Chapter 11 ♕
I thought I knew what it felt like to be restless.
That feeling that every nerve in your body was trying to tell you that you were targeting the wrong things. That there were things, other things, that were countless times more important. How stupid I had been. I didn’t know anything.
When it came to her and me, it didn’t matter that we were still within the same walls. What made a world of difference was that she wasn’t in the same room as me. That I was unable to see her.
Because only when I could see her was I able to suppress the growing panic that was currently building up in my stomach. I felt Max grow impatient in the back of my mind. We had to return to her, to reassure her and to reassure us. But most of all, to tell her everything she needed to know.
Because she didn’t know anything yet.
I didn’t know how long she actually have been in the palace or what she had learned during that time. But even though I had seen in her eyes that she too had felt that something had formed between us, I also could see from her that she did not understand any of it.
She hadn’t heard Giselle say it. She didn’t know we were Mates, if she even knew what that meant in the first place. And that thought made me even more tense than I already was. I had to return to her, but the only way I could do that was to quickly deal with the problem that was currently presenting itself before me.
Less than a handful of witches hung bleeding from metal chains set on the solid stone wall. They were the ones who made it through the evening.
The rest of their sisters had been either killed by my warriors or was passed out by the impact of the magic of Raisa. I had my guards drag this small group away. I left the rest of the witches bodies to my warriors. If I wasn’t too far off, their remains would be burning somewhere nearby on the fire pile by now.
I was not new to this. I had long ago discovered that witches had the irritating ability to heal themselves from the most life-threatening wounds with the help of their spells. And since I didn’t want to see that happen, I let my wolves have their way. They turned out to be quite old-fashioned when it came to exterminating witches, but at times it’s a good thing to honor old customs.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the witch Giselle attempting to attack one of my warriors. I saw no reason to interfere. Mainly because she soon made the discovery herself. That her magic did not work within these walls. The look on her face was almost comical.
I was older than everyone in this room. And it is true what they say. That wisdom indeed comes with age. Years ago I had these dungeons modified. The spells cast at the time prevented supernatural beings from using their abilities. What meant, that within these walls, the witches could not rely on their magic.
Unfortunately for me that also meant that I couldn’t feel anything of the tiny sparkle of the mate bond that had started to form inside me for a few hours now. We were in the deepest depths of the dungeons. And what made me so restless was that I couldn’t feel her.
The mate bond was suppressed. I also felt my warriors become more and more restless behind me. It was in our nature to worry about our other half, always wanting to make sure she was okay. And when we could not, we became stressed out.
My thoughts were interrupted by a noise. I growled annoyed. The witch whose hand I had taken kept on wailing. The noise gave me a headache, so I threw her head against the wall, knocking her out. I heard some of her sisters suck in their breath.
Probably each of them had seen this evening quite differently than how it had turned out. They had thought of hopping in here effortlessly and claiming what supposedly belonged to them.
As if I’d would ever let that happen.
I found myself back at the moment in which I had carried my mate in my arms to her to the bedroom where, according to her scent, she had been staying the entire time.
I had been very surprised by Maximus careful movements. Again, he had refused to hand over control to me. We were back home. But somehow I knew that wouldn’t change the situation. He didn’t trust me, and he never would. Those times were over.
Although he now gave me a little more room to move forward enough to get the most out of the evening, he wouldn’t allow me to take my form so that I could speak to her. I remembered exactly what I looked like in my human form and I immediately clung to it desperately. It was uncertain whether I would ever see that form again. Maximus was stubborn and not at all accommodating. But maybe our Mate could change this. Perhaps with her help, we could start over, as equals.
Immediately after draping the blankets over her sleeping figure, I had sent out an order to the wolf in charge of my border patrol and ordered him to guard that specific corridor.
I had not added why. I didn’t owe anyone an explanation, and I didn’t want anyone else to find out what she meant to me. It was too fast for that, too early.
She was all I had now. And a bunch of riotous witches who rushed into my house thinking they could do whatever they wanted didn’t fell under the category safe.
I turned to the chained prisoners. I was so much bigger than any of them it was almost laughable. It didn’t matter how mighty they were outside these walls. In here, they were nothing more than scared little girls.
The human part of my brain, the part that was still capable of some sympathy, thought this was going too far. But that didn’t apply to Maximus, or me for the most part. We wanted them to suffer, as they had done to the few people we cared about.
I knelt down, that was the only way to come face to face with them, and tilted my head slightly to look at them intently. They were nothing and I enjoyed that.
“I have some questions that I would like answered,” I growled.
I am just a simple human.
That was what I told myself as I awoke from what looked like yet another fainting session. But even though I had repeated the words so many times that I started to sound like a broken cassette recorder, it was the truth.
I was indeed just a simple human.
Someone who should not be involved with supernatural creatures with claws, spells and the ability to emerge from the shadows.
I shook my head, trying to restore my sanity. At least several hours must have passed, because when I had opened my eyes with a groan, I could see through the curtains that it was dark outside. I estimated it somewhere after midnight.
I sat up on the mattress and saw that I was alone. A strange feeling came over me. Disappointment. I didn’t know why, but a part of me apparently expected someone to be there when I awoke. That at least someone cared that I was unharmed. But apparently I was wrong.
In any case, Bethany now had someone to take care of her. Multiple even, when the memory of her brothers coming home resurfaced.
There had been something about him. Something I couldn’t put it into words. It made it harder for me to part myself from him, as it did from Bethany, even though I had built a bond with her over the past week. I had invested time, effort and energy there. But with him, it just seemed to be there. That sense of cohesion.
I pulled my knees up and rested on them my chin. I tried to think again, but immediately felt panic rise again. I took a deep breath and tried to calm down. It felt like my head was filled with a dose of cotton pads so that I could no longer think clearly.
All in all, that didn’t matter. My main conclusion was that I now absolutely knew this was not the right place for me. Everything that had happened went way too far above my head.
I had made a promise to Bethany and kept it. I had stayed until after her birthday. Now that her brother was back home, she had him to take care of her, along with Cayden. I deliberately ignored the sting in my heart.
I didn’t know what made me suddenly become so sentimental, but although part of me was already with her feet on the ground and reaching for the packed bag that was waiting in the chair. The other part of me fought that urge desperately. That side of me was panicked, restless and nervous. It wanted me to look for something, something we couldn’t live without.
I decided to suppress that feeling and listen to my common sense. With clenched teeth and struggling to suppress the urge to find whatever it was I seemed to miss so much, I grabbed my bag tightly and walked to the door. But before I could open it, someone else had already done that for me, causing me to walk straight into Rowan.
“Oi, take it easy there,” he said with humor, while at the same time he put his hands on my shoulders to prevented me from falling, “I thought I recognized your scent. I could smell it from down the hall and came to see if you were okay”.
I immediately stepped out of his touch. It felt wrong, which I thought was a strange thought in itself. I shrank my hands even tighter on the rods of my bag and grinned forcibly, hoping he didn’t notice.
He raised his hand before my eyes, probably to see where my thoughts were, and again I instinctively beckoned away from him. He wasn’t the one who was supposed to touch me.
Who then, asked a secluded voice in the back of my head.
I gave Rowan an apologetic smile. “Sorry, a lot has happened tonight. I believe I am quite frightened” I said. “That’s understandable,” he said, but still with a strange expression on his face.
“What are you doing here?” I asked to change the subject of the conversation.
“The king asked me to guard these hallways, although he gave no specific reason. Probably just to make sure there are no witches wandering around. I still can’t believe he has finally returned, after all this time. What I would have given to be with him in that dungeon right now, giving those witches what they deserve” he said.
I nodded absently, as if I totally agreed with him. Instead, I felt shivers run down my spine. If I heard what the king did to servants ruining his sister’s lunch, I absolutely didn’t want to know what he did with violent intruders.
I saw Rowan look questioningly at the backpack and tried to be lightly. “This is the dress Bethany lent me for the party. I’m leaving for home in the morning, so I wanted to give it back to her now,” I said, hoping he would believe the lie.
Rowan seemed like a good person, but at times like this, I didn’t know who to trust. Bethany was nursing her new mate somewhere in this castle. I could trust her. But she wasn’t here now. And I had to get out of here.
Too much had happened. I lost sight of the situation. Couldn’t think about it anymore. I needed simplicity, peace and structure. And this place gave me chaos, confusion and fear.
That had have been different before tonight. Earlier I could easily have seen myself stay here. But all the events added together had become too much for me. I wanted to go home.
But at the same time I didn’t.
The little voice in my head trying to challenge my will to go home had not diminished. According to her, we couldn’t leave at all. That thought alone was unthinkable. But it was all I could think about.
“Isn’t it a little late to disturb the princess now? She’s probably already asleep. Maybe it is better to wait until early tomorrow,” he suggested.
He didn’t know, I concluded in my head. He may have known witches had invaded the castle, but not that Bethany had found her mate tonight. That the thought of her sleeping tonight was unthinkable.
I made a meaningless gesture. “Bethany won’t mind at all. If you want to excuse me now. I don’t want to keep you from your work anymore. Have a nice evening, Rowan. And it was nice to see you again,” I said, and without saying another word I passed him.
I expected him to come after me, or at least make an attempt to stop me. But apparently he took his king’s order to guard that particular corridor very seriously, because he just let me go.
I walked the halls. For the most part it was deserted, but here and there a pair of sharp wolf eyes flash my way, but no one stopped me. It surprised me. Probably because I had the feeling that I was prowling around. That I was commiting an unforgivable crime.
I quickened my pace until I finally came to the huge entrance to the palace. Guards stood on either side of the door. I took a deep breath, hoisted my backpack further up my shoulder, and took a step towards them. The guards stepped closer to each other, for a second I thought they would stop me, but then each of them took one of the latches in their hands. As they opened the doors for me, my eyes were treated to the most beautiful night sky I had ever seen.
I stood for a second, not knowing exactly what to do. What are you waiting for, said yet another voice in my head, there is nothing or nobody here for you anymore.
That thought woke me up and forced me to take the last few steps until I was greeted by the night wind and heard the door close with a loud bang behind me.
The impact of that sound came in hard and suddenly I felt the irrepressible urge to cry. I was all alone now. I put my head back and stared up. I tried to suppress everything so obstinately, only to be thrown back in my face with double the amount.
I started to walk, the stone path that led to the richly decorated gate. I remembered Bethany’s warning. I would be safe within the gate. Beyond that, nothing could be guaranteed. I didn’t think about it too long. I just wanted to go home. The nagging voice in the back of my mind still hadn’t given up.
What home, she went on, nowhere on this entire planet is there anything we can call that. Our parental home is now inhabited by another family. The shed you so desperately try to call home is nothing more than just that, a shed. This place, here we were welcome, here is someone who -.
“No!” I almost screamed.
My voice was almost like a cannonball in the dead silence of the night. I pushed the voice to the farthest corner of my mind. Still, I couldn’t stop it. I felt the tears rise in the corner of my eye, and no matter how hard I fought against them, they eventually fell.
I straightened my back, took a deep breath and started walking. Further and further away from the palace, until the moment I felt myself disappearing into the night.