12- Edmon Huntington
The Ralacks were here and they had been here a while. This pack obviously had run into them several times, but they did not know the extent of the danger they faced. The Ralacks were the number one enemy of the crown and had been for some time. Whatever was going on with the Ever Green pack would have to wait. Helping my nephew would have wait. The first priority was to find the Ralacks home base and figure out what they were doing here.
I felt bad leaving the injured warriors to limp back on their own but knew they would manage. Before I could completely turn my back to run off, I saw Dalton freeze in place his eyes glazing over. He was talking to someone through their pack link and by the expression on his face it didn’t look good. Soon his other pack members began to wince and whine. What was going on? Was there another attack?
Is everything alright? Dalton frantically shook his head at me before running off headed towards the direction of the packhouse. Worried I ran after him. Whatever was happening had him running scared and despite his injuries he pushed himself enough to pull away out of my sight.
When the tree cleared, signaling we were back, I paused to look to see where we were being attacked and found nothing but quiet. Why were we rushing back in such a hurry then? I saw Dalton speaking to another warrior, Russel I believe, before rushing inside. Deciding to follow, I found my clothes where I had stripped them earlier and changed before entering the house.
I followed the boy’s scent to a set of stairs that lead down to a basement. As I descended the stairs, I could feel the air get cooler. At the bottom was a doorway that opened up to a small room that probably served as a cellar at some point and had been converted into a finished space. Most of the space was covered in a large pile that consisted of blankets and pillows constructed similarly to a female’s den.
In the middle of the pile sat Dalton with his back to me. He was holding something in his arms. When he could smell that I had enter he whipped to face me his eyes were desperate.
“What are you doing here?!?” he yelled. “Get out. You shouldn’t be here.” When he turned, I was able to see Artemis laying in his arms. Her face was flushed and there was a sheen of sweat on her.
“What is happening to her?” My voice was low but strained.
“It’s nothing you need to worry about.” Lie. He mumbled before turning away. I was not going to be ignored this time. I stopped through the pile grabbing the boy’s arms and pulling him to face me. He snarled at my intrusion but quickly stopped once he met my gaze which I am sure was murderous at this point.
“Now listen here pup.” I growled allowing my wolf to pull forward. “You and your father have done nothing but lie to me this entire time, especially with anything that has to do with her. Now she is sick and possibly dying and if I am to have any chance of helping her you need to start being honest with me or, by the Goddess, I will rip those answers from you by any means possible. Do. You. Understand?”
The boy just stared at me his eyes in desperation. I saw the conflict hidden behind them. He wanted to help Artemis but did not want to reveal anything about her. He was struggling with his need to keep her identity and his devotion to protect her. We were interrupted before he could make a decision.
“Lord Edmon…” I turned towards the doorway to see Alpha Langston standing at the bottom of the stairs. His face was solemn as he looked at the two of us. “Forgive my son. As you can see, his mind is not in a logical place. If you will follow me though I will give you the answers you seek.” Truth. Finally, we were getting somewhere.
I released Dalton from my grasp and without saying a word followed the Alpha back up the stairs. He led me through the packhouse to his office where he gestured towards one of the chairs. I shook my head and folded my arms. I was not in the mood for pleasantries. I needed answers. Alpha Langston sat in the opposite chair with a sigh. He couldn’t even look me in the face. After a moment he finally spoke.
“What would you like to know?”
“Who’s the girl?” I spat out. “What are you doing to her?” Langston narrowed his eyes at me suddenly offended.
“She’s like a daughter to me.” Truth. I scowled at him. He said he would give me information. Now he needs to spill. “Alright I’ll tell you everything I know and maybe you can give me some answers instead.”
“I found Artemis when she could barely walk out in the woods. She was alone and cold. I couldn’t let a child fend for themselves, so I brought her here. We never were able to locate her parents. We’ve assumed they died somehow. My wife had been suffering from losing our own daughter as a baby. Having Artemis brought her back to life and made her whole again. We decided to raise her together in the pack and lived as part of the family. Dalton is like a brother to her”
She is much more than that to him. The Alpha continued.
“When she was five and Dalton was six, we were attacked suddenly by a group of rogues. I did my best to fight them off with the other warriors, but a small group made it into the packhouse and attacked my wife who was protecting our children. She did her best but still fell. Before they could finish her off Artemis shifted.”
“That’s not possible,” I interrupted. “Even the strongest wolves don’t shift that early.”
“You will find that rules don’t apply when it comes to Artemis. I believe it was her instinct to protect the woman she saw as a mother that caused her wolf to come forward. It didn’t go well. The rogues didn’t care she was a child and attacked her. She was able to hold them off long enough for us to save them but at a cost.”
“The scars and her limp,” I said filling in the blanks.
“Yes, but it was much more than that. We almost lost her. I still don’t know how she managed to survive. We didn’t realize how close it had come to until in later years. When all the other cubs and pups were shifting Artemis never did. She couldn’t do it again.”
“Are you sure she shifted in the first place?” I asked. Usually once a wolf made it through their initial shift, they could control it at will with some practice.
“I’m sure. I saw her myself. I think shifting so young followed by the injuries she sustained damaged her wolf. She doesn’t even have the pack bond.”
“What do you mean she doesn’t have the bond. I have seen how your pack interacts with her. She is a central key to the pack. They love her.”
“I’m telling you the bond isn’t there,” the alpha repeated. “It was there when she was young, but I felt it break when the rogues were attacking. I thought I had lost her because of it.”
“So why not form it again? You are the alpha you can let her join the pack thus restoring the bond.”
“I tried.” He tried?
“I’m not understanding. What prevented you?” At this point I did sit down to listen to Langston.
“After Artemis shifted, she started getting these fevers. It used to be once or twice a year but as she gets older, they have gotten worse. Whenever I tried to form the bond it would send her body into shock resulting in another fever and the bond wouldn’t take. Her wolf wouldn’t accept it. Eventually I stopped trying.” Pieces were coming into place. Her missing record in the pack registry, the injuries she sustained. It all matched everything Alpha Langston told me. There was still more I needed to know.
“What about her abilities?” I inquired.
“What abilities are you talking about?” Lie. I growled at his response.
“Alpha Langston you promised me honesty. Do not go back on your word now.” Alpha Langston looked down at his hand taking a deep breath.
“I don’t know how to explain it. She has the most intuitive person I have ever heard of. She knows the needs of those around her even before they do. She spends her days walking through the pack solving problems we never saw. I told you we have no one acting as a Luna since my wife died, but even before she passed Artemis was starting to fill that role. My pack would have collapsed without her long ago.”
“Is that how you knew about the rogues?” I asked. “Can she sense them as well.” The alpha nodded.
“Yes, as soon as they get near pack land, she can sense not only that they are near but can usually give a general location as to where they are. That is why when the rogues are near one warrior stays behind with Artemis.”
That made sense now. Artemis can update the warrior on the rogues’ location and the warrior can update the rest of the pack based on what Artemis can sense. With that strategy they would be almost unbeatable. But they were also facing against the Ralacks. They were not an ordinary group of wolves. How long before they had the numbers to overrun the pack. It was amazing they made it this long.
Langston interrupted my thoughts before I could think on it more.
“Please Lord Edmon. What is happening to my daughter?” I was now the one being sought to for answers. I didn’t have all of them but I there was one thing I was for sure of.
“I believe Artemis to be an ancient,” I simply stated. Alpha Langston did not look shocked which means he thought the same thing. Those who were considered to be among one of the ancients were thought to have descended from an ancient blood line that started with the Moon Goddess herself. Every member of the bloodline was given abilities and powers beyond than that of the natural werewolf.
Artemis was using her abilities to strengthen her pack, but it was at the cost of her own health. Without training and control an ancient’s abilities could harm themselves or others and that is exactly what was happening. Artemis was pouring her energy out to help others without realizing the impact it had on her. If she continued, it would lead to her death.
“You know I have to take her with me.” I softly said. I hoped the Alpha wouldn’t fight me on this. The law was on my side and stated that any ancient found outside to the capital would be brought in to be trained.
“Can I at least say goodbye?” the alpha asked sadly. His eyes glistened with unshed tears he was holding back. He cared for Artemis deeply.
“Of course. I would not deny you that. But first we must heal her wolf. Hopefully it will help her through whatever stress she is experiencing.”
“And how are we to do that?” he asked.
“We’ll first have to force her to shift. Her wolf needs to be brought forward. It’s part of the reason for the fevers.” Alpha Langston scoffed and shook his head.
“I’ve tried to force her wolf to shift many times. The beast would not heed me.”
“Well than it is good that I am an ancient as well for it means that my dominance and power is more than that of a pack Alpha. I should be able to call the beast forward.” After hearing my word Alpha Langston’s eye brighten.
“Do you think you can do that? Do you think you can help her?” I didn’t want to get his hopes up too high.
“I’m thinking that if I can’t, then we have already lost her.”