Caen paced at the entrance of the Chief Council’s hut, unsure of what exactly he was going to say to change his mind. Exile was a harsh sentence, especially one for a revered warrior such as Caen Ze’ev. A thick swallow lumped in his throat, coughing back at his words. He continued to mumble to himself, practicing his speech in the thick tongue of the Lupine’s language.
“Caen.” A deep voiced rumbled from the behind the pelt door. It stilled the pacing Guardian, heaviness replacing his light feet. “Come in.”
Caen scrubbed his face, staring at the worn yellow of the hut. He wished to persuade his Chief away from his final decision, but Caen knew he was being lenient as it was. He was borderline a deserter for the distance he placed between himself and the valley last day, but he was not planning on getting caught at the betting boards in a mortal village. Letting out a meager growl of dissatisfaction, he pushed his way inside the spacious hut of the Chief.
He scanned the room and was taken aback to see his Chief had set himself to be surrounded by highly ranked Guardians of The Way.
“Chief Council Atlaes.” Caen greeted him with a quick nod of head, placing his fist over the center of his chest in respect. He kept his eyes on the guard’s past the Chief, trying to locate each one of his vantage points if his death were what the Chief would want after this plea.
Lupine’s were a deeply cultured tribe, preferring their priorities to be respect and devotion before all else. Caen had broken one of their more important rules; do not leave the valley without orders. Lupine’s were not a favored face in the world these days.
On a polished wooden chair with intricate carvings of wolf’s heads at the ear of the headrest, the Chief sat with a scorned look upon his face. He was tense with rigid shoulders hanging over a matching polished table. His hands were working tirelessly, one finger held strong over a vast map of the Valley, and his other scrolling in a worn-down book. He paused to dip his pen tip in ink, before sighing and releasing it into the pot.
Caen remained standing with his fist over his chest, chin strong with a set jaw. He did not remove his gaze from the Chief’s face as he waited to be addressed.
Atlaes glanced over at the bronze brazier that was covered in soot, kicking the leg of it slightly to get a log to drop further into its pit. A flame flared momentarily before settling, cracking embers in its wake.
“Caen, should you not be preparing for your leave?” He asked with a tense face, still refusing to look at the young man before him.
Caen cleared his throat, keeping his hand over his chest as he tilted his chin ever higher.
“I mean no disrespect, Chief, but I believe I would be better suited to remain in command on post here in the Valley. As I am meant to be.”
Atlaes froze his minuscule movements and stood straight. Quicker than Caen was prepared for. In that moment, Atlaes looked less aged than he was as he raised his body to its full height.
“You do not trust I know what is best?” His question was more of a challenge.
Caen should have held his tongue, but he was usually blunt in tense situations. “I trust you as I trust the Wolf-”
Atlaes’ hand came swinging down on his neat desk, toppling the ink pot onto the beat down dirt floor. “You will not speak of Gods here, son.”
Caen was recognizing his plea would most likely be left unheard, and that his father would not appeal to his own son. Atlaes was a fierce Chief, born and molded for the role. His heart was that of steel and his mind was a fortress not any could outsmart. Caen hadn’t inherited any of his father’s mannerisms and was truly kind of heart like his late mother. Caen had enjoyed leisure, where his father and younger brother only knew of work and war. There were no physical wars to be dealt with, but those that were of the mind.
Caen’s mother had told him as a boy that Aeric and his father were like a caged bird, trapped by the masters of their own minds. They subjected themselves to the torture that if they were not always thinking, planning, working...that they were nothing of importance.
Caen had learned everything good from his mother, and this moment he missed her more than anything. He knew she would have persuaded his father against this. Father did anything mother asked and was only tender hearted with her and his daughters. He saved brash for his boys.
“My decision is final, Caen. You have made your bed, now you must lie in it. I have tried to reel your foolery in time and time again, but you will make the Ze’ev name a joke no more. Your consorts and jests will end here. You have never taken what is expected of you seriously, and now you will pay that price.”
Caen growled to himself, throwing his fist deep into the earth beneath his feet. He was becoming frustrated with the war that waged in his mind. He had only just begun his search, despite the logic that even if he was successful, it might still not bring hope for his kind.
He thought of the stories he heard as a child again, as he had been for many moons now trying to remember anything of value. There was one tale he was fixated on. The story of the long-lost Lupine Princess who was sent west to marry a mortal king. This had happened before the Order had begun, and her disappearance caused the death of thousands. He had begun to believe the story was that of a false tale, after being months into his search and coming up empty handed. All he had ever been told was that the Princess was taken by an unknown magic, or perhaps it was demons. No one truly knew, and a war was born from it.
Caen was somewhat thankful for his newfound freedom, despite the solitude of it. He felt in his heart that Lupine’s were never meant to remain complacent as they had been since the war. They were created from the blood of a God, Lupae. He was the God of Kin, the God who protected all those of blood and innocence. Lupine’s were built to run, and roam. To fight. To fuck. To create families and protect those within the entire Realm. They were not meant to be complacent at all.
The legends of their kind were vivid. Tales of the Sun’s rays bringing the true bronze to their skin, a sign of vitality from the God Lupae himself. His old Gran had once said that the greens of the beach grass and the algae flush shore were what brought the bright greens unto their eyes. A sign they could see into the Earth and be one with her bounty. He smiled to himself, hearing her withering voice whisper over a hot hearth.
“For dirt runs through our veins, Caen. Not only to make you stronger, but to connect you with the earth. We are all one with the Force of Nature because of Lupae, my child. Do not forget where you come from.”
Caen brought himself to a stance, glowering around the deep woods of the ancient forest. Long gone were the bodies of the men and creatures of Gods, in their place stood trees so tall he could not see their tops. He brushed his palm over aged bark, admiring the deep lines that brought magnificent reds and browns together.
This land was sacred, that he knew. Not many dared to enter the bloody lands these trees sprouted from. Legends of voices that would feed into your fears did not frighten Caen so easily, for he felt he had no fears now.
His leather gauntlet gloves strained under the pressure of his balled fist. He could still hear the screams of his people. He shook the thought, growling through his nose as he continued. Letting himself zone in on his surroundings, letting the land lead him. After a while, and no obvious markers that he might be getting anywhere of importance, he glanced down at his compass. Only to notice it had begun to spin without cause.
“What in in Lupae’s name...” He growled, shaking the mechanical device a few times. To no avail, the compass remained spinning. Caen felt a strange chill hit his spine, and his nature began to vibrate within him. It was sensing something.
He reached his hand over his shoulder, gripping the hilt of the sword that was sheathed on his back. He curled his fingers around it tightly. Feeling the cool leather binds eased his nerves a bit. He was not one to be jumpy, especially when it came to fighting. But something felt off. His whole body screamed for him to figure out what.
“Fear not Caen Ze’ev. I am no enemy.” A baritone voice called out. The voice had no distinct direction; it sounded as if it were all around him.
“State your title.” Caen directed; his fearlessness was fierce in the early morn light.
A light wind picked up around him, chilling him even through his woolen leg coverings. He inhaled deeply, picking up the scent of a dewy fog coming towards him from the north.
“Follow the Way and you shall find the answers you seek.” The voice called back, more disembodied this time. The fog grew thicker around him, only to pull back and dance its way through the girth of the trees ahead of him.
With his sword unsheathed, he began a brisk pace after the moving mist. Was this sorcery, or a tick of mind like the stories claimed would happen? It felt real, and he did not think himself dead nor felt like he was under a hallucinogenic tonic. The fog did not relent its fast pace, pushing Caen to run with it. He shoved his sword back in its holder along his back and ran even faster. There was a pull in his chest; a tight feeling that felt warm and sacred in nature. He could barely understand what was happening, or if it were even happening at all.
He ran until his chest began to burn and his heart thumped loudly in his ears. Perspiration was running down his temple and flying off his skin like spritzing rain in the spring. His brows furrowed when the fog began to break apart as a light pierced through a break in the forest
He pushed himself harder, not allowing himself to give this mystical fog a chance to dissipate.
“Where are we going!” He shouted, frustrated as more fog continued to fall away into the air ahead. Caen leapt forward, attempting to catch the fog with his hands. Only to fall onto icy rock with a loud growl.
He picked his head up and looked around frantically. No longer was there fog, nor trees at all. Caen was surrounded by melted snow and sleet.
He looked up to see a vast blackened wall of rock and stone, a wall higher than even the trees he had just been sure he was surrounded by. His eyes trailed up, and up, and up the wall until his body froze from a shockwave of nerve.
His sight had landed on a raven-haired woman, sitting atop the grey wall with her eyes closed and head dropped behind her.
He could not believe his sight entirely after the wicked fog, but he was damn sure she was a Lupine that he was seeing atop the massive barrier of stone.
The last female Lupine.