Queens

Ever heard of that joke about the lion amongst the wolves? No, well, neither has Vivienne. How was she supposed to know that her life would be the punchline?

Vivienne is a little special. Turns out, her best friend Casey, is also a little special. According to a local legend, they're part of a group called 'The Ascended', who's purpose is to reunite werewolves and wereanimals together.

Can they do it? Can they do what no other person has done and be the heroes that everyone wants them to be? Or will they crumble and fail?

[Cover made by me, but the picture isn't mine. Found it on tumblr]
[COMPLETELY UNEDITED]
[not your typical werewolf story]

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12. twelve

I stare out of the car window, watching as trees merge into one. Mum and Dad are making cheerful conversation, trying to get me involved but their efforts are futile. Mum keeps saying that I'll love it there, wherever there is. She's been gushing about this family estate-holiday thing for a while, showing the brochure to everyone she knows. Before my birthday, I was ecstatic, even more ecstatic that Casey and her family is coming along but now I don't see the point anymore.

"We're going to have a good time, aren't we girls?" Mum chirps happily, swaying her head to the song playing on the radio. Maya giggles happily, clapping her chubby little hands. She glances up at me with that big grin of hers, her smile never faltering. I smile back at her before turning back to the window, frowning.

Nobody wants to admit it but everything has changed. I've seen the way the adults act around me as if they're scared that I'm going to rip them a new one. Before, they'd return my smile, even stop to have a conversation with me, often asking me how my parents were and if school was going well but now, I'd be lucky if they smiled back at me. There's no point trying to befriend someone who obviously wants nothing to do with my kind.

My kind. I hear that phrase a lot now, being casually passed around in conversations like a hot potato that nobody wants to hold for too long. Alpha Nelson has been around lately - he's probably visited our house more times in the past weeks than he ever has done in my lifetime. I had the pleasure of opening the door and welcoming him in, through gritted teeth and a fake smile. Something was always 'off' about him but the vibe that I got from him that day, swayed me a little bit. I suddenly became dizzy, using the door to steady myself. The world slowly started to tip over yet everything stayed still. I clutched my head in discomfort, making sure to close the door behind him. He didn't even speak to me, just passed me by as if I wasn't there.

Dad welcomed him in but not before casting me a worried glance. I assured him that I would tell him later before heading up to my room. Mum and Maya were out shopping for groceries, they offered to take me out but I declined - what was the point of going somewhere where you know that you'd be stared at from every corner?

A knock on the window beside me shakes me out of my thoughts. Casey gestures me to open the door with her free hand. Her suitcase rolls behind her as she walks into the house. I follow suit, struggling to get my suitcase out of the cracks in the patio. Damn, Casey made this look easy.

**

I sit by the windowsill, watching Dad struggle with the barbecue. I watch as Casey's dad tries to lend him a hand but my dad slaps it away. He says something that I can't make out but I'm guessing that it was a joke because Casey's dad is laughing. To describe my dad as stubborn would be an underestimate but then again, so is Mum...and Maya. I think stubbornness may just run in the family. I stop looking at my dad's barbecue failures and switch to Maya. I watch as she sprints to the flower bed and soon collapses in the mud and crushed flowers. She pops up again, quicker than usual, ready to destroy the next flowerbed she comes across but out of the corner of my eye, Mum's gaining speed to catch Maya. Maya's quick development has us all questioning but I guess, it's normal for a wolf to show signs at a young age.

As I rest my head on my hands, tired of watching them, a tear drops onto the windowsill. At least Maya's actually a wolf so our family isn't a complete fraud. Her big sister is a lion, for god's sake. I wonder how they could be so happy ignoring the situation at hand. Maybe, my parents have pushed it to the back of their mind - I don't blame them, who would want to face the facts that your daughter isn't like you, in the slightest. Sure, I look like them, I have my dad's curly hair and my mum's brown eyes but I'm not like them where it matters - I'm not the same species, I'm not a wolf, I'm not part of the pack.

I'm an outsider.

I'm a lion.

"You okay Nala?"

Nala? How fitting.

I sniff hard, wondering why my nose is so runny. Why is my sleeve wet? Have I been crying all this time? I sigh as I attempt to wipe the tears away but they just keep coming. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine."

I turn around to see Casey closing the door behind her. She offers me a box of tissues. "Take one, your face is a mess."

I laugh and blow my nose with a tissue. I glance down out of habit, instantly regretting my actions. "Thank you, I needed that."

She smiles, "The comment or the box of tissues?"

"Both." I pause. "Why aren't you outside with them?"

"Well, Mum's taking a tour around the bar and didn't want to me to disturb." She laughs but quickly grows quiet. "Why aren't you outside with them?"

"I'm thinking."

She sits at the edge of the bed, making the bed creak. "You're still worrying about this? Your birthday was a month ago, Nala."

I sit up straight, trying to focus as the blood rushes to brain. "How can I not worry about this? I'm a lion - a lion in a pack of wolves! The only lion in a pack of wolves - can you believe that? Do you realise how dumb that sounds?"

"Yes. I think we're all aware of how dumb that sounds."

I frown.

"You didn't let me finish. That's beside the point. Dumb things happen all the time. Sure, it's really rare that this ever happens to someone and-"

"Is this your way of trying to cheer me up?"

"And you should be glad that you're not living in the times of those exiles-"

Exiles? What have they got to do with it?

Casey rambles on. "I mean, you'd be so dead. Beyond dead. If there was a beyond dead, you'd be it by now. I'm pretty sure they would've torn you to pieces by now. I think you should be glad that you've got your body, I saw some of those pictures and let me tell you, they were not pretty."

"Rewind, what did you say? Exiles?" I tilt my head at her.

She knits her eyebrows at me. "Did you not figure this out earlier? There's a pretty high likelihood that you're a descendent of one of them." She pauses for a while and laughs. This isn't any laugh, this isn't some cute giggle - no, this is a boisterous laugh. One that starts in your belly then travels upwards. Next thing you know, she's on the floor trying to catch her breath.

"What's so funny?" I ask, slightly annoyed.

She splutters, "It's-It's just that you've been cooped up in here, obviously plagued with the idea that you're different but you couldn't even figure it out that you're an exile's descendent."

I stare at her, deadpanned. She straightens up immediately. "Wasn't funny at all." I collapse on the bed, arms sprawled out. "Well, what does all this mean? If I'm an exiled, there's gotta be someone in my family who has some sort of connection."

"We could go find out, y'know. This is your old family house, after all."

I sit up a bit too quickly, again regretting my actions as I use my hand to steady my head. Once it's steadied, I slip off my shoes so that I'm only wearing socks and head to the door. "Last one to the library has to drink a raw egg smoothie for breakfast!"

Casey shouts as I close the door behind me.

**

I slide to stop, falling over in the process. Casey offers me a hand, grinning but I refuse. "Such a sore loser. Have fun with that raw egg smoothie tomorrow!"

"Stupid floors."

"Yep, blame the floors."

I grumble, the floors are much more slippery than I expected. Casey pulls open a pair of ornate decorated doors. The doors carry a Moroccan vibe with intricate swirls covering each corner of the door. There's a broken lock on the top of one of the doors but Casey drags me inside before I can inspect it.

"Woah." She utters.

I turn to look at the room and I'm dumbfounded.

This room is bigger than I expected. The bookcases resemble a long line of educational dominoes, each one after the other. I'm careful not to walk into any of them, in fear that I might knock one over. I notice there's a step-ladder at the corner of the room, leaning beside one of the human sculptures. A gnawing feeling grows in my stomach as I walk closer to the statue. There was something off about them - I turn my head around quickly, something's watching me. I can feel it.

I grab the step-ladder as quickly as I can without making eye contact with any of the human sculptures. The sculpture's hand brushes against my skin, feeling as if a real human just brushed my shoulder. I jump a bit in surprise, almost dropping the step-ladder in my hands.

"NALA!"

"What, have you found something?" The step ladder starts to slip out of my hands as I struggle to keep it upright and above my knees.

Casey's voice bounces off the walls, making it hard to pin point her exact location. Each bookcase seems to be wider with each step that I make, making it harder to quickly glance down the length without moving my legs. "Casey?" I call out, hoping to see her red hair pop out from the corner of the bookcase.

The legs of the step-ladders bashes me on my shins with each little step that I take, each hit hurting more than the last. Why did I even need the stupid step-ladder anyway? The reason escapes me so I set the step ladder down, balancing it on the corner of the bookcase. Probably not a good idea but I had to participate in the treasure hunt for the missing redhead. Maybe there was a clue somewhere - perhaps, something that would lead me to Casey, something like a loud laugh or...

Why did Casey even walk off anyway? Oh right, to find a book on my descendants. My apparent descendants - they were my only hope of making sense of this whole thing. What I still can't wrap my head around is the fact that I'm a lion, a freaking lion. How did everyone miss that fact? Surely there must have been some hints when I was younger. It's clear that Maya's a wolf so wasn't it clear to anyone else that I wasn't a wolf?

We'd make pretty shitty wolves. The voice laughs.

I laugh loudly, startling myself when I hear the same laugh bounce off the walls. God, this place is creepy.

"Nala?" Her voice comes from the other end of the room. I look behind me quickly, expecting to see her standing there and waving at me. I see nothing, except from the long wooden table and the Moroccan styled doors.

"Case?" I call out, louder this time.

As I peer around the bookcase, I misplace my footing, tripping on a bunch of piled books - a clear sign showing that Casey was here. Flailing out for anything to hold, I grab onto a bunch of books that offer no support whatsoever to my falling body. "Shit." I mutter into the rug.

"Did you just fall?" Casey calls out. Her voice sounds near so there's still hope that I'll catch a glance of her loose curls.

"No?" I say as I dust myself off. There's still a throbbing pain in my leg from where the ladder hit me so many times. Grabbing some of the piled books off the floor, I brush the growing pile of dust off the covers and put them back on the bookshelf.

"You're a shitty liar."

I turn to see Casey standing there, hand on hip, her shirt covered with dusty handprints. A smudge on her right cheek covers a majority of her face. She laughs, absent-mindedly dragging her hand down her face and looking at her hand in confusion afterwards. The smudge now resembles a large zebra crossing but something tells me that she doesn't care about that.

I tut, hoping she'd laugh. "Your language is appalling."

She sighs. "What's the point of censoring my language when the wolves wanted to censor the Exiles?"

There's a sharp twist in the atmosphere, almost as if the air suddenly got heavier. I resume in returning the books to its rightful place. Undecipherable inscriptions are carved into the back of the wooden bookcase, creating a stark contrast between the colours of the bookcase. The inscription carries on across the length of the shelf.

"Censor's a strong word, Case. I don't think it was that bad." I murmur, my voice mostly lost in the bookcase.

She scoffs. "I'm sorry, is silence a better word for you? Or maybe massacre?"

I turn around to see her sat on the floor, head in her hands, leaning against a bookcase with books opened on certain pages around her. She looks up at me, her eyes overfilling with tears. "Don't you understand? You would've died, in those times." She pauses, sniffling before picking up a book and glancing down at it, "You would've been slaughtered. The wolves, they-they wanted to make an example of these people. Our, no wait, my ancestors would've ripped you apart in front of your own parents. In front of people you loved. Your friends, your family, anyone you knew."

The weight of her words hit me, crushing me down as I crumble to the floor. She carries on talking, reading from what I can only assume is a diary. The feeling that overcomes me is familiar - the world starts to tip over on its side, Casey along with the bookcases lay horizontal while I try to shake myself out of it. Casey's words become blurred, garbled noises that I can't decipher.

*

A woman lets out a blood-curdling scream that echoes into the woods, causing birds to fly out of the trees in their masses. Vultures circle the city, some perched on the trees next to the forbidden houses. The rhythmic heavy thuds of the Argent guards are heard even from the edge of the city, where the beggars dwelled. Hushed whispers followed the sudden closing of windows, the quiet clicks of backdoors are heard as the footsteps get closer.

This is it. Hearts racing. Face wet. Sweat covers his face, his pounding heart will not give up. He doesn't dare to look behind him, his view fixated on the trees in the far distance. He didn't have much, he didn't pack much in fear of slowing him down. He looks to the left, passing a small smile at the girl and her mother in their attempt to get over the fence. He hesitates, wondering whether to help them but he knows that every second that he wastes is another second closer to his death. He runs. The wind holds him back but he wills his legs to keep running. It's run or die. Run or die.

Another woman screams into the high heavens, willing the maker to show mercy. She cries out in pain as she tries to grab her daughter's hand as she's dragged away by the man in black. The humanity in his eyes his lost as he rips her child out of her arms and throws the woman to the ground. The toddler cries, absolute terror emerging from her lips as she watches her mother struggling to run after the man who just taken her baby. She crumbles to the floor, crying hysterically and slamming her hand on the ground once she realizes that there's nothing she can do. Passersby avert their eyes, perhaps fearing for their own lies if they interfered. Her words are drowned by her sobbing as she grabs the trouser leg of the men in black. He peers down at her and kicks her to the side, laughing as she writhes in agony.

Fire engulfs a nearby house, spreading quickly to the next house and to the next. Thick smoke fills the street, forcing people to evacuate their homes and watch as their possessions become dust. An aging man collapses to the ground, hands wrapped around his throat as he struggles to breathe. A man in black crouches down beside him and lays a hand on his shoulder. Before the man can utter a single plea, a gun is pressed to his temple.

*

"Holy shit." Casey's heavy breathing brings back to reality,

I look around, taken aback that the room isn't filled to the brim with smoke. Silence, apart from Casey's heavy breathing and her occasional sniffles, fills the room instead. I check my legs, patting them several times, making sure that I'm still here and still alive.

What a blast from the past. The voice sounds quiet, more resigned than normal.

Casey leans her head against the bookcase, sweat visibly dripping down her forehead next to me. She mutters, "Did you see that?"

I nod, unable to speak. My heart hasn't stopped racing and pounding against my ribcage. That would've been me, if I was alive all those years ago. I would've been slaughtered, mercilessly tortured by the wolves. Bile starts to rise in my throat as I recall the image of the discarded corpses, left out on the street to be made an example of.

"Did you see the woman sobbing into the ground?" Casey whispered, her voice almost inaudible, "She begged them, begged them to show mercy. She was screaming out to them, why couldn't they see what they were doing to their own people?" Anger laces her tone as she curls her fists into balls, "It's not that fucking hard to stop beating the shit out of an innocent woman, who has nothing to defend herself with. Fucking loyalty."

I've seen Casey angry but I've never seen her like this. Her tone is filled with so much hatred and distaste, I can almost feel the hatred rolling off her tongue. The atmosphere immediately becomes so tense and so heavy that I can feel it almost strangling me. The feeling presses against my throat, making me struggle for any gasps of fresh air.

A slow clap sounds, catching both of our attention. In front of the Moroccan doors, stands Sly, clapping loudly. What is he doing here? I'm on edge - the images are still there at the forefront of my mind but something about Sly just pisses me off.

"I don't mean to interrupt, or annoy you Vivienne." Sly says as he walks towards us, "and before you ask, your parents let me in."

I furrow my eyebrows but decline to say more. "What are you doing here?" I ask, tired of all the mystery.

He clasps his hands together as if he's thought of a brilliant idea. The smile plastered on his face is almost contagious as Casey uncurls her fists and visibly relaxes in his presence.

"I think it's time that we all had a long chat."

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