I was out on my patrol duty near our southern border. I was leading a new group of trainees, showing them the area, they were to cover, what they should do if someone attacks while they’re on watch, that sort of thing. My shift was over in about fifteen minutes and then I would be going home to my mate Beth. Working with new trainees wasn't my favorite part of being the Beta. You had some people who thought they already knew everything, and others who didn't know the difference between North and South, but it was a job that needed doing.
I had been the Beta of the October Moon pack since I was 21, when Alpha Gregory took over for his father. He didn’t want me as his Beta because we had two very different ideas about how to lead. My father had been the Beta to the former Alpha, so customary in our pack, I became the next Beta. Gregory’s son, Logan, was now 6 years old. He would take over at 21, which was also customary. I was looking forward to my retirement. I have been trying to help the people of this pack and make their lives better for 21 long years.
Gregory was a tyrant of an Alpha; he loved having all the power and feeling respected. I don’t think people respected him because he was a good Alpha, though. I think they would simply fear for their lives if they didn’t. Gregory was a kill first, as questions later kind of person. If the slightest rule was broken, he would take the person to the dungeons as a courtesy. There he would beat and kill them. Never holding them for more than a couple of hours. Our dungeon rarely held anyone for longer, he didn’t believe in second chances.
“I think you guys have a pretty good grasp of what’s to be done,” I told the group of men. Women weren’t allowed to be warriors. It was a long-standing rule that no one bothered to change. It seemed ridiculous to me that women in this pack deserved a chance to learn to fight and defend their families.
"Did you hear that?” My wolf Ray asked me.
"What?” I asked him.
“Shhh, listen?” I closed my eyes and focused only on what was around me. Faintly, I could swear I heard singing.
“Did any of you hear that?” I asked the group of warriors.
“Hear what, Beta?”
“Listen for a second.” Everyone went quiet, letting their wolf hearing take over. This time I knew I heard it.
“That sounds like a child singing,” Milton said.
“What would a child be doing out in the woods?” Damon asked.
“Follow me,” I told them. We all began walking in the direction of the noise. It was leading us farther away from the border and into the woods. We had walked about two miles when the sound suddenly stopped. We all came to a halt, listening for any sign of who was behind it. To my left, I heard the rustling of leaves followed by the snapping of some twigs.
“Hello?” I called out. All the noise stopped with the sound of my voice.
“That’s great, you scared it.”
“I did not, I’m sure they’re just playing a game.” I started walking again, looking behind the trees. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small red blur running behind a tree.
“Wait here.” I told the rest of the warriors. I slowly approached the tree, like Ray had said, I didn’t want to scare them. I peered cautiously behind the tree. There sitting on the grass was a little girl. She couldn’t have been older than 4. Her chestnut brown hair fell around her face, blocking it from my view. She was playing with the leaves, but I noticed she wasn’t touching them. They were cracking and splintering into many pieces, her hands were hovering over the leaves making them disintegrate before my eyes.
“She’s a witch!” Ray exclaimed. This was bad. The Alpha hated anything that wasn’t a werewolf. He didn’t allow hybrids into the pack, and if anyone found out their mate was a non-wolf, they were ordered to reject them. I couldn’t believe this child was out here alone. I looked around but I couldn’t see anyone else. I couldn’t smell anyone around either. I noticed her smell was not a full witch, there was also something else. She smelled like a wolf! I crouched down, so I was on her level.
“Hello little one, what are you doing out here?” She didn’t answer me right away but continued to play with the leaves.
“Hi.” was all she said.
“My name’s Marvin, what’s your name?” She laughed,
“That’s a funny name.” She finally looked at me and I saw her large round amber eyes. I smiled at her.
“Yes, I suppose it is. What’s your name?”
“Julianna,” she said.
“Do you have a last name?” She shook her head, making her long hair fly around her.
“Are you alone? Where are your parents?”
“I don’t know, they said I couldn’t be with them anymore. They said I needed to find a new place to live. I got mad at them when they told me.”
“What kind of parent tells that to a child!” Ray was irate, pacing in my mind.
“How old are you?” She didn’t answer right away.
“That many.” She held up three tiny fingers.
“This is not a good place for someone who’s only three.” She shrugged her shoulders, looking back down at her pile of crumpled leaves.
“I like it.”
“Do you know your parent’s names? Or where they’re from?” She shook her head no again.
“We can’t just leave her out here alone,” Ray said.
“I know that.”
“Julianna, it just so happens that I have a place you can stay. Does that sound nice?”
“Would you like to come with me?” I said, extending my hand to her.
“Okay.” She said, taking my hand and standing up. I noticed now she was wearing a simple red dress and no shoes. She didn’t look dirty, so she must not have been outside for a while. I walked with her back to the group of warriors.
"Beta, who is that?"
"Her name is Julianna, I found her just over here." I indicated the direction with my head. “She’s going to be coming with us.”
"But Beta, she smells like a witch."
“I’m well aware of that, Damon.”
"The Alpha has forbidden anyone to enter our pack who isn’t a pure wolf, he’ll never allow her in!"
"I will not leave an innocent child in the wilderness alone. We are bringing her back and that's the end of it."
"Yes, Beta." They all chanted in unison.
"How are we going to explain this to the Alpha?" Ray asked.
"I have no idea. I know he hates hybrids and non-wolf creatures, but maybe he'll make an exception because she's a child."
"That's a big maybe you're betting on."
He was right, but it was the only hope I had. Julianna clung to my hand as we walked back to the pack house. I decided to mind like the Gamma's wife Sandra to come and watch over Julianna while I went to talk to Gregory. She didn't need to be anywhere near that conversation.
Sandra met us in the great room of the pack house. I didn’t tell her right away why I needed to speak with her. I was worried she wouldn’t believe me, or she would refuse to help out of fear of Alpha Gregory.
"Marvin," she said, slightly breathless. "What in the world?...." She stopped when she saw Julianna poke her head out from around the back of my leg. Her hand flew to her mouth. "Are you crazy, bringing a child into this pack house? I can smell she's a witch. What if the Alpha finds out?"
"That's why I need your help. I found her in the woods all alone and she's only three. How was I supposed to leave her out there? I'm going to talk to the Alpha about it now."
"You're dreaming if you think he'll let her stay."
"I have to try. She's a child, maybe he'll show a little mercy." I bent down to talk to Julianna at her level.
"Julianna, I have to go talk to someone and see if you will be able to stay here. This is Sandra, and she's going to watch over you while I'm gone. She's very nice, and I think you'll get along great." I looked up at Sandra, who came down next to me.
"Hello Julianna, it's very nice to meet you. Are you hungry?" She nodded her head.
"I bet if we go into the kitchen, Mrs. Fields, the head cook will have something delicious to eat." Sandra held out her hand and Julianna took it without hesitation. I watched them walk away towards the dining room before I made the journey up to the Alpha's office on the Alpha floor. On my way up, I mind linked him.
"Alpha, are you in your office?"
"Yes Marvin, what do you want?"
"I need to speak with you about an urgent matter. Do you have time right now?"
"I suppose I could give you a few minutes. As long as you get here quickly, I'm very busy."
"I'm almost there now." If you need to talk to the Alpha about something, you had better not mind link him until you are walking through the door. He wasn't a patient person, and he didn't like to have to wait on people. I knocked on the door.
"Come in." I pushed the door open, praying to the Moon Goddess I got out of this alive.