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Spirit River Forest, Chronicle III-IV

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III
Artemis coughed as the sand blew in her face. Her eyes were red-tinged from all the dust, and her tongue was cracked and dry. The pads on her feet were blistered from the hot ground. She leaned against Moonsong, trying to gain shelter from the winds.
The pack was not moving forward in this storm, so they were trying to ride it out. With the biggest, strongest wolves on the side facing the wind, then the other adults on the inside, then the middle ones, then the pups, they formed somewhat a semi-circle barrier against the wind.
Moonsong laid near the outside of the semi-circle, closest to the wind and away from the pups. He was worried about all of them, of course, but especially Artemis. He felt her curl up beside him, and smiled.
The wind was blowing harder now, and the wolves on the outside were struggling to hold their ground.
Moonsong sniffed the air. Something was wrong, something was very wrong. But he couldn't think about it for too long, because he passed out and fell asleep.
A shadow passed over the now sleeping pack. In a slow, hypnotic tone, a voice called out to them.
"You will never make it to your alpha and delta. You will stop following the Ways of the Spirit. Your pack is no longer the Colors of the Spirit- now you are the Greyness of the Underworld. You will now awake."
Moonsong and Artemis both opened their eyes to see the sandstorm had passed, leaving behind a comfortably warm, sunny day. The usually plain blue sky was now dotted with fluffy white clouds.
"This looks like a good place to start an army," Moonsong said smugly.
Artemis glanced at him strangely. There was something wrong with him, but she knew not what. But she nodded and said, "Yes, a very good place."
"Away from that despicable, peace-loving spirit-oriented mother of yours, too!" he cackled.
"Hades will be pleased," she said softly. "Maybe Persephone will be freed to let growth here for a while..."
Moonsong bit her slightly on the ear. "No rebellious thinking," he reprimanded. "Persephone is being punished, as Pandora-Elvira was, and as Ruby and Cyntos will be. And Jailo as well, when Hades catches him."
Artemis said nothing .
"Should we now construct the project?" Moonsong asked, turning to the rest of he wolves.
"Wait! We need power to make the Project!" someone said. Artemis believed it was Arctic Freeze, one of the elders. "Won't the Beast come?"
A firey shadow wolf appeared. "Beast? There are no beasts. You wolves are the strongest things alive... And will always be. Who told you this beast nonsense?"
Artemis piped up, "My mother, Engel, I think. And Azazel. And Fate. And Zokin. And Arctic and Tianellli and Zemnas!"

The shadow wolf gasped. "You mean, you were the spirit pack of Mycelic? The Spirit River Forest Wolf Pack?" Yes, this was amazing. Soon, the plot would be complete.
Some of the wolves mumbled a yes.
"Then why are we here?!" the shadow wolf asked. "Hades... wishes... You to come to the Great Waters."
"Can we use our powers to get there?" Mesi asked.
The shadow wolf turned, and then smiled. "Of course, you may, little one, everyone can. There are no beasts."
With that, the pack flashed across the desert, using whatever powers they had. Within an hour, they reached the Great Waters.
"Why did Hades want us to start an army here?" asked Moonsong, disbelieving.
So that's what he's doing, thought the shadow wolf. "He wants you to go into the cold water as a sacrificial sort of thing."
Artemis stepped near the water, and plunged, momentarily forgetting her fear of fish. Immediately, her head was cleared of deception.
"Wait!" she cried out, "We are not part of the underworld! Everyone, in the water! Now!"
A few other wolves, including Moonsong, scoffed at this and entered the water, their heads cleared as well. Eventually, all the wolves were clear-headed. Artemis breathed a sigh of relief and watched as the shadow wolf permitted herself a contented smile.
"Why did you free us?" Artemis asked the shadow wolf curiously.
She sighed. "My name is Persephone," she said. The wolves gasped collectively.
"The rebel!" Kogru exclaimed.
"Not originally. Long ago, Hades was forced control of the underworld, but his brothers, both older, got the sky and sea, and he was bitter. At first he meant well, but his bitterness turned to hate, and now he is what he is now."
"Where do you come in?" Moonsong asked.
"Long ago, I was tending this worlds plants- naming them, and painting them-not too far from a rip in the dimensions, a keyhole."
"And?" pressed one of the wolves.
"And I heard thus rumbling behind me, and I saw this great black wolf- I had turned around, you see- and the wolf grabbed me, and I was not fully grown, so he forced me away from my mother, and the earth, to the Underworld. I was to be his mate, and spend my life down in those fires and black stone. I refused to be happy, and I cried. He attempted to cheer me up, which was pleasing, but I missed my mother and my plants and beautiful trees..." she trailed off.
"Who was your mother?" someone asked.
"Demeter," both Artemis and Persephone said at the same time. The latter looked surprised, and continued.
"On earth, my mother begged my father to help free me- my father is Hades' brother. But Hades had given him a gift, and my father tried to compromise. My mother would hear none of it, and went back to earth, telling my father, Lord of the Sky, to call her when he wanted her."
"What happened then?" asked Artemis.
"He padded out of his sky-den one morning and looked at the world below. It was barren, and wolves were starving. There was no food for the deer, and they died, and there was not enough deer for the wolves. So Zeus made Hades let me go. But I had only eaten six bites of deer when I was there, hidden in the garden, but a servant saw me and reported it."
She sighed. "So, for a long time, for six months of the year in fall and winter, when the least grows, I am shut up in that dismal place. For thousands of years, that's how it's been. That wasn't too terrible, though..."
"What went wrong?"
"Well, a few years ago, he started taking me earlier and letting me go later. Last year, I had a day to visit earth. He changed me into a shadow wolf, my brown fur and green eyes gone. He tried to make me one of them, and sabotage earth. When I saw he caught YOU for his plan, I was overjoyed! Together you are powerful, and the mountains you will move to can help you hone your power. Maybe, we could overthrow Hades? Please? If not for me, for my son, Jailo!" She looked at Moonsong with big, pleading eyes.
Artemis piped up, "You are my cousin, are you not?" Something about this wolf was familiar.
Persephone blinked, surprised.” What is your name? I thought you were the alphas daughter..."
"Artemis, and I am adopted." Her voice quivered as she declared the last part- only Moonsong, Stormwings, Kogru, and Shade knew that. Engel had told her to keep it a secret, to hide it- but the silver alpha was across the waters with Zokin.
"You are Apollos sister? Hmm, I suppose you are, although it is beyond the depths of my own imagination as to how Engel, bless her good heart, found you.”
Artemis turned to Moonsong. "I think we should rest, get across the ocean, to the mountains, and the help Persephone. Well, at least I will!" she lay down and began licking her blistered paws.



IV

Ice Blink padded through the underbrush of the dense jungle, trying to control the monster that she assumed lurked within. She knew that the native wolves of this land were in their Annual Slumber, and she could harm no one here. She needed to be away from wolves, away from any living thing. She was, in essence, a biological time bomb.

Her white fur shuddered as she remembered the events that led her to this. Memories of her old pack flashed through her mind, each one more painful and unbearable than the next. Lying down, she let the visions of the past overcome her, as she could not walk when in her trance.

The image of a snowy valley flashed across the inside of her eyelids. A silver-white wolf, male, was grinning at her, ebony lips stretched into what could be viewed as a smile. The alpha of her old pack stood behind the silver wolf, dark and strong with an air of regality.

A new vision replaced the last, this one depicting the alphas, the betas, and the three young pups lying in the Place of Sleep. The silver wolf lied a little bit away, as he was merely a pup-sitter, but Ice Blink only paid heed to him. She padded forward as he breathed his last gasps of air. As he died, she licked his grey cheek softly, and the virus flowed into her system.

From the north she had traveled, away from her past, trying to forget what she had seen, searching for a place to start a new life. But no pack would take her, as they scented the sickly-sweet smell of the virus.

Nestling against a nearby tree, Ice Blink fell asleep, unaware that the time bomb had almost finished ticking and soon would explode.
***

A graceful silver and white wolf with blue-green eyes roamed the jungle, a smile on her face. The pack was almost at the mountains, and then they would finally be able to rest. If only Erebos and Kathrenna would get here faster… but there was nothing the alpha of the Spirit Pack could do about that now. Engel needed to have patience, and wait.

Engel breathed in deeply, the aroma of rich loam filling her nostrils. Patrolling the borders here seemed so peaceful- as a Spirit of peace and snow itself, she found it relaxing. No Blood Pack was here. Wrath was long dead. And Azazel… Well, only Young White and Old Night knew where in the seven dimensions the Spirit of Chaos was.

Her rhythmic padding of pawsteps halted. Lifting her muzzle, she sniffed the air, catching a sickening sweet smell, similar to one of the bright yellow fruits the peculiar vegetarian native wolves ate. Perhaps one had rotten nearby. She had tasted one before, and it definitely was not a waste of good food.

She continued walking along the border, but warily, and suspiciously. Attempting not to let it show, Engel held her head high, and threw her white-furred chest out, a sign of dominance of other wolves. She froze as a low growl erupted behind her.
Swiveling around, she growled back at the small white wolf, squinting her eyes as a show of superiority. To her surprise, the wolf did not back down, but instead leapt forward. Snarling, Engel clawed at the menace, but it was too late. Ice Blink’s teeth broke the skin, and the white foam that famed the ebony lips seared into the cut.
In anger, Engel slashed at the wolf, pinning her down to the jungle floor. The snowy wolf’s blue eyes widened in fear, and she began trembling, turning belly-up. Then the shaking started, the twitching and turning. Engel watched, confused, as Ice Blink died with a loud yelp.
Then it hit her.
The strange wolf had rabies, and passed it on to the last living creature she had seen before she died- Engel herself.
Hyperventilating in panic, Engel blinked hard, trying to calm herself. She needed to get away. If Zokin, or Kogru, or Artemis caught the disease, Engel would suffer forever in the Spirit World. No, she had to get away. Sprinting to a clearing, she morphed to her nymph form, and searched her pockets. Hurriedly, she penned a letter to one of the only wolves that could read- Kathrenna.

Dear Kathrenna,
This is the last will and testament of Engel Wolfsdaughter, born to Waiki, for Ger, kin of Moonsong, adopted mother of Kogru and Artemis, close friend of Zokin, Stormwings, Young White, Old Night, Kimi, and Zemnas.
When you find this, I will be long dead. Do not mourn me long, and please help little Mesi. She may not take it well.
Do not touch my face or the incision on my shoulder- I have been infected with a disease that even I, a Spirit of multiple elements, can not fight.
When you get to the mountains, please take my body and place it in a small pond, which will then freeze over. Never break that ice, for as long as it is intact, I may visit you when the ground feels the icy sting of snow.
My stone is to be kept carefully under high attention- I have placed within it 8000 years worth of power- use it when the pack needs it.
Ah, the pack. I place as Regents Kathrenna, Autumn, Loi, and Zokin. Artemis is to be alpha when she comes of age- I have secretly been training her.
I will miss you all, but do not worry- I will watch over you. For as long as the pack is around, my spirit will remain.
We are colors of the spirit-
We are many, We are one.
-Engel

Trembling, she folded the parchment carefully, and morphed back into wolf form. She had to will herself to die before she went crazy- she called on the Spirits, on Fate, on Derisi, and on Ger to help her.
Her blue-green eyes gazed at the world. If she had to died in an unfamiliar land, this would do well. She appreciated the beauty of the nature, the delicate balance that the Natural World, the 4th dimension, had managed to maintain.
“Goodbye,” she said softly, smiling as her last breath escaped.
Wrath did not destroy her, Azazel could not kill her, she had faced countless enemies and had won with her wit and intelligence on the side of peace. She had been destroyed by the only enemy that could not yield to trickery or a smooth tongue- the disease.
Engel, the Spirit of Peace, the Spirit of Ice, the Alpha of the Spirit River Forest Wolf Pack, the leader, the mother, the sister, the sign of Good in this world, was
dead.



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