The walls of the castle were built of sandstone and earth, while the roof was timber framed. It was grey and plain, lacking all artistic patterns. The guard conducted me across the chemise wall into the wide arcade, then, trod up a short, spiralled staircase that lead to the main keep.
The council hall was circular and broad, but also slightly gloomy. It was mostly empty except for the armchairs placed here and there about the place. My legs slowed down as I entered the hall. There were many men—each one possessing a powerful wolf inside them. Although invisible, the presence of so many dominant wolves made me anxious. I felt overwhelmed by the potent impact and lowered my head submissively.
“Margery Becc?” a gruff voice came from a distance straight ahead.
I lifted my head in the direction of the voice. The three of them were the only people seated on the chairs in the entire hall. The nonchalant Alpha-King sat in the middle, with the Luna and his brother, Ortrich Eloise, who was also his second, occupying either side. All clothed in gold fabric—the color every Eloise Royal seemed to love without a difference. Even Quin loved golden. The Luna was wearing a deftly sewed, golden textured, silk kirtle. The golden made her look youthful. It was beautiful and I found myself wishing I’d had one.
“Speak without fear,” said Ortrich Eloise.
“I am,” my answer was in a mumble. I took a quick glance at the Luna. She was holding a cold face. She sat with a little tilt so that she faced the King, but her eyes were intent on me.
I jerked my head to my side, from where I could feel an intense gaze. He was leaned against the wall, the Knight on his Mashakir from the previous night. Mighell Thorne was watching me. For a split second, I could read wonder written all over his face, as if he wasn’t expecting to see me there. It was just for a moment, because as soon as I caught him looking, he peeled his eyes away from me and fixed it on the trio in the far-front. There were few other men I reckoned to be other nobles and the guardian- wolves of the Eloise. One man, in an old gold surcoat, with his round head covered in a black cowl was sitting on the window seat was leering at me as if I was a snack. I recognised him to be the youngest of the four Eloise brothers, Lefsi Eloise.
“Avila, the head-maid had picked her up from Higensville, eight years ago,” the Luna spoke in a taut tone.
At her mention, Mighell straightened up his back. “You are the daughter of Leo Becc, is that right,” he asked me. “He used to work for Lefman Cely, a livestock merchant in Pearhallow.”
“That is right,” I replied.
His eyes wandered about the place before settling on my face. He moved a few steps towards me and stopped. Up close he only looked a year or two older than me. He looked inquisitive as he regarded me. Then a mischievous smile touched his lips, making him look winsome before he wiped it off and returned to being a stern-faced dolt.
“Your family was killed by the red-creatures attack.” This time it wasn’t a question.
“This is a survey regarding the red-creatures that had appeared in Higensville a decade ago. You see, the attacks have resurfaced,” Ortrich Eloise clarified. “We have been provided with the information that you were present at the place when your family was killed by the red-creatures… we would like to know more about it.” Ortrich Eloise looked from me to Mighell.
I was mildly shaking. My throat was already dry from the bread. The abrupt recollection of the past made it difficult for me to breathe.
“You have seen them, haven’t you?” Mighell picked up from where Ortrich had left.
“She was barely ten,” Quin replied from the entrance, now dressed in an elegant beige gold doublet. I felt relieved a bit at his sight. He had tidied himself up to look like a prince that he was. “I doubt one would retain those memories,” he said, stopping by my side.
“Some faces are hard to forget. A face that perhaps caused the death of your family would be indelible,” Mighell asserted. His eyes were hardened over Quin. They eased up within some time. He sucked in a breath and smiled politely at the prince. “Am I wrong, Ms Becc,” he added.
A face that perhaps caused the death of your family would be indelible.
I cocked my head to take a look at the Eloise Royals. Who was that Eloise that took down my Alpha-Father in the battle?
Was it the King, or Ortrich, or that leering pig Lefsi?
They said he was ambushed. Did it mean they all had equal parts in beating him down? Four against one? These scums.
My eyes stung. I wouldn’t know who it was—I was just six then. I had no idea about the battle until my foster family accounted it when was older enough to understand.
“He was alone, hiding in the tree… and attacked likewise an animal in the wild,” I looked at Quin, who gave me a tight lipped smile. To my front, I could sense the Luna getting annoyed by her son’s unwanted affinity toward a menial Underling.
“How did you escape?” asked Mighell.
I considered the question for a moment. I did not know the real reason though. He could have thought that I was some animal, or he was in a hurry to find his kind, or he was simply full from the hunt.
“I didn’t. I was hiding in a fox-burrow… and he happened to miss me.”
There was a heavy moment by the window seat. “That’s it then,” Lefsi stood up abruptly. “Let’s all dig burrows and save ourselves from the red-creatures,” he barked derisively.
“A grave sounds more fitting,” Mighell hit back.
Lefsi clenched his jaw. He should have bared his teeth, or snarled at his scoffer. But he did not. Lefsi—the infamously haughty and aggressive Eloise was careful with his actions with a young-wolf.
Mighell continued. “So he did not notice you?”
I shook my head. “No.”
Mighell turned to the Eloise Royal trio. “That tells us that they do not use sense of smell to locate their prey.”
“I see you are determined to find them, Knight Mighell,” said the King. He leaned forward in the armchair. “I like the idea of sorting out their nature first. It is indeed very necessary. I am sure your skill in monster-hunting is going to help us greatly in tying down the red-creatures.”
“It was just luck that she lived,” said Quin, “… that doesn’t conclude anything.”
Mighell didn’t seem to agree with him. He looked like a person who didn’t agree to anything than his own views. “Luck doesn’t save you, Prince Isaac. It is fate that survives you. When that happens, it’s often that you have been saved for something significant in the time ahead.”