When Jayson brought me out here yesterday, I thought that it was the most tranquil place in all of Westmoor property. It’s as peaceful as it is calming. I didn’t think anything could break that atmosphere, but chaos has erupted on all sides Westmoor Clearing.
Small battles rage all around me. Although I had never seen Ethan as a wolf, I recognize him fighting two other wolves, biting and clawing and kicking. Donning our crescent moon cloaks, Jayson and Ryner wade through ten wolves with silver knives like hurricanes of destruction, kicking and punching their way to drive back the enemy. And somehow, between the two seconds I had turned away from her and now, Trina had disappeared from my side.
Gripping my knives, I dash through the fights, stopping only to defend myself. I scan for a white shirt in the center of black-garbed fighters.
Before I make any leeway in finding Trina, something gleaming catches my eyes. Up in the trees, an archer sits and aims her arrows at Ryner and Jayson.
Just like so many years before, my body moves of its own accord and I rush to save them. Nothing makes the time go slower or more enemies get in your way than when people you care for being in danger.
I almost don’t make it in time.
I hear a swish as the arrows are release and time seems to slow down. There’s no time to warn them. If I don’t so something, they’ll die. I slide to a stop and turn, throwing my arms out. I watch as the two arrows slowly come towards me. Everything is silent. I can only hear my heart pounding as if trying to escape the impending danger. The sickening sound of skin ripping, muscle tearing, and bone cracking washes over me as the arrows pierce my chest taking everything in their path.
Everything is silent. I can only hear the pounding of my heart. Tha-Thump. Tha-Thump. Tha-Thu…
I will say this one hundred times or a thousand if that’s what it takes for the Fates or whoever to get it through their heads that I—freaking—HATE—dreams. And while most people tend to forget that nightmares are dreams too, the Fates are always more than aware.
It starts with me leaning over a table. I’m wearing a black shirt, cargo pants, combat boots, and my red bandana to keep my hair back.
A map of the United States is spread out with markers on certain points. In the west, mini flags with an M.W. on them litter the mountain ranges and plateaus. To the east, mini flags with a C.C. occupy the big cities and cluster around Washington D.C.
I heave a sigh and study the markers, muttering to myself. To the left, a door opens and Ryner, Jayson, and Trina come in. They don’t look much different from the way they are now, but Trina’s hair is longer than before. Jayson’s arm is in a sling. Ryner walks with a slight limp and looks down at the map with me.
“When have they declared the next battle?” I ask. My voice sounds like I’ve been gargling gravel—the way it does when I haven’t slept well for days.
“I still do not believe it is wise to let them choose the battles,” Ryner complains. “We can win if you would let us choose when to attack.”
“I understand that, but I don’t want us to be fighting,” I take one of the M.W. flags and roll it between my fingers. “This Civil War was brought on by power-hungry, cruel people. If there’s even the slightest chance we can save those fighting for them, I want to be able to do that. Now, when is the date of the next battle?”
Ryner is silent for a moment before he says, “August 30th,”
A bitter chuckle escapes my mouth. “They mock me.” The piece I fiddled with finds its place back on the map. “The day I turn eighteen is when the real war begins. Wonderful.”
Jayson fidgets with his sling. “Um, I think you should, uh, possibly get some—”
“I’m fine,” I snap. Jayson flinches back, but I keep my eyes on the map. “There’s still so much to do. In just a few weeks—”
“It will be your birthday,” Trina interjects. “And we will celebrate and have cake and you will be well-rested.” I stare at her as if she’s lost her mind. She puts her hands on her hips and glares at me. “You’re gonna work yourself to death at this rate. And don’t get mad at Jayson, he’s only looking out for you.” She softens her gaze and takes my hands. “You’ve been at it for days. I know you’re worried, but you need to sleep. There’s a reason you have us here.”
My stances relaxes and my shoulders sag. “I guess, but—”
“No buts. Ryner, get her out of here.”
“My apologies,” He picks me up and tosses me over his shoulder. I try to punch him, but it’s too weak to do any damage. “When you are better, you can punch me all you wish, but right now, you need rest.”
“I’m gonna hold you to that.”
The image turns watery and when it focuses again, I’m leaning over the map again. My hair is long enough to be in a bun, so the bandanna is tied on my arm. A cut from my left temple to my lip looks like it’s only recently healed.
Many of the M.W. flags are gone, but just as many C.C. flags have disappeared. It occurs to me (dream me), that the letters aren’t just letters. They’re initials. My initials that of someone else.
I drum my fingers on the maps my eyes wander over to a knife embedded in the map. It looks like the knife I had given Ryner.
Heavy footsteps sound and I stand up straight. A look of anticipated irritation is on my face. When the doors open, several people flood the room. I recognize those in front: Jayson Trina, Ethan, Ms. Bines, Marcus, and a few others. But that’s not who I’m looking for. As everyone gathers around the map, I turn towards Jayson. He’s stiffer than usual and isn’t picking at the frays of his jeans. He’s still.
Silence envelopes the room.
“Give me a report.” I say. My voice sounds strong, but I know myself better than anyone (except, maybe, Trina) to know that I’m trying very hard to stay calm and collected.
After a minute of silence, Ethan speaks up. “It was as we suspected. Porter Albright was leading these troops. There were roughly one hundred humans to every werewolf. As you have requested, we only aimed to injure. It was only a matter of hours before we conquered them. It was much too easy, I will say. Not a single one of us were injured severely, but when a head count was taken, Ryner wasn’t there. We spent two days looking for him before we got this.” He takes out an envelope with my name written in script.
“Their aim was for me.” Trina says. Her voice is quiet and soft. “They would have taken me, but Ryner got in the way so he was taken instead. He’s—”
“Don’t tell me,” I say. “I have enough to worry about already, knowing where he is will only distract me.” I’m straining not to crumple the envelope in my hand. “Thank you, Ethan. Dismissed.”
I’m the first one out of the room.
In a room with just a bed, a dresser, and a bookshelf I find refuge. In the connected bathroom, I close and lock the door. The letter drops from my hand onto the counter. “Ryner,” I whisper. “You’re damn fool.”
I make myself open the letter. Written in a different, sloppier handwriting from my name on the front, the short letter reads:
I don’t really like writing letter, but thanks to you, the electricity is down and we can’t get it back up. Looks like jokes on us.
But anyway, we have Jason. We meant for your Luna, but this dumbass got in the way. He’s part of your personal entourage, right? So he’s just as important. Kidnapping is cliché, but it usually seems to work.
Here is your first choice: marry me. I need a wife and no one else is as strong as you. I will take great pleasures in breaking you. The second: risk the war, the life of your Beta, and the lives of those pathetic humans. The third: surrender your life and I will spare your army.
Answer at your leisure, you have one month, after all.
Sincerely, Claus Conley
My hands start to shake as tears stream down my face I drop the letter and clutch my stomach as I let out a choked sob. A snarl forms on my face. “Damn it, damn it, DAMN IT!” I scream. The mirror cracks as my fist slams into it, shattering the glass and the scene.
As the next image surfaces, I’m at the table with a map. I start to wonder if all I ever do is prepare for attack.
A box of fries sits at my right and I munch absently on them. I don’t seem so stressed out, which is good because me being stressed out meant hell for everyone else.
The door opens and in streams the same people from last time, but with one extra. Trina and Jayson sit down on my right. Ryner sits on my left and everyone fills in the empty seats.
I stand to greet everyone and clear my throat. “I suppose there’s no sense in beating around the bush with formalities no matter how much certain people may enjoy them,” I eye Ethan as he grumbles in his chair. “I’ve recently had another dream.”
Everyone’s shoulders fall. Their strength is gone. Their despair is almost palpable.
“No, no. Heads up,” I command. “Don’t be down, this one wasn’t so bad.”
“Why do I feel like you’re sugar coating it?” Marcus wonders.
“Because I am,” I say. “But honestly, this one was kinda good. As usual, there were no details, but I saw us taking D.C.” Everyone’s spirits lifted. I couldn’t imagine how many years we’d been at war, but everyone looks so worn and beat up and ready for it all to be over enough for me to assume we’d been fighting way too long.
“The decisions we all make from here until then matter more than any other.” I turn towards my sister. “You will be leading the charge.”
“What?” She looks as shocked as I’ve ever seen her. “Why would I be the one leading them? What about you?”
“Trina, have I ever put you in a situation where I wasn’t positive you’d be safe? Well, as safe as you can be during a war.”
“Well, no, I guess not,” she mumbles. “But aren’t there people more suited for this than me? Like Ryner or Jayson or Ethan?”
“Yes,” I smile. “But they aren’t you. Ryner is strong but lacks the communication skills it takes to lead. Jayson is a great tactician but also lacks the communication skills to lead. Ethan is quite powerful and can easily lead an army of one million if that was his job. But what we need is someone more like me. Someone who can speak and give shows of power when necessary. Someone who can get angry without losing control.”
I look back to Trina. “We need you to win this.” I think that maybe I’m putting too much pressure on her, but, like me, she won’t do much of anything without pressure being shoved on top of the request.
She opens her mouth, but freezes as the picture turns watery.
Steady beeping accompanies my awakening. Squinting as I open my eyes, I take in my surrounding and shudder. With the distinct smell of antiseptic, whitewashed walls, and the crowd of machinery hooked up to me, I know I’m in a hospital.
My thoughts are muddled and my body feels like it’s been run over by a dump truck, but I manage to reach out and press the call button. A few minutes later a young nurse walks in.
“Ah, you’re awake now,” She takes the clipboard and glances at it. “Quite a miracle,” she mumbles.
“Excuse me,” I breathe. “Did I… have any… visitors?” Jeez, when did it get so hard to breathe? My chest burns from just asking this question.
“I wouldn’t talk so much,” she chastises. “You’ve only just woken up; you’ll need all the energy you can muster. And yes. There were about six people here every day visiting you.”
I wait a minute before speaking again. “If they come… can you do me… a favor?” I’m already so tired from this, I just want to sleep again. “If they look… too tired… tell them… I want them… to sleep… before anything else.”
The nurse gives me a lopsided smile. “Never heard of a coma patient more interested in the health of the visitors. I’ll be sure to do that for you.”
“Thanks,” I mumble as I slip unconscious again.
The next time I wake up, I’m feeling much better. So much so that when I push the call button I can have a full conversation with the nurse.
“Hello again,” she smiles. “How are you feeling this time?”
“A lot better. Hungry, but better. Oh, and can I sit up?”
“’Course,” She presses a button the side of the bed and I’m pushed into a sitting position. “I’ll get right on that food for you. Is there anything you’d like?”
I’d like for Jayson or Claire or Victor to be in charge of food because they know how to cook awesome food. Instead of saying that, I shake my and say, “Just make sure it’s good.”
She wrinkles her nose. “Can’t guarantee that but I can try. My name’s Onyx Blacktail.”
“Thanks Nurse Blacktail.”
A few minutes later as Nurse Blacktail comes back with a mischievous smile on her face and I hear, “What do you mean we can’t go in to visit?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but when she woke up earlier the first thing she asked for is to make sure you looked well rested before coming to see her.”
“They’re making quite a fuss,” she sets the tray of food on my lap. “It’s like they think you’re on death’s door. When you came in, you just had a bullet through your chest. I know that sounds bad, but it’s kinda hard to die from bullet wounds if the person wasn’t trying to kill you.”
No, they were only trying to kill my friends who are much taller than me.
“You’ve been out for five days, which is good because you heal faster when you’re asleep. I think you should be able to get out of here by tonight. Tomorrow morning at the latest.”
As I reach for the remote and check the time (when did I wake earlier? It’s only nine in the morning), Nurse Blacktail is standing by the door.
“You healed really fast,” she starts. “I mean a normal person would have regained consciousness before you did and still be in a lot of pain. But you don’t look hurt at all. If I may ask, what are you?”
For a brief second, I can see wings. Big, glittery black wings protruding from her back. I nod. For the first time in my life she isn’t asking about my race.
“Well, there’s not much I can do to show you, but I can hear the conversation going on outside at the receptionist’s desk. I know that the cafeteria has meatloaf, broccoli, mashed potatoes, and Jell-O for desert.” I lift my hand into the beam of sunlight streaming through the window. “I’m not burning, which is a good sign. I’d hate to think these last two weeks were a lie.”
“That does explain why you’re better so soon, but that doesn’t explain why you’re here in the first place.”
“Oh, then that means,” She bites her lip. “You’re not staying here for very long are you?”
“I would hope not. I hate hospitals,” I say avoiding the real question. I hate to hear bad news as soon as I wake up.
“Ms. Winters, if you are going to stay, I would suggest keeping a low profile. Your pa—uh, I mean, people aren’t going to last very long.”
“I know. As soon as I’m out of here, we’re leaving. What do you know about this? Whose side are you on?”
“The side of the injured,” she says with pride. “I don’t want this nor do we need this, but wherever there are sick or hurt people is where I want to be.”
“If that’s the case we’ve got a bunch of people who need help. I’m not asking her to take a side, I’m just saying we need someone right now to treat the injured. One person in particular. He might have been one of the people who came to visit.”
“One of the tall guys?” she asks. “He didn’t visit every day and sometimes the others would tell him he should lay down.”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“Well, I don’t think I can really go there without being branded on your side, but I can give you this.” From within her scrub pockets, she produces a small vial of blue liquid. “This should do the trick. It accelerates healing in everyone. While I don’t know the full extent of his injuries, but I can’t guarantee that it’ll heal him completely.”
“Thank you. I have to say, this is the best thing that’s happened to me in a while.”
Onyx Blacktail smiles and walks out of the room.
A few hours later after the doctor looked me over and fussed over what a miracle it is that I’m able to move so easily, and I got a change of clothes, the hospital released me.
Trina, Ryner and Jayson, all looking well-rested greet me in the lobby of the hospital. Trina glares at me. “I can’t believe you did that.”
She moves to the back of my wheelchair and pushes me out the door. “Did what?” I feign innocence. “I haven’t done anything.”
“The minute you wake up you demand that we go to sleep.” Jayson says shaking his head. “It’s stupid for one thing. Why aren’t you worried about yourself?”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine. The nurse lady said so. You shouldn’t even be here to begin with.” Jayson rolls his eyes. I stand from the wheelchair with a bit of difficulty and get into the backseat of Ryner’s car. Jayson round the car with Ryner and soon we’re off.
“Well, I figured that you wouldn’t be asleep, but I wasn’t so sure, so I asked the nurse just in case. Speaking of the nurse,” I take the little vial and it to Trina. “Take a look at that.”
She goes limp for a moment almost dropping the vial. “It’s a healing potion,” she says snapping head back up and clutching the potion. “That nurse made it. It’s very strong.”
“Must’ve gone through a lot of work to make it.”
“Yeah, uh, how did you know I could do that?” She turns and gives it back to me.
“I took a guess. It’s for Jayson. Nurse Blacktail gave it to me when I complained that he wasn’t laying down like he’s supposed to.” I glare at the boy in question but he just rolls his eyes.
“I can’t just lay down; there’s a lot to do with the moving and everything.”
“Where are we going?”
“Makes sense; opposite side of the U.S.” Jayson hands me my ticket and I frown as my thoughts move to Sebastian. Sebastian is still in Quincy, but I’m almost positive he’s going to make the move too. There’s no point in being on the side you hate unless you’re a spy.
Sebastian has money. Sebastian has resources. Sebastian has man power. He has a lot more experience with this type of thing than I do. Maybe, if the Fates aren’t too against me, he could be of use. If Trina and everyone isn’t too against me is the better wish. Sebastian made my life a living hell and they’re all more than aware of that. I’m pretty sure everyone else hates not just because of what he did to me but because he’s a bad person in general.
If I could convince them to let me talk to him maybe I can get him to help. The only real question is how I’m going to manage that feat.