Chapter 12 ♕
An eternity had passed. At least hat was how it felt for me. In reality, probably only a few hours had passed. The simple truth was just, every second that I didn’t spend in her presence felt unbearably long.
On top of that, was it very clear to me that I wasn’t holding up well. My whole body was trembling. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins and my jaw was tense. I felt an inexpressible urge to destroy any creature that had witch’s blood running through her veins.
This had never happened to me before. It felt strange to see how just the thought of a simple being could make me lose complete control of myself. Mate or not. It was strange and uncomfortable. She made me feel too much. Especially when I didn’t want to feel anything.
I knew what people were saying about us, about Maximus and me. We were domineering, cruel and merciless. Everyone saw us only as the monster we pretended to be. No one ever paid attention to the intention behind my actions. The finger of blame would always be pointed my way. I will always be labeled by people as the villain of the story.
That was how it had always been. Regardless of that all I had ever done, all I wanted, was to protect those who I cared about. But that seemed to be something people simply overlooked. And it was then that I saw how easy it actually was to become something that people already saw you for anyway.
I had began to isolate myself. Withdrew further and further, until Maximus saw and seized his chance. Just as I would take this opportunity.
Because this was indeed a unique opportunity to gather information. I had to take advantage of this. I had been away from home for two years, destroying a threat to my family. I had no intention of endangering them the moment I returned.
I suppressed all my childish insecurities in the deepest of my mind. Everyone saw us for the beasts we were in this form, no one saw my ability to always stay one step ahead of the enemy. To collect information and develop it into detailed strategies. With me in control we were calculating, strategic, and perhaps even more dangerous than in our animal form. Maximus could be as cunning as I was if he so chose, but he preferred to let his instincts take the lead.
But now, as the hours had passed and I realized that I simply wasn’t able to stay away from her much longer, I lost my last bit of patience. Although I was reluctant to admit it, the witches were tenacious. Whenever I had asked a question, I had gotten nothing in return but an insult, dirty grin, or spit in my face.
In those cases it would not have mattered if I had had the patience of a thousand men, I wouldn’t tolerate disrespect. So any witch who had behaved in a way that I didn’t found appropriate had by now accompanied her sisters on the stake.
Now only three witches were hanging before me. The woman Giselle was in the middle. She hung motionless in her chains and stared at the floor. Blood flowed from the deep wound on her face that my claw had put there. Without the help of magic, that wound could become an ugly scar. And that thought satisfied me.
When she saw that I stood in front of her, she looked up at me. I saw a whirlwind of emotions in those eyes. But nothing to indicate that she was afraid of what was to come. I read her facial expression, her posture. Had been doing that all night. I had saved the slightest trace of emotion she had shown and had reached a conclusion in the meantime.
During the interrogation, whenever I had allowed my wolves to come near the witches hanging from either side of Giselle, she had shown small signs of fear. They clearly had the most value to her.
Giselle was an important figure within her coven. I would find the answers I was looking for with her. I gestured to my warriors. They nodded and came to a stop in front of the two witches in question. Both women tried their best not to show emotion, but they were not as skilled as Giselle. Witches were powerful, but only because they relied on their magic. Without it, they were helpless.
I raised both of my claws. A signal to my warriors, who switched their hands for their own claws. Their sharp nails gleamed in the reflective light of the torches on the wall.
Giselle looked both suspicious and alert. She was clearly trying to keep her fellow witches, my guards and me in her sights at the same time. But that was impossible and I will be happy to prove it to her.
The moment her eyes fixed on me again, I lowered my right claw. The wolf on that particular side immediately took action. In one smooth motion, he took a final step forward and slit the throat of the witch in front of him. The next second the room filled with multiple sounds. The faltering of the witch choking on her own rising blood, as well as the deafening screams of Giselle and her only remaining companion.
The body of the witch fell forward, but because she was still chained, it did not fall far. So she just hung there, her blood slowly pooling under her feet. The gurgles stopped, as did her breathing. Her body went limp and the last bit of life light disappeared from her eyes.
Giselle began to resist violently. She tried to free herself from her chains, but it was hopeless. I just stood there and looked down at her with a satisfied grin as she freaked out. I gestured to my other wolf. But as he took a step forward, and the witch shrank back screaming, Giselle intervened.
“I’ll tell you what you want to know” she said, her teeth gritted, “leave her alone”.
“Well, it wasn’t that difficult, was it now,” I said nicely.
Giselle clenched her hands into fists and bared her teeth to me. She looked like a predator, ready to rip up her prey with nothing more than the help of her teeth. But when I motioned for my wolf to do his job, the fighting spirit immediately disappeared and she gave in. Giselle hung her head.
“I think it’s admirable how you try to protect her. It’s just a pity that it was all for nothing in the end” I said. During those last words, I had also lowered my other claw and my wolf carried out my command. In the second that followed, the other witch also fell dead in her chains.
It had all happened so quickly that Giselle could not have processed it. There was not a trace of color left on her face. She was stunned and unable to say anything more.
“You didn’t really think I’d keep any of you alive after what you did to my people,” I said in an amused voice. Giselle opened her mouth and screamed harder than I had ever heard any other living creature do. It was such a shrill and high-pitched noise that I saw my wolves cover their ears.
I wanted to shut her up, but then the heavy dungeon door was thrown open with such force that it crashed into the stone wall. I abruptly looked over my shoulder.
Bethany came running in. For just a moment she stood petrified. I was about to turn my anger on her. It was for good reason that I had forbidden her to enter this part of the palace all this time. She wasn’t the kind of person who should see these things with her own eyes. I wanted to make all that clear to her, but when I took a closer look at her, I immediately saw that something was wrong.
She was a wreck. Her clothes looked like she hastily put them on, tears streamed down her cheeks, and her eyes were bloodshot. Bethany tried to take a deep breath several times. She started to speak, but was held back by the grip that apparently squeezed around her throat like a vise.
I took a step in her direction. I hadn’t seen her so upset since I left her. When I had found our parents, slaughtered and suffocated in their own blood, I immediately went after the scent of the perpetrators.
I had never said goodbye, only looked back once as I disappeared among the trees. I could never forget the image. The way she had run after me, but then tripped and fell. How her voice had called my name, begged me to come back, to stay with her.
I thought then that I would never see her upset again as at that time. I didn’t know how wrong I could have been. Because how she stood there now, in the doorway, it seemed as if someone had trampled her soul.
“I- I went to check on her,” said Bethany, between deep breaths. Her voice was faltering and hoarse. “I wanted to make sure she was okay, but when I entered her bedroom, no one was there”.
It took a moment for her words to sink in. Bethany continued immediately, impatient and heartbroken. “Alaric, she’s gone. Maggie is gon-”.
Before the last words could leave her mouth, I had run past her. Faster than ever I ran straight to her room. I didn’t pay attention to my surroundings. Only wanted to see her, only thought about her.
I wished with all my heart that I would find her as I left her. In a deep, innocent sleep. But I already knew I was lying to myself. Because the farther I got from the dungeons and their defensive spells, the more I began to feel the bond we shared. Or rather, I began to feel its lack. I threw open her door without thinking.
The room was dark, silent, and deserted.
Maximus and I broke at exactly the same time. Our fused emotions exploded. Hundreds of scenarios passed me by. Was this the work of the witches? How had they managed to get past my warriors unseen? Where had they taken her?
Within a second it had already become too much for us. I had to do something. Had to chase them. Get her back. Tear something to pieces.
My stormy musings were broken by a low, uncertain voice. “Your Highness?” said the voice. I turned around with unnameable speed. It may have been two years since I had last seen all my warriors, but Rowan was someone I wouldn’t forget. Before that he had been the leader of my border guard for years.
My body took immediate action. A moment later I towered over him, burried my claw in his chest and pulled him closer. His whole face contorted with pain as my sharp nails disappeared into his skin, but he pressed his lips together just in time to hold in a deep groan.
“I’m only asking you this once,” Maximus said in a grunted voice, “where is the girl that stayed in that room”.
Rowan answered, her teeth gritted. “Magnolia went to Bethany a few hours ago. She had to give something to her. She has not returned. I thought she would sleep in the princess chambers. She has done that before since she has been here”. His voice softened after each word, as if little by little something had dawned on him.
I felt the fear in me doubling. So she had been missing for hours. The anger rose at such a rate that I could no longer suppress it. I lifted Rowan’s body off the floor and threw it against the wall.
“I ordered you to guard this hallway with your life. I entrusted you with the most important thing in my life and you failed me” I spat the words at him as if they tasted like poison on my tongue.
“This was about her? Was Magnolia what I had to protect?!” he asked, confused. The way he kept saying her name only made me more murderous. Was there something going on between them?
If it were, it didn’t matter what rank he held or how long I’ve known him, I’d make him wish he’d never been born.
“Don’t say her name!” I shouted to his face. I saw him cringe. All my men were warriors, except when they came face to face with me. I was the one who had trained them, made them what they were now. And I was the one who could make it all disappear.
“I’m not done with you yet,” I said furiously, then released him. He fell to the ground and could do nothing but look up at me with wide eyes. But I had already turned around and started running. I caught a whiff of her scent, but it was already fading. A moment later I was standing outside in the clearing of my palace. Her fragrance led me to the forest that was currently shrouded in darkness.
My insides felt like they were on fire. It consumed me and the only thing that could stop that feeling was feeling her skin on mine. I had to find her. I wouldn’t survive without her. I needed her with me, safe and alive.
I would destroy anyone who would come between her and me. No one will be able to separate us. I will destroy anyone who tries. I clenched my claws into fists. Then, with the loudest growl ever heard, I let everyone know that I was coming for her.
And that I wouldn’t show any mercy to anyone.