After the short prayer, Agony had us move the coyotes into the clearing. We left them there and scouted around until we found one of the small camps that were usually saved for hunting or when the pack had low-running ranks during the winters. This particular encampment was below a hill in the forest. It was a shallow cave with moss lining the walls and grass and leaves littering the earthen floor.
I was one of the first to clear off a spot and lay down. I was the largest wolf here, the eldest male in the group, with the largest muscles and sharpest teeth. I gave Trout flat ears as he walked out of the cool shaded part of the cave and into the sunlight dappled area. The mud felt cool against me fur and I stuck my muzzle into a small hole I flicked open with a forepaw. I nuzzled the arrayed dirt until the bitter tang of a root seeped into my mouth. My nose wrinkled up at its smell, but I bit into it again, savoring the energy-nutrient juices.
I am Silhouette, and you have no idea how wrong your image of me is.
Agony grumbled to herself and flopped down next to me, her crimson fur tangled with mine as she closed her eyes with a soft growl. Out of the side of my eye, I watched her intently. I’d known her for all my life, yet sometimes she surprised me. Her ears twitched and her eyelids flickered as if she were asleep.
Not a bad idea. I yawned widely and stretched forward more into the dirt. I saw Ivory lift her head to look up at me, a smile playing on her snout. I almost smiled back, Ivory was fun in her own way. Entertaining and always coolly composed within herself. Much unlike Agony, who wasn’t afraid to expose her emotions. But then again, Agony was always angry, except on those few occasions.
Ivory saw my hesitation and stood up, loping over to me silently, skirting her brother and fear, the two males had taken to each other as friends and were both sleeping. Ivory lowered her ears slightly and began to speak before Heather paced into the cave, howling.
I started and shuffled to get to my paws, Agony and fear both lifted their heads, while Trout jumped up and fell over. Ivory sat up strait and turned to Heather, speaking urgently since Agony didn’t respond except to curse at no one in particular, saying something about ‘that damn canary.’
“Heather, what’s the matter? Where’s ocean?” the new warrior tossed the words at Heather, padding over to comfort the apprentice. I was taken aback at how naturally she took up the situation, like a leader. But my admiration soon turned to jealousy when I realized that it was my place to take charge, not hers. I flattened my ears in slight shame, then pushed myself from the ground. I trodded carefully over to heather, who had her head hung low and ears drooped submissively.
“T-they came from n-nowhere!” she stuttered and flopped to the ground, whimpering and trying hard to hide her head from mine as she continued with a mournful howl. “Oc-cean was with me as I was looking for t-things for Agony’s back wound. I-I had wandered slightly away from her and th-they just attacked!” I-it was horrible, W-we just weren’t prepared and it was near the r-rapids and s…sh…” another loud howl brought Agony over to us, this time her head lifted and her eyes dark warnings. Heather looked up helplessly as the red wolf approached our group.
I stepped back slightly, and Agony reprimanded the apprentice quickly. “Heather, keep it cool! Quit the stuttering and the moping, you are DarkPack, and you shall not cry or whimper at any means!” she growled with her tail raised high. The wolf then flashed her teeth and clamped her teeth quickly on Heather’s scruff. The young she-wolf yelped and sat up quickly as Agony backed off. Her eye glinted with pain and fear and she rightfully avoided Agony’s gaze when she continued.
All the while, I was aware of Ivory’s disapproving glare at Agony as she disciplined the other wolf, and I shrugged it off. Though I felt extremely self-conscious as my fur began to prickle, all my senses told me that Ivory had then turned to me.
“I’m sorry agony…” at first it was quiet, then she raised her voice after a shaky breath. “Oc-ocean and I were by the river and a small band of rouges attacked us. It was the part of the riverbend closest to ForestPack land, and wh-when we were distracted they jumped us. We both fought, but they had an extra wolf and neither of us are good fighters…” her voice was weak, and it was obvious she was making a valiant effort to sound strong and brave, but as she continued we were all aware how hard this must be for her to share. I finally glanced up at Ivory, who now looked away quickly. Weird, isn’t it?
When I brought my attention back to Heather, her head had dropped slightly as she continued, but she still kept up her effort of trying to be brave. “I was able to slip away from the wolf that was attacking me, and I left to get help, I saw… I saw...” Agony growled then, a warning for Heather to spit it out. The teen took a sobbing breath and finished. “She fell into the river… Agony, I think she drowned.” Her voice sure did, those last few words were barely a whisper, and all of were caught holding our breaths. Even Trout and Fear, both of whom were still lying on the ground, but with their jaws agape in the silence.
Unsurprisingly, it was Agony who spoke first. “Bring us to her.” Not really a command, more of an assertive statement. Whatever the intentions Agony had, heather took the whole party from the cave, leading us in a now distinct limp in her stride. I vaguely registered Ivory hanging at the back of the group, looking behind her apprehensively, whereas I was upfront, directly behind Agony, who seemed to be leading us along instead of staying in pace with Heather.
I glanced up to the afternoon sky as we traveled, my paws were weary and my joints ached, the fight this morning was taking its toll on me and I immediately regretted not having a nap earlier, no matter how brief. With my gaze skyward towards the heaven, I prayed gently to the God of the Winds, wishing him to guide our paws and deliver Ocean a safe passage. In the distance a crow cawed, and you could hear the win rustle a large tree, breaking a limb in half as if reply. It landed in front of us with a crash, and I nearly bowled into Agony and Heather as they abruptly stopped.
I peered around the still wolf forms infront of me, Agony’s tail twitching slightly as if annoyed… or scared… The tree branch had landed on the crow, crushing it and leaving it dead, strangled and the life stolen from its body. My whole body prickled uneasily, and the fur on my shoulders rose as I thought, That is not a good omen.