Chapter 28 ♕
Immediately after I slammed the cell door behind me, Raisa had vanished before my eyes. But as we made our way through the corridors to go upstairs, I could see exactly where she was by the way the shadow looked thicker in that place.
Every muscle in my body was tense. I had to remind myself to keep on breathing, largely because my head was constantly plagued with the nightmare I had continuously had for the past few days. The one in which my mate was killed in every possible way before my eyes, and I could only stand defenseless and watch as it happened, again and again.
I gave a deep grunt when suddenly blinded from the side and immediately raised my hand before my eyes. Because of the confinement I hadn’t been used to light anymore and all my senses were at full strength. The light dimmed quickly, allowing me to look to the side and see that we had passed a window. I looked outside and got a direct view of the gardens. And then my heart contracted.
The day my mate left to get her things, I had decided on a whim that I wanted to do something for her to make her welcome. So I had Magnolia flowers planted in the part that had a direct view from the balcony of my sleeping quarters. It wasn’t much, but it had made me hope that seeing these, after we woke up together in my bed, would have made her smile.
But I saw them for the first time now. They were tall and in full bloom. Just then the moon emerged from behind a cloud, illuminating the garden. For a moment the flowers seemed to light up, but then it dawned on me that it was the dew reflecting in the light of the moon.
My hands clenched so tightly into fists that I felt something dripping from my skin. With a quick glance down I saw that my hands had transformed into claws and that streams of blood formed small puddles on the white marble floor.
I managed to keep myself together. But only because I imagined how in just a few moments the blood would be on my feet from the witches. How to the last, each of them would suffer. And after that I will have my mate in my arms again and she will be where she really belongs.
I looked up again and saw her so clearly in that moment that it almost felt like she was really there. But she wasn’t.
Maximus awoke to the thought and gave such a snarling growl that every emotion was pushed into the background. Suddenly I was completely focused. I glanced sideways at the moon as I walked briskly, making a promise to the moon goddess herself for the first time in my life.
“I’m coming for you”
I should have known that it would only take one step over the threshold to know that my absence had not gone unnoticed. At the same time, Cayden and Ascian’s voices echoed in my head. Both half asleep since it was well past midnight, but immediately alert.
With just a few words, so as not to waste too much time, I ordered Cayden to protect Bethany and Ascian to temporarily take charge of the palace.
Ascian may still be an asshole, but I knew I could entrust him with this task. He wouldn’t risk losing the last people who cared about him, even if he would never admit he cared. Even though he still had a long way to go if he wanted to win over both my sister and mate. And I spoke from my own experience when I said that it would not be easy for him.
I shut them up when they kept urging me to let them go with me. I had absolutely no time for this, but they could not help in this situation either. Both of them were excellent warriors, my best probably, but unlike me, that damn witch magic could hurt them.
So I barked my orders for the last time and then threw my mental wall so high that no one could get in. Immediately it was quiet enough in my head, which brought back my burning concern about Magnolia at full speed. I growled under my breath.
By now we had already left the palace far behind us.
In contrast of my territory, where it was open and green, all life seemed to have been sucked out of nature here. We were clearly at the border that separated my country from that of the witches.
I wanted to take a final step, then let out a furious roar as the road was blocked by a barrier of defensive spells. The stench of magic penetrated deep into my nostrils. Right next to me, Raisa took back her physical form. She raised her arm, causing the fabric of her cloak to shift.
I saw her lips pull up on one side. As if the thought that there was some form of magic that would keep her from treading the ground again was laughable. I took a step back out of pure instinct. I knew when my qualities were useful, and this was not such a situation.
Raisa had placed a hand with long, pale fingers against the invisible wall. I felt the air around us begin to change as her magic increased. But out of nowhere the energy disappeared and everything became silent.
I looked at the witch from the corner of my eye. She stared into nowhere and all the signs seemed subtle, but they were there.
Her skin was a little paler and her eyes a little emptier. In fact, I would swear I saw her chest rising and falling rapidly under the robe. Something had happened, and most likely it had to do with my mate.
I felt my stomach tighten and my breathing stopped for a moment. But I couldn’t allow myself to lose control now. Not now she was within reach. So for her, I clung to the last bit of determination I could find.
Raisa suddenly seemed to want to hurry herself, because that same second her magic flowed with such speed that the wall was immediately shattered. After the wall of magic came down and we both crossed the border, we suddenly found ourselves at the foot of a hill that had previously been hidden by magic. I clenched my jaw.
“I’m coming for you”
We walked north and found an entrance through which my posture could barely fit. The next moment a gust of wind blew right into our faces. And to think that some wondered why I had never been surprised by a witch, their stench could be picked up from a mile away.
The passage was made entirely of stone from the mountain. There was no door, gate or other material to prevent anyone from entering just like that. There was only complete darkness.
This was exactly the environment that witches preferred. With their magic they created a maze of corridors in which intruders are guaranteed to get lost. Then she played with their victims, like rats in a trap. I was no stranger to the ways of witches.
Without saying a word, Raisa led the way. The way she seemed to know exactly which way to go, it was as if she had been here countless times before.
I asked no questions and followed her closely. With each step deeper into the mountain, I felt the tension in my muscles both increase and decrease. That meant two things, we were getting closer to my mate and something was terribly wrong.
I decided to give it a try and looked for the little trace of the bond between us. I wanted to let her know that I was close, that I had come for her. But there was no answer.
I knew it was useless. Because I had been too cowardly to mark her I now couldn’t talk to her, that I had no idea how she was doing or where exactly she was. Or that she was even alive. I immediately stopped thinking when Maximus hit a wild growl in the back of my head.
He wouldn’t even allow it to think that way.
I knew the truth was that I hadn’t marked her yet because she hadn’t been ready yet. I thought I couldn’t bear to be hated by her, but now it was different.
I was fully willing to face her hatred for me, if it only meant that she was happy. That that lovely healthy blush adorned her cheeks and that her laughter would fill the hallways of the palace every day. Even if that smile wasn’t meant for me.
We made our way through the endless tunnels, without encountering a single soul. The hallways were intensely cold, but witches generally did not bother. My mate, on the other hand, hated the cold deeply. That was why she wanted to stay near me so much in the beginning. My body temperature was always high and she loved it. She had been in this condition for days now.
“I’m coming for you”
It was those few words that I clung to so desperately. However, there was never a response. We had now walked so far that we had to be deep under the mountain. And suddenly Raisa stopped.
Immediately I looked around, fully convinced that we had been ambushed during my musings. But when I looked around I still saw no one. I turned to Raisa, but he had now turned her back on me. She held her hand against the rough stone wall, then stepped aside to let me through.
Her intention was clear, but to be on the safe side I concentrated for a moment and pointed my ears. The wall was solid stone and meters thick, yet I could hear the faint sound of voices and laughter through it. My blood started to boil. I lashed out with my arm and wanted it to come into contact with the wall, when a scent found my nose.
The smell of...Magnolias
But before my muscles could relax upon recognizing the wonderful scent, another scent also found my nostrils. This one had merged with my mate’s. And now instead of my blood boiling, it froze. No. The next moment I started ramming into the wall with such force that the impact caused pieces of stone to fall from the ceiling.
With a gesture of her hand, Raisa made sure that we wouldn’t disappear under the rubble, while I put my full focus on breaking through that damn wall.
The rock gave way so easily that it looked like I was punching through cardboard. This was exactly what I needed. With all the unused adrenaline I felt rushing through my veins, I was about to go mad. I had sat still for too long, couldn’t do anything. I had known that locked up after I lost control had been the only solution at the time, but it had also made me hate myself even more. Hate for doing this to her. That I hadn’t been there for her.
I hated myself. And while the guilt flowed through me like poison, it was nothing compared to the sheer rage I felt. They had made her bleed and now they would pay for it with theirs.
It only took me a good final punch to break through the last few inches of stone. I couldn’t see a single thing because of all the dust that hung in the air, but I stepped through it without thinking.
Inside we found complete destruction. Apparently the vibrations had also reached this hall, because here too stone had fallen down. The witches had tried to limit the damage by taking cover, but I was delighted to see several pulverised bodies emerge from beneath several rocks. However, that whole feeling disappeared when the scent of my mate entangled with blood entered my nostrils again.
The anger rose with such speed that I had to grind my jaw to keep a frantic Maximus under control. Right now I wanted to do nothing more than give him full control and bring this whole cave to collapse, but my mate was within these walls and I would be able to control myself until she was safe in my arms again.
I scoured the room, but it was simply crawling with witches and their stench was overwhelming, almost completely masking the scent of Magnolia. I got more and more nervous when I didn’t see her. And the witches running, screaming and throwing their magic at our heads didn’t really help either.
With a brief gesture of her hand, however, Raisa managed to keep all water, earth, fire and air at bay. The witches faces radiated a mixture of anger, panic and fear. But that disappeared sometime when one of them stepped forward.
Unlike her sisters, this witch had her hair cut to just above her shoulders, making her stand out from all the long hair. She also had the exact same stroke of red hanging in front of her face as Giselle had. My anger flared at the thought of that witch, but I would get her later. I snorted scornfully when I realized who I was talking to. Finally, after all this time, I met the famous leader of the coven.
Although our territories have bordered each other for centuries, we had never stood face to face with each other. That was one of the main reasons why I had always thought of these coven as a joke. An army is only as strong as it’s commander. That was why I had put myself on the front line at every battlefield. On the other hand, she could never have even brought herself to set foot outside of this mountain. She was happy to let others do the dirty work for her.
However, she kept her witches under tight grip and was not afraid to set an example of anyone when her authority was undermined. She just did all those things from the comfort of her own base, which was something I absolutely didn’t appreciate.
We had never been the most friendly of neighbors. She regularly sent her witches to see how far they could go before I got involved personally, which had always been almost instantaneous. She didn’t care that it was at the expense of her own witches. I found out long ago what her underlying motive was. She was after my land.
Witches with the ability to control the elements drew their powers from nature. So the more territory they owned, the more powers they possessed. Not like I would ever hand them over my land. Every foot of area was one my wolves could run around freely and that was all I wanted for them.
When the witch finally stood before us, her eyes almost spit fire. I thought it was all very amusing, except for the fact that she was holding my mate here somewhere hostage and her blood began to smell stronger and stronger.
But I clenched my jaw and kept myself together.
“Look which insect finally decides to come crawling into the light,” I said with the greatest amount of amusement I could feign.
I had to stretch this game for as long as possible. Inwardly I tried to pick up a trace of our bond, which would then lead me to her. But I didn’t get anything. Almost as if she wasn’t here at all, although every fiber in my body told me something different.
Nesita looked at us both beside herself with anger. I had to admit, somewhere I was almost impressed by the way she dared to look Raisa directly in the eye. The witch was next to me, which made her look even smaller than she actually was.
But that feeling of impressiveness instantly faded when a wall of witches settled in front of their leader and I was reminded of what a commander she was.
“How dare you enter our sanctuary,” Nesita spat in our direction.
I looked around scornfully, then turned my gaze back to her. “I don’t give a damn what you all do down here. However, that was until you had the guts to involve my mate in this. So if you will be so kind as to hand her back to me now, I can take her home and then come back here and bury you all under this mountain for good,” I said without a hint of the previously lightheartedness.
It didn’t matter that I had just told them my complete plan. It wasn’t like they could do anything to escape it. I had been chasing my own family continuously for the past two years, figuring out how far I was willing to go for a bunch of filthy creatures who had threatened my mate wasn’t hard.
As the witch cursed us all the way to hell, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye in the shadow from the opening that Raisa and I had passed through earlier.
Apparently Raisa noticed, too, because her gaze went in the same direction. For a moment, the black holes that had taken the place of her eyes seemed to take on a kind of glassy haze.
I let her deal with the stranger as I searched the room again for my mate. Completely ignoring Nesita as she threw all possible threats at my head.
Magnolia was nowhere to be found and despair began to strike violently. The smell of her blood still hung in the air, but the hordes of witches made it impossible to see her, despite my height.
Again I glanced at Raisa, but this time I let it hang a little longer. There was something strange in her face. The black holes seemed to open wider, as if if she had had human features, her face would now have been a mixture of shock and surprise.
It was absurd to see Raisa showing any semblance of emotion. It had to be something to do with the stranger in the darkness. However, they seemed determined not to make them self presentable.
The glassy glow in the black holes on her face increased, and I knew she had given the stranger permission to speak to her. I wondered for a moment if they knew each other. Because that had to be the case. Raisa would never have let her in otherwise.
Getting into a witch’s head was a dangerous thing to do.
Within seconds her so-called eyes turned pure black again and she turned her attention forward. Apparently the message the figure had for us was meant to be shared in privacy, for the next moment Raisa made a careless gesture with her hand. And all witches in the room, including Nesita, went completely crazy.
It took me a while to get through to me, but given that each of them started to move as if someone had turned off the light, it soon became clear what exactly Raisa had done.
She had taken their senses away from them.
None of them were able to see, hear, smell or say anything. It was almost comical, as if you were watching television but with the sound off. Some even started firing their elements into random directions through blind panic, resulting in them only destroying each other. I began to look around in panic, hoping with all my heart that Maggie wasn’t in the midst of all that chaos.
But then the stranger stepped out of the shadows. Her long white hair showed that she was part of the Vidarte coven, yet Raisa didn’t seem to take any action to do the same to her as her sisters. I decided to follow her judgment and so let the witch approach.
She had already managed to bridge more than half the space between us, when I let my watchful gaze pass once more through the hall just to be sure, when suddenly something caught my eye.
Even before she reached us, I motioned for her not to say anything. She seemed quite offended by the gesture, but I ignored it completely. She was not exactly at the top of my priority list at the moment.
Then I turned away from them. I walked right through the wall of Raisa’s powers without even thinking for a second. It wouldn’t even stop me if she wanted to. Then suddenly I found myself in the middle of the chaos.
The ground was shaking beneath my feet. Witches who couldn’t see anything bumped into me, whereupon I threw them right away. I refused to smell of any other woman except my mate, who was still nowhere to be found.
However, who I did recognize in the crowd was my warrior. Who was currently chained to the wall, half unconscious.
I will honestly admit that I was still not his biggest fan, after the whole situation in which he had let Magnolia go. But he was still my warrior, and maybe even something of a friend. I wouldn’t leave anyone behind at a place like this.
Rowan had been brutally battered. Still, he completely avoided my eyes as I pulled the chains to which he was attached from the wall. The moment his knees hit the ground with a sickening blow, he immediately scrambled to his feet and ran to a small figure huddled on the ground.
I watched him closely and saw him plunge with impressive force upon the only two witches left between him and the young girl. He pulled the two off her and, in the same motion, parted their heads from their bodies.
Throwing the bodies off like dirt, he then knelt by her. The girl’s shoulders shook violently, I just didn’t know it was because she was crying or because of the fear. Maybe both.
Rowan placed his hands on her shoulders with tender caution, but even that movement made the girl cringe even more. The young witch seemed to want nothing to do with my warrior and tried to fight him off.
Rowan, however, kept completely calm, even getting punched twice in the face before leaning his head over and whispering something in her ear. Then she suddenly lay still in his arms. But I could tell from her attitude that she still didn’t trust him. And despite my reservations about Rowan, I still felt the corner of my mouth creep up at the sight of my warrior who had finally found his mate.
Afterwards I walked back to the two witches.
I looked meaningfully at Raisa and she immediately understood the hint. With nothing more than a wave of her hand again, her magic created the same defensive shield around Rowan and the young witch, keeping them safe for now.
I rejoined the two witches and now saw that they were merely staring at each other. “What’s your name” I growled low as soon as I regained my place next to Raisa.
The witch’s gaze slid to me. There was nothing in her eyes, face or posture. “Are you sure thats the question you want to ask me, wolf?” she said slowly.
I didn’t have to think for even a second, while the following words had already left my mouth. “Where is she?” I said. I didn’t care that the despair was clearly audible in my voice.
The witch raised her hand, pointed along the wall, through the chaos, to the other side of the room. “Your mate..” she began, her gaze still fixed on me.
“...is right there”