As the pyre was set up, all the eyes of the pack wolves were on the children of their deceased Alpha and Luna.
Milana Rhodes, the eldest was only ten and Nilon Rhodes, the younger son was only six. Their grandfather, Marco Rhodes, stood right behind them, his comforting hands placed on both of the crying children's shoulders.
They had become orphaned at such a young age.
"Momma..." Nilon whimpered as he hugged his sister.
Mila tried to stifle her cries - she had to be strong. She was her parents' daughter. She could not fall weak.
Everyone watched as the Beta brought the ceremonial flame from the top of the Western Wind Mountains - it burnt blue, almost white.
The Western Wind Pack's founder was a hybrid - half-wolf and half-wizard. Unlike the normal custom where the Alpha bloodline or the strongest of the Pack took over the leadership, in Western Wind it was the nature which decided up on the next Alpha. So you couldn't challenge the Alpha for his or her position, there was no use, because the chances of the slayer of a chosen Alpha becoming his or her predecessor was little to nil.
As Marco Rhodes lit the pyres, wolves howled, grieving the death of their dear leaders who had led their pack to prosperity in the last twelve years.
Light shone on the pyre and every eyes turned up to the sky.
Tears blurred her vision as Mila's eyes felling on the snowflake the size of her hand. It descended from the sky - the crowning flake - it was how the next Alpha was chosen.
As the flake moved closer to the children, everyone gasped. It would be a disaster if one of the children were to be crowned Alpha. They hadn't had their first shift and an Alpha before their first shift remained wolfless for life. The pups had just lost their family, the founder would not be so cruel as to take away a part of who they are from them, would he?
But to the chagrin and sadness of every single soul present there, the crowning flake placed itself on the blond hair of the ten year old Mila, forming a silvery white circlet around it, a tiny crescent moon appearing behind her ear lobe.
"Alpha Milana Rhodes." Beta Gerald Hamilton said solemnly and little Mila, who had no idea what was going on except the fact that her parents had left her and were never coming back, watched as the wolves knelt to the ground and bared their neck in submission to their new leader.
"Wawhawawha!" Mila yawned obnoxiously as she leaned back on her chair, squinting at the strategy map that was placed in front of her. She took out her father's ring from her finger - while he used to wear the white gold on his ring finger, only her thumb was big enough for it. She looked through it and she checked the map from every single angle.
"Move the watch tower from here to here." She moved one of the replicas and then took a spare one from the box kept at the side. "And add a new one here."
"Is that necessary Alpha?" Councilman Larry had to ask.
"No, she is adding those because she is bored." Gerald growled. Larry was an incorrigible sexist and the Beta did not like it when his daughter-like figure was anywhere near ill-wishers such as him. "Do as told, Councilman. The Alpha had made enough revenue to make this possible."
Mila looked over at her father's best friend and smiled. He was fifty now but he refused to step down from his position. He said that he would serve his Alpha until his last breath and he was determined to see it through.
"How do you feel, Mil?" He asked affectionately.
She looked over at him. She knew exactly what he was talking about. Their pack was under imminent attack and they were preparing for the storm that was to come. But she was confident to win this fight. She had won every single war against her pack.
Alpha Milana Rhodes believed in peace but when it came to defending her pack, she used all ammunition and manpower necessary to finish off the enemy. She was indeed the true Alpha. The crowning flake, after all, never chose wrong.
"I am sure they would want a duel more than bloodshed." She said confidently. "They are infiltrating our territory. We know our land better and our wolves and historically stronger, not to mention more accustomed to the numbing cold. And Alpha Terrence Covens-" She took a deep breath to calm herself as she took his name. "Alpha Terrence Covens is a very smart wolf. He would obviously go for a duel."
"That is not what I was talking about..." Gerald sighed.
Mila turned to him and sighed. Of course she knew what he was talking about.
The said tyrannical Alpha, who was blinded with the greed of taking over all the resourceful territories of North America, was none other than her own mate. Her own mate who wouldn't hesitate to put a silver bullet through her brain if that meant he got to take Western Wind. He really didn't care about the mate bond and she couldn't care less about a wolf that had no respect for life.
It was at the Were-council that they had met for the first time. She remembered the day way too clearly for her own liking.
"I don't get why I am brought here." Nilon huffed as he stared at all the authoritative wolves walking by. And then he looked at his sister, with her blond hair in a pixie cut and with the streaks of silver, she looked no less authoritative. But then again, she was a natural Alpha, wasn't she?
"The next in line should be brought." Gamma Trisha told him for the hundredth time. "And it doesn't matter that we don't have a natural successor."
Western Wind was the only pack in the whole of North America founded by a hybrid so it almost always conflicted with the rules of the Were council, but as long as it brought no harm to anyone and restricted to matters pertaining to only the pack members, the council kindly stayed away. Not because they respected them, but because time and time again, the magic of the were-wizard who founded the pack and made itself known when they tried to intervene.
"I am bored." Nilon said.
Mila looked over at her brother and smiled, "You think we are enjoying ourselves? I can't wait to get this over with."
Laughter reached their ears and they looked over at the Beta, Gerald, laughing among a few Lunas. He was always a ladies' man.
"Is he trying to start a war?" Trisha snickered while Mila shook her head with a laugh. The wolf had never found his mate and though he remained faithful and waited for her until his thirties, he had completely given up later on in life and moved on. He had first married a she-wolf with a dead mate but you never get to stick to another person when your mate is still alive so they had gotten shortly divorced. And he had been hopping around from woman to woman since.
Murmurs filled the room and the trio saw alert wolves. Gerald quickly made his way to his pack members, his eyes wide.
"What is it?" Trisha asked.
"The Red Alpha is coming."
Mila stared at her Beta for a moment.
The Red Alpha.
The Alpha of the Red River Pack.
The most feared, the cruelest of them all.
"Nilo, go back to the hotel room." She said.
Nilon was confused. The sixteen year old didn't know who this wolf was. "Why?"
"Listen to the Alpha, pup." Gerald turned to him.
Nilon sighed and he looked around; all the Lunas and pups were leaving the room. What was happening?
"Go." Mila said one last time and Nilon joined the group of wolves leaving the room. He turned around just for a second to see the opposite door swung open and a huge wolf in a black fur coat walked.
Nilon's eyes widened as the door closed; that wolf had wolf fur on him. He killed and skinned wolves, despite being one himself.
Mila was seeing the infamous wolf for the first time as well. In her ten years as Alpha, he had never made an appearance. But now he had.
But while others were busy scurrying away from him or staring at him with pure rage or fear, she was lost.
He was studying the room and his cold grey eyes finally met her forest green ones and just like that, the invisible bond that would bind their souls together forever was forged.
He looked unfazed by it, almost as if he saw this as some kind of an inconvenience, an abomination.
And for Mila, this was a big mistake the Moon Goddess had made; a fatal error that could cost her her everything.
Why was she bound to him? Why did it have to be him out of the billions of the wolves out there?
But as the two tried to resist the bond, they couldn't help but say out loud for the whole of the room to hear,