Falling In Love With The King Of Beasts

Chapter 7: Challenges


Chapter 7:Challenges

ELIA

“She is no queen!”

“This is not the intention of the rite!”

“A human? Did he just say he’s taking a human as mate?”

The chaos was swift and noisy, punctuated by howls and other noises that made Elia startle. But Reth didn’t even break eye-contact. When the protests didn’t die down, he barked, “Silence!” and the crowd cut off immediately, shifting on their feet and murmuring, but no one raised their voices again. Only after they’d settled did Reth turn to look at them. “If you would speak to me, speak plainly and show yourself. I will not give an audience to cowards hanging behind a crowd.”

“She won by a deception,” a deep voice barked from Elia’s right. She whirled as Reth chuckled and swung his massive body slowly around to face the man, as if he was not afraid to have that menacing voice at his back.

“You of all people condemn the use of deceit and strategy in battle, Lucan?” Reth said, his voice strong and good-natured, though she could see the gleam in his eye. He did not trust this man. Some in the crowd laughed too, but it died quickly.

“I condemn using deceit when you do it because you’re a coward, or to hide weakness,” the man growled.

“An interesting statement,” Reth said through his teeth. Every inch of his body appeared at ease—his weight back on one leg, his hands loose at his sides. But Elia could feel the coiled tension in him. “Whose Tribe selected the Pure One?”

“Mine,” the man replied.

“The call to find the Pure One is clear: Identify the best bloodline. The strongest contender. The best and most challenging opponent to bring to the rite, so if she were to win, her blood would run in the veins of our kin. And so she was measured by your people to be the strongest of those you could find in the human world, yes? Unless there was some other plan afoot that did not fulfill the terms of the Rite?”

The crowd murmured. Lucan didn’t move or reply immediately and to Elia it seemed the entire circle leaned in, waiting for his answer. “We did our best choosing a candidate,” he said finally. “But she was untested. Her response here has proven she is not the Queen we need.”

Everyone turned to Reth.

“How convenient,” he muttered, so quietly Elia wondered if anyone but her was able to hear him. “The Rite is in the hands of the Creator,” he said, his voice low, but carrying through the chill night air. “The wolf-father should be grateful for the mercy of our Queen that means his daughter remains alive at this moment.”

Lucan looked at the woman on the ground and his upper-lip curled. “She is shamed by the human. She fought like a true wolf, and her efforts were not recognized—her opponent deemed her… incapable?”

Elia blinked. “What—?”

Reth snapped his head to glare at her with such dark warning, her mouth closed instantly. After an uncomfortable moment, he turned back to Lucan. “The Pure One does not know our customs, or the Rite. In her world, mercy is a measure of value. She measured Lucine’s life as more valuable than taking the win for herself. Motives matter, Lucan.” That last statement dripped with such weight and venom, Elia wondered what stood between the two men, what previous conversation did Reth refer to that made Lucan go still again.


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