Mage's Fire

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Fifteen: Riley

Exactly seven months ago now, I was bitten. That was the only thing I could think about as Drew, Eddie, and I drove up to Sheriff Belmont’s cabin. It was on my mind as we went around to the back to change, and it was on my mind now as we ran through the woods.

I kept an eye on the east, where Donovan’s pack was running. He howled, and his pack howled with him. I growled, suspicious. He had fooled me before, leading me to believe that his pack was far away, when he had actually sent a smaller group of wolves to cross into my territory and attack us.

Drew whined at my side, her ears turned back. I rubbed my head against her shoulder, then barked once. Together, the three of us took off.

Once we were some distance away we slowed our pace, noses low to the ground. We searched for any scent of Donovan’s pack, looking to see if anyone had crossed over. As we did so, we also searched for any new scents. I caught the familiar scent of the rogue werewolf that tried to attack Nadia and I yesterday, but that was it.

Frustrated, I reached out and snapped my teeth around a small low-hanging branch. I broke it off and bit down until it snapped in my jaws.

As the severed ends of the branch hit the ground, another howl rose into the air. I pricked my ears forward, curious. The howl started off low and kind of quiet, rising in pitch and volume. Something in my chest stirred, and then I recognized the voice of the wolf howling. It was the same howl I heard last week when Sierra and Simon attacked me. Kai.

I tipped my nose up, howling in return. As the voices of the other Guardians joined Kai’s, Drew and Eddie joined me in responding to them. I cut the howl off abruptly and took off, while Eddie and Drew struggled to keep up with me.

The trees blurred as I ran by. Wind rushed through my fur and my blood sang as I gave my body the speed it craved. The others caught up to me, and we weaved and twisted through the trees, following the path Kai had led me on when he took me to where they were staying.

A boundary line came up. I slowed down, nearly trotting as I approached it. Kai and the others waited on the other side, all of them sitting in a neat row. As I approached, Kai stood, his tail drifting back and forth behind him. He barked once in greeting and I barked back, stopping just at the line.

He growl-whined, pacing back and forth along the line. He tossed his head around, keeping his green-gold eyes on me. Bas gave him a strange look, while Finn and Kayla rolled their eyes. I looked over at Eddie and Drew to see their reactions. They were half watching me, while giving him curious looks.

He finally stopped at the line, head high and tail waving back and forth. Without thinking, I took a step forward. He stretched his nose out, pressing it gently to mine. I drew back, surprised, and he went off again.

I growled softly, slightly annoyed. I barked once to Eddie and Drew, signaling that it was time to go. I heard them stand and walk away, noses sniffing close to the ground. Kai stopped and looked at me again. He whined once, taking a step forward. The other Guardians had risen to their feet, watching me expectantly. I turned my back on them and started to walk away.

Kai barked again. I stopped and looked over my shoulder. He had lowered his head and chest to the ground, his rear end sticking up in the air with his tail swishing back and forth. He whined, and I finally understood what he was asking.

I jerked my head, motioning for them to come over. Kai barked in excitement and tore off, passing over the boundary line in the blink of an eye. He ran up to me, rubbing his head against my shoulder in thanks. I growled softly, telling him that we needed to go.

He grunted, but he pulled away. Once he did, I took off. When I looked behind me, I was shocked to see that we were running in formation. Shaped like an arrowhead, I was at the front, with Kai running behind me to the left. Behind him was Bas, and then Finn. When I looked over my right shoulder, I saw that Drew was level with Kai, with Eddie, and then Kayla right behind her.

We ran for hours, noses close to the ground as we searched for signs of the rogue pack. If one had broken through, and if Kai was right about him being a scout, then more were sure to follow.

And follow they did. When we were at the northernmost point of the territory, we finally caught the scent of strange wolves. There were at least five scents that I could easily find, while the others were so faded or crossed over with another wolf’s scent, I couldn’t determine an exact number of how many there were.

Kai suddenly barked once in warning. Like an idiot, I looked back at him to see what was wrong. At the same time, a huge force was suddenly barreling into my side. I was driven to the ground, and as I heard and felt a rib or two crack, I caught a flash of blonde fur. Sierra.

Fueled by rage, I slashed and tore at her. She had rolled me over onto my back, and my ribs burned as she pressed against my back legs, which were just barely holding her off.

Suddenly, she was gone. I gasped for breath, looking over to see that Kai had dragged her away. He had his jaws around her neck, his mouth so large it nearly wrapped around her entire neck. When I looked over at the others, I saw that each of my wolves was engaged with one of Donovan’s.

As Sierra struggled against Kai, a low, furious howl filled the air. Everyone froze, glancing around curiously at each other. I struggled to my feet, snarling at Sierra. One of yours?

She whined pitifully, her blue-gold eyes wide in fear. No.

My eyes flicked up to meet Kai’s. He growled one more time and released Sierra. She scrambled away, looking in the direction the wolf’s howl had come from.

I looked up as well, shocked to see a line of wolves standing or pacing at the top of an incline. One was larger than the rest, with dark gray fur. Every single one of the wolves had dirty, matted fur, and when I counted, I was shocked at the number. There were twenty of them, and when I heard yet another wolf howl, and then three more, my stomach dropped. As Jack had predicted, there was more than the Guardians had originally thought. Way more.

The gray wolf stared down at me, his pure yellow eyes narrowed in fury. He snarled, his fur sticking up in every direction. Neither of us had to be human for me to understand what he was saying. Killer.

Drawing myself up to my full height, I snarled back at him. Every wolf behind me snarled as well, even Donovan’s wolves.

The gray wolf surveyed all of us, his eyes lingering on me and the Guardians a little longer than the others. Finally, he stood and barked once to his wolves. One by one, they stood and stalked away, until only their alpha remained. He stood as well, giving me one final glare. Then he, too, turned and disappeared into the dark forest.

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