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Winter of the Wolves- Chapter 2
As my mind traveled into the darkness of the Dream Realm, the state of being where you are neither dead nor alive and where anything can happen, my mind-sight opened into a vast white plain. Gray clouds swollen with precipitation roiled in the sky and fierce storm winds blew furiously. Freezing rain, hail, and snow mixed in a sloppy stinging mess of ice swirled in the sky and spattered down upon the earth. I had never seen a tundra blizzard like this.
And apparently, it wasn’t even my own eyes I looked through, as I was able to see the form of a slender silver wolf struggling through the snow below. Me.
I had previously heard tell of out-of-body experiences, but never been a part of one myself. It felt strange to see myself, yet still be myself. I blinked my eyes involuntarily as snow swirled about in front of them, yet I could not feel it on my fur. In fact, I couldn’t even feel the harsh cold at all!
My body kept trudging through the thick heaping piles of snow, and I could tell that I was weary. I was farther south than our den was now, I could tell, and mountains rose dark against the stormy sky on the horizon. Another sleek shape bounded up beside my body- another wolf. I could not identify the mysterious creature, or catch a scent to remind me of whom I could be. But it was clearly a friend, as my body nuzzled its side comfortingly.
My mind-sight faded and switched to a rapid flurry of images. I saw bright sun, tall mountain peaks with majestic eagles circling above them, and warm places I could not imagine. I saw forests of deciduous trees, which I only knew through legend and now saw, a beauty of green leaves and sunlight.
As soon as the beautiful images had begun they had faded and my mind-sight went all black. I was lost in a dark nightmare, as I had feared, but I could still hear and smell. But what I heard and smelled was not pleasing. Distant screams and cries and sounds of growling, fighting wolves reached my ears. They howled with pain, and earsplitting noise that echoed hauntingly around my head. And the smell that intoxicatingly clogged my nostrils: blood. Fresh blood. With the sound of ripping flesh and the scent of blood and bone in the air, I ran. Ran into the dark, black nothing. Was I running, or flying? I could not feel the ground, and I suddenly feared that I would lift away and float off forever without stopping.
I must have tripped on something, for I fell and skidded on the invisible floor. Sharp thorn-like objects caught in my ear and the rough ground scraped against my skin. Strangely, the area around my head and feet was cushiony and soft. I was confused at a number of levels. First of all, where was I? This was no place I’d been, no place at all, in fact. It was a black void that stretched on into infinity.
I looked around wildly, the fur on my shoulders bristling in fear. My breath came in ragged gasps and I strained my eyes to see. Nothing, no light was visible. I howled my confusion into the void, where it seemed to be muffled and swallowed. Rolling onto my back, I writhed on the floor for no reason. My mind was playing cruel tricks on me, I thought.
Something prodded my side with a sharp, curved spike. I whined at the void. Now it was hurting me! The spike poked my harder. Scrabbling around on the floor, I swatted back at the spike with a hind leg. From somewhere out in the black nothingness, I heard a wheezy “Oomph!” I got a kick in reply from the spike.
Suddenly, something cracked in the void. Light began streaming in from a crescent-shaped opening that yawned in the farthest corners of the nothingness. I closed my eyes and the gap closed to. Shutting my eyes all the way, I could tell that the light had been closed off. My eyes snapped open and I blinked a few times. Suddenly, I was sucked up against the gap, and my eyes fit into the crescents. The crescents were my eyelids, and I could see through that as if it were a smooth pond of crystal.
What I saw were four very annoyed and ruffled wolves. A stormy gray female named Ranía had her paw raised to prod me again, and my sister along with the other wolves was sitting hunched over, tails twitching in annoyance. Before Ranía could strike me again, I scrambled up and out of the mossy mess I had made of my bed. Ranía, Náphia, and the other two females, Salúa and Kani backed up as I shook the scraps of moss and grass from my pelt. The scraps flew all over and a large chunk of moss landed on my sister’s ear. She flicked it off impatiently.
“You were having a nightmare,” Náphia told me. “You disturbed us all with your howling and kicking. But now we must prepare for the hunt.”
“Sorry,” I muttered, the fur on the back of my neck prickling in embarrassment. Then my gaze turned serious. “Yes, we must get going. Will you tell Sáphre that I shall be accompanying you, but I must first…uh… clean up the mess I made of my bed.” I tried to sound formal, but the words came out all wrong. I ducked my head and started to nose the bedding back together. Hearing the swish of fur as Night Cloud shrugged, I looked up in time to see all four wolves padding out of our den.
“Vlintz!” I cursed savagely in the old language.
By the time I had finished fixing all the beds in the den, I could hear that most of the wolves had awoken and were chatting with quiet barks and whines. I licked my snout to clear away any remaining scraps of dirt and moss and bounded out of the hollow.
Most of the wolves in my pack were awake and active as they moved about the cavern. The young wolves were playing and running about as the older wolves were conversing quietly within themselves.
Our pack’s spiritual leader, Danza Síltiol, was speaking to some of the older males about the upcoming Full Moon Worship service. On the night the moon was a full circle in the sky, wolves gathered in their packs to howl prayers to their god. The Larevah’yia believed that our god, Natúk, was the only true god in the wolf land, and that the Danza, or spiritual leader, of the pack was the interpreter of Natúk’s Hidden Messages. However, other packs believed differently, praising ridiculous pagan Spirits. One of the main reasons for battles between packs was not for territory, but over religion.
One of the fiercest battles over religion happened just before I was born, with the Kantos pack of the eastern horizon. It lasted for one full moon cycle, and many wolves died of wounds or sickness in that cruel winter. My pack and our religious allies the Aurasae’sula, ‘Golden Sun’ in the old language, eventually defeated their fierce fighters and converted their spiritual ideas into our own.
Most packs knew not to mess with us, but some were foolish enough to cross our borders. We soon showed them that we would not tolerate intrusion.
“Arphita! Where is that procrastinating pup?” One of my least favorite wolves, Gránr, was shouting impatiently for me. I barreled through the crowd to meet the hunting covey where they stood at the cave entrance Sáphre, Náphia, Farrír, Gránr, Ranía, a dark gray wolf named Baghar and a young brownish-gray male called Dirsón were waiting for me. All had annoyed expressions on their faces. I couldn’t help but think that I was a burden to the group.
“Let us begin the hunt,” Sáphre barked to the group. “We will begin the Search!”
To be continued...