Fom the balcony, I witnessed Blake and his father as they approached the middle of the ring, standing face to face a fair distance away from one another. Their deep green eyes exchanged angry stares and both of them had their shoulder-length hair tied back. They were so alike physically; large build, brown hair and square jaws, yet so different in nature.
They didn’t shake hands, promising an honourable fight before the gong-gong sounded the start of the duel – a fight to the death that Blake had initiated to keep me safe. If his father won and remained as Alpha of the Skyland pack, he would probably choose to extract my blood so as not to have to keep me around. My blood was all he needed to break the blood curse my father had placed on him. There was nothing that said I had to be living when the curse was revoked. A curse which had stupidly landed me in all this mess.
Why the curse? Why had father wanted the Alpha bloodline to be wolves during the day and humans at night?
Hadn’t father realised how much trouble he’d put me in when he cast the spell on them? I guess he hadn’t anticipated he would die the moment after it had been done, though.
I looked up at the stands encircling the fighting ring under a sky that was shifting from the darkest night towards the beginning of the morning. Wolf shifters in human form were sitting on the edges of their seats, leaning forward and everyone was silent and staring intently at the two strong men who were just about to start a fight – a fight which no one could confidently guess the outcome to.
The palpable tension made me clutch at the corset of my court dress; it was a tight fit over my chest and didn’t allow for the balmy air to seep all the way to the bottom of my lungs. I was glad I was sitting down, even if it was next to the Alpha’s mate whose black dress was completely covered by chainmail and she wore black paint around her eyes: a look that made me feel utterly terrified. She looked strong, yet so dainty at the same time, with her long dark-brown hair hanging in streaks around her slim frame. At least her three guard wolves weren’t with her this time. I bet the King of Alphas hadn’t invited them to the balcony, as I could only see his own black-cape guards and a few of the Skyland pack’s blue-caped guards.
“Don’t dare to faint,” she suddenly demanded, her dark globes staring at me. “I want you to watch every drop of blood that is spilled so you bear witness to your shortcomings.”
How was this my fault?
I hadn’t in the slightest suggested that Blake should challenge his father, in fact, I had even told him not to duel. I had told him that I was going to help them revoke the blood curse anyway.
I turned my head to the seat in the middle of the balcony and watched as the King of Alphas crossed his arms over his chest, eagerly staring at the entertainment in the fighting ring immediately below us. Suddenly, my heart jumped, as I saw the relic King Jothem wore tied to a leather cord around his neck and which had been pushed towards my side as his chest heaved with laughter.
He has the Wolf Eye!
How had he got hold of the key to the Wolf Temple? He had not been there during the battle!
Although, it had been weeks since the battle at the Wolf Temple, so I guessed it was sufficient time for someone to have found it and sold it to him. The bottom line was that I needed it and I doubted he would give or even sell it to me.
Roars, coming from the audience sitting all around the colosseum, brought my attention back to Blake and Alpha Moon in the ring. Blindly loyal to their leader, the spectators were all clonking their ale mugs together cheering for the Skyland pack’s Alpha, and they would do so for whoever would have the Alpha title. Some of them were waving about lit torches that had been taken off the holders located by their seats. Hundreds of these torches were aligned along the spectators’ stand, helping to cast light over the battle ground.
Alpha Moon swung one arm back to gain momentum, seeming ready to sprint straight at Blake. I shifted my gaze over to Blake and saw him mirroring the move. In the next moment, they were both sprinting head on towards one another. A collision in the centre of the ring was imminent and the impact would unquestionably cause a spraying of blood over the thin layer of sand covering the rocky ground.
I couldn’t watch, but nor did I dare look away after the alpha mate’s warning. I glanced at her hardened face; her jaw was clenched and her stare intense. I looked back at the two men who were seconds away from slamming into each other.
I stopped breathing.
Blake’s fist only punched the air as Alpha Moon kneeled just in time to avoid his attack and jabbed his own fist at Blake’s abdomen. Blake bent double coughing and gasping for air. He looked annoyed with himself, as he straightened up tall, putting his hands up in front of his face for protection against the incoming punches.
I couldn’t watch and turned my head away to see King Jothem chuckle into his hand, seemingly amused at the beating he had expected to happen.
Oh Holy Fae Mother, Blake you have to make it.
Blake turned his head, risking a quick glance at me before he got his head back in the game.
Was he concerned that he hadn’t impressed me?
I hoped not, I didn’t want to be the distraction that killed him.
Calmly, Blake started treading on his footpads on the spot, focused on his father. Alpha Moon launched a flatfooted kick towards Blake’s ribcage which Blake deflected effortlessly with his forearm, so his father made a quick attempt at the other side of his ribcage but Blake blocked that with his other forearm. Quickly, straight after his defence, Blake round-kicked, striking out with his heel and scoring a perfect hit on his father’s chest. The Alpha stumbled backwards to the sound of booing spectators.
I tilted my head up towards the sky. “This is madness,” I whispered to the thousands of stars dotting the vast dark-blue canvas.
Alpha Moon regained his balance almost immediately and retaliated, pumping his fists at Blake’s sides. Blake’s muscles flexed as he received the punches. Guilt stung inside me at hearing Blake huff after each strike. Thankfully, he found his wits, ferociously slamming the heel of his palm on his father’s nose. Alpha Moon backed away cursing loudly, covering his nose with one hand; blood seeping out between his fingers.
Blake breathed through the short respite, leaning over, his hands supported by his knees.
I wished they had chosen to use weapons to settle this quickly and less painfully. This was pure torture to watch.
The Alpha looked even more angered than before, as he charged again at Blake, jumping squarely at him and wrestling him to the ground. They tumbled across the floor of the ring; nearer and nearer the moat, fighting to be the one coming out on top. Alpha Moon was the one who managed to stretch out a knee to lock himself from another tumble and from ending up underneath Blake. Towering over his son, he began jabbing punches at Blake’s head.
No! Blake! Get up, get up, get up!
I turned my head to search for mercy in the Alpha Mate’s eyes, but she was watching the fight with an expressionless stare.
I turned back to the fight and saw blood from split-open flesh all over Blake’s face.
I can’t stomach this.
I flew out of my chair grabbing onto the balustrade of the balcony, inhaling deeply so that I could scream at the top of my lungs.
“Blake, get up!” I took another deep breath. “Get up!”
Alpha Moon was killing him.
I felt hysterical but couldn’t do anything other than bounce on my seat and scream out. I breathed out in rapid spurts and pinched my eyes tightly closed, hoping the Alpha’s mate wouldn’t notice.
Suddenly, I felt a large hand on my shoulder pulling me back and pushing me down onto my seat.
“Sit down!” someone behind me growled.
I looked back and saw a black-caped guard; one belonging to the King of Alphas.
I turned towards the king and detected a displeased look on his face. I swallowed hard but my attention was drawn once more to the ring, as I heard Blake roar. It sounded as if he was gathering all his strength and in the next moment, he had pushed his father back off him, got up and was jogging in the opposite direction to put some distance between themselves. Blake was swaying as he rested, blood continuing to trickle down his face and onto his torso. The Alpha didn’t want to give him any rest though, and barged after him.
Blake raised his fists, readying himself and when the Alpha was within reach Blake appeared to gather his strength, more determined than ever; landing explosive blows all over the Alpha who held his arms up trying to protect himself. Blake roared, seeming to amass all his pent-up anger behind his punches.
This was the first time I saw Blake’s mother move. She cocked her head to look at the ever-lightening sky after the blackest part of the night had passed.
I couldn’t even guess what she wanted the outcome to be. Was she favouring her son or her mate?
Suddenly, Blake ceased his attack and both father and son craned their necks towards the sky howling. It was morning and the curse would take effect. Without a choice, the wolf in them took form. This would change the battle drastically. Now, they had weapons; fangs and claws.
At the same time, they both folded onto all fours, Blake being the larger beast of the two of them.
Other than the difference in size, it was hard to tell them apart, as they boasted the same features and colour patterns.
No hesitation lingered between them as drool spat from sharp fangs and teeth snapped threateningly at the air; both growling from the pits of their guts.
The crowd was roused to a new level and some even shifted themselves, howling nervously at the fading moon.
Blake aggressively pranced on top of his father, biting his neck. The Alpha defended himself and I could only see a tumbling ball of fur and blood skidding across the battle ring. For one short instant, the wolves separated, Blake having slammed against his father’s flank as he lurched to one side. Alpha Moon was on his feet soon enough though and didn’t hesitate before launching himself into the fight once more.
Blake was so fast at getting away from the Alpha’s incoming fangs that to my eyes, he was just a blur of grey and white. By the time I could distinguish them, Blake had his jaw clasped over Alpha Moon’s neck, weighing him down.
Alpha Moon stopped growling and quiet descended on the ring, as he slowly sunk lower and lower towards the ground. The Skyland pack on the stands all sat down and there was complete silence; a silence signifying that everyone was holding their collective breath, their hearts pounding with a burning beat.
Time seemed to pass in slow-motion, as Blake held his father in a tight grip. Alpha Moon’s chin finally touched the ground and his eyes closed.
I heard a soft sigh just beside me and twisted to see tears rolling down the Alpha Mate’s cheeks. She stood up abruptly and without me realising what she was up to, she moved to stand behind my chair, pressing a dagger at my throat.
“Let him go Blake, or I’ll kill the Fae Queen!”