“Caius… Knight…?” I could hear myself ask in a strained voice. I hadn’t heard that name in an incredibly long time.
I’d tried so hard to forget it.
“Are you okay? You suddenly look really pale again. Are you still too weak from before?”
I couldn’t hear him. Emotions were overcoming me. Guilt, shame, disbelief… regret.
Caius Knight, future Alpha of the Silver Lake pack, had risen to power after his father had been killed; or, more accurately, once he had been killed by Aleric. It was debatably one of the craziest political moves Aleric had ever done during his Alpha reign. It started with Caius’ father, Tobias, who had managed to lead his pack up the ranks until their power was arguably on par with the Winter Mist. As such, negotiations were required to amend the terms of the alliance. Tobias came to our territory for a meeting with the intention of continuing the friendship between us… and he returned home without a head inside a body bag instead. I still never found out why Aleriç had decided to act independently and without good reason to incite a war, but a war is what he indeed started. The only possible reasoning for his actions, that I ever managed to come up with, was that it had only been a few months since Aleric had become Alpha. He was wild with his newfound power and even the Elders were struggling to reign him in at that time. He seemed to be on a warpath and was determined to become the strongest pack in the country, refusing to listen to anyone who tried to stop him. So, when Caius inevitably rose to power in place of his father, it became a battle between two new bloodthirsty Alphas, of which had two of the largest packs under their command. Both of them half-crazed for their own reasons, and both of them fighting for what they believed in.
The battle went on for many months without any one side gaining the upper hand over the other. Both of the packs appeared to be evenly matched and the morale of the people was waning. It looked as though the two would kill each other from exhaustion before any would emerge victorious.
The Elders, in particular, were becoming more concerned as they weren’t able to think of any new ideas to win the war. They could clearly see the questionable flaws in what Aleric was doing but were helpless to stop him.
…Which is where I came in.
Aleric and I had been officially mated for just over a year by this point and I was madly in love with him. I would have done anything for him. One of the Elders called on me during a strategy meeting to give my opinion on the matter, feeling as though they were finally at rock bottom. I remember how Aleric had stared me down with an intense burning hatred the entire time I was in that room. I had thought it was just because he didn’t think I was good enough. …And so, I told them. I gave them a detailed play-by-play on exactly how they could win the war with minimal
casualties. It was that day I started my journey to become the country’s best strategist. And it was the day I sold my soul just in the hopes Aleric would begin to love me. He gave me a single nod of acknowledgement once the war had been won and the Silver Lake pack were no more; including the death of their Alpha, Caius Knight. It was the first time Aleric had ever publicly acknowledged me, even though it was such a simple and insignificant gesture. I didn’t care though.
From then on, the two of us won every battle we ever encountered. We were both high on the victories we earned; Aleric for the power we gained, myself for the small acknowledgements h e would grant me. I kept telling myself that if we won the next battle then maybe, just maybe, he’d smile at me for once, or maybe even affectionately touch my shoulder if I was lucky. However, the next battle would come and go, and I would repeat the words in my head as if they were a mantra in my mind to justify why I should keep going. Three years later, when there was finally no more opposition left that posed as a threat, we stood atop the bodies of all we’d conquered. We were undefeated with our talents combined; Aleric for his unrivalled strength, and me for my unparalleled strategies. I turned to him for m y normal small gesture of acknowledgement… only it never came. He swooped up Thea into his arms and shared the victory with her instead.
It all came quickly crashing down after that. I realised I’d been strung along the entire time when there hadn’t been any real hope of us being together. I was young and naive. Brilliant when it came to plans and war, but terrible when it had come to my judgment of Aleric. The weight of what I’d just done hit me very quickly after that.
It took a year before the names of the people I’d killed stopped haunting me every day. In reality, the names were only a fraction of the true number of lives that died because of me, I just never had the chance to learn the names of the innocent unranked who were caught up in the crossfire. And whether it was a blessing or a curse, I never saw the faces of those names that would come to me late at night. I had always worked from the confines of the packhouse, never having to venture out to the battlefield myself. Never having to see the real damage I was capable of causing.
It was a memory I never wanted to relive, buried under years of trying to suppress the sins I’d committed by ignorance. Caius had been the first in a long journey of horrible mistakes. A name that I had long since hidden away. And by some messed up fate, he had now been brought to me in the form of an ally, of someone who had shown me compassion.
How could he be so kind to someone like me? If this wasn’t divine intervention to punish me for my previous blind faith, then I didn‘t know what else to call it.
“Aria?” he called out to me, worried.
It snapped me back to reality as I looked up at him. However, as soon as I met his pure golden eyes, I had to look away. I couldn‘t bear to face him for what I‘d done. He‘d only retaliated due t o an injustice that had been started by Aleric… and one that I had ended with his death. “I’m so sorry…” I whispered. “What…? ‘Sorry? What for?” he asked confused. “For not feeling well? You don’t need to apologise for that.”
He came closer and was about to touch my shoulder but I flinched away. “Aria? Talk to me. Are you about to pass out or something?”
“No… I just… I-I can’t.” “That’s it,” he said and moved towards me. “I‘m taking you to the hospital right now.” “No! Don’t touch me.” I moved my body but I was too slow. He grabbed me and tried to lift me up.
And that’s when it happened.
Just like what had happened with Myra, my vision suddenly blurred and I was transported away. No longer was I in the gym… but somewhere completely new.
I looked around at the empty plain in front of me and tried to come to terms with what had just happened. In the distance, I could see a treeline of a forest that surrounded the open space, making it almost feel like an arena. However, unlike last time, I found I was able to move. And so, I began to walk around.
Before I could get very far though, a loud growl suddenly ripped through the air behind me and I turned immediately towards the source. There, several feet away from me, I could see that a large black wolf was bent over a figure lying on the ground. A cold sense of dread quickly hit my heart as I realised what I might be seeing. I approached slowly, having to force myself to keep moving. Because I needed to see, to confirm that it was what I thought it was, but every part of me wanted to turn back with every step I took, I could feel my legs becoming more numb.
The black wolf then turned around and began to walk away in my direction, its snout covered i n a thick liquid I instinctively knew was blood. But I did my best to not inspect too closely as w
ssed paths, thankful that he never turned in my direction as I moved by.
I recognised the same feeling of being invisible to the people inside the vision, just as I had been last time. I knew I was a spectator, not a participant. I wasn’t meant to be seeing this, I wasn’t meant to be here when this had happened. And yet, I was being forced to see it anyway.
I was being made to witness the outcome of my handiwork.
‘Please don’t make me watch this. Please…,‘I whimpered inside my head. ‘I‘m already sorry for what I did.’
With tears in my eyes, I stared down at the body of Cai, his hands feebly trying to apply pressure to a wound at his neck. There was no hope though. I didn‘t need to be a doctor to see that the injury he had would be fatal. I knelt beside him, watching as he spluttered blood out i n an attempt to breathe, and I began to gently stroke his hair. I knew this wasn’t real but I found the movement helped my sorrow somehow.
He looked older, more mature. He had the same incredibly strange coloured irises but his hair was shorter, and now more dishevelled. Under his eyes, I could see dark circles that looked to have been built up over a long period of time. I was sure it was brought on by the immense amount of pressure he’d been under during the many months of war.
This is what I had done to him. This was his fate. To die alone in a field, struggling to breathe, while the world carried on without him. A face I’d never met, but one I would now never be able to forget.
“I’m so sorry,” I cried, my tears falling on to him. “I’m so sorry....”
He coughed once more and I could feel he was becoming weaker. He didn’t have long left. I grabbed one of his hands in both of mine and brought it up to my face, sobbing into it. “I didn’t know, I didn’t understand. I’m here now though. I’m so sorry.” Suddenly, I felt his hand move out of my mine as he cupped my cheek, my eyes instantly snapping towards his face in response. But, to my utter shock… …I found him staring right at me.