The day went by in a blur, though the details were still fresh in my mind. I would help to train my sister for a short period, until my father felt she was ready to take my place, and then we would make the switch. I would go to the High Wall and begin my own training to take over my sister's place.
My father definitely laughed more times than I could count at the whole idea and honestly, I couldn't help but understand where he was coming from.
I was a Champion. Rough around the edges, scrappy, unpolished, and I had no idea how to begin to be elegant or royal.
My sister, who I had yet to meet, was a Princess. I could imagine that she was everything I was not: feminine, well mannered, educated in politics, and definitely not equipped to fight for herself left alone anyone else.
The night before, I hadn't been able to sleep. It would be the last night that Cage was all mine. While my mom said that I should give him some distance, for the good of both of us, I couldn't help but want to hold him tighter.
He was a perfect gentleman, of course, brushing back my hair and whispering about how he would always be there for me. He even helped me to laugh a few times at how unreasonable the whole situation was.
I focused my breathing as I stared Cage down, watching as he played through his options to take me down. He would be the one that would take over Alanar's training after I left and he had years of training to make up for if she was to take my place in the Pack.
After all, she would be his mate.
The thought had been making me feel sick since I had agreed to this switch.
"Come on, Cage, I don't have all day." I growled under my breath, pushing him to make a move. Something was off about him.
Did he feel sick about this too?
I lunged myself forward, elbow extended to hit him between the ribs, but I stopped short as I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Someone was here.
"Ray..." I heard Cage whisper, disbelief dripping from his tone. I followed his gaze and felt the world crash away below me.
My sister was here.
She was everything I thought she would be, but more. Sure, she shared my face, but something about her screamed poise. Her clothes were definitely not made for sparring and her face had no trace of stress or age.
Her blonde hair and pale skin stood out against the darkness of the edge of the forest and the men that followed her seemed lost in her confidence and beauty. The smell of vanilla and sandalwood filled my nose as she walked closer to us, taking in the scene.
I had never seen anyone look at me the way everyone was looking at her. Even Cage seemed taken aback by how elegant she looked.
I coughed and he looked away immediately, like a puppy who had been caught staring at a bone.
"You're late. And you're not dressed to train." I snapped at her, showing the disappointment to show openly on my face. "You can't expect us to train you seriously if you don't even show up prepared."
"I'm wearing the outfit they set for me to wear. I was told comfortable, easy to move in, and lightweight." She said simply, though I could tell from her tone that she was definitely not used to people talking to her the way I did.
My eyes dialed in on the carriage who continued on toward my childhood home. They were probably delivering my sister's things. I hadn't even thought about where we would both sleep. Obviously none of this has been very well thought out - including Alanor's outfit.
"Lightweight does not mean a sports bra and shorts that leave nothing to the imagination, Alanor. If you were to kick right now, tell me you wouldn't expose yourself." I said matter-of-factly. To her, this was a fashion statement, a way to woo the new man she was betrothed to.
I looked at Cage. Apparently it was working. I rolled my eyes and put my hands on my hips.
"Fine. Cage, position." I snapped the air, stepping away from my twin and ignoring the pang of jealousy of her that racked through my brain. Cage followed my direction, going into a protected stance to be defensive against his opponent. "Okay, Alanor, mirror his stance and try to lunge at him." I directed shortly, moving from behind her to get a better look at her angle.
She was positioned all wrong as soon as she had moved. Her elbows were loose and floppy, her knees locked into place.
"Stop, stop." I said loudly, shaking my head as I moved to stand behind my sister. "You need to tighten in your elbows. Protect your body." I said sternly, pushing her elbows closer to her body and pushing her knees out with my own to unlock them. "This is how you stand." I corrected.
Instantly, Alanor seemed irritated with the instructions. "This isn't going to work, you're being too rough!" She barked, jabbing her elbows back toward me.
"Well, how did you think I would be, Your Highness? Did you think this would be like evening tea? You're a warrior making up for twenty years of training in just a few months!" I snapped back, venom in my words. "You're not even taking this seriously!"
"Yes, I am!" She screamed, flipping to glare at me. The fire that burned in her eyes amazed me. "You're just being a bitch!"
I sighed, raking my fingers across my scalp with frustration. I instantly missed being an only child.
"This isn't working." Cage said gently, breaking formation to cross over to me. He placed a hand on my shoulder firmly and I could feel the warmth spreading through my body.
He was right. As usual.
"Okay. Let's try a different approach." I said softly to him, reaching up to cover my hand with his. "I'm going to take her for a run." I decided, looking into his eyes. I was surprised to see a smile crawl over his lips at the idea.
I turned to my sister, taking in her frustration and anxiety. She was afraid, out of her element.
I was being a bitch.
"Do you know how to shift?" I asked Alanor slowly, trying to get a feel for her on a different level. She looked as vulnerable as my ego felt.
"Of course I know how to shift. I've been shifting since I was three." She retorted in a snobby tone, as if it was the stupidest question she had ever heard.
"Good. Follow me."
Warmth enveloped my body as my joints cracked and changed, my skin rippling as I released my inner wolf. I trotted toward the woods silently, pausing near the entrance for a moment before turning to see if my sister was following.
A white wolf stood in her place, just as commanding as her flesh form. If I weren't in my lupine form, I probably would have gasped at how similar we looked, even as wolves. While her hair shone in the light, a pure white unlike my black coat, the resemblance was uncanny.
I took off into the woods, dodging trees and branches that had fallen with the last storm, occasionally looking behind me to see where Alanor had gone. I was pleasantly surprised that she was keeping up with me for the most part. She was clumsier, but I had expected that as I knew these woods like the back of my hand and she had never ran them.
I guided her through thick trees, across sharp rocks, and even through the stream that ran through the dense forest. I wanted our scent to cover this forest. This would be how she tracked her way home. This would be her first test.
As we came upon the clearing, I shifted back to my flesh form and leaned against a tree to catch my breath. Alanor on the other hand didn't seem nearly as winded as I was.
Maybe I was getting out of shape.
"Good. That was good." I said pleasantly, smiling in her direction as we both shifted.
She didn't return my smile.
I couldn't help but even be jealous of how poised and elegant she looked naked, staring back at me. I didn't know what it was about her, but she made my blood boil.
"You know, you could at least try to act like you care!" I said to her roughly, frowning at her attitude. Her shoulders were rigid and her face was stone cold.
"When I found out I had a sister, I had a million ideas how our meeting would go." She said softly, almost sadly. "I thought we would be friends... that maybe, just maybe, you would want to know me." She added, her cold look slowly thawing to show only sadness.
I frowned. I had never thought of this.
"I get here and am so excited to meet my sister, my twin sister, and you jump right into action! Did you ever stop to think that I was excited to meet you? That I had dreamed of having someone in my life that I could connect with and maybe, I don't know, be sisterly with?" She ranted, tears filling her eyes. "I know I'm not everything you wished for and this whole situation really is horrible, but I thought maybe just maybe you would actually treat me like I mattered to you!" She said louder, her tone bordering on hysteria. "I don't want to braid your hair and talk about our crushes, but I figured you would at least feel as relieved as I thought I would be to know we aren't alone in this!"
I never even thought of any of this. I opened my mouth to respond, but she held up her finger to silence me.
"Forget it. You know, if you had asked me, I would have been happy to tell you what my strengths were. I have been training for weeks now trying to impress you. Jonas wanted to be sure I had a head start so instead of studying and attending important meetings and dinners, I was in the field, training." She said softly, closing her eyes and shaking her head in clear disappointment. "I can track. I can dodge. I can even hunt, a little. I just need help with hand-to-hand. I even tried to learn the culture, but Jonas said it would be easier to learn from you because it was your life!"
I was at a complete loss for words. This was why she was able to keep up with me in the forest.
She had been practicing to impress me?
I had spent this whole time grilling her and being negative and making her feel like crap and I hadn't even taken the time to introduce myself to my own sister.
What kind of animal was I?
"Forget it. I'll follow the trail back. Don't follow me." She shook her head. "Oh, and my name is Allie. I hate being called Alanor as much as you hate to be called Alaray, Ray." She said aggressively, shooting me a look of anger before shifting and taking off into the thick forest.
I was doing great for my first day.
I swallowed the lump in my throat. If she could do all the things she said she could do, then I would be leaving for the High Wall much sooner than I had thought.