A Gift from the Goddess Chapter 63

“Alpha… I am here today to confess my crimes of treason.”

The room around me became icy cold, a deafening silence hanging as no one even dared to breathe too loudly. All of them too shocked over my words.

And, among them, seeming the most shocked and hurt… my father. I hadn’t told him what I’d done. In fact, we’d barely spoken the last few months since we’d had that argument about Thea. Not because I was still angry at him, Goddess knew I was in the wrong there, but because I was ashamed. I’d tried to force him into doing something that jeopardised not only his safety, but my mother’s also. Even in grieving, it was stupid.

Tytus looked me up and down, the only person who hadn’t been affected by my sudden announcement. Knowing him, his mind was already thinking of ways to turn whatever I was about to say into something that benefited him.

“…Elaborate,” was all he said.

Strong. I needed to be strong.

“I…,” I started, my voice choking up from nerves before I could get the words out.

Focus.

“I… I am responsible for the attack upon Ray, the warrior working evidence that night,” I finally said. “I went to acquire the knife for my own personal vendetta. In doing so, Ray and I got into a semi-physical altercation whereby he tried to restrain me.”

I could feel Aleric’s eyes on me, almost silently willing me to stop; stop before I said more than I needed to. I’d left him in that room without any room for discussion, knowing without any doubt that this was what I needed to do.

“Regretfully, in my grief and rage,” I continued, “I ordered that he let me go so I could continue what I’d set out to do. Ray then lost his footing in surprise, falling and inflicting injury upon himself. It was not my intention for him to get hurt… I was only determined for justice and it was an unfortunate result.”

“…Justice?” Tytus prompted, his face unreadable as he listened. Like father, like son. They did that so infuriatingly well.

“I believe wholeheartedly that the one responsible for Myra’s death was the girl, Thea. I felt… guilty… wronged… angry that no one else could see it.

So I made the mistake of trying to deliver what I thought would be justice; I wanted to kill her with the knife she used to take Myra’s life… and I wanted to do it slowly, poisoning her insides with the silver. Only I wasn’t strong enough to finish the job.”

“Okay…,” he said, taking a second to let everything sink in. After a few moments, he finally adjusted in his chair, frowning. “So how did the knife end up at the Knight boy’s housing then?”

My chest clenched. I hadn’t thought through what to say for that. Of course, he’d want to know that information. In trying to avoid a war though, I couldn’t just defuse one problem only to replace it with another.

I looked to Aleric. Just a quick glance, my eyes flicking for only a second, but it was enough to see him ever so slightly shake his head. That secret would hurt everyone involved and only serve to create more conflict.

“…Cai and I are old high school friends,” I finally said. “A good man. He found me after I’d fallen asleep in the woods and graciously allowed me to sleep on his couch.

My father and I had fought terribly only hours earlier and I didn’t feel ready to go home yet. I must have dropped the dagger accidentally during my fatigue. I am thankful for his kindness.”

“Well, you see…,” Tytus said, taking a deep breath after having heard my story. “Therein lies part of the issue here. You have been coming to me almost every week since Caius’ incarceration, advocating for his release. Some might say… almost a bit too passionately.

Now you’ve come to tell me a story, on the cusp of war, where you claim to hold strong enough authority to override top tier orders.

Only someone of Alpha blood could attempt something of that magnitude… so I’m inclined not to believe you, Aria. Whatever this… motivation is, I feel that perhaps it might not be entirely without… emotional influence, shall we say?”

I felt my legs go weak. He didn’t believe me? And not just that, but he hinted suspicion over Cai and I’s relationship.

But, no, the only people who knew for certain about that were Cai, Aleric and myself. Anything he believed, in that respect, would have to be speculation at best. So long as I didn’t provide that confirmation myself, he wouldn’t be able to prove it.

“Alpha,” I said between clenched teeth. “With all due respect, I would remind you that I am also a Saintess, not just a mere Beta heir.

Whilst I vehemently regret my actions that ultimately undermined your authority, I am fully capable of the events I spoke of today.”

“Very well then…,” he said before raising an eyebrow questioningly, almost daring me to argue back. “…Prove it.”

Prove… it?

“Alpha? I don’t think I understand your meaning.”

“You claim to hold the authority to override even commands from an Alpha. So, prove it… or I will be forced to not believe your claims.”

I felt sick, the pressure of his demand being almost too much to bear. The last time I’d used that tone of authority, it had almost killed me. I still vividly remembered the increasingly worse effects it had on me, building up until I almost passed out on top of Thea in the hospital. A crucial moment I had needed it… and I’d failed.

…Yet now I needed it once more. Not just that, but to demonstrate it in front of Tytus and the entire council so they could all stand witness.
Would it kill me this time?

“Bring a warrior in, please,” Tytus ordered.

There was a momentary pause as the doors to the hall were opened and a warrior stepped inside, approaching to bow his head to Tytus.

“Alpha,” they greeted.

“Ah, Anthony, perfect. Good to see you. Pardon me whilst I do this, but,” Tytus’ tone instantly changed to one of an Alpha, “I hereby order you to stand there until further notice. All further orders, regardless of who they are from, are to be disregarded until I personally excuse you.”

“Yes, Alpha.”

I looked around nervously at the faces surrounding me, all expecting me to perform for them. It wasn’t as though I didn’t want to prove it, more so that I hadn’t been able to grasp ahold of the energy required to accomplish it recently; nor had I particularly wanted to after seeing how it ended last time.

“Alpha…,” I said carefully. “The situation back then was under extenuating circumstances and I paid a price. This… authority… came at a cost that was almost my life. It was the reason I never successfully killed Thea as I’d planned to do.

When I used the command out of desperation, it was almost my undoing.”
Tytus scrutinised me, observing my every move as though I was an opponent in chess rather than just a girl trying to accomplish something for the greater good.

“Well, I suppose it all depends on how determined you are now to save the Knight boy’s life then, wouldn’t you say, Aria?”

There was no way out of this. Tytus was clearly set on either having me prove myself or allow for the war to break out. Or was it perhaps that he wanted my claims to be true? That there was some outcome he sought to gain from my confession being confirmed absolutely legitimate with witnesses?

I turned to look at Anthony, steadying my breathing as much as possible, and reached towards where I remembered that energy inside me was. It was lurking, just out of reach, but if I could just… stretch… just a little bit more…

“Anthony, I order…,” my words came out flatly. There was no more authority to my tone than that of my Beta status.

I couldn’t do it.

“Alpha, I can’t…,” I said, anxiety beginning to build itself up inside me. “I can’t control it. Last time it just… happened.”

Tytus sharply exhaled, a mild hint of irritation as he did so. “So, what I’m hearing is that you’re lacking the appropriate level of motivation, is that right?”

“I just.”

“Very well then,” he said, cutting me off. He then turned his attention to an attendant nearby. “Bring Caius in.”

“Right away, Alpha,” they replied, leaving to carry out his request.

“No. No, that’s not necessary,” I interjected. “I-I’ll try again. I’m sure I can manage.”

“Nonsense. Everything you’ve told me today has indicated that this authority is only achievable during a more serious circumstance. So be it.”

The doors then opened behind me and I sharply spun my head towards where Cai was being brought in.

His eyes immediately fell to where I stood, disregarding everyone else present. He looked confused, worried… all things to be expected since I’d kept this plan of mine from him. Most likely he wasn’t even aware that his father had threatened war.

But more so than that, he looked as though he wanted to say something to me, to question why I was here, but he knew better than to speak here among this council.

“Right,” Tytus said, forcing my attention back to him. “So, Aria, you’re either telling the truth, in which case Caius here would therefore be innocent, or you’re lying, in which case we’ll be at war with the Silver Lake pack come sundown.

The way I see it if you are unable to accomplish this feat and Caius were to be killed right now, it would only benefit us in the battles of war if we removed the Alpha heir early on. We may as well take advantage of such a thing.”

I felt my breathing constrict in my throat, my body numbing. This was sick even for Tytus.

They were going to kill him.

“Alpha, please don’t.”

“Anthony, your orders are to kill Caius Knight,” Tytus commanded. “Same as before; all further orders, regardless of who they are from, are to be disregarded until I personally excuse you.

There will be no shifting, no messy death. I want this to be clean given our current location. Use a dagger, I suppose.”

“Yes, Alpha.”

Anthony drew a knife from his side and began carrying out his orders.
“Alpha Tytus, are you sure you want to do this?” Cai yelled out as he paced backwards slowly.

I wasn’t sure how much of the situation he had figured out but I was sure that there was no mistaking Tytus’ order to have him killed. His words fell on deaf ears though; Tytus didn’t even seem to register that he’d spoken.

Anthony’s hand lunged out as he went in for the attack however Cai expertly moved to avoid it. Even in silver handcuffs, he was still more skilled in defence than an average warrior, we all knew it. But the cuffs significantly prevented the wearer from using any of their abilities; essentially making them human.

Whilst he was skilled to avoid the attacks, he wouldn’t have the endurance to keep going for long.

“Stop it!” I yelled. “Please! Don’t do this!” It came out more like a frantic plea than any kind of command.

Anthony continued to advance on Cai in a deadly dance for some time, every time getting closer and closer until, finally, his blade slit across his chest.
“No!”

I watched as Cai fell to his knees before Anthony, his chest heaving from exhaustion and blood beginning to seep into his shirt. Any second now…

Anthony grabbed Cai’s shoulder with one hand to steady him and, with the other, he positioned himself to strike…

And then…

“Enough! Don’t touch him!” I ordered, a burst of energy coming forward to give myself the authority required.

Anthony’s hand that had been going to make the final strike was suddenly halted, his body frozen.

“I said don’t touch him!”

Instantly Anthony’s hand dropped away from Cai’s shoulder and he stepped back, confused why his body wasn’t responding anymore.

Relief and dizziness swept through me as I fell to my knees completely drained. I’d done it. Cai would be freed and I’d proven myself by legitimising my claims. There wouldn’t be any doubt now that I was fully capable of overriding even orders given by an Alpha.

A deep cough choked itself out of me and my mouth became full of the familiar metallic taste of my own blood. Interestingly enough though, I found that physically I felt not as bad as when I’d failed to order Thea.

Was it because I’d had time to replenish over these months, or was it something else? Maybe because I was getting closer to my first shift?

My brain wanted to wander and explore the different possibilities more but Tytus dragged my attention back to reality.

“How fascinating,” Tytus said, observing me closely before addressing the attendant once more.

“Please escort Caius out now and get one of the doctors to examine his injury. I’ll have someone deliver the verdict to him soon.”

Cai was then dragged back out of the room, his body barely even able to stand anymore. I had to believe he’d be okay though, that all of this wasn’t going to be for nothing.

“Aria… what are we going to do with you?” Tytus mused to himself before turning to where the Elders sat. “Elder Luke, you’d consider yourself a curator of knowledge when it comes to lore and religion, would you not?”

Elder Luke leaned forward in his chair abruptly, probably surprised he was being called upon.

He cleared his throat before speaking. “Well, I suppose you could look at it that way, Alpha. I have been known to collect information regarding the more… fantastical side of our species.

Though I’d be lying if I said Aria hadn’t challenged my beliefs as to how much of that is actually fiction. After all, her mark is absolute proof of our deity’s existence.”

Tytus nodded his head thoughtfully. “That would be a fair assessment. I do wonder though, in your years of research, have you come across anything to do with Saints? I see the girl used her authority once and looks about ready to pass out.”

Elder Luke met my gaze, a look of sympathy in his eyes as he stared down at me.

“There has only been a very limited amount of Saints known to exist, Alpha. Only one has been vaguely recorded in history but I believe there were perhaps two others prior to that.

There is, unfortunately, no information regarding their abilities however it is publicly known that their authority is higher than that of an Alpha; this is not new information.

As for her condition… that, I’m afraid, I cannot answer with certainty. Perhaps it is to do with her age?”

The room was silent as they listened carefully to every word Elder Luke had said. The respect from his peers, and everyone else in this room, was clearly evident.

“…Though,” he continued, “I could also speculate that perhaps it is just a matter of her trying to run before learning to walk. She’s overriding Alpha orders that no other person alive should be able to. I imagine that the amount of energy required to do such a thing would be significant, especially if one were not used to doing it.

None of us have our first shift and miraculously know how to move in our wolf form perfectly; it is something we learn. Instinctively, it would be the same as the ranked children who grow up learning to command others utilising their birth authority. I

f Aria only recently discovered this ability stemming from her mark, I would imagine it is plausible that perhaps she just isn’t ready for invoking the full authority of a Goddess without practice.”

“Your insight is valuable as always,” Tytus praised, to which Elder Luke bowed his head respectfully. “But it doesn’t exactly reassure me of your future, Aria.”

Everyone’s attention immediately fell back onto me and I wanted to shrink away. But I’d come too far for that now. There was no going back.

I picked myself up, raising my head, and looked Tytus in the eye as he delivered his verdict.

“Aria, your actions have proven that you are a potential threat to this pack, a threat to myself and a threat to my son’s future. You purposely looked to act alone in your own form of justice rather than to correctly present your case to your Alpha and abide by our pack laws.

You’ve admitted to attacking not only one of our own pack members but also someone who was under our protection. Were this an ordinary circumstance, I would have you killed immediately.”

My father looked as though he were about to protest however Tytus kept speaking, ignoring his movement.

“…However, this is not an ordinary circumstance, is it? So, I think we should stop playing this game, Aria, and finally be realistic. Obviously, you’ve forfeited any future of becoming Beta and you will be stripped of that title accordingly. That shouldn’t be a surprise.”

Even though I knew that would be the case, it still hurt to hear it. I’d worked so hard for that, broken traditions and trained every day. It felt as though a piece of me was being taken away.

“However,” Tytus continued, “our pack’s prophecy does state that your union with Aleric will bring success to the Winter Mist, something that even I cannot disregard with our pack’s best interest in mind… So I believe it’s time we acknowledge that you’re old enough now to discuss matters such as potential partners… It’s time for you to prepare yourself to become Luna one day and accept your fate with Aleric.”

No.

I thought they were going to throw me in a cell and occasionally show me off to other packs from time to time. Making me Luna one day was illogical, not to mention risky. What was to stop me from running away?

“That being said, it’s clear that you can’t be trusted and your alliance is easily broken when it suits you,” Tytus said. “You’re too much of a liability with this authority of yours.

So the punishment for your crimes will be in the form of insurance. Insurance that this pack will not need to be concerned about where your loyalties lie.”

Tytus leaned forward. I knew whatever he was about to say couldn’t be anything good.

“Aria, to ensure the prosperity of this pack now, and in the future, I hereby order that you will become tied to Aleric under the eyes of our Goddess, forever joining your fates together.”

My breath hitched in my throat, forgetting how to momentarily function as the realisation of his words dawned on me.

“Aria… you will willingly offer yourself up to be marked by Aleric. This has gone on long enough and there will be no further arguments.”

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