423 Brown and Ecstatic
Drake Sirius froze at the sight of paws in mint condition. The pain that had plagued him during his mad dash was gone. What was more was that his wolf retreated to the back of his mind, like its mission had been accomplished.
The prince was still trembling from the near-death experience… but something else comforted him.
…He hadn’t brought anyone with him this time. If he had come with someone during these Trials, he would have had trouble protecting them from something like this. Were the rogues behind this sudden development?
Mountains didn’t suddenly change their topography without a trigger.
If this had been an earthquake, the trees in the surrounding forest would have been affected and much more than the Mountain pass would have been taken down in the ensuing destruction.
He had questions… but questions that added to more questions that plagued him. ‘Nearly two years of nothing… And yet, my gut tells me that it’s when we should have been worried the most.’
The prince blocked a deluge of memories and shifted into his human form. He had questions, but standing around wasn’t going to get him any answers. He retrieved the map that had been guiding him thus far and started studying it.
Without the Mountain pass, he was going to have to change his entire plan. There was a creek that came out one side of the mountain not far south of the mountain pass. The contours surrounding the creek made him scrunch his brows. This can’t be right, can it?’
The lines that told altitude changes suggested an anomaly with this creek. What was more was that it didn’t wind around the peaks. The creek went winding up the mountain, almost like it came from the very top.
It was clear the creek was coming from the peaks of the mountain. Going up the creek was one option but that meant going over the freezing peaks of the Great Sirius mountains. Drake shuddered at the thought of having to get that high into the air. Not to mention the air was thinner the higher one went. ‘The Trials just got a lot more difficult. I wonder what Little Sister will do about this… Good luck, Little Sister.’
If I hunt now, I should be able to make it to the other side of the mountain before I need to hunt again. I can collect water from the creek. It might be freezing, but well, I’m not in the palace. Can’t get picky, right?
Finally making his choice, Drake wrapped up the map, shifted and started the journey south.
At the same scene of this devastation, among the top rubble that covered the plugged corridor, a hand stuck out through the pebbles and dust announcing the life of one of the three rogues that had been watching Cole… waiting for the right moment.
Victor forced himself out from underneath the rubble and tried dusting his browned self to no avail, ‘That didn’t go exactly according to plan.’
There was a ledge near the top of the steep escarpments that had allowed the rogues access to a front-row seat watching the prince meet his doom. This ledge, despite their meticulous calculation, had crumbled as well.
Victor had to run as fast as his average werewolf strength could manage. He could have made it if he was Drake… or at least a delta, but the same royal had stripped him of that power. This was the source of his hatred towards Drake.
At some point, he switched from trying to get the prince to forgive him to trying to kill the prince so that his commands would lose effect.
His incessant obsession with getting revenge also contributed to his carelessness and his scheme hadn’t gone according to plan. The three of them had fallen when the narrow path couldn’t hold out any longer as well. Fortunately for them, this path was among the last things to give way and when they fell down, the fall wasn’t that high and the rubble that hit them was minimal.
Victor was covered in numerous small cuts and bruises. He could feel many parts of his body aching as well, but he was alive and he could walk.
In the end, he survived. A dark chuckle left his lips, slowly building up to a loud evil cackle that rumbled across the blocked gorge, “What is wrong with you? Are you trying to get them to hear you?” one of his rogue cronies who was only getting up as well asked him.
“Oh no, it doesn’t matter now. There is no way that fraud of a royal could have survived this… We… I succeeded. The prince is dead and it can all be considered some unfortunate accident,” the man continued to cackle, his bliss getting out of hand, “My revenge… finally… take that, smug self-righteous bastard. In the end, what did those worthless virtues get you?” his cackling continued, however, this time he started stomping on the rubble beneath him almost like he wanted his words to reach the dead prince several feet beneath the rubble.
The third rogue looked at him wide-eyed and shook his head in disbelief, “This dude’s insane. You can stop celebrating now. That was far too easy to kill a royal. We’ll have to look for another royal to at least get confirmation from their conversations.
They are more connected to each other than normal wolves, so if he is indeed dead, they will feel it. That’s one way we can know that something happened. If they are stricken by grief.”
Victor finally got a hold of himself, even if he couldn’t wipe the mad grin off his face, “You’re right… the looks on their faces will certainly be golden.
Oh, that moment when that large boulder trapped him in the pass was the best. I couldn’t help it… the excitement was almost too much to contain. It’s sad that the ledge had to start trembling at that moment and the dust became impossible to see through.”
“This path that we’ve destroyed was an important route for both rogues and humans alike. Let’s hope the rogue king likes the way you’ve wasted it. I’ve seen some messed-up rogues before… Even the generals seem to have a screw or two loose… but you, you’re something else,” the other rogue chuckled, “Now let’s head off to the Great Arena.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment… and we won’t need to go to the Great Arena. We merely need to trail the next royal that’s going to come through here. Lina Sirius will offer us all the confirmation we need,” the man chuckled darkly, “Who knows? We might just be able to bring her some share of misfortune. If she chooses to use the river to make her way across, getting rid of anything that can keep her warm will increase her chances of dying from the cold at the top of the mountain.”
“You’re vile, Victor,” the taller rogue with a deep voice confirmed. Despite the other’s appearances, he wasn’t as dirty. In fact, he looked clean in comparison to the rest and Victor was now just noticing it.
“Hey, how did you stay clean?” Victor asked.
“I got lucky. I held onto a jutting rock from the crumbling road while the mountain caved in. That part didn’t crumble and I simply had to wait out the tremors,” the man said to him.
Victor shrugged and led his cronies back over the rubble on the mountain pass in the direction opposite that of the Great Arena. They followed him, doing their best to ignore the mad grin that wouldn’t vanish from his face. He was ecstatic.
“Isn’t he getting ahead of himself? We’d feel something if the prince had died, right,” the shorter man asked his taller comrade.
“Just let him be. There is no point in trying. As for whether we would be able to feel the prince’s death, I don’t know. The moment one chooses to become a rogue, they are cut off from the moon goddess’s sight.
Our wolves even start to turn into the common dirty grey and we look the same as ordinary wolves. I don’t think we’d feel the death of a royal at all,” the taller and seemingly more composed rogue replied, sighing. He could see no point in trying to advise the man while his mind continued to feed him with dreams of a world without Drake Sirius.
“But do we really have to shift again? We just got these coats,” the shorter rogue whined, finally realising the implication of their new mission.
“We’ll find another stash of clothes. I’m not comfortable travelling in human form. Have you any idea what dangers lie in these mountains?” the taller rogue was quick to argue… but that’s also when he realised that his companions had no idea what he was talking about.
“What… kind of dangers?”
A silence took over them… ‘This is going to be a long lecture.’