The cost was forty-eight wolves’ lives. Twelve from Alpha Jacob’s pack the rest from mine. Thirty-six of my wolves killed because some power hungry asshole wanted to possess me and my pack lands. Over two hundred wolves were injured from my pack. Lea and I let out a howl of rage, defeat, and sadness.
The battle had lasted from first light to well into the afternoon. The once pretty town was now strewn with bodies, blood, and debris. Some of the older wolves had emerged from the shelters just to run back to tell the pups not to come out. Those who weren’t too badly injured were helping clean up.
“They wanted to fight for you, you know.” George said, limping up to me. I was on my hands and knees cleaning the blood off of a storefront window. Beneath the blood big white letters read, Linda’s Books and Bakery.
“They shouldn’t have to.” I didn’t look at him. What kind of luna lets this happen?
“But they wanted to.” He sounded tired. His brother had almost died, so I’d say it’s more emotionally tired than physically. Though the physical toll of fighting for so long was probably taking its effect on him. “I need to show you something, Luna. Please?” He gestured for me to follow him.
I dropped the rag into the bucket of now dirty water and got up. George lead me to the edge of the river. Everywhere I looked, wolves who’d passed away in today’s battle were being put into their ceremonial boats.
Each was made of ash wood, harvested from pack lands on the day of their birth. They had the name given on birth and the name of their wolves. The name given to them on birth was carved by the father and the name of their wolf was carved by themselves the day that they first shifted. Many of us in the Rogue Pack had long since lost the boat our fathers had carved for us. As such, part of joining the Rogue Pack was creating your ceremonial boat. It was perhaps a bit on the morbid side, but like humans in New Orleans, we didn’t mourn the lost life but rejoiced in the life lived. The whole reason the boats were made were to send them off to the moon goddess in peace. Thirty-six of these boats now lined the shore of the wide Mississippi river that cut into our pack lands.
“Why did you want to show me this?”
“To remind you to stop mourning the loss of life and to celebrate the lives well lived.” I looked again at all the boats. I guess he’s right. “Keep in mind, they not only died for you but for the future that you gave them and their friends, family, and loved ones.”
“Hey Luna!” I looked to my left where Leroy was calling out to me. He was standing next to a boat. Linda and Willow. That was his sister and her sister’s wolf, one of the ones who’d died today. If I remember correctly, they’d joined when I was fifteen. Six years ago. Leroy and Linda were running from an abusive father. They were fifteen years old themselves.
“What for?” I was on the verge of tears.
“For giving her a life free from our father. Ya know we saw him today. We killed him just before a beta wolf jumped us. She saved me and took the full front of his attack. We managed to take him down but the wounds killed her. She told me to tell you thank you.” We were both crying.
“As soon as the moon is up, we will give her a proper goodbye.” I thought about the bakery window I’d been cleaning. It’s owner was dead.
The rest of the daylight hours were spent telling stories, laughing, crying, and celebrating those who’d fought so bravely today. When the moon crested the horizon, we waited, silently, as it climbed and the sun disappeared. Together, as if someone had said to, we all shifted and howled. The final goodbye.
Friends, brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers stepped forward to push their deceased into the flowing river.
In the morning, we would all go to bed. Well, anybody who could. I fully expected for everybody who lost somebody to not sleep at all tonight. I know I wouldn’t.
“Mate.” Zander said softly. He’d been with me all day. Helping my clean, wiping my tears, helping me get ready for the ceremony. And just being there.
“You should get some sleep. There is a lot to do tomorrow and in the following weeks.”
“Right the ceremonies.”
“That and I need your help determining where my warriors will be stationed.”
“I’m going to introduce you to the pack now before every one heads home.” He looked at me shocked. “You’re the one talking about joining the three packs together. I don’t know how you deal with things in your pack, but I make sure my pack knows everything. I always include their input when making decisions.”
“So if they reject me, you’ll reject me?” Well crap... I didn’t mean that. Both Lea and I wanted to be mates with him.
“No. If they reject you as their alpha, though I doubt they will, then you won’t be the alpha of Rogue Pack. You’ll still be my mate either way though.” I mumbled the last sentence.
“Come on, let’s go.” He said excitedly. I think he heard what I’d mumbled because for the next three and a half weeks, he was smiling nonstop.
I led him to the center of town, now clear of all bodies and mostly clean of blood. I rang the large bell, though I didn’t really have to. Everyone was already there.
“Hello everyone.” I pasted a smile on my face. “Today was gruesome, but we won. I’m sorry to have you all fight for me. I didn’t want this for you. If I could, I would go back and prevent this from happening. Even if I had to risk my life for it.” Zander stepped forward and wrapped his arms around me.
This didn’t settle well with the pack warriors standing to my left and right. I motioned that all was alright. These two were particularly upset when I’d told them they’d be staying here when I went to the Continental Pack Meet.
“Luna, everyone who fought today didn’t just fight because they had to. They fought to protect what you’ve given them. They wanted to fight. Both for you and for what you stand for.” It was Charles. He was an old man now, but he was one of the first to support me almost ten years ago.
Trying not to cry, I spoke up again. “Thank you. I want to introduce everyone to Alpha Zander Ampherite of Blue Moon pack. He’s my mate.”
Everybody cheered. Again Charles spoke. He usually spoke for the pack. "I saw him fighting earlier. He protected one of the shelters that the younger pups were in. I could see the injuries he had already had, they looked like they'd already been healing for a little while but he protected us anyhow. He's a good alpha and I'd be glad to have him as our alpha." The packed agreed. "Long as he treats our Luna right of course." The pack laughed at that.
The next three and a half weeks flew by in a flurry of ceremonies and, luckily, relative silence from Red Rose.