The Days of Yore
Year 207 (Era of Alexander)
The summer that year had been special for Danielle because she distinctly remembered that it was the only summer that her mother had spent exclusively with her.
It was one thing that had infuriated Danielle earlier — why would her mother leave her with her rude, uncaring father and not come back for months together? She found it difficult to forgive her mother about this matter.
She did get her answer a few years later. She wanted to tell her mother that she understood about sacrifices, about values and the spirit of making the most of life. She had wanted to tell her mother that she forgave her and that this matter was no longer one which would poke at her heart time and time again. But by then, her mother’s body had been burnt to ashes and spread into the ocean she loved to spend time with.
It was the summer of 207 and Danielle was still a happy child. That day, her mother woke her up early in the morning and got the three-year-old dressed.
“Dani, my love, what do you want to do when you grow up?” Raelynn seemed to ask casually. Dani’s limpid, innocent eyes looked up at her mother and she broke into a big smile.
“I want to be like mum! I want to be strong like mum!” she fisted her hands and shot them up in the air.
Raelynn didn’t laugh. She took her daughter’s words seriously. “That’s good, Dani. You can become strong one day. Even stronger than mum. But for that, you’ll have to work hard. Are you ready to do that?”
Danielle nodded furiously. “Mm!”
A soft smile crept into Raelynn’s face. As the mother-daughter pair walked around the field, Raelynn’s smile soon turned sad. She knew what was in store for her. She hoped her daughter wouldn’t follow her footsteps. But a part of her did want a successor — for everything she believed in, for the cause she had dedicated her life to.
It was unfair to ask a three-year-old child to hold up that mantle but Raelynn knew she had no time. She knew she was desperate.
“Come, let’s go inside,” she took Danielle into the little girl’s bedroom. She went to a locked cupboard and held Danielle’s little hand, pressing it against it. Immediately, there was a fluctuation in the air and the door automatically opened.
“Dani, sweetheart,” Raelynn began. “You mustn’t open this cupboard until mum is no longer around, okay?”
Danielle looked at her, confused. “When mum isn’t around?” Danielle’s expression changed. Tears welled in her eyes. “When mum g-goes a-away next t-time?”
Raelynn sighed. “No, sweetheart. I mean, when daddy tells you that mum won’t be coming back anymore.”
Danielle’s eye widened with fright. “Momma! Don’t leave me here! Don’t go away!” She began sobbing in earnest.
Raelynn crouched down and gently wiped her tears. “Listen to me,” she said softly. When Danielle didn’t stop crying, she spoke a little more firmly. “Listen to me!”
Danielle was startled. She stared at her mother.
“When daddy tells you that momma is never coming back, open the cupboard and read whatever is inside, okay? Promise me you’ll do that.” Raelynn’s grip on her daughter’s shoulder tightened.
Still catching her breath from crying too hard, Danielle nodded. “I promise, momma.”
Raelynn sagged back relieved. “He’ll come for you, I know it. Until then, I’m afraid you’ll have to stay in this hellish pack,” she muttered to herself.
“Momma?” Danielle looked up at her mother, wondering what she was saying.
Raelynn smiled. She picked her daughter up and said, “Let’s go to the playground. Wouldn’t you like that?”
“You’re happy going to play?”
“Dani’s the best!”
“No, momma’s the best!”
“Little thing! How can you already know how to flatter people!”
As Raelynn tickled her daughter’s stomach, Danielle began to giggle uncontrollably, tears of laughter leaking from her eyes. The little girl’s laughter echoed across the empty playground because as long as Raelynn was around, the pack had never belonged to Jacob.
Year 209 (Era of Alexander)
“Go away!” Jacob roared. “Why don’t you just leave?! No one wants you here!”
Raelynn looked at him calmly. “Regardless, I’m your lawful mate and my place is right here in this pack. You must know by now that I’m quite indifferent to your wants.”
“Bitch!” Jacob hissed. “Who knows where you have been all these years! Who knows who you fucked and slept around with! Who knows how many wolves you have slept with! Did you ha—Fucking hell!”
Jacob yelped as a firm, painful slap landed on his face. But Raelynn didn’t appear angry. For her, slapping him was a matter of fact. It was not a way for her to vent her anger but a way to make him toe the line. She had put the fear of the goddess in him so that he didn’t hurt their daughter.
“How dare you!” Jacob yelled. “I’m the fucking alpha of this pack! You better show me some respect, otherwise, I’ll have you expelled! Both you and your daughter! Goddess knows whose spawn she is!”
“Same old, same old, Jacob. Did you think the pack would run as it did if not for me? Did you think that the pack would be considered a challenge at all if not for me? To think you want to expel me. Try it, I dare you,” Raelynn sneered.
Just then, the door creaked. A small head hid behind the door as soon as Raelynn spotted her. “Danielle Ward! Come out!”
Danielle didn’t dare disobey her mother. With a contrite expression, she entered the room. She peeked up at her mother from under her eyelashes. She snuck a quick look at her alienated father but seeing his ashamed glare, she looked away instantly.
“What have I told you about eavesdropping?” Raelynn demanded.
“That... I shouldn’t do it?” Danielle whispered.
“That’s absolutely right, Danielle. Why didn’t you listen to what I said, then?” Raelynn asked.
“Because... because... daddy was shouting and I couldn’t hear you say anything so I thought something was wrong. So... I eavesdropped,” she spoke in a mosquito-like voice.
Raelynn’s face softened. Danielle sighed with relief. Her mother wasn’t angry anymore. “Silly girl, what can he possibly do to me? Isn’t your mother very strong?”
Danielle’s face widened. “Stronger than daddy?” she asked with disbelief.
“Of course!” Raelynn replied, not paying attention to her fuming mate. “Remember, only when you aren’t strong will you get hit like that, okay? So learn to be strong!”
Danielle nodded, her eyes shining with heroine-worship. Raelynn ruffled her hair and said, “Off you go. Go to bed soon. I will leave in the morning, so I won’t get to say goodbye.”
Danielle’s face drooped. She flung her arms around her mother, not wanting to cry again.
Raelynn’s expression was pained. She knew in her heart that this was the last time she would see her daughter. She patted her back.
When Danielle pulled away, she said, “Be strong. Remember, being strong beats being good any day.”
And that was the last thing Danielle ever heard from her mother. Exactly three months later, she caught her father drinking and rejoicing. Her mother was dead and gone. In her mind, she thought that no one was going to teach her how to survive in the big bad world anymore.