The moon was high in the starless sky. Its pale, sickly glow only illuminated a clearing I stood on. Thick fog swirled around my ankles, getting lost in the darkness surrounding me. The night was chill, my breath visible in the air. The only sign I was in the forest somewhere; a breeze that brought the scent of wood, damp earth, and leaves decomposing on the forest floor, as it passed me and whispered between the branches, rustling the leaves. Then a stillness came, a deafening silence. I scented them before I saw white glowing eyes blinking in the darkness. The stench of rot, clotted blood and dirty fur made my eyes water. As the first one stepped into the pale light, my eyes widened.
Those were no mere wolves. Their size surpassed that of an average one.
Matted red fur, parts of it missing in places together with skin, exposed glossy grayish-blue flesh with green undertones. Jaws displayed jagged teeth dripping with black ooze.
They circled me, snouts scrunched up in a snarl. Eyes trained on every brief twitch of my muscles. Their blood red fur bristled as they lowered themselves, ears pulled down, ready to pounce at any moment. I counted six giant wolves.
A familiar sensation stirred within me. The burn coursed through my blood, muscles ached for a split second as I half shifted.
My clawed fingers itched to get to ripping. Cracking my neck, I ran my tongue over my canines, then readied myself. A smile split my face, eyes flashing.
In the next moment, they descended upon me. The first one jumped, jaws unhinged, ready to snap my limbs off. Going low, I propelled myself upward, grabbing the creature by the throat, sinking my claws into it. Blood trickled down my arm as a painful yelp left it. I flung its body at the next one, sending them both tumbling to the ground as another one approached me from behind and I narrowly avoided its claws. As the wolf flew by me, I grabbed onto its fur, slinging myself onto its back. The beast buckled, trying to shake me off and turning its head, snapping, growling in irritation, spit flying. Thighs constricting its torso, I took hold of its upper jaw, teeth biting into my palms. I corkscrewed its head until I heard a loud satisfying crunch of bone, the creature’s eyes rolling inside its skull. It went limp and crashed with a thud to the ground, toppling me over. I braced myself on all fours, raising dust in my wake.
In another breath, two were on me. Snarling, growling, one slashed my forearm, pain shooting through my system, making me grimace and growl as other bit down on my shoulder, shaking me like a goddamn rag doll. I clawed my free hand over its eyes, blood pooled underneath my claws. It yowled, spitting me out, and I hit the ground so hard the wind knocked out of me. I took in a sharp breath, trying to ignore the pain radiating from my arm and shoulder, and quickly I gathered myself.
Standing up, I faced off with the remaining four. Three were upfront, but the forth, the one I blinded, kept to the back. They held their distance, growling low in their throats, their moves carefully measured. Crouching low, hands on the ground, knees bent, I readied myself. Rolling my sore shoulder, I watched for their next hesitant move and then I bolted. With incredible speed, I ran between two of the beasts, sliding on my knees on the ground, slashing at their ankles. Howls and yelps sounded as they tumbled to the ground, whimpering in pain, unable to get up. Knees scraped raw, I twisted my body just in time to evade the third one jumping on me. The blinded one snapped its teeth too close to my neck, its rancid breath fanning over my skin. Ducking, I twisted my body again and with the next snap I caught its jaws, ripping them open like a piece of paper. Gurgling sounds left its throat, blood splashed my face and chest.
Heaving, I felt a warm, putrid breath tickling the back of my neck, and in one quick jab my claws buried themselves deep inside the beast’s mouth. Its jagged teeth punctured my skin, as the maw closed around my forearm, but I pushed further in till I heard a snap and flesh tearing. My bloodied fingertips dived out of the back of its throat. With a massive body going limp, gravity doing its thing, I pulled my arm from its mouth, my skin and muscles teared on the jagged teeth, and I choked down a painful roar.
Drenched with blood and sweat, breaths leaving me in pants, I stalked back to finish the two I crippled earlier. As their pained whimpers came to an abrupt halt with resounding cracks I closed my eyes, turning my face skyward, taking a deep breath, There it was, that buzzing feeling lighting up each cell, each nerve ending in with an intoxicating thrill. My whole body pulsed, coming down from the high of a fight. Almost too fast, my gleeful triumph snuffed out like a candle.
Low rumbling, reminiscent of a boulder rolling downhill, sounded behind me. Something moved in the shadows with heavy steps. Air thickened, pressure built, each breath took more effort. My skin crawled, the sensation moved over me in waves.
THUD… THUD… THUD… THUD.
It lumbered closer, my pulse ratcheted up, thrumming wildly in my chest as a gust of warm air rushed out, mussing my hair and raising goosebumps in its wake as something wet touched my shoulder, and inhaled deeply, almost uprooting me from the ground.
An invisible hand reached inside my chest, wrapping its glacial talon tipped fingers around my heart, its chill spread through my veins.
I couldn’t move a muscle. Cold sweat slid down my temple.
The aura behind me… Sheer unbridled power. Untamable, dark, overwhelming, and so dense, almost palpable. A miasma of madness and malice. My ears rang with the echoes of my heart trying to ram its way out of my chest. I clenched my clammy hands to my sides to stop the involuntary shivers that racked my body, biting down hard on my lower lip to stop it from trembling till I tasted blood.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I tried to take a deep breath, willing myself to turn around and face the source of the terror that gripped me.
Ever so slowly, I swiveled my head, claws digging into my palms, and cracked opened my eyes.
All blood drained from my face, eyes bulged from my sockets, jaw went slack as air trapped itself in my lungs at the nightmarish sight in front of me.
A colossal beast, its body made of swirling shadow, blood and fire, looked upon me from above. Iridescent eyes blinked at me. A cornucopia of eyes. So, so many eyes… Each different shape and size, their ghostly glow covered most of the beast’s face and body, moving and turning unnaturally in their sockets until all fell upon me. Their red irises dilated.
Nostrils flaring, puffs of smoke rushed into the cold air. The beast rumbled low in its throat, opening massive jaws, baring rows upon rows of teeth dripping with a thick, black substance.
I tried to swallow, but my throat was drier than sand. As the beast lowered its head towards me, shadows whirling around its head looked like horns, twisting, winding like those of a buck. Eight sets of eyes over its snout narrowed at me. I could see my own petrified reflection in them. Not moving a muscle, barely breathing. The pressure rose again, that aura pressing on me, the touch vile. The urge to recoil was strong, but I dared not react.
I should bow. A thought appeared in my mind. I need to bow.
Averting my gaze, bowing my head, knees buckling, I lowered myself, but before my knees touched the ground, a force pulled me up and I staggered backwards. A shadow unfurled itself from within me, leaping forward. A massive black, shadow-clad wolf with blazing bi-colored eyes leaped onto the beast. The two collided with a force that sent me flying back, landing roughly on the ground with a painful groan.
Sounds of fighting became muffled. My head rang as I propped myself on my elbows, shaking the reminder of the impact off. Looking at the two beasts snarling, biting, clawing at one another, I saw a glimmer of gold on the shadowy wolf. I squinted and the gold shimmer turned into strands spanning from its body, going over me, and I followed the strands flow back to the lone cloaked figure sitting cross-legged on the ground. The red cloak pulled low over the figure’s face, only pink lips showing. Their shape familiar. My gaze fell to the figure’s chest, at the mass of gold threads being strummed by delicate fingers. The figure turned to me, lips quirking in a smile and at that, a searing pain shot through my right palm and I screamed in agony. Ember like symbols etched themselves into the skin on my palm. I knew them. I could read the word.
I woke up with a start, blinking at my surroundings. It was morning. Naked, I laid sprawled on the carpet next to my bed.
“The fuck...” I started, bracing myself on my elbow, rubbing my sweaty forehead as a throbbing headache formed behind it. What the fuck happened? Flashes of last night sped through my mind. I thought I was about to transform, but I couldn’t remember shit after that. Ah... the nightmare... I shivered at the remnants of the dream still lingering in the corners of my conscious mind, all slowly fading but the word.
I shrugged off the last of the unnerving feeling the dream elicited, opting for another shower as I was covered in sweat once again.
As I buttoned up my jeans after drying off, a scent drifted my way. My upper lip curled into a snarl and I rushed to the front door, a t-shirt clutched in my hand.
Opening them abruptly with more force than needed, green eyes, my own a complete copy of them, the fact I hated, blinked at me, unflinching. My own flashed with irritation, and I barked, “What do you want?!”
Heaving a sigh, he leveled me with an annoyed look. “You didn’t answer any of my calls, so…”
I crossed my arms over my chest, scoffing, “Maybe I have nothing to say to you. Have you thought about that? Not like you don’t already know about my every move, right? I can’t sneeze without Dragos over there,” I point to the Guard leaning on the hood of a black car parked in front of my house, “says gesundheit! I can’t even take a shit without you knowing.”
A muscle twitched in his jaw, his pulse spiking, hands balled into fists at his sides, “Philip...” he warned.
I knew I wasn’t being watched twenty-four seven. He lessened the number of Guards constantly on my ass and limited the days they hounded me only to those nearing the full moon, but not because of me pestering him for fucking privacy. The asshole. No. But because I slipped their attention far too many times, so he relented to my incessant whining. 100 points for moi, zero for the sperm donor.
“We are not doing this here….” David gritted out, lowering his voice.
I snorted, “Why not? Dragos doesn’t mind, he knows how to keep his mouth shut. Have you ever heard the man say anything? I haven’t, he just grunts, right?” Dragos scowled, narrowing his eyes at me.
I leaned in closer to David, whispering conspiratorially, “Though I believe he can’t actually form any coherent sentence. Smooth brain and all…” I winked at him, smirking as I pulled back, earning myself a frown from our beloved Alpha and a pissed off growl from Dragos.
“Ooh, we have a live one! Work them vocal cords, bro, loosen them up. We’ll work on your speech later.” I ribbed, gesturing to my throat, grinning.
Dragos straightened, his eyes flashed amber, lips curled up. He stepped away from the car, ready to storm into my house and pummel me.
“Enough!” David boomed, stopping Dragos in his tracks as he turned an irritated scowl my way. Getting in my face, he spat, “You are being way too insolent, you little brat! I’m tired of your insults. It’s one thing to take your shit out on me, but another one entirely to disrespect the members in Null’s service! In service to our pack!” Was I going over the line? Yes. Did I care? Fuck no. Not really. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t enjoy pissing him off, though if Anna heard me now, I would hang by my balls from a streetlight.
I turned my head to the side, sighing, making myself busy looking around the door frame, fussing with the jackets hanging in the hallway, looking behind the open door.
“What the fuck are you doing?” David narrowed his eyes at me.
“Nothing, just… can’t seem to remember where I put them…” I continued looking around, then did a 360 before I faced him again, shrugging, “Guess I’m all out of fucks to give.”
In the next moment, green eyes lit like hell fire, pressure rose, hammering down on my shoulders as David unleashed his aura on me. Jaw clenched, I gritted my teeth trying to resist it, veins popping under my skin from the strain as I looked him straight in the eye, defiant. The asshole didn’t even use the entire force of it, and I was barely holding on. Dick. I relented as he put a bit more power into it, bowing my head, baring my neck to him. Pathetic.
At moments like these, I sure wished I could control my aura like that, so I could challenge him. Just so I could land a few hits on the bastard, so I could trample all over him, humiliate him. But then again, I never in my life wanted to be an Alpha. So I just clumped down on the anger rising, clawing its way up from the bottom of my stomach.
The aura retreated, and I turned my glower back to daddy dearest.
“Move,” he commanded, but I stood my ground, not budging from the entrance, crossing my arms over my chest as I looked at him under furrowed brows. “No. You aren’t allowed in her home. You lost the right to cross this threshold a long time ago.” I sneered. “Say what you want here, then go.”
For a moment, he looked like I struck him before he schooled his expression. As he took a step back from me, his gaze flitted to the portrait of my mother and me hanging on the hallway wall. He swallowed, his hand absentmindedly rubbing the center of his chest. Something flickered in his eyes when he turned them to me. Pain. I wanted to laugh. Like he had any right… Seeing my expression, he sighed in defeat, running a hand through his hair. He gestured to Dragos, and he brought a black suit bag over to him. “Here.” David handed me the bag.
I tilted my head, confused. “What’s this?”
“Uniform. You’ll need it to attend Theo’s birthday in two weeks. Did you forget?” Of course I didn’t forget. There was no way I would forget my baby brother’s sixth birthday. But I wasn’t planning to set foot in that lair of emotional bloodsuckers. I wanted to celebrate it here in my home with just the two of us, playing games, eating a cake. Guess I had to go with the extravaganza, mingle with all the brown noses of Blackwood, playing a beloved son. Sure, sign me up. I loved role-play.
Nodding, I said, feigning indifference, “Hmm... So it’s in two weeks, huh?” David shook his head already over my bullshit.
“There’s an invitation in the uniform’s pocket and Theo left you something.” My heart clenched at that.
“Be sure to attend. And please... Be on your best behavior, I don’t want any incident’s.” David said, taking a few steps back on the porch, bounding for the steps. I clenched my teeth so hard my gums hurt. As he reached the last step, he turned one last time to me, “Next time, answer your goddamn phone.” And then he left, car raising dust as it took off.
The crinkling of the bag brought me back from the internal rage fest I was experiencing. My knuckles were white as I almost ground my teeth to dust. Slamming the door shut, I went into the living room to unzip the bag. Black material, richly embroidered with blue and gold, the colors associated with the service to Shamarash, The All Father stared at me mockingly. Claws played peek-a-boo on the tip of my fingers, tempting me to slash the damn thing, but I took a deep breath and retracted them. I rummaged through the inner pocket of the uniform, taking out a black invitation and a folded piece of paper. Throwing the invitation, I unfolded the paper. A smile split my face immediately as I took in the squiggly lines of the scribbled words.
PIP! Thanks For The Game! We Have to Play It Together! Is Rely Good!
Ooh! And I made This For You in School!
See You Soon!
There was another folded paper and when I opened it, something warm spread through my chest and my heart ached.
Draw your hero, said the assignment in the page’s corner. There was a stick figure with messy dark hair, and Popeye-esque muscles wearing a black and yellow suit with a red cape and in those same squiggly letters was my nickname. Pip. God’s this kid was killing me.
Yellow was so not my color.
I grinned so much at that drawing, so I turned around, taking it to the kitchen and pinning it with a magnet on my refrigerator. Taking a step back, I admired it for a few more seconds.
I missed him.
He must be lonely in that vast house, surrounded by the servants, waiting for his parents to get off work to give him any amount of attention.
I knew I was.
But I at least had mom with me. Theo’s mother… that woman was a bit too cold. Distant.
And David... he was always busy…
My thoughts turned sour and dreary, but I wasn’t fuming as much as I usually would.
There was a vague sense of warmth that nestled between my shoulder blades. Noninvasive, it shifted and twirled, burrowing its way further in until it just clicked in place and settled. Like it was always meant to be there, like it belonged.
Thank you for reading!
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