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34/The Brother Broken

The bleak void didn’t change in sight between closed eyes or open. Our lack of vision only amplified our other senses to hone in on the fight just above. Raucous snarls, whimpers, and yelps deafened our heavy breaths. Though I didn’t know two of the five wolves I shelter with, fear bonded us in our moment of need. We gripped one another with fierce resolve. Prayers in various forms danced from our lips.

Earthy smells blended with ammonia. A headache was forming with each breath. What if the fight lasted days? We couldn’t stay here for more than a few hours. Did Davis predict anything other than where to hide?

I was the first to speak what had to be on all our minds. “We can’t stay here.” My voice quivered with growing alarm to our situation.

“We can’t leave.” Thia was the first to retort in Nitaditi. I translated quickly to my mother.

“Quiet, we don’t know who is fighting or winning outside.” I couldn’t tell if this was Hannah or Nim. The voice was breathy and hushed.

“Who is fighting our pack? Brother would not fight brother.” Tuk took mercy on my mother and spoke in her accented English.

Guilt seized my heart. “Davis made a new pack. Twenty-two new werewolves in the last two decades.” Sounds of outrage broke the silence. The women rightfully felt betrayed more now than ever. Not only did their leader fake his death but he had also made a new pack to fight against them.

Someone shoved my shoulder and accused me of being a part of the coup.

A vicious growl birthed from my mother behind me. “Touch my daughter again and I’ll break you.”

I was shocked into silence. The voice belonged to my mom but not the content. My mom, the nurse, who vowed to save lives not destroy them. The very woman who attended confessionals every week because she felt bad for killing bugs in the house. Had the mark changed more than her outward appearance?

All the women were bickering, silence be damned. I maneuvered around the group to the door and pressed my ear against the wood. My hearing strained but didn’t pick up anything besides their fighting. “Shh! I can’t hear.”

“Jessica get away from there.”

“I don’t hear anything Mamá.” The five women shuffled closer to press their own ears against the wood.

“It’s silent.” Hannah whispered.

“We have to help them if it’s not too late already!” I pleaded my case once again. My thoughts were consumed by my dream of Nash and Seth.

“Help them how human?” Nim spat her distaste in my face. I wiped away her insult. “We are all too weak, old, young, and untrained to fight against warriors in their prime. If we go out there we die. The Daughters Protection Law only works if we stay hidden.” Thia and Tuk helped me translate to my mother. Nim had logic behind her argument, but I had a mate. A stubborn one who wouldn’t back down from a fight. I shook off the dream and pushed against the door. I was stopped immediately by everyone inside. “What are you doing?” “Stay here.” “Are you crazy?”

“Stay here or come with. Either way I’m saving my mate. His fate isn’t to die today!” Moisture streamed down my cheeks. I couldn’t let him die.

“If you leave, you put us all in danger. Stay child.” Tuk’s soothing tone nearly stopped me. “If they see you leave, they know where we all are.”

“Davis’s new pack isn’t who you should be worried about, it’s the High Alpha. He found out about Seth changing humans. Davis heard he was coming today to kill you all. My dad wanted was to save you from an unjust slaughter!” My voice broke. What if I was too late? What if Davis died? My mother would be heartbroken again. “Don’t you want to save the ones you love?” At their silence I switched tactics. “If we stay here the High Alpha will find us eventually. Even if we do survive today, and the High Alpha leaves us alone; where would we live in safety after this?”

Thia’s hushed tone translated along with my call to arms to the three women. Tuk and Taki spoke simultaneously. “The northern pack has an impenetrable fortress.” A gentle touch rubbed my arm in reassurance. Tuk continued without her daughter. “They would welcome any sister wolves if I were to vouch for you. But not humans. If you come with us Jessica, you would need to be turned.”

I shook my head but realized she couldn’t see it. “I’m sorry Tuk, but I’m needed here with Nash.”

“And I belong with my daughter.” My mother spoke up with pride.

I pushed against the door but it wouldn’t budge under my strength alone. “I need to stop Nash and Seth from killing each other. When I come back we can talk more about the northern pack.” Two sets of hands pushed along with mine. Under our combined strength the trap door opened. The house was still upright, despite what it sounded like a moment ago. “I’ll be right back, I promise.” I noticed the two who had helped me open the door with a smile. My mother and Thia would always be in my corner. Carefully, I replaced the door back and pushed my weight to seal it. My mother hesitated to go with, which was fine with me; I wanted her safe with the others.

Red pooled into the house matching the once bold color of the door. This one sign of death nearly had me turn back to the hiding hole. A flash of my vision spurred my hand forward to grip the handle and pull.

Spots danced in my vision as I swayed against the door frame. The sickening stench forced bile up my throat. I spewed against the house until dry heaves racked my body. Corpses, both in human form and wolf, were scattered throughout the forest. Some bodies were torn, and faces mauled beyond recognition. Blood and bones bathed the ground and trees.

I slipped my shirt over my nose. Smelling bile was better than decay. With measured steps I moved around the gore. Like a twisted version of Hansel and Gretel, the bodies lead me back to where the fight started.

A movement caught my attention from beneath my feet. The man’s face was smeared in blood and his jaw was broken. Weak fingers grasped at my shoe. I knew there was nothing I could do for this man but knelt anyway. Anguish tore at my heart even though I knew nothing about him. He could’ve been one of the High Alpha’s, but at this moment he was just a man with nothing left. He winced with every moment, which in turn made me wince with sympathy. It seemed too cruel to leave him while he was still conscious, so I sat beside him and stayed. I didn’t dare touch him, but I didn’t move away from his contact either. When his eyes stared vacant back at me, I uncurled his fingers with an apology and continued on.

I became lost in thought while staring down at the blood on my fingers. Was this war my doing somehow? What if I was never born? What if I hadn’t escaped Seth’s pack? What if, what if, what if. The most difficult question I needed to answer was; was I really ready to fight or even kill? This was the High Alpha’s war he started long before I was born, someone had to end it; and if my father failed then who was willing to stand against him? Would more packs be targeted?

A familiar voice brought me out of my daze. “You were like a brother to me!” Nash’s voice was raw with emotion. Blood and tears streaked down his face and body. One of his eyes was bruised shut.

“Don’t compare me to the cowards you are related to! I would NEVER shame myself or my family by dying by my own hands!” Seth seethed. His teeth and nails extended to sharp points.

In one blink the two were throwing each other against trees, splintering the trunks. Both were equally matched, neither gaining the upper hand.

“You were never good enough to be taken in by Davis! Things would have been different if I’d gone with him instead of you!” Seth raged against Nash’s hold.

I had hid at the first sign of them and wound around trees to get closer. If I could change Davis’s visions, I could change my own fate. My new strategy was to gather any rocks with weight to them and get close enough to distract Seth at the last moment.

With mindful steps, I rounded on the two. I bit my lip to stifle the gasp. Both men had split lips and raw knuckles. In the time it took me to get close, Seth had pinned Nash to the ground. This mirrored my vision only from a different angle. Seth reached behind to unsheathe his silver knife. I gripped the first rock I touched in my cradled arms and threw it. The first rock landed beside the two. It startled Seth for the critical moment Nash needed. They struggled over the knife, rolling in the process. They stopped at the base of a wide tree, Nash on top this time. The knife had dropped in their grapple and lay at my feet.

“Jessica, look away.” Nash commanded and pleaded. I couldn’t do what he asked.

“No! Nash there has to be-” An intense pop cut off my sentence. Seth’s body became limp, his hands dropped from clawing out Nash’s eyes. Rocks dropped from my slack arms.

An old memory tingled in the back of my mind as Nash rose from straddling Seth. He avoided eye contact with the dead. His body trembled and jerked with force. Tears dripped to the dirt underneath. With staggering steps, Nash stumbled to my frozen form. His bloody arms wrapped around my slim figure and constricted. “I’m so sorry. So, so, so sorry. Please,” Nash choked on a sob. “Please forgive me.”

I returned his hug with one of my own. His head nuzzled into the crook of my neck. This vision had come true after all. At the time I was heartbroken and remembered feeling betrayed, but never knew why Nash would beg for my forgiveness. My vision blurred with understanding as I peeked over Nash’s shoulder to Seth’s still form. Nash was never meant to beg for my forgiveness, he was pleading for Seth’s.

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