We all remained silent, waiting for Rosebud to compose herself. The Queen Mother was looking at the floor, tears in her eyes as well. I could tell they still loved each other, despite their differences. When Rosebud finally managed to stop her tears, she glared at me.
"I understand the necessity of the Sword," she said coldly. She turned her glare to Adam. "I will not lie that, every time I felt the Sword kill his kind, I experienced pleasure."
"Show respect," Adam growled. "I have kept my tongue in your realm!"
"He's right," I whispered. "Please continue."
Rosebud rolled her eyes. "You must not know about elves and werewolves."
"Now is not the time for politics," Angel interrupted. "We can address that later. For now, we need to know what can be done."
"I will stay with the Sword," Rosebud whispered, "on one condition."
"Which is?" I prompted.
She didn't answer right away. She stood and went to the window.
"My mother is wrong," she whispered in a constricted voice. The Queen Mother sighed. "I can love. I have fallen in love."
I stared, surprised.
"With whom?" Angel asked.
She covered her face with her hands and it was her mother that answered.
"William the werewolf," she whispered.
Had I not already been sitting, I would have fallen over. Angel gripped my arm tightly.
"Come again?" Adam said with a hint of a growl.
It made sense now. The looks he sent to the castle were of longing. I couldn't figure it out before. He wanted to come to be there for Rosebud. That is why he returned. He knew she was coming. I blinked a few times.
"I'm very confused," Angel said. "From what I've learned, the two races do not-"
"We don't," Rosebud interrupted, her back still turned to us. "William has lied very much to protect me. It was I who helped him escape from the werewolves. When he escaped from you palace, I was seeking out my master. Having inherited it from his father, that would have been William. My William," she breathed and fell into silence for a few seconds. "However, he had not become the master like you had, Prince David."
I stared at Angel. She looked ready to faint so I had her sit on my lap.
"So, when William tried to join the clan and they rejected him because of the current alpha, he sought me out. I hadn't gone far. I was... smitten when I first encountered him. I didn't know where he had hidden the Sword, but I knew it couldn't have been too far.
"We traveled together for a short time. We spoke at length about our lives. He told me how he, too, had been sent away by his family. When we got to where he had hidden the Sword, I realized I had fallen in love with him and he had fallen in love with me. I could only weep for our two races could never be joined."
As she continued, her voice shook.
"Then your father became the alpha. William went back, not realizing who your father was. Unfortunately, your father recognized him immediately. He did not know about our love affair or it would have been worse. For reasons he wouldn't explain, William had me send you a message with some meat. Before he was taken in as a traitor, for your father believe you had sent him to spy, he gave me the Sword and told me to send it to you. That was the last I saw of him before you arrived. I could feel the Sword. I saw them bury William. I dug him out and told him of your victory. You know the rest."
"Then why are you so cruel to my clan?" I whispered. "Surely you must know that William is my beta."
She turned to me, her eyes wide. "Y-You chose him?" I nodded and she stared at Adam. "Is this true, wolf?"
He rolled his eyes. "What do you think, elf?"
She glared but the Queen Mother cleared her throat. We all turned to her.
"I am saddened to hear of the object of my daughter's love," she admitted. Rosebud turned away again. "But, I am glad to hear she is capable of such a beautiful thing." She looked to me. "Her condition is to be allowed to continue her love for William; the love he shares. She no longer wants to hide it."
I ran my hand through my hair. How much trouble was I getting myself into this time? I looked at Adam. His face was conflicted. It was obvious he didn't want it but, as his alpha, he would be made to accept my choice. I thought to the other wolves. Surely they would try to imprison William again. But I had forbidden such an act.
"David," Angel whispered and I looked at her. She was frowning. "Tell me you aren't thinking about keep them away from one another?"
I kissed her shoulder. "Of course I'm not. I'm trying to think of how to make it easier to accept by both parties."
"I will respect your decision," Adam said through clenched teeth. "But know this: I will never serve her as my beta's mate!"
He had jumped to his feet and was pointing at Rosebud. Rosebud hung her head and Angel approached her slowly. She put her arm around Rosebud's back and neither woman spoke. It was completely silent in the tower.
"I could use your advice," I whispered to the Queen Mother. "I do not know about wolves and elves."
She turned her sad eyes to her daughter. "We have been at odds all her life, but I want her to be happy. I want her to experience the joy of the love I never knew. That is all any parent wants for their child, regardless of race. I will forever respect her. It took much courage to admit what she just did." She looked at me. "It will take much courage from you, as well, to put politics aside and make the right choice."
I ran a hand over my eyes. "We must return," I said finally. "Rosebud, I will accept your condition."
The nymph buried her face in her hands but made no sound. The Queen Mother arranged for provisions and protection through the forest for our return journey.
"May I speak openly, my alpha?" Adam grumbled as we walked through the forest on our return journey, escorted by three armed elves.
"Of course you may, though I believe I know what you're about to say."
"They will not accept this," he said anyway. "There will be an uprising."
I stopped walking and turned to him. The look on my face made him back up with a whimper.
"I am your alpha, Adam," I said darkly. "Whatever I command, you will do, even if that means accepting the love of two people."
"Yes, my alpha," he said in a small voice.
We continued our journey. Angel was walking with Rosebud. Rosebud walked with her head held high, clearly more optimistic at the turn of events. I was confused. Why hadn't she just told the truth from the beginning? Were things really that stressed between the two races? But if we were to look at it objectively, she was a nymph now.
"You've returned," William said. "We were concerned."
We had arrived at the palace. Rosebud made to run to him but Angel stopped her.
"Just wait," I heard her whisper.
"Why are you at the palace?" I asked.
"I was delivering my report," he answered, gesturing to Roland.
Before I could stop him, Adam jumped on William.
"No!" I yelled as Roland and Miranda scattered behind us.
"You traitor!" Adam was snarling, scratching at William.
William was fighting back.
"Get off of me!" William snarled back and they started to transform.
"Stop it!" Angel and I yelled in unison.
They weren't listening, though.
"Go!" I yelled to Roland and Miranda. They hesitated. "Go now! Take Angel with you!"
"No!" Angel snapped. "I am their Pack Mother. I am staying!"
I growled but turned to Tiberius. "Get the king and queen somewhere safe. Rosebud, you're staying."
Tiberius did as I ordered, ushering them into the throne room in spite of their protests.
The two men were completely transformed now. They were circling each other, hair on end. William was a pure white wolf, something I hadn't expected, and was much larger than Adam. I only recognized him by the scar on the right side of his chin. I threw my cane to Angel and groped for the Sword.
"Stop it now, you two," I snarled, limping over and drawing my Sword. "Stop now or face the consequences!" The stared at me but neither made a move to change. I was shaking in anger as I pointed the sword at Adam. "Don't make me do this, Adam! You served me faithfully on our journey! I do not wish to do this!"
My leg started to shake but I ignored it, gripping the Sword tightly. Adam snarled at me, baring his teeth. William ran between me and Adam. They were growling between each other; it sounded like they were communicating. I panted, beads of sweat forming on my face. I couldn't stand much longer.
Finally, the two transformed back into men. Angel turned but Rosebud ran to William's side.
"Are you all right?" she whispered, pressing her sleeve to his bleeding chin.
"Leave me, elf," William snapped.
"Drop the act, William," I said. "We know."
William's eyes closed and he hung his head. Adam stood over him, snarling still. I pointed the Sword at him again and he got to his knees.
"Join him, William," I said.
He did so immediately. Rosebud stared at me in anger and fear.
"I told you to stop," I said, limping toward them. "You did not do as I ordered. I expected more from you, William."
"He was being attacked!" Rosebud cried but Angel silenced her.
"As for you, Adam, I warned you, did I not?"
"Yes, my alpha," he said bitterly.
"And what did I say?"
"There would be consequences."
"I am not my father," I said. "I do not sit idly by and let my men - and wolves - do as they please. When I order something, it is to be done! You acted like wild beasts! You put yourselves in danger. Even worse, you put my family in danger!" My voice had risen and echoed around the room. "I will not tolerate it! Adam, you are to be clothed and put in the dungeons. Do not growl at me!" I added, walking closer with my Sword and he fell silent. "Once I have made the announcement to the rest of the clan, you may rejoin them. William you will be clothed and stay in the cells, as well."
William did not object. Two guards came forward to grab them. The Sword fell as I fainted from the pain.