saw farther than ever before.
Welcome, Moon Water.
And a clear-throated cry of triumph rose as Moon Water ran fleet-footed across the pale ground with her pack.