I paced the council room as I waited for everyone to arrive. I hated what I just did. This is not how I envisioned this going down. I wanted to keep this peaceful. I wanted to leave the humans alone as we came to an understanding, but one man changed all of it. I was no longer confident that this would end peacefully.
Lexa, did I do the right thing?
Yes. As unfortunate as it is.
I hate this.
I know you do, sweetheart. You’ve never enjoyed this aspect of your duties. Neither do I. But we’ll get through this, just like always. I have faith in you. In us.
I bowed my head as I tried to take strength from her words, but I still felt weak.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I’ll fail you again.
What happened wasn’t because you failed. Or because you’re weak, Nyx. We were both manipulated. This isn’t about manipulation. This is about keeping our people safe. We do what we have to in order to keep our people safe.
That’s what I thought I was doing that night. Keeping our people safe.
Trust in Mother Earth, Nyx. Trust in yourself. This is just one obstacle. Not the end of the road.
You’re right. Thank you.
You’re welcome, love. I’m always here for you.
We broke contact and I looked up to find Sephy coming in the door. She came up to me and hugged me tight. I took comfort in the physical contact and gathered more strength from her.
“You are doing the right thing, Nyx,” she said as she looked up at me.
I crooked a smile, “That’s just what Lexa said.”
“Mother says the same.”
“Then it must be so,” I said with a smile.
“So, do I get the inside scoop?”
“No. Are the mages and pack secure in the compound?”
“Yes. Locked up tight and frightened.”
I frowned, “An unfortunate side effect, but it’s for their own safety.”
“I understand that, but they don’t.”
“They will soon enough.”
We watched silently as everyone started trickling in. Clarke with Kane and Abby came in last and shut the door behind them. Sephy went up and locked the ward and then took a seat. I walked and stood behind my own chair. They quieted down and looked at me expectantly.
“Just a little while ago there was an incident that has caused me to reevaluate the situation here. As you know, Abby, Kane, and Jaha were rushed through recovery. Abby and Kane each developed powers. Jaha did not. This was Mother Earth’s answer to coming up with a solution to get the three groups of people here in Manassas. The mages, which Abby represents, the pack, which Kane represents, and the humans, which Jaha represents. This morning Clarke went to see how they were doing and through the course of a conversation, Jaha did not take too kindly being told that what was his council no longer mattered. That he was no longer in charge. I walked into the room to find Jaha being defiant to Clarke’s authority as leader of this council. I made a judgement call and Jaha now resides in a cell. Because of the threat that he now represents and the accidental death of Jessamine Valdez at the hands of humans, I have had no choice but to order several squads to take over this camp and remove the humans to the bunker until such time as we can decide what to do with them.”
“You can’t just make a decision like that because of two isolated incidents,” Bellamy said. “No one else knows that you even exist.”
“I understand that, Bellamy, but I cannot afford that risk. Just like your people captured mine and held onto them because you feared retaliation if you let them go. de Pakstoka wanted to end that situation peacefully, so we did not retaliate. Can you assure me that this will not happen if your people found out about us? Or that they won’t try to kill us because we are vastly different from them because we have powers that could kill them if we put our minds to it? It is a long standing tradition in our history to either destroy what is different or try to oppress those that are different. Humans greatly outnumber us 4:1.”
He shook his head and replied, “No, I cannot make those assurances.”
“I would like to propose something since it is obvious from my brief encounter with him, that Jaha be removed from the old council permanently and have Bellamy take his place. Representing the humans for both councils.”
“Why would you propose such an idea?”
“Because you are more open to listening and seem willing to work on coming up with a solution. Am I wrong in believing this?”
“I just want our people to stay safe. Everyone.”
“Then I second the proposal,” Monty voiced.
“All in favor,” Clarke said.
It was a unanimous vote of “ayes.”
“Do you accept, Bellamy,” I asked.
“It looks like the decision has been made for me,” he said, surprised by everyone’s vote of confidence.
I smiled at him and replied, “We always have a choice, Bellamy. It’s what we do with those choices that matter.”
“Then, I accept.”
I took a seat while everyone pounded on the table until I called for quiet.
“Since we’re all here, we might as well talk about what happened on the surface after the apocalypse. Sephy, did you by chance bring the projector?”
She grinned, “I figured you might want to start.”
She tossed the projector onto the middle of the table and turned it on. It showed one of the last news videos of the apocalypse as it was happening.
“83 years ago, our world ended. It destroyed most of the world, killing everything that was caught out in the open. Humans hid in bunkers across the globe and waited it out. We estimate that after only 20 years, the earth was already beginning to heal, or at least, the East Coast of the United States did. Five years later, humans were back on the ground and beginning to rebuild society. What they didn’t know at the time was that a new species had also emerged. The Apex. As time moved along, more and more Apex were born and the humans began dying off. We don’t have a concrete number as to how many are left. Apex consider humans a subspecies. We recognize that we came from humans, but no longer associate ourselves with them. Because they are a subspecies, they are looked upon as lower than dirt and do not deserve any kind of respect or recognition. Bellamy can attest to our treatment of them.”
Sephy took up the thread and said, “Once Apex asserted control over the humans, it was pretty much game over for them. What Nyx has not reminded you is that the Apex are made up of two different species. Wereanimals and Mages. Along the East Coast, the animals we shift into are based on regions. To the north of us, lies Ice Pack made up of northern black bears. To the west, black bears; southwest are the felines, bobcats, panthers, and mountain lions; to the far west are the coyotes, directly south of us are the smaller predators like the foxes, or kitsune. To the east of us lies the area that is mostly occupied by the mages.”
“Each pack, as they are referred to loosely, are lead by one head pack with smaller packs near the borders to protect them,” I spoke up. “Because there are so many different groups, the Coalition was created. The governing force that watches over all the territories. They are made up of some of the strongest weres and mages. They have emissaries, ambassadors, councils that all report to the leaders of the Coalition. They are simply referred to as the Coalition. They are known to be tyrannical and dictators. Every pack tries to avoid bringing them within their boundaries, because of the simple fact that when they get involved, it’s usually bad for the packs. That’s why we are trying very hard to keep this within our borders.”
“So, what exactly is it that we are trying to find a solution to,” Kane asked.
“Pure and simple; the humans,” I answered. “Since the humans began dying off there hasn’t been this many humans in one place in over 50 years. We simply do not know how the Coalition will react. The absolutely worst thing that could happen is to call for genocide and kill all the humans here. The only protection that can be offered to the humans would be to own them as slaves. Not ideal for the humans, but it would keep them alive. Having such a large concentration of humans within our borders is dangerous for us. We could be seen as either a sanctuary for humans and get flooded by the ones remaining outside our territory. We could be seen as amassing a human army. None of this is good for the pack. As of right now, we recognize Octavia’s pack having ownership of Manassas, the humans belong to her pack.”
“There’s no way in hell that I’m okay with owning over a 100 humans,” Octavia spoke.
I smiled, “Neither are we. Your pack is too small and too new. You have no infrastructure to even begin being able to control or handle that many humans. Not to mention, no one likes to be owned.”
“So, our biggest obstacle is to get our people, the humans, to understand that 1) they no longer hold any merit in how the world is run and 2) to accept the leadership of the Apex,” Kane said thinking.
“And 3) just because they outnumber the pack and mages here, they cannot force us to give them control. If they do that, they are inciting a war within our borders. If they incite a war, the Coalition will get involved.”
“And all the humans will die regardless,” Bellamy said.
“Yes. The cold, hard truth, Bellamy, is that if they try and fight us, we will very easily kill every last one of them regardless if they are willing to accept the pack’s leadership or not. I don’t think anyone here is willing to use their powers in that way.”
“How long will we have to keep the humans in the bunker?”
“That’s up to this council to decide. Winter is nearly here and you just don’t have the food supplies needed to feed that many people. I can train the earth mages you have here now to accelerate the growth of crops, but you still have to contend with getting fresh protein and the pack needs fresh meat in their diet.”
“Which means work details set up to farm,” Kane said. “I take it the pack will be able to hunt for the meat?”
“Yes. Once my men are in place, the pack can start hunting. The surrounding packs can probably provide some meat, but the majority will have to come from the pack themselves.”
“How long until the rest of the adults will recover from the neurotoxin completely,” Abby asked.
“Anywhere between one to two months depending on how far along the neurotoxin had spread.”
“And we don’t know who will be Apex or human?”
“No. There’s no way to test for that.”
“When will your men be here,” Clarke asked.
“By morning. I can tell you that it is going to be ugly. Many of the humans will be beaten and bruised and angry at what is going on. The men will know not to use their powers, but I cannot guarantee that there won’t be any slip ups.”
We spent the rest of the day until dinner time hashing out the details. No one left the council meeting happy, but they all agreed that it had to be done. All of us headed to the compound, but I followed at a slower pace as I continued to run the plan over and over in my head, looking for possibilities of trouble or if there was a less harmful way of getting things done.
“You’re going to walk into something, if you keep thinking like that,” Clarke said as she came back around a corner.
I looked up at her and smiled wanly, “It’d serve me right if I did. I figured you’d already be inside with your Mom.”
“Kane’s with her,” she replied as she walked in step with me. “How’re you doing with all of this?”
I looked at her, “I’m not liking it. I feel like the bad guy, locking people up because one man threatened us. You know, I should be asking you that question. I know you never expected anything like this.”
She shook her head, “No, I didn’t. This is what we feared would happen after we took your men. It’s why Raven built the shield. Now, I have to lock up my own people.”
I smirked, “Neither one of us asked for this and yet here we are.”
“Here we are. How are we going to convince a 100 people that we are doing this for their own good?”
“I don’t know. This is absolutely new territory. I’m making this up as we go along.”
“You know, you’re not the only one in this. All of us are.”
“True. There’s just so much riding on this. A 100 lives hang in the balance.”
“With winter coming, we don’t have a lot of time,” she said quietly.
“No, we don’t,” I replied. “This sucks.”
She laughed, “It most certainly does. We’ll figure it out.”
We had neared the gate and I stopped us in the shadow of the wall and pulling her close to me, I said, “Thank you for being understanding about all of this.”
“You are what you are, Nyx. I’ve learned that you think long and hard before you make decisions like this. I know that your heart lies heavy when you have to put lives at risk. Even if it’s the human’s lives that are at risk. You’re a good woman.”
I leaned down and kissed her sweetly and took our moment in the shadows hidden from the light. No one was really surprised to see us come in late, except for the new additions to our table. I saw Abby give Clarke a look, but didn’t say anything. Tonight was a somber affair. Octavia had already explained to the pack and the mages what was happening which was a big moment for her. Bellamy kept looking at me as if he seemed to be trying to figure something out, but I ignored him. Sephy and Miller were having a silent conversation as Abby spoke with Jackson and Kane just took everything in.
After dinner had been cleared away, everyone called it an early night and went to their rooms. I watched as Sephy went off with Octavia and Nate, Abby took Clarke to the side, and both Kane and Bellamy went off and did their own thing. I poured myself some whiskey and wandered into the back area and watched as the moon rose.
“Ms. Allistar,” a voice called from behind me.
I turned my head and saw Kane approaching me and I said, “Nyx is fine, Kane.”
“Then please call me Marcus,” he said as he came to stand by me.
“Very well, Marcus. What can I do for you?”
“That display you put on early, when you stopped Jaha. What exactly was that?”
“Telekinesis. Being able to move things with your mind.”
“I see. The other power you used, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I’m a metal mage. I’m also a fire mage, earth mage and a healer.”
“Does everyone have as many powers as you do?”
I chuckled, “No. I’m the only one that does. What makes me even more rarer is that all of my powers are strong, including my telepathy.”
“Why aren’t you part of the Coalition if you’re this powerful?”
“Quite simply because I’m too dangerous to keep alive if the Coalition ever found out. So, to them, I’m only a fire mage werewolf and I intend to keep it that way.”
“I can understand that. Can I ask you another question?”
“Can you tell me about pack life?”
“Smart question. Packs are families. We each have our role to play and we look after one another. When someone dies, the entire pack mourns the loss. If there is a birth, they rejoice. If someone is sick or injured, they take care of them. And on and on. In a werewolf pack, the leadership is held by two people, Pakstoka and the Second. They’re the ones that make the laws, guidelines, handle punishments, settle disputes. Typical leadership duties. The Second handles the more mundane. The families fall into typically four tiers. The first tiered are made up of the leaders’ families, advisors, council members. Second tiered are your specialists, craftsman. Third and fourth tiered are your grunt workers, the ones that work the fields, patrol the borders, things like that. Usually, it’s because they have the weaker powers. Though third tiered get the better choice of jobs than fourth tiered.”
“How is the leadership chosen in the packs?”
“In the head pack, de Pakstoka and Second are hereditary. The Devereuxs and Allistars. It’s been that way since the pack was first formed. The leaders in the other packs all use different ways to be chosen. Election, survival of the fittest, chosen successor, and hereditary.”
“And my pack, I guess you’d call it?”
I nodded, “The Manassas Pack. This is a new pack, so the infrastructure hasn’t been built yet. It’s up to Octavia and Miller to figure out the laws, guidelines, etc. and how they want to pass on the leadership.”
“Where do I fall in this pack?”
“I’d say that based on what comes off of you, you’re role is directly under Miller.”
“What comes off me?”
“Tell me something, when you approached me, what was your gut reaction?”
“That I needed to be respectful and mindful of what I did or said. That you’re dangerous and not to be trifled with.”
“And when you neared Octavia?”
“That she was to obeyed, respected, feared, and some other things that I’m not sure how to express.”
“Your life is hers. You have enough clout that if she gets angry or something along those lines you’re not going to completely cower and offer your throat to her, like most of the pack. That’s how you know who the leaders are. We give off an aura of dominance.”
“You give more than an aura of dominance, Nyx. You give off power, but it’s like halved,” Kane said in bewilderment.
I grinned toothily, “That is because I am one half of a whole, Marcus. The other half of the power is de Pakstoka, Lexa Devereux. It’s why we are the head of the Forest Pack.”
“How do we use our powers?”
“It’s a matter of will and intention. The power comes from inside you. It’s not a bottomless pit, so you have to know your limitations. You’re a wind mage, so it’s a bit harder to notice out here when you use it. You think about what you want to do then place your will behind it and there it is.”
“There you are,” Clarke interrupted as she came through the doors. “I’ve been looking for you.”
I smiled automatically as she walked up. She slid an arm around me and kissed me rather forcefully, making me frown.
“Is everything okay,” I asked her.
“Couldn’t be better,” she said as she looked at Kane. “Mom’s looking for you.”
He coughed and then said, “Then I’d better go see what she needs. Thank you for answering my questions, Nyx. It was very knowledgeable.”
“Your welcome,” I said and watched him walk away. When he was out of ear shot, I turned to Clarke and said, “Okay, what the hell was that about, Clarke?”
“Can’t I give you a kiss,” she asked sweetly, tracing the curve of my shoulder.
I stepped back from her and said, “You know you can, but you just forcibly kissed me.”
Her body completely deflated and she said, “I got cornered by mom and then by Bellamy. They both noticed that you and I were quite comfortable with one another.”
“Okay, so what?”
“Mom took me aside and started asking about us. How did we meet, how long have we been seeing one another, is it serious, was I sure it was a good idea to get involved with you. You know typical mother daughter dating questions. And I was okay with answering those, because you know, parents worry.”
“Then,” I prompted.
“Bellamy cornered me soon after. Really giving me the third degree about you. Reminding me that you sleep around. That I barely know you. That you’ve shown yourself to be very dangerous. You’re a werewolf, I’m a mage. He made it sound like I didn’t know any better. That I was just setting myself up to either get my heart broken or killed.”
“So, you got upset.”
She nodded, “Yeah, I got upset. And I guess I wanted to show them.”
“By forcing yourself on me? That’s kind of messed up, Clarke. I’m not someone you can play those kinds of games with.”
“I know and I’m sorry. I just, I don’t know,” she said and started crying.
I sighed and gathered her in my arms. I knew she didn’t mean the implication of what she did, but I wasn’t happy about it.
“Clarke, listen to me. You know I sleep around. It’s my nature, but the one thing I never do is force myself on anyone. Never. I don’t tolerate it when someone tries to do it to me. If you try this again, you’ll know what it’s like to receive a cold shoulder from me. Do you understand?”
She nodded and got herself under control, “I think the day has just gotten to me and I’m not thinking straight. I’d forgotten that Bellamy tends to act like that.”
“Mm-hm. I’m sorry, Nyx. I really am. I shouldn’t have treated you like that.”
“You’re forgiven. Why don’t we go to bed. It’s late and tomorrow is going to be a bitch,” I said as I led her inside.
Breakfast was a mini planning session as we went over what was going to happen this morning. Clarke would call for a general assembly in front of the Town Hall where the humans would gather. Sephy and I would take command of the towers on either side of the gate, while Octavia and Miller stood at the foot of the gate keeping the guards away. Raven would drop the shield when the transports neared. The transports would come in and head straight to Town Hall where my men would disembark and hold the humans there until I arrived. After a brief explanation, they’d be escorted down into the bunker and placed under lock and key. The rest of the pack and mages would stay inside the compound.
That was the plan. Now we waited for the execution. The four of us headed into the garage and we started pulling out armor and weapons. We helped Octavia and Miller put on the armor and gave a quick run down on how to use the rifles. When I got word that they were thirty minutes out, I had Clarke sound for the General Assembly. We left, locking the ward, and headed to the gates.
Sephy and Miller took the left side as Octavia and I took the right. I ran up the stairs, taking two at the time. There were two humans standing guard and looked up at me in surprise when I topped the stairs.
“It’s time for you to leave,” I said as I pointed my rifle at them. “Leave your weapons.”
The held up their hands and slid their weapons to the ground. I grabbed the shackles I had on me and had them put them on. When I was sure that they were secure, I nudged them to the edge of the stairwell.
“Move. Now,” I said coldly.
They started down the stairs and I watched as they made their way.
Two on your way, O.
Octavia looked up and watched as they descended.
I looked over at Sephy, Good?
Take them to the Town Hall.
I watched as Octavia and Miller escorted the guards to the Town Hall to join the rest of the humans. When I couldn’t see them, I turned and faced the countryside.
Four down, 96 to go, Sephy said.
Do you remember how may guards they have patrolling the wall?
I radioed Raven and said, “Gate’s secured.”
“Roger that,” she replied. “Shield is a go to come down on your word.”
Stokripa, we’re ten minutes out. Is the gate secure, a voice asked.
Roger that, Stokripa.
Five minutes later, I saw the first truck coming over the ridge.
“Raven, first truck is on the ridge.”
“Copy that, two minutes and counting until the shield is down.”
Two minutes until shield is down, I passed down to who was ever in the lead.
Copy that, Stokripa. Orders?
Head straight to the Town Hall. Circle the trucks around the humans and disembark. Holding pattern until I get there. I need 20 from the last truck to get out at the gate, 10 to either side to bring in guards.
When they crested the last ridge, I opened the gates and the shield came down. Sephy and I watched as they entered slowly and made their way down the main road. The last slowed down long enough for twenty men to jump down and spread out along the perimeter. I closed the gate and we headed to the Town Hall.
When we were a block away, we could hear the crowd yelling and trying to break free from my men. Glancing at the stairs leading up to the building, the council stood by watching. We hurried our steps and skirted around the trucks. The lead truck had stopped in front of the stairs and I jumped easily up onto it’s hood. I reached into the cab and grabbed the mic for it’s speaker.
I stood for a moment, looking out at the crowd and then loudly called out through the speaker, “Silence!”
The crowd quieted down, but I could still hear a low murmur of voices.
“By the authority of de Pakstoka of the Forest Pack, you have been found guilty of threatening the safety of the people of the Forest Pack. As such, you are to be taken back into the bunker and placed under house arrest. You will only leave that bunker during your work detail. You will remain in the bunker until de Pakstoka and your council come to terms. You fight, you die. You resist, you die. If you want to remain living, I suggest you go quietly into the bunker.”
The crowd went wild as I signaled the men to start moving them.
I fired over the heads of the humans as did some of the men. That quickly got them back under control and they began moving towards the bunker. I jumped down when they started entering the bunker itself.
“That went a lot better than I expected,” I said as everyone neared.
“Threat of death and warning shots will do that,” Kane said as he got closer.
“Sometimes you have to play hardball to get things done,” I replied.
“This was more than hardball, Nyx.”
“You’re right, it was. This is about ensuring the safety of our people while trying to get these humans to understand that they are no longer in control.”
“And you expect them to just listen and agree.”
“No, I don’t. I expect them to value their lives more than attempting to take control of Manassas.”
“This is insane.”
“Look, I didn’t want this, but after what they have done because it was funny to them, then to have Jaha immediately demand that he be given control of the council because he won’t tolerate being considered a subspecies. I had no choice. I will always choose the safety of our people over the lives of some humans.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t deal with this now,” Abby said throwing up her arms. “I have to check on them and make sure they’re okay.”
“Fine. If that’s what you want to do, but if you use your powers or go in there without a detail, you are putting your life at extreme risk. Clarke just got you back, don’t do anything stupid.”
She stared at me in shock before she turned away and walked into the bunker.
I looked over at Jackson and saw the indecision on his face and said, “Jackson if you want to help her, go ahead. Just do me a favor and check on the recovering adults.”
He nodded and took off.
About twenty minutes later as we were discussing how to set up various schedules for work details and meal times, a voice called my attention.
“Well, if it isn’t Stokripa,” the voice said. “The prodigal daughter returns from the dead.”
I spun around and took an involuntary step backwards and said, “Lincoln, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Or see me at all, right,” he said as he stopped a few feet from me. “You did leave me for dead at the border.”
“I didn’t know…”
“You left a lot of dead and dying that day. I should kill you, you know that right? I watched you massacre my entire family. Ripping their throats out and tossing them around like rag dolls.”
Fear coursed through me with with every word he said. This was the first time I’d heard anybody tell me what I did that day. I could only stand there numbly, staring at him.
Sephy stepped in front of me and said, “Leave her alone, Lincoln. I know damn well that Indra told you what really happened. Can you really lay the blame on someone who’s mind was altered to see only enemies killing everyone? She’s paid for what she did. She tried to kill herself because she knew that she deserved to die for what she did. Do you even know how hard it was for her to come back here? The guilt she carries with her. We lost a brother to the Ice Pack. We lost a lot of people to the Ice Pack. She may have been the one killing, but it was only because of the Ice Pack that she did.”
Lincoln looked surprised at her vehemence and said, “I understand that Persephone and I accept that she is not the one to truly be blamed. I’m just telling her that I remember what happened that day.”
“As if she needs those visuals, Lincoln. How dare you come here and speak to her in this way. In front of everyone, laying out the dirty laundry so that everyone can hear about her one moment of weakness.”
He looked around at everyone as they watched this exchange and bowed his head in regret, “I apologize, Stokripa, for speaking without thought. Seeing you brought those memories back ten fold. I humbly ask for your forgiveness.”
I couldn’t find the words to accept his apology or give one of my own, until I felt someone take my hand. I glanced over and saw that it was Clarke. She gave me an encouraging smile and I found my words.
“Ahem, Lincoln,” I said, my voice cracking, “I give my forgiveness. I hope that you can do the same. It breaks my heart knowing that I have caused you such pain. That I caused so much pain to those that lost loved ones that day. I live with that pain every day, Lincoln. I’m just trying to do better this time.”
“Thank you for your forgiveness. I give you the same. What are our orders?”
I closed my eyes briefly and focused on the present and said, “I need a two man detail sent to relieve two of the Manassas Pack who have been guarding a high value prisoner at the jail. Set up a rotation for the perimeter and the bunker. Then find housing for the men. For now, all we need is to keep the prisoners under control and working the fields to prepare for winter.”
He snapped to attention and inclined his head, “Considered it done. May I ask which way to the jail?”
“I’ll show you,” Octavia said.
He inclined his head and they walked away.
“I need some space. I suggest that the rest of you start drawing up schedules for the humans and figure out how to calm them down to get them to cooperate,” I said and headed back to the compound.