Robert slowly walked along the gravel road with soft crunching under his boots. He walked throughout the night, listening to the quiet night music drifting from the marshy fields around the creek and the dense cedar forest. Robert smelt the refreshing floral scents wafting on the gentle breeze. Robert allowed himself to relax as he felt the slight resistance.
“I, Robert Silver-bane, return to Bloodraven after accomplishing the required tour of duty,” he said softly. The smell of ozone faded as the magical barrier opened to him.
Robert bent down in a patch of wild lilacs, remembering his mother’s comforting scent. He picked several of the deep purple flower clusters, admiring the buzzing honeybees flying from one place to another. Robert stood up, looking over the sun-touched land. He was home.
He took a deep breath allowing his pack scent to fill his lungs. He stood there, puzzled. This road was the main road that led into the pack lands. There should have been a group of wolves here, but the smell was several hours old, and the scent was also about a quarter-mile along the creek. He opened his mind to the general pack mind-link but making sure that he did not register any thoughts yet.
What does Silvermoon want from us? he could hear his mother’s sweet voice say.
I do not yet know for sure, came the reply from his father, but by the sounds of things, the patrol found something in our territory, and the Silvermoon wants it. I will be there shortly. Make sure that the Warriors are alerted. And have the panic room ready to be used in case you need it.
Robert then blocked out of the mind-link.
Well, that explains it a little bit, Robert thought to his wolf, who was anxious to take control.
It sounds like our pack may be in danger, the wolf said. I can also smell the Roguish scent of Silvermoon. I would love to sink my teeth into those bastards for the murders they committed.
I am with you on that, my friend, but we must also move carefully. I would like to get eyes on what the pack found. And potentially get the reason as to why they would want it.
I agree. We should get there quickly, and I know your form is not as fast as mine. I could also use the run.
Very well, but I am shifting back when we get there. I don’t want to give our presence away too early and ruin the surprise. Robert thought before he pulled off his uniform before he shifted into his sizeable black wolf form. He grabbed his uniform in his maw before lumbering off with the speed of a possessed wolf.
Robert rushed through the brush using his wolf’s agility to propel him through the forest. He can feel his claws gouging in the soft earth as he ran in the direction of his pack. Robert continued to charge forward, feeling his wolf form starting to relax but still tense with the knowledge that his rival pack is at the borders. He once again opened his mind to the pack mind-link, trying to gauge the situation.
She is suffering from a moderate case of exposure; he heard Doctor Anderson think. We need to take her back to the pack hospital, but the Silvermoon is threatening to raid if we do not hand her over.
Did they say what they wanted with her?
No, Alpha. But it seems like she is one of their slaves. By the preliminary looks, I would wager she was a sex slave.
Robert heard his father growl. It was at this point that his wolf stopped lifting his nose into the air. A strong scent of honeyed and minted apples drifted on the wind, mixed with the typical human aroma. At the smell, he felt something stir within him.
Is that the scent of-.… Robert thought before his wolf interrupted.
Robert stood there in shocked silence. He never thought that he would find his Mate, much less in this dangerous position. He knew he had to act and fast.
With renewed energy that he never had since the murder of his packmates, Robert lunged through the dense forest.
Alpha, we have stabilized her as best we can, Robert hard Doc Anderson mind-link. But I cannot treat her here. We need to get her to the packhouse.
Then the guards and I will give you the time to make your escape, a low, gruff man, whom Robert recognized as Delta Ectbert, said.
It wasn’t long before Robert heard the angry snarling voices of two rival packs gathering at the border. He pushed himself harder, knowing that his group and Mate were in danger. He rushed forward, using the shadows to his advantage, and making sure he stayed downwind on everyone.
By the time his wolf was panting hard, Robert was able to see the two growing groups at the wood line. He shifted into his human form, putting his uniform back on, and covered his face with a hood after putting on a cloak. He slowly walked down to where the Bloodraven Pack assembled.
He could see the elder, proud man kneeling beside a middle-aged woman. Robert knew his father, Alfred, from anywhere. The woman beside him checking a lying figure Robert recognized as Doc Anderson. He smirked at the good memories that he had of her as she took care of him when he did something careless that ended with him getting hurt.
Robert then looked at the figure lying in front of Anderson. She did not look much older than eighteen. The sun shone off her rose-colored skin and glimmered white gold in the morning light. He felt the undeniable pull towards her. He gritted his teeth in frustration.
We need to go to our Mate, growled his wolf. She is not safe here.
I know, but she is in the best care right now. We would only get in the way.
She is our Mate! We need to care for her!
We need to protect her. Right now, we are going to the most significant danger to her and our pack. Now give me control, or we will put her in more trouble and risk losing her.
His wolf growled but relinquished control, albeit reluctantly. Robert walked towards the border with graceful predatory movements where close to fifty angry and snarling wolves gathered.
Ectbert, look alive, Alfred said via mind-link. We have a stranger coming your way.
Robert looked over to his father, who gave him a quizzical look. Robert smiled softly, turning towards his goal. A couple of the wolves faced him, giving him a warning growl. Robert stopped and stared at the two wolves, unwavering. After a few minutes, Robert took a step when the wolves lowered their heads. Everyone now looked at him, several with wonderment, others warily.
“Hold, stranger,” said the Bloodraven Delta. “State your intent here.”
“I am here to protect that which is mine, Delta Ectbert,” Robert said patiently.
Ectbert bristled at hearing this. “And what, if I may ask, is yours?”
Robert gave a moment of thought before looking around him. He saw that his father was now standing, watching. “None of you would believe me because none of you recognize who I am. I, too, was lost only moments before.”
“Enough of this cryptic talk. Who are you? And what business do you have here?”
“Silence,” Robert commanded, letting his aura flare with the command. “I know full well Alfred has taught you to be respectful.”
Ectbert shied away in fear.
“As for my business, as I said. I am protecting what is mine.”
Robert then turned to roguish Silvermoon Pack members. Robert had counted close to forty Silvermoon wolves. His eyes rested on the older man that radiated hatred, Athelstan. Despite his elder age, Robert knew he was strong, but unlike the refined power that he knew his pack had when together, Athelstan radiated raw untrained energy.
“It seems, Alfred, that your pack is too weak to stand if this whelp can waltz in here and command your members like he was an Alpha,” barked Athelstan.
Robert gritted his teeth, patiently calming and controlling himself. Alfred remained silent to the taunt, but Robert could hear the conversation he was having with the other pack members.
“Boy, you say that you are here to protect what is yours,” taunted one of the Silvermoon wolves. “Tell us what is yours that we may take for ourselves after we gutted you.”
“You are nothing but a barbarian who thinks he is strong because of his leader,” Robert said calmly but filled his words with ice. “Many of your pack I can single-handedly rip to shreds.”
Athelstan looked at the hooded man, growling at the insult. “Know your place, boy. You do not know who you are dealing with.”
“I know who I am dealing with, Athelstan, Alpha of the Silvermoon Pack, Ravager of Princeton. As I said, you are nothing but a barbarian and a cruel one at that. I know you have thousands of enslaved humans that you and your pack abuse daily. I also know that you have a total disregard for the laws that govern our kind. I should take my opportunity now to kill you, but I am giving you the chance to leave.”
“Or what? Will you hunt us down? You do that, and you would be nothing worse than what you claim I am.”
“Oh, I already am worse than you are, Athelstan. You see, the difference between you and me is I know how to harness the strength of my wolf in my human form. I do not doubt that your late son told you about the Dread Wolf.”
There was a gasp all around from both packs. Everyone widely knew the reputation of the Dread Wolf, but no one knew who he or she was. Robert fully knew who the Dread Wolf is because that was the legend he personified. Robert knew that just mentioning the Dread Wolf inspired fear.
“You claim my son is dead, yet he will arrive at home today,” Athelstan said matter-of-factly. “As for the Dread Wolf, I don’t put much stock in wives’ tales that teaches children to behave when they are at their mother’s teat.”
“Then you are a fool, for every story is grounded in the basis of reality.”
Athelstan barked out in laughter. “Are you honestly saying that the Dread Wolf exists? Don’t be daft, boy. The Dread Wolf is a myth. It always has been, and it always will be.”
“When your mate sees her son, she will howl out the most mournful cry that would tear your heart to pieces, for his head is all that remains of him,” Robert said quietly.
As if on cue, a loud high pitched mournful howl crossed over the land. Flocks of birds flew up into the air, startled by the sudden cry. The ground trembled as large herds of animals stampeded away from the sounds of other mournful cries coming from the same area. Athelstan looked at Robert, angry and broken now.
“What have you done to my son?” he spat.
“I am the Dread Wolf, Athelstan,” Robert said. “And your son chose to attack me and paid the price. The price of Fang and Claw.”
“What is your name, boy. So that I may kill you most horrifically imaginable.”
“Why wait, barbarian. I am here now, with a pack that does not recognize me. Later on, you will have to face me with the pack.”
It was then that another man walked up and stood beside Athelstan. “Alpha, let me avenge our youths’ deaths on this whelp.”
“Granted. Make sure this pup suffers. Reveal this pup's identity when you kill him.”
Robert took a deep breath. He mind-linked to his father so that everyone can hear. I have returned, father. Take the woman now and protect her. She is my Mate.
Robert heard the gasps from the ten Warriors around him. He unclasped his cloak and threw it to the ground, and turned to face his pack.
“Since none of you recognized me as your Alpha’s son, this battle is my own to fight,” Robert roared, being met with the regretful gazes of everyone. Robert watched as his father picked up the woman and started to walk off. “I charge you all to protect my Mate with your lives if need be. Now, Go!”
He watched as the Bloodraven Pack slowly withdrew in a defensive manner. Robert then turned back to the Silvermoon Pack. Athelstan looked at him with a smile.
“You have just condemned your life, boy,” the evil Alpha growled. “Bring me his head. All of you.”
As one of the forty wolves charged at Robert, he stood there calmly, hearing the panic in his pack.
Are you ready, my friend? He asked his wolf. Are you prepared to defend our Mate with our lives?
I was born ready, his wolf growled.
Robert took a deep breath, closing his eyes as he fully merged his two souls without shifting. Time seemed to have slowed down. He can feel the anger all around him, and yet he felt none himself. One thought came to him. I must protect my Luna.
At the last possible moment, with a speed that no one thought possible in human form, Robert grabbed the first wolf that reached him by the neck in one hand. He threw the wolf aside. He went several yards before slamming into the base of a tree with a sickening crunch. Robert opened his eyes to meet the next attacker, breaking his arm.
For the next five minutes, Robert defended himself and only attacked the proper counters that never left him open enough to be attacked. Never once did his mind wander from the simple thought. He now had a purpose worth living. He had the energy and willpower to fight now. With silent, disciplined motions, Robert dropped ten, then twenty. They still came, and yet he stood there fighting.
She is my Luna and the Mother of the Pack. I must protect her. Robert finally realized that these people were not going to stop attacking. With a deep breath, he punched a bear of a man in the chest, collapsing the rib cage under the force, and still, his fist had the energy to puncture through. Robert pulled out the still-beating heart throwing it aside.
Willpower flooded him as he fluidly pressed the attack on his rivals. Thirty wolves were down, but still, Robert never seemed to tire. Soon, it was just him facing off against Athelstan and the initial challenger. He breathed as he watched these two circlings him, waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack. Robert can hear a war howl and knew that his father had returned to help his son.
“You have taken my property, boy,” Athelstan snarled. “She belongs to me, and I will get her back.”
“Only if you can kill me,” Robert said softly.
“You will die now,” he snarled.
“Then come at me.”
With that, the Silvermoon Beta attacked. The distraction that Athelstan did was enough for Robert to focus on him. The Alpha smiled in victory. Robert breathed and allowed his bottled-up anger to flood him. He turned to the attacking wolf, slashing his razor-sharp claws at the man, never once breaking eye contact with Athelstan.
Robert, in a rage, attacked the Beta, slicing his claws across his abdomen. He then clawed his back before dancing out of the way from a blow. He jumped back in, landing more slashing strikes against the back of his calves and across his shoulders. Robert was now the Dread Wolf again. Now he was toying with the Beta to prove his point.
Athelstan stared in terror as this young man, who partially shifted, ravage his second, who was pleading for mercy. Those pleas fell on deaf ears. The Bloodravens were standing hundreds of yards off, many of them whimpering in fear at the power they feel from their future Alpha.
Now down toying with his victim, Robert raised the Beta by the throat with a crimson-coated clawed hand. Fury blazed in his eyes as he squeezed the neck. With a quick jerk of his hands, Robert watched the life fade from the eyes of the Beta. All could hear a loud screech from the Silvermoon Pack lands. Robert threw the corpse onto the ground.
“Take this opportunity to return to your pack, Athelstan,” Robert snarled viciously. “Because if you do not, I will make your life a living hell for all the years you have tortured and raped my Mate. And trust me when I say that you are then going to wish that you were dead.”
Athelstan stepped back, fear cascading out of his very soul. Robert growled at the Alpha, who started running. Robert then started breathing calmly, still smelling his Mate in the air. He can feel her heartbeat in a steady rhythm. He smiled, letting his rage fade and exhaustion set in.
“Robert,” Alfred’s calm yet commanding tone broke the silence.
“I am well, father,” Robert said, turning to his father.
He can see the fear and respect in the faces of his pack. One by one, they dropped to their knees.
“I have heard the Dread Wolf came again. I had not thought that my son would be such a person as that.”
“Father, that is a report that I must give you. But I do have a regret I carry. A burden that I shoulder alone which caused me to become the fiend of legend.”
Robert pulled out of his cargo pockets a chain with nineteen tags on them, tears welling in his eyes as he looked to his father.
“My one regret is that I have failed as a leader to defend my pack,” Robert said quietly, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I….”
Alfred pulled his son into a long fatherly embrace, relief tears in his eyes. The pack looked at the two generations of Alphas silently. Then the Beta Beowulf howled a long mournful cry which the others took up the call.
“Welcome home, my son,” Alfred said. “You need not worry about this, for we all knew that there would come a time when we all pass from this world. You did what you could, and you avenged their death. An Alpha fights and defends, or, in the worst case possible, avenges the death of his pack.”
“I promise you, father, in the face of witnesses,” Robert said, pulling back, “I will not let that happened again.”
“I believe you, son. Come. Your mother would be glad to see you.”