Something I've been playing with for a while....
It had long been said in the house of the wolf that the winds were changing, bringing something that could not be stopped. That would change their way of life and things would never again be the same. Isis thought over these old wives tales as she sat on the edge of her bed, staring out into the lightening sky. Dawn was nearly on her and she hadn’t yet slept. How could she? The pack’s lives may not be changing in that moment but hers certainly was…and it unnerved her to the core. In the pale light her skin looked almost translucent, giving her more of a ghost like appearance than anything else.
Her stomach twisted itself into knots as the sun began to slowly peek over the trees, filling her east facing room with soft golden light and casting some color into her skin. Today she would come of age and while most her age were out seeking adventures or glory, she would take her father’s place as the leader of the vast pack. All of his role and responsibilities were to become hers. Every trouble, every fear, everything; they would all rest on her small shoulder. She wrapped her black hair around her fingers absently, thinking of what was about to take place that day. Though she had been trained for this all of her life, the young lycanthrope couldn’t help but think that she was going to throw something of course. No…she knew that she would. Isis wasn’t ready for this. Not by a long shot in her mind.
A knock at the door startled her from her musings and she turned to face the sound. “Come in…” she said halfheartedly before turning back to face the window, her voice soft and without inflection. She heard the door open and then close with a gentle click, followed by the sound of footsteps on the hardwood floor. She looked up as someone sat down next to her. A young man, no older than she was sat beside her with hair just as pitch as her own. They could have passed for twins if not for their eyes. Where his were deep, dark brown, Isis' own were a fierce jade green that seemed to glow with their own inner fire.
“You look down right sick.” He said to her, taking her hand from her hair and setting it in her lap. He often hated her nervous habits. Gripping her hair around her fingers was just one of the many in her arsenal. His name was Callix and he had been her loyal friend for as long as they both had lived. As pups, the two of them had grown up together. Even their parents had become close in their time together. Callix’s father had even risen to the beta of the pack and Isis' father’s right hand man. “You’re not even dressed yet. You know the King will be coming for you any time now.”
Isis cursed under her breath and stepped off the bed and darted behind the changing curtain, stripping from her night clothes and dragging down the rather expensive looking embroidered tunic from the top. Had time really gotten that far away from her? “Did he send you to come fetch me?” she asked, trying to be quick about her task, stumbling a bit as she rushed to pull on the soft linen pants.
“Of course he did. And he knew you probably wouldn’t have let him in.” Callix replied, his back to the curtain now out of simple courtesy. He wouldn’t have been able to see anything to begin with but he knew what Isis expected of him. He always did.
“Well forgive me for not really wanting to talk to anyone.” She stepped out from behind the curtain and moved over to the vanity that seemed to be hardly used. Brushes, combs and jewelry all sat out in neat, organized rows, most seeming to do nothing more than collecting dust. The princess had always received these fine little trinkets on big occasions but her true heart was for her weapons and saddlery. She began tugging at her long hair in a rather frustrated manner with a thick brush.
Callix sighed, coming over to her and taking the brush from her hand, half shoving her into the seat in front of the mirror. “You always were terrible at this…” Isis couldn’t do anything but smile at him as he set her hair up away from her face like she preferred it; a long, sweeping braid. “What are you going to do one day when I’m not here to mess with that rat’s nest of yours, hm?” he poked at her as he sat the brush back down in its place.
“Oh I’ll just be the talk of the court. ‘There goes the Queen looking like she just rolled out of the stables again.’” She sighed. The pale princess had always hated the appearance she had to keep up at the insistence of her father. It was always “do this, not that” or “stand like a lady”. Although her father loved her, and she knew it, she couldn’t help but feeling aggravated over this entire ordeal. “I don’t want to be the damn Queen anyway. Why couldn’t he just wait a few more years and let me go for a bit?”
“You and I both know the answer to that, Isis. You’re his only child and he’s getting old. And if he thinks you’re ready, then you are.” Callix said as Isis rose in a huff, going back towards her bed and picking up her bow and quiver from the bedside, stringing them across her back. The bow was made of hickory and carved with a wolf hunting an elk on the front of the shaft. The bow and leather quiver had been a gift from her mother some many years before. While her father, Orion had always been her teacher, her mother, Abby had always been the attentive one; truly seeing what the young wolf had always wanted. Isis had gone silent; never a good thing from her. A frown was set deep on her face as she retrieved a pale green cloak from its hanger in the closet and attached it over her shoulders. It’s edges were embroidered with gold thread around the edges as her shirt was, the colors of her long standing house.
She swept her cloak aside and sat back down on her bed. “It won’t matter one way or another, no matter what I think or feel about it. I get it. I just wish that I did have a choice….” She turned her head away from his gaze and looked back out the window. The sun had risen properly now, causing the trees on the far side of the fields to cast long, dark shadows on themselves. The wood looked dark and foreboding from her window but to her, those trees were her true home. They always would be.
Callix sat down beside her and put his arm around her shoulders, giving them a tight squeeze. “We’ve been best friends since we were kids and I know better than anyone how you feel about this. But I’m going to be there for you no matter what and we will get through this together.” That earned a bit of a smile from her as she leaned into him for a moment. Another, sharper knock at the door made her rigid again as she rose to answer it.
An older, graying man stood in the door way once she opened it. His face was harsh in a way, almost too angular but his eyes held a certain softness in their light green depths. He wore the same pale green cloak over his shoulders and Isis stepped out of his way as he came into the room. “My King…” Callix said softly as he stood and bowed to him. The King simply nodded at him and turned his attentions to his daughter. “Well then. I see you’re dressed. Did you get any rest?”
Isis shook her head. “No, father…Not much.” She replied. Her night had been filled with all the things that could go wrong dancing in her mind. There were points when she thought she might actually be ill after some of the things her mind had presented her with.
Orion smiled softly at her. “You must be nervous…I was too the day of my coronation. It’s only natural, you know.” This didn’t seem to ease her fears all that much. He reached out and smoothed a stray hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. “You look so much like your mother when she was your age.” He paused for a moment and reached into his pocket, bringing out something wrapped in a simple white cloth. “She wanted me to bring this up to you. She wore it when she became our Queen…seemed appropriate that you should have it now.”
Isis watched quietly as her father unwrapped the glittering gold necklace. It was a thin chain, delicate in make with a simple emerald set in threaded socket which the chain ran straight through. She turned her back to him and he placed the shining thing around her neck, securing the clasp and smoothing down her collar before she turned to face him again with a bit of a smile. “Thank you.” She said, her voice betraying her nervousness.
Orion nodded again. “When you feel you are ready, come down. Your horse is ready for you and Callix will ride with you. I’ll ride ahead with your mother.” He turned on heel and left, closing the door behind him before Isis had the chance to say anything further. She turned to look at Callix again who seemed rather amused. The King had never been much of one to linger on or speak more than he thought necessary. He said what was on his mind and left it at that.
“What are you smiling at?” she half snipped, not truly meaning the bite behind her words.
“I still can’t get over the fact that they think you need a riding escort wherever you go.” He said with a laugh in his voice.
“You and me both. “ She stood in front of the mirror again and made sure that she looked presentable. Of all days, today was not the day to have even the slightest bit out of place. She touched the necklace as she looked on but quickly tucked it in under her tunic. “Alright. Let’s go before I decide to run away for good.” There had been many times in the last few weeks that the wolf had truly considered packing up her horse and leaving in the dead of night. The only problem with that was, her father would send out the entire guard after her and half the pack as well. She would be caught and brought back home before she reached the mountains a day’s ride away.
Callix laughed and opened the door, heading down the hallway of the older home and down the stairs to the living room. This house was new and unfamiliar to her, though it was not terribly far in location from where she had grown up. The Foxe estate was on the far side of the lake that their pack controlled. But this, the true pack house was some ways away and she had not visited it often enough in her older, more memorable years. It was to become hers now that she would rule. Her father had moved her here a few months ago to try and get her used to the new home but like so many other things, Isis rejected these walls like a bad meal. There was not much sound from her footfalls on the wood floor as she followed her companion at a much slower and less enthused pace.
When she finally arrived downstairs, there was no one around but herself and Callix outside with their horses. It was rather unusual for the house to be that quiet. Usually it was so full of life and movement that you hardly ever got a moment’s peace. Now you could hear a pin drop in the kitchen from the office upstairs.
Tugging on her tall riding boots, Isis slipped out the sliding glass door, making her way off the patio. There stood Callix, holding the reins of two horses. One was his own; a sturdy old Irish Draft horse he called O’Hare. The old beast looked more gray in the face than chestnut but he was kind natured and patient with a certain fondness for Callix. In the other hand he held the reins of the fiery and flighty Caspian; a blood bay thoroughbred that ruled the fields and the young princess’ heart. She had raised Caspian up from a colt and he was 4 years old now. They had a rather close bond but he was often intolerant of others. The stallion seemed rather miffed that he was being held by Callix.
Patting his nose and taking the reins from Callix, she soothed the beast with soft, whispering words. At 16.3 hands high to her 5 foot 5 inches, Caspian towered over the girl but never once did he make a move to fight against her hold on him; he never did. When she was satisfied that he was calm, Isis slipped her foot into a stirrup and hoisted herself up into her black English saddle. Much like the horse beneath it, the leather gleamed in the light and looked all around sharp. She never allowed for anyone to care for her horse or saddlery besides her but today had been different. As her father commanded it, she had to concede to letting someone else prepare her horse for her. She had tried not to let him see her displeasure when the subject had been brought up some days before.
Without waiting for Callix to climb aboard O’Hare, Isis spun the big stallion around with her reins and gave him a good nudge in the sides, sending the pair of them flying off across the big open field and towards the path. She could just barely hear Callix call out after them over the sound of Caspian’s hoof beats and she didn’t truly care. They would wait for them to catch up in a bit but for now, Isis needed to fly. With no wings on her back to carry her away, her horse was the only way she could truly feel the wind in her hair and feel so weightless.
Caspian flew down the familiar path, not needing much guidance from his rider; Over the fallen tree, around the bend and up the hill. That was their route. Slowing down to a trot and eventually a stop, Isis waited for the old horse and Callix to catch up, the two coming into sight a few minutes later, the both of them gasping for breath. Isis smiled and laughed at them, patting Caspian’s neck who didn’t seem at all phased by their little jaunt. “Your father will have my head if he finds out I left you alone today. I much rather like my head so stay close.” Callix said with a bit of a snap. He didn’t at all seemed pleased with his friend at that moment.
Isis rolled her eyes and started after Callix at a walk. They rode on in uneasy silence, reaching a large clearing about a half hour later. It was a familiar place to the both of them for the clearing was a common place for large pack gatherings to be held when not at the house. Isis dismounted and gave her reins over to Callix, her eyes scanning the faces in the shadows of the wood. Some were faces she had grown up with and known all of her life. Others came from far away and had never seen their Queen-to-be before for the pack was vast and held many lands and smaller functioning groups. She set her shoulders back and stood up as straight as she could manage, trying to fight the urge to bite her lip.
Her father spotted her from across the clearing, Isis’ fair mother close by his side. The young wolf much resembled her mother in the face and build but her hair and eyes came from her father. It was painfully obvious when the three of them were together; Even more so when they wore their fur. Isis was as black as her hair, as was her father, but there was something more that marked them for the family they were. Each of the Foxe decedents bore odd markings upon their bodies. Some said it marked them as they royals they were but Isis wasn’t too keen on believing this. While her father’s marks were white and almost runic in nature, her own were bright, sky blue and whimsical in their soft, swirling patterns on her front left wrist like a cuff bracelet. Abby was light gray and seemed rather plain in her fur but for her stance. There had always been something regal and well-kept about the Queen even before her title. She was not of noble birth and held no titles before she had married Isis’ father but she had always carried herself like the Queen she one day would be.
A hush fell over the many faces in the clearing for the King had demanded their attention. A path had formed from her directly to her parents and slowly she moved down it with a certain grace she had gotten from her mother. A breeze caught her cloak and billowed it across her back as she knelt before her King. He looked down at her, his face solemn and his sword in hand. “Isis….My heir. Daughter of the High born wolves. Today you are to become Queen after me and rule where I once stood, to carry on our legacy in my place, and to provide our people with the just hand that they deserve. Do you swear to protect your people in times of peace and of war?”
Isis looked up at her father, her expression as solemn as his.. “I swear it.”
“Do you swear to serve the people before yourself., to see to their needs before your own, and to meet every need they should ever bring you?” Orion’s voice boomed out across the clearing.
“This too, I swear.”
“Do you swear to be justice to unjust, strength to the weak, and faith to the lost? Do you swear before the Gods all of this?”
There was a lump in Isis' throat. She tried to swallow past it. “I swear.” She finally managed in a strong voice.
“Then rise as the Queen of this mighty pack, from this day until the end of your days and rule as you have vowed.” Isis rose to her feet as her father made her the Queen and she wasn’t quite sure how she felt about it. As he removed the gold circlet from his head and placed it on to hers, she knew that there was no turning back. Her childhood was behind her, a world of troubles ahead.
As Isis turned to face her pack as their Queen for the first time, a crash from the woods followed by a scream and two running guardsmen stole her attention. One of them cried out in a panic, trying to catch his breath and he took a knee before her. “T-there has been an intruder. Your urgent attention is required my Queen, and as many swords as you can spare.”
“You will lead me there. Get this man a horse.” She said to Callix who had come to stand slightly behind her. With her coronation, he had become her beta as his father was to hers. He nodded sharply and went ahead of her as she headed in the direction of her own horse, whistling to him to come. The horse came trotting down the makeshift isle towards her and she hopped up on to his back without a second thought. Soon joined by her guardsmen, her father, and Callix, the sentry spurred his horse on up a side path. Having no choice but to follow, Isis nudged Caspian into a gallop, following the man. As they sped up the narrow, little used path, there was another crash up ahead of them. It seemed trouble had arrived.