Prologue: The Arena
“Strength, endurance, wisdom.” The woman whispered as she grabbed a hold of the girl and pulled her into a hug. “Strength, endurance, wisdom. You have them all Row. Use them.” Pulling back, she looked into the Rowan’s eyes.
Rowan nodded curtly. “I won’t disappoint you.” She promised never breaking eye contact.
“She will do everything in her power to get inside your head. Don’t let her.” The woman continued. “The Sun and Stars will decide, not her.” She released the Rowan’s arms and crossed her own.
Rowan nodded once more and bowed her head before leaving the tent. She sucked in a breath of air as she scanned her surroundings. The space was so cramped. Warriors from both packs stood around, none of them made eye contact with her, but all of them watching. Letting the air escape her lungs she stepped away from the tent and began her march to the arena.
The smell of smoke and earth filled her nostrils. ‘A feast’ she thought. ‘A feast for the strong.’ Each step more deliberate than the last, she walked the muddy path down the hill. ‘Strength, endurance, wisdom.’
A few moments later, she reached the bottom of the hill. Her heart hammered in her chest. Soon she would either be standing tall or lying dead in the mud.
“Are you ready?” A voice asked softly from behind her. She hadn’t even noticed his presence until that moment. Her chest tightened, and she folded her lips together.
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” She murmured tearing her eyes away from the arena and looking up at him. His dirty blond hair was slicked back from his face, his golden eyes darkened as his thick brows knitted together. “I’ve trained my entire life for this.” She added, more for herself than to convince him.
“Rowan,” he paused. “You don’t have to do this.” He sighed. “Your pack will understand.”
“No. Elias, no they won’t,” she replied. “I’ve challenged her. I will keep my word. It’s my decision. If I submit to her, I might as well be dead anyway.” Her emerald eyes softened. He was worried she knew it. Apart of her wanted to scream at him. She was strong enough for this. She could win this trial of combat. “You don’t believe I’m strong enough?” She questioned.
Elias’s eyes dragged across her form. Her long legs were muscled and scarred, her torso tight and lean; of course, she was strong. Her tattoo licked the side of her neck, but he knew it reached down the length of her back. He wanted to touch her that way again. “You know I see your strength.” He said, his eyes meeting hers. His muscles tighten at the sight of her. She was determined; beautiful. Reaching out he pushed a loose tendril of her midnight hair behind her ear. “Show the rest of them.” He whispered, kissing her lips gently.
Rowan shivered in response to his touch. Her body responding to her mate. He was hers. For a moment she enjoyed the feel of his hand against her face and his lips against her own. She could smell his scent, smoke, wood, fire. Her skin heated up and she bit her bottom lip.
Howling suddenly shattered the silence they both enjoyed, and Elias pulled his hand from her. Rowan frowned but otherwise didn’t respond. Several warriors came rushing down the hill behind them, excitement painted on their faces. It was time for the trial to begin. Rowan looked at Elias once more, taking in his towering form before turning on the balls of her feet and heading to the arena.
‘Strength, endurance, wisdom.’
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