Argus, head warrior, stood tall and steady in front of his group. These were the top warriors that he had been training hard and now instead of being comprised solely of Duskfall wolves, around forty percent were from the new packs. A credited achievement for wolves to be on such a close sparring level to the mountains finest fighters. Argus, of course, was proud as not all wolves could handle the harsh conditions, brutish hunt for game or the demanding terrain that came with the title.
“Warriors, we’re changing patrols today.” He produced a map of the territory and the new lines of the Eastern side, “This is the route, a few tweaks on the Southern cliffs and the Eastern peaks. Any questions?”
Lucy nodded her approval. She knew that the routes had been changed due to the sightings of Titania and she prayed that she could be found. The others also nodded, trusting their head warrior with their hunting routes. One wolf, however, studied the map with suspicion hard in their gaze.
“Great, then it’s settled. Now let’s discuss the plans for the hunt.”
The wolves cheered, hunting was a sweet relief from the gruelling hours of running and sparring. The newcomers of the group seemed quite surprised to be included, Titania had made it clear that the hunting parties were strictly for experienced wolves.
A Lithuanian male stepped forwards while Argus put the map in his kilt pocket. “The hunt is for all of us?”
Sensing their confusion, Angus clarified, “Winter is less than 9 days away and that means we can’t rely on vegetables due to the hard ground. We need to increase our food stocks, today we are hunting the red deer and beaver populations before they head South for winter.” He eyed all the wolves, “not all of us can live on the artificial foods all winter, our wolves won’t have it.”
“Our food choices aren’t that bad,” the male shrugged his shoulders.
“I know our young need sustenance and E-numbers won’t cut it. Don’t you want to hunt Azoulas?”
The underlying taunt had Azoulas quickly zipping his lips. His older sister, Leja nudged his shoulders. “Ignore him, I swear I got all the brain cells.” Azoulas scowled at his sister as she coddled him, “I can’t wait to karate-chop some deer balls and have me a nice beaver bag. Splendid, splendid I can just picture it now.” She had her hands in front of her as she described her hunting dreams.
Argus’s lips curled at the energy of the spirited wolf. Even Lucy's eyes gleamed with laughter as she stood arms crossed. The males and females around her were used to her outbursts and never dimming sparkle she constantly wore like a cloak. This group of forty-seven had become close, after months of hard work their comradery and bonds were only getting stronger; they had earned their title.
“Do you ever shut up?” The siblings were back to bickering.
“Do you ever say anything smart?”
Argus sat back with amusement, it made a change from the doom and gloom of the past week. Titania spotted in the Eastern valleys, Alpha Jared’s suspicious activity in Ash Crescent and the preparations for winter had all the superiors on top alert. Even Alpha Alfonso had been given command of the fish hunts to the Southern caves. It kept him quiet at least.
“Just because you’re two years older doesn’t make you smarter than me Leja.”
She scoffed, “That’s precisely why, stupid. I’ll let you sit here and worry while I go and hunt like the warrior princess I’ve always dreamed of being.” Her eyes widened, “My first hunt.”
“And last.” Azoulas got a fist to his jaw, “Hey! I think we’d all be better if we just left you out there.”
“You’ve asked for it baby brother.”
The wolves around just laughed as the quarrelling resulted in kicks and punches. After letting the steam dissipate, Argus clapped his hands, “Back to business, I’m going to tell you how we’re doing this.”
The siblings froze mid-fight, Azoulas’s hand in leja’s hair while her hands were wrapped around his throat. Another comic moment that made the lightness return to Angus. Reminding him of how Duskfall used to be. A better time.
Three hours later they returned to the packhouse with four deer, three beavers and seven injured wolves. Two of which were a pair of competitive siblings that didn’t know when to pick their battles. Overall Argus was content. The meat collected was a start, as the herd numbers would dwindle for the chilly months ahead. Garth had told him the day prior that the hunting days were limited, herds were moving to lower ground and even though they had been successful the past two winters; they now had more than a hundred mouths to feed, not something that they had needed to do before.
With Eoghan focusing efforts on Titania, Garth monitoring the pack activity, Lucy and Athdara scouting for the mole, Argus knew that the hunting priorities for the winter storage lay with him. Houses had to be fortified, extra thick hide blankets made for the children and the organising of the hunts without decimating the herd numbers. Helping the warriors skin the kill and preserve the meat, Argus let his mind wander. Lucy helped and soon four new deer blankets had been made and meat sat proudly cut to be cured. Only a supermarket food shop for the basics and they were set. Argus was also considering using Titania’s extra cabin as a storage for tinned goods and pasta. Overall, they were prepared as best they could be. Finished with the hunt, Argus sat back in his cabin, wondering just how much his life had changed.
Alpha Brett’s head was about to explode at the wolf that flinched in front of his desk. “Repeat what you just said.” The wolf cowered, and Brett’s anger rose several peaks, “Repeat. Now.”
“All-l-pha Jared has taken the herds...” The male shook but kept his head bowed. “The Shetland sheep, pigs and cattle are gone.”
Disbelief tore through Ash Crescent’s Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Their whole livelihood had been decimated and it didn’t take long for the wolves to come out.
Beta Kalïs growled, “How do you know this?” The young wolf, no older than seventeen managed to look at the wolf while the Alpha stewed. The room was quickly filling with ire from the stone-cold Alpha.
“I overheard from the Rosevelt pack. We were playing football and some of the boys had heard from their fathers...”
Brett smashed his fist through the desk. Unfiltered rage at such betrayal and dishonesty had rattled his wolf so hard that he was struggling, desperately to keep control of his wolf. Splinters flew, and his laptop clattered to the floor. Uncaring and eyes blazing, Brett promised dark retribution.
“Bring Jared and his men to me.” He addressed to his Beta and Gamma who scurried away with purpose. This had red alarm bells everywhere. Without the proper meat for winter, their wolves would struggle and with five other packs relying on him. This was not a situation to take lightly, not at all. He was in trouble.
He shooed the teenager out of the room, thanking him before picking up the phone. He set up a conference call with the other three Scottish Alpha’s. It was not often he asked for help but right now was a desperate situation. Four days till the official start of winter and he had no fresh meat to cure.
He waited patiently while the Beta’s got the Alpha’s together. Soon the faces of Eoun, Ruairi and Fraser made their way on to Brett’s smashed laptop screen. The last he had seen of them was over three months ago at the Elder Council meeting.
“Alpha’s it’s good to see you all. Thank-you for answering at such short notice.” Brett began, hoping his peers wouldn’t see this slip in preparations as an indicator of his capability as Alpha.
“I guess I’ll just come out with it. I’ve just been informed that one of my packs here has wiped out the whole Island’s game. We have no sheep, cattle or ponies to let us last out the winter and as an island, it’s not as if the animals migrate for winter. We have NONE on our entire island right now.”
“That’s an issue.” Fraser interjected, "how on Earth did it lead to that?” He muttered while lighting a smoke between his lips. Grey smoke swirled around the male.
Brett sighed, “Let’s just say one pack had an issue with my rule and choice in alliances.”
Figuring it out immediately Ruairi smirked, “This wouldn’t be a certain Titania eh?” A sadness took over from the comment and the males faces dropped. She had been a strong alliance to all of them through their difficulties. Her loss was hard-hitting to all of them.
“I guess Eóghan already filled you in on Duskfall,” The three hulking males nodded solemnly. “Well, then I assume you know that I’m having issues with the English Alpha Jared?”
Eoun snorted angrily, the mere mention of the pretentious Alpha heating his blood. “How could anyone forget the weasel. He should’ve taught his son better then he wouldn’t have ended up dead.” A muffled agreement was heard through the microphone.
Interrupting his conversation with the Alpha’s, Brett received an urgent message through the mindlink. Realising it was from his Beta he let it in, No sign of Alpha Jared and his top rankers. Altogether missing twenty-six warriors and high rankers. Cursing, Brett dug his nails into his palms.
Scout the ferries and flights. There’s only one place that I can think of him leaving to. He’s heading to Duskfall.
The revelation from his Beta Kalïs had added even more heat to the fire. He needed to be there for Titania. He needed to be at Duskfall. But with over a hundred wolves and a barren island, he was stuck.
He swivelled the camera to his face. His eyes glowing amber. “I’ve just been informed that the majority of the Rosevelt pack is gone and most likely heading for Duskfall.”
Fraser’s gruff voice voiced his displeasure. “Do these bastards think we’re just a bunch of stupid wolves? Looks like you and Alpha Titania got all the problem packs.”
That made sense to Brett. The Alpha Council were still none too pleased with Titania’s dismissal for a male mate. So to punish her, they gave her two so-called problem packs. With Jared not too far away.
“This is not on. What are you going to do Brett?” Ruairi kept calm and collected.
“I have two options. Continue being Alpha and try to get through winter with limited stock where wolves will die....or”
“Or?” Ruairi prompted, his bushy eyebrows scrunching together as he watched the torn male.
Brett took a deep breath, “Or go try to save the female that I fell for.”
The males knowingly looked amongst each other. There was no question of Brett’s dedication but revoking his Alpha title for a female was a serious gesture. Having been quiet but irritated at the chain of events to his peers, Eoun spoke up.
“We could take a pack each, you’ll need to see if Eóghan can too. Also, have a pack at Ash Crescent. I’ll send resources by plane as I’m the closest to you.” He reasoned, “But you’ll be giving up your Alpha title not even knowing if you can save Titania. She’s gone remember.”
Brett asked the one thing on his mind. “Each one of you would do that? So close to winter when you all have packs to wonder about anyway...” He ran a hand over his black hair, “You’d do that for me?”
“For you and Titania,” Ruairi added.
Looking over the three males, Brett nodded his head to them in respect. His mind was made up, no title could hold worth to the want and desire of Titania. “Thank-you. From the bottom of my heart Alpha’s, this won’t be forgotten.”
Ruairi just laughed it off, “Now go get her tiger.” He sent a cheeky wink for emphasis. Fraser bellowed at his antics.
“Just remember that the possibility of getting her back is low. You’re sacrificing a lot for uncertainty.” Always the pessimist, Eoun couldn’t help but remind Brett of the risk. This wasn’t some soppy love story, there was danger lurking around every corner. Not to mention the fact that winter could easily kill without prejudice or hesitation.
Acknowledging his friend’s words he agreed with the male but he was not the type to tuck tail and run. He lived for the chase.
“That may be true but Titania is worth the risk.”