Leader of the Pack Ch. 21bysecretme©
Aislinn crawled onto the disheveled bed, dragging a blanket with her. The pillows were strewn across the floor but she didn't care. She just wanted to get some sleep. She could hear the shower running and knew that Cullen would be leaving the minute he got out. She couldn't decide if she was happy or upset about that. Her body desperately needed a break and at the very same time didn't want one. Aislinn closed her eyes and instantly fell into a sleep that could only be induced by days of sex and exhaustion.
Cullen knew the minute she fell asleep. The soft murmur in the back of his mind that told him she was concerned about him leaving faded into a nondescript whisper of contentment. He smiled to himself. He didn't care how it happened. She was his and he was pleased about it. The pack elders could go to hell and he'd tell them as much if they caused any trouble. The pack was technically only a democracy in as much as the alpha was willing to let it be.
He snuck into the bedroom and pulled some clothes out of the closet. He didn't want to wake her up. Cullen dressed in his standard black jeans, black shirt, and whatever. Then he went over to the bed and placed a gentle kiss on Aislinn's forehead before sneaking back out of the room. He ignored the mess that the place was in. He didn't even want to think about what the omegas would say to the rest of the pack when they got back from cleaning the mess up. He never pulled anything like that before. He grinned happily thinking about it. It certainly has been a nice week.
Cullen managed to get to the garage and on the road in short order. He spent the entire drive dwelling about Cadifor's phone call.
Aislinn found herself walking through the Tairneach manor again. She was sweating. It was as if the place was on fire. The shadows were deep and dark along all the walls as she looked around. She had no idea where she was going. Aislinn tried some doors but none of them would open. She was getting frustrated. The more she tried the more it seemed to slip away from her.
Aislinn stopped and closed her eyes. You're doing too much. She told herself. Just let it happen. Relax. When Aislinn opened her eyes again she was in a room with no windows, only a couple chairs, and several men and women standing over a large table. There were bottles full of different colored liquids on stands with burners under them, there were several mortars and pestles, herbs and various plants as well as animal parts, and books and papers. The books and papers. The place smelled absolutely foul and Aislinn covered her nose to mask the scent of burning flesh.
Aislinn waited to see what she had been brought here to see. She had briefly considered going to look at the things on the table more closely. But she decided that it would be best to let the vision tell her what the fates thought she should know. So she watched and waited.
One of the men turned and looked at her. He seemed relieved to see her. He looked as though he had been beaten badly in the recent past. Suddenly she realized that she was looking at now. The man had one black eye and a swollen split lip. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt as were the others. When he walked toward Aislinn the others didn't seem to notice he had left the table.
He took a deep breath and began to whisper to her. Aislinn couldn't understand what he was saying at first. She closed her eyes and tried to relax some more. Finally the words began to clear. He was speaking in gaelic. He told her to find Nora Senach and tell her that they're using the bone dust of a dire wolf. He said it over and over again.
Aislinn nodded when she finally understood. The man looked at her with relief and some admiration. When Aislinn blinked he was back at the table amonst the others and they all continued to work diligently on whatever it was they were doing. Then the scene faded away.
Jenna was getting frustrated with the Pack Council. They insisted that all the alphas be present before holding the meeting. She had hoped that they would just proceed without Cullen, but apparently he was more important than she had originally believed. At least she knew that Terrick had taken her suggestion to heart. Cullen wouldn't have just ignored a call to Council. She smiled to herself.
But what was worse than the fact that they were all acting as though Cullen Arnauk were an integral cog in the workings of the Pack Council was the fact that she was getting no respect from any of them. All of the Council members apparently believed that she hadn't earned her position and were only allowing her presence based upon the fact that she was the 'current' Tairneach alpha. But the quiet consensus that she wasn't supposed to be catching was that they believed she would be replaced in relatively short order. None of them were even being friendly toward her. She had seen several of them interact with her father before and he had always been treated with friendly mutual respect. It only made her more determined in her current plan.
Most everyone was gathered about the great room. Lycan pack alphas from the neighboring areas were all sitting in various places about the room. Some of them were talking to each other some ignoring each other. It was accepted that this was neutral ground and that there would be no fighting here. But the lines were obvious between the alphas that got along and the ones that didn't. Jenna was familiar with Stephen La Rayne, Neill Odgar, and Sean McDougal. But the others had only just been introduced to her and she had more on her mind than remembering the names of lycans who ran packs to distant from her to be a concern at this point in time. Especially considering none of them appeared impressed by her or interested in speaking with her.
Cadifor came in and everyone stood up. He was actually on the Council. She remembered her father taking Cadifor very seriously. But she had only ever heard vague information about phone calls from the man. Or her father would be summoned by Cadifor somewhere and Brennus Tairneach would jump and run to answer the summons. That all by itself impressed upon Jenna that this lycan was not to be messed with.
Cadifor look almost albino. He was clean shaven and had short, white-blonde hair that was turning silver, pale leathered skin, and frosty yellowish eyes even in human form. He tended to wear a white collar shirt and suit jacket with jeans in a way that only a man with power could manage. He was an ancient. But he still looked formidable. He was smaller than most of the men in the room but the way he carried himself made him seem to tower over everyone. No one knew how old Cadifor was. It was rumored that he had once been alpha of a pack that spanned the entire northern continent. But rumors that old were often exaggerated. He had supposedly given the control of his pack to several sons and stepped down when he grew so old as to not care for running the pack any longer. Jenna had a hard time believing that any alpha would just choose to leave his position. But that was the rumor. Cadifor was one of the original members of the Pack Council and the lycan representative for North America. He had been pissed from the beginning of this meeting. But the longer it took for Cullen to show, the angrier he had gotten. Jenna smiled. Anything to throw Cullen off his game.
Cadifor glared menacingly around the room, and then stepped into the middle of the room commanding attention without having said a word. "Arnauk is on his way. The meeting will begin at nightfall." There was a nodded silent acknowledgement from all the gathered alphas and Cadifor left.
Jenna excused herself from the great room. She had a phone call to make. She had left Maon in charge of urging the druids to finish her job. There were four of them working on it at this point. When Jenna had threatened the lives of the ones she was holding in the basement, the others had promised that they would find her a solution to what she wanted.
Maon answered the phone. "Mistress."
Jenna smiled. She liked hearing him call her that. "How goes my project?"
"They've been working nonstop. Unfortunately we can't tell if they're just making it look like they're doing something or if they're actually making progress."
"I take it that they haven't offered a completed formula yet," she growled.
"No, mistress. But they claim they are close."
"Fine. Find a way to speed them up. Arnauk has finally surfaced. I should be back from this meeting tomorrow. Unless it takes longer than one night to deal with whatever the council wants. Father was never gone that long."
"I'll attempt to have it for you upon your return," he said.
Jenna smiled. "I appreciate your efforts Maon. I'll find some appropriate reward for you," she purred. Maon knew exactly what his reward would be. It was good enough motivation for him to make good on his promise.
Cullen was always impressed by drive. The paved roads stopped miles from the manor. There was no getting out to the manor unless you were driving an SUV or some kind of off road vehicle. A number of the alphas took motorcycles out in the summer. But the scenery was spectacular any time of the year. The roads led up the side of a mountain. The view was incredible. Off the southern roads you could look out over forest and fields. Off the eastern roads you could see the lights of a nearby city. Either way it was breath taking.
The manor itself was immense and imposing. It was all stone work and looked like it had been imported from some bad horror flick. It was too new to look like a legitimate castle. It had all the trappings of modern society. From the heated stone floors to the Jacuzzis in the suite bathrooms. Cullen smiled in amusement. If he were going to go with the castle look he would have really gone with the castle look.
He pulled into the parking area, which was really just a field where cars were left. Then he walked up the stone pathway to the manor. The front doors opened for him and he was ushered to Cadifor's office with a haste that virtually had his head spinning.
Cullen knocked on the heavy wooden door and waited.
"Come in," called an annoyed voice.
Cullen winced. He wasn't usually the one who had Cadifor pissed. Ah well, a first time for everything. He considered telling Cadifor what the delay had been. He smiled at the thought as he walked in.
"I'm glad to see you're in such a good mood. Perhaps then this discussion won't upset you unduly," Cadifor growled at him as he walked over to the desk and sat in the chair that Cadifor waved at.
"I'm sorry. I don't have an answer about where the message was intercepted. I left before Keith was able to dig it up." Culledn nodded respectfully and sat down. He had been good friends with Cadifor for decades. Most ceremony was long since dispensed with when the two of them were in private. Cadifor had come to respect Cullen as one of the few lycan alphas at this time who could compare to his own reign.
"I already know. My messenger tells me that your favorite elder took the message, under orders that you were not to be disturbed. What, may I ask, was so damn important that you were not to be disturbed for days at a time?" Cadifor's eyes were on fire.
Cullen had never seen him so pissed. But mention of what he was doing had him grinning again. Cadifor's face grew even more hard, if that was even possible. Cullen decided that the truth was really the only thing that could possibly excuse his behavior and there was no certainty that Cadifor would find it a good enough excuse. "A bitch in heat that I intend to mate with. I don't know how much you've heard about the inner workings of my pack recently," he said seriously.
Cadifor sat back in his chair and his face seemed to relax a bit. "I don't know whether to call you a complete fool or offer my congratulations. Either way, I've been down that road." He growled, thinking about the report and a few things that he had read. "Who?" he said and a curious expression crossed his face.
"Her name is Aislinn. She was one of the victim of Rafe's little quest. She's got druid ancestry. But she's had no formal training. She'd in the reports." Cullen was trying to sound off hand about it. But he knew that the reports were the reason for this meeting. So his being involved with a prominent name in the report may or may not go over well.
Cadior tapped his pen on the desk and shook his head. "Leave it to you to make even mating a complex endeavor."
Cullen smiled and nodded. None of his attempts at mating had gone without some incident. If this one went through, and he intended to make sure it did, then it would be the first. And last, he thought. At least the confession seemed to have put Cadifor's fire out or at least bring it down to a mild burn as opposed to the inferno he had walked into.
"So here's the situation. Shortly after your report we were contacted by the Circle. I have been around as long as any living lycan and I was shocked to find that not only do they exist but they've been watching us since our inception." Cadifor growled. "I don't like finding out that there's been a force in play for the whole of our existence that we never knew about. So your report tells me that one of their own went rogue and tried to create a new species of were or several new species. He intended to use them as his own personal army and take control of a point of power on your territory."
Cullen nodded. "That's it."
"No that would have been it. But your man Keith went and handed over the prisoners from Rafe's mismatch game to the feds. Not that I don't understand how that happened. But all of our attempts at recovering them and dealing with it ourselves have been sidelined. I don't know what the feds are doing with them, where they are being held, or if there is any real concern to be had. But the last thing we need is the federal government pulling a Rafe and creating their own personal army."
"I did consider that after I found out what had happened. But there really was no way for us to hold them at the reservation, transport them to where we could hold them, or find another solution to the situation that wouldn't result in more deaths. I had enough bodies piled up from that night."
Cadifor nodded. "And what of the unrecovered book and notes? That's what the Circle wants."
Cullen growled. "I've got no real proof of anything pertaining to those. Aislinn had a vision that they were in the Tairneach manor."
"No proof." Cadifor stared at Cullen with consideration. "But you believe she's right."
Cullen nodded. "She'd not led me wrong to date."
"Any other visions that we should be concerned about?"
"She saw a dungeon like room at the Tairneach manor being filled with people who wanted her help."
Cadifor pressed his fingers into the bridge of his nose and squinted his eyes as though he had a headache. "Are these the missing people you warned the feds to be on the lookout for?"
"Did you know that there are a number of druids coming up missing?"
"I knew that Rafe was killing Senach for some reason. But we never got a chance to find out why. Rafe's dead. We had no reason to think that the Tairneach would pick up where he left off."
"Well," Cadifor said with a wicked grin. "Perhaps we need to ask Jenna what she'd up to then. I have to admit that I wasn't happy that the Tairneach allowed her to take the alpha position uncontested."
Cullen growled his agreement. "She did facilitate the overthrow of Rafe's power play that allowed us to kill him."
Cadifor smiled. "We'll take that into consideration." He pressed a button on an intercom and told the voice at the other end of the speaker to get Jenna and bring her to his office.
Cullen's face fell considerably. "I don't like where this is going. Jenna has books for creating weres and is doing something with druids capable of making use of them." He closed his eyes and shook his head.
"Can I ask what's amusing you this time? I'm guessing it must have a female name in it."
"Aislinn was right. Next time I might take her more seriously. She was trying to talk me into raiding the Tairneach manor over a week ago. I didn't want to risk the pack again so soon after such a large funeral. That's why I tried to sick the feds on it. I figured a few of them killed in the face of unknown situation and danger wouldn't be a big loss."
"Sounds like the woman will be quite the asset."
"She already is."
A knock stopped their conversation. "Come in," Cadifor called.
Jenna walked through the door. Her face went from smug to suspicious in seconds. She had thought that maybe she was being summoned so that Cadifor could get to know his new alpha better. But the minute she saw Cullen she knew that wasn't true.
"Sit down," Cadifor said.
Jenna walked to the chair next to Cullen and dropped into the chair.
Cadior was mildly impressed with her self-assured demeanor. "Jenna I'll get straight to the point. The reason this meeting has been called is because of some trouble your dead mate was causing. At the moment I have a number of concerned parties in the manor are giving me a bit of a hard time. So I have some questions to ask you. Perhaps you can fill in the blanks that Cullen was unable to give me answers to."
Jenna's face went blank. Cadifor knew she wasn't going to work with him. "I'll do my best. But as Cullen may have told you, Rafe was using mind control effects on the whole of my pack, including myself. I may not know as much as you might think. I spent a great deal of time asleep when he was in our manor."
Cadifor smiled at her sympathetically. But he didn't intend to go easy on her. "I understand that there were books and notes he was using to create the weres in his army. Do you know what may have happened to them?"
Jenna's face remained unreadable. "I assume that everything belonging to Rafe was removed from the manor with the few of his men who had been left behind when we went to the Arnauk reservation that night. I didn't find anything like what you're suggesting. Though I do have one of his men in holding. I could have him interrogated."
Cadifor was amused at her attempt to sound cooperative. "Actually if you have one of them in custody, I'd like to have him turned over to the Council. They're curious about some of the things that they read in the report."
Jenna nodded. "Consider him yours."
"That brings me to the next question. The alphas who are here have been brought in because there are people missing from each of their territories. Do you have anyone nonlycan in your custody?"
"No. What do you mean non lycan?" Jenna asked innocently.
"The Circle has made contact with the Pack Council and has asked our assistance in the recovery of a number of druids. Most of them were found dead and were assumed to be the work of Rafe. But since his death quite a few more have come up missing. Since Rafe involved us in his attempt at creating his own little empire, they're seeking our help in resolving the issue of their missing people."
Jenna shook her head. "I can tell you that there were at least a dozen of them left at Tairneach manor during the battle on the Arnauk reservation. We captured one when we returned and killed a couple others. The rest got away. I suppose they could be continuing whatever he was doing. I suggest Cullen keep a close eye on that stone circle of his." She flashed him a winning smile.
Cullen had to admit. If he didn't know she was lying it would have been a fairly convincing story.
Cadifor stared at her measuringly. He didn't know if Aislinn's visions were more trustworthy than Jenna. She was supposed to be an alpha and loyal to the Council. "Alright Jenna. Thank you for your help. You can return to the great room. The meeting should begin shortly."