The sound of the clock ticking away on the wall only twenty feet from the edge of my bed put me on high alert. In exactly twenty-four seconds the door will be opened, the general will walk in and gather me and take us to the throne room. Sixteen years, nearly to the day...It passed last week. That’s how long I’ve served this castle and the rightful king.
I pulled the covers off my body and turned my legs towards the floor, cracking my neck and other joints to loosen up just before my eyes fall on the clock again.
I stood straight up and relaxed my shoulders as I took in a needed deep breath. For years I’ve been told only one thing. The seven kingdoms must fall for the betterment of everyone.
I set my sights on the back of the door, soon it would be opened by general Duke and I would be called upon for my greatest challenge yet. But I had to stand here and wait for them to come to me, I wasn’t not allowed outside this room unless told otherwise. I’m used to and I don’t mind, it kept me out of trouble and from seeing anything I am not supposed to see. When you grow up with rules like this, the rest of the world seems chaotic and ruleless.
That’s how things work, that’s how my entire life has worked. They provide for me, he provides for me, and I serve them until the day I die. Even after they take back the seven pieces of land and after the reigning king has passed on from old age or whatever may take him. I will serve my kingdom.
Five seconds left...
My ears catch something, a tiny sound that would eventually die out. He was put in that cell to die for his crimes. Once a strong wolf, broken down by the general himself. I only wished I had gotten a chance at him. Bullheaded. Believed he was better than everyone else. He isn’t better than the king, and he isn’t better than the general that put him in the barracks. Chance was his name, and he will die knowing what he lost the king of the seven lands. The piece of the puzzle that he was in dire need of.
The door in front of me opened right at one second left. The face I’ve come to know as the only family I have in this world showed itself with all the scars that littered his skin. The intimidating brown eyes behind his even tougher exterior were the first thing I saw after his scars. The general has come to get me for my assignment.
“Arlo, you are needed in the main hall, the king wishes to speak with you.” His pet name for me, I don’t mind it, some days it’s better than being called the number I’ve had since I can remember. Perhaps it was my real name at one point. Perhaps not. I am not the one to tell myself that, I do not remember anything but this place. Nothing before and there will be nothing after.
Though I have dreams some nights about caves and mounds of wolves sleeping in piles...
I didn’t say a word, just followed behind the general to the meeting point he described moments before. I knew this castle like the back of my hand. I could walk through these halls blindfolded and spun around beforehand. I’ve done it before during training, what’s to say I couldn’t do it again? Seeing the hall around me as we walk only reminded me of the long days spent training. If I’m not sleeping, then I am training. To be the best, to serve my king. That is my only purpose and it is one I do not take lightly, but I’m repeating myself.
We arrived at the doors that separate the king from the general and I. When he didn’t immediately open the doors, I looked up at the back of his head for a reason.
“He’s going to send you on an assignment that will test every piece of yourself. I want you to know something before going into this,” He paused and still didn’t turn to look at me. I wasn’t concerned but him keeping me from the next assignment was upsetting me. Not that I would show him that annoyance, not that I would do anything about it.
My brows furrowed at his low tone as if he was trying to keep something away from the king on the other side of the door.
“I understand my role, I will do as the king commands.” I reinformed him because it seemed as if he didn’t understand my role in all of this. I am a soldier, nothing more, nothing less.
I couldn’t ignore the muscles in his back that tensed and released once and then twice. I put no more thought into the action as the general opened the door and our eyes set on the king while he walked in front of the stairs to the throne.
“Soldier 8754, good to see you are up and ready for action. I have a task for you, or rather I have a life-changing event for you.” I stood at attention and waited for my orders. Nothing should be said until he asks me a direct question.
“This task will force you to leave home, to leave us,” I didn’t let anyone in the room see me nearly lose my breath. I didn’t want to leave the castle, to leave the only home I’ve ever known. But I wouldn’t tell anyone else that. “You job will be to infiltrate the Summers Horizon pack. They are the biggest and they need to fall eventually. But we must first learn their secrets.” I watched as the king walked back and forth in front of the general and me, it was something I was used to him doing.
“The general will give you to a few lone wolves just outside of the pack land. You will fight them off, kill them if you must, but fight them to show that you need the help of that pack. They will accept you but be warned, you will be searched and prodded until they believe you are not a threat. This is will a big deal, something that will give us an edge, an edge we desperately need.” I could hear the desperation in his voice and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like my king thinking he was losing in some way.
I kept my vision straight and my thinking clear. I knew what this meant, I would be integrated into a real pack. A pack that wanted the demise of my king.
“Now, I want you to go back to your barracks and prepare yourself. You will not need to pack anything since you will be playing a desperate wolf running from the mongrels out in no man’s land. Dismissed.” I was given no other information aside from what will be happening when I am called from my room later on.
I bowed my head and left the throne room without a word. The moment I walked into the hall by myself I took in a breath. Composing myself, I took my leave back to the room I was brought from only minutes ago. I shared it with no one else, I fought my way to the top and I’ve been rewarded with a room of my own. There was a hole in my chest where the information the king gave me sat. I don’t want to leave, but I won’t go against my king; nothing will change that.