What we arrived to was the aftermath.
Smoke was billowing out of the west side of the castle.
We shoved through the crowded streets of the city, plowing through the werewolves who were just staring at the castle.
"Move!" Hakota snarled at the werewolves as we shouldered our way through the main street which was the fastest way to the castle. "Get out of the fucking way!" He snarled when they moved too slowly.
A path finally opened and we were able to sprint towards our home and our families inside.
I was full of dread, unable to judge the damage by what I could see outside of the castle alone. It had obviously been broken in to. I wasn't surprised the enemy was able to force their way through since we had sent a fair amount of our soldiers to the border to defend the Old Kingdom in case the Foresters tried to surge their way through.
Yet, we still had a fair amount of werewolves guarding the castle too. They were the first line of defense but I didn't see a single werewolf outside of the castle which meant one of two things. They had betrayed us or they had been outnumbered and were forced deeper into the castle to defend.
For them to have been outnumbered was highly unlikely as such a big wave of Foresters would never have been able to cross our borders in the first place. Unless Jeko had been turning werewolves in the Old Kingdom and letting them in a few at a time to prepare for this moment. He stuck around in the Old Kingdom for several months after Winter and I had come out. He'd obviously hated the castle and there really had been no reason for him to wait so long to betray us unless he was busy with something else during that time.
I cursed myself for not thinking there could have been more than the werewolves we found responsible for the death of three of our pack members.
Blood painted the ground by the main gate, trails leading into the castle. Dead bodies littered the marble floor, I searched every face for a lycan one, my heart squeezing tighter every time I looked to the next face, dreading it would be one of my pack.
Moving deeper into the castle we found some of our werewolves. They were tending to their injured peers. One of the guards shot to his feet when he say us. "Alpha, beta," he stuttered out, looking relieved to see us.
"Where are the lycans?" Hakota growled out.
"They," the guard took in a shuddering breath, "I don't know alpha but your mate is alive. She told us to collect the wounded."
"Are all of the Foresters dead?" I demanded.
He nodded vigorously. "Yes."
I sprinted out of the room, keeping on my guard despite his words. "Winter?" I called out into the castle. "Winter!" I looked in every room, praying to find one of the lycans. Anyone, just to know one more was alive.
A tap on my shoulder had me whirling around, my claws ready to slice whoever it was to ribbons. Keni leapt back from me, raising his hands.
I let out a breath. Despite being covered in gore from head to toe he looked fine. "Keni, where is your brother?"
The lycan signed to me rapidly with his hands. Denahi is taking care of Flicka's wounds.
"And your daughter?" I asked when he didn't mention her.
Galay is fine. The Foresters were targeting her, they tried to separate us from the her but we killed them all.
"They were targeting Galay specifically? They weren't just attacking every lycan?"
Keni shook his head, his hands moving quickly to explain to me the situation. They didn't want to fight us unless they had too, they were just trying to get to her. They subdued us in numbers so they could have a better chance at getting to her alone.
"What about the others?" I asked desperately. "Did you see Winter? Do you know where she is?"
Again Keni shook his head, a mournful expression crossing his face. I haven't seen any of the others. I came looking once it seemed like it was over. They came out of nowhere Sitka, we didn't have time to find each other. We didn't want to risk losing Galay too. We already lost Iris.
He looked apologetic as he admitted it but I understood they had been too scared and probably unable to leave their defensive position even if they'd wanted too. "Go back to them," I told Keni, "stay together until our alphas come for you."
The lycan nodded and left at that, obeying his beta's orders.
I continued my search through the castle. My breathing quickened as with every passing moment I did not find my mate. The next lycan I happened upon was Sani. He was dragging an unconscious Mathias with him, limping badly himself, a gaping slash in his leg.
I immediately went over to his side, taking Mathias from him. "Shit, Sani," I hissed when the lycan collapsed. "Cahtta," he breathed out as he struggled to rise to his feet. "They dragged her away from us. Sitka," tears were streaming down his face, "I can't find her. I can't find her or Frayah."
I ran a hand through my hair, coming to realize what was happening and it twisted my gut. The Foresters had been targeting our young females. The ones who would birth our next generation of lycans.
"What about Sasha?" The words had hardly made it out of my mouth when his resounding reply echoed down the hall.
A blood splattered Sasha jogged over to us, a band of werewolves behind him, Cahtta carried in the arms of one of the werewolves. Her side was bleeding badly and her drooping eyes told me she wasn't far from passing out due to blood loss.
"Dad," Sasha dropped to his knees next to his father. "Oh thank Lune, you have Mathias." He gestured over the werewolf with his sister. Sasha helped his sister and mate exchange blood to speed up their healing process.
Sani grabbed his son's arm. "Your mother?"
Sasha held up his father who could barely sit up on his own. "I don't know," he told him honestly. "I was with Cleo."
"Where is she?" I demanded, shaking Sasha urgently. "Where is Cleo Sasha? Where are the others?"
"She was with Innoko," Sasha stuttered out, his brain already working at a million miles an hour as he confronted one problem at a time. "Innoko was gravely wounded. I–"
"Stay here," I snapped out, rising to my feet. "Wait for Hakota and Cleo but stay together, do you hear me?"
Sasha nooded, letting out a shuddering breath full of anxiety.
I was running through the halls again, leaping over the bodies littering the ground. I saw that our werewolves still alive, were frantically working to stop the fires in the west wing of the castle. "Is there anyone in there?" I spoke to one of the werewolves.
"No, we got everyone out. The rooms are all cleared." His face was streaked with ash and I gathered he had been one of the ones searching through the fire.
"Casualties?" I inquired, shuffling my weight, my nerves too great for me to keep still.
"Some werewolves," he answered. "There was a lycan severely burned but she made it out."
"No, not the alpha. The one with the weird eyes."
I felt momentary relief in knowing Frayah was okay, another lycan was alive. But that came crashing down when I realized I had yet to find my own mate. "Have you seen my mate?"
"No beta," he shook his head sadly.
I was on my way, scrambling through the castle and found myself swinging down a corridor when I heard Cleo's voice.
I stopped dead at the scene before me.
Innoko was choking up blood, her white hair stained red, her eyes puffy and swollen from tears. Her fingers were bloody where some of her claws were missing. A set of three slash marks split her gut open.
Around her was utter carnage, werewolves were mutilated beyond recognition. She had lost herself as she'd torn the enemies apart and the reason why was laying dead just feet away. Roshan was not moving or breathing and he never would again. His throat was ripped open, his clothes torn to tatters, dozens of claws marks covering his body where he had been brought down by sheer numbers.
Cleo was holding her in her lap, pleading with the female to hang on. "You're being selfish Innoko, we've all lost someone, Nahta still needs you."
The female on the cusp of death wheezed out in a rattling breath, "I can't." Another mouth full of blood bubbled up from her lips. "My daughter is dead," a tear leaked down her face, turning red from the blood it collected as it trailed down her cheek, "now my mate is dead. I don't want to live in a world without them."
"Innoko you have to!" Cleo grabbed her hand, gripping it tightly between them.
"I'm sorry," the female breathed, lifting a hand to her alpha's face. The red handprint smeared as her hand fell limply, her eyes glazing over.
I couldn't stay there any longer. Especially as Cleo wept over the fallen female, sobbing as she hugged the female close.
I tore through the castle, my tears blinding me. I wiped my arm over my eyes several times to clear the stinging salty water from my vision. Grief was wrapping itself around me, threatening to drag me down to my knees.
Not yet. Not before I found Winter. I had to know she was alive. I had to know she and my child were safe.
My hand shot out to steady myself as I careened to the side. My hand landed on a door, half removed from its hinges. It swung open as my weight pushed into it. The door smacked to the ground, me landing on top of it.
I struggled to my knees, looking up at the destroyed room. A cry of mournful rage broke free from my lips. I screamed out my sorrow as I crawled on hands and knees over to my fallen mate.
Her eyes were open but staring blankly at nothing. Her blonde hair fanned out around her, soaking in a pool of blood. "No," I sobbed, "N-no." I choked on my own denial. My shaking hands reached her face, cupping her cold cheeks. "No, no, no," I protested, pulling her up into my lap. "Winter," I patted at her face, trying to make her wake up. Her skin was ice cold under my hand. "Wake up," I told her, kissing her forehead. "Wake up I'm here now." Water dripped from my face to hers.
I cradled my mate in my arms, weeping into her hair, not having the slightest care I was staining myself in her blood as I nuzzled into her. My hands slid from her face to her belly that was slashed open.
My child was gone, completely removed from Winter's corpse. My mate had died alone and empty.
A sorrowful moan broke from me. It grew louder with every breath until I was howling out my misery.
Footsteps thundered towards me but I did not look up. Friend or foe it no longer mattered to me. Neither one would pull my away from my mate without prying her from my dead hands.
"Malik!" Terrin's heartbroken cry sounded behind me.
I glanced up in confusion, my eyes following Terrin's form as he stepped over the dead werewolves to a small body I had not even seen, too consumed by the sight of my dead mate.
Terrin knelt beside the boy, his head in a pool of blood much like Winter's.
Terrin reacheed out a hand for the hybrid but then flinched back, his hands coming up to cover his mouth as he tried to stifle his gasps of pain. "My son," he whispered, the words enough to make him finally find the courage to touch the body.
"Don't leave us," he pleaded. "Malik you can't leave your father and I." He caressed his son's scarred face. Three deep gouges covered the left side of his face, cutting over the bridge of his nose, through his brow and eye, nicking the top of his lip. "I need you," he breathed, "I have to tell you how proud of you I am." He fumbled over his words, "I-I-I," he gasped out, "I have to apologize and tell you I love you!"
Syn wasn't far behind his mate, in the room not long after. First looking from me to his mate and son. The big male enfolded Terrin and Malik in his arms, hugging them tightly as his mate wept bitterly. "Terrin," Syn said gently to his mate, trying to take Malik from his arms.
Terrin slapped his mate's hands away.
"Love," the lycan tried again, kissing his mate's temple. "Give him to me now," he tried to coax his mate who wailed in protest. "Terrin—" Syn cut himself off abruptly, inhaling sharply. "Terrin let go!" He suddenly snapped forcefully, enough bite in his words that Terrin flinched back. Syn ripped Malik free and got to his feet. "He's still breathing," he told his mate whose eyes went wide.
The smaller male leapt to his feet. Syn cast me a glance over his shoulder, hesitating for a second, not sure if leaving me alone was a good idea.
He was saved from having to make a decision when Hakota and Cleo pushed through the open doorway.
"He's alive?" Cleo gasped out, Innoko's bloody handprint still present on her face.
Syn only offered a nod of affirmation before he swept from the room with his mate, giving us all privacy with my deceased mate and their dead daughter.
Slowly the alpha pair made their way over to me and my fallen mate. Cleo lowered herself to the ground next to me, grabbing my hand and interlocking my fingers with hers as we rested our joined hands over Winter's heart.
She rested her chin on my shoulder, exhaling a deep breath and closing her eyes. A lone tear cascaded down her face and she brought up our hands to kiss my knuckles. "I'm so sorry Sitka."
"I'm the one who should be apologizing," I said, my voice a raspy croak.
Hakota grabbed the back of my neck and brought our foreheads together. "No. No one should be apologizing. Tossing blame at ourselves and each other is unhealthy and wrong. We did not kill our pack members, the Foresters did. It is important to stand together now while we are all falling apart inside."
I cried, my shoulders shaking. I took my hand from Cleo and wrapped Hakota in a hug, clinging to him as I sobbed into his chest. "I was supposed to have forever with her."
Hakota shushed me, rocking me but careful not to jostle Winter's corpse that was still in my lap. "I know," he whispered, "I know."
Cleo rubbed my back, her cheek pushed against my arm, her eyes gazing up into her mate's. "You're stronger than Innoko," she told me softly, "you can live through this."
"Nooo," I moaned.
"Shh," Hakota hushed me, squeezing me tighter. "You have to Sitka. We can't lose anyone else."
"Don't make me," I begged him. "Hakota, please."
My friend only pushed his lips to my temple. "You must," he commanded me and I broke out into a wail.
"She's dead," I howled, "my mate is dead!"
"You will live on," Cleo told me, "because I saved her Sitka. I saved your daughter and she needs her father."
Up spree today from chapter fifteen.
The book isn’t done yet btw...