A gasp left Sparrow's throat as he sat up in shock. It was... a dream? It had seemed so real to him, so vivid. As he sat there panting, he remembered last night.
Last night had been the night that Leader finally agreed for him to stay in the pack, as long as he promised that he would do no harm to the wolves in the pack. Sparrow knew that Leader no longer trusted him - he hadn't trusted him for a while, anyway. Why would he?
Sighing, Sparrow rested his head on his paws and closed his eyes. But his return to sleep was disrupted by a gruff snarl from the den entrance.
"Sparrow," the voice called. Opening his eyes and raising his head back up, Sparrow was not pleased to see Leader, who had banished him in the first place.
Poking his head into the den, Leader growled as he saw him stand and walk towards the entrance.
"Dawn would like to have a word with you," he snarled to him. Sparrow met his gaze, his eyes narrowed slightly.
"Listen," he said firmly. "I will do no harm to this pack. You can stop staring at me like you're going to kill me. I won't do anything bad."
Leader bared his teeth, and he turned away in a huff and stormed into his den. Leaving, Sparrow saw Dawn waiting for him, sitting by a large tree where the pack made a pile of their latest kills.
"Sparrow." A smile on her face, Dawn stepped forward to her "son." "I am happy to see you this morning."
Sparrow forced a smile. "Me as well," he replied stiffly. "Leader told me that you needed to talk to me."
Dawn's smile faded. "Yes," she said in a softer voice. "Sparrow, I need to warn you about something. You will have to worry about this nearly all the time, mostly because you are old enough to leave your den for most of the day and come out with us. I know that I told you how to hunt and stalk your prey, and you are very talented at that, but..." She was frowning now. "You have to worry about humans."
Sparrow's eyes widened. His mother had told him about humans before, as she had told all of the pups in the nursery when they were young: Beware the humans. Other than that, he didn't know very much about them.
"You did tell me about them before," he told her. "But... what do I have to fear about them?"
Dawn sighed. "Listen," she said. "Humans are the reason that many wolves have been killed. Humans are the reason that Moon is now missing a leg. Humans are the reason that we are no longer safe. Well, we never have been, anyway. But they are a major threat here, and you need to be wary of them. If they see you and they are armed, they will kill you. Humans fear us, Sparrow, but not as much as we fear them. They know that we are capable of killing them, but they are also very capable of killing us."
Sparrow frowned. "What exactly...?"
Dawn shook her head, her fur ruffling in the wind. "They kill us with power, but not their own power or strength. It is from other things. They use things to kill us - they are a variety of different things, but the most painful way to die out of all of them is a knife."
"Why? Wouldn't a gun be painful?"
"All of them would be painful, but death would be quicker and easier if you were hit with a bullet or an arrow. If they hit you in the head, chest, or back, or any other major areas of the body, they will kill you barely before you can feel it."
Sparrow swallowed uncomfortably. "And why is the knife... the most painful?" he asked.
Dawn's tone was serious now. "It makes many cuts and then kills you, resulting in a slow and painful death," she explained gravely to him. "It is not very easy to kill us with, but it will hurt when a human attempts to."
She swallowed as well. "In general, you and any other wolves, no matter what their age, are not allowed to leave this territory without going with at least three others. This is safety in numbers - if you are ever attacked by a human, you will have others to protect you and injure the human before he makes his move."
Dawn sighed. "That was all that I needed to tell you," she said quietly. "I've explained it to the other wolves in the pack already."
"Oh, and there was one thing that I needed to tell you," Sparrow interrupted. "I had a dream last night, and in the dream, I was shot."
Dawn's face fell. "That may have been a warning," she said, nervously looking away. "Be... just be careful, Sparrow."
She left him alone, standing out by the tree in shock, and she went into Leader's den.
As he went back to his den, Sparrow heard a voice.
"Hello, Sparrow," the voice said. It was feminine and cheerful, obviously being a she-wolf in the pack.
Turning, Sparrow noticed that it was Rain, the wolf who helped Dawn teach the pups how to hunt. She was only one or two years older than he was, yet far more experienced in hunting... and hunters.
"I wanted to talk to you," she said quietly. Rain had grey-and-white fur, just like Dawn, considering that she was her daughter. Her eyes were nearly ice blue, and Sparrow always felt like he was in a trance when he looked into her eyes.
"Well, you can," he said. "Dawn just told me about the humans."
"Humans," Rain replied. She, not surprisingly, didn't seem to be worried about that. "Did she tell you that if you stayed with --"
"Yes, she told me that," Sparrow said. "Is that what you wanted?"
"That wasn't all," Rain said, a smile forming at the corners of her mouth. "I was going to ask you if you wanted to join Sapphire, Storm, the hunters-in-training and I on a hunt later on this week. It would be a good way to... possibly regain Leader's trust."
"I doubt that'll ever happen," Sparrow told her. "He doesn't trust me at all at the moment."
"At the moment," Rain said. "Maybe if you do something to help the pack, or whatever, you could possibly regain his trust again."
"He'd still think that I was evil, though," Sparrow said darkly, sitting down in the middle of the clearing.
"Possibly," Rain said, her smile fading. "The only reason that I didn't object against your banishing was because I was --"
"-- Afraid of what Leader would do," Sparrow said. "I know. I've heard it several times. I know what happened, about Dawn not being happy with him, and afraid of his power over us, and all of that."
Rain shook her head in dismay. "That's one reason,'' she said in a voice so quiet that Sparrow didn't hear her.
"Anyway," Rain continued, "I guess that's all I wanted to tell you about. There isn't much else to talk to you about."
"I know," Sparrow said. "I doubt that everyone believes in what Dawn, Sapphire, and Snowflake think."
"But they don't think it," Rain said. "They know that it's true. They know who you are, and that you would never do anything bad."
"Well..." Sparrow sighed. "They know it. But the rest of the pack wouldn't believe it."
Rain smiled. "They might."