“You, I knew it was you all along!” I declared, glaring over at Bran.
It all made so much sense. Of course, Bran would want to win the alpha leadership. He orchestrated a plan that framed Daniel and then he decided to cheat to ensure that things went his way. He was the most suspicious person from the beginning!
“Did what?” Bran shrugged, showing no reaction to my accusatory glare, “You mean that guy in the black back there? I have no clue who he is or what he was about. Treena will handle it for me. My only interest in appearing now has been you.”
The werewolf leered down at my chest in an uncomfortable way, and I found myself fighting the urge to cover up. For the first time since I had ripped my shirt off, I felt completely naked. I could already feel the extra energy and strength draining from me. The venom that Victor had given me was starting to dissipate. Fear started to settle in its place. I covered my chest with one arm, keeping my glare aimed at him like a defensive shield.
“What about me?” I asked, trying to stall for time so that I could think of something.
Bran began to swagger towards me, “Oh, my family has long memories. Long memories indeed. My grandpa, I admired the man. He was in prison, but still, I visited him. He used to regale me in stories of returning the werewolves back into a tribe of warriors. He wanted to set us on the path of honor again. I long for a day when there are no longer shirtless teenage boy eye candy that human women lust after. I long for a day when werewolves regain the respect and the honor they had, as feared monsters of the night.”
“What does that have to do with me?” I asked, taking a step back as Bran continued to move forward.
“My grandfather also used to regale me of the story of a human girl that took it all away from him. He has been waiting behind his prison cell for the last fifty years. He found out a few things. He found out she was from the future. He found out her name. Everyone used to think that he was crazy. He was that crazy old wolf in prison that had lost his marbles.
“However, suddenly, you showed up. You have the same name, the same appearance, and the same tenacity to get into other people’s business. Even I had my doubts at first, but I have none now. You are the woman that ruined his plans so long ago. Oh, how pleased my grandfather will be when he gets out of prison to find your head on a pike.”
“You… you can’t do that. If you’re caught, you’ll be penned for murder.” I responded defensively, backing up a few steps as I looked around me, hoping to find a weapon or something to defend myself.
Bran shrugged, “So what? In a few hours, I’ll be Alpha. I’ll just pardon myself of this crime.”
I thought about it for a second and then shook my head. “You need two pardons for your grandpa. There were two official crimes that put him in jail. Your last pardon will need to go to Daniel.”
Bran laughed, “And why would I pardon Daniel? I have him exactly where I want him to be. The sniffling little goody-two-shoes. His family lineage has always been mocking ours, stealing from ours. He can hang. In fact, the two of you can hang together. How romantic.”
“Is that how it is?” A voice came from the forest.
Bran’s laugh was cut short as he turned toward the direction of the incoming voice. Treena moved out into the small clearing. She was dragging the man in black behind her. She had a very noticeable limp and numerous gashes on her stomach and arms. I was shocked she was even still standing. She looked particularly tough though. As for the black-cloaked man, he was clearly unconscious. Bran quickly smoothed out his face. He seemed to be acting like he hadn’t said anything.
Treena dropped the black cloaked man down on the floor, and his hood popped off to reveal the face of a young man, “It’s Ness, the elder’s son. Is he one of yours?”
Bran tittered nervously, “Mine? Why would I try to stop you?”
“And what about her?” she nodded to me. “Is what you just said true? We had an agreement, Bran. I fight these battles as your future mate, and you pardon Daniel of his crime.”
“Oh, Treena, I was just trying to intimidate the girl,” He waved his hand dismissively, “It was for you. You want her to quit without getting hurt. I was just hoping to scare her out of the race. Get her to leave so you won’t have to knock her unconscious and risk a concussion. You know how fragile these humans can be. With your werewolf strength, you’d be as likely to kill her as knock her out.”
Treena frowned but seemed to be considering his words. Her hesitation seemed to bolster Bran’s confidence. He relaxed and a toothy smile formed on his lips.
“Now go ahead, take her out. She’s the last werewolf standing beside you, as surprising as that sounds. One last simple human, and then I can be Alpha and your Daniel will be free.”
“He’s lying!” I stammered, suddenly finding myself worried about what Treena would do.
Treena abandoned the person she was dragging and then began walking toward me. I took a step back as she approached. That was it? Everything I had been through would end just like that? I had no more strength. The venom was gone. I couldn’t do anything to fight a werewolf, even an injured one. I needed more power. I needed more strength. A fire began to well up inside me. It started small at first, but it seemed to grow steadily larger and larger. The full moon above me seemed to draw at me, compel me.
Treena brushed by and I blinked myself back to reality. The fire was still there, continuing to grow. It felt like energy, untapped energy welling within that I could use at the drop of a hat. I suppressed it, but only just barely. The moon seemed to call me, beckoning me like a siren. I felt a strange regret that she didn’t attack me. This energy needed to be used. It felt like a pressure, like I might explode.
The female werewolf approached Bran, who took several nervous steps back. She put her face directly into his, causing Bran to flinch.
“We’re through, I’ll find a real mate who deserves me,” Treena spat, turning away and heading back to me.
She had clearly dismissed him in her eyes. That’s why his next movement came without any warning. Bran lunged for Treena’s back. His body transformed into a full werewolf form at a speed that only could happen during a full moon. His claws were raised to kill. The moment I saw this, the moon exploded in my vision. The power I could barely contain erupted out like a fiery volcano. I had to put that power somewhere, so I moved it into my feet and hands.
Bran seemed to move forward in slow motion. Treena was only just starting to turn as his claws slashed down in a clearly deadly attack. My feet sprung forth, and the world around me blurred. For some reason, I knew I could get between the two before he struck. I barely even saw the movement, but I found myself next to Treena a split second later. His claws were still descending down. He didn’t even have time to react to my sudden appearance.
I grabbed his claws and twisted, feeling his bones breaking in my hands. I reached to the side and then backhanded the werewolf. The force clapped as my hand struck him. He flew back into a tree ten feet away. His body slammed into it with a concussive force that ripped the tree from the roots. A massive cracking sound preceded the tree toppling over, away from the direction Bran landed. Only then did the world seem to return back to normal.
Treena completed her turn and then stared at the scene I had caused. I was in the same state of shock as she was. The pair of us could only stare dumbfounded at the spectacle before us. Then Treena looked down at my body and gasped. My eyes followed her vision, and I exclaimed when I saw what she saw. My hand wasn’t my hand at all. It was the hand of a werewolf, complete with long, vicious looking claws.
“You seemed too fast for a normal human. Too fast and too strong. At the obstacle course, I knocked you down on purpose. On purpose, because I was afraid you a mere human would beat me. It was wrong of me, I admit that. However, humans can’t do what you do. Humans definitely can’t partially transform into a werewolf.” Treena looked back at me with a serious look on her face. “What are you, Jane?”
Her question tugged at me viciously. I was just Jane Avergail. I had nothing particularly special about me. Yet, I had summoned magical swords, and I was growing werewolf parts. This was not the normal behavior of a teenage girl! I know they talk about puberty, but this wasn’t what I had in mind at all!
“I wish I knew,” I finally spoke with a dumbfounded expression on my face.
Treena sighed, taking a step back. Then her feet gave way and she fell over. I reached out, barely catching her before she hit the ground. She looked up at me helplessly, clearly unable to return to her feet.
“The assassin got me, the bastard got the knife in me.” Treena admitted. “I’m not going to be awake much longer. Pull my flare. It looks like you win.”
She pulled a flare gun out of her pocket, handing it to me. I hesitated as I looked down at the noble and strong werewolf. At the end of the day, I was last because of pure luck. If anyone deserved to win this thing. It was her.
“Go ahead,” She urged, “You’ve earned it.”
“You deserve to be the alpha.” I said softly.
She jerked for a second, seeming to look at me with strange eyes. “I’m… a woman… I could never be alpha.”
“You’re stronger than them.” I shook my head. “You’re stronger than all of them. If you declared yourself alpha, do you think any could object?”
Treena suddenly blushed and looked away. Like that, she was quite vulnerable. I no longer felt scared or intimidated by her. She was out here for the same reason I was, after all. We were both just trying to help someone we cared about and loved. From the beginning, we should have been working together to accomplish that goal.
“You… sound like Daniel…” She said softly.
I didn’t know about that, but a sudden breeze caused shivers to run up my spine. It was late, and I wanted to get this over with. I took the gun, pointed up, and fired.
“You… might want to put on my cloak.” Treena glanced down at me as I held her up to keep her from collapsing in a heap on the ground.
I looked down at my bare-naked body. Yeah, that sounded like a good idea.