Ancient Wolves - Prophecy of the Ruins

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Chapter 28

Gunnar walked ahead of me, and I slowly trotted after him. Pain surged through me with every step, making it hard for me to keep up with his pace.

Eventually, he stopped and waited for me to catch up to him. “Are you in a lot of pain?”

“I stumbled over a branch earlier, crashing onto the forest floor, and then a big alpha wolf tackled me. I sure felt better before.”

I tried to sound amused about the situation. It already got bad enough as it is, and I didn’t want him to think I was holding a grudge.

“Yeah, sorry about that. I didn’t expect you to be so stubborn and fast. You surely gave your pack a headache when you were younger.”

I laughed. “My dad was the alpha, but he wasn’t strict. I got away with a lot of stuff. But he used to tell me I had an attitude problem. I think he secretly liked that a lot about me, though.”

“You must miss them."

I hummed in agreement. “It was my family. Sure, I missed them less over the years, and the earth will move on, so I had to, too. But it still won’t ever be the same. I never spoke about them in all these years, even avoided thinking about it. But my wolf brings out emotions I had buried a long time ago. She didn’t have the chance to mourn.”

“Are you getting along?”

“It’s as if nothing has changed.”

He chuckled. “I’m glad. I didn’t think it would work so well between you two. Knowing the temperament of wolves, I expected a lot more drama.”

“So, causing another explosion and running away from a huge pack and its alliance isn’t enough drama?”

He sighed. “Don’t worry about them. They brought this on themselves by provoking you. No one knew you weren’t able to shift, either. It was the reaction they wanted to happen. They wanted to make you shift and maybe hurt someone.”

It frustrated me I gave them what they wanted. I lost control. But when someone spouts such nonsense about my family, I couldn’t stop myself, and neither could my wolf.

“We aren’t traitors,” I whispered.

Gunnar stayed quiet, and all I heard was the silence of the forest around us, almost too quiet for my liking at this moment. Nervous energy made my limbs tingle as I waited for him to say something.

“I don’t know the entire story. All I know about rumors. But I never thought your pack was full of traitors.”

I tried to find doubt in his eyes, proving that he was dishonest, but he seemed to speak the truth. I didn’t know why I cared about his opinion anyway, but I did. It was important to me he didn’t think I would shoot him in the back any chance I got. I wanted him to trust me. But I wondered how much longer he could pick my side without hurting his reputation within his pack.

We walked the rest of the way in silence. It took quite a long time to get back to the BBQ. It didn’t feel as if we covered that much of a distance when he was chasing me. Eventually, music and laughter echoed through the forest, and I knew we would be back soon. It relieved me they went back to their BBQ as if nothing happened. We were about to enter the clearing when Gunnar stopped and shifted back.

“I want you to wait here. I will go first and see how they will react,” he said, and I nodded. He eyed me for a moment before sighing and walking the last way towards his people.

“He is back!” someone shouted. I ducked behind the bushes, hoping no one would spot me.

“Where did you leave the traitor? Dead in the forest?” Bertram asked in a mocking tone.

I swallowed the growl bubbling up in my throat. If Gunnar didn’t tell me to stay, I probably would have jumped up and attacked him. Even if that would have been stupid, considering my injuries. And I submitted to Gunnar. I had to listen to him while I was in his territory.

“Shut your mouth, Bertram. If it wasn’t for you and your nonsense, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Gunnar said.

I dropped my gaze back to Bertram. He had crossed his arms. “I only tried to watch out for my pack.”

Gunnar mirrored his stance. “By insulting a guest of mine?”

“I think we all have a right to be wary about someone like her. Who knows what she plans?”

Anger flared up in me again, my wolf pacing back in forth in my mind. She wanted to put him into place as much as I did, but we had no other choice than to wait here.

“What should she have planned as a lone wolf? Attacking a big pack like ours is a suicide mission.”

Bertram huffed. “It wouldn’t be the first time a lone wolf manipulated a pack to the point it broke apart.”

I shook my head. I couldn’t believe he expected the absolute worst of me. He didn’t know me, and I doubt he knew the slightest truth of what happened to my pack.

“Bertram, are you saying your alpha would bring his pack into danger?” Gunnar asked calmly, but his voice caused goosebumps to break out all over my skin.

But Bertram shrugged. “I’m only voicing my concerns. Now tell us. Did you get rid of her?”

Gunnar growled in response, and for the first time, Bertram’s smile faltered. “No, I didn’t. She is with me, but I’m trying to make sure she is safe before bringing her here again.”

Bertram’s eyes widened. “You will bring her back? After she threatened to attack us?”

“She didn’t plan on attacking anyone. She got pushed into a corner and reacted to the situation at hand. Can I trust you to behave, Bertram? Can I trust you to rely on your alpha?”

Even if he didn’t say it directly, the question wasn’t only pointed at Bertram. I let my gaze roam around to see the reaction of the other pack members. They seemed baffled, avoiding looking at Gunnar directly.

Bertram spread out his arms and gestured toward the people behind him. “I believe she is dangerous. I’m sure if we ask the others, they would agree with me!”

Not sure what he was seeing, but the others didn’t seem too inclined to agree with him. Some stepped away from him as if they didn’t want to be associated with what he was saying.

“Are you trying to question my decision? Are you trying to manipulate the other into following your opinion? Since when are you in a position to question me?” Gunnar’s voice dropped even lower.

My heart raced in my chest. Bertram was provoking Gunnar, and it wouldn’t take long until he snapped.

But Bertram still didn’t seem faced by his alpha, almost oblivious to the danger he might be in. “If you are so confident, you really shouldn’t feel threatened by me then, right?”

Several people in the pack growled at him, unhappy about the disrespect he showed towards their alpha. Heck, even I felt irritated, and I’m only a guest.

Gunnar took a deep breath. “Bertram, I think the alcohol rushed to your head a bit. You almost make it seem as if you are challenging me? Do you want to end up like your brother this badly?”

Bertram visibly paled. Gunnar strode towards him, like a predator that laid eyes on its prey. “Did you already forget the night I killed him because he tried to hurt my niece to gain power over me so he could be the alpha? Do you remember the pathetic fight we had and how fast it ended? I’m sure you still remember it because you were whining in a corner and almost peed yourself. You are lucky I let you and your family stay after the disgrace your brother brought on your family. You call Amalia a traitor, while you were the one living with one all your life.”

Gunnar towered over Bertram now.

“I have been nothing but fair to your family since that night. I never held it against any of you, and now you are standing here, trying to act like you want to protect the pack? Insulting and provoking a friend and guest.” Gunnar still stared him down. The shadow of his wolf was hovering over him. The looming danger that it will end badly if Bertram won’t step down.

Bertram dropped his gaze, staring at the ground. Gunnar grabbed him by his collar and pulled him to his face. “This is the last and only warning you will receive from me. If I ever see you step out of line again, this won’t end with a simple conversation.”

Gunnar pushed him away, making Bertram stumble before he caught himself again. His hands were clenched into fists, but he didn’t utter a word.

“Now leave! I don’t want to see your face anymore!”

Bertram hurried away, no one saying a single word. The silence was almost deafening. I looked back at the scene, feeling a sense of victory and defeat. What if Bertram was right? What if I would tear this pack apart, and this was only the start?

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