“But her smile was bleak, without light or warmth. And for the first time I thought of what it must be like to know that you were going to die, that the trees would bud, flower, leaf, dry, die, and you would not be there to see any of it.“- Anna Quindlen
Her cry for help rung through the room, echoing in the corners. Her breaths were coming out in sharp pants as panic consumed her.
She screamed in fury as she pulled against the chains holding her arms up in the air. Her shoulder blades burned with the effort. She attempted to stand but her legs didn’t seem to want to work.
Blood ran down her arms from the silver cuffs. She spat on the floor, adding to the collection of blood. The multitude of wounds on her body burned and ached, unable to heal just yet.
She hung her head low, slacking. With her remaining energy, she leaned with all of her weight, hopefully causing some damage to her restraints. But it was to no avail. She was stuck here, and to die here in this room.
The pain she was feeling was nothing compared to the feeling of dread she felt. She gnashed her teeth together to distract from other pains.
The doorknob jiggled and opened, revealing the dark figure of a male. Before he could entirely step foot into the room, she was snarling, spittle flying from her mouth.
He blanched, having to step back for a moment. The smell of burning flesh and blood was too strong for him, forcing him to cover his nose. “I’m going to shove my foot so far up your ass I could use you as a shoe!” She snarled at him.
“Hardly the right choice of words you’d like to say to the person who could get you out of here, is it Raven?” His tone was teasing.
Raven seethed and recoiled, understanding what he meant by this. She knew her options. “I’d rather die.”
He smirked down at her. “Then perhaps, you’d like to see the moon one last time?” He cautiously stepped into the room, staying a five foot radius away from the female, knowing all too well how dangerous she was.
A window was directly behind her, providing the dark room with shreds of pale, blue light. The blinds were suddenly open, the moon having been waiting to peer into the room. Raven screamed, a surge of energy traveling up her spine, causing her to throw her head back.
Strands of dirty, black hair fell in her eyes. The moon’s scrutinizing gaze was set directly upon her. His smile faltered a little, a sliver of him wanting to sympathize with her.
The moon called and beckoned her child. Raven cried out in pain, suppressing the urge. She took shuddering pants of air, trying to collect herself. He watched as she rolled her shoulders, the muscles beneath her skin tightening.
“I’ll see you in the morning.” And he was gone.
She was left alone again, but this time in the view of the moon. Gazing upon her failure.
She broke hours later, when she knew that no one could hear. Her head rested on her own shoulder, letting out a wail of pity. The whip lashes on her back burned, but she wasn’t crying for her pain. She wasn’t crying because of who she was.
She was crying because of who she didn’t get to be. She’d never met her mate. She didn’t have any children, or family at all. She was the last of her line, and it would die here in this room with her.
Raven cried until her tears had dried up due to dehydration, letting out soft sobs. She sniffled and wiped her cheeks with her shoulders. “It’s okay.” She repeated to herself.
“You got yourself here. The least you can do is face your fate with dignity. It was worth it. Every second.” She could care less at this point that she was rambling like a crazy person.
She had hours left. Now wasn’t exactly the time to be concerned on appearances.
The hours passed quicker than she’d thought them to. Her mind was muddled with pity and pain, hardly accounting the time. Raven leaned her head back, her hair falling behind it, to peer out the window.
The moon had left the sky; it was the awkward time between no sun and no moon. Dawn.
Every muscle in her body cried for release. Her body shook and trembled at having to stay in this position for so long. Sweat was pouring down her body by the time the door was opened once again.
In stepped the same man, this time only wearing a pair of basketball shorts. He had most likely been out for a run. “Ready?” He flashed his teeth at her.
He received a snarl in answer.
Softly nodding, he stepped forward, pulling a key from the pocket of his shorts. Confusion swept across her face. “What are you doing?”
He paused and glanced down at her. “You didn’t think you were actually being given the privilege to die in this room? No. Your death will be public; an example of what happens to those who defy their Alpha. Twenty self inflicted licks, and addition of fifteen given to you than no other,” he gestured to himself. “Your head would have been given to your parents, but seeing you have none, your body will simply be left in the woods for whatever animal chooses to take it.”
The fury and defiance died a little within her.
Out of pity, he held his tongue from rubbing it in. He turned the key in the cuffs, creating a soft click. And like that, she was on the floor, like a sack of potatoes. She grunted and tried to lift herself, but her arms were too weak.
“You walk or I drag. Your choice.”
She bared her teeth at him, struggling after many attempts to her feet. A few stumbling steps later, she regained her balance. Her legs shook like a freshly born deer, but she refused to be dragged to her death. She would walk to it, no matter how difficult, with her chin up.
Raven led the way through many corridors, full with others like her. She knew where she was going.
Several doors later, she was greeted by an all-too bright sun, and hundreds upon hundreds of faces. Many of which were familiar. Each time she made eye contact, they would divert their gaze to the ground, as if it were suddenly much more interesting.
The crowd parted to let her through to the stage. Her tank top was shredded, the once white fabric ripped and stained with dirt and her own blood. The wind tugged at the hanging flaps of what remained. She wouldn’t hide herself from them, they deserved to see her as she was.
At the very front of the stage, a pole awaited her. Raven knelt at the pole, looking at the whip that lay before her.
“You must wait until Alpha Ezekiel arrives.”
Raven kept her head low for many minutes. Her heart thundered in her ears, unease settling into her stomach like a rock.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity in itself, loud footsteps came up the stairs to the stage on her left. A low growl bubbled in her chest, noting how the male’s steps were drawn out and slow. Just to piss her off that much more.
However, she didn’t dare look up at him. Raven still saw herself lucky that this would be her death. Ezekiel was known for much, much worse. Her body wanted to curl into itself, having never been in the presence of such a high ranking male. His power oozed into her, demanding her obedience.
“Raven Moros. Charged with the murder of Beta Colton’s wife Abigale. Sentenced to twenty self inflicted lashes, followed by fifteen lashes by Colton. Your body will be hung in the clearing for the moon to witness. Do you accept?” A shiver ran down her spine at the sound of his voice. It sent her blood rushing through her veins, her body thrumming to life.
“I accept.” She directed her voice to the whip, afraid to meet the eyes of said Alpha.
“You may begin.”
A trembling hand reached out for the whip. Raven quickly clenched her hand, angry that she was showing fear. She attempted again, this time not a quiver of fear radiating from her body. Her hand steady, her fingers wrapping around the whip’s handle.
The handle was worn out of its ridges. Gripped and held for many years, made to fit the palm of a strong male. Her hand was smaller than the worn parts of the handle. She could almost feel the pain this whip had caused over the years. Could almost feel the sweaty hand that gripped it.
Raven’s jaw set, her lips in a firm line. Her gaze slowly lifted to the pack watching on. None looked like they were about to interfere. Many looked on with interest specked in their eyes. They were hungry.
She’d give them what they wanted.
Raven’s ears picked up the sound of those silver-laced tendrils as they cut through the air, slicing across her back. Her eyes never left the crowd, and theirs never left hers. Again, with her remaining strength, she cast the whip across her back with all her might.
Blood splattered the stage. It flicked across her cheek as she brought the whip forward again, the tendrils soaked in her blood. She’d almost forgotten she was doing it to herself.
A grunt left her now open mouth, gasping for a breath of relief. The hungry pack watched on, anger in their eyes. Raven was beginning to lose count of where one whip started and the other ended.
She refused to make a sound. She would stare them down.
“That was twenty-four. You may stop.” Alpha Ezekiel sounded bored. Raven had no energy left to be angry that he hadn’t stopped her sooner.
Colton stepped closer. Raven, hearing the footsteps, she held her hand out, handing over the whip. Colton had half expected she would drop it and make him pick it up. Instead, her hand stuck out, trembling from the pain yet not relenting to it.
She was going down with dignity.
Colton grabbed it from her hand slowly, his fingers brushing against her blood soaked ones. The male rolled his shoulders, taking a step back. Building up his energy.
This time, Raven could grab the pole. This time, she could cry.
The female took a shuddering breath. Hardly anything remained of her shirt, revealing her scarred and bleeding skin for all to see. The stench of her blood clogged her nose.
She saw them flinch before the blow was delivered. Saw them cringe as her blood was thrown to them. Recoil as it speckled their cheeks.
Steps were taken back as the next was given. Raven closed her eyes for a moment, collecting herself. She wasn’t going to make a sound.
Her eyes opened again, anew with anger. No pain evident in her eyes. She had become numb to everything. Her body lurched forward with every hit, yet she didn’t reach out for that pole. Not a tear was shed.
Colton’s hand paused, as he had been ready to give his twentieth lick. She was taking more than what had been sentenced to her.
Raven slumped forward in her puddle of blood. Her panting was the only sound made.
Their eyes were no longer hungry.
They were frightened by what they had seen. Frightened by Raven. Not Colton.
Raven spat on the ground, where people were standing before. The entire crowd had migrated a few feet back.
An unexpected cry left Raven’s bloodied lips as Ezekiel gripped her hair with a hard fist. She was dragged backwards by her hair across the stage. Through her puddle of blood. Down the stairs. Across the dirt.
Straight to her final destination. The Lonely Tree.
During her act of defiance by spitting on the ground, someone had been preparing her silver noose.
Raven’s feet kicked out beneath her as she was suddenly being lifted by her hair. The arm gripping it just kept raising, and had Raven wondering just how tall this infamous Alpha was.
“Look at me, murderer.”
“Fuck you.” Raven spat out, keeping her eyes closed.
Ezekiel roared so loud it hurt her ears. But she refused to open her eyes. “Look. At. Me.”
Raven could feel his hot breath on her cheek. He was seething with anger.
There was nothing else they could do to her now. She was going to die. Raven didn’t need to do anything she was being told to.
“Suit yourself.” Ezekiel’s grip on her hair loosened, his hands sliding to her butt. His fingers dug into her jeans as he hoisted her by the backs of her thighs, higher into the sky and closer to the awaiting noose. The harsh fibers threaded with silver dragged across her face, burning as it went, before fitting snugly around her throat.
Raven felt the silver burning her neck. It tightened around her throat. The support from Ezekiel’s hands suddenly slacked, and she was hanging by her neck.
Her eyes flung open, her feet kicking out. A sputtered word came out of her mouth. Her hands clawed at her noose, trying to get some support. The silver bit at her palms. Bit at her neck, eating away flesh. From a distance she watched with panic as the pack that had once taken her in, averted their eyes from the sight of her.
Ezekiel’s retreating form paused at the edge of them. He turned his head to look over his shoulder, casting a final glance at Raven.His green eyes dragged over her kicking legs, up her bloodied shirt, and suddenly locked with Raven’s hazel eyes. Even from this distance, he knew.
Raven’s struggle continued. She could feel her life slipping from her as the silver ate at the flesh around her neck. Her lungs screamed for air. She continued clawing at the noose, hoping to create enough slack for at least once last breath of air to fill her lungs.
She’d realized in that moment, she wasn’t ready to die.
Ezekiel came dashing over, his shoulder knocking into Colton, who had been watching from the side with his arms crossed. Suddenly the pressure around her neck lessened, Ezekiel’s hands coming to her legs, lifting her slightly.
“Cut the noose!” His panicked voice rang through the clearing. Shocked pack mates watched on, but none moved to do as he said. Raven was relishing in the air that crept in her mouth. Her weak hands gripping those strong shoulders.
He began to move, trying to maneuver her head out of the noose. Ezekiel finally got her head out of it, and gently began to slide her body down against his. The beast inside him was growling and pacing.
She was barely alive. Clinging to a thread of life. She was slowly being laid down on the grass, her head pillowed by a muscled forearm.
Raven closed her eyes, attempting to open them again, but couldn’t. She wanted to peer into those piercing green eyes one last time, but her body wouldn’t allow her.
A whimper bubbled in her chest. She was quietly shushed by her mate as he ran his fingers through her bloodied hair, soothing her. If she was to leave this world now, she would do so happily in the arms of her mate.
She had finally found him.
Her head lolled to the side, the energy draining from her body. Wolves healed fast, but no one could recover so quickly from what she had been through. Raven’s chest rose high, before settling back down one last time.