“Walter, you know how much the humans have retaliated as we’ve slowly made our presence known...” Arthur’s words resonate within the council meeting chamber, myself sitting next to Aohdan while Taft appears bored from across myself. While Walter sits at the head of the council, his brother lingers at his side, the adviser I know who continues to poison the mind of our king.
“They shouldn’t be all that upset,” Taft sighs and leans his forearms against the table, “we only take what we need to survive, it’s not like we’ve killed any of them outright.”
“That’s not what the werewolves think,” Arthur immediately sets his attention on Taft.
Walter rubs his forehead with aggravation, having gone back and forth between us all as to what our next move is. We’d established this game between the werewolves and ourselves in a display to test our strengths and weaknesses however, when we need to feed, just to survive, the werewolves believe we will be the cause of many human deaths. There is no difference from when we came forth from the shadows to present day, just having our name out to the general public is what puts everyone on edge nowadays.
“If we don’t do something to show our power, we’ll be little more than vultures waiting to have the okay from the wolves to have our next meal,” Arthur speaks up once more, Walter lifting his chin while his cobalt eyes lock with my own. He’s thinking, trying to decipher what my opinion is as I really haven’t given one.
Walter nods and then parts his lips to speak, Arthur settling back down in his chair as Walter says, “For this upcoming winter solstice, we’ll not just play tag with the werewolves...” his voice trails off, expecting me to throw my two cents in, but I refrain and bite my tongue as he finishes, “we’ll try and capture an alpha to prove who is stronger.”
“Why?” I finally ask, leaning back in my chair while Aohdan catches my gaze in the process. I can see him ready to say something, eager as ever to make his own opinion known...though no matter what comes from his mouth is completely childish and immature.
Walter eyes me cautiously and I release a sigh when Arthur glares daggers, wishing they were more than likely physical ones. Taft arches a brow and grins from across the table, his gaze traveling between us all.
I don’t disagree that we should be treated as villains when we don’t kill humans...
...we just take the blood we need to survive. Yet, we’re seen as monsters, that’s it and that’s all we’ll ever be.
“Walter,” Arthur butts in once again and I cast my gaze away, staring at one of the walls while he continues to tell his brother, “your idea is fantastic and I’m sure they’ll learn we’re not just equals, but we could be so much more.”
Walter thinks this over for a moment before he makes his decision, “Aohdan,” his voice draws Aohdan’s attention as he continues, “if you wouldn’t mind fetching your sister, she’s studied a lot into the werewolves, no?”
“Yes...” his voice trails off with an apprehensive undertone.
“Please have her report to me when she arrives, I know there’s something she can help with this,” Walter nods and Aohdan agrees. It’s not like him to draw Delaney into something like this, considering this will be new territory for us and with it comes the unknown...the backlash we might receive could prove vile. Without another word, Walter orders, “Dismissed, we’ll rejoin back here the day of the full moon during the winter solstice.”
Aohdan pushes his chair out and rises to his feet, hardly casting anyone a glance except before he begins his walk toward the council meeting chamber doors. Taft releases a sigh and also stands to his feet before he states, “This should be quite entertaining!” He shoots me a glance before stating, “Change is always for the better.”
Arthur is also walking behind my chair the moment I stand to my feet however, Walter interrupts me by saying, “Not you Cormac,” Taft lets out a chuckle as we waves us goodbye, Arthur’s long look piercing through me before he too leaves the room. With a sigh, I lower myself back into the chair, the sound of the doors closing resonating in the background while Walter and I are left in silence.
The large fireplace behind him crackles with the flames, eating away at the life source of the logs while my eyes flicker to meet with his. There’s a moment’s pause when I know Walter wants to say something, yet he second guesses himself and instead I state, “You’re concerned the events laid out won’t go according to plan.”
“It’s that obvious?” He offers me a weary smile and I chuckle in return. Rising from my chair, I walk closer to him, taking Arthur’s seat before I lean my forearms against the table.
“Walter,” I note with a much more serious tone, “aren’t you the least bit concerned that this fun game of cat and mouse with play with the wolves will turn deadly?”
Walter nods and his face shows the concern he hasn’t ignored while he says, “I worry my brother is pushing too hard for the vampires to play a more dominate role in this world...the humans are guided by their greed, the wars of old showing their history often repeats itself. The werewolves harbor us no ill will as long as we respect their already settled territories and little by little, I honestly believe we can be accepted if given the time for others to adjust to our presence.”
“Well said,” I reply with a smile and state, “Arthur’s ambitions aren’t really out in the open whether he wants this gain for the vampire race or simply for himself. After all, we’re treated like second-class citizens due to the way we need to survive...but I believe there’s a better way. Most vampires kill for blood when we hardly need to end a life to feed.”
“I do too,” Walter pats my shoulder and chuckles, “and that’s why you’re my very best friend and my true adviser.”
I chuckle at that, knowing Arthur never will be the one he confides in with his darkest secrets due to him having outed him once prior. However, I do add, “Just remember...in the end...it all comes down to the basics of our chemistry and who will be the prey and predator. We don’t want this to change us permanently to be looked upon as villains.”
“Of course not,” Walter agrees, “this will merely be a scare tactic to show everyone what we’re capable of. Once everyone has seen our true power, we’ll allow the alpha to be set free, mainly showing the degradation in front of his pack.”
With that being said I rise from my chair and take a few steps away before Walter stops me, “How about a game of chess before you leave?”
He always knows how to peak my interest. Arching a brow, I glance over my shoulder at him and say, “Have I ever turned that down?”
“Exactly,” Walter laughs lightly while rising from his chair, pushing his rose gold hair back and away from his face as he continues, “how else am I going to keep you from running off so soon?”
“Clever as always dear friend,” I chuckle, Walter walking beside of me as we come to the chamber doors. After opening them, we walk down the hallway to his study, the small talk remaining solely on what will happen when we change up the rules for this game. My thoughts linger on those of this entire idea backfiring on us, but I’m hardly in the top ranks within the council to even have my opinion truly heard...save for Walter, at least he heeds my warnings to some degree but in the end, the decision falls on our king.
As we pass through the doors into his study, we congregate around the table set out with the chess board, the pieces already in position and just waiting for us to make our move.
Sitting down across from one another, Walter always selects the black pieces, believing they are lucky as history tells us rooting back to the game being invented. However...this leaves me with a crucial decision...
...playing as the white pieces allows me to select my move first and for how I want the rest of the game to be played.
“Damn it!” Walter grumbles after we sit for about fifteen minutes and he soon realizes he’s in check. His fingers remain on his queen while he debates where to place her however, I’ve made it where no matter how he moves her, his king is wide open for the kill...except for one, yet I’m not sure he sees it.
I chuckle while rubbing my chin, watching how the gears are working in his head as he attempts to think of some other way out of the trap he’s in. There’s just one move he can make to possibly bring him out of check and he continues to second guess his decisions, moving the queen to different places while not releasing his hold on her.
“Cormac...you’re horrible,” Walter sighs and releases his fingers from holding his grip on the queen, placing her out of harms way, but allowing me full access to his king.
With my bishop moved, I take his king and win the game.
“Sometimes...” I pull back my piece after the game is clearly over and I instead move his queen back to where she had started. Showing him, I place her directly in front of the king while I finish, “...it’s necessary to sacrifice a queen to protect her king,” I then take the queen with my bishop and move Walter’s king to claim my last movable piece.
“How did I not...” Walter runs his fingers through his hair while shaking his head.
“Sometimes you’re blinder than I think, brother,” Arthur appears in the doorway, his arms crossed in front of his chest while he eyes us both. He then states, “Your first mistake is to ever allow Cormac to make the first move,” he walks away from the door and nears the table, narrowing his eyes on me, “it’s easier to trip him up when he’s on the defensive.”
Walter sees the tension rise between us as he says in awe, “Why not you two have a go at it then?”
“I really need to be getting back,” I don’t want to get into this with Arthur...
...there’s only so many times I can throw a match before I want to rip my hair out with him.
He always thinks he plays me...he never does, but I reserve my strength and strategy when I need it the most and it’s definitely not here and now.
Besides, Kev needs to know how this winter solstice is going to proceed this year.
“Come on Cormac, don’t be a pussy,” Arthur taunts further and I chuckle, if only he knew the traps I’ve been experimenting on him...
“I believe one is waiting for me, so I’ll take that instead of a match up against you any day,” I rise from my seat and wave at the both of them, stealing my exit before either can call me back once again. At least Walter’s intentions are friendly, yet I don’t quite understand Arthur, I never have...
With a heavy sigh, I vacate the premises of Walter’s castle, exiting out the front doors before I halt my movements the second I see Taft leaning against my car.
“Taft?” I question him while he appears to be off in his own thoughts, his eyes focusing on the trees in the distance. It won’t be long before the winter solstice will arrive and everything will be carpeted in a thick blanket of snow, but for now, the green pine needles gently fall from the trees and litter the grass and dirt.
“Why do you think this is such a bad idea?” He arches a brow while unfolding his arms and turning his attention to me. As he moves away from my car and walks toward me, I close the distance between us.
I shake my head and reply, “I’ll never understand why you follow Arthur so blindly,” I watch that mischievous look in his eyes dance before mine while I walk right past him, taking the handle of the door into my hand. I hear Taft tsking at me like I’m some child, so I glance at him once more to see that he’s staring off into the distance again.
“It’s better to be feared then to remain at the bottom of the food chain,” his gaze finds mine once again and he nods, “or do you like spending your time in the shadows and picking off a human every now and then to survive? I’m sure your coven hardly appreciates your efforts.”
“There’s always other ways Taft,” I sigh with frustration because it’s like talking to a brick wall with any of the other council members, “we haven’t even asked for a negotiation between the humans and the werewolves, something to help set a precedence for the future to build on.”
Taft nods his head like he’s actually listening, but I know it’s going in one ear and out the other. Scoffing at him while opening the car door and lowering myself into the driver’s seat, Taft knocks on the window once I’ve shut the door. Turning the car on and rolling the window down I ask him, “Did you listen this time?”
“I’m sorry, I was too busy thinking about all the possibilities once the world really sees how dangerous we can be...and how we’ll be pretty much unstoppable if they want to raise up against us and put us back into the shadows,” Taft muses to himself while appearing to be in a daydream stance.
...I fear for this night to come...
...what are you really planning, Arthur?