Running with the Pack - 45. Chapter 45
It had been a contentious first week at the annual Congress of Alphas. Instead of spending time in committee meetings, workshops, and socializing, the gathered leaders had been embroiled in leadership turmoil. The reality that corruption most had suspected was rooted so deep shook them to the core. Even with how badly things appeared at the start, the members came together to deal with their problems. Anyone who might have considered using the situation to their advantage had to give serious thought to the two young Elementals with John Stockdale. No one wanted to test their limits. For the most part, the pair sat quietly, listening to the debate on reorganizing the Lycan Council. John had given Aiden the opportunity to address the assembly on the matter important to the young man, the inclusion of other shifters. Many of the leaders were impressed with how naturally Aiden handled himself before the group.
No official meetings were scheduled for Saturday to give the attendees time to relax and enjoy the splendor of the area. The Leadership Reorganization Committee felt the framework they had laid out for the revamped council was progressing well as the various sub-committees focused on their individual tasks. They were determined to be ready for the coming week’s debates on the proposals.
Ethan and Aiden were invited to spend the morning with the two other same sex couples they were becoming friends with. The convention veterans led the newcomers on a tour of the caverns. Darius, Cody, and Casey followed behind at a discreet distance.
Carl stopped the group and turned towards the three Enforcers. “You know, you guys don’t have to hang back. I thought we were all friends here.”
“We know, Alpha Schaefer.” Darius dipped his head in respect. “We wanted to give the six of you time to talk.”
“Well, we want to get to know you three as well as them, so get your butts up here,” he teased with a twinkle in his eye. “By the way, it’s Carl to you.”
“I’m sorry, Alpha Schaefer. I mean no disrespect, but while at this conference for the safety of all, we’ll maintain official protocol when addressing you or any other pack leader. We don’t wish to create any issue if anyone overhears us not using your title and takes offense.”
“I suppose I can respect that. You’re off the hook for now.”
“These caves are beautiful.” Ethan reached his hand out feeling the space without touching anything.
“Yes, they are. I’m not sure how many tunnels and chambers there are, but they go on for some distance. We find it almost as much fun exploring down here as it is running in the forests.” Matthew wrapped an arm around his mate. “The hotel runs guided tours throughout the year for a few of its wealthier guests, or alphas staying here. We only get the self-guided map that’s limited to a small amount of what’s here”
The group walked through the Hall of Souls, admiring the formations as they went. Someone had gone to great pains in the placement of LED lights in all the accessible chambers. The light fixture was never visible, but the effects of the lighting were always dramatic. They stopped along the railing next to one of the spots where the underground stream was exposed.
Spencer gazed into the river for a moment, underwater lights at both sides of the opening created an eerie effect. “Some people call this The River of Souls. Apparently, the older legends from this area believe the shapes moving through the water are lycan who have passed on. They use the streams under the mountains to get between the forest and this place. Like traveling in the very blood of the forest. It allows them to keep an eye on us as we work in the Congress Hall.”
Aiden peered into the water as several of the phantom shapes passed the opening. None had any real form or substance, more like a shadow that could not be explained. “I hope the ancestors are pleased with the work this year’s gathering is doing. With everything going on, at least no one’s died.” He fell silent for a moment as he thought about what he said. “Not until moon rise tonight that is.”
“I think all of us thought long and hard about that decision. I don’t take the idea of using capital punishment lightly, but there seemed few options with our laws and their crimes.” Edward felt momentarily unable to lift his eyes from the water due to the burden of his decision. “Those three left a lot of victims and death in their wake, and they have to answer for the lives they destroyed”
“Every once in a while, for the greater good of the whole, the most dangerous need to be removed.” Darius rested his hand on his new friend’s shoulder. “If they’re allowed to live, they will find a way to continue eating away at the common good. It’s like a doctor removing a cancerous tumor from a host. Ultimately, it will lead to the patient surviving.”
“You’re a very wise man, Darius.” Carl watched the lion bring comfort to his mate.
“The solaris community I grew up in pushed philosophy on us when we were young. It was also a suggested subject during my time in the Army given the nature of our duties.”
Ethan had been quiet this entire time. All the water nearby had a strong pull on him. Closing his eyes to absorb what was around him, he reached out with his senses. When his eyes opened, they were emitting their signature blue glow. Fog rose off the surface of the slow moving stream and a small calcite deposit on the cave wall in front of them began to grow. After a few minutes, what had been a single crystal less than a quarter inch long was a beautifully intricate formation. Perfectly positioned to pick up the underwater lights, it appeared to glow on its own. It fit well with other dogtooth spar formations in the chamber and would probably go unnoticed by anyone who was not familiar with every existing one. When he finished with the calcite deposit, the fog took on shapes. First was Aiden’s face, then Casey’s formed, followed by Cody and Darius. The others watched in awe as one by one, each of them appeared until the entire group looked back in perfect detail.
Spencer leaned in to inspect the ghostly aberration. As he did, his own image gazed at him. Every move and facial expression he had was perfectly replicated. When his image smiled and winked at him, he stepped back dumbfounded. “Wow… I mean… just wow.”
“Someone’s feeling creative today.” Aiden pulled his mate into his arms.
Edward studied the new calcite formation. “That’s incredible. It would have probably taken hundreds if not thousands of years to get from where it was to this size.”
“So, you’re are able to control things like the water and make it do what you want?” Spencer glanced between the crystal and Ethan. “Or fire like when you guys burst into flames?”
“I’m not really sure how to explain it, but with water I can feel it. Every molecule of water in this cave makes itself known to me if I open myself up to feel it. Including what’s in all of you. The crystal is from the mineral in the water and rock so I just sped up its natural growth. Anything with water is still the easiest for me to work with. Although when we’re running in the forest, the trees and other plants talk to me in their own way.”
“Since most lycan are fairly in tune with nature and our surroundings, I would imagine it’s amplified a thousand fold with you.” Matthew speculated.
“Ethan’s impressive to watch when he’s working his magic, but he’s just as impressive when he isn’t. He naturally draws people towards him, although not always in a positive way. Much like Aiden does.” Darius felt an arm wrap around him from each side. “I could no more imagine my life without the two of them than I could without my two mates.”
The group moved on, leaving behind the Hall of Souls as they continued their tour of the cavern. The conversation stayed light as they all learned more about the others.
Saturday afternoon, Ethan and Aiden spent their time running through the mountains with John, Jackie, and the rest of the Parker Valley delegation. Craig Jacobs and the delegation from Olympia Pack joined them. It gave Aiden time to spend with the man who referred to himself as his grandfather. Plus, some much needed time with his father. Everything had been so hectic in the first week they barely saw each other outside of the busy meetings or occasionally grabbing a meal together. Adam and John led the group through the forest towards the Lake Louise Ski Resort on Whitehorn Mountain.
The group stopped to rest anytime they found a spectacular vista of the surrounding mountains. The fresh scent of the air and the crunch of pine needles under Ethan’s paws had him relaxed and thoroughly enjoying time with family. The run also served to strengthen the bonds between the two packs. John and Adam had been friends for years already, and even though Adam and Elizabeth were fond of their son-in-law, they wanted to get to know his son and Aiden’s mate much better. After several hours, the group returned to the resort where they met up with Mark Jennings and the Columbia River delegation for dinner.
As evening set in on Saturday, the alphas gathered near the lake. When the time neared for the moon to begin its slow rise into the sky, the three condemned men were led out. Chains around their ankles and neck prevented them from attempting any form of escape. As they reached the site of their execution, the chains were connected to anchors in the ground.
Bryce, Richard and a few other alphas discussed who should do it and how.
“I suppose we should have talked about this before now.” Bryce furrowed his brow. “I’ve never personally killed another lycan, but since I accepted acting as co-chair of this meeting I will do it if needed.”
Richard shook his head. “I’ve killed more than my share, but it was always in combat. There’s no need for you to do it, and I have great respect in a wolf who’s never needed to kill beyond a hunt. If I’m to end someone’s life, I’d prefer it to be in a fight, though I have no issue at all killing these men for what they did. For how many of my own pack they’ve killed.”
Some of the others offered to do it as well, though it was something only a few actually wanted to do. At most, they wanted it done to begin healing and as a message the Lycan Council was being retaken by those it belonged to.
As the first glints of the moon rising over the mountains could be seen, Richard read off the signed decree. “James Larson, Tom Preston, Todd Miller, it is the order of the Congress of Alphas that you be put to death this night for your crimes. May the lunar spirits have mercy on your souls.”
Richard prepared to carry out the execution of James Larson when Ethan stepped out of the crowd and blocked his advance. “Stop.”
“Son, this is the will of this assembly. It needs to be done. Please step aside.”
When Ethan would not budge, Aiden realized what his mate was preparing to do and turned towards John. “Alpha, he’s going to do it himself.”
John studied his protégé for a moment before turning his focus to the young blond. He moved to Richard’s side for a quiet discussion. “Trust him like you would trust me.”
“I don’t understand. Why does he want me to stop? We have to carry this sentence out.”
“I think you’ll have your answer in a moment. Trust him.”
Aiden stepped behind Ethan. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes, I do. Make sure everyone stays back.”
The moon began to crest the mountaintop, casting its light on those assembled. Ethan knelt on the ground a short distance from the condemned men. What began as nothing more than a spark in his eyes grew into a brilliant sapphire blue glow. Placing his right hand on the ground, plants sprouted around the three men. Within a few minutes, flowers bloomed. No one understood what they were witnessing.
Aiden’s suspicions were confirmed when the three men calmly sat amongst the floral display. More plants sprung from the ground and this time the purplish blue of Monkshood, also known as Wolfsbane, came into view. The witnesses gasped, as the blue death grew around the condemned. A light breeze circled the men, carrying the pollen to be inhaled. The different flowers worked as a sedative while the Wolfsbane acted as a lethal but gentle poison.
As the effects of the Monkshood passed the point of no return, Ethan placed his left hand on the ground. Frost covered the ground, edging up the three men’s bodies as the cold assisted what the Wolfsbane had already started. The hearts of the three former council leaders slowed and finally took their last beat as the poisonous blooms faded. Roots sprung from the ground around the bodies, holding them as they stilled. The frost killed the flowers which rapidly turned to dust. A soft breeze blew any of the remaining pollen away. As the wind died down, no remnant of the deadly flora was left.
When it was done, Ethan stood unable to face those who witnessed his actions. Tears fell from his eyes and where any landed, ice crystals spread out across the ground. Aiden wrapped his arm around his mate’s shoulders as Darius, Casey, and Cody took up position around the two. Spencer, Matthew, Carl, and Edward stepped out of the crowd and gathered around their friends to guide the young Elemental away from the lake.
The assembled alphas stared in awe of what they had seen. No one had any words about having witnessed someone being put to death in such a way.
Once out of sight of the others, Ethan dropped to his knees with his face buried in his hands as the heartache of what he had done fully set in. Silent sobs wracked his body as tears streamed down his face. Aiden picked up the light bundle, holding his love to his chest. Spencer took them to a secluded spot where his friend could come to terms with his actions.
After the alphas went their separate ways, Richard approached John and Jackie. “Part of me is relieved he did it, part of me is in awe at how he did it, and part of me wants to be mad that I didn’t get to take my vengeance against them. Why did he do it himself?”
Jackie placed her hand on John’s arm to silence him. “He did it because as you said, a part of you wanted to do it for vengeance. Ethan was the only one here who could do it without any anger or malice behind it. He did so in the most gentle and painless way he could. I believe it was also his way of showing the others that while he’s exceptionally powerful and gifted, he’s also compassionate.”
John nodded. “He was the one person who truly didn’t want to do it, but knew he needed to put on a show of some type for the others. Whether he’s a warning sent to us to get our act together or a messenger of peace is up to how each of us sees him. He tries to use his gifts to protect life. Though I’m sure some will be fearful of him after seeing he can kill without even laying a hand on someone. With luck, it’ll turn into respect. For one who could easily demand submission from us all, but only seeks to live in peace with all lycan. It may also ward off those who think they can use him for their own gain.”
“You’re right. He had no stake in their life or their death, and he made it far more peaceful then I would have. Although breaking their necks as I’d planned would have been faster.” Richard stood in silent thought for a moment. “He’s an exceptional young man and does your pack proud.”
Sunday morning, Ethan wanted to sleep in and not face anyone. The memories from the previous night were still fresh and raw. When prodded to get up, he growled and buried himself under the covers, pulling them tight over his head. It was not until he smelled what room service delivered for breakfast, he finally emerged from his warm cocoon of blankets.
Aiden held out a chair for his mate as they sat near the window to eat. “I talked with Spencer this morning, and we decided on going for a run with the guys.”
“Thanks for asking first.” Ethan was a little snappy still. “I just wanted to stay in the room today so the others don’t see me.”
“Not happening. We’re going for a run. We’ll be away from the resort, and no one but our friends will see you.”
“Easy for you to go out. You’re just the mate of the monster who kills with flowers. I don’t want to deal with the looks or whispers I know I’m going to see and hear.”
“From what I heard this morning, people are in awe of what you did. Alpha Drake’s been pointing out why you had to do it, and the others agree. No one thinks you’re a monster.” The pair ate quietly. A glint of merriment sparked in Aiden’s eyes. “You’ll get to see the four of them naked again when we shift.” Picking up the scent from his mate, he moved under the table only to emerge as he licked the last of his breakfast from his lips.
The six alphas, along with Casey, Darius, and Cody headed into the forest. Ethan’s mood improved as he moved amongst the trees and brush. He was surprised he was not tired from the previous day’s run or the night’s events. Instead, he felt full of energy. The fresh, clean air of the mountains seemed to have a positive effect on him.
Spencer and Matthew guided them north, up the mountain, heading towards nearby Lake Agnes. Compared to Lake Louise, it was much smaller, but none-the-less a beautiful site. After running along the edge for some distance, they moved higher up and stopped at a peak known as The Beehive. It had apparently gotten its name due to the way it looked. The peak had no trees on it and offered an incredible view in all directions.
Casey wore a small backpack with his camera stowed in it and decided to shift to human so he could take pictures. After getting a few shots of both lakes and the hotel in the distance, he turned the camera towards his friends. He took several of the six wolves, coyote, and lion as they sat close together. There were several of his majestic lion and adorable coyote together. Before he finished, he set the camera on a large rock and prepared the shot before hitting the delay button and quickly shifting. Casey just managed to get beside his friends when the camera clicked.
Aiden shifted to human before his friend could. With pictures taken of each mated pair and the group as a whole, he wanted the trio to have their own portraits. The regal lion stood proud with the wind blowing through his thick mane. He wrapped a paw around his wolf mate, while Cody nuzzled into his neck. Aiden carefully loaded the camera into Casey’s backpack and helped his friend get into the harness before returning to his fur, happy to have protection from the chilly air.
Spencer woofed out, “This way.” They left the Beehive. They ran along the ridgeline heading west marveling at the views from their altitude. It was less than half a mile to the next place he wanted to lead the pack. Midway between the peaks, they rose above the tree line. “This is Devils Thumb. It may be a near-lifeless rock, but the views are even better than from the Beehive.”
“It’s beautiful up here, but why aren’t we running in the trees?” Ethan tried to sound like he was not complaining. “The dirt and pine needles feel so much better than running on rock.”
“Yeah, it’s not as nice running on this stuff, but trust Spence. You’re gonna love where we go next.” Matthew licked the side of his mate’s face.
Less than a mile west, they arrived at Mount Whyte. The mountaintop was barren of trees, but was also the highest point of the ridge they were on.
“Over there to the south is the Valley of Ten Peaks. West of us is Mount Victoria and the Victoria Glacier.” Carl pointed with his snout. “If you look over the north face, there’s a small glacier in the valley below us.”
Only a matter of feet below the northern crest of the ridge, Ethan found a good-sized patch of snow. The feel of its crunch under his paws was pleasurable after the harsh rocks. He walked along its edge before lowering his head to lap at the clean frozen wonder.
Casey again shifted to human so he could take more pictures. In the crisp chill of the mountain air, he shivered as his human body tried to adjust to not having the thick fur-cover. “Shit, it’s cold up here. Could you guys give me some warmth?”
Cody and Darius pressed themselves on both sides of their mate as the rest of the pack huddled around them for warmth. Aiming his camera back towards the resort, he was able to get a few shots crossing the entire length of Lake Louise with the enormous chateau in the distance. Casey even took a few selfies with Cody and Darius on either side of him. He broke away from his furry friends only long enough to get pictures with the stunning views behind them. After getting a few dozen of the various mountains, valleys, and lakes, he packed the camera and returned to his fur, nuzzling his mates and friends for keeping him warm.
“We can start heading back or it’s only another half mile or so and we can say we visited another province. British Columbia’s just over there.” Spencer was already moving in that direction as he looked back to see if the others wanted to continue the run.
Edward and his mate were having a quiet conversation as the group rested at the provincial boundary. He looked towards the sky before facing his friends. “It’s only about mid-sun, so we have plenty of daylight left. We’ve come this far, How about we go to Victoria Glacier before heading back to the hotel?”
His companions were in favor of the idea. They were closer to the ice field than Edward realized. In a short amount of time, they were running across the millennia’s-old wonder. A crevasse with sunlight shining into it illuminated the deep blue color of the ancient ice.
Heading down the mountain, Aiden took the lead in finding a safe path. He brought them to a halt when he heard Carl bark out something. “Where did you say we are?”
“This is the Plain of Six Glaciers. That’s why this valley looks like it does. The hillsides are finally starting to recover.”
The valley floor was devoid of trees and looked out of place. Even though the glaciers had long since receded, their scar would take considerably more time to heal. The group set an easy pace back towards the lake. They stopped when they found a beach at the western end. After getting a drink, everyone laid near the water to relax for a bit.
“I can’t get over how beautiful it is here and how much there’s to see.” Ethan was ecstatic and it showed in his eyes. “I had no idea we’d get to stand on a glacier or even set foot in another province.”
Spencer had to laugh at his friend’s enthusiasm. “All the times we’ve been here, we’ve never done a run to Victoria Glacier. It was a place we wanted to see, just never made it happen. I definitely want a copy of the pictures you took, Casey. Most of all, I want a copy of that picture you took of us all on the mountain top.”
“Meeting you guys has made this conference so much more fun than we expected.” Aiden wrapped his paws around his mate and nuzzled his neck.
“We feel the same way.” Matthew relaxed against Spencer’s chest as he felt the bigger wolf licking his head. “Yes, it’s fun having another gay couple to talk with, but all of you guys are great to hang out with.”
Ethan snuggled into the warm of the paws holding him and sighed happily. “Do you mind if I ask you guys something?”
“Ask away.” Carl laughed.
“You guys don’t have security or your enforcers following you everywhere you go. But it seems like everyone else does.” He looked at his three protectors seeing the lion grooming the other two feline fashion. “Before you guys get the wrong idea why I’m asking, I couldn’t imagine being here without you. It would be like coming here without Aiden.”
Carl stretched out on the grassy beach, absentmindedly brushing his paws through Edward’s fur. “For us, our beta stayed home to watch over the pack while we’re here, and our enforcer has been hanging out with others of his rank he’s friends with unless we need him. Even though there can occasionally be problems, we feel comfortable enough not traveling with security all the time.”
“For our pack, our beta and enforcer have made friends with their counterparts from other packs. So, when we’re here we don’t mind them going off and spending time with friends they don’t see all that often. It also gives them time to build friendships so they can better help us.” Spencer rubbed his paw along Matthew’s sides.
“With this being your first Congress to attend, and with your special gifts, it’s wise you have someone escorting you all the time. If for no other reason than to give you warning about any approaching problems so you can take the needed action.” Matthew nodded towards the trio of protectors. “No one will get past them.” The corner of his lip turned up in a devious smile. “Who’s up for a little skinny dipping?”
“That water’s going to be freezing, Babe.” Spencer laughed. “Shrinkage in front of your mate is one thing but bad in front of others.”
Edward shifted, jumped to his feet, and ran into the water, screaming as the icy liquid reached his neck. Soon the others joined him, splashing around in the lake until they decided it was time to return to the resort for dinner.
As the guys got back from their run, there was a commotion in the grand lobby. A search team had returned from the former Vice President’s estate outside of Banff where they had found the Michigan alpha’s son kidnapped months before. The boy’s breathing was labored and erratic. His father raced to his side as soon as he heard of their arrival.
“What’s wrong with him? What did they do to my boy?”
“Tom Preston’s mate jammed a syringe into the boy just as we got where she was holed up. She injected herself with one as well. We might have accidently killed her when we tried to knock the needle out of her hand. Since the local doctor’s here, we rushed him over.”
The doctor checked over the boy as everyone looked on, imagining if it was their child on the table. “Judging by his scent and his condition, I’d say silver and Wolfsbane poisoning.”
“Can you do anything for him?”
“If this is what I think it is, all we can do is wait, but I have to tell you it doesn’t look good. With how strong the smell is, I’d guess he received a lethal dose.”
“Can we fly him someplace to get better care? He’s my son. I have to do something. I can’t lose him like this after just getting him back.”
“I don’t know how big a dose he got or what the mixture was. With the amount of time that’s passed just getting him here, at this point it wouldn’t matter where we take him. If it wasn’t a fatal dose, it should eventually work out of his system. If it was, I’d say no more than an hour. I’m sorry I can’t do more.”
Ethan turned to Aiden when they heard the doctor. Alphas and their mates lined the railing around the lobby’s second floor while even more crowded in wishing they could do something. The silent conversation between the two young men took mere seconds. They understood what needed done.
“If you think you can, then you should try.” Aiden took Ethan’s hand. “Guys, make us a hole through this group so he can get to the alpha’s son.”
Most of the people did not appreciate a group of enforcers pushing their way through the crowd. “Clear the way. Move… NOW…”
Aiden did not care about anyone’s feelings beyond getting his mate where he felt he needed to be.
As they reached the alpha who knelt in tears over his boy, Ethan reached out to the man. “May I try and help?”
“What do you mean? What do you think you can do that the doctor can’t?”
Jackie yelled from the crowd, “Trust him, Don. Let him try. He wouldn’t be there if he didn’t think it was possible to help your son before it’s too late.”
“I can heal ferals. Let me at least see if I can do something for him.”
The father nodded.
Ethan knelt beside the battered and broken body of someone about his age. If the boy were in any condition to shift, a lot of the damage would heal, but that was not an option. The glow within his eyes slowly built as he studied the prone form. A claw formed on his index finger, which he used to slice deep cuts in both arms and legs much to the horror of the father. Placing both hands over the boy’s heart, Ethan pressed down. The intensity of his eyes continued to grow as he searched the body for the poison. He moved the Wolfsbane and silver through the blood stream, away from the brain and other organs, and directed it to the cuts on the boy’s limbs. The wounds seeped a sickening scented blood causing the skin to sizzle as the body rid itself of the silver. For what felt like an eternity to those watching, Ethan worked. The wounds began to close and heal as the bruises faded. His eyes returned to normal as he pulled his hands away from the teen’s chest. The boy’s breathing smoothed out into calm, even breaths.
Standing, Ethan turned to the doctor. “You might want to get someone to clean up the silver before it burns his skin. It felt like I got it all out of him. Have someone sit with him overnight and call me if there are any problems. He should sleep for a few hours as his body heals.” Although Ethan did not mean it to come out as it did, it sounded as if he were the physician issuing instructions to an orderly.
“Yes, Doctor. I’ll get right on that.” The man got some others to move the teen to the hotel’s infirmary as workers from the resort cleaned up the toxic blood.
As the boy was lifted, his eyes fluttered open. “Dad? Is that really you?”
“I’m here. We have you back now.”
The teen closed his eyes, falling into a restful sleep.
The alpha turned to face Ethan. “Thank you for my son’s life, Alpha Jacobs-Tucker. And thank you to the men and women who recovered him for me.”
As Aiden guided his mate away, this time the alphas cleared a path, dipping their head in respect to the young man. In two days, the assembled delegates had seen Ethan both take a life and save one.
Aiden and Ethan decided to go with Jackie to one of the mate groups meeting on Monday morning. The alphas had broken up into smaller committees to work on proposals for restructuring the Council. When they entered the meeting room, there were about fifty women standing around talking plus Matthew and Edward.
Their new friends warmly greet the pair. “Great to see you guys in here today. We kind of suspected Ethan would be here, but we thought you’d have joined John at his meeting.”
“I thought about it, but I’d like to learn more of the mate’s side of things. If nothing else, maybe it’ll give me another perspective to work from when and if we assume the alpha positions in the pack.”
An older woman standing nearby chatting with her friends turned at hearing Aiden’s comment. “I actually think that’s one of the wisest decisions you could make. Many of us assist our mate from behind the scenes, allowing them to run things while we support them and provide counsel in private. Some alphas like Edward here strive for balance between the two roles as does his mate to some extent.”
“Having grown up with Jackie as the mate to my alpha, I know she is a formidable alpha in her own right. She makes it look like she isn’t directly affecting things, but we all know what a powerful and influential luna she is to all of us.” Aiden ever so slightly bared his neck to her. “Besides, I figure if this meeting’s a good place for my mate to learn, it’s an equally good place for me to learn. Oh… and you have cookies.” He snatched a chocolate chip treat from a plate and popped it in his mouth.
The woman running the meeting got everyone’s attention. “Ladies and gentlemen, why don’t you take your seats, and we can really start the discussion for the day. And keep the cookies away from that young man.”
The alphas gathered as a whole one final time during the Congress. As each committee reported to the full assembly on what they had accomplished, members debated and voted on proposals. The largest was the reorganization of the leadership. Depending on its outcome, voting on a leader would follow.
Bryce moved the meeting on to its next agenda item. “John, we’ve all had time to read over your work. Are you and your committee ready to break down the final draft of the proposed bylaw changes?”
“Yes, we are. First is the creation of an advisory panel made up of ten retired alphas. They’ll serve for a period of two years and will be chosen at random from willing candidates. For the first year, five of those will be a one-year appointment and then half the group will be replaced every two years. Their duty will be to guide and advise the leader of the council in the day-to-day operations. Consider it like the pack councils many of us have to assist and advise the alpha. I would assume most of it can be handled by video conference, with the occasional in-person meeting at the Banff offices.
“Second, the Department of Lycan Security will be reorganized to actually collect information and investigate matters pertaining to us all. If a pack disappears again, we will all know about it. In conjunction with lycan in a specific area, it will investigate what happened and present us with the findings. Likewise, if information on rogue activities becomes known, an alert will be sent out in that region and the department will work with those affected to identify the problem. They’ll maintain their observation of the human world for problems that threaten our existence. That organization will no longer work on its own and in the darkness. It’ll work as an extension of the packs. We have many qualified wolves with law enforcement background, so we should be able to tap someone with the skills to do the job.
“The Information Technology, Medical, and Vital Records Divisions will remain the same and present reports regularly to the leadership group. As they have always been required to do. All those reports will be posted for the alphas to review. New division heads will need to be chosen as the former incumbents are being transferred to prison. As additional departments are deemed necessary, they can be brought back, but as of this Congress, all other positions that made up the leadership cabinet are now dissolved.
“The fifty packs who have a permanent representative working at the council offices will retain them. They’ll meet regularly to debate and vote on proposals submitted by the alphas. If other packs wish to place a full-time rep here, like always, they are welcome to do so. Otherwise they can send a representative to whatever meetings they choose. Those people should be tapped to work in the offices in whatever position is best suited for their skills. As a group, they will audit each department and make sure the corruption does not return. I can only speak for my pack’s representative; if he were to engage in anything like what we’ve recently stopped, I’ll personally deal with him in whatever manner is needed. I’m sure other alphas feel the same. Results of all audits will be presented to the council leaders and made available to each and every one of us. If a concern is raised, it will be addressed quickly.”
Karissa Ryan took her place at the podium following John. “We previously voted to give the bears five ambassadorial positions on the Council. They’ll have full access to meet with the pack representatives, committees, and advisory group. Unless something’s deemed classified specific to wolves, they’ll have access to the same information we do and will provide us with information on their clans. This is open communications and information sharing. We’ll know what the bears are doing, and they’ll know what we are doing. This is for a one-year trial and will be revisited at next year’s Congress. If this works out and proves to be of benefit to all concerned, it’s our hope that in the future, additional ambassadorial positions will be extended to the coyote, lynx, avians, and possibly even the solaris if there are enough in North America to justify it.”
“HA! The bitch doesn’t even understand the solaris are a myth.”
Rolling her eyes, she stepped down to make way for the next speaker.
“Finally, the positions of Council President and Vice President.” Mark Jennings moved in beside his colleagues. “We’re scrapping both. As we come out of this dark time, the person we elect to fill what had been the presidency will serve for one year, but can be re-elected if this assembly feels he or she’s doing a good job. The oversight committee will monitor their activities, but may not interfere beyond its reporting to us. If action is needed, we’ll deal with it ourselves.” He was pleased to see many heads nodding. “The position will no longer be referred to as president of the council, but instead will return to the historical title, Chief Alpha of the Lycan Council. The wolf selected may bring or select their own beta and enforcer to act as personal advisors. The chief alpha will need to keep in regular contact with all the pack leaders. As a group, we need to know what’s going on more so then we have in the past so it doesn’t repeat itself. From this point on, only a currently serving alpha may hold the top position to this body. No more administrators seeking power who haven’t earned the position. Once we feel things are under control here, the Office of Chief Alpha may be returned to a two year term.”
“We understand the position of chief alpha will require a lot of work and sacrifice from a current alpha. It’s one of the reasons we switched to an administrator.” Karissa returned to the podium. “Splitting time between overseeing your pack and the Council will be a challenge. As such, whoever’s selected will have their pack placed in a type of trust status. They may not be challenged for leadership and their territory is protected from outside claims. Violation of either statute will face a harsh response.”
Once John, Karissa, and Mark retook their seats, Richard resumed his place at the podium. “Bryce and I would like to thank John and the rest of his committee for putting this together in such a short amount of time. The lawyers have signed off on the language, so the floor is now open for debate.”
“I’m probably going to shock the members by saying I’m impressed with this final draft. It’s something I can get behind.” Silence met Dorian’s statement. “Kind of nice having quiet when I speak in here. You potentially left out something important. That young Elemental.”
“With regard to Ethan, his only council-wide actions will be if a pack requests him to heal a feral.” John rested his hand on the blond’s shoulder. “The Council jet can be sent to take him to whatever pack he’s invited to help or to a neutral location. Along with his mate and their security detail. Beyond that, neither of them is seeking any position of authority within the Council. And neither is a serving alpha yet.”
“That’s a pity, because if that little guy can teach me manners, imagine what he could teach some of you.” The assembly’s laughter reverberated through the cavern.
Aiden knew something was different about Dorian and whispered in Ethan’s ear. “You did do something to him during that handshake, didn’t you?” He frowned at his mate. “I hope you didn’t do anything to affect his fighting edge. Or cause his removal as alpha if his pack now sees him as weak.”
“There was just something a little off in his blood that was causing the over-aggression and that horrible scent. If anything, his fighting should be better. But for the right reasons and maybe not just to be a bully. I promise I didn’t do anything that will harm him or his abilities.”
“The measures that our committee outlined are intended to give back control of this body to the people it belongs to.” Karissa waved her hand around at her fellow alphas. “Our hope is to have multiple avenues of oversight to prevent the mistakes of the past. We need to be wolves with our governing and not sheep.”
Hours after the debate started, an alpha from California took the floor. “I propose we accept the recommendations of the governance committee. And that we proceed with a vote to change our laws for a trial period of one year. With provisions to extend it for a second year, if everything looks good at the next Congress.”
“I second the motion and call for a vote on a temporary change to this council’s governance laws.”
Bryce stood. “Gentlemen and lady, a vote has been called. Please cast your votes on the current motion.”
As the votes were counted, Richard and Bryce reviewed the tally with the clerk. Richard turned towards the assembly. “The motion is passed with one hundred and seventy packs in favor.”
“Our final item on the agenda today is the vote for the new chief alpha. We have seven nominees you have all had a chance to meet and talk with over the last several days. If there are no additional questions or debate on this subject...” Bryce paused for a few minutes to give everyone a chance to bring up anything they wanted. “Voting will be open for the next thirty minutes or until each pack has registered their decision, whichever comes first.”
After twenty minutes, the clerk indicated all ballots were in. Fifteen randomly chosen alphas reviewed the count and certified it as complete. One of the fifteen turned towards the congress and prepared to read off the results.
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