Chapter 3

1970 Words
On the sprawling grass stands five men, each man has one accompanying party and in front of them is one single trainer. Rhys is the last in the line, each of the men has a large space between them. Rhys doesn’t even glance sideways at his four half brothers. He just stares straight ahead of him at the trainer. This man is one of the most decorated warriors in the royal's illustrious army. He is considered the most skilled and one of the strongest in the pack. Once a month, he runs training for the five candidates to the throne as a special assignment. It is important that the five are on a semi-consistent level of training in an effort to keep everything fair before the trails begin. Outside this single day, the Princes are expected to organize their own training and improve their own skills. This once monthly training is to add to the skills and teach advanced movements that will become a staple when one eventually takes the throne. It is less about training and more about the exhibition of skills. The future king needs to be powerful, the most powerful out of five impressive wolves. While Rhys is concentrating on the trainer, the trainer is looking back down the line, his voice getting lost in the wind. "Umm…yep….form looks good Rhys... Just keep going with that" He doesn’t look at Rhys at all, doesn’t see his stance, doesn’t see his feet are wrong and even he did, he would never correct it. Rhys doesn’t call him back as he walks to Leiden, because even if Rhys was to complain it would just be more of the same. Rhys looks toward Leiden, trying to mimic the move as the trainer manipulates Leiden’s body into place, giving him a slowed down step-by-step detailed instruction, but of course they are so far apart it is hard for Rhys to hear what is said between the two. As usual, the training has gathered a crowd, another present from his father, because it would be wrong for half the pack to not witness his lack of favor, the utter humiliation of being disregarded at every step. Rhys looks down at his feet, there is something wrong, he just can’t put his finger on it. All his life he has to make things up, some things he is proud to say come out better than the original, but most are just pointless. Rhys feels a force behind him and swivels as he watches Ve knock into him. "What the hell Ve? Why are you so damn clumsy?" Ve swallows it all down even though it is becoming harder to do. She has taken everything that has been thrown at her, her whole life, but now that one person she believed cared… "Sorry sire" Ve bows her head, her arms crossed in front of her, her hands held together with flat palms looking submissive as she backs up quickly, falling back to her original position. Rhys shakes his head as he faces the front, his whole posture feeling much more stable, he glances down at his feet which are slightly manipulated and that makes all the difference. Rhys leaps into the air performing the large kick combo, executing it with perfection to a round of applause from the on-lookers. Rhys may not be the most favored son, he may even be the son that is shunned, yet he is still a prince and it just so happens that he is the most handsome of the brothers and has gained himself his own little fanclub. It might also be helped by the fact that it is only Rhys and one other of the five that hasn't found their mates, even in his position, he is still classified as hot property. The trainer looks sideways at Rhys, he only caught it out of the corner of his eye, but the movement appeared cleaner than his own demonstration. He has no idea how Rhys flourishes in the neglect. He curses, knowing that word will have already got back to the king, and he will be stuck on night border patrol for the rest of the month as punishment. It is an impossible task to keep Rhys behind when they all have to be seen to do the same thing. Rhys looks around him, looking for Arrabella in the crowd but failing to spot her. He looks at Ve, throwing her a cheesy smile. "Pretty impressive huh?" "It was sire" Ve stares at the ground in front of Rhys’ feet. It feels like a lifetime ago when she learned the same move. It was met with applause and congratulations. Ve stares at the vibrant green of the grass and a glimmer of a tear shimmers over her dull violet eyes, never a single drop falls. Her lack of enthusiasm dampens Rhys' spirit. "Fine, lets go" Rhys walks from the grounds and Twelve falls in line behind him. Rhys can see his brothers trying the move with varying degrees of success in his peripheral vision. He doesn’t even care, he needs to eat, he needs to find Arrabella, and he needs to somehow gain some motivation to attend the next horrendous task. He managed to get out of training unscathed, his luck isn’t so good that he expects the same again. *** In the most extravagant part of the castle is a hallway, intricate gold detailing lines the otherwise white walls showing the excessive wealth and grandeur of the royal family. While the decorating was done a century ago, it looks so beautiful, clean and delicate as if it was completed only yesterday. In the hallways stands five bodies dressed in black, all with pin straight spines, silent, stoic, imposing. Loud footsteps are heard as a middle-aged man comes into view, he has a littering of gray through his sandy blonde hair, his short-cut beard shows more gray as it wraps around his strong jawline. His amber eyes shine as he walks at a fast pace down the silent corridor. Flanking him are two equally imposing men, both dressed in black. The king slows as he nears the gold-painted double doors, his eyes running over the five silent figures with their heads bowed to him. There are five figures, four standing at an impressive height, four with shoulders so large that they struggle to fit through a standard doorway, there is so much muscle wrapping four sets of arms and fours sets of legs. Four black shirts do nothing to hide the impressive pectoral muscles and chiseled abdominals of four men. Amber eyes survey the final in the line, the figure that is the closest to the door. She looks like a leprechaun in a land of giants. He stifles a laugh, each and every time it never ceases to amuse him. Twelve, the biggest f*ck you he could ever deliver. The gift that just keeps giving. He smirks as he passes her. Her aura is so weak that he still has no idea how she has survived this long. She must be the luckiest person to live, second only to him. ***Fifteen years earlier*** The bright sun is high in the sky beating down its yellow rays, bathing the ground in warmth and light. A group stands on a large grassed area. On first appearance, the whole place is set up like a school, but that may be the occupants that lead the uninformed to such a conclusion, because on a closer inspection it looks more like a military barracks. Transportable buildings, identical looking for boarding or classroom. There is state-of-the-art training equipment, weaponry, obstacle courses. There is everything a child would need to grow and develop at first glance. On second, there is not a single toy, no play equipment, nothing of color, not a single soft texture or gentle sound. There are only rough edges, harsh conditions, and ruthless, never-ending training. Dangerous weapons, pain, injuries. On the grass bathed in the sunlight, fourteen children stand in a single file line. Their ages range between twelve and fourteen. Each candidate has superior bloodlines and impressive height and build even at such a young age. Their aura and strength radiating off them long before they have access to their wolves. As if talent is a physical being, circling the few. All eyes are on a single figure. "Who would you like last sire?" Alaric purses his lips as he looks down the row of boys. There is very little variation. One looks like the next, looks like the next, looks like the next, there is no distinguishing features, all approximately the same appearance, all approximately the same height. Even very little variation in expression, facial features or hair color, as if such harsh training at such a young age has chased away every last shred of personality and the group have become one single being. His eyes are drawn to a single girl in the center of the line. He didn't even notice her at first. A beautiful little girl, her luxurious brown hair cascades around her shoulders, even from a distance two violet eyes shine, she has a touch of rose color on each of her pale cheeks and even though there is not a smile on her face, there is a smile in her eyes. She looks like an angel in the midst of demons. So incredibly out of the place that it is almost comical. "What is she?" The trainer, Cohen, frowns a little at the question. He knows the king must have phrased it wrong, so he answers. "Her name is Twelve" "Twelve? As in the number?" Alaric asks the question but cares little about the answer. Her name could be anything. A number is just as meaningless as any standard name. "Yes sir" Alaric looks at the girl, his insidious mind filled with vindictive ideas. "And she is a candidate, not just someone's child that has jumped in the line?" It must be a prank, it has to be a joke, one of his own men laying out the ideal situation. "Yes sir, I know she…." Alaric feels excitement bubbling through his veins. Revenge is sweet and the easiest form of revenge is staring at him with violet eyes. He cuts Cohen off. There's only one word that matters to him and that is yes. "How old is she?" "We think she is about ten" Alaric manages to hold back the laugh that is threatening to burst from his throat. This just keeps getting better and better. She is so much younger than the others, so as well as starting from such a disadvantaged position, being so much weaker and lacking skill, she will not receive her wolf until well after the others. She won't even get her wolf until a year after Rhys. She will be playing a catch-up game her entire life, so weak, so helpless, so completely inappropriate for the task at hand. But by all appearances, he is doing the right thing. It isn’t his fault that someone so unsuitable was in the lineup. He can only be seen to assume that anyone in that line was worthy. It can’t come back at him. "That is it. I've made my final selection. That girl will be one of the five elite bodyguards" Cohen's eyebrows rise in surprise, but he just nods in reverence to the king. "Well done sire, you have…." Alaric waves his hand in dismissal as he turns and quickly walks away with a long stride, the laugh finally erupting when he's far enough away. His amber eyes shining in vengeance. He had no idea how this would go, but it exceeded all expectations. He doesn’t have to manipulate the situation because it is already so perfect.
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