As I entered through the wide hard wood doors of the Communities meeting hall, my heart beat at a butterflies wings pace. Part from nerves leaving my young newly mated mate back at our den with my mother, sister and soon to be brother in-law standing guard and the other in regards to what the Elders wanted to speak to me about.
My father walked at my side in silence. I had asked my father on the way here about what the Elders wished to discuss with me. My fathers only answer was a shake of his head and a whispered "Not here, Edward". I accepted his words and matched his pace to the community hall.
My gaze tracked around the room, noting who was in attendance at this impromptu meeting. My eyes landed on the to other community Elders in the corner, Eleazar Denali and Billy Black. My nerves increased ten fold as I noticed they kept sneaking glances my way, whist speak animatedly to each other. This could not be good whatever it was. As my father moved from my side and made his way over to the other Elders, I took notice of who else was here. Harry Clearwater was waiting patiently at the table, as well as Andrew Webber. Andrew Webber was the Spiritual Leader or Guide for the community and Harry was in charge of documenting the laws and traditions of Panther heritage. This was really not good if they were also present.
As I waited to be addressed my mind floated back to Bella. I became excited and calm at the same time just thinking of her beautiful face. I had left her in my mothers care, with my trusted friend Jasper standing guard. I had left specific instructions with my mother to start showing Bella the lay of the land. Once I returned I would have to have the discussion with Bella about my expectations. A conversation I really did not want to have, as I knew the unsteady peace and small in roads I had started to make into Bella's heart would implode.
" Son, why don't you take a seat", my father addressed me, signaling me to take a seat at the end of the table. I cautiously moved to the table and sat down with a weary feeling. Nobody made a move to continue the conversation and after a while of the slow seconds ticking on by, my patience came to an abrupt end.
"Does someone want to explain to me what this is all about", my words snapping with barely concealed annoyance.
"Remember who your speaking to boy" Billy snapped back at me, his eyes narrowing on me with clear disapproval.
"It's not that I mean any disrespect, but I have only arrived back to the community with my newly mated female and have not had time to accustom her to her new home and place" I said, in attempt to sooth their ruffled egos.
"We understand that son, but there are few things that we need to discuss and they are of a great importance" my father stated, looking me straight in the eye. Something had happened while Bella and I were at the Mating Cabin. I could see it in my fathers face. There were times my father was easy to read and other times not so much. He was easy to read today.
"Whilst you were away claiming your new mate, poachers encroached on our land, by passing our perimeter guards" Eleazar advised me, solemnly.
"What happened" I asked, seeking further clarification.
"Mark Stanley was out, hunting for fresh game for his female and young, when the poachers shot him down" Billy continued on where Eleazar stopped.
Mark Stanley wasn't a warrior male. I barely knew him, but my sympathy went to his now widowed mate and their two young ones, one of which was the same age as Bella. Selfishly my thoughts flew to Bella. We were out in the forest not too long ago when those poachers were apparently sneaking around our territory. I felt my heart nearly beat out of my chest at the very thought of my beautiful Bella being in the scope of their rifles.
"Did they get his body before any of our males got their" I asked.
"Luckily some males in the area heard the shot and were able to scare of the murdering humans before they managed to obtain the body" my father answered, with a weary sigh. I noticed my father was really showing his age lately and it was no more evident than right now.
"That's a relief. At least his family will be able to have a proper burial and find some closure in this very sad occasion" Andrew Webber stated. His kind words and kind face soothing everyone's frayed nerves. Andrew would most likely be spending a lot of time with the Stanley family over the coming days offering solace and spiritual guidance to help them deal with their loss.
"Charlie is unable to be here at this time as he has increased the number of males on our perimeter lines to ensure the poachers don't try and approach our land again" Billy advised me.
I knew this would be an impasse that I would eventually face. My need to protect Bella and my duty to protect the Community. My plan to spend the next few days slowly acclimatising Bella to her new life, was now mute. I would have to return to the perimeters to assist with patrols.
"These are dire times. If we don't start doing more, we will be killed off one by one" Billy fumed. "The murderous humans are getting bolder and braver, encroaching further and more frequently into out lands. We have lost some good males to their bullets, even some of out females" Billy proclaimed, his voice getting loader and more passionate as he spoke.
"Billy, my old friend, please calm yourself" my father implored calmly. "We are all aware of the dangers and problems facing our community" my father stated. My father was ever the diplomat.
"Changes will have to be made" Eleazar announced. " What if that had been one of our precious life giving females" Eleazar finished on a sigh.
I watched as that statement resonated in every male in the room, including myself. Males were important and their loss was felt by the Community as a whole. But without our females our males would wither in despair. Without their softness and care, the Community would fall, our kind would dissipate. Without their life giving wombs our kind would die out.
"As of this moment things will change. Females are not to be allowed outside without the presence of a male, that now includes the main community grounds" My father stated.
"At nightfall, our females are to remain inside their Dens. They will not be permitted to venture outside even with their mates" Eleazar continued.
"Our females will not be allowed to attend our hunts. Their males will hunt in groups and bring their hunted game back to the den for their mates and young" Billy also weighed in.
"I understand our females cats will not tolerate being coped up inside for too long, so runs will be conducted as a community and in groups at set times", my father took a breath and continued laying out the new rules.
"Every male will submit to basic security training and will take turns on petrol and our young males will commence their warrior training immediately. We need to ensure there are no holes in our protection" my fathers words resonated around the room.
"Tomorrow, these rules wills be outlined to the entire community, but I wished for the people in this room to be made aware before that occurred" Eleazar informed the group.
"Father, I appreciate you pre warning me of the changes to come, but may I ask why am I being told before the rest of the Community" I addressed my father, trepidation ringing in my words.
"Edward the reason I have asked you to be here was not only to advise you of the changes to security. As you are the Second in Command to Charlie and needed to be made aware of our need to increase security, but we are also need to start increasing our numbers" Billy stated, looking me directly in the eye.
"Where we used to be a Community of hundreds, our numbers have dwindled over the years. More of our males are being killed and our females are producing less cubs" Eleazar whispered, as If someone outside would hear him.
"I don't understand what this has to do with me. I told you, I would not push Bella to breed so soon into our mating" I said confused and exasperated with this continuing battle.
"We understand son that you wish to protect your mate and ease her into her role as your mate. But as Billy said these are dire times. That is why all newly mated males will be advised to bring their females into heat and breed them. Carlise spoke softly. "At this time we do not have the luxury to gentle our mates into their matings, we need to increase our numbers and to do that we need our females breeding. You my son have a strong mating with Bella and will produce strong cubs. You are also well respected by the other males. If you lead, they will follow" Carlise ended his speech with a sympathetic smile.
"We will die out Edward, is that what you want" Billy asked me, nearly shouting his words at me.
"Our females won't like the strictures to their basic freedoms that your are placing on them. We risk making them feel like prisoners within their own homes" I more stated, than argued.
" We understand what we are doing may seem unfair. And we do this with a heavy heart. We too have mates and do not wish to make them feel like prisoners or make them unhappy, but desperate times, call for desperate measures. And our females must be protected" my father argued, the strain around his eyes was clear. These rules would apply to my mother, and my father clearly did not want to hurt my mother.
I understand why the Elders were putting these rules in place, but my heart beat painfully in my chest. My poor Bella, would have the small amount of freedom taken away, when I promised her I would try and give her as much freedom as I could. Her whole world had changed and now I would have to thrust motherhood onto her. Bella would fight it, when I brought her heat on, she would eventually succumb to the overwhelming need for her mate and his claiming, but afterward the betrayal would be there. My efforts to plant myself into her heart would be for nothing. But as it seems I did not have a choice. And apparently neither would she.
"What say you Edward?" my father asked.
"I will breed her as soon as possible" I told them with a heavy heart.
Lots of Love