Chapter 25: Ambules
“Do you often eat outside?” I ask Queen Elara as she nods to a guard to let us pass. She shakes her head, her earrings lightly bumping her jaw with the movement.
“I like to but I never seem to get the chance. There’s always some important guest that Slethius thinks he needs my presence to properly entertain. Being Queen has a lot of hidden jobs in the title.” I nod, trying to understand her plight. Here I was in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen surrounded by all of these royals. Me, a human.
“I’m sure you’re more helpful around here than you think,” I say, instantly realizing that she might think I’ve just called her useless. “I mean that-” She nods, her hand stopping me.
“I know what you mean, sweetheart. Thank you,” I nod stiffly and put my head down as we pass another guard, this one holding the door open for us to walk through. Queen Elara walks a little quicker than I do, pulling up her skirt as she nods to the guards to close the door.
As soon as the doors are closed she looks at me with a kind of excitement I never expected to see on the Queen of Slethia. “Will you hold my plate?” she asks, pushing it into my hand before I can protest. She bunches her skirt at her waist and kicks off her shoes, tucking them beside the steps in what appeared to be her usual routine. “Do you want to get rid of yours as well?” She took her plates back from me and nodded towards her shoes.
I did as she did, kicking my shoes off and tucking them around the step so no one would see them. She smiles and hooks her arm through mine, guiding me through the hedges to the beautiful garden. Roses lined the edges of the pathway and the Queen almost skipped over to them, taking a deep whiff of their naturey scent before taking a large bite from her plate.
“I love coming out here,” she tells me. “I just don’t usually have the time,” she explains. “I planted all of these roses by hand when I first came to Slethia to be with Slethius. I haven’t cared for them on my own in so long. But look at them,” she delicately lifted one of the roses on the tall bush to her face. “Without me, they are thriving.” I nod awkwardly, chewing my own bite from my plate.
“They are beautiful, your highness,” I tell her with a respectful nod. “You have amazing taste.”
She nodded and brushed off my compliment with the wave of her hand. “I like to think of these rose bushes as my sons. Beautiful flowers. But covered in thorns. They were born of a love between mates and they live in a world where they do not have a mate of their own. I wish I could do more for them, Anita. They deserve so much more.” She set her empty plate on the bench and took mine as well. As if on queue a man walked over and carefully took our plates from the bench with a bow to the Queen.
“Forgive me for my ignorance, but do you not have the power to give them a mate yourself?” She shrugs and nods.
“I can. But the practice of giving wolves a bond with someone random that they do not know is so... dated. I prefer that my sons choose for themselves. I want them to know the woman or man that they choose to spend the rest of their lives with.” She winks at me before she smiles and hooks our arms together, leading me even further away from the castle.
“It seems like mate bonds would make the people happy,” I tell her. “They want mates. They protest every time Alpha Kaine comes through the town. No one is happy in the Kaine District and I don’t think things are much better in other Districts. The humans want to be treated as equals and Lycan’s want a mate bond.” Queen Elara nods and looks down at the grass.
“If only it were that easy. I wish more than anything that I could wave my hand and change everything. It was never meant to be this way and Slethius and I regret it every day. Our kingdom was founded on the basis of equality when there was none for Lycan’s. Hunters used to murder them in droves. When the Lycan’s got sick of hiding in the shadows they rebelled and turned the tables. I don’t even think our people know why they do it, they’re just so set in their ways.” She bows her head in shame. I blink several times as I process this. Before I had always assumed that King Slethius and Queen Elara taught their sons their hatred for humans and their sons just passed it on to their people. It never occurred to me that they could be against it entirely.
“I’ve never seen anyone speak about the ways humans are treated. It isn’t just Lycan’s. All Supernaturals treat humans like scum. Everyone is against us in every way. Maybe if the royal family made a public statement of some sort their treatment would improve,” I suggest. “I’m not trying to overstep or anything but I really think it would help things a bit.” It was a problem that was too big for one Alpha to speak about. Alpha Kaine needed the support of his father and brothers. “One Alpha can’t change the minds of a whole country. Only a King could do that. If Alpha Kaine were to speak up about the issue no one would listen to him. If King Slethius were to speak about it, maybe some real change would occur,” I explain.
“Perhaps,” she tells me. “Our kingdom needs better leadership. Our sons are wonderful in their own ways but they need balance in their life. I love them but they can be selfish. They don’t think about how their actions impact other people.” I nod, recalling Alpha Kaine’s treatment of John and all the other humans in the cellar when I was imprisoned there.
“Maybe you just need to put your foot down when you try to help them govern. Is that not the point of having them all govern Districts?” I ask. Queen Elara smiles and shakes her head.
“I’m their mother, dear. They will never listen to me,” she laughs, leaning into me a bit.
“Then what...” Queen Elara sighs with a smile.
"Women, dear! They need women to help them govern their Districts. The point of making them Alpha’s was not to train them in how to follow our instructions. It’s to train them on how to rule. Without me, Slethius would spend every day in his room watching television until an ungodly hour and sleep till noon. He would demand the kitchen staff only feed him pizza and other junk foods and he would never leave the comfort of his bed again. Men need women to give them another insight into the world. Women need men to make some of the tough decisions. My sons are fine Alpha’s but they need a mate.” I nod, pretending to understand where she is coming from.
Alpha Kaine seemed pretty content on his own and from what I could understand, his brothers were just as content on their own as well. None of them seemed to need a mate but Queen Elara was set on trying to give them mates. “You could always randomly assign them one. Alpha Kaine is the oldest now so you could give him a mate first. He could set an example for his brothers.”
“My son wants a mate. He’s been searching for years. I’ll give him the mate bond when his chosen partner willingly accepts him. I won’t force anyone to be bonded for life to my son, no matter how much he wants it. That would be unfair to both parties.”
“What about the people? I did some reading that said you used to regularly hold hearings for couples to ask for the mate bond every week. Why don’t you see those couples anymore?” Queen Elara looks at me then back to the hedges.
“There’s no time. People line up outside the castle and wait for days to get the chance to see me. I see them when I can but I just don’t know if I have time to see everyone,” she tells me.
“So you don’t see anyone?” She shrugs but nods.
“Lycan’s do not need a bond to be together. The bond does help protect their relationship but it does not save it from anything. A bond only strengthens your love for someone. What they say about the miscarriages and the souring bonds doesn’t have anything to do with me. It’s the people who ruin their own relationships. I’m not to blame when that happens.” I scratch my neck and awkwardly look around. “You have a lot of ideas, Anita,” she tells me.
I gulp and lick my lips. “I don’t mean to overstep, Your Majesty. I apologize if I offended you in anyway...” Up until today, I didn’t even know that Alpha Kaine thought I had ideas worth sharing and now here I was offending his mother by implying she wasn’t doing her job properly.
“On the contrary. I enjoy your candor it’s refreshing.” I look at her and laugh a bit. “You seem surprised,” she tells me with a raised eyebrow and a half-smirk.
“I don’t think I would take it as well as you did if I was told that there was a list of things the people thought I was doing wrong as their Queen.” She shrugs and pulls my hand closer to hers, patting the top of my hand with a smile.
“You would. It’s so irritating to be told how wonderful you are to your face and never get the full story. You aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right. You have ideas and the reasoning behind them. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a young woman fight for her beliefs the way you do.” I go to deflect her compliments, knowing I don’t deserve them. Here I was, insulting the Queen and getting praised for it. What a weird day it has been.
“I don’t think your son sees it that way,” I joke instead. She shakes her head.
“He does, dear. He was the one who told us all the lengths you went through to protect that boy you were working with. He told us about how you were willing to put your neck on the line for him and take his punishments in his first interrogation. He told us about how brave you were when you offered to endure the test to prove your legitimacy as a human. Those are not simple tasks.” I blush and look down at my bare feet as we continue on our stroll.
I didn’t know that Alpha Kaine told his parents about me, let alone the fact that he spoke highly of me instead of complaining about my endless adventures in disobedience.
“That’s why I know you’ll make a great leader one day,” she says with a small smile. My eyes widen. A human in a government position? That was the real reason why Alpha Kaine brought me with him. I was finally going to be able to fight for the equal rights we deserved.
“What position will I be filling?” I ask. “If you have a job to give me I want to know what it is right away so I can start researching what policies I need to know to help the most.”
“I can’t imagine you would need to do much research. Kaine will fill you in on all of the things you need to know about running his District with him.” At this, I stop walking.
“I didn’t think that the Alpha could pair up with a human to co-run a District,” I tell her. “I didn’t think anyone other than the Alpha was allowed to run his assigned District.” She squints her eyes and her lips curl back in a bit of a cringe.
“The Alpha and Luna run the District together...” she trails off. “That’s why Kaine brought you here. He wanted us to get to know you so he could receive the mate bond and you could run the District with him.” My mouth falls open in shock and the Queen steps next to me. “You didn’t know?” she whispers gently, rubbing my shoulders.
My eyes turn to slits and my fists clench in anger. “No,” I tell her. “He neglected to inform me of that particular aspect of our visit.”