Most knew him as either Asil or The Moor, sometimes as Asil the Moor, but few could say they actually knew him. Sage was one of those few. She grinned when she though about Thea and how much she was going to shake the old wolf up.
His mate, Sarai, was taken from him over two centuries ago and he'd finally found the closure he needed when the witch who'd killed her, somehow managing to harness Sarai's immortality and their mate bond, was killed. He'd grieved anew over his loss but he seemed somewhat calmer since then.
His favorite thing in the world was his flowers, especially his roses. He talked to them as he tended to them in his hothouse, coaxing them to grow with the care he gave them. She knew he'd built the hothouse for two reasons. The first was because it gave him focus and a sense of calm. The second reason was because it helped him to feel closer to the mate he'd lost so long ago because she'd been an herbalist. She was truly gone now, and he felt the loss of their bond, but the Marrok still did not think the Moor was lost to his wolf. Not yet. Perhaps he was right. But he was so tired.
Sage was true to her word. When Thea awoke and showered, she had a long skirt and comfortable peasant's top to put on along with a pair of comfortable sandals. The new wolf was moved to a guest room in Bran's house and Sage left to put an idea in her head into motion. She knew where to find Asil, and she knew that if someone didn't give him a gentle nudge he'd ignore the summons to attend the joining ceremony. Of course, since he was the only one who really knew what it meant to be an Omega he'd meet her eventually, but Sage wanted to be there when he did. She wanted to see his reaction, and what better way than to get him to go to the ceremony? Sage grinned as she opened the door to the hothouse. "Hello, hello," she said as she sauntered into his sanctuary. She watched him as he replanted a small rosebush into a larger pot, talking to it as if it were a child. She used to think it was creepy, but now it was just who he was. He was a quirky old wolf. "Since you never get out, I thought I'd swing by and tell you we have a new wolf joining the pack tonight."
His only response was a non-committal noise that could have meant anything.
"You should go to the joining ceremony," she said thoughtfully.
Asil snorted. "Yes, go welcome another unstable wolf. I'd rather not."
"I never said she was unstable, I said she's new... as in newly changed."
That got Asil's attention. Bran rarely brought a newly changed wolf into the pack, since so many of them were older and unstable, unless they were residents of Aspen Creek who tried the changed and survived, but that didn't happen until October and this was June. The newly changed were often sent to other packs. So why was this one different?
"You really should go, you might be surprised," she said and knew she'd planted the seed of curiosity. "Well, I have things to do before tonight, see you," she added and left.
The Moor had no intention of letting what Sage said get under his skin. No way was he going to go see this new wolf. At least that was what he kept telling himself.
Half an hour before the ceremony was to start he found himself unable to focus. On anything. With an irritated growl he slipped on his shoes and decided to walk to the Marrok's. He knew that was where the ceremony would be held. By the time he arrived he could tell most of the pack had turned out for it. "Damn woman," Asil growled as he made his way to the front door and inside. She just had to pique his curiosity, didn't she? Oh, he knew she'd done it on purpose and he would find a way to get back at her for it.
Everyone was downstairs in the basement where there was a large meeting room and several guest rooms both new and old members used sometimes. He spotted Bran's mate, Leah, and ignored her. She'd made the mistake of flirting with him when he'd first arrived and he'd put her in her place for being so disrespectful of her mate, his Alpha. He moved to a corner as far from the others as he could get, and stood there, eyes scanning the room.
Sage spotted Asil and grinned. She knew he couldn't stay away after what she'd said. She took it upon herself to escort Thea around, introducing her to her new pack members, and guided the smaller woman over to where he stood. "Hey there. I wasn't sure you'd come... oh who am I kidding? I knew your curiosity would get the better of you. I'd like you to meet our newest pack member, unofficially until Bran does the ceremony of course. This is Thea. Thea, meet Asil, one of the oldest wolves in existence. He acts like a grumpy old wolf but he's not as bad as he pretends to be," she said with a wink in Asil's direction.
Asil growled at her but offered his hand to Thea. "Pleasure." The moment her small hand slid into his he knew. He gasped and took a step back. "Omega," he whispered and gave Sage a dark look. She could have warned him. The look in her eyes spoke volumes. She'd deliberately kept that to herself. He wanted to throttle Sage.
"I'm sorry, did I do something wrong?" Thea asked at his reaction. All she'd done was shake his hand and he looked almost shell-shocked.
Asil shook his head. 'No, you did nothing wrong, Omega. You are a rare treasure among wolves."
"Sage called me that too, but she didn't really explain other than to tell me that we can calm others down."
Asil debated. Explain now or talk with her later? It wasn't fair that another Omega joined them. When Charles first brought Anna to Aspen Creek Asil had made a bit of a fool of himself trying to court her when the other wolf had chosen her for his mate, even though they'd not sealed the bond at the time. After Mariposa was killed and he was finally free of his past he took Anna under his wing to teach her what it meant to be Omega. But it was easier with her because she had a mate. Not so with Thea. Could he teach her without risking his sanity?
Asil tucked her small hand into the crook of his elbow. "Come, I will explain a bit until Bran is ready to begin the joining." He led her to a spot they could sit away from everyone and waited for her to take a seat first before sitting himself. "In its simplest terms, to be an Omega is to be outside of pack structure. Within a pack you have an hierarchy, beginning with the Alpha and moving down, by level of dominance, to any submissive wolves or unmated females. All wolves answer to the Alpha and a more dominant wolf can force a lesser dominant one to bend to their will. A mated female takes her position in the pack from her mate, so even if she isn't very dominant but her mate is, those who are less dominant must yield to her. An Omega is outside of this. Whereas other wolves have to listen to and obey their Alpha, because none have the will to defy their Alpha's dominance, an Omega can choose to comply or refuse and go about their business. They do not have to yield because they do not feel the natural urge to obey that all other wolves feel. It's a unique trait."
Thea listened intently. 'That's... interesting. Very fascinating, really, if a bit confusing and overwhelming. Of course that could just be because I'm still trying to process the knowledge that werewolves exist and that I was attacked and almost killed by one and now I am going to turn furry on the full moon."
Asil chuckled. "Werewolves can turn furry, as you put it, any time they wish to. Well, within reason. If you change too close together you'll exhaust yourself. It's painful too, especially the first few times." He saw Bran headed their way and nodded in his direction. "It appears the Alpha is ready to begin."
Bran watched as Asil led Thea to a seat and glanced over at Sage. The woman was too damned pleased with herself, but if something developed between the two that would be a good thing. Asil had spent too many years alone. Now that he had closure on his former mate's death, maybe he could move on to find happiness. Or if not happiness then at least some internal calm.
As he approached them Thea rose from her chair and Asil followed her. Bran noticed the old wolf hovering and although he didn't react outwardly, internally he smirked. "Come, it's time," he said and held his hand out to her.
Thea slipped her hand into his and let him escort her into the center of the room. She had no idea what to expect and she couldn't hide her nervousness.
"Asil, will you do the honors of aiding our newest wolf through the ceremony, explaining to her what she is to say and when?" Bran asked. Sure, he could have gotten Sage to do it, or even Anna, but where was the fun in that? The old wolf was intrigued by her, Bran was going to encourage interaction.
Asil hesitated a moment before he moved to her side. "As you wish," he replied.
Bran studied her a moment before he spoke. "Look me in the eyes with no offense taken or meant Althea Raelyn Stavros," he said loud enough for everyone to hear.
Asil leaned close and whispered in her hear, guiding her through each step of her part of the ceremony.
"I see you Bran Cornick, Alpha of the Marrok pack," came her quiet reply.
"Will you join with us, to hunt, to fight, to live, and run?"
She felt pressure building and was puzzled by it but she continued. "Under the moon, I will hunt, fight, live, and run with you and yours, who shall be mine."
Charles stepped forward then and slipped a small, sharp knife into his father's hand. "We claim you," he said, voice carrying. All around her the rest of the pack echoed his words.
Bran took the knife and sliced a small bit of skin from his forearm. "I claim you," he said and offered it to her.
Thea balked at that but Asil gently urged her to take it and swallow it. She did so and felt odd for it.
"Alpha's flesh and blood you shall be. From this day forward, mine to me and mine. Pack."
"Yours to you mine to me," she replied and it was done. The pack magic that was building throughout the ceremony snapped and Thea gasped at the intensity. She'd never felt anything like it in her life. "What was that?" she asked when she was able to speak again.
"Pack magic. You're bound to us so anyone who tries to hurt you will have to deal with all of us," Asil replied with the flash of a fierce grin.
"That's... comforting," she replied.
Sage approached them after a moment "Welcome to the pack Thea. Some of the wolves are going on a run to celebrate your addition to the pack, want to get your first shift over and run too?" she asked.
"I'm not sure I know how."
"Your wolf will," Asil assured her before Sage could respond.
"What Asil said. The only problem is you have to undress first. New wolves aren't usually comfy getting naked in front of others, so you can change in private and I can let you outside before I change too," she offered.
Thea realized suddenly that she really wanted to run. It was such a startling feeling. "I think I will go. This is as good a time as any to get my first shift over and done with, right?"
Sage laughed. "That's the spirit. What about you Asil, you coming?" she asked with an arched brow.
Asil thought about it. To go or not to go. Did he think the unmated males in the pack would leave her alone, considering what she was? They would no doubt be drawn to her, that was the pull of the Omega. He knew the only reason they weren't already sniffing around her was because he was there. No, no he did not think they would leave her alone. "Yes, I am," he said after a moment.
"Alright then. Come on Thea, I'll show you where you can change. I won't lie to you, it will hurt like hell but once its done and you're able to run, it'll be worth it," Sage said.
Most of those who'd decided to go for a run were already in the process of shifting. Pained noises reached their ears and Thea shuddered. "Does it always hurt?" she asked.
"Yeah, but not as much as after the first few changes. I mean, what do you expect when your body goes from human to wolf or vice versa? It's the price we pay for being what we are."
"You have a point," Thea replied.
Sage took her to a room on the first floor that had a door that opened to outside. Then she patiently waited until Thea changed. The first time was always the longest and most painful of changes. It had been years since her first change but she remembered the length of time it took as well as the pain she'd felt.
Time seemed to drag out as her body was wracked with pain. Dear gods, it was almost as bad as when she'd been attacked. Not quite, but almost. Thea felt her bones shifting and her flesh tearing as her body was remade into the form of her wolf. Her groans of pain turned to growls before finally subsiding. She panted and stood on shaky legs before finally shaking the last tingles of the change from her fur.
"Your wolf is lovely," Sage said, admiring the black and
brown female in front of her. She was a bit on the small side but she
was still bigger than a natural wolf would be. "Asil is right
outside, he's already changed and I'll join you as soon as I'm done,"
she added. "When we come back I'll change first so I can let you
back inside." With that she opened the door to let Thea out and
followed her. She stripped, no longer shy about being nude in front
of others, and soon joined them.
Asil padded back and forth outside the door he knew Thea would come out of. He could hear her groans of pain and growled in frustration. It was a pain they all felt, or almost all werewolves felt, Charles being the only exception, but he found he wanted to try to shield her from it. Not that that was possible. His reaction to her was troubling. He already felt the stirrings of possessiveness and he had to force it down. It was no doubt because she was an Omega. It was a natural reaction from his wolf, nothing more. He refused to believe there was anything more to it than that.
He froze in mid-step when the door opened and his gaze fell on the small black and brown female who stepped out. Her gold eyes locked with his and he stepped closer, nudging her a little. She was beautiful, simply beautiful. He barely noticed when Sage joined them, so lost was he in watching Thea, until Sage yipped to get his attention. Then they were off, running after the other pack members who'd gone before them.
They ran for hours, howling at the stars and hunting small prey. By the time they returned to the house the sun was lightening the sky. Sage changed and opened the door for Thea. She wasn't surprised when Asil changed not far from her and dressed while waiting for Thea to finish. The old wolf seemed torn between leaving and staying. "I can tell her goodnight for you," Sage offered. "And bring her by the hothouse later. After all, she's an Omega, she's going to have to learn what that means and what she can do."
Asil nodded. "That would be wise, yes. See you then," he said and left.
Sage laughed. "You are in so much trouble," she said to his retreating back once she was sure he was out of earshot.
Thea was weary by the time she opened the door. "Oh he's.. gone already," she said, a little disappointed.
"Asil? Yeah, he asked me to tell you goodnight. Later, after we've all gotten some sleep, I'll take you to his hothouse. He has the most gorgeous roses. He also happens to be the only one who really knows what you're capable of so he's going to train you just like he does Anna. You two will probably get along great. Anyway, go get some rest. I'll come by later to get you. Oh, and I assume you live in the area, sort of? If you want I can take you to get clothes and stuff since you'll have to stay here for at least a little while."
Thea nodded. "I do, about a fifteen minute drive from here, or thereabouts. Thank you, Sage, for everything. Goodnight, see you later," Thea replied and waved before she went back inside. She made her way to the room she was using and collapsed on the bed. Her last thought was of Asil as exhaustion pulled her under.