Blood in Siberia
Chapter 13: His Highness, Prince Milliardo
I wasn't big on drug use. In fact, I despised it. But right now, I would've cheerfully killed for a joint. Or crystal meth. Hell, it could've been Liquid Drano for all I cared! I wasn't going to be picky.
I was Stressed out with a capital 'S.' Today was the day I was going to meet the Prince of all Werewolves. Little ol' me, a part-time gas station attendant, was going to stand face to face with one of the oldest, most bad-assed creatures that existed. My hick-ass was going to be before royalty, and it took everything I had not to chew my fingernails off.
Unfortunately, Wufei wasn't much better off. While everyone got ready to go, Wufei locked us in the bathroom, and turned the vent, blowdryer, sink and shower on. I leaned against the wall and looked on in confusion as he flushed the toilet, then leaned forward to whisper in my ear. As he talked, my eyes widened, and nervousness I hadn't felt in forever made me sick to my stomach. We had one hell of a problem with my cover story.
I didn't have one.
It didn't matter what we told the Prince, it would all fall apart because of one thing: I was the Untouchable. No amount of lies or story weaving could diminish the effect of that title on me. Sure, it wasn't uncommon for a Packmaster to have an Untouchable, but I was the first and only human ever given that title. Ever. For a werewolf to be named Untouchable, it meant that that werewolf had proven himself or herself invaluable to the Packmaster. But for me... it would raise questions that we would have to answer sooner or later.
I preferred never.
Thankfully, Wufei was a master of half-truths. What he did come up with could not only work, but hopefully wouldn't spark more interest.
"Just keep quiet," he said as he turned to leave the bathroom. "And let me do the talking."
"Gladly," I said, raising my hands in resignation. "I'll do whatever you tell me to. Hell, I'll even juggle plates on my ass if it'll get us out of there faster."
His guffaw was loud and heart-felt. "That makes two of us." He smiled. "Now get dressed. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can leave."
"Aye aye, Packmaster."
The ride to the castle seemed to take forever, just to piss me off. It didn't help that we were in a piece-of-shit van that was probably one of the first off of the Russian assembly line since the creation of vans. It had no shocks, the seats were nothing more than yellow foam that had been flattened through the decades (except Quatre's; his seat was a bucket), the alignment was all messed up, and the muffler sounded like we were doing a drive-by. I jumped every time it 'shot.' And believe it or not, this van was the better of the two, according to Trowa.
Trowa was driving us, with Otto in the passenger seat, giving directions. Wufei sat behind Trowa, arms crossed and looking grim. His eyes were opened and faced ahead, but it was obvious his mind was somewhere else. I sat across from Wufei, behind Otto's seat, trying to be calm when everything was making me a mass of nerves. The row of seats behind me were yanked out, so a yellow bucket was used instead. The look on Quatre's face clearly stated that he was not happy about it. Heero and the others were in the second van, following us. I didn't want to imagine the conditions they were dealing with.
The van only had windows in the driver and passenger doors, so to look outside I had to look through Otto's window. Unfortunately, every time I did, our eyes would meet in the side-view mirror. It embarrassed me that he watched me so intently, but it also unnerved me. Before, whenever someone watched me too closely, I would pop into their head to see why. But seeing into a Were's mind was... impossible. I have only read a few stray thoughts of the weaker Were's by accident, Darlian's mind when he let me, and Rashid's in one unguarded moment. Otto's mind was as controlled as Wufei's, and I couldn't even take a guess at what he was thinking.
"You okay back there, Quatre?" I asked, to distract myself.
He growled at me. I took that as a 'yes.'
"We'll be there soon," Otto said lazily.
"When you say 'soon,' " I broke in, "do you mean my kind or your kind?"
He raised an eyebrow at me through the mirror. "My 'kind?' "
"Yeah," I answered with a smile. "You all have the patience of the dead," I said, then winced. Probably wasn't the best metaphor. "Your idea of 'soon' could be days from now."
He smirked at me, a slight upturning of his lips. "We should arrive within the hour."
"Thank god!" I whooped, then yelped when the muffler started shooting again.
Oh. My. God.
I think I'm going to be sick.
The van rocked with an intensity that rivaled a rollercoaster. The road we were traveling up was between two ridges of a small mountain. It was rocky, uneven, ice was everywhere, and the wind blew strong and hard.
Trowa, Wufei and Otto managed to stay in their seats. Quatre and I however, ricocheted all over the van like god damn balls in an arcade game. That damn bucket managed to hit me in the head, twice! I was just to the point where I was had no problem throwing up on everyone, when the turbulence stopped.
"We're here," Otto whispered.
It was another minute or two before we cleared the rest of the roadway through the mountain. This part of the road was smooth, thank god, allowing me time to put my stomach back where it belonged. The road then leveled out, and we passed through rock formations that resembled a gate. I couldn't begin to guess how the werewolves opened and closed them.
The van finally stopped, and Quatre wasted no time yanking the door open. I was out after him half a second later. As he damned this country to hell and beyond under his breath, I stood in amazement at the sight before me.
The Prince's castle was built into the mountain!
The front looked like something out of the Lord of the Rings movies. It was made of stone the same gray of the mountain. The large blocked steps (about five hundred of them) lead up to a platform with several long pillars, where a stone door was slightly hidden in the shadows. There were quite a few glittering things on the door, but I couldn't make them out from where I was. The rest of the castle was the mountain, itself.
When the rest of our party finally arrived, we started the small trek up the steps. They were a lot bigger than they looked, and I briefly considered crawling up the things to make sure I made it to the top! The ice made them slippery, and I stumbled more times than I cared to count. This didn't seem to bother the werewolves, which pissed me off. Here were creatures taller than statues in parks, yet they didn't make a sound! But my short self seemed to be the epitome of clumsiness. This sucked. This really, really sucked.
Trowa finally took pity on me and picked me up, holding me under his arm. As undignified as this position was, I thought that it would be more undignified if I fell down the stairs. The bottom was a long, long way down.
"Sorry Duo," he whispered.
I shrugged. "S'okay."
Apparently, I was slowing the party down. As soon as Trowa picked me up, our speed quadrupled, and in a few seconds we were at the top. Still under his arm, we passed into the castle, where I saw that the door was embedded with jewels. Precious jewels! There were diamonds, sapphires, rubies, opals, and other jewels in colors that I had no idea existed. Once inside, Trowa put me on my feet, and I was on the verge of asking if he could carry me the rest of the way.
The interior of the castle scared the living daylights out of me. In fact, it looked more like the home of a vampire than a werewolf prince. The torches along the walls did little to illuminate the hallways, which were damn near black, and lined with gauzy material that felt like spider webs. As we walked, my feet alone crunched on the smooth stones, and the sound seemed to echo on and on. I was so frightened that my heartbeat pounded in my ears, and I felt that every living creature within a hundred mile radius knew exactly where I was because of it.
Otto led the way, presumably to the throne room. Wufei was directly behind him, flanked by Trowa and Catherine. I was behind Wufei, where Quatre and Heero flanked me. The rest followed behind us, the less valuable flanking the more.
This was how we continued. The inside of the mountain had been gutted and was a maze of labyrinths. There weren't any stairs, but as we walked on I could tell that we were going further and further underground. The cold I felt outside disappeared, replaced with a warmth that made me think of wine and fireplaces. The walls became more visible, as jewels that were uncovered during excavations reflected the torchlight like mirrors. Some were so large I was able to see our group as we passed, looking like hooded evil sorcerers in red.
We had been walking for almost an hour when we finally approached two doors. They were the size of a house, and as black as dried blood. That thought, along with who was behind those doors, had me shaking so hard my teeth were chattering. Otto had stopped for a moment, and started speaking to some guards posted at the door. While he was distracted, Wufei reached behind him to touch my hand. Both of my hands clung to his with a desperation that embarrassed me, and I damn near cried out because of it. So Wufei squeezed my hands in reassurance, and held on.
After a growl and some words in Russian, the posted guards opened the door. Otto walked forward without a word to us. Wufei squeezed my hands one last time, and let go. Trowa and Catherine followed slightly behind him. I swallowed the lump in my throat, took a deep breath, and followed with my head held high. Heero and Quatre were in my peripheral vision, and I could see that Quatre nodded his head at me in approval.
Right. I was the Untouchable, and the fuckin' Primus. I had nothing to fear, damnit!
Chanting those words in my head, my shaking lessened to a tremor, and my breathing was almost normal. But if I had to speak, I was certain I was going to bite my tongue off.
The throne room was filled to the brim with the Siberian Werewolves, and I couldn't help but notice how different these two Packs were. The Siberian Wolves seemed to be a military Pack. The navy and white uniforms they wore resembled Otto's, and they stood at attention, not even moving their eyes as we passed. Wufei's Pack though, were more like assassins. They moved without sound in their floor-length cloaks, and their hoods shielded their faces in shadow. Since I was human, my cloak was three times thicker (and heavier), but otherwise, I blended in. The jewels on my fingers and wrists were hidden at my side, but clanked quietly as I moved. What caught my attention though, besides the werewolves, was their Prince.
I expected to enter a throne room that held different members of the court dressed in fancy clothes, with a throne for the Prince and stained-glass windows. Prince Milliardo didn't have that nonsense. Hell, he didn't even have a throne! The room was as dark as the halls, with torches strategically placed. His dais was four feet high and black, with pillows and rugs thrown about for his comfort. He laid on the floor on his side, facing us, elbow bent with his head resting on his hand. His long body stretched across the dais, comfortable on the rugs. He wore the tight, white pants of the uniform, but nothing else.
My. God. He had one hell of a body.
The Prince sat up and swung his legs over the dias. Ignoring us for a moment, he reached out for Otto. Otto immediately came to his side and dropped to his knees, placing his head on his Packmaster's leg. The Prince then ran his fingers through Otto's hair, cooing to him in the werewolf language. Otto nodded vigorously to what was being said, but kept his head firmly on the Prince's leg.
"Welcome Chang Wufei, Packmaster of the Shenlong Werewolves," the Prince said, raising his face to us. "It is a great honor you serve by returning my Alphagué to me."
"It was my honor and privilege, Highness," Wufei responded with a slight bow. He was clearly lying.
The Prince smirked. "I'm sure." Then he turned his attention to me, and I froze. I couldn't see his face very well from where I was. I still stood behind Wufei, but I was able to see by looking over his shoulder. As the Prince's eyes met mine though, I knew that he knew who I was. I also knew that in that instant, the fate I had hoped to avoid was sealed. I closed my eyes against the knowledge. We weren't going to be able to walk out of this without bloodshed.
As suddenly as he turned to me, he turned back to Wufei. "There is more that I will require from you, Chang Wufei," he said in a placating tone. "You and your wolves will rest now, and we will discuss what we need to after dinner."
"Your Highness? If you would be so kind," he nearly growled, "may we discuss what we need to, now? I do not want to intrude on your hospitality more than necessary."
He thought it over. "Very well. You and one chosen may stay. The others shall rest," he said, and that was an obvious order. Then he turned to the side, as if looking for someone. He nodded when he found him. "Ah. Sedici."
A werewolf came to stand in front of us, watching us expectantly. He was a big and burly guy, the kind I expected to be a bouncer at a strip club.
"Escort the Shenlong Pack to the guest wing."
"Yes, your Highness," Sedici said, and started walking away. The rest of us turned and followed, except for Wufei and Trowa. They remained standing as they were, while we were escorted to the guest wing.
It took everything I had not to look back.
"Sock it to me!"
Quatre and I were having a ball jumping on the bed. The guest wing of the castle was more than enough to put a five-star hotel to shame! The beds were a ridiculous size and height, the furniture was totally sixteenth century Europe, the faucets were made out of gold... I could go on! Right now, I was content to tear stuff up with my best friend.
When we were escorted to our rooms, I was pleased to find that Quatre and Trowa's room were next to mine and Wufei's, and Heero's was the room across from mine. I was really keen on obeying the Prince's order to rest, but I couldn't. I was too worried about Wufei. I knew he was ordered to come here, and I knew that he was threatened to bring me. I couldn't think of anything that needed to be discussed in person, and I certainly couldn't think of anything that needed to involve me. This Sucked with a capital 'S.'
Luckily for me, Quatre couldn't sleep either. He was too worried about Trowa. So, in his usual style, Quatre let himself into my room and crawled into bed with me. We talked about our fears, then tried to reassure each other. That seemed to work, as we fell into a semi-peaceful nap that lasted three hours. I woke up when Quatre whacked me over the head with a pillow, and that brought on our pillow fight. Catherine came in then, to tell us that Wufei and Trowa were still with the Prince. Full of energy, we decided that we needed some exercise. A bed was a good substitute for a trampoline.
"You guys are stupid," Catherine said in a bored tone. She was reading a magazine. How the hell she found 'Cosmopolitan' out here, I'll never know.
"If you're going to insult us," I said in between jumps, "do it with meaning!"
"You guys are stupid," she repeated, sounding slightly less bored.
"Was that so hard?"
She snorted, and turned the page.
Quatre jumped two more times, then flopped on his butt. "I'm bored with this."
I flopped down next to him. "What do you want to do then?"
"Hmm... let's set something on fire."
Cool! "I'm game." I paused. "Got any matches?"
He frowned. "No. And since you're asking, I'm assuming you don't have any either."
"Shit." I thought it over. "Well, we could tear that chair up." I nodded in the direction of a chair. It was pink and gold, with some ugly woman in the fabric. Probably a princess.
Quatre nodded. "Alright."
I rolled my neck and popped my knuckles. "Let's get started."
Otto arrived when we were halfway through defacing the chair. He entered without knocking to see Quatre and I on the floor, surrounded by strings of fabric. Catherine was still sitting in a chair, but this time she was reading 'Vogue.' Even though I thought it was funny (and still do), I was kind of embarrassed to be caught like that. Otto raised an eyebrow. I shrugged sheepishly, but Quatre kept plucking along, not in the least bit concerned.
"The Prince wishes to see the Untouchable," he announced.
All movement in the room stopped.
"Alphagué," Catherine began, rising to stand in front of Otto. "I'm sure that whatever questions your Highness has for the Untouchable, I would be happy to answer in his place."
"Your request is denied," he said with distaste. "No substitution is acceptable. He is the Prince! If he wishes to see the Untouchable," and here he glared in my direction, "then the Untouchable will do as is wished."
There was a tense moment where I thought that Catherine would attack Otto, or that Otto would slice through both of them to get to me. My thoughts were confirmed when Catherine growled, and fur started to sprout along her arms. Otto bared his teeth, growled something, and lifted his hand back as if to punch her. Faster than I was able to think, I jumped in between them, arms out at my sides. "Stop!"
Both Weres, and shape-shifter, gaped at me.
"Tell the Prince I'll be there in two shakes of a lamb's tail!" I said breathlessly. What the hell was I thinking, jumping in between them? Was I nuts?!
"You will not be there in 'two shakes of a lamb's tail.' " He frowned at the expression. "I will escort you. Otherwise, you will be lost for days."
"Okay. Fine." A little shakily, I slid into my cloak and pulled my hood up. I slipped all of the jewelry denoting my station on. Once I slipped into my fur-lined slippers (they looked like elf shoes to me), I deemed myself ready. As I turned, I saw that Quatre and Catherine had gotten dressed also. I immediately got the hint. "They are coming as my bodyguards," I stated.
"You are in no position to make demands," he said with a frown. I frowned back. We were at a stalemate. As the minutes dragged on, he relented. "The shape-shifter will be sufficient," he growled, then spun on his heel. He was out the door. I immediately mouthed to Catherine 'Get Wufei,' as Quatre and I followed Otto out.
We turned a corner, and were out of sight.
I was surprised to find that we were back in the throne room, and that it was empty. The Prince was still stretched along the dias, except this time he had a glass of wine in his hand. Otto went to stand beside the dias, to his left. Before the Prince were two large throw-pillows. They were blue with gold trimming. I frowned. They reminded me of the pillows I have seen in pet stores for dogs to sleep on.
I smoothed my face of my feelings by thinking about my sock drawer. Standing before the Prince, Quatre and I bowed, murmuring 'Your Highness' quietly. As we straightened, we caught the Prince gesturing to the pillows, and as one we kneeled on them. Heads slightly bowed, and palms on our thighs, we waited in silence. It was a few minutes before he spoke.
"Remove your hoods."
As one, Quatre and I removed our hoods, our jeweled hands tinkering in the air. Then we placed our hands back on our thighs.
"Quatre Raberba Winner." Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Quatre lifting his head to face the Prince. "It has been a long time," he said to the blond. "I am glad to see you are still with the Alphagué. And your service to Chang Wufei is unprecedented."
"Thank you, Your Highness," Quatre said, and bowed his head again. I couldn't tell if he meant that or not. Quatre was the most... coiled he has ever been. I couldn't sense anything.
Caught off guard, my head jerked up and I gasped. Milliardo Peacecraft was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. His skin was white, but healthy. His long blond hair ran all the way down his back. His eyes were blue like the sea, but his pupils were slitted like a cat's. Like Otto, he had stars under his eyes and across his cheekbones, but they also lined his hairline, jaw and chin. Unlike any other werewolf on this planet though, he had the sign that marked him as the prince of his race: the moon, in the shape of a crescent, was in the middle of his forehead, surrounded by a circle of stars. I truly knew, right then, that his forefathers had been born by the moon.
Embarrassed by my gawking, I ducked my head. I heard him move, then fingers came into my line of sight. Gently, he lifted my face. When my eyes met his, I could see that he was looking at me as if he had never seen anything like me before. His eyes scrutinized me, memorizing details I have seen so many times I was blind to them. He took a few more moments to look me over, as if trying to find something out of place. When his eyes met mine again, they were calculating. I didn't like that look at all.
He sat back on his hunches, and looked both of us over. Quatre was calm. My face was calm, but I had dug my fingers into my knees. The Prince had called me here without an audience. Without his bodyguards. Without Wufei.
This was bad.
He smiled at me then, self-depreciating. It didn't put me at ease. "I have something to ask you," he told me, smile firmly in place. "Your Packmaster is too private, so I doubt your Pack knows."
Despite how much my instincts screamed at me not to, I relaxed. Wufei was private. He probably wanted to know something sexual about us, and knew Wufei wouldn't tell him. I wouldn't be too happy to tell him either, but if it got me the hell out of here, I'd tell it, sing it, whatever. "Yes?"
His smile became even more self-depreciating. "Where is Noin?"
I frowned, and blinked my eyes in confusion. "Who?"
Quatre, on the other hand, apparently knew who he was talking about. I saw him stiffen, and he began, hesitantly. "Your Highness, he-"
I watched, in horror, as the Prince backhanded Quatre. My friend flew off of his pillow, slid across the floor, and slammed into the wall.
"QUATRE!" I screamed, and started to rise when a shadow fell over me. Looking up, I could see that the Prince had stood, and was using his impressive height to tower over me. The back of his hands had blond fur on them, and his fingernails were now claws. His canine teeth were sharp, pointy, and ready for action. I felt the blood drain from my face.
"Where is Noin?!" he barked. "Where is my Untouchable?!"