Chapter Thirty Nine
“Without freedom there can be no morality,”
My blood ran ice cold, completely and utterly freezing. I stood from the bed shakily, not bothered at all by the air that brushed against my barren skin as everything in my mind started to fuzz, the complete shock to my high staggering me.
“No,” I say with in loose breath, my lip starting to quiver, “No.”
“Its alright, Mae, she’s going to be okay,” he says and anger bubbles up within me, not at him necessarily but more at the situation we are now in.
“How?” I yell, loosing my resolve, “How is any of this okay?” I press and he moves to comfort me, to day something but I bend down and grab my jumper from the floor, shaking me head one the fabric is concealing my vulnerable skin.
“We have to go,” I say and he nods, his eyes glossing over in that fog of white before returning with a stony vengeance.
We exit the room together, leaving the tense air only to walk into a silence much worse, a silence filled with underlying fear with from me and him. He said she’d be okay, that he’d put a protection over her and now… now I don’t know what to believe.
“What happened?” I ask him, my voice coming out strained through the tightness in my throat, the emotion that swells within me.
“I don’t know yet. It should be impossible,” he says and that certainty that he always holds, that edge of knowing at all times what is two steps ahead is gone, completely vanished. “I reviewed the packs security myself, even after Elijah had done a thorough check of its defences. If anyone has managed to breach the security they won’t be getting out,” he assures but my stomach is still clenched in a tight knot, twisting tighter with each horrific thought that arises in my mind.
We arrive at Noah and Jennas room within minutes and it is hard to believe that when I enter things will be so far from joyous and relieved like they were before. Roman enters first and I follow behind to find Jenna sat on the bed still.
Her face is ghostly white and her cheeks are stained with streaks of tears. Her face is contorted in pain and terror and she clutches at the bed sheets tightly, sobs escaping her body. Her head snaps over to us and I watch as her eyes connect onto Roman and a little relief washes over her, her eyes maintaining that empty feeling that comes with being unable to do anything but wait but a little spark of hope still there.
“Alpha Superior, thank the goddess you are here,” the Beta says, looking utterly distraught but managing to remain relatively composed considering the situation.
“How did this happen?” Roman asks with the levelness and severity that a leader should have in a situation like this.
The Beta looks to his daughter and pain flashes over her face as she sobs again, her body beginning to visibly shake. “We s-set her in the cot,” she blubbers and Roman and I focus onto her. “A-and we went to sleep,” her voice rises at the end, pulled tight from the agony of reliving the moment.
“Just for a moment and then Noah was-he was shaking me and-and,” she breaks down into tears again and her mother moves next to her, clutching her hand and saying sweet words of comfort even though no amount of words could fix how she feels right now. The only thing that can fix her is her child, my niece, safe and in the warmth of her arms.
I swallow the knot in my throat and turn to the Beta, “Where is Noah?” I ask as firmly as I can.
“He’s trying to find her. The Gammas and my son are all in the Alphas office and every wolf that isn’t securing the perimeter is running house checks as we speak,” he says and Roman nods firmly before turning to Jenna.
“We will find your child,” he says and that certainty that he lacked before kicks in with full force, I see it through the determination that glows in his blue eyes as he spins around and it is enough to make me win away the tears that spill over my own cheeks.
I have been shutting down my emotions for long enough now I could be a professional at it and that’s what I need to do now. No crying or complaining. No letting that hurt wrap itself around me and suffocate my logic. None of it.
Not until I know for sure that Celina is safe or the alternative… the alternative that means there really isn’t any hope left in this empty wasteland of a world.
When Roman and I arrive at the pack office people part like we are Moses crossing the red sea, paving our way directly to the circular table in the centre of the room. The Alpha looks up from a screen on the desk and I notice that glimmer of fear that comes and goes on his face, no doubt at the glare Roman and I both wear. Levelled and calm on the outside but incensed on the inside like thin ice over a raging river.
“What is the update?” Roman says firmly looking at the screen that holds highlighted sections in a yellow colour that slowly creeps across the screen in small, yet steady, increments.
“These are the areas our scouts have searched thoroughly,” he says, pointing to the yellow that seems to close in around the centre of the screen, “As you can see the second round of scouts are set to start their wave of inspections in order to ensure no spot has been missed,” he points again to the screen at a patch of pink that begins to appear in numerous places over the yellow, expanding slowly as well.
“What of the tunnels?” He asks and I stay silent, soaking up every word.
“The perimeter is secure, all rebel tunnels leading out have been guarded by our patrol squads so if anyone has taken that route then they will be weeded out. A team is already starting to sweep through the known key points,” he says and Roman nods.
Rebel tunnels that I presume the Alpha hasn’t declared his knowledge of, not is he suspects people to use them. A tactical move by Roman, no doubt. Keep the tunnels open and monitor those who use them to plot, take those who try to leave.
“What about emitting?” I blurt and the Alpha furrows his brows, looking to Roman sceptically before turning back to me, clearing his throat.
“We have taken measures to ensure that no one can emit in or out of this pack and now with everything on emergency lockdown the latter is virtually impossible. If the Beta’s child has been taken it was not through the method of emitting,” he explains and a small inkling of relief enters me at that although the feeling doesn’t last. She isn’t with hunters but that’s not to say that she is any safer. Humans, human rebels, have proved to be just as cynical in achieving their goals.
“Where is the Luna’s brother?” Roman asks in that familiar voice, the one that sends shivers jostling down my spine. The Alpha’s command.
“Right here, Alpha,” he responds automatically, pointing to a section of the map that turns yellow as his fingers find it.
“Have a group take me there immediately. I want Beta Elijah contacted immediately and brought here on emergency and double security placed on the perimeter of my this estate and on my room,” Roman says and my heart plummets with his command. There is only one thing in his room that he’d want protecting.
“Yes, Alpha,” my previous leader replies and my hand shoots out to Roman’s bicep just as he begins to turn, making his rage filled eyes flick to mine.
“Roman,” I say and he serves the leaders of the room a look that makes them divert their attention from us. He shrugs my hand from his arm and begins walking from the room, me hot on his tail.
“Its not happening, Mae,” he says and I feel that tightness curl up in my chest.
“I’m not staying locked up in that room waiting around doing nothing. We need everyone we can get looking for her and if I am by your side then it won’t matter, Roman,” I say, my tone matching his level of authority before, a command of my own kind.
“All it takes is one stray bullet, Mae,” he refutes.
“Exactly, which is why I am getting my niece out of there before she gets hurt.”
Roman looks at me, his calculating eyes working on overdrive under the intense time crunch we face and he sighs, conceding before beginning to walk again, his legs moving fast down the corridor. “Fine, but you don’t stray from my side, you listen to the orders of the wolves trained in this area and if I tell you to do something, do it. I’m serious, there is no time for arguing out there,” he says and I nod, not willing to let my luck run out due to my fiery tongue. Not when Roman undoubtedly has more expertise in this area than I do.
“Alpha, Luna, the car is ready for you out the front.” A young wolf soldier appears in front of us and Romans large hand encases around mine, holding me firmly to his side as the front door swings open to a sleek black car.
We enter the car within moments and all that runs through my mind is the memories of Noah yesterday, that genuine smile as he cradled his newborn. His baby. It makes me think of that trepidation that seeped into his paled skin the day he showed me the pendant that had been left on his bed. Of the torture in his strained voice when he rang me and told me of his meeting with his own father, a man he hadn’t seen for years. The same man who tried to have me killed.
These people, they would stop at nothing to have vengeance, to see the world of wolves burn to the ground so that something new could grow out of the ashes, fertilised and rich from the remnants of suffering. The idea of it, of dismantling what Roman has created through getting rid of every wolf and ensuring the pack system couldn’t prosper is, in a lot of ways, appealing. I can understand why so many humans would flank to the notion of seeking revenge and gaining power once more, just like I can understand why the wolves did it to us initially.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If they could just look at the changes already being made, if they could see Celina and understand that she is so much more than a child with wolf running in her veins, then that utopia they want so bad might be possible. There is a way to exist together and there is a way to make this world a better place without death and destruction. But the only way that path can become legitimate is if both parties agree on it.
If the hunters would kill a child, a child that has the blood of one of their own running in its veins then they aren’t good. There is no good guy anymore, just two different versions of evil. “How do we know she’s not already gone,” I say, dejected.
“We would know. Jenna still feels the bond to her child and if Celina was gone, she would know,” he explains and I feel better for it, knowing for certain that she isn’t dead. Not yet.
I nod just as the car pulls to a stop outside a large warehouse, one that has wolves flanking the outside. Roman turns to me and he takes his hand from mine, clutching the handle, “I meant what I said before Mae.”
“I know,” I answer and his eyes linger on mine for a second before he turns, opening the door and sliding out of the car.
I exit from the same side as Roman and stand close to his large frame as the two of us walk together towards the warehouse, stopping in front of a burly man who nods firmly. He hands out a bulky object to Roman as we approach and notice the screen displaying a map like the one in the Alphas office, clearly a link.
“Alpha, Luna. The warehouse has just been cleared on first wave, the second group should be coming through in the next ten minutes if you’d like to wait for them,” he says and Roman glances down at the map.
“Where is Noah?” I ask and just as the question falls from my lips, Noah emerges from the warehouse front behind the group of wolves, a look of pure determination masking his face. The second his green eyes find mine his expression hardens and he strides over to us.
“Maeve,” he says and I notice hot he other wolves shift at the informality.
“How can we help?” I ask and he looks then to Roman whose attention is on us, that device still firm in his grip.
“Most places have been searched, there is no point in taking any alternate routes, not now. I’m heading for the tunnels, if the rebels have gone anywhere it’d be there,” he looks to my hand and then turns to Roman, “If she’s coming she is going to need a weapon,” he says and a low growl reverberates in my mates chest as he pulls me closer towards him.
“She has me,” he says and I put a step of distance between us.
“So we’ll go to the tunnels, then, all of us,” I say and Roman pulls me back closer to him and this time I don’t object because he is right when he says he’s a weapon. A weapon that is stronger than any gun.
“Maeve,” he starts but I turn around to him, cutting him off.
“Lets go, we don’t have time right now to argue about it,” I say looking back at Noah who nods.
“The Luna’s right, we need to search the tunnels, the chances of finding the Beta’s daughter on the second wave are such slimmer and having the two Superiors there will certainly leverage our chances at retrieving her,” the wolf chimes in and Roman takes ahold of my hand but doesn’t flatly disagree.
“Fine,” he struggles through clenched teeth, his hand squeezing mine a little tighter, “take us to the damn tunnels,”
Darkness inches into light as more torches flick on inside the musty tunnels. The entrance itself was concealed with large moveable shrubs, one of many according to the man who lead us there. He said they used to be old mining tunnels, that they’d been around there for years and years.
The structural safety of them was extremely questionable and when they brought it up I watched Roman tense further and let him inch closer to my body to ease his nerves. When humans had began using them no one knew, the wolves only discovered they actually existed once the rebel purges had been complete. The walls encasing us were made from dirt that crumbled if touched and the supports which we were made of what appeared to be rotting wood did nothing to ease my concern of being caved in at any given point. The feeble safety of the tunnels meant only four of us could enter, Noah, the wolf from the warehouse, Roman and I.
“The other teams have entered from the other tunnels entrances, if we continue moving now we should meet them in the centre and hopefully by then we will have your daughter back,” The wolf leader says to Noah and he nods, that firm mask cracking at mention of his child for a second. “We better keep moving, there is a fork up ahead and the passages only become more narrow past there. We will take the right and the two of you head down the left to ensure the structure holds and we will meet where they reconnect at the end,” he explains and I nod, squeezing tighter onto the torch I hold with both hands.
The four of us move in silence until we reach the fork in the tunnels and even then the only communication we have is a shared look, one of hope and desperation before we part ways and I walk beside Roman in the narrow passage. “We need to stay silent from here on in, if you need something take ahold of my hand and squeeze twice,” he says and I nod, knowing that even through the shadowed darkness he can see my action.
We move silently, diligently, over tracks in the ground and the passage continues, making turns and narrow straights. I don’t take ahold of Romans hand. The only thing I need from him right now is to use his enhanced hearing to sense what’s ahead. I shift my torch into the hand nearest Roman and as I do, my foot gets snagged on a jutting bolt, one small enough that a single person walking would have missed it but two people in this narrow alley… I lurch over instantly, pushing my free hand into the wall next to me for stability only to feel it push. Not just a slight indent into soil but a legitimate push that makes me clench my eyes and wait for the roof to collapse.
“Mae,” Roman whispers and I open my eyes, removing my hands from the sheltered position above my head to find him huddled over me, a worried look flashing in his eyes, “are you okay?”
I stand up and a lulled pain begins to thrum in my ankle but I nod, “I’m fine,” I answer before turning to the wall I crashed into, scanning my torch over the soil.
My brows furrow as the torch light skims over an indented line that stems from the base of the wall to the top, an indent far too deep and obvious to be a mere crack. I extend my palm out onto the wall and push further, Romans hand snapping out instantly to retract mine.
“What are you doing are you crazy?” He yells through a whisper but I shake him off, too concerned with the sight in front of me.
“Look,” I respond and his blue eyes, still bright in the darkness flick to the wall that opens. To the door.
Roman is silent for a second before extending his own hand and continuing what I started, pushing back the wall until an entirely new passage is revealed.
“We need to call the others,” he says and I shake my head.
“We need to go in there, come on, Roman if she’s anywhere its got to be there. Send a message and lets go,” I order and he deliberates for a moment before pulling out the device in his hand and typing a messege.
“Stay behind me,” he says and just to make sure he takes my hand, angling his body in front of me as he pushes the wall open further before taking a step in.
The narrow passage becomes even tighter though its the same size. Maybe it the daunting nature of it all is what makes me feel like the walls are closing in, that whatever lays at the end of this tunnel isn’t going to be what I want to see.
We move together and with each step my chest tightens and my heart constricts, especially when Roman stops and turns his torch off, making me do the same. He holds his hand up and I can tell he is hearing something that I am not.
He waits in utter silence for a moment and then I hear it, the erupting cries of a child. My heart bursts and thunders in my chest, thumping with a ferocious velocity as adrenaline pumps through my veins. Celina. It has to be her.
Roman positions his body in front of mine further and presses a button on the deceive before switching it off, emerging us into the complete darkness of the dirt walls. We move together through the underground maze and stop only when the cries come louder, followed by rushing water and concealed mummers.
Light emerges at the base of the tunnel and Roman and I push through, meeting concealed shrubs and a girl facing a river, bobbing a baby on her hip to calm it. She mummers words of comfort to the child and when she moves to the side I see her. I see Celina’s face contorted in pain as she wails and I push from the foliage, entering the clearing.
The girl holding her, no older than Noah himself, spins around with my niece in her clutches and I watch as her face pales as she looks at me and turns stark white at Roman behind.
“Stay away!” She warns frantically, taking a step closer to the raging river. My heart feels static in my chest and I gulp, freezing completely.
“Please! Wait, just wait,” I say, holding my hands out in surrender, “you don’t have to do this, whatever the reason you have for this is, you don’t have to,” I rush out and Celina cries even further as tears of frustration roll down the cheek of the girl holding her.
“I won’t let them have her! Not another one,” she says and I have never been more frightened in my entire life.
“Okay, okay,” I reply, my brain working overdrive to figure a way around this, “this little girl, she has a family to get back to, a mother and a father who miss her very much. If you just give her to me now then this problem will go away, you have my promise,” I say, even though I have no idea if it is a promise I can keep.
“They’ve taken you too!” She yells and the increasing cries of Celina make my stomach churn into knots, “You have become one of them and betrayed all of us! She doesn’t have to, she is only half beast, she can still be saved,” she says, her words drifting off into coos for the child.
“I know, I know that but please just trust me. I am still full human, just like you and I feel your pain, I understand your anger but this isn’t the way,” I plead but her attention remains on the child.
“They are going to make her safe, they promised me. I’m getting out of here and I am saving her,” she says and I inch a little closer to her.
“Who?” I ask and then I notice the circular pendant on her chest, the same one that Noah showed me his family left as a sick present. The hunters.
The confirmation of what I feared makes panic fester inside me.
“They said they’d be here, that this would get me out,” she says, noticing my attention on her necklace.
“It won’t work,” Roman says from behind me, his voice level and clam and she glances at him, her eyes widening. “That spell has been shielded, it won’t work,” he reiterates and she becomes even more panicked.
I take another cautious step towards her but she doesn’t retreat, “If you just hand her over here now then there won’t be any issues, we can just have her back and you won’t be in any trouble,” I say and she sakes her head, stepping back and clutching Celina closer to her body.
“No! I won’t let them take her back, I won’t!” She yells and she steps back again, shaking her head. “Its better this way,” she mummers and my body begins to shake at her proposition.
She looks back down at the child and nods to herself, the gap between her and the raging river closing even more, “Its better this wa-”
A bullet slices through the air and the gunshot of it rings in my ears as a red splotch seeps onto the girls chest and she stumbles back. I move towards her, sprinting before her body can collide with the water but my legs aren’t fast enough.
Everything starts crashing down and I see Celina’s crying face as she falls straight into Romans arms, his speed catching the two of them before they can fall.
My head starts to spin and my body convulses with the override of emotions but I am lucid enough to see Noah rush over, the barrel of a smoking gun fresh in his hand as he scoops up his child from the girls dying arms and starts to cry.
Roman wraps his hands around my waist to sip me from falling and although relief surges through me in waves I can’t help but focus on the dying girl, on her dejected eyes as she stares straight at me, full of contempt and vengeance.
She coughs, spluttering blood but manages to croak out, “They’re coming. And they are going to kill all of you when they do,”