They say that every decision you make splits the world into an alternate universe. If you chose to take the train that day or didn’t - causes another dimension to emerge. So many alternate universes because of so many people and their everyday decisions.
I wondered if there was an alternate universe where I came out of this alive. Because standing here right now, in front of a very unstable Jeff Kurt, the only thing I could see was death.
Was that even his real name? If he had one fake name – the one he used to impersonate Xena’s brother, he probably had several other ones too. I could feel the distaste when I looked at him. Countless movie nights and chilling at the pool with Xena, is this what he had been dreaming of all along? When he would finally get to drive that knife deep into my heart?
I shuddered at the thought. He had so many chances to kill me, a year of basically hanging out every other night as my best friend’s lovable younger brother. There was nothing worse than a patient killer. A calm murderer never made mistakes. Never tripped up. What if I hadn’t met Reece again and he mated someone else? Would he just kill me the next second without hesitation? Judging by the black of his eyes, the lack of any emotion except madness, I was sure of that.
He was a psychopath. He wouldn’t feel a thing except the thrill of finally killing me. It must have been a deep impact on him, my kind – the Nihls. Could you hate a race so deeply for no good reason?
The evening had started out perfectly under control. I had Atticus with me at all times. Everyone was guarded and safe. The meet and greet, the dinner and then the coronation. That was the order. Everyone who had attended the party I had already met. The staff had been vetted for and all the Alphas had assembled. All the elders had assembled as well. We’d willingly let the traitor into our home knowing that shit was going to go down if they were given the opportunity. The spot marked on the map was nothing - it led to nowhere and it did nothing. It was in the middle of a bathroom near the grand hall. We had the whole place canvassed and also sealed. Another bathroom was made to use, on the upper levels just to be careful.
I met every single person - some seven hundred guests - and I didn’t remember a single name. I met all the elders.
And then we sat for dinner. A lavish meal - with fancy cutlery and copious amounts of food. Everyone ate till their heart’s content. We ate with smiles on our face to put on a good show.
“Reece, I’m going to use the bathroom.” I told Reece and April was at my side at once. Atticus and Hank accompanied me till outside while April and I ventured inside. She checked every single one before she nodded and I stepped in. I was beginning to relax, maybe nothing would happen tonight, maybe this was a scouting session - no action just observation. But then what was it about sending me those maps?
“April?” I called from within and her reply was swift, “Yes, I’m right here.” I relaxed once more, finished my business and then opened the door.
A man was standing right behind her, brandishing a shiny knife that looked bright like silver and he’d already cut her throat open. No noise left me as I saw the slow flow of blood dripping down her front. He matched my eyes with his cold, impassive ones and pointed to a piece of paper near the sink.
She’s not dead yet - just unconscious from the blood loss. The faster you climb up that hole in the ceiling, the sooner I remove the silver from her body to let her heal. Make any noise - alert your minions outside and this knife goes straight into her heart. You know I will do it.
I looked up to see a rope, coming right through the ceiling and wordlessly began climbing. My mindlink refused to work and I couldn’t get in touch with anyone.
This was it, this was my death. After all that planning and all those lecturers about the value of the Queen’s life - I knew I could never sacrifice someone in order to save myself. That would just not happen. I felt silent tears stream down my cheeks as I hauled myself up the rope. When I reached the hole, a hand came from within and grabbed me roughly, pulling me up and into the vents.
“Julian.” I whispered, knowing who held me prisoner now. He put a finger on his lips, and dug a knife into my back - indicating that I should continue to do as he asked. The rope came up with us and the vent sealed shut. I could just hope that the man below let April go - or else my death was going to be for nothing.
And then a hard hit on the head knocked me out. It had been that easy.
I didn’t get it. Fucking assholes! Stupid orthodox people living their elder’s grudges like this was fucking Romeo and Juliet! FUCKK! If anything happened to Flora I would kill every single one of them with my bare hands. I would make sure that they died as I peeled layer after layer of their skin and watched them bleed slowly.
I ran around the palace frantically, unable to locate my mate. Fucking silver! The catering staff was the first on my list for spiking the food with trace amounts of silver - my mindlink wasn’t working with anyone either! I didn’t know where she was – or anything about her. Just that she was still alive. This gave me hope! This made me run like a mad man because any moment I could feel that excruciating pain that would be the end of the world.
It was so stupid of me! So stupid to think that people learned from their mistakes. April was lying down on the bathroom floor,her head was in the lap of a palace elder. I knew him - barely. An old man ready to renounce his courtroom days was lightly stroking her head as she healed. It was bewildering - but Hank said that he had a calm aura around him, he didn’t run, he didn’t fight, he came with us willingly and looked at April with almost a saddened guilty expression - as if he felt upset about hurting her. He had meant to get caught - meant to sacrifice himself which meant nothing good. It only meant that he was a fanatic and there was no changing his mind.
His calmness was eerie. The elder who’d funded this whole charade. They were holding him in a cell, downstairs for me. All the remaining royals had been accounted for - except for his son.
“Elder Kin, who are you working with?” I asked him once more, plunging the silver syringe deeper into his veins. I’d burn him from the inside out.
“You don’t need to use such tactics on me - I can simply tell you. I am here with my son whom you know as Julian Carlson.” His voice was thin and gravelly. It was the first time he’d spoken since he’d been moved away from the bathroom. April had been taken to Noori.
“Where is Julian now? Where is my mate?!” I asked him, fury behind all my words. “Hopefully, your mate is well with the stars by now.” He told me, his words held no malice. I plunged the silver into his system, to watch him wallow in a fit of pain as his body tried to fight it. It was disgusting to think that he had raised his son to be the cold-blooded murderer he was! All because of a feud eons ago! Hadn’t we learned anything?
I was going to kill them all! I just needed Flora to be safe, that was all that was on my mind. I stopped where I was and looked around. This wasn’t going to help. I would have to run for hours and check every room and for all I knew she wasn’t even on the property by then!
“AAAHH FUCK!” I roared, I wasn’t a wolf anymore. I was a King. And my Queen was not with me. These bastards didn’t know what was going to hit them.
Spinning on my heels I ran my fist straight back into Jeff’s dad. I would make him cry out his mother’s name. I would make him wish he never grew up a werewolf! I was seething and he was my target. He had to die.
Grey’s frustration seeped through me and he moved to pull me back. “Let me,” I instructed him, making his wolf back off from my prey. Grey resisted but then submitted, moving behind with a few men as they watched me stalk closer to Kin.
Years before even the discovery of Nihls, there were what we called the dark ages. Several Alphas challenged each other to be the supreme. There were fights and armies and if people couldn’t pledge loyalty, they would be forced into it. Legend had it that before the origin of an Alpha King, twelve Alpha’s ruled the lands. They were peaceful and benevolent, until the greed of larger lands and prosperity got them away from their principles and peace went out the window. They began to gather large armies, sway votes, and manipulate everyone into fighting their battles for them. All the Alpha’s had the power to use the Command. But they took it further. They used the command to brainwash werewolves.
They’d harass them with such high levels of mental pain, that the werewolf would no longer be able to function on their own. They’d be nothing after that. After the wars resulted in mass casualties, and the turned wolves were left damaged and lifeless, the moon goddess came forth and decided to appoint a single Alpha – the Alpha King Supreme. And that is how I, and every one of my predecessors, had been born. From that day onwards, the use of the command to such high levels of pain was outlawed and considered a taboo.
“What are you going to do that they haven’t already?” He asked me, a rueful smile on his face that made me want to push his head through a grinder. But I matched his calm tone with one of my own, showing no emotion. “It’s a trade secret.” I told him, gesturing two of my men to come forward and hold him still for me. Atticus and Grey held him back by his arms. Everyone else left the room.
I raised both my hands forward, knowing that this would hurt him so much that he wished he was dead.
“You’re going to tell me where she is, or you’re going to want to die.” I told him, one last time. I was going to do something absolutely forbidden by the werewolf community. If anyone outside this room knew what was going to happen, they’d cower away. They’d call me crazy – and they’d be right.
I could see fear in Grey’s eyes as he held back my victim. He wanted to stop me, I knew. But nobody could stop me now. Not when my mate was at stake.
“Alpha King, what are you-“ Atticus’ voice drowned in the screams that left Kin’s lips. My eyes turned black to the fullest as my fingertips rested on his temple. “PAIN.” I unleashed everything in my Alpha Command, willing my best that it didn’t touch Atticus and Grey, but I knew I couldn’t protect them for that long.
He screamed so hard, I was sure his own ears were bleeding with the amplitude. I felt Grey sway, before he fell right to the ground, clutching his sides in pain. Atticus followed within seconds. The man in front of me wore no smile. He was a shell now, his own mind didn’t belong to him anymore. I owned it. This, my act, was banned. I should never have had to use this to hurt anyone so bad. But god, I was desperate. The Alpha Command Supreme. It held nothing back. Completely eradicated all control that the host had. He was my slave now, and he would do whatever I told him. This was irreversible.
I saw tears in Grey’s eyes and some sort of control came back into me. I didn’t regret what I’d done, but it hurt me that I had to break one of the few oaths I had sworn to take to get what I wanted. Nobody except Grey and Atticus could know what I did. It’d cause a panic.
Atticus had passed out, breathing only slightly. He would be fine after a couple hours of healing with his werewolf strength. Grey on the other hand gave me a stern look, trying to breathe through his mouth, watching my actions with support but also horror. It was a weird combination. He’d have done the same thing, but it was horrible that I had to do it.
“Tell me where my mate is?” I asked in a quiet voice and the zombie like Kin in front of me nodded. “She’s near the roof – one of the lift shafts on the roof.” He supplied. I nodded, heading to the roof. I was done with him now. Done destroying him completely.
“You know what you have to do.” I told Grey after me. I didn’t see his expression, but I knew it was grave. “Reece.” He said and I faltered in my step. “We never talk about this, wipe this from my memory Reece.” He told me and I faltered again. It was fair of him to ask me that. He shouldn’t have to protect this secret for me. I turned back to glance at him. He was still breathing hard.
“You’re right. Kill him and then come to me with Atticus. I’ll wipe both your memories.” This was a burden I would simply have to bear on my own. The burden of taking away not someone’s life, but someone’s identity and control. There was nothing worse than that.
Grey nodded, giving me a sad smile before turning his attention to his kill. I turned around and began to speed through the hallway. I was not going to lose Flora again!
I stumbled a little, but otherwise stayed where I was. There was nowhere to run and nothing to do. He was taking his time, watching me wordlessly as my mind ran a million miles per minute.
“You thought we’d just let you corrupt our King?” He asked me and I stayed silent because I knew nothing would change his mind.
“Say something, bitch!” He screamed at me and it took everything I had to not give him the satisfaction of shaking. I’d never let him think he won. Never give him the pleasure of the kill.
“You sent me the map on purpose, didn’t you? You knew we’d seal that bathroom and use the above one - you were counting on it.” I realized and he gave me a sarcastic clap. “We have a winner, people.”
“Did you kill Xena?” I asked him instead, because that was what was important to me right now. He let out a maniacal laughter at my demanding tone and decided to egg me on, “She’d served her purpose.” He said and I felt my insides scream. I knew he could be lying, but what reason would he even have to keep her alive?
I wished that those doors would pry open, but I knew it was impossible. Nobody knew where I was. It was a clever plan, honestly. Too clever.
“How’d you get into the castle?” I asked him and he rolled his eyes. “Walked right into the palace. I am an elder’s son, you know.” He divulged more information and I nodded. It wouldn’t be that hard to get in here then. He looked different now, his entire look had changed.
“I’ve been keeping up these two very different appearances. One at all these events and the second with you. Nobody would know I was the same person. I’ve been doing this since the night you first met Reece.” He told me, and I held back awe. That was some serious dedication.
“I knew that living two lives was the biggest advantage I’d have if the plan ever fell through. And look where I am now.” He said with glee but I shook my head.
“The plan fell because you can’t replicate a mate’s bond with someone else! Not for long – it would never hold!” I spoke with confidence, knowing that this would irk him. Good move.
His grip on the knife tightened, but he didn’t take the bait. “That’s okay, all’s well that ends well.” He told me with a smile and I sighed. He hadn’t even bothered to tie me up or anything. Cause of the silver that I had ingested earlier. That everyone had ingested earlier. I couldn’t believe that they had gotten to the caterer and spiked all our food and drinks.
With everyone’s strength down, how could anyone help me? I tried not to let the desperation get to me.
“Do you really think Reece will forgive you after this?” I asked him, wondering if psychopaths worried about consequences. Remorse maybe not, but consequences, sure.
“Don’t you take our King’s name! We are doing this for his own good, he will see that. Or he won’t but the next King will know what happens if you mate a Nihl.” He spat the last word as if it burned his tongue to even say it.
“Why because we’re dangerous? From where I stand, you’re the one with the intent to hurt someone else.” I argued, shaking – but with anger this time. At least my anger wasn’t misplaced. He looked at me, and then once around him. Then he shook his head, “This isn’t about you. It’s about all the Nihls. We let one live, everyone will think that they can live.” Was he even hearing himself? This was genocide!
“Are you just going to kill every single Nihl you come across?”
“If I have to, and then my kids will, and then their kids will. We will hunt you guys down to the last Nihl ever. We didn’t do it right the first time so you’re back, but this time we will make sure to get every single one of you.” He spoke like he was talking about cancer. I almost threw up the food, unable to comprehend where all this hate came from. But I knew it was possible, everyday people hated other castes and religions and races for no other reason except that they just did. Or their elders did and ingrained it into them.
That struck me. “Your parents – the elder. He hates us too, doesn’t he?” I asked him and his lips morphed into a cruel smile.
“He’s the one who convinced the other royals in court to get Reece to leave you. It took efforts, and a lot of evidence – courtesy of Brianna – but it worked. I finally had you away from him. Then I just had to bid my time and wait. Make sure you never crossed paths again.
If only Reece hadn’t made that last-minute change to visit Sienna and everything would’ve worked with only your death. Now Xena is dead, and so will a couple of your other royal followers. Their death is on you.” He told me, looking genuinely troubled that the world would lose a few werewolves.
“No, this is on you. Their death is on you because you fucked up your plan!” I screamed, trying to get him out of my head. I would not feel guilty over this man’s crazy ambition. And his parents for their fucked-up world views. How can a species think that they are superior?
“Don’t worry, I will try to make it quick.” He told me, as if I were a chicken or a cow that just had to die and he didn’t have any interest in hurting me. But he did, he was fully vested in making sure I would never rise from the grave again.
“Reece will find you, and he will kill you.” I promised him but he only faltered for a second. “Then my loyals will carry on our mission.” He answered eerily and I felt myself fall into a deeper pit of darkness.
“Which by the looks of it are zero. Where are your followers? It seems like you’re one man on a crazy mission.” I seethed and he laughed. “Don’t worry, your other Nihls will meet them soon. We found their hideout you know? It’s only a matter of time before their secret society isn’t a secret anymore.” His eyes shone with determination and lust, making me fear for them.
There was a secret society! Noori was right – there were others out there that we had to protect! That I had to protect! I could help the most from where I stood. I would help them! I would make sure nobody had to ever fear for their life again!
“You’re not better than us, you know. Your parents are just cowards. Secretly scared of the Nihls so they hurt them before they get hurt.” I told him, meaning every single word and that got to him.
“Don’t talk about them like that! They have every right! You’ll are nothing but scum! With your magic and powers, manipulating everyone in sight!” He spat, disgusted but I stepped forward.
“It’s true though. Why are we scum? Because we’re stronger? Because you had to poison an entire party just to get to me! Because you had to invent a chemical and shadow me for five years and you still didn’t succeed! Because you were so scared of me that you didn’t kill me earlier!” I raised my voice at him, daring to go closer. I was going to die anyway, let me at least die with my voice echoing inside his head.
“How dare you!” He said and his hand raised and struck me right across my left cheek. To my credit, I didn’t crumple like a piece of paper – I was stronger than I thought. I looked back at him with a fire burning inside me, “You know it’s true. It’s what’s scaring you. Someday you’re going to face someone you can’t beat, and they’ll kill you. Not the entire race of werewolves but just lunatics like you, because they’re smarter and wiser, and they wouldn’t start a fight for no reason.” I told him, meaning every word. His face morphed into incredulity and disbelief. “So, it’s true then! The Nihls are planning a counter attack! I knew you were communicating with them!” He accused me but I maintained a stoic face. “Tell me their plans! You – you must be their Queen! Tell me what they have planned for us!” He asked, moving forward to grip my neck and raised me up. I struggled to breath in his grasp, both my hands on his’, trying to make him loosen his hold.
“I knew you knew about them!” He continued in his blind rage, “You have been behind this from way before, haven’t you? Did you know about me as well? Did you?!” He asked, shaking me before letting go. I drop down to the ground, my hands going to my neck, to soothe the bruised skin. I could feel my cheek still stinging from his slap but I still had the audacity to say, “I am YOUR QUEEN as well, doofus.”
His next blow knocked me out for good.