Chapter Seven

Sparrow opened his eyes, blinking from the early morning sun. He was tired of seeing Rain's face everywhere that he looked. All he could see was her face, eyes staring straight ahead in terror, frozen like that forever, the last thing she ever saw being whatever killed her. Sparrow wasn't able to think straight anymore. He wasn't sure why this was happening now, considering that she had been dead for more than a week. Almost two weeks, actually.

Finally, Sapphire began to notice that he was unfocused. "You okay?" she asked him one day, actually sounding concerned.

"Yes," Sparrow said unconvincingly. Sapphire sat down next to him. "You're thinking about Rain," she said, a small smile forming at the corners of her mouth, "aren't you?"

Sparrow sighed. He couldn't lie to her, even though he really wanted to. "Yes," he admitted. "Everywhere I look, I see her."

Sapphire rolled her eyes. "That's... got to get annoying," she said. Sparrow growled at her, and got up. "You're not helping."

"Sorry," Sapphire said sarcastically. "I'll never bother you again."

"Thanks."

"You're awfully cheerful today! Fine. If you want me to leave, I'll leave."

Sparrow snarled at her, and he left instead. He was going to go to Dawn's den and explain the real story of Rain's death to her, so she wouldn't be telling the pack false information.

Dawn, he discovered, wasn't very cheerful either. "What?" she asked flatly after he entered the cave. Sparrow sighed. "I wanted to tell you that --"

"I do not wish to speak to anyone at the moment," Dawn growled. "As you can probably tell, I'm still suffering from the loss of our best hunter."

"You don't even know how Rain truly died," Sparrow said, his voice cold.

Dawn cocked her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. "Oh, don't I?" she snarled. "I was informed by the others that --"

"Yes," Sparrow interrupted, "but no one saw what actually killed Rain. No one knows what killed her. Now, please let me speak."

Dawn flattened her ears, but she nodded regretfully.

"Good," Sparrow grumbled. "Alright. The moose ran off before we could attack it. We heard growling after the moose ran off, then the bear killed the moose. The bear came into the area, and Rain told us to go hide somewhere. We did, so Rain went up to it and tried to scare it oof. Then, it attacked her, and she knew that she couldn't kill it, so she ran off. The bear ran the other way, like it forgot that she was even there. We didn't see that, because we were hiding. But Ice was missing when we got up. After we found her, she told us what had happened, and we went to look for Rain." Sparrow's voice began to get faster and frantic. "Then, we went searching for her, and when we found her, her side was ripped open and her head had a horrible gash across it, and..." His voice trailed off. "She wasn't that badly hurt when the bear attacked her."

Dawn frowned. She began to pace the cave, silent, muttering softly to herself. "Are you sure?" she asked him quietly.

"Yes," Sparrow said firmly. "I wouldn't lie about something like that. If you ask Ice, she'll tell you exactly the same thing." He looked at her, and then began to notice the effects of her daughter's death and her son's injuries. Dawn's fur was knotted and limp. Her eyes, which used to be bright nearly all the time, had no glow at all and seemed colder. Her voice was icy, and she was quick-tempered and much more anxious now.

Dawn sighed. "I will not ask for anymore information," she said. "But, Sparrow, I can't lead this pack anymore. I cannot do anymore for you... leave."

Her tone had now changed from depressed... to deadly.

Sparrow's eyes widened and his mouth opened. "But you can't just abandon us here," he growled at her. "Leader isn't going to help us if you leave. You're better at controlling the pack then he is! You can't leave, Dawn. You would die out there."

"This desicion isn't yours," Dawn snapped. "Sparrow, I've been through a lot in the past year and a half. I can't deal with this anymore. Life controlling a pack is too much of a struggle. I'm done for."

Sparrow couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Just because Rain died doesn't mean that you can do this to us!" he snarled at her, overcome with fury. "If you leave, we'll all die. It's hunting season, anyway. Do you know how easy it would be for a hunter to take down a wolf that was traveling alone? It'll be so dangerous! You can't go, Dawn." His voice quivered. "No."

Dawn said nothing. She sighed, but then her eyes darkened. "There is nothing to change my mind."

Sparrow was fuming again. "Fine," he snarled. "Then - then I'll just leave the pack. This is your choice. If you want all of the pack members to leave and just... die, then you can do it. I don't care."

Leaving her den, Sparrow clenched his jaw to keep himself from saying anything else. He began to walk quickly out of the clearing, away from everyone. Away from the other wolves. He continued walking, until he was completely alone.

The sun was finally beginning to set, but it was still light out. Sparrow took a moment to observe the area -- there was nothing there besides trees and bushes. He couldn't hear any noises, either. No familiar howls of wolves, chirps of birds or crickets -- not even a rustling in the bushes. All that he could smell... was human.

Human?

Sparrow's eyes widened. There must have been a hunter out here, although he couldn't hear anything or see anything. As long as he wasn't seen, he would be alright.

Sparrow noticed a piece of meat out in the middle of the forest, and he walked over to it cautiously. It was deer meat, fresh with a strange smell to it, however. Sniffing it again, Sparrow looked up, which saved his life.

It was a human, pointing a gun right towards him. Sparrow immediatley felt a rush of adrenaline as he surged forward, dodging a bullet. It had barely missed him. He continued to run, into the trees, as the hunter wasn't far behind him. Another bullet was fired, missing him by an inch, as the black wolf continued to run. He was running back to his pack, to warn them about the hunters.

But wait... what if the hunter was too close? The hunter would kill all of the wolves in the pack if he could - this would be leading them to danger. Turning sideways and heading away from the territory, Sparrow ran as fast as he could, and bumped directly into Dawn.

She had apparently left. Her eyes bright with fury, Dawn snarled. "What are you --"

But Sparrow interrupted her yet again. "There's a hunter coming!" he barked quickly, starting to run. Dawn's amber eyes widened as she took off with him, and the two ran together.

As Sparrow ran back towards the pack, Dawn turned and ran in the other direction, her eyes wide with fear. Sparrow knew what was going to happen, but he continued running, and finally made it to his den.

He entered the den and slumped down onto the ground. Panting and closing his eyes, all that Sparrow wanted was sleep. He was tired and worried, and he knew that Dawn must be dead by now. There was no way that she could escape from that hunter. But how was he going to explain this to the rest of the pack? They knew nothing of her plan to leave, anyway.

Leaving his den not long after thinking of this, Sparrow watched as the sun began to set even more. Sniffing the air, he no longer smelled any signs of a human, but he could smell blood. His stomach lurched as the scent became stronger, and he turned to meet a horrifying sight.

Dawn was limping towards him, her face almost unrecognlizable. She had obviously been shot in the head, and Sparrow was unsure of how she was still alive. Blood was smeared on the top of her head, dripping down her face. Her eyes were fluttering open, and then closing every now and then. Her left ear was almost torn from her head - she had most likely been shot directly above her ear. Dawn finally fell, and her eyes closed.

Sparrow was horrified. He ran into Leader's den, who, as usual, was not happy to see him.

Leader's eyes narrowed. "You," he said.

Sparrow ignored him. "Leader, Dawn was just shot in the head!" he barked, racing out of the den as quickly as possible. Eyes widening in fear, Leader broke into a run and followed him to the place where Dawn was shot.

She was lying on her side, her body completely motionless. She was dead. Her grey-and-white fur was bloodstained and her head was a bloody mess.

"Tell the pack," Leader said in a strangled voice, his eyes fixed on his dead mate. Sparrow ran back to the wolves' territory, and found Sapphire and Snowflake first.

"Dawn is dead," Sparrow said to them quietly. Sapphire's eyes widened in horror. "W-what?" she screamed, and Snowflake's body began to shake. "Leader is waiting by the area of trees closest to my den," Sparrow said, and the two she-wolves took off.

After alerting the rest of the pack, Sparrow hurried back to Dawn's side. Soon, the entire pack was circled around her, all looking down at the fallen she-wolf in sorrow. "She's... she's..." Snowflake stammered, and one of the male wolves rested his head on her shoulder to calm her.

Leader finally looked up. "All of you are to meet at the edge of the cliff tonight," he said in a voice with no emotion. His eyes staring straight forward, he ran back to the pack territory, and the other wolves soon followed, except for Sapphire, Sparrow, and Snowflake.

"I... what happened?" Sapphire asked, her voice trembling. Sparrow shook his head - he didn't want to speak at the moment. Snowflake looked away from her mother, a small squeaky noise escaping from her throat.

Sparrow spoke. "Let's leave," he said in a flat voice. "Leader wanted to meet with us tonight."

~ ~ ~

"I know that you all are deeply hurt by the two deaths this week, but they will not slow us down."

As his "father" spoke, Sparrow was hardly listening at all. He was staring into space, struggling not to think of Dawn or Rain.

"Now," Leader said, "we have no choice but to assign a new hunting instructor for the younger wolves, because of Rain's death. I feel that this wolf is.... talented with their hunting ability," he said stiffly.

Sparrow struggled not to laugh. I think I'm the new hunting instructor, he thought, smiling sligthly.

"This hunter was... not my choice," Leader continued, "but it was Dawn's choice before her death," he said grimly. Sparrow smirked. Sapphire hit him in the shoulder with her muzzle, giving him an odd look to tell him to shut up. They both innocently looked at Leader. "And," he said, with regret in his voice, "the new hunting instructor is..." He gulped. "Sparrow."

The surronding wolves howled in response as Sparrow winked at Sapphire. "Well?" Leader growled. "Come up here."

Sparrow regretfully walked up to him. Leader pushed him forwards, and smirked as Sparrow just stood there.

"Err," Sparrow said dumbfoundedly. Looking back at Leader, who still had that annoying smirk on his face, Sparrow whispered, "What am I supposed to do?"

"Tell them what you will do for the PACK," Leader snarled in Sparrow's ear. "Oh..." Sparrow said, turning back around. "I'll teach the pups and the younger wolves how to hunt, by stalking their prey and then attacking at the right moment."

Looking back at Leader, Sparrow bit his lip. Leader frowned at him in disgust, and sighed. The pack seemed to be happy enough, except for Leader. He wasn't good at hiding the look of hatred on his face as Sparrow and the other wolves walked out into the clearing.

"Wait," Leader called out, and the wolves stopped. "Tonight is also Dawn's burial, if any of you wish to come. Just after midnight."

The three were too tired to attend Dawn's burial that night, although they wished that they could have. Resting inside Sparrow's den, Snowflake and Sapphire were panting and tired out.

"Today was a tough day," Snowflake said, breaking the silence.

"Exactly," Sapphire said. "Well, I'm sure that Sparrow's day was even worse... he had to watch Dawn die in front of him, and there was nothing he could do."

Sparrow changed his position on the ground, sighing. "Well, it wasn't..." But his voice trailed off, not wanting to explain the entire thing. Again. Leader had made him tell the story of how Dawn was killed about three times that day, so he knew exactly what happened to his mate. It must have been hard for that to happen to someone he had been with for so long, but Sparrow knew about what Sapphire had told him before he was banished. She's not happy, Sparrow.

"It's getting late." Snowflake interrupted his thoughts abruptly, and Sparrow shook his head to clear his thoughts. "We should try to get some sleep now. It's past midnight, but the others aren't back yet."

"True," Sapphire said, and she stiffly got up, licking the wound on her chest from the moose hunt. "Let's go, Snowflake."

As the two got up and left his cave, Sparrow tried to think of the things that he would always remember about Dawn and Rain. He thought of Rain first. She had been an amazing hunter, and had guided them through many succesful hunts. She was helpful, kind, and always cheerful, but apparently no match for the grizzly bear and the mystery creature which took part in her death. Next, Sparrow thought for a long time about Dawn. She... she had raised him. If it wasn't for her, he would have been trapped in the enemy pack, living through their harsh rules. Or, he might have been dead, left alone to die in the bush, small, weak, and helpless...

Sparrow shook the thought away, and rested his head down on the den. Closing his eyes, he sighed to himself, and sleep finally came to him.

Note: Holy flab.  That was long.  I read it, and it took me like 15 minutes o.0  Sorry about that... 2,445 words!

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