A note from your humble author: More violence ahead, because as people have told me; I'm a sadist. MWAHAHAHAHA
Panic and fear seized his heart to a degree that he had never thought imaginable and he ran non-stop since the moment he sensed that his mate was in danger. He felt her terror, and he knew that she was in unbelievable pain. Had the dragon attacked the den? Something terrible must have happened to the pack; he had entrusted them with her safety. He tried to reach her across their bond, but she would not respond to him. He could sense that she was still alive, but barely, he could feel her spirit hovering close to the edge of the next world, like a light that was slowly fading. As faint as the strength of her soul was, he could still feel her; she was not lost yet, but he had to hurry. In his wolf form, he sped through the trees faster than he had ever run in his life, stopping for nothing, desperate to reach her.
"I'm coming, Halea. Hang on! Please, hang on," he prayed as he ran through the night.
He returned to his human form when he finally reached the den. The sun had not yet risen. Everything appeared normal. He had been sure he would return to find all of his people slain and the den reduced to smoldering ashes, but it was eerily silent.
Then, howls rang out as his warriors picked up his scent on the wind, and Lyall was the first to greet him.
"Varg, thank the gods you've returned. The Wolfmother..."
"Where is my mate?" he growled as he shoved past Lyall and entered the den. Many lycans were standing around the fire pits. They had been waiting for his return.
"She's here, but..."
Varg didn't care to hear any more. The moment he had entered the main area of the den he could smell it...his mate's blood. It was everywhere all around him. He could even see small droplets of red as he raced up the mountain path that led to their cave.
Batsuba cringed when she heard the heavy wooden doors to the cave fly open with such force they smashed and splintered upon the rock walls.
"Halea?" he cried, as he rushed to his mate, ignoring Batsuba as if he didn't see her. The moment he saw Halea, his eyes opened wide in shock and his heart nearly seized in his chest causing him to gasp involuntarily. Bandages covered her all over, and the scent of her blood was overpowering. Her left arm was in a sling, and the beat of her heart was irregular. Her beautiful face was black and blue, her lip busted, and dried blood stained her face and hair. She did not stir or open her eyes at the sound of his voice.
"Halea?" he asked again as he gently reached for her hand, but he pulled back in fear of disturbing her wounds. He had never seen her so frail before. "I'm back, Halea. I've come home. I'm here. Please...open your eyes. I need you to return to me," he begged as his eyes glistened with tears. "Don't leave me."
He had been a fool to leave her; this was all his fault. She had begged him to take her. He should have never denied his instincts.
"She is still strong, Varg. I'm sure she'll make it. Even now, she is healing," offered Batsuba, her eyes growing moist as her heart ached for the suffering of her children. Halea was not a lycan, but she was a part of the pack now, and Batsuba had grown to care for her as one of her own. She had always loved Varg as a son, and she had never seen him in such pain before.
Batsuba watched as Varg began to clench his fists. She carefully got up from where she sat at Halea's side and slowly stepped back as intense anger began to quickly overshadow Varg's grief. He trembled with rage, his nostrils flaring, every vein in his face and neck straining beneath the surface of his skin as he leaned over his fallen mate and gently reached out to touch her face. He could smell it now, not just her blood, but the blood of another. It was a scent that he remembered all too well, and he knew who was to blame.
"Where is Rafe?" he asked in a deep tone as his wolf began to emerge, the red seeping into the edges of his eyes.
"Dead," she replied. She had to speak carefully before his rage could consume him. "When we found her, her knife was still in his chest. He came to the den looking for you. When you weren't here, he left. Or so we thought, but he came back...to destroy her...to destroy you."
"How did this happen? Why wasn't anyone with her?" he growled. He had given explicit orders that she was to be guarded at all times. Someone was going to pay for what happened to her.
"She had not strayed far from the den. She had only gone as far as the vantage point. When we noticed she had been missing for too long, Faolan went looking for her. Her scent led him to the peak, and then it just disappeared. Her herb collecting basket was all that he found. A search party was quickly assembled, and we spent the rest of the day looking for her. Just after sunset, Aatu discovered her far down-river by the water's edge, along with Rafe's dead body. Her dagger was in his chest. Except for the pungent stench of his blood, it was obvious that he had masked his scent with the intent to avoid being discovered. She had lost a considerable amount of blood, but her heart was still beating. Aatu carried her back to the den, and I have been with her ever since," she explained.
Everyone had been mortified to discover what had happened to their Wolfmother. They all knew Varg would be on his way the moment he felt her distress through their bond, and that he would undoubtedly arrive sometime late in the night. That was when Batsuba had taken it upon herself to warn Faolan; "Lay low until Halea awakes; only she can save you from Varg's wrath."
There would be no avoiding the fact that Varg would eventually punish the young beta for having disobeyed his orders by leaving Halea unguarded. There was no preventing that. But the least she could do was try to prevent Varg from killing Faolan, which in his current state of rage; he was more than willing to do.
"I don't think anyone could have predicted that Rafe would try to assassinate you through Halea. That was a bold move, even for him. He must have believed he could conceal his involvement in her death, or he wouldn't have tried it, but he made one fatal mistake, he underestimated her," mused the old healer.
Varg knew all too well that Batsuba was avoiding the true question, even if it was only to the vantage point, someone should have been with her, but for the time being, it could wait. Rafe was dead, and his mate was hanging onto her life by a thread, at that moment, she was all that mattered. He could deal with whoever disobeyed his orders later.
Batsuba felt a wave of relief as she watched the red slowly begin to ebb from his eyes before he turned back to his mate.
His elliptical eyes were staring down at her, his sword covered in blood. All around them lay the bodies of her friends; Samesa, Kalee, Mama Dragon, countless priestesses with lifeless eyes, the swirling purple vortex of a convergence consuming the entire night's sky above, the shriek of demons on the wind.
Then all went silent, and a warm light filled her vision until there was nothing but white, and then a pair of eyes that she did not recognize. Tears glistened from golden orbs of such profound sadness that her heart ached unbearably just to behold them.
Halea's eyes flew open, and she winced in pain. Her entire body hurt, even breathing felt painful. Her eyes roamed around the room, but there was no one else there. The mysterious voice still echoed in her mind; a woman's voice, angelic, pure, pleading.
Her heart still ached as slowly the memory of the golden eyes began to fade, and suddenly she remembered what happened.
"Halea!" cried Varg, who rushed into the cave.
"Varg? You're here," she said, her voice raspy and weak. Speaking made the pain in her chest nearly unbearable and her throat was dry.
He knelt by her side, and she could sense such an intense amount of guilt, regret, and sadness from him that it nearly brought tears to her eyes.
"It's okay...I kicked his ass," she offered with a cheeky smile, which she quickly regretted as her parched lips cracked.
She had been unconscious for almost two days, and in that time most of her face had healed, and only a small amount of discoloration remained around her left eye. A couple of her teeth felt loose, she had several broken ribs, and her arm was still in a sling, but many of the bandages had been removed or replaced with smaller ones. When Varg performed the blood magic to bind his life-force to hers, he had shared the gift of his birthright as a child of the old gods, his immortally and the ability to heal rapidly. Sharing his life-force with her would keep her alive so long as he lived, but should he ever die, she would lose those gifts and be nothing more than a mortal again. Halea couldn't help but feel grateful to Varg for what he had given her, without the aid of his life-force she would not have survived her encounter with the southern alpha.
Varg smiled sadly at her attempt to cheer him up, and he couldn't help leaning in and placing a gentle kiss on her lips and softly cupping her jaw with his hand.
"I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have left you. I should have been here to protect you. I swore I would, and I failed you."
"It's not your fault. He wanted to kill you. I wasn't fighting him for myself. I just couldn't let him hurt you. I know you think it's your responsibility to protect me, but it's also my responsibility to protect you."
Varg wanted to argue. As an alpha, his instinct demanded he protect his mate and his people, and the only one responsible for his life was himself, but he could see the determination burning in her eyes, and he could feel the fire in her soul. He couldn't help but be proud that his mate was strong enough to stand against anyone who tried to harm her, or him. Halea had always been powerful. Even when they had grown up together, she had always been the only one who could ever rival him as a warrior, and he had always loved and respected her strength. She had always been his equal; it was why no other could have ever been as worthy to be his mate as her. She was a true alpha bitch. Even now in her weakened state, her spirit and determination burned like a sun across the bond they shared. He couldn't help but genuinely smile and shake his head. She was stubborn, dangerously so, but he knew it was the stubborn who survived.
"Rest. I'll tell Batsuba that you're awake," he said as he gently squeezed her hand and rose to summon the healer.
"Wait," she called as she snatched his hand once more, causing a jolt of pain to shoot up her arm. She hadn't realized that she had stitches even on her unbroken arm.
"Halea, don't move," he reprimanded the moment he saw her discomfort, but he took a seat by her side once more.
"Where's Faolan?" she asked. She could tell that some time had passed since she had last been awake and she remembered all too well, having sent the beta male away the day she was attacked.
Varg gave her a sharp look that filled her with panic. "He's missing. No one has seen him since I've returned, but they're looking for him, and when he is found - he will answer to me."
"Please don't be angry with Faolan, it wasn't his fault. I ordered him to leave me there. He really didn't want to. This was my mistake, not his. I just wanted some time to myself to think, and I figured it was safe because I wasn't so far from the den."
"Halea, what were you thinking by sending him away? You could have been killed. I could have lost you!"
Halea took Varg's scolding with patience and humility. He was right. She should have never left the safety of the den, and she especially should have never gone out alone. There were times when she simply forgot that it was not just her life that would be in danger; any threat to her was also a threat to Varg. She could not go around taking risks when her death would be the end of them both. She had been careless, and she realized she probably deserved what she got, but not Faolan.
Varg watched helplessly as her eyes began to glisten and her bottom lip trembled in a way that instantly made him regret speaking to her in such a harsh tone.
"I messed up. I'm so sorry. Be angry with me if you want. I was the one who defied you by ordering him to leave."
"Your orders are to be obeyed, but my orders come first, and Faolan knew this." Ordered or no, in lycan society the chain of command was clear. The word of the alpha was law, especially the word of the Wolf King, even above his mate.
"Varg, please..." she started to beg, but suddenly Varg's eyes flashed red, and that was when she heard the howls.
He jumped up, his face twisting in anger, his claws suddenly growing, as he made for the door.
"Varg, don't!" she cried, but it was too late, and he was gone.
With all the strength she could muster from her aching body, she forced herself to sit up. Her head was swimming. She had never felt her body so weak, but she had to get up.
"Halea?" called Batsuba, who rushed into the cave, panic written across her face. She gasped when she saw the young woman struggling to get up.
"It's Faolan!" Batsbua declared as she rushed to Halea's side and helped pull her from the bed. "You must stop Varg!"
"Help me," Halea begged.
Faolan stood resolute as Hemming and Lyall held him on either side. He had masked his scent and hidden away from the den, hoping to give Varg time to calm down, or for Halea to recover, but now his time was up. Despite his best efforts, Hemming and Lyall, who were older more experienced hunters, had managed to track him down. He didn't put up a fight when they seized him; the look of pity and regret in their eyes as they escorted him back to the den was undeniable. It had been a silent march. They were acting on orders, and he knew Varg would show no mercy.
It was true; against his better judgment he had disregarded the orders of his alpha, and he knew he deserved to be punished. It was Varg's duty to assert his authority over his people. It was the lycan way. When it came to risking the life of his alpha's mate, he knew that not even their many years of friendship could save him should Varg enter into a full blood rage.
He prayed to the wolf gods that his sister would not suffer for his mistake. To put her under such stress and anguish in the final days of her pregnancy filled him with guilt.
"She must be worried sick," he thought, and suddenly he was grateful that she was confined to the cave. He couldn't help his mind wandering to the thought of his unborn niece or nephew. Would they never know their uncle?
Lycurgus joined the crowd and he could see the fear in his brother-in-law's eyes, to which Faolan only nodded his head in acknowledgment.
A silence fell over every lycan as Varg stormed into the common area. Many stepped back or fled in fear. His eyes were burning red, his fangs visible as he snarled. Lyall and Hemming released Faolan and quickly got out of the way as Varg approached.
"Varg, please, show mercy!" cried Aatu who threw himself into Varg's path, but in his rage, there was no difference between friend or foe, and he lashed out with such force that Aatu was sent flying, his chest torn open and spilling blood.
Faolan braced himself as Varg was quickly upon him and without resisting; he withstood the many violent punches and kicks that eventually knocked him to the ground.
"You disobeyed me," Varg snarled in a voice that was almost unrecognizable as he continued to punch Faolan in the face over and over again as blood and teeth sprayed the common area around them.
Faolan was willing to accept punishment for his transgression, but his instincts began to kick in, and suddenly the need for survival overcame him, and he lashed out and struck Varg with all his might, throwing him back. Faolan quickly jumped to his feet, his vision blurry as blood trickled into his eyes from his open wounds, but before he could fully recover his bearings, Varg had seized him by the throat.
When Batsuba finally managed to drag Halea down into the common area, they were horrified at the carnage before them.
"Halea, stop him please," begged Aatu who stumbled towards her, his hand covered with blood as he held it over the gaping wound on his chest.
Halea let go of Batsuba, her entire body was aching, and dizziness threatened to overcome her as she moved as quickly as she could.
Varg was refusing to give the killing blow. Not yet. Someone had to pay for what happened to his mate. Someone had to suffer for what she endured, and so even with his hand still firmly gripped around Faolan's neck, he continued to mercilessly knee the beta male in the stomach over and over again. If not for being held aloft, Faolan would have doubled over. Varg extended his claws one last time, and Faolan knew this strike would be the last, and he clenched his eyes shut.
"Varg, stop!" shouted Halea, who had jumped in and seized his wrist as he was just about to land the killing strike.
She wouldn't have had the strength to stop him in her weakened state as she held his wrist with the hand on her uninjured arm; it was her voice that snapped him to a halt.
"Let him go," she said in a commanding tone, to which Varg growled loudly. He was in the full grip of his primal instincts. The wolf within him wanted Faolan's blood.
Halea could feel the tendons in his wrist were as taut as a drawn bowstring. His face was almost unrecognizable as he bared his fangs and his eyes burned. She could tell challenging him while his instincts were in control would only anger the alpha wolf within him.
"Varg...please. Please, let him go. I need you here with me," she begged.
Her heart was pounding, and the dizziness was making it hard for her to stand, but she couldn't let go of him, she couldn't turn away, or Faolan would die, and it would be all her fault.
As if he could sense her weakening he suddenly released Faolan from his grip causing the beta male to collapse while gasping for air.
She released his wrist, and he turned to face her.
"Halea," he said as the sound of her name mixed with the rumbling growl within his chest.
Halea leaned into him, offering herself in a desperate attempt to comfort his wolf, while also needing the stability of his body as she struggled to stay standing. Varg quickly wrapped his arms around her and buried his nose in her neck, but a cry of pain escaped her as his strong embrace sent a shock of pain into one of her broken ribs. He pulled back in time to see the discomfort on her face, and his instincts rapidly shifted to acknowledge that his mate was in pain. He scooped her up into his arms, being careful of her injuries, and carried her away from the common area.
Batsuba quickly turned to Faolan and sprung into action.
A note from your humble author: Damn, Varg. Ya big bully! He was your bro, man. That was your bro! Keep in mind though; he's not thinking clearly when the ol instincts are running the show. I'm sure next chapter we'll see the aftermath.
Just so you know, I originally wrote this chapter where, sure Varg beat Faolan's ass, but it wasn't as bad as this. I had him go easy on him, but then I got a message from one of my lovely readers (raxtus20), and I realized, I'm not the sadist. You guys are! Cause clearly you wanted to see Varg beat his ass. So I literally re-wrote this chapter to have Varg flip his shit and go complete mad-dog on poor Faolan, and ya know what, it works. I like it better this way. And don't pretend you don't like it too! This is why I love hearing from you guys. Your comments and feedback really do make a difference and without it I wouldn't have improved this chapter and it really wouldn't have been as good/dramatic. So thank you to everyone who gives me their honest thoughts on the story. I am listening!
Also, because I am listening, I know some have expressed concerns (NikNak13) that if Varg comes back, it might defeat the purpose of him leaving at all. But, I promise you guys, this is not all pointless. Varg is far from perfect. He needs to learn that he can't fight all of Halea's battles and that she's a big girl who can take care of herself and that they need to fight their battles together, especially if they're going to go up against Lord Anshar and the Chaos Dimension, and this is one of many steps toward his continued character development along that path. These events will have significant impact on later chapters in the story as well as tie in with a certain event that happened way back in book one, which will be brought up again. I promise it will all come together and hopefully be a learning experience for our favorite puppy boy.
After all these brutal violent chapters the next two chapters will be calm in comparison, but fair warning, after that, shit's gonna get real again.