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Chapter 1: Hierarchy
Rolling green hills blanketed in thick trees stretched as far as the eye could see. Every shade of green fluttering as leaves in the breeze that cooled hot skin as I sat on the step of the caravan. Cubs growled and fought in the clearing in front of me, teeth on fur and tails that caused no damage.
The pack was enjoying the spring heat after a colder than normal winter that gave more ice than snow. It brought a warm feeling over the sorrowful reason we were travelling so far from our territory.
Golden eyes scanned over the view once more, taking it all in before it would disappear when night came to shroud everything in black.
My wolf was unsettled being so far from home, not liking the uncertainty of staying in unclaimed territory for so long, hating the idea of being in another packs even more. We were a tight knit community, more so than most packs because of our smaller size, yet our land was coveted for its expanse of forest and rivers that flowed into the sea at the edge of our land. We were the most Eastern pack in the country, taking up the area that was once known as Pictland.
As much as we all hated to go, though most remained to look after what was ours, when my father got the call, we had all but left straight away. An Alpha pair dead, their son only just grown enough to take over. Disputes needed worked through between pack mates and rivals, a challenge that my father was known for being able to settle for he was famous for his calm.
Only a few had joined us, those that had family in the pack west to us that wanted to show off new cubs and the two warriors my father brought to help if any fights occurred. His Beta also joined us.
I hated to leave home but I was given little choice.
“Not much further.” My mother promised, sitting next to me with a hand on her swollen belly while she greeted me with her cheek to mine.
Her ginger hair was tied tight away from her face that was a little plumper than normal, something pregnancy had brought along with a glow to her skin, one that my father had told me all pregnant women had because they were carrying new life.
“I would not mind staying here another day. The air is fresh and the land is beautiful.” I replied, making sure to keep my head lower than my mothers.
She nodded absent-mindedly, her mind already wandering as it often did since she became with child. The cub taking her mind away from the here and now. A male, she and father hoped, so they could continue the family lineage as Alpha.
I was eldest but females weren’t Alphas. Females born to an Alpha pair were pawns in a game of strategy to connect and strengthen ties between packs. I knew this was why I had not been allowed to stay in the territory because the new Alpha we were visiting had no mate.
I would have argued but my wolf was drawn to the idea. Females were always drawn to males of power and prestige and this male came from a strong line of Alphas. Wolf nature had overpowered my will and I had to meet the male that enticed my wolf. I could deny that fact as much as I liked, but I knew that both my parents were eager for me to find a mate and start a family of my own, if only to comfort them. I could only hope they respected my wishes enough to let me find my place in life on my own.
“There are my females!” My father called, crouching by my mother. He kissed her shoulder, placing his scent on her skin.
He’d been doing that a lot lately, getting more and more protective the further her pregnancy progressed. I didn’t understand, my mother was obviously with child and no male would go near her now, whether my fathers scent was on her or not. Pregnant she wolves were off limits, forgetting this would mean death no matter what pack you came from.
“Cathwulf, you are quiet. Is something the matter?” My father voice drew me out of my thoughts.
I shook my head, “Everything here is new, I am just taking it all in.”
He smiled gently, “My cub’s first venture beyond the borders. I am pleased you decided to come, it is not good to stay within the pack and to have no outside interactions. Alpha Dolf’s pack has beautiful land, you will love it.”
I ignored the slip of his tongue. It was no longer Alpha Dolf’s pack but his sons. I wanted to demand the reason why he was so set on me loving the territory belonging to this pack, to have him admit that he hoped the Alpha would take a liking to me and that when my pack returned home, I would not go with them.
I wanted to point out that I had been forced to come, that I had met my father’s eyes when he asked it of me and looked away first. I wanted to point out that our pack had many visitors from all over the world seeking his guidance as a peacekeeper among wolves and I had interacted with more exotic people than most. I’d even spent a year at university before my mother became pregnant and I ended up coming back to help her.
I bowed my head, keeping my eyes low, “I am glad too. I look forward to a meeting Alpha Roarke.”
It was said just to appease him, I was really terrified. Hopefully I would not be to this Alpha’s liking.
Every Alpha around would be sending their eligible daughters to try and lure the new Alpha into taking them as his mate and I was far from the prettiest she wolf available.
Genes, granted to me as a wolf, ensured a lean body that burned more calories than I could eat in a day, my eyes a soft hazel in the dark and a startling amber in the light. Big eyes and high cheekbones were the only striking features about me, a small nose, full lips and soft jawline making me look more like an innocent pup than a grown she wolf. Not to mention my height that at a sad 5"2 made me one step up from the runt of the litter, an omega if not for my status in the pack granted to me by my parents.
Despite my small stature, I was the daughter of an Alpha through and through. I submitted to only my father and mother, occasionally to the packs Beta, but I fought tooth and claw to make sure I was amongst the first to eat at the table. Birth right was only half the battle, you needed to fight the war to keep it. I knew that soon, if I wanted to, I could challenge our beta. I was able to hold his eye for longer, the urge to bow, to submit, not as forceful as before, now that I was growing into myself. I caught him watching me sometimes, the challenge glinting in his eyes as his wolf urged him to show me my place was still beneath him, with his teeth at my throat.
I would always look away.
I wasn’t ready.
The tables were being set up for the food that was almost cooked. Hungry pups hovered by the cooking meat only to be shoo’d away by those cooking it. The game was fun to watch, the cubs each trying to best each other in who could get closest before a male would get tired of their game and pinch an ear to get them to stop.
I caught sight of our Beta, Eagan, walking with an unmated female who lapped at the power he exuded.
He smirked when he saw me looking his way, fang peeking from lips, the action making me bristle at the challenge he offered. I kept my eyes on his, my wolf rising as his did the same. The pack tensed and paused in their work at the feel of the struggle. A few more seconds passed and then my wolf was whining in my head that was quick to drop as I lost the fight for dominance. I could smell the satisfaction from Eagan, he couldn’t wait for our little clashes of power to turn physical.
My father used to scold me when I’d issue a challenge, pinch my ear, send me away tail tucked, but that was when I was younger, a pup that didn’t know better. He was protective of me, needed me to know my place as a young she wolf, but now it was within my right to climb my way up if I could. I needed to find rank on my own.
The smell of food wafted through the air and my mouth watered. My father and I helped my mother to her feet and I walked behind them both to the table. My parents sat at the head, Eagan on one side and me on the other. My mother was first to pile food on her plate as a pregnant wolf, she got to eat first. My father took his share and the table watched as Eagan and I had another battle of wills that ended in my father growling at me. I ducked my head, conceding for now. My wolf was getting bolder and I with her.
Eagan made sure to slowly set his food on his plate so I was forced to watch. His game was cruel, making me wait, teaching me a lesson that said I am still more than you, know your place.
The pack was quiet as the meal started, everyone enjoying the meat and fresh vegetables on offer for a precious moment before conversation slowly started up again.
“There is talk that some of us are to be mated when we get to Alpha Roarke’s territory.” My friend Oria said from my left.
Sky blue eyes shimmered in excitement as she looked over my shoulder. She struggled to meet my eye.
“You say it like it is pre-arranged. If one of our pack happens to decide on a mate from theirs, then it is all well and good, but the idea that there are already arranged couples is a tradition we have surpassed in this day and age.” I stated, lifting my chin.
Oria looked sheepish for just a moment before her usual cheeky grin replaced it, “You are only saying that because you have heard the whispers. Alpha Roarke intends to make you his mate.”
I scoffed, my knuckles white as I clung to the fork in my hand.
“He can not make this decision having never met me and having no idea what my intentions are. I am well aware of the wishes of my father but I will not parade myself for the attentions of a male. If he and I happen to click and our wolves accept each other then very well but as of now, I have no interest in leaving my pack just yet.” I explained harshly, loud enough that my father could hear.
My mother gave me a side-ways smile, she was glad that I was not a female without her claws.
The stars were endless, flickering white lights that I swore danced across the sky on their own path. The grass tickled my neck where I lay just behind the caravan my parents and I were using. I strained my neck trying to see as much of the sky as I could. The moon was but a small white slither against a sea of midnight blue.
My fur was ruffled by the chill evening wind and my ears flicked at the sound of rustling leaves and wildlife that moved in the trees. I lifted my head at the sound of footsteps, my eyes zeroing in on the brown wolf that stepped around the caravan.
Muscles were visable beneath sleek fur, big paws taking bigger steps towards me. Blue eyes watched me as my lips curled back and a small growl rumbled from me, a warning. Eagan ignored it, continuing to walk until he reached my side and lay down. He was panting softly, I knew he had been running. He ran a lot, working off the pent up energy that ruled him as his wolf urged him to pick a mate.
I regarded him for another moment before relaxing again. We were happy in our silent companionship. For a few peaceful minutes we both watched the sky side by side as pack members, but I should have guessed his intentions.
He nudged me with his nose, inhaling my scent deeply and I snapped at him. Eagan wouldn’t find a mate in me. I planned to be more than him. Even my father would not be happy at such an arrangement that gave him nothing in return, no land, no alliance.
Eagan growled, unhappy with my rebuffal of his advance in such a way. I stood quickly, ears back, hackles raised. This wasn’t a challenge but another warning, I wasn’t for him. He stood slowly too, lifting his head, stretching to his full height, trying to tempt my wolf who wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in him as a potential mate. We found him an impressive male, a male in his prime by all measure, but he wasn’t enough to catch my eye.
This sudden interest in me was both worrying and annoying.
It wasn’t until he saw the fight was lost that I managed to relax, his body moving back around the caravan. Eagan was a wolf that craved power. I would much rather have a wolf who knew when he was reaching above his station than one who only thought about how much they could have. An ambitious wolf was dangerous but it was to some extent to be expected. Wolves fought all the time for position but Eagan didn’t have the prestige to be an Alpha, he would be put in his place by teeth or have his life taken due to his stubbornness.
I shifted, uncaring of my nakedness as I ran for the safety of the caravan, closing the door carefully so as not to wake my parents. Slipping on a shirt to sleep in, I took one last peek at the stars before crawling into the makeshift bed. I pulled up the piles of furs and blankets that weren’t really needed in the spring, burrowing beneath the heat they offered, the pelt of a deer on top, from my first kill.
Tomorrow we would reach Alpha Roarke’s territory and I would do my best to stay out of his way. This would all be over within the week and then we would return home and I would keep training until I could challenge Eagan for Beta. I didn’t need a male to give me position, I may never be Alpha due to being female, and my soon to arrive baby brother would take that spot, but I could stand by his side as Beta Female.