I was practically bouncing with excitement. A servant gave me my cloak and I hurried to put it around my shoulders. It was fall and getting cold. I wanted to run to the clan but we had to follow behind Uncle David. During a desperate attempt to save the kingdom, he broke his left ankle. It never completely healed and so he was forever stuck with a cane. He really did hate it but learned what happened should he not use it.
The air was cool and smelled of rain. I took in deep breaths. I hesitated before stepping outside the gate. I don't know why I was nervous. Here I was: finally I could get off of these blasted castle grounds. I would be among other living beings that weren't my family.
My family was moving on, not realizing I was behind them, so conflicted my head was aching. Someone put their hand on my shoulder.
"You finally badger your parents enough and you're not going to go?" Sally asked.
"Of course I am," I argued. "I'm just... enjoying the weather."
She laughed and took my arm, leading me out the gate. Sally was my best friend. She was one of Christina's five children. She was there when I was born and proclaimed herself as my big sister. In a way, she kind of was.
We quickly caught up with everyone else and I gaped at the world around us. The homes were built of stone. People that were walking around stopped to bow before us. Little kids darted around, giggling, and hugging Queen Angel around the legs. Parents ran forward, scolding them for being rude. Angel didn't mind, though. Since she couldn't have children, she was happy with any interaction she could have.
When we reached the edge of the village, we heard shouting and snarling. Uncle David sighed wearily.
"Rosebud, are you sure it won't hurt you this time?" he asked my mother who nodded.
"Yes. I'm not pregnant anymore so I believe all will be well."
"Hopefully I won't have to use it," he muttered and Angel squeezed his arm, putting her head on his shoulder.
I smiled as he kissed the top of her head. I envied the amount of love they had for each other. Many times I heard them teasing each other and joking about things I didn't understand. Other times, they sat in silence, holding hands and smiling. It was like they were communicating together without speaking. I knew very little about what complications they went through during their courtship, but I knew it was hard.
We came to the edge of the werewolves' farming lands. Two wolves were circling each other and a ring of fifty werewolves in their human forms surrounded them. I gasped quietly. The only wolf I've ever seen is my father who was large and white. These two were slightly smaller but looked just as frightening.
The assembled wolves were casting lots.
Until they saw Uncle David. They started to scatter.
"Don't move," David ordered and they whimpered but parted the way to the two wolves.
At first, they didn't see Uncle David. It wasn't until he had drawn the Sword and it rang through the air, did they notice us. Something about the blade made me shiver. Immediately, the wolves changed back into men and my mother clapped her hand over my eyes. I pouted.
"Just one peek?" I asked.
"Hush, Corstelis," my father whispered. "Now is not the time."
"What's he doing?" I whispered.
"Number five," I heard David say. "This is fight number five. When are you going to tell me why you keep arguing?"
"It's the crops, my alpha," one of the werewolves said.
"Can you at least let me get closer so I can hear?" I grumbled.
My parents sighed but helped me move so I was standing by Sally.
"There is nothing wrong with your crops, Seth," Queen Angel said.
"Yes, Mother, but he keeps trying to claim them as his own!"
"You're acting like cubs," David snapped and Father whistled quietly. Ouch. "There are other ways to solve your conflicts! William," he said and I felt my father leave my side. "This is your beta. He has been-"
I didn't hear what he said next. My spine straightened and I turned slowly to the forest. My feet were moving on their own. My mother hadn't noticed. She was watching my father nervously. I was halfway to the forest, walking as if I was sleep walking, when Sally finally noticed.
"Rosebud," she said sharply.
"Corstelis!" my mother hissed and suddenly she was in front of me.
"There's something there," I said slowly. "In the trees, Mother. It's...." Suddenly, the world spun and I gripped my head. "Mother, someone is watching us."
Tiberius came up beside me and steadied me. "That forest is full of awful things," he said.
"But it is benign," I mumbled. I groaned. "I'm going to be sick."
Tiberius rushed me to the side of the road and I vomited into the grass. My mother held my hair back and sighed.
"This is why you shouldn't come near here, Corstelis," she said softly. "It's not safe."
"But, Mother, whatever is looking at us is.... It's gone," I said. "That's weird."
"We need to get you back to the palace," my mother said and I turned to the wolves.
Uncle David was already going back, sheathing the Sword and shaking his head, clearly irritated. We rejoined the group.
"They're sharing crops," he was ranting. He turned to my father. "How can they still be having disputes? When we get to the palace, I'm going to write out another order. Will you make sure it gets filled?"
"Of course, my alpha," Father said and Uncle David nodded, frowning at the ground.
"They're getting restless, dear," Aunt Angel pointed out. "They haven't been able to hunt in a while."
"I know. It's not safe for them, either." He glanced at the forest. "Whatever is out there...."
"So send someone," Tiberius suggested. "It's a good chance for Bryan, Jr."
"No," David said quickly. "He's not going in there alone."
"I'll go," I piped up and my parents glared at me.
"Have you already forgotten how sick you just were?" my mother asked.
But Uncle David had stopped walking and was staring at me. I put on my best pleading face.
"Actually, Rosebud and William, I think we should let her go with him," he said slowly.
"What!?" they yelled and David arched a brow.
My mother's brown hair was flying around her, something that always happened when she was angry.
"Do you know how dangerous that is!?" she yelled.
"Of course I do, Rosebud," he said darkly. "Did you forget what happened last time I was in there?"
My mother growled and stormed up to the palace. We watched her walk off.
"I'll speak with her," my father said. He turned to David. "I can't tell you what to do, my alpha. But this is my daughter's life you're putting in danger. I have entrusted her to you many times and I am doing so again." He stared for a second longer. "If anything happens to her, I will challenge you as your beta."
He followed after my mother and Uncle David sighed.
"I just love it when they give me a chance to explain myself," he said sarcastically.