An intense fight ensued as we were quickly engaged by a group of wolves.
To my surprise, Aleric had already taken two down and was on to his third before even a few minutes had passed
But there were so many more to go.
The bottom line was that we weren’t going to win this, and we both knew it.
I had two wolves on me and I had so far been holding my own against them well. Neither of them had expected me to be able to fight so well underage and it showed. They moved as if assuming I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but they were wrong.
“Aria!” Aleric yelled. “I can hear there’s more coming. We need to go.”
I knew he was right. We’d vastly underestimated how large this cave system was. With the number of wolves here, it seemed plausible that it expanded out more than what we could see here. Most likely, there were hidden tunnels somewhere which would explain how th appeared to be coming out of nowhere. Our best option was to run. Suddenly, Aleric screamed out in pain. I wanted to turn and check what had happened but the two on me weren’t letting me take my eyes off them for even a second. They were determined t o finally get a hit on me as their frustration had only been growing the entire time I’d been dodging them.
But I didn’t need to wait long in order to find out if Aleric was okay.
Because I soon heard the sound of someone shifting, followed by an encore of whimpers, howls, growls… and flesh tearing. A lot of flesh tearing. I quickly unsheathed my knife, waiting for the moment I knew would be coming, and was pleased he didn’t keep me waiting long.
The largest black wolf I ever saw then came bounding out of nowhere and tackled one of the two away from me, snapping towards his throat for a final blow. I’d only ever seen Aleric’s wolf a handful of times but it was always an impressive sight, as with any other Alpha wolf.
The second rogue naturally tried to turn his attention to Aleric in order to help his comrade, but that was a mistake. I moved lightning fast to kick him to the ground, pinning him in place with my legs… and instantly embedded the silver knife into his chest.
Finally exhausted, I leaned back and looked around me. It seemed like Aleric had killed off the entire room as the corpses around us began to shift back into their human bodies.
But it had been a complete massacre. I heard Aleric then whimper, drawing my attention back, and I knew what he was trying to say. He’d mentioned there were more coming and it was a reminder that we didn’t have long to leave. I nodded that I understood and looked down to retrieve my knife… only to find the wolf had reverted back to his human self underneath me.
Instantly, I felt my entire body freeze up at the sight of who laid there. But it was impossible, wasn’t it? Surely it was someone who just looked similar…
Because under me laid the body of someone I could have sworn was Doctor Andrews, the future head pack doctor that would replace my mother one day. Aleric barked out loudly next to me but I was barely able to register him with what I was seeing. It literally didn’t make any sense. He couldn’t be a rogue because in two years he would be a doctor in our pack. It had to be someone else. Maybe his brother or another relative. Or maybe not anyone related at all and I just couldn’t see clearly in the dim light or with the dirto
n his face.
Aleric suddenly grabbed my shirt in his mouth and started to drag me away from the body before I even had a chance to retrieve my dagger. “Okay, okay!” I finally said as I started to get a hold of myself.
He had managed to drag me a couple of feet before the hard, stony ground cutting into my legs had been enough to snap me out of it.
I stood up as quickly as I could, still shaken, but managed to make the rest of the way outside and sprint back into the woods.
It was unlikely that they would waste time chasing us but we continued to run regardless. I followed Aleric the entire time, trusting him to know the way back even though it all looked the same to me.
It was amazing to see him in so much control though… or maybe it was just that Aleric and his wolf were both on the same page anyway in that moment. Nevertheless, it was still impressive given most people took at least a month to begin moving so fluidly in that form. But as I inspected him, I couldn‘t help but notice he was limping ever so slightly on one of his back legs. I assumed this was why he’d cried out earlier. It didn’t take us long to get back to the car and I immediately doubled over panting, now out o f breath from having ran the entire way. I looked up towards Aleric, only to find him staring at me by the car, almost expectantly.
“What?” I asked between breaths. He just pointed his nose towards the car boot and back to me. Oh. He must have had a spare change of clothes in there. …And he didn‘t want to shift in front of me because it would mean I’d see him naked. Out of all the crazy s**t I had just seen… Aleric’s naked body was by far the least of concerns… and it wasn’t even a new thing for me. It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen his entire body unclothed before in my past life. But I suppose he didn‘t know that. I exhaled quickly one last time in mild frustration before going to open the boot for him. He just continued to stare at me until I walked around to the front of the car to give him the privacy he wanted.
It only took a few moments to shift back but I could see his mood had turned just as dark as
his wolf’s fur coat. Probably directed at me because of what had happened in the cave.
“We need to hurry,” he said, jumping back into the driver’s seat. “They will be clearing the entire place out before we get back.” Well, we could both agree on that at least. Aleric sped the entire way until we made it to the closest patrol tower, but he had been right. B y the time they did manage to get back to the cave, all the rogues had left and managed to take most of their belongings with them. Even all the bodies Aleric amassed had incredibly been
removed already. Only the larger furniture items remained.
It was an impressive effort given only the hour they probably had to pull it off. But this only told us that they must have had another shelter nearby. There was no other possible way they could have moved that many people and dead bodies over an extended distance, without leaving a single trace or track. The search continued for the rest of the day and ended up expanding out to the entire woods nearby
But they didn’t end up finding anyone. For now, the trail had gone.
“It was incredibly stupid to go in there alone,” my mother scolded as she examined me.
Per protocol, I had been sent to the hospital for a check-up as soon as Aleric and I had finished giving our report to the patrol team. This was regardless of whether or not I’d actually been hurt and was more of a paperwork formality.
I turned my head away defiantly. “You can’t keep saying that forever, you know? I have a job and a responsibility to the pack now. If Aleric and I hadn’t gone in, we might have missed our
ce at getting answers. Besides, the report only said one rogue was sighted, not thirty. I didn’t even know rogues could band together in numbers like that.”
She grabbed at my chin and forced me to look at her. “Being responsible for the pack due to a job, doesn’t mean dying for them.” Her words hit hard considering I’d literally done that once already. Did she know? Had my father ended up disclosing my past? I‘d personally been avoiding telling her to not upset her; after all, she had been killed in that prior timeline.
I didn‘t mind if she knew the truth but her expression seemed to be one of only a concerned mother, not of someone who knew my history.
Her worry did make me realise though that things could have been different in the past. Would I have tried to run away sooner if my mother had still been alive? Would she have tried to rescue me?
I sighed, pulling my face away. “I‘m sorry.” But as her words made me recount the past, it also reminded me of what I’d seen in the cave. “By the way…,” I said, thinking. “Do you know where I can find Doctor Andrews?” She frowned. “Doctor Andrews…? I don’t think we have a doctor by that name.” anderen en
de la mort la
My chest tightened as I heard the words I hadn’t wanted to hear.
So, it was true then. He wasn’t employed here. And yet, to become the head doctor, he would have already needed to be well into his career at the Winter Mist. It would be impossible to achieve that position within the next two years without that experience.
Something was definitely wrong and I needed more answers.
That night, I went to Lucy and asked her to touch base with the private investigator. I needed t o know how Thea had shown up within our own territory without him realising, how she had managed to find me… and now I also needed any information he could find out about a Doctor Clive Andrews.
I needed to know if he was alive and living in another territory right now… and, if not, then maybe it would help me come to terms with what I thought I saw in that cave; that maybe him being a rogue was possibly true. Had I changed something so drastically in this life that he’d become a rogue…? Or was it that he had always been a rogue, even in the past, and no one knew? By that logic, it probably wasn’t even his real name.
This would probably be the PI’s last chance though since, given their abysmal results, I considered it was time to find a different investigator. This one had let Thea stroll right across the border and hadn’t even realised. What had I been paying him the last two years for?
And though I tried not to think about it, I did wonder if maybe Thea had somehow managed to manipulate him into betraying me. Had he actually been playing me as a double agent this entire time? Perhaps it was time to meet with him in person and get the answers from him myself.
In the meantime though, as I waited the few days it would take for Lucy to report back to me, I decided to just do my best to push it all out of my head. Well… everything except one thing. “He said what to you?!” Myra said, her mouth completely ajar. I could hear the sound of her fork dropping onto her plate in surprise.
I had decided to meet with Myra a couple of days after the cave incident to hopefully clear at least some of my more… conflicted thoughts. I needed someone else to agree with me that Cai was acting immature and that what he was saying was actually ridiculous. And so, I told her everything that had happened over the first two days Cai had come back.
“He said that he had stopped messing around and tried to tell me again that he… had feelings for me. Like real ones. Allegedly.” I looked back down at my food, not wanting to look her in the eyes during the embarrassing conversation topic.
“… And what did you say?!” she almost yelled.
I looked around and saw several people were now gawking our way. 1 “Shhh, Myra, people are staring,” I pointed out. She blinked a few times and tried to calm herself. “Sorry… I‘m just completely surprised. Aren’t you happy though?”
“Happy…?” I looked at her confused, but it didn’t compare to the absolute shock at what she said next.
“Well… I mean, you obviously had feelings for Cai back when we used to all hang out together. I figured you’d be happy he confessed finally.”