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Spirit Wolves - 13. Chapter 13

Time to find out a little more about shifter councils.

Ben was stretched out on Zev’s bed, thinking hard. They had another hour to kill after showering, complete with a couple of intense orgasms, and before dinner would be ready.

“Zev? How do shifters police each other? I mean, I know that within each pack the enforcers are sort of like human law enforcement right? But what about from pack to pack, how does that work?”

The bed dipped as Zev dropped down next to Ben. “Well, it’s rare that there’s any crimes, so to speak, between packs. There are things such as border disputes and issues with members changing from one pack to another. Even so, those events aren’t very common. The Council representation is two-fold. The wolf shifter population has its own Council as wolves make up the majority of shifters. This is what we are referring to anytime one of us mentions our Council. All other species either govern themselves with their own Councils, or willingly agree to fall under the wolf Council. Worldwide, there’s a High Council that governs all species.”

“Who makes up these Councils? How do they operate?”

Zev hummed and tapped his chin, trying to figure out how best to explain it. “Well, on the High Council there are nine council members. They are elected every twenty-five years. Shifters of any species can run for a seat on the Council. Most are retired Alphas or their equivalent in the non-canine species. I believe the current High Council has five wolves, two bears, one feline and one avian. I’m not sure what type the bears are. The feline is a cheetah and the avian is a falcon. They split their time between their homeland and the High Council Headquarters in Germany.”

“The wolf Council is a little more complicated. So, you know our pack is the Montana Pack? Montana covers roughly a hundred and forty-seven thousand square miles. Our pack is one of four in the state, and the largest. The other three are all less than half the size of ours combined. Caleb has a little over six hundred pack members. Now, only half of those live in the incorporated township according to the US Census Bureau. The other half are scattered into smaller sub-packs that are under Caleb’s protection. They are mostly family groups of ten to twenty shifters, and pretty much all of them are ranchers, so they’re spread out over a huge area. Caleb hosts a big gathering every year so the sub packs and the other three packs in the state can mingle and any issues can be addressed. You following me so far?

Ben nodded.

“So, Montana’s four packs are part of the Western US Region. That includes the Dakotas, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. The Western Border Region is California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and New Mexico. The rest of the country is divided similarly. Each region has four representatives, again, elected for twenty-five years. Caleb is one of our four reps and I believe Sebastian is one for the Mid-Atlantic Region. Each region designates one of their four representatives as a governor. These are the representatives who go to an annual High Council meeting in Germany. There are laws that all shifters follow, and depending on the seriousness of the breach, would determine how far up the chain of command it would go for settlement. Anything involving an offense punishable by death has to go up to at least the gubernatorial level. As far as I know there are only a few crimes that would warrant that.”

“Like torturing a pack member and forcing him to shift until he can’t any more?” Ben remarked, feeling more than a little emotional over it all.

“Yeah, that would be one,” Zev agreed ruefully.

“How do the Councils police themselves?” Ben asked. “I mean, is there a system of checks and balances to prevent corruption?”

“As far as I know, and mind you, it’s what I was taught growing up, the High Council has its own hierarchy based on longevity. The older a shifter is, the higher up in the chain they are. Within the Council, the oldest would have the highest standing. There’s no official title, and I’m not really sure of the exact policies they have to prevent corruption. I’m not even sure it’s ever been an issue, to tell you the truth. I’ll have to ask Silas or Caleb.” Zev’s brow furrowed as he contemplated the information he gave Ben.

Before they could continue the discussion, Ben’s stomach growled.

Zev chuckled, “I think that’s our cue to go down for dinner. I’m sure Sandi has some appetizers ready. Let’s go see if she needs any help.”

The kitchen was bustling with activity. Zev and Ben were sucked into the maelstrom immediately. Sandi cornered them, pulled Sebastian and Reilly into the fray too, tasking them with bringing out the appetizers and munchies.

Most of the group arrived within the next ten minutes and soon everyone was mingling. Kellan’s family was still catching him up with what had happened in their lives over the past eight years.

When the main courses were ready, Sandi had the long buffet table laden down with pasta and chicken, slices of tender beef roast, potatoes, several salads and a wide variety of roasted vegetables. Soon everyone had full plates and were seated at the huge table that now had four extra leaves in it to accommodate the large group.

Ben listened quietly as the conversations remained centered around Kellan and his family. It was quite obvious that Kellan was so much happier now that his loved ones were close again. He glowed with happiness. He and his siblings picked up their easy going way of bantering back and forth, with some good-natured teasing thrown in for good measure.

Just as dinner was winding down, Sebastian’s phone rang. He looked down at the screen, then excused himself, retreating to the now empty kitchen where it was much quieter. His departure didn’t go unnoticed by anyone. The general buzz of voices around the table got quieter.

Sebastian was gone for ten minutes and when he returned, the look on his face was grim. “That was my contact. He was able to access a couple of accounts of Reilly’s father and both of them had links to High Council funds.”

Ben's eyes widened in disbelief.

Jack sighed and shook his head, “I was afraid of that. I’ve suspected it for a while, but I’m an accountant, not a hacker. I knew there had to be outside funds coming into the pack. There’s no way Peter could sustain the lifestyle that he’s lived the past several years on the income the pack itself generated.”

“What exactly are the sources of income in the pack?” Sebastian asked.

“Well, there are several, but the main income generator is the investment funds that the pack dues are dispersed into. Up until a few years ago, the pack was small and most of the members either worked in forestry, specifically logging, while several of our younger folks set up some pretty lucrative online businesses. Their annual dues provided a nice investment sum.”

“Excuse me, Sir, but why do shifters pay dues and how much are they?” Ben inquired.

Ben wasn’t well versed in shifter protocol and appreciated how everyone was a patient with him.

Jack smiled. “Well, most packs have some sort of dues requirement. In our pack it was twenty-five percent of a shifter’s income. In return, the shifter is given a place to live and the protection of the alpha. Families support each other, meals are often shared, kid’s clothes are passed from family to family, babysitters are never hard to find. If your vehicle breaks down, there’s always someone there to give you a ride until it’s fixed. Those are all things that make a pack a tight-knit community. That is exactly what the dues, and the income they generate, support. Maintenance on houses and common buildings, utilities, things like that. Now if you wanted to buy, let’s say a boat or an ATV, you’d pay for it out of your own funds, and probably find yourself with a lot of friends willing to chip in for gas. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, thank you for explaining.”

“Now, getting back to the financial health of the pack,” Jack picked up where he left off. “As I mentioned, Peter started spending more money than what I knew his share of the pack investments generated. I never said anything to him, I just let him assume I figured he had his own savings or investment income. It’s not all that uncommon for an Alpha to have his own sources of income. It is a little unusual to hide it.”

“So he never said anything to you about how he came into the money to buy new vehicles and ATVs?” Reilly asked, a puzzled look on his face.

“No Son, he did, however, insinuate that he had gotten an insurance payout from your ‘death’. I never commented on it directly to him or anyone else.

Reilly looked at his mate curiously. “What exactly did your contact say about the money link between the Council and my father?”

“He said that, within the accounts he was able to access, there were substantial monthly deposits transferred from Council funds.”

“Could you be a little more specific? How substantial?” Jack asked.

“Fifty-thousand dollars.”

There was a collective gasp from the group.

“Shit. That’s a lot of money every month!” Kellan exclaimed.

“Enough to kidnap and hide young shifters,” Caleb pointed out.

“More than enough, considering it was going into two accounts,” Sebastian confirmed. “There’s probably more, my contact was only able to hack those two. Who knows where else they’re hiding money?”

Ben’s head was spinning from all of the information his brain was trying to process. “So what do we do with this information?”

“We have to go back to Idaho,” Reilly stated.

Kellan nodded grimly.

“Like Hell you will!” Connie Porter stood up and smacked her hand loudly on the table.

Ben jumped at the sudden outburst.

Her eyes blazed with a fury that could only be produced by a momma protecting her offspring. “You boys will not step one foot near that territory. Ever!”

Sebastian reached over and covered her hand with his own. “We may not have a choice. I don’t like the idea any more than you do, but it may come down to it. There are young pups' lives at stake here. I know both Reilly and Kellan would be devastated if something happens to them and they could’ve helped.”

“Mom, I don’t want to go back there any more than you want me to, but Sebastian is right. If we can help get those pups back safely, then we have to go.”

Connie slumped down into her seat. Even though they all knew the boys were right, it was obvious to Ben, especially as he could see her wolf bristling, that Connie hated the idea. Ben figured she didn’t want to risk losing Kellan or Reilly again, so soon after getting them back.

“It looks like we need to come up with a game plan,” Sebastian stated.

Once more his phone rang. He glanced at the screen and immediately an annoyed look came over his face. Swiping across the screen he barked, ”McTire here.”

Ben watched as his features tightened. Whatever was being said on the other end of the phone was not making Sebastian happy. His wolf's hackles were raised.

The one side of the conversation Ben could hear made him uneasy. He glanced around the room and everyone was listening intently. Apprehension permeated the room.

Sebastian was being cut off mid-sentence every time he tried to speak. After several minutes the call abruptly ended and a fuming Sebastian turned to the group, his face red with anger.

“Fuck, that was Councilman Albert’s personal assistant. Reilly and I have been summoned to Germany. Apparently word of our Alpha-Kappa status finally reached them and we’ve been ordered to appear before the High Council,” he spat out, annoyed.

“Germany? Why?” questioned Reilly.

“They were only recently told by the Mid-Atlantic governor about our Alpha-Kappa status. The memo regarding us was misplaced and just resurfaced. According to the Council’s secretary, we are now required to take our place as senior Alpha-mates. I could barely get a word in edgewise. They didn’t mention Kellan, and I never said anything about his Lambda status to the regional rep when I spoke to him. The Council secretary did request that I let them know who will be accompanying us.“

Ben’s eyes were wide as he asked, “Do I even want to know?”

Sebastian chuckled. It was the only thing he could do at this point. “Every mated pair in the shifter world has a hierarchy within their pack structure based on the longevity of their relationship, with one exception.”

“Lemme guess, Alpha-Kappa pairings,” Ben stated obviously.

Zev gave him a squeeze. “I knew you were the smartest human-shifter ever,” he teased, receiving an elbow in the ribs from Ben in reply.

“Yes, an Alpha-Kappa pair is automatically elevated to the top-ranking pair among all wolf shifters. Most other species recognize the status as well,” Caleb explained.

“This definitely throws a monkey wrench into things,” Hunter pointed out. “Who’s going to go to Idaho?”

Zev gave Ben a subtle nod and Ben returned the gesture. “Ben and I will go. We can pose as disgruntled wolves looking for a new pack.”

Reilly shook his head. “That would be great, except for one major thing. My father and brothers are seriously homophobic. Your mate status can’t be masked. They would know something is off. You’d either be run off the pack land or killed.”

“Anybody have any other ideas?” Jack asked the group.

Silas raised his hand shakily. “May I make a suggestion?”

Ben had almost forgotten that the old shifter was there. He had been quiet throughout dinner.

Sebastian nodded. “Please do.”

“I think all six of you should go to Germany. If indeed, there is anything hinky going on within the Council, you’ll need eyes and ears that you trust, as well as to watch your back. There’s safety in numbers, especially in a situation like this.”

“I think you’re right,” Sebastian agreed.

The answering silence affirmed the group's agreement.

Everyone was somber as the realization that the High Council was somehow involved in the abductions sank in.

“Sebastian, when are you expected to be in Germany?” Caleb asked.

“Saturday. That gives us three days to plan before we have to leave on Friday. They have already arranged for a private jet to take us Friday evening. I hate this. I need to call Donovan and let him know what’s going on. My wolf is uneasy about leaving our pack,” Sebastian admitted. “This is why I never want to be governor of our region.”

“I understand completely. I never really had a choice. As alpha of the largest pack in the state, my wolf felt obligated to take up the governor position,” Caleb sighed. “It’s a lot of work and most of that bunch in Germany have sticks the size of sequoia branches stuck up their asses. Pompous, attention-seeking idiots if you ask me.”

“Well, we’re going to need all the information you’ve got on each one of those pompous, attention-seeking idiots. Can you come up with a detailed dossier on each of the High Council members for me?” Sebastian asked.

“Lucky for you, it’s already done. I’ll just need to look everything over to make sure I haven’t missed anything. My father was governor before me and he always kept a file on the Council members. Mostly because he sucked at remembering not-so little details like names. My mother made flashcards with their pictures and made my dad review them in the weeks before a meeting. I’m better with names, but he had the right idea and I’ve continued it, updating as necessary. The information does come in handy at the mandatory gatherings. Knowing details like who their mates are and family ties is always a plus.”

Ben silently agreed. In this case, knowledge would be advantageous.

“Caleb, do you have any clue as to which of the High Council members might be involved in the pups' disappearances?” Reilly asked.

“Right now, no. I’m going to review all my notes and see if I find anything odd, or some sort of pattern of behavior. I’m thinking that whoever is involved is really good at hiding their tracks. My gut tells me it runs deep and more than one of them are somehow involved. It’s not easy to hide fifty-thousand dollars or more every month.”

Ben subtly nudged Zev, whispering, "Maybe you can see if there's a pattern in Caleb's notes."

Zev cleared his throat and offered his observation skills to his Alpha, who readily accepted.

Ben couldn't help it when his eyes followed Sebastian as he paced the floor. He noticed Reilly’s eyes never left his agitated mate either. Ben decided the pacing must be a habit Sebastian couldn't break.

He wondered if Reilly was used to the new mate connection with Sebastian. He was still getting accustomed to the connection he and Zev had. They each were attuned to the other’s feelings and moods right down to the cellular level. It still seemed a little weird.

Caleb must have sensed Sebastian’s angst as well. It didn't surprise Ben when he said, “Sebastian, if it will ease your mind, your pack is welcome here while you’re gone. There is a resort close by that is currently closed for the winter season. In the milder weather we run it as a source of income. It gives the youngsters something to do in the summer. I also use it when I have our big gathering every year. It can accommodate almost five hundred. It wouldn’t take much work to open up a section so your pack can stay there for a while. There’s more than enough room for everyone. I’m not sure my wolf could handle his pack being alone for an uncertain amount of time.”

“Are you sure Caleb? An entire pack of shifters is a lot to ask of your wolf,” Sebastian remarked.

One thing Ben noticed was that wolves were very territorial.

“I’m positive my wolf will be okay with it. If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t have suggested it.” Caleb assured him.

“Alright, I’ll call Donovan and see if he can get the pack on the road by tomorrow. I’m sure he can get them here in two days. My wolf needs to see them safe before we leave for Germany,” Sebastian nodded, his relief apparent as some of the tension drained from his shoulders.

He excused himself to make his call and Reilly followed.

Caleb addressed his Beta. “Wayne, I’ll need you to make sure the grounds are cleared, the parking lot plowed and have Sandi stock the kitchen and pantry. Round up some help and take a couple of trailers to Great Falls and fill them up. Maybe take the RV too, and stock up on non-food supplies.”

He turned to Zev and Ben. “Would you please get a crew together and open up the west wing of the lodge. Make sure all of the larger suites are ready for the families that need them,” Caleb instructed. “I'm sure after two straight days of traveling the shifters won’t be in any shape to deal with any of that.”

Holy shit, he just remembered something that might be extremely useful. Ben bolted up, knocking his chair over in his excitement. “That’s it!” Ben exclaimed.

What is?” Zev asked, startled by Ben’s outburst..

“A shapeshifter. What if a shapeshifter could infiltrate the Idaho pack?”

“That would work except for one thing, how the hell do we find a shapeshifter willing to help us?” Caleb wondered.

Ben turned to his mate with a wide grin. “How would you like to go on a little field trip?”

“Do tell, what tricks do you have up your sleeve?” Zev smirked.

Just then Sebastian and Reilly came back, Sebastian looking more settled.

Caleb watched the Alpha with concern. “Is everything all set with your pack?”

“Yes, Donovan said Rosalie had a feeling they’d be leaving, so they’re all ready. They’ll be on the road in a couple of hours. They have enough drivers to be able to drive straight through, so barring any major delays they’ll be here tomorrow night.”

“That’s great news. Ben here, thinks he may have a solution to get someone into the Idaho pack. He was just about to explain.”

Ben’s cheeks turned pink as the group turned its attention toward him. Zev gave him a gentle nudge and he cleared his throat, “Um, well, it’s like this. This past summer a good friend of mine met me in northern California and we spent a few weeks camping, hiking and exploring the area. We were camping near the coast, around Arcata, and found a great little restaurant that we ended up eating dinner at several times. One of the waiters is a shapeshifter. Seemed like a really nice guy too. It took me a couple of days to figure out what he was. It’s not easy to do when you’ve never come across one before.”

“Do you think he’d be willing to help? It’s a lot to ask a stranger,” Zev remarked.

“That’s just it. He didn’t feel like a stranger. We sat in his section every night and got to know him a little. With everything that’s happened to me in the past few weeks, I just know that somehow, he’s a part of this.”

Zev kissed Ben softly, “Then that’s good enough for me.” He pulled out his phone and after a minute said, “If we leave now we can make it there in about sixteen hours.”

Caleb shook his head. “No. You can’t drive. The shortest route would take you too close to Reilly’s old pack’s territory. It’s too dangerous. Give me a few minutes. It’s time to cash in a few favors.

Zev and Ben headed back to their room to grab a few essentials they would need for the next couple of days.

When they returned Ben heard Wayne assuring Sebastian that he and Sandi would take care of getting the lodge ready for his pack, asking if there were any special requests.

The Porters, plus Reilly’s sister, all volunteered to help. Sandi was typing out a to-do list on her phone as she and Wayne headed out.

Silas, who had been watching everything closely, motioned for them to join him.

“You make sure you watch yourselves in Germany. I served on the High Council many, many moons ago, and while it wasn’t as politically driven as it is now, there were still a few power-hungry wolves trying to strong-arm everyone into doing what they wanted, not necessarily what was best for everyone,” he warned.

Sebastian nodded in agreement. “I have a feeling we’re not really going to enjoy this trip. My primary objective is to get there, get as much information as we can, and get the hell out."

Ben and the others agreed.

“Getting out may be more difficult than you realize. Your status now puts you at the very top of the hierarchy. To the Council, you are an unknown. If they’re involved in the manipulation of shifter DNA or anything, there might be a huge target on your back. Keep Hunter and Kellan close, at all times. Their need to protect you and Reilly won’t allow them to stray very far anyway. Ben and Zev need to keep their eyes and ears open and their mouths shut. Wolves that are full of themselves tend to overlook the quiet ones," Silas noted.

Caleb came back and beckoned to Zev and Ben.

“Boys, I just spoke with Brent Kinser who runs the Full Moon ranch on the southeast corner of the territory. He has a Cessna that will get you to the county airstrip near Arcata. Your wolves can get you to his ranch quicker than if you drove. Here, put your stuff in this,” he said, tossing a specially designed backpack that would be strapped to one of their wolves at Zev.

Zev quickly shoved the duffel into the backpack before he and Ben stripped down, added their clothes and shifted. Ben’s shift only took a minute or so this time and while he shifted, Caleb buckled the backpack around Zev’s wolf.

“Good luck you guys. This is probably our best shot at getting someone inside the Idaho pack to poke around.” Sebastian remarked.

“I think my father is probably going to be on high alert now that the Porters have high-tailed out of there. Especially since my sister went with them. He’s probably livid by now. We’re going to have to figure out a way to keep whoever goes in there safe. Make sure this shapeshifter knows what he's getting into and stays.”

The rest of the group nodded in agreement.

Ben's wolf chuffed his understanding.

“We have a lot to figure out, and not a lot of time to do it. We have to decide what information we need and how to go about getting it, and getting it safely.” Sebastian told the group. “Christ, this is turning into a major operation. Caleb, would you be willing to coordinate everyone? I don’t think I’m going to be able to do much from Germany. I’d feel a lot better if I knew everyone had a point man to report to. You run a pack of six hundred and even though I’ve only known you a few days, I trust you.”

Ben saw that Caleb’s expression reflected how much that statement meant to him. In the shifter world, Sebastian was now the highest ranked wolf and to have garnered his trust so soon, was a major deal.

“Thank you, Sebastian. You can count on me. I have a few thoughts, so maybe we should take a break and when Wayne and Sandi get back this afternoon we can reconvene and knock some ideas out. I’m pretty sure the others will have some good input as well. They can finish up at the lodge tomorrow if necessary.”

“That sounds like a good plan. How about we meet back here at three?”

The remainder of the group nodded and Caleb said he would text the others.

"You guys get back as soon as you can and stay safe," he instructed Zev and Ben, before heading down to his office.

Sebastian looked at Reilly and said, “Let’s go for a run. We can escort Zev and Ben to the pack border. I don't think we'll get a chance to run much in the next couple of weeks, so we might as well go while we have a chance."

Reilly immediately agreed.

Kellan and Hunter felt the need to accompany them too. It was their job to protect their Alpha and Kappa.

Ben and Zev wagged their tails as everyone headed for the back door, stripping clothes off as they went.

Six wolves, colors intermingled, leapt down the stairs and ran full speed across the field, barking and yipping, the sound traveling across the expanse through the cold air.

Sebastian was right when he told them they might not be able to let their wolves run for a while. They all knew the next several days were going to be difficult. No one could have predicted how difficult it would be.

Well, we're halfway there.
Let me know what you think.
Copyright © 2021 kbois; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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