When Cherry awoke, she found herself snuggled up against Trina’s side. Making an appreciative noise, she wriggled in further, making Trina laugh and stop reading.
“Awake at last,” Trina murmured, rolling onto her side so as to properly give cuddles.
“How long did I sleep?”
“A few hours. Long enough to miss part one of the fun going on downstairs.”
“Oh shit, Cobalt was here!” Cherry bolted upright in bed, her face pale.
“Cobalt hasn’t left yet, but don’t worry about her right now. Talk to me. What you saw…I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”
“Me too, really. I can’t tell you anything more than I told Sofia. The future is…mutable. Anything I tell risks a thousand tiny changes. And a thousand tiny changes can add up into something completely different. When I travel I can see the current path, and if nothing changes then it will happen exactly as I foresaw. But the further I go, the higher the chance that someone–or multiple someones–will do something that changes the future. What I saw though…I’m struggling with how to feel. An alliance between pixies and werewolves? It’s been a while since we were actively at war with each other, but that’s more happenstance than anything else. Climbing a hurdle that big? That doesn’t happen easy. Having Cobalt here, in peace and asking for an alliance, feels so strange,” Cherry paused, collecting her thoughts. “Most actions, they nudge the future, but others solidify it. Cobalt, an alliance and whether it holds–these things slam the future into place. If they go wrong, everything turns out differently.”
“So you have to choose very carefully what you tell. That’s a lot of responsibility for one pair of shoulders.”
Those shoulders gave a small shrug, as if testing the weight on them, “I can’t do anything about it. I am what I am.”
“I was in the room with Sofia while she spoke to Cobalt,” Trina said softly.
“I remember, kind of–I think I was mostly asleep but you asked if you could be.”
“Tell me first how you stood on the same room as her without taking off her head or anything.”
Trina laughed, “Well first, Sofia had told me not to. It wasn’t an Alpha command, I think it might actually have been a test…but whatever it was, Sofia made it clear that any move towards Cobalt would have me removed, so I had that to start with. Then I had the need to hear what she was actually going to propose. That was equal parts wanting to tell you, and plain curiosity, I suppose.
“I managed once to stand aside while you fought her. Even watching you get hurt, I didn’t move. It was what was needed, so I did it,” Trina shook her head a little. “I don’t really know how else to explain it. Don’t get me wrong, love, I desperately wanted to leap over Sofia and at the very least give Cobalt a few good, hard, smacks. But she came in peace, she was given hospitality, and I needed to hear what was said. So I buried everything, locked up every single muscle and joint that I could, and just listened.”
“Tell me what you heard,” Cherry said, as she nudged Trina into lying on her front, grabbed some oil from the bedside cabinet, and began seeking out the tensed muscles to massage them into release.
Trina related the conversation, as word-for-word as she was able. Cobalt wanted the werewolves to ally with her army and the inside rebels, to do away with Deserina and anyone who fought on her side. A replacement was ready, but they could not do the linking ceremony until the old leader was either dead, or joined the ceremony to abdicate their position. Deserina was driven mad by something called the Breaking, which was buried in hidden histories, concealing the very idea that a clan leader could experience problems as a result of the linkage. Cobalt waited downstairs now, while the pack awaited Cherry and Trina so they could discuss the truce–which Sofia had agreed to–and ask for volunteers to join the coup.
By the time Trina was done, Cherry had released most of the leftover tension and Trina rolled over with a groan, “That feels better, thank you love.”
Cherry smiled, “Go shower the gunk off and we can go down and start the meeting.”
“Ahhh but I’m now so relaxed I can’t move,” Trina grumbled with a smile on her face.
Cherry laughed, “I’m not falling for that. Move it or I’m going down without you and telling them why. I bet a few of the others could get you in the shower pretty easily.”
“You are,” Trina rolled to the side of the bed and sat up. “Absolutely impossible.”
The meeting, when everyone was assembled, was short. Sofia had already accepted the truce, and there was no discussion over that, merely a stating of the terms so all of the pack were aware. To Sofia’s surprise, however, when she asked for volunteers to help the coup and strengthen their alliance, at least half of the 20+ strong pack offered themselves.
Sofia asked those who didn’t wish to volunteer to leave, assuring them that not volunteering in no way affected anything–she understood.
“It’s good of all of you to show willingness to do this. I won’t ask you all why, you’ll have your reasons but I don’t need those. I need wolves who can guard the entrance to the clan’s cave, and wolves who can enter with the army and draw attention, rage around the place, but not hurt anyone who doesn’t try to hurt them first. Anyone not up for either of those, this is your chance to go.”
Nobody left, and Sofia nodded, “Alright. Cobalt is going to be over the moon! Brute, I would like you to lead the berserkers inside. Keep them under control, but cause all the non-murderous havok you can. Choose three of these here to do that with you.”
Brute looked around, musing, as he mentally calculated the talents of the wolves looking eagerly at him.
“I’ll take Louie, Jer, and Pash,” he said eventually, and the three chosen glowed at each other with pride.
“Good, when we’re done here and you go with Cobalt, do whatever training you can do without causing problems.”
Brute nodded, “Will do.”
“Trina, Cherry, you volunteered too. If I allow it, you will both be under Cobalt’s command. You must take her orders, no matter how much you want to scratch that itch. Hurt neither her, nor any of her pixies. I want you to scout, guard the entrance when the attack begins, and run any injured back to whoever Cobalt has for a medic. You’ll take two others with you, and make sure two of you are always scouting and two of you always guarding the camp, until the attack begins, then you guard the cave entrance. Can you do this?”
Trina and Cherry both nodded yes immediately.
“Good. I’d like you to take Nemen and Ghost with you. Ghost will have a lot of scout lessons for you, listen to her and take them on board. Nemen was a field medic in Vietnam, so she’ll be able to help with that if needed. Everyone understanding?”
The chosen ones nodded.
“Alright, good. The rest of you who volunteered, you’re second string with me. I’ll be listening for any of you that are out there calling. We’re a ways away, but at full wolf sprint, without breaks, we can be with you in about three hours. So if you think you need us, shout sooner rather than later. I’d soon as arrive and find you dealt with the problem already and don’t need us, than have you wait and us arrive too late. Yes?”
Affirmatives came from the group and Sofia rose, “Good. Second string, get back to whatever you were up to, but stay close to the house while this is going on. Everyone else, follow me.”
Cobalt, invited back into the foyer, was taken aback by the mass of people that stood there. Not all of them were built like Brute–huge and imposing even in human form–but they were big enough, and numerous enough, for Cobalt to pale slightly and use her wings to flutter upwards until she was able to meet their eyes without straining her neck.
Sofia spoke, motioning to the group. “This is the first string of volunteers. I will lead out a second string, if backup should be needed. They will let you know their roles as they walk, but Brute and Trina are the group leaders.”
Brute nodded to Cobalt, and Trina forced herself to do the same.
Cobalt, her face impassive, thoughts locked behind it, nodded back.
“I will leave you to it, then,” Sofia said. “Good hunting, Cobalt. May your foes not see you coming until you already have them by the throat,” she bared her teeth a little at the end, before turning and walking away.
“Ghost will lead us out,” Brute said after a moment where he struggled not to laugh at the way Cobalt’s eyes had widened at that departing statement. “Trina and I will fill you in on what skills you have and our roles on the way. But you are our commander in this, Cobalt, and in the end we will follow your orders, provided they do not pointlessly endanger us, as our Alpha wishes.”
Cobalt was still speechless, so she simply nodded and motioned for Ghost, who had already moved to the door without anyone actually seeing her do so, to lead the way.
The odd group moved in single file, looking like a game of follow the leader, until Ghost stopped outside of the wards and waited for everyone to catch up. Then, with a nod to Brute, she melted back into the shadows.
As they walked, Brute, Trina and Cherry talked. It took a while, but by the time they reached Cobalt’s camp, they were almost sounding like true allies.
Cobalt stopped them at the edge of camp and whistled.
Four pixies emerged from the trees and hovered, weapons in hands.
“Put them away,” Cobalt told them. “These are our allies. This is where I went–to make an alliance, and gain help for our cause.”
There was mumbling amongst the four, but their weapons disappeared.
“The truce we have made is this: that no pixie or werewolf shall harm any of the others, unless they try to harm them first. These with me have volunteered to help, they are under my command, and they come in peace. I will offer them hospitality–a tradition they still use to ensure a visitor is safe–and they will roam peacefully amongst us,” she looked back at the wolves and Cherry. “You should engage them in conversation. Learn more about them and their kind. It seems they are far from the odious beasts we have been taught they are. And one of our own can also confirm this. I’m sure you all know of Cherry. She returns with us, to help, and she can tell you more about them than any of us know. She is no traitor, she simply refused to be used to death.”
Cobalt watched as her pixies descended to the ground and turned to hunt down food and drink to offer their guests. Once they were occupied, she entered camp.
“My new allies, how odd it feels to do this–for yourselves I’m sure as much as it is for me–but please enter my camp and be at peace with us.”
Cobalt toured the camp while her guests ate and began careful conversation with the pixies: Tressa, Tyoni, Ryla and Dhani.
As they did so, Cobalt stopped at one of the camouflaged tents, “Who’s is this tent?” She called out.
Tyoni uttered a curse under their breath and raised their deep purple head, “That’d be mine…”
“Now I could swear that before I left camp, this tent of yours didn’t have a gaping hole in it.”
“And I’m fairly sure it wasn’t doused in blood, either.”
“No…” Tyoni stood and showed Cobalt a long bandage along their forearm. “We were doing some weapons training, practicing those ambush methods you’ve been trying to teach us. I hid in my tent to try and ambush someone, and someone else saw me, and attacked, and, well, that’s what happened,” they dropped their eyes sheepishly.
“And I suppose if I ask who the someones were, you’ll have a sudden attack of very specific memory loss?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Tyoni agreed.
Cobalt rolled her eyes. “Fix your tent, then, we’ve got a repair kit somewhere. Then ask Nemen to look at whatever’s under that bandage.”
Nemen nodded, “Be happy to.”
Tyoni looked shyly at her through her lowered eyelashes. “Thank you,” she said quietly.
Nemen smiled, a rare sight on the old medic, it erased the lines that treating the Viet Cong had given her, showing the young heart and sharp mind still underneath.
Trina and Cherry exchanged a look and a smile–things might just work out alright after all, that look said–and went back to their food.
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