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When Fire Meets Fate

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Sephy and I spent hours catching up. She told me how mother was training her to become the next Second for the Southern Pack and I regaled her with tales of my jobs. Finally, she claimed tiredness and I let her climb into the top bunk. Gaia was already asleep on the bottom. I headed out of the truck and climbed onto the roof. I laid there staring up at the night sky, marveling at seeing Sephy again. She had grown up so much in eight years and it saddened me that I hadn’t been here to watch it.

Soon, melancholy settled over me and I couldn’t fall asleep. I sat back up and rested my arms against my knees and my chin on my arms. The past reared it’s ugly head and I began to replay the memory of the aftermath of that night. I remembered waking up in a cell and shackled to the wall. I couldn’t understand why I was there. Hadn’t I nearly single handily pushed back the Ice Pack, I thought to myself that day. I didn’t know how many of my pack had survived or even if Lexa’s sisters or my brother were still alive. Looking down at myself, I was covered in dried blood and covered in claw marks, slashes, and cuts. The claw marks confused me. They weren’t from bear claws, instead they looked like wolf claws. I spent most of the day getting more confused and angry and hurt because I didn’t know what had happened that caused me to end up in a cell.

Guards came and laid down food near me, but they refused to look at me or talk to me. I yelled at them to tell me what I did. I screamed it, but they turned a deaf ear to me and left me alone again. I remember looking at the food and my stomach turned at the sight of it. I remembered that I couldn’t eat or drink while I was there. I had been there three days before someone finally came to speak with me.

I was escorted to an interrogation room and shackled to a table. At that point, my life was merrily turned upside down. I was questioned mercilessly about why I attacked my own pack. I told them over and over again that I didn’t. That I was fighting Ice Pack because they were killing my men. They showed me photographs and pointed out only wolf marks on the dead. Black fur tufts. Teeth marks that resembled my wolf’s bite. Photo after photo were shown to me of the dead. Then they presented me with the worst ones. My brother and Lexa’s sisters. Their bodies were shredded, throats torn out. I burst into sobs seeing those images. But I remained adamant about the fact that it was the Ice Pack who killed them not me. They showed me written testimony of survivors saying that I had gone and killed everyone. That they saw me kill my own brother before I attacked Lexa’s sisters.

Then they began asking why I did it. Was I jealous of Lexa’s power. Did I kill Lexa’s sisters to wipe out the Devereux family. Did I want to become the next de Pakstoka. Had I been paid to kill them. Why did I really want to marry Lexa. On and on the questioning continued until I screamed obscenities at them and tried to use my powers against them, attack them. I was quickly subdued and tranq’d. I was in that cell for a week before they allowed me to wash and given clean clothes. That was when I knew. I knew that I hadn’t been believed. That there was some dark and twisted reason why I killed all those people.

When I saw Lexa, I wanted to run to her and wrap my arms around her and say sorry over and over again. But, I couldn’t and the cold, dispassionate look on her face told me everything I needed to know. Not even she believed me. When I glanced at what was once my place on the Council sat Gustus Sprague. He looked at me with joy that I was going to get what I deserved. He was enjoying seeing me shackled and looking like shit. I sneered at him, but it only seemed to make it more amusing to him.

Then Lexa spoke and I could hear the sorrow, pain, rage and loss in her voice. I nearly crumpled to the floor, but two guards held me up. There was no gloss over of my crime. There was no talk about making a decision. There was only my punishment. I expected death because of the overwhelming evidence saying that I had committed the crime. Instead, she threw me out of the pack, banished me from the Forest Pack territory, and placed a kill order if I ever dared step foot across the border.

I remembered cries of outrage and tears streaming down faces as people broke down. I was taken away and thrown into a truck. I wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye to mother or Sephy. We didn’t head to the border until Gustus climbed in the back. It was just me and him in the back. That was when he attacked me and I couldn’t fight back. He had broken nearly every bone in my body. I felt organs rupture and blood coursing down my body as he slashed me again and again with a knife. By the time we reached the border, I was barely conscious. And he tossed me like a rag doll across the border, leaving me to die.

I shook my head dispelling the memory and forced myself to think only about the present. I heard someone get out of the truck and watched as Sephy climbed up and joined me.

“Couldn’t sleep,” she asked as she sat next to me.

“No,” I replied. “My memories are haunting me tonight.”

“It’s not because of me, is it,” she asked, worried.

I gave her a small smile and said, “No, sweetheart. It’s being here and knowing how much I have missed this place. It’s seeing her again. Since Gustus visited me in Old Towne, my nightmares have come back.”

“I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time, Nyx,” she said softly as she drew my hand to hold onto. “You’ve been through so much and all I’ve done is grow up happy.”

“Don’t feel guilty for being happy, Seph. I glad that you’ve been happy. It makes my banishment feel less like a burden knowing that you and mother are happy and safe.”

She had been idly tracing the lines of my palm when she ran her fingers over my scar. She stopped and brought it more into the light. I cringed at seeing it. I usually kept those scars covered.

“Nyx,” she asked.

“Yes, I tried to kill myself shortly after the banishment. Gustus had nearly killed me before he had thrown me across the border. I was able to crawl to a hiding place where I found a jagged piece of rock and decided that I shouldn’t be alive. I couldn’t face living and knowing I could never step foot on my home again. That I couldn’t see you or Mother. I couldn’t see my friends. Banishing me was worse then death at that moment and I had the courage to do what she couldn’t.”

“But, you’re alive and you’ve made a life for yourself.”

I nodded, “It was because of the kindness of a stranger who had stumbled across me as I was bleeding to death. She took me in and nursed me back to health and she kept telling me over and over again that everything would be okay. That I would never truly be alone because of Mother Earth. Eventually, I began to believe her and that was when my life began again. It wasn’t until much later that I went back to that place and found nothing there. No sign of there ever being a house there. That was when I realized that the woman who had nursed me back to life and given me new purpose had been Mother Earth, Herself. From that day, I vowed that I would do everything in my power to repay Her for Her help. It’s why I became an Enforcer and have the reputation to pick and choose my jobs. Why I had the money to help those that really needed it, but couldn’t afford it.”

“And that’s why you’re here now. You still care about the pack and the Apex at the camp. You’re trying to end the conflict without causing more death and even begrudgingly helping the humans.”

I smiled at her and hugged her, “Yes. That is it exactly.”

Determined to bring on a better mood, she asked slyly, “So, you and Clarke seemed to be getting cozy if that kiss goodbye means anything.”

I made a face and pushed her, making her nearly fall off before she caught herself.

“I wouldn’t say cozy,” I replied. “I’ve only slept with her the one time. This is the longest time I’ve spent with her and I spent most of it answering questions.”

“And yet it appeared that you only had eyes for one another. You like her.”

“I do, but it almost feels like something more then like. Not love, though. There’s something there that draws me in and I want her.”

“Like want enough to claim her?”

I laughed, “Please don’t give my wolf any ideas, Sephy. Right now, all I know is that I want her and she seems to want me.”

“Oh, she definitely wants you. It was as plain as day. You should go after her.”

I grimaced, “I don’t know. There’s just so much craziness hanging over everybody’s head. We have to wait for the Council to decide how this situation will be handled.”

“I think curing the humans would be a big step in creating a solution.”

“I’d like to think so, but they far outnumber the Apex in the camp. These people do not know how much the world has changed and still think they’re at the top of the food chain. Look at what happened to Jessamine. They thought her only a wolf and thought it would be funny to shock her until they were forced to stop. Yet, she still died at their hands. What would they do to those that are still inside the camp if the truth were found out? It would be a massacre.”

“Then you need to convince the human leaders that this is how the world works now and that it’s the Apex who are in charge and not them.”

“I agree, but Clarke and her council of Apex are the only leaders the camp has. From what I’ve been able to glean, the leaders are currently suffering from the neurotoxin.”

She nodded, “All the better to find a cure.”

“Agreed.”

A loud alarm sounded from inside the truck and we both jumped off the truck as Gaia opened the back door.

“What is that noise,” Gaia yelled over the sound of the alarm.

“What’s going on,” Persephone asked.

I rushed inside and silenced the alarm and switched the computers over to my home in Old Towne. I watched as huge men walked into the house and spread out searching. Then a woman entered dragging Emori behind her. They searched and came to the warded door that led to our office. They got the door opened and started climbing down the stairs. They only made it halfway before the ground started shaking. The woman ran down the rest of the way and looked around quickly, but left again as the ground shook more violently. The last image of the basement showed Emori being thrown into the basement before the explosions started going off. I switched the camera to the one that was set up a few houses down and I zoomed in. The men and woman ran out of the house and made it to their car before the house imploded and exploded. I quickly grabbed screenshots of the men before they piled into the car. The woman had returned to the rubble and was quickly gathering papers before the wind had picked up more. When she turned around enough for me to grab a screen shot, I froze.

Eight years was a long time, but I had never forgotten her face. The woman who had spoken to me right before I had walked away from my post. I was sure of it as sure as I knew that Persephone was my little sister.

“Was that…,” Sephy started to ask.

“My house, yes,” I answered.

“What just happened,” Gaia asked.

I shook my head a little to clear it and answered, “Before we left to come here, Ben and I set up multiple wards around the house and in the basement where our office is. When the ward covering the house was broken, it started a chain of events. First, our physical servers downloaded onto another one and then it was wiped. When the process is done, the ground quakes which sets off explosives that we’d laid out over the entire foundation and throughout the house itself. The explosions and quakes then set off the big one and the house crumbles on itself and explodes outward. Lastly, the tornado is what cleans up the debris and destroys any information.”

“So, your home is gone,” Sephy said.

“Yes. There’s nothing in Old Towne to go back to. Ben and I will have to start over,” I said still staring at the screen shot of the woman.

“Why are you staring at this one,” Gaia asked pointing to her.

“She’s the one who got me to walk away,” I said bitterly.

“Who is she?”

“I don’t know, but when I find her, I’ll kill her for doing this to me.”

“Who were they,” Sephy asked.

“Ice Pack. My last job with the Coalition was to gather information on why they were in Old Towne and then destroy their compound.”

“How did they find out it was you?”

“The frikdreina, Emori. They must have realized that I used northern werebear scent to get in. She led them to me. Boom goes my home.”

“Do they know that you’re here,” Gaia asked, concerned.

“No. I told no one that we were coming here,” I replied dispassionately.

“That was smart,” Sephy said.

I nodded, “I need to tell Ben. His set up doesn’t have the alarms.”

“We’ll give you some privacy.”

“Thank you,” I replied and they left. I sighed and turned the radio to Ben’s frequency. “Ben, you there?”

There was static and then Ben’s voice said, “I’m here, Boss. You don’t sound so good.”

“I’m not. The house is gone. Ice Pack figured out it was me that destroyed their compound.”

“Fuck. Did everything go like we planned?”

“Yeah. I watched the whole thing.”

“How do you know it was Ice Pack?”

I sent him the photos and replied, “No one else could have figured it out and there is no mistaking these guys for another bear pack.”

There was a pause and then he asked, “Who’s the woman? She doesn’t look like your typical northern female were.”

“I don’t know, but she’s the one that got me banished. I remember her.”

“You’re kidding, right? Please tell me you’re kidding.”

“I’m not and if she is with Ice Pack…”

“Ice Pack is trying to get to Forest Pack.”

“Yes.”

“That’s something to add to my list of Ice Pack information.”

I creased my brow in confusion and asked, “What do you mean, Ben?”

“I finally got around to looking on their server. It’s not good, boss. They’ve been monitoring the Forest Pack, especially de Pakstoka for the last eight years. Who she speaks with, where she frequents, who she takes to bed, a lot of personal information that they should not have. Information that wouldn’t be known outside of Clifton.”

“They have a spy.”

“It looks like it. There’s even rosters of how many warriors, scouts, etc. each border pack has. Even weak spots of where someone could get in.”

“Ben, lock the server down immediately. Put the strongest encryption you have on it. Speak to no one about this and I mean absolutely no one. Do you understand me?”

“Perfectly. I’ll be done in a few keystrokes.”

“Good. We’re heading back to Clifton. I’ll leave the drones running, the long distance range won’t be a problem. And I’ll lock down the truck.”

“Alright. Should I tell anyone that you’re on your way back?”

“No. Absolutely not.”

“Got it. Be careful, Nyx.”

“I will. See you soon.”

“See you soon.”

I cut the transmission and stepped out of the truck. I found Gaia and Sephy around her buggy.

They looked at me expectantly and waited for me to get closer.

“Is everything okay,” Gaia asked seeing my face.

“No, we need to head to Clifton immediately,” I told her.

“Wait, why,” Sephy asked.

“There’s more then one reason why they blew up my house.”

“What is it?”

I looked them over carefully and discreetly examined their minds. I read nothing but concern and worry. No sign of fear. I relaxed slightly.

“The compound was gathering information on the Forest Pack.”

“That’s nothing new,” Gaia said, confused.

“You’re right, it’s not. It’s the type of information they have. They’ve been monitoring de Pakstoka closely. A little too closely. Personal information. Who she speaks with, sleeps with. Where she goes and for how long. Her favorite food. Everything.”

“Someone’s leaking information,” Gaia said as it dawned on her.

“And we can’t tell anyone. Not until we’re there ourselves,” I said.

“When do we leave,” Sephy asked determinedly.

I looked up at the sky and saw the night sky already fading.

“At dawn we’ll leave. Gaia, you and Sephy will take the buggy. I’m taking the bike. The truck will be fine here.”

They both nodded and helped load the weapons onto the bike and the buggy. I took a small camera and climbed a nearby tree. I placed the camera giving me the perfect view of the truck and the immediate area. I couldn’t trust anyone now.

We ate a quick meal at dawn and then headed out to Clifton. I stayed long enough to set up emergency triggers, took a vidscreen, and placed every ward we had on the truck, locking it up tight. I took one last look in the direction of the camp and then I was racing through the forest.

What usually took five hours, we made it in three. We skidded to a halt in front of the mansion and grabbing a few guns, rushed straight to Ben’s lab. The mansion guards followed us inside the house, but Gaia stopped them at the door. She gave me a look and I nodded, closing the door behind me.

Startled, Ben said, “Wow, that was fast.”

I smiled ruefully and replied, “Time is of the essence, Ben. If Ice Pack knows that we cloned their servers and then wiped them clean, the Bear King may very well decide not to wait. If that happens, war.”

He nodded, “What do you need?”

“Print outs of the most important information from their servers. Her personal information, the rosters of the border packs. Everything else you think pertinent. You know what I need. Then print out those screen shots of the people who blew up our home.”

He had already begun to print out the information as I was talking and I smiled that he knew me so well.

“Here you go, boss,” he said as he handed them to me.

I kissed him on top of his head, making him blush as I took the papers from him. I dug around for a folder and stuffed them inside.

“Ben, do we have one of our null devices?”

“Yeah, sure,” he replied as he dug around in one of the cargo boxes. “You think it’s necessary?”

“Damn right I do.”

“What’s a null device,” Sephy asked as she looked closer at it.

“It disables any and all types of listening devices and cameras,” Ben explained. “It also restricts telepathy, so there’s absolutely no way for anyone to communicate from inside the area to outside it.”

“It’s a way to make sure a private conversation stays private,” I said taking in and putting it in my pocket. “Sephy, I need you to stay here and guard Ben. If anyone tries to force their way in, shoot them.”

She nodded and placed herself in front of Ben who looked at me fearfully.

“I know this is something you are not used to, but you are very important and the information you have cannot be compromised.”

He nodded and swallowed thickly.

I opened the door and Gaia asked, “Got it?”

“Yep, I need Indra, Gustus, and Lexa to meet me in her office,” I answered.

She nodded at me as she quirked an eyebrow. I ignored the fact that I had just said her name aloud and walked quickly to her office. I turned on the null device as soon as I entered and began looking for bugs that I knew would be in here. By the time the three of them had arrived, I’d already made a small pile of the ones I had found and I was climbing a bookcase to get to the top three shelves.

“What are you doing,” Lexa yelled at me.

I said nothing, but pointed to the coffee table. I found five more bugs and climbed back down and tossed them into the pile.

“Are those bugs,” Lexa asked.

“Yeah, I found over twenty bugs planted throughout the office.”

“How? Gustus checks the office everyday.”

I looked at Gustus and asked, “Well?”

He replied, “And everyday there are no bugs, but somehow miraculously Nyx has found over twenty of them in one visit. How do we know that you didn’t plant them yourself? You are a spy after all.”

I bent over and rifled through them until I came to one with a logo and handed it to Lexa, “Because all of mine are custom built. We don’t use store bought listening devices or cameras. It defeats the purpose of having a techno mage partner.”

I then pulled out several of my own bugs and handed them to Lexa as well. She looked them over carefully and then handed all of them back to me.

She looked at Gustus and said, “She speaks the truth, Gustus. These are not hers.”

“She’s lying,” he said loudly, “She is tricking you, Pakstoka. You can’t believe a word this natrona says. Remember what she did. She killed nearly her entire command so that she could take over the pack!”

I quietly seethed as I watched him closely. His eyes quickly looked around the room and I noticed that they would stop at certain spots in the room. Several of them I hadn’t even checked. I pulled the objects that were there to us and quickly removed six more bugs.

“Thanks, Gustus. I knew I hadn’t found them all yet,” I said as I placed them on the pile.

“Lies,” he roared at me. He charged me, but I quickly wrapped him up in metal and he landed heavily on the ground.

“What is the meaning of this,” Lexa demanded.

“You have a spy in your pack, probably more,” I said as I handed her the folder.

She opened it immediately and began going through the documents, face slowly contorting in anger. She handed it over to Indra, who started looking through it herself.

“Explain,” she said, her voice deadly.

“My last job with the Coalition was to infiltrate and gather information on an unauthorized Ice Pack compound in Old Towne. Before I blew it up, Ben copied their servers and then wiped them clean of any trace. This is just some of the information that was on the servers.”

“More lies,” Gustus spat.

“The truth doesn’t lie, Gustus. There is no way I would know Lexa’s daily routine now. Or who she’s been speaking with, who she’s slept with or even know if she was sleeping with anyone. I have no clue as to how many pack members are patrolling the border, nor do I know of any weak spots along the border. I wasn’t lying about honoring the banishment. I have not stepped one foot past the border in eight years. The only one who would be privy to this kind of information is you, Gustus,” I accused.

“Lies!”

“Why would I lie about any of this!”

“You want to discredit me. You want your position back. Of course you would. You planned this when I told you she would end your banishment, remove the kill order and let you back into the pack,” he sneered at me.

I walked over and kneeled beside him, “I don’t care about becoming Second again! Are you implying that I knew that she would eventually lift all of these things? And that you are accusing me of gathering this information secretly for the last eight years. It took me over a year to heal after you left me for dead just across the border. It took me another two to even have the resources to spy on my targets successfully. You tried to kill me even after Lexa ordered you to not to harm me. So, tell me; why would I lie when I thought there was nothing to gain?”

“I told you, Lexa, that he did not obey your orders,” Indra said.

Lexa nodded, “You did. I cannot believe that this has been happening under my nose for eight years.”

“It’s not your fault,” I said standing up and walking over to her. “You were hurt, angry, and grieving. Nobody would have been capable of seeing this if they were in your shoes. Nobody. But I do have to ask, how did a fourth tiered family gain the duty of Second?”

“His family was the only one who volunteered,” Indra said. “None of the first, second, or third tiered families wanted to take on the responsibility. The Allistars had set too high of a standard.”

I nodded, “Then the question arises, what else was he promised for betraying his pack?”

The communicator beeped on my belt, drawing everyone’s gaze.

Pulling it out, I asked, “Clarke, is everything okay?”

“No, it’s not. The antidote that you said would slow down the spread actually does the opposite. It’s accelerates it and now people are dead.”

“How many?”

“Twenty. We stopped the injections after the first three died.”

“Good.”

“Nyx, the humans are calling for retaliation. They want to kill the prisoners. I’ve moved all of the prisoners and have placed them in a more secure location. Octavia’s pack is guarding them.”

I looked around and Lexa and Indra’s face paled at the news, “That’s good. Really good. The pack will know what to do if they’re attacked.”

“How?! They’re not trained to fight.”

“It doesn’t matter. Every wolf knows how to fight, their wolves will too. You’ve got to trust me on this, please. I’m going to do everything I can to fix this, I swear to Mother Earth.”

“I want to trust you, Nyx, but…”

“I understand,” I said heavily. “Give me 72 hours, that’s all I’m asking for.”

“72 hours?”

“Yes.”

“And what happens after your 72 hours are up?”

I looked at Lexa and she nodded her head.

“Then you have permission to execute the prisoners if I can’t get you anything by then. There will be no retaliation from de Pakstoka or the Forest Pack.”

“Alright. You have your 72 hours.”

I looked down at Gustus and snarled, “Your betrayal holds no bounds, Gustus.”

I stormed over to the door and opened it and seeing Gaia, I said, “Bring me the chemist by any means necessary without killing her or damaging her enough that she cannot speak.”

She nodded and took off with two guards following her.

I closed the door and slumped into an armchair. No one said a word for a moment.

Indra asked as she placed the photographs on the table, “Nyx, who are these people?”

Not even glancing, I replied, “Ice Pack members that blew up my house.”

“And this woman? She looks familiar, but I cannot recall her name.”

“That is the woman who convinced me to leave my post eight years ago. She told me that Indra needed to speak with me and when I rounded the corner and out of sight, I remembered that Indra wasn’t even at the northern border, but still in the south. I ran back and then…”

I watched as Lexa took the photo of the woman and as she studied it, she appeared to think of something. She walked over to her desk and went through her drawers. She found what she was looking for and pulled out a file.

“These are the application requests to join the pack from eight years ago,” she said as she placed the folder down on the table and opened it up. Turning the papers quickly, she stopped when she came across a photo of the same woman.

I leaned forward and looked it over. Her name was Echo, no last name. She said that she crossed the border from the west, which had been confirmed, claiming that she was born in black bear territory. Then came the big news, her only power was telepathy and it was off the charts powerful.

Lexa sat down on the couch and laid her head in her hands and said, “You were manipulated. You really thought that you were fighting off Ice Pack.” She moved her head to look at me and said, “I’m sorry that I didn’t believe you. Can you ever forgive me?”

Seeing the pain on her face, I realized that I had forgiven her a long time ago. I got up and kneeled in front of her.

I took one of her hands and said, “I forgave you a long time ago, Lex. If the roles had been reversed with all the evidence contradicting the story, I would have probably done the same thing. I may have executed instead of banishment, but that’s neither here nor there. We have much more pressing issues in front of us.”

She smiled at me and pulled me into a hug that I willingly returned. The door opened up, breaking us apart, and the guards entered with the chemist between them. They shoved her into the room and left. I got up and grabbing her by the throat, slammed her into the wall.

With barely controlled fury, I asked, “What did you do, chemist?”

“I,I,I don’t know what you mean,” she stammered.

I slammed her against the wall and said, “Twenty more humans lie dead because of the recipe you gave me. Twenty! And now you’ve placed your fellow pack members in extreme danger! Did you do this on your own?”

Her eyes flickered around, and I noticed them settle briefly on Gustus’s prone body.

“How much did he pay you to change the recipe? How much,” I yelled at her.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s the same exact recipe that I use for the antidote. There were no changes,” she protested.

I grabbed the communicator and said, “Clarke, do you hear me?”

“Yeah. What do you want?”

“I need Jasper to read me back the recipe.”

“Okay. Hold on.”

I looked around and spotted Gaia and I said to her, “Get me a syringe and a mixing set quickly.”

Once again, she ran off and returned with the items before I heard Jasper’s voice.

“You want me to read you the recipe,” he asked.

“Yes, slowly. I’m going to recreate it.”

“Why, your chemist should already have the recipe and should have vials of the stuff.”

“I now believe that she purposely made something to accelerate the spread. Just please read it back to me.”

“Alright.”

Holding my hand over the bowl, I created each ingredient he told me in the amounts that were given. When the last of the ingredients, Gaia took the bowl and started mixing it up. I cooked it down, releasing the juices which Gaia then drained into a glass. We finished it and Gaia inserted the liquid into the syringe and handed it to me.

I held it up to the chemist’s face and said, “What would happen, I wonder, if I injected this in you, chemist? Hmm?”

“Nothing. It’s the antidote,” she said weakly.

“Tsk, I don’t think so, but let’s see which one of us right, shall we?”

Gaia grabbed and turned her to face the wall, holding her there. I took her head and shoving the hair aside, exposing the base of the skull.

“You see, Lexa, Jasper showed me that the quickest way to reach our powers is through the base of the skull here,” I said as I slowly lowered the needle to the spot.

She bucked a little but Gaia and I held her firm.

“I’m going to give you one last chance. Answer my questions and I won’t injected you with whatever is in this syringe,” I said as sweetly as I could.

“I know nothing. I gave you the antidote, I swear,” she pleaded.

“I’m not buying it,” I said as I inserted the needle into her neck. She screamed, and I said, “Don’t move or I might accidentally push down.”

“Okay, okay. Just please don’t kill me. I’ll tell you what you want to know,” she said through tears.

“Good, but just in case you think about lying, the needle stays where it is and remember don’t move.”

“Okay,” she whispered. “What do you want to know?”

“Tell me what I have in my hand?”

“It’s the antidote, but I tweaked it. Instead of reversing the effects, it accelerates after showing an initial recession of the spread.”

“Did you do this on your own?”

“No.”

“Who helped you?”

“Gustus,” she said, and he growled at her, making her whimper in fear.

“Why?”

“Because they’re only humans, their lives don’t matter.”

“Did he tell you that there are over 100 humans in that camp and besides 19 Forest Pack members, there is another pack of 13, and 9 mages there.”

“No, but I knew about the prisoners.”

“Do you want all of their deaths on your hands because the humans found out about the Apex? There are 13 untrained werewolves protecting your pack members.”

“I didn’t know,” she cried. “I didn’t know, I swear!”

“What did he offer you?”

“A quarter of a million dollars to wipe the sick ones out,” she whispered.

Gaia whistled in appreciation and I wondered exactly how he had that much money to throw around.

“Have you even started looking for a cure?”

“I have, but when Gustus approached me, I abandoned it.”

“How far were you from completing it?”

“It was nearly complete.”

“What was missing?”

“The toxin itself and petals from dragon wings.”

“Did you record the ratio and quantities in your lab notes?”

“Yes.”

“And the boiling process?”

“Yes, I wrote everything down. It’s how I process the information.”

“Good girl,” I said as I looked back at Lexa. She nodded, and Gustus’s eyes widened in fear.

“You’re going to let me go now, right,” she asked hopefully.

“Tsk, you should know better by now, chemist,” I said sadly. “You went against de Pakstoka’s orders and killed twenty humans. You didn’t really think you’d get to live, did you?”

“No! No, wait,” she begged. “I’m the only Earth mage strong enough to be the pack’s chemist. You can’t do this to me! I’m important.”

I leaned in close and said, “You’re not the only one capable of being a chemist.”

She whimpered as I injected her with the serum. Gaia and I let go of her and she crumpled onto the floor. We stepped back, and everyone watched dispassionately as her body contorted and contracted, eyes bulged, and her mouth opened in a silent scream. I turned around when her body had stopped moving and Gaia grabbed the guards to haul the body away.

“I’m sorry you had to witness that, Lexa,” I said as I took a seat once more. “It’s part of the darker side of my career choice.”

“Where did I go wrong, Nyx,” she said as she sat heavily on the couch closest to me.

“I hate to seem callous, but it’s because you trusted Gustus like you had me and my family. It seems like you didn’t look into his lineage or speak with their neighbors or anything to get a good feel for him and his family. Instead, when he offered, you immediately said yes because no one else would.”

“You’re right. I didn’t do any of that even after your banishment, I didn’t look any further then what was in front of me. This is all my fault.”

“I’m not sure that it really is. From the evidence it would appear that you were manipulated and have been continued to be manipulated for the last eight years. If anyone is to truly take the blame, it would be the Bear King. This woman, Echo, is obviously in the employ of him. She infiltrated the pack and then got rid of me, placing Gustus in my stead. Gustus then continued to feed the Ice Pack information about you and the pack. He then seemed to act on his own agenda and tried to kill the humans in Manassas, which would have brought the Coalition here.”

“You didn’t have to kill her,” Gustus said from the ground.

I had momentarily forgotten him, so I lifted him off the ground and at him in the other chair.

“Yes, I did,” I replied. “She betrayed de Pakstoka and the pack. She took money from you in payment in an attempt to kill all the remaining adults in Manassas. Once someone betrays you, you cannot ever fully trust them again. I had de Pakstoka’s permission and I carried out the act, so she didn’t have to order it herself. And because it was me that did it during my duties of an Enforcer, the Coalition won’t be tempted to bat an eye in her direction.”

“Hmph, how noble of you,” he sneered at me.

“Nobility has nothing to do about it, Gustus. This is about doing what’s right and protecting my client. If you ever really cared about the pack or the true duties of being a Second, you would understand this. Instead, it seems to me that you only care about Power. And to bring up an earlier question, what else did they promise you in return for helping to get rid of me?”

“You’re fishing, Nyx,” he said smugly. “You have no proof that it was me who provided the Bear King this information. My failed attempt to kill you was because I always hated you and your self-righteous act. You made me sick. Your family made me sick. How can a family in your position not want to become de Pakstoka? How can a family remain devote to only serving when they can rule? It made me physically ill seeing your families together. Then to see the two of you together, so devoted to one another. So in love with one another. You were too perfect. It needed to be destroyed and I wanted to be the one to destroy it.”

I creased my brow in thought and said, “Let me see if I get this right, Gustus. It’s true that there is no physical evidence tying you to the information on the Ice Pack servers, but then again, we haven’t gone completely through the information. You and your family were jealous of the fact that the position of Second was hereditary and that it was my family that controlled it. Your family was jealous of how close the Allistars and Devereuxs were. You were jealous that Lexa and I fell in love and were planning on getting married, which would have only strengthened the leadership. And the most compelling evidence that you have just presented us, is that you couldn’t just grasp the concept that my family didn’t want to become de Pakstoka. Which implies that you are searching for a way to remove the last Devereux from power. Did I get that right?”

“Yes, wait, no,” he spluttered, “that’s not what I’m saying at all.”

I looked over at Indra and asked, “Did I mishear him then, Indra?”

“No, Nyx. I heard that as well,” she replied. “Pakstoka?”

“It appears that we have a traitor in our midst,” she said, standing up. “And it appears to be that Gustus Sprague is the traitor.”

“Agreed,” replied Indra.

Indra got up and called in two guards. They bowed and waited for instructions.

Looking coldly at Gustus, Lexa said, “Guards, this man is accused of treason of the highest order. He and his family are remanded into your custody until their fates are decided. Make sure that each family member is in a separate cell where they will be gagged and shackled to the walls.”

“Yes, Pakstoka,” one of them said and approached Gustus.

They looked around confusedly because he was still wrapped up in metal and couldn’t move. I quickly got to my feet and placing a hand on the metal, withdrew the power back into myself, leaving shackles on his wrists and ankles. When I moved out of the way, they unceremoniously heaved him up and dragged him away.

I stretched my arms overhead and sighed deeply, “Well, that was fun, but I need to get to the chemist’s lab if I’m going to make the cure. The sooner that’s done, the sooner we can convince the adults about the new reality.”

“Could you hold off on that, please,” Lexa asked.

I looked at her in question, “May I ask why?”

“I need to convene an emergency Council session and I want you there,” she replied.

“And why do you want me there,” I asked suspiciously.

“First off, they need to be informed of everything that has happened. Secondly, I’m announcing the permanent lifting of your banishment and kill order. Thirdly. Thirdly, I want to temporarily bring you back into the Pack and act as my Second until a new one is found.”

“Why would you think I’d accept the position, Lexa?”

“Because you said it yourself, it’s what’s right for the pack. Acting as my Second gives you back all the rights and privileges you once had. You will be directly speaking to the camp as my liaison, not a hired Enforcer. The Manassas pack and mages already listen and respect you. It makes sense to send you there in my stead until we can begin negotiations for a treaty. It makes doubly sense to do it as my Second.”

I growled low in my throat and said, “It’s not fair that you know how to still push my damn buttons, Lexa. Poke at my damn morals and ethics like that and I’ll do anything you want. That was one of the most irritating things about you.”

She laughed and said, “Thank you, Nyx. You won’t regret it.”

“I’m already regretting it,” I said under my breath and then more loudly said, “Then let’s convene the Council. I have work to do.”