“Behold your beloved Alphas,” Emilian said pitifully with his eyebrows raised, as if he were speaking to a handful of dull six year olds. He stepped out of their view and swept his hands across the coffins. “You can see that this is indeed Daciana and Stefan. We have unearthed the true pair and this is not some farce. Note that she has no markings on her body. She was never truly mated.” There were gasps as the group crowded in closer, jostling each other to get a better view.
“It’s true!” He heard one say. There would be anger at Stefan for his actions, but there would also be pain over the betrayal of the ones that were pledged to protect them.
“We want to hear from Vasile! We want to know what our Alpha has to say!” A shout sounded out above the rising murmurings of the crowd.
And so it begins, thought Emilian as a sly smile stretched across his face.
“Are you just going to rush out there with fangs bared and claws unsheathed?” Alin asked before Vasile could reach the doorway to the hall. “Perhaps, it would be wiser to let one of us go assess the situation.”
“My parents’ bodies have been disturbed from their resting place and now lie open, before the Great Luna and the rest of the world, with my mother’s bare back showing. So, yes, I am going to run out there with my fangs bared ready to tear into the mongrel that would do such a thing. What part of the situation, exactly, do you think you need to assess?” Vasile’s voice was slow and deliberate and the underlying threat beneath it made it clear that Alin’s answer had better be to the Alpha’s liking.
“I do not doubt your ability to defend yourself, Alpha,” Alin began carefully. “But, many times I have heard not only you but also your father say that only fools rush in. I plead with you now to hold your wolf until you know all the players and what their motives are.”
“I agree with him, Vasile,” Ion said and Nicu nodded as well.
Vasile did not like to consider himself a fool, and he knew that if three of his wolves were telling him to slow down, then maybe he had better listen. His wolf wanted to tear through the castle out into the courtyard and start ripping flesh from bone, but there was a reason that the Great Luna joined the strength of the wolf with the wisdom of the man. He turned back from the door and looked at the three wolves who stood waiting for his decision and his command.
“Fine, I will wait, but before you go out there, there is something you all need to know.” He took a deep breath as the weight of the world, and something even more than that, settled on his shoulders. He suddenly felt tired, worn, and hollow, as though everything inside of him had been poured out right there on the floor and now only a husk was left. He told them everything he had told Anghel—about his father losing his true mate, about him falling in love with his mother despite the fact that she was not his true mate, and about how they kept the secret all these years. He told them about the tattoos and the plan for one of them to take their life in the event of the other’s death. He told them of their love for each other and how still it had not been enough to save his father from the darkness. He thought he would be emotional if he ever had to tell the story again, but for some reason there was nothing―no sadness, no grief, no anger―just nothing.
“Vasile,” Nicu said. “Are you alright, Alpha?”
Vasile rubbed his forehead as though that might somehow wipe away the headache that had begun to pulsate behind his eyes and he nodded slowly. “I am fine. I have dealt with their loss and cannot fault them for choosing a life together. Up until a decade or so ago my father was a good Alpha. He wasn't perfect, but he loved this pack, and he continued to love it. He just could not show it the way he needed to.”
“We do not hold it against your parents,” Alin spoke for the three of them and the others muttered their agreement.
“Someone has discovered that my parents were not true mates.” Vasile motioned towards the window. “And now they are alerting the pack of their Alphas’ treachery. They will not want me as their Alpha, regardless of my standing with them; they will see me as the product of a lie and they will not trust me.”
“Not everyone,” Ion argued.
“The majority will and that is all it takes for an Alpha to lose control of his pack.”
“Who knew this information besides you?” Alin asked.
“I told only Anghel, just days after their deaths. And I told my mate.”
“Would he…,” Alin started but was cut off.
“No, neither would Alina,” Vasile said as he shook his head adamantly. “He would not have told anyone save his mate, but then I consider them one so what I said to him I knew he would say to her. If I had been worried that she would not be able to keep it to herself, then I would not have even told Anghel.”
Ion had once again made his way back over to the window. His eyes narrowed on the crowd below. His jaw tightened as he finally was able to make out who was leading the mob. “Emilian.” The name rumbled in his chest.
“Anghel’s Beta?” Vasile looked at Ion. “Is he out there?”
“He is the traitor,” Ion said as he watched the man who he knew was ambitious enough to dig up someone’s body, even that of a beloved Alpha, in order to gain whatever it was he wanted. Emilian called out to the crowd, taunting them as he encouraged their agitation to grow.
Vasile’s eyes narrowed. “Anghel would not have told Emilian. The only reason Emilian is his Beta is because no one has won a challenge against him, but Anghel does not trust him.”
“Why does he not kill him then?” Nicu growled.
“Because without due cause that is called murder, Nicu,” Alin answered for Vasile.
“Only if you are caught,” Nicu muttered.
“What would you have us do, Alpha?” Ion asked, ignoring the argument between Alin and Nicu. Though he spoke to Vasile, his eyes were still on the crowd.
Vasile’s initial response had been to go out and declare war. Seeing his parents’ bodies, lifeless and showing the beginnings of decay, had angered him. But now after telling his three top wolves, wolves that had served his father for so long, about the lies they had been told, he could not justify a war. The pack needed a strong Alpha in this turbulent time. He would not step down. He knew what it took to keep a pack together, he understood just how strong an Alpha needed to be, and he refused to let his pack fall under the leadership of someone not capable of keeping control.