Prologue - 1312
All day the sky had been covered in thick, black, roiling clouds warning of a large blizzard, but only now were the first few snowflakes beginning to fall. A young tundra wolf was racing up a mountainside, the lights of a distant village sparkling cheerily beneath her, completely unaware of the threat just above it. The wolf's bushy, dark brown fur looked black in the darkness and was speckled with pure white snow. Her powerful legs were a blur beneath her, and her bushy tail was bouncing with each step she took. Rounding a bend, she took the turn too quickly and slipped on the loose rocks. She clawed her way back to her paws and continued her made dash up the mountain. Her sharp ears turned towards the sound of pursuit just behind her. They were closing the distance. It was only a matter of time before they were upon her. The tundra wolf had to reach the forest. Then she would be safe.
The treeline was just around the next bend, the wolf recalled. Once she stepped over that boundary, they wouldn't be able to follow her any longer. The ancient enchantments would keep them out...but for how long? The protective spells were old and failing. There was a chance they would give away under the power of her pursuers. No, she couldn't risk thinking like that. She would make it, and the enchantments would hold. They had to.
She turned the corner and the forest came into view. It started abruptly, appearing suddenly as if it had no source. This strange attribute had given it its name: the Forest from Nowhere. Without pausing to gaze at the tall pine trees towering over her like she normally did, the tundra wolf crossed the border. As she passed through the enchantments, she felt them wash over her, the red light that appeared s she crossed running through her, admitting her into the forest. If any of her pursuers tried this, they would find themselves hitting a hard, impassable wall. The power of the enchantments coursing through her made her fur stand on end and her skin tingle. The soft forest floor was beneath her now, and she knew she was safe from those giving chase. At least for a while. But even with that knowledge, she didn't stop running. She couldn't risk being caught, even now that she was on her home turf.
Straight, left, right, right, straight, right, left, clearing. Straight, left, right, right, straight, right, left, clearing. She thought the directions over and over again. The way to the clearing had been embedded in her when she had joined the Triangle and now, after so long, she didn't need to think about them. Her wolf body instinctively took her where she needed to be. But thinking of them now kept her focused on something other than the failing enchantments and the dangerous, bloodthirsty enemies just behind her.
The young wolf slid to a stop, skidding into the clearing, her needle sharp claws tearing up the earth beneath her. Two wolves were sitting in the clearing next to a tree stump, waiting. They looked up when she entered. "What is it?" a shaggy, pure white wolf asked, studying the tundra wolf with his dark orange eyes. The Baffin Island wolf was the oldest of the three gathered wolves, and his voice was deep and powerful. The sound comforted her as it always did, slowing her frantically beating heart.
Though she felt more comforted, the gravity of their situation was not forgotten. Without hesitating she responded, "They are coming."
"Are the enchantments holding?" asked the third wolf. His fur was a sandy brown, his back and top of his head tipped with black and speckled with white. The steppe wolf was the youngest of the three, and the newest to the Triangle.
"For now; I felt them as I crossed the boundary," the tundra wolf responded. She approached the stump the others sat at. "But we must work quickly."
The stump that stood beside them looked, at first, like a normal tree stump, being several feet wide in diameter. It was covered in the brown of an oak tree, and the top of the stump where the tree had once stood was pale and brown. Dozens of rings showing the age of the tree that had been there decorated the surface. Carved into the top of the stump among the rings was the only thing that showed that the stump was different, special: a large triangle colored red, its tips touching the right side, left side, and top of the stump. The sigil of the secret group known as the Triangle.
"Were you able to bring the pearl safely, Young One?" The Baffin Island wolf turned to the steppe wolf. Though it was hard to tell in the mass of white fur, those that looked closely could see the gray in the older animal's fur. Those gray furs told the older wolf's story and how many moons he had seen come and go.
The steppe wolf nodded, reaching his head down to his chest. He tore something from around his neck, and when he looked up again, they could all see it. In his mouth was a leather pouch carrying the sigil of the Triangle. He carefully shook the leather pouch open, then placed it gently on the stump, dumping out its contents. A large, pink pearl with the red triangle etched into it sat before the three of them. "I protected it like you told me, Ajith."
There was a loud bang. The three wolves looked up and saw a red ripple run through the sky, descending in a dome shape. "We must hurry," Ajith said, his dark orange eyes filled with worry. "The incantation must be spoken in Latin and Home Tongue. Manisha," he spoke to the steppe wolf, "I need you to speak the Latin with me."
"Of course," Manisha nodded.
"Indira, you must speak the Home Tongue." Ajith turned to the tundra wolf.
"As you say," she responded, bowing her head. "When you are ready."
Together, Ajith and Manisha recited, "Periculum venit, minatus margarita."
"The danger has come, the pearl is threatened," Indira shadowed. The triangle on the stump began to glow red.
"Est autem considerandum quod ad custodiri."
"Now it must be sent that it may be protected."
"Dimittite eam per temporis spatium illud."
"Send it through time, send it through space." The glow from the triangle grew brighter, enveloping the whole stump.
"Mitte illam habere dignemini."
"Send it those worthy to hold it."
There was a blinding flash of red light, forcing the three wolves to look away. When at last the light faded, the three wolves turned to look at the stump again. The pearl was gone. Ajith nodded his approval. "They will not get their hands on it tonight."
A second loud bang echoed through the forest. The three looked up once more as the barriers that had protected the forest for centuries finally gave way. Red, sparkling, shattered pieces of the enchantments fell to the floor as the spells were broken. They had gotten through the ancient protections.
"They are coming," Ajith said solemnly, climbing to his paws. "Manisha, Indira, run. You are young and have lives yet to live. Leave now and you may live them. They will show you no mercy if you stay."
Manisha stood as well, standing beside Ajith. "I am not leaving you, Old Timer!" he exclaimed, a low growl sounding from deep withing his throat. "We will fight these people together."
"If the child stays, I stay," Indira told them, coming to stand on Ajith's other side. "Besides, you saved my life, Ajith, raising me when no one else would. Now it is time for me to repay all you have done."
Birds hidden in the trees cawed, taking flight as the approaching enemies scared them off. "Then we will fight together." Ajith dropped into a battle position, Manisha following. Indira dropped into a similar stance and bared her teeth. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her companions share a look, then nod to each other.
"Someone must be sent," was all Ajith said. Indira's eyes widened as she realized what they meant to do.
"Mitte illam, ut tueatur. Mitte illam, ut imperitos docete libere," Ajith and Manisha chanted.
Indira stood quickly, turning to face the two wolves, her companions, her friends. "No." Her voice broke as she spoke. "You said we would fight them together!"
"Send her that she may protect," Manisha translated. "Send her that she may teach."
There was another flash of light. Manisha and Ajith looked away. When the light was gone and they could both turn to look again, Indira was gone. "Forgive me, child," Ajith whispered at the spot she had been standing. "But it needed to be done." He turned to Manisha, a look of sorrowful pride on his face. "Let us go down fighting, knowing that though we may lose this fight, they still have not won. The pearl is gone and they cannot find it now. We have won this battle." He bowed his head to the young steppe wolf beside him. "It has been an honor to serve with you, Young One."
"Same to you, Old Timer," Manisha replied, a sad glint in his eyes. Ajith was pleased to see there was no fear hiding in his gaze.
Together, the two wolves turned to face their enemies who had entered the clearing. Without waiting, they threw themselves into the fight they knew the would not win.