We were all standing there, watching Rachel tread further and further away from the border. Emily’s faint feelings of sadness were slipping through the mate bond, yet her face betrayed none of it. I could also tell that she is rattled and wishes to comfort me. However, both me and Arthur need a bit of time to process what is going on, perhaps even research it. Having a pack member, be it my mate or anyone else, that can withstand my Alpha King orders is unheard of. This could cause a whole other kind of leadership issues if word gets around, creating factions through the pack or simply confusion. Add this on top of the fact that the pack is losing its Gamma today…
Nevertheless, I turned on my heels and we made our way towards the same forest where the ceremony took place, in complete silence. There was tension, but nobody broke it. Arrived there, the pack members had already been informed and summoned by Amanda. Besides the pups, a few adults required to look after them, the elderly and the border patrols, everyone was standing and chattering until our smell came in range, after which they all kneeled and prepared a path for me, Emily and Michael to take our formal places on the stumps. Amanda and the remaining elders had already been waiting for us. As silence fell over the crowd, I took a step forward and began my speech:
“Good evening. By this point, I must assume that word got around. Hence, with utmost disappointment, I must announce that for the first time in our pack’s history, an Elder and a Gamma conspired against my mate and poisoined Emily with wolfsbane just before her challenge. As consequences to their actions, it’s been decided that both Elder Cole and Gamma Antonio Greyback deserve nothing less than death. Even so, since Elder Cole had shown clear disrespect towards his Queen, he has received his punishment. On the other hand, Antonio Greyback will be publicly executed. Following this event, we shall continue the night with our most awaited hunt in celebration for our new Queen.”
Most of the pack already loves Emily, be it due to her personality or their wolves submitting to hers. Hence, the crowd went wild with cheering in expectation of this execution and hunt. Despite this being their Gamma, a wolf’s loyalty ends when met with betrayal.
Alexander and Alexei then brought the betrayer, pulling him by a chain tied to his hands cuffs. Antonio was forcefully pushed into a kneeling position facing us, the high ranking members, letting out a grunt of pain. He lifted his head and said, while looking at me:
“Please, I beg of you, ple-” but Alexei hit the back of his head to silence him, making Antonio fall forward on his stomach. Alexei reprimanded him:
“Do not speak without being talked to, scum!”
He was lucky that he was stopped as I was about to rip his heart out for daring to speak to me with the same mouth that organized my mate’s attempted assassination.
“Edward, could we perhaps listen to what he wants to say?” Emily’s voice echoed from behind me. Antonio lifted his head again, slower this time, and looked at Emily. His eyes welled up and he bit his lower lip in expectance of my answer.
I nodded. I could feel that my response brought her a shred of happiness. Antonio then opened his mouth again to speak, while sobbing:
“T-thank you, my Queen, for this chance. I am aware I shall die today and I am ready for that. As a last request, could you please tell me what happened with my daughter, my Rachel? I would turn in my grave if I’d die knowing I have caused her death…”
“Rachel has been exiled.” Emily answers, somberly, for everyone to hear. For a moment I thought she wanted to say something else, but she merely nodded towards me, signaling she was done. Antonio smiled faintly at her words and lowered his head.
In the blink of an eye, I ceded control to Arthur.
No matter how many times I bear witness to his shifting, I still remain speechless to Arthur’s huge stature and imposing attitude, as does everybody else in the crowd, kneeling in order to watch the ceremonious execution of Antonio. As if in the blink of an eye, Arthur’s fangs have sunk deep into the traitor’s neck. I try to turn my head away from this gruesome scene, but quickly remind myself that I must not be seen as weak by the others. I can hear Antonio’s gasps for air through his bloody neck, seeing him reach his hands out to the forest. As Arthur goes for the final bite, Antonio resigns peacefully, with a smile, telling me his heart was soothed by my words. At least his final moments were somewhat happy, considering what he had done.
His lifeless body finally hit the ground after Edward’s wolf let go, and, as his blood was still seeping into the ground, everyone who was previously kneeling rose and began cheering and howling, letting their primal traits shine through. Through the cheering, I can’t help but notice people giving me fierce looks, almost expectantly. I was mesmerized by the crowd’s cheering, so I look back to Arthur, and he too is looking at me, almost impatiently.
“They are waiting for us.” Accalia lets me know. I leave my body over to her, as we begin shifting in front of the eager and energetic crowd. As the white fur begins to envelop my body, I can hear a few of them through the crowd being awed by the unique and pure color. Accalia must have heard them too, as her pride grows, making a show of her queenly transformation, the crowd howling even louder. She begins howling too, making them stop for just a bit, in order to admire her. Arthur proudly looks at Accalia and declares:
“Now that our queen has shown herself fully, let’s begin the hunt. Make a line down the middle.”
The large group splits evenly down the middle, then Arthur takes lead of one of the groups, leaving me in charge of the other. While at first he seemed interested in Accalia, he left rather quickly, giving her no chance to talk with him.
Despite the strange start to the hunt, Accalia imposes herself as the queen and is able to delegate her half of the group, as they begin shifting and continue howling as they enter deep into the forest. Splitting them into smaller groups, Accalia and her team makes quick work of easy prey, be it rabbit, deer, or wild boar. Nothing in this forest can stand up to the organized hunt of the werevolves, which is satisfying for everyone involved. Of course, it sometimes happened that some from our group and some from Arthur’s would chase the same prey at once, turning it into a contest of strength, speed and smarts. Accalia even managed to swipe a rabbit before Arthur himself got to it, and she wanted to use this opportunity as a means to start a conversation, but he seemed unmoved and carried on, ignoring her. I could tell she was suppressing her feelings of sorrow. “Arthur and Edward are being such jerks, and for what? We should go and talk some sense into them, maybe that will…” But I don’t get to finish my thought, as I hear a familiar voice mind-linking me: “Hey Em, are you ok? Could we go somewhere to talk?”
Grace’s voice is like music to my ears. And since the hunt is almost over and the members have begun to disperse, I actually find it a good idea:
“Hey, Grace. I’d love that. Follow me.”