The Race to the Crown
When they neared the palace, the three siblings found that there was absolutely no place to park their car. “Fu- damn it!” Brandon swore, looking at the sea of cars being valet parked by the palace staff.
These were all important people. In fact, he was also an important person but he had no invitation. Besides, his pack had exiled their queen, so the palace could potentially be hostile to the members of the Jade Pack. Naturally, once she was crowned queen, all the exile orders would be null and void.
“Brandon, what do we do?” Naomi asked anxiously. She was afraid to be seen by anyone who could tell her father on her. Ben gave her an impatient glance. It seemed like his sister’s moral compass needed serious correction.
Brandon took out his phone and dialled the number of the secretary, McCall. He had stolen the number from his father’s study before leaving.
They shuffled in the corner uncomfortably, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Despite their efforts, they were caught by some people. These people were the elite guests for today’s programme, but they recognised the siblings.
“Ah, look who it is!” Reece clapped Brandon on the shoulder enthusiastically. “Brandon Ward, heir-apparent to the Jade Pack!”
“Alpha Grant,” Brandon greeted him, fidgeting. His eyes shifted from one side to another like a cornered prey. And the situation was not very different from that.
Misha, the alpha of the Aquamarine Pack, eyed Benjamin up and down. “Brutus, is it? I remember your parents named you both after B,” Misha scoffed. “How very common of them.”
“It’s Benjamin, alpha,” Ben stood straight and replied with all the courage he could master. His wolf was already feeling nervous about being around so many alphas, him being a beta himself.
“Whatever, it doesn’t matter does it, when our soon-to-be queen was treated so abominably by your family?” Samuel Eden, alpha to the Turquoise Pack, waved their inanities off impatiently and directly scolded them.
“And this chit was the one behind all this, am I right?” Caleb Holmes smiled gently, deceptively. He gave Naomi an intense stare when she lowered her eyes in submission quickly in a frightened manner. “Che,” Caleb clicked his tongue. “You must feel ashamed, being her sister, giving way to an alpha so easily.”
Reece hummed in agreement. “First time I saw her, she was only seven. I was already alpha, by then. She looked me right in the eye and stared me down, asking, ‘you’re an alpha, aren’t you?’”
Brandon knew that they were feeling indignant on behalf of their sister. So he tried to clarify the misunderstanding. “It wasn’t us!” He insisted. “It was father and mother! And while they are still alpha and luna, we can’t do much!”
“You could have cleared her name!" Reece nearly roared. He lowered his voice to not attract attention around them. Already, there were more looks they were getting than required. “What did you do all the six or eight months she was on the run? Enjoying pack life? You knew why she killed—”
“Reece!” Someone hissed behind her. Everyone’s head swung towards the new entrant, listening to the familiar voice. “Back off!”
“Sister?” Brandon whispered incredulously. Wasn’t she supposed to be getting ready for the ceremony? “What are you doing here?”
“For once, I agree with him,” Misha narrowed his eyes. “Why are you out here in disguise?”
She was looking mighty odd in her disguise. She was wearing a maid’s dress and had done her hair up in a way that nobody would recognise her at first glance. She had also put on some make-up to hide her features.
“That’s beside the point,” she looked at the five men pointedly. “Why, for the goddess’ sake, are you bullying children?" In her anger, she released her aura accidentally.
The men quailed at her sharp look. Their wolves immediately submitted to a regal Lupa. “Sorry,” Sean muttered. “We just wanted to talk—”
“Just talk? Then why did I see Ben’s head lowered?” She demanded. She didn’t notice that she was acting very much like a mother wolf protecting her cubs. Or a queen protecting her subjects.
“Sis, it’s alright, I—” Ben started talking nervously.
“It’s not alright, Benji!” She retorted sharply. Seeing him flinch, she softened her features. She looked at the three of them.
“Now, what are you three doing here?” She asked in a much milder tone. The alphas felt miffed at the change in her demeanour. She became someone they couldn’t recognise. Was this really the harsh, dominant and headstrong girl they all knew?
Benjamin lowered his head, nudging Brandon. Naomi tried to curl up as much as possible, but to her horror, her sister came and stood before her. Naomi was terrified. She thought that now that her sister was queen, she could take a great deal of revenge on her for not speaking up earlier. When Danielle’s hands extended, Naomi flinched.
Danielle merely placed a hand below her chin and raised her head. Naomi still kept her eyes down. “It wasn’t your fault, you know.” She said to her younger sister. “None of it was your fault. And if these boys,” she glared at her brothers, “and men,” she looked at the alphas pointedly, “are giving you grief about it, then you have my full permission to ask them to sod off, okay?”
Her tone was soft and almost maternal. Danielle usually acted as if she were annoyed by her half-siblings. She held some leftover resentment about how soon her father had taken a new bride after her mother’s death, so she had decided when she returned that her stepmother’s children would be as jealous, spiteful and downright villainous as their mother.
But once she returned to the pack when she turned eighteen and established her authority, she began to pay attention to them. That was because the little ones who were only ten, eight and six years old always tagged onto her like a tail. They followed her everywhere. She may or may not have experienced some embarrassing moments because of that, but that was another story.
Suffice to say, that she couldn’t, in good faith, remain indifferent to them. She took great care in their upbringing, making sure they stayed away from the poison their mother spewed. And seeing them as teenagers these days was a little unbelievable, but the silent affection she had for them would never disappear.
That’s why, despite knowing Naomi’s cautious character well, she consoled her unconditionally.
Naomi’s wide eyes widened further. Her eyes slowly welled up with tears. She began sniffling daintily. Everything Naomi did was dainty — that was how she was. Then she began crying earnestly, throwing her arms around Danielle. Danielle was shocked for a moment. She quickly regained her bearing and patted her awkwardly. Naomi quickly pulled away, wiping her tears hurriedly.
“Ohmigodess! I cried before the queen! I hugged the queen and dampened her clothes!” She reprimanded herself.
Danielle chuckled. “It’s okay, Mimi. I’m still your sister, am I not?”
“Are you? I’m thinking you’re only her sister and not ours,” Ben muttered. Danielle looked at her scowling brother, amused. She glanced at Brandon who, for a change, was not reprimanding their brother. He couldn’t meet her eyes, keeping them low.
She frowned. “Chin up, boy! I didn’t teach you to submit to someone the first chance you get!” She barked at him. His eyes snapped up and he looked into her eyes.
“Does this mean that we won’t get to see you anymore?” Brandon whispered worriedly. “Will the king let us see you often?”
Danielle tilted her head. “When have I ever let anyone tell me what to do?” She could remember some instances, but they were not fit stories for present company.
The siblings grinned broadly. “So we can meet you often, right?” Brandon shuffled his feet, looking here and there. “I-I mean not that I would be affected either way.” He said with his chin up, trying to put up a fake bravado.
“Don’t lie to me, Bran, it’s never worked. You will see me often, but I may not be available all the time, of course.” She said to the group.
“Love, it’s time. You should say goodbye and come back quickly,” Alex mind-linked her.
"I’ll be there on time, don’t worry," She replied.
She blinked, changing her demeanour quickly. She was now the leader to whom everyone yielded. The group was stunned by the change, but they quickly adapted. “I have to leave, now. Alphas, I’ll see you soon. Kids, stay out of trouble. Don’t do anything dangerous until things settle down.”
She turned to leave. “Wait!” Ben stopped her. She turned and raised a brow. “How did you know we were here?”
She looked at him puzzled as if wondering why he would ask that question. “I could smell you, I could smell your discomfort.” She nodded at the group, leaving. She walked into the palace and disappeared from their view.
“She is something, isn’t she?” Misha murmured.
“Tell me about it,” Caleb muttered, taking his eyes away from the palace gates.
“D-does that mean that big sis can s-smell th-that far off?” Benjamin stuttered.
Brandon looked at him oddly, “Obviously.”
“Alex, old fellow! It’s really been too long! Last we met... during your coronation? And it’s already time for your mates! Will you look at that!” A middle-aged man exclaimed with the demeanour of an ancient creature. But judging by what he said, he would definitely be one of those old monsters who has lived for hundreds of years.
Alex’s lips twitched. He pulled Danielle to his side and introduced him to her, “Sweetheart, this is Warlock Everett. He has been acquainted with the wolf kingdom for a long time and frequently acts as a liaison between the Magus Tower and the Werewolf Monarchs,” He paused, “which would be us.”
The Magus Tower was the highest authority for all warlocks and witches. They were also called mages. Mages were not as tightly knit as werewolves, and they were loosely congregated. But they did have this authority which they could not disobey.
Danielle gave the man a little smile. She then proceeded to make a series of gestures with her hands which resembled a blooming lotus. The warlock’s expression changed dramatically. “What was that?” Alex whispered in her ear. “What did you do?”
To this, Danielle looked at him solemnly. “Remember your oath, Alex.”
At that moment, Alex wished the ground would open and swallow him up. He couldn’t believe that the moment he had been dreading had come so soon. He flushed red with anger, humiliation and the blatant way she was ignoring him then. But before either person could notice, he had regained his composure.
Meanwhile, the warlock, Everett was muttering, “So that’s it... that’s how it ties up... I understand... I understand...”
He shook his head twice. Thrice. Then he walked towards Danielle and made a deep bow. “Your Majesty, I’ve just realised that it’s my honour to conduct and oversee the proceedings of your coronation.”
Danielle shook her head. “You don’t have to do all this. I just want you to remember whose side you are on.”
“Of course, of course,” he murmured. “Let’s proceed, shall we?”
Alex quietly led them both through the twists and turns of the palace to the very end at the back. Of course, they were followed by guards, who were more like assistants because the couple had strength beyond what was normal. The guard at the door opened it for them and announced loudly for all to hear, “His Royal Majesty, King Alexander Remington and his mate, Ms Danielle Ward!”
It was according to protocol. Alex loathed it.
He held her hand and exited to the huge grounds connected to the back of the palace. They stepped on to the grounds, and Danielle was immediately overwhelmed.
Stands had been constructed around the edges of the land for the wolves to sit in. The stands which had wooden, well-engraved chairs were for the upper class, the Council of Elders and their families, the alpha, beta and delta families of all the nine major packs and the alpha families of the minor packs. That was the VIP lounge.
But all the rest of the stands had plastic chairs which numbered to thousands. And Danielle was deafened by the cheers and roars of these thousands. These were her subjects. Her people. Looking at the wolves thrilled at meeting their monarchs, Danielle felt a rush of adrenaline go through her. She made a promise to herself silently that she wouldn’t let them down.
She couldn’t let them down.
Still bearing a stoic expression, she walked to the centre along with the others.
At the centre was three very fancy-looking chairs on an elevated platform. The one at the centre was, of course, for the king. The one on the left for the dowager queen and the one on the right was for the warlock, Everett.
Below the elevated platform was a battle pit. Danielle knew what she had to do. She walked into it and continued staring at the crowds. Helena, who had arrived early, Alex and Everett took their seats.
Alex raised his hand, signalling them to quiet down. “Two weeks ago, I found my mate, Danielle Ward,” he began. ”Alex, don’t say anything unnecessary," Danielle warned telepathically. He feigned ignorance and continued, “The goddess couldn’t have matched me with a better woman. It is my good fortune that she has accepted and agreed to be my queen.” He heard his mate sigh mentally.
The crowd was listening with rapt attention. Only the cries of babies were heard here and there but otherwise, the silence was a sight to behold.
“It is tradition that when a monarch is mated, the mate must be coronated and crowned queen or king. And this process of coronation happens to satisfy both the wolf and the human. Once these proceedings are complete, then we will have a new queen.” Alex smiled. “I declare the that the coronation ceremony of my mate, Danielle Ward, has officially begun.”
At this point, Andrew appeared from nowhere and took over as Alex seated himself. He opened his mouth to speak, when someone from the VIP stands shouted, “I refuse, Your Majesty! I refuse to have her as queen!”
There was one still moment. Then there was an uproar. Everyone started talking at once. This was a drama. It was happening in front of their eyes. How could they not watch, greedily absorbing every detail?
A vein throbbed in Alex’s forehead. He was ready to rip the head off of the speaker. Cursing, he mentally directed Andrew. “Who speaks?” Andrew roared. “Who is so brave as to interrupt a royal ceremony?”
The man slowly walked out of the stands and towards the dignitaries. He stared at Danielle who likewise stared back impassively. As if sick of seeing her face, he turned away and addressed the prince politely, “I’m Jacob Ward, my prince, alpha of the Jade Pack. And that woman,” he pointed to Danielle, “is my daughter.”