I'll find you.
Signing my name at the bottom of the twelfth form today, I dropped my pen and stifled a yawn. Dropping the paper in my outbox, I reached for another, my hand froze in midair when Jeremy’s breathless message crashed into my skull. “Alpha, poachers on property. We were attacked and I got separated from Adeline, need help.” Springing to my feet, I vaguely heard the sound of my chair crashing into the wall behind me. I instantly linked my patrol. “Patrick, there are hunters on the property.” I linked to Patrick afterwards, knowing he knew what to do and who to contact. Bursting through the door of my office my fists clenched and unclenched and my body started to tremble. I needed to shift. Now. Fighting the urge to shift right here in the middle of the pack house left me agitated and sweaty. I had barely made it out the door when my wolf burst forward, shredding my clothes and growling furiously. These hunters endangered my pack and my mate. Adeline was out there by herself, with armed hunters. Seeing a wolf her size would goad any hunter into firing out of self defense. Although the territory was clearly marked with “No Hunting” signs, hunters still decided to explore the property every once in a while, thinking that there would be bigger and better game. That and since the town heard the occasional howl of wolves, poachers who wanted to try their luck bringing down wolves were often caught armed to the teeth, staked out in the forest.
A loud and sudden crack sounded off to the west. Gunfire. Pulled out of my thoughts I shoved my nose in the air trying to catch the scent of the hunters, and my mate. Running towards the gunfire, I thought I smelled three unknown scent signatures. My wolf growled at the thought of these men on our grounds, shooting at my mate. Sniffing again, I searched for Adeline’s scent as I ran. My ears perked up when I smelled it, it was far away but it was definitely hers. My relief at finding her scent was soon eclipsed by another emotion. Panic. The metallic sting of blood overpowered my mates retreating scent.
Whatever control I had over myself was fading as my wolf wanted to take over completely. I forced myself to go faster as I contacted my patrol. Commanding them to scare the hunters to the borders where I would have the pack members involved in the local law enforcement in human form, ready and waiting to take them to the authorities. The thought that Adeline might be hurt made me want to tear into the hunters. Knowing that if the hunters were attacked the state may try to look into the area, was the only thing holding me back from going straight in for an attack. Just having them see us was a risk.
Bursting out from the trees, I saw a large hunter with his back turned to me. He was wearing a bright orange vest over his camo shirt. He was firing into the trees in front of him clearly spooked. Hearing the whimper of an injured wolf, I bound forward jumping at the hunter, using my front paws to push him to the ground. The rifle fell from his grasp, and using one of my paws, I pushed his head into the ground while I growled. Leaning forward I caught the rifle in my jaws and snapped it in half in one quick movement. Using his body like a stepping stone, I launched myself forward into the trees he had been firing into.
Looking behind me I saw the hunter was unconscious from the fall and the shock of my tackle. Jogging to the group of wolves that were now coming out of the trees, I saw that one of the wolves had been shot in the shoulder. Ordering someone to take him to the pack doctor, I allocated three wolves to begin dragging the man to our borders, and the rest of the group to patrol for more hunters and Adeline.
Rushing off into the trees towards the smell of my pack, I linked Patrick asking for an update. “Our count is up to 5 hunters, possibly more, still no sign of Adeline.” Cursing, my thoughts drifted to my mate as I answered Patrick. “Okay, I’m going to search for Adeline and then I’m on my way to you. Does Jeremy remember which way she went?“. It was silent for a few moments as he ran. Finally Patrick answered ” He remembers where they separated, but her scent is everywhere past that point.” Thunder boomed overhead as clouds rolled in, covering the sun. “Zach, she might have decided to run. This would be a good opportunity to escape.” My wolf howled and my jaw clenched at the thought. “She didn’t.” I replied. “I hope not, but perhaps we should be prepared for the possibility.” Running faster I cut off communication with my beta. Somehow, at this moment, I couldn’t accept the very real possibility that Adeline would run.
Passing a point here a few of our running trails converged, I caught Adeline’s scent. Knowing it was old, I followed it anyways, until I reached the point where her scent weaved between the trees and all around the right side of the trail. It smelt like she had been running around like a madwoman, spreading her scent on everything. Grimacing, I finally understood what my patrol meant when they said ‘Her scent was everywhere’. The wind grew colder and more insistent, the damp smell of approaching rain both spread and dulled her scent. Looking at the sky I prayed for more time before the rain came, as it would wash away her scent. Putting my nose to the ground I examined the multiple sets of paw prints, picking her smaller ones out from the larger paws of my patrol. Sure enough her paw prints were sporadic, not following any set pattern.
Soon her paw prints were eclipsed by others, and the scent of my patrols and the hunters were drowning hers out. Determined not to give up, my wolf clung to her scent like it was life itself. Thinking of Adeline made me feel both guilt and anger. My wolf had been on edge, angry for not being more forceful with her from the beginning. When we had first seen her, standing scared and defiant on that fire escape, I had been mesmerized by her. As the wind blew her scent towards me, it had taken me almost everything I had not to pull her into my arms, just to get another lungful of her.
Every step backwards she took felt like a rejection, and my wolf howled in displeasure, urging me to yell for her to stop. It was only her scent tainted by the fear living in her eyes that restrained me. When Jeremy had touched her, I wanted to rip his hand off. How dare he touch her when I hadn’t, when I knew I shouldn’t. I had kept my wolf at bay by being close to her, by stealing the few moments we had alone before we took her home with us. Patrick had called for Jeremy to come back up to sedate her, but I had sent him back. I didn’t want her to be frightened, and if anyone was going to touch her, it would be me.
Even bringing her back to the house had been a hurdle. Her words in the car as she spoke back to my beta, as she spoke badly about me, had been infuriating; however, when she spoke so fearlessly, so honestly, and then so vulnerably, pouring her heart into her words, I couldn’t help but respect her. Most new wolves I met, including rogues, were either terrified of us, instantly submitting, or angry and disrespectful. Even though she had shown me both, she had done it with dignity, only angry about the injustices brought against her, being angry without being hateful and being scared without submitting. My wolf had wanted her to submit to me, he had wanted to claim his Luna. When I discovered that she didn’t fully understand the concept of mates, he had wanted to pull her into my arms. ‘We’ll make her understand. She will want us, she will know us. She is our mate.’ As tempting as that was, I knew that crowding her would only push her away. She needed space. Time.
Now that she was missing and potentially gone, the thought of how much easier this would have been if I had marked her, hell, if I had gone with her instead of letting her run with Jeremy kept running through my head. Although I understood that Jeremy did what he thought was best, and I knew he wouldn’t make a call that would put her in harm’s way intentionally, I knew that no one could protect Adeline better than I could. Yet I didn’t. I wasn’t there when she needed me, and now she was lost and potentially in danger. My wolf writhed in the guilt my dark thoughts had birthed. The only reprieve was the sound of wolves up ahead, and the scent of my pack, and even that was temporary.
Reaching another large group of scouts during my search for Adeline, I was happy to see that three of the hunters had been lured to the edge of our lands. Two had been dragged there, where they were already in custody. Some of my warriors had stayed in human form so that they could help scare the hunters by shouting through megaphones that they were on private property and would be arrested. The hunters, scared by the prospect of being caught, had attempted to evade them, and walked right into the waiting hands of my men. One of my warriors had come upon a man shooting, and had pelted him with large stones from behind, the man took off, tripped and knocked himself unconscious.
With five hunters down, we began to believe we were done. Linking my patrols, I growled when neither had seen Adeline. With another clap of thunder, it had begun to sprinkle lightly. More thunder and a flash of lightning warned of an oncoming storm. I had started to run off from the group. Remembering the scent of blood I smelled earlier, I went off to find my mate. The men had begun celebrating when Jeremy cut through our celebratory howls with an angry growl of his own. I stopped as his words filled my head. “We aren’t finished.” He linked to the group. ” Most of those men carried rifles, but earlier we were shot at with arrows.” The group froze, scowls and snarls taking over their faces “Someone is still out there.” Jeremy finished.
With another clap of thunder, all hell broke loose. The patrols split back up to find the last hunter, and I ran back towards the trail Jeremy had taken Adeline down. The rain was pouring down now, the unpredictable storm a living metaphor for today’s events as a seemingly sunny, and harmless day had turned violent. Reaching where I had left off, I started to panic as her paw prints and scent, the last remnants I had of her started to wash away. As her scent disappeared, I ran forward towards a particular set of tracks. Her scent was leaving the clearing, but my heart filled with hope as a sudden burst of her scent appeared just up ahead. Following it, I was led to a bush she must have hid in. It’s thick branches protected her scent that still remained within. Seeing the remnants of paw prints, I followed them across the way to a second bush, thankful for the thick canopy of trees overhead that had partially protected her trail.
Following the prints as they were being washed away, a couple of new scents filled my nostrils. Running up to a tree, I stood up on my hind legs and sniffed for the source of the first scent. Gun powder. Seeing the bullet hole and surveying the splintered bark that littered the ground around the tree, I saw red. The fact that I found this so close to Adeline’s scent meant that the hunter had shot at her. Some bastard had the audacity to shoot at my mate. My wolf demanded full control, promising a slow and bloody death to whoever had threatened her, to whoever had dared to take a shot at her. Fighting him back, I reminded him of the second scent. The acrid scent that had caught our attention earlier, the metallic scent that merged with the rain, slowly fading, while remaining burned into our nostrils. Blood.
The last visible prints I could find after I found the gunshot, veered to the right. Staying in that direction, I started sniffing every rock, tree and bush along the path, hoping she had brushed up against them, leaving her scent behind. By this point I was drenched, My fur clung to me, matted with mud and leaves. Mud was caked under my claws and in the crevices of my paws, and I found myself constantly throwing my head back to shake the never ending stream of water from my eyes. Luckily, sniffing everything my snout came into contact with had paid off. Picking up on her scent on a tree trunk, I sniffed everything around it, until I came to a thick group of bushes nearby. Smelling them, I realized she had gone through here. Pushing through the bush slowly, my body stiffened as I picked up on another scent nearby.
Coming out of the bushes, my eyes widened. If I had been running, I would have run straight off the steep cliff-like incline that began just a few steps from the bushes. Barely out of the bushes, the strong smell of urine stuck to a tree to my right. Choosing to look over the edge of the ravine first, I noticed that the heavy rain had begun to flood the bottom of the ravine. My guess was that by now the water would be a little under my knees. My eyes frantically searched the hill and the ground below, looking for any sign of my mate,all while I hoped I didn’t find one.
I silently prayed to the moon goddess that Adeline had made a right or left out of the bushes instead of running straight through. We had established paths far from this ravine for a reason, as before pack members would injure themselves by running off it in the dark during full moon runs, and because it would flood and was prone to mudslides during storms. Squinting through the foggy haze of the rain, I finally found what I was looking for. My heart sank, and my wolf howled as we came across the boulder, embedded into the wall of the ravine. Blood was smeared across its jagged top. It dripped down the boulder and into the dirt below it as the rain washed it away. Not even a foot below it, a bush that was growing from the hillside was barely hanging on, as something had rolled over it with such force that it was almost ripped from the hill altogether. Panicking I took a few shaky steps back. Adeline had gone over the edge.
Moving back, my rump hit the tree. Looking down, I realized I was stepping in the imprint or something. Moving my paw away, I realized it was a boot print. Sniffing it, I smelt the same urine smell I smelt on the tree. A growl ripped through me as anger burned through me.Why hadn’t I realized it sooner? Some hunters sprayed themselves with animal urine, or concoctions that smelled like them, to attract their prey and blend into their surroundings. This would have made them harder to track down.
Moving over to the edge of the ravine again, I linked Patrick ‘The hunters masked their scent with urine, I’ve tracked Adeline to the edge of the ravine on the east side of the property. I believe she’s gone over.’ Patrick answered me immediately. Even though I hadn’t fully told him how I felt about Adeline, I knew he realized what she was to me. He had seen it in my face, had known it by my change in demeanor. Patrick and I had grown up together. Although he seemed rather harsh at times, I knew better. ‘I’m on my way to you. I will bring Jeremy and a few other men. We will find our Luna. Zach, be careful out there, we still haven’t found the hunter.’ My pack was still in danger. Part of me hoped this was the hunter that had shot at Adeline. Then I still had the opportunity to rip him to pieces. ‘We need to find him. I also need you to tell the pack doctor to prepare a bed. I found blood.’ Thinking of my mate in pain pushed me over the edge, and my wolf took control. I howled loudly, signaling my location to my pack, only to hear them howl back a few seconds after. Turning to the ravine, I began to slowly make my way down, careful not to lose my footing in the mud. I’m coming, Adeline, my wolf howled; I’ll find you.