#Chapter 28 The Equinox Disaster
The Autumn Equinox has always been my favorite holiday. Above All Souls Night, the Summer Solstice and Yuletide, the Equinox is the best day of the year. Every September Elysium is overtaken by a sprawling festival celebrating the event, combining centuries-old rites and traditions with modern revelry and entertainment.
The changing of the seasons has always been sacred to shifters. Our power is always strongest on the nights the Goddess turns the wheel of the world, summoning so much magic it overflows into all of creation.
More than any year of my life so far, this Autumn’s celebration must go well. It’s my first year as Alpha and even though my father oversaw most of the planning, the actual event is happening on my watch. With everything that has happened in the last few weeks I desperately need some good PR with the pack, and a superb Equinox would go a long way to achieving that.
On the other hand, if something goes wrong, it will be a literal disaster. The pack won’t consider a botched festival a bad party, they will consider it an affront to our most cherished heritage and hallowed customs. That cannot happen. There are already murderers and saboteurs running around my city wreaking havoc, the last thing I need is to offend the Goddess on top of it.
However things are already off to a less than ideal start. Major partners my father contracted to sponsor the festival have pulled out at the last minute, and it seems like everywhere I look, some new crisis pops up.
I know event planning is chaotic at times, but things are falling apart too suddenly, frequently and majorly. Every last step is a challenge, and I’m certain the same person who has been making my life so difficult lately is responsible.
Despite everything, we‘ve managed to make it to festival night without any catastrophes, and I plan to enjoy it with my family small as it may be.
“This was always your father’s favorite night too.” My mother sniffled, straightening my already straight tie. We‘re waiting for Selene in the foyer, ready to depart for the event kick-off. Convincing Mom to come wasn’t easy, but I encouraged her to look at it as a chance to honor Dad by celebrating something he loved.
Honestly it was a reminder I needed myself. I’ve been so focused on my own difficulties and need for personal success that I feel extremely guilty for not thinking of him sooner.
“I know.” I squeeze her shoulders and drop a kiss to her hair. “Tonight’s for him.”
I sense movement at the top of the stairs and look up, expecting to see Selene. Instead one of the sentries emerges, striding swiftly down the stairs and coming to a stop in front of us. “Selene says to go on without her, she’s not feeling well.”
I force myself to take a few deep breaths. It seems ever since I yelled at her, Selene has been unwell more often than not. I wish I could take back my words that day more than anything – I’ve never felt more shame than the moment I realized my mate was afraid of me.
At the same time, I have to wonder whether she’s punishing me for having her followed – or perhaps for keeping her married to me. I don’t believe it’s intentional, Selene doesn’t have a cruel or passive aggressive bone in her body, but the subconscious is another matter.
Concern paints my mother’s features. “You should go check on her.”
I shake my head, sighing again. “This is the third time this week she’s been too unwell to keep our plans. Trust me, me checking on her is the very last thing she wants.”
“Oh darling,” She answers, squeezing my hand. “Was your fight really that bad?”
I haven’t told Mom about the threats we face. In fact, because she doesn’t know the secret of Selene’s blood, my wife actually knows more of the truth than my mother. Neither woman leaves the Pack House often enough to have heard the rumors spreading like wildfire, and I won’t worry them with the increasing evidence of ongoing foul play. I’m not sure my mother’s broken heart could take the stress, and I refuse to make my mate live in any more fear than she already must.
Thus, all mom really knows about our argument is that we disagreed about Selene’s safety, and I was an a*****e.
“Yes.” I finally reply, “it was.”
I’ve discovered that lying on the bathroom floor for hours isn’t nearly as pleasant when you’re not delusional with fever. Impossible as it seems given how miserable I was at the time, being completely lucid and dressed to the nines while endlessly vomiting is far more unpleasant.
As Dr. Kane predicted, my nausea doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Even with his medicine, I still haven’t put on any weight, and I’m becoming increasingly worried for my baby. How can it possibly grow when I can’t give it any nutrients?
I’m also terrified Bastien is going to figure it out. If I could fake good health I would, but there’s no chance for any normalcy when ! can’t move from the bathroom. How many more times can I cancel our plans before he suspects why I’m sick so often?
The horrible thing is that I want nothing more than to be near him, especially now – nothing soothes me more than my mate. Even if he can’t make the sickness go away, his presence alone helps get me through.
Instead I’m stuck in a cage of my own making. The closeness we rebuilt after his father’s death has been slowly fading, especially after our fight. Nothing has been quite the same since that day, and the more distant Bastien is, the more I think he may ask to reschedule the rejection soon.
No matter how much I need Bastien’s support, I won’t risk telling him about the baby if there’s a chance he’s going to toss me to the curb in another month. I know he would be happier without me, and there’s no doubt the pack would be happier with Arabella in my place.
the most of our last days together, and instead I’m stuck here on the floor.
It all seems terribly unfair, but at least Bastien will be having a good time at the festival – after all, one of us should have some fun.
It took months to plan, and minutes to destroy.
Everything was fine at first. People sang and danced and ate; bonfires were lit, fireworks set off, and floating lanterns released into the sky, children and adults played games and embarked on runs through the forest; entertainers rotated across the main stage delighting audiences with everything from circus acts to traditional cultural dances.
Everything was fine – until it wasn’t.
Mom and I were stationed at one of the bonfires drinking hot spiked cider with Aiden and Donavon when screams sounded in the distance. Aiden and I took off at a full sprint, leaving Donavon to get my mother home and guard the house.
Though stalls and attractions are spread out through the city, the main stage is built in the middle of one of Elysium’s largest parks – though now it might be more accurate to say it’s built in the middle of what used to be a park. Now it is only a deep reservoir of sludge, a combination of water, mud, trash, bodily fluids and who knows what else.
At first when the waterline running beneath the meadow burst, it wasn’t clear what happened. Water began slowly seeping up through the ground, until eventually the people seated on the lawn noticed the ground going muddy beneath their feet. By the time the people in the bleachers caught up to things, the field was under two feet of water and any hopes of an orderly evacuation went out the window.
The bleachers and stage sank into the quickly forming bog, while pack members and tourists scrambled to escape the quicksand like mire. The fallout spread through the city as the people trampled each other trying to escape and the muck Overflowed into the streets like molasses.
By the time Aiden and I got there, it was far too late. We shut off the water to the entire city, but an ocean had already laid siege to Elysium. The only blessing is that there were no deaths. The injuries were too many to count, but shifters are difficult to kill and heal fast. The long term damages will be to the city itself, to people’s mental health, and undoubtedly to me.
So far it doesn’t seem like anyone is blaming me for the burst pipe, after all how could they? The reality is actually far worse. The handful of council members I spoke with shared that the pack was viewing this as a bad omen from the Goddess, a condemnation of my leadership and in the worst cases – possibly a punishment for my supposed crimes.
I was afraid of a disaster, instead I got armageddon.