Roses and Fangs

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[SIXTEEN]

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Valdus stood in the infirmary staring at the ten bodies in front of him. The rest were being dug out of the deep dungeons a mile below the castle. The doctors and healers worked hard on them. Their pulse rate was low, and body severely malnourished. He walked to his Father’s bed. King Brandon’ beard was long and silvery. He had grown old, a rarity amongst the wolves. Valdus held his Father’s hands.

For so long Valdus had thought he was an orphan. King Brandon had died a little while before he was crowned the King the very first time.

“How?” Valdus whispered.

“I have a theory, Alpha” Carmichael whispered.

“Do tell,”

“I think the King realised the threat Mother Evanora posed to the Kingdom.”

“So Evanora made everyone believe my Father was dead but all the while she put him into a dungeon?”

“Absolutely,”

“It doesn’t make sense, Carmichael.”

“Maybe we should wait for him to wake up. I must not speculate too; only King Brandon knows the real truth.”

Valdus felt a sinking sensation inside of him. King Brandon was an amazing King and an even better father. He taught so much to him, and in the end, Valdus felt like a disappointment. For hundred years his Father was rotting deep in the crevices of his realm, wrapped in silver that slowly poisoned his body.

Valdus strangely craved Rosebud. She would wrap her arms around him and give a tight hug. He wanted his soulmate right now.

A healer walked past him with a green herbal paste in a small mortar.

“What is the status, healer?”

“Alpha King, they are all weak and dirty. We are cleaning the body; it is all dusty. Our priority is to stop any infection coming their way. Secondly, we have hooked them up with vitalising potions. These bodies have been surviving since the past hundred years on just musty air and limited oxygen. Their bodies are in a deep meditative state, the only state in which you can survive without food and water.”

“Gods,” Valdus hissed, “have you cleaned any other body? Maybe I can recognise a few of them.”

“We have your Highness. Please come with me.”

Valdus and Carmichael walked behind the healer and stopped in front of the first bed.

“Rumi Kingston.”

“Is that Beta Valerio’s brother?”

“Yes, Carmichael. When Valerio was chosen as the Beta for the Royal Pack, he handed over the reins of his position to Rumi. Rumi then became the Alpha of the Lone Wolf Division. When we were thrown out of the realm, I heard Rumi was killed, and the pack was handed over to Valerio’s five-year-old brother Damascus Kingston. The boy could barely shift properly.”

“I wonder what the Royal Beta’s reaction would be. He is on tour, and it is not wise to call him.”

“I know, but I don’t want to tell this to him on the phone,”

“Right. And you cannot leave the Kingdom as well; this is too serious an issue.”

“I guess we are keeping this to ourselves for now,”

“Alpha Valdus.”

A small bell went off on his phone and Valdus pulled it out. The message was from his Queen; a smile appeared on his lips as he opened the message and clicked on the photo attached. Rosebud had a big smile stretched across her face with a big baby in her arms, he looked so shocked, probably because of the flash. The gruff-looking Alpha Zachariah and Beta Valerio stood behind her.

With Alpha Zachariah’s cute little son Alpha Romulus.

Valdus smiled at the caption and opened another picture.

Rosebud was in a pair of denim jeans with combat boots strapped around her feet and a giant parka around her body. Her face was devoid of any makeup and hair tied in a braid. She looked adorable.

Look what I wore today, my King! I have decided to ditch my gowns.

“The Queen seems to be enjoying,” Carmichael had a small smile on his face.

“I miss her,” Valdus admitted, “but Valerio said that the response was positive. The division was warm, and her lecture today morning was a hit amongst the members. They will assist them in shifting today, I have instructed Valerio to keep an eye on Rose. I don’t want a repeat.”

The marks on her arms flashed before his mind’s eyes.

Valdus cleared his throat and walked in front of another body.

“Carmichael, this is my Gamma: Gamma Wolfington Kingsley, previously the Alpha of the Black Moon Division and Alpha Mason Kingsley’s older brother. He couldn’t make it out of the Royal Pack with us. He was another one who I heard was killed in the rebellion led by Alpha Rumi Kingston.”

“You do need a Gamma, Alpha King. With Valerio heading the Queen’s security, the Queen’s office, the realm securities and the diplomatic relations of the pack divisions, there isn’t much else he has the time for. We need to appoint you a Gamma and at least five Deltas, who better than them? They are loyal to you and loyal towards the realm.”

“Y0u are right. But I have to wait for them to wake up, really understand their state of mind.”

“Absolutely.”

Valdus’ phone began to ring. It was Valerio. He brought it to his ear.

“Beta Valerio?”

“Good Morning, Alpha King Valdus Magnar.”

“What is the matter?”

“I had an appointment with you at nine in the morning to report on the previous day,”

“Right. I forgot I am preoccupied with something else.”

“Do you want me to call you later?”

Valdus walked out of the infirmary.

“No, you can give me a detailed report.”

“Well, the exercise in the morning went well. The Queen started the day with a sermon, making the pack members realise that what they were studying since the past century were all lies. They were angry and livid, but our Queen controlled them effectively.”

“I hope no one tried to get volatile with her, make sure she maintains a distance, Valerio.”

“You cannot expect me to instruct the Queen, Valdus. Her stature doesn’t allow me. It was easier when she was a Princess.”

“I will talk with her,”

“Please do, the Queen cried all the way here to the Division.”

“How is she now?”

“Much Better, Alpha Romulus is keeping her distracted.”

“Grateful for that pup.”

“A very aggressive pup, might I add. We had a very fruitful shifting session in the morning. Almost everyone shifted into their wolves, and we had a long run. Alpha Romulus needed a little coaxing, and the Queen gently soothed him into his Lycan form. The pup was so furry; I could barely see his eyes.”

“Alpha Zachariah is a Lycan?”

“And a strong one at that. He was very quick with the shift and seemed to settle well into his body. His howl was loud and commanding.”

“Good to know that. The wolves of the Blue Mountain Division were our best and most ruthless warriors.”

“Your Deltas were all from the Blue Mountain Division, Alpha Magnar,”

Valdus peaked into the infirmary and stared at the bodies.

“I know,”

“But coming back to the present time, the Alpha Romulus is unable to shift back and is assaulting the Queen with his tiny fangs.”

Valdus saw red.

“Valerio give me a video call. I will Alpha Command that pup back into his human form.”

“Valdus, you cannot use the Alpha Command on a child!”

“I can and I will, he is attacking the Queen of this realm. I do not want her to get hurt,”

“She loves it, Alpha Magnar. Queen Rosebud loves that child to bits.”

Valdus sighed. Rosebud would get upset if he used the Alpha Command on a pup.

“What is on the agenda for the day?”

“We will be covering four packs under the division. Ten packs have been distributed in these four packs so the Queen can cover all of them. We will be holding town halls to listen to grievances of the pack members. There is a lot of work that needs to be done. Valdus.”

“We will overcome every hurdle, Valerio.”

“I guess I should rescue the Queen.”

“Take care of her, Valerio. She gets attached too quickly.”

***

Rosebud saw Valerio put his phone back in his pocket.

“Did the King ask about me?” Rosebud asked.

“Every question was about you, my Queen. He was angry at Alpha Romulus.”

Rosebud gasped and looked at the little furball that slept in her lap. He had shifted, ran around with his father and then dozed off her in her lap, but after a healthy nipping of her hands. Rosebud had genuinely fallen in love with the sweet baby. He was adorable and charming, and if that nipping was any indication, then an excellent Alpha in the making.

“The King wanted to use his Alpha Command on Romulus.”

“The Alpha Command?”

Valerio’s jaw dropped.

“You don’t know about it?

“No,”

“My Queen, do you remember when you pulled up the shield?”

Rosebud gave an embarrassed nod.

“And do you remember that command by Valdus. You dropped your shield right after it left his lips.”

Rosebud gasped. The sheer force of Valdus’ power had reached every atom of her body; it was so painful and forceful.

“That was the Alpha’s Command,”

“Yes, and trust me when I say this. He wasn’t even using one-tenth of it one you,”

“How can the King even think of using the Alpha’s Command on a poor child?” Rosebud cried out.

“Alpha Valdus loves you irrevocably, Princess. I may have let it slip that Alpha Romulus was ferociously nipping you,” Valerio shrugged, “I am bound to tell him the truth.”

Rosebud bit her lip and held Romulus’ body close to him.

Alpha Zachariah knocked on the door, and Rosebud turned to him. His eyes fell on Romulus, and they softened but then became stern again.

“Alpha Romulus,”

The Pup yelped and woke up. Romulus stared at his father with an adorably confused expression. Alpha Zachariah gently picked him up in his arms and ran his fingers through Romulus’ fur.

“I never thought I would get to see my own son’s fur.” Zachariah’s eyes were soft.

“Romulus is a perfect child, Alpha Zachariah. I am sure he would grow up to be a powerful Alpha.”

“That would be the best; I just wish he had a maternal figure in his life. I am not as affectionate as a mother or a grandmother can be, my Queen.”

“Don’t lose hope, Alpha Zachariah. You still have a chance at finding yourself a soulmate. She will accept you and your son, I am sure.”

“I cannot wait,”

“She will come soon, I feel it.”

Alpha Zachariah gave a small smile.

“My son, it is time you shift back.” Alpha Zachariah’s voice held a bit of command, it wasn’t much, but Romulus didn’t need more. He turned into the big fat baby again and hugged his Father.

“Will Romulus be joining us for the trip?”

“I am afraid not, my Queen. He will get tired by the time we reach the Pack House late at night,”

“I am sorry, I should’ve thought of that before,”

“That’s alright, my Queen. I will take Romulus to the ladies; he enjoys being amongst them. The cars are ready outside, and I will meet you there,”

Romulus was entranced by his father and didn’t seem to pay Rosebud a lot of attention.

“I wish I could take him with me to the Capitol,” Rosebud pouted.

“Don’t even ask the Alpha, not even jokingly,” Valerio warned.

“Why?”

“It is a criminal offence to deny any request made by you, my Queen. The King will have to hang Alpha Zachariah, and even you won’t be able to save him. The rule is set in stone.”

“That is preposterous,”

“Which is why you must be careful.”

Rosebud pouted and nodded. She picked up her notes and walked to the car, Valerio and Ramona followed her. She sat inside; Alpha Zachariah was already beside the driver on the passenger seat.

“Alpha Zachariah, how many schools did you say are in these four packs?” Rosebud asked as the driver drove out of the pack compound. “I don’t have any details about it.”

Rosebud opened her file and rand her fingers through the names of the packs under the Blue Mountain division. There were no schools listed beside the names of the four packs. And a school was most definitely necessary; there were over five thousand children between the age of five to eighteen.

“There are no schools, my Queen,” Alpha Zachariah said.

Rosebud sighed in distress, and her eyes narrowed when she saw six Moon Goddess temples in the four packs.

“There are six temples though,”

“They are very grand structures, my Queen. Our Division has more than seventy-five such temples.”

“I don’t understand,” Rosebud seemed confused, “this theocracy is beyond my comprehension. And that textbook you gave me, the Moon Goddess’ teachings aren’t to be transmitted through these. I am just so dejected.”

“I am going to make sure that this changes. I just don’t get it why are there so many temples! It degrades the stature of Moon Goddess!”

“Don’t get so perturbed, Queen Rosebud,” Ramona soothed.

“I am just angry,” Rosebud squeaked.

Valerio bit her lip and turned to look at Rosebud. The Queen was red as a tomato. The entire situation was just so laughable; this was the first time he was seeing his Queen get angry. Rosebud looked at Valerio, and her jaw dropped.

“Don’t laugh at me!” Rosebud squealed.

Alpha Zachariah too cracked a smile.

“What is the chief employment provider in the division, Alpha Zachariah?” Rosebud asked while pulling out the employment records.

“Farming and mostly blue-collar jobs like mining, we have a few grocery stores here and there, and someone works at one of the temples. We have a few in the education centre as well. Mostly our income is based on the small allowance the state provides us.”

“There is no financial independence,” Rosebud closed the file, “we have to allow people to start their businesses.”

“Business requires capital, my Queen,”

“And I will provide with the investment. The King has given me a fairly large purse to spend on programmes and schemes of my choice. How about an investment programme?”

“I agree, we can start funding some small businesses,” Beta Valerio said.

The ride to the first of the four packs was not comfortable. Rosebud continued making notes in her notebook; she was going to ask Ramona to send a detailed report to the Palace. There was a lot that had to be done. But these development programmes couldn’t be initiated all at once. For now, it was essential to making the citizens financially independent. While offering a rebate from tax was a novel step, but the action couldn’t be used time and again. It was important for the citizens to start paying taxes at least by the next year.

They reached the first pack in about thirty minutes.

The venue for the town hall was the Thornhill High School. It was a tiny structure with barely seven rooms. How would the people accommodate in here?

Rosebud stepped out of the car; a few students peaked out of their classrooms before running inside. She was led to a small auditorium stuffed with pack members. The Alphas of about three of the ten packs assembled were sitting amongst the crowd. They immediately bowed down to greet her.

Rosebud sighed in relief; it was fortunate that she switched her gown to a much more rugged outfit.

“Good Morning, everyone.” Rosebud smiled when everyone bowed down in front of her. “I am so happy to see you all here today.”

A bottle of water was placed in front of her, along with a platter of cakes and cookies. They were indeed doing everything possible to make her feel welcome. To commemorate their efforts, she picked up a cookie and took a hearty bite of it.

It was like a flavour bomb had gone off in her mouth. The chocolate chips were perfectly melted, and the cookie was chewy yet crisp. It was the perfect cookie. Rosebud stopped the moan trying to leave her lips and instead opened her eyes and looked amongst the audience.

“Who made these?”

A murmur erupted in the hall, and a shy girl of about twenty hesitantly picked her hand. She looked around, appearing scared.

“These are very good,” Rosebud complemented, “do you have your bakery?”

A microphone was passed to her and cleared her throat before speaking.

“I don’t, m-my Queen,”

“What is your name?”

“Madeleine,”

“What do you do, Madeleine?”

“I am a janitor, here a-at school.” Madeleine still seemed apprehensive and looked everywhere else but towards Rosebud.

“But would you like to own a bakery?”

’I would l-love to,” Madeleine smiled, “it has always been a dream, but I don’t have the money?”

Rosebud smile and turned to Valerio. He gave a nod of approval, and she turned back to the sweet baker.

“One of my main aims is to make sure that every citizen of our realm is financially abundant. I want you all to be secure and sufficient. Every one of you here has some talent or potential, and the potential must be utilised. For that reason alone, I am starting an investment programme for small businesses. I will personally provide the capital required for your business and connect you with the required professionals who will help you grow and construct a business. And I think I have found my first applicant for the investment programme. Madeleine, would you like to open a bakery, now?”

Madeleine gasped and nodded wildly. She broke down into tears, and everyone else in the room started to applause.

Rosebud smiled, looking at their happy faces, silently speaking a spell of blessings and good fortune.

***

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