I was only at the border for two days before the Foresters came to our post, one of five we had stationed along the border of the Forest Kingdom. My arrival had merely replaced Syn and Terrin's presence. But even without knowing that I was the beta, anyone could sense that I was dangerous and high ranking within the lycan pack.
When I had first received news that the Foresters were sniffing around I let them be. They had to make the first move so we couldn't be accused of threatening them, especially if they hadn't been doing anything more than walking the border line.
My job was relatively easy as Syn and Terrin had already cleared up the false orders their son had been issuing. Beyond that I was simply sifting through the reports, deciding if anything seemed overly suspicious that should be looked further into.
According to the reports everything was peaceful, between us and them and also within their own kingdom. I knew that to be false thanks to Malik's hidden stacks of papers he had let me examine. The Forest Kingdom was not acclimating well to their new King. They were planning civil war and yet without Malik I never would have known. I wondered if Hakota knew about the growing unrest within the Forest Kingdom. After all, if war was to break out within the Forest Kingdom, I had no doubt we would be dragged into it as well.
But the real question was not if Hakota knew about the talk of rebellion, but if the Forest King himself knew. If he did know about the threat on his reign then my mating with Winter would become an even bigger threat to my pack. The Forest King could use it to rally the Foresters to take vengeance on my pack. Claiming the lycans didn't think a Forester worthy to be in our pack.
The more I thought about the complications the more it made my head spin and the more hopeless I felt.
There seemed to be no answer to my dilemma outside of war.
"Beta," one of the werewolves entered into the small room serving as my office. I looked up from scrutinizing the paper before me that I hadn't even really been thinking about, my cheek propped up on a fist. "There is a group of Foresters requesting permission to cross the border and enter the fort. They want to speak with you."
My hands fell to the table over top of the report open on my desk. "Granted. Keep them by the main gate I will join you in a moment."
The werewolf ducked his head and left to carry out orders. I remained seated for a little while longer, blowing out a long and tired breath before stacking the papers and putting them back into the folder. I drummed my fingers across the now closed report before standing and going over to the window that overlooked the square of open space leading in from the main gate.
Three Foresters were admitted through the walls, escorted by two of my own werewolf soldiers. They seemed to be calm which I supposed was a good sign.
Without delaying any longer I went down to meet them. All heads turned to me as I walked out to the main gate. It was a natural reaction, anyone who could feel such a powerful opposing force would naturally look to see where it was coming from. It was quite a normal thing for me just as it was for Hakota and Cleo. Eric Farland had the same effect just like Coda.
As I approached, the Foresters also looked my way. I did not miss the way they tensed and the hostility flooded out of them at my nearing. Like dogs they raised their hackles at the sign of a threat, ready to fight. I ignored it as that was also a normal reaction. Their instincts forced them to go on the defensive and usually it took several encounters for them to grow used to the dominance that wafted off me and the other lycans.
"How can I help you?" I asked, dipping my hands into my pockets and letting my shoulders roll back and low, trying to look as relaxed, calm, and unthreatening as possible.
"So it really is you," one of the werewolves started. He was young, probably only eighteen or nineteen years old and the way the words were uttered in a low growl full of spite warned me that he had yet to learn how to control his emotions and I should not get angry at whatever words were to leave his mouth next. "The elusive lycan Beta. You've finally crawled out of your hole now that the fighting is over?"
My werewolves bristled at his disrespect on my behalf but I drew out a hand from my pocket and held it up to them. The soldiers respected my wishes and stood down. Sliding my hand back into my pockets I cocked my head at the young boy. "If you are implying I am cowardly I shall have to correct you now. I do not fear bloodshed and war, as for the little skirmishes that took place between our kingdoms the last few years, those hardly could be counted as a battle. My pack was more than prepared to handle the Forest Kingdom's attempts without me. However, I can see where you might have been confused as your mere eighteen years of life have mistaken our little spats as a war." I took step forward and instinctually they all took a step back.
I lifted my hand from my pocket and placed it on his shoulder, giving him a little smile that held no comfort. He flinched at the contact but tried to cover it up by glaring at me in the most unthreatening way I had ever seen. Even little Elias could glare with more fire than that. "Listen well boy, I have spent nearly two hundred years at war to know what fights could really constitute as a threat. Even our two year war with the Lunars was more dangerous than the fight the Foresters put up." It was true as the Lunars had crafted the Spiders and Hakota had not been in the best of mental states, raising the risks of his tactical battle choices.
The only reason I feared war with the Forest Kingdom now was because with only their King calling the shots, they would become much more organized with one leader instead of several trying to battle it out amongst themselves for the highest authority. Also, they apparently had some kind of Lunar research about the Spiders but we had luckily destroyed them before they could get further in their progress. I had no way of knowing if secretly their experimentation was still continuing. It was plausible that the King wanted to wait to launch war until he perfected more Spiders like Malik and create an army of hunter-lycan hybrids. Either way, the Forest Kingdom posed more of a threat now than it had in the past.
I squeezed the werewolf's shoulder and finished, "Watch who you sass boy, don't let your grudges wag your tongue especially if you don't have a prayer in taking on the person you challenge." With that I let him go and stepped back, returning to my relaxed stance. "Now someone better open their mouth to tell me what you came here for or I will have you all promptly removed from lycan territory."
"We want to know why there have been so many lycans hanging around the border," the oldest of the bunch spoke.
I quirked a brow, "Oh?" I drawled, "And you believe you have the right to demand answers from us? We are on our territory and we don't need to ask permission from the Forest Kingdom to guard our side of the border nor do we owe you an explanation for our movements."
The werewolf that had yet to speak pushed past his peers and spoke up, "And it's necessary for the beta to be placed on our borders? It's a threatening and hostile move."
I shrugged, "Spout the nonsense you want but we have done nothing to provoke you."
"You mean to tell us that your alpha has no motive sending you here?" The youngest Forester hissed.
My eyes narrowed in on him, "Yes, but if it will calm your King, I will tell him myself that we have no bad intentions."
Outraged the oldest werewolf snarled, "You expect our King to come to lycan territory and enter your fort?"
"Of course not," I snapped, "I'm offering to travel alone to your King and explain that there is nothing for him to be worried about." They blinked, not expecting my offer and my own werewolves seemed surprised by my words. "In fact," I said, "I will be going to your King whether he wants me or not. We shall be having words about how accusations from his subordinates will not be tolerated. Tell your King I will arrive in three days."
"You can’t just—!"
"That will be all, please escort them out," I said to my soldiers who were on the Foresters in an instant, herding them towards the gate.
I did not wait to see if my orders were carried out, knowing well enough that they would not be disobeyed.
True to my word, three days later I was walking up the steps of an ancient castle that had once belonged to the lycan pack that had resided in the heart of the Forest Kingdom. I was escorted, of course, by a group of six werewolves. Thankfully none of them were stupid enough to try and harm me, although I wasn't sure if that was because of their King's command, or their fear that I would succeed in killing them where they would surely fail in killing me.
Before long I was in front of the Forest King. He was an older male but certainly not handicapped by his age. He resembled Jeko with his brown hair and green eyes but his jaw was a little more square than his son's.
The expression on his face was rather bored, as if he was used to receiving the beta of the lycan pack. We were in a small room, a saloon for receiving guests for tea. It was quite comfy with two large arm chairs and a cushioned lounge. There was a tray of biscuits and a warm teapot, smoke steaming from the spout. A variety of teas were placed in bowls to select from.
The King was standing as I entered, but he took a seat as he gestured for me to do the same. We said nothing to each other until he dismissed his guards, the oaks doors closing shut behind the werewolves as they left at their King's order.
The King tapped his finger on the arm of his chair, waiting for me to begin which I had no intention of doing. He clicked his tongue when he recognized that fact. "Well, well, well. The beta of the lycan pack has graced my humble abode."
I was not amused at his preposterous comment as the castle was anything but humble. "I have not come as the beta of my pack, or as a lycan."
"Oh?" The king reached forward and poured himself a cup of tea, selecting a teabag and dropping it within the porcelain cup. He sat back in his chair, "And here I was, told that you were coming to scold me about the manners of my Foresters."
My dry response cleared up that matter, as we both knew such a trivial thing could not possibly be the reason I had come. "Well I can do that too I suppose, but I have a feeling you won't take my words into consideration."
The King gave me a slight smile, "No, I don't think I would."
Not needing to exchange pointless words or dally to the subject I had come to speak about I told him flatly, "You son is mated to my mate."
The King paused for a moment, analyzing my confession and formulating a well crafted response in his favor. "...no," he said slowly, "Jeko is mated to his mate."
"I am willing to make a deal," I replied, not about to be baited into a petty argument. The King didn't respond aside from picking up his teacup and humming over the rim of the porcelain waiting for me to offer my proposal. "I'm not going to step aside," I told him clearly.
The King's eyes flashed, "Killing my son would be a mistake, Lycan."
I drummed my fingers across the arm chair "I know," I admitted, "it's the only reason I haven't challenged and killed him already."
My eyes followed the Forest King, watching as he carefully set down the teacup and leaned forward, steepling his fingers together and resting his elbows on his knees. "Alright, tell me of this deal you propose." The small smirk he was wearing told me that he was satisfied that I didn't mince words.
"Your son can remain mated to Winter, his mark will be the only one on her, but she's mine in every other term of mate."
"Ahh," the King tapped his lips with his pointer fingers, "You want fucking rights," he mused crassly. I did not deign that with a response. The King clapped his hands and fell back in his chair, looking positively delighted. "Do as you want Lycan, this is an issue between you, my son, and Winter. I am not going to solve Jeko’s mate problems for him." He waved his hands dismissively, "But you already knew that, didn't you?" His grin was positively wicked, "Yes," he cooed, my dark expression doing nothing to unsettle him, "You didn't come here because of this so-called deal, you came to see if I’d care about my son's death if you were to kill him."
"Would you?" I challenged him.
Despite the threat to his son's life he seemed nonplussed, "My answer, Lycan, is this. I care enough about what benefits me. And you can rest assured that if a lycan kills my son or if some 'unfortunate accident' were to befall him, I will use that excuse to come after your little lycan pack."
Getting what I had come for, not surprised in the least by the answer I had been expecting, I stood to take my leave. I hated this stupid Forest Kingdom and I did not wish to be within its borders for longer than necessary.
The King offered me no farewell except for a few parting words, "I sacrificed my son already," he reminded me, "I will gladly do it again. Kill him if you want to," he said, "but I will use his death against you."
I pulled open the doors, not bothering to close them behind me as I stormed out of the castle.
With the King's damning words I had no chance of disposing of Jeko without igniting a war.