My phone had been going off nonstop since I’d woken up. Mrs. Harding had com to get Larken for school and left me awkwardly alone in Asenna’s room. I’d gone to my room to shower and change before heading to the Pack Library. If my dad wanted me to get to know Asenna, then I needed to do some research. She obviously wasn’t going to tell me much about her past, so I needed to get some background information on where she came from.
More beeps came from my pocket as my phone buzzed persistently. I reached down and clicked the power button to stop the ringing. I made my way through the Library until I reached the records and historical texts. The area was roped off and sign that read RESTRICTED was hung on one of the barriers. One of the perks of being the future Alpha was that nothing was ever really restricted.
I searched the shelves and cases, looking for anything that might offer some information on the Spartan wolves. I grabbed several volumes- most of them coated in a thick layer of dust- and sat at a table in the corner. I flipped through The History of the North American Packs until I came to the section on the Spartans. This book went into the origins of our kind and told the story of each pack in detail- so it wasn’t exactly light reading.
I scanned the pages, looking for anything useful that might give me some insight into Asenna’s history. The Spartans were one of the oldest packs to have colonized in the New World. They were a militaristic society that valued combat and warfare over culture and finery. Spartans were once the mightiest of all the packs. Their resilience to silver and wolfsbane paired with our kind’s ability to rapidly heal made them almost invincible. Their elite warriors- the Guardians- were clad in shining silver armor in their wolf forms for battle and ceremonial purposes. My body itched uncomfortably at the thought of having silver that close to my skin.
They put their children into training as soon as they were able to hold a weapon, and the training was more rigorous than our adult warriors faced. I read through the lines and looked at pictures of young wolves and children being pitted against each other, tearing each other apart, they were small, but their bodies were solid muscle and their faces were resolved and stoic-nothing like children I had seen here in Varcolac. Many of them were scarred and bloody in the pictures, even in the old sketches and paintings of them. The Spartans had always been a curiosity to werewolf kind, but they were regarded as a legendary force not to be trifled with. Their specific training details weren’t talked about in detail in the text, nor was their special immunity explained. There had to be a reason why they were able to withstand silver and wolfsbane. Those were the two sure-fire ways of killing our kind.
I set the first book aside and reached for a more modern text- The War of Spartan Aggression. This was a shorter book, only covering the history of the Spartans and the Royal Pack before it launched into the War itself.
The book went on about the same information my dad had told me- the same things we had learned in school. The Spartans had revolted against the Alpha King, their own Alpha leading attacks against the Royal Pack in hopes of usurping the regime and seizing power for himself. The book showed an image of the Spartan leader- Alpha Killian Lupei. His face was like worn leather etched with power and authority. There was a long scar that ran from his silver-grey hairline to his slightly disfigured ear. His eyes stared vacantly from the page and I felt a haunting sense of familiarity.
I flipped the front cover closed and reached for the next book in the stack- The Fall of the Spartans. I turned towards the end, scanning through the pages of Asenna’s people. The Spartans had clung to their traditions, falling behind the times and becoming more obscure among the modern world. When we began using guns, they held tight to their swords, spears and bows. They were growing even more different from the rest of our kind. Spartans were anomalies. They were savage and dominant, but they were also ethereal and beautiful in their wild way.
I tried to push the image of Asenna out of my mind and focus on reading. I flipped and flipped but could only find the outcome of the war, not the beginning. I went back and forth, but nothing was there. I checked the page numbers and, sure enough, there was a chunk of pages missing from the book right where the causes and start of the War should have been. I sat back against the chair with a disgruntled huff and ran my hand over the stubble on my jaw.
If the Spartans had really been that forceful and brutal in their training, maybe it wasn’t a surprise that Asenna had made it out of the battle alive. Could there be others that survived? No, if that had been the case then surely, they would have banded together. My stomach was twisting uncomfortably picturing Asenna going through that training program and lifestyle. Training… more like torture.
“There you are!” A voice called as she sauntered my way.
“Oh, hey Sky.” I said as I quickly closed the book and stacked them together to put them back on the shelves.
“What are you doing looking through these old things?” Skylar asked as she eyed the musty books with distaste.
“Just doing some research.” I said, placing my hand on her back and turning her away towards the entrance with me.
“That wouldn’t have anything to do with that new girl, would it?” She asked dangerously.
I’d known Sky since we were pups. She was beautiful, sexy, confident and driven. She was the natural choice for future Alpha Queen. That didn’t mean she couldn’t get crazy jealous.
“Well, don’t you think we should get to know some background on any newcomers within the city?” I challenged. Her green eyes were suspicious and held mine only briefly before submitting. Skylar was dominant in some ways, but my authority overpowered her easily.
“She’s just some mongrel rogue, Ry.” Her head was held high and by the look on her face I could told she was annoyed.
“Oh, you think so?”
“Yes.” She bristled. “I saw her earlier with Soren and Bryce and she was so uncivilized.” Skylar was winding herself up, ready to go on another one of her tirades. “She looked like she’d just rolled out of bed! And to think Bryce actually told her about the Howling Ceremony. I swear if she has the nerve to show up—”
“What’s so bad about her going? Its not like it would have any effect on the outcome. You know whatever happens is out of our control.” I reasoned. I should have known better. When Sky was worked up there was no reasoning with her.
“It’s our pack’s ceremony, Ryker!” She scolded me. “If we let any rogue into our pack then what makes the Royal Pack any different from the others?” Her voice was strange, angrier than I had heard before. “She can’t just waltz in here and act like she belongs. We might as well have let a wild animal have the run of the city.”
“Hey, ease up Sky.” My voice came out stronger than I meant it. She didn’t know who she was even talking about. I didn’t know how much she knew about Asenna, but I was guessing only as much as Asenna had offered up- which was close to nothing. I knew Skylar was strong-willed, but she was passing judgement too quick for my liking and if she was going to be Queen one day, then she needed to rethink that mindset. “Asenna doesn’t have anywhere else to go. She’s been alone for the last eight years.”
“Sounds like she liked it, then.” Skylar quipped as we walked down the walkway toward town.
“Plus,” I continued, “She saved Larken from getting hurt- twice. So, we owe it to her to offer her a place to stay, at least for now.”
“So, it’s only temporary? She’ll be gone soon?” There was hope in her voice and I was unsure of how to deal with it.
Asenna had been welcomed to stay here by my father, and my father had expectations for me to get close to her. I don’t know how that played into any specific time frame and I didn’t know what answer to give the beautiful blonde next to me.
“That’s up to my father.” That was the best answer I could muster for now.
The guys had wrapped up the not so grand tour and we went to Soren’s house to hang out. According to Bryce, Soren’s dad had the best entertainment system around which made this their usual meeting place when it was a movie night. The house was a lot more comfortable than the manor felt. It was warmer and more inviting- more lived in. Soren led us to the living room and let us make ourselves at home as he went to the bathroom and Bryce jumped straight onto the remote to turn the television on.
I looked at the screen with interest from my spot on the couch, the light giving a strange sensation to my eyes.
“You ok, little wolf?” Bryce asked.
“Yeah.” I answered, my voice slightly detached. “It’s just been a while since I’ve watched T.V.”
“Oh.” He said thoughtfully. “I guess there aren’t great cable packages in the woods, huh?”
A laugh escaped me, and I was surprised at the sound. It had been a long time since I had felt so light and carefree. It was strange, but in a good way.
“Do you think you’re going to crash the Howling Ceremonial Ball?” He asked, keeping his eyes on the T.V. screen.
“I don’t know.” I answered. “Seems like it will cause quite a stir if I show up uninvited.” Skylar made it clear that I was not welcome at this pack festivity, but to be honest, I wouldn’t mind showing up just to piss her off.
“Well, if you were invited, then it wouldn’t be a big deal would it?” I could tell what Bryce was hinting at and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it.
“I guess not.” I looked forward at the T.V. watching whatever drama was unfolding.
“You could come with me.” He caught my attention and met my eyes with a genuine, warm smile. “You don’t seem too dangerous to me, plus it would be like a debut for you, you know? It could just be as friends, if you’re cool with that.”
I nodded, considering his words. I guess it could be a good foot forward, show everyone I’m not here to fight or cause trouble. “Okay.” I said. “Sure, I’ll go with you.”