“Just a little farther,” my brother promised through our mindlink. “Come on, Mikey! We’re almost there!”
I ran as fast as my short legs could carry me, shadowing the rusty brown of his fur. He was four years older than me, and therefore a lot quicker than I was. I’d only begun shifting into my wolf a year or so ago, which meant I was still trying to get the hang of running on all fours.
I hadn’t returned to my human form in months as we’d been sprinting from territory to territory endlessly. Neither of us have had a cooked meal since our mother’s disappearance. I hated to admit it but I was starting to forget what she looked like.
The only pair of jeans I owned hung loosely in my sore jaw as I forced my aching calves to propel me forward. My brother was beginning to run ahead of me a bit and I was struggling to keep up with him.
“Slow down!” I pleaded. “I’m tired!”
“I am too!” He hissed. “But we can’t slow down, we have to keep going!”
I rolled my eyes as I forced my fatigued body to press on, jumping over twigs and tree trunks that jutted out of the Earth. My stomach rumbled painfully as I hadn’t eaten in days.
“I’m hungry,” I whined.
“I know,” he replied. “I’ll find you food, I promise! Just keep running!”
I pushed my oversized paws to the limit, tromping through the murky forest with all of my might. My lungs burned with overuse and it was beginning to feel like all of the air was being sucked out of them.
“I can’t breathe,” I wheezed internally.
“It’s okay,” he assured me. “The airs thinner in the mountains, we’ll get used to it.”
“But I-!” Our link was severed as I tripped over a protruding stone.
I came crashing to the soggy ground in a clumsy pile of flailing legs. My snout plunged into a puddle of mud, packing my nostrils with the putrid soil. I plopped onto my hind quarters as I began to aggressively huff and snort in an attempt to clear my clogged airway.
“Dammit, Mikey!” My brother scolded while urgently nudging me with his nose. “Be quiet! You’re gonna get us killed!”
“Mom said no cussing,” I reminded him while shaking my head and standing.
“Mom said a lot of things,” he scoffed. “Feel free to tell on me when you see her in the clouds, because that’s where you’re heading if you don’t SHUT UP!”
“Moms not dead,” I argued.
“She never came back!” He barked while glaring at me with his glowing golden eyes. “So she’s either dead or she abandoned us! Whatever way you choose to look at it, she’s not here! I am! So you have to listen to me!”
“You don’t have to be so mean,” I muttered while trotting beside him.
“I’m not being mean,” he argued. “I’m keeping you alive. Now stop arguing and keep up!”
I shook a lengthy tuft out of my eyes and did as he said. I knew better than to piss him off. He was bigger and could beat me silly if I challenged him. I began to wonder if I’d ever be big enough to take on my older brother.
Growing up he always made it his job to care for me. Even in our home pack, our parents were always busy so we were left alone a lot. That meant I was forced to learn everything from the person I idealized the most, my brother.
When we fled our home pack he took it upon himself to school me. He taught me how to hunt and fight properly, allowing me to win a handful of times. He always went easy on me unless I had managed to anger him, which seemed to be quite often lately.
Maybe he hates me, I thought snidely to myself.
“I don’t hate you,” My brother groaned ahead of me.
“What?” I asked in confusion, not understanding how he could’ve possibly heard my innermost thoughts.
“You know I can still hear you right?” He smirked.
“No you can’t!” I denied, momentarily forgetting that he could listen in to my thoughts if they were loud enough.
I wasn’t used to being tethered to anyone in this way. While I’d been mindlinking with him for as long as I could remember, it always felt incredibly forced and unnatural. Since my first shift into my wolf, it had been much easier. Heck, it’s been so easy that I’ve accidentally broadcasted my thoughts to him on numerous occasions.
“Still hear you,” he sighed.
“How do I turn it off?!” I demanded in embarrassment.
“You can’t,” he smirked. “You’re not strong enough to push me out of your head and I’m not going anywhere until I can trust you not to do stupid shit!”
“I’m not stupid!” I rebuked. “Just because Dad died doesn’t mean you get to boss me around!”
“Shut up, Mikey!” My brother demanded.
“No!” I yelled internally. “I don’t have to listen to you! I’m a big-!”
“SHUT UP, MIKEY!” He roared, giving me a headache.
“You don’t have to be so rude,” I whined.
“Sh!” He hushed. “Listen!”
I perked a pointed ear at the sky, doing my best to filter out the overpowering noises of wind playfully kissing the surrounding trees. After a moment of straining to hear anything besides the billowing leaves, it hit me.
“Footsteps?” I asked, earning a nod from my brother.
His amber orbs studied the darkness to our left as he used one of his powerful paws to swiftly smack me toward the ground. He crouched beside me and rested his neck above my head, shielding me.
The sound of two sets of quickened footsteps cut through the drizzling night sky. Fear clenched my pounding heart as I nuzzled deeper into my brother’s damp fur.
“Human?” I whispered through our tethered thoughts.
“No,” he answered curtly. “They’re moving too fast to be human.”
“One of us,” I gulped.
He nodded slowly above me and I did my best to disappear into the murky soil around us. We were traveling in unknown territory in search of another pack. I had been incredibly excited to see our own kind again up until this point. Now that they were so near I wasn’t so sure. I’d never taken into consideration what would happen if they weren’t welcoming.
“What if they’re mean?” I whimpered.
“Then we run,” he assured me. “Now stop whining like an eight year old and pay attention.”
“I’m nine,” I reminded him.
He pulled away slightly to curl his lip at me, showing his glistening canines as a warning. I shut up and pressed my belly against the ground. The sound of several more sets of paws hitting the soggy grass had my entire body trembling.
My brother laid a soothing paw over mine as a sign that he wished for me to calm down. I did my best to slow my unsteady breathing and attempted to pull my leg out from beneath him, knowing that he’d step on it with all of his weight if he decided to jump to his feet quickly.
Just as I had predicted, my brother lifted his legs from beneath him. He hunched over into an aggressive fighting pose that I quickly mimicked. He bared his fangs at the ominous darkness.
“Stay low,” he ordered. “If anything happens, run.”
“No way!” I scoffed. “I’m not leaving you behind.”
“Mikey, I’ll be fine!” He snapped. “I don’t have time to argue with you! I’ll find you by morning if we get separated, I swear! But if we get attacked I need you to ru-!”
A blur of grey and white fur erupted from the shrouded foliage ahead of us and caught my brother right in the shoulder. A sharp yelp fell from him, followed by a vicious snarl.
I watched in horror as my brother’s brown form writhed and bucked beneath the weight of the massive beast. The fully grown wolf clacked it’s unforgiving jaws repeatedly, trying relentlessly to get a hold of his throat.
“Mikey!” He howled through our link. “Run!”
I should’ve, but I couldn’t. I was too proud and still under the illusion that I could do anything my big brother could. I snarled as ferociously as my little lungs could muster and hurled myself at the lightly colored monster.
I sunk my needle like canines into the bony skin of the wolf’s tail, causing it to cry out in immense pain. It released it’s hold on my brother and began spinning around in circles to get a hold of me. I ignored the bitter taste of blood that was filling my gullet and locked my jaws on our fearsome foe.
My brother lept from the ground and took a wild chunk out of the animal’s neck. A gurgled howl fell from it’s muzzle as it continued to struggle. My breath caught in my throat as something big and heavy dove into my side.
I heard my ribs crack beneath the immense weight and I ripped out a chunk of furry flesh as my body hit the dirt. A giant black and grey wolf stood over me, his slobbery fangs bared. I knew I shouldn’t break eye contact during a challenge, but a sudden yelp to my left caught my attention.
I turned swiftly to see several wolves pouncing on my big brother all at once, biting and scratching at his matted fur. He was desperately trying to get to me, but the unfamiliar pack created an impermeable wall around him.
A stomach churning growl vibrated from the wolf above me, giving me no choice but to turn back and meet the intimidating emerald gaze of my attacker. Power radiated from every strand of his fur and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who he was.
Even if I wasn’t already convulsing nervously at the amount of authority he seemed to exude by simply breathing on me, the green eyes and dark fur were dead giveaways. Almost every Alpha in the States had jade colored eyes and a black wolf, as it was a tell tale sign of them being the second purest bloodline of Lycan.
My brother and I would technically pass as being heirs of the purest breed of werewolf since we hailed from a very exclusive pack in Ontario. But since the fall of our gorgeous city at the hands of the dreaded vampire king, we were nothing more than filthy rogues with golden eyes.
I heaved slightly, finding it hard to breathe as splintering bone jabbed my lungs with each inhale. My body trembled uncontrollably as the massive male pulled back slightly, readying his deadly canines.
“Mikey!” My brother screamed through our link.
I could hear him snapping and biting in the near distance, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of the treacherous fangs above. All I could do was watch in terror as the vicious Alpha lunged forward to deliver a fatal blow.
His jaw clamped around the entire perimeter of my neck, severing my air supply and puncturing my thick pelt. Pain erupted from my throat in a thunderous blur as my fur became saturated with my own blood.
I gasped and yapped at the night sky for a final breath, hoping that the moon Goddess would have mercy on me. I could faintly hear my brother howl out in anguish.
“MICHAEL!” He sobbed.
I allowed my head to hang lazily to the side as I was losing a quick battle with my eyelids. Dark spots shrouded my vision as I watched my brother scratch and bite every wolf that stood in his way. He fought tirelessly to reach me, but it was no use.
The Alpha that stood above me stepped on my chest to add further insult before sauntering over to his pack. The wolves parted like the red sea once he’d reached them, giving him a clear shot at my brother. I admired his bravery as he puffed his chest out at the giant, willing to take him on to get to me.
My blurred sight prevented me from seeing more. The final thought that crossed my murky mind as I fell into unconsciousness was a silent prayer.
Please Mother Wolf, I begged with the last of my strength. Don’t let my brother die.