I couldn't wait to start my new diving adventure. First, of course, I had to prep myself. I'd discovered a new kind of bean in my little roof top garden that gave me more energy that even buzzweed. 'Coffee'. That's what Silvanus said it was. He recommended brewing it, but I hadn't a clue as to how to go about doing that, so I just ate it raw. It was a tad bitter, but the buzz was totally worth it.
I was getting pretty good at maneuvering my little sailboat, and soon I left our little island far behind. The new dive spot that Silvanus had described was the same exact direction as the last one, so at least I hadn't messed up my measurement of the seven stars. I just needed to travel farther out into the ocean.
I tread water for a few minutes, getting up my nerve. Then I cast the underwater breathing spell, and dived. I only hoped that Silvanus was right, and the wreck that the ancient evil witch had tried to use to flee the island was right here beneath the waves.
My heart sank when I arrived at the ocean floor. There were nothing by giant sea plants as far as the eye could see. I didn't even see any rock and coral formations, such as were at the last diving site.
I was almost ready to admit defeat, and return to the surface, when I caught a glint of sunlight reflecting off an old bottle partially buried in the sand. Farther on were more bottles. I followed the trail of debris with growing excitement.
There! In a crevice I had overlooked initially I discovered a ship's wheel, an ancient rusted anchor, and even a cannon. I had to be getting close!
There is was, half buried in the sea floor. And sitting there in front of the ancient dilapidated wreck was a chest, covered in slime and seaweed. Could this be what I had been searching for so long?
The lid seemed stuck at first, but I persevered and suddenly it gave way, sending a trail of bubbles skittering toward the surface. At first, all I saw was the glint of gold. As I dug through the ancient treasure, my hand met something smooth and hard. I pulled with all my might, and lifted a small polished wooden box from under the gold coins. I could see immediately that it was magically sealed, so I shoved it into the cloth sack I had brought with me, and started to head to the surface. Just in time, too - I could feel the breathing spell slowly dissipating.
I had just passed the pile of sunlit bottles that had first led me to the wreck, when I saw the shark. My heart leaped into my throat, and I slowly paddled upward, hoping that I wouldn't draw its attention.
I would have no such luck this day, however. The next thing I knew, the shark was headed my direction, its mouth open in a wide evil grin and showing rows of sharp, pointy teeth.
The water churned as the shark attacked! My breathing spell was wearing off more quickly now, but somehow I found the energy to fight off the giant fish. I punched in once in the nose, and it appeared dazed for a few seconds - just long enough for me to get away.
I had fought off the shark, but I had no breath left! I could feel precious air escaping from my lungs as I fought to reach the surface.
My lungs were bursting when I finally surfaced, only to find myself in a new predicament. The weather had changed while I was below. No longer bright and sunny, the sky was filled with ominous thunderclouds, and wind and driving rain hit me full force, so far out on the water. Desperately I looked around for my boat, but it was gone. The gale force wind must have snapped the anchor's rope. Still gasping for breath, I checked that I still had my bag containing the precious box, then I tried to swim for shore.
It seemed like I'd been swimming forever. The sun was sinking below the horizon. My arms were so weak I could barely put one in front of the other, and every breath I took, it seemed I swallowed another gulp of seawater. The shore was so close, but I wasn't sure I could make even one more stroke without passing out completely.
Suddenly I heard a voice calling out to me.
"Freya? Freya! Are you alright? What in the world are you doing out in this terrible storm?"
I tried to answer, but the only sound that came out was weak little cough.
'I'm going to die out here,' I thought to myself. 'Whoever it is will think I am fine if I can't answer.'
And then everything went dark.
I woke up briefly sometime later, encircled in strong arms, and being carried somewhere, the rain still pelting down. I breathed a quick sigh of relief that I was still alive, and promptly passed out once more.
I awoke again for good an indeterminate time later. I slowly opened my eyes to find myself in an unfamiliar cave-like room. The walls and bed frame were carved from rock, and there was a musty, earthy smell permeating the cramped windowless space. Groggily I pushed myself to a sitting position and tried to stand. I swayed dizzily as tried to take a step.
"Whoa, there. Take it easy now. You've been asleep for a long time. Are you alright?"
I felt strong arms steadying my shoulders. When I looked up, I couldn't help but smile. He had certainly changed since I'd seen him last.
"Ezra? Is that you? Wh-where am I?"
He grinned at me.
"Yeah, it's me. And this is my place. Used to be my grandparents' den. I decided to move in a while ago, since the place was empty. I think those are my grandmother's furs that you're wearing. You were freezing and I didn't have anything else appropriate. I hope you don't mind."
I lifted one sleeve to my nose and sniffed. Uh huh. That was definitely where the strong musty smell was coming from. Ezra saw me wrinkle up my nose and grinned at me again.
"You don't have to wear it, you know. I wouldn't mind in the least if you .. mm.. decided to take it off.."
His grin widened and I suddenly acutely aware of the fact that I was alone in the original wolf's den, with a wolf. Oh, the danger! A tingle of excitement traveled up and down my spine. I remembered the last time I kissed him. It seemed like forever ago, but I still remembered the thrill of danger and desire that accompanied it.
Before I knew what was happening, the musty old robe was lying in a heap on the floor, and his lips were on mine. The thrill of danger and my recent escape from death seemed to only heighten my passion, and I could tell he was just as eager as I was.
As we lay together on the bed that I had so recently vacated, I had but one coherent thought - a short pause in our passion.
"Just this once, right? No strings attached?" I whispered.
He smirked in reply, "A woman after my own heart. I won't tell if you won't."
Then his musky dangerous wolf scent filled my head, and his rough, insistent hands were on me, and I had no more coherent thoughts.
Time seemed to stand still, down in the wolf's den. When we finally emerged into the light of day, it was late afternoon. I needed to collect Cinny from Jaxon's. I knew he must be worried sick. But first, I had to find my satchel with it's precious contents. Ezra said he hadn't seen it when he pulled me from the ocean.
We checked the spot where he had found me, but it was nowhere to be seen. Walking down the beach a little farther, we did locate my little yellow boat, now missing it's mast and sail. We walked a little farther, panic growing inside me, but by the time the sun began to set there was still no sign of the satchel.
I was frantic, almost in tears, and wanted to keep searching, but Ezra convinced me that if I called it off for the night, he would help me look again in the morning. So I went to collect Cinny, and headed home to tell Silvy the good and bad news.
We searched for days, Ezra and I - every time I could get away. I couldn't believe Ezra actually wanted to help me. Jaxon rolled his eyes whenever I'd ask him to watch Cinny so I could go searching for my magic box. I'm quite sure he thought I was making the whole thing up, from my 'vivid imagination'. But he always agreed, and Cinny loved spending time with her daddy.
As days stretched into weeks, my panic turned to depression. I was never going to find that box, and Silvanus's curse would never be lifted. Ezra always listened patiently whenever I went into one of my rants.
"Don't worry, Freya, we'll find it. Because everything washes back up on shore eventually. And it's not like you just made the whole thing up in order to spend time with me, right?"
And then he winked at me! I gasped in shocked surprise. He didn't really think I was making it all up, did he?
"Of course not, Ezra!" I practically yelled at him. "I would never make something like this up! I thought you were different! Not like your brother. You don't really think I made it up, do you?"
"No..No, of course not, Freya." he soothed. "For sure there is definitely an unseen vine-person living under your house, and he sent you out diving in the worst thunderstorm of the year to find a magic box that is bound to wash up on the beach any day now."
And then he gave me one of those intoxicating grins, and I could tell he must really care about freeing Silvanus, so I smiled back at him. Sometimes I could almost forget he was a wolf.
And later, like most days, we ended up back in his wolf's den so I could thank him for all his help.
"Just this one time, again."
"Righto. I won't tell if you won't."
I'll never forget the day I found it. I had always thought that Ezra would be the one to spot it first, with his sharp wolf eyes. But he had already zipped on past the weed-choked patch of sand. I slowed down. I didn't remember that pile of sand from the many prior times we had been by this spot. And there, poking out of the weeds, was a section of tattered brown cloth.
Feverishly I dug it out, sand flying everywhere. My fingered fumbled with the knot that secured the top, but finally I got it open. There is was! The smooth polished wooden box that I thought I'd never see again was mine once more.
"Ezra! Ezzrraaa! Come back! I found it! I FOUND IT!!"
"Oh, thank you thank you thank you! I can't thank you enough! I have to get back home! Silvanus will be so happy!"
Ezra was looking shocked, to say the least.
"Uh, you found it?"
"Yes, I found it, and now Silvanus will be free!"
I was practically dancing with excitement.
"Uh..you mean there really was a box?"
"Of course there was a box, silly! Haven't you heard anything I've been saying the last few weeks?"
Suddenly a light went on in my brain.
"Heeyyyy. Wait a minute. You mean you never really believed me after all? Why did you help me look for it then?"
"Um..well. I thought you were making it up because you wanted an excuse to.. well, you know. 'Just this one time, again."
Oooooo. I was mad then. If Ezra wanted to see crazy, I would show him crazy. He left rather abruptly after that, and I was glad to see him go. I hoisted my sack over my shoulder and went to pick up Cinny from Jaxon.
There we all were, on the grass outside my house - Silvanus, Cinny and me.
"I have it, Silvy! I found the box!"
"I knew you could do it, Freya," came the answer in Silvanus' deep rumbling voice.
"Now describe to my what you find inside. I am hopeful it will be a clue to my freedom, but there are no guarantees in this world."
I reached in to satchel, but as my hand touched the box, I was interrupted by Cinny's sweet baby voice.
"Mama! MAMA! 'Member, mama? Is Birfday! My birfday!"
As much as I wanted to look inside that box right that instant, it was going to have to wait. I had been so wrapped up in my search I had totally forgotten, but Cinny was right. It was her birthday, and every birthday girl needs a party. The box would just have to wait.