News traveled fast and it did not take long for those to come to term with the fact that Alpha Brett was hoping to bond with Titania. Wolves rejoiced, as the union would strengthen both the Ash Crescent and Duskfall packs; but a certain someone scowled when he heard the gossip and bitterly wished he could have another round with the obnoxious Alpha once more. So be it if he got another black eye.
A lively atmosphere continued on from the night previous as leftovers were served for breakfast. The wolves ate eagerly with renewed vigor as they conversed about the training they would encounter. It was said that both the wild Alpha’s had a different challenge set for the day. The majority of the pack spread out around the packhouse, socializing with the diverse culture present. Mates and bondmates lay low in their cabins while both Titania and Lucy struggled to leave theirs. Two noticeable absentees were missed among the masses but with a keen eye, a wolf like Eóghan took note.
Titania had mentioned to Eóghan how she was helping Lucy in the healing process, something she had yet to focus on herself. Admiring her attentiveness but discouraged at the lack of care for her own health, Eóghan silently applauded her. It took a strong wolf to deal with rejection but an even stronger wolf to become a leader to others going through the same.
Tucking into a hearty plate of vegetables and leftover bison, Brett answered the question on everyone’s minds. “Titania will be here soon.”
Garth scowled at him. The Alpha male didn’t seem as concerned as the other men seated at the centre table. “Didn’t you see her this morning? You live together you know.”
“Wow Einstein, thanks for pointing that out.” Brett rolled his eyes while Garth crossed his arms, he was not a morning person and Brett was starting to grind his gears. “I’m not her keeper, she’s a grown woman. She doesn’t need me to be her personal alarm call.”
His thoughts flickered to the night previous and the lack of sleep that he got. Haunted screams and the bitter scent of misery was all he could picture and without noticing, he shook at the pain the she-wolf had gone through.
Angus, Eóghan, and Garth all shared a knowing look. Brett did not know Titania was going through a broken mate bond. One of the most painful things a wolf could experience.
Leaning in and keeping his voice low, Angus sat beside the Alpha male. “She didn’t seem...off... to you?”
Brett internally prickled but externally kept his composure in check and simply shook his head.
Garth pushed further, his eyes narrowed. “You want her to be your bondmate yet you sit here and act like you don’t care? You’re an idiot to think that we can’t see through the lies.”
Brett growled at the disrespect and pushed his plate away, nails clawing into the wooden table. “Watch it, Garth.” He spat, “Know where your place lies.”
“Perhaps I’d have more respect for you if you were honest with us.”
Eóghan glared at Garth. The man recently had been touchy watching the decline in Titania’s health, but that was not an excuse to disrespect an Alpha.
“Garth breathe and keep your voice down. We all care about her in one way or another so stop acting like a child.”
Eyes blazing, Garth relented. With a deep exhale and his Beta instructing him to back down, his anger dissipated. “Sorry.” He muttered.
Brett nodded his head, “It’s okay and it’s not my place to talk about Titania in the privacy of her own home. Not only is it unfair, she’d also have my hide.”
The charged atmosphere turned as the males laughed. She would definitely cause damage but that didn’t stop the worrying from the Duskfall males.
Alpha Titania and Lucy both arrived in late. Their presence had caused some eyes to dart to the pair in question, especially within the Duskfall pack as Lucy was a silent type; one who took ambitiously to books but at that current moment Eóghan saw none of that. Just a steely determination followed by an empty look mirrored by their Alpha.
Titania sent her a meaningful look and the teen dispersed, grabbing an apple before disappearing once more.
The female Alpha scanned the room as her gaze landed on the remaining wild Alpha. He stood, food forgotten as he yearned to carry out the training they had both agreed on. It had first been awkward in the morning, but he dismissed the lingering traces of lust that flared every so often. She seemed frustrated and not wanting to push her in any way, he backed off - instead offering a joint training exercise that would challenge the wolves mentally as well as physically.
Stood tall, her cold exterior rose with it as she addressed the room. “This morning, we plan to test the training you’ve started to practice.” This caught the attention of the ranked wolves who craved nothing more than a challenge, “We are going to split into two teams, Alpha Brett and all the packs currently on his land versus mine. In essence, it’s exactly like catch the flag but instead of a flag, we’re using a live boar.”
Alpha Brett, like a Goliath, towered over Titania. Despite the fact there was at least a six-inch difference height wise, it did not undermine the eeriness and deadly intent of the woman. If anything, it made her that much more of a predator that she truly was: virtuous looks aside. Titania’s body couldn’t help but be so aware of the hulking male beside her.
The packs cheered at the declaration until a sour voice called her out, “Unfair. Your pack knows the land better than ours!”
Santiago was not pleased with the game presented to him. The odds were stacked against him, and as a man who always preferred to count his chickens before they hatched, he could not overlook the fact that Titania’s side had the advantage.
Titania’s exterior never wavered as she gave the male a look that signified just how idiotic his question was. Unconsciously, his shoulders slackened at the true iciness of the frozen stare drilled into him and even he felt his soul slightly blacken at such a glimpse.
“I can assure you the Ash Crescent know our land just as well, I wouldn’t have paired the teams if they weren’t compatible. Where’s the fun if there’s no challenge?” She taunted, daring the wolf to continue.
“Also if you had listened to me in the first place you would have realised that you’re on my side. Fool.”
Santiago sent a bitter look her way but smartly kept his mouth shut. Happy that there were no more qualms over the fairness of the game she went on, “Both sides have similar numbers, the same number of high ranked wolves and a mix of varying skills. The rules are simple; retrieve the boar to your side. Once the animal is over your line then your team wins. During this exercise all forms of training are allowed, wolf forms and Human forms also. There are no limits to the damage you can inflict on other wolves, so long as it is not life-threatening or results in death. Are we clear?”
A chorus sounded throughout the crowd. She nodded to Alpha Brett and with a sly smirk mocked the male, “Let the best team win.”
Brett’s gaze swam with the challenge, flicking from his original grey to a darker charcoal. “Don’t hold back this time Alpha.”
“Trust me, there’s no holding back. Try not to lose this one, I’m not sure your ego could handle it.”
The jab hit its intended target as Alpha Brett shivered, remembering the loss he had acquired two years prior when their packs joined against the severest winter they had encountered. Titania had not let that tippet of information slip. True to her word, she challenged the very beast within him to pry the win away from her hands, and that he would.
Wolves watched on with barely concealed interest as the two potential bond mates interacted before their very eyes. A few looks none too impressed at their display. They were so similar yet so different but a suitable match none the less. Both the Alphas gave their opponents a few more jeers before departing to brief their teams on strategy. Both Alpha’s herded their hundred and thirty wolves to opposite ends of the pack land.
Titania mind linked her wolves as they all sat down around the Alpha’s, informing them to keep their strategic thinking to themselves. Wanting to observe for herself, just how much these wolves had learned. Voices scattered over one another and after a threatening growl from Titania, each Alpha spoke in turn, revealing what their packs thought best.
Alpha Jules went first, “Bleulune says we should go offensive, grab the boar before the other team then continue on defense.”
The French wolves nodded along with their Alpha’s summary while a few muttered against such an idea. To Titania while valid, their plan was too simple with too many plot holes to prove any use and instead she turned her attention to the other French Alpha.
“We are the opposite. We lie in wait, let the other team do all the work catching the boar while we defend our corners and ambush the other team.” Alpha Lumiere said confidently while Jules shook his head.
Growing agitated with the lack of respect many of the wolves had for the speaking Alpha’s, she growled once more. The sinister promise of a death and destruction brought the wolves to complete silence. Many bowed their heads in submission to the female who had to pinch the bridge of her nose to control her wolf, a being that was not taking the caged life well. For now, the wolf complied but Titania knew it would not be long before it was back demanding blood. The beast was becoming feral, blurring the fine line between sanity and insanity. For one could not live without one-half of their soul.
With a wave of her hand, Alpha Filip of northern Lithuania broke the momentary lapse in the atmosphere, “We agree with Alpha Jules. Simple is the most effective.”
Without surprise, the Belgium Alpha Louis agreed with a defensive approach leaving a crossroads of such. The wolves were not grasping the bigger picture. Without Alpha Alfonso, Titania waited until a Spaniard spoke up but when none complied and sent her such foul looks, she snapped. Grabbing the male that spoke out before, she brought him close to her face. The sharp canines poking perilously over her rosy lips.
Santiago gulped, his confidence dissipating in the face of the black void herself. Gripping desperately at her hands, he attempted to claw free. He sunk claws into her flesh. Blood staining the pale skin that was once untouched many moons ago.
“When I ask your pack a question you will answer.” She demanded, eyes narrowing to the huddle of Spaniards, “If you think for one minute that I will not throw you to Winter herself and let you die in the mountains then you are mistaken. Learn the respect that should’ve been mastered when you were pups. Absolutely useless."
An ugly sneer took over the once angelic face and many cringed at the real Mountain Widow, the one from the rumors told. A woman scorned too many times for the Moon to count. An Alpha with a gaze as cold as ice to match her heart. A wolf that desired nothing more than death and destruction.
Nathan saw her true self and his gaze once clear turned stormy. Reaching for his, albeit foolish, friend he swiftly used his claws to detangle Titania’s hand from around Santiago’s throat.
Not a sound could be heard as Santiago collapsed to the ground, clutching the bruised throat which housed a tongue that did not stop: even in the face of danger. All the while Titania did not move. Flicking her blue eyes to the deep slits weeping along her wrists to the male in front as her eyes grew incredibly, impossibly, dangerously dark.
Unable to hide the roaring anger, she snarled at the defiance from her mate. Inwardly, she cursed the male that although intended to inflict pain, arose goosebumps at the very contact. Fur rippled over the exposed skin of her arms and neck as she struggled to hold back the murderous intent of the wolf within. Thankfully before she could lay a hand to the male in front, whose eyes blinked in a mix of distaste and uneasiness; Angus, Eóghan, and Garth stood by her side, two held her down while Angus sent a punishing blow to the wolf.
“Disgusting rogue, I should have done that weeks ago.” Nathan winced, nursing his now broken nose before facing the enraged head warrior.
“Didn’t get enough of me when I was chained up? pinchazo.”
His friends looked at Nathan as if the wolf had a death wish.
Angus was not pleased. He stood at the same height as his competitor but his lean body made him strong and fast, a deadly combination that had been shaped by the wilderness. “I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of a wolf who does not show respect. Especially not one who spits on the Moons gift.”
The wolves around muttered amongst themselves at the show. The Spaniards flinched as Nathan received yet another punch from the powerful male, for no one insulted Angus’s Alpha without repercussions. All the while Eóghan attempted to calm down the savage wolf desperate to emerge.
“Alpha. Titania, listen to my voice, follow it.” He kept his voice toneless, knowing her wolf did not take well to being talked down to, “You can’t shift right now, not when you’re on the edge.”
Garth struggled to hold her back. She twisted and turned, digging harshly into Garth’s dark skin. “Hurry up I can’t hold her much longer!”
He turned her to the brawling males. “Despite the pain, he’s your mate and you don’t want to hurt him do you?” She responded to that, a slow dim in her turbulent eyes gave him what he needed and Eóghan held on.
Lowering his forehead to hers, he whispered something that would hopefully bring her back. “Don’t be like them. You are not the monsters that they were but don’t drop to their level and do something that will scar your future with your mate. Listen to me. Trust me. I’m always here for you Alpha. Stay strong.”
A few seconds later a deep sigh signaled the reappearance of their impassive Alpha. Eóghan backed away, knowing that by reminding her of the past he had altered her fury to sorrow. Although much preferred, she was now suffering internally and oblivious to others by her disengaged appearance; the realization of what could have been hit her deep.
“You fucking bastard!”
At the sound of her voice, he stopped mid-hit. Refraining from sending another punch into the pathetic excuse of a wolf that lay by his feet. It was no wonder Alpha Brett took such pleasure in beating him at the party; if only he knew that Titania’s true mate was neglecting her in ways that went against their very existence as Werewolves.
He spat at Nathan instead, returning to his Alpha’s side. Garth and Eóghan looked down to the wolf and offered him no sympathy. His weakness had continuously been his downfall and soon if he did not tread carefully, he would end up six feet under. She ignored her bleeding mate. Letting the severity of his actions sink in because if he did not learn from his childish ways then he was not worth the energy that he drained from her.
“Sed de Sangre pack I will not ask again, what is your input to this hunt.” Her face told them that she meant business and after her display, answers were thrown at her. She listened to their ideas but once again, found herself disappointed at the lack of methodical thinking. They were against tough competition, did they not understand that this was not just a game but also a case of life and death?
A Border patroller, Colton answered his Alpha. “We have set groups. Have runners to lay false trails and take down any offense while other groups can have other aims?”
Alpha Titania nodded appreciatively, finally she thought, some strategic planning. “That’s a good starting point, any advances to that?”
A warrior, one of Angus’s friends chipped in, “We set decoy groups along certain markers, that way if there’s a slip they will not get past defense lines easily. Make this group warriors?”
Duskfall agreed with the plan slowly forming between themselves, Athdara, an organizer by trade tentatively raised her hand, “If we base the majority of our team centre-wise, we can trick the other team to think we’ve focused our attack while we change our formations to decoy from the runners who create the false trails.”
The other wolves listened, quite in shock at the level of depth required for, in their eyes, a simple game of catch the boar. Little did they know that to these wolves, it was serious business. Strength was something they gained from a young age and wilderness be damned they’d easily out perform any of the European packs when it came to such.
“What about the boar itself?” She questioned and at the lack of answers she indulged them with her own scheming for she was determined to hang another win over Brett’s head.
“We catch it, dismember it and use the limbs to set decoy trails. Runners you will catch the boar and take five parts of it to spread out the scent. The rest of us will be backup, preventing the other team from gaining the upper ground. As said, at first we will stay in the center and at my command will change to separated groups.”
The wolves looked at each other but none refused. The newcomers were confused at such a task but after a few explanations, everyone knew their roles and their goals. Alpha’s made sure they kept their groups together to execute the orders they had been given, Titania made it eerily clear that the roles of each group had to be done in time or everything would be ruined.
“Not taking any chances this year,” Eóghan commented, noticing the focus that went through this meticulous plan. No part went left undiscussed, they even had a plan B if events didn’t go as planned.
Titania applied the red tribal paint to her face while handing Eóghan a pot of blue. “I do not take chances. This is a learning curve for the new wolves and the sooner they learn the complex difficulties that run with our instincts the better. They can’t be kept in the dark for long.”
“By the looks of it, some will need more ‘help’ than the others.”
Eóghan mimicked speech marks at the word help and Garth scoffed, “Just get big ol’ Angus here to smack em around, works a dream.”
Finishing the yellow dots around his cheeks Angus smudged some over his neck, “Little overdone?” Eóghan motioned to his neck and Angus just chuckled.
“Yellow is my colour.” He winked before turning to his Alpha, who stood barely aware of the conversation around her. “I’ll keep an eye on the Spaniards, we won’t lose this hunt.” He nodded to the yellow group where Nathan stood unabashedly and uncaringly with the Spanish wolves.
“We’ll have bodies of Spaniards if we do.”
The males laughed at her statement but Titania meant every word, the intent of her wolf slowly but surely, controlling her system.