Titania’s wolf was in full control as she darted throughout the white tipped conifers. With wolves hot on her tail, she couldn’t afford to slip up: not when she had survived Mother Nature’s cold grasp; for now.
The chill from the dawn air nipped at her skin; her fur too patchy and thin to keep her adequately warm, but her wolf surged her body forwards over the icy vegetation and frozen ponds. With a wolf as determined and independent as she was, it wasn’t hard to ignore the pain her body was in and duck and dive to divert the wolves away from Duskfall. Her wolf hadn’t forgotten the familiarity of the lands, nor its pack. However, while pertinent, these thoughts lay trapped behind a dark fog tinged with bloodlust and animosity.
The mind may forget, but her wolf never did. Not when the world had cursed her from the beginning and scarred her heart beyond recognition.
With the scent of Rosevelt wolves lingering throughout the Eastern woodland, her wolf was foaming at the mouth. The hunt was on as she led them through her lands; the fools thought they could ambush her and kill her. Pathetic bastards. Blood, kill them all were the only thoughts reeling repetitively in her head. They had woken and hunted her since the sun had started to rise and that had made her blood boil beyond words.
She had managed to injure two wolves already by tricking them into a hidden ravine; the mounds of snow obscuring the deep fall. With a flick of her tail, she continued the chase. Her wolf was itching to decapitate them all.
Ignorant wolves. Trying to kill her for defending herself against a domestic abuser. One that was expected to become Alpha. That behaviour might have been common within their patriarchal society, but it was not one Titania would adhere to at nineteen years old.
When the winds picked up their maniacal domination of the Scottish Highlands, it became harder and harder to navigate the terrain. Treacherous conditions came with the climax of the storm as grey clouds rolled in. The rain of the night previous had frozen and left an array of streams, ponds, and puddles posing a slip risk under the crisp sprinkling of snow.
Titania could see two brown blurs in her peripheral vision; one on each flank. With quick speed due to her slight frame, she barrowed unforgivingly into the wolf that was on her left side. He yelped and slipped which gave Titania access to his hind legs.
Time was precious as she could hear the growls from the wolf behind her but with sickly quick efficiency, Titania paralysed the male wolf and bit down hard through his trachea. His life another casualty of his Alpha’s futile attempts at revenge.
She barely had time to relish the kill before the other brown wolf latched onto her back. His dirty claws exposing her muscle to the nip of winter. She roared, as the darkness stalked its prey. A few deep scratches wouldn’t determine any outcome, instead it heightened her reflex’s and need for blood. If anything, her adrenaline levels rose as her fur bristled with the pain.
Throwing the mutt off, she snapped her jaws at him. It took five minutes before he too lay beside his packmate; blood christening the virgin snow.
Eóghan’s mind went into panic mode when Brett told him the news. He had marched over to Athdara’s cabin and demanded answers, which she had reluctantly given. Assigning a guard wolf to her cabin, he forced his own wolf to calm. While betrayal was of the highest sin, he had other priorities and would have to deal with her after he got Titania back.
Watching the weather turn, he stood solid in his animal hide outerwear. Despite the storm howling and snow picking up in speed, Eóghan had sent a mind link to the Duskfall wolves, and messages to the other packs, to congregate in the pack centre. Now was the time to act, especially now he knew that time was hastily running out.
Garth jogged up beside him, “That should be all the wolves now Beta.”
Eóghan nodded to the Gamma before setting his eyes along the two hundred wolves that stood in front of him. The Alpha’s lined the outskirts of the mass; acting as a protective barrier while also showcasing their dominance. Alpha Alfonso had a cane as he struggled to stay upright in the strong winds. Alpha Luis, Alpha Jules and Alpha Lumiere all watched with weary eyes as fear festered within the wolves. A massive gathering hadn’t happened in months and that thought sent many wolves into frenzies.
“We spotted Titania this morning, we should be sending out groups to surprise them.” Brett whispered.
Regarding the male, Eóghan scratched his beard as the last of the wolves made their way to the group. “In a storm like this? Too risky. We have the advantage if they come to Duskfall, we’ve already planned this out Brett. We need to think logically.”
“There could be more causalities Beta, not to mention that they’d probably kill Titania before making their way here.” Argus stood beside the high-ranking wolves as they discussed their options, which were dwindling. A night planning had drained the wolves, while increasing tensions due to the split in opinions.
A small growl from Brett silenced Argus who snapped his eyes to him, “I get that you care about her but we need to be realistic. Now’s not the time for ego’s Brett.”
Sighing, Brett pinched the area between his eyes hard. His wolf was angry and refusing to cooperate. Grinding his teeth, he responded, “Sorry, my wolf’s been pushing hard and I can’t imagine the fact we might lose her, not when we’re so close.”
“We’ve not lost yet.” Garth said.
“We arrange strong patrols and defences and we stick to the plan no matter what. We have too much to lose if we act without caution.” Brett, Argus and Garth all quietened at the finality in Eóghan’s voice. While it irked Brett, he had to remember that he was no longer an Alpha wolf.
Nodding, Eóghan turned to address the crowd. Clapping to catch the groups attention, he struggled to hold back his wolf when the noise didn’t dim. An almighty growl from Brett, however, silenced the crowd immediately. The taste of urgency flavoured the air as Brett’s eyes exposed their fear and desperation. Every wolf could see from Brett’s body language; the shrewd eyes, the scuffing of his feet, the tight jaw and the fact his temper was at its peak, that something bigger was at play.
Finally, silence ensued and Eóghan addressed the pack. Being late morning, Nathan was not used to being awake, his eyes barley open. The sun struggled to peak through the dark clouds and Nathan couldn’t help but smirk; the weather matched his mood.
With all attention focused on the high rankers, plus an intimidating ex-Alpha male, Eóghan stood tall. “We have information that there will be an attack on Duskfall later this evening.” Letting it sink in, shocks and gasps filled the crowd, “first off, please raise your hand if you intend to fight alongside Duskfall.”
Before wolves could make their decision, Alpha Alfonso called out. “What are the intentions of the attacking pack?”
Garth tried to control his anger towards the male. Concealing it well by not attacking the man; his mouth straightened and posture tensed at the arrogant male’s voice. Also having issues with Alfonso’s comments over the past few months, Eóghan’s mouth turned in distaste, however, as the Beta, he responded plainly.
“They’re enemies of Duskfall and want to destroy the pack.”
Alfonso could sense that there was more to it. As an Alpha, it was clear that the four males who stood as the supposed ‘leaders’, which he disputed, continued to hide such secrets. Their flickering eyes and suspicious activity after Titania left, only confirmed his thoughts.
Clearing his throat, Eóghan didn’t know what to reply. It was common law that feral wolves were put down. So how did he explain to his pack and four others that they were actively trying to save one? And by doing so, putting many at risk. Eóghan had weighed up the pros and cons and knew his view was biased, but after years of leading Duskfall to success, he couldn’t let Titania down, despite comments from the Elder Council and greedy Alphas that wanted her pack.
“The Rosevelt pack are after Duskfall and our previous Alpha Titania. They plan to kill her and attack the pack tonight.”
The whole crowd erupted into mutterings. Alpha Alfonso cut through them, while he may have been impaired physically, it did not weaken his voice or tone. “She’s alive?”
“Aye she is, and we intend to bring her back.”
Wolves stared in disbelief as Eóghan nodded to the question. Duskfall wolves glanced between one another; pride within their eyes as their Alpha had managed to survive over a month in the Highlands, during winter. Something unheard of within the rural packs. Lone rogues had a survival rate even lower than the current decline of shifting teenagers. Titania had survived the 10% chance, kicking and screaming.
This was not news to Nathan, who could still partly feel the bond in spite of the one-way rejection, so while his wolf was overjoyed at her strength, his face soured. Stealthily, he tipped a mini bottle of Fireball Whiskey into his mouth. The alcohol warmed his belly on the descent as the gail’s tempo intensified; whistling through the trees as it played its own tune.
Brett’s wolf grunted once again; unhappy with hearing such negative words towards a potential bond mate. While he himself was drawn to the Alpha female, his wolf had developed an attachment towards Titania for a few years now.
Alpha Luis showed immediate horror. The two French Alpha’s faces were impassive but the mild shock and displeasure was written all over Alfonso’s face. He had believed that without female rulers, packs worked better together. Titania leaving had brought harmony. He was finally enjoying his time within Duskfall which pleased him and his wolf, but the fact that these males were actively seeking her out to bring her back, well, that confused and angered him.
Trying again, Eóghan asked the same question “so who will fight alongside Duskfall? The very pack that has housed you, fed you and taught you about the beings that live in yer bellies. If you do not want to join us then please report to Garth who will assign you other duties that will also help towards protecting Duskfall.”
Unanimously, feet shuffled as wolves voiced their shock. Different emotions and tones filled the icy air.
“She can’t be alive, surely they’ve got the wrong wolf.”
“I don’t want to go out in a storm! Have they seen the winds! I can barely stand up straight!”
“The pack have done so much for us, I’m going to step up and help!”
“It’s a death sentence going after a crazy wolf, that’s why it’s not in the law. Am I heck going to risk my life over this shit? Not my issue.”
“Fighting for a bitch that went mad? No thanks, she’s better off dead.” Alfonso’s stubbornness lead many of his pack to Garth who had to grit his teeth to stop himself from snapping at the immaturity of the males. Ungrateful fools, he thought angrily as he scribbled down the names.
Argus sent a respectful nod towards the remaining Spanish wolves, Hugo and Apollo and a teenager named Franco. Many others stayed standing; the majority Duskfall fighters but four Lithuanians, three Spaniards, and seven Frenchmen and women stood before Argus, Brett and Eóghan.
Marigold sent Lucy a sparing glance as she remained still, “Are you going to fight?” she asked.
“Duskfall’s my pack, so I’m going to do what’s right.” She pecked Marigold’s cheek, “my sister will be patrolling and I need to look out for her.”
“You know me, when amn’t I?” Lucy sent her mate a wicked smile.
Marigold went over to the crowd of wolves waiting in line in front of Garth; all the while stealing little looks of her mate. The night previous had be marvellous and right now, her wolf was showing its displeasure by growling at the distance between them. The mate bond pulled, but Marigold knew Lucy needed to do this; and for her mate she just wished she knew what she was doing.
While Argus gave a run through of the plans with the remaining thirty-two warriors, Nathan joined midway, barging unceremoniously into the group of well-built wolves. Eóghan’s eyes darted to him immediately; his forest eyes sparking dangerously.
He stormed towards him while Brett watched: unimpressed.
“You’ve got to be kidding me Nathan-” Nathan giggled as he watched a snowflake land on Eóghan’s beard. “Are you drunk?!”
Eóghan inspected the Spaniard. Dilated eyes, flushed cheeks in spite of the ice chill and a high pitch of his usually husky voice was what he found while Nathan saw the look of disappointment and dread etch onto the Beta’s face. The conclusion Eóghan had come to was that: the wolf was intoxicated.
Brett growled irately as the warrior’s eyes had wandered to spectate Eóghan’s rage rather than the duty at hand - he refocused them on the map depicting Duskfall. Eóghan grabbed Nathan by the scruff and threw him to the hardened ground. After a fist and a slurry of curse words, Eóghan had had enough. His wolf took the reins; his anger quick to the boil due to the stress he’d been under.
“You are by far the most slimy, disgusting, bampot piece of crap I’ve ever seen. Awa’ n bile your head before I-”
A high-pitched howl suspended all commotion. Its pain and hatred filled timbre saturated the morning air and had every wolf standing immediately to attention. The warriors froze. The rest of the wolves not wanting to fight froze. Brett’s heart froze. Nathan’s wolf froze.
Titania was calling.