Dressed in running shoes, a bright pink tank top and black leggings, I fastened my hair at the top of my head for the second time this morning. The messy bun I chose to wear for breakfast had, in fact, been too messy after all. I knew, because my mother kept giving not-so-subtle glances in its direction and at one point, Axel had bunched up his napkin, placing it on top of his head, grinning at me like an idiot.
Although both of us turned sixteen two months ago, Axel behaved more like a toddler than a teen. I never understood how he could act however he wanted, while Cas and I were expected to perform. Deliver. Be grounded and moulded into people we barely recognized anymore. But Axel? He did as he pleased. Was it easier for him since he wasn’t expected to lead one day? Or did he simply not care about the consequences of his actions?
Whatever it was, I was jealous of him. I wanted what he had. A sense of freedom. An identity other than ‘Luna’. I wanted to figure out what I liked. What made me happy. Would I enjoy learning how to paint? Garden? Cook? None of those things mattered because they weren’t expected of a Luna. Instead, I was taught to fight. To think politically. Most importantly, I was taught to keep my mouth shut and act polite in the company of others.
As I stared at myself in the mirror, the food I ate during breakfast churned in my stomach. Who was this girl staring back at me? Why didn’t I know her anymore?
Pulling at my haphazard ponytail, a ragged breath left my lips. You only fail when you stop trying. Two deep breaths. You only fail when you stop trying. A motivated, strong inhale. You only fail when you stop trying.
Okay, I was ready. On the menu for today; agility and endurance training. Not exactly my favourite, but definitely needed in order to become a great warrior, or in my case, Luna. Heading to the training grounds with a new sense of encouragement, I met up with the rest of the warriors who were standing around, waiting for the training to begin. We had about ten minutes to spare and I immediately walked over to my best friend, Sala, where she stood with hands on her hips, talking to Axel, Cassius, and Chase.
The five of us were close and usually grouped together during training, or any other pack activities. Chase, like Cas, was eighteen and trained alongside him to be the future Beta. As our current Beta’s son, he would be taking over from his dad as soon as Cassius stepped into his role as Alpha.
The Beta wolf was second in command, after the Alpha and Luna. They acted as head of discipline to reinforce the Alpha’s decisions and enforced the rules of the pack. The Betas also stood in as temporary leaders whenever the Alpha was absent or unable to rule. Although they weren’t as strong as the Alpha, they were stronger than the average wolf and highly trained - both in combat and politics.
“Will you be attending tonight’s festivities?” Chase asked Sala as I joined the group.
As soon as I reached her, Sala wrapped one arm around my neck and pulled me into a sideways hug, squashing our cheeks together. She grinned from ear to ear and I found myself returning the smile. The gesture was sweet, but the hold she had on me was pretty uncomfortable.
“I won’t be able to join you guys for dinner,” she answered, her tone mocking, “as it’s only for high-ranking pack members,” she added, over emphasizing each word. Sala grinned. “But I’ll definitely be joining the festivities outside the castle.”
Sala was training to become a pack warrior, which meant she wasn’t considered a high-ranking pack member like the rest of our group. We didn’t care what her title would be one day; she was our equal in every single way. She was just as much a part of us as any other family member.
Tonight’s dinner would take place in the castle’s dining hall. It was a formal dinner and only invited guests were allowed inside. Usually, guests consisted of the Alpha and Beta households from attending packs.
Most Alphas travelled with a small group of warriors when entering the borders of a neighbouring pack. These warriors weren’t allowed inside the formal hall and set up their tents outside the keep, making huge bonfires and taking part in their own festivities. Drinking, dancing and catching up with old friends. This was where the real fun was, and the partying normally carried on into the early hours of the morning.
“Alright pups, gather ’round!” The voice of Delta Kane boomed across the open field, summoning us. “Today we’ll be running along the border of the pack as a warmup.”
Axel and I immediately made eye contact, both of us cocking a brow at the same time. I knew his thoughts were in line with my own. Right now, it was a ‘we’re as good as dead’ thought.
“Most of you are training to become warriors or other high-ranking individuals, which means you’ll be taking part in border patrols on a regular basis.” Loud groans could be heard throughout the group, but Delta Kane continued without being fazed. “Start getting used to it!” He eyed us one by one, “the border will be your new best friend; get to know your friend intimately! You’ll spend most nights on the border, instead of back home with your pretty little mate.”
“Very dramatic,” Axel mind-linked, rolling his eyes. I couldn’t help but chuckle under my breath, “make love to the border, get married to the border, be one with the border,” he continued to mock, his voice deliberately high-pitched.
Because we were connected to our family members by blood, we could mind-link with one another, a special ability gifted to us by our queen and deity, Celene. In other words, we could communicate with anyone in the family at any time through thought alone. Alphas, because of their high level of power, could communicate with other members of the pack through the link. We called this a pack link. Pack links were established through birth or a small blood ceremony where one’s essence would be linked to the Alpha’s by mixing his blood with yours.
“Axe, cut it out, you’re going to get us into trouble,” I replied through the link, pretending to fasten my shoelaces so no one would see my face. I tried desperately to suppress my laughter.
Finally straightening, Delta Kane’s gaze moved past me to where Axel stood staring back at him with a straight face. I had no idea how he managed it.
“If you want to make it back in time for lunch, I suggest you get going,” Kane grumbled, pointing in the direction we had to run.
We set off, jogging at a brisk pace. We knew the border stretched on for miles and had to preserve our energy as much as possible if we wished to complete the whole damn thing. A Delta was the pack’s third in command. They were mostly assigned to oversee training and war strategies. Delta Kane was no exception.
“Looks like we might not make tonight’s party after all,” Sala commented from behind.
Snorting in response, I glanced at her over my shoulder and slowed my pace just enough for her to move in beside me.
“You think Raiden will be there?” she asked after a little while.
“Yeah, I’m sure he will. Shadow Creek’s one of our closest allies, my father would definitely have invited them,” I answered, trying to keep my breathing even.
“You guys going to sneak off again and leave me alone with Chase?” She asked, wriggling her brows suggestively.
I chuckled. “Definitely.”