Storm reawakened about two days later. He was bruised around his chest, but was otherwise okay. Moon stitched him up and fixed his injuries, and Storm was fine until a few days later when he... changed. Storm was not at all like himself anymore. Before, he had been very agile and eager to go hunting, but now he was serious and much more careful than before. He seemed like he had aged during his time when he was unconscious. He now did not speak very much.
Dawn noticed her son's strange behavior, and ordered a meeting for the pack. "We need some new hunters to replace Rain and Storm," she said to them. "Storm will be unable to hunt ever again. Rain was killed from the blow of a grizzly bear, and was discovered with several injuries." Sparrow sighed. Dawn obviously didn't know the entire story. He didn't even know what had killed Rain. He didn't think that anyone knew. He and Sapphire had been busy escaping, and Rain had sacrificed herself to save the others. Storm was unconscious, so he probably didn't know anything at all. "We will have to decide who the new hunting instructor shall be, and we will also make one of the training wolves become a hunter," Dawn continued. "The decisions will be made by the end of the week."
As he turned to leave, Sparrow was surprised to see that Dawn was standing in front of him.
"Sparrow," she said a bit coldly, "you are aware of what I just told the pack, correct?"
"Yes," Sparrow replied. He swallowed uneasily, wondering what Dawn was going to say to him next.
"Anyway," Dawn continued, pausing for a moment, "I've decided who will be the hunting instructor, but I'm not going to give it away quite yet. I need to ask you a few questions about the younger wolves, however."
Sparrow nodded. "Sure," he said to her, shifting his weight awkwardly.
Dawn led him away from the other wolves, under a tree to the left of the dens. "I was wondering... do you think that the hunters-in-training are confident enough and skilled enough to become actual hunters now?"
Sparrow thought for a moment. "Yes," he said, looking over to the left to see the three wolves. "Ice... she seems to be confident enough, and Rain told me that she was good at tracking prey. King is very fast and powerful, so it should be fairly easy to take down something if he was there." Dawn nodded. "And the other wolf, Amethyst - she isn't very confident about hunting, but I have a feeling that she can do it."
Dawn turned to look at the three as well, and watched each of them for a few seconds. "I see," she said, turning back towards Sparrow. "There isn't anyone else in the pack that could become a hunter, unless Leader and I joined in. The others are either nursing pups, injured, or..." She swallowed. "Dead."
Sparrow sighed. "Stop mentioning that," he responded, sitting down quickly. "It's just... it only happened a few days ago, and I'm still not used to her being gone."
"None of us are," a voice growled.
It was Leader. As he approached them, his eyes narrowed and he looked over them with his lip curled back in a small snarl.
"You can't expect anyone to be," Leader interrupted them. "Like you said, she died not long ago. Dawn hasn't even told me who the new instructor will be."
"I have made my decision, however." Dawn spoke quietly, looking down at the ground.
"Well?" I suppose you should share that information with me in my den." Leader turned away and began to head back, and Dawn followed.
Sighing to himself, Sparrow followed them back into the clearing and turned towards his den. He didn't really want to go in there right now - he would have nothing to do but sulk for a few hours about Rain's death. It had been such a shock - such a wake-up call for him, considering that no one in the pack had died for a long time now. The last wolf who had died was Daisy, but she was sick and only a few weeks old; she wasn't even expected to survive.
Sparrow took a moment to observe the surrounding wolves: Ice, Amethyst, and King were conversing by the fresh kill pile; an unusually-colored she-wolf named Sunset was cautiously watching over her three pups as they tumbled through the bushes; Sapphire was sitting underneath a tree, talking to Snowflake and looking up at Sparrow every now and then.
He couldn't hear them very well, but he knew that they were talking about him, considering that they looked at him frequently as they spoke with each other. He heard a few words - "he," "hunting," and "think." Sparrow sighed and made his way into his den - there was nothing else to do, anyway.
~ ~ ~
"Sunset, calm down."
"But she's gone, Dawn! What am I supposed to do - act like nothing happened?! What if she's been killed?"
"Calm yourself. I've already sent out Leader, Sapphire, and Oak to look for her. It will be alright."
Waking to the following conversation, Sparrow sat up and made his way out of the den. Sunset, the reddish-brown wolf, and Dawn were speaking to one another. Sunset's voice was frantic, obviously, and Dawn was struggling to calm her.
"What's going on?" Sparrow asked abruptly, and Sunset turned, her face stricken with fear.
"I woke up this morning, and I checked on my pups. Blaze and Fire where there... but Dream is missing!" Sunset said, speaking of the smallest pup in her litter. The runt.
Sparrow shook his head. He seriously doubted that Dream would still be alive if she ventured out there alone - she could have been taken by another animal, drowned in a river, or been hit by a car, although it was rare. Sunset's pups were not very old; only a couple months. She hadn't had very good luck with this litter - out of five pups, only three were still alive, and now Dream was probably dead. It wasn't Sunset's fault - it was mostly natural causes. Her third-born pup, who was unnamed, had died minutes after birth. The pup that was born second to last, who was called Gem, died of an illness similar to the one that took Daisy's life.
Dawn sighed. "Sunset," she said in a tired voice, "Leader, Sapphire, and Oak are out looking for her. I sent them out not long ago. If Dream is still alive, they have probably found her by now. She isn't that old - she couldn't have gone far."
Sunset didn't appear confident about this. "Please... please find her," she whispered.
Dawn looked at her son exasperatedly. "There is too much going on in the pack," she sighed, shaking her head. "Rain, Storm, Dream... I don't think that I can take anymore of these unfortunate events."
Sparrow nodded. "Neither can I," he replied. "My life has been... odd for the past few weeks. Things that I haven't expected have just happened."
"I know," Dawn said. "As soon as Dream is found, I will have a pack meeting to make them aware that any of them could die unexpectedly. It's quite possible."
Sparrow knew that the three wouldn't be able to find Dream. Even if they did find her, he was almost certain that she would be dead. However, he didn't want to disappoint Sunset anymore, so he faked a smile. "She'll be fine," he responded, looking nervously at Dawn, who sighed. "Sapphire has good tracking skills, and the others are fast runners. They've probably already found her, and are returning," she assured her, although her expression was doubtful.
"Are you aware that there is no way that Dream could be alive?" Sunset shouted. "She could have disappeared last night. She's gone... forever."
She turned and sulked back into her den as Sparrow and Dawn stood in silence. Without another word, Dawn quietly left Sparrow's side and vanished among the trees. She's breaking her own rule, Sparrow thought, shaking his head as he hurried after her.
~ ~ ~
Dream was never seen again. It was possible that she had been devoured by another creature, the pack assumed, or that she died of starvation or dehydration.
Shuddering, Sparrow imagined how horrifying it must have been to die alone and away from home - excluded from the place you felt safe from and struggling to survive in an unfamiliar area yet ultimately failing. Leader, Dawn, Sparrow, Sapphire, and Oak returned later in the day with the depressing news, and Sunset retreated to the nursery in shock almost immediately.
"I doubt that Dream is alive," Leader said to them, a dangerous glint in his eye. "It is unwise of us to allow all pack members to mate. It should only be Dawn and I, considering that most packs do just that." Looking up darkly, he spoke again. "It would keep the population down."
"You have a point there," Oak said, his brown fur swaying in the breeze, "but with the risk of hunters and other such things, it is best for our pack to be well-populated."
Leader's eyes narrowed. "Are you questioning my authority?" he snarled. Oak's expression remained calm, but his mouth twitched nervously. "No, Leader," he replied. "I am simply making a suggestion."
Not listening any longer, Sparrow suddenly felt suspicious as he thought of something rather disturbing - was Leader responsible for Dream's disappearance?