Beloved Runt - Book cover

Beloved Runt

M.J. Watts

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Chapter
15
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Summary

Lord Edmon Huntington has been traveling for months from pack to pack on the king’s orders to take a comprehensive census. Secretly, he has a more pressing task to fulfil for his king. He didn’t expect much when he went to see the Ever Green pack in the kingdom’s far-flung wilderness—remote packs were too simple to amount to anything. But when their strength surpassed his predictions, his questions began to cluster around the pack’s runt. Scarred and limping, Artemis may not seem like much at first, but buried deep within her is a powerful secret that even she may not be aware of. What is the pack so desperately trying to hide? And when the time comes, will the pack—and Lord Edmon—be willing to let go of the way things were before?

Age Rating: 18+

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15 Chapters

1: Chapter 1

EDMON HUNTINGTON

I was tired of traveling. I avoided it at all costs, but when my king commands…

In truth, taking a census of every pack was beneath me. It was a job for a clerk or a steward.

Not something for the king’s uncle, but that was merely the excuse given for my leave of absence from court. We didn’t need any suspicious eyes looking too hard into my visits.

My next stop was with the Ever Green pack. A small rural pack with nothing noteworthy about it.

Honestly, had I been free to, I would have skipped the pack entirely. There was no way they would have what I was looking for, but if I wanted to keep up the ruse of taking a census, I needed to visit each pack no matter how insignificant.

I had been traveling for several hours on foot in my wolf form.

I was able to travel most of the way on a royal jet, but this pack was so remote that the luxury cars I was accustomed to didn’t reach it; and if they didn’t have cars, I doubt they would have a helipad. So, on foot it was.

I never cared for solitary packs. The isolation warped their minds, causing them to lose their grip on reality. It made them uncooperative at their best and dangerous at their worst.

Every few years or so, a pack would become so disillusioned that they became a threat to other packs and possibly the Crown.

Then, they’d have to be put down. If I gained nothing else from this trip, at least I would have the assurance that this one still had their sanity intact.

As I plodded deeper into the woods, I felt the cold and crunch of the snow seep into the pads of my feet, and my breath was coming out in puffs of fog as I labored.

Thank the Goddess my wolf had a thick winter coat as the temperature began to rapidly drop with the setting of the sun. There had better be a warm bath at the end of this.

I was so lost in my thoughts that I had almost failed to notice a presence following me. They had done so for the last few miles. I wasn’t worried. I was an ancient.

My lineage came from a pure and old line of wolves that legend said started with the Goddess herself. With that came many benefits that made me stronger than most wolves. Challenging me was akin to challenging death.

I paused for a second, listening around me. Whoever was watching me was good. Silent enough that even I was having a hard time pinpointing where he was.

Impressive. I continued walking cautiously in the same direction, not alerting my watcher that I knew of him. The last thing I wanted to do after a long day of travel was get into a brawl with a random wolf, no matter how sure the victory.

It was only a few yards further in when my watcher made himself known. A large, dark steel-gray wolf jumped down in front of me, blocking my way. He was baring his teeth and snarling at me.

Annoyed, I narrowed my eyes at him, but his actions gave me the chance to take a better look at him. This wolf was large, even for an alpha. In fact, he almost rivaled me.

This deserved some further scrutiny. Maybe he had some ancient blood in him. If so, my orders were clear.

While I was staring at the wolf, two more wolves jumped down on either side of me.

Where the fuck did they come from? Now, they had my attention.

It was rare for me to be caught off guard and it vexed me greatly that I had allowed it to happen. As I took in the appearance of the two new wolves, I saw they were almost equally as large as the first.

All of a sudden, my chances of winning in a fight were dwindling. It was time to get more tactical.

Before they could ambush me, I crouched down, gathering my strength before sprinting up and over the steel-gray wolf and sprinting through the trees. My best chance was to outrun them.

I just needed to make it to the pack, and I would be rid of them.

My wolf smiled as I dashed away from the group. In a conflict, speed was sometimes more valuable than brute force, and many packs underestimated the need for stamina.

My victory was short-lived, however, as I soon heard more snarling and howling behind me. How were they keeping up with me? It was obvious these wolves were not normal.

I ran up a hill trying to gain the higher ground but was stopped by another small group who were already ahead. I turned to run another direction only to run into another small group.

How many were there? Every turn I took was met with resistance. My normally cool demeanor was giving way to frustration.

With my strength, I knew I could outmaneuver them. It was just a matter of time.

That was until I came to a stop in a ravine. Those bastards…

The ravine was high on three sides. And too steep to jump up or climb without being pulled down again. This was the worst position to be in.

Looking at my predicament, I suddenly realized they weren’t chasing me. They were herding me—right to this spot where I would not be able to escape. Running was now not an option.

Fine then. I wasn’t a fan of fighting, but I was also not opposed to holding my own when the time called for it. I turned to face the group of wolves now, realizing my mistake.

I had let my pride and confidence blind me. I assumed I was dealing with some common country wolves who were usually too stupid to do any real damage. But these wolves were too organized, too well-prepared.

Not a group of country bumpkins, but a well-organized pack. Was this the Ever Green pack? Well, they were about to be in for a surprise.

It was only a few moments before the steel-gray wolf and his companions caught up with me. They slowed once they reached the ravine.

They were growling, jaws opened, teeth showing, fur standing on end as they approached me menacingly.

I stared at the leader, furious at the predicament I had gotten myself into. The leader stared back, anger rolling off him as he crouched down, getting ready to attack. That was when I released my own power.

I was an ancient, damn it! I would not be humiliated like this.

I let my alpha power hit them all with full force. The leader fell before he could initiate his attack and whipped his head back and forth trying to fight against the need to submit.

His companions, however, could be heard whining and yipping as they did what their wolves demanded of them. One by one, they fell to the ground, lowering their heads in respect to the alpha in front of them.

The leader was the last one to submit, a growl still trying to slip out of his throat. I narrowed my eyes in warning to him; don’t try to fight what you can’t win.

The leader began to try to raise his head to defy me when his eyes glassed over and his movement froze. Someone was talking to him through their pack link.

I waited while he had the mental conversation. It only took a few moments before his movements returned to normal. The wolf then shifted into a young man in his twenties with reddish-brown hair.

I was thrown off. How can a wolf so strong and cunning be so young? He wasn’t the alpha, was he?

The man stood naked but confident in front of me, a scowl on his face.

“Identify yourself!” he called out to me arrogantly.

Don’t take that tone with me, pup. I looked down at him in my wolf form.

I am Lord Edmon Huntington,” I called out to their minds. The leader’s eyes grew wide and several of the other pack members yipped, startled at my response.

My inner wolf sneered with pleasure at their cowardice. Being an ancient, I could communicate with others in my wolf form. I did not have to degrade myself by standing in front of others nude, just so I could be heard.

I am here as a representative of the Royal pack and that of the king,” I continued, letting my alpha power push through my words. “~To whom am I speaking to~?”

The leader looked to his companions, unsure of what to do. He turned his gaze back to me before he spoke, meeting my eyes to respond. The kid either had a backbone or a death wish.

“I am Dalton, future alpha of the Ever Green pack.” Truth.

“What business does the king have with us?” The boy spoke to me in an even, dark tone, not letting out any hint of hesitance.

It does not matter what my business is!” I snarled at him.

The only person I answer to is the king, so, unless you plan to defy him and his order, I suggest you escort me to your pack house immediately. I have traveled a long way here and I am not impressed with the welcome I have received.

The boy—yes, he was a boy now—had me waiting for a moment as I scowled at him, before shifting back to his wolf form. He walked up to me and gestured with his head, indicating I should follow, before running off.

Annoyed with his lack of manners, I concluded that the sooner I followed, the sooner I could rest. There would be time to correct his behavior later.

After about an hour of running, the tall trees gave way to a large log house. For a pack house, it wasn’t very big, but a pack of their size didn’t need it to be.

There was light pouring out of the windows while several chimneys spouted smoke, hinting at the warmth that lay inside. A little rugged for my taste, but it would do for now.

In front of the pack house stood a large man with similar features to Dalton. This must be the alpha. As I approached, the alpha nodded his head to me in respect.

“Welcome, my lord. Forgive us. We were not expecting you,” the man said respectfully. Truth.

“I am Alpha Langston. To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?” Finally, someone with some decency.

I am Lord Edmon Huntington,” I mind-linked him. “~I have been charged by the king to visit various packs and take a census of their status. Your pack is one of the last ones on my list.~”

The alpha’s eyes showed concern. “Census? Has there been a problem with our paperwork or taxes?”

His concern wasn’t abnormal. Most alphas were confident and prideful. They didn’t like the idea of someone else looking over their domain and critiquing their work.

Not that I am aware of. The king just felt a more personal visit was necessary for some of the more remote areas.” This helped to ease the alpha some. I didn’t want him to be on guard until after I looked through his records.

“Ah, I see. Well then, we shall be thankful for the visit while we can.” Lie. “Please come inside. We will have a room prepared immediately.”

The alpha gestured toward the house and I was only too happy to oblige. The front door was large enough to accommodate my size, which I was grateful for as I still had no clothes.

The pack house opened to a large receiving room wide enough for me to stand in. The tones inside were warm and the heat from the house helped to thaw my frozen paws.

A teenage boy, also with reddish hair and holding a bundle of clothes, walked up to Langston, whispering something to him. Langston looked thoughtfully at the bundle the boy held, then nodded his head before turning to me, putting an arm around the boy’s shoulders.

“You met my son Dalton out in the woods already. This is my younger son, Edwin.” The boy bowed his head at the introduction. I acknowledged it with a slight tilt of mine.

“Edwin will show you to your room, my lord, where you may change, and then, I will be waiting in the great hall when you are ready.”

I looked at the boy ready to show me the way. He nervously fidgeted with the bundle before turning down the hallway. “Th-this way, my lord,” he stuttered.

As I followed down the hallway after Edwin, I looked behind me with my peripheral vision.

Langston was walking up to his son, Dalton, who was now standing in a pair of gray sweats. He tried to speak to him in hushed tones, but my sensitive hearing could still make out the words.

“Artie is in the kitchen,” he simply stated. Dalton’s eyes grew wide as he worriedly looked in my direction before running off.

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