Seems from birth until the moment of death, lycan were preparing for the Golden Fields. It didn’t matter what Pack you were from, because lycan all held the same beliefs when it came to the end of one’s life. The Golden Fields welcomed all from young to old, from wife to warrior. There was no great task that had to be accomplished to be within it. All one simply had to do was make the best of the life given and want to be in the Fields. The disgraced seemed to bar themselves from the Fields as if to say they weren’t worthy and so remained in torment for eternity. 

Now, those that were disgraced in the eyes of the living lycan might also be reminded of the torment they had put others through along their journey by not receiving a proper sending away to the Golden Fields. But that was something left for very few.

Unlike a solemn field full of sad stones and statues, the land beneath the Great Oak was scattered with all types of lovely stones, some carved and others painted. These were placed in remembrance of cherished ones that awaited the living and it gave the living a place to feel the love of the ones in the Golden Fields awaiting them. There were no rotting, decaying forms beneath these stones. The pyres were for the send off of the physical remains while the stones were just a place where souls could come into this realm when they so desired – a spiritual gateway so to speak. They were always placed under a pack’s designated Great Oak. When morning came the sun would shine through the leaves of the Great Oak and cast light upon the bundled forms nearby on their pyres as if welcoming each of them to their awaiting after life.

And so for three days, as the last evening light faded and brought darkness to the battle ravaged lands outside the palace walls, the bodies of the fallen were wrapped, readied, placed upon pyres, and sent off. The droning howls of grief stricken lycan that were mourning lost loved ones could be heard from all around and it was heartbreaking to hear the aching wails.

It didn’t matter what pack they were from, the pyres were shared. Torches were lit at Twilight’s command to give light to the grieving so that they might come out to collect their fallen and prepare them for their send off to the fields. Not all were familiar with the area and the lights helped.

It was as she stood there watching over it all that she felt the approach of another.

As Eva joined at her side, Twilight nodded to the left where pyres were being formed by the already exhausted warriors of the Pack.

“For the Simoa that are worthy of a send of.” She nodded to the right where more pyres were being formed. “For the fallen of our Pack, their loved ones are tendin’ them. At first light we’ll light them.”

“Thank you, for listening to my request for the other packs’ dead. Not all of them were villains. Best to let the Goddess sort ‘em.” Eva looked to where her sister-in-law was laid, her arms wrapped around her son and both draped and wrapped with cloth, ready for the send off.

“Devon and Kieran are meeting with the Alphas of Simoa, Saba, Cuther, and surprisingly enough… Saria,”  Eva was just telling Twilight what she already knew was supposed to be happening. Surprise would be hearing the name of her and Derek’s old pack as well.

Crossing her arms just beneath her breasts, Twilight drew in a deep breath. “Surprise indeed, if my mother was here she’d be grovelin’ at their feet. If any can bring around peace it’d be my mate and yours. I hear that ya mate has a golden tongue on him, he gets that from Kieran.”

“Last time I heard Kieran speak his mind, he definitely didn’t have a golden tongue. More like a razor tongue or a rusty saw tongue. But he was usually full of ale and wildness back then. I’m happy to see such a change upon him.” Eva was very surprised by the person Kieran was now.

“ Suppose that means we’ll have to arrange a meal for ‘em all.” Twilight muttered as she watched the preparations continue. She turned her blue gaze towards Eva, “ I know his past and what he once was, but my mate has moved on and is a better man. If you ask him about any of it he’ll be honest about it. WE face things head on and don’t drown it in drink and misery. Neither of those things solve problems, they just make more of ‘em.”

“I’m glad you took him how he was and made him what he is. It took you to teach him that lesson. Because he damn sure didn’t realize it when he was Alpha before. I guess you were born later than he needed you… later than this whole pack needed you to be born. Odd how the world works.” Eva didn’t back up, despite Twilight’s nearly defensive stand to her.  She did, however, decide to change the subject. “We’ll need to prepare the food, but we won’t have to provide it. Got the dragons to look out for us on that one. Iona will be sending meats, vegetables, and fruits through their dragon portals before nightfall. It’s in their best interest to keep the packs at peace. So Gratinel’s got no problem sending us whatever we might need.”

“Good cause right now I think that much huntin’ would be near impossible with the way things stand with our Pack. They’re exhausted and mentally worn down.” Twilight wasn’t much for circling around something she wanted to say and could tell Eva wasn’t either so she eased her stance a little as she returned back to the subject of her mate. “I don’t think I taught him anything. I wasn’t in much of a position to teach anyone anything when we were mated. I just refused to let him snarl and snap at me without snarlin’ and snappin’ back. Oh and I refused to let him ditch me when the mood hit him.” The dark haired female gave a low husky laugh, “He was stuck with me and so he just had to learn to live with it like a mate instead of some damned feral conqueror snatchin’ away a prize from the enemy.” Her chin tipped up, “I refuse to be a possession to anyone. So yes it is odd how the world works as you said.”

Eva’s stare turned into a very wicked grin. “I like you.” It was a simple statement. It was fact. The girl’s aura was a strong match to that of her brother and that told Eva she was good at heart. And that fire in her words and the way she didn’t take shit? Well, Eva could definitely respect that in a female. The world needed more like her… both worlds, actually.

There was a soft snort in response as Twilight smiled, “Glad to hear it. I’m thinkin’ I like you too. Ya strong of heart and will and it takes that to keep a Weylyn in line.”

“Don’t we both know that.” they both had a moment of lightness and quiet laughter.

“So, since we’re the decision makers for the most part when it comes to the more difficult things that happen in this pack, what are your thoughts on Alyssa’s surviving pups?”  

Mention of the pups had Twilight’s gaze going to their mama and brother;  it saddened her. “She just wasn’t strong enough, I think she was more like her mama then anyone ever realized. If it’s up to Kieran, he’ll keep ‘em here, but I don’t think that is wise for Nikita.”

“I agree,” Eva whispered.

“I think she needs to be away from here for now. Some day, when she’s ready, she can come back – and that means that the young ones will need to go too. That girl fought hard to protect ‘em at all cost and I just can’t see her leavin’ ‘em behind.” It was a straightforward answer though she knew for her mate it would be a painful one. “Let me explain things to my mate before announcin’ anything. He’ll want time with ‘em before they go.”

“Of course.” Eva’s hand moved to her still flat tummy. Memories of her past in this world were difficult to bare, but she was healthier now and her mate was by her side. They would not be here overly long, either and that would make a huge difference. “We can remain as long as he needs. He deserves that. He fought for his pack, even when they didn’t all realize he was on their side.”  

“A few days, maybe a week would be good. The Pack is realizin’ their mistake. He’ll show ‘em that he’s changed. Even if the decision of combining the packs leaves us as less than Alphas, he will still be a leader among all of you. Same with me. I love this pack and people too much to back away.”

There was a silence between the two. Choosing the next Alpha was going to be the next big decision for Devon and herself. They had a fine line to walk here. 

“It looks like the pyres are almost finished. Is there anything else you’d like to suggest?”

“Maybe you could teach that one a thing or two about pickin’ a mate while we’re here,” Eva muttered as she watched Derek come back from the bathhouses.

Twilight looked confused at this, “ I didn’t pick mine, he picked me. What do ya mean? I didn’t know Dare was shoppin’ for a mate. I take it ya don’t like his choice in female?” It was almost funny thinking of Derek pissing off his adopted family by mating with a lycan they didn’t care for.

“Afraid he’s pining after the sister of the half-demon ‘Nea brought over with her. It’d be the second time he’s gone after one that just don’t seem suited for him.” Eva shook her head before looking at Twilight again. “But who am I to meddle in the love affairs of others? I just hate seein’ him hurt. And I kind of expect it. Seems to be his cycle.” The Alpha from the other world sighed and put a hand on Twilight’s shoulder. “But, no. I have no other suggestions for the pyres or the send off. You’ve done a wonderful job of getting things handled as-is, Twilight. I’ll go and begin seein’ to the kitchen and cooking.”

With her gaze on her brother, Twilight nodded while absorbing what Eva had told her. As the female Alpha left her, she made her way down the small hill in the direction of Derek. She didn’t stop until she was right behind him.

“What the fuck are ya doin Dare?” The words were little more then a hushed snarl.

The approach caught him off guard and the words had him confused. His eyes narrowed and that confusion lit up his face. “I’m… walking…just took a bath? Still damp, but I think I’m gonna be alright. Why?”  What was she on about?

“How serious is it with that half-demon’s sister?” Her blue eyes sparkled as she stood right in his face.

“Oh…that.” had Eva and Devon been around he would’ve been giving them that – none of your damn business look. They’d obviously squealed to the one person they thought might shake him.  “I don’t know. I can only answer from my side and I can’t truly answer from my side without knowing her heart, too. Learned that lesson once already.” He looked away. Isabel had been quite the lesson. He’d come close to bonding with her. In some ways, he had. It had been premature, though. She’d turned from him.  

Something in the way his voice seemed to waver just a little had Twilight feeling her brothers pain. It made her want to tear apart the one that had hurt him so badly. Now though she needed to protect him like any sibling would and so she pushed, “Give me more than that. Tell me what ya mean by that.”

“What do I mean? Well, we’ve been meeting and talking and going out to movies and just to quiet places whenever we get the chance. I help her out at the bar sometimes. I’ve come to care about her a lot, but …”

“Care, not love.. Just care?” Twilight nudged and pryd abit more. “I’ve cared for a lot of people that didn’t lead anywhere so maybe it’s not that serious.”

“I’m scared to say the L word.”

“Scared or just not feelin’ it?” Twilight needed to know how deep and how serious this was. The only way to do that was to get him to admit it all to her. Unlike the others, Twi had always been able to get things from Dare that no one else could.

Derek’s crystal blue eyes didn’t shy away from those of his sister. “I feel it. It’s not that I don’t feel it. It’s just that I don’t want to make her life any more difficult than it already is. My pack is against it. Her only family is against it. So, even though I love her, I’ve been holding back until I’ve got my courage under me and I can be the man she needs.  If we become mates, she’d be turning against her brother’s wishes – and he’s the only protector she’s known. And I wouldn’t have pack behind me.”

Shoving on his shoulder Twilight rumbled softly, “The man she needs? I heard ya had a bad round before this one but did that first one get ya balls brother? You’re a lycan warrior, might as well be Beta wolf… so how much more of man could ya possibly be for her?” Drawing in a deep breath she shook her head, “It’s why we stay with our own. No one’s gonna get ya like a female of the Pack.”

“But they don’t!” he cut off the reasoning quick as it began. “None of ’em get me. They want me. They want the position. They want what I can provide. They want me to be the tame perfect thing they think I am. They don’t want me. And so, I don’t want a female of the pack,” he growled low. “I know all of ‘em and I’m not interested. And if you want to know – a man worthy of her gets her for who she is and not what she is. Same as me. I already do that. But I’ve not moved past the other part. I’ve not turned from the pack. And if Devon has anything to say about it, seems I might have to.”

“I’m your sister and if that female has a chance then I guess she’s gonna have to earn you.” Twilight moved forward and reached up to grasp the back of Derek’s neck as she pressed their foreheads together. “You always have Pack behind you. Always! She just has to prove her worth and if she isn’t willing to do that then she’s no more worth your heart than that first one was.” Twilight snarled right back at him reminding him of whom he was dealing with. He’d obviously forgotten what it truly meant to be lycan and the tradition that went with their people.

He allowed it, the tug, the touch, they both were snarling at one another as they spoke, dealing with things that needed to be said. But when she spoke of the flip-side of this possible union, his eyes grew large and he sucked in a breath. His rumble was swallowed.

“Aye… yeah…” Twilight growled again, a meaning and emotion tied to each sound.

“I’d not thought about that. I been shielding her. That’s not what’s needed. I’m so used to the courting side from the male’s perspective, Twi… I didn’t think about it from that angle.” And he’d not!  

Though her hand stayed where it was, her grip eased as the sharpness of her voice softened for him. “You are lycan, Dare, and she needs to understand and accept that just as much as you are trying to accept all that is her. You’re not like any other lycan I know. I give ya that. But that don’t make you less lycan. And like it or not brother even rogues need a Pack. We both know that you wouldn’t be a good outcast. You love your Pack too much and its loss would eat at you. So be fair to her and let her know all that you are. She needs to be found worthy of you with your Pack.” Twilight was letting him know that she’d give this half-demon the same chance she would any lycan to prove to her, his sister, that Dare would be loved and taken care of like he should be. Just like she expected Dare to prove his worth to the females brother. It was their traditions that would make or break this possible union. Twilight knew nothing of demonic traditions and so couldn’t guide him in that, but she could help him with theirs.

“Thank you, sister. Seems I have a lot to accomplish once I get back.” He placed his big hands on her shoulders. “Would you speak with her, if she passed the willingness to learn of the pack ways? It’d mean a lot to me.”

It was now in this moment that she could see what she’d feared to. She could see that he truly loved the half-demon female. Many didn’t approve of her mating to Kieran so how could she begrudge him what she had. “I’ll speak to her Dare, but if she ain’t worthy I won’t bite my tongue any more with her than I do with you.” Twilight smiled for him then as she cupped his cheeks, “Because I love you and it’s gonna take a lot of work for her prove to me that she loves you more.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve missed you, ya little shit.” He hugged her, this time he turned her around and around a couple of times before letting her go. He figured, only himself and her mate could get away with that. He’d been doing it to her since she was just a pup. Sometimes, Derek felt like he was they younger sibling. Twi had always been wiser than her years and unrelenting in her opinions.

“Now walk with me while you dry off and tell me what you can of her.” Twilight wrapped her arm around his and fell into step with him. They’d been apart for years so being able to help him in this meant alot to her. Knowing that she wasn’t there when his heart was broken hurt her and she felt she owed it to him to see that it didn’t happen again.

“She’s like a wildfire rose. She’s smart and loyal and when she finds you worthy, she’s kind and loving. She keeps those thorns up until she’s sure about you, though. She’s had a lot of years of people judging her and hating her that kind of makes her keep up her walls.”

“Oh, I can definitely understand that.” Twilight smiled as they strolled through the colorful foliage of the packlands right now. They were still a bit farther from the main palace and the village. The trails took them between the two lakes and let them listen to the croaking frogs coming out about now.  She thought back on how so many lycan had been unfair to her because she was female. She had to fight twice as hard to prove any points. It was Keiran that listened. He realized she was an expert strategist. She knew she was good. She knew she was good at a lot of things – not many of them domestic.

“How can she prove herself if Devon won’t allow such a thing?” Derek whispered, his mind searching for something.

“Let her come here.”

Derek stopped.

Twilight stopped. She turned to look at her brother.

“What do you mean?” he was concerned about what his sister was about to say.

“If she loves you, stay here and wait for her to come and claim you. She has access to portals – her brother’s here.  And I’m your sister – the one who has most right to decide if she’s worthy of you and the Pack. I’m here. Plus, if you stay, we can catch up.” Twilight smiled, quite pleased with herself.

“But we live on the other side. If she gets accepted here…”

“They have to accept her there. It’s the agreed upon rules of our Pack since Devon had to leave. He came back through that portal, and he was automatically seen as the Alpha of Pack Weylyn – both here and there. That’s why he had to take Ethan down. He had put Ethan in charge and what Ethan did and said here was proper on both sides and what Devon says and does over there is law here. So to disqualify what Ethan has done, Devon had to remove him. Likewise, when he goes back, he has to appoint someone here that will carry on the Alpha responsibilities again.”

“You and Keiran?” Derek asked.

“That’s not guaranteed. At this point, I’m not sure either of us should even expect it.” Twilight shrugged. “But this conversation isn’t about that. It’s about your lady. And if she comes for you and I find her worthy, the Pack at least has to take that into consideration. The traditionalists may not like it, but they can’t turn you away once that happens. So at that point, on both sides of the portals, you’ll still be part of this pack and she will have proven herself worthy of you. Neither of you would be turned away if you needed help.”

“It’s worth a shot,” Derek finally whispered.

“And if she doesn’t come to claim you, Derek, promise me you’ll at least give some of the females here a chance? They may surprise you.” Twilight raised her brows a bit at him.

His heart hurt to think about that. But it was fair. He nodded.

“Good! Now… Eva was supposed to be looking over the kitchen situation. So let’s slip by there and swipe some stuff and go out back and kick back and relax and talk about anything other than war and death.” She took his arm in hers and added excitedly, “You can tell me stories of the other world! I don’t ever want to go there, but I love hearing stories about the cars and the … what are they called? The flying things?”

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2018