“Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater.“- George Washington Carver
The drive to NightBlood was treacherously long, and boring. The car had gotten progressively colder as they moved deeper into the North. Raven’s driver was silent for the full drive, even through the night.
The car only stopped a total of three times for bathroom and food breaks. Ezekiel wanted to be there as fast as they could get there, even earlier than expected.
Raven hadn’t packed much, as the news was broke to her rather abruptly and didn’t give her enough time to recover from the day’s events.
She’d demanded to be in a separate car than Colton and Ezekiel, and to Ezekiel’s credit, he allowed her this. Being in the same car as those two males would be torture. This car was purely for her and her alone.
Her arms were crossed over her stomach as she peered out the window. Large pine trees zoomed past her vision as they sped their way at last into NightBlood territory.
She was happy to be back in the North; her homelands. But for war?
Truly she only accepted the invite because it was MistFang that she would be aiding in destroying.
As they went deeper into the territory, the forest got thicker, rain now pouring heavily. The rain sounded like hail as it made its assault on the car. They passed through many different packs, still waking up for the morning. Few looked at them as they sped through.
After what felt like a week’s drive, they seemed to be nearing. Both cars slowed down and finally to a stop at a large oak tree. Underneath the tree stood three individuals, two large and the third much smaller by comparison. A female.
A moment of silence passed before Ezekiel emerged from the driver side of the other car. Raven could feel his eyes for a moment as he got out of the car, looking at her through the window. The warmth his gaze brought quickly left as Ezekiel’s attention was now on the three individuals.
Ezekiel said nothing as he seemingly was just assessing them. Soon after Ezekiel left his car, Colton emerged from the other side. Raven couldn’t help the scowl that came to her face. The driver of her car seemed bored, immediately pulling out their phone.
“Alpha Blackford,” Ezekiel finally spoke. The sound was muffled slightly, as she was still in the car, but she could still understand what was being said. The female frame shifted ever so slightly to assess Ezekiel as he spoke. “It’s nice to meet you. This is my Beta, Colton.” Colton didn’t give his own greeting, busy stretching his legs from the long ride.
“Alpha Ezekiel,” the male in the middle responded. His voice was incredibly deep, demanding attention and respect even from where she was sitting in the car. Strangely, it sounded familiar. “This is Beta Eren,” the male gestured. “And Gamma Crossfield.” He motioned to the female beside him.
Raven could feel the curiosity that swarmed through Ezekiel as he now focused his attention on the female. Even Raven was curious by this woman. The North didn’t have high ranking females. Who was this?
Unable to fight her own urge to witness, Raven opened her door and stepped out. She was immediately met by the heavy rain and a strong wind. The rain flattened her hair to her neck. A puddle was at her feet, the muddy water soaking in to her shoes.
Raven first took in the surroundings, aware that all eyes were on her now. She forced herself to appear unbothered and unintimidated by these powerful rankings. Finally she turned her attention to the three.
“And this is my-” Ezekiel began but was cut off by Blackford.
Her entire world froze as she looked up at the male who called her long lost nickname. Everything around her melted, nothing important besides this man. A smile spread across her face without needing to be forced.
Blackford opened his arms, and Raven immediately came running, brushing past the others. His arms immediately wrapped around her in a tight bear hug, almost crushing her as she was lifted off the ground and swung side to side in his muscles arms. “Blackford,” Raven mumbled into his shoulder, content to see him again.
He set her back on the ground, his arms moving to her shoulders as he looked her over. Blackford had grown immensely since the last time she’d seen him. He was now a full head taller than her, completely grown and muscled. Thick, black tattoos wrapped around his arms and down to his hands, disappearing underneath his shirt.
A beard was growing on his face. He had let his hair grow out, matching his thick black brows. The only thing that was the same about him were those icy blue eyes that had never failed to pierce her. “It’s so good to see you again, Crow.”
Blackford pulled Raven in for another quick embrace, his hand coming to the back of her head and cradling it. Raven fought back tears of happiness to see her old best friend again.
Jealousy struck her hard in her stomach, coming from Ezekiel. It coiled around her insides and squeezed tightly, but strangely mixed with it was content. As if he were almost happy.
She was also abruptly reminded of the North’s traditions and how they showed their affection. Raven took a few steps away from Blackford, now uncomfortable with the eyes watching her.
“This is my mate, Raven.” Ezekiel spoke from behind them, clearing his throat afterwards.
Raven turned her attention to Blackford’s beta, Eren. The brute was watching her with clear dislike in his calculated eyes. Eren was massive. His arms were crossed over his broad chest, tattoos similar to Blackford. Raven felt intimidated under his cold eyes. This male was nothing like Colton. He was truly something to be feared.
Next her eyes moved to the female standing beside her friend. Gamma.
Nothing about this female suggested that she held such a powerful rank, unless you looked closer. This woman was good at hiding what she was, Raven could barely see through it.
She was much shorter than her companions, even shorter than Raven. Soft blond waives fell to her waist. Crossfield was slim, widening out at her hips. Plump pink lips and bright green eyes that revealed nothing of what she was feeling.
Although Crossfield seemed to have tried to hide it, Raven could see the hickeys underneath the collar of her sweatshirt. Raven did not like this woman.
“Yes, this is your mate.” Blackford finally spoke and broke the growing silence. But you don’t seem to be hers, were the unheard words that everyone still thought. “I know Raven very well, in fact.”
“I can see that,” Ezekiel replied curtly. His tone was laced with the jealousy he was feeling, but still kind enough to not insinuate anything. He didn’t want to be on bad terms with an alpha like Blackford.
“Come inside, let’s get out of the rain.” Blackford was already turning towards their massive packhouse, Ezekiel only nodding in answer.
Crossfield spun around with her alpha, taking her eyes off of Raven. Everything about that female screamed superior to Raven, and she hated it. Wanted to put her in her place.
Raven scowled at the back of her, catching the gaze of Eren in the corner of her eye. Blackford’s beta and gamma were similar in their silent dislike for Raven.
Large groups of toned males were spilling out of the various doors of their grand packhouse. They came out shirtless, unaffected by the heavy rain. Some had tattoos that marked their skin while others were bare.
“You train them in the rain?” Colton asked from behind, the first words he’d spoken since arriving.
“Rain means nothing to us other than getting a little muddy. Rain or shine, we train.” Beta Eren responded, also the first words he had spoken. It silenced Colton.
As the group entered the NightBlood packhouse, Raven was struck with the smell of it. It smelled of freshly cut wood. It was recently built.
The few members still lurking in the house almost immediately turned their eyes to their gamma, dismissing the visiting alpha and his companions from the South. Crossfield was much more interesting to them, who pretended to not notice their gaze.
Raven almost felt smug about this. Even her own pack hadn’t seemed to fully accept her.
They arrived at a small door on the second floor. Nothing about this door stood out, easily dismissed if anyone were to pass by it. Blackford opened the door and he and his beta and gamma disappeared inside.
Ezekiel now pushed forward as Raven hesitated at the door, taking the lead and entering the room. Colton followed, giving a look at her as he went in. Finally, Raven was the last in.
The first thing that she noticed were that there was no windows. Nowhere for someone to look in on them. The next was how the walls were lined and filled with various maps of territory in the North. They’d been written on and heavily abused.
Raven felt strangely comforted by this as she took her seat next to Ezekiel; opposite head of Blackford on the table. It was strange to see how the simple teenager she’d known as a child grew into a man, to see his ambitions and plans laid out.
He had always talked about setting the world right and doing it his way, but Raven had always figured it was just him daydreaming. She chalked it up to him being a bastard. She was wrong.
“I’d like to thank you again for coming,” Blackford spoke first and took charge.
“Your proposition was too much to ignore. I’d like to hear more about it,” Ezekiel responded.
“Do you trust them both?” Blackford pushed, but she knew he really only meant Colton.
“We are not Northerners, Alpha Blackford. We would gain nothing from betraying you besides an enemy in the North, far away from where we live.”
“LycanMoon has assisted a Northern pack before, however.”
Raven now turned her head away from Blackford to glare at Ezekiel. Her eyes spoke every word she wasn’t saying aloud. Ezekiel didn’t acknowledge her directly. “I am not my parents. I wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t interested.”
“Very well, if you trust them then I trust them.” Blackford shifted and leaned back in his seat. Raven couldn’t help but to admire his attractiveness, the dominance that oozed from him. “War will be coming to the North, with or without your help. While we have our own dominions, its clear that we are all ruled by a silent emperor. He works in secret with rogues to squash out anyone who would defy him. His claws are sunk deep in every corner of this land. It’s time for a change. MistFang’s time has come to end.”
“A well worded pitch, but what does LycanMoon have to do with this? What would we gain?” Colton spoke up before Ezekiel could. Raven watched as Eren narrowed his eyes on this male.
“LycanMoon has worked previously with MistFang. Your packs are far from strangers. If I have to spell it out with you, I will. MistFang’s Alpha will not continue to remain silent. He’s only waiting until he knows he has control over everyone. Once he does, then he will make himself known. He’s almost done with the North, and it’s clear he’s making his way in the South if that wasn’t evident with his previous work with LycanMoon in squashing out ScorchedEye.
ScorchedEye was a Northern pack. They knew of MistFang’s intentions and moved South to escape him. I think you know how that went.”
“Forgive my Beta, I only gave him a brief description before coming here,” Ezekiel explained.
“As for what you get out of this, it’s freedom. The North will always be an empire, as it is now. That is the way we are, but it’s not the way of the South and I respect that. And if Alpha Ezekiel wishes, I will make him King in the south of these lands if he wants it.”
Raven shifted uncomfortably and moved further back into her seat. She didn’t like hearing of her old pack. She hated the name MistFang. She could feel Ezekiel’s concern for her, though he didn’t turn to acknowledge her. Raven clutched her hands together, desperately trying to keep her emotions under control.
“I will join your cause, for the South. But I need to think about your other offer. To call you my emperor and move my pack to the North to rule in your lands? As you’ve said, it’s not how the South is.” Ezekiel leaned back in his seat, similar to Forrest. He stroked his beard, pulling on the ends as his eyes drifted off in thought.
Raven wanted to shave his beard right off. She hated how it looked on him. He couldn’t compare to Blackford.
“I respect that, but I would like an answer soon.”
Ezekiel only nodded, leaving the room in silence. Suddenly feeling a scrutinizing stare, Raven turned her head, meeting the eyes of the gamma.
Those green eyes of hers pierced right through Raven, a certain cold and cruel feeling behind them. Something the female hadn’t shown her when first meeting. Raven felt naked under those eyes, as if she could see everything about Raven.
Determined, Raven narrowed her eyes on Crossfield. She would not allow herself to be dominated by this female. “And if you fail?” Raven finally spoke, keeping her eyes on the gamma.
“Then we fail, and we are dead. The dead can’t grieve over failures.” His voice was firm, unbothered by the idea of dying.
Ezekiel sat up straight again in his seat, wanting to move on from the subject. “So tell me how you know each other?”
“I knew him before my pack ScorchedEye moved South. His home pack EverMoss were neighbors to ScorchedEye. We grew up together, he was my bestfriend before he suddenly disappeared. Before I knew it, my pack was moving South and I never got to see him again until today. I didn’t think he was still alive,” Raven answered.
“I still regret not saying goodbye to you, Crow.” Raven caught a small twitch in the eye of the gamma at the use of Raven’s nickname. Crow. “I left EverMoss and I knew I couldn’t tell you because it would mean goodbye.”
“So you’re a Northerner?” Colton asked Raven. She could feel his eyes on her face, but was too caught up in her staring contest to return his eyes.
“Yes, I’m a Northerner. And well aware of the customs and traditions.” Her words were meant for Crossfield. There was something that female wasn’t revealing. She wanted to know.
Ezekiel was beginning to become irritated with Raven, she could feel it. She was overstepping. “Tell me about how your Gamma came to be,” he shifted the subject.
“I’d also like to know,” Raven now moved her elbows atop the table and rested her chin on her hands. She wanted to win the staring contest.
“She can tell you that herself, if she wants.” Blackford sounded proud.
The rest of the table shifted their eyes to the gamma. She was completely unbothered by the intimidating, powerful eyes now watching her. As if she wanted those eyes. Trained to have them on her. The only one who didn’t turn to Crossfield was Eren, now intensely watching Raven. He did not miss the silent contest the females were having, and clearly did not approve of it.
Raven finally gave up, lowering her eyes to the wooden table. This was a female that she could not dominate.
“I come from MistFang. My uncle is MistFang’s Alpha; Alpha Crossfield.” Crossfield paused and allowed the information to sink in. It only deepened Raven’s growing hate for her. Blood of the blood that killed hers. “My father and Alpha Crossfield were twins, but my father allowed my uncle to take place as Alpha. Shortly after having me, my uncle had my parents murdered in a fake ambush. Ever since, I was trained to be a spy. Live for short periods of times in other regions then come home and tell my uncle everything I saw.
The time came for me to come to NightBlood, and when I was caught I was abandoned and left to rot. I didn’t want that to be my end, so I sought to become something important to this pack and seek my own revenge for being left behind. Only yesterday did I become Gamma in a fight to the death with the previous Gamma. His name was Lohr.”
Raven couldn’t help the jealousy that now struck her. Crossfield was everything she had wanted to be. In control. Dominant. Powerful.
“And how does your pack feel about a female Gamma?” Colton asked. He also did not seem impressed with her.
“Would you like to test my worth, Beta Colton?” The gamma turned her full body to Colton, ready to squash him down. Raven smiled at this.
“If my pack is unhappy with her, they are free to challenge her. It comes with the title,” Blackford spoke up to break the growing tension. Colton relaxed into his seat, satisfied now to know that she could be challenged.
The NightBlood beta remained silent, though his eyes were now on his gamma with a hint of admiration.
“I’ll give you your answer later, Alpha Blackford. It was a long trip to get here, there will be time later. I’d like to see your lands.” Ezekiel spoke up again, still watching the gamma with curiosity. Raven was jealous of the way he was impressed by her.
“Let me show you to your temporary rooms first, I’m sure you’d like to drop your things off before we move on.” Ezekiel nodded and stood, followed by the rest of us.
As the rest of the table stood, Raven did not miss the slight movement from Blackford under the table, patting his gamma’s thigh. The gamma and alpha were the last to stand and leave the room.