8. PRISONER OF SOUTH
This place didn’t come close to the resemblance of the north and everything reminded me of the stark difference of where I was. And I believed it was for the good. Wasn’t it what I had wanted while I was getting far away from the north. Not to have anything related to my past I had left behind. Alpha Demetrius and his northern rules. Volkov wolves and highborn northerners.
Here, in the South, there was no King. Everyone had an Alpha in their packs. Whether it was a bad or good thing, I didn’t know. And how this worked, I had no clue. But one thing I was sure I wouldn’t let another alpha dominate me and put me down. I didn’t come this far to get tossed under another’s rule. No, I was here to live through my freedom and finally breathe. For now, survival was the key.
“Get in.” The southerner named Rowan opened a heavy door and then directed his head towards the dark hallway for me to step in. I hesitated and looked back. Nothing seemed unordinary for the people doing their daily chores. They were busy and hardly paying attention to me after the initial shock and confusion settled in.
I turned back and tried to peer through the dark of what was lay ahead. But it was no help, it was like the light was sucked in and all I could see was an impenetrable darkness.
Rowan entered through the door and after a few seconds, the dark passage came alive. He might have flipped some switches which made me surprised by his small yet thoughtful gesture. So, I took this as a small step and uttered thanks.
“Never known the northerners are such pussies.” He snorted and started walking. I wanted to argue then I remembered I wasn’t here to take the side of my pack no matter how much I didn’t agree with everything being said. I was a northerner and I would always be no matter how much I disagreed with certain laws of Volkov. I shook my head and followed him without making a fuss.
The hallway was narrow, hardly it could fit two people to walk side by side, with a low ceiling and few doors on one side and at the end of it, there was another door where we were headed. He unlocked the heavy metal door and urged me to enter, this time I didn’t show him how much the unfamiliar, dimly lit place bothered me. I knew he was right behind me so there was no need for me to worry besides I was being taken to put in a cell somewhere in this dark, dank place.
I climbed down the stairs and plunged more into pitch-black darkness. A sudden damp, stale smell assaulted my nose and I cringed but I didn’t loosen my grip on the stairwell as I descended.
I sidestepped and pushed myself into the wall. Rowan leapt down the last few steps and landed with a thud. I saw nothing, it was like I was stuffed into a box, locked it and then shoved it under a bed.
“I don’t have all day to babysit you. Better move your ass. You’re a wolf. Use your skills. Then you’ve no problem with your vision. You’ll see as clear as a day.”
Easy to be said than done. I couldn’t reveal to him how weak my vision and my skillsets had got that came with the added advantage of being a wolf. Not being able to get transformed into my wilderness under strict Alpha Demetrius’s authority, my wolf howled, cried and after a while stopped responding altogether as if she felt rejected. Head downcast, she tucked her tail between her legs and then confined herself into her den and resisted coming out.
I didn’t have to venture long into the dark, there was adequate light streaming through the windows tucked up high in the walls, creating a narrow path in the hallway with darkness in between gaps where there were no windows.
I walked following the path of light to avoid getting collided with something or getting collapsed on the ground and the echo of his steps gave me the direction I needed to take to disguise my lack of clear visibility.
Keys jiggled then the lock clicked open and the door opened with a thud. I didn’t have to search for Rowan how far he went, he stood there with his glowing eyes looking straight at me.
I walked with as much strength as I could endure, masking my fear and vulnerability, I couldn’t let him see the cracks unfolding in me being in this unfamiliar land amidst the foreign people.
I entered my prison cell and looked around, there was nothing much as expected. Straws of hay were strewn on the ground and a worn-out thin blanket was spread over it. The walls were the same dark grey stone as the dwelling and a dim glow of light crept in through the windows, creating a slanting path of rays on the ground.
“Enjoy your stay.” Rowan turned the lock. His footsteps retreated towards the entrance and a few minutes, the heavy metal door slammed shut.
Everything was in plain sight but it felt like they were camouflaging in the darkness.
“You are shining.” A voice broke out of nowhere and I shrank back away from the light and into the dark. Pressing my back against the wall, I peered to see where the voice came from.
A laugh erupted and then a shadow fell over the bars from my right. I scrambled back, held my breath and waited for him to speak. Who was he? What did he want?
“I have no intention to give you discomfort but you can’t hide from a wolf. You know that, right?”
I straightened, knowing probably he was watching me. “What do you want?” I asked.
“Nothing. Just expressing the truth. If you want, I can introduce myself.”
“You don’t need to. Thanks.” I turned away thinking what should I do to get out of here. Would I be safe here? If yes, I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in a cell. And I didn’t get away from Alpha Demetrius’s dominance to get captured and put in a cell. I couldn’t let anyone decide my fate and caged my freedom. I needed to guard my lies with my life and gained the trust of the southern people.
“I’m Forrest, in case you are wondering. I don’t want you to lose your sleep thinking the whole night what my name could be.”
“I will not,” I answered back in an irritated tone.
I picked a corner and sat down cross-legged. With nothing to do and probably didn’t need to look out for a threat, my mind drifted to my home, to my father and mother. Were they okay? They might be devasted worrying about my well being. But what options did I have? I couldn’t lead the life Alpha Demetrius panned out for me. Having no one and taking away all the good things from me - my family, friends and my individuality. Father and mother would understand why I had to do what I did. But first I needed to free myself from my current situation. I looked around the cell, thinking about what needed to be done.
“Are you planning to escape?” Forrest interrupted my thoughts. He didn’t come close to the bars to show me his face maybe for my sake as how I had interacted with him at first. Now, my eyes were adjusted to the dark, I could see how he tilted his head to the side in the shadow, might be to consider my thoughts.
I felt uncomfortable under his scrutiny but what harm he could do, we were in the same situation. He might have been trying to figure out ways to escape as well.
“You will fail. And then the consequences will be worse.”
“Worse than where I am right now.”
“Yes. Not many had tried but those who did never returned to their cells. Their bodies were hung from the trees to rot and die for all to witness.
I didn’t have any desire to escape and find out what would happen. I didn’t even want to escape the south because I didn’t know what waited for me out there. It was highly unlikely that Alpha Demetrius hadn’t already sent his warriors everywhere looking out for me. All I wanted was to get out of this dingy place.
“Don’t worry, the darkness won’t bother you much after a few nights.” How did he know? Was it so obvious?
My stomach growled, making me aware of the normal functions of my body. I had hardly eaten anything for the last few days and when Aloïs offered me, I politely declined and now the rumbling in my stomach had returned.
I wrapped my arms around my abdomen, trying to think about other things to take my mind off my hunger. Right now it was the least of my concerns.
Forrest’s shadow shifted, walked back deeper into his cell and then soon blended into the darkness. But after a second or two, I heard a little scuffling noise as he rummaged through something and then reappeared. Still concealing himself in the shadow, he stretched his hand out with something wrapped in a paper.
I looked at his hand in suspicion.
Forrest laughed off, “It’s just some bread. I’ve it stored. Now it’s yours. Take it.” My stomach growled, probably with relief at the mention of food. When he noticed my indecision, he put his offering on the ground and slid it towards me to take.
“Don’t be shy. Now take it.”
“Then you would be hungry.” Growing up in Blackridgepool, I was familiar with hunger. Though I never had to go to bed with a hungry stomach, my father was an only omega warrior so whatever the food was provided to us, it was sufficient enough to feed three people. Still, my father would often see to the pups in the neighbouring home had enough ration for the month with having a single mother to raise and take care of them.
“I had my share. This is yours.”
I mumbled thanks and accepted his offering, quickly unwrapped the paper, tore a chunk of bread and put it in my mouth. I supposed he was just trying to help and it was always better to have one less enemy and someone fairly similar to a friend in a foreign land. And I believed Forrest could be that.