"It's working," Rhett announced.
I walked over to Petr's bed and saw how his chest rose and fell, steadily. The colour had already begun to flush through his skin once again. His hollow cheeks began to fill out, and the sunken dark circles around his eyes began to fade away.
Rhett's fingers brushed against my hand, and I entwined them with mine. I felt him lean into my neck and inhale my scent. I allowed my eyes to close, as I enjoyed the close contact and a moment of bliss.
I turned my head slowly to face him. His brown eyes were captivating, and I could hardly believe that this insanely handsome man belonged to me.
I turned his hand and placed the claw brooch into his palm, closing his fingers around it. I knew Rhett and our unborn child meant the world to me, and I couldn't imagine my future without them in it.
"You kept your promise to me, and now I keep mine to you." I looked into his eyes, meaning everything that I said.
He opened his hand and saw the claw brooch. "I will only ever make you happy, Amara," he replied, his eyes full of honesty.
I nudged him playfully. "I know, and I will do the same for you, forever," I promised.
He pinned the brooch to his sash, amongst many strange types of medals, and then he observed the brooch with pride as if out of all of them, he would treasure that one the most. I made a mental note to ask him what each of the medals were for.
"How long do you think we have until the army reaches the mainland?" I asked, Rhett.
My nerves were on edge with trepidation, as to what would happen, once they caught up with us.
"They're already here," Konrad answered.
It was as if he had either heard them approach or had sensed them. He moved toward the door, sparing a quick word of warning.
"Stay with Petr, and I will go and confront them. Perhaps if I explain the situation, we can resolve matters, without the need for violence," he voiced.
I gasped, with dread. "Will it really come to that?" I asked Rhett, in horror.
Rhett shook his head, looking uncertain. "No one has ever defied the king's orders before. So this is a first," he replied. "I have no idea what punishment I will face. I'm the crowned prince, so I must lead by example."
"Can't we escape, while we still have a chance?" I asked Rhett, fearfully.
He exhaled forcefully. "They would always find us, Amara, there's no point in trying to run. I know my father, he will support us, especially when he learns of your brother's poisoning. It's just Grandfather who will be a problem. He will, no doubt, show an interest in Petr, though. Your brother will become like us now, Amara, and they will insist on bringing him back to the island."
"I wonder if he will be angry with me, for having chosen this life for him?" The thought troubled me. I had no idea if I had acted against Petr's wishes.
"I think he will understand your reasons...He's waking! Amara, look!" Rhett announced.
I watched in amazement, as Petr's eyes fluttered open, then met with mine. I smiled with tears of joy in my eyes, as my brother recognized my face, instantly. A huge smile stretched across his lips.
Our moment of joy was soon disrupted by the harsh, bitter tone, of Sister Mary Agnes.
"The harlot has returned, I see. Now that is unexpected." She muttered, spitefully.
"You! Why are you still here? I thought Father Pierre de Bérulle was to relieve you of your duties!" I yelled, outraged.
She chuckled, darkly. "You see, I just couldn't allow that to happen."
Her lips twisted into a wry smile. I saw a flash of silver caught the light at her side, only to notice it was a small dagger.
"What have you done?" My voice came out a shaken whisper.
She paced the floor, tapping the flat edge of the bloodstained dagger in the palm of her other hand.
"I don't think you understand, so allow me to explain. You came storming through the convent, with intent to finish off, brother dearest, only to find poor Father Pierre de Bérulle in his room. You then killed him, and stood by and watched as your brother took his final breath." She rehearsed, seeming to test how the story would sound, as the lies rolled off her tongue.
You're pure evil, you won't get away with it." I told her, as her lips peeled back into an evil smile. She looked slightly unhinged as if she could be capable of anything.
"Oh, but I will. I have before, and I will again. Tell me, Amara, who would believe a Lycan whore, over a woman of God?" She held the dagger loosely in her hand, as she shrugged.
My eyes flashed towards Rhett, who was staring at her with a furious hatred, his nostrils flaring with each intake of breath.
"You disgust me, you're no woman of God," I seethed.
"How poetic, that's just what your mother said, just before I ended her sorry, miserable life," she replied, her voice sounded mocking. As soon as she saw my reaction, she pretended to gasp and placed a hand over her mouth.
"You killed my mother?" I replied. It was more of a statement rather than a question.
"She would have fetched quite a scandal. Your father was already married to another, and he was a Duke. So yes, Amara, you are of royal blood, but you see, he was unfaithful. He even sought to divorce his wife, and marry your mother, and in order to do that, he would have to change his religion. As you can appreciate, that simply wouldn't do at all." She toyed with the blade, pressing the tip against her finger as she paced the floor.
"You see, child, everything has a price. I was paid a generous sum to eliminate the problem. It was unfortunate that he chose to die instead of crawling back home to his castle, but you see, the moral of the story is, those who sin, shall be punished," she spat, bitterly.
My body tensed. "My father died? How?"
"Killed himself, as soon as he learned of your mothers passing." She confirmed, sounding as though she couldn't care less.
"But what about Petr and I? Didn't he spare us a second thought?" I asked, scrunching my brows, feeling hurt.
She pointed the blade in my direction, using it to gesture with. She always moved her hands around whenever she spoke, but only now, it made me nervous as my eyes fixated on the blade.
"My dear, Amara, I told him she died during childbirth, and that neither you or your brother survived. He couldn't live without her... simply tragic," she scoffed.
Rhett growled and attempted to confront Sister Mary Agnes, but I held him back, terrified that the silver blade would cause him harm.
"I care not for your Lycan monster. Nothing unholy can harm me in the house of God." She shot Rhett a warning glare.
Rhett responded through gritted teeth. "And you call us monsters. You really are delusional. I bet you tell yourself that you are acting out God's will. I have a Goddess who answers all of my questions, I need only ask. Tell me sister, when has your God ever answered any of yours?"
I screamed in horror, as Sister Mary Agnes leapt forward, with intent to stab me with the silver dagger. Rhett pushed me out of the way, just in time for me to witness a flash of colour pass my eyes.
Petr had lunged from behind me, and dove for Sister Mary Agnes. He twisted her wrist, causing the blade she held tightly in her hand to pierce straight through her heart.
Her eyes widened with shock as she gasped for air. Blood filled her mouth, spilling a drop over her chin. She clutched desperately at the knife, before sinking to her knees.
Petr's chest heaved, as he stood over her dying body. His once kind and gentle blue eyes blazed with nothing but anger and hatred. I wasn't sure if he could lip-read how she had robbed us of our parents, and of how she had planned to accuse me of poisoning him and murdering Father Pierre de Bérulle.
He must have reacted on instinct, the moment she threatened to end my life. He had killed her to protect me.
"Petr!" I cried, throwing my arms around his neck. "You saved me," I sobbed.
"Rhett!" Konrad managed to shout, just before several Lycan soldiers came storming into the room.
"I tried to tell them," he apologized, looking defeated.
Rhett immediately came to our side, as one of the largest Lycan's I'd ever seen, muscled his way through, with a thunderous expression.
He pointed his finger at each of us, as he gave his order. His voice sounded rough and raspy, and more like a growl. "I want you all on the ship, while I deal with the mess you have created here! If this sparks a war between our kind and humans, so help me, Goddess!"
"Father, if you give me a chance to ex—" Rhett held both palms up in front of him.
"Enough!" The huge Lycan roared. "There will be time to discuss matters, as we return to the island! You've caused your mother a great deal of distress, disappearing straight after sunrise. She didn't believe me that you made it out of the labyrinth alive!"
Rhett took the news of his mother's distress seriously. He told me that she was heavily pregnant, and was due give birth any day.
He seemed anxious to return home, to be at her side. I remembered the reasons why he was reluctant to find a mate at first. He felt very protective over his mother, for what he had witnessed her go through in the past.
We were escorted back to the port, not quite by force, but with little chance to escape. Not that we had any intentions in doing so. On either side of us marched four Lycan soldiers.
Petr walked alongside me, still looking slightly dishevelled from being close to death just a short time ago. I wasn't sure what Rhett's father had said to him, or whether he had understood, but whatever it was, Petr appeared to be at ease with it.
As soon as we reached the ships, we were ushered onto one. Thankfully, we were permitted to stay together. I saw Rhett cringe, as we walked along the destroyed port, observing all the damage we'd caused. The wrecked ship had started to fill with water and was sinking slowly.
The four of us waited with trepidation on the top deck until we were summonsed below to face the consequences.
Diego, Rhett's father, requested our presence below deck. I walked with dread down each of the wooden steps, not really wanting to face the intimidating Lycan.
"What do you think father will say?" Konrad asked, sounding rather concerned.
Rhett huffed with irritation. "Whatever it is, you needed worry. He still feels guilty for not being around for the first few years of your life."
"Why must you constantly bring this up, Rhett?" Konrad argued, in a whispered tone, the closer we got to the door.
"Well, it's true. You'll probably become worthy, whilst I will most likely be fed to the Vexcreep." Rhett muttered, with sarcasm.
"What's that?" I asked as I shuddered, not liking the sound of that.
"The flesh-eating plant life, that grows in the labyrinth, and don't be so ridiculous, Rhett," Konrad muttered.
"Come in," Diego commanded, from inside.
I took a deep breath and braced myself for a scolding.
"I wish to speak to Amara first, then to the two of you, alone," Diego said, looking at each of us in turn.
Both Rhett and Konrad went to wait outside until their father had finished speaking to me first. I stood there feeling pinned into place by his steely grey gaze.
When he hadn't spoken for a good whole minute, I cringed. I wasn't sure if he was waiting for me to speak first, or not. His grey eyes never wavered from mine, as if he was reading my mind.
"It's all my fault." I blurted out, feeling guilty.
"I asked them to help me, and I practically bribed Rhett, so if you are looking for someone to blame, then blame me," I explained, slightly hysterical.
His features softened, as he observed me with an amused smirk, while he listened to my confession.
"Those boys of mine need no encouragement. I mean to speak to you about Petr," he replied.
"Oh, OK." I furrowed my brows.
"He is the first human male to be turned in our clan. He will need to be taught how to control the beast. This training may take several months, even years. You may not see one another, as often as you like, but this need only be until he adjusts fully." Diego explained, carefully, as if not wanting to upset me.
I nodded, giving him a sign that I understood. "Of course, whatever it takes. Are we in trouble?" I asked, my voice trembled.
Diego relaxed. "No, not now I understand your reasons. I would have done the same for my family. You may go and get some rest. I would say send them in, but their ears are pressed to the door." Diego raised his voice at his last comment, and looked over to the door, causing a shuffling sound on the other side.
I kissed Rhett as I left the room, and wished him good luck. I found an area of the ship that had a pile of animal pelts in a crate. I pulled some out to use as a makeshift bed. My exhausted body was more than grateful to sleep, that it took only moments after I'd closed my eyes.
"Amara, wake up, we're here." Rhett shook me, lightly.
I mumbled something incoherent, not wanting to move. I was more than happy to sleep here a little while longer. I felt Rhett lift me up into his arms and carry me up to the top deck.
"Urgh, alright, I'm awake. Put me down." I complained.
Rhett carried me down the ramp and placed me onto the sand. I recognized the blond-haired Lycan, named Fabian, who had come to greet us at the beach.
He came bearing news that Diego's wife had gone into labour. I held back with the other Lycan soldiers and walked alongside Petr, whilst Diego, Rhett and Konrad, raced towards the castle. They were keen to let their mother know they were back, safe and sound.
I hummed a tune, whilst kicking at the sandy pathway that stretched all the way from the beach to the castle. The setting sun was creating patterned streams of red and orange along the horizon, and it had never looked more beautiful.
I started to sing dreamily, as I strolled, swinging my arms back and forth.
"I always imagined your voice would sound beautiful," Petr spoke, causing my head to snap to face him, shocked.
My breath stuck in my throat, causing a series of strange surprised noises. Petr's grin spread wide across his face. "It makes a change, you being the one lost for words," he teased.
"You can hear me?" I squealed, already knowing the answer.
"Yes, the sounds were muffled at first, but it all became so much clearer, once we were on board the ship," Petr explained.
I pulled him by the hand excitedly. "Let's go and tell Rhett," I squealed.
I had no idea where to begin looking, as we arrived at the castle.
I noticed Fabian and his bride, in the courtyard. "Do you know where Rhett is?" I asked.
"They're all at the birthing chambers. Here, allow me to show you the way," he offered, kindly.
We were led towards the far end of the castle. The chambers were located on the ground floor. As soon as we got closer, I could hear the sounds of babies crying.
Petr was evidently overwhelmed by all these new and exciting sounds.
"I have something to tell you." I turned to him.
"What is it?" He asked.
"I'm going to have a baby, you're going to be an uncle," I announced, happily.
Elation danced across my brother's handsome face and he laughed with joy.
"I'm so happy for you, Amara," Petr said as he swung me around in his arms.
"Things are going to be different for us, you know that, right?" I held his face between my hands, as I spoke.
"As long as we're together, I don't care," he replied, jovially.
When we arrived at the birthing chamber, Rhett came out of the room holding a baby in his arms, surrounded by Konrad and another Lycan, who bore a resemblance to them.
Fabian came to look and congratulated Rhett's parents. He then went to speak with his mother, who was busy clearing away after the birth.
"Amara, meet my baby brother, Kenyan, and this here is my little brother, Juan." He jerked his head towards the young Lycan, who looked around nine, or ten years old.
I held out my hand. "Pleased to meet you, Juan."
He looked at my hand, unsure of how to respond to the gesture. I'd forgotten that they weren't familiar with human customs. He shyly reached for my hand and kissed it.
"You must be Rhett's bride because you smell like him," he replied, innocently.
I wondered what he meant by me smelling like Rhett, but I decided not to ask.
"That's right, I'm Amara, and this is my brother, Petr, who can now hear and speak thanks to Rhett." I looked at Rhett and smiled.
"I told you before, a Lycan bite can cure anything," Rhett mentioned. "My mother wishes to see you." His eyes widened as if it was meant as a hidden warning.
"But she's just had a baby." I protested.
"Our mother is strong-willed, Amara. You will find that out, for yourself." He grinned at my terrified reaction.
Rhett carried the baby back inside the birthing chambers, to where his parents were waiting. His mother held her arms out, as Rhett gently gave her back the baby.
"You must be Amara," she said, looking up at me.
My heart was pounding fiercely in my chest. This was his mother. I felt more intimidated talking to her, than Diego. I really hoped that she liked me.
"I am, and congratulations, he's beautiful," I replied, whilst gazing at the baby.
"This will be you cradling your son, in three months," she said, affectionately.
My head snapped towards Rhett, who was exchanging amused glances with his father.
"Three months?" I swallowed down a gulp.