Show No Weakness
Death rolled in like a thick fog in the Disenchanted Forest that autumn. Hunters were on the move and more than half of the pack had died at their hands. Pack numbers dwindled from the great strength of 15, one of the larger packs in the Kingdom, to a mere 6, hardly terrifying to the common guard dog.
Alpha Lycanos commanded them, showing them how to tap into their true wolf, even the Halflings, but only he and his family, along with few others stayed around him anymore. He told them that they could not mourn for their fellow pack mates for if they had met the same fate, they would leave well enough alone.
"This is the way things just are." He told them carefully. "We are wolves; we must carry on for the sake of the pack."His solemn eyes looked around the pack and landed on one of the hurt members of the pack, Andrik.
"And if this had been your precious mate! What would you then?" Andrik cried, holding his young son of 3 summers to his chest, keeping him away from the others, protecting him from them.
Alpha Lycanos looked to his young bride and saw her clear, beautiful face and her fragile body that held his child in her womb waiting precious weeks to release itself from its confinements and look upon the world. The boys at her side made it no difference, they were nearing their 5th summer and would soon know the pain of grief if things continued in the course they were in now.
Looking away to the ground he said, "I would feel no different. We must survive, Andric, and it is a shame that you lost your own mate in the fight, but this is all that we can do at this time."
"And because of this, I must raise my son alone?!" He said as he lovingly stroked his son's hair as the child looked to him with wide eyes, confused, not sure of the situation at hand.
"Yes and no. We both know that you will not live long enough to see him in the next rising of the sun, you will depart and join your mate in the heavens soon, but your son will not meet such a fate. We will look after him if that is your wish." The child of whom they spoke played in his father's lap, unknowing of his father's deadly decent from the world he knew.
Strength drained from him as he watched his final moments with his only child knowing what was to come. Death! How glorious to join those that they had lost to Efland, the heaven of warriors, of wolves. He knew that soon he would be joined with his mate, leaving the living behind with his son.
"I wish it so." He let out in a rasp whisper, coating his lips in blood droplets and bringing color to the pale things. Within minutes his blood covered the forest floor around him, pouring from the wound he sustained in battle, and his body laid lifeless among the rust colored leaves. Cries of the child echoed throughout the forest as the pack saw the Father's death; the Beta of the pack's death was almost as hard on the pack as the Alpha's. The Beta kept the family together when Lycanos was not around to lead them, but beside him they saw an orphaned child, a fatherless son, a weakling from the start, he will be deemed Omega, they all thought in agreement.
Many Summers Later
The first frost was a bitter one and the meaning of a pack was no longer what it once did. They no longer lived off the forest but hid among the humans as if they were one of them. Sickening as it was, denying their true spirit, it was for the best. Summers earlier, when I had first learned to hunt, 6 or 7, the humans began, slowly but surely, clearing the forest and its inhabitants from their land, even when it was never their land to begin with.
Roman streets were full of our kind, Lycanthropes they called us, but to us we were as our ancestors, wolves. And now we live like this, clothed from head to toe, full of pride and greed, blending in so well that one of their own would think that they were human. Human's cared less for this world than they did many generations ago. Now they kill themselves on purpose and subject their bodies to torture, all willingly. Gold and Silver ruled their lives, as did Politics and Heritage, all of which Lycanos had learned to do along with becoming an expert liar. Well enough that the pack never hungered, nor needed for anything, and could afford many of what they wanted, but I am not like them. I do not want for anything, not like they would spare even a bronze coin to the lesser of the pack, and still I would not know what to use it for. It was reasons like this that my station will forever remain permanent and still I was weak to them.
"Get up!" A hard kick to my side awoke me to my fellow brothers of the pack, the sons of Lycanos and his mate, the twins. Remus and Romulus, named after the founding fathers of this wasteland we lived in.
I looked up to them from my napping spot away from the city, under the entrance to the forest. "Yes?" I asked as I rubbed my eyes of the grit they accumulated from the ground.
"We want you to come with us." Remus started. My eyes were set upon the two and their annoying act of dressing similar, wearing red and purple togas that hung from them, each with a sword of steel at their sides, decorated with jewels. Daddy's favorites among the litter that his wife pushes out of her at the beginning of spring, only to have her mate lay with her once more to produce another child at the next turning of the year; Needless to say that the pack was now well on its feet and growing by the year.
"Father is calling a meeting of the pack." Romulus added.
Perplexed, I lifted myself off the ground, dusting off my own clothing. It was a peasant's ensemble, a simple, rough tunic with a cord tightening it around my waist, hitching it above my knees so I could walk freely and not stumble over myself. I showed no class in my appearance which was very important to the Roman citizen and Lycanos as well. He liked to flaunt his false connections to the senate and his so-called rich heritage to the general public while I looked like a poor man in a rich man's home.
"Let's go already!" Remus said, once more kicking me in the side, this time hitting my ribs causing me to fall to the ground and stumble down the hill that led to the city that the pack called home, and what I called hell.
The pack was waiting for the three of us in the solarium, a glassed room filled with fragrant flowers that were suppose to be wilting or dying from the cold but instead lived well among wolves. The fresh scent of ancient herbs welcomed my nostrils as I entered my 'beloved' home; thyme, basil, rosemary in bloom, lavender with its many heads, and whatever else my Aunt Larentia grew to satisfy her herbal remedies.
Uncle sat by the stagnant fountain, while he watched the smaller children of better times play and the family he had grown and lead on this uneasy path finally have the rest they deserved. The twins entered first, both walking at evenly paced stride, each with one of their hands resting on the hilt of the sword that rest against their owner's thigh, kneeling at their father's feet. All the while I could feel the eyes of the pack burning into me, I could feel their breath on my skin, hungry for the kill. A pack of wolves they truly were, clothed or not.
"Father," They echoed and mimicked the other so well it was almost to the point of annoyance and back. "We've brought him."
A sick smile graced the Alpha's lips. "Step forward my son." He calmly asked.
My heart beat so wildly like a frightened bird's wings as they fly for refuge; fear filled my mind as I lowered my eyes and knelt in front of my leader and dear, sweet Uncle.
"Rise," he commanded, knowing all too well that I would do as he said out of cowardliness. I stood before him, eyes advertent. "Listen to me, tonight is a sacred night, even for the Omega. I want you to tell me, are you scared?"
My eyes glanced at him for a moment. How could he ask that question, when everything about me, my stance, my eyes, even my scent, reeked of fear. "Yes, sir."
"That is normal. Even I was afraid my first time. The first changing moon is the roughest; your body is not accustomed to the change." His eyes drifted to the left; remembering his own experience, sickly smiling at the delicious torture he had gone through to reach the closest to the Efland he would be granted until his own warrior death. "It'll be worth it in the end, trust me. Boys, come here." He nodded to the young twins, smiles that mirrored their father's on their faces. "I will have the two of you accompany Andrik here for tonight, help him through the change."
"We will father."
"Good. Stay put; all of you." He addressed the pack as a whole. "The moon will be up soon, and then we RUN!" Glasses were raised at the Alpha's words. Was this really worth it? Changing into something that I am unworthy of even being in the presence of? I am no Wolf.
I looked to the fading sun as it left beyond the horizon, and prayed to Apollo for help. Lycian king, spare me this night. As I looked back up, he was gone and his sister had her hold on the beginning night.
"Andrik?" My father's name echoed through the halls of the rich home. Turning I saw Luna in the doorway; the eldest daughter of the Alpha but in all of the litter the Alpha and his mate holds, she looks the least of him. Her onyx hair that had been expertly braided on top of her head reflected the light of the torches as her marble skin absorbed it all in. Her light blue chiton shimmered in a way that seemed to make her seem like the Goddess for which she was named as it hung from her slender still child-like shoulders as her body welcomed the change of womanhood.
"Yes?" I asked. Looking down I could feel heat arise from my cheeks.
She smiled and did the same. "It's time; Father is leading us to the forest."
I nodded and brushed past her, rushing to join the pack when a small hand gently took hold of my arm. I looked down at the girl, unable to think of a reason why she would even want to do such a thing, usually the only time the pack even spoke to me is if they were told to tell me something, much less touch me. I was the dirt on their heels, a waste of their time.
"Would you care to walk me?" She asked, as if it were the simplest thing in the word, to walk arm in arm with someone. It was, but I couldn't let her ruin her status in the pack because of me.
"I am Omega." Was all I said, my heart was beating out of my chest once more and whatever breath I had was fleeing my lungs like sand slipping through my open hand. I knew it was wrong to leave a young woman of her status alone at night, all sorts of hellish things could have happened to her, but I was afraid!
"I am aware. And the question remains, will you walk me there?" I chuckled. She was her father's daughter, beauty or not, that was what she was. The same persistence was there.
"If it is what you wish." I said softly as I offered my arm to her, even though it was not the cleanest at the time it was the offer that counted. She smiled brilliantly and took my arm with both hands as we walked down the empty corridors together.
"Were you praying in there?" Her voice caused me to jump from the sudden break in silence.
"Uh…uh...yes, I was. To Apollo." My head bowed further down to where all I saw was my shaggy hair in eyes and the ground.
"I wish I could pray." She said silently. "But Father forbids it. He says that the Gods did not help him when he lost his family to the humans, his family before us, and so why should we have them give false blessings? But it is their tales that I love, all the adventures and excitement that they give the humans." She said with the enthusiasm that one would not expect from her. She stopped for a moment halfway to the woods, with the tree line in sight.
"Can I trust you to keep a secret?" She said softly as if she feared her father to hear her.
Taken aback I looked down at her; the low rising moon made her even more ethereal as if she were a passing spirit granted a reprieve from Pluto.
"I slipped away from Mother while she was in town a few weeks ago, I visited the temples. I know it was wrong but I just wanted to see, but…when I arrived at the nearest temple, the god Mars; there had been a girl there. She wasn't even my age, younger, I think, she looked so scared! The men took her from this cage they had kept her in and…and they…they killed her!" Her breath came in short gasps as the memory replayed itself in her mind. Tears rolled down her rose touched cheeks and fell to the ground silently.
"I, I've seen humans killed before but, as a sacrifice? Why?" She looked up to me this time with need, the need to understand human savagery, something I, myself, have yet to understand.
Pushing back a strand of fallen hair I answered, "Because the Gods demand it so. The shedding of human blood in their honor brings them strength as the moon does to us, as it does you; and you are full of strength, more so than I may call for myself." I said ashamed, pulling away from the woman-child. "They're waiting for us." I said matter-of-factly.
This brought her attention back to the presence. She nodded and with me behind her, led us into the woods where the pack would be waiting for the moon to fully rise and my pain to begin.
He sat on the stump of a once ancient tree but nothing more but a place for one to rest his feet. "Ah! You've made it!" He said happily as he rose from his spot, towering over the rest of the pack as they conversed amongst themselves, acting as if nothing was happening. The sadistic grin that was plastered to his face was blatant as day. "Daughter, go back inside, this isn't something that is appropriate for you. Not yet." He said, never taking his eyes off of me, like a snake eyeing his prey, and that's exactly what I felt like, prey.
Luna turned from her father and gave me one last look of sorrow before leaving the forest for a much safer place, back to her home.
"Andrik Fane, do you come to us willing and trusting to let us lead you through your first changing moon?" Alpha asked formally as if he were in a senate meeting and not in front of his pack.
"Y-yes, sir." My voice answering for me as I was frozen in spot, terror now filled my body of what was to come.
"Good." His arms rose above his head as his lids closed over those glowing amber eyes that watched every movement. Now he was at the mercy of the Gods if he did not rely on his other senses.
"We welcome all here tonight, as the goddess is among us once more. Hecate, Goddess of the crossroads, has joined us tonight for one here is issued a change. A change from man to wolf," His eyes opened glaring directly at me, as he spoke it seemed as if everything grew quieter, wanting to listen. All eyes were on me at this point. All of the attention on me made me want to squirm; this whole thing made me feel sick inside and my skin feel like it were crawling with a thousand ants.
"From man to beast. Let me be the first to say that it's an….altering experience that you'll never forget." His cold laughter turned into a haunting howl that sounded too much like an actual wolf. Soon the rest of the pack joined while I just covered my ears from the sharp sound. It resonated within me, booming louder and louder with every thump of my pulse. I felt my legs give out from underneath me; no longer able to hold my weight, the soft leafs beneath me softened my landing as I closed my eyes and prayed to whatever Gods or Goddesses were listening.
That was when I felt the change, it started with my stomach, feeling sick like I were on a ship, causing me to vomit whatever food I had left inside me. Then the real pain began. I could feel my bones shifting in their place, changing into the new form I was to take. Hair sprouted from any available surface on me, covering me in fur. My face changed as my nose turned black and formed a muzzle. My voice screamed, begged, cried out for anything or anyone to stop this. Gods the pain! Make it stop! Make it stop! Please! The crackling sound of the breaking rang in my ears taking over the once howling noise that now stopped as the others watched in fascination as I screamed and squirmed on the ground. My back arched as I felt my lungs crush themselves against my chest, cutting off any air that I had in them. I fell forward, gripping the ground and stared up at Alpha and his sons. Please! Stop this! The bones in my legs crumbled and formed a new shape to support my weight.
Finally it stopped, everything stopped. There was no pain, no sound, just nothing. I looked up to where the Alpha was once standing and in his place stood a rather large wolf, larger than normal. Black and grey hairs lined his body but his eyes were the same, I knew at once that this was still my Alpha.
Welcome to the pack. He said without moving his lips but more like a silent language that was spoken. Tonight, we hunt. Try to keep up, will you?