Heart racing, pounding in my chest.
Nowhere to go but straight for the woods.
As I ran, these are the first few things I noticed. Soon after I began to hear the crunch of leaves and happy sounds of life all around. It seemed ironic that the animals were happy when all I felt was panic as I ran. Ran away from the dark place of Nedra. I kept trying to turn around. I kept trying to think about why I wouldn’t try going to Dagon, but it wasn’t working. My legs wouldn’t change direction.
All of the sudden, I felt the wind run through my hair as it blew behind me, and like a voice, it told me to look around. Slow down and look at my surroundings. In the next stride, that’s just what I did. I began to listen to my surroundings, and heard the leaves brush together and the whisper of lively animals. As I turned around, I saw on the edge of the tree line, wolves circling me in. They surrounded me, looking on.
I took a step back, unsure of what they wanted from me. As I took another step, closer to the other half of the circle, one single wolf stepped forward. In the next second, all but the leader raised their hackles and growled from the back of their throat.
Immediately I took the hint and collapsed with my legs resting underneath me. The alpha responded with a huff and lay down as well. As we studied each other, I watched his aura change to a relaxed submissive state, and he laid his head down on the soft foliage. He had a white chin and his back toes were painted white as well, but the rest of him was an intimidating midnight black. His golden eyes watched my every breath, and I his.
What do you want from me? I projected out. He raised his head as if he understood. Slowly, he shifted his weight and got up to a standing position. He stood in front of me, feet away, just looking. The alpha of this pack just gave me this look. He wanted something from me, and as he came closer, hesitantly with his eyes lowered and muzzle to the ground, I began to understand.
“You want me to come with you.”
In response, his ears perked and his eyes shined bright with knowledge.
“Okay, lead the way.” I answered, slowly getting up myself, still unsure and feeling rushed. Maybe it was because the sun has already kissed the horizon. Maybe it was because of the sharp look the wolf gave me as he trotted away. I’m not really sure why I felt rushed.
The surrounding wolves came closer, tightening the circle, and I became nervous. What were they going to do? Within seconds I knew they would do nothing as the first one eyed me with as much unease as I felt inside myself, and passed by. I turned watching them all walk on in an unorganized looking pack.
But the pack wasn’t unorganized at all. As the alpha, which approached me, formed the point of the pack, his tail up, I saw the female of the group nudge him every so often and nip at his ear. A sign of affection. The next wolf, with multi-shades of grey, kept close enough to the alpha male's hunches to communicate only protection and not a sign of challenge – the beta. Lastly, a few feet behind were the weaker wolves, and as far back as the seven or eight of them went was the weakest one. This one in particular had his head hung and war scars up and down his legs. He was the most tortured by the looks of it. He hung out only feet away from me as if I were the better choice to hang out with.
Paying no mind to the uneasy omega, I caught the eye of the she-wolf and started walking when I felt a cold chill creep along my back. I looked behind me and only saw the huge tree roots, it's branches looking like hands stretching out similar to long fingers. I turned quickly and against my better judgment followed the pack of wolves.
As the minutes went by I had nothing to do but study the wolves. When I did I saw many different body communications. The alpha always held his head higher than everyone else. And the omegas always had the look of shame. If ever the omegas get too close the beta raised his chops and licked his front teeth, growling lowly.
It was an hour before I saw the alpha lift his nose in the air and huff. Soon enough the pack slowed, and I tried and keep my distance. I watched as the alpha panted heavily and let out a heavy grunt as he rubbed affectionately against his mate. They touch noses and as she brushes past, the she-wolf raises her chin and begins to howl with her eyes closed. All the wolves turn to her with different amounts of recognition. Some stand taller and more alert than others as they all move closer.
Soon enough all but the alpha have rushed away, and my only guess why is to find their evening meal.
I look at our surroundings and it’s a nice little clearing with a few thick roots sticking up out of the ground. The alpha watched me with a calculated eye, as I moved to sit on a nearby root. After sniffing the air one more time, and closing his eyes as if listening to the forest, he moved a few feet closer and slumped down far enough away to not have an uncomfortable tension between us. I rested my head against the bark of the tree, and gazed at the wolf that may have just saved me. He looked back at me with awareness and relaxed, softness to his eyes, while his body showed how alert he truly was.
“You know,” I began, making his ears perk. “I don’t need guarding.”
Like all animals that understood me, he looked at me as if I had just said something dumb and huffed deeply looking away. He lifted his head looking in the direction of the thick woods, probably hearing his pack.
Because I felt the need to talk and ease a future tension, I spoke through the thickening silence. “So, I figure if you want to protect and help me I think I should give you a name.” I said thoughtfully.
The alpha gave me an unwavering stare in return. I guess he wasn’t objecting.
For a while I just stared at him. Watching the way he lay there with confidence in a submissive position. Although it never came across as submissive. More like challenging. He challenged anything that came near even thinking about attacking. But nothing was near or around unless he counted me. When I looked closer it just seemed like the natural way he laid, it was bred into him. This alpha was born a leader.
“Amir.” I finally announced.
His ears perked, but his eyes were closed. I’d never seen such a confident animal like him.
“I think your name should be Amir.” I repeated, testing it on my tongue. I nodded to myself. Yes, my new protector's name would be Amir.
Amir finally opened his eyes, addressing that I had found a name.
“It means prince,” I explained.
He blinked slowly. Once again I saw acceptance in Amir’s eyes.
“Shouldn’t you be out hunting with your pack, Amir?”
In response he growled, his lips pulling apart to show sharp teeth that could tear something apart with simplicity.
“Okay.” I responded quickly, before his hackles rose as well. He calmed down instantly and stood, paying me no mind.
“What is it?” I became as aware as Amir immediately.
Amir grunted and started to pant with excitement. Amir took a few strides and then remembered me. Apparently a nymph such as myself couldn’t be looked away from for more than a minute. Yeah right.
Amir looked over his shoulder with a steady gaze.
I put my hands up directly, “Don’t worry, I'm not going anywhere. You just go worry about your pack.”
Amir breathily snorted and strode quickly away into the perimeter of the woods.
Within seconds the chill of the nightly air hit my bare shoulders. I shivered, and heard the yipping growls of the pack beyond the clearing where I was alone. I tentatively looked over my cold shoulder, but saw nothing. Yet there was an evil presence unknown to me that I could not see. I shivered once again and heard the sharp crush of leaves underfoot, and turned around sharply, fear radiating from me.
It was only Amir, but his determined calculating look made me feel like there was truly something, or someone out there. I watched as the other wolves in the pack came forward, surrounding their leader, and saw the bloodstains on their snouts. I wrinkled my nose with a small degree of disgust. As my eyes connected with every single glowing set of eyes, I saw the beta still carried a chunk of meat.
I shifted my seat, uncomfortable with so many wolves at once, and the canines in front of me offered their attention. I spoke up with a waver to my voice, pulling us all away from the creepiness of the night.
“Um hello.” Then I swallowed and continued as I saw a few higher ranked wolves sniff the air, probably sensing my angst. “My name's Camira.”
I didn’t really expect them to communicate by using my language, but the more I spoke to these interested animals the calmer I became. It's like they fed off of my energy and nerves. Once I was calm, they were calm, and they started to silently move away to find a nesting spot for the night.
Most of them slept inches apart to conserve body heat. I also watched as higher ups snapped at the omegas when they got too close to their chosen spot.
Soon enough my eyes spotted the beta as he came forward. He slightly lowered his head to show no harm, and I smiled shyly. He opened his mouth into a shallow pant, probably feeling my nerves in meeting a new pack member head on. Because he had the raw piece of meat still gripped between his teeth the oxygen came out the sides of his mouth. The beta dropped the meat in front of my feet, and it made a dense thumping sound when it hit the ground.
I looked down at the pink bloody chunk and then looked back at his grey face.
“What do you expect me to do with that?” I asked emphatically with panic lacing the edges of my voice.
His response was to slowly push it forward with his black nose. It lightly bounced off my leg.
“It's raw,” I pointed out. “I can’t stomach something raw like you.” I nodded in his direction.
The beta sat on his haunches patiently, and tilted his head by the slightest degree so he could see me better over his long muzzle.
“Fine. You want me to eat I’ll eat, but I need to build a fire.” I got up off the thick butt-numbing root. In response, the beta did a low airy whine. On instinct, Amir lifted his head from his comfortable position next to his mate and made a rumbling noise ñ the beginning of a warning growl.
I looked up with surprise and some insecure fear. When I saw the search for danger in his eyes I knew the growl wasn’t directed at me.
Turning to the beta I raised my eyebrows in question. “You coming or not.” Then I turned still talking as I walked on. “Seems like you're my guard for the night after all.”
I looked over my shoulder one last time, and watched as he bounded forward with a renewed ounce of energy.