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Torn Loyalties

By Dominique Goodall All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Fantasy

Prologue

Blood splattered the snow-covered ground as the wolf-like lyk’osk’in dropped the dog to the ground, snarling fearlessly into astonished faces of the humans watching. As blood pooled and melted the snow, the voice of the creature stilled for a second. When the acrid scent of fear flooded the air, the creature turned. With one mighty spring of muscled back-legs, it lifted itself up and into the trees. There was no hesitation as the creature disappeared upwards into the branches. Leaves shivered for a moment before everything stilled. Howls rang out from the forest as the beast made his getaway.

As the muffled voices broke out behind the beast, new lives were being celebrated in the packs whose territory he traversed. He was ignored by the patrols that saw him, his body leaping from the ground to the trees in effortless bounds. Even when darkness hid him, he was clearly in a rush. When he was challenged at the boundaries to his own home, his grey and black coat fluffed up and his lips curled lightly. His voice was deeper for the way he panted heavily, tired out from his run back to his own territory.

“You dare challenge your l’er’oma? You know that after our ath’er’in, I am the one to rule and it is to me you are meant to bow.” His lips curled back in a snarl before he heard the growling coming from the den. “Now leave me, go patrol again. I hear our lyko’a is birthing her pups. Make sure you tell the kh’in’sha to hunt plenty of food. She’ll need to eat for our young ones.” He loved the fact that within the kh’in’sha, pups belonged to all the Lyk’osk’in. They would raise this litter as they had every other- equally.

Even as he mused this idea, his legs tensed and he leaped to the ground smoothly, snapping automatically at the i’an’in when he got too close. There was much work to be done here this night, and his ath’er’in needed to know that his task had been a success. The humans wouldn’t be as aggressive this time when moving through their territory now they knew the lyk’osk’in were watching and ready for them.

***

One of the packs to call their voices out loud had problems of their own; they were in the middle of a fight. Their ath’er’in were trying to get to their den, the lyko’a’s stomach rippling every few seconds as she gave out low whimpers of pain, her body supported by her lyko mate. His teeth flashed in the growing darkness as he fought off the l’er’oma lyko’a intent not on him, but the labouring form of his mate. The rest of their kh’in’sha watched in silence as blood spilled to the ground.

When the panting, shivering lyko’a slipped into the den, her mate snarled his challenge out loud. His voice targeted the l’er’oma, and the three remaining lyk’osk’in dropped their heads in shame as the bloodied, torn frame of the female wolf settled into the snow. The low rumbling growl was constant as he guarded his mate while she birthed the new pups for the kh’in’sha. Tension was thick in the air, all of them watching the ath’er’in lyko as he remained alert.

They’d have to sort out the lack of trust among them once they knew if the pups would survive. Even as his paws became bloodied from the slushy snow, he stayed firm and resolute. With his shoulder set straight, he blocked the entrance into his lyko’a so she could birth in piece, though one ear flicked backwards as he listened out for any sounds of distress coming from behind him.

Slowly, as time drew out unbearably slow, the tension eased. As the sounds of panting and high-pitched whines slipped into the air they relaxed, eyes averted from the now cooled body in on the ground. So much could have gone wrong that the lyk’osk’in were relieved to see the ath’er’in settle down into a more relaxed, but still watchful pose. Their lives too would be changed this night, with the loss of someone once respected and looked up to, as well as the arrival of their newest young.

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