Archive for the ‘Weres’ Category

Carves-the-Foundation made a noise like grinding rocks while moving forward to meet the beast.

“Oh, rock one. Regret my actions,” the beast said in a frighteningly clear voice.

“This wizard is with me. No quarrel?”

“Yes I see a lightning eater.”

“Yes, and a friend. No quarrel?”

The beast stepped forward. I saw a lithe body covered in dark fur with a wolfen head on top. Standing upright, the creature towered over me. It’s gold eyes shined in the gloom of the dusk as it looked me over. I felt a quaver of fear under its gaze.

“No quarrel, rock one. This one Lookout.”

“I am Carves-the-Foundation, and the wizard is called Dorua.”

The beast dropped to all fours, moving low to the ground and looking up at Carves-the-Foundation.

“I hear the old one. Elders howled it before me.”

“Thank you.” Carves-the-Foundation said. I didn’t understand what had just happened.

“Take to pack?” the creature asked in a low voice.

“Yes, it has been too long. Please lead us, Lookout.”

Carves-the-Foundation motioned to me, and I followed. “What is going on?” I asked in a low voice as I got close.

“No need to whisper, he can hear easily.”

“Oh.”

“This is one of what we call the speaking creatures. This one can speak your language, which is rare.”

“They have their own language?”

“Yes. They are ancient friends with the Korodan, and we have talked to them many times in the past. I mentioned them before.”

I thought for a moment. “You fought an ancient enemy together.”

“You were listening to my stories!”

“A good wizard learns as much as she can.”

“The speaking creatures have shorter lives than we do, but they pass down stories about us so that they remember us when we visit.”

“He called you an old one?”

“Yes…”

“How old are you?”

Carves-the-Foundation looked up at the sky.

“My name in your language is Carves-the-Foundation. Do you know what that means?”

“The foundation is the bottom of something?”

“Yes, the foundation is the first thing.”

“The first….?”

“Nobody knows for sure. I was there when we first fought the green enemies of the speaking creatures many of your lifetimes ago.”

I fell into a stunned silence. Is this what it is like to talk to the first person who ever existed? What would it be like to have such a long life like that? I was in awe of my new-found friend.

We entered an empty clearing and the speaking creature stopped. He let out a series of three, short barks and the area exploded with motion. From under bushes, out of trees, through the grasses, and even seemingly appearing up out of the ground a whole group of creatures appeared. Some were wolfen, but there were a myriad of other types, too. They seemed to be clustered into similar groups; cat-like over here, other wolfen ones over there, and a few I couldn’t even try to recognize over in the back. They started barking, yelping, and howling all at once. These sounds must have been their own language.

A few of the speaking creatures came over and bowed low to the ground in front of Carves-the-Foundation. A few came up to me, particularly the smaller and younger ones, sniffing me and poking at my clothing with interest.

The first creature we met, Lookout, came over to me. “You have name Dorua?”

I tried to give my friendliest smile, despite the slight feeling of dread I had. “Yes. You are the lookout?”

“Yes, have name Lookout. You are lightning eater?”

“You mean… do I have magic? Yes.”

“Please, show the pack?”

I almost called out to Mhorik, then I realized that I was the wizard now. I grasped the pouch of ashes I was carrying, and found the courage to continue on.

“Yes. Have everyone move back.”

Lookout turned to the crowd and gave a short yowl. A few barks and wave of his arms and the group moved back to the edges of the clearing.

I took a deep breath. It was almost completely dark now, so I started small. I summoned a small gout of fire, and a spark of light. I had them move in a slow pattern, growing in intensity. There were animal sounds from all around the clearing. I heard small feet scamper and bushes rustle. I moved the lights lazily, slowly building up.

I then drew pictures in the air with the light and the fire, mostly to see if I could. I created an image of myself in crude form and made it wave. I formed a scene of my village, with waves of the sea lapping up against the shore. I drew images of the friends I had made along the way: Calvis, Cloud’s Reflection and his son, and Carves-the-Foundation. I drew an image of a bearded figure at the end, but I couldn’t bring myself to draw his details. With that, I snuffed out the flames and it all fell into darkness.

The night erupted into howls and calls. Many surged toward me, and I felt and smelled their breath upon me. The reached out to touch me and nuzzle me. Although I couldn’t see anything, I felt a strange sense of comfort as the speaking creatures surrounded me.

“The pack seen what beauty!” I heard Lookout speak to me nearby. “All impressed.”

The celebration when on for quite a while. I created a small bit of light and saw the animals capering and dancing all around.

But, it was too much for me. Exhausted, I fell asleep where I was when the activity calmed down. I awoke the next morning part of a pile of bodies. Some were stirring, and I took the opportunity to free myself.

Someone offered me a bit of raw meat, but I politely declined and got a bit of food out from my pack. Carves-the-Foundation saw me and came over.

“That was truly beautiful last night.”

“I think the pack approved.”

I heard the low rumbling laughter. “Yes, I have never seen these speaking creatures so excited.”

I chewed on my breakfast a bit more, taking in the scene. Feeling a bit of pride in my show from last night.

“Dorua,” Carves-the-Foundation said as I was eating, “I have some sad news.”

It was the third day with the strange animals. The small one kept making contented noises, seeming to grow bolder as he interacted with the smaller animals. One of the wolf-like ones, colored white, had started to make noises like the group. He couldn’t quite communicate fully, but they all had very basic conversations. The old one learned more about them, about their leader and their young ones. The concept of “young ones” was hard for the group to understand; could they make their own young ones?

The animals were also curious about the group. At a rocky outcrop, one of the animals had used her claws to carve out part of a figure that looked like the hard one. The group made the pleased noise as they looked at it, and the animals seemed to enjoy the company of the rocky ones.

Instead of seeking the quiet of a cave, the group had been sleeping in the open with their new friends. There was a vein of rock that was exposed to the open air, which gave them some comfort. But the night in the open brought unfamiliar sounds.

A new noise cut through the air that night, a loud piercing sound, that made all the animals sit up alert. The bigger animals grabbed the smaller ones and put them on the small table of rock, then formed a tight circle around them. The leader was making loud noises and searching around as one of his partners stood guard over the little ones.

There was a crashing through the brush as a small cat figure emerged into the open, chased by two small green creatures making the screaming noise. Their sharp claws swiping to try to catch the young one finally caught him on the side, sending him tumbling with a yell. The leader looked in the direction of the yell and dropped to all fours, running to his little one, but could not make it in time.

The hard one moved faster than anyone anticipated. He swung his harm and connected hard against the side of one of the green beasts, sending it sprawling. It made gasping noises and red fluid flowed out of its side. The other green monster ran into the hard one and bounced back, but made an even louder screaming noise. It dove toward the fallen green beast and bit at it, tearing chunks of meat from the fallen. Suddenly a small pack of the green ones leaped out of the bushes and descended on the fallen one. In short order, there were only broken bones and a splash of red where the body had been. The green mob turned their focus to the group.

The fast one and the hungry one had joined the hard one, forming a wall between the green monsters and the animal friends. The leader had grabbed his little one, leaking red fluid on his side as the green monsters had, and put him with the rest. The leader took his place in the group, facing the monsters and preparing for an attack. But, the group had decided to protect their friends and stood close, blocking the direct approach. The whole group were standing together by now, even the timid small one. They made an aggressive sound together, which made the green ones hesitate slightly before one launched an attack. Where one went, the rest followed.

The group swung their arms, crashing down upon the heads of the green monsters. More of them poured out of the underbrush, but the wall formed by the group held firm against the incoming tide. Any that got through were met by the small one who could still deal significant damage against the soft flesh of the green ones. But, the wave of monsters kept coming. Some would throw themselves at their fallen kin, devouring them in large chunks, while others would throw themselves against the group. The green ones could see the animals in a group behind the rocky wall and charged to try to get to the prize.

It happened so suddenly that nobody could react. A particularly large green one hit the old one while he was fighting and pushed him aside. Through the temporary breach that large one and five others rushed through before the old one regained his balance and closed the gap. The small one moved to block them, but they proved too much for him. The smaller creatures tackled him and knocked him over. They set upon him, digging their claws deep into his stone and pulling at his arms. The large one lumbered up and raised its foot, stomping hard on the small one. The force drove the small one into the ground with a crunch as splinters of rock flew everywhere. The large green monster pulled his foot back and howled in pain, but only a bunch of broken rock remained where the small one had fallen.

A cry came from the animals as the leader and a few others ran forward. Their claws dug into the flesh of the large green one, and it was brought low with repeated blows. The smaller ones were too quick, and dodged past the attackers to run toward the group. Murder was in their eyes as they ran forward, claws slashing the air and teeth biting the air in anticipation of more flesh. Just as the pack of green ones almost reached the group, a cry of surprise came from the small animals in the middle.

Leaping out from the group was the small one! He had used the carved rock of the outcropping to form a new body. It was more refined than his old body, taking on some of the form of the partially carved figure. But the rest of the group immediately recognized him. He swung his new arms in the air and brought them down hard on the green monsters. He crushed their bones and knocked them aside. He moved back toward the wall, catching any of the green ones that had broken through. Eventually, as suddenly as it started, the green ones started to run away off into the gloom of the darkening night. Their mad screams fading into the night.

The animals stood at the ready for quite a while longer as the group gathered together to examine the young one. The group went to the nearby water source to wash off the red fluid that had covered them. They went back and saw the animals starting to wind down and try to get some sleep. The large white one came forward and made the appreciation noise. The group returned the noise and spread out. They were energized by the fight, and would spend the night on the watch for the green monsters, but they did not return that night.

The group stayed with the animals for a little longer, but the green ones didn’t bother them anymore. Eventually the group decided that they would move on, leaving their animal friends for a while. But, the friendship between the animals and the group endured for a long time afterward.

The short rock creature threw Help aside as easily as one could toss a small rodent. Leader and Growl rushed to his side to protect him from a repeat attack, but the rocky creature just stood there. Four other rock creatures appeared out from the forest to stand by the first one.

“Good?” Leader asked, not taking his eyes off the group of creatures.

Help just grunted in response, getting to his feet but obviously in pain.

Leader was truly afraid for his pack. Help was easily pushed aside and wounded, and that wasn’t even the largest of the creatures before them. If they attacked, would it be anything but a slaughter? He didn’t worry about himself, but for his mates and his cubs. Without him, they could survive with the pack. Without them, he…he didn’t want to think about it.

On top of it all, he was tired. They had traveled for many days away from the spot where the Old One had left. Leader didn’t want the bad luck to linger around them, and a long trip took their mind off the loss of the Old One. Many still mourned, including Leader, but the daily activities of keeping the cubs moving kept them in the present instead of lingering on the past. Yet, the trip had taken its toll on the pack.

Had the bad luck followed them? What manner of creature looks like rock but moves like like a creature? What did they want, and why did they come straight toward the clearing?

Leader’s noticed a noise in the bush the three of them had been hiding. A small head popped out and made a small roar. Leader glanced down and saw his own Big Cub. Why did he follow them?

Suddenly, the smallest rock creature moved away from the other group and directly toward Big Cub. The creature was making a low, slow noise of rock scraping against rock. It stretched its arms out, reaching out for the cub.

Leader’s protective instinct kicked in and he jumped between the rock creature and his cub. He turned in mid-air toward the rock beast and brandished his claws with a warning growl. After the attack by the green ones, he was taking no chances with anyone or anything getting too close to his cubs. The smaller rock creature backed off then ran toward its group. The largest rock creature moved forward in what might have been a protective gesture.

Growl and Help moved into place behind Leader. He could feel Help’s unsteadiness and fear contrasted with Growl’s cool determination. Leader tried to take strength from Growl’s stance, but his heart was racing with fear for the pack. Puffing himself up, Leader hoped that he could scare off the rocky creatures as he had when the small one went toward his cub. He stepped forward with a roar, swiping at the large rock one and connecting his claws against unyielding stone; his only reward was pain as the claws bounced against the rock creature. Giving an involuntary yowl of pain, Leader stepped back to his other two members while holding one paw in the other.

The two groups sat and watched each other for most of the day. The rocks collapsed into what looked like piles, while the three crouched low or sat with their legs ready to spring. It was late when the hunters arrived back to the clearing, carrying chunks of fresh meat from the day’s kill. The smell of food caught the attention of the three after the long day’s standoff.

“Hungry,” Help said quietly, not wanting to show cowardice.

“Yes,” Leader said. “Rocks not leaving.”

Growl exhaled loudly. “Let’s get food.”

The three moved backward as a group, keeping the creatures in sight as they went to eat with the rest of the pack. Once near the rest of the pack they sat down, still keeping the rocky creatures in sight, and ate with everyone else.

One of the rocky creatures then made an unusual chattering noise. It started to move toward the group while making another strange noise. Leader’s mate stood up and growled at the approaching figure, wary of the group that had hurt her mate. The creature in front made the chattering noise again while pointing toward the meat.

“Rocks eat meat?” Growl said, amused. Help ripped off a small bit of the meat and threw it at the rock creature. It picked up the meat and put it near its head. No obvious mouth opened, but the meat eventually disappeared and the creature made a chirping noise. Other pack members nearby watched the rocky creatures.

“That good?” Scar asked. Help just shrugged and cut off more meat to throw toward the rocky creatures. The rest of the creatures picked up meat and ate it as well.

While they were eating, Help stands up. “Trying something,” he says, then mimics the chattering sound the rock creatures made earlier by biting his teeth together. He then points to the meat with a paw.

The rocky creatures stopped what they were doing and looked toward Help. He looked at the rest of the pack, then repeated the noise. One of the rocky creatures made a chirping sound then the whole group made a lot of noise.

“What is that?” Leader asked, looking at Help.

“I think it’s their word for food,” Help said.

“How do you know?”

“Same way I learned to say ‘food’ after meeting the pack.”

“Huh,” Leader said. “Maybe they not so bad.”

As the light faded, the pack gathered together to sleep for the night. The rocky creatures collapsed into their individual piles near the bush, a little ways away from the pack. Overwhelming curiosity drew some of the cubs and pups near, despite warnings barked by parents. Big Cub lead the way to the smallest rock creature. After sniffing at it, he then curled up next to it and promptly fell asleep. A careful rocky arm reached out and stroked the little one gently before making a quiet noise.

Not so bad after all, Leader thought to himself as sleep overtook him.

The group had been on the move for a long time. The fast one had lead them for a while with the small one trying to find a good site for a cave, but the old one always wanted to keep moving. He often made the warning sound when they stopped even though no danger was apparent to the others.

At last, they came to a large forest. The trees loomed overhead, the last leaves of the season clinging to the almost bare branches. The small one backed away as the others entered the forest. He made the negative sound, then made an unusual sound.

The old one moved over and put his hand gently on the small one. He made the comforting sound, and pointed to the forest. The small one slowly moved forward, staying within the protective aura of the old one. The hard one followed behind the two, lending his solid presence to the small one’s courage. The small one stepped within the line of the trees and after a few moments moved slowly forward.

Already the ground was covered with dull leaves fallen from the trees. The hungry one scooped up a handful of leaves and munched on them. Every once in a while a hand went down and grabbed a few more to eat. The small one timidly picked up a leaf and tried it. He dropped it after eating only half of it.

The fast one made the warning noise, catching everyone’s attention. The group stopped and fell silent, watching the fast one for any information. The fast one pointed at a clump of bushes in a clearing ahead and motioned for the rest to say there as he moved into the clearing. He crept forward, careful to make hardly any noise.

A flash of white came from the bushes and crashed into the fast one, knocking him to the ground. Over him towered an animal that looked different than any the group had seen before. It like one of the wolves they had seen, but it was much larger with longer, thicker legs. The fast one threw the attacker back with one arm and stood up. Two other animals came from behind the bush to stand next to the white one on the ground. The rest of the group rushed forward to stand next to the fast one, watching the opposing group carefully.

Suddenly, a small cat head popped out from behind the brush. It made a noise at the group then looked at them. The small one broke ranks and moved toward the small cat, making the comforting noise. One of the other large cats jumped forward, landing between the small one and the bush. It brandished its claws as the small one made the warning noise and moved away quickly. The animals advanced on the group, moving behind the hard one who blocked the path.

The cat animal that threatened the small one made a fierce noise at the hard one. It stepped forward and swipes at the hard one, connecting claws to hard stone. The animal gave a shout and moved back behind the others, holding its claws tenderly. The two groups stared at each other for a long time, neither moving. The group simply sat down and watched the animals as the sun travels down toward the horizon.

In the gloom, two other animals came into the clearing carrying large chunks of meat. The three animals looked away for a moment, then make soft noises to one another. They backed away as a group to join the others while casting sideways glances at the group. The group watched as many other animals come out of hiding and into the clearing, including many small ones, all tearing into the meat and eating.

The hungry one made the hungry noise, much to the amusement of the rest of the group. The hungry one gave the beckoning noise and moved ever closer to the meat.

One of the cat animals made a fierce noise and stares down the hungry one, who stopped where he was. He pointed at the meat, making the hungry noise again. The animals looked at him and made noises at each other, then looked back at the hungry one. Finally, one of them tore off a chunk of meat and threw it on the ground near the hungry one. Scooping it up, the hungry one nibbled on the chunk of meat. He made the positive noise and consumed it entirely.

The animals continued to throw more chunks of the meat at the group, and all of them tried a bit. Even the timid small one found the meat to be very pleasing. But, the whole group stopped eating when they hear something they never would have expected: one of the large animals making the hungry noise!

The group stared at the large white one, the same that tackled the fast one earlier in the day. The white one looked at the other animals, then made the sound again while pointing at the meat. The old one made the positive noise, and all agreed.

The day’s light faded and fatigue overcame all. The fast one made the tired noise, and none of the group objected. They decided to sit down into resting positions near the brush in the clearing, preparing to sleep for the night. A few curious small ones went over and made happy noises near the group. The small one was surprised when one of the small cat ones flopped down next to him and curled up into a small, furry ball. Reaching out a careful hand to stroke it, the small one made the pleased noise quietly to himself.

It had been raining for many days and nights since the attack. It was wearing on everyone; wounds festered in the cold, wet weather instead of healing with sun and healthy activity.

Most huddled in the lee side of boulders and rock outcroppings. Some huddled in small burrows dug out to avoid the downpour. Shadow had been flooded out of her den and was staying with Leader and his mates and cubs. The mud and the rain had turned her normally bright red fur into a depressing brown color. All her tricks to make the weather clear up were ineffective.

It was the Old One who suffered the most. Her wounds refused to heal and angry, oozing wounds matted her fur where she had been hurt. Even in better times the occasional night of rain made her legs hurt bad enough, but she was in continuous pain in the current weather. She hadn’t eaten in several days, and even Help bringing her some of the meager hunt didn’t encourage her to eat. Huddled against the boulder that blocked some of the rain, she slept or whined quietly in pain.

The only time she even looked at anyone was when Leader came by to see how she was doing on his evening visit of the pack. She would open one eye as he approached and ask how the young ones were doing. Leader would share an amusing story about one of his cubs. Sometimes she would smile at the story, but she often dozed off while he was telling it. This continued for many nights, the same routine in the same chilly dampness.

Growl came along one evening to visit Leader. “The Old One…,” he started, voice trailing off.

“I worry,” Leader said. “Keeps to herself, but still part of pack.”

Growl sat and looked at the cubs playing at his feet. “She is dying.”

Leader sighed heavily. The two sat together silently, watching the rain fade from sight in the oncoming gloom of night. Leader got up to go on his rounds, and Growl went along with him. When they came to the Old One, she barely stirred. The two looked at each other quietly.

“You good?” Growl asked quietly.

The Old One opened an eye and exhaled. “Not dead yet, Growl,” she said, quietly.

Growl got up and sniffed at the Old One. “Soon,” he said.

“Very soon. Soon for you, too,” the Old One shot back at Growl.

Growl gave a snort and walked off into the rain toward his sleeping area.

Leader approached the Old One and sniffed carefully. He wasn’t as adept at smelling the differences in the wolfen ones, but he detected a scent he had rarely caught before. He sat down next to the Old One and put his head down next to hers.

“All good,” the Old One finally said. “I am old, time to leave.”

“Will miss you,” Leader said, not looking at her.

“Perhaps,” she said as she gave a small laugh that turned into a cough.

Leader was at a loss. He sat by her for a little while longer as the light of day finally faded completely. The rhythmic wheezing let him know when the Old One was fast asleep. He got up, stretched, and left to get his mates while the Old One slept. He ate, played with the cubs, checked on everyone one last time, and went to sleep for the night worrying about the Old One.

During the night the rains had finally stopped. The morning was bright as the sun was able to shine across the lands for the first time in a long while.

Leader woke up and looked over to where he had left the Old One last night, except she wasn’t there. He got up and went to find Growl.

“The Old One?” Leader asked when he found the grizzled wolfen one chewing on the morning’s breakfast.

“Gone?”

“Yes.”

“Found strength for the final hunt,” Growl said. He looked at where the Old One had been the previous night.

Leader sat down and looked over at the empty space as well. He fell silent as he remembered the one who had saved his cub’s life. Now she was gone.

A few of the pack were cracking open bones in their jaws to get at the sweet marrow inside. Most were sitting quietly in the last of the fading sun, satisfied after eating so much, while others were watching the young ones slowly romp around before night fell. Growl and Fangs were leaving for the last patrol of the evening.

Something bothered Hunter. A sense of unease that kept him pacing around the area when the pack was digging in for the night.

“Problems?” asked Leader quietly as Hunter came pacing near.

Hunter sat down and exhaled. “Something not right,” he said, looking around with his ears standing straight up.

Leader pricked up his ears and listened as well. There, in the distance….

Suddenly, Fangs’ roar and Growl’s warning howl sounded from a short distance away. Their warning told of a band of green ones coming this way.

Leader ran toward his mates to help them gather up the cubs. They were already settling in together near a low stone outcropping, so it was easy to get into a defensive position. Leader gave a quick growl of warning as he ran by. He went to move all the mothers and young ones together and quickly organize the defense.

The hard part was the waiting. Leader frantically searched the distance for any movement. The low light of the setting sun was perfect for his eyes. Long moments passed as everyone sniffed the air and scanned the distance for the inevitable arrival. Leader looked to both sides at the line of eight other defenders of the pack, ready to meet the onslaught.

It happened all in a jumble. Two familiar figures crashed through the underbrush and ran toward the pack. Behind Growl and Fangs, a great surge of bodies burst into view. The screeching and screaming that accompanied the green ones on their hunts were unmistakable at this distance. About two dozen of them were running at full speed, digging and clawing at the ground with frenzied speed.

Leader had a shameful feeling of elation as he finally saw the enemies; the waiting was over. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the seething mass running toward him. Giving his packmates and the horde a few seconds to close the distance, Leader then stood up and gave a roar. Towering over the small green ones by almost twice their height, he felt powerful. He then crouched down and leapt forward into the surging mass of bodies.

Claws extended from his paws and slashed at the mass. He felt his one hand connect, the sharp weapons digging into vulnerable skin and ripping deep gashes. Bits of green skin clung to his claws as he used his forward momentum to crash into two other enemies. He tumbled forward and used hind claws to disembowel one of the enemies.

He twisted to get up when he felt a pain in his leg. The other green one had bit him deep, and he felt blood splattering on the fur of his thigh. He reached down to beat the head of the green one to make it let go. Sharp teeth dug in, threatening to rip off a chunk of flesh, but eventually the grip went slack with enough vicious blows.

Leader was in a wild frenzy and his vision filled with the red haze of fury; he attacked without hesitation. He lashed out at the nearest target and ripped the small green head from the body. He was fighting for his life, for the life of his children, for the life of his whole pack.

It was his favored mate’s scream that brought his focus away from the scattering enemies. Wiping the blood from the fur around his eyes, he saw one of the green ones had broken through the line of defense, dodged around the mother’s occupied with another green creature, and snatched one of the young ones from the group. Leader realized in dismay that the young one in the green one’s claws was his own Young Cub. He moved to leap toward the thief, but his legs were tangled by corpses and he fell hard on the ground. A yell of fury directed at the green one was all he could do.

A savage growl from the far side of the battle gave notice that another of the fighters had seen the green one’s attack. A streak of pale gray fur moved toward the offender; Leader was shocked to see the Old One moving faster than he thought possible. Her bloodied jaws snapped shut on the arm of the green one, yanking it savagely. Young Cub dropped to the ground, dazed, as the Old One whipped her body around and yanked the green monster off his feet and away from the cub.

But, a grasping green hand had found her fur and dug in as it swung back around. It pulled its own sharp teeth toward the exposed flank of the Old One and bit in deep. A yelp of pain came forth as she opened her mouth and flailed around to try to dislodge the attacker. Leader found his feet and ran toward the Old One. With a powerful leap, he closed his jaws around the neck of the green one and bit hard. The body went limp and the Old One’s thrashings finally dislodged teeth from her flesh.

It took Leader a moment to collect his wits. Looking around, he saw bloodied bodies everywhere. The green ones had been killed or driven off, and other pack members were catching their breath. As some started licking wounds, Leader went over to where the Old One had finally collapsed in fatigue.

Leader gave a low, calming purr as he inspected her wounds. She had a few scrapes, but the last green one had opened a large wound on her flank. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow, punctuated by an occasional whine.

“Calm,” Leader said as he started licking her wound clean. “Rest.”

“Young one safe?” the Old One asked after a moment.

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Young ones more important than old ones,” she muttered, laying her head back down and closing her eyes.

“Old one important to me tonight,” Leader said as he saw his mate carrying Young Cub back to a safe location. The pack moved back into a defensive position and tended to the wounded as night fell.

The two felines were crouched down, staring at each other. Fangs bared his teeth and made a feint; Leader overreacted and rolled to the side, avoiding that attack he thought he saw coming. Standing tall on his hind legs, Fangs gloated in making Leader show weakness.

“You no leader! So weak!” Fangs growled, looking down.

Leader stared the other in the eye, fighting back any doubt lingering in his mind. “You fool, Fangs! We need wolfen ones and they need us.”

“They grow stronger and you look away. Coward!”

Fangs jumped forward and tackled Leader. Twisting his body and aiming a kick, Leader pushed the other to the side then rolled back to a standing position.

To either side, the mates were watching. Leader’s mates sat close to each other and guarded their children. They had confidence in their mate, but Fangs may try something desperate and attack the cubs. Fang’s mate sat quietly, not looking at the fight. She was always quiet when challenges happened.

The two males stared at each other, trying to stand taller to look down at the other. Fang’s stature let him stand a bit taller than Leader, but Leader didn’t crouch into a defensive posture. He maintained his fierce gaze into his opponent’s eyes.

“You afraid of green ones! You let cubs starve!” Fangs spat down at Leader.

“Cubs not dead,” Leader growled, his voice low and menacing at Fangs. “Your cubs, my cubs all healthy.”

Leader dropped his shoulder and rushed at Fangs as he was opening his mouth to reply. The attack caught him off guard and he was sprawled the ground.

The wolfen ones were standing in a pack, watching from a distance. They were usually surprised when Fangs would try to challenge Leader, seemingly for no reason. As a whole, they supported Leader and saw no reason to challenge him since he had been keeping the pack safe.

“What happen?” Help ask the others.

“Beta cat fight for position,” Scar said indifferently, used to the constant fights.

“Why disrupt order? Leader is strong.”

Scar just shrugged, then got up to move toward the fight.

Fangs got back on his feet and gave a savage yell. Leader’s eyes remained locked on Fangs, not even blinking during the yell.

“Give up! You cannot lead,” Fangs yelled as his eyes narrowed, staring at his opponent. Leader returned Fangs’ gaze, ready to attack at any moment.

It was the series of short barks from behind Leader that made Fangs look away. As his eyes widened, he saw a majority of the wolfen ones sitting patiently in a line, all looking directly at him. When Fangs looked back at Leader, he saw the look of supreme confidence.

Fangs dropped down to all fours and looked up at Leader. With a scoff, he walked over to his mate. She stood up and prodded the little ones away from the scene.

Leader’s mates walked by and gave him a quick nod of support, then went off to feed the cubs.

“Everything good?” Hunter asked as he walked toward Leader.

“Yes, still strong,” Leader said in low tones that hid his shaking voice. “Fangs makes sure I still strong.”

Most of the hot season had passed since Leader and Hunter had returned with the white wolfen one following them. He had been met and judged by each member of the pack and nobody found reason to distrust him.

The stranger had started learning their language, but he was hesitant to use it. He clung to his animal nature, using body language and small sounds to communicate most of the time. He only used a few words to get someone’s attention.

But, despite this, he was known for helping others.

One time while Scar was out on the hunt, Scar Mate did not feel well. She had lost her small meal and wanted to rest quietly. But, Pup would not leave her alone. The newcomer saw this and entertained the young Pup. Scar Mate still kept an eye open and watching Pup during the time, but she got several hours of respite and recovered her strength.

Another time the heavy rains late in the season caused the Old One pain in her legs. She often misses meals in weather like that, preferring a little hunger instead of enduring the pain and the wet to get food. But, the new wolfen one was along to share some food and some quiet company. He could even get along with the Old One, which was something of a miracle.

But, there were problems, too. One time he got a bit too nosy about Shadow when she did one of her rituals. She swatted at him ran off for a while. Those nights were filled with more strange sounds than usual. Everyone was happy when they saw her red fur and bushy tail once again, having rejoined the pack one night without anyone really noticing. “Perhaps there is something to her little rituals,” Scar said to Growl after she returned.

One thing everyone had noticed: the stranger had formed a strong bond with Help. She followed him around most of the time, watching him even after he was no longer viewed as a threat. She seemed happy to be working with him, helping out the rest of the pack as they could.

The sun was shining brightly down on a particularly hot day when Leader noticed the white one nearby. He was glancing over at Leader, something obviously bothering him but not acting upon it Leader got up from his sunny spot and walked over the the other.

“You good?” Leader asked, trying to remain friendly in his body language.

The new one ducked his head in submission as he noticed Leader approach.

“Use words,” Leader commanded.

“No… like words,” the new one spoke quietly, his posture still submissive.

“Words faster. You use words, you talk faster.”

Eyes looked up from the ground with worry in them.

“Relax. We all happy,” Leader said carefully, trying to reassure him with a confident posture.

The white one looked around, then down at the ground. Finally, the words came, “I am… pack?”

Leader understood what was troubling him; the wolfen ones needed to belong. The newcomer was worried about his position and security.

“Come,” Leader commanded as he walked back toward the pack. The white one followed.

The others were spending the day as they pleased. Some were stretched out in the sun, others were hiding in shadows trying to keep cool despite the heat. Leader went to a small boulder in the middle and stood upon it.

“Listen!” Leader called for attention. He stood up tall, drawing upon his commanding presence. “Decision! Is white one part of pack?”

Leader’s two mates bowed their heads to him, showing that they would agree to his decision. The other felines were mostly indifferent, not eager to get involved in the wolfen notion of the pack. Shadow also knew better than to stick her nose into the issue and went back to a hidden burrow to cool off.

The wolfen ones looked at each other and gathered into a tight group. Quiet words were spoken while they glanced at the new one and Leader. After a moment, the female wolfen one Help went to stand by the new one while the others approached Leader.

“Yes, he will be part of pack,” Growl said as his role as elder male of the wolfen ones. The new one and Help came to take their place in the circle. “His name is Help. His mate is now called Helpmeet.”

Leader looked at the pair. The relationship had grown over the months, and they were now recognized as proper mates by the others.

“Good,” Leader said, maintaining his commanding posture. “This is good.”

Helpmeet nuzzled her mate as he held his head high. He knew his position in the pack, had a mate, and was happy.

Leader stood up and walked back to his sunny patch to snooze the rest of the warm day away. There were now a few less things to bother him that day.

For several weeks there had been good hunting without the green ones around. The pack moved and tracked game easier. The little ones were fed on a regular basis and that made everyone happier. But, Leader was still wary about possible dangers.

It was during an evening patrol that he found a problem. His nose had drawn him to the base of the tree, and the scent there told him of a recent visitor. “Hunter,” he called to his companion, “come.”

The sleek gray beast moved to meet Leader. His nose picked up the scent almost immediately, and began to smell slightly of aggression. “Another one. Wolfen, like me.”

“Trouble?” Leader asked, flicking his feline ears back in agitation.

Hunter cocked his head and gave a serious but uncertain look. He couldn’t tell anything from the marking. “We go get Growl?”

Leader gave it a moment’s thought, but made a quick decision. “Not yet. Follow.”

The two dropped low and moved quickly on all fours. They sniffed the air occasionally and changed directions as followed their quarry’s path. They slowed down as they reached a small group of trees next to a stream. “Here,” Leader said in quiet tones as he laid low against the ground.


The sun had set and the light was fading, but the smell was unmistakable; it was a wolfen one, certainly. They approached the stand of trees. keeping a low profile. Hunter was a bit ahead of Leader, still smelling of aggression and ready to handle a potentially fierce confrontation.

A thump and the movement of a shadow between the trees made the two freeze in place, readying themselves for action. They waited for several long moments before slowly creeping toward the trees again. A white furred head poked out from behind a tree and looked at them. Hunter stood upright and looked directly at the stranger in a show of confidence. This was the pack’s territory, and just these two still outnumbered him.

The stranger looked at both of them. Upon seeing Leader, he bared his teeth and gave a quick growl. Leader backed off slightly, but Hunter stood his ground and watched the stranger. Slowly, the white furred one emerged from the trees and approached Hunter.

The two sniffed at each other from a short distance away. Leader couldn’t read wolfen scents very well from a distance, so he had to rely on body language. Muscles were tense, but no overt aggression was displayed by either one. After a while, the white stranger dropped to all fours and looked downward in submission in front of Hunter.

Leader exhaled his held breath. There would not be a fight tonight, and it was time for them to go home.

Hunter took a few steps back before slowly turning and dropping to all fours. He kept his head high and dominant, glancing two more times over his shoulder at the white one. He turned toward Leader and they set off home.

A short distance later they noticed the white stranger following after them. They stopped and watched as he carefully approached. Hunter stood up to his full height, but the white one stayed low. Leader couldn’t smell any aggression on Hunter anymore.

“What now?” Hunter asked, relying entirely on Leader’s judgment.

“Problem?” Leader was cautious not to make any assumptions when dealing with unfamiliar wolfen ones.

“No. He respects me.”

The stranger looked back and forth as the two talked in quiet voices. It became obvious that he did not understand the language.

“Then, let him come. See if the pack accepts him.”

Hunter took a step forward and looked down at the young stranger. After a moment, Hunter turned and dropped down in front of Leader. Leader knew what this meant. He stood up on his hind legs and looked down at Hunter, establishing his position of authority. The white one slowly moved forward and stayed low in reach of Leader, maintaining the hierarchy. Leader bent down and licked the new one a few times on the head, getting a sense of him as the feline ones do. No strange tastes or scents as far as he could tell. If introduction upset the white one, he didn’t show it.

Leader dropped down and turned toward home. Hunter followed behind him and the new one trailed behind a prudent distance. After a while they approached the pack’s place. Leader gave a short bark to announce themselves and the night watchers came forward out of the gloom and met them.

“A new packmate,” Leader said as the others approached. They kept their eyes on the white stranger as the three approached and stood their ground. Very little scents of aggression came from the pack, which was a good first sign. It was the young Help that finally moved forward and sniffed at the newcomer. She gave a short bark and moved away from the pack, leading the white one to a place he could sleep. She would watch over him to make sure he didn’t do anything to threaten the pack.

“Huh,” Hunter said as Help and the stranger moved out of sight.

“What?” Leader didn’t quite understand that body language between the wolfen ones.

“Help is happy.” Hunter turned and went toward the pack and to sleep.

Leader looked at Hunter, then looked in the direction the two had gone. “Oh,” he thought, finally figuring it out.

The fast one was the first one to move from his position overlooking the cave below. The group had been watching the strange creatures down near the sea for several days now, and a few of their group had come back with dead animals. The fast one had moved to get a better look at the scene below.

The creatures seemed to move around a lot more now that the others had returned. They had the bright, hot fire burning well into the night, which made them much easier to see as they moved around. At one point the small creatures below started making a new noise, pleasant and kind of like listening to the sea with a certain rhythm and flow.

The old one made a pleased noise. The small one echoed the soft noise immediately, as usual, and the rest followed suit. They carefully backed away from the edge as to not attract attention and found a group of nearby boulders to rest against.


The next morning, the fast one was the first to start moving. He looked around to make sure there were no threats nearby and went off to explore a bit. Far away, near the far edge of the sea, there seemed to be a rock outcropping that looked promising. As the others started to move around, the fast one circled around them and then lead them toward the outcropping.

The sun was high in the sky as they approached their destination. As they turned the corner, they saw a bunch of the violent green creatures. One of them turned and bared its teeth, waving its claws in front of it in an aggressive posture. The hard one advanced on it, making a low, rumbling noise to warn the creature away. It swiped its claws but they did little damage to the hard one’s rocky body. He started to push the green ones away forcefully, and eventually they took the hint and left the area. After getting a short distance away, the biggest green one turned and yelled harshly at the small group, then ran off into the distance.

The fast one moved to the outcropping and made the questioning noise. The old one approached and looked around. After a bit, he made the negative sound; the rock would not be good to create a hole to live in as the other strange creatures had done. The small one made the disappointed sound as the group continued along the coastline.

After a bit, the hungry one stopped the group to try to find something to eat. There was very little soil here, only sand that did not taste very good. The hungry one found a piece of wood to satisfy his hunger while the rest nibbled on nearby things. The water did not taste the same as the other water they had enjoyed before, but it helped cool their bodies down a bit. After everyone was done eating, or trying to eat, the group moved on.

The darkness came again. The old one wished he could make the warm, bright fire like the other creatures did; it gave him a comforting feeling to remember it. The group found some rocks to rest between until the light came again.

The small one was the first to start moving in the light of the next day, but he froze when he saw one of the large animal creatures prowling around. The prowler seemed interested in the group’s location. The small one made the alarmed noise and got the attention the rest of the group. They stood motionless, hiding between the rocks while keeping an eye on the furred one. It got close to the small one and the hard one was ready to make a move, but the old one made the negative sound to stop the conflict. This sound startled the creature, causing it to retreat a distance, look worriedly at the group, then run off away from the sea. The group got together and continued to travel along the coast.

Four more days passed uneventfully until the group found another promising outcropping, this time noticed by the hard one. The group approached carefully, looking for any dangers in the area. After searching around a bit, the old one made a positive sound, and the whole group joined in. They had found the site of their current home. Now, they had to form the cave they would live in.