Chapter 1: "Please let me go?"
Down where I lay, concealed by the tall grass, I was more interested in what stood only meters away. But so it seemed, was my brother. I could just see the grey of his tail as it wagged excitedly in the air. He didn't see me yet. In fact, the big doofus was so focused on the excitement of the hunt, that he was giving his position away. I had no doubt that even an earthworm could see his poor attempt at hunting.
However, Boris's over excitement was working in my favor. The deer didn't know I was there, two bounds away from claiming my kill. So, Boris didn't know either.
Older is smarter, my fluffy ass.
I lay in wait as my older brother of two measly hours gave away his hiding spot. It only took a few moments for the bucks head to shoot up in his direction. Boris froze as he realized his mistake but it was too late. The buck had already turned around and was running in my direction. I tensed my back legs in wait.
As the buck bounded by, I leapt out of the grass and landed on the animals back. The older animal stumbled, only to collapse beneath me a second later, its cry like a newborn fawn. Before he could even lift a leg to kick me off, my jaws were buried in the flesh of his neck. The old buck was dead mere moments later.
I lay on the majestic old stag for a few extra seconds before backing up. I planted my haunches next to my kill and looked across the clearing. Boris stood from his hiding spot and I could see his dark eyes narrow. I merely bared my teeth in an imitation of the human grin Ma often showed us. My brother shook his grey fluffy coat in a poor attempt to shed his annoyance. He seemed to think it required the same tactic as a winter coat.
His low growl of displeasure could be heard from where I sat as he made his way over. I waited patiently as he slid his way through the grass. Soon, the second to youngest of my seven brothers sat beside me. His tall shadow cast everything around us in a darker shade.
We sat in silence for a few moments, eyes focused on my kill as the birds began to sing again. When Boris started standing, my wolf surfaced at the approach to my winnings. Without hesitation, my chest rumbled and I bared my freshly blood stained teeth at the offender. He didn't appreciate it, as he growled in return, but he sat down nonetheless, respecting my rights as a fellow wolf.
The familiar language registered in my brain and I recognized every unspoken word. “Tree.”
I took heed of the warning and sure enough, I passed by a large pine. After fifteen minutes and several close calls, I began to pick up the sounds of my brothers and sisters. It probably would've been faster if I had let Boris carry the large animal but my wolf wouldn't have allowed it.
She had always been there, a presence in the back of my mind. My most trusted friend. Though she preferred to watch through my eyes a majority of the time, any disrespect directed at us had her fur bristling and teeth bared. She was truly a puzzling creature.
I rounded a large oak and Boris bounded ahead. The fresh scents of moss and several different varieties of wild berries soothed my nose. My muscles which had unconsciously tensed as I had been away from my family, slackened. The signature scents of my siblings filled the grassy clearing as I continued to drag the stag.
Everything in the world had a signature scent that was like none other. I had been told mine was of sweet, ripened blackberries with a hint of fern and of course the family shared scent of wet moss. All of my siblings smelled of different berries with the family scent and some other forest based smell. I could tell each and every one of them apart by scent alone.
That wasn't the only distinguishing factor of our pack, though. Besides the fact that half of us had our mothers grey coat, we also owned varied power levels. Alpha pups always had a certain presence that you could feel within your bones before you even knew they were there. Add on the factor that all thirteen of us, including Ma, had Alpha blood from both sides of the family. It wasn't easy to avoid other wolves with presences as potent as ours. We attracted a fair bit of trouble.
As I dragged my kill into the clearing, excited barks and yips filled the air. I could feel the presence of my siblings crowding around and it only helped to spark my possessive instincts. A growl vibrated through my chest and they all stepped back, not quieting in the slightest. Upon seeing Ma out of the corner of my eye, I stopped.
The leg thudded heavily against the ground and we watched our Alpha approach the kill. Ma inhaled the scent of fresh blood and her tail began to sway where it was held in the air.
My wolf puffed up her chest at the recognition we received from both our Alpha and mother. I approached our meal and lay down by the stomach, aware of the eyes watching my every move. My family was tense, ready to dart forward the minute I took my bite. My thoughts took on a mischievous tone and my wolf shook her head.
I eyed the meat in front of me, seemingly searching for the perfect piece. My kin weren't fooled, they knew all pieces were equally difficult. I licked the blood off of the black fur of my snout, surveying the tan hide in front of me. A low chorus of growls echoed from my family and I lifted my head. My eldest brother, Ace, stood mere feet away, glaring at me with eyes the same color of his shiny grey fur. I attempted a grin and gave in to my wolf's pleading as I buried my jaws into the soft meat of the buck's stomach.
A surge of grey, brown, blonde and black dove for the meat. Within ten minutes the bones were picked clean. I claimed the antlers and placed them at the base of a tree to grab later when we left the area whilst my siblings did the same with their picks of bones.
The sun hung in the sky, lighting up the clearing of wolves. Ma sat in the middle with Otis, Zale, Holland and Dakota. Ace, Nolan, Aldan, Sage, Conroy, Boris and Minnesota lay spread apart in the grass, sunbathing.
I joined the group in the middle and lay leaning against Zale. Ma had Holland trapped beneath her as she groomed her golden fur, the protests never ending. My only younger sibling, Otis, sat nearby with Dakota, certain sections of his voluminous gray fur darkened with moisture and laying flat. Even though Dakota was small, the brown she-wolf still towered over the runt as he groomed her sleek bloodstained fur.
I looked up slightly when Zale nudged me with his snout. His black fur was the exact same shade as mine, the only other black wolf I have seen in my nearly eighteen years of life. I quickly stood when his dark eyes glittered with mischief, yet I wasn't fast enough. Zale tackled me to the ground and we rolled around a bit before he had me pinned beneath him. My ears flattened against my head and I growled as I realized his intentions. As he dove down and placed a long, wet lick on my head, I squeezed my eyes shut and attempted to wiggle away.
Mere minutes later, my head was so covered in saliva I was surprised I wasn't dripping. I had used almost all the devices in my power but not even whining seemed to work. I only had one left.
I suddenly lay limp and gave a pitiful whine. Zale huffed triumphantly and continued his vigorous grooming. After an extra slobbery lick behind the ear, I flipped us over. Now, I had the bigger wolf trapped beneath me.
A high pitched yelp sounded from him before he looked up at me, wide eyed. I smirked, the best I could with a snout anyways, and slowly leaned over. I seemed to have tapped into an extra strength store within my small, lean body as the fifth born struggled to escape. I barely even had to fight to keep him down, at least compared to before.
I slobbered as much as possible as I groomed his face. Zale kept on shaking his head and whining, but he couldn't escape me. His soft tufts of voluminous fur stuck to his head, most likely looking an awful lot like me at the moment. I almost grinned in triumph at the sight of my favorite brother's dripping fur. Whatever blood that had hidden there before, hidden by the midnight black of his fur, was long gone
Zale huffed heavily and looked up at me with pleading eyes. A serious blow had just been dealt to his ego. His little sister of a mere six hours managed to pin him with ease, soaking his face in the process. I cocked my head mischievously and yipped.
“What's the magic word?”
Somehow I managed to make the complex language translate a sing song tone. Zale growled slightly and whined.
His whine only made me cock my head further. I was thoroughly enjoying this.
“Please let me go?”
I quickly shook my head, my ears flopping around, and stared at him. I was not letting my guard down. He huffed.
“Please? It's a major ego striker being pinned by your youngest sister who's only three fourths your size.”
I grinned and shook my head again, spraying drops on his face. Zale scrunched his nose and blinked before trying again.
“I promise to let you have the next strawberries we come across. Please, Loma? Everyone's staring.”
This made me hesitate. Wild strawberries were really rare and just so happen to be my favorite. Usually when we find some, I'm always tackled to the ground as my older and bigger siblings enjoy the treat. I've only had one once, when I was hunting solo.
Even that little taste had me plopping my haunches in the dirt and resisting the urge to dance between the trees. I returned from the trip practically skipping, a rabbit dangling from my jaws. When I told them about my discovery, I was met with waves of jealousy and resentment. The latter more from my stuck up brothers, who think the almost runt shouldn't deserve anything.
Ace sure has a stick up his ass. The whole shunning runts act is plain idiocy.
I stared down at the dripping fur of my favorite brother's face. I yipped cautiously, saying, “Promise you'll save at least one for your favorite sister?”
Zale snorted. “What the hell, yes. I will. Now, can you get off me, Loma? I need to go bandage this ego of mine.”
I bared my teeth in a grin and landed one last slobbery lick behind his ear. As soon as I stepped back and sat down, watching the large black wolf warily, Zale sprung to his paws. He shook heavily and the sun shone through dark tufts of fur. A small rainbow even made an appearance for a split second as hundreds of drops fell from his face. With the fur of his head sticking to his skull, his body seemed way too big. He looked strange to say the least and I held back a guffaw.
Ma didn't even hide her chuckle as she watched her fifth born son shake, unaware of his dilemma. Soon, my whole family was laughing at his drenched state. Minnesota even lay on her side. The brown she-wolf with piercing grey eyes started lightly, yet shakily, quite literally howling in laughter. I joined in and Zale looked around as his family laughed at him. He sent me a look and at the less extreme state of my own fur, his eyes widened.
A black blur raced behind a nearby tree and we didn't stop. A small grumpy growl came from the shadows and our laughter eventually died off as the clearing fell into silence. The grins remained on our snouts.
Zale didn't come out and I joined Ma, where she lay with a slightly wet Holland. Despite her golden coat being as voluminous as Zale's, his younger sister of thirty minutes didn't have it as bad. That may have been because of my vigorous revenge slobbering, though.
I lay down beside the large grey she-wolf that I felt honored to call my mother. As I lay on my side, her shadow fell over me and she looked down. She was the most gorgeous wolf I had ever laid eyes on and I could feel her power within my bones. Her gorgeous brown eyes that matched my own, stared down and softened at her youngest daughter. She licked my cheek lovingly before resting her head on my side and watching her other pups with watchful eyes.
I let my head rest in the soft green grass and slowly closed my eyes. My dark coat seemed to absorb the sun and I grew drowsy in the comfortable warmth. My senses were alert and would stay alert as I slept but I was dangerously close to doing so. Then, I heard rustling in the grass.
My ears perked up, yet I lay completely still as I felt a presence approach. Based solely on the signature power level and scent, it was Otis. His power level was strong, but not nearly as much as my own considering he was the runt of our litter. It wasn't long till I felt a tiny body curl up next to my neck, his fur brushing against mine. Otis seemed nervous to move any closer so I grunted a confirmation and he pressed himself against my fur, soaking up the heat. He gave a small sigh and I felt my younger brother relax into sleep.
Multiple sounds of rustling grass originated again from all sides and my ears perked up. Ma didn't seem worried so I let the paranoia melt away. I felt the power and scents of Dakota, Minnesota, Sage, Conroy and Holland come closer. Not before long, they burrowed themselves around me, Otis and Ma. Soon, Boris, Aldan and even Zale, who's fur must've dried for the most part, joined us in the sunbathing huddle.
I could feel the power of Ace and Nolan laying ahead and to the right of me. They never had been the most family wolves. I'd be surprised once they found their mates that they'd even consider settling down with them. Ace might, but probably just cause he'd need an heir.
Our litter was a peculiar case. Our father was an Alpha and so was our mother. In every litter of higher blood power, the heir wasn't always the first born. The heir was whichever offspring was strongest and most fit for the role as Alpha.
Even though we didn't have a pack under our name like most Alpha pups, we still needed to carry the line. Ace was the heir of our little family and although he wasn't much of a family man, he would need to have one to pass down the title of Alpha to. Even if he didn't have the title necessarily. It was a complex and messy business.
My thoughts faded as I began to drift off. The warmth, safety and love that surrounded me soothed me to sleep. I woke a time later and even before I opened my eyes, I could tell it was getting dark. The heavy even breaths of my family surrounded me, so I almost missed it.
I hadn't awoken randomly like I had thought at first. The soft rustling of grass was getting closer, and I knew it wasn't one of my siblings. Even Ma had fallen asleep and the power usually radiating off of Ace and Nolan was dim.
I stiffened and called upon my drowsy wolf. We carefully tracked the swishing of the grass beneath the large predators feet. By scent alone, I could tell it was a cougar. A male, looking for an easy meal that stumbled upon a sleeping huddle of wolves.
My wolf was angry. No. Furious. She seemed to be close to taking over and my body shook from the rage flowing through my veins. She had never been so angry. Most of the time, even when she took control it was with slight annoyance. But this was different.
I struggled to keep a hold of her as the rage built. I needed to get it away from my family. If the animal even touched a hair on any of their tails, he'd be sorry. I would kill him, or at least die trying. Hopefully if it came to that, I'd be able to wound it enough so it would leave them alone.
I opened my eyes and in the fading light, I saw him. He was focused on Zale. Probably avoiding the large grey wolves scattered in the clearing as a safety precaution. At least it had some brains.
My eyes flashed a molten silver, casting a faint light through the air. The large cat spun around to face the forest. Probably thought it was some kind of glint on metal.
I maintained my hold on my enraged beast as I expertly slid out of the wolf huddle. No one even noticed a thing and continued to snore peacefully. On hunting footsteps, to make the least noise possible, I reached the tree's edge and stepped inside the shadows. I watched from the darkness as the cat spun to inspect the huddle. He was planning to pluck the smallest from the outside.
Not if I can help it.
This time, as I stepped out of the trees, I let the cougar hear my approach. A few twigs snapped beneath my paws and it's large, tan head swiveled in my direction. I maintained the hold on my wolf but let her shine through my eyes. Now, the cat had a clear target in the fading light.
Quicker than I had anticipated, the big cat began to bound in my direction. Surprisingly, it made little to no noise as it barreled towards me. I spun on my heels and dashed into the forest with the cat following close behind. It was surprisingly agile and had great speed so I had to pull out all the stops.
With a speed that surprised me, I shot forward, merely a black blur. I weaved between trees and jumped over various bushes, even occasionally leaping from low hanging branches. The cougar still managed to follow, but had fallen behind. Still, it never stopped and seemed determined to catch the small black wolf. Luckily, living a life of constant travel where you moved at breakneck speed, prepared me to outpace the predator.
Unfortunately, I had never traveled at quite this speed before so hazards were more likely. I tripped over a branch and went flying into a tree. Pain shot up my side and a barely audible crack was heard. The breath was knocked out of my lungs and I lay immobilized at the base for much longer than I preferred. The cougar was still running in my direction and I quickly scrambled to my feet.
Before I had even taken a step, a fierce pain erupted in my side. I had to have broken at least a couple ribs and it made my side throb in pain. Without even thinking of the action, my head flew back. A loud, insanely high pitch howl of pain was sent into the night sky, where the moon hung low. It was the wolf's equivalent of a scream for help, mainly enforced by blistering pain.
Before I had time to take a breath, a tan blur barreled towards me. I had my wolf focus on my ribs, at least to block the pain as I began to run. High pitched yelps sounded through the forest as I bolted.
This time as I ran, I wasn't quite as fast. The pain in my ribs sent me stumbling ever so often and the cougar began to catch up. I knew I had to try everything to get myself out of this alive. I placed a mental block on the pain, something Ma had told us to never even attempt. As soon as all pain was forgotten, I resumed my previous speed.
The cougar soon disappeared out of view, yet I continued at full speed through the forest. Dodging and jumping over a multitude of things. I carefully scented the air as I ran. I had never been to this part of the forest, so I had not the slightest clue as to where I was.
Then, I smelled it. A river. If I got there fast enough, I could float downstream, hopefully losing the cougars trail. I changed courses and barreled in the direction of the river. I kept my pace, but slowed with uncertainty as I began to hear the rushing water. I could hear it, but from sound alone, it was probably a good distance away. Yet, from the smell, I was almost right on top of it.
As the river came into view, I figured out why and slid to a stop. I was standing on the edge of a ravine. A river ran throughout the whole thing. Except it was several hundred feet below me.
Well, that certainly won't work. Unless I wanna turn into one of those flying squirrels I had once. I highly doubt that's even possible, unfortunately.
I spun on my heels and ran back into the forest. Then a tan blur raced towards me and I turned around yet again. I had barely anywhere to go though, so I stopped near the edge. The large male cougar slowed to a stalk as he neared me. In the moonlight, his eyes glittered dangerously. Hungrily.
I almost took a step back before remembering the ravine. Clearly, running hadn't worked. Only to get him away from my family. It had been worth it though. I would need a different approach now that they were out of harm's way.
I hadn't seriously fought anything or anyone since that one coyote that I crossed paths with several years ago. Even then, it wasn't a worthy enough opponent to test the limits of my strength on.
Guess now is a good time as ever. May the moon watch over me. And if I end up getting my ass kicked, may it avert its eyes to spare me the embarrassment of having an audience for my demise.
My wolf was still simmering in anger and I let it take over. But, right as her attention on my side left, the mental block fell. The pain returned, but even worse than ever and another sharp howl was sent into the air. Then, she took over.
Moon above. That hurts like hell. No wonder we weren't supposed to do it.
I was merely sitting on the sidelines now as I watched our molten silver eyes light up almost as bright as the moon. My wolf growled low and deep and I swear the earth beneath my feet trembled in tune to the rumbling in my chest. Her teeth were in full view as she snarled at the surprised cougar.
The cougar recovered quickly though, and snarled back. Somehow, his version didn't sound as powerful. He stalked forward and another growl escaped my throat. Our hackles were raised and my wolf followed pure instinct as she crouched and stalked forward.
Sadly, it didn't last long as on the second step, the pain came back full force. A howl much like the previous ones, yet louder due to my wolf being in control, echoed through the forests for miles. My wolf was panting and I focused on the pain in her side, adopting it as my own. I screamed, yet urged my beast to keep going.
Yet, her head shot up just as the cougar began to circle his prey. Over the distance it was a tad faint, but we heard something. Howling. Answering howling to be in fact.
What sounded like twelve separate wolves were howling over the distance. I recognized every voice as if it were my own. My family had heard my cries of pain. They were coming.
This should have lifted my spirits but it only made it worse. It would take forever for them to make it here. By the time they did, all that would be left would be a pile of my bones. We would have to fight our own battle.
As the howling continued, we blocked them out. I focused on taking my wolf's pain as she and the cougar circled each other. We were a team and we would die as one. We would die protecting our family.
The growl that rumbled in our chest was never ending, shaking the pebbles beneath our paws. We watched every twitch of every muscle in the cougar's lithe and deadly body. Then he struck.
The male leaped at us and managed to rake his claws down the same side that held the broken ribs. I quickly took it without complaint, not even allowing my wolf a twinge of pain. She leapt forward and managed a nasty shoulder bite, but was quickly battered away with a single paw.
We landed rather harshly on the stone but I kept my wolf from feeling the pain that quaked through my being. She easily stood to her feet, the growl never ending. She dashed forward, too fast for the cougar to stop and chomped on its powerful tail. He roared angrily and whipped around, but by that time we were already back where we started. My wolf took the opportunity and leapt on the males back, digging in her claws.
The predator stumbled and hissed fiercely. He seemed enraged at the idea of having a small wolf clinging to him like a little kids wolf backpack. My wolf bit into the back of his neck, but his hide was so thick, it was a struggle to draw blood. It was enough.
He stumbled like an uncoordinated pup, never quite catching his balance. I clung to the cougars back, refusing to let go as he hissed and tripped over his own paws. I didn't notice the growing danger as I focused on digging my claws through his hide.
Then, he walked right off the cliffs edge.