Taking a softer approach with Severin was fruitful and made him open up. I never took him for a talkative person, since he was so concise and straight to the point. My conversation with him brought additional information and let me have a better idea of the pack’s situation.
My late uncle’s obsession with the prophecy made him paranoid, and he rarely left the security of the palace. To compensate for the lack of revenue, he shackled the people with increasingly high taxes, which deepened the rift between them.
Pack members needed their Alpha to guide and lead them. His prolonged absence from their daily lives rendered them stressed and emotionally unstable to the point where many turned rogues. It didn’t help the cause that their King drained the treasury and their hard work money on irresponsible spending. Namely, his mistresses.
“They entertained a ravishingly luxurious lifestyle, and he granted them every whim and fancy at the expenses of the pack.” Severin explained. “Speaking of which. Have your Majesty decided what to do with them?”
“What do you suggest?” I returned the question, hoping he could give some options to choose from. I knew it was up to the new Alpha to decide the fate of the previous Luna, but since my uncle’s rightful Luna died a long time ago, we were left with his three mistresses.
“I can only share what happened in other packs. It depends on the Alpha. Some choose slavery or prison. Others choose banishment from the pack and in some cases execution.”
These options seemed too cruel to me. I opted to give them the freedom to leave, and if they had no home to go back to, they could stay in the castle in exchange for work. However, I insisted they could take only what they brought with them in the first place.
Severin didn’t welcome the idea at first, “An Alpha should show their power and strength. It would be considered weak to let them go without punishment.” He stated.
“For what crime?” I replied, driving him to silence.
“Stripping them from their extravagant lifestyle is punishment enough. Besides, I don't want to mark the beginning of my reign with bloodshed and brutality, but with fair decisions and second chances.” I explained my reasoning, to which he conceded with a simple nod.
We kept debating for the rest of the day and even during lunch about the measures to take in order to solve the financial problems. Most of the ideas that I pitched were already put into action. Like having the palace staff reduced to a minimum and sealing the unused rooms closed.
At the end of the day, there were a lot of issues that I was still unsure of how to handle and too many decisions yet to be made. But there was one thing I was positive about. My first amendment as an Alpha was to cut down the taxes to a fair amount, and I wanted to announce the news personally.
Every muscle in my body burned from the exertion, but the physical pain distracted me from the emotional one and made me push my body further. With my super speed, I knew that I covered a few hundred miles during the night. The sun was coming up, and I was nowhere near my pack territory. I thought I was lost until I sensed other wolves. They smelled like a different pack.
For a moment my self-defense instincts intensified before a sense of nostalgia took over when the two wolves, probably on border patrol, came into my vision field. Their reddish pelt and their scent made me realize I wasn’t in an unfamiliar territory at all.
When I let my beast take over control, he took me to the place that he considered home, to where I had my first shift. For me, I was back to the land where I was born, where I lived my early years. I had returned to my mother’s tribe.
The two wolves flanked me on each side while they drew closer. They didn’t match my pace as I slowed down. I couldn’t mind-link to tell them I wasn’t an intruder. Despite having no intentions to harm them, the wolf on my right increased his speed and head-butted me, sending me tumbling on the dirt.
Rolling back on all four, I shifted to my human form in order to communicate. It would put me in a vulnerable position, but at least I could talk and they won’t see me as much as a threat. My body ached in protest as I straightened myself on two feet. I held back a groan, feeling the stiffness of my muscles once I stilled my movements. The wolf who attacked me shifted as well and stood a few feet away while the other remained in his furry form.
“Who are you, and why are you trespassing on Kiona Tribe territory?” The young men questioned with an imposing tone. His partner snarled in warning at my defiant posture.
“Long time no see, Strawberry.” I answered using the nickname, instead of Billy, referring to the red birthmark that helped me recognize him.
I didn’t move a muscle and kept my arms to my sides as he approached me menacingly. I didn’t even flinch when he lifted his fist to my face. Then he paused mid-air, his scowl turning into a wide smile.
“Welcome home, brother!” He greeted me before he wrapped me in a close hug. Or as close as two straight naked men will allow themselves without being awkward.
“I’m sorry I attacked you.” Billy said, patting my shoulders. “No offense but, I didn’t recognize you. And we can’t be careful enough with so many rogues and hunters roaming around.”
“Non taken.” I nodded in understanding. Not only has my appearance changed since the last time I was here as a skinny teen, but my scent also changed when I became Alpha of my father’s pack.
“Mother will be happy to see you.” He spoke of my grandmother.
In the tribe, things were different than the other packs. The Alpha is called Chief, and he leads the pack for life. The Luna, on the other hand, is the Mother of everyone, hence we were all brothers and sisters.
My old friend told his partner to continue with his patrol duties before he led me towards the reservation.
“How is she, Billy?” I questioned him about my grandmother. I Haven’t seen her since the funeral of my grandfather and my uncle, my mom’s twin took over as Chief.
“It’s Calian now! I earned it.” He corrected, showing his inked arm as proof of completing the passage rite to become a warrior.
“Okay. Calian, How is she?” I asked again, feeling agitated. I feared he was diverting the subject to avoid delivering worrisome news.
“You know how she is. She’ll smack me in the face if I breathed the wrong way!” He answered with a grimace on his face, making me chuckle. It brought memories of those times when he got us into trouble and we got scolded over it. On our way, he brought me up to date with all the gossip. It reminded me what a chatterbox he was. His chatty nature always gave away his guiltiness, even when his pranks went unnoticed. I was the quiet one, making us friends against all odds.
My grandmother intercepted us at the entry of the residential area. Billy must have mind-linked her in advance. She was the same as I remember, with her long grey braids draped over her traditional clothing. When I got closer, she looked so small. Either she shrunk in size or I grew bigger. She curled her frail arms around me. I engulfed her with my larger frame and kissed the top of her head.
“I should whip your ass for taking so long to visit Little Wolf!” She admonished, pushing me away. “But you’re not little anymore.” She swatted my arm playfully.
I was relieved to see her usual outspoken self. She was the most kindhearted person I ever knew, but she would intimidate anyone with her reprimand. She could unabashedly pull anyone by their ear, be it the Chief or the child next door.
“I’m sorry, Nana. I should’ve visited sooner.” I apologized and my smile dropped, unable to hide my heartache anymore. Leading a large pack and managing multiple businesses didn’t leave me a lot of free time to think about myself or reconnect with family members. I had to lose my pack and my mate to finally think about coming home to my birthplace.
"Ooh child! What happened to you?” She asked, noticing my somber expression, and I swallowed the lump forming in my throat.
Few minutes later I was sitting in Nana’s living room. The cabin had a cozy, comfy vibe to it and smelled of freshly baked cookies. She handed me a plate of her signature confection with a glass of milk, like she used to do when I was a child and wanted to hide from my father. It took little probing for me to spill about my predicament with my mate.
“Everything in my life has taken a turn to the worse.” I said, concluding my tale about the past few months.
“Nothing will be right until you accept your destiny.” My grandma declared as if the answer to all my problems was so simple.
“I don’t think that’s what the vision meant anymore.”
I have forgotten about what I dreamed of in my vision quest until Nana brought up the subject. The elders saw different meanings to it, but my grandma’s interpretation was controversial. It was the last drop that made my father leave the tribe and return to his pack. In his words, he wanted to take me back to the real world instead of letting them fill my head with far-fetched dreams.
“I stand by my words.” Nana said firmly.
“If that was true, she would have made me her King by now.” I reminded her of the unexpected turnout of events.
“Of course not!” She shrugged. “If she took you as consort, you’ll be crowned as Prince. Since you aren’t of royal blood, there is only one way for you to fulfill your destiny and become the Alpha of all werewolves.”