tagNonHumanLeader of the Pack Ch. 14

Leader of the Pack Ch. 14


*Chapter 14*

A kingdom founded on injustice never lasts.
-Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Brinah watched the transformation from behind a large stone. The weres were ignoring her. She didn't have strength or speed. She was a weak old woman to them and they were waiting for orders from their leader. She understood why he needed the stone circle so badly now. He had shortened the process. This way he didn't have to go through weeks of pain and waiting. Instantaneous power. But there was always a price for things like that. Brinah wondered what the price for that kind of power could be. She watched her granddaughter lying weak and disoriented on the ground. She wanted to go to her and help her but she was fairly certain that there would be no getting to her while everyone's attention was on the demonstration Rafe was putting on. As she waited she stared at the liquid that was seeping into the ground from the jars that had broken, trying to figure out what had been in them.

Jenna watched in terror as Rafe finished his transformation. With the victorius war cries of his men ringing in his ears and Aislinn lying at his feet Rafe didn't even notice Jenna walk toward Cullen.

As Jenna knelt in front of him Cullen growled and snapped at her. His fangs only barely missing her face. She smiled and leaned in toward him ignoring the danger. As she got closer Cullen caught Aislinn's scent. Jenna smiled at him. "She does taste good doesn't she," Jenna said and then kissed Cullen deeply.

Cullen was stunned for a moment before he began growling and Jenna pulled away from the kiss. Her eyes sparkled an unfathomable depth of sadness. Cullen couldn't help but wonder what Rafe had done to her. Jenna spoke very softly and amidst the din of roaring beasts he almost missed what she said. "The enemy of my enemy Arnauk. On my signal, call your attack."

Cullen watched Jenna stand up and she stepped to the ape-cat that was holding Cullen. The beast growled at her. But Jenna was used to men who growled and she didn't pause for a single moment. She reached up to her shoulders and dropped her red dress to the ground. The red pooled around her feet in a bloody puddle. The man holding Cullen stared appreciatively at the beautiful blonde. She stepped up to him. Jenna placed a finger on her lips and her tongue snaked out to wet her finger. She slowly trailed the wet finger down her chest and over her breast, circling her nipple with it before reaching toward the ape-cat. The man's erection jumped up in front of him. There were few men alive who wouldn't have responded to Jenna's display. A light touch on his chest and the ape-cat released Cullen as the confusion of roaring cheers grew louder.

Cullen immediately jumped to his feet, rounded on the ape-cat and with a feral growl shoved Jenna aside and lunged for the man's throat. When Cullen stood up there was ragged flesh dangling from Cullen's jowls.

Rafe was menacing Aislinn with evil intent. He moved up behind her barely cognoscente form. He was so intent on his target that he completely missed Jenna's actions. He pawed at Aislinn and she turned to face him. She pulled her tail between her legs and backed away from him. She stumbled a bit as she moved and Rafe was on top of her. His size dwarfed her and his member was no exception. Aislinn cried out as he maneuvered her beneath him. She couldn't see how he could do this and not rip her apart. His gigantic paw held her down as he pressed against her. Aislinn wiggled away from him as best she could. But that mostly entailed lying flat on the ground and trying to use her tail to stop the Rafe's intrusion. Her struggles only seemed to spur him on.

Brinah picked up the remainder of the jar at the foot of the standing stone and stared at the substance that Rafe had used to aid in his transformation. It had been so long since she had learned these things. The residue in the jar was red and smelled of herbs. There must have been blood in it. She looked up at Rafe as he attacked her granddaughter. Using the glass from the jar she slit her palm and dropped some of her own blood into the mixture and poured what was left of it onto the ground. Nothing happened. She was panicking but she was convinced that the only thing needed to disrupt Rafe's transmutation would be a change in the formula, before he left the circle. As she looked around for something more drastic than her own blood her eyes fell across the rest of the stones. Eight more jars.

Cullen saw Rafe trying to mount Aislinn and his attention shifted. He howled in rage, calling out the attack, and there wasn't a wolf on the reservation who didn't know that Cullen Arnauk was pissed. Jenna joined her howl with his and in unison all the Tairneach seemed to come to life. When the Tairneach jumped sides there was some confusion at first. It was as though no one was sure who should be fighting with whom. But the Arnauk shortly got the idea and the true fight began.

The weres were outnumbered by lycans more than three to one. But the battle was fought as though the sides were nearly even. The body count piled as fangs tore at throats and claws disemboweled stomachs.

Cullen tackled the were-bear-lion that was Rafe and the pair toppled over leaving Aislinn cowering on the ground, watching the fight. Her head was spinning and she couldn't quite make out what was happening yet. She felt as though she was trapped in one of Rafe's nightmares. Cullen was greatly outmatched in strength. But Rafe had never been in a hand to hand fight, was slower than the lycan, and was new to his form. The two men grappled and rolled. Cullen weaved, avoiding Rafe's gigantic paws and swiped at him in return. Cullen was tearing chunk after chunk of flesh from Rafe's hide. Rafe tilted his head like a bear and roared a lion's rage at Cullen, drool dripping from his jowls and Cullen growled back.

Kara watched the insanity break out around her. When Jenna called the Tairneach it was clear that the bitch had been planning this. Kara charged Jenna, intent on destroying the woman. Jenna watched unimpressed as Kara charged her. Just before Kara reached Jenna a large lycan appeared out of nowhere, taking her in the side and pinning her down. Kara grappled with the lycan roaring her rage at the loss of her target. Jenna disappeared into the fray.

Brinah worked her way around the circle of stones. As she managed to spill blood into the fourth reagent mixture on the ground Rafe started to falter. At first he wasn't sure what was happening. Something didn't feel right. Cullen charged him again, taking him to the ground. The were wolf-bear wrapped his arms around the lycan and tried to crush him. Cullen growled in pain as Rafe nearly broke his back. Brinah was feeling light headed as she reached the sixth stone. She pushed herself to complete her task. She sliced open her other hand and spilled blood onto the ground in the mixture that was still seeping into the ground. Rafe suddenly dropped Cullen. He stood disoriented and looked around with a fog over his eyes. When he saw Brinah he roared in anger and charged toward her.

Brinah ducked behind the seventh stone as Rafe ran at her. In his rage Rafe ran into the stone. The stone wobbled on its base and began to fall over. Brinah scrambled out of the way just as Cullen hit Rafe in the back and knocked him over the stone rolling into the clearing beyond the stones. Brinah watch in dismay as the pair rolled out of the circle and toward the woods. She was feeling the effects of the blood loss and she wasn't sure that contaminating the rest of the stones would affect Rafe's transformation if he wasn't inside the circle.

Aislinn was watching the battle rage around her as if she wasn't really there. She felt as though she was in one of her dreams and was staring down at everything. Her body burned as though she was on fire and her head swam. When she moved the world spun. Somewhere in her mind she registered that her grandmother was standing nearby. She watched her pick up a broken piece of glass and slice into her wrist. Aislinn cried out but it came out more like the screeching growl of a jungle cat. She ran to her grandmother with a drunken step.

Brinah was near passing out. When Aislinn reached her she thought she was being attacked at first. Brinah fell back onto the ground as Aislinn butted her head against her grandmother in lieu of arms to hug her with. Aislinn wasn't sure what to do. She tried to calm down and force herself to become human again. She never realized how much it would hurt. Aislinn felt like she had been in pain forever. Her body twisted and contorted. She shifted a little and then the fear of the pain seemed to cause her to shift back a little. Aislinn looked around at all the others. There had to be a way to do this. She concentrated on being herself again. She needed to help her grandmother. Her body began it's awkward shift once more. It was no where near as smooth and graceful as the others all made it look. Aislinn didn't manage to get all the way back to human. She ended up in her hybrid form as she stabilized. The pain was more than she was able to deal with though and she lay on the ground looking up at her grandmother with pleading amber eyes.

When Brinah realized that the animal in front of her was Aislinn she grabbed her granddaughter up into her arms. It was all she could do to remain calm. Seeing all the cuts and bruises on Aislinn's body, Brinah pulled the bag she was carrying open. Her hands were shaking and her head was spinning but she managed to find the small bottle she was looking for. She pulled the cork out of the top of the bottle and poured the solution into Aislinn's mouth and then sat back against the fallen stone.

Rafe was still holding his own despite the fuzzing of his senses. But he didn't think it could last much longer. He managed to get a hard swipe in and knocked Cullen back several feet. Cullen was starting to tire and was fighting the pain of several broken bones from being repeated hit by the were-bear-lion. He rolled to a stop dazed momentarily. Rafe headed back to the stone circle intent on killing Brinah before she could cause any further damage. But Brinah saw him coming and crawled for the ninth stone.

Aislinn felt a cooling sensation through her body and suddenly her senses cleared. She realized that she hadn't quite managed to shift all the way to her human form. She sat on her knees staring down at herself in her hybrid form. Most of her fur was gone from her stomach, but there was still quite a bit across the backs of her arms and over her legs. She has spots that bled into her hairline, down her neck and collarbone and turned into stripes that flowed down her back and trailed off, becoming spots again across her hips and down her thighs. Her hands were still claws and she could feel fangs in her mouth. But she realized with a measure of gratitude that she had no tail in this form. When she saw Rafe charging in her directions she assumed that he was after her until she followed his gaze beyond her to where Brinah was sitting near the next stone.

Rafe singled in on Brinah as she added her blood to the base of the ninth stone. Aislinn lunged at Rafe just in time to throw him off balance enough to miss Brinah as she crawled away and lay down just beyond the circle amidst the melee. Rafe grabbed hold of her, growling his rage as they rolled into the center of the circle and came to a stop with Aislinn beneath him, pinned to the stone slab. He growled into her face as she struggled to push him off of her. "Rach-air-muin," Aislinn spat at him. Rafe grinned and leaned down. His tongue snaked out of his mouth and he licked Aislinn's chin and up to her lips trying to force his way in between.

Brinah passed out as she lay watching her blood seeping into the damp ground at the base of the ninth stone. Rafe felt the first of the pain shooting through his arms and legs as Cullen plowed into his side for the last time. As the men grappled Rafe roared in pain. For all his strength he wasn't able to combat the twisting of his body as well as Cullen Arnauk at the same time.

Cullen's jaws closed on Rafe's throat. He heard a sickening crunch and he yanked his head back tearing Rafe's throat from his neck. Cullen fell back from Rafe's body, spitting the bloody mass of flesh out. Cullen sat there breathing heavily for a moment before he came to his senses and looked around for Aislinn. He let his wolf slip back and took on his human form, feeling some of the tension ebb.

All around them the sounds of battle were coming to an end. Slowly the Arnauk and Tairneach left were gathering around the stone circle for orders. They stood uneasily together. Bodies riddled the ground. The smell of blood was so thick that the lycans couldn't scent the difference between each other. Mates sensing loss searched through the crowd for each other in fear crying out mentally for their missing half. There was a growing group of were-cats being herded together to be dealt with when Jenna and Cullen were able to give their joint attentions to the problem.

Jenna appeared and stood over Rafe's mangled form. Her body apparently untouched amidst the battle. She kicked at the dead were-bear-lion with one foot as if to make sure he wasn't coming back. Then she looked over at Cullen with a relief that made Cullen start to wonder if he had misjudged her. But that moment was fleeting. She smiled at him with a weak evil, as if it was taking too much effort for her right then and she fiddled with a ring on a chain around her neck. Cullen recognized the large ruby signet that had been on Brennus Tairneach's hand for the whole of the time that Cullen had known him. The two alphas exchanged looks and without talking agreed that their fight would continue at a later date.

Jenna turned to the two large lycans that were trailing behind her protectively. "Have the others gather the bodies of our dead and make ready to leave."

The large man bowed his head in compliance. "What about the cats," he sneered, looking over at the group of creatures that were being gathered together. It was taking quite a few lycans to keep them all in line. There were a few excessively large mixed were-beasts that the lycan guards were having trouble with.

Jenna looked over her shoulder at Cullen, who was still sitting on his knees trying to gather his strength. "I think that Rafe and his followers have been a Tairneach problem for long enough. Let the Arnauk clean up the mess." She grinned at Cullen. "I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea about me," she said sweetly. Then headed away from the gory scene in the circle of standing stones.

"Jenna," Cullen called after her. She stopped momentarily and turned to him. "Brennus would have been proud," he said loud enough that most of the Tairneach present wouldn't miss it.

Jenna's eyes fell away from his with a teary thoughtful glaze across them, as if she didn't really believe it. Then she looked at Cullen again with a sad grateful stare, before turning and disappearing back toward the cabin and their vans.

Cullen shook his head and started to stand. He felt his body crunch. He had a lot of healing to do. Rafe may not have been very skilled at fighting. Thank the Fates for that! But his strength had been monstrous and every time he managed to make contact with Cullen he broke a bone or ripped a gash in his flesh that would scar horribly before he had a chance to heal. But he would survive. Barely, he thought.

Cullen's eyes fell on Aislinn. She was so amazingly beautiful. His heart was near exploding with how much he needed to hold her. She hadn't managed to change out of her hybrid form yet. But she appeared relatively unharmed. There were a number of claw slashes along her waist and arms but they appeared to be healing quickly. Unbelievably quickly, Cullen noted as he watched the scratches on her breasts fade away. Suddenly he realized he was staring at her breasts. His breath caught in his chest as his eyes traveled to the small scattered spots and white fur that began just under and along the sides of her breasts. The spots darkened to mottled black in color as the white fur blended into the same brown color as her hair, and increased in number traveling around her sides. The spots seemed to dip and gather in just the right places to accentuate each curve of her body. The leopard like markings kissed the tops of her shoulders and faded along her collar bone. He was dying to press his lips to her skin and taste each gorgeous spot. They ran up the sides of her neck and along her hair line. Her face was more human than it should have been, even in hybrid form.

Cullen wondered how many women Rafe had experimented with changing before he came up with this. Her features were most definitely cat-like. Her upper lip curved up just enough to appear like a muzzle but without losing the thick human lower lip. Her nose was more flat against her muzzle, but was oddly wider than a cat's should have been. His tongue wet his own lips unconsciously. He felt his arousal growing even through the pain of his injuries. Her eyes were what captured him the most. There was no cat there. They were too round. The pupils took up too much area. He smiled. Somehow those eyes were lycan. Amber had replaced the silver that they had been before and swirled around the black dilated pupils. Flecks of iridescent blue mingled in their depths causing them to shift from gold to green and back again. It was hypnotic to watch.

She had gone to Brinah's collapsed body and was kneeling next to her grandmother. She pulled Brinah up onto her lap. Aislinn was stroking her grandmother's hair and tears were streaming down her face. Her gaze shifted alternately from the strange spots that covered the back of her arms to her grandmother's face. She didn't think she could take one more thing. She just didn't have the strength left. She believed that Cullen didn't want her, Rafe raped her and changed her into this thing, and now her grandmother was lying dead in her arms. She trembled with the excess of misery that flowed through her. I knew I never should have let you come here, she thought as she stroked her grandmother's hair gently. Aislinn wouldn't let herself think it in words but she felt as though this was her fault.

Cullen forced himself to stand and walk to Aislinn. She was concentrating so hard on her own thoughts that she didn't notice him coming. As he walked around behind her he watched the spots blend into stripes. The change was so subtle it was difficult to tell where the stripes ended and the spots began. He studied the elegant slant of the stripes across her back, trailing the line of her waist and leading his eyes to follow the curve of her hip. He winced and let out a sharp escape of air as he knelt behind her. Cullen's presence behind her shocked her and she flinched away as if he was going to hurt her. She refused to look at him. "Aislinn-"he started and tried to reach for her. Cullen felt more pain from her reaction to him than he did from his broken body.

She shied away from him. "Stop," she interrupted. Her voice was trembling and she held herself protectively away from him. "Just stop. Whatever it is I can't do it right now. Just leave me alone."

Cullen felt tears well up. He held them down. But he moved back, falling to sit a few feet away, watching her back. He was tired of not knowing what to do. It seemed to have been a perpetual state of mind for him since she had appeared in his life. But, the last thing he wanted was for her to start associating him with the types of things that Rafe had done to her. So forcing her to let him hold her was out of the question. He sat on the ground, those few feet from her seeming like miles, and feeling broken in so many ways.

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