Prologue: part 2
King Adrian Ambrose
The warm rays of the sun were just beginning to peak out over the horizon. Bringing with it a serene sense of calmness over the once fine greenery the territory used to be. It was hard to believe just days ago, this piece of land was gorgeously intact with trees standing side by side, creating a fine barrier for the wolves to run in blissful solitude.
My heart practically shattered at all the destruction before me. The sun's rays highlighting the true damage the bastards had left. There was a shift in my guards. Hell, there was a shift of emotion in all of us at seeing the blood and gore that lay before us as we rode our timid horses through the chaos.
"Your Majesty..." my current head guard of security, Lydia, trailed off. Her voice cracked at the end and I for one could not blame her in the least. This was quite possibly the worst destruction we've ever witnessed since the war of supernatural ages ago.
My voice was thick with raw anger. "Keep your head up and eyes peeled. We shall send more help to clean the land up, but for now, we look for any possible signs of life or survival. If it be a rogue, you are to kill it first and ask questions later. If it be a survivor, use your magic to heal what you can and get them on your horse and back to the kingdom immediately for medical attention."
"Your Majesty," Lydia tried once more, this time I noted her voice was back to normal. Emotion no longer clouding her soul. Which was good. Though this brought on great tragedy and trauma, work was to be done. It would take years to repair the damage done to this land and even I knew life would never again restore this territory no matter how long time changed it. There were too many souls lost. Too many lives ruined. Too much purity stolen in a land so very once treasured. Never again would the trees keep any wolves shielded to the outside world. No longer would the sun rise to give light to the shifters who basked in the rays. There would be no more families to grow and thrive within their pack because there was no pack to prosper in. The very thought seared a hole straight through my chest once again.
"What is it, Lydia?" I asked, keeping my eyes steady as we slowly rode through a trail of burnt bodies. My nose crinkled on their own accord, my soul once more cracking with every body I passed. As the King of Lycans, or werewolves as most called us in today's century, I could feel the life and death of every werewolf. I felt the joy in my heart when a new child was born blessed by the Moon Goddess. And I also felt the passing of a fellow wolf as their soul is once again called back to the Moon Goddess who blessed them with her ethereal presence to begin with.
I came to America from England in order to visit with the capital Alphas of each state. There was a rising increase in the number of wolves leaving their pack- essentially making them rogues. Without a proper pack to guide them, the wolves are no longer aware of the human part of them that keeps them sane and rational. Instead, it becomes a mode of a means of surviving. There comes a time where they will shift into their wolf, and never regain control again. Their instincts to survive overpowering anything else until the once level minded wolf, becomes a permanent wolf with killer intentions and a douse of ruthlessness that can only be severed by death.
Rogues are dangerous creatures to be around. It seems now more than ever, I have a clear indication as to just how bad it was. My jaw ticks, anger once again slamming into my chest with full force.
But I don't have time to dwell on vengeance. Not yet.
"There is something odd about this scene." Lydia finishes, and I sense the torment raging on inside her soul. Lydia has been my head guard for the past century and has never once let me down. She is also a mother of four and no doubt witnessing the many children that lay in ashes on the ground is hitting her far deeply then it would hit me. One of the many reasons she was appointed my head of guards is because of her ability not only to empathize with a level headed mind, but also because her magic was almost as powerful as mine. Her healing capabilities were astonishing to bare witness to as she's the sole reason many of my men are still alive today.
One would not expect that her caramel colored skin was tainted by so many scars over the past years she'd been in combat. Just as no one could ever possibly look into the deep cerulean blue of her eyes and detect so much pain and tragedy over what those very eyes have seen. The short brown cropped hair that stopped at the nape of her neck to make it more difficult for an enemy to use it to her disadvantage. Everything about Lydia Prescott was thought down to the finest detail in order for her to succeed in this train of field for as long as she has. She was the best of the best. It was hard though, seeing the anguish cross her face each step made deeper into the forest.
The damage only seemed to get worse. "What do you mean, Lydia?"
She coughed lightly before answering. "We've met with several other rogues as they are banding together and we got information out of them that they are planning to attack several packs. But, it seems that the motive is not vengeance. I feel like if it were revenge, one person would suffer the most damage. But there is not a single soul here who hasn't suffered extensive damage. I wonder if it could be something else that is their motive, your Majesty."
I listened to her words carefully. It was true. When a rouge went out seeking revenge, one specific person was usually targeted, not the entire pack. An entire pack was too many people for a rogue or two to take on at once. Rogues were merciless and unpredictable, but they were not dumb. Which means the rogues were not after revenge on a pack. They were after...
"Power," my lips curled into a snarl. One of their motives might be revenge, yes. But as more and more ruthless killers band together, it seems it was only a matter of time before they began to crave power again. Not just power. Control. Structure. Order. Wolves cannot live without some type of order no matter how far rogue they go. There will always be a part of them that craves structure in the very pit of their rotted soul.
I sense Lydia nodding in agreement. "I think the rogues no longer want to be rogues. They want to be noticed and treated as a real pack. Like a pack of misfits, I'd say. There are so many of them already though. A group of rogues are still careless and reckless no matter what. Each one of them will fight for an Alpha title and if they get enough members, King Ambrose, it's quite possible they could go to you to ask to be an official pack. A pack of rogues who wouldn't be classified as rogues if they cooperate with pack guidelines well, there would be nothing else to do." She sounds almost as hopeless as I was beginning to feel.
But, no. No matter what, at the end of the day, I was King of the Lycans for a reason. I would protect my wolves with my life. If a few traitorous rogues thought they could destroy what has long been in the making, they've certainly got another storm heading their way.
"They can act like a pack all they want too. I know a pack when I see one. They will never be able to become a real pack. Their heads will be on a silver platter before they even step foot onto my territory." It came out as a deep snarl, a strong wave of protectiveness washing through me. I cared about my people. My wolves. My shifters. I was meant to protect them. I was the one person who they were meant to look up to aside from their Alpha.
It seems as if I'm failing them. I can't let the rogues get away with another tragedy such as this. I needed to--
"King Ambrose! Listen! Do you hear that?" In the midst of my over analytical thinking, another one of my guards spoke up, silencing my thoughts.
The air around us turned eerie quiet as we all waited to make out a sound. For the next few seconds, I could hear nothing but the wind blowing and the slight chirp of a bird. But then, I heard it. A small voice that was so low it was a wonder any of us could hear it. Though the sound was low, the noise couldn't be mistaken for none other then a--
"A child," Lydia wasted no time as she lightly kicked her horse, galloping in the direction of the whimpering child.
The rest of us followed in cautious steps, still looking around for any possible signs of danger. We passed several burnt down homes and even several more bodies that created a deep aching in my chest. I do not think this day would ever stop haunting me. These faces, the bodies, the damage would forever be engraved into my mind. My failure. A catastrophe that could have been prevented had I made it to see the Alpha sooner.
Soon, I was able to make out the smell. It was but a young pup. One deep in pain. The closer we got, the more my chest seemed to sink even lower. There, amiss all the chaos and all the blood and the after effects of a horrible fire, lay a small boy with enough ash on his face to nearly hide his entire self. The boy was naked with dirt and smears running along his body. His entire frame was trembling, as if he were freezing to death but I had no doubt the cause for his trembling lie elsewhere in his mind. He was surrounded by nothing but dead leaves and rotting bodies.
When he finally did look up, sensing he had company, it was Lydia he gazed at first. His eyes were broken beyond repair. No emotion crossed his face. No shock. No fear. No curiosity. Nothing.
"If you are going to kill me, you don't have to worry about me fighting you. The others broke something before they left me out here to die." Just like his eyes, there was nothing in his tone of voice indicating his true feelings. He sounded like he'd given up. Like his whole life was gone in the blink of an eye and death was a much better choice then living in another hell hole.
It was, of course, Lydia who went with a much appreciated gentle approach with the boy. "We've not come to hurt you, love. We want to help. I'm Lydia and I have King Ambrose and some of his guards with us to help. Can you tell me your name dear?" I, along with everyone else in a ten mile radius, could hear the heart broken crack in her voice. Yet, still nothing showed on the boy's face. It was like he was a shell of somebody else. His soul was stolen and he was left with nothing but the flesh he was borrowing in this life.
"She protected me," the boy whispered brokenly, a tear making its way down his blackened face.
"Who?" Lydia's voice was soft as she continued to get close to him.
He didn't look up at her once. Simply stared at the leaves around him. An empty feeling settled around the boy. He looked so utterly out of place.
"When they first attacked, mom and dad were both in meetings. Then dad rushed over to me. He locked me in the panic room and told me to wait for Evangeline but... she never showed," he trailed off, new tears glistening in his eyes. "I- I wanted to find her. To protect her. To get her to safety. I unlocked the door and I snuck out of the back window. It was so bad there was so much smoke..." the boy stopped, a faraway look taking over his eyes as he recalled his memory. His very painful memory. "I could smell her. Not strongly. But faintly. She was lost in the woods. I don't even know what she was doing there. She knows she's not supposed to be in the woods alone." Anguish filled his words, each one plummeting into me like a jack hammer.
"When I finally found her, there was a wolf coming towards her. She didn't see him because there was so much smoke and I tried to warn her I did and then... and then he... the rogue attacked her. Right in front of me. And she looked at me. She.. she accepted it. That's what it looked like. She told me to go. To run. To get away while I still could. And I'm such a stupid coward, I did. I ran away." By now the boy was rambling with hot tears streaming down his face. As if horrified at his own actions. My heart went out to the boy who lost his family.
"I didn't know where to go. I just kept running but another rogue caught up to me. He attacked me and left me to die. I can't feel them. I can't feel any of them," his voice broke as he stopped speaking, and we all knew what he was referring too. His family. His pack. He couldn't feel any of them because they were likely all dead. Each pack member had a connection with the rest of their pack. But it was most strong between family and mates. When one passed, the others felt it. But when a family member or a mate passed, the pain was tenfold.
This little boy didn't just lose his family. He lost his entire life. His future. His memories were all burnt to a crisp and he had nothing but the scars on his body to remember this wretched day. I was determined to protect him at all cost. This scared little pup may have lost what was left of his family, but that certainly didn't mean he couldn't build a new one with new people.
Lydia was already ahead of me. She rummaged through her beaten up satchel, one handed down to her from her father with an elaborate design of a wolf howling into the night sky stitched on the front. From the bag, she pulled a woolen blanket. One big enough to wrap four times around the boy. Lydia jumped from her horse and took tentative steps towards the pup.
He no longer looked afraid. But he didn't look happy either. He just looked like a broken statue. He didn't even move an inch when Lydia squatted down to place the fabric around the boy's shivering frame. She held her close to him, nuzzling her nose in the strands of his hair that looked caked with blood and dirt.
"You will be protected, love. You will come with us and we will build you up into the wolf you were always meant to be. The wolf your family always knew you would be. Come, dear. Let's see if you can stand," Lydia stood with the boy's hand in hers. He struggled, pain laced his every move but raw determination still settled on his face. The pup was strong. He most likely had Alpha in his blood. Other pups would be dead by this point, but this one was different.
He would make a good guard when he grew older. I could see him becoming stronger; braver. More courageous as he got on through with the bitterness of life. I would teach him right from wrong. I would tell him the stories of his ancestors. I wouldn't be his father. But I would be the King he would look up too. My people would help train him.
As cheesy as it sounds, there was a part of me that saw some of myself in the small scared pup. The heartache he was experiencing would permanent. There was absolutely nothing in this entire world that would bring full happiness back to this pup again. Besides his future mate. But his mate would only serve as another reminder of the small family he will have.
But alas, I will worry about the boy's future in due time.
For today, we were bringing back a new pup. A new member of the Royal family.