The hamlet was small and isolated, nestled in a narrow valley among majestic peaks. Less than 100 families inhabited the hamlet. The land was suitable for some crops like barley.
The winter was harsh though. Deep snow often made the single road that led in and out of the village impassable for months at a time.
Most days were routine. Work started before dawn, and by nightfall, the villagers were in bed. It was a quiet and simple life for most of the villagers. However, all that changed the night that, their village was attacked.
A band of 20 shapes surveyed the village from the mouth of the valley. Their blood lust driving them mad.
The leader of the band grinned with evil anticipation. It was time to have some fun. He turned aside to give instructions to his men.
"Remember, don't spare anyone.No mercy. Understood?"
He waited until his people nodded their understanding. The leader gave their signal to attack. The raiders swooped on the village like demons from hell. Pandemonium ensued.
The villagers screamed in horror as they rushed to grab their children and flee the attackers. They were on them at the speed of lightning.
There was no time to collect any belongings. They streamed out into the cold winter night. Most of them were dressed in their nightclothes. What greeted them outside was worse than their nightmares.
The raiders moved hither killing anything in their path. Men, women, and children were stuck down indiscriminately, along with livestock of every size and description.
By the time the raiders had satisfied their lust for blood and violence, the village lay in ruins, there were no survivors.
The leader of the band of raiders finally called a halt, and the attackers moved out as swiftly as they had appeared.
The raiders moved east throughout the night and arrived at the prearranged rendezvous point where they were to meet with the duke.
"How did it go?" he inquired.
The leader of the band smiled "As usual, your Grace, the villagers presented no challenge."
"Excellent," the duke replied with an evil grin.
"You may return now. Hope our collaboration works for our benefit."
"Thank you, sir." The raiders bowed before turning and disappearing in the mist.
The duke remained, if things worked according to the plan then he would be the next Alpha. Of course, no one knew he was the organizer of the attack otherwise no one would trust him.
Loud voices, their tones happy and boisterous, approached close and Rhiannon peeked around the walls of the busy dairy as the workers around her prepared the milk for the next meal. Mounted men made their way toward the stables.
They were dressed in shiny armour carrying the red and gold flags with the coat of arms drawn on them.
"The King's guards!" She thought.
Sure enough, the King and the crown prince appeared in some time, dressed in the finest of silk and velvet. Crowns of gold encrusted with precious stones adorned their heads.
Rhiannon looked in awe as the huge entourage assembled in the front courtyard.
The Duke and the rest of her family were already assembled outside to welcome them.
Rhiannon observed from the sideline. Ideally, she should have been with them but no one bothered to inform her or invite her. And she didn't care. But it was fun to watch such an amazing sight. It wasn't every day that the king arrived at your doorstep.
"Welcome to my humble abode, your Grace," The duke bowed.
His wife Catherine was less formal. She loved to show off her royal connections whenever possible, no matter how distantly related she was. She wasn't even the first cousin!
"Cousin, it's so good to see you after such a long time, " she grinned and turned to face Prince Matthew," my my! look at you all grown up. I bet ladies must be vying for attention." She addressed the crown prince.
Matthew looked annoyed but he didn't say anything. He had the haughty look, typical of most royalties. Rhiannon observed he was indeed very handsome, tall, board shoulders with blonde hair. He looked like an angel.
No wonder Margaret was blushing.
"I am good, cousin," King Alfred politely smiled.
"Let's get in, you must be tired after the long journey," the duke interjected.
The entire party moved inside. Rhionnah shrugged and moved out towards the town. Old nan was having joint pains again and she needed the medicines from the local healer.
Rhiannon banged on the wooden door of the hut. The healer was an odd woman who often looked at Rhiannon as if she was some sort of a mutant. But her herbal medicines worked. She was a witch.
In those times witches were not feared. Every village had its local witch healers who used their knowledge for the needs of the people.
Rhiannon walked into the cottage. It was full of peculiar objects, and bottles full of strange liquid.
Rhiannon wrinkled her nose as a nasty smelling concoction brewed some distance away. The witch lady was bent over it.
"Hello!" Rhiannon said loudly.
"You need medicines again?" The healer asked.
"How did you....." Rhiannon started to ask. Then shrugged. There was no point asking. She seemed to know everything already.
"Yes, old nan has been having joint pains again," Rhiannon replied.
The lady left her nasty smelling pot of brew and approached Rhiannon, her eyes narrowed.
"You have the shadow of a wolf!" She suddenly said.
"Excuse me what?" Rhiannon asked, puzzled.
"He is coming for you, it's time you find out your true worth?" She continued.
"I am sorry, I am not getting you," Rhiannon asked.
The women sighed as if disappointed over something.
"You will soon realize my child when the time comes."
Rhiannon preferred to ignore the witch's blabberings. She couldn't understand half of the things which she said.
"Alright, can I have the medicines now?" Rhiannon said impatiently.
"Of course my child," the healer packed up a small box of herbal power and passed it to Rhiannon.
"Thank you," Rhiannon replied and passed few coins to the healer.
The witch watched as Rhiannon retreated.
"Your mother just wanted to keep you safe, child, unfortunately, she couldn't stop fate." She mumbled to nobody in particular.
Vasilios looked at the dead bodies strewn around him. He gritted his teeth in anger. Once the thriving village was now reduced to a morgue.
"This is terrible," Arios commented, " how could they enter our territories with the border petrol not even getting a whiff of them?"
"They masked their scents," Vasilios replied. His wolf was howling to get out and tear apart whoever did this.
He bent down and observed a body closely, trying to get the scent of anyone or anything.
"Vampires! " Vasilios declared, " it was done by vampires."
Arios looked at him astonished.
"But vampires have been banished for centuries, they can't enter our territories as per the treaty."
"Well, seems like someone broke the treaty," Vasilios replied. He looked angry enough to rip apart anyone.
"Come on nan, just one more sip," Rhiannon forced the bitter medicine down the nan's mouth."That which! why do you go to her for such nasty stuff?" Nan complained, squinting her wrinkled face."This bitter medicine is making you well nan," Rhiannon chuckled."The Duchess wants to see you miss, she is waiting for you," one of the maids announced."The Duchess?" Rhiannon paled. The Duchess only conversed with her when she wanted to yell at her or humiliate her over something. As far as Rhiannon was concerned she had followed all her commands and kept a low profile during the king's visit.There was no reason for the Duchess to get upset with her."Miss, you must not keep her waiting," the maid reminded her.Rhiannon nodded, she wiped he
Rhiannon stood patiently as the seamstress measured her body. It was probably the first time in her life when she was getting a new outfit that would fit her.Since she was was officially"engaged" to count Belfort. She was required to appear more respectable, and attend the banquet. It was no surprise that her protests went in vain. Dejected she just allowed the seamstress to do her work while she planned her escape."I want a pink dress mother!" Margaret squealed."Of course dear, " Catherine replied."Pink would look horrible on Margaret because she is a redhead but who cares," thought Rhiannon.She was not even interested in any of this."Alright! That should be enough, by when can we expect the dresses to be ready?" Catherine asked the seamstress.
Rhiannon closed her eyes and held in her breath. This was much better than walking. Of course, her father would have had her hide if she attempted to borrow a horse. She wasn't even given a proper riding lesson. However, the stable boy was kind to her and so was Alfred. He used to let her ride in secret.Their group made their way towards the grassy fields. Rhiannon felt the cool wind on her face. Why not enjoy the moment while it lasted. She thought."I haven't seen you around, why is it so?" Matthew asked Rhiannon startling her.She didn't realize when he arrived right next to her."I...I don't like socializing much, your grace, I like being indoors on my own, usually," she lied."Oh! So you are a homebody, what do you like to do?"Rhiannon looked aroun
Rhiannon shivered and wrapped her hands around herself. Her wet clothes clung to her."Rhiannon!" Alfred ran towards her.Ignoring the dishevelled state he hugged her."Thank God! You are safe sister, you frightened me."Rhiannon felt genuinely grateful, "I am ok Alfred, I was saved....by a wolf," she said."What?" He peered at her as if she had grown horns."When I woke up a wolf was staring at me.""Maybe he was contemplating lunch," Alfred commented," anyway let's go. The prince is worried about you."Alfred wrapped his cloak around Rhiannon which she accepted gratefully."I am relieved to see you safe, my lady," Prince Matthew said as Rhiannon
Damius smiled then took a sip of wine from his goblet."There is nothing special to know about mate bonds, which you already don't know, Vasilios,"Vasilios looked at his goblet and glanced back at his tutor."Perhaps, I was not specific, I understand the concept of soul mates and it's strengths, I want to know why most Alphas shun it, specifically with humans?"Damuis kept his drink on the table and stared at his wife's portrait."Let me tell you a story, it was long ago, I was around your age. One day I went to a nearby village for the summer festival of Venus, oh ! what fun it was, they don't do festivals like that anymore," he paused," anyway, there she was dancing in the ring, I was mesmerized, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My wolf was uncontrollable, that was it, I had found my mate."He stopped a silly smile played on his lips as he remembered t
Rhiannon sat in her room, idly brushing her long, dark curls, wishing she was anywhere else but in this room, in this castle, on this day. She glanced over her shoulder at the stiff folds of shining fabric covering her narrow bed.Her dress was delivered to her room and she was ordered to be excited about this banquet? It was sure to be overpopulated with arrogant nobles, she was supposed to play the demure bride of the old count.As a bastard, she was not quite a noble, but not quite a servant, therefore fitting in nowhere. The servant girls instantly ceased their gossiping when she approached. The girls of noble birth snubbed her as beneath their station as if she wanted to spend her time in their stiflingly dull company in any fashion. They bonded with Margaret though.She sighed. On the brighter side, she was finally allowed to be out of the room.
"Rhiannon, you are so lucky to marry me," the count said in a slurred voice."Perhaps, you should slow down sir," Rhiannon said putting the glass away."Let's dance," the count stood up pulling Rhiannon along with him. Startled, Rhiannon whimpered, but his clasp was so rigid. She could not resist.Vasilios gripped his goblet in anger. It put a slight dent in the golden cup. He could have easily crushed the ware like wax but it would have resulted in questions. He was here to get the tribute.But the moment he entered the Castle he could smell her. Her scent was everywhere, this was her home. He knew it right away. His keen senses soon picked up the details about her. She was the bastard daughter of the duke.Not that it mattered to him. His wolf didn't care about societal reputations but his mother wou
The count and Rhiannon were walking quietly through the forest near the lake, his low voice talking of his estates and his fortune that would be hers once they were married.The count had suddenly turned up the next morning. Apologising for leaving early during the banquet. Then he insisted on her going riding with him. Now here she was along the lake. Taking a walk and thinking about Vasilios.She replied sparingly to his questions, as something about him made her stomach ill at ease."So as I was saying, my castle has 100 rooms, maybe you should visit me sometime, I would love to show them to you," he held her hand in a romantic gesture.She pulled her hand away from his grasp. "Thanks for the ride sir, I am tired now, I want to go back," she said, increasing her steps.<