Jacque took her friend's hand. "Every time you've needed to know something, your gypsy brain has provided it. Trust your gift."
Sally took a deep breath and let it out, puffing her cheeks as the air left her lungs. "Okay. Bring it," she said steeling herself.
"That's my little gypsy trooper." Jacque winked at her.
"Gypsy trooper, really?" Sally rolled her eyes.
"When Jen gets back I'll let her take over the nicknames and insults. But right now I think that she would want me to fill in for her," Jacque teased. She and Sally had decided to talk about Jen in the present and with a positive attitude, as if she would be returning at any moment. They felt that maybe if they pushed for a positive outcome it would happen. Thinking of the alternative just wasn’t an option.
"Fair enough." Sally nodded as she turned to follow the other wolves into the tavern.
She, Jacque, and Fane were the last to enter the back room. Oil burning lamps hung on the walls, creating a soft, eerie glow. The fire in the large stone fireplace crackled and popped as the wood burned with bright orange flames.
Jacque noticed the packs had created a semi-circle, facing Vasile and Alina at the front of the room. She then observed Decebel kneeling before them, shoulders slumped forward, head bowed.
"What's going on?" she whispered to Fane, deliberately not using their bond so Sally could hear.
"He's paying fealty to his Alpha. He does not remember that he is our Beta."
Jacque gasped. "You're kidding."
"Afraid not, love," Fane responded as he guided the two girls through the crowd. As he got within listening range he heard Decebel's soft words.
"I renounce my right as Alpha and in doing so dissolve the Western Romanian pack. I believe we should merge our packs and be one, as you have said – The Romanian Grey Wolves. I choose to be your second, to support you and no other. I will protect you with my life; I will protect my Luna before all others, as you have commanded; I will protect the pack; I will be faithful; I will be humble in this role you honor me with. Do you accept my fealty?"
"Decebel, look at me," Vasile told him gently.
Decebel raised his head and looked at the man who had mentored him and loved him like a son.
"I know that you do not remember, but I have already accepted you. You have been my Beta for a century."
Decebel began to shake his head, the glow in his eyes filled with disbelief.
"You have trusted me, just as you have trusted Sorin. Would I lie to you?" The question was also a challenge. If Decebel disagreed – essentially calling his Alpha a liar – he would be subject to discipline, or even a challenge.
"I know that you would never lie to me," Decebel conceded.
"Will you allow our healer to look at you?"
Decebel nodded once.
Vasile addressed the three Alphas that stood to his left.
"I would ask that you please take your packs upstairs. There are several large rooms available."
Dragomir and Victor started off towards their wolves.
Dillon took a step forward. "Do you need me for anything?"
Vasile shook his head. "Thank you for the offer, but right now, this is a pack issue. I'm going to speak with you, Dragomir, and Victor in a little while to discuss the best course of action for your packs. I know your daughter is here, Dillon, but she is part of our pack. We are responsible for her now."
Dillon nodded. "I know. That doesn't make it any easier."
Dillon led his pack out and pulled the door closed behind him, all the while trying to accept that his role here just might be over.
Vasile stood, more of his strength returning every minute. "Sally, come forward."
Sally took tentative steps to the front of the room and took a position next to Decebel. It didn't escape Vasile's attention that Costin was moving amongst the pack, following Sally's progression to the front.
"Everyone else take a seat. On the floor if there aren’t enough chairs."
As Vasile had expected, the dominant wolves remained standing, as did their mates.
Sally looked up at her Alpha. "I don't really know what I'm doing, so I'm just going to touch him as I did you."
"Decebel." Sally's voice was tentative.
Decebel turned his amber gaze on her, and though Sally knew he didn't remember her, it was still shocking to see the lack of recognition in his eyes.
"May I place my hand over your heart?"
He stood up, towering over the small healer. "You may."
Sally reached up and placed her small hand over Decebel's heart. She was not surprised by the strength she felt in his muscles or the way they tensed as she made contact.
She closed her eyes and let the knowing force inside her take over. She saw darkness. An entity flowing through his veins, moving through his body until it reached his brain, where it created a slimy supernatural film. Sally reached into the darkness, seeking its origin, its purpose. She gasped as she felt the wicked intent behind it. A curse.
No, Sally thought. Not a curse. Two curses. She pushed against them and briefly felt the magic behind it – dark magic meant to destroy memories. Not just any memories, but cherished memories, life altering memories.
Sally couldn't believe the curses' intricacy. The second curse bound Decebel as the sole wolf able to seek out Jen. She wondered why the one who cursed him would choose Jen's mate as the only one able to find her. He could track her, couldn’t he?
Cherished memories, she remembered. Decebel doesn't remember his mate.
Sally felt the wolf's pain as his very soul sought for the comfort of his mate. As Sally continued to look deeper into his unconsciousness, she saw that the memories were still there, but they were bound. Then she found something that she wasn't expecting.
The curse was for Fane.
Sally pulled her hand away, collapsed, and would've hit the ground had Costin not, somehow, been there to catch her. She pressed her hand to her head, feeling the darkness recede from her own mind. Costin helped her stand and kept his hands on her waist until he was sure she was steady. She looked up at him, brow furrowed. He grinned and winked at her as he stepped back.
Sally shook her head thinking it odd that Costin had been there to catch her.
Vasile cleared his throat, drawing her attention back to him.