Chapter 4: “Shut up, Boris!”
The night was dark as clouds rolled across the sky. The stars were blocked out and the moon only peeked out every once and while. Of course my naturally enhanced eyesight helped with the darkness, but nothing could help the way I felt. I felt like I was in a freaking horror movie. I had never seen horror movies but I like to think I would enjoy them. I never said I would enjoy being in one.
So, I spent the whole night wandering the forest. I walked in the general direction of the river from my best memory and had my nose glued to the forest floor a majority of the time. When I finally caught a whiff of my scent, I sprinted. But, of course, the trail ended in a large clearing.
So, that's how I ended up here, in a large clearing with absolutely no idea where I was and how to find my family. I could try and howl but that's just embarrassing. I ran off for hours insisting I could take care of myself and then got lost? Yeah, they'd never let me out of their sight. That was not an option.
I paced the area, nose to the ground, searching for anything familiar. When I came across my scent again, I dashed into the forest. Then, it ended once more. I repeated this dozens of times till at last I caught my family's scent on the breeze. Then I noticed the sun on the horizon.
Moon above I’m gonna be in so much trouble.
I started sprinting in their direction, keeping my steps light and silent as to not alarm them. Once I came into earshot, I heard Minnesota and donned a casual walk.
“By the Moon, she could be eaten by a bear right now! Or she fell off a cliff with rattlesnakes at the bottom! My poor baby sister, dead at the bottom of a cliff in the middle of nowhere!”
From the tense energy I was getting, her words just made things worse. I could hear multiple sets of pacing paws as my siblings channeled their nerves into something other than imagining crazy scenarios like Minnie.
I’m never gonna hear the end of this.
A sudden commotion sounded from the clearing where they had taken up residence as someone stood. I sped up into a steady trot as voices barked in the dark.
“For Moon’s sake I’m just gonna go find her for you, you worrywarts. She just fell asleep in a cave or something.”
“No! Dakota, I won't let you! You'll get eaten too! I can't lose two sisters!”
“I'd say it's more likely that she fell off a cliff and got bitten by rattlesnakes. Or she could've-”
“Shut up, Boris!”
I sighed and shook my head at my brother. Sometimes I swore he was just a mindless jellyfish.
It was silent for a moment more as I got closer, then the forest erupted into sound again. Barks and yips sounded in the air as my family argued. They were so preoccupied they didn't notice my approaching presence. But, as always, I knew Conroy knew I was getting closer. The ever silent giant was always aware of everything around him.
“She’s probably dying right now or she's lost and there's a pack of coyotes after her!”
“My baby sister is all alone out there!”
“Shush your yapping and let me find her.”
“I won't be able to take it if you died too!”
“Minnie, if you dont stop your mindless assumptions I will bite your tail.”
“You wouldn't dare!”
“Eek! Back you beast! Back!”
“Now I really want to bite your tail.”
“Why would you bite her tail?”
“By the Moon, Boris, shut up and just let me do it. I've been itching to since the day we were born.”
A thud sounded from the clearing. A yelp echoed as Minnie was undoubtedly tackled by Dakota. A confused whimper came from the side, most likely Boris. I didn't see Dakota holding down her larger sister for long so I quickened my pace to a steady lope.
“Stop! Stop! Please, Kota, I'll do anything!”
“Nah. I would rather do this.”
A sharp yelp pierced the air followed by an angry bark.
“Stop, you imbeciles! This won't help us find our little sister.”
It was at that moment that I broke through the trees. Ace was standing over the wrestling pair with his hackles raised and teeth bared. His grey fur was standing on end along his back with his anger. As I entered the clearing, I smiled and barked.
“No, I suppose it won't but it is fairly entertaining.”
In a matter of seconds I was tackled to the ground. Minnie had somehow managed to escape from Dakota's hold and tackle me in one swell swoop. As the rest of my family crowded around, I squirmed and whined as I was once again covered in saliva. The clearing was filled with noise once again as my family began to bark and yip questions.
“Where were you?”
“Why were you out so late?”
“Why is everyone acting like this?”
“Shut up, Boris!”
“Did you get lost?”
“Thank the Moon you didn't get eaten by vultures!”
My ears pinned back at the noise and a small growl rumbled my chest. I managed to shove Minnesota off and shook out my fur once I stood. Dakota leveled a flat look on the tall female. She barked.
Minnie stared at her before reluctantly walking forward. As the other members of my family stepped forward to inspect me for any injuries, the two stared at each other. I noticed that Zale was distant as he made sure I was okay. I nuzzled him in an apology and he seemed to accept it as he nuzzled back.
Before I could blink, the smaller brown she-wolf had her teeth clamped around Minnie's ear. The larger wolf yelped and began to tug away before freezing. She was stuck unless she wanted to shred her ear.
We ignored their antics and I began to greet my family by bumping noses. Then, I realized that someone was missing. I knew Otis was right there because I had just leaned down and said hello. It was Ma.
I was about to question after her whereabouts when a bark boomed across the clearing. Our Alphen had returned and she was not in a good mood.
“Dakota, leave your sister alone. Paloma, come here. We need to talk.”
For some reason my wolf resisted the natural response to bow her head at the Alpha command. But, I complied and followed after the slightly taller female as she walked into the surrounding shadows. My wolf was on edge, coloring a molten silver ring around my pupils as I carefully held her back. I wasn't sure why she was acting so weird.
When the shadows had completely swallowed us, Ma stopped. She turned around and sat at the foot of a large pine, brown eyes peering through the dark. I sat across from her, unable to suppress my wolf more than I already was. She no longer enjoyed sitting on the sidelines and preferred to be present at all times. It would take a very long time for my eyes to resume their previous brown. My wolf would always be watching and she wanted them to know.
The forest began to wake up around us as the sun rose further in the horizon. The gaps of light between branches grew brighter with each passing moment. Even the natural shadows of the trees seemed to shy away from swallowing everything in darkness. The day was beginning and we didn't have much time to prepare for the changes in our small rogue group.
The atmosphere surrounding me and my Alphen wasn't so bright. She was staring at me with a look of such severity that a shiver ran down my spine at that moment. She almost looked curious but at the same time, mind blowingly furious. I had never seen her like this before and she seemed to be thinking the same thing.
My wolf refused to be the first one to break the silence. She had always been stubborn and certainly nit picky about manners, but never like this. I was almost sure she had woken up that night on the cliff. My figures of speech seemed to be more literal as everything about my wolf had intensified.
“Where were you last night?”
I knew it was simply an opening into a deeper discussion, but I complied. I told her a simplified version of what happened, leaving out the other rogues and getting lost. After ten minutes of rehashing of details, we both fell silent. Then, surprisingly, Ma spoke first yet again.
“What happened that night, it scared all of us. I mean, Loma, we thought you were gonna die.”
Ma sighed heavily, her eyes sparkling in the light of dawn.
“What I’m trying to say is that I get that you're scared-”
I held in the growl rumbling through my chest but couldn't help the way that my eyes flickered, lighting the surrounding area for a moment. Ma fell silent. My wolf was frustrated that they viewed us as weak. To be honest, it also irked me a bit.
I thought my family knew I wasn't by any means weak. I got that I was their baby girl, but still. I was done with being treated like a newborn pup.
The grey wolf in front of me cocked her head. I found that I had begun to think of her as an equal, opposed to the intimidating authority figure she was before. Dread had been slowly building in my chest over the last day and I hadn't even known why. But, now I did. I didn't want to face the reality of the situation so I merely shoved away my revelation.
The molten silver wave over my eyes swept back to where it had been before. Yet, as it settled between my pupils and rich brown irises, it glowed brighter than it had earlier. I hadn't even realized it, but my wolf had wanted to hide her presence.
Now, there was no hiding the bright color circling my eye’s centerpiece. So, it glowed, lighting up the area by a fraction that was a different shade than the one caused by the rising sun.
Ma focused on my faintly glowing eyes with slight confusion and wonder. She yipped quietly.
“It's strange, I have never seen your wolf before. I had always wondered why she was much more docile than your sibling’s. I take it your wolf has been making more appearances like this?”
I nodded slowly, letting out a puff of air as a small fur fell into my eye. I huffed and rubbed my eye with a paw, unlodging the fur. I looked back at Ma to find her staring at me. I cocked my head in a silent question.
“It's just that when Zale came back he told us about the appearance of your wolf. None of your siblings could believe that the angry snarling wolf he told of was you. I couldn't even believe it.”
“Do you happen to believe him now, Ma?”
“It's much easier to imagine now that I saw how easily your wolf got riled up. Do you have any idea why she's acting like this?”
I hesitated before shaking my head. Luckily, Ma didnt see the hesitation and believed me. I was glad, because frankly, I was terrified of the true meaning. I would need time to process it before I admitted anything to anyone.
“I think that she's scared and just doesn't want to admit it to anyone, especially you. She's afraid to admit that she has weaknesses like every other thing in this world, and that's okay. She's allowed to fear the weaknesses in your armor, but you need to help her through that. Once you do, she'll probably resume whatever it is that she does. We'll all be happier once she is.”
I had to keep a tight mental leash on the subject of conversation throughout the rather unnecessary speech. My wolf wanted to jump out and show our Ma the real reason. She wanted to show her that she knew her weaknesses and prove that she was much more than a wolf that sits on the sidelines doing, 'whatever it is that she does'.
The only reason I wasn't overpowered by my rather strong-willed wolf, was the knowledge that she couldn't possibly know what was going on and probably still wouldn't for quite some time.
I sat with my spine rigid and teeth clenched as Ma finished. I nodded slightly, all I could manage without jumping at her, and Ma smiled as best she could. She pitied me, most likely thinking my wolf was trying to deny her claims. Which, of course, was halfway true.
We sat in silence for a few moments as the whole forest woke up under the sun. My posture slackened when my wolf began to calm down, succumbing to my logic. She understood my slight panic and wish to keep things quiet. She also wanted time to adjust, naturally, and seemed grateful that I had held her back.
This was the most communication possible with our wolves yet it was the most I had ever even tried to understand. Our wolves were our companions through life and we were a team. Not much communicating was needed when you were basically the same organism.
Ma noticed that my wolf had calmed and stood quickly, rambling her plans for the day almost as if to herself. She appeared to have finally noticed the time. With one last glance in my direction, she darted back to our family. I followed close behind.
It's almost time.
In the clearing all my siblings sat huddled together, attempting to catch some well needed rest before the day's festivities. The only one not off in dreamland, was Dakota. I wasn't particularly surprised. I could always count on her to keep things in perspective. Kota was never one to worry needlessly so she had undoubtedly slept well while I was gone. I had a feeling my oldest sister would be my biggest ally when my wolf began to show herself.
When Ma entered the open space filled with sunlight and covered in dew, Dakota looked up from a random pattern she had drawn in the dirt. Without any further prompting, a sleek brown tail came crashing down on our living alarm clock.
Minnesota's head popped up automatically as she blinked sleepily. It only took seconds for her usual rambunctious energy to spring to life and her grey eyes were bright, no longer muddled by sleep. Minnie was practically the epitome of a morning person. Probably worse, in fact.
In almost no time at all, my taller brown sister was on her paws, bouncing around. It wouldn't be long till the rest of them were up as well. Minnie had a habit of howling to the morning sun, no matter where we were or how potentially dangerous it could be.
She was a very unconventional werewolf, considering that she almost never joined us during our Moon howls. Her logic was that if the Moon was an ancient being, then the Sun must be as well. She claimed that every werewolf since the dawn of time has honoured the Moon by gifting her our voices, but no one has attempted to ever include the Sun in that deal. The Sun was just as important to our lives as the Moon, so we should never exclude either one. The Moon may not miss one voice, but the Sun will notice it more than she ever could.
She's a very unique werewolf.
As usual, Minnie only spared us a glance as she planted her haunches in the grass. My sister raised her snout in the air, sniffing for a few moments before focusing all of her attention on the horizon. As the sun came into view through and over the tops of trees, she began to howl.
The sound was loud, bright and full of life. Minnie always said that her song was made to reflect everything the oversized star represented. She idolized the big burning ball of gas like another Moon Goddess. I didn't dare voice my thoughts on the matter, fearing the chance that all her theories were right. Or, that the usually kind and carefree wolf would attack me. The Moon above knew how we werewolves tended to react at the sign of any disrespect to our creator.
The howl wasn't too long, luckily, but was always enough to get everyone up. The song was beautiful, I admit it, but it's hard to admire anything when you have just woken up from a nice dream. I once killed a coyote when it woke me. Luckily, I had enough restraint not to attack one of my siblings but the same couldn't always be said for them.
As the melodious morning sun howl whistled on, I watched my siblings. Conroy was the first to open his eyes. From the lack of fog in his brown irises, I knew he had been awake for a while. He probably woke up the instant Minnesota had. Even in sleep, he was the most watchful wolf I would ever know.
When Conroy stood, he walked over to where I sat at the treeline. He walked around me and rubbed his tall, bulky frame against my side, nearly knocking me over. I caught myself at the last moment and ignored the amusement in his eyes as I answered the question he would never say.
“Once everyone is awake, Ma is taking us to the nearby river. She said it's the perfect place as the cool temperatures will ease the pain. When we were there yesterday, she located a well lit cave inches from the water.”
My giant of a brother nodded a thanks and I merely lightly swatted at him with my tail. He gave a wolfish grin and walked to the stirring huddle. Minnie was at the climax of her song, the notes reaching an insane pitch when howling. I followed after the grey wolf.
When we reached the huddle, seven pairs of eyes peered up at us. They all look fairly grumpy at being woken up but one pair held their usual profound confusion. I forced my muzzle to form a fairly terrifying grin at their sleep filled eyes.
“Time to go, boys and girls. We've got a bird to catch and a dragon to slay. In other words, we have a busy day and need to get going. Ace is up first in-” I looked at the blue expanse overhead.“-one hour. Chop chop. Let's go.”
They all scrambled to their paws, the sleep gone from their eyes. Minnie's howl ended in the background. They began to stretch and Boris planted his rump in front of me. He cocked his head.
“Why is Ace trying to slay a dragon?”
“No need to worry about that, Boris, we just have to get going.”
As everyone began to move around the clearing, clearly ready to head off, I noticed a form still laying by my paws. Otis had always been a heavy sleeper, capable of sleeping through the worst of storms so this was no surprise. The tiny grey wolf looked so adorable when he was asleep and not jumping on my face. He seemed to enjoy my annoyance.
I lent down and carefully picked up my younger brother by the scruff. I knew he wouldn't appreciate being in my jaws when he woke so I wove my way through my family until I found Kota. She was sitting with Conroy, all ready to go, patiently waiting.
I came to a stop in front of the brown she-wolf and placed her favorite brother on the ground by her paws. She sent me a grateful look before placing a protective paw on Otis's back as he snored.
I didn't get what was taking so long, we had no stuff so leaving should've been easy. I walked through my siblings until I found Ma talking with Ace and Nolan. I could tell it was about the shift since they were doing it soon but I didn't see why they couldn't do this at the river. I walked right in between my large grey brothers and quietly piped up as they fell silent.
“I know you're probably having a real heart to heart right now, but we need to get going. Times ticking.”
Ma nodded. She seemed to be watching me warily, waiting for my wolf to come out at the slightest sudden move. I pretended I didn't notice as she barked.
“Your sister's right, boys. We can talk about this when we reach the river. You'll want to be there when it starts, trust me.”
The two almost identical wolves nodded reluctantly. Ma turned towards the rest of our beloved little family and barked.
“Let's get a move on then.”
She didn't wait for a response as she trotted into the woods. One wasn't needed anyway, as we all followed after her into the shadows. Her speed picked up in a steady lope and we all matched easily. Somehow, Otis wasn't even swinging much in Kota's jaws as we ran.
Almost thirty minutes passed as we ran steadily through the trees before they opened up. The leaves above were exchanged for clear blue skies just as the soft grass and leaves beneath our paws became rocks. The river lay before us, the water unchanged from the day before.
We slowed to a trot as we made our way down the bank, picking our way through the rocks. Zale easily took the lead of our group as he bounded ahead. We all followed swiftly but cautiously, unwilling to risk a fall on the rocks. I kept an eye on the forest as a very subtle presence ran alongside us. I wouldn't have noticed it if I didn't already know the owner.
When we switched rocks for sand, we picked up speed yet again. I watched the forest as the occasional flash of brown appeared between trees. During one dart through a particularly large gap, I recognized Navy. She caught my eye and I managed a human-like wink as I ran alongside Boris.
The she-wolf almost stumbled in surprise that I had seen her but maintained her balance too quickly for anyone to notice. As we darted down the bank, I cast a look at Conroy. He had his eyes forward as we ran, blissfully unaware of the small wolf running alongside us. A quick look at the rest of my family told me the same.
I decided to let her follow us since she was clearly outmatched. I knew she knew what my blood contained now as I ran alongside my family. Our usual power radiated from us, making her tail lower in submission at the occasional glance I stole. She must have followed my scent last night to try and confirm my story. Especially since I knew hers. She probably wasn't expecting to meet a mini pack of Alphas though.
We slowed to a stop as we neared a section of the river that was lined by a cliff. I took a double take as I faintly recognized the area. My family didn't notice, but I sure did. I would recognize this particular cliff anywhere.
When I looked skywards to the edge, I had to look a little farther before I saw it. A large root hung at the top, further down the ravine. Around it the surface was mottled and torn apart. Chunks of rock had broken away and from here with my enhanced eyesight, I could just make out my faint claw marks. As I looked at the base of that section of cliff, I was satisfied to see blood drenching the rocks. I didn't see the cougar though and assumed it had been carried away on the river or something had eaten it.
I knew Navy had stopped following us, opting to watch from the nearest trees instead. I could practically sense her curiosity as she most likely followed my gaze. I wasn't sure what she thought she saw but she didn't react in the slightest so I wouldn't have the faintest clue what she was feeling.
Meanwhile, my family began walking single file next to the rapids. We made our way down the ravine till we found a cave. I had to admit, it was perfect for our situation.
The cave held a single room. The room was large and a majority of it was filled with water that poured through the wide gaping entrance. Light filtered in through the stalactite rimmed entryway, lighting up the darkest corners as it reflected off of the water pooling in the center.
The water at its deepest seemed to come up to the average wolf's shoulders. It swirled around as the water constantly changed, remaining clear. I could even make out each and every divot in the stone beneath.
We carefully padded around the edges of the small pool, making our way to the driest corners. Our paws stepped through the shallow water, soaking the fur there as we entered the shadows. I cast one last look over my shoulder as we entered, watching Navy walk back into the shadows of the trees. There was no possible way that she could observe us in the cave. I felt her presence fade further and further away as she returned to her family.
I entered the dry section and lay down next to the water's edge. My front paws lay less than an inch away from the cool liquid. I watched as Ace simply stood in the entrance, watching the swirling water warily. Ma entered behind him and nudged him with her nose. He reluctantly stepped deeper into the pool.
Ma stood in the entrance, watching as her pups situated around the pool while her eldest stood in the water. Then she began to shift and within three seconds she stood in her skin, a mere silhouette at the entrance. We all tensed and began to growl softly as her back was left unprotected. Two grey shapes slipped past her to the outside before anything could even consider harming her. Conroy and Sage wouldn't allow anyone to come within a ten foot radius.
Ma sighed at them and brushed a single brown strand out of her face. The beautiful face of my mother smiled as she spoke. The english words meant something else to me now. I found myself studying the way they were formed and performed with the knowledge that I would soon have to take my try at it.
“I know you're all scared and quite frankly, I was too when I first shifted. I'm not gonna lie, it's not easy and at one point you may just want to give up, but don't. You'll get through this. If I know one thing about my pups it's that you won't go out of this world without a fight.”
My heart warmed as my fear was washed away with my love and pride for my family. My wolfish grin joined the dozen others, even if Boris was confused, he got the gist of her words. We were going to fight and we were going to win and come out as new wolves.
We had faced the dangers of life together. Storms, earthquakes, predators and even poachers. We had come out stronger after every event, united by a new thread. The threads had built up over the years, knitting a strong rope that could never be severed. One measly shift couldn't even come close to severing the rope. The rope of love, strength, loyalty and unity. Our family ties.
The figurative rope had helped us throughout our lives. It had even unknowingly given me the strength I needed when fighting for my life. It had given me the strength to make it through the night and every one after that. That rope was our strength which was as unbreakable as the rope itself.
Thousands of wolves do this every year, they survive so I have no doubt we will not only survive, but thrive. We are Alpha’s after all. What's a little pain for a better life?
Then, the cave erupted into sound as the screams started.
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