Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Effects of Troll Beer
"Are you...are you drunk?"
She sounded incredulous and I didn't blame her; neither of us had metabolisms that were usually slow enough to let us get drunk. Just getting a buzz required pure ethanol and it was gone in a blink. Drunkeness was a state that took intent and determination, and even then our average was ten minutes, tops.
I'd like to say that this is a story I'm proud of...but it's not. Not even remotely. Things get a lot worse as it goes on and the last impression I make is that I'm anything remotely decent. Still, it my story - part of it anyway - and denying it doesn't make it magically unhappen. Ah, but if only it did.
"Kostya? Seriously, are you drunk?"
"Maybe. Yes. Shut up. You're short. Shortie."
Laughing, she hopped up onto kitchen counter across from me, crossed her legs, and shrugged. "So glad you've noticed, wolf. It's kind of part of the whole Fae package. Like the golden glimmer and the tattoos and the immortality and the magical powers. Actually, it's a pretty kickass list, height excepted. Maybe a few other things. Anyway, did you talk to D yet?"
She rolled her eyes and snatched up a nectarine from the fruit ball on the window behind her. "I thought you wanted to ask him about helping you with that alliance with the Finnish Pack."
Ever have one of those ideas that seem a stroke of genius up until the execution? The Finnish alliance was a lot like that. Only whatever disaster you're currently imagining? Double it. Twice. "I did."
"And? What he say? Oh! And, and, also, and before I forget, I'm changing my name again. I think Nola Finn has run its course - plus why didn't you ever tell me it was so terrible? - so I think I'm going to go with-"
"He said no," I snapped, cutting her off so abruptly she actually blinked at me like a big old owl, caught off guard and mildly confused. "I asked my brother - my baby brother - the man who has loyally stood at my side for over a century - asked him for this one favour, this one thing that would cement this alliance and allow peace between us and our greatest enemy...and he said no. NO!"
"Um, well," she said after a moment, licking her lips and fiddling nervously with her necklace's charms. "Arranged marriages are hard to sell these days, wolf. And Fenris' daughter is...a tough sell. I mean, he has mated her twice alredy and both times she...creatively widowed herself. It would give anyone pause. Maybe her sister -"
"He didn't say no because of Hel, he said no because of you!"
More blinking. "Me? I...I don't understand. I mean, I think Hel is a bit of a nut, but I support your plan and, if it's tweaked a bit, I think it will achieve exactly what you intend it to."
"Tweaked a bit? Sure, why not? We could replace crazy Hel with her sister Loki, no problem. But, tell me, who am I going to replace Darien with? I don't have the overflowing family Fenris lucked into; there's only the two of us, unless you know something I don't, I already used myself for the Greek alliance, and now Darien is poisoned fruit!"
Adjusting her glasses, she turned thoughtful, considering for several minutes before shaking her head. "I...um, he's what?"
She paled and then started talking, fast. "Oh. That. Well, um, Sabine was...retired and I needed someone I could trust and I only know two wolves and you were just, um, newly made Alpha so that only left Darien but I did ask first and he agreed and then he said he was going to tell you so I thought he had and when you told me about your plan for the arranged marriage and peace treaty I thought you knew and had, um, I don't know, worked something out and I honestly didn't care because, ah, why would I care who my Omega marries or what he does in his spare time so long as the job gets done?"
I slapped her. Right across the face. She fell off the counter, hitting her wrist off the marble top of the nearby island as she tried to catch herself and failed. She landed in a heap on the floor, curling up around her wounded hand and tipping forward so her hair slipped over her shoulder to veil her face. Two wraiths appeared - her bodyguards. One, the djinn, knelt by her side and began murmuring to her, while the other, her berserker, stood protectively between me and her, a massive claymore held loosely in a single hand.
A smart man would have apologized and stopped; she'd have forgiven me instantly and it all would have been that one awkward memory neither of us ever spoke of again.
I am not a smart man.
"You bitch," I snarled, "you STOLE him! You selfish child, you just couldn't leave him be, leave him MINE! Now he's your fucking lap dog and I'm left on my fucking own, literally among the wolves!"
She didn't say anything. The djinn, however, turned his head to look at me with molten eyes ablaze with contained rage and wrath. "Her wrist is broken, wolf, and her face is bruised. Another time, another place, the hand that harmed her would be cut off for the offense. Against the advice of myself and her other wraiths, however, milady asks that we spare you. Instead, we are going to withdraw and leave you alone. We won't bother you again."
He lifted her up into his arms and carried her away, vanishing between one step and the next. The berserker spun his claymore and pressed its tip against the hollow of my throat, his expression blank but his gaze intense nonetheless.
"We are all going to leave you be now, little wolf; all of use who are connected to our Queen, who are still loyal. I hope you realize what that means."
Sadly, I didn't realize what he meant until later. Darien...Darien was connected too, possibly more than anyone, wraiths excepted.
I was alone.
It’s now a century and counting, and I’m still alone. Completely, utterly, entirely…alone.
Stupid troll beer.
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