THERON

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THIRTEEN.

I don’t know if I want to be here.

I am aware of Theron’s bloodlust so I’m less than ignorant of the diabolical deeds he had performed over the years. Any werewolf or lycan that knows his name also knows just exactly what he is famous for. I have read every history book I can find that mentioned the name Theron multiple times over (if I have to be honest) but there is a difference between reading words on a page that require the use of the imagination and being present to watch it first hand.

The Alpha sits right where we left him, the silver chains preventing him from moving more than a few millimeters either way. Wrapping securely around his chest and through the spaces on the chair back, they spiral around him and down, finally stopping at his waist—loose enough for him to breathe, yet tight enough to pin his arms to his sides. Whatever Theron has planned, it doesn’t require access to his torso or upper appendages.

It surprises me how young the Alpha appears... maybe mid twenties, but definitely younger than thirty, which I assume means he took his position at an age where he should have been enjoying his youth and freedom. Taking into consideration the time frame he has been missing, he must have still been a teenager when this all began. I honestly feel bad for him in that sense.

Jet black hair falls over his stoney gray eyes, covering an extremely handsome, square face—graced with broad shoulders and large muscles that bulge from within the chained confines he’s tied with.

I have never actually met an Alpha before and I can’t help but wonder if they all look similar, carrying the best genes of the pool. Now exactly which Ancient has ties to this Alpha, I can’t tell. Years and years of breeding werewolves probably means he’s related to all three somewhere far along the line... the only exception being Theron, obviously.

“Alpha Xavier Thomas,” Marius voice is deep and serious, “you have been accused of treason of the highest caliber. The punishment for this is death. How do you plead?”

The Alpha’s eyes flash to me, then back to Marius. “Guilty,” he states matter of factly, his face stoically arrogant. Marius casually waves his hand, “Then death it is. Anything you would like to tell us before sentencing is carried out?” Xavier seems to straighten, if that’s even possible given the tightness of his bonds. His jaw ticks in defiance, making it extremely apparent that he will take whatever information he has with him to the grave.

Theron, however, isn’t having it.

“I do not think you understood my brother, Alpha,” Theron appears annoyed and slightly bored—not much different from what he normally always looks like. “When he asked you if you had any additional information to give us, it wasn’t a question, nor a suggestion.”

Xavier’s attention once more switches to me, making me feel more than uncomfortable. His grey eyes scrutinize me, traveling up and down my body and violating every bit of my privacy without uttering a single word.

I don’t like it.

And neither does Theron.

“Hey,” he snaps his fingers in front of Xavier’s face, “you don’t get to fucking look at her! We have questions. We need answers. That’s where you come in. Now, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way... and while I do hope you do choose the latter, DeLoren has requested that I at least give you the chance to fucking ruin my fun by speaking up now. And by now, I mean now. I’m not known for my patience, Alpha.” Ah, so this Alpha is DeLoren’s kin. The foolish arrogance makes total sense now...

Xavier rolls his head towards an oddly silent DeLoren. “Thanks, grandpa,” he blanks, dispassionately, “but I think I’ll pass.” Smugly, his attention turns back to Theron, “Let’s be honest here: Torture is a lot of work. Messy, even. You don’t want that. I don’t want that. So, I have a proposition for you.”

Kai chortles, “Dude, you are not in any shape to be demanding terms of conditions.” And Kai is right. Thr Alpha is trapped with figuratively, and most literally, no leg to stand on.

Does his egotism know no bounds?

“I’ll talk,” Xavier stretches his neck forward, his eyes narrow and his mouth moves most methodically, “I’ll sing like a fucking canary—but only to her.” And when the Alpha’s eyes find me once more, everyone else’s follows. I am now standing in an unwanted spotlight and I don’t like that either.

“Why?” Theron growls.

Yes. Thank you, Theron. Why indeed?

The cocky Alpha sneers, “I like the way she smells.”

I grimace, already well aware that that comment will most definitely not sit well with my best friend.

“Ooh,” DeLoren inhales sharply, shaking his head. His brows furrow downwards in disappointment, “wrong words, Xavier.”

Very, very wrong.

Theron roars in anger. His hands smack the arms on the chair, the only thing holding his weight inches from the Alpha’s face. That Alpha’s resolve doesn’t falter one bit. An angry stare off between two beasts results, until suddenly, Theron does something quite unexpected.

A cold calmness washes over him, his face relaxing. The fire inside him has turned blue, doused by peace and nonchalance. I, for one, become even more uneasy. I’m used to an enraged Theron, the only release resulting in blood and death. But this one... this seemingly tranquil Theron, is cause for distrust.

Massive distrust.

His eyes never stray from Xavier’s, “You okay with this Lina?”

Am I okay with this?

Fuck no.

Do I have a choice?

Again, no.

We need this information and if this is the only way to get it then so be it. I would have much preferred an actual choice in the matter and the Alpha’s intense interest in me does not dispel any of my foreboding anxieties. But if the option to be the only person he will talk to was snatched from me, I’ll at least declare my own conditions, “Fine. But not alone. I want one other person with me.” This seems to please Theron, though only temporarily because I am certain I will soon see that devilish smirk wiped clean off his face when I do not choose him as the one I want beside me.

Xavier smiles sweetly at me, dripping in blatant fraud, “No Ancients.”

I want to laugh at their hubris. Theron, for thinking I will pick his trigger happy ass to accompany me and this bumptious Alpha for assuming I want an Original by my side. The only thing that puts a quick halt to my hilarity is the fact that they both think I need an Ancient to protect me. It’s insulting to my wolf pride. Needless to say, both will be sorely mistaken.

“Anthony will stay,” I state confidently. Anthony’s brows raise to his hairline, a temporary moment of apprehension painted clearly upon his face. His eyes meet mine and a silent conversation between friends begins. We haven’t needed to voice our thoughts to each other in quite some time as Anthony is keenly aware of more than what people give him credit for. He can read the room with swift ease and has a knack for analyzing people quickly and accurately. He is rarely ever wrong. To everyone else in this room that isn’t acquainted with my favorite human, it’s a puzzling choice. To an outsider, he appears too innocent—too ignorant and just plain naïve. Anthony is anything but. As such, it’s a no-brainer. Pick the most unassuming and minimally threatening of the bunch and no one is the wiser. He isn’t muscle like the Alpha, or Theron and his brothers, but what he lacks in build, he makes up for cleverness.

Using my fingers, I quickly give him the signal. It’s casual. An unnoticeable sign in a language he so patiently taught me three years ago. It has come in handy numerous times on missions where the slightest sound could give away our position. We called it the Pacifier because, in sign language, that’s what my fingers just said. Thus, Anthony knows from here on out, we will communicate through this very language.

He returns an affirmative nod.

“Fine,” Theron snarls. I know he’s disappointed and untrusting that Anthony can protect me if need be but what he has yet to understand is I don’t need protecting and especially not from an incapacitated Alpha.

Theron pulls a metal rod from his jean pocket. It isn’t large, maybe six inches in length and half an inch in diameter. Confused by this curious, yet simple pole, I watch intently.

He studies it keenly. Twirling it in his hand rather artfully, like a cowboy before he holsters his gun. A small smirk graces his gorgeous face, though it never meets his eyes. Cold, dead, and calculating, they focus only on the Alpha in front of him as if the world beyond that ceases to exist. When the spinning rod eventually stops, when Theron finally clutches it in his steely grasp, reality slips into slow motion.

Milliseconds seem like minutes as he raises it above his head, his face pinched as he calls forth the strength to bring that damn rod down and into a certain disgraced Alpha.

“THERON, NO!” I scream. Panic wells within me, a storm I can’t stop. Stupidly, I mentally picture this Alpha, our only current source of information, with a small metal pole sticking out of his head—the result of Theron finally losing his controlled demeanor.

But that is not Theron.

That is never Theron.

I am embarrassed to admit to myself, and consequently, everyone else in the room, that faith is something I have very little of when it comes to Theron.

And now, he knows it as well.

His eyes widen in hurt, a flash of emotion I do not miss. But only a flash. In its place, as if it had never existed in the first place, comes anger... narrowed eyes pierce mine and I do not doubt that I messed up. The only option available now is to gulp down my guilt and hope there are no severe repercussions to our friendship.

That metal pole landed dead center in the Alpha’s thigh. A snarling roar of pain echos throughout the small room, Xavier’s body spasms and thrashes within the chair. It rocks back and forth in a feeble, yet natural, attempt to subside the pain. Blood gushes, up and over the wound, sliding down the sides of his leg and dripping from the chair onto the plastic tarp beneath him.

Theron leans over the Alpha, effectively dismissing me and his feelings. “Xavier,” he sings the Alpha’s name tauntingly slow, “listen now because this is very important for you. I just punctured your femoral artery which means you have—” he tilts his head from side to side in pure estimation “—ten minutes, give or take before you bleed out.” Leaning in close to the Alpha’s ear, he whispers, “Even less, if you lie.”

The heart rate increases when you fib so naturally, it will pump the blood faster... more blood loss in less time. With the silver and wolfsbane surrounding Xavier, he won’t be able to use his werewolf strength to heal the wound and save his life. It’s quite genius on Theron’s part. Scary how he just used this knowledge, but genius nonetheless. “So be a good boy and tell Lina everything she wants to know, yeah?” Theron pats Xavier’s cheek and turns to leave. He doesn’t even glance at me as he walks by, making it abundantly clear that my faux pa has yet to be quickly forgiven or forgotten. “He’s all yours, deity,” he hisses as he passes me, shutting the door on his way out.

Even with Anthony by my side, I feel that familiar loneliness creep in again. Theron’s coldness chills me, an unintentional reaction caused by the callous rejection of one I love so much.

"What’s the play?” Anthony signs, thankfully pulling me out from the hole I was about to go wallow in. I need to refocus because I am about to test Kai’s theory. If I am a created Ancient, I should be able to mind link any werewolf or lycan, regardless of pack affiliation. If Theron can do it, then so can I.

Whether I can do it properly though was another theory entirely.

I move my fingers, quickly responding to Anthony in the same fashion as he had me, ”I’ll sign the question to you at the same time I’ll mind link it to him—curious Ancient ears don’t need to hear everything.” I picture four Originals standing quietly outside the door, waiting anxiously to accidentally on purpose eavesdrop. Am I wrong about this? Maybe. But I don’t feel the least bit guilty knowing I have some sense of control... something I have experienced very little of in the last five days.

"Xavier?” The pure confusion and astonishment on his face are proof enough he hears me. It’s almost humorous.

Almost.

“What the—” the Alpha looks at me in amazement which is expeditiously cut off once I place a single finger over my lips. ”But you’re a rogue," he eyes me, his voice a bit more gruff in my head but I suppose it has something to do with the processing of a painful hole inside his leg, ”How are you able to...?"

His blood drips from the chair, like the tick-tock of a clock, a grim reminder that he is going to die.”When you meet the moon goddess you can ask her for me, but right now, we haven’t much time." He winces, whether, in physical pain or mental remembrance, I know not. I expected more of a fight from an Alpha who can so casually disrespect the Ancients but that’s not the attitude he’s dishing out to me. It’s almost as if he wants to confess his sins to me.

And I desperately want to convince him that I am so obviously not a priest but I can’t waste another second.

I have a job to do.

I sign every word to Anthony, just like I promised. If there is a lie among any of his words, Anthony will detect it. “Gatlinburg has been destroyed. Humans murdered in the streets... what do you—”

"They started the trials then,” Xavier sighs, dejectedly.

"What trials?”

"Human trials. The DNA provided by good old Uncle Theron was spliced, then joined with human DNA. But the results are tricky... the lycan side couldn’t be predicted. Bits and pieces would come together. Half-human, half beast,” he takes a second to groan in pain, trying, though ineffectively, to reposition his body to manage said pain, ”but more the latter.”

I frown, ”So you knew their plan for us all along?”

"No. I only found out recently. I know you won’t believe me but I never meant for this to happen! They weren’t supposed to take as many of the pack as they did! They lied to me... manipulated me.”

I turn to Anthony. ”Truth?”

He nods.

Well, it’s good to know the Alpha is regretful at least.

We both know who ”they" are, it didn’t need to be specified. Superlunar is ruining more lives than just ours. But his excuses won’t fly with me. He was given a choice and I refuse to feel bad for him choosing the wrong option, ”Forgive me if I can’t sympathize with you.”

"I wouldn’t expect you to...” He gulps down an agonizing moan, ”or even understand. I was young and dumb and not nearly mature enough to be an Alpha when I was given the title. They offered me money and power... told me they could make me High Alpha of Tennessee."

I snicker at his ignorance, ”There is no such thing.” Packs are divided to separate Alphas on purpose, it prevents a civil war from erupting. One Alpha with too much power can become greedy and territorial. If we had a King or a High Alpha, as Xavier so idiotically referred, it would be pure, bloody chaos.

"I know that now, but back then...” his voice trails off as his eyelids become heavy.

His pitiful excuses are wearing thin and I find myself becoming increasingly more annoyed, ”Your age is no excuse! Loyalty is woven into our very fiber of being! You had a duty and obligation to protect your pack! You failed them. You failed all of our kind! And for what? Power?”

"Yes,” he hangs his head in disgrace. Honestly, it feels as if I’m scolding a little kid, and had the situation been less dire, that’s probably exactly what I would have done. But this is not a lecture over spilled milk and I am not the one.

"What do they want?” I recompose myself.

"You.”

"No. The hunter, Alex, he said I was just bait for a bigger fish...” I don’t recall a lot from that specific day, all things considered, but I remembered that.

"Alex?” Xavier’s brows raise in stupefaction and a tinge of confusion, ”Arthur Grimes’s nephew?"

"They’re related?” I exclaim. Why I am shocked by this whole fucking mess is beyond me. I should be used to these little gift-wrapped bombshells.

Xavier grimaces, trying to quell his discomfort by repositioning himself again, ”If he sent Alex then it’s personal.”

"How?” How does Alex tie into all of this?

"Theron killed his father. Arthur’s brother. If they were trying to get you, and you are bait, then it’s Theron they want.”

"They already had him,” I growl, the veracity startling even me. Regardless, they will not get a second chance at Theron. If they touch one fucking hair on his head I will shred them all to pieces. While I’m empathetic to the plight of a boy whose dad was taken untimely, I also remember quite distinctly that same asshole taking my father from me. His revenge on Theron should not involve me and yet it does... but it won’t continue.

I will end him on sight.

"Didn’t know who...” Xavier’s breathing has become more shallow and he is struggling to finish his sentence. The time is closing in now, ”until after... af-after his escape.” His eyes close as his head rolls forward unconsciously.

I’m losing him.

"Hey, hey, hey, hey! Xavier!" I pull a Theron and slap his face firmly, ”Stay with me, Alpha!”

His eyes flutter.

He’s dropping in and out of consciousness now, his body mostly drained of blood. ”Hm, your aura,” he sighs lazily, ”so much power...”

"No! You don’t get to die yet! We’re not finished!” I yell at him as I shake his shoulders. I can’t control the panic inside my head—the fear he hasn’t given me enough information to share with my friends.

"Beware the bullets...”

"What? What bullets?” I tried feverishly to get the rest out of him. Apprehension consumes me and all concerns of diplomacy null and void. I look at the rod poking out from his leg and I force myself to do what I have never desired to do to another being in my whole life. I have never found torture to be as pleasing a thought to me as it is to Theron. A quick and painless death is more humane and if presented with the option, I will always choose it. No one deserves to have their agony prolonged but... I’m desperate. Wrapping my hand around the pole, I wiggle it back and forth and unfortunately, not gently. Xavier wakes with a sudden gasp. ”Silver!” He screams, ”laced w-w-wolfsbane... filled with...”

“With what, Xavier? Filled with what?” I demand. As if silver and wolfsbane together are not a horrible enough concoction for any lycan or werewolf, of course, Superlunar would have to add their flare to it and this is rather important information. If they have the weapons to kill us, we need to know that!

"Distemper,” the Alpha’s voice is but a whisper in my head now, his body giving out.

"Distemper? You mean canine distemper?”

"Mm.”

Silver bullets laced with wolfsbane and filled with canine distemper? Are they trying to catch us or kill us?! Yes, we are canines in the simplest sense but we have never needed to vaccinate against such a virus—our immune systems are more than equipped to deal with such a pesky, yet rare occurrence. To us, it would be a small cold, likely picked up through our snout from sniffing an area some previously infected dog had roamed. It isn’t enough to knock us off our feet. What’s the point?

Anthony taps my shoulder to get my attention. I’m sure I look rather baffled. ”Are you affected by canine distemper?” He signs.

"Not usually,” But then a single thought nags at me, like someone annoyingly poking the back of my brain, ”but if it’s injected directly into the bloodstream...”

I don’t want to think about it anymore.

I have an intense need to share this information with the others. If what Xavier is claiming was true, we had absolutely no chance of fighting Superlunar.

We will all die... maybe not the Ancients, but definitely the rest of us.

Anthony looks at me, his eyes conveying the world-shattering emotion I’m currently feeling.

This will be the end of our kind.

A sense of duty washes over me when I glance at the Alpha once more. This is what he had wanted to tell someone, this had been his redeeming moment and I cannot let that go unappreciated. “Xavier, wait,” I say aloud. I can hear the slow beat of his heart, the way it shutters, and spasms as it tries desperately to keep beating. Death is here and I can’t stop it. I place a hand on his heart, “Thank you, for being honest. I absolve you of your sins, Xavier Thomas. May peace find you in the arms of the Goddess.” I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know why I said it, it isn’t like we had a ritual for death like other religions. Last rites are not a werewolf thing and yet, it just seems... right.

For all his vices, he should still receive some sort of penance. Even though arrogance and greed are not forgivable when they result in so much tragic and senseless death, he had grown since then. He knew what he did was wrong and even though he didn’t specifically voice it, I could tell he was remorseful for all that it caused. And in the end, I deemed him worthy for a second chance through reincarnation.

I just hope my Goddess will agree.

"What are you?” Xavier takes one last ragged breath, never getting an answer to his dying question.

He is gone.

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