Bound by Duty

By The Crimson Quill All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Drama

She Went All the Way

The huge, majestic ash-grey wolf sat on her haunches, staring impassively at her opponent. She looked deceptively calm, but those who knew Lupa recognised that this was her highly alert state, ready to spring into action any second. In comparison, her opponent was restless, twitching every two seconds. It was a she-wolf, who went first against her.

There were seven of them, who dared to risk the king’s wrath and fight the to-be-queen. This was the first round of the coronation. A fight till a plea for surrender was heard. Any citizen of the kingdom had the right to challenge the queen in the first half of the coronation ceremony, but there were only seven spots. It was tradition, and werewolves didn’t give up on tradition.

The warlock had already enchanted the arena so that they couldn’t step out until they surrendered, and also so that no one could enter the arena before the battle ended. He raised his hand and swiftly brought it down in a chopping motion, indicating that the battle had begun.

Lupa was a natural, instinctive fighter. She thrived on the opponent’s fear. So she made no move. A few minutes later, she slowly stood up and stalked her prey circling around the arena. She was in no hurry to finish the battle. Danielle was, sure. But she wouldn’t listen to Danielle now.

When the brown wolf least expected it, Lupa feinted on one side and quickly turned to lunge at the other, pouncing on the side of the brown wolf and sinking her claws into her. The brown wolf whined in pain as a violent gash quickly appeared on her back and till its belly. She was also quick to react. Taking advantage of the opening, she ran to get to Lupa’s hind legs and drag her behind.

Lupa wouldn’t have it. With a speed which didn’t match her size, she turned around and attacked the she-wolf head first. They ran towards each other when suddenly Lupa skidded to the side, taking the brown wolf off-guard and quickly brought her humongous jaws on the she-wolf’s throat. Lupa’s canines began sinking in slowly as the brown wolf’s growls turned into whines.

When she realised that Lupa was really going to kill her, she wasted no time shifting back and shouted hoarsely, “I surrender!”

Lupa, 1. Evil father, 0.

It was impossible not to have noticed it. Jacob had spoken to most of the contestants and sent them ahead to tire her out and injure her. There was no honour here, no ‘may the best man win’.

It was pure ruthlessness and no matter how hard her father tried, she knew she would emerge victorious. He was a small fry in her life, an aberration. Something to forget and move on.

Lupa growled ferociously, her growl echoing across the stands. There was no dismissing Danielle as a young wolf by the fact that Danielle’s wolf was superior in every way.

“That was quickly done!” Alex mind-linked her, his tone pleasantly surprised.

Lupa just snorted. ”I’m disappointed in you Alex. To have had such low expectations of your mate."

Alex chuckled. ”Yes, yes, my queen. Hurry up and get this over with. We will have a lot of time to make up for your disappointment."

Lupa rolled her eyes as she watched her next prey walk in. As they began fighting, it showed that the male wolf had plenty of technique but very little experience. He fought on technique alone and held his own for a few minutes. But soon, he too succumbed to Lupa the Hunter.

The two wolves that fought after him were not worth mentioning. They were taken care of easily, to the extent that she had languidly stretched in the middle of the fight as if she were sleeping in the woods.

But the fifth candidate was special. He had undergone strict training, it seemed, and he had a lot of experience being put in arenas such as this one. So he excelled at close-combat fighting. As they butted heads, the fight became so intense that Lupa yipped joyfully. “It’s been so long since I had such a good fight, I’m having so much fun!” She spoke in Alex’s mind.

Alex could only shake his head, amused. He knew she was not fighting to her full potential.

Soon, she decided to not drag it on and ended the fight, resulting in his surrender. But Lupa was very happy with this fighter. She shifted back and gave back control to Danielle. The male wolf was also human and was getting out of the arena when she said, “What’s your name?”

The man’s pupils dilated in fear. He quailed before the queen who he knew to be a fearsome person, now. “R-Reginald.” He replied, hating how he stuttered.

“Well, Reginald, how do you feel about being my personal guard? You have a great foundation and this could be a good opportunity for you,” Danielle explained, trying her best to appear non-threatening.

But to Reginald, this sounded ominous. His first thought was whether she would take revenge on him for daring to fight against her. But he dismissed the thought, telling himself not be silly. Then he understood the real meaning of being the queen’s guard. Regular food. Permanent shelter. Comrades. Regular pay.

It sounded like heaven.

“I accept. Thank you, Your Majesty.” Reginald bowed deeply. Danielle smiled. His address showed that he had accepted her as their queen already. And she was sure that many people were feeling similarly, at that time. She nodded to him and he turned to leave. The moment he walked out of the arena, he was whisked away by the media persons to interview him and he went with them, feeling like this was all a dream.

The sixth one was again nondescript. He didn’t put up much of a fight as his will had been broken, watching the ruthless way she fought.

Finally, the last opponent entered. It was a she-wolf, again. And this wolf was different. She looked sly as she smirked, waltzing into the arena. “Hope to see you snivelling, queen." She mocked her. Danielle internally raised a brow, still in her wolf form. She wondered why so many people loved challenging her.

The fight began. Initially, there were minor scrapes caused by either party, but slowly, they began to see that the opponent was fighting dirty. She was attacking taking every breath of opportunity and she was striking repeatedly at Lupa’s underbelly since that was a sensitive part of a wolf’s body.

As the fight became tenser and the crowd began hurling curses and abuse at the grey she-wolf, Danielle was getting frustrated over this battle. She didn’t want to use her full strength because it was unnecessary, but truly, this wolf’s fighting technique was nasty.

Finally, she got ready to deliver the last strike when she felt a piercing on her face. The grey wolf had delivered a blow right to her face and Danielle was in shock, having been caught off-guard. She was trained for better, so she quickly struck the last blow and subdued the wolf. The she-wolf struggled desperately and viciously, but it was in vain.

After her surrender, Danielle came out of the arena as a wolf. The crowd burst into heartfelt applause and cheers, chanting slogans and expressing their admiration towards her. Danielle was still not over the adrenaline rush. She had fought, she was sweaty and dirty, but it didn’t matter. Because for a wolf, that was a mark of effort, and to some extent, pride.

She surveyed the grounds regally. No one stopped her. She occasionally growled and snarled. She finally threw her head back and howled powerfully into the air. Heads dipped in submission as the kingdom symbolically accepted her as their queen.

Lupa was thrilled. She was enthralled by the authority she could wield, becoming slightly drunk on power. ”Come to your senses!" Danielle hissed at her.

Jerking out of her hazy trip, she shifted back to her human form. She approached the platform where her mate sat. Irreverently, she climbed on the platform, walked to the king and gave him a kiss he would remember for a long time.

The second half happened inside the throne room. The hall was big enough to accommodate all the important people, and there were screens put up in the grounds for all the commoners to watch. Cameras were set up in different parts of the room and every media house wanted a piece of this historic event.

Everyone waited silently in their places, maintaining etiquette. Soon, the orchestra began to play a slow song that unconsciously built tension in everyone’s hearts. A side door was opened by the guards. According to the beats, feet slowly entered the room, stepping on the red carpet that had been laid out for it.

Those feet had one strand of anklets on them, with small bells attached to them. Each time she took a step, keen werewolf ears could hear the little jingle. She wore a long black flowing gown, the kind that kissed the floor, trailing behind her. The gown had a tightly fitted bodice with cascading frills emerging from the waist. The entire gown was embroidered in the borders in gold with various fashionable patterns. The embroidery was mainly focused on the shoulders, the neckline and the chest.

On top of the dress, she wore a thick stole around her shoulders which had many symbols of werewolf royalty and their origin.

Her head was wound up into an intricately braided bun, unlike the usual messy bun she loved to wear. Her ears were adorned with gold earrings, and each of her hand wore a wide gold bracelet.

She took her steps slowly, turning to the left, and walked to the centre of the room. She turned and faced the audience, with an air and dignity of a ruler. Her confidence was as unmatched as her appearance. Everyone maintained a respectful silence.

Alex sat on his throne situated up the stairs. He too was a part of the ceremony, as an overseer. But his role became pronounced later. He eyed his mate from top to toe. He felt a twinge in his heart. She looked so beautiful, it was otherworldly. She felt so confident about everything that he had a strange feeling that he would lose her somewhere. Ignoring the bizarre thoughts, he looked at Everett. “You may begin,” he declared.

Everett nodded. He had set up four items and placed them as four points of a square. These four were a piece of wood from an ash tree, a ring from the previous queen, a piece of silver and a piece of wolfsbane. There were two objects that were good for werewolves and two which were harmful. This was symbolic in that she had to overcome the weaknesses of her kind through this ritual and prepare herself to protect her people.

He waved at the orchestra to stop the music.

“Please step into the Magus Domain,” he told her. A Magus Domain was the area of effect of a mage’s magic. She complied, trusting him to carry out the ritual well. The moment she entered the domain, she felt her strength suddenly deplete. It was the aura of the silver and the wolfsbane. She looked at Everett questioningly. He nodded, telling her all was going right.

Everett brought forth the staff he carried with him and began his chant. The chant was of ancient words which were common to most supernatural creatures. Although the werewolves could not understand it, they definitely felt a resonance with it. Feeling the ringing in the air, all the people present were in a trance, their eyes not wavering from their queen.

Danielle, meanwhile, tried to maintain her balance as she felt the wind whip past her face. Slowly as the chant went into a higher octave, her strength started getting restored. And by the time the chant was complete, she was back to how she was before.

This whole process utterly puzzled her. But she didn’t want to question it in the middle of the ceremony, so she went along with Everett.

The warlock then faced her solemnly. “We come to the most important part of the evening,” he said. “If you are to be queen, you must now take an oath. I must remind you that this is not a mere verbal oath. It is a soul oath with magic bound to it. Will you take this oath to become queen?”

Danielle cleared her throat. “I will.”

He nodded. “It is only right that a queen is inducted by her king. King Alexander will conduct this part of the ceremony.”

Alex had already climbed down and walked over to his mate.

He cleaned up rather well, in Danielle’s opinion. She pretended that she didn’t care a hoot about the fact that he looked gorgeous in his royal robes. But she turned off those thoughts when he took her hand and placed it between both of his.

“This is an oath that every monarch must take in one form or the other. By becoming queen, I hope Danielle will follow this oath both in letter and spirit.” He said.

Everett began chanting in a low tone as Alex began the oath.

“I, Danielle Ward, mate to Alexander Remington, monarch of the kingdom of werewolves, do solemnly swear,” he paused.

Feeling rather foolish than solemn, she repeated what he said.

“To rule over my subjects to the best of my abilities in a just and fair manner and to always put the kingdom over my crown.” he stopped. Here, she began to feel solemn. She earnestly repeated his words.

“I take an oath to strive for the betterment of my kingdom, and to never abandon subjects in the hour of need.”

“I take an oath to strive for the betterment of my kingdom, and to never abandon subjects in the hour of need.” She said, her voice ringing loud and clear.

“As queen, I shall first and foremost remain loyal to my king. As long as I am queen, I shall protect my people and the rights of my people from dangers which may come from within or outside the werewolf kingdom.”

Danielle paused, looking him in the eye. His eyes were challenging her to defy him, but she did no such thing. “As queen,” she said, “I shall first and foremost remain loyal to my king. As long as I am queen, I shall protect my people and the rights of my people from dangers which may come from within or outside the werewolf kingdom.”

“With this oath, I fulfil my goddess-ordained role and ask for her blessings for every step of the way.” Alex finished.

Who was the moon goddess? Where was she? Had anyone seen her? It didn’t matter. It was tradition, so Danielle repeated the concluding line.

At this, Everett’s chants grew louder. He brought down the staff, touching their joined hands with it.

Everyone felt the air around them change. It seemed like there was some force in the air that was rushing towards the young queen. In hundreds, thousands, millions. Even Danielle couldn’t handle the assault by this force. She staggered back, almost losing her balance. If not for Alex gripping her hand firmly, she would have already fallen.

Alex stared at her with great concentration. It had to work. There was no other option.

Danielle ripped her hands away from his and closed her ears, frowning hard. “That noise...!” She groaned in pain. “So... many...” Her knees buckled from the pain in her ears that was giving her a headache. She sat down on the ground, growling from the pain.

Alex immediately realised what was happening. He bent down and put his arm around her. He then whispered in her ears, “Don’t block it, listen to them, the sounds! Don’t hear, listen."

Under his touch, Danielle slowly relaxed. She followed his advice and tried to calm down, to listen. Slowly, the garbled noise became clearer. It became so clear that she could differentiate each vein, each connection. She couldn’t hear everything. She could hear everyone. She had direct access, a hotline, to all the werewolves in this world.

With that realisation, Danielle opened her eyes.

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