” Why Elder Luke” Aleric asked me a few days later.
We were in his ca, driving towards the housing estate where the Elders resided. A place I hadn’t visited since my marking confirmation three years ago
” Are you seriously asking me that?”
“Well, it‘s just he‘s the least experienced Elder, right? Aleric sad “Didn’t he join only a few years ago? Wouldn‘t one of the other six Elders be better to reach out to since they‘re more experienced
“The fact you‘re even asking me that means you mustn‘t be overly familiar with how this pack is actually run yet,” I replied.
“I know enough,” he said defensively, making me laugh.
“Okay, okay, sorry. I‘ll explain,” I said. “Have you ever noticed how all of the workload Tytus gives you consists of only very minor issues? Like petty problems that don‘t need much thought
“Yes but I‘m not a fully sworn in ranked member yet. The larger issues would be looked after by Tytus and the Elders.”
“One the surface? Yes,” I said. “If it‘s the same as the past, then, yes the Elders are the ones currently looking after all the bigger issues. Back then. Tytus and yourself would have the final say but you weren‘t typically the people coming up with all of the ideas You relied on the Elders and me for that
“On the surface? Is this where you finally tell me why just this one Elder ?**needed to give you context first,” I said, disapproving of his impatience. “So, as I was saying, currently the Elders are looking after all the major issues. Now, if you ever get your hands on the private meeting minutes one day, you‘ll see one name constantly popping up Luke Hastings.”
“Elder Luke?” he asked to which I nodded.
“Elder Luke is single–handedly one of the most dangerous people in our pack and he doesn‘t even need to lift a finger for that title,” I said “After I‘d completed my Luna coronation, I went into the pack vault and read through most of the classified documents relating to meetings and politics.
In a way, he is basically running the place right now with his strategies and was the person who sparked my initial fascination in the field”
The pack vault was located in a secret location under the Winter Mist, reserved for only ranked members and Elders. Not even heirs were allowed in there it was the place where all treasures and important documents were kept for safekeeping. Among many other things, a notable item in its inventory right now was the ancient sword that beheaded me
In the past. Aleric had banned me from going in there but technically, by holding a Luna rank, i normally should have had access. Apparenily in this life, he didn‘t seem to care as he now didn‘t even remark on The face it’s been in there.
Aleric drove quietly for a bit mulling over what I‘d just told him. He was probably piecing it all together You‘re right. Thinking about it now, he does seem to influence far more than the others
I smiled. “Don‘t feel bad. If you hadn‘t noticed Elder Luke subtly pushing meetings his way up until now then you were just doing exactly what he expected you to If everyone knew what he was doing I’m sure it would be a lot harder for him to accomplish some of the things he does Hell, even I only found out a few years ago that he has people working under him directly.
Pretty sure even the ranked members might not know about that one as it was a surprise to me.”
I recalled how he‘d somehow known Cai was training me in combat even though only Myra, Cai and I knew about that. He was a master of secrets on a higher level than most probably realised. After all, as he had so nicely put it in the past, he didn‘t get to where he was now without help. Who knew how vast his network actually was?
“If we find ourselves on the opposite side of Elder Luke then I can‘t guarantee the outcome,” I continued.” Truthfully, I would rather face Tytus head–on several times than go up against Elder Luke even once.
He‘s a lot smarter than I think some give him credit for… and I owe him a lot for helping me get to where I am.”
If he had never suggested I pursue becoming Beta then there was no telling where I‘d be right now. Sure, i t hadn‘t worked out, but without it, Aleric and I would have never gotten closer.
And I would have never become stronger or more confident. I was where I was today because of him. Because he believed in met o do something that was previously unheard of.
It was exactly that mentality of his that I was counting on. The sort of progressive, open–mindedness that he was renowned for even prior to this life. He‘d been an ally towards me up until now… but would it be that way when the moment for change finally arose?
Because I knew approaching him wasn‘t without its risks. I was still completely aware of the fact that this would be asking him to betray his current Alpha… and everyone had their limits.
“We‘re here,” Aleric said, pulling up to the gated property. “I‘ll try to be here to pick you up when you‘re done. All good?”
| unbuckled my seatbelt and nodded. ‘Yep, all good. Oh… and if anyone asks why I‘m here?”
“You‘re meeting with Elder Luke to read his book collection. It caught your attention during your marking confirmation a few years ago.”
I smiled. It wasn‘t a lie but it was a nice double–sided coin nevertheless, acting as a cover for my main reason for coming here.
“I‘ll see you later, Aleric,” I said and exited the car.
Upon leaving, I approached the intricate black iron gates being manned by a warrior. Just like the last time I was here, they opened the entrance up for me immediately without needing to announce who I was.
It was almost a strange feeling though. When I first came to this house, I was nervous because of what the marking confirmation would mean for my future. This time I was nervous because of what I was now trying to do with that mark.
Once inside, I stood in the lobby silently but didn‘t need to wait long before a familiar voice called out to
“Saintess,” Elder Luke‘s deep voice greeted, making me turn around.
He still looked as he always did; a messy unkempt look about him which somehow fit his character perfectly
“Elder Luke,” I replied, bowing my head slightly. “Please call me Aria, just as you always have in the past.”
He quickly waved off my bow and gave me a small smile. “So I heard you‘ve requested to spend some time reading my collection? Given your reaction last time, I‘m a little surprised you‘ve waited so long to stop by.”
“That would make two of us,” I said and began walking with him towards his office. “Funny how life sometimes gets in the way. But perhaps there was a reason for why it‘s taken me this long.”
“Are you referring to a greater divine plan?” he asked, looking at me curiously from the corner of his eye. “If so, should I take that to suggest you‘ve found new meaning in your mark from the Goddess?”
I laughed a little. “Where possible, I prefer to sway my future in the direction I choose, rather than rely on a higher power for that. Wouldn‘t you agree, Elder Luke?”
His lips twitched in a knowing half–smile but we kept walking. Given his position, it was probably best he didn‘t publicly answer that since Elders were meant to uphold the teachings of the Goddess.
We soon arrived at his office and he ushered me inside. Just like the last time, my breath caught in my throat a little at the sight of his collection. It really was a marvel how he‘d managed to acquire so many of these rare volumes.
I walked over and instantly began perusing the different books, an eagerness bubbling inside that reminded me of how much I missed the thrill of reading something new.
But I had to remember why I was here… and it wasn‘t just for the books.
“Say… I‘ve been doing some research lately and I‘ve become interested in a particular event that occurred a few years ago. Are you familiar with the history of the Blue Vale pack? I‘m sure you know which incident I‘m referring to.”
I turned around to see he‘d raised an eyebrow at me, quickly catching on to where I was going with this.
“…I am. Was there a particular part of that event you were interested in?”
“Well the circumstances were abrupt and the results unpredictable. I know you‘re pretty experienced in this field so I was wondering what your opinion on it was. Do you think that what they did was correct? That the results they achieved justified their actions?”
His eyes glinted with that same look of curiosity I was familiar with. There was no question he knew what I was talking about. What I was actually talking about.
Because the Blue Vale pack was a rare case in history where the title succession hadn‘t been passed down to the next in line but rather a relative. In a protest against the current leadership, their pack had rallied behind a cousin of the Alpha, stripping the current one of his title and bringing about the new change. It caused civil turmoil for some time before the pack stabilised under the new regime.
So when I asked Elder Luke what his opinion on the matter was, and whether he agreed that the change in leadership was the right decision, what I was really asking him was if he would support me in doing the same.
And he‘d figured out my cryptic message immediately.
“Well it was a strange circumstance, to say the least,” he started, giving it some thought. “Some might even say an unnecessary change.”
My heart sunk a little inside. I really didn‘t want to start a game of chess against the same man I‘d originally learned from.
“However… I am not personally of that mind,’ he continued. “In fact, seeing the advancements the Blue Vale pack has made in recent times, it‘s easy to see that regardless of the initial impact, they believed it was the right thing to do. And in that belief, they have accomplished more than they probably would have achieved previously.”
“So… if done all over again, you would support their decision for change?” | asked, doing my best to keep my voice neutral despite the excitement building inside. “You wouldn‘t stop them from taking the steps they did?”
He paused and took a moment to fully think through the implications of my question. If he agreed to help or, at the very least, not intervene, then it would technically be considered treason.
He slowly went and sat in his chair behind the desk, leaning back into it.
“No, he finally said, “No, I wouldn‘t stop them from doing what they thought was light, omelet change can be a much word Sneller for everyone involved.”
smiled, unable to hide if any longer. I think they would probably appreciate that.”
But his eyes nanoweb ever so lightly, la into silly not satisfied just yet “Have you asked any of my other colleagues this vel? This question of young?”
My smile quickly hummed into a knowing smick “I think we both know I don‘t need to.”
He then laughed and instantly broke the tension “looks like someone that did the homework Thoroughly on the subject.”
“Well. What can I say? I‘ve always been a quick study.” I said, coming back around to lace the books.” Though I can‘t say I‘ve had the most positive of experiences with them anyway.”
My distaste for the other Elders was probably no social ago I always seemed to be publicly butting heads with them. But it also stemmed deeper than that
They had thrown me to the sword in my past life and had barely lifted a lingor to help me in this one. And who could forget that prophecy they‘d had when I was born? It was the foundation for most of my problems growing up and, apparently, Alenc‘s too,
…But what even was that prophecy? I know now that Selene couldn‘t intervene with our choices as that infringed on the laws she was bound by. So how was it that a bunch of old cronies came up with a‘ prophecy about Aleric and I‘s future, of all things? Was il oven really from her?
Was there a particular subject you might be interested in reading?” Elder Luke said, pulling me from my thoughts. “I might be able to help recommend some books relating to the topic.”
Given where my head had just been, the request came easy to me.
“Do you have anything on the Goddess?” I asked, turning to look at him, my expression instantly becoming serious.
“And I don‘t mean those vague books I‘ve already read in the library before. I mean… actual information. Like that book I saw you use for my confirmation.”
He gave me another knowing look before he went about pulling a few from the shelves. Eventually, after a few minutes had passed, he handed me over four different ones; all of which looked lar older than I felt comfortable touching. They looked almost fragile enough to break by just breathing on them.
“This is probably what you‘re after,” he said, gesturing for me to take the guest seat at his desk. “They‘re copies of originals so I‘m not sure if the information is as accurate as it could be provide you with some new information that you won‘t typically find elsewhere.”
Copies? So there were originals out there even older than the ones in my hand? Seemed impossible to even consider
I took the seat opposite Elder Luke and began flicking through the first book. There was definitely a lot of information I already knew, general topics and ideology, but I could see there were some new things too.
“…Selene has a brother?” | asked surprised, reading a page relating to a family tree,
“Helios, her twin,” Elder Luke replied. “God of the Sun. The two are referred to as Gods of nature, deities considered separate from the typical belief system. They‘re immortalised beyond the normal standard because of their status being the Sun and Moon.”
Strange we weren‘t taught about him given that it would surely have some sort of impact on Selene. And i t made me wonder about other things too. Like… did he have children as well? Creatures he‘d birthed like Selene had our kind?
I finished flicking through the first book but was still left feeling a little unsatisfied. It hadn‘t really answered anything of significance for me.
“Elder Luke… I know this was before your time, but… do you know anything about the prophecy?” I asked slowly, my mind still unable to shake the feeling that I was missing something there.
“The one that stated Aleric and I would be together and bring prosperity to the Winter Mist? It‘s just… I have my doubts that Selene would involve herself in such a petty matter… and yet the Elders seem so sure of their prediction.”
He creased his lips in thought, frowning for a few seconds. “I don‘t know if they should call it a ‘prophecy‘, truthfully,” he said, scratching his chin. “Though your word ‘prediction‘ might be more accurate? At least I n my opinion. I think the old fools had a bigger flair for the dramatics before I joined.”
“Then… what are they basing it on if it‘s not provided by Selene?” I asked. It was the first time I’d heard anything like this. My whole life I‘d grown up being told it was a prophecy. Everyone had been told that.
He reached over and grabbed at one of the books in the pile, opening it up to a page showing a diagram of a triangle. The lettering looked to be in an old dead language we didn‘t use anymore and was one I was no longer very fluent in.
Maybe ten years ago I could have done a better job reading this but now too long had passed. I was very rusty… but I gave it my best shot anyway.
‘Direct Lineage‘, the page seemed to say at the top. I frowned trying to decipher the rest but it didn‘t make much sense without any background to what I was even looking at.
“…What is this? Some sort of… ‘direct line‘? What does that mean?” I asked, attempting to read it.
“It‘s the theory around the founding families. They supposedly descend from the original children of Selene. The first werewolves.
There may have been more once but we now only know about three lines, Presumably, if there were any others, they were completely lost or died out.”
I looked back down at the page and tried to translate it again. The triangle showed three families, each with a different… focus? Attribute? I wasn‘t sure.
“‘Strength‘? Or… is it ‘power‘? And this one… is it sight? No… maybe ‘foresight‘ is a better word…,” I said slowly as I read them aloud, confusion thick in my voice.
The third family I couldn‘t translate properly at all. “I don‘t understand what this is. Are they like family mottos? House values?”
Elder Luke then leaned forward to look over the book better. “Something like that. Depends on which translation you like to go by. Some even believe they‘re qualities of the Goddess herself, passed down within the blood of each family.”
An uneasy feeling started settling inside me. “And people actually believe that?”
“No. Which is probably why no one ever discusses it,” he answered bluntly. “This information is usually only spoken about between the Elders of this pack these days. Other packs either don‘t believe in it or don‘t have the information available to them.”
“…I don‘t know what this third one is,” I admitted, still trying to read the book. “…Love? Acceptance? | don‘t think that‘s quite right though.
He gave a small smile at my attempt at translating. “Not quite. Though truthfully this one doesn‘t translate well anyway. I believe it‘s sort of like… reverence? Like unquestionable adoration.”
If these really were attributes of Selene, I wondered if the third was that overwhelming feeling you get from being in her presence.
That sense of wanting to cry from joy and wanting to do anything to please her. I remembered how hard it‘d been to remain focused around her during my time in the Abyss.
If I hadn‘t felt so strongly about my circumstances, perhaps I would have fallen to my knees before her.
“This is all ridiculous,” I said, looking up at him as though he were crazy.
“More ridiculous than a marking from a Goddess?” he asked, posing it as though it should have been obvious. “I can‘t say I ever gave this sort of thing a second thought before I met you. But now…? Well, who knows what is actually real and what is just a myth?”
I shook my head, frowning. “And this is the crap the Elders built a prophecy on? My entire childhood I was being used as a tool, groomed for a Luna position, and stripped of all my freedoms… because of this?!”
He gave a small shrug. “I personally wouldn‘t have done any of that… but I can see why the other Elders, men of faith, would have pushed that agenda. It is easy enough to piece the puzzle together. You‘re the first female born to Chrysalis in over a century. Maybe longer.”
He then pointed to one of the houses on the triangle. The one I‘d labelled foresight. Immediately, I swallowed back the bile in my throat.
“Born to a Beta who served an Alpha that had a son not two years prior.”
His finger then moved to the first one I‘d read; strength or power.
“It seems like an obvious match given these are your houses,” he finished. “If the lineages were to be believed, you‘d be the first mated pair recorded in modern history that hail from the original direct descendants. How could that not be seen as prosperous for the pack?”
I shakily shook my head. It wasn‘t like they were wrong in predicting Aleric and I were mates but… this? Really? This was what it was all based on? Speculation?
“No… No, that seems like too far of a leap. Who‘s to say I wouldn‘t be mated to someone else… or… or that other line? …Which family is the other line anyway?”
Elder Luke shrugged. “That one was lost since they didn‘t remain within the pack after this book was recorded. No one knows who they are anymore.”
I looked up and studied his features, reading his expression. He‘d known much more about this than I‘d expected, had proven himself as a curator of knowledge, and so I wanted to believe him… but he had that goddamn look in his eye.
“You know,” I accused him softly. “You know who it is…. don‘t you? There is no way your curiosity wouldn‘t have driven you to find out, even if you didn‘t personally believe in it back then.”
“You know me far better than I thought,” he chuckled before his expression slowly changed to one of more serious calculation, gauging my reaction. “But… I think you already know the answer to who it is, Aria.”
And my stomach instantly dropped as he confirmed what I‘d been fearing.
What I‘d realised the minute he‘d corrected my translation, but refused to admit.
There was only one person I knew who fit that description so perfectly. One person who could walk into a room and immediately make everyone crowd to them, enamoured by their every word. Someone who could talk his way out of almost every situation and could always be forgiven.
…One person who even I‘d been completely helpless against.
“…F#ck,” I hissed. Cai.