Waltz of the Lioness - Revised

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The Rise of His Queen

“Cora!” His voice boomed through the upper level of the cabin. A cabin that was secluded and hidden away on just the other side of his prides’ property line.

Under normal circumstances, he would have no jurisdiction here. However, mating laws trumped territorial ones. Even if they didn’t, nothing could prevent him from going to his mate.

His voice echoed in the small cabin as he called her name once more, uncertainty and panic settling there like an old friend just before a searing agony clawed at his chest. A half-roar, half-yell ripped from his throat and blasted through the air as the pain flooded over him. The torment tore through the mate bond that he shared with Cora, and it saturated him in its urgency.

Landon and Alden moved to his side to help support his weight as the pain racked his body, nearly bringing him to his knees. “Sire?” Alden looked down at Brock, uncertainty causing him to send a questioning glance at Landon.

“Check the rooms,” Landon commanded Alden, moving his head in the direction of a few doors that led away from the main living space.

Due to the state of mind that Brock had been in, Landon had thankfully taken to issuing commands. Darcy had been given the command to check the back of the property to make sure that there would be no surprises. Though she had tried to argue at first, she became all too aware of how futile it was against the two brothers and had left them to perform her task.

Now, Alden allowed himself to look at Brock more fully, concerned with his king’s current state of being. Grasping his shoulder tightly, he gave a quick nod to Landon before setting off to search the cabin.

“What is it,” Landon asked, moving closer and attempting to heft Brock up more firmly to his feet. “Is it Arwen?”

Brock nodded, the action making his head swim as he stumbled forward. “She’s in trouble,” he ground out through gritted teeth, his hand clutching his chest in an effort to control the pain swelling like a tidal wave there. Pushing away from Landon, he dropped to his knees.

Landon’s brow furrowed, his head twisting to the side as if he was trying to tune in to a private conversation from across the room. The concern on his face as he focused on finding Arwen mirrored Brock’s. The burning sensation that settled in his chest was spreading furiously, his lion only adding to the agony as he roared and slammed heavily against his chest.

“Cora,” he managed to whisper between gasping breaths.

Closer to the floor, her scent subtly wafted to his nostrils through the vinegar shroud that seemed to fall over everything in this place. She was here, and she was close.

Brock crawled over the floor on his hands and knees as he inhaled the scents that drifted up from them. It was almost as if the floorboards themselves put off her aroma, which could mean only one thing. And if he had to rip every damn board from the floor to get to her, that’s exactly what he would do.

Sharp claws eked out as he slammed a fist into the wooden floor beneath him. The boards protested loudly before caving beneath his strength only seconds before another fist followed. His fists pounded heavily into the flooring while Alden frantically searched the rooms for another access. Brock’s method, though efficient as it might seem as he slammed fist after fist into the splintering mass, was by far the easiest route. He knew it, but his whole body was too focused on cutting a path straight to his mate and cub, even if it meant personal injury to himself.

Landon knelt beside him, removing the loosened flooring with each of Brock’s blows. Boards cracked and splintered with every blow, bringing Brock ever closer to Cora. As one of his blows plummeted through to the space below them, Brock could feel his whole body thrum with energy. It held him in its sheer power, his lion urging him forward with the need to bask in its intensity.

Standing sharply, he barely lifted himself off the floor before smashing a booted foot through the already weakened boards. The floor gave beneath his weight, making a gaping hole that would accommodate his muscled form. Once achieved, he jumped through to the space below. Landing in a crouched position, he lifted his head to where the origin of the power that coursed through the space emanated. His beast wanting to surge forward as an icy chill pulsed through his veins.

Cora’s form was before him, a crumpled mass of dingy sweats and pale strands of her hair falling all around her. Surrounding her was an energetic mist that emitted blue and white flashes of light, its essence weaving around her. Thin, bright tendrils wrapped around her small, dainty hands that she held aloft beside her, pulsing brightly as they touched her flesh and set her skin aglow. The reverence with which they surrounded her was astounding and profound. However, it was the scent of blood that wafted through his senses and had him acting.

“Brock,” Landon called down through the gaping hole in the floor.

“Call Doc, get him here now!”

As the last word was spoken, his lion took hold. Brock caught a flash of Landon as he fled from the hole in the floor to follow his command. He rushed forward on muscle and sinew, his beast spanning the gap between him and that which was his in a blur of golden fur. The sheer force behind him fell heavy into Lara’s rigid form, hurling her across the room in a tangle of arms and legs.

When the threat against his mate was thrown clear, he positioned his massive body between her and the impending threat. His beast fought against the desire to attack and kill the woman picking herself up off the floor, the amount of blood that permeated the room stealing his actions in alarm. The conflicting emotions raged inside of him as his beast let out a loud roar that filled the room. It vibrated and pulsed, shaking walls and floorboards. The tremors freed dust, splinters, and pebbles from their rest place in cracks and crevices to weep and ping against the stone floor.

Lara recovered quicker than his mate, his beast poised and ready to pounce. Instead of showing him any fear, she cackled loudly.

“What do you think of your pathetic, little mate now? Do you think she is worthy of wearing the crown...of carrying your cubs?” She spat at his feet before she spoke once more. “She is not worthy of your sympathy, let alone your power! She is weak!” She moved in a slow, small arc around him, moving in a direction that would challenge his beast if she continued her trek.

Brock wanted to wrap his long fingers around this woman’s neck. He wanted to feel the last breath she took before he snapped her neck and ended the vile woman’s life. When he attempted to pull his lion back and launch himself at the woman, his lion refused. He was ready to do the same, but with a lot less finesse and enjoyment, and a lot more gore.

When Lara gasped with what smelt like fear, his lion revelled in its putrid, musky scent. Though, when he realized that she was not looking at him, but rather past him, he allowed himself to acknowledge the sensation that had been present beneath the rage that was nearly engulfing him. It was her!

A warm hand descended over his lion’s muscled shoulder causing a shiver of ecstasy and joy to plummet to his very core. “This is not your fight, Bach.” Her voice was gentle and serene, his whole body leaning into her words.

Her childhood name for him on her lips was like a salve on an old wound. The healing it offered his childhood self was nearly instant. Brock pushed through his lion, moving past the purring beast to face his beautiful mate.

“Cora,” he spoke softly, whispering her name on a breath.

Lara was now forgotten as he turned to face his beautiful mate. Her name was barely audible as he gazed upon her confident features, the meek young woman he had mated with shining back as a beautiful, alluring woman with the strength of her lioness radiating about her. The thought that he did not recognize her taunted him as her familiarity overpowered his senses.

Her very aura was stronger than it had been only moments before, the potency of it emanating from within and extending beyond her very flesh. But, it was those clear, blue eyes and innocent face that pulled him in. How could he not have seen it before?

His lion knew there was something familiar about her, knew that she was far more than some stranger who waltzed into a ballroom and announced herself to the world as his mate. It was his human half that had refused to acknowledge it. How could he...he thought she was dead!

For too long, he had lost hope that his beautiful betrothed had survived that tragedy so many years ago. And yet, here she stood...

“Arwen,” he breathed as he stepped closer to her.

The beauty before him was no longer hidden by seeming frailty and insecurity, but shrouded by both strength and grace. She gave him a small smile before placing her hand in his. When their fingers intertwined, the jolt of electricity that coursed through him nearly knocked him to his knees. Had he not been her destined mate, he had no doubt he would have been kneeling at this woman’s feet.

A small, almost inaudible thud sounded as flesh met stone, and Brock nearly missed the sound as enraptured as he was at the moment. But Cora did not seem as affected by the struggle of emotions that currently found themselves unfolding within him. He was held captive in seeing her through these new circumstances.

Cora’s hand shot out and Brock’s eyes snapped to the side, taking in Cora’s graceful control. Her clawed hand gripped a bloodied one that had once been lodged into her side, Lara’s hand. The lovely, serene appearance never left her face, nor did the small smile slide from its place as she turned her head slightly to face the woman that she held in her grasp. Her hand gently untangled itself from his, leaving behind a coolness where there was once a loving warmth.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Cora’s voice was soft, holding a touch of mockery as her head tilted slightly, a brow arching dangerously. She straightened her spine to extend herself to her full height, though it appeared for all the world that she stood several inches taller than she was only moments before.

Brock went to move himself between the two women, he and his lion ready to rip the woman in his mate’s grasp into pieces for her betrayal. However, before he could move, Cora slowly turned her head just enough that her soft voice floated to his ears.

“Believe in me...not as Cora, but as your mate.” Though a gentle plea was given in her words, her tone was anything but a request. It resounded as more of a command, and it was one that his lion was compelled to follow, even if Brock wanted to resist. All along his body his muscles froze him in place, and he could feel his human half trying desperately to resist the command. This was his mate, and she was wounded.

“I...can’t...let you...do this,” he said, gritting his teeth as he tried to resist the compulsion that her words brought with it. His whole body refused to obey his command all the while his lion insisted they comply with his mate’s wishes. He strained hard against his lion, but he would not budge.

Swearing, he pleaded with her. “I would give my life for you...you can’t expect me to...to stand by...while you’re...hurt!” His breath came out in pants as he continued to struggle in vain, but his human half could not prevent himself from trying to come to the aid of his mate.

Lara snarled, and tried to swipe a clawed hand at Cora’s blind spot. That was a mistake. Without turning to look at the woman, Cora caught the hand that flew towards her at a blinding speed. Twisting it back, Lara yelped in pain as her knees buckled beneath her and she collapsed to the stones below. The sickening sound of bones cracking gave Brock a little more satisfaction than it should have.

“Cora,” Brock started, not sure whether he wanted to demand she let him go from her compulsion or commend her for her strength and agility. He was astounded at her grace and prowess…he was even more shaken by her ability to subdue his lion.

Turning slowly to him, she smiled gently. But it was her eyes that held him as the light blue shone brightly, an eternal light within that could not be dulled. Her lioness was out, and she demanded compliance.

“Have a little faith,” she teased. “There is an abundance of strength to be found in weakness, and mountains of confidence within insecurity. It all becomes a matter of,” she shrugged and grinned, “perspective.” She gave him a playful wink, but Brock remained frozen, confused, and frustrated at his inability to assist the woman that seemed to command the entire room.

Before him was the little girl he remembered. Strong, courageous, bull-headed, determined. It was the bull-headed aspect that made his face pucker now…and combined with her determination, he knew she was a force to be reckoned with.

Cora released the woman before her completely, allowing her to scamper away. Lara’s face crumpled over her brow as she held her injured hand to her chest, the sickly smell of vinegar and fear sweeping through the space.

“You...you can’t kill me,” she panted. Her breath came out in pants and hisses, her reddened hand clutched to her as she gasped in pain.

“Oh? And tell me why not,” Cora replied with a mocking tone. “Is it because you are oh so powerful? Or maybe because you choose who lives and dies? Or maybe because you are family?” Each emphasis was laced with sarcasm and disgust as Cora stooped forward towards the retreating woman. “Which is it, Lara? Or maybe, you have finally seen the error of your ways and you wish to repent?” Cora stood upright and cast her eyes upward, placing a blood-crusted finger over her lips before letting it trail to her chin. “Now that might be worth keeping you alive for.” She let her finger drop as she tilted her head to the side, letting her gaze lock onto Lara. “What do you say? You want to try a little grovelling?”

Anger and pride won as Lara lashed out, her tone causing Brock to growl. “You bitch! I wouldn’t grovel to you if you were the last pride on earth.”

Cora laughed darkly, sending a tremor over Brock’s spine. “We will see about that!”

As Cora stood straight, Brock could see the dark crimson stain that had spread dangerously over the clothes that hung carelessly over her slender form. His heart thundered with worry and concern, but his beloved would not release her hold on him. Fight as he might, he was helpless to come to her aid.

Shift!” Her command echoed and rumbled over the stones. The whole room lit up with the command, the very particles in the air charging to heed her.

Brock nearly felt compelled to shift himself, the power of her authority sweeping over him and overwhelming him in its intensity. From a set of stairs on the far side of the room, a lion burst through. Clearly, Alden was not able to resist the command, his roar thundering in the room in response to his majesty’s command. It blended with another that blasted through the air as both he and Lara were forced into their lion forms.

Twisting her head slightly, Cora offered a command to the approaching Alden. “Stay, my beautiful friend! This is not your fight!” Letting her focus travel back to the beast in front of her, she smiled. “Good kitty.” She moved to stand before the beast as she reached a hand out to grab her muzzle, forcing Lara to meet her gaze. “Listen carefully, Lara. I banish you from Kingly pride. You have no further authority over the lands and people that reside within. You are doomed to a sole existence as no other pride will have you once they learn of your treachery.” Releasing the woman’s muzzle, she let her hands move out beside her as if preparing for a fight as she took a step back. A groan rolled past Brock’s lips when he realized that was exactly what she was doing. “Now, Lara, I release you from your compulsion to my commands. Defend your right to live!”

The beast before him shook her whole body, as if shaking water from its entire coat of fur. In fact, it was the dissipation of the compulsion and the sense of belonging to a pride that caused the beast to shake. Once she was done, she narrowed her eyes on Cora with a snarl on her face that exposed the long lengths of her sharp teeth.

She placed a meaty paw against the stones before letting her claws rake across them as she stretched her paws wide, allowing them to extend to their full length. Sitting back on her haunches slightly, Brock could see that she was ready to pounce. Though every fibre in him wanted to rush the beast to protect his mate, he was pinned to where he now stood.

Lara charged his mate, ready to leap as she neared. As she sprung into the air, Cora’s hand grabbed the flesh at the side of the beast’s neck. Moving in such a way to use the airborne momentum, Cora spun to her side and forced the head of the beast toward the stoney floor beneath them. The lioness’s head cracked hard against the stones, and Cora stood.

Freed from Cora’s grasp, the lioness shook off the blow as well as it could before it took a few shaky steps back. Brock watched as Lara stumbled from the aftermath of the blow, but the lioness’ want of blood was greater than its need to shake off the injury. To be cast out of a pride, to be blackballed from others, was nearly a death sentence.

As Lara circled around Cora, Brock held his breath. Cora did not budge. It was as if she allowed her other senses to heighten, letting them be her beacon in the dark...to guide her to the retribution that Lara so rightly deserved.

Her lioness rode beneath the surface, though she would not be allowed to make an appearance today...nor any others until the birth of her cub. It left Cora vulnerable, though looking at her she appeared anything but weak. In fact, he had never seen her look so strong and completely in command. The mannerisms with which she carried herself were familiar, and yet much more dominant than he could have thought possible.

When Lara reached the backside of Cora, Brock opened his mouth to warn Cora of the impending assault. As his mouth opened, Cora dropped to her knees and twisted her body in such a way that she rammed a clawed hand into the underside of the beast’s jaw.

Blood coated his mate’s hands as she slowly twisted the rest of her body to face the beast, then lifted herself and the beast up from the ground. Cora’s face pinched and paled as she gasped for breath, her injury starting to affect her movements and cloud her judgment.

Her whole body shook with pain as he watched her claws wrap around the tongue of the beast from the tear beneath her jaw. With a hard tug and a nauseating sound of tearing flesh, Cora pulled the bloodied mass from the beast’s throat and threw it across the room.

The lioness howled with pain and agony, garbled sounds that were strange and incoherent. Without its tongue, it would be forever lost to an indecipherable language. The damage was enough to cripple the beast, but not enough to kill it.

It stumbled and roared as it moved away from Cora. Cora’s own wound was becoming too much for her to continue, but her lioness pushed her forward.

“Cora, please!” Brock shouted to her, practically pleading with her to take heed to what he was saying to her. The strength of her lioness’ hold was starting to wan, his muscles starting to once again heed his own command. His lion was sensing the same thing he was: Cora was weakening at an alarming rate.

Her blonde tresses swayed gently as she shook her head softly. “She needs to pay for her crimes against the Kingley pride...against you...against Arwen.” Her eyes held Lara’s, judgement making them gleam but the pain there clouding her own.

“Please, Cora. Release me. Let me help you.” His eyes searched hers, and her lioness stared back. “Arwen,” he whispered, his heart thrumming heavily against his chest, practically begging her to hear him. In those piercing eyes of hers, there was a tenderness there that surprised him, but the determination there scared the hell out of him.

A garbled growl rang out as the beast launched itself from the darkness, crashing hard into Cora. Instead of helping her, he had been a distraction. The beast took the upper hand and used the distraction to her advantage.

Cora fell to the floor as the beast sunk its claws into her shoulders while it landed heavily on her, keeping her body pressed firmly to the floor. Brock fought against the command as he willed his feet to move forward, the resistance feeling more like moving through quicksand.

“Get off her!” He yelled, his insistence finally freeing him of his mate’s compulsion.

Before he could launch himself into the air, a dark mass rushed past him, a beast that had not been commanded by Cora. It rammed its massive weight hard into the side of the beast, making her tumble across the floor. The dark-coated wolf stood above Cora, giving her a quick scan as it scented her from head to toe. When it was done, it glanced back at Brock in silent askance before turning to the lion that was already back on her paws once more.

Brock’s limbs were once more working in harmony with his brain. He was beyond done with this she-beast, and she would pay. No longer would Cora hold him back from exacting justice. He would protect his kingdom, his pride, and, more importantly, his mate and cub!

As his lion started to push forward, the lioness snarled viciously. It made his lion’s mouth water. This was exactly what it was hoping for...a fight where there would only be one victor. He could almost taste this beast’s blood trickling down his throat.

Though his shift only took seconds, the lioness took advantage of that time. The woman knew she would not be able to take Brock down, and she sprung out of reach of Darcy. Racing towards the door, she took a swipe at a still compelled Alden, leaving claw marks running across the expanse from his shoulder to his haunch. He thundered with pain as he was left unable to respond, though the retreating lioness had no interest in fighting the lion. Her intent was to create enough damage in her wake to prevent herself from being followed.

The lioness bolted through the splintered door, and up the narrow staircase. There was no way that Brock would follow. Not while his mate remained so weak. The treacherous beast lived to see another day, though life outside the pride would not be an easy one. Couple that with her current disfigurement and her lack of verbal communication, and she was looking at a possible spiral downhill that could make her dangerous. With luck, Landon would be there with the medic team, ready to take her down. If not, he would have her tracked...mankind did not deserve her wrath.

And when they found her, he would deal with her!

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