Well, we weren’t dead yet - which was a positive.
It’s been under half an hour since Baden and Chase were released from their pyres. I watch them now, shirtless while wearing jeans as they pretend to nibble on food, sitting on logs as Poppy sits opposite us grinning at their nervous and skittish eyes. They didn’t believe the danger was over.
“Relax,” I purse my lips as they glare at me, disbelieving of my sudden and easy trust with the Mages, “Seriously, guys, this morning was just a harsh lesson-”
“Being set up to burn alive is not a harsh lesson, it’s a-grade torture and completely fucked up-” Baden starts to snap, but I cut him off.
“Poppy said they are allies of Pack Crescent - where I come from!” I growl, “Respect that. I’m the reason you didn’t burn.”
While Baden starts to ravage the chicken bone he is munching on in response, Chase swallows a piece of his and halts his breathing to stare at me suspiciously. He narrows his eyes as I gloat back with my sly grin.
I was weirdly giddy after the adrenaline rush of passing the Mage’s test this morning, but it wasn’t just that. I had found a group of people who knew my pack, who were allies with them and who were therefore my friends. It was nice to feel belonged - even by odd people in a strange situation.
“They are your slaves, Maia,” Poppy blurts this out, literally out of no where as she picks at the red stains of blood under her finger nails. I assume this is her attempt at humour.
“That would be convenient,” I murmur, with a small smirk.
“Um, excuse me?” Chase’s voice is suddenly high pitched and squeaky as he asks the tense question to Poppy.
“She was joking, obviously!” I hiss at Chase because his quick over reaction was unnecessary.
I watch as Poppy slowly raises a brow at me.
“I do not joke,” Poppy answers softly, “Ever.”
“Oh... noted,” I murmur, furrowing my brows as I think of what she said, “But you said... my slaves?”
“Power comes in threes but you are the link, Maia,” Poppy explains further, before Baden or Chase can rudely interrupt, “Royale blood is mixed with that of Wolvenshire directly. You can communicate with your god.”
“Wolvenshire isn’t real,” Baden scoffs, “And we’re not her lap dogs - we’re Alphas!”
“And what can you do that is so powerful?” Poppy snaps at Baden and Chase simultaneously.
“Fight, lead... think quicker than other wolves?” Baden snaps back, impatient.
“Mmmhmm, but can you communicate with other animals?” Poppy asks, “Can you walk on water?”
Baden and Chase glance at me, while I freeze my jittering nervous foot that taps on the ground.
“What?” I ask, “Are you suggesting I can do those things?”
“Of course you can,” Poppy laughs and smiles, “You can do so much more than your Alpha mates.”
“Like?” I enquire, suddenly excited.
“You can see into the future,” Poppy adds.
“Anything else?” I ask again.
“You can talk to Wolvenshire himself,” Poppy nods over her shoulder, “On that island only.”
“I’m starting to believe all this but I’m waiting for the punch line as soon as I give in,” Chase adds, irritated.
“You will both protect her and do as she says,” Poppy explains to the Alphas, “You will protect her as warriors and mates.”
“One day, one of us will be Prime Alpha and nothing can topple that line of command,” Baden points out, “You can’t argue with me on that point... madam.”
“You will see the truth in time,” Poppy replies slyly to Baden.
“I want to keep talking about all these cool powers I supposedly have,” I add, nervous with anticipation and curiosity, “Because it’s all cool and all... but I’ve never done these things before that you’ve mentioned.”
“That’s because you can walk on that water only... and communicate to animals on this land... and see the future on that island... and talk to Wolvenshire on that island... but everywhere outside a ten mile radius you are extremely vulnerable,” Poppy explains further.
“Huh! You thought it sounded awesome,” Chase snickers while I kick his large leg.
“You’re both jealous as all hell, admit it,” I can’t help but smile.
“Um, no, why?” Baden glares at me for kicking Chase’s leg.
“Outside this territory, your slaves will protect you; it is their destiny,” Poppy adds.
“How do you know all this, you’re an old lady but you can’t be that old,” Chase adds, “No offence given, madam.”
“Being old is a compliment to Mages, foolish pup,” Poppy waves her hand through the air, “The longer you live is a testimony to your will to survive and the savy choices you make in this dark life.”
“Moving on from super powers that don’t exist,” Baden starts to let off some steam with his quick temper, “Including that cute story you made up about Maia - how about we get today’s lessons over and done with?”
“Watch your tongue,” Poppy murmurs, losing all patience from her tone, “Or you will be punished for disrespecting our camp.”
“I think you mean cult-”
“Both of you shut up!” I cut off Chase. In response, both my mates jump to their feet, too energised with frustration to remain sitting.
“Oh no, today’s lessons aren’t for you two,” Poppy shakes her head, “They are for Maia to connect with her powers. You can watch and learn about your mate’s abilities.”
“When I see it, I’ll respect it,” Baden eventually gives in a little, glancing at Chase to see if he will believe it also.
“Let’s see our little wolf walk on water - go on,” Chase nods to the lake.
“That comes later,” Poppy stands also, motioning for me to stand last. I jump to my feet, suddenly excited again as I brush off any dust off the basic second outfit I put on from my bag of clothes. I’m wearing leggings and a blue tank top, allowing sun to touch my shoulders and arms.
I wasn’t too sure if Poppy was speaking in metaphors about my apparent powers, but I was hoping she was telling the truth.
To become something from nothing would be mind blowing.
I had always felt... average. Unwanted. Misplaced.
Perhaps in one day - these Mages would change everything I knew.
And I was excited for that prospect.
“Careful not to misplace your enthusiasm, Maia,” Poppy clucks at me as if reading my mind, while she motions me to follow her with a finger. I step forward and Baden and Chase seem instantly annoyed at themselves for waiting a second longer than I. Letting me go first was an accidental show of submission. They quickly speed up to walk on either side of me.
“Don’t get too smug, Maia,” Baden growls down at me.
“A tiny mistress? Pssht,” Chase murmurs to himself and I try not to snort out in laughter.
Chase was playing with Poppy’s words, considering them to maybe be a half-true. Baden was just aggressively avoiding it.
As I happily follow Poppy, I see the rest of the camp silently leaving their duties to come to the middle of the camp - where Poppy is headed. As she stops in the middle of a quickly forming circle of mages, I watch as she ushers Baden and Chase to stand back with them. They begrudgingly move away while Poppy makes sure I stay in the centre.
She also walks back to stand with the circle.
“You see your place?” I turn to the old voice of Elder Raven Bear, who is nodding at me from one point in the circle. I nod.
“In the middle,” I answer.
“You are the answer to killing the evil in the land,” Poppy speaks this.
“What...?” I ask, confused by this random point.
“With this claw you will destroy the darkest ones. Devron, Alchemy and Septor,” when these three names leave the lips of Elder Raven Bear... my heart suddenly drops.
I’m already shaking my head in quick denial as he pulls a golden claw out of his pocket, shaped into a ring... to rest on a middle finger... of a Vampire Slayer.
“That can be given to anyone, I know the stories,” I hold up my hand as he starts walking towards me. Perhaps he doesn’t understand my hand sign for stop... because the Mage approaches me regardless, “No, please, wait a second,” I stand back and hold my hands behind my back.
“How do you recognise the names of the ones we’ve mentioned, girl?” Poppy asks this from the side as I keep my hands away from Elder Raven Bear and the Golden Claw.
“I grew up in Cave City... those 3 vampires ruled where I was raised. I know them by name... I don’t want any part in... in... oh, moon,” I have to close my eyes as flash backs come back to haunt me.
I had pushed them out. But now they were coming back in small waves.
It was mostly the sound of blood. A pulse. The running of a tongue over my neck.
I didn’t want to think about all the times I had nearly been drained of blood... I had only been bitten a few times. Only a few... and not even by the vampires named... but even so, the memories are haunting.
All I knew about Devron, Alchemy and Septor was that the 3 vampires had their own sectors of Cave City that they ruled. They were equivalent to demons. Everyone knew the only way to kill them was to be enhanced with magic.
The Golden Claw was an old folk’s tale in werewolf lore. It was occasionally harnessed as the fang that could kill a vampire with one puncture.
“Power comes in threes,” Elder Raven Bear looks at me in disbelief, “You must take it!”
“I don’t think I can be trusted to use it,” I whisper at him, “I’m a tiny werewolf who barely knows anything... about anything. I’m studying my first year of college for goodness sake. If I take that, I’ll disappoint everyone. I don’t know how to use it!”
“The three of you will defeat the 3 evil demonic vampire lords. Together,” Elder Raven Bear scoffs under his breath and suddenly throws the damn claw into the air.
My gaze jumps up as the long golden weapon, flies up impossibly high... before it turns and descends, with heavy, fast and lethal accuracy... towards the Elder’s head.
On instinct I raise my hand to push it out of the way - but it seems to swing around with a gust of wind at the very last second.
That strange moment in time finds the ring of the claw slipping directly onto my middle finger on my right hand.
“No!” I yell at it as I try to grab it and pull it off. I try to jerk it off - convinced it will be stuck onto my skin. I can feel it hugging the entire base of my finger... permanently, “Shit! Shit!"
I try to jerk it off some more, jumping in frustration as I try to do it.
That’s when I hear the masculine laughter coming form the left of me.
“Having fun yet?” Baden calls out, mocking me with a grin as Chase laughs at my gaping mouth and red cheeks.
“B-b...but I...” I gasp in a breath and glance at Poppy, who is smiling with happiness.
“Call to the animals,” Poppy raises her hands up, giving me a general direction.
I look up to the flock of ravens passing over.
I try to ignore the fact that the flock stop flying in a particular direction and start to circle one another.
I hadn’t even thought anything yet... I just glanced over at them.
No... no... please don’t come this way... please... I can’t help but think at the same time, the very thing Poppy wants me to try and do.
In a flurry of wings, I watch as the birds start flying towards me. My heart pounds faster in my chest as I watch the birds fly back to the camp and over the tents before they circle the ring of Mages around me. One raven dares to fly closer and actually lands on my shoulder. I stand still, shaking as I glance at it. The raven playfully chirps at me before biting a string of my hair.
I yelp out like a frightened pup. The raven just squawks in amusement before flying off.
“Perfect!” Poppy yells out in surprise and I watch as the mages all clap.
My mates, however, now stand stock still. They’ve quickly stopped laughing and they are watching me with a new kind of respect.
This golden claw on my middle finger was real.
It had real... powers.
Or maybe it awakened something inside me. I didn’t know.
“Today’s lesson is over,” Poppy steps forward towards me while I tremble on the spot.
I’m no longer excited.
And I’m afraid of what she is going to say next.
“I don’t want this,” I blurt out as Poppy stands before me and the Mages eventually part ways to chat and get back to work.
“Nobody wants responsibility - but we must all learn to master it,” Poppy riddles me this while I hold out my hands in exasperation.
“What the hell is next?” I ask, losing my cool.
I watch as Baden and Chase close the distance now, also curious as what the next step will be on this ‘field trip’.
“Day 3, our last day, is tomorrow,” Chase answers for me, “Swimming? I believe.”
“Exactly,” Poppy nods.
“That sounds fun... but it’s more than swimming, isn’t it?” I ask her.
“Tonight you will walk to the middle of the lake, you will walk on the water, all the way to the sacred island,” Poppy adds, “Your mates will swim there at midnight and swim back tomorrow morning.”
“And what the hell, may I ask,” Baden adds in, “Are we going to do on an island, in the middle of the night?”
Poppy slyly grins.
Oh moon, this couldn’t be good.
“On the island is where your 3 souls will mate together,” she blurts.
I just stare at Poppy in disbelief.
I didn’t know what she truly meant by that.
But it sure sounded kinky... in a spiritual kind of way.
I twitch my lips into an awkward smile at Poppy, which is awfully forced.
When I glance at Baden and Chase?
They are wide eyed.
I don’t think they expected Poppy to blurt that out... but the way things had gone so far... I guess things couldn’t get any weirder.
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