Chapter 10: Next Moves
Dinner was a blur, between all the friends and relatives that were at the Johnson Pack, a number of my Pack members had transferred here as well. There were lots of hugs and tears, and I was worn down emotionally by the end. It didn’t help that tonight was a Pack run to celebrate the Full Moon.
I loved the runs. I would run next to my parents at the head of the Pack at the start, then fade back and spend time running with each and every Pack member, building the bonds with my small pack. It was a lot of fun, since the runs were recreational and not for hunting.
I wasn’t going on the run for the first time since I was fifteen. Children could shift, but they tired quickly and they couldn’t keep up with the pace of the adults. It was more fun to stay home and play. The Pack House had a play room, but we started in the yard out back. Renee had basically attached herself to me, and when I laid back to rest she climbed on top. Marge took a photo for me before the other children saw and started to climb on as well. “Kids, no rough play with Miss Ella, you can see her hand is still hurt.”
They smiled and left the pile, running off to play together elsewhere. I loved the kids, I used to dream of being a mother, but all that seemed like a distant memory now. I watched as the kids were led inside, and the Pack began to gather for the run. The sun fell behind the mountains and the darkness was soon lit by the rising moon.
I returned to my room, showering and dressing for bed. I looked out the window at the moon low in the sky, and was filled with sadness and loss. I wept for what I no longer was, then for what I no longer could be. When the tears stopped coming, I pulled down the sheets and fell into a troubled sleep.
I woke to bright lights and bouncing arms; opening my eyes and rubbing them with my good hand, I was able to focus enough to make out the cause. Renee was bouncing on the bed by my legs. “Mommy said to wake you up, it’s time for breakfast.”
“Aargh! You little monster, you woke the vicious beast!” I fake roared at her as I grabbed for her leg; she shrieked and jumped off the bed. When she got to the door, I told her I’d be down in a few.
I got changed and put my bad hand back in the sling. It hurt a lot this morning, so I grabbed my painkillers and went into the bathroom. I needed to see the doctor, I wasn’t sure if it was healing right. Of course, that could just be that I was human now.
Breakfast was a lively affair, and Aunt Remi told me I had an appointment first thing with the Pack doctor. “Nervous,” she asked.
“There’s a lot I don’t know.” I put down the piece of bacon, I had taken too much food as I wasn’t used to my reduced appetites. “My thumb still hurts. I need to get it checked this week by a specialist, and I can’t go back to Minneapolis.”
“We can make some calls, I’m sure there is someone up in Billings, if not we can go to Denver or Salt Lake. We’ll do whatever it takes to get you healed up, Ella.” She gave me a hug. “No matter what, you are family, and you have a place here if you want it.”
“I know.” I pushed my half-eaten food to the center of the table where Derek laid claim to it, growing boy that he was. “I’m heading to the clinic then.”
“I’ll go with you,” she said. “If you don’t mind. Now that Emma is… I… I told my sister I would take care of you if anything happened.” She started to break down, and I threw myself into her arms, careful to keep my hand clear. We cried together for a few minutes before she wiped her eyes and sat back. “I’m sorry, dear.”
“It’s all right,” I said. “It still seems like it hasn’t really happened. I keep expecting to see them walking through the door.” I stood up, then pulled her up with me. “We shouldn’t keep the doctor waiting.”
The clinic was just down the hill from the Pack House; essentially it was a small hospital, with a doctor and several nurses on staff. Werewolves were generally healthy, but we couldn’t risk using the human system for the broken bones, cuts and more serious injuries. This Pack had invested heavily in medical equipment and was the best facility around for wolves. We checked at the desk and were shown to an examination room, where I got to change into a gown and wait, just like in a human clinic.
“Good morning Luna, and you Ella.” Doctor Schmidt walked in, he was a tall man in his early forties who was already balding. “I had a chance to review your records from the reattachment surgery, you were very fortunate to have taken care of it like you did. The doctor was cautiously optimistic you’ll regain some function.”
I nodded as he took my bad hand and started to remove the dressing. “It’s throbbing a lot, and hurting more than it did.”
“That’s not unexpected, the nerves are just starting to reconnect and the tissue was torn up. Wolf bites are like that.” He finished removing the wrap, and I got my first look at the repair. It looked terrible, the wound was jagged and swollen, with angry red around the sutures. Doc looked at it closely, then sniffed it. “This is good, I don’t sense an infection. Hopefully the antibodies you had as a werewolf are still active for a while. We’ll get this wrapped up, and I want you to use ice packs on it four times a day for thirty minutes each, that will help reduce the swelling as it heals.” He cleaned the area carefully then started to wrap it again. “I read the toxicology report, but I want to hear from you what happened.”
I started to tell my story, soon Remi had my good hand in a death grip and was silently crying. I described what happened with the first and second wolfsbane injections, my final conversation with my wolf, and the pain of her dying. “How can I get my wolf back now?”
Doc sat back and looked at his Luna, then at me. “You can’t, I’m sorry.” I started to cry, and Remi hugged me to her. “Once a wolf is gone, it can’t be reversed. It doesn’t happen often, but there are some who choose to kill their wolf and become human, and we warn them of this.”
“Why not, Doc? Why can’t I just be bitten again now that I’m human?”
“It doesn’t work. Think of the werewolf gene as an infection. For a normal human, the bite spreads and changes your body. It’s like the measles, though. Once your body is ‘infected’, you build up antibodies that kill the infection in the future; otherwise, every time you got bitten it would be trying to change you again. If you get bitten, you will suffer the pain of the bite, just like you would if a dog bit you.” He patted my hand. “You need to accept that you are no longer a werewolf, and never will be one again. You are human now. I take it you have already experienced the loss of your wolf senses?”
I nodded. “Eyesight and hearing were gone quickly, smell too. Everything tastes different, and my body isn’t as strong. I could feel myself getting weaker as the days went on.”
“That’s to be expected, you will get used to it quickly. Any questions?”
I looked at my Aunt, then the floor. “What about my mate?”
He shook his head. “When the Luna told me what had happened, I did some research. The wolf in you was what would recognize your mate, without her you are just like any human- you have attraction, lust, you may even fall in love. Your mate could show up tomorrow and he’d be just another person to you.” I started to cry again. “As for whether he would recognize you, I don’t know. Your scent changed, and we don’t know if the part the male recognizes is from your wolf or human nature. I do know that there are no known cases of a lost wolf finding her mate afterward. I’m sorry.”
I turned to Remi, sobbing uncontrollably now. I wished I could kill David again, he had now taken even more from me, he took my dreams and shattered them, he took my family from me, my Pack has broken up and been absorbed into others.
What do I have to live for?
I walked silently back to my room, where I sat looking out the window at the Pack members going about their days. I watched for hours, tears streaking down my cheeks, and nothing changed. I looked down at my bandaged hand and the yellowing bruises on my legs and arms. It was time to make some decisions.
I walked through the Pack house to the Alpha’s offices. I couldn’t help but think how much it sucked to have lost the Pack link; if I was still a wolf, I would have asked to be added to my Aunt’s Pack and I could just send to them mentally that I needed to talk. Instead, I was standing outside the big walnut doors to their office, unable to smell if they were there or hear if they were busy.
I was about to knock when Alpha Doug opened the door and gestured for me to enter. I smiled as I walked in, Aunt Remi was sitting on a leather chair by his large desk. The connecting door to her office was open, and I glanced in at the bright floral pattern furniture and pastel walls compared to the dark wood and leather of this office. She got up and gave me a hug, then led me to the chairs in front of his desk where she sat next to me. “I hope you don’t mind,” she said, “but I filled your Uncle in on what Doc told you this morning.”
I nodded. “It’s all right, he’s the Alpha and he needs to know because this could affect your Pack.”
“It might be easier if I summarize what I know. You and your parents were visiting with Minnesota packs in preparation for you going to college. The meeting hosted by the St. Cloud Alpha, was an attempt by the four allied packs to get a mating that would allow one of their sons to take over as Alpha of your Pack. The negotiations failed, so your friend Olivia, daughter of the Brainerd Pack Alpha, and Carol, daughter of the North Shore Pack Alpha, brought you to a remote island and drugged you. David Tanner from Brainerd took advantage of you and forcibly claimed you. The claim didn’t take because your parents fought the other Alphas and were killed, causing you to become Alpha first. He then kidnapped and raped you, giving you an overdose of wolfsbane that killed your wolf, before you killed him and escaped. Alpha Goodwin said the other Packs left his territory when he visited you in the hospital, and negotiated a treaty with you in exchange for mineral rights. When you were released, you were attacked by the Tanner’s second son, Frank, and you killed him with a silver dagger. You didn’t go home, anticipating further retaliation, so you met some former Pack members who hadn’t left yet and came here. That about cover it?”
I nodded. “I’d add that despite me telling them I’m not an Alpha, I can’t dissuade those three from staying in my Pack.”
He pulled out a large map of the United States showing the various territories of the recognized Packs. It was laminated, so he started drawing on it with a marker. “All right, so your biggest problem is with the Duluth pack and Alpha Scott Tanner. You’ve killed two of his sons, and I doubt he’s in the forgiving mood.”
“No, I’m pretty sure he wants me dead yesterday.”
“Luckily, he’s a long way away and his Pack isn’t the largest. He’s still the biggest threat, though. You need to be careful, either you stay under friendly Pack protection or you disappear into the human population.”
“You can stay here,” Remi said, “Or we have friends who will take you.”
“That might be safer for you, they know we are related. I don’t want them coming after you to get me.” I pointed to St. Cloud. “Alpha Goodwin is my next biggest problem. He’s already shown a willingness to go after my old Pack to get to me, and I’m sure he was in on the attempt on my life. No way does an Alpha’s son get into his territory when he’s got men on me without him knowing.”
Doug nodded. “Luckily, we know what he wants, money and power. It’s not personal for him, just business. We can exploit that. What about Alpha Anderson of the Brainerd Pack?”
“I think he’s more focused on getting Olivia in as Luna of the Grand Forks pack. It’s kind of creepy how he’s pimping out his daughter, but as long as I’m not threatening her, I think he’ll stay out. Alpha Lewis, too. He was more interested in getting an ally to the west and the money.”
“Ella,” Remi asked, “What do you want to do about your parents? She was my sister, they were family.”
“NO!” They backed up a little. “I can’t get you pulled into a Pack war over this. So far I’ve killed two of them, and they’ve killed two and a half of us.”
“You know I can’t just let this go.” She got up and walked around the desk sat in her mate’s lap; he nuzzled her neck to calm her down.
“I’m not asking for that. They will pay, they ALL will pay, just not right now. I will avenge them, after I’ve recovered from my injury and developed a plan. You need to understand that in my mind, killing them is letting them off too easy.”
“What will you do then?”
“I will have more money than I can use soon, and I have nothing else to do but prepare and plan. I will find their weaknesses, use them to cause their empires to fall, then I will destroy what they love. Only then will I watch the life drain from their eyes as they bleed out at my feet.”
Doug laughed. “You’ve had time to think about this, haven’t you?”
“Yes. I had lots of time in that cabin, and in the hospital, and on the road. I want vengeance on a biblical scale.” I sat back in the chair and looked at them.
“It won’t bring your parents back.” Remi looked forward, her heart was breaking for me. “You have money, youth, your whole life ahead of you. You don’t have to do this, especially as a human against werewolves. No one will think less of you if you walk away.”
“I can’t walk away. I made a blood vow to avenge them, and I will.” I stared both of them down, just because I didn’t have my wolf didn’t mean I couldn’t carry myself like an Alpha.
“When you need help with this,” Doug said, “You call on us. We wouldn’t mind a bit of vengeance ourselves. We will limit ourselves to your instructions, as we respect your vow.”
“But skin the fuckers. I want Alpha pelts, I’ll make a fucking blanket out of them and hang it in our entryway.” I nodded as I laughed, Remi was the sweetest person in the world until you threatened her family, then she was cold as a Sicilian.
“I’ll get enough to make one for each of us.”