The Rise

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Chapter Eight

"He's healed, but keep him in the office for now," I said.

The pack-doctor nodded. "Yes, Moon Goddess. We will be studying the mold that was found on his skin in the meantim—"

"Moon Goddess!" Nakida rushed through my office door. When she saw me, she placed a hand on her chest and exhaled. "Oh, thank goodness. You're okay."

Ayodele appeared beside her, breathing hard. "We came as quickly as we could. We heard about the pup."

I placed a hand on the doctor's shoulder. "Please keep me informed." After bowing, he scurried out of the room.

Nakida nearly hurled her water bottle at me – something she probably picked up from Aaisha – when I told them about what we found last yesterday. "Why didn't you inform us of this earlier?"

"I wanted to give you and Ayodele one night of peace." I gently laid a hand on her forearm. "I have a feeling that things are about to get a lot more intense around here." My mind wandered to Ayodele and Ashur, Luca, Aeron.

In the pit of my stomach I could feel something brewing, something that I wasn't going to be ready for. And, because of that, I needed everyone to be on high alert. Resting was the right choice for them.

Valerio popped his head in the room, his eyes landing on Nakida. "There you are." He walked in, hugged Nakida from behind, and rested his chin on her shoulder. "Why'd you leave? You didn't even finish your waffles."

"I'm sure you finished them for me," she said, gazing over at him, all of her anger sudden gone.

I smiled at their exchange. They were too cute. So damn cute that my heart felt heavy.

A Protector knocked twice on the door. "We're ready when you are, Moon Goddess."

I gathered everything I would need today – my team and my wolves – and walked with them to the cars.

Today was going to be a long day. We had to hike all the way up the mountain to Aeron's old home and try to find something about his current whereabouts. I didn't know what we would find or if we would find anything. This was his last known place of residency, but, for all I know, he could've abandoned it hundreds of years ago.

I secretly hoped that we would find him there, lounging around in his underwear on the top of the mountain, catching him in a moment of weakness. But that was a far-fetched dream.

He was probably somewhere in the stars, plotting his next move with that damn divine.

As we drove, the ivory moon was barely visible in the sea of pinks and purples that made up the morning sky. I asked Ayodele and a few Protectors to accompany me in my car, while Nakida and Valerio were in the car ahead.

I gazed at Ayodele from the driver's seat. "Did you tell Nakida yet?"

He shook his head. "No. I don't want her to worry. Her energy needs to be focused on this and so does mine."

"Ayodele, it's okay if you need time to process what will happen," I said. I couldn't imagine the stress and torment that keeping this information to himself would bring him, each and every time he left his bed in the morning. I could barely handle it myself and I wasn't the one who was going to die.

"I have processed it," he said. "I know what will happen. I know it can happen at any time."

I hesitated. "Are you sure?"

He rested a hand on my shoulder. "My head is clear. We will defeat this darkness."

Hopefully we would, and soon.

When we made it to Mount Iteritus, we had to leave the cars at the bottom. The roads were covered in thick brush. The forest had wildly reclaimed all the land for itself. I doubted that it had been cleared out for decades. So, we trekked all the way up the hill.

"Stay alert," I said to the Protector's before we split up to cover the land faster. We didn't know what was up there – probably nothing at all – but we needed to use caution.

We cut through vines and checked every tree stump, looking for a home built into the land, just like the Challenger's hideout that Samuel and the pups were trapped in. But we found nothing. Absolutely nothing.

We climbed higher up the mountain. Each hour I lost more and more hope of ever finding Aeron. Each hour I became more and more irritated that I was here. If I didn't blindly trust him, we wouldn't even be in this situation.

When we reached the top of the mountain the others met back up with us. They shook their heads, signaling that they found nothing too. I was tired, pissed off, and wanted nothing more than to go home.

I leaned against one of the only trees up at the top and crossed my arms. There was no home and no sign that he had ever spent a single day here.

The Protector's all looked drained. Most were walking around, hopelessly looking behind trees. But Ayodele had his nose tilted toward the air. He smelt something.

He walked closer to me and gazed up at the tree. Then, out of nowhere, he started climbing until he reached the very top. Slowly, he climbed back down with something in his hand.

"What is it?" I asked, brows furrowed. He landed with a thud and held out his arm. A skull.

Very carefully, I took it from him. It didn't look fragile, but it did look old and different. The outside was white – as white as the moon. The inside, however, was a charcoal color.

My fingers ran across its edges. This was neither a human skull nor a werewolf skull. I had seen both, a human skull in high school anatomy and a few werewolf skulls since I ascended. But nothing like this.

The power it emitted was so strong that I could feel it rushing through my veins. Who was this? But an even better question was: Who hid it on the top of the tree?

Twigs snapped from my left, and I instantly grabbed the skull a bit tighter. I gulped. Someone was here with us. Every one of the Protector's looked over, ready to fight if needed.

A woman with long grey hair appeared in front of us. She was gazing down at the ground, holding a basket of cranberries, and humming softly to herself. Valerio cleared his throat. The woman's head snapped in our direction and her eyes widened.

She looked at me, then the skull in my hands, then back. "What are you doing with that?" she hissed. Dropping her basket onto the forest floor, she tried snatching the skull from my hands.

Valerio grabbed her arms and pulled her away.

She seethed, trying to pull herself out of his grip. His fingers dug even deeper into her. She looked so fragile; I didn't want her to break. We needed information from her. I eyed Valerio and he loosened his grip.

"Give that back to me. It's mine," she said again.

"What is it?" I asked, stepping closer to her.

"Nothing you need to know about." She went to grab for the skull again, but I pulled it out of her reach.

"Tell me what it is, and I'll give it to you."

"It's an artifact passed down through my family for centuries," she said. "Now give it."

"It's quite powerful," I said. "What does it do?"

She eyed the wolves around us, then stopped struggling. "Nothing."

"Then why do you need it so bad?"

She yanked herself out of Valerio's grip and brushed herself off. "I'm keeping it safe to give to someone."

"Who?"

The women said a few not-so-nice things under her breath, then grimaced. "The Moon Goddess."

A/N

I will not be posting on Wattpad in May. I will be on vacation and wanted some time to relax! However, updates will be available on Patreon because I can set auto-updates. I should be posting one more chapter before I leave!

Tell me your plans for the summer <3

Okay, back to the story:

- Why do you think that this woman is keeping the skull safe? What's Aeron up to? Is this his doing?

Warmly, Destiny <3

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