I had just finished packing when my bedroom door slammed open. Sally ran in, her large blue eyes filled with tears. She stomped her foot.
"You can't leave!" she cried and I sighed, sitting down and opening my arms.
She ran into them.
"I won't be gone long, Sally," I promised, rubbing her back. "I have to go."
"Why?" she asked, her voice muffled in my shoulder.
"Because I have a special task to do to make sure everyone stays safe," I said, choosing my words carefully. "But I will come back."
"No," she cried stubbornly. "You have to stay here and-and-and marry the princess and live happily ever after!"
I laughed a little and pulled her off me. I wiped her tears away and smiled.
"I will be back and we'll all live happy ever after. I swear it."
Her bottom lip trembled more but she nodded. She hugged me tightly and I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to imagine what would happen to her if I didn't return.
When she finally calmed down, I let her try to carry my bag, something that was comical to watch. It was much too heavy for her but she insisted on dragging it down the hall. I smiled as she pulled it down the stairs. Everyone was there but Angel. I was disappointed but it was probably easier for both of us. The king shook my hand grimly and I kissed the queen on the cheek.
The members of the Black Hand were waiting at the doors and I hesitated. The real sword was still on my hip while the replica was strapped to my back until we got closer to our destination. I waved goodbye one more time before leaving to the barn. All five of the horses were black as night and had white eyes.
"How long will the trip be?" I asked.
"It will take us one day," one of the men said.
"That's fast," I muttered. "Are we going on a path?"
They didn't answer and I figured that was the best I would get. I then realized why it wouldn't take very long. As soon as everyone was ready, they flicked the reins and dug their heels into the horses' sides. The horses shot forward and I gripped the saddle horn tightly. We didn't break out of a full gallop until we were nearly three hours out. I was shocked at the stamina they had.
My traveling companions never spoke. It made me uncomfortable but I assumed that's what it took to be an assassin. I was curious about that kind of life but I was more concerned about the task at hand. I was trying to figure out how I would kill the alpha of the clan. Somehow, I would have to get close enough to him.
The assassin front held up his hand and we all pulled our horses to a stop.
"The Sword," he said and I understood.
I picked up my bag and hid the real one, wrapping it up carefully, and tied the replica to my waist. The assassin pointed.
"The camp is just over these hills. You will sleep."
"I don't need to," I said quickly.
I trusted these men about as much as I trusted the werewolves. He studied me before flicking his reins again.
"It is your choice. But don't expect us to stop on your behalf."
I didn't respond; I just continued to follow them. I did take a few small power naps, though. I was getting more nervous as our horses trudged along. It took another two hours to get to the camp. Before we were too close, they all dismounted and I did the same.
"This is where we part ways," the only one who seemed to speak said. "We cannot go there. We will hold your bag as we wait."
"No," I said. "I'll take it with me. They'll wonder why I don't have it with me anyway."
He nodded and I took a deep breath, mounting my horse again and urging it forward. There was a large bonfire that was my only indication of where the camp was. I gripped the horn of the saddle nervously, my hands slipping on the leather.
"Halt!" a voice snarled and I quickly pulled my horse to a stop. "Who are you, stranger?"
"I have come to speak with your alpha," I said in the bravest voice I could muster. "I am from the Kingdom of-"
"I thought you smelled of royalty," the voice spat. "We have been expecting you."
"Where are you?" I asked, uneasy that I couldn't see whoever was interrogating me.
Suddenly, my horse whinnied and reared up on its hind legs. Taken by surprise, I fell off, landing painfully on my back with just my bag of belongings as the horse took off. I sighed and stood as a man jumped from a tree right in front of me.
He studied me for a long time. For some reason, he slowly started to smirk. He had black hair and black eyes.
"My name is Alec," he said, walking towards me. "I am the beta of the clan. Follow me and keep that sword sheathed if you want to leave here alive."
I followed him, wiping my sweaty palms on my pants. How would they react when they found out it was a replica? Would I even get out of here alive once they found out I lied? It was one of me against their numbers.
We had reached the bonfire and I saw about ten werewolves leaning against logs, watching the flames. They stared at me as I passed, their black eyes watching me intensely. They all lived in huts made of straw and wood. Alec led me to the biggest one right in the center. I frowned. It was way too easy to get to the alpha....
Alec approached a table, though, and pressed down on a pewter mug. A piece of the ground opened up in front of the fire pit, revealing a staircase. I followed him down into the darkness. It was hard for me to see; there weren't any torches. I assumed werewolves could see better in the dark than humans. I reached out to my right and my fingers grazed the rough wall. I used that to make sure I wouldn't trip and fall.
When we got to the end of the pathway, he opened a door. The light momentarily blinded me after being in the passage for so long. We entered what looked like a small throne room. There were five werewolves on each side of a carpet that led to the throne. Sitting on it casually was-
"Father?" I breathed and he grinned.