“Could someone please remind me why it is that we’ve locked the poor girl in the basement?” Katherine asked as the group stood in the living room.
Lucien had a grim look on his face as he leaned against the wall, occasionally glancing outside, spotting the other pack members patrolling the grounds. Ignus, on the other hand was busy pouring himself a drink. After taking a sip, he turned around and faced Katherine, who had her arms folded over her chest and was looking expectedly at him.
“Oh, you mean Celia?” Ignus asked as he took another sip from his dark glass of bourbon. “Well, if her brother contacts her, he won’t know what we’re talking about so that’s one. And I like the idea of locking traitors up in a basement… granted you all gave her food and water, which is more than I can say for what she’d be willing to do to-“ Hera cleared her throat, interrupting him.
“What he’s trying to say is that despite Celia’s willingness to work with us, she’s not exactly the best at keeping her head closed – especially since Ezra’s her brother. Think of it like an Alpha’s command… except we can thoroughly look into each other’s heads and Ezra just so happens to have the free-key into most peoples’.” Katherine and Desmond’s face contorted with what looked like disgust.
“How are you guys even able to handle each other?” Desmond asked.
“Well, most of us shut others out. Actually, Auden does it pretty well,” Ignus said with a shrug. “I think she learned it faster than most of us do too. We’re usually open books to everyone until we reach maturity- which is around the sixteen-seventeen threshold. Unfortunately, exceptions can be made when Celia’s bloodline happens to be one of the most manipulative bastards in the world.”
“Manipulative?” Katherine asked.
“We’ll get to that later. Right now, we need to be on the same page,” Hera said with a sigh, glancing over at Lucien. “He okay?” Katherine followed her gaze and sighed.
Earth to Lucien. Katherine mind-linked. Lucien’s gaze went toward the room.
“You said we need to be on the same page. Go on then,” Lucien said and Hera pressed her lips into a thin line before she opened her mouth to continue.
“Auden’s mother, Aurelia, was the leader of our group up until four years ago, right now, her position is being held ‘temporarily’ by Auden’s grandfather- Castor,” Hera explained, “Before we knew about Auden, there were only two families that had pure-blood heirs and each one of these heirs had a chance to attain ‘leadership’.”
“Sounds more like ‘the crown’ rather than leadership to me, seems you guys have more of a monarchy system going on,” Desmond said and Ignus chuckled.
“Exactly,” he responded as he poured himself more bourbon. “We’re kind of still stuck in the dark-ages.”
“Anyways,” Hera said, glaring at Ignus and walking up to him, “the two families had a total of three qualified heirs, before Auden.” She said before taking the bottle away from Ignus and placing it aside. Ignus rolled his eyes before walking away from her and towards Lucien, where he joined him as they leaned against the window together.
“Three? Why so few?” Katherine asked.
“Because royal bloodlines like to in-breed and the more it happens, the less children they make. An inward rejection that royals refuse to acknowledge,” Ignus said with a laugh, “hence their issues finding ‘sane’ leaders.” Katherine grimaced.
“You’re not exactly one to talk about royals,” Hera hissed. “But that’s besides the point, the matter is that among those three, you’ve already met two.” Lucien raised a brow at that.
“What do you mean?” Lucien asked and Ignus grinned.
“Well, Celia’s one of them and the other one is standing right in front of you,” Ignus responded before Hera bit onto her bottom lip.
“You’re a candidate?” Katherine asked. “Jesus you’re like twelve.”
“I’m sixteen and at the very least, I’m not crazy,” Hera said, glaring at Ignus.
“So the other one is Celia’s brother?” Lucien asked and the two bloodhounds in the room nodded.
“None other. His name’s Ezra and he’s a mind freak. Literally. That man weaves through our heads like no one else can,” Ignus said with a shrug.
“But if that’s the case then why are you so angry at your mate? Seems like she had no choice,” Katherine said with a scrutinizing look in her eye.
“Because she’s the only one left who can fight it and she didn’t,” Ignus said, gritting his teeth. “And since that’s not something everyone believes, why don’t we just ask her?” He asked before putting his glass down and looking over at Lucien.
Celia looked at the werewolves around her as she played with the bottom of the wooden chair she sat on. She then found her gaze landing on Ignus who refused to look at her.
“What exactly do you do for your clan?” Lucien asked. Despite the fact that they called it a basement, the place was really more of a fortified cell. There was nothing in it save for the chair Celia sat on and a single lightbulb that hung from the ceiling. The walls were made of concrete and the floor was the same. The only way out was a large metal door that led directly up a flight of stairs into the pack house.
“I’m a researcher, a doctor if you will,” she said simply.
“Researching what?” Lucien asked.
“Look, we’re bloodhounds, but the world doesn’t exactly let murders happen, and it certainly isn’t as easy to cover our tracks, so I try to find substitutes and I’m the one that gives out relaxants that stop us from lashing out,” she said, looking at Lucien straight in the eye.
“And what exactly can you really do for us?” Lucien asked in a straightforward manner.
“Considering how much I research, I can get direct access to your mate – she’s someone we’re all interested in and I’m the only one that can contact her directly,” she said before glancing over at Ignus, “and if it’s an issue of security, then simple, I can get her to contact Ignus, given time and training, and that should be enough.” Lucien looked to Ignus.
“You can contact her from these distances?” Lucien asked, a low growl interlacing with his voice.
“Yes. But before you ask, I already tried to contact her when we lost her. She’s out and there’s no doubt that Ezra’s part of that,” Ignus responded. “Either way, one little slip-up from little miss doctor here and our party’s over.”
“But it sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?” Katherine asked. “What other chance have we got?” Celia looked to Ignus with a triumphant grin, but he merely tilted his head towards Katherine.
“Considering Celia doesn’t know how to make a mind-maze for her brother, if she slips up this one teeny-tiny secret, we’re done for.”
“But they would never kill her,” Hera interjected before looking to Celia for certainty. “Right?” She simply nodded and Lucien paused.
“And why not? How can we assume she’ll be fine if she was aimed at during the attack?”
“Well… she definitely won’t die as soon as you think. I can get you time as well as communication. Just keep me out of it and we’ll be fine,” Celia said, reassuringly, “I-I can’t be trusted, I know that… I… But I can at least get you all to do what you must.” Lucien then turned to Ignus.
“Why exactly did you approach Auden in the first place?”
“Well, better us than the others. She was going to be found no matter what, we told you this before,” Hera said.
“But why exactly would you be any better?” Lucien pressed. Hera opened her mouth to speak but immediately found herself at a loss for words.
“Because we would’ve given her a choice,” Ignus said grimly.
“A choice about what?” Lucien asked.
“Leadership,” Celia said for everyone. “It’s not like… we can force leadership,” Celia said, pausing and looking around before continuing.
“But Auden was Aurelia’s child. Even if she was hidden from us, she would’ve undoubtedly come back to our clan… We always do,” Celia said, before looking over at Ignus. “And we can all agree that in the right hands, she would be better than Ezra.”
“And a more fitting candidate than myself,” Hera said. “If she’s a real hybrid, she’ll be able to effect change like no other leader before.”
“And as Aurelia’s only child… no one will be able to turn against her,” Ignus added.
"I've been confused about this since earlier, but what exactly happened to Aurelia?" Desmond asked and everyone paused.
"She's sick," Ignus said simply.
"That's putting it lightly-" Celia began but Ignus shot her an icy glare that froze her words. Lucien gave Ignus a look of suspicion but when their eyes met, Ignus looked like he was making a plea to speak of it later. Lucien hesitantly let it go.
“Okay, fine. But wouldn’t you all have some kind of problem with Auden being, you know, a hybrid?” Katherine asked, sensing the need to change the subject. Ignus shook his head.
“Do you know why Celia works to research alternatives to blood? Because we’re trying to change. Auden’s being a hybrid will only help that cause… and we’re almost certain her werewolf blood will make her stronger, not weaker,” Ignus said, unable to resist sneaking a glance over at Celia, whose eyes were right on his. Their gaze immediately stopped each other and Ignus had to fight his own instincts to close his eyes and look away.
“And what exactly were the others going to do with her?” Lucien asked.
“Train her. Re-wire her, even,” Celia said. “And before any of you say anything… I just want to make clear, when we said that my brother- no, Ezra, could weave through our heads, there’s a certain element about that that’s real. If he manages to catch Auden off-guard, he can go through anyone and change them… with enough time.”
“Wait a second, re-wire?” Katherine asked.
“Exactly what it sounds like,” Ignus said, “if Auden isn’t able to keep him out, and I doubt it, she’s already good at shutting me off. But if he gets a way in… there’s a chance Auden won’t exactly be ‘Auden’ anymore.”
“And you know this how?” Katherine asked, gritting her teeth. A silence fell on Ignus, Hera, and Celia.
“Ignus’ si-“ Celia began but she was soon interrupted.
“Let’s just say we’ve seen it happen to the best of our families,” Ignus said with a serious tone in his voice.
“Then it sounds like we’ll have to trust your mate,” Lucien said, without hesitation.
“Not that we have a better choice,” Hera said, looking over at Celia and then at Ignus. It was clear how tense he was and Lucien could swear that the air was palpably heavier than it was before. Ignus marched over to Celia and it seemed like every vein on his arm was threatening to pop. He knelt down in front of her and Celia froze.
“If anything goes wrong, anything, I will tear you and your brother, limb from limb even if it kills me,” Ignus said, his voice deep and filled with rage. Celia’s lip quivered but not subtly – she couldn’t stop shaking… And the rest of the room felt the weight of his words. Even Lucien felt a command over him stronger than that of his own Alpha command over his pack. Ignus stood up and rolled his arms back before turning around and leaving – slamming the door behind him. As Lucien slowly felt the weight lift off of him, he immediately looked around the room.
“We’ll release you at sun-down,” he said, turning to Celia before he marched off on his own, this time to talk to Ignus, in private.
It took Lucien a while to find the bloodhound. He didn’t realize Ignus was exactly so good at hiding until the moment he found himself calling out to him. Then and only then was Lucien able to trace him by scent. He found Ignus by the lake, but he wasn’t alone, he was with a pack of four dogs, all happily barking and licking Ignus’ hands.
“Well that’s not what I was expecting,” Lucien said, knowing he had to be the one in a lighter mood. Ignus chuckled before turning to look at him.
“No one even noticed that they’d slipped in,” he said with a smile.
“They’re dogs, we may be wolves but it isn’t a problem if a stray or two make their way in,” Lucien sad, “Although I might be more than a little concerned now.”
“You shouldn’t be. No one else can summon these little guys,” Ignus said as he rubbed the belly of one of the dogs.
“What do you do with them?” Lucien asked.
“Spy,” he answered quickly.
“I can see and feel the things they do… It’s my family’s special trait,” Ignus said with a grin.
“Do you all have a special trait?”
“You could say that.”
“And what was Auden’s?” Lucien asked and Ignus paused for a moment before he turned his head and smiled.
“That family is a little secretive. Royalty usually is,” Ignus said before looking over at Lucien. “I’ve no doubt that Auden will be fine, physically anyways.” Lucien rolled his eyes.
“Thanks for the reassurance,” Lucien said with sarcasm.
“What do you think is the plan after he re-wires her head?” Lucien asked and Ignus paused as he rubbed the head of another dog. There was no ignoring the possibility and Ignus knew that if he were in Ezra's shoes, that would be his exact plan.
“I think you have an idea, don’t you?”
“Not a good one.”
“Yeah, well, if Ezra was good, we wouldn’t be out here in this mess. His easiest plan would be to have her be on his side and if that’s done… well his next steps depend on how obsessed he is with her… which is pretty obsessed if you ask me.”
“But even if he could re-wire her head, it’s not like she’d forget-“
“She might not forget you… But she won’t think of you the same. At least probably not…,” Ignus said with a sigh.
“Why didn’t you let her mark me then?” Ignus stood up at that.
“Because she’s not stable.”
“But wouldn’t it have been better to let her mark me than to let her be?”
“If she marked you and she couldn’t stop, she might’ve killed you. There was a higher chance of your death, which would make it even harder on everyone else… We need you alive – if we want to maintain some part of her at least.”
"Doesn't make sense to me. I would've rather risked it."
"Aurelia couldn't mark her mate when he was already mated to another and she didn't want him to try and reject what already bonded. Bloodhounds heal a lot faster than you do and even then our chances of survival aren't significantly higher. Imagine it like this," Ignus paused. "Say you find a starving dog locked away in a cage, it's snarling and it's been patient all its life, and then you make that dog bite you and it smells flesh and meat. Except now that dog may or may not possess a surprise gift or two."
"You're saying she'd go haywire?"
"She'd go crazy over you, had we had the time... I would've wanted to figure out a way to gradually introduce it to her. But like I said, starving dog."
The two of them stood in silence, the only sound filling the air were the dogs’ panting and fooling around.
Lucien, would you mind heading back here with Ignus, the girl’s got a weird request. Katherine’s voice suddenly rang through. Lucien sighed and looked over at Ignus.
“Your mate apparently made a weird request,” Lucien said and Ignus raised an eyebrow.
It wasn’t long before they were back in the basement. Celia was now standing up straight with a fierce look of determination in her eyes.
“What do you want?” Ignus asked with nonchalance.
“I need an injury,” Celia responded. “Otherwise Ezra won’t believe me.” Ignus paused for a moment.
“I told you it was a weird request,” Katherine commented. “This is some weird S-and-M shit right here.” Ignus chuckled before looking over at his mate and narrowing his eyes. Lucien stepped forward but Ignus shook his head.
“I’ll gladly do it,” he said with a smirk and Katherine gawked at him.
“I’m going to feel it too, Katherine,” Ignus said, “Isn’t it only fair? Besides, if I don’t do it, Ezra’ll be even more suspicious.” Lucien looked between the two bloodhounds and nodded his head.
“Go ahead,” he said simply and Ignus nodded as he stepped forward, massaging his right hand with his left.
“I’m going to enjoy this,” Ignus muttered.
“I know,” Celia answered back with a fire in her eyes and the two of them found that they couldn’t look away from each other’s gaze. In a blink of an eye, Ignus took her arm in his grip and she refused to let out a sound.
“Oh I cannot watch this this is fucking gross,” Katherine said as she turned around and left the room, dragging Desmond behind her.
“I don’t think I’ll stick around for this either,” Hera said with a grimace before looking over at Lucien.
“Will she heal fast enough?” Lucien asked and Ignus grinned.
“She’ll heal of course; I don’t hate myself that much to feel that broken.” Lucien nodded before he stepped back.
“I’ll be right by the door.” Once Lucien shut the door behind him, Ignus breathed out a large sigh.
“You’re a real piece of work, you know that?” Ignus muttered.
“Oh, so we’re on speaking terms now?” Celia asked and Ignus didn’t respond.
Instead, a loud crack and a high-pitched scream filled the room… and Ignus barely even twitched.
“This is almost as painful as the mark you gave me,” Ignus muttered and Celia gasped and groaned.
“Bullshit…” She cursed and Ignus grinned.
“I think two injuries would be more realistic don’t you?” Ignus said sadistically and Celia groaned, writhing in pain on the floor.
“Do… it…” She said in between breaths and Ignus grinned before he walked towards her. He dropped down and their eyes met again.
“If you think this is pain, you have no idea,” Ignus said and a deep ferocious growl resounded from his chest. “This is for Irena.” Ignus hissed as he grabbed her.