I was born a were. In all the legends of our kind, there is only one other known born werewolf. The second son of the Marrok of the North American Packs All the others are created by a dangerous magic labeled the Change. My father had been attacked by a crazed werewolf. Lucky for him he survived both the attack, and the following Change. He was already a man full grown, with a wife and young children. The Pack to which the old crazed wolf had belonged to took them all in. Those three children were welcomed and cherished, as were the next three that my father and wife added to the mix. As my father's wife grew older, the Alpha offered her the opportunity to Change. She declined. One lifetime, my eldest brother heard her say, is more than enough. My siblings too were offered the Change. There were only two boys out of the six children, and they both wanted the Change. They were both suited for having the Wolf within. The girls however decided against it, even though all but one found mates amongst the Pack. All these events happened two hundred years before I was conceived. That is how I know my father, my brothers and their families and some of the descendants of the sisters.
Older wolves do well in Packs. They also crave the comfort and companionship a spouse or mate can provide. Father claims it helps them be stable, and gives them people to focus on, not things. There came a time when the comfort of his Pack and his family wasn't enough. Father went looking for a mate. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that Father's Wolf sought a mate. Oddly enough, the Father Wolf found one, but not in a human woman. He found a mate in a lone female wolf. This wolf was my mother. Father lived with her for some time as a wolf, and they were happy. She had a litter of wolf pups. Sometime after their birth, father noticed that they grew, and aged, but were more intelligent than normal wolf pups should be. But still, they were wolves. As father tells it, he and mother were playing around one day and he slipped. He bit her so hard he drew blood. No one had ever thought of changing a wolf into a werewolf. Somehow my mother survived. She was not very happy with the difference, and so she chose to continue living as a wolf. I was born from her next heat. I was the only pup of a small litter of three to survive. Father once told me that he believed that mother was able to carry the pregnancy to term because she did not change. For mother, the full moon had her human self wanting to be in charge for a few days, but mother refused to let her out. Like the Marrok's mate, my mother did not survive long after birthing me. Father was unsure of what to do. He had been away from the Pack for a long time. His wolf children were now considered juvenile wolves—like teenagers to humans, and they still needed some guidance. And then he had to consider me. I was born as a wolf pup. Father was concerned however that I wasn't just a wolf, like my siblings. He carefully moved us all from our den to a new den closer to his Pack. Then making sure that my elder siblings understood that they were to stay with me at the den, he took his human form and approached the Pack, and his Alpha.
This was the first time I had been close to humans and weres other than my father. The proximity awakened my human self, and with it came a great many humanized psychic 'gifts'. My siblings were kind to me, soothing me as best they could. When father returned with his Alpha and my were brothers, I writhed in agony. Their thoughts pounded inside my head. What scared me more than the noise was the understanding. The three newcomers had come with father, in their human forms. Father Changed, to put his wolf children at ease. With his Change some of the deafening noise eased. I found that he and I could 'talk' mind to mind now. The Alpha, and then my brothers, Changed. Soon we were all (wolves and weres) cuddling nose to tail, enjoying the feeling of Pack. It was decided that Father and all his children would journey to Montana, in the United States, to join the Marrok's pack. Apparently, I smelled of were, and I had the fledgling abilities of an Omega. My rarity alone would have been enough for Father to take me, but of course, he had wolf children as well. We lived high in Carpathian mountains. A trip to North America with live wolves was going to take some planning.
We flew by cargo plane. The trip was traumatic enough to cause my first Change at eight weeks old. Father and my siblings were near frantic. I think for different reasons. Father hadn't brought baby clothing and items with him, and so was of two minds as to whether he wanted me back in wolf form, or would it be safer for me to stay human. As it was, I stayed human for the rest of the flight, wrapped in my father's coat we cuddled with my siblings. They at least were frantic because they hadn't expected me to do something like that. They accepted that Father did it, and because he could, others might be able to. I wasn't supposed to do that, according to them. After they had reassured themselves that I was really me, just in a weaker human form, they settled down.
I remember father carrying me off the plane, still wrapped in his coat, but he was in wolf form to give my siblings confidence to follow him. It was a bright warm sunshine day. The Marrok was there, with his two sons and his mate. My father had approached the woman, with the intention of handing me to her so that he could Change and greet the Marrok. The Marrok's mate kicked at him but caught me with the toe of her steel toed boot. I was on the ground with my father standing over me snarling and my siblings had taken a up a hunting pattern. They were all focused on the woman. I heard a man's voice trying to soothe them all. He was ordering them to stand down, and the sheer dominance in his tone forced them to do it. What it did not accomplish was to ease the bitter, and lasting, anger and hatred for that woman.
"Leah, go to the truck and wait in the back seat." The Marrok spoke firmly, clearly an order. His mate looked at him with shock and horror. I knew then, even as a babe, that something had changed between them. He turned his attention to to my father, who was still in his wolf form. "Gerard Cullua, I am Bran Connick. My son, Samuel, is a doctor. May he look at your daughter?"
My father nodded his wolf head and backed a few steps away from me. A man approached and carefully sat down on the ground next to me. "Da, she's not even wearing a diaper." He sounded slightly amused and shocked. The man unwrapped me and carefully picked me up, checking me over as he did so.
My father was panting through his Change. As soon as he was able he spoke. "The little one was born in her wolf form, as my Alpha was to inform you. There was a terrible storm over the Atlantic, the turbulence scared her through her first Change."
The man, Samuel, nodded. "She seems well enough to travel. When we get to town, I'd like to take her to the clinic and do a few scans to make sure there's nothing more serious that I can't detect." He stood, re wrapping me in my father's coat. The other son moved to help my father stand and give him a pair of shorts to wear.
"And the wolves?" He asked.
"My mate and I had the two litters. They were born before her change. And the babe is all that survived of the second litter, after her change." After that the day was a bit a of blur. I was tired. I was warm. And I felt safe and loved, surrounded by people that seemed kind.
I didn't see the woman after that, although I was was aware that she was close by. I could smell her. And, I could hear her nasty mind. I quickly learned to filter most minds, and just get the tenor of who was near. However, Leah Connick was someone I was permanently wary of. As it turned out, she had cracked a few of my ribs and caused a small hemorrhage that Samuel had to watch carefully for several weeks.
I found out later that the Leah had been seen kicking at my father by more than the Marrok and his sons. The fact that she had done such a vicious thing is still the talk of the Pack. Because of her actions, only the Marrok's Wolf claimed her as a mate. Any authority or status she had was stripped from her, and she became confined to special rooms within the Marrok's home. Nobody has seen her at Pack functions in twenty years now.
My eldest brothers and their families joined us in Montana. Just in time to bid father farewell. What he chose not to tell anyone other than his Alphas was that he wasn't stable enough to continue without his mate. He had bought himself enough time to get his vulnerable children to the safest place he could. The day after the Marrok bound me, my wolf siblings and my were family to his Pack, my father lay down and died. My wolf siblings later lamented that they hadn't noticed until then that he hadn't been eating since the day our mother died.
I passed from my father's care into the care of my elder brothers, at least in theory. Their mates didn't like me any more than the Marrok's had. They were just more subtle about how they showed it.
I had less food available to me than their own children. Instead of a loving bedtime routine, I was often sent to bed. There were times when I was 'forgotten' at meal times, or given more choses. The children in my brothers' homes found ways to make it appear as if I had caused some mischief or another. The mates knew otherwise, but it was an opportunity for them to show me how little I meant. Small cruelties, but nothing noticeable unless one looked very closely. I spent less and less time with my brothers and their families, and more time with Samuel or Charles. I was always welcome at Samuel's when he was in Montana. When Charles and Anna were home, I was there. If neither of them were home and I didn't want to be wherever 'home' was, I would sneak into Ashil's hot house to enjoy the peace that was to be found there. Asil knew of course, but that wily old wolf wouldn't say much. Soon after I discovered his hothouse, Asil felt the need to expand it. He created a beautiful fairy bedroom, decorated with many of his beautiful flowers and plants. Many of the wolves tried to tease him about it, but stopped when he glared at them. I was ten at the time.
The Marrok had me come to his office after school one day. I was surprised not only at the summons, but that my eldest brothers were present, as were Samuel, Charles, as well as Asil. Torque, my eldest wolf sibling, accompanied me almost everywhere and was with me that day.
Bran was seated behind his desk, with the others ringed around it. I was gestured toward a chair off to his left. "It has come to my attention that there is a problem within one of our families." He looked at my brothers sternly. "That others have noticed it enough to mention it to me, more than once, makes me wonder what has been said to those who could have fixed it." My brothers turned their eyes away from Bran, or the others. Matter of fact they were glaring at me. I couldn't fathom this. I hadn't done anything to get in trouble, nor had I spoken of the reasons for my sadness to anyone. I had tried once before, and when all it did was cause anger and resentment amongst my nieces and nephews, I never mentioned it again.
Lyle cleared his throat. "I know of no problems within my family, Marrok."
"There are no problems, Marrok." Flynn spoke softly.
Bran's eyebrows raised questioningly. "No problems, no concerns? Samuel?"
Samuel stood and paced around the room. "As a doctor, I have to tell you that Kanina's last medical check up had some disturbing results." He looked them in the eyes and waited for them to look away. It was a dominant wolf's way of letting others know who was in charge, and how serious the subject was. "Kanina is very anemic, and becoming very underweight. Results like this are seen often in refugees, or victims of famine. They show that for some time now, Kanina hasn't been eating enough, or frequently." He circled my brothers and then growled softly. "Do either of you know why a child in your care would be suffering from malnutrition?"
I wasn't surprised to see my brothers blanch. I was shaking slightly where I sat.
"No, Doctor, I do not know why any child in my household would be suffering so." Flynn answered him. "Are the other children well?"
Samuel growled louder. "Matter of fact, Flynn, they are at the other end of the spectrum. A couple of them need more exercise, less food." Samuel was actively prowling now. Clearly, my health had him on edge and close to a Change. "Lyle's children, as well, are as round as little butterball turkeys."
"Samuel." Just his name spoken by the Marrok had Samuel shaking his anger off and resuming his seat. "Now then, Lyle, Flynn. Your sister is malnourished, yet the other children in your care seem to be over nourished. That is one problem within your family. Asil has observed another." Bran gestured to Asil.
Asil sat back in his chair. "As she matures, Kanina will be able to, at will, let our Wolves rest. But right now, she seeks peaceful places to help recharge and rest because Kanina is almost always influencing those around her, subconsciously. Indeed, in the last year I know of a couple of handfuls of nights that she slept under one of your roofs. I know where she sleeps when she is not in your homes. If Samuel is home, that is her first choice. Her second choice would be Charles and Anna's home. As both Samuel and Charles travel frequently, many times Kanina sleeps in my hothouse. I have tried many times to get her to come in and sleep in my guest room, or on the couch, but she refused. The fairy room that I created is in actuality, Kanina's room at my home." Asil too, met and held my brothers' eyes until they acknowledged him as the more dominant one. Asil had kept his body posture casual, but his tone had hints of snarls and growls to it.
Bran looked at my brothers, his eyes beginning to sparkle with a barely repressed anger. Three angry very dominant wolves in the room were enough to make anyone jumpy. "What say you?" He asked quietly. Neither of my brothers spoke. "You need to tell me now," Bran was still speaking softly, "if you knew of this, or if you know why a child would choose to sleep away from her den and kin?"
It was Flynn that bravely spoke up. "I do not know why Kanina makes the choices she does. Perhaps it is her dual nature. All the children in my home are in the care of my mate, Tilly. I sleep most days, Marrok, and work the graveyard shift. I trust my mate to bring any problems with the children to me as needed." He took a deep breath. "In truth, I spend little time with my own herd of children, and rarely notice when one or another is not present."
Lyle was shaking his head. "My mate, Carol, says that Kanina instigates many arguments amongst the children in our home. Often, when I ask where she is, I am told that she in on restriction to a specific room for some reason or another. I too, work nights, and so I spend the few hours I can with the children and my mate."
"How many people, not counting Kanina, are in each of your households?" Bran asked.
"I have twelve, total, Marrok." Lyle answered proudly.
Flynn shook his head sadly. "My grandchildren lost their parents this last year, and with them moving in with me, I have fifteen."
Bran nodded. "That is two issues that are problems that I have had brought to my attention." He glanced at Charles.
Charles had sat stone still during the meeting, his arms loosely held in his lap. "I was a born were. The only other than Kanina that we know of. She is doing well with her Changes and her dual nature. Always aware and in control. I have observed her when she is at school. Her teachers do not report a single instance of trouble that originates from her. Matter of fact, the children of you households are the worst behaved of all the students, except for Kanina. The teacher tells me that she often plays the roll of peacemaker, and protects other students. This has actually resulted in Kanina being injured, and yet she never complains." He took a deep breath and crossed his arms. "My Anna does the same thing when amongst the Pack. It is a trait of an Omega wolf. The question you must answer is this: Why is Kanina not being cared for by anyone other than her wolf siblings?"
Flynn and Lyle exchanged serious looks. For long moments there was nothing but a deafening silence. It was Lyle who spoke. "If Kanina slips past the notice of my mate, but is not causing trouble, why is this a problem?"
It was the Marrok who answered him. "Kanina does not slip past the notice of her teachers. Or of the townspeople. Are you so weak that you cannot control your household? That you let your mate ignore a child entrusted to your care? Should I examine all aspects of your life to see if you are showing other signs of the age madness?"
Lyle was more belligerent. "Our father made a mistake, and we are paying for it! If my mate favors my children, and my grandchildren over some mongrel pup that my father foisted upon us, so what? She sits there, with manners, alive. What more should we provide?"
Flynn flinched at our brother's angry and heartless words. He shook his head but said nothing.
The Marrok stood. "When your father and siblings arrived, Lyle, Flynn there was an incident. I do not know if you have heard the truth or not, so I will tell you now. Your father was in wolf form when he disembarked from the cargo plane. Kanina had shifted for the first time from her wolf pup form that she had been born in to her human form while in the air. Your father had wrapped her in his own jacket. I know from a conversation I had with him before you arrived his intentions. He was carrying your sister, wrapped in his jacket, to my mate, believing that Leah would hold her while he changed. Leah did not care for these new wolves joining this Pack. Matter of fact, she was livid at having to be present to greet them. She aimed a kick for your father's head, and your father tried to duck and jump away. He was not able to avoid the kick completely, and it fell on Kanina. Even before I knew the extent of her injuries, I had ordered my mate to the truck. Now she is confined to three specific rooms of my home, and has no rank, and no authority. The only reason she still lives is because my wolf will not give her up." Bran's voice did not waver from his matter of fact tone. I found that it made his words all the more ominous. "What should I do with Pack members, and their human mates and children, who neglect and abuse a child? Should there be a separate law for my mate and the other, more lenient for the Pack?"
I was surprised when Lyle lurched out of his seat and lunged for me. Asil caught him around with an arm around his throat had an arm bent backwards along his spine before he could reach me. I felt guilty. Torque rose from where he had been laying under my feet, all hackles and teeth. I should have been keeping people more calm, but I was so nervous I had none to spread to others. Samuel had moved to stand in front of me. The Marrok was shaking his head.
"Charles, confine both of them. Keep them separate. Send Anna and Sage to watch over the broods, and call the mates here please."
Charles put a hand under Flynn's arm and began to escort him from the room. "Just a moment, please?" Flynn asked. Charles paused. "Kanina, when did you last sleep under my roof?"
I looked to the Marrok, who nodded. "Three months ago, Flynn."
His shoulders hunched forward a bit as if he had taken a blow to his abdomen. "When was the last time you were called to my table?"
I looked at him in surprise. "Four years ago, you insisted on the entire family sitting down to Christmas dinner at your home, Flynn. You called me to the dinner table yourself."
Flynn swayed on his feet and sagged into Charles' grip. "There are no words." He looked at Lyle, who still struggled in Asil's grasp. "She doesn't condemn us, she doesn't accuse. I am too old to continue living, I will welcome death, I think."
Samuel took me to the kitchen and pulled out leftovers from the refrigerator. Pot roast and vegetables, a glass of milk and a piece of apple pie. I thought he had served himself at first, the serving was so large. "Eat up, little one."
I blinked. "It's too much." I told him flatly.
"Eat what you can."
I pushed the milk aside. There was no way that I was going to torture myself with that. I cut a small piece of meat and began to eat.
Samuel grinned. "You may not like milk, but it is good for you."
I grimaced. "No it is not."
"Trust me, I'm the doctor here."
I ate a few bites of vegetables. "Trust me, I'm the one who'll be sick for days. I can't see, Doctor, how anything that makes me puke can be good for me." I rolled my eyes and spoke with all the sarcasm a ten year old could muster.
Surprised, Samuel let out a foul word. "Why isn't that in your medical records?" He asked.
I shrugged. I didn't think he was really asking me. I answered him anyway. "Because the only ones who know are me and my wolf sibs." I shrugged. "I don't get milk from my sisters-in-law."
"Why haven't you ever complained about their treatment of you? To your teachers, to me?"
I frowned around a bite of roast. "What's to complain about? The fact that they don't want me around? It's a fact. The sky is blue, the grass is green, my brothers would rather I not have been put in their care."
Bran's voice did not surprise me when it came from behind me. "It is not right, how they have treated you."
"Maybe, maybe not." I slipped a piece of meat to Torque. He often shared his hunts with me, even though I wasn't very good at helping bring down the game. "I managed. I stayed out of the way as much as possible. Gave them as little reason to complain." I continued eating, slowly. I wasn't sure where all this was going, and a good meal like this might not be seen for some time. The Marrok sighed. He was thinking so loud that I could not block him. So worried, he was, about how this would look to the 'public' who weren't werewolves. "I wish you all would think a bit quieter. It is hard enough to filter and block without everyone yelling all the time." I put my fork down and began to rub my temples.
Bran was suddenly right in front of me, practically shoving Samuel out of the way. "Who's thoughts are loudest?"
I frowned. "Right now? Yours. But you are usually one of the quieter ones."
Bran nodded. "Kanina, finish your meal, and then Samuel will take you to Asil's for you to sleep."
"But, Torque and the others need to hunt." I protested. I felt his command swirl around me, but I ignored it.
Bran reached out and stroked Torque on the head. "Who cares for your siblings?"
I blinked, rapidly. I couldn't understand his question, so I answered it with what first came to mind. "Everyone in Aspen Creek cares about them, sir. No one is mean to them."
Bran smiled and scratched deep in the ruff of fur around Torque's neck. "Who makes sure they are fed? That they a place where they feel safe to den?"
I shrugged, and took another bite of food. "I do." I didn't realize that Bran's next question hadn't been voiced, only thought, and so I answered it. "If it weren't for some of you, I'd be in wolf form all the time with them."
"What else can you do differently than the people you've been around?" Samuel asked very quietly.
I frowned. I couldn't understand why they wanted to know this. My siblings, except for my were brothers, could do most everything I could.
"Please, Kanina, share?" The Marrok coaxed.
Shrugging, I decided to answer. This was the Marrok, after all, and if anyone had a right to know everything about me, he did. "I know things. It's really annoying. Sometimes I know what will happen before it does. Sometimes I know the answer to a question. If I'm not careful I hear everyone's thoughts, and feel everyone's feelings all the time." I favored them with a quizzical look. "They don't hear the thoughts in the way that I do, but Torque, Coral, Pel and Mritz know intentions and emotions. We talk all the time. In our minds."
"Do you think they can talk to others the same way?" Bran asked.
I had just taken a large bite of roast. I shrugged. I saw Samuel eying me expectantly to the left of Bran, and the Marrok's eyes were bright with intensity. I swallowed. "I don't know. They might have tried with Flynn and Lyle."
Bran looked at Torque, and I heard him speaking, mind to mind. Torque, can you hear me? The Marrok's voice was firm, filled with his the very essence of his dominant and Alpha personality.
Torque met Bran's eyes for a moment and then lowered them. A gesture of acknowledgement, and rare for Torque. He didn't often acknowledge many others as an Alpha or more dominant than he. Of course I can hear you, Alpha. I have always heard you.
Bran reared back in surprise and then grinned widely. "If someone addresses you verbally, can you reply to them?"
Torque blinked. I can try to speak to them like this. I did try with Flynn and Lyle. Lyle took it out on Kanina, thinking she was playing a joke. Torque gave the equivalent of a shrug. It's not something that wolves do naturally, but he picked it up from the people around us.
I piped in helpfully. "They all can actually speak some words, even if they do come out sounding howly, barkish and a bit whiney. But they don't like to speak like that."
"Why'd they even try?" Samuel wanted to know.
I rolled my eyes. "Cuz Fred tried to push me down the hill, and ended up sending both of us over. If anyone had bothered to pay attention to Coral and Pel, we'd have had help much faster." My stomach was very full. I offered the plate to Torque and yawned. Bran, who hadn't heard the reason why I refused the milk earlier gently pushed the glass towards me.
Alpha, milk makes Kanina ill. Torque spoke as Samuel reached out and removed the milk.
"Da, she can't drink it."
Torque's sense of humor bubbled over and he chuffed his laughter. "Saaammmmmmuuuuuuuuuuuulll" He made the effort to speak the name. More protectors are good.
Shaking his head, Samuel chuckled. "Even if we are protecting her from being ill."
It wasn't your pelt that was soiled the last time she was forced to drink the stuff.
Another yawn broke free. Bran nodded. "Samuel, take Kanina to Asil's, then take the mini pack hunting. I still need to speak to the women of the households." The last was spoken grimly.
Torque carefully avoided looking at the Marrok as he asked, Who will be with her, while we are not? He wasn't challenging the Alpha, just needing to know I would be safe.
Asil answered as he and Charles entered the room. "Samuel can drive us over to my place; I walked." Asil ruffled my hair. "So, Samuel fed you from the Marrok's kitchen. It isn't that late, Querida, but you look tired. Perhaps a bath and some tea and then bed?"
I shook my head. "Just bed."
Asil bent over and looked rather sternly at me. "Bath, tea and bed."
I was bewildered. "I'm clean, and I'm not thirsty."
Asil, still looking at me softened slightly. "We, you and I, are going to establish some routines, seeing as you spend so much time with me. So, for bedtime: bath, tea, and bed."
I shrugged. It wouldn't hurt, unless I fell asleep in the tub or in the tea.
As it happened, I didn't fall asleep in the tub. Or in my tea. I was asleep almost as soon as my head touched the pillow. The next few weeks were a busy time. The Marrok appointed Asil as my new guardian. Samuel had me on a special diet, and was making preparations to go back to the Columbia Basin. Charles and Anna came by frequently, both working with me and my wolf siblings on Omega abilities as well as communication. I continued to attend school, but the teachers were close at hand any time the children of my brothers' homes were nearby. The Marrok called for a full Pack meeting the day before the full moon. In Aspen Creek, a Pack meeting meant that practically the whole town attended. For those that could not attend, there was a special web and radio broadcast. I did not want to go, but had little choice. Asil threatened to carry me if I did not move under my own power.
When we arrived at the newly constructed Pack Hall, I smelled her. Leah Connick. I stayed stock still, frozen in the spring sun.
Asil cocked his head and scented the air. "What has you so afraid, pequena?"
I couldn't answer, but started to shake. My memory of Leah Connick was full of fear, pain and even grief. Eventually, Asil picked me and cuddled me to his chest. "Shhhh. Kanina, I will keep you safe. Torque, Coral, Mritz and Pel are here as well." Asil did not make a movement towards the Hall, and soon we were were part of the very few stragglers. When the Marrok set a time, he meant for promptness.
Anna rushed to us. "I can smell her terror from across the parking lot. What's happened?" Charles was right on her heels, trying to pick up clues from the air, and what he could see.
Asil shook his head. "I do not know what has caused this. She did not want to come, and I told her I would carry her if she did not move under her own volition." He shrugged. "A command from the Marrok should be obeyed, even if one is Omega. She came, but when we came to this spot she went a still as a stone."
Torque had been keeping a silent sentry. If I can smell the cruel one then so can Kanina.
Asil and Charles both took a deep breath, scenting the air. Charles pulled out his cell. "Yes, Da, I know we are late. No. We are out in the parking lot with Asil and his mini pack." He was quiet for a few moments. "Kanina is terrified, Torque says that they can smell 'the cruel one'." He put the phone up to my ear.
"Kanina, are you afraid of someone in the Hall?" I managed a whimper. "Please, little one, something I can understand a bit better."
"Yes." I whispered.
"Are they human or Pack?"
"Male or female?"
"Are they related to you?"
"No." I whimpered. The scent was getting closer to me. I began to shiver with fear. "She is coming closer, Marrok."
Bran's voice was soothing and soft. "Kanina, Asil is with you. Do you believe he would let anyone harm you?"
"No, Marrok." I knew my voice was pleading, but I didn't know what for. Suddenly, the Marrok was before us, reaching his arms out for me.
"There now little pup. You must remember something for me. Asil is now your Guardian, he will do his very best to keep you safe. Charles was with you, and no one challenges Charles. Anna is an Omega like you, and while she does not feel the need to fight, she will fight for you." He shamelessly used his bard's voice, coupled with his power as the Marrok while he pet my hair. I could smell her on his clothing. "Charles, you and Anna go on ahead of me. I want a clear path to the stage. Asil, you and our wolf cousins can follow us to the stage. It will be silent, and I want everyone's attention." He sighed. "Kanina, I'm sorry sweets, I know you are afraid, and I think I know why. You must learn to endure and move through it. Today, you do not do so alone, and your fear is going to teach many wolves new lessons." He lowered his voice as if to share a secret with me. "You can stay right here in my arms, if you wish." I nodded and buried my face in the crook of his neck, and wrapped my arms firmly around it as well.
I kept my face hidden as we moved towards that awful smell of her, the cruel one, Leah Connick. I tried not to be surprised at the murmur that rose around us as the scent of my terror was identified. My white and black hair had fallen over my face, allowing me to peek out. There were some men and women that I had never seen before. Bran felt my interest and whispered. "They are all they Alphas and their mates, and a couple of the dominant wolves from each pack. Some of them brought their entire Packs with them." I shivered a bit more. I was an oddity, and I had felt protected from the world in general. Now, with the strangers here, I felt a bit exposed.
Bran didn't bother with the stairs, he jumped straight up onto the stage. I wasn't even jostled. He barely raised his voice, so that all could hear him. "Welcome to the first meeting in the Pack Hall. It is good that you came." He looked around the room. "Today we have Alphas and members of Packs from all over North America." His voice took on a stern tone. "Be cautious. While some issues may arise, be gracious and try your best to not engage in senseless territorial disputes."
"We deal with grave issues in the world today. Not just in far flung Packs where the Marrok may not have eyes or ears, but even here, in this pack of Aspen Creek. When we deal with the laws of the country that we reside in, sometimes following the human laws does not work for us. Nor would it work for the humans. A dedicated group of humans has joined us today. They wish to know why we police ourselves. Why we asked our governments for certain concessions. Why we do not ask for police investigations. Today, because we have a good example of why we do things the way we do, I have invited them to join us. You will show them respect and understanding. For they are going to take this example into the human venues and explain it in ways that humans can better understand. We do not live separately from humans. Our mates are human, our children are born human. Many of our parents, our siblings are human. Our businesses serve humans, we employ humans, or we are employed by humans."
"Ten years ago, I was contacted by a Marrok in Eastern Europe. One of his Alphas had situation, and no one felt qualified to handle it. An old werewolf had lost his mate. His two sons had chosen to undergo the Change, and remained by his side. But the wolf needed a mate to help combat the age madness, the loneliness. Gerard Cullua did not break from his Pack, but he did leave for a time in order to search for a mate. His wolf made a surprising choice. Gerard's brother wolf chose a wolf for a mate. Not another werewolf, or a human that would be able to survive the change, but one of our cousins. Rir knew Gerard was something Other, but accepted him as her mate. The seasons were easy, and food was plenty. At Rir's next heat, she became pregnant." Bran was telling the story of my father and mother. The story of my siblings and me. "Rir was still a wolf, and she gave birth to a litter of four wolf pups. We do not know how this happened. We do know, irrevocably, confirmed with science, that it did happen. These four wolves have lived amongst us in Aspen Creek for this last decade. They are bonded to our Pack, through me. They hunt with us. They care for our children. They help keep watch for strangers, or other dangers. And we make sure they are safe by giving them specially marked vests to wear, so that hunters do not make mistakes. Torque, Cora, Mritz and Pel are a Pack within our Pack, and they are treasured." Bran paused as the pack members applauded and hollered their approval. "When I heard of Gerard's quest, and his four special children, I was immediately ready to welcome them to our Pack. Where better for them to be? And then his Marrok spoke of another miracle. More seasons of plenty had passed, and Rir and Gerard were happy. They were playing, as we all love to. In their play, and teaching their young how to hunt, Gerard accidentally bit his mate too hard, and drew blood. At the next full moon, another impossibility happened. Rir survived the Change. Her human self was difficult to manage. And so, Rir chose to stay in her wolf form as much as possible. Another heat came upon her, and again she became pregnant." Bran's voice was sorrowful. "We all know that the Change is hard to resist at times. We know also that our women who also have a wolf within, can become pregnant, but the Change is hard on their bodies, and the pregnancies are lost, mercifully before most are even known." Bran paused and let the moment be. A moment for the grief of not having children, of loosing the possibility. "Rir was strong. And because a wolf pregnancy is shorter than a humans, she was able to birth her young. This litter only had three, two beautiful boys and one darling of a girl. But the boys were stillborn, and the girl was small and weak. Rir herself lived another two weeks, and then succumbed to death."
"And so, Gerard was once again alone. This time, he had juvenile wolves and one infant wolf pup to care for. He knew he could not do this alone. He moved his children to a small den close to his Pack, and then, he contacted his Alpha. Gerard's days of living only as a wolf were done. He felt the age madness settling upon him. He felt the rage of loss, the crushing force of loneliness. He stopped eating once he knew that his children would be welcome here. I arranged for Gerard and his children to come here, to Aspen Creek. Gerard asked that his werewolf sons join him."
"On the day Gerard and his wolf children arrived, I was waiting to greet him. My mate was with me, as was Samuel and Charles. Gerard was in his wolf form carrying a coat wrapped infant and he approached my mate. She kicked at him, and even though he dodged most of the kick, her foot landed on the infant." Bran's voice was hard, and flat. There were gasps, and angry growls from the audience. The human observers were visibly shaken. "A werewolf is stronger than humans. We are taught this from the moment we understand that werewolves are real, even before we change. We teach this to our human family and friends who are trustworthy, because it is for their safety. We are taught that our tempers will be quicker, even if we are not dominant but are submissive or omega." Bran paused. The murmurs were still angry, but also agreeing with the Marrok's reminder. "My mate had been hiding her symptoms of the age madness, and I because I need her for my own anchor, had been pretending to not see it. I am the Marrok, but I still can make mistakes. I stripped my mate, at that moment, of all her authority, all her rank, and I confined her to our home. I did this to buy me time to be able to not succumb, I did this to protect my Pack, and their families." Bran paused and looked toward Charles. Charles approached with a chair, and Bran lowered us into it. Leah was still within my eyesight, and I did not release my death grip on the Marrok. "If you cannot smell the terror filling this hall, then I am certain you can see it. Kanina was that small infant that had her first Change at thirty-thousand feet in the air during a thunder and lightening storm. A born werewolf, female, and an Omega. This is the child, carried by an adult werewolf that my mate harmed." Bran looked at the Alphas that he had called in to be present. "Alphas, stand." He waited for them to all stand. "Leah, stand forward." Leah stepped forward, defiant. "Alphas, what does our law tell us to do with those who are age mad?" He pointed at each in turn. "We grant mercy." "Death." "Suicide or Euthanasia." Each answered similarly. "Alpha's, what does our law tell us to do with vicious wolves." This time, their answers varied slightly. Disciplinary beatings, Death, and isolation.
"Alphas, was I wrong in how I handled this situation?" This caused a stir in the gathered crowd. Most of those present were fiercely loyal to the Marrok.
The Alphas took a few moments to think it over, and each spoke one word. "No."
The Marrok nodded solemnly. "Thank you, please be seated." He looked out over the gathered crowd. "Last night, I severed my mating bond with this woman. She no longer bears my name, or any more loyalty than another member of my Pack. She is still age crazed, and will not give herself mercy. It falls to me to grant her that final mercy." Bran shifted slightly. "Why now, you are questioning? Because for the last year, I have heard from the human government that they are concerned about many things. What if? What if? I did not believe that any werewolf not ill or insane would deliberately harm a child. I was wrong in that belief. Gerard Cullua's older werewolf sons came here, with their families. They joined the Pack and settled into our community. The younger siblings were given over to them to be cared for. Always we have gossip and rumor. And many thought it odd that the infant and her wolf siblings were handed back and forth like a fruitcake. We all laughed when the older wolves could be seen carrying Kanina by her scruff when she was in wolf form. Many pointed as the wolves would herd her home, or away from danger. Some wondered where her brothers, Flynn and Lyle were. Or their mates. Or the older children that often looked after the youngsters. None of us questioned enough. I have discovered that Kanina and her siblings were not treasured. Kanina was seen in her wolf form so frequently because she often did not have clothing or shoes that fit her. Many times her wolf siblings took her with them when they hunted, and then shared the kill. One deer for five wolves. How often did we see them return from hunting? Not often enough to keep them all well fed. The thinness that many of us mistook for some aberration in the DNA, was the look of hunger." Bran sighed loudly. "I could beat every man, woman, and older teen who did not care for Torque, Coral, Mritz, Pel and Kanina. I could kill those that deliberately withheld the nourishment and necessities from them. I could imprison those that are human, and possibly even the weres. All these things I could do." He looked around the room that had become deathly silent. "Our laws are harsh, because there can be no moral or ethical debates. Right is right, wrong is wrong. Right will keep us alive and safe, wrong will get us all killed." He brushed my hair from my face and turned me to face the crowd. "It is Kanina's fear, her terror you smell, that you see. Because she remembers that day when Leah caused her grievous bodily injury. She remembers the pain, the scent of the one who hurt her."
"Other Marroks face many of the same problems. The world is watching. I cannot kill everyone, nor discipline them. Those that I cannot discipline with a beating and let that be the end of it, those that can not be killed because they have not earned such a thing, they are banished. All the Marroks of the world have come to an agreement on this. Those that fall under Were laws, that have signed their declarations, you all now have another option. There are two colonies that have been built and outfitted in the arctic and antarctic. Those that did not sign the declaration, will be turned over to the governmental judicial system, there to take your chances. Your identity will be cataloged and sent around the world, and you will no longer be welcome amongst the Weres." The Marrok's voice was brutally cold.
"Leah, and Lyle and Flynn Cullua are sentenced to death. The mates and grown children or grandchildren of the Cullua brothers are to be sent into exile, tomorrow morning. The teens, children, and grandchildren have a choice. They can stay here, with us and become members of other families, or they can go into the human society and do the same."
An angry voice rang out of the crowd. "Why? Why do we have to leave? The runt wasn't harmed by us!" All eyes turned to see one of Lyle's sons, Craig, who had chosen the Change. "For years she couldn't hold onto one form very long. My father's mate had to bath a puppy instead of a baby. Even now, in her human form, she is a freak! My grand father should have drowned her at birth!"
Bran handed me off to Asil, who was suddenly next to us. He jumped off the stage and stormed to Craig, who hastily dropped his eyes. Bran grabbed him by the back of his neck and threw him onto the floor of the open space in front of the stage. "You must leave because you did nothing. If your families did not want the care of the small pack, then something should have been said. Others would have cared for them, gladly."
Craig stupidly stood up and met the Marrok's eyes. "No one would have wanted them." He sneered.
The Marrok brutally, in one swift movement almost to fast to be seen, reached out and broke Craig's neck. The wet crack was the only sound before the thud of his body hitting the floor. "I wanted them. If I had not wanted them, they would not have come." He glared around the room. "Our children will either choose to become a werewolf, or they won't. These siblings did not have a choice, nature and the magic that creates us, chose for them. As we cherish those born of our flesh, or those adopted, we cherish all."
The visiting Alphas stood, silently. The Pack stood too. Torque was standing between Asil and Leah when he began the odd bark that they had worked so hard to perfect. "Mrrrok! Mrrrok!" Coral jumped off the stage and jogged to where the human observers were seated. She pressed herself against their legs, a show of comfort and support. Pel followed and did the same, but both of them echoed Torque's bark. Mritz had laid himself at Anna's feet, lifting his muzzle to bark "Mrrrok!" with his litter mates. I found it odd that the vocal tribute came from the wolves, and not the humans.