“Her name is Amelia,” Ayodele said. He pulled out the chair in front of my desk, sat, and looked between Valerio and I. “Do you want me to contact her?”
“Has she ever forced an eclipse?” I asked, taping my fingers against the desk. I couldn’t believe Valerio actually talked me into this. I honestly didn’t know what he was thinking when he came up with this idea.
His eyes widened. “Why? Is this from the riddle the Woman on the Mountain gave us?”
I nodded my head slowly. “We think if we force an eclipse, we could find him.”
Ayodele sat up. “If I may ask, how will an eclipse help you find him? It will be dark everywhere. He will literally be everywhere at once.”
After giving Valerio a side-ways glance, I crossed my arms. “This wasn’t my idea.”
Valerio placed his palms onto my desk and leaned forward. “The moon goes dark during an eclipse, which – I’m assuming – makes Aeron stronger. For that split moment, he can be part of the moon. And he will jump on the opportunity because he’s self-centered and wants to outshine the Sun and the Moon.”
Ayodele’s brows furrowed. “And?”
Honestly, I didn’t follow him either the first time. Or the second. Or now.
“If this is what the riddle is, his darkness will overshadow the moon during the eclipse.”
I placed a hand on the table in front of Ayodele. “I know this sounds stupid. He came up with this while we were drunk.”
Ayodele chuckled, but then turned serious again. “I still don’t understand how we will find him.”
Valerio took a few moments to gather his thoughts. “We have to—”
A Protector barged into the room. “Moon Goddess,” he said, breaths quick and heavy. “We have a problem.”
I stood from my desk and followed him – no questions asked. Valerio and Ayodele followed after us. The Protector led us through the forest, where other Protectors were huddled.
In the middle of a forest, a woman was running in our direction with a pup on her hip. Tears were streaming down her face and her screeches were piercing. “Help my son, please!”
She gazed around at all of the Protectors who were stepping out of her way. When she saw me she rushed to me. “Luna, please.” She held him out.
Before I could grasp him in my arms to help him Valerio grabbed my arm. “He’s infected.”
The woman continued to rush toward us, begging us to do something. Valerio held his arm out, urging her to stay away. “Ma’am please… this is the last time I’m going to tell you… Put your son down and we’ll help him.”
Tears were streaming down her face as she collapsed to the ground. “Help him, please.”
I stepped forward and knelt in front of her. “I’ll do the best I can, but I need you to follow me. Without touching anyone or anything other than your son.”
Since he was infected, she would be infected too in a matter of seconds – if she wasn’t already. I released White and Black from my palms. Black stood at the woman’s side while White was rubbing her fur against the woman’s legs, trying to soother her. “Please… please…” she begged as we rushed to the pack hospital.
When we got to the hospital, the Pack Doctor along with a few people dressed in protective gear were waiting for us. They led the woman to a room that was blocked off to everyone except Valerio and me.
I stood outside the room, hands on hips, and gazed in through the large single-sided window. Once they pried the boy from the woman, they placed an oxygen mask over his mouth. The woman lashed out, trying to stay with her boy. Two Protectors restrained her.
I grimaced. I would need to be restrained too if my son was poisoned.
After fifteen minutes of watching the doctor check the woman, he motioned for Valerio and me to come in. The first thing I noticed – which I hadn’t noticed before – was the scar on her right forearm. Two circles – one inside the other.
“What happened?” I asked her, still careful not to touch her.
She wiped her tears with the back of her hand. “Shawn was playin’ in the yard… and… and I was cookin’ and, before I knew, it a man snatched him.”
I gazed over at Valerio, knowing we were dealing with Luca again. There was no doubt about it. “What did he look like?”
“Wild, feral.” She shook her head. “There was a green foam coming from his mouth.” Her body trembled. “It was horrendous.” Her hands began shaking, and suddenly her blue eyes turned laced with a glowing green. Her body seized. “Ple-plea… se… pla…”
Valerio called for the doctor and he rushed back into the room. Three Protector’s rushed her into a surgery room. The last thing I heard her say was his name. “Shawn.”
Before I could say anything, Valerio looked at me, brows furrowed. “Her scar – it was the exact symbol we saw at the Red Oak tree.”
I nodded. “It is.” I took a deep breath. If this wolf – whoever he was – was leaving us clues, he must know exactly where Luca was or who Luca and the Divine planned to drain or poison. He was very valuable to us, which meant we needed to contact him as much as possible.
I sighed and walked out of the room. Instead of waiting in the lobby, like we should’ve, we walked around the hospital. I gazed in each room, looking for the Protector that had been poisoned a few days ago.
Each room was empty, except the last, which was blocked off with multiple warning signs and tape.
“He’s in there,” the doctor said from behind me. “The Protector that you asked me to watch. He’s stable, but…” He took a deep breath. “I think you should see him. It’s too difficult to explain.”
He went into a room and appeared with two airtight suits that he told us we had to put on before entering. Valerio and I obliged. When we entered the room, the Protector – if I could even call him that anymore – was lying on the bed.
His eyes were a dark piercing green, the veins in his arms glowed through his skin, and tips of his fingers had turned brown and… bark-like. All of his hair had fallen out.
He smiled at me when he saw me. “Moon Goddess.” He tried to bow but failed to. But he thought he did. “When can I get back to work?” I gazed at Valerio. It was as if he didn’t even know anything was wrong.
I smiled sweetly at him. “Not for a while. You have helped me tremendously in the past few weeks. You deserve some time to rest, so you can get better.”
He looked saddened by the news, but he nodded. When we walked out, I pulled the doctor to the side. “How is this affecting him – beside the visible features?”
“Every day he has less and less mobility. His skin is turning hard and brittle. I have never seen anything like this before.”
“Is it contagious?”
“We need to run a few more tests. We plan to do animal trials in a few days, but, honestly, if he keeps declining like this, I don’t think he will ever be able to move again.”
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