Ghosts of Haunting Past

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Months have passed since that horrible night and the pain was slowly becoming a dull constant heartache. The children I took had sorrowful looks on their faces, they realised long ago that their parents weren‘t coming.

We were alone and I was close to dying myself.

As winter slowly started approaching, hunting was harder than ever, less and less animals were found in the woods that had become our refuge.

I stood up to my promise and cared for the children as if they were my own, I bathed them in the cold stream nerby, gave them food I managed to scramble, told them stories when the night was too menacing to let them sleep peacefuly.

The youngest of them soon started calling me mom and I didn’t tell them otherwise, they were blessed to forget the horrors of the night. To the two oldest I became an older sister, guiding and advising them.

There were six children, the oldest was Hadden, a seven year old boy with light brown hair, he tried to help me take care of the others as much as he could. Then was Sabah, a sweet girl with untamed dark-red hair, she was a year younger than Hadden and oldest of the girls.

Haken and Argo were both four, but that was their sole shared feature. Haken was Hadden's mischievous little brother, and resembled him with the same hair colour and facial features. Argo was a small scrawny girl whose hair shared the same colour as mine, light copper, resembling the setting sun. But her's was short and stuck out in impossible angles.

One of our two arctic foxes, two year-old Rem was such a curious little thing, always wanting to see what was going on. He had dark-brown hair, or black-blue, it kept changing depending on the light.

The youngest one of the bunch, a little girl only a couple of months old when the attack happened. We didn't know her name and she obviously couldn't tell us, so we named her. It was very exciting for the children and they came up with many names but we couldn't settle on any, then Hadden suggested Morrigan, which we all thought suited her the best. She was the second arctic fox and her feathery light hair was white like snow.

Little Morrigan was making me worry the most, she didn’t want to eat and was losing weight rapidly. I was terrified of her not making it through the winter. In my despair, I came up with a plan.

After a long time of contemplating it over and over I had decided that our time hiding in these woods had to cease. I had heard about a wolf pack on the other side of our muontain ruled by a powerful but somewhat strange alpha.

I hadn’t met him or any of his people before but I saw them as our only option, at least during the winter.

If they were willing to take us in.

And so we cleaned oursleves in the cold waters of a nearby stream and started our trek through the hill, towards the unknown pack.

I knew the exact moment we neared their land. The stench of wolves who rubbed and peed on every surface breaching their border was overpowering.

Did they have to mark their territory like a bunch of dogs?

I was already having second thoughts, but just one look at the children huddled around me and I found my resolve anew.

Not long after crossing the packs boundaries we were approached by two wolves guarding the border. Tall lean males, both naked after shifting, stood shoulder to shoulder quietly observing our rugged clothes and starved frames.

Their eyes stopped on me, “Why is a bunch of muts snooping around our border?“ spoke one of them.

I looked at my children, they were all covering away from the young men in front of us.

“I’d like to speak to your alpha,“ I countered.

„What for?“ the second asked.

„Take me to him and you’ll find out.“

They looked at each other as if silently communicating, they both nodded their heads almost at the same time. Looking at them closely, at their similarities, if they weren’t twins they must have been borthers.

They observed us some more, they could hardly consider us a threat to their people, and so they obeyed my wish.

Both men changing into huge grey wolves, earning few startled yelps and cries from the children, started leading us further into their territory.

I was carrying Rem on my back and little Morrigan in my arms and they were getting heavier with each step, making me stumble and fall to my knees a couple of times but the guards didn't show any sympathy and I didn’t ask for their help. Hadden always helped me to my feet.

Finally after almost two hours of walking, we reached the premises of the wolf settlement and I was stunned by its size. There must have been at least two hundred wolves living in this pack. It was unbelievable compared to our village of seventy foxes.

But foxes weren’t the type to live in a pack. The threat of hunters brought us together. Same hunters who later found us and despite our numbers butchered our village.

One of the wolves harshly nudged my side snapping me out of my thoughts showed me his annoyance with my stalling, I moved, he wasn't the only one that wanted this to be over as soon as possible.

As we were making our way through the village I had a chance to glance at the way of the wolves.

It was all too fascinating to me, yet scary as well, neither me nor my children had come in contact with other species of shifters and I could tell the children were terrified, holding onto each other and scraps of my clothing. I couldn’t do anything to ease their worry.

I started wondering if I should have left them in the woods and came here by myself but that thought sent shivers down my spine. No, they were safer by my side and that’s where they’d be no matter what happened.

We reached an open field where I could see men and women training both with and without weapons. Bodies colliding, scent of sweat weighting down the air. Bunch of wolves were running in large laps around the field, some sparring in their animal forms.

Their frames were tall and muscular, they looked much stronger than foxes, it was given since we closely resembled our animal side, even our hair was the same colour as our fur.

Foxes could never be stronger than wolves, but we were much faster and cunning which we were sure to use to our advantage.

But what I saw in front of us, the one who was approaching us wasn’t what I’d expected.

The way this man carried himself, the way all of them turned their heads towards him and showed him respect by slight tilt of their head was enough to convince me that this was indeed their alpha.

The man who was walking towards us in long strides was huge to say the least, taller than any wolf around, his muscles weren’t lean but bulky and big, his wide shoulders spoke of immense power and slightly longer dishevelled dark brown hair and short unkept beard hinted his wild nature. This was no wolf.

I could feel my children gathering impossibly closer to me, but in that moment even I wished to have someone to hide behind.

However, I was alone, I only had these tired skinny children.

My only reminder of a long lost home.

“Why are you bothering me with these children?” even his voice sounded wild, deep and rumbling, chilling to the bone.

He asked the question towards his men but I spoke before they could. “I wanted to speak to you, make an offer,” his hard gaze turned to me, the next words almost hitching in my throat but I somehow managed to find my voice, although almost whispering, I spoke, “I’ve heard about the strength of your pack and I nee.. want to ask for your protection.”

He cocked his head to the side while holding my gaze, and then grinned, as if he was mocking me, like I just told him something stupid. “And what can you give me in return for your protection fox? Do you think I would risk lives of my men and women for dirty mutts like you?”

He spat the word fox like it was venom on his tongue, my children flinched at his words, the two guards who brought us here were now snickering behind me as humans.

So this was the true reason they brought us here, they wanted a good laugh.

I jutted my chin out, no one was going to make fun of us in such way. “Forget I ever asked you for such thing, this is not worth my time, bear.” I tried to say the last word as an insult, it seemed to have worked since his expression changed.

“You might want to rethink your behaviour towards those who could easily hurt you.”

“How are you so sure that you could easily hurt me?”

“You can’t seriously think you would stand a chance against me.”

I couldn’t help but take in his impressive body again, seizing him up.

“I do.”

The guards behind me were laughing like they’d never heard anything funnier. How I wished we'd never stepped foot in this narrow-minded pack. Too late, I guess.

My ego urged me to show him that foxes weren’t something to make fun of, and so when he proposed a fight between the two of us with a menacing smile on his face I agreed without much thinking.

I’d gladly prove him wrong and then take my children back to the safety of the forest.

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