Blood on the Sand


Oct 16, 2016

Previous Thread


 The full moon was near. He could feel it. His body was itching with the desire to succumb to the change that would ultimately take him. Would take all of them. For his pack, he would hold out until the time was right. Today was about making sure his wolves were all in a place where they could shift safely. That meant his truck was packed with nervous new Weres. His truck bed was filled with those who'd shifted too early. Those, he'd slapped collars on so they could pretend to be dogs while he drove them out of town and into the nearby forest Red River had purchased ages ago.

 The rays of the setting sun cut into his eyes. He squinted, pulling down the truck’s visor and curling his ball cap to help make navigating a bit easier. A glance in his rearview mirror allowed him to spy his second driving another vehicle behind him. Their guests were in there. The two rogue Weres who he was convinced were still hiding something from him. So far? Their behavior was on point. There were no foul reports from the eyes and ears he had on them. Even so, he was suspicious and he wasn’t taking chances. Wolves of their power level didn't just walk into a new town the way they had. It wasn't right. Something was up with them.

 His truck peeled to a stop after they rattled down a dirt road for what felt like forever. That was the point. The further they went, the further away from town they were. The further they were, the less likely their howls would be heard by Cordova. The less likely one of them would allow animal instinct to hunt something they shouldn’t. Tonight they would run. They would hunt. They would be pack. They would be true to their nature without any kind of fear.

 "Jimmy. We good here?" he asked, looking to one of the more seasoned wolves who was helping soothe the nerves of their newer members. A nod from the wolf and Clay exited his car. He headed towards the vehicle with Duke and their guests. A few wolves from the bed of his truck hopped out. Clay ran his hands across their ears and dismissed them with a click of his tongue. They could run and play. He'd call them when the whole pack was ready and assembled.

 His boots ground against the gravel. Knuckles rapped on the window of Duke's truck. He tipped his head and rounded towards the back where the truck bed was covered by a tarp. He began to undo the fastenings back there as he waited for their guests to pile out.

 Hands gripped the steering wheel, his irritation obvious as amber swallowed the generic brown of his human eyes. The full moon made him more susceptible to these emotions, made him more of a loose cannon, practically unstoppable when he really got going. Clay knew this and likely trusted it to come in handy if the two rogues decided to cause problems.

 He didn't trust the two sitting beside him, not the slightest amount. His Beast agreed, lurking under his skin, fur standing on edge as if he expected them to attack at any moment. Since their capture, neither of them had given any indication that they were the violent sort but like Clay, Duke didn't trust it. There was something about them, something about the way the girl sat so still and quiet, something about how she reacted and responded, about how the male had taken every bit of abuse and pain and torture and still hadn't broken.

 Throat constricted, quieting the growl that threatened to rumble up and out of his chest cavity. The tension in the cab of the truck ratcheted higher, and then another notch when he realized he still couldn't sense their wolves. He could smell them, of course, but it was like they were smothering their Beasts, their power levels registering on his metaphysical radar far below what he knew them to be.

 Clay's truck came to a stop ahead of them. Duke followed suit, killing the engine with a twist of the key. He climbed out, fighting the urge to grab one of them by the collar and drag them from the cab. Instead, the wolf shut the door behind himself and went to the back, mirroring his King's actions as he began to release the fastenings on the opposite side. The fact that tension sung in his veins went without acknowledgment; he was ready to take them down if they even hinted at trouble.




 It was as if a pendulum swung and each time the weight hit the center mark, the word echoed in her, rebounding off the walls of her psyche to keep her in check. Patience was a virtue, but it had never been one of Alina's. The woman was brash and untamed and her anger often ran rampant within her. She acted on whims and instinct, giving little thought to the benefit of simply waiting.

 Weeks had passed while they had all but rotted in their cells. Weeks filled with nothing but time to think about how she would bide her time, punctuated by the agonized screams of her companion. Each day that had passed only solidified her resolve that much more and each broken bone her pack mate had suffered fueled her internal fire. She would make up for her mistakes and pay them back for every drop of Everett's blood that had been spilled, tenfold.

 For quite possibly the first time in her life, her rage was a silent thing, a leviathan moving beneath the depth of the blue in her eyes waiting for her prey to misstep, to fall into the waiting trap of her jaws.

 The bob and bounce of the truck's suspension slowed and stopped altogether as the vehicle was put into park. The sudden lack of movement caused the stone-faced woman to blink and refocus, gaze following the King as he interacted with his pack and made his way around behind the vehicle they were in. The rap on the window was the command, and the smallest movement of her body signaled that Everett should do as the man instructed.

 Still, she said nothing, letting her self-appointed vow of silence stretch as she climbed out after Everett. Feet touched the ground, hands hung loose at her side as she quietly shut the door behind her. Head tilted, fractionally, as she watched the King and his Second work at the bed. Gut coiled in anticipation, keeping their movements in her line of sight, Everett's presence at her side the only reminder she needed; patience.

 No matter her level of patience now, instinct kicked in, the muscles between her shoulder blades growing taut and tense. Whatever they were planning, Alina knew she wouldn't like it.

 He was trying to pay attention to where they were going. His eyes looked out the front windshield, peering between the driver's and empty passenger's seat to look at where they were going. He tried to memorize the streets they turned down; what landmarks they passed along the way. He wanted to remember how to get back here. Just in case.

 His concentration was broken by his present company. Both the second and Alina were radiating their frustration in a way that caused his skin to crawl. He could tell they were both trying to hide it, but Alina he knew too well and the second really wasn't that good at it. Their pent-up energy coupled with the call of the moon was forcing him to work on overtime to distract himself and keep his own beast at bay. He could feel the wolf within; feel it crawling beneath his skin. It didn't like that, while physically he was fine, he was still off his game from the special blend of Red River torture.

 Everett flexed his fingers, testing the careful movements of his hand as his gaze went glassy. Looking, but not seeing, he refocused his vision as the truck took a final turn and pulled into its final destination. How much time had he lost in contemplation? He wasn't sure. All he knew was that he was on edge. He could hold on for a while longer, but soon he'd be forced to shift and let the wolf take over. Tonight it was going to run. It was only a matter of when.

 The engine cut. A glance at Alina and he piled out of the truck. She followed. His eyes darted towards the collared pack members, watching as those still wearing their human forms helped the wolves out of their collars. Pack behavior. Standard issue stuff right there. Seemed it didn't matter where a pack was or who was running it. There were always similar precautions no matter the place.

 His jaw clenched. He could feel Alina storing her pent-up energy like some sort of pyre waiting for that final match to strike and set it ablaze. He leaned into her, pressing his shoulder against her own so the line of his arm, flesh against flesh, touched her own. His wolf withdrew a bit, relaxing with that small contact even though it lingered. With the moon this close to its full glory, there was no keeping the beast away, but the pack was pack. His pack. Her pack. Their pack. It counted for something... even if it wasn't necessarily this pack.

 He settled against her and waited for further instruction. He knew his will tonight would not be his own.

 They were quick about it; those rogue wolves. He glanced at them as they piled out of the car, watching their feet hit the ground. He turned back to his working on the tarp, unfastening one grommet at a time as Duke picked up the other side. He took it by it's end and rolled the tarp back. They had duffle bags, a number of them, that would be important for the whole pack.

 He piled two duffles across one shoulder and reached for a couple more, dragging them towards the edge of the bed. He tossed two at their guest's feet. Everett and Alina could help out and each take one. It was the least they could do for his kindness. "You make a decision yet?" he asked. They discussed their options earlier. All that was left was for them to decide. They could join the wolves of Red River or they could stay no longer than a week before collecting up their belongings and moving on. Their choice. For their meddling, he should have just killed them instead of going through all this trouble for a couple rogues.

 Clay's gaze caught the woman's. He held it as he grabbed a couple more bags and left Duke to finish with the truck. A whistle escaped his lips as he summoned his pack mates and pressed on towards the clearing where everyone would gather. It was tradition, if nothing else to assemble in one place. They could romp and frolic until the sun finally plunged below the horizon and left them to the call of the moon. Soon. Fifteen minutes at most. His guests should have an answer for them before then.

 He gave the rogues his back as he walked out on to the green grass. He discarded the duffles at the base of a wood platform and bypassed the built-in stairs to hoist himself up. His skin was crawling. The time to run was near, and like every seasoned wolf, he knew that giving in to the change was a hell of a lot smoother than fighting the shift. He peeled off his shirt and tossed it on the ground near the bags. His eyes swept across those gathered and turned to watch those who were still joining them walk across the field. He lifted his head and gave a human howl, his vocals subtly shifting to that of his beast to capture the hollow, haunting sound that belonged to his beast. Soon they would run, but for now they would assemble as one. As pack.

 A silent snarl caused his lip to tremble as the passenger side door shut. The sound was wrested in his throat, respecting the decision that Clay had made. The King's word was law and Duke would be the last person to disobey him. He didn't have to like it, but he did need to set an example for the pack wolves around them.

 One of them seemed to know his struggle, approaching and gently butting their head against his leg to garner his attention. Dropping his right hand, fingers buried themselves in tawny fur, initiating the contact that immediately soothed his own Beast. The creature within chose now to press against his skin, willing him to change forms and go with the pack.

 He would not yet, could not. He had duties to attend to now and he sent the wolf on his way with a firm pat to the shoulder. Soon. He would shift soon and they would run and hunt together. Instead, he tied the tarp back down and locked up the truck before catching the attention of any of the stragglers and sending them after Clay and the rest of the pack.

 From back here, he was able to watch the rogue pair and keep a close eye on them without making any of the pack wolves yet to shift antsy and more unstable than they already were. If the troublemakers tried anything, he would be on them in a hot second, though he didn't delude himself into thinking that they weren't aware of that. Hopefully, that would put them on their best behavior. He didn't delude himself with that thought either.

 Her anger had always been a wild thing, even before she'd been infected with lycanthropy. As a child, she'd been brash and unforgiving and at times, just downright nasty; through the years, Alina had grown out of most of that.

 She felt the urges creeping up on her now, fueled by her ghostly-furred counterpart's desire to be second to none. Pack was great but he had not yet earned her respect or her loyalty. He had kept her in a cell and harmed her Pack and then... What? Did he expect her to follow his word? His law?

 It was almost a shock when her Beast suddenly backed off of the throttle, her anger practically dunked in cold water to take the heat away. The emotion slid away into the depths, her wolf occupying itself with the tangle of metaphysical fur and affection from Everett's own as his skin pressed against hers. Nostrils flared as she took in a deep and steadying breath, managing to center herself again with his help.

 Head tilted slightly, considering Clay's question and offer. Could she live under another? Maybe. Her wolf wanted the companionship, of course, though the human side of her still fought to maintain her independence from others. Pack was important though and she needed to protect Everett, as he had her.

 Her gaze met Clay's; her wolf rose again to peek out at the world, red bleeding over the blue of her irises for a brief moment. Hers was an obstinate nature and he obviously took issue with that. Hell, his Second had experienced multiple conniption fits over it. Part of her wanted to see how long she could hold his gaze before the Second (she didn't know his name yet) had a stroke over her insubordination but the King dismissed this opporunity and walked away, openly displaying his back and showing that he didn't care. That was one way to take care of things now, wasn't it?

 Picking up one of the bags, the female turned to follow the rest of the wolves, mind churning over the possibilities. The two options she was left with weren't much. Additionally, she couldn't make a choice with only her well being in mind. Even as a former King, Alina would never betray the loyalty of even one follower. It went against who and what she was, in the deepest sense.

 Leave or stay, both with their own pros and cons. Her feet moved automatically, eyes taking in their path but not really seeing, too deep in her own mind to register anything that came into sight. In fact, it wasn't until the others had stopped that Alina realized that they'd arrived. The bag was dropped with its mates, boots kicked off so that her toes could curl in the grass.

 One answer. One simple answer that changed... Everything. She had the option of becoming Pack but she would not rule. Someone else would be making the decisions. Could she deal with that? Eyes flit to the side, taking a brief moment to study her male better half. Movement drew her gaze away again, blue eyes watching the man as he led the howl. Her wolf almost made her join in. Almost. She resisted just yet, letting the howl die away before she stepped forward into the distorted circle of those who were there.


 Her voice carried in the night, weighted with its meaning. For Everett, she'd at least try to live here, to see what would come of it. If she hated it that much, she'd figure it out when it came to that, but for now.... The attempt couldn't hurt. If the King accepted her decision without further issue, they could get on with the night and call it good.

 The wolves and those of the pack who'd gathered turned ear towards his inquiry. He hadn't made a formal summons. His wolves didn't need to overhear this part, but their curiosity won over. Who were these new wolves they'd seen over the past couple days? What arraignments had been made for them? Were they friend now, or foe? Some of those questions Clay hoped to clear up here soon, but that could only come when they voiced their decision.

 "Stay." The female voiced her opinion on the matter, likely speaking for both of them as the other was doing an immaculate job of holding his silence. Still, Clay's gaze swept over to Everett. The wolf could answer for himself.

 Everett picked up one of the lingering duffle bags. He'd been given no verbal cues, but he followed Alina's lead in picking up the duffle that remained almost as if it had been meant for him. It was relatively light to the touch and lacked any considerable weight as he carried it along and deposited it in the grass alongside the others that had already been abandoned. It seemed they'd reached their final destination.

 He withdrew a few paces and assumed his typical position behind Alina's right side. She kicked off her shoes. He followed suit. His toes met with the cool texture of the grass and he mentally sighed. It felt nice to reconnect with nature. They'd been cooped up in that city for far too long.

 The not-so-subtle question reached his ears. Alina answered, surprising him.

 Evie looked up, catching the Alpha's gaze briefly before he diverted his eyes in submission. "I will stay as well," he echoed, knowing full well Alina could not remain under another's rule for long. Whatever she was planning, he'd back her just has he had a dozen times before.

 "I will stay as well." Two more wolves then. Two more pack mates.

 He eyed them for a moment, shifting on the balls of his feet before he nodded an acceptance of their decision. He howled then, tossing back his head in an official summons of the pack. Wolves gathered. Some arrived on two feet. Others had already made the transition to wolf. Either way they neared the wood platform where Clay and Duke stood and gave him their full attention.

 "Our new guests have made their decision," he announced, lifting his voice for all who gathered to hear. "Please welcome Alina and Everett into the pack."

 Yips and howls and shouts and cheers rang up as the wolves celebrated their new pack mates. New wolves were always something of a joyous occasion, however the circumstances under which these two had joined caused the Alpha to remain skeptical of their now easy compliance. Trust was not gained so easily.

 He held out a hand, motioning for silence. "As a gesture of their good will, we now invite our newcomers to shift so that we might come to meet and know their beasts." His wolves retreated, clearing a half-circle at the foot of the stage where their new pack mates might shift.

 His snarl abated as Clay accepted their decision. Duke still didn't like it, didn't trust it. He was sure that Clay didn't either. Clay, however, wrote the rules and as much as the Second disagreed with this, he was not so bold as to publicly make a show of it. If he was asked later, and by the right person, perhaps he might divulge his thoughts.

 For now, the pack would be united, watching and waiting as the two shifted before them. Gaze flickered to his leader now, the barest tilt to his head signifying the unspoken question. Would they be allowed to run free tonight? Accepted though they may be, they were still unknowns, still possibly a threat. His concern was the safety of their unit, of their pack. Clay would know this and answer it in a manner he saw fit.

 Until then, Duke would just be ready for them to do something wrong, to overstep or make a display of violence. In fact, he found that he wanted them to, if only so he could teach them a lesson in front of the wolves that had gathered.

 He had her back. He always did. Everett was the one person she'd been able to count on through thick and thin. Knowing he was there — and that he was going to stay with her — made a bit of tension ease from her shoulders. It wasn't that she had doubted him at all; more that she wouldn't have held it against him now if he wanted to go his own way. But he hadn't. They were both staying.

 Attention snapped back to the man as he summoned the rest. Their numbers grew, wolves in all shapes filtering in around them, making that tension sing in her shoulders again. The dark haired woman couldn't deny the fact that something still felt off as he announced them to his pack. Her Beast rumbled quietly within, warning her: Too easy. Maybe she was too suspicious though... Maybe this would actually all work out.

 The request that they would shift now, before the group struck her as odd but every group had their own thing. The chance to let her she-wolf out was met with a buzz of excitement from her Beast. Alina wasted no time in shedding herself of clothes, revealing the tattoos that covered a good portion of her body, and the scars from the silver shackles that would eventually fade with enough time and enough transitions between her and her Wolf form.

 Leaving her clothes where they lay, the woman walked forward, still blue eyes scanning those around them. If this was going to work out, she'd have to submit. Didn't have to like it, of course, but she still needed to do it.

 The first snap of bone was like a gunshot in the gathering. Excited yips and barks were tuned out, focusing on the pain of it all, the rapid crunch of bone and twist of flesh happening in a blur. Fur flowed over her skin early on in the process, hiding scars and ink alike. Her wolf wanted out as soon as possible but Alina pushed back, giving her a little resistance, effectively slowing her overall shift; She didn't want them all to know how fast she could change forms.

 Fur. Musk. Stale blood. Wolves. Everett. Pack.

 Ears swiveled, listening as she leaned her haunches back, pulling muscles tight in her human's "Down Dog" position. A low groan left her, muscles stretched loose before shaking her fur out. Too long, she had been caged in their human form, because her human had been trapped in a cage of her own. Silly human.

  A sideways step put her closer to Everett, nosing his shoulder in a short display of companionable affection and to breathe in his scent. Pack. Home. An approving rumble left her before she turned her eyes to the wolf that had demanded this of them. Gaze did not quite lift to his but it was a close thing. It was not her place. She was not the leader here. Her muzzle wrinkled the slightest bit in distaste before smoothing out again. How long she'd last deferring to another was anyone's guess now.

 The lithe ghost of a wolf waited. What would he want now? Was it time to run? To hunt? Alina wanted both. Needed both. Surely, the King Wolf would grant them that much.

 No sooner had their words settled on the air than the Wolf King was welcoming them into the pack. Sort of. There was something off about their need to shift before the others. Evie's eyes flicked towards the brooding second before snapping over to briefly analyze the top dog of the Red River pack. No matter. Alina was already removing her clothes. Like a good dog, he could follow suit.

 He shed his jacket. The rest of his attire fell into a roughly folded pile that he tossed near the foot of their makeshift stage. From there, the rest was excruciatingly easy.

 With the moon pulling on his lupine nature it was easy to coax his beast to the surface. The wolf within charged through his human skin as he buckled to the ground and let his bones bend and break. The change came. Russet fur blossomed from beneath his human flesh as the wolf rose to the surface and formed in his place.

 All four paws on the ground, his nostrils flared sharply. The air was crisp. The woods this evening were filled with delightful scents and sounds that appeal to the very nature of his beast. He pawed the earth and shifted on his paws. Impatient. He wanted to run. But first, he needed the permission of this new pack.

 Their newest members complied. The female began her shift first and transformed herself into a wolf of purest white. Her friend shifted next. His wolf burned like a wildfire. Clay smirked. Fire and ice. He found this funny for some reason.

 "Meet our newest wolves," he announced to the rest of the pack as he lifted a hand to indicate Everett and Alina. "Come. Know them." A few pack members in their wolf forms stepped forward to sniff. A few others in their human forms took a few steps forward, but kept their distance.

 While the rest of the pack was busy, he cast a glance in Duke's direction. His second knew what was coming next and Clay had a feeling he'd need help with this.

 The Red River King hopped off the makeshift stage and picked up one of the duffles they'd brought. He pulled on a pair of gloves, unzipped the duffle, and pulled out two werewolf sized silver choke collars complete with the little spikes around the neck.

 "Considering the circumstances of our meeting and your new initiation, you both will be required to wear these until we can trust you." He addressed the newcomers and turned towards Alina. He took a few steps towards the wolf, reaching out with the metaphysics he possessed over her now that she'd committed herself to his pack. This collar was going around her neck.

 They shifted, accepting the demand that Clay had made, accepting their place as members of the Red River pack. Others moved closer to greet them, sniffing, touching, acknowledging their presence. Duke didn't move, eyes instead meeting Clay's over the movement of the pack.

 A cold smile filtered through his expression. Yes, he knew. He welcomed the call to action, in fact, following Clay's example and retrieving the silver collar while the two were distracted. This would sufficiently remind them that they were not in charge here, that they were the low men on the totem pole. The two newcomers would learn their place, whether they liked it or not.

 Not one for bravado, the Second fastened the collar around the red wolf's neck as their King spoke his intentions. Duke would not give the male the chance to rebel now, having broken him in the weeks prior.

 He would have stepped back then, had the surprisingly deep and guttural snarl of the female not distracted him.

 Fur and warmth drew her attention. Olfactory senses worked in overtime. Her nose pressed and sifted through fur, shoved into personal space. She would not play shy among these wolves, asserting her position and attitude from the get go. Her movements were stiff, focused on those surrounding her, not realizing what was happening while she was so involved.

 Ears twisted, tuning into his words maybe halfway through. Whatever he'd said before now didn't matter. She didn't care about anything, save for what was in his gloved hands.

 The collar in his hand glinted maliciously, fur standing up on end in response. The step he took to advance toward her was met with a stiff-legged, throat-ripping snarl, lips peeled back to reveal teeth and the threat behind them.

 His power as King stayed her, keeping her rooted to the spot as the infernal thing went around her neck. Skin sizzled where it settled against her fur, muscles tensing with her pain. Snarl dropped an octave, tongue sweeping over her teeth in another threat.

 She reveled in her aggression, in the rage and fire that swept through her, tailed closely by the rush of adrenaline. Her human broke the surface now, three simple words dropped like a weight into the sudden tension of the night.

 "I challenge you."

 The words themselves were powerful, a shiver of power riding the moon's magic. The Second's laughter was ignored, trusting Everett to keep him from interfering. Clay could not back down now, not in front of the pack, not on the night of the moon. She did not trust them, not now and not ever.

 "Kill him if necessary."

 Her command was blatant and her intentions obvious. Even with these ridiculous collars around their necks, the King would fall tonight, and his Second would fertilize the ground upon which they stood. She would not accept any other outcome now.

 The Second clipped the collar around his neck. The flesh beneath his fur burned. That sizzle of silver was an anathema to his flesh that he'd grown far too familiar with during his time with this pack. For all the outward appearances they presented, this pack was caught up in the traditional way of things. And dumb. There was a small part of him and his wolf that found this leadership naive.

 His lips peeled. Fangs revealed. His paws spread as he prowled and turned his attention towards the Second who still wore his human skin. Alina snarled and barked her commands. Too late. He'd known this moment would come, it was simply a matter of when. Better sooner than later.

 Crimson eyes swept across the crowd before falling upon the second. The lesser wolves here wouldn't dare interfere in a formal challenge. The Second, Evie trusted less. He seemed to like his place of power and wasn't likely to relinquish it so quickly. Fortunately this pack was not as well established as others so another, better wolf could fall into rank that much more easily.

 Soon. For now Evie snarled and snapped, clashing his teeth on the air in warning to man who'd collared him.

 She struggled. Resisted. All the same that collar snapped on. His pack would feel safer for it. Safer knowing that silver would drag these new wolves down while the rest of them ran freely. Clay peeled off his gloves and tossed them on top of the duffle as the white female snarled. Yeah. He'd known she wouldn't like it.

 What he hadn't known was quite how much she would refuse. The words came quickly. A challenge. His lips twisted into a smile. So be it. His King wolf against her alpha beast. Perhaps this challenge would be a worthy one... or perhaps it would end as swiftly as the others.

 His fingers lifted to the edges of his shirt as he pulled it off his chest. "I accept," he said, his voice a half growl as he tossed that shirt aside. He gathered his magics and shifted, not to the wolf, but to that hybrid form true to the legends and myths of their kind. Half wolf. Half man. His bones cracked, growing, shifting, and molding as he heightened and strengthened. His face twisted into that of a wolf while a light layer of grayish fur coated his skin. His pants ripped at the seams and shredded save for the skimpy remnants about his waist.

 He crouched, curling the fingers of a single hand beneath him as he lowered himself to her level. His lips pulled back in a snarl. Eyes locked on her stare, he could feel his pack members at his back. Tonight he'd remind them who ruled and he'd show this new comer why he was King. It wouldn't be long before he took her life or she remembered to yield.

 Satisfaction rode through him, tickled that they were both so surprised. They thought they would be set free to what? Run with the pack? Sure, they could run, but they wouldn't have the freedom that they so eagerly anticipated.

 Of the two, the woman's reaction was the most laughable. First the snarl and then her challenge. He barked a laugh. Time and time again, women proved themselves ridiculous and emotional, and this one was no different. She even started barking orders to her boy-toy, making his smile widen. Breaking her would be so much fun.

 Imagine his disappointment when his King didn't crush her petty reaction. Instead, he accepted the challenge, making Duke's smile freeze for a moment before it fell away, teeth bared now in his own snarl as he went to step forward, only to be met with the red wolf who was currently all hackles and snarls.

 "Didn't have enough fun before, huh?" He sneered at the wolf, knowing full well that he could not allow his King to fall, no matter what it took. A rumbling growl vibrated his chest as he advanced on the male, making a go at his collar to grab and lift him by it. "I'm going wring your neck, boy. Watchin' the light go out on you will be the highlight of my damn night."

 Priorities first, though. Even if he did get his hands on the male, he'd toss him aside for the pack to hold him while he waded in between the King and his so-called Challenger.

  The proverbial gauntlet had been thrown to the ground and he picked it up without hesitation. Adrenaline surged through her veins, blood thundering in her ears as Alina's awareness narrowed to a focal point.

 Everything else became extraneous as he shifted, forcing her self to remain still. The human side of her wanted to lunge forward and take the chance now but the ghostlike creature put her paw down on that notion. Tail lashed behind her, the human side falling away completely, allowing the wolf to rule.

 They faced off moments before motion threw her forward, lunging with gaping jaws. Keep out of his reach. Human thoughts had returned, helping to adjust her movements so that they did not err early on.

 She would make the first pass at least, teeth snapping dangerously to seek purchase on his body, the desire to spill his blood and let it soak into the earth driving her.

 His teeth flashed pearly white as he snapped at the Second. A warning to back off. He couldn't make himself more clear. Like all challenges, the current one between Alina and this pack's King was a private affair. To interfere was a violation of Pack law. Of Were law. It wasn't done. And it sure as hell was punishable by death.

 It didn't surprise him that this second had other ideas. The brutish man carried himself in such a way that suggested he liked his current position in life and would do whatever it took to maintain that status.

 Those hands reached for his collar. Stupid, since Evie was snarling at him anyway. His teeth lashed out, snapping at those damnable fingers with no remorse. This guy liked breaking hands. Everett was inclined to rip his off.

 He stood posed, large hands curled so his knuckles scraped against he earth. Save for the wolfish form of his hybrid body, he looked ever much like a king kong ready to defend his kingdom. He roared. His long canines exposed like ivory daggers as he baited this female to act true on her challenge.

 She lunged forward. He lifted a hand braced himself, sacrificing his non-dominant arm to the purchase of her teeth. That arm both injured and shielded him while he reached beneath her chin. Clawed fingers sought the soft length of neck. He'd end this quickly and then his pack could run.

 Red River had always done things a little differently, keeping to some Laws and changing others. When Clay had taken over, it had been for the betterment of the pack, and Duke fully believed that any change in leadership would destroy what had been built. Especially if that leadership was be led under a woman.

 No. He'd not let that happen.

 A snarl left him as teeth closed on one hand, punching at the red wolf's ear with his free hand in immediate retaliation. This weak shit wasn't going to stop him from securing the safety of the pack. Despite the fact that teeth punctured his skin, Duke sought to punch him again, and again, and once more after that, attempting to knock the bastard out. His priority was getting his hands on that bitch's neck. The male would be taken care of later if he could knock him out now.

 Her teeth connected but rather than savoring the moment, teeth were ripped out and away with little care, instead ducking and escaping backwards. The vy for her throat would not be won so early on, and not at all if she could help it. The taste of blood would not distract her now, though she taunted him with it, tongue flickering over bared teeth to display who had won first blood.

 Moving again, she rushed him, head ducked this time as she sought to barrel him over. If she could get him on the ground, she could make a move on the softer areas of his body. The intent was to get this over with, but she still needed to slow him down with a larger wound or two.

 At the same time, she needed to keep at the outer reaches of those clawed fingers. She knew the kind of damage they could do. Alina wouldn't come out of this free of injury, but whatever wounds she did acquire needed to be kept to a minimum. That being said, no matter how bad it got, she wasn't backing down.

 This fight was all or nothing. It was life or death, and she could not deny the thrill that vibrated down her spine as the smell of blood and anger and determination filled the night air.

 Teeth made purchase, clamping down on Duke's hand. Ivory fangs sunk. The swell of blood flooded his mouth as he latched on and refused to let go.

 His stubbornness might have been something of a mistake as the Second took that as an opportunity to punch the living shit out of his head. The first blow connected, rocking Everett's footing, but also causing his teeth to sink deeper and deeper into the Second's flesh. Maybe bone. He couldn't tell.

 Instead, his focus went into trying to rip that hand off as he sidestepped back and forth, trying to dance and dodge the bows as he shook his head like a ravage dog. He wanted that hand. And when that one was gone, he was going after the next one.

 Her teeth upon his arm was there for a second and gone the next. He felt nothing as she retreated, reaching out of the range of his grasp as she realized the flaw of her hasty charge. He flexed the hand on his wounded arm, testing it and finding his mobility still in tact. His eyes watched her, his stance shifting as she bounded back in for another round.

 Ready for her this time, he sidestepped her tucked body and reached with clawed hands to snag her tail in passing. If his hands found purchase, he'd toss her against the nearest tree or stage, or whatever. She was merely nasty lego to be stepped on, a child's toy, and nothing else.

 He was snarling now, a terrible sound that usually made those lower-ranked than himself back away or even cower in fear. Something else was happening now though; his Beast bristled and snapped at the air as he began to notice the wolves of the pack putting themselves between their altercation and Clay's, presumably to stop him from interfering.

 Traitors. The lot of them.

 His snarl took on a deeper tone before his voice broke in a scream, flesh torn as part of his hand was taken from him. The pain blinded him, and clouded his judgement. The Beast chose that moment to surge forward, trying to take over his body and force a shift. It would be a crucial few moments since his body would be vulnerable but if he could shift to his hybrid form fast enough, the bastard would die in his claws.

 Standards rang true here; One on one, Alina was the weaker of the two. Clay, as a male, was larger and more muscular than her. The trade in was that where he had the strength, she was built for agility and maneuverability. In such close quarters, these differences were the ones that mattered and would put both of them to the test.

 The pain was sharp. Immediate. She snarled, eyes flashing as her forward momentum was literally yanked to a halt. Her response was just as immediate, turning on her hind paws to whip around and come at his face with angry snaps of her teeth. The pain at the base of her tail intensified, his grip and her movement working together in that moment.

 It didn't stop her. Teeth reached for whatever was accessible to her; An arm, his face, his throat. By grabbing onto her tail, Clay had created an opening in his defenses and Alina meant to capitalize on that opportunity.

 Fingers shredded from the Second's hand. Mine. Without thinking, he devoured them, swallowing those digits down so he'd not lose time or focus by dropping his gaze to spit them out. No matter. Be it the pain or the moon, Duke was shifting and Everett had a few precious seconds to make his next move.

 He lunged, not giving the man any options as his shift made him unintentionally vulnerable. Teeth drove for the man's neck as he hunched over, his body reshaping to that hybrid form. Everett had no intentions of giving him that opportunity to shift. To change. To heal the the minor wounds he'd already inflicted. None of that. Duke had made his intentions more than clear and the only option left was to kill this man before he managed to kill Everett first.

 He didn't get a chance to fling her. No sooner had he made purchase on her tail, than she spun around and reminded him which end of her was the most deadly. Her teeth snapped dangerously close to the soft edges of his body, finding purchase on his inner arm of the same limb she'd already injured before. His teeth set. A snarl tore from his lips.

 With her teeth on his arm, he dropped her tail leveraged her proximity to his body. His free arm swung around, attempting to lock her neck against his body. Pain flared. Like fire, burning into his flesh, the silver choke collar he'd placed around her neck effectively worked against him. His lips curled. This time in a hiss as his singed skin burned and caused him to flinch in recoil.

 Abort. Abort.

 He couldn't stop it, couldn't reverse his own shift. The Beast had claws in his psyche and wasn't letting go, leaving Duke's human side to watch in abject horror as the other wolf darted in with open jaws and the intent to kill. His body was immobilized by his Beast's last ditch effort to save themselves. There was no fighting back, no lunging to meet the fight that the red wolf brought to him.

 Jaws closed around his throat, limbs flailed uselessly in defiance and objection. We can't go down like this! He would snarl in his head to the only other soul that could hear him now. But they would go down like this, without a fight or even a snarl. His dying breath was trapped under the pressure of those jaws. Limbs gradually fell still, and his eyes rolled into his head as he suffocated.

 In mere moments, the Second had perished, leaving the King and his challenger to battle without his intervention.

 The smell of burning flesh renewed her tenacity, smelling her victory on the air. His foolish move would cost him, and Alina would waste no time in making him pay for it. He flinched backwards, away from her, his attempted chokehold loose enough now to allow the mobility she needed.

 Hind paws dug into the ground, fore paws into his chest to try and push him down to the ground. She followed that movement with her jaws opened wide, rushing for his throat. She sought to lock her teeth around his windpipe now, and whether they hit the ground or not, her goal now was to rip into his flesh and tear her target free from his body.

 The collars told her that they'd never meant to honestly accept them into the pack; they'd come prepared with the collars, their intentions revealed as soon as they clipped the silver contraptions on them. There would be no gentle death for this man, not with how he'd treated them since their arrival, and certainly not with these ridiculous collars around their necks.

 The collars were meant to contain them. To control them. Instead they were a good idea gone bad. He'd hope to weigh these wolves down. The silver collar was meant to zap their power and control their beasts. Instead it had enraged them. Fuck.

 His lapse in judgement cost him. One fatal mistake left him exposed and vulnerable. The white wolf didn't hesitate. She seized the opportunity and caused him to fumble, falling back upon the ground under the weight of her pursuit.

 Instinct caused him to reach his hands out for her neck, attempting to push her head back and off of him. He caught her collar again. The silver burned against his hybrid hands as he tried to push her away, but the pain was too much and he couldn't find purchase he needed elsewhere on her body. Those teeth were too wild. Her chest was too far from her head to pry her off. Her teeth sank on his throat and he struggled beneath her until his breath was gone.

 Fuck him.

 He'd underestimated these strangers. He'd pay for that mistake with his life.


 Later he'd suffer the conscious of killing a man mid-shift. Later he'd lock that guilt away and convince himself he didn't give a fuck. In this moment? He was surviving. He was preventing this man from interfering in a fight. He was giving Alina a chance to prove herself dominant. Giving them both a chance to take this pack into their own hands.

 His teeth sank into that flesh of a changing throat. Not yet wolf. Not quite man. Somewhere in between. He could feel the magic pulse between his jaws, but Everett refused to let go. Duke struggled. Evie clenched his teeth all the harder. It felt like an eternity, but eventually the Second's life slipped away and all fell still.

 He lingered for a while longer, holding his position until he was certain Duke wasn't faking him out. Magic curled around the man as his final shift took place and reverted the half-shifted man to a tattered human form. Evie released his teeth and stepped back, removing himself from the scene so the pack could cater to the death of one of their own. They gave him space, allowing him to wade through the crowd and catch the final moments of Alina putting an end to Clay's life.

 He sat down. His wolven form posed like that of a lazy dog as he sat there, allowing his tongue to loll. Well shit. They'd done it again. She would.

 Teeth found flesh. Blood sent her senses ablaze in that metallic taste and smell, eliciting a victorious snarl from the female. His hands did not deter her, a paw on his chest held the rest of his body down as he struggled, trying to fight against his fate. Clay's chances had run out now and if she'd been watching his eyes, Alina would have been able to see the point at which he realized this. As it was, she was fine just knowing that that his motions started to slow, his heartbeat stuttering in his chest cavity.

 Determined now, the muscles in her neck and jaw flexed. With a wet riiiip, the female tore his esophagus from his body. Blood stained her fur as she whipped the meaty organ away, letting it hit the dirt before she turned back to the dying wolf to finish the messy job and ensure his death.

 Alina would not turn away now, as his body transitioned back to its human form in his passing. When it was done, her head tipped to loose a howl proclaiming her victory. In quick order, the silver collars were carefully removed from her and Everett's necks, leaving only tradition to be taken care of now.

 One by one, the pack stepped forward to partake, consuming the bodies left behind to conceal the death of their own and to honor the memory of how they'd served the pack. Mere minutes passed before the deed was done. The new King rose now to lead the pack into a hunt with her Second close at hand, the wolves that now followed her right behind them.

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