The next day is nothing but wildly unpredictable. Baden, Chase and I decided to stay seperate for the most part. I pretended to stay sick in my dorm, Chase agreed not to go near Baden and Baden agreed to avoid me.
It was hard to avoid the situation, however, when we all knew it was just a matter of time.
I was waiting for news to spread. Photos. Videos.
However, as I sit by my window, shutters open as I hold a blanket around my shoulders - Half-Moon Academy seems at peace.
In fact, it seems too quiet.
Even though classes were underway and lecturers were teaching wolves, there was no commotion. I expected something to be amiss, but instead all I could see was an odd silence about the Academy.
Eventually, I find out why at lunch time, as everyone avoids one main cobbled road on campus.
The front gates start to open to a small group of Mages wearing royal purple robes. They all had midnight black hair and they commanded respect. Five of them walk through in synch, without guidance, towards one specific location. Two other groups disappear in other directions throughout campus.
The first five, however, were headed right under my nose.
Pack Claw Tower.
Of course this was about me. I knew it in my bones!
I watch them walk all the way to the base of this large pillar of rock. Without hesitation they barge into Pack Claw Tower.
I was trapped.
What the hell did Siren and Charlotte do?
I run into my wardrobe to find some decent clothing. I’m in my daisy pyjamas. However, I was also out of time.
Just as I’m taking off my top, there is a knock at my door.
I put my daisy flannelette top back on.
My nose was on the verge of sneezing, the level of strange and suspicion was just too high.
“Come in,” I say joyfully as I flop down on the side of my bed, cross my legs and grab my ankles.
My hair was a mangy mess as my door creaks open and an unnatural sway in the wind causes my hair to stick up even further, as if electrified.
As five black haired Mages who all look identical, stare at me... they mould together into one person as the woman steps forward and shuts the door to give us some privacy.
“Pack your things,” she says, casually, without breaking my gaze.
“...what?” I ask.
“Were you not informed of your special field trip to our Sacred Lake?” she asks, “My name is Poppy. Pleased to meet you, Maia Royale.”
“Um. Special. Field. Trip?” I say each word precisely as none of this made any sense.
“Some of us have a more interesting journey to fruition of destiny. You will be pleased to be enlightened,” Poppy nods and waits for me, “Pack your things. We’ll be gone at least 3 days.”
“3 outfits?” I eventually gulp down my fear and pretend this is totally normal.
“Yes. Would you feel more comfortable if I wait in the hall?” Poppy asks.
“Yes,” I nod, “I’m shy around strangers. I’ll be quicker if you wait outside.”
“That’s not how you face a struggle, Maia. You step right into the hard path. Do you understand?” Poppy asks, in somewhat of a monotone.
Mages were so damn weird.
After giving me an option of privacy, Poppy goes back on her word to stand over me and wait for me to accept my limitations.
“Um, yeah. Sure,” I jump to my feet, “I won’t be long.”
I pretend not to care. Under her scrutinising eye, I grab my backpack that is already full of clothes and food and I swing it over my shoulder.
I can’t help but turn to her with a bit of attitude as I straighten my back.
“Done,” I shrug, my lips tilting up in the corner.
She looks me up and down and I realise too late in my nervous show of defiance, I forgot about my daisy pyjamas. I forgot to change.
“Follow me,” Poppy adds quickly, before I decide to change my mind. She opens my door and ushers me out, “It’s time to meet the other lucky members of this Sacred trip.”
Now my heart drops.
I know exactly whom she speaks of, but I don’t wish to believe it.
I follow her silently with my backpack and quickly slipped on sneakers.
Without many words, she takes me back to the entrance of Half-Moon Academy where to my surprise... there is a lunch crowd forming.
Shocked mouths, whispered words I don’t gather and judgemental stares glare right through me as Poppy becomes 5 and surrounds me as if to protect me from the crowd. Werewolves treated Mages like Dogs treated Cats. Scared shitless.
So, no one tries to confront me anyway as Poppy surrounds me. Instead, I’m escorted to the front of the crowd to the very front of the iron gates where I find Baden and Chase together, standing feet apart with their chins held high as they ignore one another even though they are adjacent.
They fake a rivalry while more Mages surround them, waiting for me to join them.
Poppy eventually puts an ice cold hand over my shoulder and forces me to stand with Baden and Chase while the Mages escort us out of the Academy.
We all turn from the watching and whispering students as we exit.
“...this is creepy as hell...” Chase whispers through his teeth without meeting my gaze.
“Tell me about it,” I say more loudly in return. I look past him up to Baden but he is silent and refuses to meet my gaze, nor Chase.
All three of us back out of the Half-Moon Academy, and as the gates shut, I turn to see a familiar face.
The Prime Alpha.
Baden notices his father the same time I do and he starts growling deep from within his throat.
“Asshole,” Baden growls out his first response, while Chase reaches up a hand and pats my shoulder closest to him.
“Nice attire,” Chase tries to lighten the mood.
“Keep walking,” Poppy seems to scold us and stands at the back as she motions us forward. Even though I walk, I watch over my shoulder as the Prime Alpha rushes whispered words to a lingering Mage, before snarling at the end; save my son.
At least I think he says that.
Then, the Prime Alpha raises his head and meets my gaze.
It takes him a moment but he smiles... reassuringly?... and nods at me.
Next to him, an older father figure that must be Chase’s father... stands stoic and grim, watching us all leave with a look of pure devastation.
“What the hell is going on?” I whisper as I turn around and walk between Baden and Chase, surrounded by Mages that eventually spread out and willingly give us space to communicate.
We walk down a paved path that will eventually become a dirt track into the forests of Moon Territory and beyond... towards the Sacred Lake.
“Just wait, little shewolf,” Chase calms me down while Baden scoffs.
They are both wearing blue jeans, while Baden wears a black t-shirt and Chase wears a white t-shirt.
They were showing no fear, as Alpha’s never did.
However, I was finding it hard not to stop the adrenaline making my body tremble.
My wolf senses wanted to run. I wanted to change forms and escape into the wilderness away from the Mages and their tricky words, eyes, and icy cold skin. I’d rather be in a room full of vampires who wanted to suck my blood. I would feel more safe in that situation, rather than this unknown trek.
As the sun burns down onto us as we walk in agreed silence, a Mage up front eventually turns around and approaches us in the walk.
We’re politely given three pieces of paper.
Your Sacred Adventure.
That was the title of the brochure.
We open it further to read the words.
It’s simple and had our three day plan.
Day 1. Explore the culture of Mages. Dinner with the Sacred Leaders.
Day 2. Private Lessons by Specialist Animal Mages. Special skills will be taught. Spells that can be harnessed by werewolves. How to send a wish to Wolvenshire.
Day 3. Swim in the Sacred Lake. We will make it safe to do so.
You can write down journal entries to share with your fellow classmates when you return. This is a special expedition for Alpha werewolves. The Beta is welcome as an exception. Warning, do not disrespect our laws or you could face extremely harsh penalties. Swimming in the lake without permission or supervision from a Guardian will result in immediate death. Do not let these warnings hinder your ability to enjoy an enriching field trip. We sincerely hope you enjoy your stay.
I read over the contents a couple of times. I am confused whether I should feel calm or even more threatened.
“It’s apparently just a... a trip,” Chase murmurs.
“Maybe it’s because they want Baden and I to bond better and for you and Baden to be close friends again,” I suggest, “What if we had it wrong this whole time?”
“Then why did it feel like a surprise banishment rather than a surprise holiday?” Baden asks through gritted teeth, “Are you both as stupid as you look? This isn’t about fun. Or learning. This is about our future.”
“However, I don’t think they’ll murder us, even if we were secretly hated by all the Royal wolves including your family,” Chase suggests, “If we’re considered a problem, maybe they just want us out of the public eye until they work out how they accept how fate turned out.”
“Do you think they organised this after they heard the gossip?” I wonder.
“Obviously,” Chase snaps.
“To simply be murdered for a ritual would be heaven compared to what might happen to us. Mages manipulate, torture and play with any other beings other than their own kind. Werewolves aren’t welcome. We’re going to be traded for something. The Prime Alpha got something out of this. We need to work out what the Mages are getting back,” Baden explains his thoughts with more of a calm tone.
Eventually he makes eye contact with Chase and I.
“Do you think it has something to do with... disempowerment... instead of teaching us strength?” I ask, very quietly.
“Of course it does,” Baden nods.
“But why?” Chase seems to agree with me, or perhaps we were both naive, or maybe we both just didn’t want to believe that people were that distressed about our three way mating bond, “Why does anyone care if we have this connection? If anything, it’s badass. We can beat any Alpha Beta pair with an extra pair of balls,” Chase nudges me and winks at me.
His nonchalant display of affection has all the Mages briskly halting.
Baden, Chase and I wait in confusion as we watch Poppy sigh in frustration and decide to confront us.
She looks extremely disappointed.
“What happened?” I ask Poppy, “Is there an obstacle in the distance? Vampires? A fallen tree?”
“Physical displays of affection won’t be tolerated,” Poppy leans down to my eye level, “Within our ranks, you abide by our law. We are not in your territory anymore. Do not disgust our eyes with such base level shenanigans. No touching. This is a learning experience, not a vacation. To learn, you must focus on your mind. Not your hearts,” Poppy eventually addresses all of us, “Do not hold hands, brush each other’s arms or playfully knock into one another. To us it is the same; disrespectful of our way. It will not be tolerated. We are conservative creatures but in our midst, we do not wish to see romping wolves. We wish to see intelligent young adults who are focused on their education. Do. You. 3. Understand?”
Poppy looks at Baden first, even though he didn’t do anything.
He says nothing.
He just stares through her.
Then Poppy glares at Chase.
“Yes, madam,” Chase replies with such an intense and forced chivalry, it’s more mocking than respectful.
Poppy watches me last.
“I’m keeping my eye on you,” Poppy looks at my chest, “Your top buttons will be tightly snug in their slots or I will have to place a robe over your skin.”
“What?” I ask, shocked, “I mean, yes. Madam. Sure. Um,” my thoughts scramble as I try to find a way to win back the trust of our abductees, “I apologise if we offended any of you. I agree, we must respect your terms,” I say this as passionately as possible even though it’s against my heart and values.
It makes Poppy smile.
And it’s the hint of weakness I need.
My nostrils flare.
I could feel the disbelief coming from Baden and Chase but they had to look past the typical ‘Alpha’ way of dominating a situation.
Attitude, snide remarks, smart ass comments and physical strength would not help us here.
Smooth words and a very smart act, however, might just save us.
It might just give us the advantage.
To gain their trust.
And work out what the hell it was the Mages were planning to do.
The Prime Alpha had intervened quickly on the gossip. Our mating bond - three way -was new. We barely knew how to cope with it ourselves. Yet an intervention was in place.
I did not know what the intentions were... all I knew is they clearly weren’t good.
Baden, Chase and I were in dire straights. We had to smarten up.
We had to survive.
So for now, I take the lead... and I hope my mates mimic my actions.