Sixteen | Terrin
I stayed in the castle the rest of the week. Hakota wanted us all together for a while because yesterday, while Syn and I had been at the festival, a group of Forest Kingdom werewolves made an attempt to trap and kill the mute twins. My spies also brought in rumors of the Forest Kingdom packs bonding together. Their first united rebellion in history. They refused to unite even during the lycan wars, so it seemed unlikely the rumors were true. But then, two days after Denahi and Keni spoke of the trap laid for them, we received news the Red Zone had been breached and the werewolves were attempting to destroy the moon pool.
The moon pool was sacred to the lycans. A gift from Lune, destroying it sent a message loud and clear. The pressure to take action and set up a proper hierarchy was pressing heavily upon us. We sat in counsel for hours, putting our heads together to come up with a solution. By the fourth day we were all on edge. Most of us had hardly slept and it was showing in this meeting.
"They will murder whoever we put there. If they aren't of the Forest Kingdom, they won't accept them," Cleo exasperatedly reminded us why sending a delegate was never going to work.
"Even if they were of the Forest Kingdom, it wouldn't matter," Sitka added, "we all know a challenge is easy enough to issue."
"So we send someone who they can't beat." Hakota answered but I was already shaking my head in counter.
"If they can't take him down by challenge, they will just stab him in the back." I knew that well enough having been witness to it several times before. It was sad but it was true.
"I forgot the Foresters hold no moral code," Innoko sneered.
"Oh?" I snapped at the female, "because we Foresters are just wild savages right?"
"Terrin," Cleo cut in before Innoko could respond, "you know we don't see you that way." She rubbed at her temples tiredly, "I think we all just need a break."
"No," Hakota rejected her suggestion, "we need to find a solution."
"And I don't think we're going to find one for awhile," his mate snipped.
Meeting her glare with narrowed eyes of his own Hakota pressed, "Exactly why we need to keep focused. We haven't time to waste."
Cleo crossed her arms, pushing back in her chair, the piece of furniture tilting back as Cleo balanced it on two legs. "As alpha I say we take a break."
All eyes darted back-and-forth between our alphas. We all knew that neither of them would back down easily.
"Are you implying I am not alpha as well?" Hakota gritted out, his flat palm on the table curling into a fist.
His mate waved a hand in the air flippantly, "All I know is it's been Sitka and I running this pack for a long while."
I flinched, knowing this was about to get really ugly.
"Really Cleo?" Hakota snarled, "If you recall, that's your own damn fault." He thrust an accusing finger in her direction, "You killed me!"
A collective intake of breath sounded from the pack. Killed? Hakota had actually died?
"What?" Sitka's low, dark, voice asked what we all were thinking. There was a thunk as Cleo's chair landed back on all four legs.
Hakota and Cleo both fidgeted and comfortably. It had obviously been a fact they have never planned on sharing. "You were going to keep this from us? Sani growled.
Hakota licked his lips, "We couldn't afford to tell you. We didn't want to divide the pack further."
"We deserved to know," Innoko hissed.
"It doesn't matter anymore," Hakota tried to dispel a conversation our pack wasn't ready to have. "Lune wanted to have a few words with me, she was never going to let me die."
"You did die," Syn commented flatly.
"It doesn't matter right now," Roshan reminded us. "The Forest Kingdom is the biggest threat. We focus on that now."
Innoko crossed her arms, "They need to die," she stated her opinion for the hundredth time, "and they need to die now."
"Slaughtering them will only make it worse!" I protested. That female really made me want to rip out her white blond hair sometimes.
The female turned on me, "Listen here, werewolf," she stood from her chair and I met her challenge, my own chair screeching back. While I may have been the only werewolf in the room, I was still part of this pack and I would not be silenced for it. I knew the Forest Kingdom better than anyone and they would do well to listen to me. "If you think I will risk my mate's imprisonment you are wrong. Werewolves are selfish, they always want what they can't have. Roshan's oracle gift will never be used by the werewolves ever again." Her eyes burned with anger as she thought about the injustice brought upon her mate. "I will not let them grow strong enough to capture us and torture us," she shot the twins a look and they both nodded at her in agreement. "I will not let them force us to watch our mates die before us." She looked to the parents, Sani clutching onto Frayah's hand tightly at the reminder, Frayah's face white and her eyes ghostly as if she was pulled back into that memory. "They will not give us a price," she hissed stabbing the table with a finger, "they will not humiliate us and lust after us—be able to act on that lust." Her eyes fell on my lycan mate.
I followed her gaze to Syn, who looked ready to vomit. Never had I seen such a haunted look at his face. I knew the twin's story about their torture, how their tongues had been cut out. I knew about Sani and Frayah almost being burned alive side-by-side. I knew about Roshan and his decades of imprisonment. But Syn... I knew nothing about his time before Hakota found him.
"So if keeping that from happening means killing every damn Forester, then I will," Innoko finished her speech, pulling my attention away from my stricken mate.
"You can't just kill them all! I snarled, banging my fist on the table. "You'd only be proving their point. Others will pick up the cause!"
"They did it to us!" Innoko shrieked, "The lycans in this room are all that's left of an entire race."
"You are exactly blameless," I retorted, "the lycans were tyrants, it's not surprising there was animosity."
"Animosity?" Innoko spat out the word venomously, "you call–"
"Maybe we should take a break," Roshan tried to play peacekeeper. "I think we need to come back fresh. Have some time to regroup." He looked at his mate pleadingly.
She scoffed, but grudgingly sat back down, "All I am saying is we need to come up with solution now."
"I know," Roshan said softly, "and I want an answer for this mess, we all do, but it's important we make the right choice. We don't need to make things even worse. And we aren't going to get anywhere fighting with each other."
"Worse?" Innoko choked, "Things can't get worse Roshan. We are receiving death threats. The Forrest Kingdom is raising an army against us. Lune only knows if they will be able to pull Old Kingdom werewolves and the Lunar Kingdom to their side." Tears burned in her eyes but the strong female tried her best not to let them fall. "I refuse to play nice," he voice cracked and she hugged herself tightly, "not with our pup's life on the line," she whispered brokenly.
Frayah gasped, "You're pregnant?"
Without looking up the female nodded once.
"Innoko that's wonderful–"
"It's not! It's not wonderful!" Innoko wailed. "I knew it wasn't safe yet," she cried, "and now I'm a liability!" The soon to be mother began sobbing in her hands. The scene was grim and reminded us exactly of our situation.
Roshan went to comfort his mate and excused themselves.
"No mother should fear their child's birth." Frayah was the first to speak after they had left.
We all knew Innoko loved her pup and that she had desperately wanted one, but her fear and the danger overshadowed the joy she felt. Now we were down another two lycans. Roshan could never leave his pregnant mate, and Innoko had more than herself she was risking. She was right, the timing was horrible and now added another factor we had to consider.
"She's right," Cleo spoke, "we protect ourselves first." Her eyes were hard, as alpha she was protective over her own even more so if it involved children who couldn't protect themselves. "If heads have to roll, fine."
"Don't you see?" I was close to crying in frustration. What couldn't they understand? Why wouldn't they listen to me? "That's what caused all this in the first place! Killing isn't going to fix the problem, it only prolongs it."
"What would you have us do then, Terrin?" Cleo shouted at me.
"Just let them have it!" I yelled back. This pack's pride was all that was keeping us from just cutting the problem loose. "We can't control them, and as much as none of you want to admit it, we're too weak to hold on to it."
"We are not weak!" Sani bellowed, "We fought and won the Forest Kingdom. It's ours!"
"I know we can crush them if it comes to war," I huffed. "It's not a matter of our strength, but our size and assets. We have no loyalty," I reminded everyone harshly, "so we can't trust anyone but ourselves. Which also means we can't keep the Forest Kingdom as we are."
"We can't just give it to them," Hakota's voice was thoughtful more than forceful. "Handing it over without a fight will inflate their ego. They will think we are scared of them."
"I know," I replied gravely, "and when they come for the Old Kingdom, when they come for us, then we crush them." I eyed the lycans around the table. "We have to break them apart if we want to win. We will give him a fair warning of the consequences should they attack. They will not heed the warning and will go to war and they will lose. And when their most proud keep pushing, and keep losing, their own people will turn against them. They won't let a few's pride kill them all." Foresters liked fighting for a belief, for themselves, but not for others. When they knew they couldn't win, they would back down to save their own necks. "Once the majority see they can't win, they will settle for what we gave them. The extremists will be killed by their own."
"And we won't turn them into martyrs," Sitka mused.
I nodded, "Exactly. They won't inspire others to rise against us, they will show others not to. And they can't resent us for this. We would be defending our own territory. We aren't invaders this time, they are."
"So another war then," Hakota's low voice rumbled.
"It was going to be war either way," I said, "but this way we solve the problem. They will need time to rebuild and grow their population and so will we. We don't have lycans to spare. We come first."
Sitka sat back in his chair, "It's the best idea we have."
"It's the only idea we have," Syn murmured, "Terrin is right, we can't make them martyrs and patriots."
I was relieved to see heads bobbing in agreement. We all looked to our alphas. The mated pair silently came to an agreement. "Very well," Hakota said, "we give them back the Forest Kingdom."
After we had reached a verdict, we were adjourned soon after. I stayed behind, watching the others file out but making sure to step in front of Syn, blocking his exit. Innoko's earlier words and Syn's reaction to them troubled me. "We need to talk," I told him unnecessarily. He already knew what I was going to ask.
From over my shoulder Syn glanced over at Cleo who had paused by the door. She looked conflicted, silencing debating with herself to save Syn from this confrontation. She hesitated before pursing her lips and closing the door softly behind her. Alone and in silence I looked at my mate. "I need to know what that was about," I said quietly.
Syn turned away from me, his eyes trained on the wall behind me. "No you don't," he whispered hoarsely his throat bobbing.
"Syn, please," I grabbed his hand and kissed his knuckles, "you saw what secrets did to Hakota and Cleo."
The big male bit his lip before bringing his free hand to my face. He brushed his knuckles across my cheek delicately, "All you need to know is that I was a slave for the entertainment of the rich werewolves of high society."
"What did they make you do?" I breathed, staring into his grey eyes that looked back at me with sorrow.
He continued stroking my cheek, more as comfort for himself than for me. "All sorts of things," he admitted, "they made me dance for them and sing for them. They made me spar and gamble, learn to play their games and participate. They used me as a model too, dressing me in all of the latest fashions and had me parade around for their friends to see."
I could only imagine how much humiliation he went through. "Is that all they made you do?" I asked gently.
Syn shuddered before pulling me close, kissing the top of my head. "Yes. That is all."
We said nothing further, but as I was engulfed in his warm embrace I closed my eyes and sent up a silent prayer to Lune not to let the secrets between us destroy us like they had Cleo and Hakota.
Because I knew there was something else he was hiding from me.
As for me, I had a few secrets of my own.
And now we are nearing the juicy drama of the story.
Also, quick note, we're about two thirds of the way done with this story.
There's only ten chapters left. 😞 I have this story outlined at 26 chapters but a lot of stuff if about to happen.