The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 39

The last three nights have been spent laying awake in bed. I can’t sleep, I can barely breathe. Phoenix lays awake beside me, or paces around our room. We can't do anything to help right now. I wish I could help Mercer remove collars.

In three days he has removed seventy-two collars.

He hasn't slept. He has himself barricaded into the small shack where we met the Alphas.

He has to have higher outputs over the next four nights, we need more. There is an ominous cloud hanging over all of us. We don’t know what is coming, or when. Everyone looks exhausted, puffy, dark circles grow larger under our eyes by the day.

Alex and the Alphas have been overseeing the removals and teaching the newly freed wolves to control themselves.

Apparently, there have been a few incidents.

Arius has been suspiciously absent.

I haven’t left the house. I’m afraid to run into him. I’m afraid that I’ll do something wrong, I’ll give him the evidence he needs to confirm his suspicions. I second guess every action I’ve ever taken on castle grounds.

“Let’s go over the emergency plans one more time,” Phoenix begs. We’re sitting on the couch, he’s laying with his head on my lap.

“Fine,” I don’t argue that we’ve gone over this six times today. I know he’s on edge, this helps him relax.

I run my fingers through his soft hair as I repeat the plans.

“If something happens and you’re not around I need to find Celine immediately.”

“Mmhm...”

“If I see Arius and you aren’t with me I need to stay silent, don’t answer any of his questions. If I see an opportunity to get away from him, do it, immediately.”

“Good.”

“If something happens and I’m off of castle grounds, I go to the cabin... immediately.”

His lips twitch into a small smile. He knows how annoying this is.

“I won’t ask you to do it again. It calms my nerves to know that you will be prepared if anything were to happen unexpectedly.”

-------

Mercer bursts through the door, terror in his eyes.

“Somethings happening, they’re doing something!” He’s absolutely frantic.

“What’s happening?” Phoenix tries to stay calm.

“I don’t know but the scientists are doing something. I’ve been busy, distracted, I didn’t catch wind of the group that has been developing something for the King, for Arius. They’ve been working at night, doing something secretive. It was an accident that I even heard about it.”

“You have no idea what it could be?”

“None. The four scientists he has working on it are not friends of ours, they are definitely not on our side. They aren’t talking.”

“Shit.”

“I’m going to push for fifty tonight.”

“Fifty? Mercer, that’s insane.”

“Not if I’m already set up at sundown and I work until dawn. We need to streamline the process, have the next wolf in line laying down and prepped as I stitch up the one before. If I can get to those numbers I can finish the prison in four days. That will put us at about four hundred fifty free wolves.”

Phoenix hangs his head. Four hundred fifty sounds good but clearly they had hoped for more.

“That’s four fifty if I get the next eight days to work. Who knows if I will have that long.”

“How many did you want?” I have to ask.

“Our original goal was eight hundred.”

My chest deflates.

“What about Titus?” Phoenix asks desperately.

Mercer shakes his head and sighs, “I don’t know. I think he will be on our side but I haven’t flat out asked him if he’s a wolf sympathizer! If he’s not... ”

“Bring him here, him and Sloane.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to flat out ask him. If he’s on our side he can help, you can double your output. If he’s not on our side...”

“You’ll kill him?” I squeak.

“There are going to be casualties here, Ellie. When we take the throne I doubt my father or Arius will go alive. This is going to be... violent.”

“I’ll go get them” Mercer excuses himself.

-------

While Mercer is gone I gather myself. I need to be prepared for how this might go.

Dannon enters the room with a strange shiny fabric. It looks like a shimmering dinner napkin. She sets it on the chair next to Phoenix then, lights a candle and sets it on the table next to the door.

As she resumes her post next to the front door, it clicks open.

Sloane enters first followed by a bewildered looking stranger, assumed to be Titus. Mercer enters behind him with a somber look on his tired face.

As soon as Titus sees us he drops his head into a bow.

“Your Majesties!” His voice trembles noticeably.

“Titus,” Phoenix steps forward, placing his hands on his shoulders, “I’m going to cut right to the chase because we don’t have time to drag our feet. We’re wolf sympathizers. We are going to overthrow the King and set the wolves free. How do you feel about that?”

Titus chokes, he looks around the room, I’m guessing he’s trying to figure out if Phoenix is kidding.

“It’s true,” Mercer steps forward, toward him, “I found out a way to remove the collars without activating the silver-pak. I need help removing them. We’re running out of time and I can’t do it fast enough alone.”

Titus blinks for a moment.

“A-are you trying to trap me? This feels like a trap. I agree and then you kill me for treason and sympathizing.”

“This is no trap. I assure you.” Phoenix says softly.

After a few moments of silence he nods his, “what do I have to do?”

There is a collective sigh of relief.

“Come with me to my lab so I can show you the procedure.”

As they leave Phoenix mouths “follow them” to Dannon, who grabs the shimmering napkin and rushes after them.

I give him a questioning glance.

“Just a precaution. We need to be sure he doesn’t try to run and turn us in as soon as they leave here.”

“What’s with the shimmery thing?”

“Celine invented it. She calls it fire cloth. Touch it with fire and it ignites instantly into a fireball. A vampire’s worst nightmare.” He laughs.


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