In The Shadows

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Seven

Pain exploded in my shoulder and a scream ripped through my throat. I tried to sit up but I was held down by several pairs of hands. "Relax Cleo, they are only stitching your wound. It will all be over in a minute." Grey's soothing voice flooded over me and I returned to unconsciousness.

When I awoke again it was because I could hear yelling outside the medicine hut where I was located.

"She almost died Coda! How could you leave her by herself?" Grey was speaking.

"I thought she was safe, we swept the area, I didn't know half the rogues stayed behind."

"You should have stayed with her."

"What does it matter now? She's fine, you should be more worried about the l..." the rest faded off as darkness consumed me once again.

My eyes opened into darkness, night had set and the hut was lit by two candles. I groaned and shifted, hissing at the pain in my shoulder. I looked down to see my chest and injured shoulder had been wrapped in white bandages. Sitting up, pain rushed into my head. The pounding of a headache throbbed in my skull. It took me a moment before I stood, hobbling outside. Grey was siting on the ground his back against the side of the hut.

"Grey?"

He sprang to his feet, relief flooding his features when he saw me. "Cleo! You are finally awake. You've been falling in and out of consciousness. How do you feel?"

"Like shit." I replied leaning up against the hut. "Where's my dad?"

"Hunting." Grey said somberly.

"What?" I asked my voice hoarse and breathy from the effort of speaking.

"The rogues weren't the only ones in our territory, Cleo. Something much worse is out there right now. Coda was going to go after them but he needed to take you here immediately. The other pack members lost them."

"Those wolves?" I murmered more to myself than anything but Grey still replied.

"You saw them?" Grey asked in surprise.

I nodded, wincing at the pain in my neck from the action. "They were watching me when I was attacked."

"How many?"

"Four from what I saw, there could be more."

He cursed. "Stay here Cleo. We thought there was only one or two, this is bad. I need to alert your father."

"What? No! I'm not staying here!"

He shook his head. "It's too dangerous and you're injured."

"I took out two rogues by myself I–"

"No!" He barked making me jump back in surprise. Black flodded his irises before quickly retreating back to their usual green color. "These aren't just werewolves Cleo."

"All the more reason I should come then. You need all the help you can get."

"Not you Cleo. Stay here. I mean it." Before I could say a word he lept into the air, fluidly turning into his wolf and left me leaning against the hut.

"Fine, I'll just find these wolves myself." I muttered and pushed myself off of the hut. I had to walk slow, every muscle in my body aching with every step I took. The cold autumn air nipped at my face, biting at my ears. I would have wrapped my arms around my mostly bare torso if it didn't hurt my shoulder so much. One foot after the next I made slow progress deeper into the forest, trying to listen for any signs of the rest of the pack. I wasn't sure what it was but I just felt a pull westwards and I followed my hunch down the trails further into the forest.

My teeth were chattering violently by the time I could just make out voices. Shuffling my frozen and bare feet across the ground I pulled myself up the rock formation and laid back against the trunk of a decaying tree. The leaves were rustling in the wind, making it hard to make out the voices clearly. I could see everything as clear as day thanks to the brightly shining full moon. My father was standing in front of the pack, Coda only a few steps behind him. They were in human form while the rest of the pack stayed in their wolf pelts. Standing before them to my right was the tall and muscular body of a man who held himself proudly and challengingly. There were eight wolves behind him, and I guessed that was his pack.

It was a normal size for a rogue party but considerably small for a normal pack. My pack was considered small with forty one members. Although there wasn't many packs in all, maybe about thirty around the world, the other packs were in the hundreds for members, even though not all of them were technically werewolves because human mates were common.

"Why are you here?" My father demanded, his voice carrying through the forest.

The leader spoke, "We were hunting the rogues. They ransacked our food supply. They had to be punished."

"They're dead now. So get off my territory." My father was quick to the chase.

The male laughed, although there was nothing friendly about it. "There is something else in your territory that belongs to me, alpha." Although he used my father's title it didn't sound very respectful. "I won't be leaving without it."

"We took nothing from you."

"I never said that you did," the leader countered, "but I want what is mine."

Maybe there was something about the way he said the last word, that made my father understand. "You think your mate is among us." My father's voice was flat, no joy for one of his pack in finding their mate.

"I know she is here. I can smell her right now."

My father took a step forward his alpha taking over. I could feel his overwhelming presence pressing down on me. "Get off my land, Lycan. She will not be going anywhere with you."

At the mention of a Lycan my blood froze. I thought the Lycans were all dead. My pack had hunted them to extinction through generations. The Lycans were the purest form of werewolves, more animal than human when their wild side took over. They were ruthless, unpredictable, dangerous. Hunters and Lycans were like water and oil, they fought every time they came into close quarters, something in our roots telling us to eliminate each other. My mother had been killed by a Lycan and my father had killed the last of them in return, so why were there Lycans still alive?

"You know who it is." The Lycan mused. "Bring her out to me hunter, and we will leave."

"You will never walk out of here alive with her."

I wondered who it was my father was protecting so fiercely that he would risk a bloodbath with these Lycans.

The Lycan bristled, aggression leaking from him. "It is my right to take her. You know what mates are to us."

"Move on your way if you don't want a fight here today." The rest of the pack walked closer to my father, bracing themselves for battle.

The group of Lycans stepped forward in retaliation. "My mate, hunter, or heads will roll."

My father stood his ground. "No."

I scrambled from my position, trying to get down to where my father was as fast as possible. I wanted to be there to help them fight, if all the wolves here were truly Lycans our pack would be reduced considerably and I didn't want to be on the sidelines when this happened.

"You are a fool to risk the lives of your pack for a single female." The Lycan barked.

"You are risking the lives of your own pack for the same."

"I'm offering a truce if you give me what I am owed."

"I owe you nothing." My father snarled and ducked down into a fighting stance his claws extending from his fingers.

"Last chance." The Lycan warned. The wolves behind him growled, bareing their teeth.

Fear raced through me, the thought of losing both my parents to Lycans was terrifying and I found a burst of adrenaline coursing through me. I ran swifter than I ever had in my life. My father was the strongest wolf I had ever known but a Lycan was serious and a pack of Lycans fighting for a mate was deadly. I couldn't lose my father, he was the only family I had left.

"Over my dead body." My father said. The wolves behind both alphas bunched their muscles, readying themselves to spring at the opposing side.

I don't know what I was thinking...okay I wasn't thinking at all, when a battle cry burst from my lips and I launched myself from the trees and tackled the Lycan away from my father. "Leave my pack alone!" I shouted as we collided with the ground. The Lycan twisted under me springing up and lifting me by the the back of my neck without crushing my throat. I tried to throw a punch at him but he moved his head to the side. He cocked his head and examined me like a strange specimen. Then he dropped me, I fell on my butt rocking back on my heels.

"Cleo!" My father admonished me. "Get behind me." When I didn't make a move fast enough and because the Lycan before me was blatantly staring at my mostly bare torso and legs, my father stepped in front of me, blocking me from the Lycan. "Leave now Lycan, you have no right to be here."

His grin was feral, "I want the girl."

"You can't have her." My father gritted out through his teeth. "I've killed your kind before, I am not afraid to do it again. I was born for the purpose of erasing your foul race from this planet."

"Alright." The Lycan replied, "A fight for the female then. You against me. The victor gets the girl, the loser, well, they'll be dead but their pack can walk away. Perhaps an alpha with more concern for his pack than his own pride will take your place."

"I'll rip you to pieces!" My father bellowed.

Something within me tore through my body, coming from nowhere and taking over completely. An inhuman growl ripped through my throat. My body convulsed and I hunched over, coughing in ragged fits as I tried to fight whatever it was within me. "Stay away from him!" I yelled. I closed my eyes and pushed it down again. "Daddy," I whimpered, my voice now my own again. "What is happening to me?"

"Coda!" My father commanded and in an instant the beta was kneeling down beside me.

"It's okay, pup, it's just your wolf." He tried to soothe me, running his hand down my back. A low growl sounded distantly.

My wolf? "But I—But I thought I didn't have one!" I cried. The sob quickly turned into a scream of pain as sharp claws punched through my fingers and my blood felt like it was on fire. A roar tore through me and I was on my feet, staggering between my father and the Lycan. I spread out my arms. "Stay away." I wasn't sure who I was speaking to, but I think it was both of them.

"Coda," my father said again. "Take her back, keep her contained while I kill this Lycan."

"No!" I don't know where this word came from, why I even cared what happened to the Lycan but I growled at my father, showing him my teeth.

"Coda!" My father shouted.

The beta grabbed me from behind, catching my wrists in one of his hands and hauled me back.

"Is that your pup, hunter?" My father didn't reply which proved answer enough from him. He laughed wickedly, "Oh my, the goddess surely does have a sense of humor doesn't she? I suppose it really is true that she keeps the balance. You killed my father and I am rewarded with your daughter. It's almost poetic really."

"You won't be rewarded with anything, especially not my daughter. Leave now and don't come back. She won't be going anywhere with you ever."

The lycan looked at me, at the confusion on my face as I tried to piece things together which was difficult with my wolf trying to shed my human skin.

"Alright, hunter." He finally replied, tearing his eyes away from me. "She can stay here for three more years. You can teach her about the lycans and the hunters and how it all works or you can try and hide her away from me, however you want to spend your time. But I will come for her after three years, and if after that time you still wish to fight me, very well, a fight we will have."

He turned away, signaling to his pack members and they turned as well, following him into the forest and away from my pack.

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