It had been five years since the dragons had returned and things had settled with the elves. Helena had watched her sons and daughters flourish while Kieran drifted deeper and deeper into his anger. She couldn’t fix that, because in order to do so she would have to love him as he wanted her to – and she simply couldn’t.
Looking back at the bed she smiled at the one within who beckoned her to return to him. Helena smoothed her hand over Argoth’s cheek as she sat on the side of the bed. “We need to go.”
“I’m tired of hiding Helena, we should just tell them all and be done with it.” Argoth rumbled as he pulled her back into the bed. Their children were all grown except Twilight and she only had a few years left.
“Not until Twilight is mated. That is what we promised our mates.” Helena laughed softly as she laid down and watched the light from the torches upon the cavern walls flicker and dance on his skin.
She lost track of time in these moments. Her next memory would be of him getting dressed.
“I’ll see you when we get back. The scouting up North needs to be done and I’ll make sure Gareth gets back safely.” Argoth smiled for her and kissed her lips softly again. “When I get back we are going to tell them and take our chances.”
Her mate, their Alpha, had started skirmishes with elves once more. Kieran had said it was because they were starting to creep back onto lycan land. Helena wasn’t sure what to think except, she didn’t want another war. She was tired of war. But, she had said nothing.
A few more minutes of helping Helena straighten up and then he was gone. For some reason a heavy feeling set over her. Thunder rolled up above her.
At the palace, Devon had been preparing to head out with Derek to scout to the South. He’d taken Derek under his wing. The young man was Argoth’s son, the child of his best friend would always be looked after as if the boy were his own.
His own – were here – safe with his mate.
Devon was stretched out on the bed on his stomach with his face only inches above his mate’s stomach. He was rumbling low for the small round bulge and chuckling as Eva’s fingers moved through his hair. After so many years they had finally been blessed. He couldn’t be happier than he was these days! Nothing could ruin their joy right now.
“Must you leave?” she asked quietly, despite knowing the answer.
“I’ll only be gone a week or so. Mama says she’ll keep ya occupied so that ya don’t miss me too much.” He pressed a kiss to her tummy before moving up Eva’s body to kiss her lips.
“Your mama don’t know what she’s talking about, Devon. I would miss you if you were in the next room. Right now, especially.” She’d had a rough time of it. She’d been sick for nearly every morning since she had come out of her heat this time. The herbs the shaman had given her barely took the edge off. She did her best, though. She didn’t want her time spent with Devon to be anything but good.
There was a knock at the door.
“Good day, Eva,” Kieran’s baritone spoke from behind his son.
“Lord Kieran,” she replied. She didn’t try to get up.
“Have either of ya seen Gar? I aimed ta take him to the main camp with me. I needed ta introduce him to the ones bringin’ us news. He needs ta know ‘em like you do if he wants to be a scout even in the peaceful times.” Kieran looked between the two.
“If he ain’t in his room gettin’ ready to head out, then he’s probably on the hill.” Devon’s younger brother, Gareth, spent a lot of his days atop the hill that he and his lover once enjoyed. The younger lycan’s heart was hurting since his lady love had gone back to the other side of the portal. Devon remembered going up there with Eva to spy on the couple once. They had been laid out on their backs, and Inea had been showing Gar the stars. When he saw that, he knew his little brother was head over paw for the dragoness. Since her leaving, his brother had withdrawn into himself to the point that he made most of the Pack nervous. They feared he was either going rogue or going feral. For the past several years Gar and their ole man had fought more and more.
Climbing from the bed Devon looked for his pack to lift up on his shoulder.
“Could be that Argoth wanted an early start though.. which means Gareth’s already headed North with him.”
“What?” Kieran was confused. Why would Argoth go and put Gareth at risk like that? He knew the North was a dangerous situation. They had both agreed to keep the pups safe.
Devon gave his father a strange look, “That was the plan wasn’t it? Gar with Argoth and Dare with me?”
“No. Not exactly. He has the pick of five other scouts. I had planned on taking Gar with me. He’s been too volatile to actually scout lately. He was to meet with the other trainees; not go out ta mission. Not the wisest choice if you ask me,” Kieran walked out of the doorway and made his way downstairs.
“I love you, mate.” Devon turned to kiss Eva and hugged her gently.
“I love you, my mate,” Eva replied, her softened accent as sweet as the freckles on her dark tan cheeks.
“Take care of yerself and our pups.” Devon breathed her scent in and then turned to leave. “I’ll be back as soon as I can make it.”
His furrowed brow showed his worry as he made his way to the kitchen. Seeing Helena there, Kieran decided to ask her. Maybe Argoth had shared some information.
“Seen Gar and Argoth?” He put his own pack down and took up some food. It was odd, because normally he’d wait on her to make his plate, but he was grabbing things to eat right from their platters to his mouth.
“They left… early this morning to scout.” She watched him and felt that pang of concern again.
“Goddess…” Kieran grabbed his pack and made his way to the door. He paused and looked at his mate. “Why he has ta one up me…fuckin’ insabordinate…”
Wiping her hands off Helena sighed heavily, “What are you talking about Kieran? You aren’t making any sense. Argoth would never take Gareth any place dangerous.”
“Yeah, well, Hel – he gets our pup hurt and he’s gonna answer ta me. Ya know how Gar’s been since the dragons left. I’m barely keepin’ the boy on track as it is.” He needed to figure out if he could send more scouts behind them and have Gareth sent back to the main camp. “The North scout trail is no place for Gareth right now. He’s too reactive. And Argoth should know better. He’s letting … things… cloud his decisions where Gar is concerned.” This was the first time Kieran had let on that he knew anything. He was angry, but he was also concerned. She ought to be concerned, too.
Helena was worried. That feeling deep down in her soul was getting worse. “Kieran…” The fact that he may know that Gareth wasn’t his didn’t worry her at the moment as she was more concerned with having the two returned safely.
When he really looked into her eyes, he sighed. Decision made. He’d do anything for her and that pup.
“I’ll get ‘em back. I’ll be sendin’ more after ‘em from the gates instead of the camp.” He walked to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “I made a promise. I aim ta keep it for ya and for the pup.” He knew where they had always stood. He knew that hadn’t changed. Since the dragons had left, he’d been discreet for her and for his pups. He’d been so discreet, he only had one lover, and she was paid well not to say a damn thing. So if he could do that, then Helena would understand that he meant to keep his word now.
Without thought Helena hugged him, “Please bring him home to me safe. I have just an awful feeling Kie..something’s not right.” Her whole body shook with a shudder of worry and fear for those she loved.
“Yeah, I know. Whole day’s not been proper and the rains have come early.” He hugged her back. “I’ll do my best. But I got ta go, Hel.” He had wanted to say ‘love’ but had forced himself not to. They had been both friends and enemies since they had been mated by their parents. Neither wanted to go against their traditions, even if that meant dealing with life in this way.
Devon stepped into view with his pack and nearly tumbled at the sight of his parents embracing. This was not the norm for the old Alpha couple. He cleared his throat.
“If we’re gonna catch up to em we need to head out now. Derek’s in front waitin’ on us with others.” The moment his father had left his and Eva’s room, Devon had run out to the barracks and pulled together a party to track down his best friend and his little brother. If his ole man was worried then they needed to get to them.
Kieran pulled back but held her by the shoulders.
“Hey, you be ready for mudpuppies, comin’ back, okay,” he chuckled and then nudged her chin with his meaty thumb before turning from her. He hoped mud was the only thing on them. Damn, he wouldn’t even beat the fuck out of Argoth this time, so long as both of them got back safe.
Devon ran to join his father after kissing his mama’s cheek.
“Come on,” Kieran growled a bit as he walked by with a swiftness.
“Forget South. You can redirect the next best down there. I want you with me and we’re gonna prepare more for the forward push. I’d rather get the front locked down than worry over the back. This is too sudden. I think the elven high mages got somethin’ ta do with this weather comin’ in so quick. It’s off by a moon. And if Argoth and Gareth’ve been gone most of the day, they’re already mid-canyon by now. The floor’s gonna flood.”
A thought came to Devon then and he walked just a little faster. His fear was becoming a tight knot in his stomach.
“If you’re right, if the elves are really pushing? They’ll cut em off and box em in.. It’s what I’d do.” Making their way outside Devon felt the winds pick up and rumbled, “That storms movin’ in too fast! It’s gonna take us days to get to em in this mess.”
“I’m not war-mongerin’ Dev!” Kieran growled angrily. He’d heard the rumors. They didn’t have confidence in him like they should’ve. And now they were without their means of teleportation. “Fuckin’ dragons…” Kieran thought about it. “We got no way to contact their people in Iona. We’re on our own, son. Who do we got that’s strong and swift of foot besides you and Derek? I’ll drag ya down if ya wait on me, but I can back ya up.”
“One step ahead of ya ole man. I have group waitin’ on us at the gates. About twenty five and yer horse. So let’s get to em!” Devon knew his mama would already be using the charm Senias left with her. Question was would it be too late when they arrived?
At the gate Devon tossed his pack in the wagon with the others before finding Derek in the group. “Good job Dare, now we’re gonna do a whole lot of runnin’ through some rough weather. So stick close and don’t go roamin’ off and get lost.”
“You got it,” He ran with Devon.
Kieran was right behind them. He tossed his pack in the cart and looked to the driver and the others in the group as three more peeled off to follow his son.
“Get to the camp at Leerman’s Ridge!” He spoke over the harsh wind of the upcoming storm. “Send another of the messengers ahead to the main base camp! Have ‘em deviate save the perimeter guardians! They’ll all need ta be prepared for a Northern Push from Leerman’s!” The big man turned gracefully and leapt into the air before shifting into the huge hybrid and then into the more sleek but still massive version of a dire wolf. He was running as quickly as his paws would carry him. It was gonna take days to get there in this weather, despite their desire.
He hoped he and everyone else was wrong. They were all wrong and nothing bad was going to happen. It was just odd ass weather. They were all just paranoid and spooked by it. They’d get to Leerman’s and Argoth and Gareth would be there, having realized the foolishness of their folly thanks to that damned bunch of rain and storms. And then he could scold them good and well and send them back home. And he could see Helena’s face as she was so happy and this time… this time he could let them all go. He’d held on long enough. This was the Goddess telling him it was done. It was done…