Chapter 1: Lost ones
They called it the natural order. We call it the third world war. It was apparent what the committee wanted. The Lycanthropic Registration Committee had grown so powerful since its birth. So much more powerful. The political structure of the United States had become a puppet. Delegates sent to allied and neutral countries assumed flawless coups with little military action. It was scary
Overnight, the world entered a new era. We all knew the committee despised our kind, wished us gone. What we failed to realize was their determination. Now that they've become autocrat of most Europe and more than half of the Americas, it was too late. Their plan was already set into motion
Ours was practically gone. The witches betrayed us. A few months after the committee had assumed control, our so called guardians fled to paradise, leaving us to rot in chains. They can't hide in their city forever. Sooner or later, the committee will finally push them clean off the face of our earth. Why had things fallen apart so quickly? Why must millions upon millions suffer because one race cannot tolerate another? The answer is actually quite simple. Because things change. Just like that things change.
Alisha took a quick glimpse around the corner of the alley. It was raining. The sun shone behind the clouds, tinging them a mournful gold. Wolves and humans alike ran in chaos through the wet streets. The sound of the rain pounding against the concrete was distracting her. She growled, nearly missing the footsteps of a soldier until it was almost too late. She glimpsed a shiny black rifle and pulled her head around the corner, heart beating.
"Soldiers?" Shade asked tensely from her side. His paw grasped hers' soothingly. She acknowledged the gesture gratefully. Inside of her, something kicked. Alisha gasped. Shade supported her with his arms immediately, eyes full of concern. "Is it the pup?" he asked, tension in his voice. She turned to look at him with a small smile.
"She kicked." A wondrous expression dominated Shade's face, and for the moment the sense of danger completely left them. Everything else was drowned out in the incredible euphoria of parenthood. A living breathing being had given rise because of their love. It'd been months. The pregnancy would last five. Shade gently ran his paw down her swollen belly with awe. His pup
our pup would be coming, soon.
The click of boots against concrete grabbed their attention.
"Shit." Shade cussed, pulling on Alisha's arm. Looking back, Shade spotted a small hollow in the brick wall covered up by a rusted out dumpster leaning against the alley wall. Careful not to step on any of the broken beer bottles littering the ground, they both managed to navigate the alley and slip behind the dumpster. Grunting as he pulled the dumpster in a little closer to block off the entryway, Alisha grimaced at the screeching of its legs against the concrete. Dank, dark, smelly
but safe. The sound of boots increased and stopped. Alisha broke a sweat. Shade ducked down low and put his face against the dirty cement floor. Squinting, he made out a pair of thick soled boots from underneath the dumpster. He saw them begin to stir and walk away. Soon the clicks vanished altogether. Distant gunfire was added to the panic of the city.
"Fools." Alisha whispered sorrowfully. "They can't go up against firearms. They're just getting themselves killed." Shade leaned his head against her shoulder, rubbing gently his cheek against her soft and filthy fur. "Would we have done anything different? I know I would rather die fighting than become a slave." Alisha was quiet. "You're right." She whispered balefully. "But that can't happen. We have bigger things to worry about." She patted her swollen belly. Shade sighed. A lost expression came into his eyes. "I know." He tenderly drew a paw across the fetus' temporary home. Something inside kicked against his palm.
Blue pushed a stick into the depths of the campfire, watching absentmindedly the bark peel and the white wood become darkened with tiny rifts of flame cracking the tip in loud pops. She could hear Cloud and Cate snoring in the background, along with the sound of Jayze flipping madly through the Book. I don't even know why she bothers looking through that decrepit old thing. It's always blank. It shows us nothing. It's worth nothing! suddenly angered, she threw the stick wholly into the fire. Reaching the inner most depths of the inferno, it caught afire and burst in a rain of fragments. Some of the hot little cinders landed in Blue's fur, warming the skin.
In her mind, she contemplated their progress. Blue had no idea where they were. By the surrounding forest and smell of the air, she guessed somewhere just north of Vancouver, Canada. Millie's scent rushed forward on a soft breeze.
"Hello." She whispered quietly. Blue didn't answer. The little wolf
didn't give up. "Most of the others are asleep. Is anything wrong?" this time Blue answered.
"Nothing's wrong. Everything's just as messed up as usual." Blue's heart twisted into a sickening knot at the lie, but she couldn't talk to anyone, especially Jayze. Not yet at least. "Don't lie." Millie said softly. "I can sense all that energy bundled up in you, hurting you
" "I said I'm alright!" Blue growled ferociously, whipping her head around snarling. Millie, wearing light traveling clothes rose her paws and stepped a few feet back. Still the young wolf didn't give up. Blue wondered if she'd been hit in the head recently. Millie's eyes grew sorrowed. She had obviously suffered during her life. Blue could see it deep within her tortured eyes. This softened her up a little, and she relaxed, easing the snarl on her face into a somber look. Millie walked slowly toward the fire and sat. "You can talk to me you know. I may be a stranger to you, but I'm a good friend." Blue believed her. Strangely, she felt the desire to open up, to share this burden screaming in her heart and mind day and night.
"Do you remember the black wolf who lived with me and Jayze?" Millie nodded.
"Dusk?" "yeah." Millie flicked an ear. Some memory replaid in her mind. "What about him?" Blue rested her chin on her knees drawn up to her chest. "He was taken by the committee. Right in front of my eyes. I could have saved him. I know it." Millie tentatively patted her on the shoulder, face showing great sympathy. "Don't kill yourself over it. You'll see. We'll find him one of these days." Suddenly Blue spoke up. "Do you know the last memory of him I have? Idiot humans pushing him hooded, handcuffed and muzzled to the ground in the middle of a street. They just picked him up and threw him straight in the trunk of their car." Blue's fist clenched in pure rage. "If I ever see them again, their hearts will be mine." Her voice took on a dark tone. Blue's eyes shone in the firelight. By the look on the dark wolf's face, Millie could tell she had more to say, so she waited patiently for her to continue. "Worst thing about it, Jayze kept me from saving him. I'd fallen for his good heart, and those little things that make him who he is, and then he's gone. Just gone." Millie lowered her head in respect for Blue's loss. Losing someone who may or may not have become a mate was indeed one of the most terrible things that could happen to a wolf. Once the bond was forged, it was permanent. Usually if one mate was killed, the other would die too. The bond was so complete, none could live without the other. They died because the will to live had been torn from their soul. It was a kinder fate then forever living in the shadows of a despair so deep humans nor witches could even comprehend. This is what had happened to Millie's mother. It was why she was all alone in this world. Why she had continued on to paradise. There was no reason to keep her from making the journey. No reason holding her back. She had no one, and Millie knew it all too well. Above, the clouds parted, revealing a dark patch in the night sky. It was a new moon.
I awoke in a barren forest. Only dry earth, red skies and scruffy dead trees were there to welcome me. I opened my eyes slowly, taking in the world from a new perspective. The cracked earth touching my back was soft and crumbled. I didn't get up. What was the point? I didn't understand this place. Why it always drew me in, why? The only other living organisms were plants and that one red butterfly. I didn't know of their purpose but found the lack of noise refreshing. Now it was disturbing. Now there was no noise because there was nothing left to make noise. Everything had faded, dried up and just died.
"I don't understand!" I howled, pounding my fists against the dry desert. Poofs of gray dust flew up into the air.
"Look around." The voice of a small innocent girl answered my plea. I jumped from the abrupt nature of the voice. Nothing in this "dream" reality had ever answered me. I never expected anything to.
"who's there?" I sat up. A small blonde girl in a fluffy pink coat was sitting at my feet, staring off into the distance. Her back was facing me, so her face was unknown. "Can you see?" She whispered. "See what?" I grumbled. "There's nothing here. Everything's dead." "I know." She sounded sad. Suddenly the little girl whipped her head around to stare at me with piercing ice blue eyes. "Do not let the witches initiate the guardian project." "Which is?" I implied, a little annoyed. I knew a little bit about this "Guardian project", but the details was murky. Everyone I asked dodged the question immediately, pretending to be preoccupied. It was infuriating. The little girl's eyes were full of wisdom. "You'll learn soon enough my little warrior. Listen to my voice and be the barrier between the night and day. You are the Dusk." And she vanished.
Everything was quiet. I howled out in rage, swiping my claws through the gray earth. It blew into the sky, falling on the stagnant air like a thin ash. Some of it got into my eyes and stung like little shards of glass. Closing them shut, I felt the pain disappear and cracked one open. Star's concerned face was staring me straight in the eyes. His were concerned. He licked my cheek nervously and rubbed his muzzle across my cheek.
"Is something wrong father?" yawning, I rolled out from under his gaze and sat up. Stretching my stiff muscles, I got a look at my son. He'd grown in the months since we'd escaped Tornuaq, or rather destroyed it. I thought back to the filthy mud, the crack of the whips ever present and cringed. I thought of the scars covering my body and my own act of sin. A certain part of my mind had gone numb, and I killed over one hundred people. I killed people
Guilt, overpowering guilt crashed down on my shoulders. I staggered under its weight. I couldn't even steal the life of a deer. What changed in me to allow such an atrocity to come from my own hands? In the back of my mind, the face of a red wolf grinned wickedly. It was my face.
"Father?" Star whispered. I hadn't realized that a look of horror had been put onto my face until I felt the muscles relax. Breathing deep breaths, I turned my attention to my son and felt pride burn hot as a sun in my heart. He was sitting respectfully on his knees, bowing his head. His muscles had expanded, gotten larger and stronger. He wore an unkempt mane, spilling over onto his shoulders and down his back. In his eyes I saw innocence, but also strength and the knowledge of how bad this world could get. He'd lost his naivety and grown more mature because of it. I was so glad. Star could have become cold, heartless even because of that wretched hell hole. No. The opposite had occurred.
Charlie poked his wide head into the mouth of the cave. His fur was shaggy, a rich brown. Unlike the rest of us; his muzzle was thick, powerful muscles adorning his body. He was a different breed altogether. Of course, werewolves just didn't grow muscle, that's not how it worked. There was room for improvement, if we trained our bodies, just like humans. Some wolves were naturally twice as strong as a grizzly bear. But that was besides the point. Charlie, a former soldier had taken to this life surprisingly well. No complaints, only the will to please. I remember talking to Storm-Pelt about it. His response "Unless strong emotion separated the wolf and human, the newly bitten will instinctively assume subordination to the creator and his fellow tribesman." How interesting. If I'd been changed by anyone but Blaze, I would have been like that too. The instinct probably diminished in-fighting for higher positions and generated a more communal rather than self interest. I'd been told many times before by my friends. "Your tribe is everything. It is who you are, what defines you other than deeds of glory or kindness."
"Snow-Tail brought down a big buck and a few rabbits, come with us and eat." Charlie told us before leaving the cave. Both our stomachs rumbled in unison.
"You want to get a bite?" Star asked, looking hungrily out the cave mouth.
Alisha could see nothing but utter darkness. Maybe that's because her eyes were closed. Yawning luxuriously, she stretched as best she could in the small space and woke up her body. Two things stood out. A strange weariness that had burried itself into her muscles and the uncomfortable moisture that seeped into the fur on her rump. She moved, making a splash. A shallow puddle had formed on the floor. While they slept rain had fallen on the city. Her eyes piercing the thick blackness, she squinted. Contrasted to the shadows of their space, the beams of gray light passing through cracks in the dumpster were bright as the morning sun. She shook her head. She felt Shade's head nuzzle her shoulder in his sleep. Alisha smiled and gently ruffled her mates' mane.
"Shade. Shade, wake up. We fell asleep." he stirred. His eyes opened in narrow cracks, revealing striking green irises.
"Is it safe?" He whispered sleepily. "I can't hear anything." Alisha answered after a moment's hesitation. It was true. No sound but the usual bussle of the city met her ears. No screaming. No gunshots. Only cars and
Whining? Alisha strained her ears, sensing a young wolf maybe fifteen years by the tone whine from way down the alley. "C'mon lazy butt. Let's get moving." Placing a foot against the dumpster, she pushed and grimaced at the screeching of iron on weathered concrete.
"What do you see?" Shade whispered into Alisha's ear, who was peeking her head around a particularly filthy alley's corner. The sky above was a miserable gray. Puddles like the glass and rotting wood were strewn about on the ground. She'd grown used to the horrible scent, almost like a carion left out in the sun on a warm day that lasted for months.
Narrowing her eyes, Alisha witnessed a policeman shoving a young wolf up against the wall. The wolf was collared and wore a metal collar. His blue eyes were wide with fear. Patched and baggy clothing hung off his thin frame. Something on the wolf's collar caught Alisha's eye. It was a dogtag. The police officer pulled out a thin and supple wooden rod from his side after cuffing the young one.
"You shouldn't have run from your master dog." he sneered, hitting him harshly across the back. Alisha let a small growl rumble in her throat as the wolf yelped. "Running always makes it harder. No doubt when we return you whoever your master is will want you chipped for sure." Another strike across the back. Another yelp that broke Alisha's heart.
"We have to do something." She whined. Shade laid a hand against her shoulder.
"I know. Let's be careful though." The police officer pulled the young wolf around and read his tag. "Damn Slave. This area code registers from all the way across town. How did you escape and come all this way?" All the wolf could do was shiver and tremble in fear against the wall. Shade stepped out into the open, drawing his paw across Alisha's back as he went until finally the pressure she felt vanished into the air.