General Duke (Present day)
The time span of a thousand years could have gone by without me realizing it, but when I think about him, time stands still. The pain I’ve caused, the things I’ve done without remorse, my heart should have been taken tenfold, but still, I live. I breathe. I continue on with the raging pain in chest, carried there by the burning mark he gave me years ago. Still, in moments like this, when I see true innocence, his face comes back to me and kills me all over again.
“General, make sure she’s locked up tight, and don’t let the pup get too close to her. It is almost time for his next session.” Clutching an old book from the human world, I nod and turn to the newest guest of the of ours, Ella Sharpe. Turning to her, making sure Genesis is long gone, I know how to grab her attention, to get her to understand what needs to happen for her life to be safe from what’s to come.
“I know things Genesis isn’t privy to,” I speak up, making the young girl look at me. I bet the sister that shares the same face is worried. Never being a part, it must take a toll when they’re pulled in different directions. “One being I knew the parents you came from; they were here not long ago.” This gets her attention, her ears perk up and I watch her shoulders fall a fraction of an inch, adapting to the environment I grow around her.
“You knew my parents?” She asks finally, but I only nod, crossing the room and sitting on the small bed. The pup, taken from the dungeons for another flower session lays at the foot, sleeping off the last session.
“I watched them disappear, the woman toting a growing stomach she kept hidden for so long. I could smell the herbs and flowers she rubbed herself down with to mask her changing scent. No one noticed. It wasn’t until their numbers were missed that the king sent someone looking for them.” She moves her legs and hangs on my every word as she begs for more of the story she didn’t get growing up. “They found their bodies weathered and barren of hearts near the border between no man’s land and the Thorn pack. No one knows what happened, who killed them, or if they were prey for the lone wolves.” Shrugging, I play a bit softer than usual, dropping my stone face and wearing ones that might get her to talk.
“They died, just like that?” Her voice cracks, either from little use or shock at the story, I could tell which. “We were always told they left the pack, took up a place that was special, and waited for us. We were trapped by the raids, the guards the king placed in the Thorn pack.” I knew I had been right about where she hailed from, I just need to make sure of one other fact she’s left behind for the king to find later. “I wanted to believe the stories, but it wasn’t realistic. Nora always believed them.” She shut her mouth hard after that, putting a hand over her lips as insurance. I knew I had her now.
“Nora, would that be the grandmother that raised you?” I asked as gently as I could muster.
She only nods her head, keeping her mouth as tightly shut as she can. She folds in on herself, revealing a secret she knew to keep to herself and giving me a lie to cover for it. I knew that wasn’t the name of her grandmother, I knew her grandmother, I made sure the guards took care of her the night they ran for Holly Road. Nora, on the other hand, is the one that the king seeks out. She is the one with the visions, being hidden by her mirror twin, Ella.
“It’s a shame she was killed, I heard about it over our communications, the death was not taken lightly, but you have to understand something, Ella.” Her glistening tear-filled eyes meet mine with hesitance. “She had to be killed so you could make the journey here, where your gift can be used to end this war. Isn’t that something you want? The ability to go back to a free pack. Under the rule of Genesis, that’s what you will get. He wishes to free all the lands from the reign of their Alphas and Lunas, we were not meant to be ruled by them, can’t you see that?” I tell her a stretch of the truth as I’ve been told. Her head begins to hang in concentration.
The pup sleeping on the bed starts to have a fit, running after something he’s dreaming of. The time ticks away for his next training session, but I wanted to plant the seeds quickly before I leave her again.
“Alphas and Lunas, they’re weak, all of them. Your Alpha fell easily to King Bartholomew, you were forced to grow up underground, away from the pain of living with his weakness. But because of it, you suffered regardless. Genesis’ way is for the better. He will give the freedom back to the people, the center lands will become one again, there won’t be a need for separate packs, only his rule will be needed to guide us. Your visions will help with that.” She begins to fidget, thinking the words I tell her over in her mind. She’s been through a life without sunlight, without moonlight to help her shift, she is malnourished for her age and size, and she has very little to sacrifice to get the help she needs. I’ve got her under our thumb.
“How would he use my visions? Couldn’t I just tell him what I see, even if it isn’t the truth?” She had a point, and one that the king saw quickly after learning about the gifts the twins had been given.
“It is true you could deceive him like that, but he’s come up with a plan that will null any possibilities of you betraying him.” Her head turns swiftly to mine, as if she knows what I will say before I say it.
“He’s not considering the mate bond, is he?” Another crack in her voice, this time with fear spilling out.
“It is the only way to make sure he sees the truth, you understand,” I tell her.
Standing from the bed, I wake the pup up and scoot him to the floor. He stands after a few seconds of sniffing around, not knowing what’s going on. When he sees me, he straightens up and heads for the door.
“I’m only sixteen,” she whispers after a while of silence.
The words cut through me more than I wished they would. I don’t show her this, but instead pull on the feeling of throwing everything away for a promise of freedom at the age of nineteen, not much older than she is now. It fills me with a rage I can’t explain.
“You can lose everything at any age, no one goes through life without some sort of tragedy, yours will come a little early for your age.” I speak in a dead tone, careful to hide what’s needed. I cross the room to the only door and push the pup through, earning a yelp just as I walk under the doorway. “Get some sleep, Ella, you will need your strength.” My departing words do not make the tears dry on her face, but the door closing on her allows me to forget them.
Three deep breaths later, and I’m shoving the pup through the back door, toward the training grounds. I can hear him whimper, but it only earns him a rough kick of my boot. When we come upon Genesis and a group of trainees, I’m concerned he didn’t remember the pup’s next session.
“General, you’re here, good, we can begin.” His upbeat tone is a little more concerning than him forgetting our meeting.
“What is this about, your majesty?” Playing along, I make sure the pup doesn’t go too close to the trainees. Not many of them have seen him, and we didn’t want the rumor going around about his sessions. It was a need-to-know basis, and they don’t need to know.
“It is time to test something, and we need our new guest to help with that.” He tells me as the group behind him begin to gather, knowing something I do not. “Soldier number 3,” he calls to the pup, a name we rarely call him. His ears perk up and his eyes set on Genesis, as his “training” has taught him. If he’s doing what I think he’ll do, then we have a big problem, one that will only be solved with most of the group before me, dying.
“Now, before I give the command,” he turns to the others, forgetting the pup for a moment. I watch him stay in the same position I’ve trained him in. Memories of using the purple smoke to call upon his most feral traits, using trigger words to unleash them, I thought I would have more time before seeing it in action. “The ten of you, get into position and stay alive. Once the enemy is deployed, do all that you can to stay alive. You will be judged by length of time to capture the enemy, how you dispel his attacks, the number of injuries you allow yourself to endure, and, of course, whether or not you survive.” I watch each one of their faces falls, just a hair, when they heard what they were standing out here for.
When he gives the signal, the break apart and run out into the training fields and slightly beyond, toward the trees, trying to find vantage points. Walking closer to Genesis, I take in the scent of sleepless nights, the wearing of energy, and the rage simmering under the surface he hasn’t released.
“I’m surprised you haven’t tried using your abilities on them first, why try the pup? He’s hardly ready for something so big, ten at once? It took a while for him to devour that soldier the other day. It may do well to wait a while, let him recharge.” I spoke about the soldier from Pine Ridge that volunteered to come with us when they went to the Thorn Pack to help. He spoke out of turn the other day and Genesis put him up against the pup sitting at attention a few feet away from me. There was blood on the grass before we had time to see what really happened.
“We are running out of time, general,” he speaks low, though no one else is around us. “Besides, there is no better way to weed out the truly weak, I’ll show you how.” A high pitch whistle enters the air and the pup next to us breaks out into a run, his eyes trained for the soldier waiting for their moment. When a rippling howl breaks through the air, we know that he’s locked onto a target.
“Ten wolves go into battle, and nine are ripped a part. Does the training forge the one that remains?” He asks me a riddle I’ve heard from his father’s lips once before.
“No, Genesis,” I answer. “All the war did was show the wolf that remains, the one that refuses to be ripped a part.” When more growls, howls, and screams enter the air, we continue to stand there, listening to Rogue’s son rip the soldiers a part until there isn’t anything left but their heart on the ground.
I truly fear the weapon we’ve created.