Beloved Runt: Part I

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3- Edmon Huntington

I stared at the door that had just closed. This place was more interesting by the minute. First I was successfully wrangled around in the forest by a bunch of wolves who were way to organized for a group of country folk, then I am led to a prepared room immediately upon my arrival even though I gave no notice, and now I have a pile of freshly washed clothes that were big enough for my size which is a challenge even in the capitol. Did they really not know I was coming? All these coincidences hinted otherwise.

And then there was that girl. She was strange, and not just her obvious physical appearance. The poor girl walked with a limp. It wasn’t that noticeable when she came in but very obvious when she rushed out. She was very small for a wolf. Most likely a runt. Her skin was porcelain pale and she had long curly black hair. I worried for her though. She tried to hide it, but I couldn’t help but notice the three distinctive scars on the right side of her face that ran from her brow to her cheek barely missing her eye. She tried to cover it with her hair but even then, I could see it. Claw marks.

She was a nervous little thing. I swore I could see her shaking where she stood. But as least she was honest. Everything that came out of her mouth was the truth. She really didn’t know I was in the guest room. Her surprise and demeanor were all true. Still I was worried for her. Runts were naturally shy but the scar and the limp along with her behavior suggested she been through some trauma. I would need to make sure they were treating her right. Abuse is not tolerated especially on those who were weaker.

Before I got caught up with any other mysteries, I need to check in with my nephew. He would be anxious about my arrival. I sat in the middle of the bed with my legs folded under me. I was still able to mind like the royal pack, but it would take a lot of concentration to make it over the long distance. I closed my eyes and focused on my breath reaching out to my nephew. It took a few moments before the connection was made.

Your Majesty…

..Lord Edmon. Uncle. I was starting to get worried. I didn’t hear from you in a while. Did you find the pack?

Yes, your majesty. I made it.

And what is your first impression of it?

I struggled to find the right words.

The pack is…strange.

Strange? Is there a problem?

Not sure yet your majesty. I’m still putting the pieces together. There have just been a lot of strange coincidences.

Like what?

When I entered their territory, I found the pack to be well organized.

That doesn’t seem like a problem.

They were able to herd me into a ravine trapping me from running. It was deliberate and calculated. They worked well together to get the results they wanted.

That is strange… Are they planning anything?

Still not sure. Also, when I arrived, they claim to have not known I was coming yet they had a room freshly cleaned and ready for me upon my arrival. I could smell the wood polish as I came in and the linens were fresh.

I could feel my nephew’s thoughts churning through the link as he mulled over the information. He knew something was off as I did.

Maybe you should leave uncle and return with a few warriors later on.

My nephew always erred on the side of caution. It’s what made him a good leader.

I’ll be fine. If I think there’s a threat, I’ll bolt but now that I’m here I want to know if they’re up to anything before they have a chance to hide it.

Be careful uncle. Your life isn’t work a few extra facts. Was there anything else of note?.

I started to speak about the girl but paused before I sent the information. I was concerned for her but it wasn’t enough to burden my nephew with it.

No that is it for now. I’ll meet with the Alpha and then report back.

Very well. Take care uncle. Thank you.

With that the connection was closed. I climbed off the bed and opened the door to enter the hallway only to be stopped by the Alpha’s son Dalton. Dalton’s face was serious but not as stern as it was in the forest.

“Forgive me sir,” he stated with a bow of his head. “I wanted to apologize for what happened upon your arrival” Lie. “I didn’t know you were a royal visitor.” Truth. “Had I, I would have given you a warmer welcome.” Lie. The boy was apologizing but he was not sincere in his words. More likely his father put him up to it. Still It was better not to seem suspicious.

“No worries lad. You were doing just doing your duty protecting the pack, and you were doing a fine job of it if I may say so.”

“Thank you, sir. If you would follow me to the great hall, there has been some stew prepared if you are hungry. My father said he would meet you there.”

I gestured for Dalton to lead the way and followed him down the hall and then down the stairs. I felt as my feet pounded down the hallway. My feet grew cold on the wood floor. I was able to find some decent clothes but shoes were another matter.

He led me to a great room with a large table probably used for pack gatherings of such. At one end stood Langston and his other son Edwin. They both stood upon my arrival.

“Lord Edmon. Welcome to the Ever Green pack. Please have a seat.” I sat down on Langston’s right. His son, Dalton, sat across from me and his other son Edwin sat to my left. At my setting was a bowl of stew steaming hot and a few slices of bread next to it. I took a small scoop of the stew testing it. What it lacked in presentation, it more than made up for in flavor. It was exquisite. Just the thing to warm me up. We all sat in silence as we ate. When we were almost finished the Alpha turned to address me.

“So, Lord Edmon. What do you wish to see while you are here?” Right to the point he was. No small talk just business. I liked that. I started to list the usual items.

“Well, I would like to look over your account books just to make sure everything is in order and of course your pack roster. Also, I wouldn’t mind seeing your warriors train.” The Alpha nodded his head as I spoke.

“Dalton can show you our records for everything. Other than pack registeries and such there isn’t much to see.” Truth. “Being so remote we have to be self-sufficient. We mostly grow and store our own food and the majority of our electricity is from solar panels.” All true.

This was impressive. He didn’t expect the pack to be so modern in its resources. Maybe there was nothing nefarious going on after all.

“I’m excited to see what you’ve done. So far it sounds very impressive.” The Alpha preened at my praise.

“We are a modest lot, but we try to do the best we can.” He eldest boy spoke up then.

“The warriors usually train in the morning before going to our duties. If you would like to watch us do our drills, I can show you our records afterwards.”

“That would be most agreeable,” I replied. So far everything seemed to be normal. A rough start maybe but other than that normal. “Oh, there is one more thing…” Alpha Langston turned to me with a smile. “I would like to see the woman folk too?” I heard a clang as Dalton slammed his spoon on the table staring at me shocked.

“Why would you need to see the women for?!?” he accused. I narrowed my eyes at him, and he stared back in return.

“Dalton!” his father called interrupting our stare off. Dalton turned to his father before lowering his head in submission. “You’ll have to forgive my son. He takes his duties protecting the pack very seriously. Especially when it comes to our more vulnerable members.” Truth. I studied my face hiding the suspicion I held. I wonder if his duties included protecting the limping girl I saw? The evidence suggested otherwise. “But I’m sorry to ask my lord…why do you wish to see the woman? You are not looking for a mate, are you?

“No.” I had a mate once. I did not need nor want another.

“I see… Well forgive me my lord but the women…they are shy and protective of their young. If they understood the reason for it, it would put their minds at ease.” This Alpha was smooth in his words. Someone of lesser knowledge might take his words for concern of his pack when really, he was digging for information.

“The crown wants to make sure a pack is sustainable on its own. A great deal of that is determined by the female population in a pack. Do you have a Luna for your pack?” As dark shadow passed over Langston at the mention of a Luna.

“My wife passed away a long time ago,’ he stated solemnly. Truth.

“My condolences,” I replied. Langston nodded his head. “And does your son have a mate?” I turned to look at Dalton.

“My mate was not found with in my pack.” Truth. “and my duties have prevented me from journeying in search of her.” Lie.

“Well then there lies the need to see the women. A Luna is needed for a strong pack. Without one, the pack weakens and over time can fall apart. Unless you have someone filling that role?…” I looked to them to make sure they did not. The two gave a knowing looked at each other having an unspoken conversation. After a moment Langston turned back to me.

“We do not.” …lie. I narrowed my eyes upon hearing the answer. It took all my self-control not to growl at the pair.

“Well without a Luna your pack will eventually deteriorate to the point where it collapses. This is not something the crown wishes to happen. If I can establish that you have a strong female population the crown would have no need to interfere in the population management of your pack.”

“Interfere how?” Dalton asks.

“In various ways. You and others could be forced to leave to find your mate. The crown could also assign new member to your pack or in extreme cases dissolve the pack all together... of course this won’t be necessary is the crown is assured you have a stable pack membership in both men and woman.”

“Thank you Lord Edmon,” Langston said calmly, “for your explanation. I shall see it done.”

“Thank you, Alpha Langston. I would appreciate it.”

“How long do you plan to stay with us, if I may be so bold to ask.”

“Are you trying to be rid of me Langston?” I said the last comment with a chuckle to hide the mirth it held.

“Oh, no my lord. I just know you are a busy man. I would hate to hold you from your other tasks. We are more than happy to host you for however long you plan to stay.” Lie. “I just thought if you were here for an extended time, I could send for some better fitting clothes although it seems you have been able to make do.” I would kill for a well fitted suit right now. I left my usual travel belongings behind in exchange for easy travel. I originally thought this was going to be a quick stop, maybe staying over-night and then returning to civilization. Circumstances didn’t lead to such a result.

“As soon as my listed tasks are complete, I will be on my way. As you say Alpha Langston, I am a busy man.”

“Then I will call upon the women to arrive tomorrow afternoon. You could see them after looking over our records.”

“That is most efficient of you,” I responded. But I knew what it really was. They were trying to get rid of me. For what reason I wasn’t quite sure, but I was going to try and find out before I was forced to leave for lack of a reason to stay.

“Well with that my sons and I will wish you a good night Lord Edmon. Please do let us know if you need anything.” He was dismissing me. Langston stood along with his sons. I stood with them.

“Thank you for your services Alpha Langston.” I walked out of the grand hallway back towards my guest room. Dinner has made me more suspicious than I was before. They were so willing to be helpful so that I could be on my merry way.

I was so frustrated with the conversation I had that I almost missed the shoebox that was left in front of my door. I looked at it suspiciously. The Alpha wouldn’t be stupid enough to try and kill me would he. On top of the box was a folded note. I grabbed in and opened it up to see a neat set of handwriting.

To our guest,

Our floors get really cold at night. I will try to find you a properly sized pair of shoes. In the meantime, please use the enclosed items. Let us know if you are in need of anything else.

-Artie

I smiled remembering our earlier encounter. That girl was strange but thoughtful. I opened the shoes box to see a large pair of handknitted socks. They weren’t quiet my size by I was sure the knit had enough stretch where I could squeeze my feet in. I went into the guest room carrying the box in. Once inside I sat on the bed and promptly put the socks on. My feet instantly began to warm inside them. I would have to look more into this Artie tomorrow.

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