Chapter 1: The Northern Orphans
I starred at the invitation in my hands for a long moment, so the rumors were true. Alpha Atlas was making a power move. He was inviting members from every major pack in the northern hemisphere to gather…here. Ughhh, I groaned internally. The initial crews would be here soon to start preparing the surrounding woods for the games and the housing that all the guests would need. This would be a massive headache, I better go tell Rose and Dan.
I exited the small kitchen of my art studio and made my way up the footpath to the main home.
My family group and settled deep in the forests of the human territory of northeastern Canada. Humans and hunters were sparse up here so our presence doesn’t draw attention from unwanted prying eyes. The main downside of our chosen territory is because we are not in close proximity to any of the large North American packs, our land is bordered by bands of rogues. We have never had much trouble from them though, as we are very similar to rogues ourselves.
I was part of a pack of orphaned wolves that were either rejected by their own packs or had their families wiped out by war or rogue attacks. Some of us, like myself had no family or home to speak of. Rose has found me wandering around the icy tundra just outside our current land almost a decade ago, with no memory of where I came from or how I got there. Other packs stayed away far away from our land because of the rumors of the orphans with special abilities, rumors that I honestly didn’t mind. It helped us lead quiet, peaceful lives. A quiet that I was afraid was about to end.
I found Rose hanging up some large blankets on clothes lines behind the main home. Ara, one of our youngest orphans at six years old, was helping her dutifully. “Rose, we need to discuss the invitation from Alpha Atlas.” I began. Peeking out from one side of a hanging quilt, Ara’s large brown eyes starred up into mine. “I’m excited, there will other kids to play with!” she shouted with glee. Rose chuckled, “Yes sweetie,” she cooed. “Why don’t you go on inside with Emmy so I can talk to Red.” “Is it adult stuff?” she questioned, looking up at us with her big eyes. I sighed, “Ara, head on inside, I’ll be there soon with some coloring supplies for you if your good and help Emma watch over Laddie.” Her face lit up, “Ok!” She squealed racing inside with new vigor. Emma was a caring nine year old who doted on our youngest brother, Laddie a quiet four year old war orphan and the most recent addition to our rag tag family. Rose turned towards me, “Red, I know that you’re nervous about all these new people that will be here soon. But maybe it’s for the best.” I groaned picking up another quilt to be useful, Here we go again, I thought as she continued. “We have lived in these woods for years with little to no outside visitors, how are you going to find your mate if you don’t go out and meet anyone?” I had to turn away so she wouldn’t see me roll my eyes. “You’re turning 22 this year, and you’ve made much progress in controlling your wolf. I don’t want you to be afraid forever, Red.” She said taking my hand with a pleading look in her eyes. “I understand what you want for me Rose, but I’m happy on my own, really.” I tried my best to make my voice sound convincing, but it sounded disingenuous to my own ears. I gave her a weak smile and pinned up the wet quilt I had been fumbling with.
“Roosseee!” We heard Dan call from deep in the forest. “Uhoh, that sounded like it came from the twins treehouse.” I said, a smile creeping over my lips. Part of our family was made up of twin boys, Cole and Chase, who had just turned 13 a few weeks ago. They truly brought new meaning to the headache that came with living with teenagers. Looking in the direction of their hideout, we suddenly heard the angry chatter of what sounded like about a dozen squirrels. “ Your better go see what those boys have gotten into now.” I laughed, a genuine smile spread across my face. Shaking her head, she turned to me. “You know we just want what’s best for you, dear.” Rose said smiling, the wrinkles around her eyes creasing with the love she held for me and the other orphans. I nodded, releasing her hand so she could go see what trouble the twins had gotten Dan into.
I let me thoughts wander, sure, I did envy Rose and Dan. They were mates and were a perfect match to one another. She was headstrong and followed her heart in all things, it was her that started this orphanage. Dan was the level headed strategic one, who figured out how they could actually follow through with her wild ideas. The truth was, I was lonely, as much as I hated to admit it. But it was better this way, it was safer for everyone involved if I stayed secluded from the outside world. Still, I wanted to be happy like them, I owed them everything, literally. I’ll give it a try, I thought.
Finishing hanging up the blankets, I made my way back towards my studio, stopping on the way to check in with Mara. Opening the door to her cabin, I entered carefully tapping her on the shoulder to alert her of my presence. She smiled up at me from the book she was reading. “What’s up?” She signed. “Not much, the twins are at it again, where’s Diego?” I signed back. She shrugged, shifting to look around the cabin they shared. Great, I thought, he’s probably out hunting. Waving me goodbye, I turned to leave. Mara was 17 and shared a cabin with her older brother Diego, who was just about 19. When Mara was about 13 she was in an accident and lost her hearing, her kin was a warrior pack and decided to shun her, as a wolf unable to hear an enemy approaching was a liability. Diego left with her and has taken it upon himself to act as her protector ever since. Besides, with the way he blasts music, she’s the only one that could comfortable sleep through his late night jam sessions.
Slowing my breathing and concentrating on finding his scent, I quickly found his trail. It headed through the woods in the direction of a large lake just shy of a mile to the south of our homes. He was probably fishing or something, that’s where he seemed to spend all of his time these days. I’ll catch up with him later. Turning I continued to walk back to my own cabin, a two story structure, it was the largest structure besides the main home where Rose, Dan and the younger children stayed.
The ground floor entered into my art studio. Painting was my passion and had allowed me to gain some income to help out the family. I sold my works to the northern packs in return for money, supplies, and guaranteed security should we ever need it. Don’t get me wrong, we had an agreement to take in any war orphans or exiled pups as our status as the Northeastern Orphanage, but it still helped to think that I was producing work that helped provide for my family.
I sat in front of a blank canvas sighing. I had three months, 90 days, for me to complete a whole new painting series in honor of the regional Alphas. I hung my head, already fatigued thinking about all the work I had before me. Glancing back at the invitation from Alpha Atlas, I shook my head. One chance that’s it, I’ll go to this gathering and if my mate is not there then at least I could say that I tried. Needing to calm my thoughts, I did what I was best at and got to work.