Chapter 4: Can't "Get Over It"
I caught the clothes Moose tossed me, he had shifted in the woods and dressed already. He moved back, giving me my privacy as the tears fell down my face. “I’ll be a few moments,” I told him.
I walked up the steps and opened the door, it was unlocked and creaked as moved it. The entryway and living room were trashed; there were beer bottles and mattresses piled on the ground, and I saw rats running across the floor. I moved in, looking in the kitchen; it was completely trashed, the appliances gone, cabinets torn apart, dishes broken on the floor. I kept going to the main stairway, losing hope with every step as I saw the damaged walls and graffiti. I reached our room to find it had been stripped of furniture except a few mattresses, sheets covered the windows, condoms and cigarettes on the floor with the booze bottles. My closet had been emptied, the clothes and jewelry stolen; the bathroom was a mess.
I couldn’t take it anymore, there was nothing of my old life left here. I was finding it hard to breathe as the sobs came faster; sinking to the dirty floor, I screamed out in my loss and frustration. I heard a commotion on the stairs and Moose burst through the door, almost breaking it to bits in his haste to get to me. “Are you all right?”
I shook my head. “I’ll never be all right, Moose.” I must have looked like a mess, because a few seconds later he had picked me up and was holding my head to his broad chest. I relaxed into the embrace, my wolf trusted him, he wasn’t like those men who had used me. He had honor.
I closed my eyes as he walked us downstairs, I didn’t want to look at the house because all it brought was bad memories. When we reached the bottom, Moose froze and turned me. “WHO THE HELL ARE YOU,” he bellowed.
I opened my eyes and looked at the door, a big old man with grey hair and light blue eyes was standing there holding a shotgun. “I should be asking YOU that, sonny. Now… oh Luna, my Catherine is back!” He dropped the shotgun and rushed over, taking a knee and exposing his neck to me. “Thank the Goddess, I feared I would never see you again.”
“Let me down, Moose.” He did and I sank to my knees, pulling my old friend into a hug. “I’ve missed you so, Max.” Max had been a grandfather figure to me when I grew up; he had served as a Beta to my grandfather, and had retired long before I was born. He used to take me fishing, show me how to track, he was a gem of a man I thought had been killed in the attack. “What are you doing here?”
“Those bastards didn’t care about an old man like me, so I stayed around,” he said. “I’m sorry about the house, I couldn’t stop them from trashing it. The only way I could live here was if I didn’t get in their way. I stayed at the heat cabin up the valley.” The cabin was where unmated females going through heat would go to be protected from wandering males. It was one of the most secure buildings we had. “Now, what are you doing here, Luna, and who is this?”
I stood up and helped Max to his feet. “I’m Moose,” he said as he extended a huge paw. “I’m Luna Catherine’s escort today.”
“Max Tomkin, Beta of the former Whiskey River Pack, retired.” The two shook hands, sizing each other up. “Now, can you tell me what is going on?”
“Yes, but let’s walk. I can’t stand being in here any longer.” I took one last look, I might ask someone to go through the place to look for pictures or other things worth keeping, but I doubted they would find anything. The house was scrap now, not worth fixing, and I had no desire to have it rebuilt. I soon made my way out the front porch and down the vine-covered steps.
“Have you visited their graves, Luna?”
“Graves? What…” I looked at him in shock, Alpha Kendrick had taunted me, saying he ordered the bodies to be left where they fell for the scavengers to feast on. “He said they were left on the ground.”
“And so they were, Luna, but only until they left. It took me over a week, but I gave all of them a proper burial, all one hundred and eighty-seven. I had to leave them unmarked, but I left a map in a jar at the entrance.” I was already walking, then running towards the Pack graveyard. It was on a hillside overlooking the river valley, the big oak tree at the top still going strong. A metal fence was overgrown with weeds at the outside. I ran to the gate, searching the weeds, and found a Mason jar with a note inside.
The map showed the graveyard with the named graves from before the attack, and numbered graves that Max had done afterwards. My shaking fingers moved over the list until I found him. “87- Alpha Thomas Sterling.” I moved into the graveyard, I could hear the men arriving but they let me have my time. I walked through the rows until I reached the raised area, a rock with a faded number marked it. I sank to my knees and sobbed, thankful to finally have a chance to say goodbye to him. I poured out my love, my hurt, my anger at what had been done to him.
He wasn’t my true mate; my father had died in an avalanche when I was sixteen and I was his only child. I had planned to travel and find my true mate, but there was no time for that now. As the word of his passing spread, others would seek to take advantage of our weakened state. My father had always taught me the Pack comes first, and I needed someone older and stronger than me to hold it together. A young female Alpha was like hanging a “Please Attack Me” sign, either to knock me off or knock me up.
The Pack elders had contacted our allies, and Thomas came to meet me. He was the third son of an Alpha, our Packs had a long history of cooperation despite being far apart geographically. We hit it off well, and he agreed to give up his true mate to become my mate and Alpha. Thomas was a good man, a good mate, and I had loved him dearly. I talked to him as my fingers stayed busy, pulling the weeds and straightening it up. My knees ached by the time I finally got up.
I looked at the map, stopping to pay my respects to some of my friends and those who had died trying to protect me. I said a word of prayer to Luna over each of them, asking her to show them favor when they are sent back in a new body.
The sun was almost to the mountains when I finally left. I didn’t have tears left in my eyes. Max was crying as well, he had been holding out hope there were other survivors from our Pack, but those enslaved and taken away had not survived long. We were the only two left. “Luna?” He looked up at me tentatively. “Are you coming home?”
I shook my head. “This isn’t home anymore, Max. This place belongs to those people buried back there.”
I was interrupted by the sounds of howls, pained howls of loss echoing off the mountains. “What is going on?” I broadcast it to everyone, hoping someone was close enough.
Craig answered quickly. ”Alpha Catherine, we need you to come to the Red Moon Pack territory immediately.”
“What’s going on?”
“You’re needed… the Pack needs you.”
I looked over at Moose. “I know the fastest way there,” he said as he started to pull his clothes off. He stuffed them in his satchel, mine quickly followed as we both shifted.
“Thank you Max, thank you for taking care of them,” I sent as we ran off.
“Thank you, Luna. I can die in peace knowing you are free again.”
We moved quickly through the trees and hills as we headed north to the Red Moon Territory. It was on the other side of the Moon Mountain pack when I was younger, that was Luna Sheri’s pack that she mated into after I was captured. Since it was all Black Dawn territory now, Moose knew it well. I opened the bond to my people, feeling the sorrow, the despair and the anger they all held. Something bad had happened, nobody wanted to say what it was and thus it must be bad.
We finally burst out of the trees above the valley where their Pack buildings sat. As we ran down, I could see them gathered around the front yard; we stopped just behind the building and shifted, I pulled on the clothes quickly and walked out. The crowd gathered was silently crying, and they made way for me until I could see what was at the center.
Vivian was on the ground, her hands covered in blood as she cried over her friend. The other Lunas were beside her, offering her comfort as she held a lifeless Kirsten in her arms. The handle of a silver knife was sticking out of her chest, above her heart. Her body was draped over a large wolf that had been torn apart, his glazed over eyes staring into nothing. “Oh Luna,” I cried as I sank to my knees. “Her mate?”
Vivian nodded. “She begged us to come back with her, she had to see that her Pack members had proper funerals. When we arrived, she went straight for him. She let out a wail, we stayed back, then she pulled out a knife from under her skirt and stabbed herself before we could stop her.” She broke down in tears. “You didn’t even say goodbye!”
I leaned forward and cupped Kirsten’s cheek, then placed my forehead on Vivian’s. “It’s not your fault,” I told her. “Honestly, if I had come back so soon after I was taken, I would have done the same thing. She’s with her mate now, it was her choice.” She started to cry even more as I stood up. I pulled Craig and David aside, both were broken up as well. “What are your traditions?”
“We burn the body as the moon is highest in the sky,” Craig said.
“Then gather people to build the pyre, have the women take her and prepare her for the ceremony.” In one way, her Pack was lucky; the Black Dawn Pack was in such a hurry to get back for the raping party that they hadn’t looted the buildings yet. The two quickly organized working parties, and once Kirsten had been carried off I pulled Vivian and the other Lunas into the main house with me. Moose followed behind, not willing to leave me alone. “I know you’re sad, I am too, but we have a lot of decisions to make quickly,” I said as we sat at the kitchen table. “The Black Dawn house is gone, and they don’t have any infrastructure left except the training building, slave building and some houses. I went to my Pack, it’s a total loss. No hope there. This place looks workable, though, and we have a number of her old Pack with us that would love to move back.”
“What about our old Pack lands,” Tandy asked.
“Go check them out and report back tomorrow,” I said. “Take trucks if you want. Just don’t expect much, Moose said the Alpha wouldn’t let people live there and it’s likely the houses and buildings have been looted or lost.” They all nodded, tears in their eyes. They had seen in my eyes the heartbreak of a lost home when I had mentioned what I found. We moved to the upstairs room, they pushed me towards the Alpha Suite and took the other rooms along the way.
I stopped when I entered the room, the smell of Kirsten and her lost mate still hung heavy in the air. Their clothes and things remained out, like they had just left for the day instead of being gone forever. I felt weird moving around in there, but I had to put that aside. I took a quick shower, found some clothes that somewhat fit me and met the others downstairs. “Come on,” Mary said, “They got the Pack Kitchen up and running, they are doing a late dinner.”
The meal was a somber affair, those Pack members that hadn’t come with Luna Kirsten had all arrived since the news broke. I could feel the love they had for her, and it broke my heart. At midnight, I followed their Pack Elders along with the fifty or so wolves here as we made our way through the trees towards the river.
Kirsten’s body had been cleaned and she was covered in a white lace dress, her hair braided back. A huge black wolf was at her side, her arms around its neck as his head laid above her breasts. The pyre was huge, and humans and wolves alike had been cleaned up and dressed and placed in a long line. Tonight, we would send them all to the sky.
The Elders performed the funeral ceremony, and Pack members were given a chance to say a few words about the people that had been lost. As Alpha, I was last to speak. “Kirsten had love and courage without bounds,” I said as tears ran down my face. “She sacrificed everything, knowing exactly what it meant, in order to save as many of you as she could. She died that night, though, the same time her mate did. Reunited in death, may they find peace together, and may all these fine wolves be found in Luna’s arms tonight.”
I moved forward, and Craig handed me a flaming torch. I waited until every member had a torch ready, then walked forward and shoved it into the pyre, igniting the grasses and tinder between the large logs. Others did the same, causing the entire line to catch on fire at the same time. The heat forced us back, and as the flames licked at the bodies, we all stripped and shifted.
I howled, full of pain and sorrow, and the Pack picked up the call as we sent our song to the Moon.