Blaez, The Reluctant Alpha
(Book 2 of World of Shifters)
Leaves and brush kissed with the silver light of the full moon, passed by in a blur of dark green, his large paws landed silently on the floor of grass and sticks. Scents and sounds of creatures scurrying into their dens and nests hit his senses and were immediately discarded. Searching he had to find the…
Blaez jerked awake, his dark bronze skin moist, his heart pounding. He sat up quickly, not recognizing the room; a murmur and slight movement to his side made him turn. He puffed out a breath as he caught her scent and remembered where he was, and who was beside him.
Lora opened her soft green eyes and looked up at Blaez. She smiled a sensual smile, as she moved to touch his cheek softly, admiring openly the well-defined muscles of his chest, arms and thick thighs.
“Good morning.” Her voice was husky, sultry, and soft.
“It is now.” He smiled down at her, then leaned in to kiss her lips softly. “Thanks for last night, I needed this, but I have to go. They’re probably ready to start work, and after last night, I need some good food to get my energy levels back up.” He chuckled as he pulled the covers back and reached for his jeans and tee shirt on the floor.
“Just consider it payback for all the attention and care you gave me during my last heat. You got me through it all by yourself.” She smiled and stretched lazily.
“It was an honor, darlin’, not to mention quite a bit of pure pleasure.”
“You’re a considerate lover, Blaez. I like that about you. I can trust you to take good care of me, and I never have to worry about you being clingy afterward. It really makes a heat much less complicated.” Lora didn’t bother with clothes. She stood and took her wolf form.
“Thanks Honey, I appreciate your help when I need it too. If you’re not busy tonight, I’d really love to spend some more time with you, maybe we could do a quick run in the moonlight first? He looked over at her as he finished dressing.
“That sounds like fun…see you tonight!” She spoke, using her shifter telepathy, as she wagged her tail and walked out.
The scent of roasting venison and baking bread wafted on the breeze as they worked hard at getting the large pole put into place.
“Okay, put that end into the anchor hole, move back this way and help us lift it into place. Randal and his sons will secure it with the cables to hold it, while the cement gets poured.”Blaez helped hold his end as he shouted to the others at the far end of pole that would be the foundation of a new windmill for the den.
“Get those cables attached and winch them into place as they lift it.” Randal called to his sons.
The others lowered their end into the readied base and began to move back towardBlaez to help lift the rest of the pole so that it sank into the hole as they all walked it into a standing position. Cables were attached in four directions, then tightened with winches and pulleys to hold the pole steady in place. The great strength of the shifters made this kind of project so much easier. “In the old days’ humans had to use a crane to hold things like this in place while it was secured.” Blaez thought to his wolf. His wolf huffed and turned his head, what used to be and the habits of human work had no interest for him.
“Okay, Purnell. Once they get these winched in, you and your boys can pour the cement.” Randal called loud enough for the waiting crew to hear.
“Let’s go boys, they’ll have it in place by the time we start hauling in the mix.” Purnell gave a wave of his arm to the crew to get them moving. They immediately manned large wheelbarrows and began filling them from the cement mixers they had ready.
“Mixing cement with those rebuilt mixers sure is easier than the hand mixing we did a few months back.” Michael, a human that had recently mated a female shifter, said to the group.
“You guys did a nice job, though. Those houses and that big building are strong and well built.” Blaez answered, the humans in the group nodded and smiled.
He’d run up to the old village one day to have a look around. The humans had offered him their old caves and village if he decided to become the Alpha of another small pack when he returned from the exploration trip he was planning.
Blaez knew once this windmill was up, he and his team would be free to pursue their plans to leave. He wanted to explore to the east first. His excitement was growing, his wolf paced inside his mind, anxious to begin; needing to see what was left of the world or what had changed. It would be soon now. He had hopes of locating other packs of wolf shifters as well as more human survivors. He just couldn’t buy into the idea that they were alone in this world.
At first it was planned for just his team of wolf shifters to go, but several of the humans had expressed a desire to go along and it was decided that taking them with supplies and packhorses might be a better idea. The wolves would still be free to run ahead and scout, but since the recent battle with the outlaws, the need for weapons and supplies, when going into the unknown, had been proven. Blaez had seen his younger brother shot while in a battle with the rogues. The need for weapons was one he felt deeply.
Just outside the entrance of the den, Gunna, a young omega female, rescued from the fight with the rogue bandits months ago, listened and watched the crews working on the higher ground of the rocky area nearby.
She stood quietly her inner wolf watching with interest as the strong males flexed their large muscles and talked to each other. She would be coming into heat soon and would perhaps need the services of one or two of these males. She knew none was her mate, but a wolf in heat didn’t concern herself with that, only with the need to quench the age-old desires.
Her attention focused on one of the largest males here, Blaez. He was big, even for an alpha male. His black and silver coloring, of his wolf form, was distinctive and attractive, but rumor had it he would be off exploring by the time her heat came. She sighed heavily, she might find a mate someday and have offspring. For now, it was the attraction of such well-muscled and unmated males that interested her. She watched for several more minutes, checking out other unmated males, then slowly turned to go back to the kitchen and the meal that was almost ready to serve.
Rissa, once human but now mated to his cousin Gage, walked from the den, glanced at Gunna and smiled. She rang the dinner bell, announcing the noon meal was ready. Blaez looked her way, their eyes met and she waved. He smiled and thought of the trip some of the shifters had taken to find the old hospital. It’d been Rissa’s first trip as a newly made wolf. Watching her go through the newness and excitement of discovering her new senses had reminded him of the fun that had been missing for years now. He envied his cousin’s luck at having her as his mate.
His father Lyall and his Uncle Nicholas had offered him a new den too. Right now, however, his curiosity and need to explore were his focus. Finding a mate was an inborn need for all shifters, but given their long lifespan, not one that was particularly urgent. After all, he was only in his first hundred years, just a young adult.
Curiosity, however, was a different matter. No one knew what the world, beyond their own territory, was like anymore. Before the tectonic plate shifts, that destroyed even more of the old world, they’d heard reports of the devastation the super eruptions had caused. The remains or lack of remains, of familiar towns and cities, were testimony to how much the world’s crust had shifted.
He lifted his head and scented the air to the east. It was clean and crisp up here in the mountains, no hint of volcanic activity, that acid scent still occasionally came with the storms from the west. They knew the largest eruptions had happened there; no point in heading that direction. He shook his head, his instincts drew him east, and hopefully toward more life. His wolf was anxious to be gone; to run and use his natural abilities. Blaez laughed and spoke to him in their shared mind,
“Why so eager to run? We just took down those rogues, wasn’t that enough adventure for you for a little while?”
“Must go, the wind calls… need to run.” His wolf answered as he paced more and carried a stick around in his mouth to work off the extra energy.
“Soon. We need to make sure our team is ready and gather our gear.”
The wolf snorted, “One needs the scent on the wind and a star or mother moon to follow…one could also need a mate.”
“Ah…most of the time I’d agree with you, but this last battle taught me a few lessons. A large pack is safer than a small one and even wolf shifters can’t fight bullets. All nature progresses…even us.” He chuckled at the wolf when his back feet swiped dirt at him.
Blaez and the others returned to work and worked hard until the job was done. The pole secured, they picked up the tools. Putting them in the supply wagon and headed toward the den and a well-deserved meal. They walked to the grove for lunch, some going to the nearby stream to wash up and cool off. He let his thoughts turn to the changes that had been going on since the two groups met, there were differences, to be sure but there were more similarities than he’d thought possible.
Meals in the town and den were still being served outside while weather permitted. The shade in the grove, just outside the front of the den, made a fresh and fun place to have meals and talk. Breezes carried the scent of the pines and other trees, as well as the wonderful scents of the cooking food. The scents and voices gave a festive yet homey feel to the grove. The children could play and run while the adults took a few minutes to socialize and talk over their day.
So much progress had already happened. Using rebuilt windmills and the solar panels that lined the town’s streets and walkways provided a measure of power and technology for the town. They had a very small supply of gasoline under what was the town’s gas station. They were experimenting with other types of gas to keep the ATV’s and a few tools running. Powering up a few machines at the sawmill had helped make the large tables that filled the grove. Blaez thought the two groups worked well together. They used mixed crews on projects both in town and the den, since there was so much to do before winter arrived. There hadn’t been a lot of time to dwell on the cultural differences. He thought that might come into play more during the winter months. He felt sure everyone could and would make adjustments.
Soon, the majority of the wolf shifters would follow their respective Alphas and return to their own dens and see to preparations for the winter, only those who were now part of the new den would remain here. Blaez’s team of explorers planned on not being back until very late fall or early in the winter season.
Blaez and Gage sat next to Kaleb as Kaleb’s mate, brought them plates of food.
“This smells wonderful! I’m so hungry I could eat a bear.” Katherine rolled her eyes at her mate, their children giggled. Kaleb was huge for a beta, but his sense of humor was one of the most endearing things about him.
“It does smell wonderful, nothing like working up an appetite.”Blaez smiled at the pair with their children sitting between them. They took turns holding the youngest.
“Even the cubs are hungry. Rissa put them to work around the outside of the den,” Katherine added.
“Aren’t they a little young to be working?”Blaez looked over at Gage, puzzled.
“We gots a special job,” the oldest boy exclaimed.
“Got a special job.” Katherine corrected, her whisper in his ear.
He looked lovingly up at his mom and whispered, “Yeah.”
“Only those old enough to shift. They dig holes near the rock, someone puts in a wild rose bush or a blackberry bush and they fill it back in. They get to have fun digging in the dirt and don’t even get in trouble for it.” Kaleb chuckled, a deep resonating laugh, as his eyes twinkled at his children.
“It’s pretty clever, actually,” Katherine added as she sat and spooned applesauce into her little one. “They practice shifting, it wears them out digging and they have fun doing it, and it actually helps. Next spring, the new beehives will have lots of flowers near them to make honey. I like how Rissa comes up with ideas and asks everyone’s opinion. She listens and seems to really appreciate getting suggestions. Not that Cara didn’t, without her help we wouldn’t be as far along as we are,” she added, mentioning their former Alpha’s mate. “I loved the old den and everyone there…it’s just that, well, building things and starting the new den, it feels like we’re closer somehow, doing it together.”
Blaez listened attentively, his cousin was a good male, a strong Alpha and was lucky enough to find a mate that was willing to take on this new den. He didn’t regret his decision to wait, the need to travel was increasingly strong and being a new Alpha would interfere with that. He was enjoying the company and the meal.
“Hey, Blaez.” Paul and Morgan walked up with plates and sat down. The brothers were twins, but not identical.
“What’s up guys?” Blaez asked as he ate.
“The windmill’s almost done. We leaving soon?” Morgan asked.
“Yeah, it’s pretty much finished as far as needing our help. Now all we need is to make sure the humans are ready too. Then we can pack up and go.”
“Man, I can’t wait to get out there and look around. I hope we find some more shifters…humans too, but I really miss the other packs, ya know?” Paul looked over at his brother who was nodding excitedly.
They were just finishing their meal and were about to head back to the windmill and make sure everything was secure when a telepathed messaged was broadcast by Gary. The shifters all stopped and listened intently. The humans could tell something was going on but unable to hear the message, waited patiently for someone to explain what was happening.
“We have an emergency here. Ed and Thelma were bitten by a copperhead. The snake has been killed, we’re moving them to the hospital now. Their grandsons are helping you with the windmill, they need to know what’s happened.”
“Is there anything else we can do to help?” Blaez thought back to Gary.
“Not now, just get them back here. Duncan went to get Kevin. Kevin has some compounds he’s made and some activated charcoal. The problem is their age…” Gary’s thought carried a definitely urgent and worried tone.
“Jake, Dean…Gary needs you at the hospital. Your grandparents have had an accident.” Gage stood and called just loud enough for the young men to hear him as he walked toward them.
“What’s wrong? Is it his heart? Did he get cut bad or what?” Jake asked as he and his brother scrambled from their seats and glanced toward town, then back to Gage. All the humans looked worried, Ed and Thelma were the oldest of the humans and had been with them from the beginning.
“They were bitten by a copperhead while they were clearing out some rocks.” Gage put a hand on Jake’s shoulder in an effort to show support and calm him.
“They? You mean both of ‘em were bitten?” Jake glanced at his twin brother, Dean, then back to Gage, his mouth open and his eyes narrowed in question.
“Yeah, he said Ed got bitten while he was moving some rocks. Thelma was trying to run the snake off so she could help Ed, and the damn thing bit her foot.” Gage quickly explained what Gary had told them.
The young men looked at each other stunned.
“But Gramma’s so small, and they’re both so old.” Dean said more to himself than to the others.
Just as the brothers turned to begin the run to town, one of the shifter males brought out two horses, tacked quickly with bridles not bothering with the saddles.
“No,” Gage looked at the male and shook his head. “The ATV will be faster for them.” Turning to the young men he pointed to the ATV parked by the entrance to the den. “Take the ATV. Rissa and I’ll change and catch up to you.”
“I’m coming too.” Blaez said as he watched the young men run to the ATV. He headed for the woods to change forms. Gage and Rissa did the same.
Blaez rolled his clothes as usual and ran to catch up with the ATV. Gage and Rissa caught up with him just as he came up on the ATV. He yipped and leapt into the lead, running toward the newly restored building they were using as a hospital. He sent a fast thought to Gage and Rissa that Gary’s idea of finding the old hospital and bringing back what equipment and supplies they found there, had been a good one.
Blaez focused on a message to Gary, “We’re on our way. Is there anything else we can do?”
“No, Kevin’s arrived and brought the charcoal dust, he has some Echinacea oil he’s managed to store in his supplies. I’m not sure how much good it will do, considering their age. This is going to be very hard on them, if not fatal.”
“Too bad we didn’t find some antivenin in that old hospital.” Blaez knew the supplies had been limited; what medicines they did find were o ld and weak, if not toxic, with age.
“Don’t think they could have stood the antivenin treatment either. It was always a dangerous treatment in the best of times. But I’ve been discussing treatments for humans with severe sickness or injury with the Alphas. I’m just not sure what it will do at their age. It’s been forbidden in the past. Now that secrecy’s not an issue anymore, they’re rethinking it. We believe it could save them, but my “old” medical training makes me worry it could hurt them.” There was concern in Gary’s thoughts. Not knowing exactly what he was talking about, was also a bit confusing.
“Gary, explain it to them. Tell them the risks and let them decide what they want to do. That’s all we can do. They have the right to decide, it’s their lives at risk.” Nicholas’s thoughts broke in clearly. He and his brother Lyall and their mates had stayed for some time to help the town and new den get started and they’d heard the message.
“Okay. I’ll do my best.” With the decision made, Gary stopped his communication to handle his patients.
It didn’t take long before those running arrived at the hospital. The building was one of the first to be restored. It had several rooms and only one floor, and they didn’t have a need for more space than that. Not many were ever sick enough to be anywhere but their homes and until now, injuries had been minor.
Jake and Dean stopped the ATV out front and met the others, who had changed and dressed, at the door. Inside, Ed and Thelma were in a room that had been set up with two beds t outfitted for their comfort. Nicholas and Cara, Gage’s Alpha parents, were there, trying to comfort the two older people. Nia was wiping Ed’s forehead with a moist cloth, his skin looked very pale. Gary was working over a small table with several containers on it. Thelma looked up when the door opened and both her grandsons walked in, the others following closely behind.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here.” She said trying to sit up.
“Don’t move Grandma,” Jake said moving quickly to her side. “How do you feel? Does it hurt much?” His questions were voiced low, concern was all over his face and in his eyes. He took her hand and looked over at his grandfather as Dean came to stand beside the old man, equally concerned. Dean glanced from one to the other. He looked over their faces with worry and looked down at his grandfather’s leg. His pant leg had been cut off and the snakebite, obvious by the swelling and discoloration, looked painful.
“Oh my dear, I’m okay. Just a little dizzy and my toe is swelling where that blasted thing bit through my shoe. But Grampa’s not feeling at all well. He’s sick and his leg is swelling badly.” Her voice hitched and her eyes glistened with tears she was trying so hard to contain.
Rissa came to the other side of her bed and took her other hand, holding it to her heart. “Is there anything I can get you? Anything we can do?”
“I don’t think so dear. Doc Gary’s trying to help. He’s given us both some medicine and that awful wet black sand.” She dropped Rissa’s hand and pointed to a spoon with a few grains of wet, black charcoal powder clinging to the edge.
Kevin was listening and came to explain, “We’ve given them some activated charcoal powder, it has to be wet to keep it from getting into their lungs when they swallow it. The oil is from the Echinacea flowers we’ve been growing. It will help some, but we’re just not sure how effective it will be.”
“Alright, everyone,” Gary said to begin, “We have to discuss something important. Try to listen carefully. I know you’re not feeling well Ed, but this is important. As I’ve told you, the activated charcoal powder will help some, as will the Echinacea oil. But, it all depends on how your bodies will react to the poison from the bite. Copperhead bites range anywhere from mild to fatal.” He paused to let them take in what he was saying and give everyone a moment to think. As he paused the other Alpha couple, Lyall and Faolana, Blaez’s father and mother, quietly entered the room.
“I have something that may help. From what I’m told, a shifter blood transfusion should be able to counteract the poison in your system. The problem is that we’re not sure how much to use or what effect your age will have on how it works.” He looked up at the shifters, to see concerned looks.
“I’ve always heard that’s forbidden,” Blaez commented in a quiet concerned voice.
“It used to be.” Lyall answered, nodding at his son.
“Our secret’s out now, not a secret anymore.” Nicholas added.
“Nicholas and Lyall have told me that sometimes, with the few humans they could trust, transfusions were occasionally done. But there’s no details for us to go on.” He paused again looking to see if any of his information was making sense to them.
“My guess is, that this will help you live, but I can’t prove that.” Gary continued,
“Ed’s been bitten deep and taken in a lot of poison. Thelma, your bite wasn’t as deep, but your swelling’s getting worse and you’re starting to feel sicker. I’m not sure either of you have good chances of making it through this with just the natural remedies we have. My gut feeling tells me that a transfusion is your best hope.” Finished with the information, Gary took a deep breath and waited to see the reactions of the couple and their grandchildren.
As he waited, Gary looked between Ed, Thelma, Jake, and Dean. The young men looked at each other, concern and indecision written on their faces. Their grandparents were all the family they had, their mother having died when they were small.
Ed was sweating and breathing heavily, pain evident. Thelma was not quite as bad as Ed, but it was easy to see she was worried about her husband and not feeling at all well herself. Both Gary and Kevin knew that at their age, shock and grief could kill as easily as the poison.
Ed stretched to look at Thelma, their beds were close but it took some effort and pain to see his wife’s face.
“Well, my girl, what do you think?” He breathed shallowly then moaned, heaving as nausea got stronger. Nia and Gary both moved to help him.
“Oh, you don’t look good, honey. I’m scared Eddie.” She was flushed and frightened as well as feeling ill.
“Don’t feel so good either.” He whispered. “We’ve had a lot of good years, survived all mother nature gave us, but there’s so much I still want to teach the children.”
“I know, I want to see the boys settled, I’m just not ready yet.” She held the sheet in her hands, wringing it between her thin wrinkled fingers.
“I don’t want to make this decision for you two, but I think Doc Gary’s right.” Kevin spoke, his southern drawl distinctive. “You both look too sick to get through this without the shifter blood to help, and unlike us, the type doesn’t matter. So, we think it will work for both of you.”
“Will we be shifters if we do this?” Thelma asked quietly.
“No,” Gary smiled at her warmly. “Shifter blood won’t change you, but it may make you heal better and quicker for a long while, it has for others. It’s just your age we’re worried about.”
“We won’t make it without it, and at our age dying’s always a possibility.” Ed sighed as he lay back on the pillow and groaned at the pain in his leg. “Can you move me closer to my wife? I want to hold her hand, just in case it doesn’t work.”
“Oh I think that can be arranged.” Kevin drawled and smiled at Ed.
“Are you sure?” Thelma looked at the man she’d loved for so long, only the sweat starting to run down her temples hinted at her getting worse.
“No, I’m not…but if I go, I want to go holding your hand like I have most of my life.” He said it low, his breath beginning to take more effort.
“Oh Eddie, please don’t leave me.” Thelma sobbed.
“I won’t by choice, my girl,” He groaned.
“We don’t want either of you to leave us.” Jake’s voice cracked with emotion.
“Hold on, the docs are going to make you better.” Dean whispered hopefully.
The decision made, Gary and Kevin quickly readied the tubing and equipment for the transfusion. The others rearranged the beds like Ed had asked, so that they were side by side and close together, the couple joining hands.
“This is going to be directly from a shifter to them, so I may need three or four volunteers. I only want to take a little from each of you.” Gary’s back was to them as he looked over his equipment.
“I’ll go first.”Blaez was first to speak up.
“You can count on me.” Gage followed.
“How about me? Am I shifter enough now?” Rissa asked.
“Next time, Ris. Let’s use those who’ve always been shifter. We can’t be sure you don’t have some human qualities still in your blood, and that could be an issue for Ed and Thelma.” Gary looked at her and smiled to take away any sting of rejection.
“Well, I’ve definitely been one for a while.” Nicholas smiled and winked at Rissa, “You can use me.”
“I’ll volunteer, and maybe my being female would be helpful to Thelma.” Cara moved to Rissa’s side and gave her a quick hug.
“Do you need more? I’ll put out a call to the pack.” Nicholas looked to Gary.
“I think you’ll be enough. We don’t want to overwhelm their systems; we need to see how they react first.” Gary said gently. “Let’s see how it goes.”
The patients taken care of, Nia and Gage rolled in a couple of the extra beds to put beside each of the patients. Blaez laid in the one next to Ed and looked over at the old man.
“I’m Blaez, by the way. Just thought I should introduce myself, since we’re about to become blood brothers.” He smiled and nodded at Ed.
Ed looked at the huge man lying so close. He tried to smile but it was faint and weak.
“Glad to meet you, son. And thanks for being so generous.” He whispered and closed his eyes.
“Gary, I don’t mean to rush you…but I think you need to get this going.” Blaez’s concern was evident on his face and in his voice.
“I know.” Gary replied as he moved over to the two of them with some IV tubing and needles. He swabbed Blaez’s arm with alcohol and inserted the needle. The other needle end was inserted into Ed’s arm.
Gary watched carefully for any signs of an adverse reaction as the blood flow was started. He monitored the amount of blood he was taking from Blaez, both for Blaez’s sake and Ed’s.
Dean stayed by his grandfather’s side, watching the blood flow from Blaez to his grandfather’s vein.
Kevin used a stethoscope to monitor Ed’s heartbeat as the shifter blood mixed with his. When he felt he’d taken enough from a single shifter, he stopped the flow, and removed the needle from Blaez’s arm. He waited to see if there was any adverse reaction before using another donor for Ed.
“Give us a little time here to make sure all’s going well, Thelma, and we’ll start yours.” Gary spoke to her gently.
“That’s quite alright, Doc Gary. I’m in no hurry. You just take care of my Eddie.” Her sweet voice was quiet and shaky. Cara and Rissa were by her side, Jake held her left hand as she held Ed’s free hand with her right.
In what felt like moments, the first transfusions were done. Ed seemed to be resting more peacefully, his eyes were still closed but his breathing was becoming easier. No indications of shock. Gary began preparing Cara and Thelma for the first part of her transfusion.
Gage would be last and only if they felt Thelma needed more. They weren’t sure a female’s blood would really matter for Thelma, but it seemed natural.
“How’s he sounding, Kevin?” Gary asked from Thelma’s bedside.
“Not bad, his heart rate is only a little higher. Unless I’m imagining things, it’s sounding stronger already.” Kevin’s voice was mildly surprised and a little hopeful.
“Good, keep an eye on the bite. The swelling should start to go down before long if all this works well.”
“This fast? I know you guys heal quickly, but is your blood going to work this fast on a human?” Kevin sounded incredulous.
“Well, they won’t heal quite like us, but it should start to slow the poison and I expect to see progress in a few hours, at least a little.” Gary looked up as he answered and their eyes met for just a moment, the feeling of being the team to care for these people was strong for them both.
“Whew! That’s amazin’. I would never have expected it to work so fast.” Kevin’s head slowly shook in wonder at the sound of strength returning to Ed’s heartbeat.
“Is he gonna be alright?” Thelma asked hopefully, her voice a little raspier.
“Yes, darlin’, I believe he will. I surely do.” Kevin beamed a smile at her.
“And so are you, Thelma.” Cara smiled beside her as the blood flowed from her to Thelma.
Everything went well, and within hours Ed and Thelma, were resting more comfortably, the poison had been stopped and healing was at least beginning.
Blaez and the others returned to the den to see if the windmill was functioning and to work on his plans to leave.
Gary and Nia spent the rest of the day at the hospital. Kevin went home to get some sleep then later he and the village nurse, came back in the late evening to relieve them so they could get some sleep. Morning found the older couple much improved.