Ancient Wolves - Prophecy of the Ruins

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Chapter 29

A couple parted out of the crowd and walked towards Gunnar, their heads hanging low.

“We apologize for our son on his behalf. He only wanted to protect the pack. The way he handled it was wrong, though, and we will make sure he won’t confront you like this again,” the man said.

“There is no need for you to apologize, Otto. He is old enough to make his own decisions, and I want to hear an apology from him, not you. But it makes me wonder why both of your children step out of line like this. It’s the second time a child of yours showed such disrespect to their alpha. I hope everything is alright at home and no one feeds him false information,” Gunnar said.

The woman cried out and grabbed Gunnar’s shirt, tears in her eyes. “We wouldn’t ever dare to teach them to go against our alpha! We don’t know where we went wrong!”

Gunnar carefully removed the woman’s hand from his shirt and nodded. “We are all a bit on edge tonight. Let’s talk about this on a different day.”

The woman took a shaky breath and returned to her husband, who wrapped an arm around her and whispered something in her ear as they followed their son into the woods.

I scanned the crowd for familiar faces and spotted Tyra further away. She had Svea on her arm and a frown on her face. Next to her, Cedric yawned, and as if he saw me staring at him through the bushes, he clasped his hand in front of his mouth and winked at me. A breath hitched in my throat and I retreated further away, but still close enough to watch Gunnar.

“Now that we dealt with this, I want to talk about what happened.”

A murmur went through the crowd, but they went silent after Gunnar held up a hand. My heart rate picked up, and sudden dizziness made me sway on my feet. I sat down and closed my eyes for a moment. I didn’t know how everyone would react to whatever Gunnar was going to share with them, and it caused anxiety to take a hold of me, my chest tightening.

“There is some truth behind the accusations towards Amalia. She is the last living member of the Ruinas Pack, but she is not here to start any trouble. I know we all have heard one thing or two about the passing of the pack and why it all happened. We don’t know all the details, and we should keep in mind that rumors are simply that: rumors. The incident was very secretive, and we should have an open mind about it.”

“But why did everyone say they were dead, and why didn’t we smell her signature before? Now you can smell her from a mile away if you know the Ruinas signature,” someone in the crowd asked.

Gunnar nodded. “I understand your concern, and I want to explain things as best as I can. We don’t know why yet, but we assume she got cloaked for her safety.”

“Cloaked?” someone else in the crowd asked. “What do you mean?”

“The pendant she received from her mother before she died cloaked her heritage.”

Murmurs echoed through the clearing again, but no one voiced another question.

Gunnar walked up and down in front of the group. “Most of you remember the night when she got pushed away from the fire. Contrary to what Bertram said, it wasn’t because she was evil, but because the spell on the pendant got cleansed. The spell stopped us from picking up on her, even when we were here frequently. But the spell must have worn off before the fire accident. This year, I could make out a faint foreign wolf scent since we arrived here. It was so faint, barely anyone realized the scent unless they were strong or old wolves.”

“If she isn’t evil and has nothing to hide, why didn’t she come public then? Why did she hide here?” A woman in the crowd asked.

“I will not discuss her reasons like this. Trust my word when I say she isn’t here to bring us down. Besides, it wasn’t up to her. She didn’t know about the magic in her pendant and what it caused, which leads me to the main point.”

He looked at me over his shoulder and nodded at me, which I took as my signal to come out of my hiding spot. I took a deep breath and walked toward him. When the bushes and trees didn’t offer me any protection anymore, all eyes settled on me. Gasps and whispers erupted from the crowd, but I ignored them and sat down next to Gunnar. The warmth radiating from him eased the tightness in my chest and, at least for now, I felt safe. I had nothing to worry about as long as the alpha was on my side.

“The pendant not only cloaked her wolf from us, but also herself. Meaning, she hadn’t been able to get in touch with her wolf or shift since the time of the incident.”

I gulped and focused on a ribbon still tied to a branch in the back. They must have forgotten to take it off with the rest of them. It must feel as lost as I felt right now.

“Which means tonight was her first shift since then, and the impact must have been this strong because of that. We planned to have a more controlled environment for her to shift again, but this evening stopped us from doing so. She never planned to hurt anyone or put us in harm. Truth to be told; she didn’t believe she would turn back into a wolf ever again. Everything happening tonight was as much of a surprise to her as it was for us.”

He remained silent for a moment, letting the information settle.

“I know a few of you are wondering why she is still a wolf now, and some of you might feel provoked, but there is no reason to feel that way. Staying in her wolf form isn’t to provoke you. Right now, she can’t turn back into her human form. We know nothing about the magic influencing her for years, but we know younger ones have problems controlling their shifting. This might apply now, too. I want to help her, and that’s why I ask you to be understanding about this situation. I won’t put you in danger, and if Amalia turns out to be a threat, I will put an end to it immediately. You all know I won’t hesitate to protect my pack.”

A cold shiver rushed through me at his declaration. It almost sounded as if he would kill me if I put his pack in danger, and I already felt a little less safe by his side.

“I hope you can trust me with this task. I also hope you can be brave enough to see Amalia for what she is and not what you might believe she could be.”

None of the pack members uttered a word, and curiosity got the better of me as I let my gaze drop to the crowd and let it roam over them. They shuffled around and glanced at me, visibly uncertain.

It took a few tense seconds before a bulky man parted from the group. “We will try our best.”

Gunnar smiled and nodded. “That is all I can ask for. And now, let’s enjoy our last day together!”

The crowd cheered, but it wasn’t as enthusiastic as the other day. I understood their change of demeanor. Who knows what sort of trouble will happen now that I got my wolf back?

Gunnar patted my head, but I shrugged his hand off and glared at him. He chuckled and winked at me. “Don’t worry. You are safe with me.”

He seemed satisfied with his pack’s reaction. It could have gone far worse, but I still didn’t feel welcome. I might be safe with him, but what if he wasn’t around? And would he kill me if he decided I was a danger to his pack?

I had to go home as fast as possible. It probably was the only place I was safe. Now, if I could only turn back into a human. Quite ironic, considering all these years, I wished to turn back into a wolf.

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