Kenzi sat at the rustic little table in the middle of her current home, a cabin in the woods was swankier than some of the places she’d lived during her short life but still not really her scene, and waited for the history lesson to begin.
She could rock her claws now, and her endurance while running was getting up to where Dyson said it should be, but before she could try for a full shift, which was something she so wasn’t looking forward to since she was beyond pos that she would fail at it miserably, she had to start learning her lore first.
Apparently shifters had a rich history that every member of the “clan” had to be aware of before they could be at one with themselves or something, and go figure trying to shift without knowing yourself first was a big no no. She just hoped there wasn’t going to be a test on this stuff, if school taught her anything it was that she did not test well at all.
“So we will start at the beginning and work our way through to what you are at the end. There are many different kinds of Shifter, pretty much every animal in the world has a shifter clan associated with it, even non-predators. For the moment since you’re so new to the life you need only concern yourself with the wolves, your own people.
“The wolves are among the most dominant of the Shifter Fae out there, we outnumber and outperform any other class of them. We’re the deadliest, the most agile, the strongest physically, and barring fatal battle injuries we tend to have a longer lifespan than the average shifter.”
“Sure that isn’t just species pride talking, I mean if I were to ask a, I don’t know a leopard shifter who was the biggest and the bestest do you think their answer would sync up with yours?” She couldn’t help herself, he sounded just like her Russian mama when she talked about any other immigrant culture. Everyone knew that Russians were the most integrated, they learned the language, the customs, and the ways of the Americans far faster and better than anyone else. In her opinion anyway.
He smiled, looking down as sheepishly as a wolf could manage.
“Probably not, but it’s also well known that we’re the smartest.”
Ah ha, she knew what this was, it was fine though she supposed that as a wolf herself she should learn to take some pride in who she’d become. So she waved her hand for the “lesson” to continue.
“Every culture has its own origin story and of course wolves are no different. According to our legends a long long time ago, a group of Fae lived in harmony with the animals of the forests that surrounded them. They were so in tune with the beasts of the land that they utilized them in battle, pitting them against the forces of their enemies without mercy. Many kinds were used but none so powerful nor so regal as the wolves.
“Soon enough with the help of their four legged brethren the Fae ruled over the land, subjugating any who dared to stand in their path. Furious the other, weaker, Fae banded together in a final attempt to overthrow their powerful oppressors calling upon ancient magicks long since lost to the world of man and beast. In a great show of power they cursed the Fae and their beasts to become one, thinking that such an abomination would surely sicken and die quickly it was so unnatural.
“This worked for a time, our Fae ancestors were so thrown by the new changes thrust upon them that they were momentarily weakened and the others were able to overthrow them. Banished to the forests to live among the other animals, they each tried to overcome their new limitations and to master their new powers alone, none of them trusting the others enough to show weakness in the open. It wasn’t until one of the wolves saw a group of his natural born brothers hunting as a pack that he discovered the problem that they were all facing. They were no longer solitary creatures, but a pack. The lone wolf rarely survives in the wilds alone so he called to his brothers and sisters sharing his news in his howl upon the winds.
“Hearing his plea for understanding and aid the others raced to his side, pulling together to form one solid group.”
How sweet, she doubted that was the end of the story, he looked like a little boy about to finally get to the good part of his favorite fairy-tale, but it was still a nice idea. That everyone could just pull together like that for their own good, nice, but completely unrealistic. Wolves might work that way, but humans sure as hell didn’t and even though most would rather cut out their own tongues than admit it the Fae were more like humans than they knew. Unless she missed her mark someone was about to get very unhappy with the status-quo and a rebellion was about to begin.
That was the human way, why settle for what I have when I could have so much more?
“However, there were some among the collective that did not feel they were being heard as they should. When they were all still simply Fae they each had their own territory to run and now they could not stand to be told what to do by another. Seeking a compromise the leader offered a solution, he suggested that all who wanted to go their own way do so taking whoever wished to follow them away to find their own territory once more.”
Basically the big guy had enough of their petty bitching and told them that if they didn’t like how things were they could hit the road and try and do better on their own. Notoriously a bad idea. It usually ended one of two ways, either the people who split off did well and came back to bitch slap the one who tossed them out in the first place or the new faction was sent away so it would be easier to justify grinding them out under the old leaders boot heel. Either way someone ended up bloody or dead.
“That is how the clans were formed. Six leaders split off from the original group creating a total of seven separate packs. Of course from there more and more split off over the centuries creating more and more clans so that now there are over two hundred separate clans in North America and Europe alone.”
Wow, at least the wolves weren’t lying when they said they weren’t lacking in numbers.
“Nice bedtime story. Do you think it’s true?” Did D-man really think that this head honcho dude from way back when just let these other six dis him like that without so much as a bye-bye beat down?
“I believe that it is partially true, and that like with most origin myths it’s been sanitized over the years to make it seem like it was all a lot friendlier than I’m sure it really was.” True that.
“Okay, so what about these clans, you said there were like hundreds do I need to know them all?” If she did she was so boned, if it wasn’t a way to make some quick cash or something to avoid at risk of life and limb she had a crappy memory. One time a friend of hers said she would remember things better if she forgot how to drink Vodka, ever since then she remembered to avoid her, bitch be crazy.
“No, with the way most of the small clans come and go if everyone had to know of them all we would have no time for anything else. No you only need to know the names of the seven original clans and the ones that make trouble everywhere they go. When you meet a wolf for the first time they will introduce themselves with their name, their status, and their clan name. So it’s easier for everyone if you know how to react to certain names. If someone is from the original seven then you treat them with respect or at times outright deference depending upon their rank. If they’re a member of a trouble-making clan as long as they rank beneath you then you can either ignore their presence entirely or you can ask them to move along.”
“What’s a rank?” The only ranks she knew were either military or Bratva. She doubted he meant either of those.
“There are four ranks for wolves. Alpha. Beta. Lýkos. Omega. The ranks are fluid which is why we introduce ourselves by telling what we are at the time. An Alpha can become a Lýkos, a Lýkos can become a Beta, and anyone can become an Alpha if they’re good enough.
“An Alpha is a leader, the wolf in every pack that is in charge because he or she is both stronger and more cunning than any of the other wolves in the pack. Beyond that they also need to be able to truly lead their pack, if they are strong and cunning but cannot lead their Betas to victory and prosperity then the Betas would all leave and the Alpha would become a Lýkos by default. You can’t be an Alpha without a pack any more than a pack can be a clan without an Alpha.
“A Beta is a simple foot soldier or a middle ranking member of the pack, they do as the Alpha commands and truly hold no status in the clan. A good Alpha treats their Betas with respect and consideration, especially since the Betas are the ones who do all the grunt work, but that is not always the case. In the best of circumstances a clan is like a family with the Alpha as the parent and the Beta’s as the children. The Alpha guides and disciplines when necessary and the Betas learn from their mistakes in the safety of their pack.
“A Lýkos is a lone wolf, a shifter without a clan. Someone can become a Lýkos in many different ways, some by choice and some by necessity.” At this his eyes drifted away from her like he didn’t want to look at her while he told her this part. Like he was ashamed or embarrassed.
“Like you?” She hated to bring it up, but she knew her rank as an Omega, but now she wanted to know his. Plus, if he was rocking the whole emo self loathing thing she wanted to know so she could help him buck back up.
“Yes, I am a Lýkos. Since I no longer have a clan I would introduce myself by saying formerly of, before the name of my past clan. If a wolf has never been a part of a clan then they usually simply introduce themselves by calling themselves a lone wolf or when in public a solo act.” She wanted to ask him why he left his clan or whatever but she had a feeling it was deeply personal and she didn’t want to reopen old wounds or anything, not right now at least. They were close right now, but not that close. Not yet, whispered a traitorous voice in the back of her mind, one she ruthlessly ignored.
“You are an Omega, they are outside of the pack hierarchy. So if you were to ever join a clan while the Betas are forced to obey their chosen Alphas commands or else leave the pack and become Lýkos you would be exempt from that. Back in the days when the Omegas were plentiful each clan had one, they were usually born into the pack but sometimes one would come from an outside clan usually through marriage. They were seen as balance keepers, they could keep tempers from getting the better of both the Alphas and the Betas. If someone was about to do something they would go to the clan Omega first seeking advice, to make sure they weren’t about to make a hasty or ill-advised decision.
“Omegas didn’t have the authority to tell people what to do like Alphas, but they were usually so even tempered and rational that their advice was heeded by all. They were the only members of the clan who gave council to the Alphas without it being seen as a power play, since an Omegas rank is fixed and cannot shift to any other position.”
“What about a Lýkos, I thought anyone could become one?” Didn’t an Omega ever just go out on their own? Have a footloose and single life as a girl alone on the prowl?
“Omegas were not allowed to wander without the protection of a clan, if an Omega wanted to leave the pack they were in they would have to petition the council to hear their case. If the council didn’t find significant cause for the Omega to leave the protection of their current pack their petition was denied and they had to stay where they were.”
“Douchebags.” That didn’t seem fair. So every other wolf was in charge of their own destiny, but Omegas had to beg permission to do something everyone else could just do. How was that balanced?
“They didn’t do it to be mean Kenzi, I told you that Omegas were even tempered, usually that affected their blood lust. In fights Omegas nearly always tried to injure their attackers rather than kill them, they had too much empathy so they would understand their opponents motives, but that left them vulnerable. Omegas needed the protection of the pack far more than anyone else, so it was harder for them to leave the pack behind.” Good to know that wolf dudes were still just dudes under the pelt, cause that was so a man’s way of looking at things.
“Wait so you’re saying that I won’t be able to win a fight, ever?” No way, she always won her fights. She didn’t always fight fair, but fighting fair was for suckers and losers.
“No, if it’s important to you, if someone else’s life is on the line and not just yours then Omegas are as vicious as any other wolf. It’s only when the stakes aren’t high enough that the drive to kill doesn’t seem to rise in them. Or at least it doesn’t rise as readily.” So basically Omegas were just less douchebaggy than everyone else and so the other wolves took advantage of their zen natures.
“Okay, I think I get it.” Well enough for now anyway, she would ask more questions after she’d had some time to think about things and really get her head around all this. She was on information overload at the moment.
“Good let’s review for a second then we can go do something fun, okay?” She knew there would be a test, damn it. At least this one was oral. Haha.
“Okay.” Fun sounded good right about now, hopefully it would be something mindless, because all this thinking was making her brain hurt.
“So if you and I had never met before I would introduce myself as Dyson, Lýkos formerly of the Ailech Clan.” As he spoke he stood before her and inclined his head slightly, not so much a bow as an acknowledgement of her. Like he just wanted her to know that he did in fact see her sitting here.
“I am Kenzi Omega of the- wait what clan am I?” She had gotten halfway through her little bow before she realized she didn’t know how to end her little intro, way to blow the first question on the exam but it was a reasonable mistake right. If Dyson was a Lýkos and didn’t have a clan and he was the only wolf she knew what the hell did that make her?
“Since I am the only clan you have, for the moment, you would introduce yourself using my surname as your clan title. So you would be of the Thornwood Clan.” Cool she didn’t mind being in a clan with D-man, she knew he would look out for her, like he always did.
“So, hi I am Kenzi Omega of the Thornwood Clan.” Seeing his little smirk of pride would have made her want to hit him before this whole lesson plan, but now she just wanted to hug him. How long had it been since he’d had anyone to associate with him on the wolf level? How alone had he been even in their little group?
Shaking her head she decided to let it go for now, there was no reason to drag so much pain out in the open and drag him down to earth when he was flying so high at the moment. Later, there would be time enough to get into the nitty gritty of it all later.
“So, I was promised fun, and you had better deliver. I’ll have you know I bite now. Hard.”
Marcus was willing to admit that he might have underestimated this lone wolf to an extent, but only to himself. This should have been an easy matter of subverting what pathetic obstacles that some pack-less Lýkos could scrape together, but so far he had actually been able to sidestep them without much effort at all.
Whoever he was while he might be a Lýkos now, he most definitely had not always been one. This guy had training, he definitely had some age on him, but he was weak at heart there was no other excuse for being a Lýkos. Obviously he must have done something wrong to get kicked out.
Whoever or whatever he was before it didn’t matter now, all that mattered about him was that he was in their way. They came for the Omega and they wouldn’t be leaving without her, and this annoying Lýkos wouldn’t be leaving at all.