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Spirit Wolves - 15. Chapter 15

For those of you who are impatient.

As soon as Sebastian opened the door it was apparent that the other two couples had also made good use of their limited time alone with each other. All six wolves were content for the moment, and hopefully would behave during the upcoming meeting.

Needing to get down to business, Sebastian addressed Ben first. “So tell us what you saw, Ben.”

He knew Ben was used to fading into the background and observing. This afternoon’s lunch had been no different.

“Councilman Albert’s wolf is impressive. Large, but not as big as you. He’s very aloof. I got the impression that he regards himself as being much higher in status than everyone around him. Councilman Belland’s wolf is powerful. He just oozes it. Schumann, Schultz and Zimmerman’s wolves gave off a different vibe. They seemed, mmmhhh, wary? Sedate maybe? I’m not explaining this right, I’m not sure of the word I’m looking for.”

“Circumspect?” Zev offered, showing that he, too, had been keenly observing their hosts.

“Yeah, that’s as close as anything,” Ben replied. “Mata is a grizzly bear. Impressive too. Jones is a polar bear, first one I’ve ever seen. Chusi’s snake kinda freaked me out. I’d hate to piss her off. Faulkner was hard to read, birds of prey usually are. I’ve only come across a couple of eagles before, so I’m not sure what’s considered normal behavior. Same with Chusi’s anaconda.”

“Thank you Ben, you did well. Zev, what about you? Is there anything you noticed?” Sebastian asked.

“Nothing out of the ordinary. Their scents seemed normal. Belland seemed to scrutinize us more than the others did. I think he’s one to keep an eye on. Maybe Chusi too, she seemed a little standoff-ish. I don’t know, that just might be her nature.”

“Excellent, I really need you two to keep all of your senses wide open during this meeting. Any little detail might help. We have to figure out who’s involved with the money trail,” Sebastian let out a huff, not liking the situation they had been thrust into.

A knock sounded on the door. It was Robert, who had come to take them to their first meeting. He addressed all of them properly and correctly, having learned his lesson quickly. It didn’t take long to navigate the few hallways which led them to a rather modern looking conference room. The only thing that gave away the location was the rough-hewn stone walls. Otherwise, the room was equipped with a large, sleek conference table, chrome base and black composite tabletop. The rug under their feet was plush, high quality, meant to be aesthetically pleasing as well as long-lasting. Waterford crystal goblets were set on the table in front of each wheeled, leather executive chair.

The nine council members were already seated, Alberts once again at the head of the table, the others along one side to his right. Sebastian immediately wheeled the chair closest to the opposite end of the table around so that he faced Alberts directly from the other end, putting himself on even ground. The rest of his crew sat opposite the other council members, leaving the last few seats to Albert’s left, empty.

There was a subtle scent of burnt toast. Someone wasn’t happy. It wasn’t hard to pinpoint the source.

Councilman Alberts stood and addressed the group. “Gentlemen, thank you once again for joining us. The purpose of this meeting is to officially confirm your Alpha-Kappa status and to discuss your role in the High Council. I’m sure you‐”

“Councilman Alberts,” Sebastian interrupted. “Let’s cut the shit, as we say in the States. You already know, just by our scents, that Reilly and I are mates, and we are indeed an Alpha-Kappa pairing. As far as our role in this, that has yet to be determined. Before that determination can be made, I’d like more information."

Sebastian let that statement sink in for a moment before continuing. “I’d like a complete rundown of the High Council’s operation. What role, specifically, each of you holds. What your duties are, who reports to you and who you report to. I want to see the Council ledgers for any and all businesses, as well as any pending or future projects. I want access to accounts receivable and payable. Make sure payroll is included. In case any of it is unclear, here is a list.”

Hunter passed out copies to the Council members.

“I understand this is a lot of information that needs to be gathered, so I suggest that we adjourn this unnecessary meeting and let you get to your tasks.”

As intended, Sebastian’s announcement did not go over well with several of the councilmen and women.

Councilman Belland stood up, a blatant show of superiority. Sebastian stood as well, his height and stance giving him a clear advantage.

Belland wasn’t stupid, he tilted his neck slightly, just barely enough to count as respect. “Alpha McTire, I mean no disrespect, but just who do you think you are giving us orders, expecting us to bow to your every whim?”

Sebastian looked directly at the man, a subtle challenge in its own right. “Councilman, I am your new senior Alpha, by way of ‘Ordines Antiquorum’.

Rosalie and Silas made sure that Sebastian and the guys were armed to the teeth with the information they needed to establish their stake to the highest rank in the shifter realm. ‘Ordines Antiquorum was Latin for ‘Ancient Orders. It was the equivalent of a royal decree, and in the shifter world, irrefutable.

There was no mistaking the scent of anger that wafted off of the displeased Councilman.

“This is highly irregular. I don’t believe your status gives you the right to come here and just take over,” Belland spat out.

“Oh, but it does, Councilman. The ancient Writ of Orders, as retained by the eldest Historia Custodis, clearly states that an Alpha-Kappa pair holds the highest rank and as such, they are the primary authority in all laws and upholdings of traditions. Are you prepared to challenge the words of a seven-hundred and thirteen year old she-wolf?” Sebastian asked, knowing damn well the man would be a fool if he did.

“Oswald, sit down. Your ramblings are outright offensive. Alpha McTire and his companions are guests and you’re acting like a petulant child that’s had his favorite toy taken away. Shame on you," Nathaira Chusi chastised. She turned to Sebastian and smiled, rather charmingly.

"Alpha McTire, please forgive Oswald’s behavior. I can’t speak for the rest of us, but I, for one, do not share his opinion.”

“Thank you Councilwoman Chusi.”

“Oh, please, call me Nat. I’ve always found the use of those titles rather pompous,” she said with a grin.

Sebastian filed away that piece of information. He was quickly thinking they may have been mistaken in their first impression of the anaconda shifter.

“I quite agree Nat, although the title of Alpha is a birthright, and one that I’m quite used to.” In that one statement, Sebastian drew a clear line in the sand. He was still to be addressed by his Alpha title, while the council members were relegated to a first name basis. Even though they were all Alphas, Sebastian was the only one who could be addressed as such. The other Alphas did not have claim to the title while they were in Council. Subordinates would still be required to address them as Alpha, unless given other instructions.

There was a general murmuring amongst the Council members as they discussed Sebastian’s demand. When they finally reached a consensus, it was Nat who addressed them.

“Alpha, my fellow Council members are requesting three days to put together the information you’ve requested.”

“You have two.”

Reilly and Kellan made the mistake of glancing at each other. Sebastian’s tone was exactly the same as when he had uttered those words to them after Kellan had countered his initial demand of one day. It took every single iota of control that they possessed not to burst out laughing. One glance from Sebastian was enough to quell their impending mirth.

“Excuse me, Alpha,” Councilman Faulkner said. After a brief nod from Sebastian, he continued. “I am a bit curious. I understand that your mating, as well as your Beta’s are fairly recent, yes?”

Sebastian’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Yes, all three pairings are quite recent.”

Faulkner gave a small smile. “I find it intriguing that three male to male fated matches happened in such a short span of time. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but as you know, male pairings are not very common. One match I can understand, but three? That’s cause for a raised eyebrow or two.”

“Are you doubting our claims?”

“Oh no, Sir! The validity of your claims is irrefutable. There is no doubting the scent of a fated mate pairing. I’m just, well, honestly, I’m just blown away. And possibly a little bit jealous. Wolf shifters are much greater in numbers than avian shifters, especially Falcons. I haven’t come across any other, save for a few family members, in quite some time. I guess I’m just a little bit melancholic, knowing that I may never come across my mate.”

Sebastian’s eyes softened as the reality of Faulkner’s words sank in. It was true that wolf shifters far outnumbered every other species. Without knowing exactly where Faulkner’s loyalties lay, Sebastian’s hands were tied. He wasn't ready to reveal the connection between their wolves’ appearances just yet, nor its connection to the ancient warriors.

“Well, there’s always hope. Don’t give up, you really never know what the next moment will bring,” Sebastian said. Faulkner just went down a rung or two on the ladder of suspects.

Turning his attention back to the rest of the Council, Sebastian reiterated,”Two days, ladies and gentlemen. I expect the reports handed over first thing Wednesday morning. In the meantime, your agenda that you sent to us will need to be changed. The incessant string of meetings will not be happening. Wednesday, my crew and I will be going over the reports. Until then, we will not entertain any official meeting, gathering, dinner, assembly, interview, or appointment. Is that clearly understood?”

Nat’s lips were pressed together firmly as she avoided looking at the rest of the council. It was difficult to ascertain if she was pissed, or holding back laughter. Alberts and Belland, however, could barely conceal their disdain. If looks could kill, Sebastian, Reilly, Hunter, Kellan, Zev and Ben would cease to exist.

“Very well,” hissed Alberts. “I will cancel all of the activities and meetings until further notice.

“Sir,” Sebastian rumbled, the deep timbre of his voice commanding respect.

Sir,” Alberts said, barely hiding his contempt.

Sebastian led his team out of the room where Robert was standing not far from the door.

“Robert, would you be so kind as to have a car available to take us out for the remainder of the afternoon? I think we deserve a little sightseeing break as we now have the next two days at our disposal.”

Robert nodded. “Alpha, if I may? I would be happy to be your guide for the duration of your visit. The area has a lot of interesting sights, plenty of places to let your wolves run and some fantastic local restaurants.”

“As long as we don’t have to tour any castles or churches, I’m game!” Hunter said as he poked Sebastian’s side. “How ‘bout some skiing? Are there any slopes open yet?”

Robert shook his head. “Sorry, but you’re a few weeks too early. The upper mountains have plenty of snow, but most of the resorts and slopes don’t open until the second week of December.

“That’s too bad. I would’ve liked to have gotten in a few runs on the slopes. Maybe another time,” lamented Hunter.

“Robert, we will meet you in the courtyard in twenty minutes. I think we’d all like to change into some more comfortable clothes for sightseeing,” Sebastian suggested.

“Very well, Sir.” Robert turned and headed down the hallway, footsteps echoing off of the stone walls.

Twenty minutes later, now sporting jeans and either a sweatshirt or a casual sweater, Sebastian led the way to the courtyard where Robert had the van all warmed up for them. The November air was crisp and just cold enough to warrant the warmer clothing. Their higher-than-human body temperatures allowed them to forgo needing bulky jackets.

Robert drove south and then east for a while, meandering through the winding roads of the Black Forest. The scenery was beautiful, thick woodlands with a wide variety of trees and brush. Vast meadows stretched up into the hills and mountains. Quaint villages dotted the landscape and the occasional bigger town offering more to see and do. Several times Robert stopped to point out a place of interest, but for the most part they all were content to be out of the imposing, stuffy castle. Their wolves agreed.

As evening approached, Robert turned back toward the west and then south. Dinnertime brought a stop at a local Ratskeller for a bite to eat. The tavern-like restaurant was in the basement of the town hall. The town hall inhabited a structure that had to be at least five-hundred years old, heavily favoring Gothic architecture with its steep, pitched roof, stained-glass windows and ornate finishing touches.

Locals eyed them as they entered, not in a bad way, but rather out of curiosity. It’s not every day that six, strapping examples of fine male flesh graced these rooms. A young lady quickly came over to greet them and lead them to a hand-hewn, large oak table that could easily accommodate ten people.

Sebastian’s German was a bit rusty, but he was able to express his thanks and ask for a round of beer. The waitress blushed, as so many women did, but her look of adoration quickly turned to disappointment as she watched Sebastian pull Reilly close and plant a kiss on his temple. Another bubble burst. So ist das leben. That’s life.

After perusing the menu, relying on Robert to translate, they ended up ordering a variety of dishes and would share. That way they could all sample the food and if they really enjoyed something, they could always order more.

Beer flowed freely during the meal and for the first time in many days, they were able to relax a bit. Kellen even got Robert to open up a little, and as soon as that gate was left open, Robert became the target of a round of Twenty Questions. They learned that he was born and raised not far from Munich. His parents had been recognized as heroes after World War II, helping to alter documents in order to allow Jewish nationals to escape Nazi Germany. They had risked being sent to the gas chambers in order to help their friends and neighbors. He was an only child and most days enjoyed his job as an assistant to the High Council members.

For the time being, Sebastian and the rest of the guys still held Robert at arm’s length. Until they were sure of his loyalties, they couldn’t consciously give him the benefit of the doubt, although as they got to know him, Sebastian was pretty sure he wasn’t involved.

The next two days were spent in a similar fashion.

Sebastian had to decline Robert’s offer to take them to an area where they could let their wolves out to run. He was not ready to play that card and let anyone know about the connection between them. Instead, Robert drove them to Munich where they spent the two days walking around, enjoying the sights, going back to the castle only to sleep.

Hunter had teased Kellan when they stopped to watch the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Marienplatz. The numerous bells and chimes kept time to the daily performances of thirty-two life size figures reenacting the tale of the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm the Fifth to Renata of Lorraine, complete with knights from Bavaria jousting with knights from Lothringen. The show goes on to commemorate the dance associated with the perseverance and loyalty to authority that local coopers showed through the difficult times during the Plague.

Kellan had been intrigued by the intricate workings of the figures, weaving in and out of the balconies. His rapt attention was akin to a little kid seeing a magician for the first time, and of course Hunter had to jump on the chance for a little light-hearted teasing. Reilly, especially, found Kellan’s response to the performance refreshing. It had been a long time since either of them had been able to let go and enjoy something for the pure sake of it. Sebastian’s wolf rumbled with satisfaction at seeing his mate and Betas happy.

In the van on the way back to the castle, they were still talking about the performance.

“I sort of feel a little guilty about going sightseeing and enjoying it so much when our pups are still missing,” Kellan said, when the conversation was winding down, forgetting that Robert was with them.

“Kells,” Reilly answered, “ If there’s one thing you and I both know, it’s that you have to take the moments of joy when they happen. The shit can hit the fan at any time. We’ve seen it firsthand. For one thing, we’d all be driving ourselves crazy if we were just sitting around that stuffy old castle. Secondly, our sightseeing doesn’t change the fact the pups are missing. I think getting away for a couple of days has been good for all of us, mentally. I know that my wolf isn’t the most reliable gauge, but the past two days, he’s been calm. When we first got here, I felt him trying to retreat again, but now he’s just hanging back, observing.”

“Reilly is right. My wolf and Ben’s have been less anxious. That first day we were here, it took Ben a lot of effort to keep his wolf under control. I couldn’t leave his side,” Zev chimed in.

“I haven’t been a shifter for very long, but I can read people very well. I can see the tension we’ve all had these past few weeks. Just look at Sebastian’s eyes. They’re getting little lines in the corners,” Ben remarked.

Sebastian frowned. He hadn’t realized his stress showed. He paid more attention to what Ben had to say.

“Zev has a little furrow in his forehead that won’t go away completely. Even Hunter is showing signs of stress, just in the way he holds himself a little tighter. These two days that we’ve given ourselves has chased those outward signs away, at least temporarily. I’m sure they’ll be back in force first thing tomorrow morning. But for now, we just need to grab onto the positive energy that this little break has given us. We’ll need it if we’re ever going to find out who’s behind our pups going MIA.”

Just then the van swerved sharply as Robert overcorrected after drifting toward the side of the road. His attention had shifted to their conversation and he hadn’t been paying attention to his driving. They were jerked to the side as he got the vehicle back on track.

“I’m so sorry!!” he cried.

He slowed down a little and made sure he glued his eyes back to the road. Sebastian was sitting in front and noticed his nervousness. Shit. they needed to be more careful.

“Robert, do you know of any other disappearances here in Europe?”

Robert bit his lip before nodding. “Why don’t I stop somewhere where we can talk?”

Sebastian had already swept the van for listening devices and it was clean, but this wasn’t really a conversation that should be held while driving. He pointed at a sign up ahead for a local restaurant. They had eaten lunch a while ago and were going to stop soon anyway.

Robert pulled into the small parking area and parked on the side of the building. They only had to wait a few minutes as the staff pushed a couple of smaller tables together to accommodate all seven of them. Menus were handed out and drink orders were taken.

As soon as their waitress left with their order Sebastian turned his attention back to Robert, who had started fidgeting.

“Okay Robert, please tell us what you know about pups disappearing from multiple packs.” Sebastian framed it as a request, but in a tone that was really a demand.

Robert’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed his fear. “I don’t know all that much. I’m not part of the inner circle of shifters who really know what’s going on. The council members tend to overlook a lot of us lower staff and it’s easy to overhear things that we probably shouldn’t know about. Some of it I can only guess at. I do know that Alpha Alberts and Alpha Belland are sneaky and are hiding something. I’ve had to deliver sealed correspondences between them, often in the middle of the night. I have no idea what’s in them, but I’d be willing to bet it’s somehow related.”

“Have you ever heard them mention the disappearances?” Sebastian asked.

“I’m not really sure. They never directly mention pups or children. They use terms like ‘merchandiseor ‘cargo’. I’ve heard them talking about electronic transfers and pending payments. They make it seem like they’re discussing some of the legitimate businesses that the Council runs, but there’s something in the tone of their voices that just doesn’t sound right. The disappearances were brought up by Alpha Chusi at one of their weekly meetings several months ago. You’d have to request a copy of the minutes from that meeting. It may have been last February or March, I think.”

Sebastian looked at Hunter, who nodded. “I’ll get with Chusi. We probably need to get copies of all of the minutes from their official meetings for at least the past couple of years. Hopefully She’ll be able to shed a little light on when the disappearances started,” Hunter said.

Their conversation was halted momentarily while the servers brought out their food. Once everyone was settled, Reilly asked Robert, “Do any of the council members have a background in biology or chemistry?”

Robert’s nose wrinkled as he thought. “I don’t think so. At least not directly.”

“What do you mean by that?” Reilly asked.

“Councilman Belland’s son is some sort of science teacher or professor. Last I heard, he was in the States at one of the big colleges in New England. Maybe MIT or Yale? Honestly, I usually tuned out Alpha Belland when he started bragging about any of his kids. According to him they’re all Mensa level geniuses. If so, they probably got it from their mother.”

That declaration garnered several snorts and chuckles from the others. Even Sebastian smiled.

When the amusement died down Kellan remarked, “Whatever the case may be, I have a feeling we’ve only seen the very tip of the proverbial iceberg. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Albert’s or Belland’s private rooms.”

“But why would they be interested in pups?” Robert wondered.

Sebastian hated to be the one to shed some light on the reason, but he felt that it was too important to get swept under the rug and kept from other shifters.

“Robert, we think that the Council is involved in the trafficking of young shifters. We’ve recently found out that a group of shifters discovered how to either chemically or genetically alter a young shifter so that they get stuck mid shift. Once they’re in this state, then they are being pimped out to predators.”

Robert’s fork stopped midway to his mouth and he blanched. The horror of such an atrocity hit him full force as his fork clattered to the floor. There was no way that such a reaction could be faked and at that moment Sebastian was certain that Robert was not involved in any way.

Their waiter saw the utensil drop and hurried over with a replacement. Robert merely shook his head. His appetite had completely vanished.

“There’s a lot more to it. We believe Reilly may have inadvertently been the actual catalyst that started this whole thing. It’s a long story, but the short version is that his father and brothers tortured him right after his first shift. The reasons don’t matter, but they tortured him and his wolf relentlessly for a week. They repeatedly injured him and forced him to shift to heal until his wolf retreated and he was stuck in human form, with multiple, permanent traumas. We think that somehow they figured out a way to force young shifters, mostly between eleven and thirteen, to halt the shifting process part way through. Then, they profit by trafficking them to sick individuals. It’s bad enough that there are shifters who will engage in such activities, but we’re pretty sure that other supernaturals are involved and most dangerous of all, humans. Humans with knowledge of our world? I really don’t want to contemplate the catastrophe that has the potential to turn into,” Sebastian said.

Reilly looked at Robert, the angst that the young man felt was written all over his face. “Robert, would you be willing to help us?”

Robert’s eyes let one tear fall from each of it’s lashes before the forest green color sharpened and a look of steely resolve replaced the sorrow. “I’ll do whatever you ask of me. These bastards need to be taken care of.”

Two hours later it was a determined group, committed to see this mission through, that pulled silently into the courtyard of the imposing castle. Come Hell or highwater, they were in this until the very end.

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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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