Chapter 29 - A Festival of Execution
“Owww...watch the hand, buddy!” I complain as the guard roughly drags me by my upper arm up the squeaky steps of the dungeon...errr, I mean the holding cell. “You really need to learn to keep your hands to yourself,” I tell him. I swear I felt his hand on my *ss sometime back there. “Jerk!” I mumble. I see Jorden shaking his head. I know his guard isn’t having a hard time like mine is.
Sure, I’m a bit cranky because I’m hungry but they don’t need to manhandle me this way. “Trust me, I don’t want to stay down here,” I grumble. Really, all they have to do is unlock the doors, pretend to look away, and I’ll run out of here as fast as my feet can carry me. See? Win-win. Easy job for everybody.
The guard is pretending like he can’t hear me while he keeps hauling me up toward the door of the basement-cell that opens up to the large backyard of the pack house.
He throws the door open with a loud bang and suddenly everything seems too much. Too much light, too much sound, too much smell, too much everything, it’s almost painful. My knees buckle underneath me and my arms come up to shield my eyes.
“Quincy!” Jorden’s voice sounds anxious. “Quincy, are you okay?” Oh, Jorden. Do I look like I’m okay? I want to yell back but strangely his voice eases the pressure to my overwhelming ears. It becomes a sharp focus point that pushes all other sounds into the background like a white noise.
All my senses seem overwhelmingly sharper but I don’t have time to adjust to the changes as the guard yanks me out. I pull in a sharp breath. The air out here definitely smells much better than down there and after a second, the light stops hurting my eyes. I remove my arm from my face slowly and take a look around me.
Right now there are people everywhere in the yard and there are colors. So many bright colors.
I tear my gaze away from all the confusing sights and catch Jorden’s puzzled eyes before we both turn to look all around us again.
So many members of the pack are here. They’re all wearing their finest outfit. There are tents, flags and colorful banners all around us. My mouth waters at the smell of food.
So, my hearing wasn’t wrong. There is a festivity going on around here.
I wonder if they’re having the celebration in honor of the visiting royalties or for Jorden’s and my trial and execution.
The guards pull us across the field while the people stop and stare. Not only are they staring, but some are pointing their fingers while talking or whispering about us. It doesn’t matter, because I can hear them all very clearly.
It takes me under a minute to learn to separate the noises and lock onto one or two voices at once to listen to what they’re saying. It takes me another minute to learn that none of them are saying good things about us. The next minute, I learn to ignore them just like some useless white noise that they are.
As we are dragged further past the tents, games and picnic tables, it becomes apparent to me that these people are all following us.
The field ends and the guards drag us into the woods. It’s almost winter and the sky is grey. The brilliant fall colors are now dull brown leaves at our feet. Tall bare trees look like shriveled up corpses and dried skeletons, looming all around us. The ground is still damp and slippery from last night’s rain.
It takes about ten minutes through the woods to reach another clearing. This is where the Burning Moon Gathering usually takes place. Burning Moon Gathering ground is where the bodies of the dead members of the pack are burned.
Nana told me years ago that trials used to be held at the Pack’s Community Hall while the punishment is doled out at the pyre where they burn the dead. Now they’re holding both the trial and the execution here.
I guess it’s easy to dump the body on the pyre and set it on fire regardless whether you’re dead or still alive after the torture is done. The punishment could be for hours, sometimes it could go on for weeks, depending on the crime. The more serious the crime, the longer they drag out the punishment.
The irony is not lost on me. Just a few short months ago, Old Mr. Maddox’s mate was burnt here.
Rows upon rows of wooden benches are set up in the middle of the clearing. A large crowd is already sitting there, waiting for us. They are joined by those who were trailing behind us from the festival area.
Even this place, Moon Burning Gathering ground, usually a somber place, holds some festive mood today with flags hanged to the trees and tied to the poles that surround the whole clearing. I should feel honored at how they make everything looks so cheerful for our execution. I wish they had balloons. I love balloons.
I see so many familiar faces as we are being dragged to the front. There are kids I grew up with, people I used to go to school with, even a few of my former teachers. Sitting on the third row from the back is Mr. Barnett who used to send Nana fresh eggs in exchange for her fresh baked cinnamon rolls and baguette. There’s that lady, Mrs. Miller who used to stop by at Nana’s house for tea and complain about her kids and gossip about her newly mated neighbors. It’s strange to see them all again. The place and the faces are familiar but this is not home for me.
I spot my mother, her mate Jon, and my half-sister, Caitlin Rose sitting a few rows from the front. My cousin Joelle is sitting a row in front of them with her best friends, Kelly, Naomi, and Charlotte. Their faces don’t look all that happy and my hearing involuntarily hones in on their conversation. I’m nosy, I know.
Kelly is talking. “He’s amazingly hot and he’s our future king, my only chance to become a queen. I’m not backing off for anyone.”
“But Joelle said she’s interested in him first,” replies Charlotte.
“Yeah, Kelly. You know how this works,” says Naomi. “Why are you being such a bitch lately?”
“Oh, I’m a bitch? I’m just being honest. I’m tired of pretending. You guys go ahead, keep following Joelle like sheep.” Kelly is smirking now. “I’m just looking out for number one. As far as I’m concerned, the Prince is a fair game.”
“Wow! It’s about time you finally grow a backbone to show your true colors, Kelly,” says Joelle scathingly to her friend. Well, so much for BFF, it seems. And here I thought Joelle would be too upset about her brother, Jorden to think about men.
Aunt Maria, Jorden’s mom is there, sitting next to Luna Bianca. I watch her curiously. I look for a sign, a telltale... anything to indicate that she’s affected at all by the possibility of losing her second born. She’s sitting stiffly in her seat with her eyes trained to the front. I might be seeing what I want to see and she’s not even looking at us but I imagine her eyes are red-rimmed...because to think otherwise is too sad.
The guards pull us further and then I see them. All the eight lycans sitting at the very front, looking like the gods surrounded by mere mortals. I feel the air around me change. More charged.
My golden god is sitting at the very center. His big magnificent body is draped on the chair like he’s sitting on a throne. His beautiful face is a formidable mask carved in granite and his brilliant green gaze is locked on me, bright, menacing, and hungry.
All of them are watching me. Lazarus and Darius both look cold and ominous. Constantine looks equally cold and intimidating but mildly curious and amused. Serena is calm and totally unconcerned but I see a glimmer of menace hidden in the depth of those warm amber eyes. Penny’s eyes are full of predatory anticipation and Genesis looks wickedly delighted.
I almost flash them all a grin before the guard tugs my arm roughly, propelling me forward when my steps falter. The pyre is a 12′ by 10′ or so square feet spot of land where nothing grows. It’s a charred ground full of soot and ashes.
Prince Caspian, the future king sits back further and places a finger over his firm lips as he watches me being dragged to stand by the pyre. Jorden is made to stand beside me.
Lord Archer unfolds his tall figure from the chair and steps up to stand next to me as soon as the guards leave us there.
I tilt my chin up and stand there proudly before I tear my eyes away from the lycans, especially from his green hypnotic gaze to survey my surrounding once again.
Off to my left side is where the pack’s Elders are sitting, all of them are corrupted, as far as I’m concerned. On my right side are Beta St. Martin, Delta Roche, and the Head of Sentinels.
Alpha Maddox is standing next to the Head of Sentinals. The moment my eyes land on the smug face of Alpha Maddox, my mouth starts to water. That part of me is consumed with hunger.
When he starts talking, all I can think about is sinking my teeth into his throat. My ears zoom in on his beating heartbeat and I want to claw his heart out of his chest.
The threat he made about what he’s going to do to Jorden rings in my ears and my hunger peaks. My chest is getting warmer and suddenly it becomes unbearable to stand still.
Suddenly I feel Lord Archer’s firm grip on my shoulder, keeping me in place. I must have moved forward since I’m now a few steps closer to the Alpha.
Caspian’s eyes immediately fall on Lord Archer’s hand on my shoulder. His face remains unreadable but his eyes narrow in disapproval.
Lord Archer pulls me gently back. “Patience, little one,” he whispers. Then he squeezes my shoulder to bring me back fully to the present before he releases it.
Alpha Maddox is citing the charges against me. “Quincy St. Martin is our former Alpha’s second mate after his first mate died over two months ago.”
My chest is burning again at the mention of Old Mr. Maddox. I can see the hardening of Caspian’s jaw. My hunger to kill is reflected in his cold glittering eyes. Only Lord Archer’s quiet presence close to my side reminds me not to pounce on the smirking Alpha
“She poisoned him when he tried to mark her last night,” Alpha Maddox spits out angrily. “I’d say she deserves to be burned alive for her crime!” His announcement is followed by roars of approval from his men and his audiences. Most of the pack members are now on their feet, yelling in agreement.
The lycans mostly seem unaffected. I see Genesis briefly narrowing her eyes while Penny stares at the Alpha coldly. Caspian seems almost bored.
When all the commotion dies down, Lord Archer steps closer to where the Alpha is standing and says, “Alpha Maddox, most of us believe that there is no such thing as a second mate. How can you prove that Quincy St. Martin is Mr. Maddox’s second mate?”
“My father, Mr. Maddox felt the connection,” answers Alpha Maddox.
“I didn’t feel any connection,” I can’t help chiming in.
Alpha Maddox gives me a fierce glare for my trouble. “Of course she couldn’t feel it, she’s just a human!” And you’re just an *sshole.
“I see,” says Lord Archer, smiling. “How can you prove that she poisoned the former Alpha?”
“With all due respect, Lord Archer, why am I being questioned when it’s clear that she’s guilty of trying to kill her mate and our former Alpha?” he asks through gritted teeth.
“We, the lycans, believe in brutal justice. An eye for an eye. But we also represent the palace that believes everybody deserves a just hearing. So, I ask you again, how can you be sure that Quincy St. Martin poisoned Mr. Maddox?”
The Alpha doesn’t look happy but he has no choice but to answer the question. “He was completely fine that evening. Then they were in the room together so that he can complete the mating ritual,” he says and I see Caspian gripping his armrest. If he’s not careful, he’s going to break it. “We heard him screaming in pain but she wouldn’t open the door for us. So we broke down the door and found him on the floor, barely breathing with blood pouring out of all his orifices.
“There’s no one else in the room but her. She’s the only one who could’ve done something to hurt him. She also refused to tell us the type of poison she gave him. It’s clear that she wanted him to suffer and die.”
I remember how Old Mr. Maddox looked last night. The scream, the blood...that hunger is stirring in me and I can’t help the smirk from appearing on my face.
“We have helped you stabilize Mr. Maddox this morning,” says Lord Archer. “He might never be as good as new. Some of his organs are too damaged to be fully functioning but he’ll live.” The glimmer in his eyes might as well says “for now” as he slides his golden cat’s eyes briefly my way.
The hunger is almost unbearable now that I know he’s going to live. His voice, telling me how he killed my Nana is playing in my head and my chest is on fire. I sense Caspian growing restless in his seat. He’s not the most patient man I know...but then again, I’m not the most patient girl.
“Don’t you wonder how we manage to treat him? Don’t you wonder what type of poison your former Alpha ingested?” asks Lord Archer, looking at the Alpha before he gazes around at the people present in front of us. His lips slowly curve up into a smile. “He had swallowed a fair amount of a lycan’s blood.”
His announcement is met with gasps of shock and confusion. So many people then start talking, asking questions all at once.
“How?” asks Alpha Maddox, looking shellshocked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” says Lord Archer, gesturing his hand towards me. “He was trying to mark a lycan. He’s trying to forcefully lay a claim on somebody who isn’t his to claim.”
Lord Archer’s words are met with even more confusion...and shocked faces. Oh, so many shocked faces.
“But that’s impossible!” exclaims Beta St. Martin, standing up suddenly. “She’s a human. I should know. She’s...she’s my...niece.”
“Enough!” growls Caspian, unfolding his tall figure from the chair. He’s clearly reached the end of his patience. “She’s mine!” he says, approaching me with the grace of a predator. “Your stupid former Alpha was trying to claim my mate! Your future queen.”
I place my hand in his when he reaches out for it. His eyes. His intense green eyes hold mine captive. His attention is now all on me. He brings my hand up and brushes his lips to my knuckles. My arm tingles with warmth and energy from his touch. It helps ease my burning chest. “What do you want, my princess?”
You. I want you. “I want the former Alpha, Old Mr. Maddox,” I tell him. “He killed my Nana. He snapped her neck without mercy and without remorse. Eye for an eye. A life for a life. Blood for blood. I want his blood.”
The air shifts at my announcement and all the lycans are now at the edge of their seats. I sense wicked and merciless excitement they can barely contain. Caspian’s eyes are brilliant with fury and bloodlust. “Your wish is my command, my love.”
*Next update will be on Thursday. So, twice update a week as requested. I’m trying to write as much as I can but I’m exhausted. Sleep deprived. Enjoy your long labor day weekend to fellow Canadiens! Have a wonderful day to the rest of my dearies!