Chapter 1 - Breeder
There were few things in life that were certain - birth, pain and death. Whether or not you were lucky enough to experience love and happiness along the way, was entirely up to the Fates. While such thoughts were morbid, life promised much worse. Growing up this far north meant nothing short of darkness and cold-hearted bastards, though the winters were nearly not as scary as were men. Or their wolves. You could take your pick.
The Northerner’s spirit that hid behind the skin or lied beyond the yellow eyes was the true evil. Greed was reserved not only for humans alone. On the contrary, werewolves were more likely to put their paws on whatever they wanted, regardless if they had the right. They blamed their beasts for the never ending lust for power, but Violet knew better. Greed was the commodity that ruled the world in shapes and forms only few comprehended. Physical power in were society lead to higher social status. The strive to achieve it was inherent.
Their nature was a salvation, but also a curse. Salvation in the form of a mate who could put an end to the nightmare Violet was living in. A curse – for she was a mere she-wolf in a society that was ruled, and dominated by males. Sadly, the female role was predetermined at conception. Those two XX chromosomes were a harsh sentence to anyone who could see the merciless truth. In a pack on the verge of a war, unmated females were a liability. The Pack needed numbers to fend off rogues, and could not spare them for protection. Besides Alpha Gagon’s planned expansion needed to be sustained at all cost. Thus, she-wolves were exploited for their natural ability to birth the next generation, which was brainwashed from cradle to blindly follow their “mighty” leader.
Just like Hitler, Gagon thought himself worthy of selecting who survived and procreated. The propaganda started decades ago with the concept of fear, Gagnon managed to install in the pack’s mind set. It was his way to control the narrative, and to control the masses. Even rogue attacks were used to justify the survival mode mentally imposed in the pack. They needed members to complete the next fortification, more bodies to man those outposts, denser patrols to guarantee safety. Ultimately, it translated in the need of more pups for the pack’s salvation. But the pack had limited resources, which meant no food for the runts. Every single hungry throat to be fed needed to be able to pull their own weight, or else they would be left to their own demise.
The strength of the next generation came from their lineage. Assigned matings and breedings with fierce rogues were slowly becoming a norm.
All in the name of progress, all in the name of the pack.
There were no room for happy coincidences, and no such things as fairytale stories. There was no middle path. You were a Mate, Taken or Breeder.
Growing up in such a pack was surely not healthy for anyone, but Violet hung onto for the hopes of a mate. He would find her. He would save her. The idea of him kept her going for years, only to slowly give way to despair, as her savior never arrived. As time passed, her chance of ever finding him was going down the proverbial drain as she got closer to be assigned a destiny she would never follow.
No, she would find him. She would kick his lazy ass for not saving her from this hellhole. That was the only goal keeping her alive these days.
Oh, how much she had secretly hoped the Fates would assign her to be Taken. At least that way, she could still preserve some normality to her life. She would have a mate, and even though he would not be her true soul mate, there would at least be a bond. What did they call them in the West? Second chance matings. Choice matings were as stable as dormant volcano. One could never be certain how the mating will proceed, until they were already locked into it. Some shared kindness and managed to follow in love with each other, while others were soon thereafter replaced with someone new and exciting. But even that insecurity was preferable than being a Breeder.
Breeders were the few truly unlucky she-wolves, who were cursed with good genes, but shunted away from Fate and society all together. Violet had little control over her popularity in the pack, but she could at least rebel against being a Breeder. A Breeder she-wolf did just that – bred with whoever the Alpha deemed suitable at the time, carried pups to different males, assured the growth of the pack. That was a sentence worse than death.
But sadly, even death was not an easy option in a pack ruled by ruthless assholes. Gagon’s word was law, and it was carried through one way or another. They needed breeders and once designated as such, any whisper of suicide would only get you in a medically induced coma. They did not need your spirit, heck they would prefer your sustained existence, if it wasn’t for the medical expenses. Food was cheaper and hence why intimidation, degradation and brainwashing were the usual weapons of intimidation.
Violet could feel the bile rising in her mouth. It was a brutal world ruled by arrogant pricks. A world, in which unfortunately she was born.
Violet could still not believe how quickly her life had changed. True, she had dreaded the possibility of eventually being designated as a Breeder. Although it did cross her mind, she never realized just how close it was. Up until a half an hour ago, it was more of a theoretical outcome. Now it was part of her life, evident by the angry red stamp on her shoulder. Being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night, branded as cattle before even hearing your sentencing showed just how little they thought of her. Did they even think of her? No. She was not a person. She had no rights. She was a thing now. A Breeder. Even the Alpha did not find it prudent to look her in the eyes before taking away her chance of finding happiness and love. The single realization bit deeper than the heated iron sinking into her flawless skin. The shock of seeing the brand dip into her skin rendered her body immobile. As the silver coating sizzled and engraved her with the lowest rank of them all, her mind screamed, while her body writhed in pain. The scolding heat, and the smell of her burning flesh were forever etched in her mind. Her skin was ablaze, and her heart was broken. Her own pack betrayed her. They had forcefully gone against the Moon Goddess and all Fates, taking matters in their hands that were never theirs to toy with. The consequences of such ignorance were to be grave but Violet did not plan to live with the mistakes of others.
Her judge, jury, and poor excuse of an Alpha barely looked her way, before he dismissed her from his presence with instructions to breed with none other than a freshly caught rogue.
How everyone else drunk the cool-aid, and blindly following Gagon’s say, was beyond Violet. True, he was the Alpha and highly trained warrior, if the rumors were to be trusted, but surely she was not the only person to see his true agenda. Was she?
No, this was definitely not how she envisioned her weekend, much less her life. Her abused skin kept reminding her, the reality was worse than the nightmares she had prior to this dreaded night. The haunting prospective would wake her up in sweat and tears, but she would wake up.
There was no waking up now. They had really gone through it all. It was one thing to think of the worst case scenario, and a whole other thing to actually come to accept the reality – it was happening. They had branded her.
Violet had no illusions. She expected the worse, but a part of her wanted to believe in the good. That part was shocked into silence.
’Not a Breeder. Not a property. Not a cattle,’ Violet silently chanted to herself. It was all she could do to keep her mind routed into the present. The angry red brand on her shoulder was not her humiliation. It was theirs. She was a survivor. They had attempted to rob her of her mate, but she was damned if she allowed it. She was not going to stand aside and allow them to abuse her. She had a mate to find. Her resolution made her even more dangerous than a rogue as she contemplated doing the unthinkable, all in the name of love.
The thought of what she needed to do for her own salvation made her shudder. Nobody took such decision lightly. Desperate times indeed called for desperate measures.
Choosing a lucid mind over heavily medicated one was a no-brainer. She needed her wits if she was to carve her own destiny. So when the Enforcers escorted her down the moldy stairwell to the lower dungeon levels, she did not put up a fight. The arrogance of the corrupt system was going to be the root of its downfall. It was what it was, and she could do nothing about the current development.
‘You’ve prepared,’ Violet encouraged herself in attempt to overcome the dread settling in the pit of her stomach.
Her heart was thundering louder than ever before as the dim stairwell led to a long, narrow hallway which stunk worse than a public restroom. Something putrid festered here, its presence managed to overpower the urine and fecal matter. Her clammy hands left wet imprints on her clothes, the deeper underground they took her. Her life was already branded by the lack of a mate, and now her fate could only be changed by her choices and actions.
It all could have been prevented had she met him. Her mate. Where was the foolish bloke to begin with? Why couldn’t she be one of the lucky ones who found their mates by chance? Say like running into him when she least expected? It would have made her life so much easier, less complicated and exponentially more joyful. The irony was life guaranteed much more excitement than “simply” or “easy”. Violet wanted a re-do of her life, a restart, a reboot, but sadly it wasn’t possible.
Until now, Violet added mentally to herself as a small grin spread over her cracked lips.
She only hoped that the prisoner in question was as fierce and as dangerous as rumored.
“Are you nervous?”
The question startled Violet, and she narrowed her eyes in the direction of the voice. She hadn’t expected taunting on the way to perform her newly acquired task. Even the mare thought repulsed her. Chills ran down her spine in anticipation of her doom, which she could potentially use as her salvation.
The voice continued, “He won’t put much resistance after the work up he went through. Relax. A pretty little thing like you would be a welcomed consolation. After you are done with him, we could have some fun.”
Violet shivered as she eyed the enforcer who was casually propositioning her. He was buff, and she could sense the viciousness in him. It was the same vile nature which had kept her away from socializing with his gender.
Humans had it so much easier. No predetermined mate, no wish to follow fate, coded into your DNA as a mating pull, and all the freedom in the world to carve their own life, their own world; and to love and be loved.
Why couldn’t they just leave her alone? She was just a unfortunate she-wolf with a distant great grandfather who fathered a Gamma. Why would they even assume that her branch of the family tree would be as strong as the one of her uncle’s?
‘Stupid, stupid, males!’
As the massive door opened, the second enforcer encouraged her, “You only have one night with him before he is executed. Make it count or the Alpha will be pissed.”
“Dry him out,” the first enforcer chuckled, shoved her some food and topped it off with a flashlight. At her surprised expression, he winked, “So you can give us some details.”
Violet felt dirty, and different kind of violated at the insolent remark. How in the world nature allowed such idiots to live, much less thrive? It was so backwards, that the Goddess would be ashamed of her own creations. Before her mind managed to come up with a suitable remark, the heavy door closed in her face, a key turned in the lock. Their footsteps faded away, and silence settled. She swallowed and turned her back against the door. There was a dangerous rogue in the room, and she did not need to tempt Fate.
Her heart thundered, and on instinct her fingers wrapped around the flashlight, turning it on only to regret it once it lit the medium sized torture chamber, which was surely going to haunt her forever. It wasn’t just the obvious signs from blood and feces. It wasn’t the heavy smell or the unspeakable things the walls had witnessed.
The chained figure in the far end of the room made her heart sink. He was supposed to be the answer to all of her prayers, yet he was nothing but a bruised bag of bones. His loosely hanging skin was like a costume three sizes bigger than his frame. There was hardly any muscle left on his body. His bones were poking at it in weird angles, hinting of his once massive built. It was obvious they had silvered and starved him for months. Why they had kept his capture a secret and only announced it earlier this evening, was strange. It would have warranted an investigation, or at least some brainstorming on her part, but Violet had her own rather unfortunate situation to consider.
Her escape had become ten times harder.