Note: Last chapter in the book, except for an epilogue.
"I have made my decision."
Sparrow froze as he heard these cold words come out of Leader's mouth. His eyes locked on the ground, he took a deep breath as Leader stared at him.
Stepping forward, the dark gray wolf met his eyes. "We are to come outside, and I will tell all of the wolves my decision," Leader said. Sparrow rushed to Dawn's side, and she licked his forehead gently.
"Don't worry, Sparrow." Her words were kind. "Leader knows what will happen if he refuses to allow you to stay. I will leave as well, and Sapphire and Snowflake may as well."
"Coming?" They heard Leader's growl somewhere, not very far away. "Give us a moment to speak," Dawn called back, and she could hear Leader snarl in frustration and walk into the trees.
"Listen, Sparrow," she whispered to him. "No matter what happens, you are staying here. I trust you. Now, I will leave. Come out as soon as you can," she said to all of the wolves in the den, and she left.
Snowflake immediately hurried outside, but Sapphire stopped Sparrow from walking out. "Wait," she snarled.
"What?" Sparrow asked her. Sapphire's upper lip curled defensively into a snarl, and she told him in a harsh whisper: "If you do any harm to any of them, I will kill you."
Sparrow was stunned. "What...? I don't understand what you're talking about," he muttered, and Sapphire's eyes narrowed.
"You do," she said. "I am aware that you have never hurt any of us in the pack, but if Leader doesn't allow you to stay you will surely turn on us."
"I wouldn't turn on you," Sparrow said. "You would defend me, wouldn't you?"
Sapphire's ears flattened, and she looked a bit frightened. "I... I'm not sure," she said, her tone now quiet. "If... if Leader challenges a wolf..." She stopped.
Sparrow frowned. "What do you...?" he asked, and Sapphire interrupted.
"Alright," she said. "Fine. Dawn told me to never tell you this, but..." She paused, biting her lip.
"Tell me," Sparrow told her seriously.
"Okay..." Sapphire gulped. "Do... do you remember when I mentioned Dawn in the forest when we were coming back, and that Dawn told me to be quiet or something?" Sparrow nodded.
"Well, that was because she didn't want me to... to tell you that Leader..." She stopped hesitantly. "Leader is the reason that Daisy is dead."
Sparrow was shocked. He barely knew who Daisy was, but apparently she was Sapphire's sister who was now dead. "She died hours before you arrived, earlier that day. It... it was so tragic. What happened was that Daisy had been sick from the day that she was born - she was two weeks old when she died. It was a disease of some sort... Or at least that's what Leader told everyone."
Sparrow nodded, curious about what she would tell him. "Anyway," Sapphire continued, "I remember that we had opened our eyes about two days before. We were still a bit unfocused, but we could see things well enough. Dawn was taking a few of the older pups out for hunting practice, and teaching them how to hunt. Of course, we were still in the nursery, and we weren't really sure of when she would return or anything at all, because we were incredibly young. Dawn had told Leader to take care of us while she was gone, and he agreed to. There were only three of us, so he assumed that it wouldn't be that hard.
"We knew that something was wrong with Daisy when she started to cough violently. Leader wasn't sure what was wrong with her, so he wasn't very worried, and there wasn't anything that he could do anyway. Moon had been hit by a car only days before," Sapphire said, speaking of the three-legged wolf that was in charge of taking care of injuries, "so she wasn't well enough to help."
Sparrow was confused during all of this... did only Dawn, Sapphire, and Snowflake know of this?
"Leader left the den for a moment, taking Daisy with him. I was curious about where she was going and crawled out of the nursery for a little bit, just far enough so I could see what was going on. Then... I was horrified with what I saw. Daisy began to vomit up blood for some reason, and Leader looked pretty nervous about what would happen. She hadn't eaten for a day or two, so her health was already bad and she was very dehydrated. Dawn wasn't sure what was wrong with her, either."
Sparrow interrupted her. "So, Dawn knew that she was sick, but they couldn't do anything because Moon was injured?"
"Yes," Sapphire replied quietly. Continuing in a hushed voice, she shuddered. "The... the next thing I knew... Leader carried her back into the den quickly, making sure no one had seen anything... I wasn't sure why he even left the den in the first place. And then... she completely stopped breathing. Leader growled when he saw this, and dragged her out of the nursery. That was all that I saw."
Taking a deep breath, Sapphire looked at Sparrow. "Leader told the pack that Daisy had died after Dawn left, for unknown reasons, that he had just found her dead. But that wasn't what happened. After I told Dawn and Snowflake what I had seen..." She sighed. "We kept this a secret from you because we didn't want you to leave."
"I ended up leaving anyway," Sparrow pointed out.
"Yes, but..." Sapphire swallowed. "We didn't want you to fear Leader. To this day, he has no idea that we are aware of what happened to Daisy."
Suddenly, a call came from outside the den. "Sapphire! Sparrow!"
It was Leader, forcing them to come outside and await Sparrow's future. As they left, Sparrow was being stared at by a dozen other wolves. Some had looks of disgust on their faces, and some looked shocked or surprised. Sparrow ignored the looks as best as he could, and walked up to Leader.
"Sparrow has been thought of as a traitor for a while now," Leader said loudly to the entire pack. "Without further words, I will tell you all what Sparrow's future is. Will he be brought back... Or forced to leave?"
There was silence in the pack.
With a sigh, Leader growled. "Welcome back, Sparrow," he snapped, and walked abruptly back into his den.
"What?" Sparrow was shocked. "He... he's letting me...?" He was speechless.
Dawn smiled. "I told you that I would leave too if you did. I explained that to Leader once more, and then he finally seemed to give in. He probably did it so I would be happy."
"It doesn't matter," Sapphire said. "As long as he's here... I feel whole inside."