“For the glory of Wegalla Empire, you must die!” Intruders snarled at me as I knelt on the floor.
“Please let me see Asher. Please…” I begged.
“How dare you speak the name of our king!” The soldiers growled and grabbed my hair, forcing me to raise my head. They were like shadows towering over me.
“Please. I need to talk to him. I’m pregnant. I have his baby!” I cried.
The head soldier snorted. “Baby? You think you’d be qualified to deliver a baby for our king? Filthy whore! He won’t come to you anymore. Don’t you understand? He’s with Lady Adalyn. Now drink it!”
He pulled me harshly, gripped my face and pried my mouth open. Mysterious liquid flew down my throat.
Burning. I began to gag.
“Die! You wretched moron.” They spat at me before slamming the door. And I heard the click of the lock.
I struggled to move, but my eyes felt swollen, and my legs were strengthless. The smell of smoke quickly filled the room.
Fire engulfed me.
My mind wandered as I stared out the window. The sky was a perfect clear blue, and the air was filled with the sound of children’s laughter. A smile formed on my lips at the sound.
Far beyond me, the pups, accompanied by their parents, made their way toward the forest not too far away from where I sat. It was finally time for the annual hunting festival, and the pups chattered and giggled with excitement as they tugged at their mother’s and father’s sleeves.
I remembered their innocent happiness well. When I had been a pup myself, I’d been infinitely impatient and raced far ahead of my father and brother, urging them the entire way to move faster. I’d been so excited to get a glimpse of the hunting group I wished to one day be a part of. I was eager to find my place amongst the Pack.
I’d been grown for a long time now, and yet, these pups had more freedom than me.
Ever since the deadly inferno, I’d lost the ability to shift into my wolf form, my life had changed completely.
I lost everything. My wolf, my name, my identity, and all I used to love and cherish. I’d moved far away and came to the Wild Crawler Pack, where I’d lived as someone else ever since.
Just as I was starting to feel the familiar ache of loneliness, the sound of footsteps rang out behind me. I snapped out of my stupor and turned to see Marley behind me.
“Sheesh, Cassandra, I almost fell asleep at my desk.”
Marley paused for a breath. She ran her hands through her thick dark hair. Her light green eyes were slightly bloodshot, but her small smile offset her tired aura. “It’s been such a crazy day. I couldn’t help but doze off between patients.”
“I understand completely,” I agreed with her. “Here, come sit down. We still have a while until our next appointment.”
Marley was my assistant here at the clinic. Fiver years ago, when Emmett saved me from the fire and brought me to his pack, he taught me how to be a healer. And Marley had been my first patient. Shortly after I helped heal her, she decided she wanted to help others as well, and now she was my right-hand woman.
Marley took a seat on the stool beside me and then glanced out the window.
“I can’t believe it’s already time for the hunting festival,” she sighed, and she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “The kids have been going crazy for days. I swear, they’ve been driving me absolutely insane, Cass.”
“I’m sure,” I mused. “The village has been loud all week.”
“I wish I cared more,” Marley admitted. “But the festival really doesn’t interest me much. Visitors from other packs are troublesome. Can you imagine? I was stopped by them three times this morning for the question – ‘How to get to the forest?’. Gosh. Can’t they read signposts? They are everywhere on the streets. And with how crazy my kiddos have been…”
She let out a heavy sigh, “I wish they could be more like your Finnick. He’s such a good boy. Mine are little monsters, no matter what I do. You’re lucky Finnick hasn’t begged you to come with him-”
She paused for a moment, and a strange expression crossed her pretty face.
“Sorry, Cassandra,” she said quietly. “I didn’t mean to bring that up-”
Marley knew I was unable to shift, and therefore, I was not allowed to enter the forest, even the safe zone.
I simply gave her an understanding smile. “Don’t even worry about it. Besides, Finnick is too young to watch anyway. If he was of age, I’m sure circumstances would be different.”
It had been five years past since that calamity. I need to go on.
“So where is your sweet boy?” Marley wondered with a curious expression.
“He’s with the Luna and her children,” I replied.
I was grateful that the Luna of the Wild Crawler Pack had been so generous as to offer to watch my son while I ran the clinic. The hours were incredibly long, and my patient list had grown endless recently. Marley and I were busier than ever.
A sickness was running through the Wild Crawler Pack, one with an unsure origin I had yet to place. It was accompanied by a peculiar mark on different parts of the patient’s bodies, each slightly raised, red, and warm to the touch. I’d biopsied several of them, and yet, I hadn’t found an answer that made any sort of sense.
“That’s a good place for him,” Marley interrupted my thoughts again, and then beyond us, bells rang out. She glanced up at the clock. “Looks like it’s time for our next patient. Ready to go?”
I nodded. “Let’s go.”
I offered my hand to Marley and helped her to her feet, and then we walked out into the front of the clinic, where our next patient was nervously awaiting us. She was a young woman named Anna, and her brown eyes were slightly glazed over. Her skin was pale and coated with a slight sheen of sweat, and her arms were wrapped around herself as she shivered. Marley and I escorted her to a room and sat her down on a comfortable seat.
We took her temperature, her information, and listened as she described her symptoms. For a moment, I was worried she was ill with the mysterious sickness, but it seemed to just be a common cold. I prescribed her some medicine, and after she gratefully thanked me for helping her, the front door’s bells rang out again.
“Who is that-” Marley began to say, and suddenly, a tall man burst into the room.
His dark clothing and the sword at his side indicated his rank. I recognized him immediately.
It was Jasper, one of the Alpha’s guards. I knew him very well, as he was often sent to collect me on behalf of the Alpha’s family if medical attention was needed.
“Hey, Jasper,” I greeted him, and I flashed him a smile, assuming it would be returned. When it wasn’t, I knew something was wrong. Jasper was always friendly with Marley and me when he came to the clinic, but today, his expression was deadly serious.
“The Alpha needs you right away, Cassandra,” he addressed me hurriedly. “You must accompany me to the Pack House. It’s an emergency.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked, and worry painted my tone.
“There isn’t much time to explain,” Jasper replied. “Long story short, a prestigious guest of ours has been bitten by a viper and needs medical attention immediately.”
Panic flooded through me. Snake bites weren’t anything to mess with, and we needed to act fast.
“Marley, finish up with Anna,” I directed my assistant. “I’ll get the kit together. Join me once you’re finished.”
Marley nodded. “Go ahead, I’ll handle things here.”
I hurriedly gathered my supplies, and then when Marley reentered the room, we followed Jasper down the hall and through the door. After I locked the clinic door behind us, we raced out into the village and toward the Pack House. We sped in silence, and after a while, I decided to ask for more information.
“Who is this prestigious guest?” I wondered.
“I cannot say,” Jasper said curtly. “It’s confidential.”
“Where did they come from?” I pressed.
He said nothing at first, and then sighed. “Anemond.”
I flinched instinctively.
Anemond was the capital of the Wegalla Empire. It resided at the heart of the Crescent Pack, the biggest and most powerful Pack that ruled our empire. It was also where the Alpha King lived, along with the higher-class werewolf families.
Marley interrupted my thoughts. “The capital? They must be important.”
“Yes, they are. That’s why we need to hurry up.” Jasper nodded seriously.
I tried to maintain an air of normality, and yet, my heart sank in my chest.
I hadn’t heard the name Anemond in the five years. The memories began to flood back through my mind before I could stop them. Images danced in my mind- the fire, the grins of the soldiers, and the poison that’d been forced down my throat.
Anemond was the place of my birth, and in the end, had been my nightmare.
CASSANDRA“Cassandra?” Marley mudged me back into reality. Her pretty eyes were wide with concern. “Are you okay?”I gulped, and then nodded as I pushed away my memories of Anemond. “Yes.”I managed to pull myself together. I needed to be level-headed if we were going to heal this patient.It didn’t take us long to reach the Pack House. The enormous mansion wasn’t far from the clinic.When we crossed through the doors, we were surprised to see a crowd of people hustling around. The Pack House seemed to be in a huge commotion, and I had to duck to avoid bumping into anyone around me. This was the most activity I’d seen here in a while.“Wow,” Marley remarked as Jasper led us down the hall. “This must be serious. Everyone seems so upset.” She tugged at Jasper’s sleeve. “Can you tell us what’s going on?”“The Alpha will tell you once we find him,” Jasper remarked.“Oh,” Marley replied, and she let out a sigh. “So much secrecy.I wanted to ask follow-up questions, but Jasper’s tone was so
CASSANDRA“Well, then you’ll have to tell them to hurry up and find the beast,” Marley remarked beside me, and she rolled her pretty eyes in annoyance. “The sooner the better.”The room suddenly grew heavy and my eyes widened.While part of me agreed with her sentiment, I couldn’t believe she’d been so bold as to say that to the Alpha King. Of course, I wasn’t fully convinced that my friend knew that’s who she’d been addressing. If she had, I doubt she’d have spoken so tersely.“Marley!” Sofia exclaimed. The Luna looked shocked and embarrassed at my assistant’s outburst, and her cheeks flushed scarlet.Asher’s eyes narrowed, and the room fell silent.“Your Majesty, please excuse her,” Sofia begged, and she offered the Alpha King an apologetic expression and a small bow. “We-”Asher raised his hand, and the Luna immediately froze in place and shut her mouth.“Wait, ‘Your Majesty’?” Marley whispered. “Oh, holy shit.”Her expression was awestruck. Clearly, she’d realized who had been add
CASSANDRAThe next few hours passed by laboriously. As we waited for the guards to return with some sort of news about the viper, Marley and I did all we could to keep the boy comfortable. We took his temperature, monitored his heart rate, and continued to apply cold compresses to keep his fever from rising any higher.Meanwhile, it took all of my concentration to remain perfectly focused on the boy. My mind was trying to wander to different places, and Asher Collins wasn’t helping. The Alpha King remained close to us as we attended to his son, and it was unclear if he was monitoring our treatment or just studying me.The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up as chills continuously ran down my spine. I wasn’t the kind of woman who got nervous easily, but the Alpha King’s very presence set every inch of my body on edge.Of all of the people to be here, he was the last one I’d ever have expected, and my emotions were running wild. I wasn’t sure whether to cry or be relieved to
CASSANDRAI was stunned by the severity of his tone. He wasn’t addressing me as Asher Collins. He was ordering me as the Alpha King.The last thing I wanted was to stay in the chamber alone with him and the sleeping prince, but as much as I wanted to disobey his order, I knew I had no choice. He was the ruler of the realm, and I could face horrible consequences if I didn’t obey.So, I turned back around. I was about to walk back over to the bed when a thought crossed my mind.“My apologies, Your Majesty, but I need to go and take care of my son,” I explained, and it took all of my effort to keep my voice steady.“Your son?” Asher repeated back, and he crossed his arms against his chest.“Yes, my son,” I answered. “He’s waiting for me. I’ve been working all day, so I haven’t had the chance to see him yet.”“Where is he?” the Alpha King pressed. His gray eyes narrowed as if he didn’t wish to let me leave.“He is with the Luna Sofia’s children,” I answered. “Downstairs, I believe. ”“He
CASSANDRAMy lip quivered as I searched for an explanation, and Asher rose from his seat. However, just as the Alpha King took a step toward us, the sleeping prince’s eyes opened.“Daddy?” the young boy managed. “What happened?”Asher seemed to forget about us completely and turned his full attention to his son. He squatted down beside the boy and took his hand.“You’re awake,” he said in relief. “Oh, thank goodness. Do you feel any better now?”His tone was gentle, something I’d never heard from him before. Or perhaps I had, but the memories were buried now.The young prince nodded and smiled at his father. “I feel better now, Daddy...”“Do you remember what happened?” Asher asked quietly and when the boy shook his head, he sighed. “That’s alright. What’s important is that you’re safe and feeling better than before. I’m so relieved.”As he held his son’s hand, I noticed Finnick gazing at them longingly. It tugged at my heartstrings, but there was nothing I could do except get the bot
CASSANDRA“Mommy, what’s going on?” Finnick whispered, and he stared up at me with widened eyes. I froze in place, unsure of how to answer him. Surely, the Alpha King couldn’t be serious.Me, go with him to Anemond?I studied Asher’s expression and wondered if he’d seen past my changed face and voice. Had he discovered it was me after all? No. There was no way.Regardless, why would he bring me there? As the capital city of the Wegalla Empire, there were countless outstanding healers that resided there. While I knew I was good at my job, I didn’t believe for a moment that I was any more talented than any of them.If anything, I could just write down the list of herbs I’d used and have the servants pass it along to the royal healers, and if something was amiss, they knew where to find me.“I-I don’t understand, Your Majesty,” I asked him. “Why bring me all the way to Anemond?”“Must I repeat myself?” the Alpha King sighed and he shook his head in frustration. “I thought you were smart,
CASSANDRAI remained in bed with Finnick for a while and stared lovingly at his adorable face as he dreamt. Part of me could have stayed here forever, holding my sweet baby boy in my arms, but the other part knew there was so much to do.I carefully tucked Finnick deep into the covers, and once I was sure he wasn’t going to wake, I quietly slipped out of his room and headed toward mine down the hall. I gently closed the door behind me, and once it was shut, I released the sigh I’d been holding onto for hours now.This was all such a mess, and there was only one thing I could do.I had to pack- not for Anemond, but somewhere else.I needed to take Finnick and run as far away as we could.I didn’t see any other choice. My son and I couldn’t go to Anemond.So, I started moving around my room and got to packing.I grabbed only the essentials- a few pairs of clothes, some money I’d stashed away, necessary toiletries, and the legal documents I needed to hold onto for Finnick’s sake. We woul
CASSANDRAWhen I entered my son’s room, I half-expected him to be awake, but he was fast asleep.He had his arms wrapped around his favorite teddy bear, Teddy, and for a moment, I didn’t want to wake him up. He seemed so peaceful, and I was about to put him through so much stress.But not as much as I would be if we went to Anemond.So, I leaned down and gently touched his arm.“Finnick,” I whispered, and when he didn’t rouse, I said his name again. After a moment, his nose crinkled and his eyes blinked open.“Mommy?” he said, and he yawned lightly.“Sorry to wake you, baby,” I said, and I gave him my most apologetic smile. “We have to go.”“Go?” he repeated back in a confused voice. “Go where?”“I’ll tell you on the way there,” I explained. “For now, we just need to get ready, okay?”Finnick nodded, though his gray eyes were concerned. I pulled the covers aside and helped him down. We walked over to the closet, and we got him dressed.After I zipped up his jacket, I picked out a coup