Updated: Jun 9, 2022
Molly, or MoMo as the family affectionally called her, was young for a werewolf when she died. Her unknown condition caused violent spasms of the mind and body. Near the end, she would thrash about, speaking gibberish, unable to recognize those around her. Ron did not like to think of those final days.
He sat on the bed. The rest of the room was filled with mostly empty bookshelves. His aunt Maeve had taken over the duties of medicine woman and had taken his mother's books, scrolls, crystals and potions. Only a few items remained, including a well-worn copy of Canis Compendium, Fifth Edition, and a jar of loose Marsh Mallow Root tea. Ron shivered when he saw the tea. His mother had him drink it daily to cure his inability to shift, but the only thing it did was leave a bad taste in his mouth.
Ron fell back onto the mattress, raising a cloud of dust in the air, which danced and sparkled in the afternoon light.
What am I going to do, mum? Everyone hates me. What should I do?
"She always did have all the answers." Said a deep voice.
Ron turned away from the voice and closed his eyes. He nuzzled against his mother's pillow, the faint scent of vanilla and lilac still detectable by his lupine senses.
"These are difficult times, son," said the voice. "And your mother always thrived in difficult times."
The voice drew closer, and Ron could feel the mattress compress beside him.
"She raised you to thrive in those times too, Ronnie."
Ron reluctantly turned to face the voice. The man sitting beside him was older, the grey in his hair and beard having conquered the fiery red long ago, though some pockets of resistance remained. He was shorter than Ron's brother Carl but barrel-chested, with forearms like tree trunks and hands big enough to crush a grapefruit, though Ron was reasonably sure they had crushed more than citrus in their time.
"I can't do it, Uncle Brian. What if someone dies? What if I die?" Ron reached over and picked up a frame from the nightstand. A woman with long silver hair was standing beneath a forest of tall pine trees. In one arm, she cradled a baby, the other lay across the neck of an enormous black wolf, who seemed to be smiling for the camera.
"Why would he pick me? And don't say I'm asking the wrong question."
"You're asking the wrong question." Said Brian, his lips curling into a smile.
"I told you not to say that," complained Ron, his voice sounding like the child he still wanted to be.
"Ronnie. Your brother chose me for a reason. He chose your brother Carl and your cousin Kira for a reason. And, like it or not, he chose you for a reason as well. But it doesn't matter why we were chosen or what others think of that choice. What matters is how we honour that choice and live up to the standards our Alpha has set for us.
Ron ran his finger slowly across the framed picture.
"What if I can't live up to them?" Ron asked, turning to face his uncle.
"The standards?" Asked Brian. Taking the photo from Ron's hand.
"Yeah." Answered Ron sheepishly. "The standards."
Brian put his arm around Ron.
"Ronnie. Ron. This is an opportunity to be defined by your actions rather than others' expectations. You may not think you're ready, but Gary does. And for what it's worth, so do I."
Ron leaned into his uncle's embrace. He hadn't been hugged in years and realized just how much he missed it.
"It doesn't make sense, Uncle."
Brian squeezed a little tighter. "You'll find a lot of things in life don't make sense. But it's often because we're not asking the right questions.
Ron rolled his eyes. "That again? Now you're just talking in riddles."
"It's called wisdom, my boy. Which is often a riddle to the unwise. Now run."
"What?" Ron asked, confused.
But Ron’s confusion quickly passed when he saw the hulking form of his brother standing in the doorway. His eyes looking particularly murderous.
Brian smiled. "Take the window, and be quick, or you might not be alive to worry about dying. Run!"
Ron's arms and legs pumped as the floors of the office tower flew by. Six… Seven… Eight…
Crash. Far below, the sound of a door coming off its hinges and the rapid approach of footsteps. First floor… Now second…
Where did the Inn go? It doesn't make sense.
It doesn't make sense. Ron had said those words before, and what his uncle had told him after.
"You'll find a lot of things in life don't make sense. But it's often because we're not asking the right questions.
The revelation hit Ron like a thunderbolt. I'm not asking the right question. It's not; where did the Inn go? It's why can't I find it?
Ron trusted his senses. For a Faoladh, they were everything. The Inn was there; it hadn't moved. He just couldn't find it. Why?
Hard footfalls from below were getting closer. Fifth floor…Sixth floor… Ron's shadow was gaining.
Ron thought back to what he knew of the Inn. According to Mary, it was ancient and alive. It had been protecting people on the Emerald Isle for as long as anyone could remember.
So why hide from me now? Was it scared? No. What did an Inn have to be scared of other than lousy Yelp reviews?
Ron tried to remember more of what Mary said. She’d been so kind to him, before he overreacted. She listened, really listened, and cared about what he had to say. Ron pictured her face, so warm and happy, the sound of her voice, how she smelled...
Wait a minute.
Ron suddenly remember something else Mary said on their way to the café.
“I don’t want her to get jealous.”
That couldn’t be that? Could it? The Inn was jealous?
The words sounded ludicrous in Ron’s head. Yes, he liked Mary right from the start, and she seemed to like him. But that didn’t mean anything, did it? Ron wasn’t exactly an expert when it came to girls. The closest he’d come to kissing one was a cheek kiss “hello” from his cousin Aoife, which turned into a full smacker when he turned his head at the wrong moment. But the less said about that the better.
Maybe they’ve been together for centuries, and here I come... Oh Gods.
It was crazy, but right now it was all Ron had to go on. Opening the door to the roof, the sun blinded him momentarily. The unnatural fog didn't rise this high, and he could see church steeples rising above the mist like a fairytale city in the clouds. Ron quickly found the fire escape and began climbing down.
Above him, Ron could hear the sound of his pursuer. He quickened his pace and reached the cobblestone streets.
"Mary and I are just friends!” he said aloud. He felt incredibly foolish, talking to the air. The fire escape then shuddered beside him, and he began to run again. Shouting as he did.
"I’m sorry if I upset you!"
Left at the Court House.
"You’re a really lovely Inn.”
A right a Pink's Cantina.
"I’ll leave you a five-star review.”
Left at the busy cafe; another at the Viking-themed gift shop…
"Please forgive me.”
And there it was, the bright red door, the second-floor window overflowing with flowers and the most beautiful sign Ron had ever seen, The Scratch & Sniff Inn.
Ron slid to a stop, the soles of his shoes all but gone, and quickly went inside.