The Rise

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Chapter Sixty-Seven

I opened my eyes to see an empty hospital room. An IV was hooked into my arm, sending some type of fluids into my body. Instead of recklessly pulling it out and wandering through the hospital like I usually would, I sat up and tried remembering what happened.

The news was playing on the small TV in the corner of the room. A reporter was talking about the suddenly dried out lands across the country and the world. Then, they cut to a segment about me.

Brett’s mother as well as the man from the restaurant that I saved were being interviewed. They had talked about this mysterious divine that had been killing the pups and trying to blame the killings on me and my species. Brett’s mom reassured everyone that I, along with my wolves, were not harmful. And the man from the restaurant recounted the exact moment that I had helped him.

He definitely exaggerated a bit, but it didn’t matter. He was on my side and made sure we were treated and talked about properly among the reporters.

My picture flashed up on the screen and the news anchor’s voice sounded through the speakers. “If you’re out there still Mae Cogan, we would love to speak to you. You deserve more than what we have given you.”

Valerio entered a few moments later, licking an open cup of vanilla puddle. When he saw me, he smiled. “You’re awake.”

“Is everyone okay?”

He nodded and sat at the edge of my bed. “You did good.” I pushed over and patted the spot next to me for him to lay down. “It has been confirmed that Mother Nature has died for real this time and it was all because of you.”

I scrunched my brows together. “How do we know for sure?”

Frowning, he pointed toward the window. The last time I was here, the hospital was surrounded by trees, but now everything seemed so bare. I scooted to the edge of the bed and stared out of the window.

Empty.

The forest, once a thriving hub for my wolves to run and play and fight, was gone. I almost couldn’t believe that my plan had worked. But most importantly I couldn’t believe that I had to destroy our home to destroy her.

“What are wolves without a forest?” I asked, heart-broken.

Valerio didn’t answer. “Let’s go outside. I know this is a bad time, but I need to show you something urgent.”

I gazed over at him, taken aback. Valerio was letting me go out after a fight? He never let me go out if my power was completely drained. It must’ve been important.

Taking my arm, he removed the needle from it and took my hand. He helped me up, wrapping his arm around my waist. I was slower than a few hours… or days ago. “How long have I been sleeping?”

He led me down the hallway which was still empty. Only a few nurses and doctors were in some spare rooms, monitoring Luca. His body was completely still and again I was heartbroken.

Valerio followed my gaze and promised me that he would bring me back to see him. Whatever this was was definitely more important right now.

“It’s been almost twelve hours,” he said.

I groaned. Twelve hours and I still felt like shit.

“Where is everyone?” I asked. I had only seen a few Protectors guarding the property. They should’ve been back by now. It was odd not to be around so many people here.

“I ordered them to stay at their assigned pack for now, just until we have everything in order,” he said. “I thought I’d give you a break, let you figure everything out.”

We walked outside into the field that was once a forest. I frowned at the nothingness. The air felt unusually dry and it was harder to breathe. “We need to move.” My wolves needed the forest like they needed mates. They were one with the forest and the forest was one with them.

I wanted them to be able to run free, to hunt prey, to truly experience life without worry.

Here, they would not be able to do any of that. I would have people plant trees here so we may come back in the next hundred years, but for now I would have to say good-bye to this property.

We continued walking onto the field toward the paths where the Moon Flowers used to lead to the end of my property. When we reached the paths, I frowned down at the withering flowers. Most of the petals covered the ground and the leaves were dried out.

I scrunched my brows together and picked one. It crumbled in my hand. The snakes must’ve poisoned these too.

“They didn’t,” Valerio said, reading my mind. “This is happening all over the world. The planet is dying. Nature is dying.” He pressed his lips together. “We need to find someone who is willing to bring this planet back to life so we can all survive.”

“How long do we have?”

“Two-three weeks, maybe.” He sighed. “Fresh water is even drying up. I’ve talked to Sun. She’s trying to hold back, to not burn as strongly, but it still doesn’t look good. We need someone now.”

My mind wandered to the Woman on the Mountain. I hadn’t heard anything from her since I left her to make a decision. I wanted - needed - it to be her. She was the only person I knew that could absorb the powers of Mother Nature.

No, she was never a mother, and, no, she would never have a child. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t leave her mark on this world and help it rather than be a bystander.

I gazed over at Valerio. “This is a stupid question, but do you want to-”

“Please don’t ask me that,” he said, cutting me off. “You know the only job I want is the one next to you.”

I took a deep breath and nodded. The only job I wanted him to have too was next to me. I couldn’t imagine Valerio anywhere else. But Nature needed a mother to nurture it. Someone needed to fill the position.

“What’re you thinking?” Valerio asked.

“We need to find the Woman on the Mountain and try to talk her into it,” I said. “She’s our only hope.”

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