I ran into the forest, leaves and branches whipping my face. I could hear Cage following me in his flesh form. I had wanted him to run with me. To chase me through the forest like when we were young, to help me run away from my thoughts and think of only the forest floor beneath my paws and smell of nature in my nose.
But he didn't.
I ran until I came to a gap in the trees, feeling the warmth spread through my body as I shifted and stumbled into the small clearing from my dreams. Cage and I had found this place when I was young - just shortly after the dreams had begun. I had wanted answers then and I wanted them even more now.
I stopped in the middle of the clearing, for once not minding my nakedness in front of Cage. Typically, I tried to cover myself from him or wait until I was in an area that had enough coverage to where he couldn't see my body. This time, I didn't care.
I was in my most vulnerable form and for once in my life, I didn't care how Cage saw me.
"Ray, what is going on?" He asked me slowly, but I could tell the urgency in his tone. I knew Cage almost as well as I knew myself.
Or so I thought. Something about this was wrong and I knew it. My thoughts raced back to all the quiet meetings between Cage and my father, all the secrets. His obsession over finding the answers from my dreams.
"You knew, didn't you?" I whispered, just loud enough for him to hear. It wasn't until now that I could hear my ragged breathing and feel the hot trails of tears falling down my cheeks.
"Knew what? What are you talking about? Is this about the Cou-"
"You knew, this whole time!" I screamed, throwing my head back with rage, my body trembling. "You knew I was one of them! You pretended like I was like you! Like I belonged here!" I screamed to the sky, my voice surprisingly raspy and harsh. "Even when the others picked on me for being paler than you and saying I was an ice queen, you covered it all up!"
"I.. Ray, your dad..." he started, as if he had something rehearsed to tell me. "Okay, I knew. Will you please look at me?"
There it was. He knew that my whole life was a lie and he didn't even bother to tell me that there was a reason why I was so different. My whole life, I had been the Pale wolf. The weirdo that couldn't communicate with anyone in my Pack but Cage. The rumored bastard child of the Alpha.
I turned to look at him, my heart feeling like it was crumbling into a million pieces. His face was etched with worry, his normally steady jaw was trembling as if I had just smacked him.
Wasn't it supposed to be me that felt so broken? I sunk to the forest floor, my legs buckling beneath me. I felt so weak, so lost.
"Tell me everything you know."
He sighed then. I hadn't realized until now that he had been holding his breath. Probably waiting to see how I would react.
"Your dad told me this would happen, that you would find out eventually. He told me that you wouldn't listen to him. He told me because he knew you would listen to me."
"Well, he was right. He's an asshole and has lied to me my whole life." I relied, a small maniacal laugh bubbling to the surface. I was cracking.
"Well, he didn't really have a choice... he had to protect you." Cage sighed, shifting off his sweatshirt and moving slowly to drape it over my shoulders.
Even though he was clearly terrified that I was going to bite his head off, he still managed to be a gentleman. I knew he cared for me and knew I hated to show weakness.
"Whatever. Details." I waved my hand in the air. "Just tell me. You know I can handle it."
"Well... your dad, he told me that he had made a mistake a long time ago. That he had to been called to the Council to meet with the Queen. That she had tricked him... and that he had betrayed your mom." He said slowly, gauging my reaction. When I slid closer to rest my head on his chest, he relaxed slightly. Even though I wanted to hate him from keeping secrets from me, I knew deep down that it wasn't his secret to tell. "He said when he had to return to the Community with a daughter and explained to your mom what had happened, it had almost ruined them. But your mom loved you from the moment she saw you."
I sighed at the idea of my mother loving a child that came from her marriage virtually crumbling. My father had betrayed her. He had betrayed the Pack. He had betrayed me.
"So, what, I'm some fucked up elven werewolf monster?" I asked softly, closing my eyes at the words. Cage slowly stroked my face, kissing the top of my head.
"You're not a monster, Ray. You are powerful. You're brilliant and strong and beautiful." He said, and for once, I could tell he wasn't picking on me. He meant the words.
You would think being born promised to be mates with someone random would make me hate him or want to stay away from him, but there was something about Cage that I had always loved.
Granted, I didn't feel that spark with him that I've heard happens when you fall in love with someone, but he was attractive and genuinely thought of me as his other half. I had never felt closer to anyone in my life.
Cage was my best friend, my partner, my mate. The connection I had with him was something I couldn't imagine with anyone else.
Is that how my dad felt about my mom? Did he find that spark with the Elf Queen that he couldn't find with his mate?
"Your dad didn't know about the prophecy until you had already been named the future leader of the next generation. He said there was a time when you had a nightmare and made your curtains catch on fire. He went to the Council looking for answers and that's when they told him." He looked at me pointedly, as if it didn't surprise him. "Do you remember the bird, Ray?" He asked softly.
I did remember the bird. There was a time when a bird had flown into my window when I was studying one day and I had nearly jumped out of my skin. When I went outside to check on it, I thought it was dead until I felt it's poor heart beating and it's shallow breath. The way the poor bird's neck was turned looked entirely unnatural.
Something inside of me had whispered to focus on how the bird was supposed to look, healthy and flying through the air.
"My dad hated that bird. When I brought it inside and it started flying around and chirping and shitting all over, I thought for sure he was going to tan my ass." I said with a small laugh, remembering the look on his face. "But what does that have to do with anything? The bird was in shock. I was just stupid enough to bring it inside."
"Ray, you healed that bird. I watched the whole thing. I was coming over to ask if you wanted to go for a run. Your hands lit up like some messed up flashlight."
I blinked, trying to remember that day. It was hazy, but I definitely didn't remember anything like what he was describing.
"So what, I have weird powers and a twin sister somewhere and I'm not even really a wolf and my mom isn't even my mom?" I asked, piecing it all together. "If that's true, then why did I come here? Why am I not training to be some snotty princess or something?" I asked, peeking up at his face.
He kissed my nose and shook his head.
What he was silently saying was what I already knew: that my sister was the one who was meant to be Queen. I was to be the Champion from the prophecy.
"Ray, I'm glad they brought you here. With me. You belong with me."
I loved this man. I instantly had a flash back to my first week of training, sparring side by side with Cage. We had always been a part of one another's life - he was to be my mate, after all - but we had never truly seen eye to eye as young pups. I was the girly pale wolf and Cage was always so strong and calculating. During our first spar, he was clumsy and uncomfortable fighting against me. Of course, lack of skill lead to my nose being broken. He was the one that cradled my head and kissed my cheeks and shushed me gently while I cried and bled all over the front of his favorite shirt.
My father had told me to get up, to hide my pain and finish the fight. He was a good, stern Alpha male. Cage showed me a side of himself that day that I would never forget. He was a scrawny little boy standing up to a grown man who was meant to be his coach and hero, but that day he told my father exactly where to shove it and my dad stood back and took the verbal assault with a proud smile.
Cage took care of me then and had taken care of me every day since then.
Today, when the world was crumbling all around me, he did exactly what he did the day of our first week of training: held me while I cried, kissed my cheeks, and let me show my vulnerable side to the one man who wouldn't tell me to 'hide my pain, finish the fight'.
"So what do I do, Cage? Why do they want me? They have my sister. She can be Queen. I'm a Champion." Why did the Council even show up in my kitchen today?
"They want to take you with them. Alanar only possesses five of the seven elements. They picked the wrong twin." He said, sighing softly. I knew what this meant.
"So what, I'm supposed to just go with them and leave you behind and go play dress up and become some royal elven princess? No thanks! And what's her name wouldn't last a minute outside of the High Walls! She's not a Champion, she's a princess! And besides, what if I don't possess all the elements?" I laughed at the idea of seeing my supposed twin sister wrestling in the mud or running with a Pack.
"You have a choice to make." He said softly before kissing my lips softly. It was almost as if he thought this were the last time he would kiss me.
It felt like he was saying goodbye.