It was chaos. As soon as Asenna had fled the manor, the crowd erupted into questions and accusations. All attention had turned to my father and for once it was completely unwanted. The Alphas were going back and forth, arguing about the new information.
“It’s just some girl trying to make trouble.”
“She’s a Spartan! Of course, she would be bitter about the outcome of the war!”
“But what if she speaks the truth?”
“I don’t believe this girl is a Spartan. They all died eight years ago, and rightfully so!”
While most of the Alphas discredited Asenna’s words, my father was being bombarded with questions from the pack members.
“Is it true?”
“Did you do it?”
“Are you the reason my son is dead?”
“Is the Spartan right?”
The stone walls and marble floors caused the voices to echo. The sheer volume of the noise was overwhelming.
“People please!” My father shouted over the din. “Rest assured, everything is perfectly fine. Our guest Asenna has been through quite the ordeal. It is only natural that she would act out this way. Let me assure you that nothing she spoke of is valid or accurate.” He was desperately clinging for control.
The masses looked skeptical. Some were dismissing the whole event, while others looked horrified.
“Alistair!” My father beckoned. His Beta came to his side immediately. “Break out our best vintage. Let’s get this celebration back in order, shall we?” He gave them a hospitable smile and motioned to the orchestra that stood awkwardly against the wall. “Music, please!”
The musicians launched into an upbeat melody as Alistair took several helpers with him down to the wine cellar. The room had turned tense and awkward, people continued to cast wary looks toward my father, and he met them with an innocent smile. The man was so manipulative.
Alistair returned with crates of wine bottles and the packs turned their attention to the prospect of fancy booze. My father came over to me and planted a vice grip on my shoulder. I winced as I felt his claws digging into my flesh through my tux.
His back was to the crowd as he leaned close to my ear. “If I find out that you had anything to do with this, I will rip the entrails from your body and hang you by them.” He growled.
“Of course, father.” I spat. He let go of my shoulder roughly and the force pushed me back slightly. The black jacket of my tux concealed the blood, but I moved to exit the room before it became more obvious.
I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. She’d done it. She really did it. Pride swelled in my chest at the image of her taking command of the room. She truly was Luna material, even if she didn’t see it. But she was gone now, and hopefully far away. The quicker she moved, the better. I needed her to be safe. I needed her to live even if it was someplace without me.
Quiet voices went back and forth down the hall. They sounded frustrated and heated. I moved closer, keeping close to the wall as I eased further along. I stopped, hearing them clearer now from around the corner. I knew those voices.
Thomas and Aaron, our Gamma and Delta.
“Her scent leads north. We need to take a squadron and track her down now.” Thomas said.
“The temperature is already below freezing.” Aaron argued. “We can’t risk taking soldiers out there now. It’s too dark, too cold, and the snow is coming in. We’re better off waiting until morning.”
“The more we delay, the farther she gets!” Thomas seethed. “Marcus wants her head. We can’t risk losing her again.”
“Would you rather we all freeze to death while pursuing her?” They were both tightly wound.
A moment of silence passed between the two men.
“I suppose she can’t get far in this weather.” Thomas conceded. “If she even survives the storm tonight.”
“We’ll begin the hunt early in the morning. If she survives, the snow will make tracking her easy. If she doesn’t, well that makes our jobs even easier.” Aaron’s voice was emotionless and cold.
I slinked away from them and walked to my room. I yanked at the bow tie until it came undone and undid the buttons of my shirt so I could breathe easier. I opened the balcony doors and stepped out into the freezing air. Snow fell all around and my breath came out in clouds. Asenna had the night to get as far as she could. They thought she didn’t stand a chance out there in this weather, but I knew better. Asenna had gone eight years alone in the elements. She was made to endure. She was strong and resilient. I could feel the distance between us like a weight around my neck. As my eyes scanned the distant forest, I knew in my heart that she was okay out there.
She was free now.
The wind beat against me as I trudged through the woods, the snow getting deeper every minute. It was brutally cold, and my fur had ice clinging to it. The Goddess said I had to go home. I had tried to act like I didn’t understand what she was talking about, but I knew the truth. She wanted me to return to my childhood home- the shell of a city that lay deserted.
What? There shouldn’t be anybody out here, let alone the owner of that voice.
I spun around, looking everywhere for another wolf. The snow was too thick, and the winds made it impossible to follow a scent.
Where are you? I screamed through my thoughts. I was pushing against the gusts, trying to move quickly. Every movement felt sluggish and weighed down.
Asenna! I kept hearing my name, but this time an image flashed through my mind. They were sending me what they saw in brief flashes.
A large cedar tree. A clump of boulders. A thicket of now dead blackberry bushes. I knew this place. I had crossed it when Ryker had been chasing me. It was almost unrecognizable now.
I’m coming! I told them, changing directions. I willed myself to go faster, moving my legs in a poor attempt at running. I growled into the wind, my rucksack hanging from my jaws. I had to get there. I couldn’t let them be alone.
It felt like hours in the cold, but I finally came up on the scene that they had showed me. I squinted to try to see better. There. Huddled at the base of the tree. Ice and snow clung to his tawny pelt and I could see his body shivering and convulsing.
Larken! His head slowly turned to me as I stumbled to him.
I sniffed over his body, raking my paws against his fur to dislodge the snow. He was freezing. I had to get him out of this wind.
You found me. He said weakly, his wolf mouth pulling up at the corners in a small smile. His eyelids were blinking slowly, almost trancelike.
Come on, we’ve got to move.
The brat stood on wobbly legs and braced his weight against me. There was no way we could get to any sort of shelter in this weather and I had to work fast if I was going to keep him from freezing to death. Hypothermia was going to set in soon if it hadn’t already. I led us to the small mountain of boulders and searched until I found an opening between the stones. I checked inside, and once I was sure we could fit in there, I directed him in. Larken sunk into the chasm heavily and I followed behind.
It was dark and smelled of earth in here. I curled up around Larken’s shivering frame, trying to share my body heat with him. I laid my head over his shoulder so his chest might warm up.
Why are you out here, brat? Have you lost your mind?
I saw you leave. He said. I couldn’t let you go by yourself.
This kid was something else. What about your parents? They’ll be worried sick, Larken! They’re going to send a search party for you! That would double my chances of being found.
He whined and curled against me tighter. They won’t care. They never notice me or want me around. They only had me to continue the Beta line. I heard it myself. I could feel the pain and sadness coming from him in waves. They’re not real parents.
I sighed against him. Parents are still parents, Larken, even when they’re shitty. They show the ugly truth about life earlier than they should. They make warriors. Parents are still human, even when they’re werewolves, and sometimes they nurture their pain and bitterness instead of their children.
His body stopped shaking so violently as he warmed up. Being out of the wind and snow was what he needed. I felt him relax against me. We stayed like that as the storm raged on. I let him sleep as I stayed awake to keep watch.
It had been a few hours when I caught the scent of something vaguely familiar. It was covered with a sickly, acrid stench. Then a stirring sound came from the front of our small alcove and my hackles raised as I let loose a growl.
There was a figure approaching us, but there wasn’t enough light for me to make out who it was. That scent though. I tried to sift through the rotten stench until I could reach that familiar smell. Then it hit me. I hadn’t been around his scent since that night in the human city.
The figure stopped in front of me and Larken’s still sleeping form.
Tell me, Little Wolf. He said. Are you ready to destroy those who have hurt you?