Alone... again. Thats all I thought when I woke up in the morning. For most of the morning all I could do was think about when will they return. That afternoon the only thought that seemed to pervaded my mind was that they weren't going to come back.
In the evening I set off on a hunt, and would have caught something if hadn't been so lost in thought. I was chasing a rabbit, but when I almost caught it I was unfocused, and hit a branch sticking out in my path, making me fall flat on my face. It irritated me, all these thoughts. Why does that face of his give me this thought of dread? Why do I know that name, Blood River pack? Is there something I'm not remembering? These were thoughts that persisted on being thought upon.
As I got back to the den, night had fallen. I sat there by the cave, and stared up at the stars. Finally a thought that seemed normal to me pushed its way into my mind. I wonder what Tsuki is doing. The question brought a grin to my face. I bet she's talking to Alice about something that is troubling her. Thinking of it, wonder what has happened since I left.
As I thought of these things the moon started to rise, and I couldn't help but howl to it. I howled for what seemed like forever. I howled until I felt like I was going to pass out from lack of breath. My song shot through the air, and carried to the far reaches of the forest.
Lets give hunting another go, I told myself as I got up and left the den clearing. I headed south where I knew there lived a deer herd. I broke into a clearing and its long grass hit the outsides of my legs as I ran through it.
I had forgot what it was like to run through a moonlit meadow. The slight breeze of spring was starting to fill the air. You could smell the bloom of flowers and their pollen floating amongst the wind. The floral aroma wasn't the only thing on the air though. Elk, its distinct scent floated along with the pollen. Hm, a new elk herd? Maybe I will be lucky enough to find a young calf.
As I moved over to the smell, my mind was able to focus on the task at hand, finally. The herd came into sight, and my eyes narrowed. There were roughly twelve of them, and three calves. One of the cows was laying in grass, and the smell of blood tinted the air. It wasn't the smell of any wound though, it was the smell of birth. Saliva dripped slowly from my muzzle, but I pulled myself from the herd. Hunting a newborn, it just wouldn't be right... I bet it hasn't even stood yet. A bull looked up from his family, and saw me retreating into the darkness. It snorted to me as if in saying thanks. I must respect the process of life, and let them produce the next generation of elk. If you don't let them nurse their young then there will be no future of food, no matter how hungry I am now.
There was the soft noise of running water nearby, so I went over to investigate. The water was clear and didn't smell of sickness. I lowered my head and took a drink. I opened my eyes and let their reflection stare into themselves. After a moment however, my eyes drifted upward and stared at the ear missing on my head. I had forgotten about that incident. As I thought back on the event, there was only one thing that stood out in my mind. Tsuki, and how she had cared so much about my pain.
What was I thinking back then... She loved me, and I loved her. I should have made her come along with me, or shouldn't have left at all. That was just it. I should have never left, but for some reason, I couldn't return. I don't know why, but I just couldn't bring myself to it.
I finally made it back to the den when the sun was beginning to rise. Emptiness seemed everywhere. The forest was filled with the birth of new life, but I was sitting alone on the edge of the cave again. The sun finally brought warmth to the area, but I still felt frozen on the inside. As I laid down to fall asleep, one last thought crossed my mind. What if Tsuki has taken someone else to be her mate.
I had a need to go back, and see the herd of elk. The only thing was that the herd didn't represent food to me right now, they represented family. I had a need to see the family, and its simplicity. When I returned to the site of the elk herd, there was a strong acrid scent on the air. I heard a sudden loud ripping sound. I walked over to where it came from, and it was a small coyote eating its fill from a elk carcass. As I looked closely at what remained of the elk, I noticed it was the body of the mother who had given birth the night before. The coyote ran off as soon as it saw me, and I stood there by the body.
"Even in birth, there is death..." I said goodbye to the elk's long gone spirit, and wished luck upon its calf, so that one day it could grow to be strong, and feed future wolves. As I left the site, I could still smell the scent of the newborn on the air.
It was four days before Kipya and Rufus returned. I was laying at the mouth of the cave, looking up at the stars, and they came bounding into the clearing. There was a look of joy and concern on their faces.
Kipya was the first to speak, "My father was furious when he found out what I had done, but my mother convinced him to understand my reason for leaving."
Rufus then spoke, "They were still hesitant to let us leave the pack, but they offered a deal. We told them about you, and they want you to join the pack."
She finished the sentence for him quickly, "In exchange for freedom to start our own pack."
At first I was sitting there confused out of my mind, and they repeated it almost three times before I fully understood what they wanted of me. "I know this may be a lot to ask of you Rain, but Rufus and I love each other, and want to birth our own generation of wolves." Kipya said softly as she pressed up against him.
"Tell me more about this pack, how big is it?" My answer was already yes, I yearned to have a pack again.
"It is a rather large pack, consisting of nine wolves, not including Rufus and me." She replied with a smile on her face.
"I will join the pack." I answered finally with a smile.
"Are you sure? I mean, do you want to think about your decision?" She asked with little concern in her voice.
"No, I have made my decision, and don't think there is anything that will change my decision."
She looked at me for a moment and I think I heard her murmur, "If you say so..." I looked at her with a confused look before she looked up and smiled bigger than she had been before. "Thank you so much! Rufus will escort you back, and will be there to watch you get acceptance from my father." She smiled at me a smile bigger than I've ever seen before.
"When will we set out?" I asked inquisitively.
"At sunrise so get your rest, you will need it, trust me." There was something grave in his voice, but I dismissed it. I put my head down on my paws and fell asleep, not knowing what the future held for me.
That night I dreamed I was sitting in a field, flowers bloomed around me. It looked a lot like the meadow where the elk herd had been four days before. Tsuki appeared at the opposite end of the clearing, and I smiled to her. She smiled at me, but then walked into the tree line. I started to run, and catch up to her, but a wolf stepped in front of me. It was large, light brown, and its eyes stared piercing into me, glowing a evil red. It opened its mouth and moved it as if to speak, but no words came out. I glared up at it suddenly in a howl of rushing anger, biting into its neck. As my fangs sunk into his neck, his fur turned to a dark cold mist, enshrouding me into the darkness.
My eyes shot open and suddenly I felt Rufus nudging me with his muzzle. He looked down and sighed, "C'mon, let's go. If we want to get there by night fall, we need to leave now." I got up and looked around.
"Where is Kipya?" I asked curiously.
"She is out for a walk in the area, and when I get back she will probably show me around."
I nodded to him and started to follow him out of the clearing. "How far off is it?"
"How far off is what?" He looked over at me, and I nodded my head in the direction we were going. "A day's walk." He replied quickly.
"Hmm, not really wanting to talk huh? Ok whatever." I said loftily. We walked far, but nothing compared to how far I had ran from Scarlet Valley. We saw multiple deer herds, and they all smelled of new life. It wasn't just the deer herds, it was the whole forest. The sun rose to its peak in the sky, and it was turning out to be a long silent journey.
There was this one peculiar scent that I had never smelled before. I looked all around to see if I could find its source, but there was nothing around.
"Hey Rufus?" I asked.
"What?" He answered abruptly.
I continued, "What is that strong smell?"
"You've never smelled it before? It is bison that live around here." He replied in a surprised tone.
"Hey, what is a bison?" I asked after a moment of silence.
He ignored that question after glancing at me. "We are getting close now..." He said darkly. He had seemed to have been trying to stay as far from me as possible.
"So, what is this test that Genghis wants me to pass?" I asked curiously trying to start conversation again.
"It changes every time." He said darkly, once again.
"So I'm not the first to try and pass this test?" I asked with a curious tone of voice.
"It could be anything, all I am certain about is that it will be a test of strength, or of your mind." He told me slowly, and then sighed.
"Anything?" Now I was curious. My curiosity had always been my weakness. I didn't even notice the clouds move in overhead, or the rain drops that had started to fall slowly around me. Hmm, will I have to fight? Well if I do, I say bring it on. I grinned to myself.
"We are here." His voice penetrated my thought, and I looked up to see nothing but trees.
"Are you sure, looks like just some trees to-" Two wolves came from behind the trees. They were both pure black, and scars covered their bodies. Their faces were hardened and strong. The one to the left spoke.
"This is him? He doesn't look like much, but that isn't our decision is it? Follow us." They turned and walked back through the trees. We followed them, and came up to a small clearing. There were wolves sitting all around it, watching me. Their glares penetrated into me, as if seeing my thoughts. They were all large like Rufus, but they looked far more experienced, and scarred.
We approached a large light brown wolf. He sat on a small mound, that raised him slightly above the others. "This? This is what you bring to be Blood River? Is this a joke Rufus?" His voice was deep and aged. He must have been at least seven winters old. His body was like the rest of the wolves, covered in scars. A chill came over me because he closely resembled the wolf from my dream.
"No, I promise you he is worthy alpha." He bowed his head before the wolf.
I followed his formality and then spoke, "Alpha? So you must be Genghis." I wanted to grin, but kept a straight face. He came up to me, and sniffed all over. I could feel his breath, hot and moist as it hit my fur.
He motioned to two wolves that were watching nearby. "Choctaw, Contessa, watch him for me while I prepare the tests." The two came over, and sat down. Their eyes were full of hate, and blood-lust. Grins formed along their faces. Genghis walked off, and disappeared somewhere beyond the ring of wolves that had formed around me.
Their chatter started to echo around me, like the ripple that forms when you put your paw in the river. "He is as good as dead." "Look how small he is." "He won't even last a moon with the pack." "I feel like I could kill him with just my stare." They all laughed at the last comment.
Genghis entered back into the group of wolves, and beaconed to me. "Come, your first trial awaits you." He led me out of the wolves and their chatter. Only Rufus followed us. We walked quite a ways until we came to a light brown female wolf. She was aged and was covered in scars, and greeted Genghis like her mate. I assumed it was Akela.
She nodded her head, and led us all about a mile into the forest. I smelled elk in the air, and as soon as I did, Akela turned and looked at me. "Kill one and bring it back to the pack. You have as long as you need." At this the two elder wolves turned and walked away.
I walked further following the scent of elk. I saw them nestled in a small patch of fallen pine needles. My ears lowered, and I stalked up to them. All of a sudden I felt a breath on my ear. "Don't touch the calf, or the pack will think you are weak and a coward. Take the bull, it's your best chance of being accepted into the pack." Rufus's voice was quiet and serious.
They lay there helpless and asleep. Their blood pumped quickly under their skin. I lowered my jaws slowly to the bull's throat. A quick bite, and a quick rip. It will all be over. I thought to myself. As quickly as the thought, my jaws clamped down into the elk's flesh. It's eyes shot open, and it pulled its head up. It had doomed itself, when it pulled its head up it had pulled its throat out with it. It let out a rasping groan, and its head quickly hit the floor. It groaned more and more, and before I knew it all the elk were up, and had ran to the near treeline. As it flailed its head slower, and slower I watched life leave its eyes. Blood had been pouring from the wound in its neck, and covered the ground.
I said my farewell to its spirit, and lowered my head to the elk. I bit my teeth deep into the elk's leg and tugged. It barely had moved. You've got to be kidding. "Hey Rufus." I called over. "Can I get some help with this?"
He looked over my way and frowned. "No, I'm sorry, but you must do this alone." At this he turned, and started to pad away. "See you back at the pack Rain." He then disappeared into the forest.
I couldn't help but sigh. I lowered my muzzle down, and started to tug. I pulled and pulled, dragging that body further and further. The journey that had taken me an hour, was now taking me hours to get back. My muscles ached and burned, but I kept going. I wasn't going to let Kipya and Rufus down.
It was well into the night, and I had not much further to go. I panted heavily in exhaustion, and the body was starting to rot. A horrid smell rose from the meat, and I was finally getting to realize that this was the physical trial. In the distance I thought I heard what must have been my imagination, but I thought I heard howls of pain shooting up into the sky.
"Its just the fumes messing with you Rain..." I lowered my jaws back down to the foul meat, and continued. Coyotes had constantly been coming in hopes of a meal, and it had been draining me to keep them away. Hawks and ravens landed on the meat attempting to take their own share too.
As I made my way into the pack area, I found that they were all waiting for me. Akela and Genghis sat on the mound, and whispered something to each other. Akela got up, and approached me slowly. "You have shown great speed, wolf, but now it is time for the test that truly makes you Blood River. Most do not dare attempt to pass this test, and do you know what happens to these cowards?" She paused momentarily. "They are executed." She laughed calmly at her statement.
Rufus sat conversing with the two wolves from earlier, Choctaw and Contessa. He glanced over at me, and didn't dare stare long. He knew something, I could tell. "When do I take this test then?" I panted, still tired.
Genghis thundered a laugh. "It starts right now wolf." He looked behind himself, and then nodded his head. A female only slightly larger than me walked in. She was jet black and her eyes golden. She was one of the wolves that had met us at the tree line. The wolves around us started to howl in excitement. Their howls were deep and haunting. I looked around, but when I looked back I noticed something in the wolf's mouth. She was holding a pup, no older than four moons old. It growled, and bit at the air. It saw me and growled its little puppy growl.
I stared at the pup, and didn't understand. I looked up to the wolf, and she could tell my thoughts by the stare I gave her. "Kill it." She ordered as she tossed it toward me. She grinned and then backed away, joining the others in their howls.
My mouth gaped slightly open, and I looked back down to the pup. He snarled up at me, and bit at my foot. I pulled it from him, and then shoved the pup away. My paw was almost the size of its body, and it growled even more as it rolled away. I asked the pup as it got up, "Why are you fighting me small one?"
It snorted up at me, and growled, "Bigwolf said that if I fight you I get to see my mom again!" He snarled, and then bit at my paws again. This time I hit him harder, and heard the breath knock from him. He stood up, and gasped for air. Once it caught its breath it charged at me. His slam was like nothing, and all I did was throw him once again now with my muzzle.
I looked around at the disappointed wolves, and called to talk to Rufus. He walked over after the black she wolf had taken the pup up again, a disappointed look occupying her face. "Where is the pup's mother Rufus? I can't just kill him!" I growled slightly.
He looked away but decided I should know. "Knowing this pack, most likely she is dead Rain. Hear me? Dead. Now do what you were told and kill the pup. Kill it before it learns the truth."
I stood there silent for a moment, but then turned to the black wolf again. "I'm ready..." I grunted. She lowered the pup and then backed, again, into the crowd. I waited for the pup to charge and once he did I picked him up my jaws. At this moment I could hear the war inside me. What are you doing Rain! Drop the pup, it doesn't deserve this. Let it live a long healthy life. Then there was the other side that plainly yelled, Shake Rain, shake. Shake the little fur ball till the life leaves its body! I didn't know what to do, but in my pondering the pup had managed to wiggle free.
I looked around, and then saw Rufus standing there. As I looked at him instantly I imagined him and Kipya standing together with pups circling their paws. Their tails wagged and they jumped up trying to grab their parent's ears. The two smiled at each other, but then the thought disappeared.
I must... They are a pack Rain, and you know that no matter what, you must give Kipya and Rufus what you failed to achieve yourself with Tsuki. The pup charged again, and this time I picked it up, shaking it so hard that everything was a blur. The howls started shooting into the air, making my heart beat rapidly against my lungs. Everything seemed like chaos inside my head, until suddenly I heard a loud snap and a yelp. I stopped, and dropped the pup's limp body to the floor, letting it hit with a thud. I looked down, knowing what I had just done, and knowing what I'd see. The pup's limp motionless body lay there, heaped at my feet. I looked at its face, and as I did, its eye looked up at me sadly. Sadness wasn't the only thing that was showing though, hate showed. Deep hate.
Suddenly the black wolf came over and laughed. "Little thing doesn't even know that its mother is dead." She laughed even harder. As I looked down I saw the reaction in the pup's eye, but it didn't last long. The pup's eye soon was replaced with a lifeless stare. I stood there speechless, but soon Genghis came over to me and placed his paw on my chest and said, "Welcome to Blood River, Rain."