The Culling

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Chapter 9

Lincoln stood in the king’s office, a little nervous. For the past three months, rumors about First Death had spread fast. But he had managed to keep his sister from hearing them. He knew that if she had heard how far their old pack had fallen, it would hurt her badly.

“How have you been settling in Lincoln?” The king asked as he looked up from a few papers before him. “Well sir. Things here are different from what I’m used to, but I’m getting the hang of things.”

“That’s good. The reason I called you in to see me, is because I’ve been doing surveillance on First Death. We have reason to believe that your former alpha is being held in the cells, but we can’t confirm this.” King Stone stood up and walked over to Lincoln. “Look through these pictures and tell me who you know. They are some of the few who have managed to escape and find refuge in nearby packs. Some, however, didn’t make it.”

Lincoln took the pictures and slowly began to look through them. Most of them he knew. They were the pack elders who had often given him words of advice and encouragement. One by one, he handed the pictures back to the king until he was left holding just one. When he realized whose picture it was, Lincoln’s blood ran ice cold in his veins.

His mother’s face stared up at him, and his heart stopped. Instinct told him that she hadn’t made it. Quickly looking up, his eyes asked the question that he couldn’t bring himself to voice out loud. “This woman was one of those who died shortly after stumbling into a neighboring pack. The report that came with her information said that her body had been badly malnourished and beaten.”

The king noticed Lincoln flinched at that and anger flared in his eyes. He watched as the young man before him struggled to keep his wolf under control. “Did you know her?”

“She... She’s my mother.” The king’s heart dropped. “I’m sorry Lincoln. Would you like to inform your sister?” He asked but Lincoln shook his head. He knew that if his sister was to learn of their mother’s death, it wouldn’t be good for anyone. Sure, she had been their father’s princess, but Phoebe and their mother shared a special bond. When she learned of her death, it would devastate her.

“What do you plan to do with First Death?” Lincoln could barely hide the anger that was raging in him. “The reports that most of the survivors have passed on is that everyone still in the pack has become a rogue. There is no saving them it would seem. Last week, I received several reports that First Death has attacked several smaller packs around them, adding to their numbers.

“It’s my wish that I could knock them all out, killing the original rogues and return the pack wolves to their normal self. But that’s no longer possible. I have proof that everyone under the command of the rogue alpha is lost to our people. My only option left is to eradicate every wolf.” The pain at losing so many of their kind could plainly be heard in the king’s voice, but there was no other way. Lincoln could still remember how he felt while under the control of the rogue alpha. It wasn’t something that he would wish on his worst enemy.

“Sir, please don’t let my sister learn of any of this. That pack is one of the last things she had of our father, and it would tear her up greatly to learn that it has to be destroyed. I know that I’ll have to let her know about our mother soon, but even that will be a hard thing for her to hear.”

“I understand Lincoln. I’ll make sure that no one tells her. She’s a good guard, and while I’m sure that she wouldn’t let her personal business interfere with her job, I agree with you that we shouldn’t let her know.” Lincoln nodded as he looked back down at the picture of his mother. The ghost of a smile on her lips broke his heart. Lincoln said before he slipped the picture into his pocket and bowed before leaving the office.

Darcy entered his father office and sat in front of his desk. It had only been a few days since he had been knocked out by his guard, and he still hadn’t let the small grudge he was holding against her go. He knew that he was being childish, but his pride had been wounded. A mere woman had managed to lay him, the prince of all wolves, out with just one punch. In the back of his mind, he knew that if it had been a man who knocked him out, he wouldn’t be acting this way.

“What can I do for you son?” His father asked as he slid into his chair. “It’s been three months Dad, and I still can’t find her. What if she doesn’t want me?” The dejected look that fell on Darcy’s face shattered the king’s heart. He hated seeing his youngest son looking so sad. “I’ve only caught her scent twice. It’s like she’s hiding it on purpose.”

“She might not be doing it for the purpose that you are thinking of son.”

“What do you mean?” Darcy asked as his head snapped up to meet his father’s eyes. “She could be in a position that requires her to hide her scent for safety; for example, she might be a guard, a warrior, or one of the bulwarks. They keep their scent hidden in order to have an advantage in order to protect us better.”

Darcy knew that what his father said was the truth. But he felt as if his mate was hiding from him. And he wasn’t that far from the truth. Phoebe had been indeed hiding from her mate. But neither knew that Fate was about to intervene and bring them together sooner than either had planned.

After an hour of speaking to his father, Darcy finally left the office. Just as he opened the door, his father called his name softly. Looking over his shoulder at the older version of his-self, he waited. “Don’t give up son. You’ll find her if you don’t give up hope. The Moon Goddess destined for the both of you to belong together and you’ll find your mate.”

With a nod of his head, Darcy stepped into the hall, shutting the door behind him. A slight sound of cloth brushing against the hard wood wall was the only thing that told him his guard was behind him. With thought and doubts swirling in his mind, Darcy slowly made his way up to his room.

I waited until Major Green relieved me for the evening before slowly making my way down to the king’s study. All day I had been arguing with my wolf on whether I should tell the King today or not, but when I heard the pain in my mate’s voice when he spoke to his father, I knew that I couldn’t put it off any longer. I knew that I would miss being a guard.

Knocking twice on the office door, I waited. It didn’t take long before the king opened the door. He looked surprised to see me, but nonetheless, he invited me to enter his office. “What can I help you with Phoebe?”

“I have something to tell you, Sire.” I quickly sat in a chair and stared down at my hands. For the first time in my lifeI was nervous. “What’s wrong Phoebe?” He asked me and I sighed, my shoulders drooping forwards. The king sat down quickly and just watched me, waiting for me to speak.

“Not once in my life have I thought about my mate. My wolf and I were content in training to become a Royal Guard. Giving up a dream that has been everything to me since I was a child is very hard for me to do. But I will not put my wants before those of my people.” Looking up and meeting his gaze, I feel my heart start to break.

“I found my mate a few days ago during the attack...”

“Is it one of the rogues that attacked?” The king’s voice was kind, but I could hear something else in it but didn’t know what it was. I quickly shook my head no. “He’s not a rogue, Sire. My mate’s...” Just as I was about to tell him, the door was thrown open. Both the King and I spun around to find Captain Taggart breathing hard, leaning against the door facing.

“Sire, it’s the Prince. He’s been taken. Major Green’s in the infirmary, he’s been wounded gravely.” We leapt to our feet and rushed after the Captain as he led us to the hospital wing. I stood in the door, out of the way, as the King swiftly knelt beside Green’s bed. The Major tried to speak, but we could see that he didn’t have the strength.

“Rogues attacked... They have the Prince... Something about taking over... Fought as hard as I could... Failed you...” Major Green managed to finally say. The king gently laid his hand on the major’s shoulder. “You haven’t failed me, Donald. You’ve done your best, and that’s all I have asked of you.” The king looked over at the Captain, and I knew that they were linking each other.

My walls were weak because my focus was on my friend. My wolf surged forward and took control of my body. We ran from the hospital and entered the woods. The second that the trees surrounded us, she made us shift. My silver-black wolf rocketed through the woods, its mind on one thing; our mate.

His scent was still fresh and it was mingled with the stench of several rogues. My wolf growled as we raced faster. We would save him if it was the last thing we did. Phoebe, where are you?Lincoln’s voice drifted through my head, but my wolf didn’t respond. She was focused on Darcy and nothing would stop her until she found him.

My wolf ran for hours, still on the scent trail. She had lost it a time or two, but she always managed to find it again. About two hundred miles back, she had left the king’s land. The things I found myself willing to do for him, or really, for my kind.

Just as the moon began to set, my wolf slowed down to a slow walk. Almost five hundred feet before stood a cabin surrounded by trees, we were in no man’s land and that just meant that rogues could go where they pleased and the pack wolves couldn’t do anything about it until they crossed the pack borders. We slowly crept forward, our scent long hidden. The only way the rogues would know that I had found them would be if they spotted me.

Getting closer to the cabin but remaining hidden was easy. The rogues didn’t have any lookouts posted and I had made sure of that by doing a sweep several times at different distances from the cabin. The door had been left open and I could hear them. So far, I only smelled five rogues and Darcy inside the cabin. “You will help us take the throne from your father in exchange for your life.”

One of the rogues demanded and Darcy just laughed. My heart broke when I heard the sound of flesh burning. They must have put something silver on him. “Never!” Darcy roared out in pain. I could feel the hurt, anger, and pain that was running through him but faintly. Our bond wasn’t that grounded yet because we hadn’t recognized each other as mates.

Needing a distraction to get the rogues out of the cabin, I manage to take control back and shift. My scent was still hidden. Letting out a blood-curdling scream, I watch the rogues. “The king’s coming!” I yell. Darcy’s face instantly froze as hope settled over his body. The rogues panicked, and three ran outside, shifting as they did.

Instantly, I shifted back and started after them. Three wouldn’t be that hard to put down. The first two I snuck up on and just snapped their necks. The third, however, was harder to get to because he heard me coming after him when I broke the second rogue’s neck. He was headed back to the cabin to warn the others when I lunged forward and grabbed his neck.

A howl broke free from his mouth and I bit down harder. Instantly, the salty taste of blood filled my mouth, causing me to rip my head back. The rogue lay at my feet dying, but I paid him no attention. Rushing back towards the cabin, I see that the last two rogues were waiting for anyone to come through the door. Death was almost certain, but I had to free D... Prince Stone.

Shifting back to where they could hear my easily, I taunted them. “Your wolves are pathetic if a mere girl could easily take down three of them without getting hurt.” A loud growl came from inside and I knew that I was getting under their skin. “They pleaded for their lives like the cowards they were, and their necks broke so easy.”

The growls grew louder from the cabin and I could tell that they were angry. “You know, those three were cowards but they were braver than the both of you. They came out here to face me instead of hiding. I can’t promise that your deaths will be as quick and painless as theirs were.”

I knew I had them when I heard them charging for the door. One rushed out through the door while the second leapt through the window. Both of their wolves were huge, but I didn’t let that daunt me. I had to protect my charge at any and all costs. Shifting back to my wolf, I let her take over. I watched through her eyes as she charged the smaller of the two huge beasts.

We could hear Darcy struggling to get free and she suddenly remembered the feel of burning skin against silver. Anger flared through her as she began to see red. The second wolf attacked us and my wolf snapped. Everything turned red and I saw no more.

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