The Rise

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Chapter Eighteen

Valerio clutched his stomach as he stumbled out of the cabin and gazed at my arm that was infected by the poisonous bark. “Mae, we have to get you to the hospital. That’s going to spread.”

I pressed my lips together and looked down at White who was standing by my leg, eyes wide and wanting. She kept gazing at my shoulder, her tail wagging. But I couldn’t risk her getting infected too, so I held out my palm and waited for her to jump in. After giving me a drawn-out a whimper, she disappeared into my palm.

Black was in the forest, searching for Luca and the Hunter. Once we got back to the packhouse, I planned to find him but I knew I couldn’t now. I trusted him to make the right decisions.

“Go,” I said to Valerio. “Make sure everyone gets back safely.”

My gaze traveled from him to the murdered Protector in front of me. I knelt and brushed my fingers over his eyelids, closing them. “Salvum locis,” I whispered unintentionally.

From the corner of my eye, I could see Valerio watching me from the edge of the woods. All of the other Protectors were heading toward the packhouse, helping the children and the wounded.

“You served our species greatly.” I picked up his body and followed the rest of my pack.

This was the absolute worst part about being the Moon Goddess. Over the past few weeks, I learned that every death was just as bad as the death of a family member. These men, women, and children were my own and each time that one of them died, I failed them all.

When we made it back, I brought him to the hospital and laid him down on the bed. He couldn’t be saved, but the doctor could piece him back together again, so when he moves on to the next life, he would be whole again.

I frowned down at him. “I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.”

Someone knocked on the door and entered. “Moon Goddess.” The doctor bowed. “Valerio says that you got attacked by the poison.”

Valerio stood behind him, arms crossed over his chest. I raised a brow at the hard stare he was giving me. “Yes.”

The doctor held the door open. “Please come with me.”

We followed the doctor into the hallway. “I hope everyone else is getting treated at the moment. Their safety before mine, Valerio.”

Valerio clenched his jaw. “You needed to be protected more than anyone. Without you, they wouldn’t survive.”

I stopped, giving him the best glare I could summon at the moment. “Valerio, if they are out there bleeding to death, I’m going to smack you.”

He paced a hand on my upper back, gently pushing me toward the room that the doctor walked into. “They’re getting treated. All I’m saying is that you need to worry about yourself too.” He led me to the hospital bed and forced me to sit. “You’re the only Moon Goddess we have, in case you forgot.”

The doctor swivelled his chair toward me, holding a knife in his hand. I laid down and placed my infected arm closer to the bedside. Valerio stood beside me, watching us closely.

“We need to remove this from your body before it spreads,” the doctor said.

“Okay.”

“It may hurt.”

Valerio looked at me and, for a split second, I swear I saw him smile. “I don’t think it’ll hurt her.” His eyes flickered to the quad that Alexandra had bit and tore a piece of muscle out when we fought.

Goddamn, this Hunter was really trying to tear me apart limb by limb.

The doctor plunged the knife into my skin and carved out the piece of flesh infected by the poison. I stayed still the whole time and stared up at Valerio.

“How’s it feel?” Valerio teased through the link.

“Great, I love being carved like a pumpkin every so often,” I linked.

“People care about you Mae. You should care about yourself too.”

I sighed and closed my eyes. I did care about myself. I just didn’t want any more wolves to die a horrible death because of this Hunter. Too many people have already been infected by her.

“What happened to the others who were poisoned?” I asked the doctor.

The doctor hesitated as he removed the poisoned muscle. “The pup and the Protector?”

“Yes,” I said. “Did you find a cure?”

He took a deep breath and places the piece of flesh into a container and locked it. “Unfortunately, we were unable to conduct any tests at all.”

Valerio grabbed my hand and helped me up. “Why?”

The doctor wrapped gauze around my arm. “They became completely immobile…” He sighed. “I think it’s best if you see for yourself.”

When he was finished, we followed him out of the room and down the hallway until we reached a room with the two infected. Warnings were written all over the door, telling people to keep out.

Inside, two figures were lying in the beds. From their foreheads to the tips of their fingers to their stomachs and toes, every inch of their bodies were covered in bark.

My eyes widened as I stared at them, lips parted slightly. “Are they still breathing?”

He gulped. “As of right now, yes. We don’t believe that the bark has infected their internal organs, yet. We need to confirm this through CT scans though. We are in contact with human hospitals to see if one will let us use theirs, since we don’t have one.” His voice didn’t sound hopeful.

“And?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?” Valerio repeated. “No hospital is letting you use them?”

“No, we’ve been denied by nearly all of the hospitals in the area.”

I clenched my fists by my side. Of course. I didn’t even know why I was mad. Nobody treated us with respect anyway. Why would they let us use their equipment?

“I don’t know how much longer we would be able to keep them alive without a proper scan,” the doctor said.

After taking a deep breath, I shook my head. I knew someone who worked at the hospital, but it would be a long shot to try to get them to help us. He hated werewolves - absolutely hated them in the worst ways. But he had liked me at one point, so maybe he would help me.

“I’ll work on it,” I said.

A wolf’s howl echoed through the hospital. Black sprinted into the room, his tail wagging. He ran behind me, pushing his snout into my butt, and nudged me toward the door. “Did you find something, Black?”

After another howl, he ran in front of us, weaving through nurses, doctors, and patients. Valerio and I followed. He took us to the Great Oak and ran in circles around it. I held out my hand and scratched the top of his head before letting him return to White inside of my palm.

In front of the tree, a bunch of leaves were piled. I gently brushed the leaves out of the way and gazed at the two words that looked to be dug into the dirt.

Help me.

A/N Read up to chapter 54 on Patreon now! Click "Support Me" in my bio!

Destiny Diess

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