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Shadow Sprawl Setting - this story takes place after Alpha and can be read as a stand alone.
His gaze narrowed on the small group as they moved through the valley. Dust lifted into the air in the wake of their passage. Soft noises carried on the air to his hiding place, footsteps, the creak of the wagon, a soft female voice mixed with a stronger male one. Six, maybe seven males in total, unless there were more hidden within the wagon? He inhaled deeply, trying to taste the various scents but they were too far away to be certain. The males would be the problem. They’d have to be disabled or killed if the raid was to be a success but it was worth it. There were females of a mateable age amongst the group, perhaps five of them, and that was all that mattered to him.
No, not all. There is so much more to it than taking a mate.
His fingers curled into the dirt, knuckles white as he forced himself to exhale slowly. Yes, okay, this was personal. He could lie to himself and pretend otherwise, but that was the action of a fool. He growled, shaking off the need to strike, to destroy the guards and rip the males apart. The females, they were the important part. He couldn’t start his own pack without the right females in the mix, and the ones with the potential had been rounded up, kept ‘safe’ behind city walls. But these – they hadn’t entered the city yet, they hadn’t been claimed, merely collected ready to find a mate. Where they willing potentials? He neither knew nor cared. Etruscan females, at least that was his guess, and as such they were spoils of war.
Spoils that offered him a chance to add to his pack. Each new member of his small pack would be a victory that his uncle could choke on.
Small, that was one word for it. Three didn’t exactly make a real pack, but it was a start, one he could build on. No, not could – would. Two males had joined him after being cast out of the city, and more would follow soon enough. His jaw tightened at the thought. Any who were unwilling to follow the unreasonable laws set by Romulus and his followers were given two choices. Die before the crowd – a quick and apparently painless death, or leave and never return. Most chose death – as life without the possibility of a mate was simply a slower death. Without a female, without the chance of bringing new wolves into the world, the option of life didn’t appeal to them.
He fought to keep back another growl. Too much noise and he’d alert the males guarding the cart to his presence. Something he wasn’t quite ready for. Bold he might be, stupid – however – was another matter.
He smiled and edged back, away from the lookout he’d taken control of for the time being. He didn’t rush, the wrong move would send a warning sound or lifting of dust into the air. He made his way carefully down from the heights, past exposed rock and small bushes until he reached the high valley with its lusher vegetation. The two males who had sworn to him were waiting, eagerness ripping through them in the small shifts of weight, the looks the shot in the direction of the route their targets used.
He couldn’t blame them. The drive to mate, to claim a female, drove them. He had sated his needs with non-compatible females before now and that had eased his sexual needs, but not the hunger to mate. Children, a future, he needed both and needed to keep them safe. Two, maybe three mates – one alpha perhaps, but the others would be betas. The more females he brought into the pack, the higher the chance of survival.
“How do you know the females are of use to us, Lotu?” The smaller of the males tipped his head, unconsciously exposing his throat. “They could be little more than slaves instead of breeders or worse. Taking the wrong type of female would be…”
“They wouldn’t waste their time bringing in females who couldn’t add to the pack, Acteon.” Lotu forced his voice to remain calm. That the females might be bait had crossed his mind, but he’d dismissed that idea. Too much time and effort had been put into collecting the women. Besides, he’d know for certain when he drew closer to the females. Like his father before him he knew, by scent alone, if a female would offer a new bloodline to the pack.
Anger rippled through him. Romulus had torn away any chance of Lotu knowing his father in person. He’d cheated, his mother had told him that much, tricked Remus during the fight – it was, after all, the only way that Romulus could have beaten his father. All of the stories, the tales of his father fighting, hunting, and shifting. Remus had been the stronger of the twins, powerful and fast. A man who knew his abilities and not one that a weaker brother should have been able to bring down.
Yet it had happened.
Uncle, you think you killed his line. Destroyed it by killing him. I’ll prove you wrong. I’ll stand over your body as the light leaves your eyes and then I’ll tell you who I am.
One day he would avenge that death in the only way that truly mattered, by killing Romulus and taking the pack for his own. Only then would Romulus realize that the other line, that the line of Remus, hadn’t been wiped out. That his uncle’s plan to be the only one fathering new wolf shifters had failed. One male, that’s all it took, one male and the line continued.
“Will you rescue your sisters one day?” The second male inquired, his head slightly bowed. “Or will you leave them behind the walls?”
“They’re dead, Maris.” Lotu snarled, baring his teeth at Maris. His wolf snarled at the controls that prevented him from breaking free. Blood. His wolf wanted blood, flesh that he could sink his claws and teeth into. Soon, you can have that but you need to wait a little longer. “I don’t need to hear those lies again. He killed both of them when he killed my father.” The stories were lies. He knew it. They knew it. Yet they dared to repeat them in his hearing. Dead. They were both dead. Just as his mother was now dead, and his father. He was the only one left of that line. The true line.
“I-I’m sorry. I just – Romulu…”
“The Tyrant.” Lotu snapped, taking a half step toward Maris. “He is a tyrant and will be named as such.” Names had power, made his uncle human, perhaps even likable. No, that wasn’t a mistake he would make. “He has punished our people, made them suffer and trapped them behind walls when they should be running free, controlling their pack lands and bringing the others, those not touched by the gods, under their hand. Instead he teaches them to be meek and civilized.”
Wolves hunted. They claimed territory. They didn’t back down to those who threatened their land. Nor did they hide behind walls.
“We know. Sorry, Lotu.” Maris bared his throat but kept his gaze lowered. “You are our Alpha and we’ll follow you as such. Your pack. Your rules.”
At least one of them had learned the rules. Newcomers would have to do the same thing, they’d accept who was in charge, or he’d remove them from the pack.
“We’re wasting time. They’ll reach the stream soon, if we’re not in position, we’ll miss the ambush point.”
Neither male spoke, but instantly fell into place as he turned and silently jogged along the barely there trail to the point he’d picked out two days earlier. Height, they’d have the height to spring the ambush the cart and its guards. They were outnumbered, but he was the better warrior. Even a dozen of his Uncle’s men wouldn’t be enough to defeat him.
They’re weaker, caught in the lies that form behind the walls.
He wanted to believe that, but his instincts said otherwise. No wolf would be easy to take, not even an omega. They would fight. Perhaps in human form, but more likely in half shifted or full wolf form.
“They won’t give up their prizes easily,” Maris pitched his voice low, but didn’t make the mistake of whispering. Any hunter knew that a whisper would carry further than a low voice.
“I know.” He glanced back at Maris. The male had potential as a second, but only time would tell if the male would betray him or truly step up to be the beta that a pack needed. “Silence from here on in.” He glanced back at Acteon to make sure that the third member of the group had heard him.
They settled into the heights long enough that the birds began to sing once more before the cart and guards came into view. Not a single sound of warning called out to alert their target. His focus narrowed. Nothing mattered beyond the cart and the males guarding it.
Soft crunching sounds carried through the air before the cart and guards appeared. Hooves that broke through heat crusted dirt. Low voices, conversation exchanged between the males. He frowned, listening – no tension, no hint of concern – too confident. Did they know something that he didn’t? His gaze narrowed, every small movement that his enemies made was taken into account as they drew closer. Two, maybe three of the guards cast glances up into the heights, but the others continued their conversations, their swaggering pace screaming their arrogance with each new step.
As one the three moved, shifting from human to full wolf form within a matter of heartbeats. Rock tumbled down with them, dust kicked up into the air and mingled with the alert cries from birds – but it wouldn’t be enough of a warning to save their enemies.
“Guard the…” the words were cut off by a strangled scream.
Swords cleared leather, bronze catching in the sun light, but only one of the guards thought to shift. Lotu launched himself at the man, hitting him in mid shift, his teeth closing around a throat. Blood filled his mouth, hot and salt heavy it threatened to choke Lotu until his instincts kicked in and he swallowed.
No, not food. Not prey. Enemy.
The wolf snarled but agreed. You didn’t eat pack. You didn’t eat another wolf unless your cubs were starving. Even in this form he knew that, accepted it, and only had to struggle against the taste of the warm blood for a heartbeat. He ripped in, tearing, before he pulled back and released the piece of warm, blood soaked, still quivering flesh. Wolf or not the guard wouldn’t be able to survive that. With a growl he turned, using his back legs to bounce back before he sprang at the next male.
Screams, some male, some female, filled the air. Wolf snarls, growls, warning snaps that told him his companions were still alive, still fighting, merged with the screams. Another guard, then another, fell beneath his teeth until he finally stumbled back and shifted into human form, scanning the area for the next target.
Two enemy males left on their feet, both smeared with blood, limping, moving stiffly, unsteady, swords in hand. One had half shifted, the other hadn’t bothered, Lotu’s focus narrowed on the one who had part shifted. He was the dangerous one. “Look at me,” he snarled, the sound low and dangerous, his weight shifted onto the balls of his feet.
The male bared his teeth but turned slightly, locking his gaze with Lotu. His jaw and teeth had taken on wolf like features, his hands were now claws, and fur covered his body beneath the shredded remains of cloth. “What is it you want…who… you’re not from the city.” The male stumbled over the words, attempting to form them with a mouth not suited for speech.
Lotu grinned. “No, I’m not one of his weak minded pups.”
The male’s shoulders tensed, his body shifting, weight moving forward but although his posture screamed attack, he didn’t take that next step. Not immediately at least. “We are not weak minded. We follow our Alpha, the one chosen to lead us. He is our father, our leader and…”
“Did he sire you?” There weren’t many males who could shift, and now that Lotu could taste their scents, this male was the only one among them who was a true Wolf. The others were only potentials, males who might be able to sire a Wolf if they mated with the right female.
“What? Yes… he sired me.” The male tipped up his chin.
Just as Romulus had sired the two males who had left the city and chosen to stay with Lotu. There were others now, not sired by Romulus, but their mother or father had been of his line. And those young shifters were children, babes not ready to fight to defend their city, or their pack. They weren’t his enemies – not yet at least.
He let his glance flicker to his pack members. A single nod and they moved. Screams, the scent of fresh blood and Lotu was left with only the half shifted male to deal with. “Check the wagon.”
His males grinned and darted for the covered wagon. Female screams this time, but not filled with pain – only fear. That would chance once the females began to realize that they would be safe. Protected by a pack that would never let a stranger touch them again. Spoils of war, yes, but his to protect and claim.
“And you obey him, without question.” Lotu took a step closer to the male as he turned his full attention back to the remaining male.
“He’s my Alpha.” The male snarled the words out. “But you – you don’t smell like – you’re not of his line.”
“No,” Loku looked down at his hands and focused, letting them shift from human form to long fingered, claw tipped half human, half wolf form.
“You – you smell… similar.”
“Family,” Lotu flexed his claws. “And you will tell him that I let you live. You will tell him that the line wasn’t destroyed.” He took a step forward, lashing out with his right hand. The male gasped, struggling even as Lotu closed his hand, his claws, around the male’s throat. “You will tell him that it’s not over – what my father began isn’t over.” He closed his grip a little more, feeling the frantic beat of the male’s pulse under his grip.
“I-I don’t…” the male scrabbled at Lotu’s grip, “understand.” Hazel eyes flecked with amber, widened. “No other… other lines exist.”
“He’ll understand. When you return to him and tell him what happened here. When you tell him that I’ve taken his new females, then he’ll know that the line of Remus survived.” There it was, the flicker of understanding that Lotu had been waiting for. With a sharp laugh he struck, his free hand closing into a fist in the moment before he struck the struggling male sharply in the temple.
A small thing, the claiming of what – he glanced over as his males pulled the women from the cart – five compatible females, but it was the first blow of what would be many before he finally ground his uncle down into the dust. Death – simple death – would be too quick. The destruction and absorption of the line of Romulus, leaving nothing behind but vague tales, would be the only true revenge worthy of his father’s name.
If you want to read Alpha and the connecting RPG information, it can be found as a bundle here.