The Sins of a King
The leathery, hardened face of the Spartan Alpha stared a me from the page as if he was blaming me for his fate. Asenna was shaking, her blue eyes made even more vibrant by the redness that surrounded them. I wanted to wipe the tears from face, to take her in my arms and comfort her, but I was pretty sure I would end up slashed into ribbons if I tried that. The muscles of her arms were starting to bulge, her veins throbbing from beneath the skin. She was close to wolfing out.
Her words hung in the air like a guillotine, ready to end it all. What she said didn’t make sense, though. We had been under attack eight years ago. I remembered the fear that gripped the city. I remembered seeing the bodies being carried on stretchers from the forest. I remembered the funeral pyres lighting the night with dread and sorrow. Someone had been responsible, but Asenna’s faith in her people was ironclad and unshakable. She believed in the image of her people that she had in her mind so much. What was I supposed to say to that?
“Asenna…” I said warily, trying to keep my voice as soothing as possible. “Yes, I kept this a secret from you, but I swear I never knew anything beyond what we were told. Nobody knew what was going on in the Spartan Pack, we only knew what was happening here. Someone was attacking us; someone was killing werewolves in our territory. The evidence pointed straight to the Spartans. If they were innocent, don’t you think people should know?” I was grasping at straws, reaching for anything that might avoid her going on a murdering rampage through the city.
Her eyes fell to the floor, her face scrunching in contemplation. “Rewrite history.” Asenna whispered beneath her breath.
She cast her icy cold eyes toward me, sending a chill down my spine. “You’re going to help me.”
“Okay.” I agreed, knowing I had a lot to make up for. “How?”
She was still reverberating with anger, but she held her rage in check. “Where would your dad keep records? Anything private, things he might not want to keep in the Library.”
I stared at her in guarded confusion. “What are you getting at?”
Asenna flipped the pages of the book, smoothing them out before showing it to me. “This says the only survivors were the Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma of the Royal Pack. You may not think anything of it, but I don’t buy it. Something isn’t right about the whole thing.”
My mind rejected the insinuation she was making, but I couldn’t deny that I was now questioning what I thought I knew. Either way, she needed answers and I owed them to her.
“Probably his office; he has a bunch of artifacts and books in there.” I stood from the edge of the bed and reached for a shirt that was on the floor. Asenna watched me with calculating eyes.
“Take me there.”
I hadn’t even closed the door behind us before Asenna tore through the room. She started rummaging through everything on my father’s desk, yanking out all the drawers, ransacking the whole place.
“Hey!” I called to her. “Be careful! He can’t know we’ve been in here.”
“You honestly think I care?” She growled.
I pulled one of the drawers she had dislodged from her hand and shoved it back into its hole. “No, but if my dad finds out you’ve been in here you won’t get the chance to tell anybody your side of the story.” I hated the thought of it, but I knew my father- and he would kill Asenna for being in here. “Just try to leave stuff the way you found it.”
She rolled her eyes at me but calmed her search. Asenna was being more delicate as she moved files and books around, always putting things back as best she could to avoid suspicion. I looked through the file cabinet in the corner of the room, aimlessly flipping through the tabs. I didn’t know what we were looking for, and to be honest I doubted we would find anything. My dad was a lot of things, but I never knew him to be wrong about something- especially when it came to Pack safety. Could he have really been wrong about the Spartans?
I cast my eyes over to Asenna, looking intently through the notebooks that were in my father’s desk. We hadn’t known each other long, but my soul yearned for hers. It ached at the distance I now felt between us. I admired her, but I also knew she wasn’t normal by any means. Asenna was a hardened warrior. She wasn’t needy, or soft. She didn’t think twice about her instincts. Her wolf ruled her existence, and I couldn’t tell if I loved that about her or if I was frightened by it. Asenna- like all the Spartans- was a different breed of werewolf entirely. I knew damn well what she was capable of and what she could withstand- she was threatening to all of us.
“Where did that come from?” Her harsh voice shot across the room to me.
I followed her line of sight and saw the silver dagger my father had once plunged into a book in front of me. It was now mounted on a delicate stand on one of the shelves that lined the wall. Asenna immediately picked it up and held it lightly in her hands, running her fingers down the blade in reverence.
“I don’t know.” I answered, studying the familiar weapon in her hands. I had a strange feeling when I looked at it- as if I had seen it somewhere other than this office. “He’s had it for a long time. I never really went near it.” The thought of the silver still made my skin writhe. We had only had the one training session of the Metamorphosis, but the agony still burned clearly in my mind.
Asenna reached into the waistband of her pants and deftly pulled out her own dagger- the one that had so recently been pressed against my flesh. She held them out- one in each hand- and I noticed the similarities. No, they weren’t just similar. They matched exactly.
“Asenna…” I said warily, reading her mind even without the bond.
“My father’s dagger.” Her voice was curt and abrupt, her jaw clenched. She moved to tuck them both into her waist band.
“Wait a minute.” I reached for her, but she quickly whipped one of the blades up to my neck and pressed the lethal metal to my throat. My skin burned and sizzled as I backpedaled away from her. “If you take that, he’ll notice.” I tried to reason, rubbing the inflamed skin on my neck with a wince of pain.
She went back to tucking the blade into her pants with care. “It wasn’t his to take in the first place.”
There was no reasoning with her, so rather than risking a slit throat, I let it go. Moving to the storage closet at the other end of the office, I opened the door and started rifling through the various shit my dad had piled in here. Under the stacks of books and sheets was an old cedar chest sitting against the back wall. I popped the lid open and a musty aroma filled my nose. I sifted through old pictures of the Royal Pack from generations ago, documents from old treaties and alliances, nothing useful really. Once I got past all the old crumbling Pack records, I got to a bundle at the bottom. I lifted the crimson heap of fabric out of the way and saw a metal helmet shaped to fit a wolf’s head. I went to pick it up but cried out in pain as the metal seared my hands.
Asenna had darted over to see what I had burned myself on and she paled when she saw the helmet at the bottom of the trunk. She picked the piece of armor up and held it against her chest, stroking the upward pointing arrow that was embedded into the front of the helmet.
“It’s the helmet of our Guardians.” She breathed, her mind somewhere far away. Asenna looked at the bundle of crimson fabric and set the helmet down to pick it up. As she held it, I noticed that it was a cloak. She pressed the fabric into her nose, her eyes screwing shut as if she was in deep concentration. When Asenna opened her eyes, I saw the tears pooling against the clear blue of her irises. I had never thought I would see this woman cry, but today I had seen her as a lost child, desperately searching for answers. My heart shattered into shards at the sight.
“It doesn’t smell like him.” Asenna said, her voice hollow. “But I still remember this.” She pointed to a dark stain on the cloak that trailed downward. “I was so excited for him to get home that I forgot to put my hot chocolate down before I jumped into his arms.” She laughed, but the sound was broken. She rubbed the fabric between her fingers, studying it with narrowed eyes. “Why does your Alpha King have my father’s most precious belongings? His dagger, his helmet, his cloak.” She turned accusingly to me.
I didn’t know the answer to that. I was just as confused as she was at this point. It made no sense for my dad to have these, let alone keep them tucked away. I was about to answer her, but my ears picked up voices coming toward the door- one of them my father’s.
“Hide in here and don’t make a sound.” I ordered her. As I pushed her into the closet, I caught her furious expression. “Please, Asenna.” I begged. “Just wait here. I’ll take care of it.” I promised, closing the door on her.
I shot over to my father’s desk, opened the closest book I could find, and pretended to be deeply entrenched in the text.
“I want every available scout searching for him, my Alpha. Its not normal for him to not come home, even if he is upset.” I heard Delta Aaron say from beyond the door.
The doorknob started to jiggle and turn. “I understand, Aaron.” I heard my father say. “But we can’t send troops on a wild goose chase, not right now.”
The door opened. “Well if we knew what this fight was about with your son-” Delta Aaron’s voice froze as he saw me sitting there.
My father’s brows rose, and he regarded me curiously before turning back to the Delta. “Aaron, I will look into the issue and let you know what we can do to find Bryce.” He nodded to his Delta in closure
“Yes, my Alpha.” Aaron lowered hi head respectfully and left down the hall.
My father turned back to me and closed the door. “Were you looking for something son?” He asked with an air of suspicion.
I had to think fast. I wasn’t usually supposed to be in here without his permission. My dad always liked his privacy, maybe even a little too much. “I was just doing some research.” I said, trying my best to sound convincing. “I thought it was time I got more involved in Pack affairs.”
“Is that so?” He was surprised. I had to admit, I had been all for letting my dad have full control of things. He had said plenty of times that he wasn’t turning the Pack over to me until he was old and decrepit. “Well, what were you looking into?”
This was an opportunity. I had to know. Was my dad lying about the war? Were we just mistaken? Did we still have an enemy out there? “Since I’ve been training with Asenna, I’ve been curious about the Spartan War.” He tensed slightly, only visible enough to someone who had known him for a lifetime. “I know what our history books say, but I can’t help but feel like there’s more to the story.”
My father pursed his lips and took a seat in one of the leather chairs on the other side of the desk. “I have noticed you’ve been working hard with her.” He acknowledged. “I suppose I can trust that things are progressing as planned?”
Shit. “Yeah.” I said, trying to hide my nerves. Asenna was listening to every word between us. I could imagine all the bad routes this could take. Yes, he had asked me to get close to Asenna and get her to teach me everything she knew. But I had gotten closer to her than I ever imagined I would. I was mated with her, and I could feel her slipping away from me.
“Has she told you the secret of the silver?” He asked. He was testing me- my loyalty.
Forgive me, Asenna. “Yes, sir. It’s a slow process. The body must get used to it over a period of time. I just started the process earlier today.”
“Good, good.” My father nodded. “And you were wanting more information on the War…” He was weighing his words. “You don’t believe my book?”
“With all due respect, sir… not really.” He was surprised by my candor. “I just feel like something is missing.”
“You’re brighter than I give you credit for, Ryker.” My father said with a smirk. “If you really want to be more involved, then I suppose its time to start grooming you as future Alpha. The first lesson you will need to learn is this.” He said, leaning towards me with intensity. “Never let another pack have the power to challenge you.”
My face scrunched up in confusion. “Dad, the Royal Pack can’t just be challenged. We’re too strong, too big.”
“Our strength and numbers were meaningless when it came to the Spartans.” Bitterness and envy dripped from his voice. “They were better warriors- they lived and breathed combat. They were immune to the tools that ensured death for us. One of their worst was still a match for five of our best. They were a threat. They could have taken power from us at any time.”
I leaned back in my chair, rubbing my jaw. “So, what did we do about it?”
He eyed me, analyzing every shift in my body. “I trust that your loyalty to this Pack remains unaltered?”
“Yes, sir.” My loyalties were actually tangled up in a confusing web being pulled in every direction, but I didn’t dare give him that impression. I was by no means immune to my father’s wrath.
“When you run across a Pack like the Spartans- one that has the potential to overthrow your regime- there is only one course of action to take.” He lectured, as if we were in a classroom. “Complete extinction.”
The hairs on the back of m neck raised and my heart thundered in my ears. “But I thought the attacks on our borders started the war?”
My father’s face looked away, a flicker of guilt briefly flashing across his eyes. “An Alpha must do terrible things for the benefit of the Pack, son. It is the leadership’s responsibility to take action to ensure our survival.” He straightened up, maintaining his proud and noble appearance. “We orchestrated the attacks. We staged the bodies to look like Spartans could be the only possible culprit. It went according to plan, spreading fear and hatred for the enemy. From there, we made the offer to send emissaries, telling the people we would sue for peace. Naturally, we had to arrange for the emissaries to die before they reached the Spartan compound.”
I was frozen in a mixture of outrage and shock. Surely, he wasn’t being serious. Not my father. He was a lot of things, but this? Murdering his own people?
“After the news of the emissaries’ deaths, it wasn’t hard to convince the people of the need to go to war.” He finished, tapping his fingers against his knees.
“But, how did you do it? If the Spartans were so powerful, how were you able to defeat them in one battle?” I could feel Asenna’s fury through our bond. I was praying she could hold out just a little longer.
My father sighed and crossed one leg over the other. “We came in the night. We were met by the border scouts and told them we were passing through and got caught in the storm. They knew better than to refuse the Alpha King refuge from the elements. We waited until we were near the Spartan Alpha’s home. The majority of the Pack was asleep in their houses. We descended on them as they slept. Our warriors engaged and fought quite remarkably, but it was still a blood bath. The Alpha and his Luna came from their house in full armor. They were the most difficult. Many bullets were fired. Their spears and swords fell to the ground as their bodies dropped. Their wolves died like the dogs they were.” He pulled himself out of the memory he was entrenched in. “Naturally we couldn’t have anyone spread rumors about what had happened. So, the rest of the leadership and myself carried out the executions of whoever remained of our forces. We were the only ones left to tell the tale- or at least our version of it.”
“Except for Asenna.” I mentioned. My muscles tensed, longing to challenge him right then and there. He didn’t deserve his power. He had murdered those who had trusted him to protect them.
His face curled into a sneer. “Yes, well, that will be rectified as soon as you’ve finished your training.”
My brows pulled together as he stood from the chair to leave. “What do you mean?”
My father looked me dead in the eyes. “Once she has served her purpose, she will no longer be needed. She is a witness that we cannot afford to leave alive.” His hand was on the doorknob. “If you are serious about taking over this Pack one day, you will be the one to carry out the sentence.”