Chapter 10 ♕
Behind her the sun was setting.
It created some sort of an outline around her silhouette. As if she were a gift sent from heaven. And to me, that was exactly what she was. The way she stood there. With the sky as her background, transformed by the most spectacular colors into a masterpiece.
A sigh of wind came in through the broken glass and seemed to attach itself exclusively on her. It played with her hair, danced with it, making it flaming like a torch around her beautiful face. And right then I knew what all those images that I had envisioned her with meant.
Her red hair flew around her head. It was like a crown nature wanted her to wear. As if she had been chosen by the gods themselves as worthy.
There she was. The one made for me. My other half. My Mate. The feeling went deeper than anything I had experienced before.
My breath had been taken from me and handed to her. She was so breathtaking. Everything about her was unusual. Her hair was long, full and wavy. It reached almost to her lower back and turned even more intense red in the glow of the sunlight. Her body was luscious with an abundance of soft skin for me to hold on to. Her waist, on the other hand, was slim and so irresistible that I had to keep myself restraint.
But her eyes, that’s where all my attention went. Green and Blue. The sky and the earth. Everything could be seen in those beautiful eyes that stared back at me curiously and full of life. And then, something happened that made the sunset behind her look pale.
Her whole face lit up. And it was only then that I realized that I really know what beauty meant. She opened her mouth and spoke. “Alaric,-”. The sound of her voice sent shivers down my spine.
She knew my name.
Maybe Bethany had told her, but something told it was different. She could feel it. We already knew each other. I couldn’t resist and took another deep breath. I was once again drawn to her unruly scent. She smelled of a field of blooming Magnolias.
In the back of my mind, Maximus grunted approvingly. Magnolia, I thought again, and this time the word stuck. Her name. She was perfect in every way possible, and she was all mine. And I would protect what was mine.
That one simple sentence surpassed any thoughts I’d ever had. They became my whole existence. I was nothing more, than those few words.
Maximus stepped forward. He slowly awakened from the trans that our mate had lured us into. We were both immediately alert. With physical pain, I tore my gaze from my mate and let it slowly descend. There I saw my little sister, with the captain of my guard in her arms. They were lying on the floor, both smeared with blood. I could smell the connection between them and I saw the life slowly begin to leave my best friend.
My eyes bored into those of Bethany. But this time, for the very first time, she didn’t flinch. Instead, she looked at me with eyes that showed a whirlwind of emotions. I saw everything in there. The loss, the pain and determination. I felt pride. My little sister grew up in my absence.
Bethany was still not a fan of Maximus, but she knew that only he could give her what she was looking for now. Revenge. She wanted the witches to suffer for what they had done. And it would be my pleasure to be the one to grant her request.
My beast had slowly turned his head and looked at the witches that were still standing. My guards had formed a circle around them, keeping them in tune and slowly drove them closer and closer together. Their leader, a witch I recognized from previous encounters, had the guts to grin. I would rip that grin off her face.
I turned my whole body and walked toward them. Behind me I heard my mate whimper softly and it took every ounce of my self-control not to turn to her, but I did this for her. These disgusting creatures were a threat to her safety and I wouldn’t allow that.
I was standing before them now and felt my chest rise and fall intensely. Never before had I felt so many emotions coming from Maximus. Even the intense bloodlust of the past two years was nothing compared to the urge we felt to protect the human girl behind us.
What many didn’t know, was that Maximus was different. Different from other of our species. We belonged to the first generation. We walked this planet when civilizations did not exist yet. He was further developed, could store information and implement it in strategies. He had learned to speak, full-bodied sentences where other Lycans were only capable of a few words.
Although he normally decided to leave the talking to me, this time he didn’t dare. Allowing me to talk meant handing over control to me. He couldn’t do that. He still didn’t trust me, especially now that we had found the whole reason for our existence.
Through the mind link I ordered all my warriors to form a wall between the enemy and my mate, completely shielding her. I felt their confusion as to why I ordered them to guard a simple human being, but with only a dangerous growl I silenced them all. No one here needed to know what Magnolia me meant to me. That could only be used against me.
The witches, who in the meantime had found out that their gifts had no effect on me, immediately seemed to have lost all confidence. Except for their leader, but I didn’t have the highest opinion of her anyway.
“Tell me,” came a low and scraping voice from my mouth. I hadn’t heard his voice in a long time. “Which of you wants to be the first to return to your ancestors in the here after?”.
The voice was dripping with dry humor. Maximus thoroughly enjoyed this. On the other hand, I could not suppress that our mate could hear every threat. But Maximus thought her protection was more important than anything else. We had to neutralize the immediate threat. And that meant destroying each of them piece by piece. On that front, Maximus and I were in complete agreement.
Giselle took a step forward. Her face was a well-hidden mask, unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for her scent. She had heard the stories circulating about me. She knew what I was capable of and she knew that she and her sisters were about to deal with it.
“We assure your Highness that we did not come here to cause trouble. We are only here to retrieve what is rightfully ours,” she sneered, bowing her head in an almost mocking motion.
I roared so loud that I saw her freeze and immediately take a step back. “Don’t take me for a fool, witch,” Maximus snarled at her.
Did she really think I was so stupid as to take her word for it. Her whole idea was to come here, knowing that I wouldn’t be here, and forcibly encountering what she was looking for.
But that wasn’t even the biggest mistake she’d made. She had threatened my sister, tortured my best friend, and scared my mate. She would pay for any of those acts, and generously.
Like wolves, witches shared a bond that enabled them to communicate wordlessly with each other. I might not hear it, but I was aware of every little detail going on under my nose.
Still, I had to admit that the witches didn’t turn out to be completely retarded, for while Giselle had made an effort to distract me, one of her sisters had again appealed to her gift. I might have been immune to them, but that didn’t mean everyone else was. The other witch had dropped to one knee and pressed both hands against the floor.
The next second everything started to shake. I watched how cracks were formed in the plaster of the walls, and how they shot up at breakneck speed. This resulted in large chunks of stones falling down from the ceiling. My response was purely instinctieve. Within a second I had bridged the gap between me and my mate and was standing over her to shield her with my body. A growl escaped my mouth as the immense weight of solid stone fell on me.
Despite the pain my muscles had to endure, I felt nothing but intense happiness as I finally held my mate in my arms. Her skin was soft. I kept her face pressed to my chest, keeping her completely shielded from the evil intentions of this world, with no intention of ever letting go of her. I felt her whole body tremble.
“I’m not going to let anything happen to you. You’re safe with me” I used my own voice to assure her.
I used the little thread between us that was the start of an impenetrable bond that we would one day share. Although it happened slowly, and for a second I even thought I was imagining it. But very slowly she raised her arms and they found their way around my waist. I was being hugged. Never before have I been embraced in this form. I heard Maximum’s gasp. He was stunned and overwhelmed by the warmth beneath her touch.
“What an interesting discovery,” I heard a sneering voice behind me, “it seems that our king has developed certain feelings for the weak creature”.
I was immediately petrified and my mate could feel that. This was an open insult to her. If I thought I was angry before, I was now amazed by the emotions that raged through me. I let go of my mate and immediately felt like a limb had been ripped off. I didn’t look down on her. Those eyes would only distract me from my goal, smear the walls of my palace with witches blood.
I turned around. In the same movement I pulled her behind me so that the witches could no longer see her. I took a quick look at the area. My wolves were already emerging from under the rubble. We were supernatural. Stone wouldn’t kill us, but that didn’t mean some of them wouldn’t have an excruciating headache tomorrow.
Bethany and Cayden were unharmed. I had held a claw over them at the same time as I had protected my mate and that had kept them from being crushed. My little sister still looked up to me. Cayden, meanwhile, had started to look worse. He needed medical attention quickly or he wouldn’t survive.
Ultimately, my gaze reached that of the witch leader. Giselle looked at me with a broad grin on her face, as if she had just made the discovery of the century. She knew. And that thought made me experience an unknown emotion.
“The almighty king who can’t be touched, just got a weak spot”. She was so wrong. Magnolia wasn't a weak spot. She would be what would make me stronger than ever. Because no longer did I have no purpose, because now I had her. I had a reason to fight, to kill, and to heal. All because of her.
“Let one more word about her pass your lips, and it will be the last thing you’ll ever do,” I promised her.
Giselle seemed to think hard. The moment her brain came to a conclusion was immediately visible on her face. “She’s your mate,” she said, and the grin only widened.
When I did not immediately deny it, a rush of bewilderment went through the room. My wolves widened their eyes. My sister gasped. And the witches began to laugh out loud.
I felt a rush of uncertainty coming from behind me. My mate was panicking. I looked over my shoulder. She was looking around nervously, clasped her hands and had tears in her eyes.
“What-,” her trembling voice began, “what is all this”.
When she saw that I was looking down on her, she immediately started moving. She clung to my fur, causing the shocks to reverberate through me again, and looked at me with eyes full of despair.
“Alaric, make it stop” she said, tears now falling down her cheeks. She begged me. My mate begged me. I drowned in those eyes. I wanted to turn to her. Reassure her that I wouldn’t let anything happen to her, but then I heard two words.
“Let’s play,” I heard Giselle say with a laugh.
And then my mate grabbed her throat with both hands. She gasped and panic was marked on her face. Her body stumbled backwards until she fell to the ground. her skin grew whiter, as if all the color had gone out. I stared at her.
“Alaric, do something!” my sister’s screaming voice woke me.
I turned to the witches. One of them held out her hand and clenched into a fist. That disgusting witch held my mate’s airways in control and closed them off. I turned to my mate again. She was kneeling on the ground, huddled like a wounded animal. She was suffering. With her last ounce of strength, she reached out to me. One last plea to me to save her, to protect her.
And then I woke up.
This was more than bloodlust, this was blind rage. Death was no longer enough. Those witches would suffer in the worst possible way. I could kill. I could make beings scream for mercy for the physical pain I could bring, but this asked for more. I wanted them to be crushed from the inside out.
And so I called her.
She had been one of them once. A witch. But that was before, long ago, her coven had experimented on her and turned her into something else. Something different. And then left her for dead on the outskirts of their land.
That was where I found her. A body without a mind. A witch without magic. At least, that was what her coven had thought. In reality she was so much more. I had taken her in, watched her develop and grow into a being of pure darkness.
Her kindness had been seared from her by the one she had once called her family. Now there was nothing left of what she had once been. She had become something new.
In the few words I had ever heard her speak, she had said that the magic that had settled in her had refused to let her die, so it had taken over her completely. She was tormented by her own demons and there was no escape. So in the end, she had surrendered to them and became one with them.
When the amalgamation was completed and she opened her eyes, there was no longer anything to be seen. Her eyes had disappeared. There were only two deep black holes left. I had asked her about it and I remembered her answer to this day.
“Have you never heard anyone say that eyes are the doorways to the soul? So that means, without soul, without eyes”.
She emerged from the shadows.
In this form she was the creature witches told their children about when they misbehaved. She was the villain in all the stories. The main character in all legends. She was every witch’s greatest fear.
Her feet didn’t seem to touch the ground. She wore a black robe that hid all her limbs from view. Her presence seemed to absorb all the light in the room. The witches all recoiled. Their faces contorted with real-life fear.
I hadn’t seen her for hundreds of years, yet she hadn’t aged. For her, time will stand still forever. Her long black hair fell on her sunken face.
Her presence had so disarmed Maximus that I took my chance and spoke up. “Raisa,” I said, “you know what to do”.
Raisa was not under my command. Someone like her could not be controlled. This was just a simple matter of keeping a promise. I saved her. She owed me. It was time for her to pay off that debt.
Raisa’s face remained inscrutable. She lifted her chin and immediately behind me I heard the sound of someone gasping for breath. I glanced over my shoulder and felt relief as I saw that my mate was able to breathe again. The spell they had on her was broken.
Then I turned back to the scene before me.
The witch had now turned to the women against the wall, huddled together. She raised just a simple cloth-covered arm and immediately all the witches began to scream. Those sounds will fill the corridors of my palace for a long time to come.
They slid down the wall to the floor. Their arms and legs tightened and slackened again. Blood flowed from their eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Their skin slowly turned red and blisters appeared. I realized Raisa had read my mind. I had wished the witches would be destroyed from within. And that was exactly what she did. She was burning them from the inside out.
Pleasure filled my body. I strode over to the witches and knelt before them. I turned to their leader. “Little witch,” I said in a low voice, “I’m going to make you wish you were never born”.
She looked at me with so much hatred in her look that it was almost tangible. She started to say something, but just then Raisa struck again, and the words were lost in a deafening scream.
Just before I got up again, I took the hand of the witch that had made my mate suffer in my claw, and with a simple flick of my other claw, I cut her hand off. As her screams rose even louder above those of the others, I looked up at Raisa but said nothing.
My command could be read on my face. With nothing more than a raised chin again, she let the witches fall unconscious, one by one. Until they lay in a pile and could no longer pose a threat.
Then I slowly got up and started walking back to my mate. In the passage, I took one last look at Raisa and nodded. Her debt had been paid. She immediately disappeared into thin air.
When I arrived at my mate, who was still lying on her stomach on the floor, I saw that she was staring with a strange look in her eyes at the place where Raisa had stood a second before.
Then that look slid very slowly to me. She said nothing, except she put her head back on the marble floor and lost consciousness.