The Wolf Queen
"It has never been done! How do you expect to do this? Did you even think of what the consequences of this would be?" My father rumbled, chastising me. Even if I were the Queen, my father would never hold his tongue when it came to disciplining a member of his pack - especially his daughter. He may not have the effect of controlling me with his Alpha demands now that I had claimed my title as Champion and Queen, but as a father, his booming voice rocked me.
I had never been particularly close to my father. Unless I was fighting or following his traditions, he would not be proud. I had long since gotten over the urge to make him proud of me. Jonas, on the other hand, was my closest confidant in a professional manner and had always treated me with respect despite his disagreement with me at times. Secretly, I saw him more of a father figure in the past few months than my own. Now, he looked like I had grown a third eye.
"So what if it has never been done? We can change things!" I bellowed back, flames licking my fingertips. I shook my hands to distinguish the fire and shook my head as my father raised his brows.
"It is bad enough that you have forced us to abandon our homes and take up security detail inside the Walls. This is not how things are done!"
"I know! Tradition! Blah blah."
"It's not tradition I am concerned with, Alaray." Jonas said softly, a small amount of softness reappearing on his brow. "I'm concerned that you will be overloaded with too much responsibility. You haven't learned our customs. There is nearly a millennia of information for you to digest. And it is not safe for you to run into battle every time we are in danger. The attack from the Darklings could just be the beginning. There is so much history you need to learn before you take on this responsibility."
I nodded slowly. Before, my duties as a Guardian were simple: be strong, defend the wall, raise the next generation of pups and teach them our traditions. As Queen, I was expected to attend meetings, discuss treaties and plans for future harvests and building plans, royal parties, and always under the eye of everyone within the Wall. If I slipped up just once, I could end up dead like the previous Queen, Meera. I shivered at the thought.
"And what about Cage? You cannot be an unmated Champion. It is unheard of." My father added, loading another responsibility onto my shoulders. "How do you think it will look with a Guardian Mate? Do you think the Council will support that union?"
"The talk of marriage and the Council can wait, Alaray. You need to be prepared. You don't have enough time to train as it is. It's very unsafe out there right now."
"I'm not worried about my daughter's safety. She can defend herself even at her worst physical point."
I had never heard my father sound so proud my fighting abilities. I shifted uncomfortably as the two men stared at one another. You could cut the tension between them with a knife.
"Well, then we need to discuss a plan. I have a short time to master everything." I sighed, running my fingers through the coiled curls on my head.
"I think you should decide about your romantic future but ultimately, the Council and your father will have to agree if you decide you want to be Mated with Cage."
"Whatever I need to do."
Training would begin at sun rise before breakfast, I would have time to attend the Council meetings and have time to learn etiquette from Laurel until lunch, and the afternoons would be filled will studies with a mentor of Jonas' choosing. He vowed to me that he would find someone who knew all of elven history and would be able to teach it to me in a way I could understand. Late evenings would be for elemental training unless I had a social event to attend. Laurel would be in charge of my schedule and, after a lot of convincing, I was permitted one hour a day to spend with anyone of my choosing. I had suggested it would give me time to decide about my future with Cage and it seemed to win my father over quickly. Jonas was more concerned with me getting burnt out too quickly.
Less than a day after our stand off, my father had requested my presence. Laurel had made sure to explain that my mother missed me and my heart broke as I realized it had been weeks since I had visited her just to catch up. My schedule was so hectic now that we were in our new plan. I never imagined I would have to block out special time just to see my mom. I had invited Laurel along with me so she could see the new Guardian quarters and see the woman who raised me in a gentle capacity, but she quickly refused. From what I understood, my mom and Laurel had grown quite a bond since the passing of Keya, Laurel's own mother and the Head of Spiris, and the Guardians moving inside of the Walls. I had assumed she would dress me and tell me the gap of time I would have to visit, but she simply wished me farewell with a secretive smile and took off on her merry way.
It had been so long since I had been around my parents for any reason other than an official capacity. I had met with my mother a couple of times since Allie went dark to have tea and try and settle her nerves. I knew it was hard for both of them to give up their homes to move within the High Walls. While they still used the training field and the cabins for patrols, the new construction of the pack house inside the wall was nearly complete.
My mother had clearly made it her duty to make everyone feel at home now that everyone was living in singular structure rather than multiple small houses. Each pack now lived in large wooden structures, under one roof. Before, each pack member and their families had their own small cabins, but now with the limited space, each family had their own section in one large house. I knew eventually they would want to go back to their homes, but Nym seemed to be enjoying the closeness of her pack mates now that I was no longer home and my father was away more often for security detail and a temporary seat on the Council. I hoped that eventually his seat would be a little more permanent, but it would all depend on if Cage took over as the next Alpha.
My fingers picked at the flowered table cloth as my eyes darted over the kitchen. Nym had clearly taken it upon herself to be the center of positivity with all of the inspiring quotes littered around the kitchen. I smiled as she plopped a sugar cube into my cup of tea.
"I've missed you, Momma." I said softly, reaching my hand out to hold hers.
Her hair had gotten a touch lighter in the past couple of months. I could tell she worried about me, but the smile on her face was sincere as she returned my squeeze.
"Oh darling, you look so wonderful. I wish I could get used to wearing all those pretty clothes! Royalty becomes you, baby." Her eyes sparkled against the dark contrast of her skin. "You are so beautiful in all those fancy things."
"They're just clothes, Momma. I'm still your Ray."
I felt tears prickle behind my eyes at the way her eyes searched mine - as if she were trying to find the little girl she raised. Or maybe she was looking for darkness inside of me too.
"Has there been any word of Allie?" I asked, remembering that the last sighting of Allie had been just a few days earlier near the training fields. She had taken off quickly, but one of the Betas had suggested that she didn't look nearly as threatening as they had expected. Jonas had told me not to hold on to hope, but for once I wanted to be optimistic.
"Your mother insisted on being a part of the discussion, but we have no reason to discuss your sister right now." My father grumbled next to us, not bothering to touch his own cup of tea.
"Oh, really, Garrick. Our daughter is Queen now. Is it really necessary to fight like heathens every time there is business to discuss?" The way they bickered was so familiar yet so full of love. I could feel the connection they had, even though from any outsider, they would believe they genuinely detested one another. While my father was all muscle and aggression, my mother truly was in charge in their relationship. I had never seen a man bow down to a woman so happily as my father did for Nym. "She's your daughter too, you know." She reminded softly as his shoulders tensed.
"She made the decision she thought was right. I can't be angry with her for that. But it was still the wrong decision."
"So you would rather Paeris be dead right now? Another casualty of a war that was caused by me?" I snorted, wiping my eyes as the prickling of tears intensified.
"Of course not. Jonas has been very good to us. I would never wish for anyone to lose a child."
I nodded slowly at his words, realizing that my father and Nym had actually lost two children back to back: me to my destiny and my sister to a life-altering choice.
"I'm concerned with your choice, Alaray. I'm concerned you are also making the wrong choice."
"I promise, I will stick to the training schedule, Dad." He snorted at me, but didn't try to fight my words. "It will be fine."
"I think we need to discuss the Hunt."
My mother sighed, clearly wishing we didn't have to talk business while we were all together, but knowing it would be pointless to try and stop us. She was ever the dutiful wife and mother while my father was the to-the-point business man and warrior. She may have him wrapped around her finger, but he still would always be who he was.
"You may have chosen to be both the Queen and a Champion, but you still have duties to this pack. We have traditions, Alaray."
"We already had this discussion with Jonas!"
"Not fully. He may still have hope for you and his son, but you need to be realistic. We have traditions and sacred rules."
"I'm not saying I don't want to be mated, Dad. Just not right away." I sighed, crossing my arms stubbornly. "Traditions can be changed."
"It's out of the question. There has never been an unmated Champion. You're nearly of age. How did you think this was going to work?"
"I thought maybe we could discuss the terms. You may be the Alpha right now, but I am going to be the Queen."
Anger crossed his eyes. "Are you trying to say our customs don't mean anything to you? That you are above our traditions because you chose to be Queen?"
"Things are different! There has never been anyone like me!"
His fist pounded the table, causing my mother to gasp with disapproval. "You are still my daughter!"
"Do you really think the Council will allow Cage to be my equal? Do you think for a second they will allow what you are suggesting?" I growled, my wolf fighting to the surface. "You live in a fake world! It will only end in chaos! Jonas knows how these things work!"
"Then maybe you should have thought of that before choosing both duties!"
I frowned, forcing my shoulders to relax as he lifted from the table, running his hands through his hair with frustration. My mother's hand wrapped gently around his, tethering him to her even though I know he wanted to disappear.
"It's temporary. Once I can figure out how to save Allie, we won't have any issue. Things will go back to normal."
"How do you expect to save her, Ray? We don't even know where she is. And even then, I don't know if it's possible for her to come back and be who she was before. I have never heard of anyone coming back from that kind of darkness."
I nodded, his words vocalizing what I had been worried about for days.
"No one else has shown the ability to manifest all seven elements. And Cage can't be Alpha without being Mated." I listed my dilemmas, shaking my head. "I don't have any other options. If you know of a better option, I am all ears."
"Focus on your studies. We can hold off on the Hunt for now, at least until we know if Allie can be saved. But for now, you and Cage will be together in an unofficial capacity." My father sat again, seeking to relax a little as he finally drank his tea. "The Pack needs to see you together to draw strength. We may be able to slightly alter the terms, but without a strong shifter to stand by Cage's side, I can't in good faith give up my title completely to either of you."
"Just buy me some time. As long as you can. If I can't save Allie and we have no other options, I will do my best to have the Council accept him."
My heart ached, knowing that the chances of helping Allie seemed entirely impossible and unless a shifter came of age who was strong enough to be a Champion in my place, there were no other options.
"We will do our best, honey." My mother's sweet voice comforted me in a way that made me feel like a child again.