Chapter 3: Homecoming
My wolf wanted out.
I stepped back from the girls, pulling the dress from my body as my body started to ache and tingle in a way that was faintly familiar. I closed my eyes, feeling my beast surge forward, finally released from the chains that kept her hidden deep within, unable to help me, unable to talk.
Unable to be herself. The change was over in an instant. I looked around, my vision incredibly sharp although the colors were more muted than in human form. I shook my fur out, the base silver color with white and black patches. My girls quickly followed, their wolves coming forward as well, greeting the sun and the freedom long denied for some. Even Kirsten shifted, painfully, into her black wolf with white patches. We rubbed up against each other, our wolves getting to know each other in this form and sharing our scents.
These women had been through hell with me, and they were more important to me than anything. I was smiling inside as we started to jump and play, little yips of greeting, heads low and tails high as we encouraged each other to pray. The rest of the Pack was gathered around, some already shucking their clothes off, just waiting for the signal.
My wolf gave out a loud howl, calling all to their Alpha, calling them to run as a Pack with her. My howl echoed off the surrounding hillsides, and when I raised my head to howl again, my girls joined in followed by the Pack members who were rapidly shifting. I started moving towards the woods, in the center of a line formed by my girls. I looked over at Moose, whose real name was Terrance. He was a gentle giant, a Black Wolf Pack warrior who was one of the few to never use us, and to show us kindness. His mate Louise was by his side. I opened the bond, limiting it to the two of them. “I need to lead the Pack, but I don’t know the territory,” I told them. It was true; I had been brought here shackled, collared and tossed in the back of a windowless van. In all my time, my life had been that basement, or being displayed as a trophy or sexual favor for important visitors, or to the Rock to witness the next girl being brought in. I knew where the Pack had started, and all the territories that belonged to me and my girls that the bastard had annexed, but I didn’t know any trails.
“We’ll guide you,” Moose said as they dropped back then ran up to be just behind me. I could feel his paws hitting the ground, the guy was huge. I wasn’t a small wolf, I was at the big end for a female with my Alpha blood and my height, but I could stand under him easily. Of course, his mate was a tiny little thing, she looked like a puppy as she darted between his legs as they ran.
The line started to move towards single file as we neared the trees. “To the right of that big tree is the start of the trail, it’s pretty well packed down but I’ll help guide you from back here,” he said.
I picked up speed and entered the trail, exalting over the feel of the wind in my fur, the dirt beneath my pads and the smells of the forest. The excited barks and yips of the Pack were music to my ears as we moved through the tall pines. I stretched my body’s endurance for an hour as we moved along the edge of the territory. “Moose, is there a good spot to take a break and let everyone catch up?”
“No problem. Up ahead by the rock, take the right-hand trail and it heads towards the lake.” I saw what he was talking about, and veered right. The yips and excited mind talk picked up as they figured out where I was going, it was a warm night and the cool mountain lake would feel great after a run. The trail turned downhill, and my excitement grew as I started to see glimpses of blue water through the trees. When we were on the hillside for the final stretch, the trees behind us, I pulled up and the Pack came up by me. We were all breathing hard from the run.
“Last one in is a smelly coyote!” With that broadcast, the race was on. I ran hard, but all those years in the basement had their effect, and I wasn’t the fit young twenty-two-year old I had been when I was captured. I was helpless to watch as others ran past me, all headed for the long dock that led to the deep water. I pushed on, following the others and was about the tenth one to reach the dock. I took a running leap from the edge, flying gracefully through the air until I splashed down in the cold water.
“FUCK THAT’S COLD!” Vivian had that wolf-laugh face on as we paddled to the side, making room for the others. I followed her onto the rocky shore, only to receive a faceful of water as she shook her fur dry. I retaliated, my longer fur shaking the water in every direction.
“Alpha, Betas, that building over there has extra clothing and suits,” Moose said as he walked over. He hadn’t gone in, instead he had changed and was bringing wood out of the storage shed to the fire circle. By the time the girls and I got changed, he had a roaring fire going and the Pack was starting to gather around. It was a nice spot, a level point a few feet higher than the lake, with picnic tables and benches around. I sat on an Adirondack chair near the fire, the heat helping me to dry off quickly. “Here,” Moose said as he handed out cans.
“Beer?” I looked at the label, I didn’t recognize the name “Surly Furious.”
“Try it, I discovered it while visiting a Pack in Minnesota. I think I brought back a hundred cases.”
I popped the top and took a sip, the hoppy taste dancing in my mouth. Wolves needed more alcohol in beer to get a buzz, and lite beer was an offense to wolf and Luna alike. I leaned back, eyes closed, just enjoying the moment. “You’re right about it, Moose. You’re a keeper.”
He smiled as he sat down and pulled Louise down onto his lap. I snickered, she looked like a girl sitting on Santa’s lap with his bright red T-shirt and shorts.
Craig picked up where he left off handing out the beer. I could feel Craig’s anger and hurt; he had seen his own Luna Kirsten treated so badly, and couldn’t imaging that going on for years. He tried to hand Kirsten a beer, but she wouldn’t look up at him. She was shaking, her hands tightly fisted. He knelt down by her side, whispering in her ear, but she just shook her head and started to shake more violently. He handed off the beer to pass down the row, then carefully picked her up. She relaxed into his chest, crying silently as he held her.
I closed the link to all but her. “You won’t get over this, Kirsten, it’s not something you just forget. You survive it, one day at a time. Every morning you try to make things a little better than the day before. It does get better.”
She shook her head into his chest. “Jackson, he’s gone.” She broke down a little more. “They shot him full of silver, then chained him and brought him to the challenge circle. They made me watch as they slit his throat, his blood coating his fur. I watched his eyes go dead, Catherine, watched my mate look at me knowing he failed to protect me. He knew what was going to happen to me, and he couldn’t stop it. I died at that moment, I may still be breathing but I’m so dead inside.”
“My Thomas is gone as well, my story is much the same as yours,” I said. I motioned Craig with my eyes, and he brought her over and set her in my lap. Vivian on my left and Tandy on my right joined the hug, lending what comfort they could. “You will have breakdown, nightmares, you will feel depression and think of suicide. When you do, remember we ALL did. We know what you are going through, we help each other always. Life will go on, it will get better, there is a reason to live.” I don’t know if I was trying to convince her, or myself. “Don’t ask me how, though. Every night I would pray to Luna for two things; my freedom and my revenge. Now that I have both, it’s time to live life again.”
I held her as she fell asleep, my shirt damp with her tears. We turned it into a party, some wolves had gone out and taken a few mule deer and they were roasting meat over the fire. Those that hadn’t gone on the run had brought side dishes, more drinks and desserts from their own houses. The Pack house, along with its kitchen, was gone; there was no place big enough to serve everyone. It was one of the problems we’d have to deal with.
I woke up in a large bed, in a strange room. Kirsten was tucked into my left side, Nancy spooning her from behind, and Vivian’s head was on my right shoulder. Tandy and Sheri were in wolf form, curled around Mary’s small grey wolf on the rug by the bed. I tried to get up, but hands and legs kept pulling me back down. Finally, I managed to get myself free and get to the bathroom.
When I came out, I found fresh clothes and underwear had been left on a chair by the door. I sorted through for stuff that would fit, pulling on the bra and panty set along with loose cotton shorts and a T-shirt. Everyone else was still sleeping soundly, so I exited the room, closing the door quietly behind me.
I was in an upstairs hallway, at the other end I could see a staircase and the smell of breakfast was coming from the kitchen. I moved to the stairs, looking around for clues as to where I was. I couldn’t have gone that far, I thought, so it had to be a Black Dawn Pack member. THAT name was going to change, I vowed. I reached the landing and looked over where a huge couch was dwarfed by an even larger man in a red shirt. I was laughing as I entered the kitchen, where Louise was frying bacon and making eggs. “You made that poor man take the couch? What did he do?”
“It’s good for him, keeps him from taking me for granted,” she said. “Plus, he couldn’t stay in the girls’ room with me since he would break the bed.” She gave me a brief hug. “I know, I insisted you be brought here. We couldn’t even wake you guys up, so we had the trucks bring you back. I couldn’t bear to split you up, so we gave you our room for the night.”
“Thank you,” I said. “It’s been…”
She handed me a plate. “I’m so proud of you all. This Pack needed an overhaul, and I’m not sorry about what you did. They gave Luna a bad name.”
I sat at the table and ate the breakfast, she gave me some toast and jam as I wolfed the meal down. I forced myself to slow down so I wouldn’t get sick; we weren’t fed much in the Basement, but with my wolf now I needed to build my strength. “What are you going to do now,” she asked.
I mopped up the rest of the egg yolk with the last piece of toast, popping it into my mouth. “I need to go home. I need to see for myself.”
She shook her head sadly. “It’s in our territory, Moose has patrolled there, but the Alpha wouldn’t let anyone live there. It’s not going to be pleasant going back to your old home,” she said. “Please, for me, take Moose with you. I’d feel better if you weren’t alone.”
She was right, my wolf informed me. “All right, but YOU get to wake him up,” I said. “Have him meet me by the Pack House when he is ready to go.” I gave her another hug, my wolf and hers easily bonded and trusted her. I moved out of the house, finding my bearings I followed the road down the hill to the smoldering remains of the house.
Some low-ranked Pack members were on cleanup, picking through the debris littering the lawn for anything of use while tossing the rest into the foundation. I moved easily among them, encouraging and learning about them as I learned more about what the Pack had left. An hour later, Moose came trotting up in wolf form, a satchel bag for clothes around his neck. “Ready to go, Alpha?”
“Yes, do the others know?”
“They do. Kirsten is going back to her home with David and Craig, and the others are thinking about it. I’ve told the remaining Warriors to guard them, whether they leave or stay.”
“Thank you.” I pulled my clothing off, folding it and stuffing it in the bag before shifting to my wolf form. “Lead on,” I said.
It took us half the day of steady running to get to land I remembered. My heart was breaking as I ran past the places I remembered from my earlier life, and if I wasn’t in wolf form I would have been bawling by the time I reached the valley containing my old home.
It was still there, but the decade plus of abandonment showed. Shrubs and weeds clogged the walkways, windows were broken that allowed rain and animals in. I shifted in the driveway, now tears falling as I walked towards what was our house, where Thomas was going to play with his children in the yard, the porch where we were going to watch our grandchildren.
It was as empty and worn down as my heart was.