Bonnie McDonald’s POV
Dublin Pack Ceremonial Grounds, Ireland
June 21, 1992
“Alpha, may I present the winners of the Warrior Challenge.” Beta Finucane said as he stood before the five of us. The assembled Pack members let out a roar as the Alpha and Luna applauded us. I was at the left end of the line, a smile plastered on my face that wouldn’t go away. I still couldn’t believe I’d won in my first year of eligibility.
Alpha James Garland walked forward with Luna Siobhan at his side. The Alpha pair were in their late forties and had ruled over the Dublin Pack for the past fifteen years. James was tall and broad-shouldered, while Siobhan was short and heavily pregnant. Their two younger sons and one daughter watched the ceremony with the rest of the Pack leadership. The Alpha pair came to a halt in front of us. We followed Beta Finucane to a knee and bared our necks to them. The three hundred plus adult members of the Dublin Pack did the same. “Rise, Victorious Warriors of Dublin,” the Alpha commanded in a loud voice. We stood while the remainder of the Pack stayed down. “You have competed with skill and honor, and it makes me proud to have you in our Pack. I have every confidence you will represent our Pack well in the Werewolf Games next month.”
The Werewolf Games were the Olympics of our world. Created after World War Two by the American and European Werewolf Councils, it brought together the finest warriors in the world every four years. This year the games were at the Baxter Pack lands in central Maine. Each Pack could send up to five Pack members to compete against the best werewolf warriors in our world. To be eligible to compete, you had to be of age (18 or above) and not a current Pack Alpha or Luna. Fights between Alphas had too many potential consequences, after all.
The Alpha pair followed the Beta to award the medals and checks to the winners. “Winner of the Unarmed Human Combat competition, Beta O’Malley.” The crowd applauded as the Alpha shook his hand and gave him the thousand-pound check before Luna Siobhan placed the medal around his thick neck. Brian O’Malley was a fireplug of a man in his late twenties, just under six feet tall but over two hundred and twenty pounds of solid muscle. I swore the medal hung from his skull because the man had no neck. I’d watched his matches; his boxing was good, but his ground game was awesome. His nickname was Boa because he’d squeeze the life out of you.
“Winner of the Wolf Form Competition, Alpha Heir Niall Garland.” His father’s pride in his son and heir couldn’t have shown brighter as he shook his hand. His mother was crying as she placed the medal around his neck. Niall was twenty-two years old and nearly the size of his father. He was taller than me in wolf form and three times my body weight. He’d been brutally efficient in taking down challengers, with most of his submissions coming in the first thirty seconds of the fights.
“Winner of the Classical Armed Combat Competition for the fifth consecutive competition, Beta George McCoy.” That was no shock. Beta McCoy dominated Archery and Knife-Throwing competitions while narrowly winning the Fencing tournament. In that competition, he could compete into his sixties.
“Winner of the Armed Combat Competition for the third consecutive time, Warrior Steven Keane.” I’d also competed in this competition, coming in fourth in Handgun and seventh in Rifle. Steven had won both events easily.
The Pack women let out a loud cheer when the Alpha pair moved to me. “Winner of the Tracker Competition, the youngest competitor in our field, Tracker Bonnie McDonald.” Trackers were a different kind of wolf. Blessed by the Goddess with a sensitive nose, intelligence, and the endurance to run for days, they could hunt down anyone or anything. Tracking and Armed Combat were the only competitions where size and strength didn’t matter. I’d scored the second-highest in the Scent Tracking competition and won the cross-country race.
The Alpha shook my hand and gave me my winner’s check, and the Luna raised herself to kiss my cheek after placing the medal around my neck. Since I was almost six feet tall and still growing, the Luna only came up to my collarbone, even in her heels. “Very impressive, Bonnie. We expect great things from you.”
“Thank you, Alpha,” I said.
“I hope you have your passport. Won’t this be your first trip outside of Ireland?”
“I have it, Alpha, and yes, it will be. I’m looking forward to testing myself against the best.”
“You’ll find them in Maine, I’m sure.” He turned to look at his Alpha Heir. “Ensure you protect Bonnie on this trip. A female competitor of her age is going to attract a lot of attention.”
“I will, Father.” He gave me a wink, one I didn’t appreciate. Neill was unmated, full of himself, and a horn dog who would fuck anything of age with a pulse. He’d hit on me the night of my birthday after letting out a sigh of relief that I wasn’t his mate. My blood wasn’t good enough for him, and his Luna would be more than an abandoned half-breed dropped off at a Belfast orphanage. I knew that my mother was human, but I had no idea who my werewolf father was; I’d never felt a family bond with anyone in this Pack or other Irish packs.
Once a Pack member scented me in the orphanage nursery, Council law required the Pack to take me in or kill me. Leaving a werewolf child outside a Pack structure was far too dangerous. The Alphas found a childless couple to claim me, and I’d been in the Pack since I was six months old. I’d been teased mercilessly as I grew up in the Pack due to my unknown heritage and height. I was five feet tall by my tenth birthday, thin and uncoordinated. When the other girls filled out, I kept getting taller. I had the body of a long-distance runner, not a swimsuit model. Tracking was my way to Pack rank and respect, so I’d worked hard to get to this point.
The Alpha gestured for the Pack to rise. “LET US FEAST IN THEIR HONOR!” The Pack let out a deafening roar, and the five of us waved to the crowd. As the Alpha pair walked back to the Pack House, the rest of the Pack converged on us.
I hugged and thanked those who came to me, almost all of whom were young or female. Werewolf society remained highly patriarchal, especially in the warrior ranks. Women were allowed to become warriors but rarely advanced to the higher Pack rankings.
It wasn’t that women couldn’t be Betas. The Dublin Pack had six female Betas, all the mates of strong males who had fought for their positions. With our smaller size and lesser strength, females couldn’t win the challenges in wolf form required to become Betas on our own.
July 9th, 1992
I stood next to a van in front of the Pack House, my luggage already loaded. “Make us proud,” Alpha James said to the five winners and Beta Finucane, plus the four mates who were traveling to watch their men compete. “I wish I could be there, but your Luna could give birth any day now.”
“We will bring the Pack honor,” Alpha Heir Niall replied. Although he was the second-youngest to me in our group, he outranked all the Betas.
We loaded up, and an Omega drove us to the airport.
My first plane ride was thrilling but uncomfortable. My long legs were up against the seatback, and Beta George kept taking over the armrest and my space. I found it difficult to sleep over the engine noise, so i read and listened to music on the Sony Discman I’d bought with my prize money. I was tired by the time we landed in LaGuardia.
Werewolves from France and Russia joined us for our flight to Bangor. None were my mate, and all were much older than me. My Pack members kept the unmated ones away for the short connecting flight.
The Bangor Pack hosts sent two ten-passenger vans to pick us up just before ten in the morning. As the junior wolf in the group, I ended up in the back row, falling asleep against the bags stacked next to me on the seat. I woke when the van stopped for a security check. We drove for another twenty minutes before we reached the Pack House area.
No Pack could house the influx of people for this game, but the Baxter Pack did their best with tents and trailers. Packs close enough to drive brought RVs and parked them nearby. Instead of heading to the tent city, an Omega led me to a hallway on the second floor of the Pack House. “Only nine females are competing this year, and only you are unmated,” she informed me. “Luna McInnis is placing you with the unmated females of our Pack.”
Baxter Pack housing was typical for our kind. A large Pack House dominated the compound. The top floor held the private quarters for the Alpha and Senior Beta in one wing and Pack Offices in the other. The second floor had more Beta quarters and the Unmated Female room on one side, Unmated Male housing on the other. The main floor contained the Pack dining area, kitchen, conference rooms, and recreation rooms. The expansive basement held the Safe Room, Armory, gymnasium, and storage.
Mated pairs got scattered in homes and cabins around the property or nearby towns. When Pack Members came of age, they could move into the Pack House or stay with their parents. My roommates, Anna and Lois, were in their twenties and had never found their mates. After a brief introduction, I showered and fell asleep until Anna woke me for the Opening Dinner. “Are you excited?”
“I’m jet-lagged,” I said as I pulled my dress over my body. The silver dress had thin straps and clung to my athletic body. Since I was so tall, I was wearing it with matching sandals.
My dark red hair was a mess. Lois volunteered to braid it, doing a complicated braid around each side of my head that finished in a single long braid down to the middle of my back. “Perfect,” she said a few minutes later. “You look like a Warrior Princess. Maybe our mates are here already!”
I rolled my eyes. “And maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.”
Anna put her hands on her hips. “You’re a certified badass, Bonnie! The ONLY available female contestant in the entire Games! Don’t lose hope like Lois here.”
“We’ll see. I’ve never competed against anyone who was not in my Pack.”
“We better get going,” Anna said. She led us out of the room and down to the Dining Room. The Baxter Pack had decorated it for the event, with a long table along one side where the Alphas and their mates would sit. Round tables filled the room, each labeled with the name of a Pack. I took a deep sniff for my mate; nothing. Anna and Lois hid their disappointment as they left for their other duties.