"I don't like it," Roland said immediately.
"There's a surprise," Angel muttered and I squeezed her hand.
"How do you know you're not walking into danger?" Miranda demanded. "There could be anything in that forest! And if her mother really did send her away, what in the world do you think she'll do when you show up?"
"I haven't gotten there yet," I admitted.
King Roland shook his head and sighed. We were in the throne room. The last village person had left and the kitchens were preparing dinner. The king stood in front of me.
"I know I can't stop you from going," he told me then looked at his daughter. "You, on the other hand-"
"I'm going," she interrupted. "It was my idea anyway."
I nodded. "It was."
"But how will you be safe?" Miranda asked.
"We'll bring Tiberius and Adam with us," I said. "William, as my beta, will stay here to keep an eye on the clan for me. If we are in danger, Adam and Tiberius will protect us."
"And what about Rosebud?" she asked.
"She'll be coming, too."
The king and queen both sighed heavily. I already knew Angel and I had won the argument but I didn't want to leave without hearing them say it first. It was important.
"Fine," Miranda said finally. "When do you leave?"
"Tomorrow," I answered. "I want things to go back to normal."
Roland nodded. "I do, too."
"Come, my love," I laid, lacing my fingers with Angel's. "We have some people to talk to."
The next morning, we stood in the foyer, waiting for our provisions and bodyguards to arrive. William escorted Adam at my request. He hadn't been pleased with my choice but I explained I needed my beta to stay and oversee the wolves. So far, though, Tiberius hadn't shown up.
I frowned. It wasn't like him to be late. I excused myself and limped up the stairs to his room. Before I turned the corner, I heard voices and hesitated.
"I have to go, Christina," Tiberius was saying and I peeked around the corner.
Christina was gripping his hands tightly and looked incredibly upset. She was even crying a little.
"But what if you get hurt?" she said. "What if something happens to you? I don't want you to go."
Tiberius smiled and leaned forward to kiss her. She put her arms around him and cried a little more. It reminded me of when I had said goodbye to Angel.
"I'll be back soon," he promised, placing another quick kiss on her lips and wiping her tears away.
I went back to the foyer, smiling a little, and held Angel's hand. She looked at me in question but I shook my head as Tiberius came down the stairs, Christina following with red eyes. After reluctantly putting my sword on my left hip, I gave Tiberius the sword I had commissioned for him. It was a mark of his station: silver with the kingdom's crest etched into the blade. Tiberius hugged Christina one last time and walked out before us.
I looked doubtfully at the Sword. If I had to draw it, it would mean having to drop my cane. I hoped I wouldn't need to....
"I'm not going!"
I sighed wearily as Rosebud was brought in, two guards holding her arms tightly. She didn't look as beautiful as she did before. Her eyes were completely black and her brown hair flew around her head. She was fighting tooth and nail against the men but they kept a good hold on her.
"I don't ever want to see that bitch again!" she yelled and I nodded once at Adam.
"Excuse me," he said to the nymph.
"What are you- You put me down you filthy wolf!" she screeched.
Adam had tossed her over his shoulder. A guard quickly bound her hands and she screamed in rage. I couldn't stop my smile when I saw the smug look on Angel's face.
"Let's go," Angel said in a chipper voice.
Tiberius was waiting outside with the pack of our provisions on his shoulder. Adam walked ahead of us, Rosebud still screaming and thrashing. I sighed heavily.
"Keep screaming and I'll bind your mouth, too," I told her.
She shut her mouth for a brief moment, glaring daggers at me. "You need me to tell you where to go, you stupid man!"
"I don't, actually," I said lightly. I don't know why, but it was entertaining watching her get angry. "Adam here is very familiar with the area around us. He knows exactly where you came from."
Her eyes were popping with anger and she started thrashing again. Then she changed her tactic and focused on Tiberius.
"Tiberius," she said in a seductive voice. He stared at her and I hesitated. "Please don't let them take me away from my children."
Tiberius stopped walking and I got prepared to knock some sense into him. But a smirk was spreading on his face.
"Nice try, nymph," he said and kept walking.
I smiled and clapped him on the back. That only made Rosebud angrier. I sighed. The humor was gone. Now it was getting annoying. Adam turned to the left at a fork in the road and I looked to Tiberius.
"Could you silence our guest, please?" I asked loudly over her protests. "It's getting old."
"With pleasure," he said and dug around in a second sack until he produced a thick length of cloth.
"Don't you dare!" Rosebud screamed when he approached her.
"Just stop screaming," he said calmly, "and I won't have to do this."
She glared between the three of us and, finally, clamped her mouth shut. Tiberius smiled in satisfaction and put the cloth back in his sack. As we continued our walk, she kept glaring at us. A couple times she aimed a punch or kick for Adam but he dodged it easily. I knew he was enjoying her futile attempts to escape. Eventually, she wore herself out and looked around.
"There are very dangerous creatures in the forest we're going to," she said darkly. "I hope your pretty princess can protect herself."
I rolled my eyes. "I won't let anything get to her."
A wicked grin spread on Rosebud's face. "Oh? But can you keep yourself from her?"
I glared at her. "Silence or we'll tie your mouth."
She kept grinning, though, and a shiver ran up my spine. Adam kept walking, though, and didn't seem the least bit bothered. The forest was getting thicker with trees and soon all light was gone. I had anticipated this and had Tiberius light the two torches. One was passed up to Adam and he held it in his other hand. The other Tiberius kept.
Whether it was Rosebud's threat or my own imagination, I felt like I kept seeing things in the dark trees. I gripped Angel's hand tighter. She didn't seem worried, though. She was walking peacefully.
"Do you remember my lessons?" I asked her.
"Of course I do. Why do you ask?"
"I have a bad feeling," I murmured.
Suddenly, Adam stopped. We nearly bumped into him. Rosebud started cackling.
"I warned you!" she laughed and I frowned, looking around.
I passed Tiberius my cane.
"Just take it," I ordered and drew my sword.
There was something in the trees. I listened carefully, trying to find out where it was coming from. That was the problem, though: it was coming from everywhere.
"Is it the elves?" Angel whispered.
"Hardly," Rosebud snorted, smirking at me.
I couldn't imagine why she kept at it. Then a tall, very beautiful woman walked out of the trees. I frowned. She looked... familiar. She looked like me. She spread her arms.
"David," she sighed, smiling lovingly at me. I limped over. "My dear son."
My jaw dropped. "Mother?" I whispered. "Is-Is that really you?"
"Of course it is, my son," she said.
"Wait David," Tiberius said sharply but I ignored him.
"How can you be here?"
"The forest," she answered, now within arm's reach. I reached out for her but my hand went through hers. She smiled sadly. "It will let me come back but you have to make a sacrifice."
"What kind?" I asked, drinking in her appearance.
"Someone you love. Someone like her," she added and I followed her pointed finger to Angel.
"No, Mother, I can't. She is my wife, the love of my life."
My mother began to cry. It was a terrible sight.
"I've waited all this time for you!"
"I can't," I whispered regretfully and started limping back. "I-I wish I could bring you back, but I can't kill her."
Angel looked relieved as I started back to her. Then I felt two arms wrap around my chest. Tiberius yelled and ran forward but another long arm came from behind him, pushing him back onto his back.
"Tiberius!" I yelled and struggled against the arms, kicking with my right foot.
"Kill her," my mother's voice filled my ears. It was twisted, though. "You cannot proceed further without a sacrifice."
"I won't do it!"
I struggled some more and another arm shot out and dragged Angel over by her hair. She screamed in pain.
"She has lied to you," she hissed into my ear and I stared at Angel. "She can bear children."
"Don't listen," Angel breathed. "Please don't listen. She's lying to you."
"She has a bastard child," my mother continued in my ear. "One resides within the castle. Why do you think she was willing to let that lovely little girl stay with you?"
I stared at Angel, my eyes filling with tears. "Sally is your daughter?"
"Of course she is't," Angel cried. "Don't listen!"
"Bryan would go to the castle quite often. Angel was always lonely. You were told a false story about his death. You want a child so badly and she is keeping that from you."
I gripped my sword tightly, my mind a jumbled mess of confusion. Angel and Tiberius were yelling at me. Adam was fighting to keep Rosebud from escaping. My mother was whispering in my ear. I stared at Angel, a tear falling down my cheek.
"Lies," I whispered. "I'm so tired of lies."
I closed my eyes and lifted my blade.