Lone Wolf No Longer
By: Nadia Denysschen
The sun emerged from the hills casting golden rays through the forest as it broke the stillness of the now awakening dawn. The birds filled the Grey Forest with song while they flitted from tree to tree, basking in the warmth of the sun. A young rabbit hopped out of his hole and sniffed the air; he jumped in delight and kicked out, warming his stiff muscles as his mate hopped out beside him.
Before I continue let me just tell you more about The Grey Forest. The Grey Forest may seem like a strange name for such a wonderful place, filled with blooming flowers and trees, tall evergreens and lush green grass. The forest was actually given its name for another reason, one that still existed. The forest was named after the well-known grey wolves that inhabited the forest in small numbers, actually just two separate packs. It was named after them because they were the most ferocious wolves that were ever born. Both packs were led by an Alpha that had to prove that he was the strongest and most ferocious of the pack. Anyway, let us get back to our story.
The young rabbit hopped towards a patch of grass and began to nibble delicately at each blade. Suddenly a wolf stormed out and grabbed the rabbit. It squealed and whistled in protest. The wolf merely bit down harder on its neck and jerked its head to the side snapping the rabbit’s spine. The rabbit gave a long, loud, shrieking whistle and fell limp. The wolf immediately dropped the rabbit and shook his head, “Bothersome creatures”, he growled, pawing at his ear, “Their squeaking and whistling make my ears ring”. He shook his head one last time, picked up the rabbit and bounded off into the forest.
He ran for a while then stopped, looked around and whined slowly, questioningly. A muffled whimper came from the rocks in answer. He headed towards the sound and towards the den opening.
He brushed through the overhanging leaves and plants into the den. The scene before him caused him to stop and stare. His mate was lying on her side, convulsing and gritting her teeth. “Treeflower!” he exclaimed and bounded forward, “Did you eat the meat from yesterday? I noticed a strange smell coming from it, that’s why I didn’t eat it; it must have had poison in it.” He whined and nuzzled her while she convulsed in agony, unable to speak. “I’m so sorry dear; I should have taken the meat away. If you die I will never forgive myself.” he whined.
Even though she was in agony Treeflower’s eyes sparkled with humour, finally she managed to gasp in a husky whisper, “Don’t be silly Wind, the cubs are here”. Wind’s eyes widened in excitement but he quickly hid it and his face darkened. He was still the Alpha he reminded himself, no time to prance around and be excited. “I’ll summon the pack,” he growled but something caught his eye. The first cub was emerging. First, a head and then inch by inch the whole body emerged and tumbled onto the dusty floor. He watched silently as his mate guided the cub to her belly and licked it vigorously, starting the blood flow through the whole body and warming it. It squeaked and started moving. It quickly found a teat and sucked contentedly.
Treeflower looked up and smiled to herself as she studied Wind while he watched the little one. “The pack will be excited to know,” she prompted. Wind quickly averted his eyes and left the den in silence. Treeflower convulsed once more and brought another life into the world, repeating the same vigorous licking followed by contented suckling. Tree flower sighed and whispered, “Let’s get on with it little one, you may be the last but you also need to be born.” As she spoke, another little head emerged and a limp little body fell to the ground. Treeflower gathered the little one closely for warmth and began to lick it. The cub squeaked and shuffled away from the mothers tongue, pressing close to Treeflower’s belly. It quickly found a teat and suckled noisily. “You’ll do just fine little one,” she mused.
Wind entered the den followed by the Beta, Skybird. Wind nodded to himself as he studied the cubs. He then turned to Treeflower, “What shall you name our cubs.” Treeflower gazed at the first-born cub and said, “I will name him Oakleaf as he is strong yet he fumbles and lacks bravery.” She gazed now at the second cub and said, “I will name him Riversong as he is brave and has much courage but lacks physical strength.”
She gazed at the last-born cub and marvelled at the now visible snow-white fur covering her entire body. She watched as the little one pushed the other siblings to the side as she searched for a teat. She knew that this one was to be the new alpha someday yet she felt that this cub was to be more powerful than any other wolf. She thought for a moment and then said, “I will name this one Blizzardheart as she is both strong in heart and in body, she is as brave and as strong as a powerful storm and she is as white as snow.” Wind also gazed at the female cub as she suckled noisily. He too knew that this cub was to be powerful and a ruler of all wolves.
A loud yapping and yelping broke the stillness of the morning air; scattering birds in all directions amidst shrieking alarm calls. Oakleaf and Riversong stumbled over one another and onto a tall rock. Riversong looked back at the den and called, “Blizzardheart come on. It’s our first day out of the den.” Riversong tried to see into the den but it was too dark. “Maybe she’s too cold,” suggested Oakleaf, “after all it is winter.” Riversong cocked his head and peered through the vines at an emerging shape. He gasped as his Blizzardheart came through the opening and charged at them full speed. She knocked into with all her weight and they tumbled off the rock and down the other side. Oakleaf shrieked as Riversong scratched his belly. “Sorry,” yelped Riversong as Oakleaf nearly boxed his ears off.”
They rolled and tumbled in the snow while Blizzardheart sat and watched. They are so silly she thought, can’t they get their balance? Her brothers clawed at each other and tumbled around right into their sister’s feet. They both yelped and jumped up, blinking in surprise as Blizzardheart cuffed them so hard that they were sent tumbling into the snow. Riversong sat up and gazed wide-eyed at his sister, “Wow”, he exclaimed, “How’d you do that?” Blizzardheart merely turned around and headed back towards the den, “I’m cold,” she said breezily and went inside. Riversong shot a puzzled look at Oakleaf. Oakleaf just shrugged and said, “Let’s go inside, it IS cold.” Riversong trotted after Oakleaf still wondering about his sister’s remarkable strength.
Once inside he ran straight to his mother, “Mom, why is Blizzardheart so strong?” Treeflower’s head snapped around and focused on Riversong. She quickly hid her troubled look and drew the pup in with her tail. “Blizzardheart, my dear, is very special.” She looked down at him and love glowed in her eyes. “You see Blizzardheart was born with a a lot of wisdom and strength.” She looked up towards Blizzardheart who was batting at a stray leaf in the air. “She doesn’t know that she is so strong,” She said softly, “the creator of all things has created her that way to lead us one day.”
Treeflower chuckled to herself and watched as Blizzardheart toppled over backwards while trying to keep the leaf in the air. “I wonder,” she mused, “if Blizzardheart is not meant for a greater purpose than leading us.” All this time Riversong listened with undivided attention. “I wish I was special, he sighed. Treeflower looked at him and smiled warmly, “Don’t worry too much dear, you are special,” she looked up as Blizzardheart flopped down in exhaustion, “ just not in the same way.” Riversong just grunted and ambled over to Oakleaf who was gnawing on a bone in the corner.
Oakleaf jumped up when Riversong arrived and growled in mock rage as Riversong gave the bone a tentative sniff. Oakleaf sprang on top of Riversong and then sprang away causing Riversong to stumble. Riversong quickly regained his balance and sprang at Oakleaf in mock rage. The two tumbled around the den, knocking into everything in their path. Treeflower coked her head and laughed. They were definitely growing up some day.
Many years had passed since Blizzardheart had displayed her strength to her siblings. She grew stronger and wiser with the passing months. Her bravery and wisdom surprised many in the pack as we will see soon during this fateful hunt.
This was to be the most fateful day of Blizzardheart and her siblings’ lives. It started out with the usual hunting of the pack one morning. They were hunting a herd of moose which most people will know is very dangerous. They travelled for quite some time, tracking the moose. Finally after quite some distance Wind, who was staying ahead of the pack, finally scented the moose and quickly alerted the rest of the pack by growling and crouching down. The rest of the pack quickly followed suit and crouched down.
Wind began to ease forward and then turned his head around with a cold look in his eyes. “Do you guys know what the plan is,” he growled searching their faces. They all looked blankly back at him, some looked confused. Wind snarled and faced them. “I see that you all need some enlightening,” he snarled, making them all cower back. He looked at Blizzardheart who was not cowering and didn’t even show fear. He met her gaze. Was that disapproval in her eyes? He averted his eyes to look at Riversong who was cowering with Oakleaf by his side.
He growled in frustration, didn’t anybody know what to do. Wind snapped his head around,Blizzardheart was stepping forward. He narrowed his eyes and watched as she spoke, “I think that we should get some of the pack to go to the front of the herd and then while they create a general distraction the rest of the pack will herd the young ones together and away from the rest of the herd. Wind looked at Blizzardheart in approval but she ignored it and proceeded to look at all the wolves in the pack, “I think Leopardspot, Stoneface, Rockfur, Treeflower and Wind should create the diversion while the rest of us herd the young ones away.”
There was a shocked silence. No one was allowed to call the Alpha by his first name, only his mate and even then it was a risk. No one, besides the Alpha, was to give orders to the rest of the pack either. Wind looked at Blizzardheart with cold, calculating eyes, “I think that we should drive the herd away from the young and weak and then slowly pick them off.” He turned his head towards Skybird meaningfully, “I think that Blizzardheart is not feeling very well, she needs to go home and rest.” Skybird nodded and began to shove Blizzardheart along .
“Wait,” Blizzardheart walked towards her father. Wind turned around and eyed her suspiciously, “What?” Blizzardheart gazed sadly at her father and said, “Goodbye father, I will miss you.” She turned as to leave then turned back and said softly, “I love you.” Wind nodded to Skybird who shoved Blizzardheart towards the path. Blizzardheart snarled viciously and snapped at Skybird. Skybird jerked back in surprise. Blizzardheart just carried on walking home without looking back. Skybird watched her with a mixture of confusion and surprise then turned and gave Wind a helpless look.
Wind snorted and said, “Alright, places everyone and don’t screw this up or one of us could die.” The pack looked uneasy and were rather nervous because of what happened. Wind noticed this and growled, “She was not feeling well in her head obviously,” he looked around, “who would dare to give oders and call me by name.” The pack looked at each other and shook their heads, somewhat consoled. Wind turned and crouched down, “let’s get on with it.” The rest of the pack quickly gor into their positions and crouched down. Wind began to move stealthily forward towards the herd of moose.
If they had listened to Blizzardheart all would have gone well. Wind and half of the pack were going to drive the herd of moose away while Treeflower and the other half of the pack were going to keep the young and weak ones together and pick them off. It was a good plan but what they did not know was that the herd was led by a rogue bull who was immensly strong and smart. They started to put their plan into action when suddenly the bull bellowed out a warning and ran to meet the approaching wolves.
The bull was not alone. Behind him were six muscular males and they meant business. The wolves stopped dead and stared at the approaching moose in shock. Hesitancy grabbed their minds with icy fingers and confusion struck. The wolves turned around and started running away. Wind’s voice rang out, “Stop, cowards……” He didn’t get to finish as a moose tossed him in the air. With a yelp he landed on the ground. The moose reared and trampled over him till his body was a lifeless bloody heap. Treeflower gave a muffled cry of agony and rushed forward but it was too late.
One of the moose ran towards Treeflower and tossed her in the air. Treeflower yelped and pawed at the air desperately. As soon as she landed the moose fell upon her and proceeded to tear her apart. He was succesful. Treeflower was quickly killed and the rest of the pack ran away with their tails between their legs. When they arrived at the den where Blizzardheart lived she came out of the den and looked around at their wide, terrified eyes and quivering legs and tails. Her expression saddened as sh asked, “So they are dead then?” The pack looked at her in shock. Blizzardheart looked back at them, her expression calm, “I knew the plan would fail and Wind and Treeflower have not returned with you.” The wolves relaxed but some still gave Blizzardheart wondering glances.
After Wind and Treeflowers’ death the wolves did not know who would become the new Alpha. Some wolves thought that Skybird would take the role but some still argued that Blizzardheart was a more likely candidate. It did not surprise most when a dual was announced between Skybird and Blizzardheart. The wolf that lost would be driven out of the pack. If one of the wolves refused to fight then they would be driven out anyway. Blizzardheart knew this and knew that she had to fight. Blizzardheart knew that Skybird did not stand a chance against her but she still decided to fight. Skybird and Blizzardheart were placed in a circle of rocks much like an arena while the wolves watched from their perches above. There were no rules so the wolves in the arena could even choose to kill each other. Blizzardheart had already decided that she would not kill Skybird but she was not sure if he thought the same way.
They began circling each other. Blizzardheart focused all her senses on Skybird to analyse his condition. She could smell his confidence but at the same time she detected a hint of uncertainty. Suddenly and without warning Skybird leaped into the air. Blizzardheart was a little surprised but she quickly jumped into action and darted forward in a crouch and ran underneath Skybird while he was still in the air. Skybird crashed into the ground yelping in surprise. He struggled for a moment to try to regain his balance when a white blur ducked underneath him and he felt himself being tossed through the air as Blizzardheart shoved him with her hind legs. He thumped onto the ground and struggled to get up.
The white steamtrain hit him on the shoulder. This time razor-sharp teeth tore at his shoulderand he felt his blood trickling down, hot. Blizzardheart allowed him to regain his balance. Skybird was stunned and looked around, blinking. At last his eyes focused on Blizzardheart. He snarled and leaped once more. Blizzardheart was ready for him. She ducked underneath him once more but this time she tore at his belly with her teeth and paws. Skybird fell to the ground once more with blood flowing from his belly. He refused to give up and once more struggled to regain his balance.
He rushed forward and his teeth sank into…..empty air. Blizzardheart had mysteriously disappeared again. Skybird knew what was coming and jerked his head up in desperation but it was too late. Blizzardhearts’ teeth sank into his neck. He vigorously tried to shake her off but she hung on like a leech. His energy was spent and he slowly sank down and lay on his side. He felt darkness closing in when suddenly the weight on his throat disappeared and he could breathe again. He was dimly aware of voices. “I will become a lone wolf,” the one voice said, it sounded like Blizzardheart’s. Another voice answered but Skybird could not make out the words. He slowly drifted off. It felt like he was floating on air. Blackness crowded in and he slowly sank into oblivion.
Blizzardheart had waited until she knew that Skybird was unconscious. She did not want to be Alpha. She felt that it was not her time yet. She had decided before the fight that she would become a loner. When her parents died it had made it even easier to make the choice. When she told the other wolves they protested very strongly but she had made up her mind. She was now a lone wolf.
Blizzardheart knew all the dangers that came with being a lone wolf but she was not nervous or scared. She knew that she was more than strong enough to handle it. She decided to wait to make sure that Skybird pulled through alright and to make sure that he did not die. She was more experienced at tending wounds so she proceeded to do so on Skybird. When Skybird finally pulled through and became fully awake Blizzardheart knew that it was her time to leave. Before she left Skybird had offered to let her stay in the pack in return for saving his life but she refused and said that it was against the rules. Skybird excepted her dicision but he insisted that if ever she needed anything she could just come and ask him. So Blizzardheart started her life as a lone wolf.
At first she did not know where to stay but she found a log that lay near a slow river. She dug a hole underneath the log and made hearself a cosy water-proof den with a entrance tunnel and an escape tunnel into the bushes. This took a very long time to dig out but she eventually finished 5 days later. She had only eaten small mice and birds that she had come across and was very hungry. Since she lived right next to the river she had a good water source so she did not need to find water. The water also helped to disguise her scent so she was rather satisfied with her new home. The only thing left to do was to hunt for some food. Blizzardheart had dug an extra tunnel right underneath the river. It was kept very cold by the running water on all sides. She had done this to be able to store her meat because she knew that as a lone wolf she would not always be able to find food and if she did she might not always be able to catch it because she no longer had others to help. Some days she might not even be well enough to hunt.
She went hunting, hoping to catch something large enough so that she could eat her fill and still have some to store. As she trotted along she picked up the musky scent of a few…no, one deer. Blizzardheart could feel herself drooling in expectation. She calmed herself down and ran forward following the scent. Finally the scent became strong and fresh. She could hear rustling in the undergrowth up ahead. She immediately crouched down and moved downwind. Ah now she knew exactly where the deer was. Her nose twitched, smelled like a female.
Oh well a wolf has to eat. She stalked forward until she could see the deer….yep…definitely female. The doe was munching on some ferns growing from a rock, totally oblivious to Blizzardheart’s presence. Blizzardheart stalked as close as she could. It was now or never. She leaped silently and without warning. Before the doe knew what was going on she was lying on the ground with heavy weight pressing against her. The doe thrashed and kicked but the weight would not go. Her back stung as claws ripped into her. She bleated helplessy as teeth bit into the back of her neck. She felt the teeth twisting her spine and slowly putting pressure. Her body began to sting all over as if ants were biting her all over. She tried to bleat again but all that came out was a chocking and gurgling noise. She could feel blackness closing in gradually.
She kicked out feebly and tried to shake her head but it would not respond. She felt a sharp pain as her spine snapped and her awarness began to fall apart slowly then everything went black. Blizzardheart shook her head vigorously to make sure that the doe was dead and then she began to drag it’s body homeward. After an hour of painful dragging she finally reached her den. Instead of dragging it inside she at it at the side of the river. The river would carry the scent away and keep it away from the noses of hungry predators who could be stronger. She knew that when she had dragged the buck to her den the smell of the carcass and blood would attract unwanted guests.
Blizzardheart ate her fill then took the good leftovers and carried them to her cooling den. Then she took the rest of the remains and buried them far away from her den so predators would not follow the smell to her den. She finally went inside her den to sleep off her good meal as every wolf does. Suddenly she realised that any rats and other smaller predators could easily sneak past and raid her stores. She struggled to her feet, blinking out her sleep and trotted outside.
She looked around and spotted a pile of large branches lying underneath a nearby tree. She dragged the branches to her den entrance and arranged them in such a way that they formed a barrier over her entrance and could only be opened by moving them aside. This was no small task. The branches were heavy and could not be moved very easily. She went back inside, closing her “door”, and collapsed on the ground in exhaustion. She quickly fell asleep and ended her tiring but succesful day.
The next day proved to be just as succesful. Blizzardheart woke and basked in the warmth of the morning light…..wait….she jerked her head up in horror. Her den entrance was completely open. She struggled to her feet and crawled outside, shaking the dust off her coat. She looked around and saw nothing out of place except for the fact that her branches were completely gone. She hurried back inside to check if anything had been stolen from her cooling den. Everything was there. Nothing was missing. Puzzled she walked outside once more to try to figure it out. There were no obvious scents of larger predators though there was a strange scent that seemed almost like of wolf’s but it was muffled underneath a much heavier scent that Blizzardheart could not place.
She decided to build a new system in her entrance. She ran to one of the trees and pulled at one of the vines till it came down and and brought with it the whole plant. The plant thudded to the floor scattering seeds on the ground. Blizzardheart licked up the seeds and kept them in her mouth and ran to her den entrance. When she was just a pup she had seen a seed fall to the ground and over a period of time it sprouted and grew into a plant. Blizzardheart thought that maybe if a she planted some vine seeds then they would grow and cover her den entrance making it barely visible.
She dug a hole at the top of her den and planted the seeds. She tried to think of what else it would need. She remembered her mother saying that the seed that had fallen would not grow without water. She hurried to the riverbed and looked around. How would she carry the water, she wondered. Then she remembered seeing a strange, brown shell lying unerneath a tall tree with stripes and big leaves that were split around the edges.
She ran to where she had seen the tree and saw that the shell was still there. She picked it up in her teeth and trotted to the riverbed. She scooped the water into the shell and carried it back towards her den and the planted seeds. She poured water over the seeds and then went back inside her den. She decided to keep the strange shell. It would help to bring water. She went back to the tall tree and looked around to see if she could find more. She found another one and carried it to her den. Once she had put it with the other shell she went outside to see if she could make a temporary covering for her den. She decided to use leaves. The noise of something coming through would wake her up.
She decided to spread the leaves around her entrance so she would hear anything before it reached her den. Then she went out in search of more food to eat and to store. She caught 3 squirrels 2 rabbits and a faun. Satisfied with the days hunt after eating her fill she stored the best leftover pieces in her cooling room. The rest of the food that she did not like eating like the organs and other bits. She stored the heart and brains in her cooling room as they were her favorite bits. She then decided to collect some berries and certain fruits that tasted better than most for emergency purposes.
It was then that she began to feel this strange sense of being watched. The hair on the back of her neck would rise. On more then one occasion she spun around and saw bushes swaying in a barely visible way. She would quickly turn around and continue what she was doing and try not to think of what could be watching her. Soon Blizzardheart had quite a large supply in her cooling room and it became necessary to eat some of the older meat so it would not spoil and attract flies.
She watered her seeds every once in a while and soon saw her work rewarded as shoots began to grow. Somehow she knew that she had to protect them. She gathered thorns from bushes that scratched her and made her bleed in several places. She was sure that she had left most of her fur in the bushes but in fact she had lost surprisingly little. She carefully arranged the thorns around the seedlings to form a barrier. When she was finished she collected some more thorns and placed them around her entrance and inside. When she finished she was still not satisfied. She collected more thorns and covered the entrance to her cooling room for further protection. When she was done she stood back and admired her work. It was basically untouchable. After all her hard work she once again collapsed in exhaustion and pain.
When she woke up the next morning she was stiff and sore. While she licked her wounds she noticed that they had begun to fester and were becoming infected. She did not worry too much as she thougt that it might heal properly after a while in the fresh air. That day she struggled to hunt because of her wounds. She decided to rest and eat some of the meat that she had stored in her cooling room. She became very worried when a few days later the meat in her cooling room almost ran out but for a remaining squirrel and her wounds were no better. In fact they seemed worse.
She knew that she had to go outside and find food. She struggled outside and half walked half dragged herself into the forest. She limped around and ate berries until she could not stomach them anymore which was after about 10. She collapsed on the ground, panting and wishing the pain would go away, when she heard a dragging sound coming in her direction. She smelled freshly killed deer but did not dare to rise as she was too weak to be able to fight another predator. She finally got up but only because she did not want the predator to decide to eat her. When she turned around she nearly jumped out of her skin.
There, lying behind her was a freshly killed deer. She looked around, wary of any traps. Nothing moved. She took a tentative step forward. Nothing happened. No traps. No ambush. She didn’t know who killed it but neither did she care. She jumped forward to eat when suddenly she noticed that the deer was already sliced open. Not very surprising, she thought, the predator probably just forgot it here after being distracted by something. Or did it? Blizzardheart pushed those thoughts away and proceeded to eat.
The meat was good but it had a strange taste. It tasted almost like Winterberries. She did not give it much thought and ate till she was full. Suddenly she felt this overcoming drowsiness. A thought took hold of her and caused her to worry :Winterberries put you to sleep. I’ve got to get back to the den, she thought. She tried to move forward but her body just collapsed in response. She felt her head drooping and fought to remain awake but soon she was fast asleep.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow crouched down and watched. The young she-wolf was slowly falling asleep. When he had planted the Winterberries in the meat he had been worried that she might detect it and refuse to eat it but she had obviously been too hungry. He had seen that she was a lone wolf, just like him. She was such a beautiful, pure white, he thought to himself, I’m so black and boring. He gathered his thoughts together. I need to help her, he thought. As soon as he was sure that she was asleep he left his hiding place and approached her. Suddenly she jerked and muttered, “Skybird! Stop! It’s Blizzardheart!” Nightshadow cocked his head and breathed out a sigh of relief but couldn’t resist a chuckle. So her name was Blizzardheart. He eased forward and sniffed her wounds. Obviously she had been messing with the thorn bushes. He turned around and trotted off into the forest, sniffing bushes as he went along.
Finally he stopped at one of the bushes . “Here we are,” he said and broke off a few stems with his teeth, “all she needs is a bit of mallow ”. He returned to her and breathed a sigh of relief, she was still asleep. He trotted up to her and proceeded to lick the puss out of her wounds. “Uuuuggghh,” he shook his head vigorously, “I’ll need to eat some lemon thyme after this.” He continued licking the wounds until they were open but clean. He chewed some of the mallow and spat it onto his paws but not before he swallowed some. “Uggghhh great,” he spread the mallow on her wounds. He got up and trotted over to the stream.
After he washed his paws he went back into the forest. He returned soon carrying some plants. Sighing he dropped the plants next to the ground and muttered, “peppermint for the pain,” he seperated the plant from the rest, “speedwell for the healing and for itching,” he moved it to one side, “and last but not least, some comfrey to make a poultice for the wounds.” He sighed and mixed the speedwell and comfrey together then chewed it, then spread he it on the wounds. “ When she wakes up I will have to give her the peppermint”. He thought for a moment then shook his head. That wouldn’t do. “No,” he decided’ “I will put it in the meat that is still left in her ‘cooling room’ as she calls it”. Then he had a better idea, “I will restock her cooling room for her, it will give me something to do”. He shook his head and spat out some saliva, “That is, right after I eat some lemon thyme”. He loped off into the forest.
After half and hour of hard work the cooling room was soon restocked with a young buck, 5 squirrels, 2 pigeons and a rabbit. After he put all the best parts of the meat in the cooling room he went back to check on Blizzardheart. He was starting to worry that he might have given her too many Winterberries but he remembered how exhausted she had been. That and the Winterberries were making making her sleep for very long. His job done Nightshadow returned to his hiding place to wait and watch.
Blizzardheart woke up to a strange feeling. She lifted her head and lookes around. She was feeling strange because by now she had grown used to sleeping on soft soil not hard rocky ground. There had to be something else…. her eyes widened, the pain was gone. She looked over her shoulder at her wounds. They were coated with a weird looking poultice. Somehow Blizzardheart knew that she should not lick it off. She looked around and tried to see who had done it but there was not an animal in sight. She saw the half-eaten deer and remembered how she had fallen asleep after she experienced the severe drowsiness. She knew now that Winterberries had been planted in the deer. She also knew why.
How kind of them, she thought. She got up and looked meaningfully into the surrounding bush, “Thank you, whoever you are.” She walked back to her den and was delighted to feel how much easier it was to move besides the stifness from her uncomfortable bedding grounds. She went into her den and immediately headed for her cooling room.
She remembered that there was still that squirrel that she hadn’d eaten. She didn’t want to eat the deer again just in case there were still some Winterberries that she hadn’t eaten. She arrived at the entrance to her cooling room and stopped dead. Someone had restocked her cooling room. She gazed in wonder at all the lovely food and could make out a few scents, rabbit, deer, squirrel and was that…pigeon! When last had she eaten pigeon. She sank her teeth into the delicious meat and sighed in pleasure. Was there no end to this animal’s kindness?
She heard something and ran back outside just in time to see a handsome…oh so handsome, black wolf walking up the small hill nearby. He looked back and their eyes met. It was enough. She howled to try to show her appreciation. The black wolf joined her. When she stopped howling and looked at where he had been standing but he was gone. Her heart skipped a beat when she thought of him again but she quickly silenced the feeling. I will probably never see him again. She went back inside her den and lay down to sleep. It had been a good day.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow galloped over the hill. He couldn’t believe it. Any other wolf, especially females, would have flew over to greet him and to get his attention. Blizzardheart had just stood there and howled after him. Then that brief time that their eyes met. That had made his heart jump. He just couldn’t believe it. Was he in love? No, it could not be possible. She had just looked at him once. He shook his head, he had even joined in with her howl. It sounded so amazing and beautiful. Her howl had been filled with appreciation and was it perhaps…..love?. No, he scolded himself, admiration, maybe, but love? No way. He pushed those thoughts aside. He had to stay focused but his heart kept on trying to go back. He wanted to see her again. She was so beautiful. Such a beautiful white.
He turned around and suddenly the thought of her all alone and injured, maybe even dying, made him run back. Half of him screamed at him to turn around and carry on with his life as a lone wolf but the other half was too strong, in fact it made him increase his pace. He finally got to the top of the hill and looked down. She was not there. Of course, he told himself, she is probably sleeping inside. He decided to find himself a nice place to live in. Something told him that he might never be alone again.
He soon found a cosy spot very close to her home. It was unerneath a tree’s roots and was also waterproof. He crawled out and collected some moss from a nearby patch. He put the moss in the corner to form a place for him to sleep. He was tired from the days work and sank gratefully into the moss and was soon fast asleep.
The next morning Blizzardheart woke up feeling fresh and free of pain. She had this odd taste of peppermint in her mouth and wondered if the pigeon had not eaten some and it had somehow got into the meat. She suddenly remembered all the events of the previous day when she had seen the black wolf that had helped her and healed her. Her heart jumped again at the thought of him. It was most irritating since she knew that she would probably never see him again. After all, he had been leaving.
She thought about how he had howled with her and she wondered if he was really gone. She shook her head and rose to go outside. Once outside she breathed in the refreshing morning air and stretched herself. Today she would go out and explore. This time she would stay clear of thorn bushes. She arranged the thorns over her den and, once she was satisfied, headed out to explore.
She walked around and decided to create her own territory. She chose some key land marks to mark and proceeded to do so. When she was finished she went exploring some more. Soon she began to notice a smell that seemed to constantly grap her attention. Her heart skipped a beat, it was a wolf scent. Could it be…… No, she told herself. It could not be. It was probably some random wolf. Well, she thought, I need to defend my territory. She followed the smell until she was sure that she was close.
She could see the bushes rustling right in front of her. She crouched down and as soon as the bushes stopped moving she leapt. She felt herself colliding into another warm body and she immediately bit down. Thewolf yowled in surprise and tried to shake her off but she clung like a leech. As he struggled she shook herself from side to side causing the wolf to lose balance. The wolf toppled over and she quickly placed her paws on him and glared down.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow had woken up and started searching in the bushes for a stray mouse or two when suddenly a white blur collided into him and clung like a leech. He felt rather ashamed of himself when he yowled but whatever it was its teeth were sharp. The white thing had somehow caused him to lose his balance and toppled him over. He had looked up fearfully when it had clamped its paws on him, pinning him down. What he saw made his eyes widen. Blizzardheart was standing over him as terrifying as the Great Wolf himself. He saw her blink in surprise and tried to throw her off but her grip was like iron.
She was still suspicious. He looked into her eyes again. They were icy blue and looked as if they could see right through you. “Blizzardheart,” he said softly, “please do not harm me”. At those words she she stood back to let him stand up but she remained ready for an attack. “What are you doing in my territory?” she growled rather half heartedly he noted. He dipped his head in respect and said, “Please forgive me, I did not know that this was your territory”.
He looked into her eyes once more and said sadly, “I will leave”. Blizzardheart stared at him then quickly averted her gaze sighing, “Thank you for saving my life and for helping me”. Nightshadow felt his heart leap for the hundreth time but he said graciously, “ It was my pleasure”. Blizzardheart gave him a long look and finally said, “You may stay here”. With that she was gone. Nightshadow sighed in irritation, he knew he was in love.
Blizzardheart woke the next morning and relayed the events of the previous day. Her heart had almost jumped out of her chest when she had discovered that it was actually the black wolf that had saved her life. He had also looked surprised and they had gazed into each other’s eyes for what seemed like ages. She loved the soft brown of his eyes and how calm they looked. She wondered about how calm they had looked. It was almost as if he had known she would not hurt him yet he had asked her not to.
She could not understand it. He had been so good to her and now she had almost hurt him. She had seen the way he had looked at her and he had said in a deep but soft voice that it had been his pleasure to help her. His pleasure to help her! Did he really think that way? She gave a long sigh and wondered how she would survive with these confusing thoughts and feelings. No, she couldn’t dwell on these thoughts. He probably didn’t feel the same way as her. She would probably never be able to find out more about him, she thought. She decided to go outside and hunt.
Once outside she searched for scents. There was one scent that she could simply not get out of her mind. His scent. The scent seemed to be everywhere and she could only think that it was her imagination. She suddenly realized how rude she had been. She hadn’t even asked if he was okay or even his name. She was determined to put that right. She hurried along, following his scent. Soon she arrived in the all too familiar opening by the roots of the big tree. She walked up to the roots and looked inside.
The black wolf was curled up in the corner on some moss. He appeared to be asleep. Blizzardheart turned around, not wanting to disturb him. As she turned around she heard his voice, clear and strong, “Wait, Blizzardheart! I do love you!” Blizzardheart turned around as heat crept up her neck. She stared at him and realised that he was still asleep and probably dreaming. She felt her heart give and unexpected leap of joy, he liked her too! She quickly turned around, afraid that he would wake up and think that she was spying on him.
When she was halfway to her den she heard pawsteps behind her. She turned around and watched as the bushes parted. It was him. She turned quickly so he would not see the blush creeping up her cheeks. He came up beside her and watched silently. She turned to look at him questioningly. He sighed and hung his head, “I’m really sorry for trespassing on your territory”. He looked into her eyes for a moment then dragged his head away. Blizzardheart shuffled closer until their coats brushed. “It’s alright,” she whispered, “I love you too”. He jerked his head up and looked at her with wide eyes, “H….how did you….” Blizzardheart gave a soft laugh and looked up at the sky, “I came to your den hoping to find out your name but you were asleep,” she looked at him with a twinkle in her eye, “you were dreaming about me and you said that you loved me ”.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow stared at her. She had loved him all along and he had been so blind to it. Suddenly it made sense why she had let him stay in her territory. “My name is Nightshadow,” he said softly. Blizzardheart looked at him with shining eyes, “What a beautiful name!” Nightshadow beamed inwardly with pride. He looked once more into her ice blue eyes and gave her a tentative lick. He felt his heart soar with pride and joy. He was sure that she was the most beautiful wolf in the whole forest and she was now his mate!
He looked at her and said, “Do you want to came stay with me.” Nervousness suddenly took hold of him. What if she said no! She looked up at him, “No,” Nightshadow’s heart fell and his sorrow felt like a thorn digging into it. Blizzardheart saw his expression and laughed, “I mean not in your den but in mine!” Nightshadow nearly collapsed with relief, “Thank you, thank you and thank you again”. Blizzardheart just shook her head and laughed again.
“Where are you from?” she asked. Nightshadow replied, “I’m from the Goldleaf Forest.” “Oh, you must have come very far. How did you get here and how did you become a lone wolf? Nightshadow sighed, his past was not something he liked to talk about but for Blizzardheart he would do anything, “I travelled here because my father drove me away from the forest.” She looked at him with understanding, “You were threatening his role as leader.” Nightshadow looked quizzically at her, “How do you know about such things?”
Her face darkened as if a dark memory had just crossed her mind. “My father was the Alpha,” she looked up at the darkening sky, “We went on hunt. We were hunting moose. It was my first hunt with the pack. My father asked if the pack knew what the plan of action was but nobody knew. He became angry, so, to try to sooth his anger, I came up with a plan. It was the only plan that could have worked but I made a mistake in bringing it across. Not only did I call my father by his name, not Alpha, but I also suggested who should do what. He was quite angry with me but he did not show it. He told Skybird, the Beta, to take me home as he said that I was not feeling well.
Then he gave a different plan, one that I could just see ending up in disaster. I was afraid that I would never see him again so I walked up to him and said goodbye and told him that I love him.” She paused as a tear fell glistening down her cheek then took a deep breath, steadied herself, and continued, “Just as I predicted the plan was disasterous. Both my mother and my father were killed. None of the other wolves died though. After that some of the wolves insisted that I become Alpha while the others insisted that Skybird becomes Alpha. The only way to settle it was to fight.” Nightshadow nodded in understanding, “You lost and they drove you away.” Bizzardheart shook her head, “I won the fight but I decided that it was not my time to become Alpha so I left by choice and did not kill Skybird.”
She looked up at him, “I don’t know if you will understand this but I was born unusually strong with unusual courage and wisdom.” Nightshadow nodded, he had noticed her unusual strength and knowledge. He looked up at the sky and saw that it was getting dark. “Blizzardheart, I hate to go but it is getting late.” Blizzardheart laughed, “Who said that you have to go, why don’t you come and sleep in my den tonight as well.” Nightshadow looked at her in excitement, “really?” Blizzardheart chuckled, “I wouldn’t have it otherwise. After all, we are mates now aren’t we?” Nightshadow nodded. He couldn’t be happier right at that moment.
A few months later Blizzardheart awoke to a cold and sunless morning. She looked at Nightshadow who was sleeping beside her and her heart stirred with love for her new mate. She was going to enjoy the rest of her life with him. She could almost feel the warm sun as her imagination basked in it. She was two months pregnant with their first litter. Suddenly she jerked out of her daydream. Speaking of warmth, it was unusually cold today, in fact it was almost freezing. She wondered if she wasn’t imagining things.
She had been feeling rather tired and heavy these last few days. She got up, went to her den entrance and looked outside, maybe she wasn’t imagining things. What she saw made her gasp, “Nightshadow!” she called, “Come look, it’s snowing!” Nightshadow sprang to his feet and rushed to her side, “Is everything alright? Is it the pups? Have they finally come” he asked. “No silly,” she replied, “I’m fine, but look outside, it’s snowing!”
Nightshadow gazed outside in wonder. He stared in awe at each falling snowflake. It was beautiful. Blizzardheart looked at Nightshadow as he watched the snowflakes. “Now I know why they call you Blizzardheart,” whispered Nightshadow. Blizzardheart averted her gaze to the inside of the cave, “We must try to stay as warm as possible otherwise we might not be able to get it back.” She left the den then soon returned carrying a mixture of feathers and leaves. She left them at the entrance then turned to Nightshadow, “Now you go and collect strong branches to cover the entrance.”
Nightshadow nodded and headed outside. He soon returned dragging a branch. He made the trip several times. Each time he brought another branch. They piled the branches from the inside in the entrance to form a barricade. Then they stuffed the leaves and feathers into the gaps and holes. When they were at last satisfied they took the remaining leaves and feathers and formed them into beds. Blizzardheart watched Nightshadow looked at the entrance for a long moment then turned to her and asked, “How are we supposed to get out?” She walked forward and stopped in front of a tunnel that he had not noticed, “We will exit through this tunnel, the escape tunnel.”
Nightshadow cocked his head with a bewildered look on his face, “Why do you cover the entrance but leave the exit tunnel open, won’t the cold air come in through there?” Blizzardheart crawled into the tunnel then motioned for Nightshadow to follow her. She crawled onwards and soon stood outside. Nightshadow crawled in after her and stood next to her, staring with wide eyes.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow looked around him in surprise.He had never seen anything like it. This was like a small cave. The roof was the branches of small trees intertwined to form a waterproof barrier. The walls were also intertwining trees and brambles. The floor was covered in beautiul, soft moss and grass. He looked at Blizzardheart in excitement, “This is were our pups can play safely”. Blizzardheart looked back at him with equal excitement, “They won’t have to be cramped up in the den durin g wintertime”. Nigthshadow felt very proud of his intelligent mate.
Blizzardheart, as if reading his thoughts, said, “You suggested the idea, you’re not so bad yourself”. Nightshadow felt such fondness for his wife that he reached down and started licking her. Much to his delight, instead of shying away, she came closer and nuzzled him. “Lets get back inside,” she suggested and entered the tunnel once more. Nightshadow followed her but not without giving one last gaze at the little grove. This truly was a beautiful place.
He followed Blizzardheart back into the den where he found her lying down. He lay by her side and watched her as she closed her eyes to sleep. He watched her sleeping for a while then rose and went to the cooling room. He chose out the choice pieces from the deer and carried them back to her. When he went back she was still lying down. He came up to her and shook her with one paw, “Wake up Blizzardheart, you need to eat.” She opened her eyes and looked up at him, “I’m sorry, I just feel so tired these days.” He looked at her with concern, “I think you need to eat a bit more, are you sure you are alright?” Her eyes were smiling as she answered, “I will always be fine.” Nightshadow shook his head, “No-one will always be fine, everyone gets sick sometimes and some even die. “ as he said it worry clouded his mind. He hoped she would be alright. It was not usual for her to be so tired. She was actually a very energetic wolf.
He turned around and walked out of the den. It had stopped snowing outside. Everything that he laid his eyes on was covered with snow. The trees bent under the weight of the snow and occassionally one would shake with the wind causing some of the snow to fall off, then it would rise a little higher. As Nightshadow watched the trees swaying in the wind he caught sight of something moving on the ground. He turned his eyes towards the source of the movement. He narrowed his eyes as he caught sight of a black and brown shape slinking amongst the shadows. He growled softly and headed towards the shadow.
Blizzardheart groaned softly as a wave of pain struck her. She had been feeling these odd pains for quite a while and she was beginning to wonder if the pups were arriving. She whimpered as a fresh wave of pain struck again. She had been pregnant for about 2 months. It felt like years ago as she thought about it. She realised that if the pups were coming she could not afford to stop eating. She needed to rest and wait for them to come. She struggled onto her paws and staggered over to the meat that Nightshadow had left on the ground for her. She dragged it back to her bed and collapsed in the moss. She gnawed at the meat halfheartedly.
Suddenly she heard a fierce growl followed by an outburst of growls and snarls. She tried to rise but her legs collapsed beneath her. She gave a sharp yowl as she hit the moss and a fresh wave of pain hit her, worse than all the rest. She heard Nightshadow give a desperate growl at whoever he was fighting. She called out to him, “Nightshadow! The pups are coming!” She felt the first pup trying to break through and began to push as wave after wave of pain rolled over her. She jerked her head towards the entrance as a bloodcurling screech reached her ears followed by and yowl of pain and then a gurgling sound.
Her heart skipped a beat as she heard pawsteps approaching. She tried to see if it was Nightshadow but could not make out the approaching shape. She gave a sigh of relief as Nightshadow burst in then whimpered as she felt the first pup emerging. She pushed harder and soon a dark little body fell to the ground. She quickly proceeded to lick the pup and nuzzled it to her stomach where it quickly found a source of milk.
She pushed again and another shape emerged. She repeated the same process of licking the pup and helping it to find a milk source. Soon there were three pups all squirming and shoving to get at the milk. Blizzardheart gazed at them with pride and love. She looked up at Nightshadow then gasped. He was covered with blood and wounds but he gazed proudly at the pups. He looked up and met her gaze. Blizzardheart stared at him in horror, “Nightshadow! What happened?” she frowned as she surveyed his wounds. He grinned, revealing bloody teeth, “Nothing a good old wash in the river can’t fix.” She shook her head, “You need herbs for those.” He nodded reluctantly and turned to leave. “Wait,” Blizzardheart called, “After you wash the wounds with water and collect the herbs don’t try to rub them in by yourself. Bring them to me and I will rub them in.” Nightshadow nodded gratefully and exited the den. Blizzardheart looked down at her pups, “Even though you can’t hear me now you will one day realize that your father is the bravest wolf in the forest.” She curled her tail around her sleepy pups and laid her head down. She was soon fast asleep.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow limped over to the river and sank gratefully into the water. The battle had been one of the hardest that he had ever fought. The shadow that he had spotted was the great wolf himself. At first he had spoken respectfully but when the great wolf snarled at him and walked toward the den he suddenly realised that the wolf could not have good intentions if he behaved in such a way. That was when he had planted himself in front of the wolf and growled menacingly, “What do you want with us.” The great wolf had just snapped at him and tried to rush past him but Nightshadow grabbed his tail and pulled him back, “Stay away from my den! My mate is not well.”
A gleam came into the wolf’s eye as he spoke, “Your mate is not Blizzardheart perhaps.” Nightshadow jerked back in surprise and asked, “How did you know that.” The great wolf grinned, “Oh she is very well known in the forest for her strength and beauty and it is also known that she is now a lone wolf..oh…excuse me, I meant was a lone wolf.” He continued grinning as he tried to break past the stunned Nightshadow. Nightshadow was filled with fury at the wolf’s words and the gleam in his eye.
He lunged forward and crashed into the wolf, knocking him into the ground. He quickly jumped away and circled the wolf as he rose to his paws. The great wolf was angry and lunged at Nightshadow with a ferocity that made Nightshadows heart sink. The wolf struck him and they were both knocked onto the ground amidst growling and snarling. Suddenly Nightshadow heard a yowl coming from the den. He gave a desperate growl at the great wolf and rushed at him fiercely. At the last minute he dove underneath the wolf and snapped at his belly leaving holes that dripped blood.
He struggled out as it dripped on him. Then he heard Blizzardheart call out, “Nightshadow! The pups are coming!” Strength coursed through his body as he rushed once again at the wolf. Rage pulsed through him, the kind of rage that helps a mother defend her pups and a father defend his mate. The great wolf sensed the rage and his eyes were momantarily clouded with dread but it quickly passed as he prepared for the attack. Nightshadow was upon him in an instant and he tore at anything within reach. He sighted the wolf’s neck and dove for it. He sank his teeth into warm flesh and blood spurted into his mouth and over his muzzle.
He shook his head fiercly as blood gushed out and onto the snow then loosened his hold. The great wolf let out a shriek followed by a yowl of pain that quickly turned into a gurgle as Nightshadow resumed his hold on his throat. The great wolf finally fell limp. Nightshadow let him fall to the snow and watched as he convulsed in his last death throes. When he was finally satisfied that the wolf was dead had run back into the den. Nightshadow roused himself from his daydreaming and, seeing that he was now clean of blood, jumped out of the river then shook himself dry. He entered the forest and soon found the herbs. He went back to the den and took the herbs to Blizzardheart.
She quickly started licking his wounds. She looked up at him and asked, “Are these the same herbs that you used on me last time when I was scratched and poked by the thorns?” Nightshadow nodded, “Peppermint for the pain, speedwell for the healing and for itching and some comfrey to make a poultice for the wounds.” He turned to her, “Just remember not to spread the peppermint on my wounds because it will make them burn. I need to eat the peppermint everyday for at least a week and I need your help to remember.”
He motioned towards the speedwell and comferey, “Remember to chew those together until it’s like a paste then rub them in.” She obeyed and then she insisted that he rest, “It’s been a long day and you need to rest.” Nightshadow pretended to be reluctant but was actually very grateful. He flopped down on the moss and was soon fast asleep.
Blizzardheart woke early the next morning. She made sure that her pups were warm then went to wake Nightshadow, “Nightshadow, wake up. You need to help me name the pups and you need to hunt for some more food. Our supplies are going to run low with three hungry mouths to feed.” Nightshadow rose to his paws and gazed at Blizzardheart. He gave her a lick and whispered, “I love you so much. I am sure that I am the luckiest wolf in the forest. With a beautiful mate and three wonderful pups.”
Blizzardheart laughed softly and scolded him, “There won’t be any mate and pups to be proud of if you don’t go hunting”. Nightshadow nodded gravely and bounded outside. “Wait”, Blizzardheart called, “Remember to come back in time to help me name the pups”. Nightshadow nodded again and disappeared from sight behind the falling snow. Blizzardheart sighed and mumbled, “I sure hope he finds something to eat.” She returned to the pups and lay down so they could suckle. As they suckled, she thought of her childhood and how easy it had been. It had been nothing but warm days and plenty of food. She wondered if her pups would have an easy life.
She gazed at them, no, she thought, she should rather think of fine names for them instead of wondering about their future. She looked at the youngest one and watched as he suckled noisily. He was pushed away by the other two pups and soon found himself lying on the ground away from the milk. He lay there confused as he couldn’t see or hear a thing. Blizzardheart reached forward and nuzzled him then she pushed him closer to her stomach. She watched him as he found a milk source. She chuckled to herself. He reminded her of a leaf that quivered in the wind. Windleaf, she thought, would be a perfect name for him. She turned her eyes towards the second-born pup.
He was also suckling noisily and would every now and again give a little shove at Windleaf. She winced, as his little claws dug into her. Thornclaw would be a suitable name, she thought, after all he had claws like barbed wire. She turned to the first- born. It was a girl. She was shoving the other pups out of the way while she snapped and gave fierce little growls. She made Blizzardheart think of a Falcon’s wing. Rather strong but still soft, she noted as the pup licked one of the other pups. That’s right, she thought, Falconwing would do for her. She laid down her head to rest and wait for Nightshadow to return.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow trotted into the forest. He tried to see through the thick snow but it was hopeless. He knew that he would have to rely on his other senses to find prey. He sniffed the air. There was a strange scent in the air. He had the feeling that he was being watched. He suddenly had a chilling thought; did the great wolf have a mate? The hairs on the back of his neck rose. He could not shake off the eerie feeling that he was being watched. He turned around and thought he saw a shadow slinking away. He focused his thoughts on hunting. If he did not then his mate and children would starve. He continued trudging through the thick snow. Soon another scent reached his nose. It was deer! He crouched down and slunk forward.
A small clearing came into view. Nightshadow crawled to the edge of the clearing and spotted the deer. As he rushed forward to charge, a great weight crashed into him from the side and he found himself lying on the ground with his head pinned down by a heavy paw. The deer jumped at the noise and disappeared into the forest. He felt hot breath on his head as a gravelly voice whispered into his ear, “You killed my mate. Now you will pay with your life!” He squirmed and tried to get free but her grip was like vice. He felt the fur on his neck stirred by her breath as she moved in for the killing bite. As her jaws locked around his neck and he began to believe that this was to be his last day on earth, a voice called out across the clearing with deadly iciness and calm, “Stop. If you make another move it will be your last”. Nightshadow recognised the voice immediately, “Blizzardheart”!
– – – – – – – – – – –
The she wolf let go of his throat but kept her hold on him, “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the dear, young Blizzardheart that I’ve heard so much about. What a surprise or is it”? Blizzardheart ignored the taunt and kept her gaze even, “Let go of him”! The she-wolf snarled, “Try and make me”. Blizzardheart shook her head, “I don’t want to hurt you. My mate killed yours to protect me”. The she-wolf snorted, “He killed my mate, and that is all that matters to me. He deserves to die for that”. Blizzardheart felt her heart harden against the she-wolf. The she-wolf seemed suddenly hesitant as she saw the coldness in Blizzardheart’s eyes. Blizzardheart noted this and snarled, displaying her razor-sharp, glistening, teeth.
The she-wolf quickly snarled back and flattened her ears. Nightshadow called out to Blizzardheart, “You don’t have to do this. I don’t want you to get hurt”! Blizzardheart gave him a look that quickly silenced him. She turned to the she-wolf, “You say that you have heard much about me. How?” The she wolf’s eyes narrowed, “The whole forest knows about you and your doings and the fact that you deserted your pack”. Blizzardheart bristled, “I did not desert my pack!” The she-wolf grunted, “Skybird doesn’t think so, he says that you tried to kill him and then deserted the pack when you failed. Now the whole pack is out looking for you.”
Her eyes glistened, “Maybe I should deliver both of you to them and watch them rip you to shreds…” She didn’t get to finish. Blizzardheart crashed into her with a bone-chilling yowl. She was flung onto the ground and found herself dangling by her throat. She looked up fearfully and her gaze was met by piercing, icy blue eyes. She tried to speak but only succeeded in gurgling and chocking up blood. Blizzardheart put her paw on the she-wolf’s head. The she-wolf’s eyes widened with terror as she realised what Blizzardheart was about to do but there was no stopping her. Blizzardheart held the she-wolf’s head down with her paw and jerked back her head, ripping the flesh on the wolf’s throat. Blood spurted on her muzzle as the she-wolf convulsed in agony.
When the she-wolf was at last still Blizzardheart turned to Nightshadow who stood with his eyes wide, “Is what she said true? Did you try to kill Skybird?” Hurt overcame Blizzardheart. She lunged at him and pinned him to the ground with an iron grip. She snarled at him, “I can’t believe that you thought I lied to you and that she was telling the truth!” Nightshadow gazed into her eyes, “Do you really think I would believe her? I knew she was probably not telling the truth but I wanted to know for sure.” Blizzardheart relaxed and let go of him. She still looked hurt, “Why would Skybird do such a thing? I spared his life and now he wants to take mine!” Nightshadow licked her comfortingly, “Maybe that was also a lie. From what you’ve told me about Skybird it doesn’t sound like he would do such a thing.” Blizzardheart sighed, “I hope you’re right”.
Blizzardheart and Nightshadow returned to the den. Blizzardheart was lost in thought and when she entered the den, she just collapsed listlessly onto the floor. Suddenly she looked around in horror. She called out to Nightshadow, “The pups! The pups are gone!” Nightshadow rushed from the cooling den where he had been getting meat for Blizzardheart. He searched the den but the pups were gone. Blizzardheart’s eyes widened suddenly and she struggled to her feet. She rushed over to the escape tunnel and crawled through it and into the little cove.
When she reached the other side, she was relieved. The pups were crawling around in the cove, uttering squeaks of protest as they toppled around and bumped into each other. Blizzardheart rushed forward and gathered all the pups together. She lay on her side and guided them to her belly. Soon they started suckling noisily, falling over themselves in their excitement. Nightshadow was probably still looking for the pups, Blizzardheart realised, so she called out, “Nightshadow! I found them!” She waited silently and soon a dark shape emerged from the tunnel. “We still haven’t named the pups.” Blizzardheart called out.
She watched as Nightshadow bounded forward and proceeded to lick the pups. He looked up at her, “Have you decided on names yet?” Blizzardheart nodded, “The last born pups’ name will be Windleaf. The second born pups’ name will be Thornclaw.” She looked at Nightshadow with shining eyes, “The first born pups’ name will be Falconwing” Nightshadow looked down at the first born and noticed the snow white fur, “A very good name for such a beautiful pup as a falcons’ wing can be very beautiful and colourful so can a Blizzard.” He looked up meaningfully. Blizzardheart snorted, “I don’t suppose there is much beauty in flying snow that cuts everything in its path.” Nightshadow cocked his head, “Depends on who sees it”.
Blizzardheart turned and looked down at the pups. “I suppose that not many will find beauty in small pup.” She looked again at Nightshadow, “Probably only the mother and father”. Blizzardheart cocked her head, “Shouldn’t you get something for us to eat”? Nightshadow stiffened, “In all the excitement he had forgotten to finish hunting for food. He spun around and rushed out of the den. Blizzardheart chuckled to her pups, “Sometimes I wonder how he stays organised”. The pups squeaked and toppled over one another in their desperation to get to the milk.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow shuddered from the cold as he trudged wearily through the snow. Blizzardheart had saved his life and now he needed to provide food for his family. He wondered about what the she-wolf had said about Blizzardheart. He knew it probably was not true but he still wondered how Skybird would be able to do such a thing unless it was true that Blizzardheart had tried to kill him. He thought back to his pack days when his father had betrayed him. He realised that to cover his own tracks his father might even have said exactly the same thing, but then again the whole pack had agreed with his father.
He could not shake off the feeling that there was a lot that he did not know about Blizzardheart. All his thoughts and doubts vanished for an instant as he heard a rustling in the bush. He crouched down and slunk forward, muscles tense. He sniffed the air carefully and sorted through the different scents that flew around in the wind. Hmmm, definitely deer and by the intense smell, a whole herd of them. He moved closer to the scent and soon came into a clearing.
What he saw nearly threw him off his feet. He scanned the area with growing apprehension. About a hundred dead deer lay scattered all around. Their throats were slashed and the stench of blood was almost unbearable. His eyes widened with terror as a new scent arrested his senses. It was unlike any other scent he had ever smelled before. The fear of the unknown gripped him as he turned to run. He suddenly remembered why he had come. He turned, grabbed one of the deer closest to him, and tried to hurry off as fast as he could. Soon the familiar hollow came in sight and he nearly collapsed in relief.
He dragged the deer into the hole and brought it to Blizzardheart who had waited patiently in the hollow. He gasped for breath and collapsed on his side, quaking in fear. Blizzardheart looked at him with concern in her eyes. He told her the story with many shudders of horror. She watched him thoughtfully, “Whoever, or whatever killed those deer is probably really huge.” A light of fear crept into her eyes, “What if it’s a Gold Face!” Nightshadow’s eyes widened in alarm, he had heard tales of the terrible golden beasts the size of a large deer with paws the size of an average wolf’s head. They killed anything and anyone that tried to stand up to them. He struggled to his feet, “Let us eat, and gather our strength for we may yet have to fight the battle of our lives.”
One week passed and nothing unusual happened again. Blizzarheart felt rather bored and devoted most of her attention to the pups. They were growing fast and were already wrestling each other and toppling around as well as doing annoying things like biting her tail with razor sharp teeth. She remembered her days as a pup and wondered how things could change so much in such a short time.
She shook her head, her mother had been really patient with them. A scuffling sound caught her attention and she looked at Nightshadow but he was gone. She sighed in frustration, he was acting so strange these days. He would not meet her eye and would not talk much to her either. He was doing a good job of making excuses and covering it up but she could still sense that things were different, way different.
She stretched her legs and rose to her feet. She so badly wanted to do some hunting but she was nervous about leaving the pups alone. Her limbs were dreadfully cramped after getting almost no exercise for more than a month. She remembered the times when her mother left her to go hunt and the the terror that used to grip her when she heard the slightest noise. The strange peace she always had when in danger or feeling afraid always made her wonder if she was ordinary. As for her wisdom… she snorted, she hadn’t exactly been that wise with the thorns now had she. If it hadn’t been for Nightshadow… ugh… why did it always get back to Nightshadow. She didn’t want to think about him. Thoughts of him would only cause more unnecessary worry.
She glanced once more at the pups then finally made her decision, she was going to hunt. She crept out of the cave quietly so she would not disturb the pups, they were sound asleep. At the cave enterence she paused to let the cool breeze soothe her aching body. She shook her fur and stepped out. It was freezing outside and the air cut through her like a knife. She growled resolutely and walked forward. Nothing was going to get between her and the hunt, not today.
She trotted forward and bent forward to sniff the ground for anything interesting. She pricked up her ears. She had to be hearing things. There were howls coming from the mountains mingled with screeches and roars. It didn’t sound like Nightshadow but it stil sounded familiar. Like something from a dream or a dream of a dream. She began to jog in the direction of the sounds. Suddenly, a thought stopped her cold, her pups. What if she left her pups and whatever it was came around and found them.
She shuddered to think of what the creature might do. She took off faster in the direction of the sound, she had to know. Bushes and trees whipped past her face and stung her hindquarters. She did not even whimper when a long thorn reached out and slashed her ear. She could only think of eliminating any danger that could harm her pups and her mate. The thought of Nightlock being killed changed her run into a sprint. Her paws flew over the ground sending snow flying into the air.
She broke free of the trees and bushes and came into a clearing at the foot of the mountain. She looked up at the tall, grey and rocky mountainside and began climbing. When she was some way up there was a sudden movement that startled her and caused her to turn. She narrowed her eyes at the now still area where the movement had come from. Crouching down, she silently breezed over the ground.
As she came up to the area her hair bagan to raise on end. A low growl escaped her thoat before she could stop it. Golden Faces, the air reeked of them. She pressed her belly against the ground and moved closer. There were bushes blocking her vision but that was fine because they would also shield her from unfriendly eyes, for the moment. She took a deep breathe and peeped over the bush.
The sight that arrested her eyes nearly sent her heart shooting out of her mouth but did manage to send her breath whooshing out. Wolves, a whole pack of them. They were all clustered around something. Blizzardheart lifted her head slightly higher. It was a Golden Face, lying on the ground in a pool of blood with it’s throat slashed. It looked like it had been in a very tough fight. The wolves must have killed it, thought Blizzardheart, though not without some cost to them, she noted as some wolf bodies were also lying around. She watched the wolves carefully, friend or foe? Her eyes widened in shock. It was her old pack. There was Skybird, Riversong and Oakleaf. Her heart stopped col as a burly wolf sniffed the air and said, “Alpha, I smell another scent, not of the pack.” Skybird turned around, his eyes cold, “Find it, whatever it is and kill it.”
Blizzardheart knew she had to get out and fast. She knew that nothing could outrun her but they could follow her scent to the hollow. She knew what she had to do. She would rather confront the pack and face death than let her cubs die. She knew that Nightlock would be perfectly capable of looking after the pups. She rose to her feet and sat waiting till one of them noticed her. She could feel the sun shining on her, making her fur glow like white fire. All the wolves noticed her at once and a hush fell over them. They did not recognise her as she was much more beautiful then when they last saw her.
Her eyes were also different, still the same colour but now they were icy in their gaze as well. Skybird stepped forward, “Who are you and why do you trespass on our lands?” Blizzardheart laughed a clear ringing note and jumped down, the wolves parted immediately. She strode forward with no hesitation in her stride. She began to circle Skybird who had not moved. She spoke slowly, deliberately, “These lands are mine, they belong to me and my mate who has killed the Great Wolf that possesed these lands before.” She stopped and gazed around at the pack, “Me, my mate and my children.” She continued circling, watching the pack carefully, “I have killed the Great Wolf’s mate and will do the same to any who dares to challenge me.”
She stopped in front of Skybird, “What have you to say?” Skybird was silent for a moment then growled, “Who are you?” Blizzardheart laughed then lifted her nose to the sky and howled. Causing a stir in the trees below. She looked down and laughed again, “Skybird, you do not recognise me?” Skybird frowned angrily, “No, why should I?” Blizzardheart laughed again and shook her head, “My name is Blizzardheart.” A murmer rippled throught the pack. Skybird sprang back, hackles raised, “Y…you! You killed the Great Wolf and his mate!” Blizzardheart ignored him and calmly walked over to the Golden Face.
She looked carefully at it and checked it’s scent. She spun around, “All of you, you must hide, now!” Skybird’s hair was still on end but he slowly obeyed as if controlled. The rest of the pack hesitated, unsure, “Go! Now!” She screeched at them and bowled a couple over into the bush. The rest quickly complied. She spun around and sprinted to the centre of the clearing and sat down. At that moment a piercing shriek echoed through the mountain. The Golden Face’s mate had arrived.
Nightshadow was tired of this, always being suspicious of Blizzardheart. He did not like it at all. In fact, he wished that he could turn time back to change everything that happened. He growled, ever since the Great Wolf’s mate had said those words he had felt that hurt and suspicion. The hurt was because of the ever-growing thought and suspicion that she had lied to him. The question that constantly hammered his suspicion was why. Why would she lie to him? He had left as soon as he saw Blizzardheart was comfortable and lost in thought. He marvelled to himself how easy it was to start to see the wrong things in others just because someone else said something about them. Why did he even believe the Great Wolf’s mate? He just could not understand himself sometimes.
Nightshadow stiffened and raised his head in the direction of the mountain. A horrible howling sound mingled with screeching and roaring was coming from it. His mind immediately turned to Blizzardheart, was she fine? Were the pups all right? He turned and raced towards the hollow. He dove into the hole and reached the pups. They were sleeping peacefully but Blizzardheart was gone. He raced through the other tunnels and even went out into the cove. He suddenly had an idea and ran back. He grabbed a pup and ran to the cove, placing it on the ground.
He ran back for the second and then the third. He ran back and grabbed the thorn branches then placed them over the entrance to the hollow. As an afterthought, he pulled them out and ran back gathering leaves and feathers from his and Blizzardheart’s nests and placing them over the thorns so it they would not poke them. He shoved the thorns back in, checked to make sure that there were no holes, then sped off. He dashed out of the tunnel and began to sprint towards the mountain.
He knew Blizzardheart would probably have gone to investigate the noise. He got to the foot of the mountain and looked up. Another piercing shriek echoed through the mountain, spurring him on. He climbed up, bounding from ledge to ledge. Soon he reached where the noise was coming from and the sight that greeted his eyes froze his blood. Blizzardheart was face to face with a Golden Face. He roared in fury as the cat struck her and jumped on its back.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Blizzardheart’s head was whirling. She felt the ground underneath her tilting, swaying. A growl burst from her throat as she shook her head vigorously. She noticed that she was lying on the ground. She jumped to her feet and lunged at the cat again. It screeched as her teeth smashed into its leg, crushing the bone. Her eyes widened as she spotted Nightshadow clinging to the cat’s back. It was a moment she would not get again. She dove under the cat and let her teeth sink into its belly. She hung on as the cat writhed and twisted causing the skin to tear and blood to shower her face.
Oof! She thudded to the floor as the skin ripped loose. The now gored cat wailed in anguish and spun around. Blizzardheart sidestepped a clumsy swipe and dove under the cat’s head. She fastened her teeth around its throat and pulled, twisting her head side to side. The cat screeched some more and clawed at her back. Blizzardheart pulled back one final time and the throat tore open. She moved back but not far enough. The cat gathered the last of its energy and struck out at her. Blizzardheart crumpled as her awareness shattered into thousands of tiny sparks that seemed to fly out of her skull. Her eyes rolled up as she collapsed and lay limp. A pool of blood steadily growing under her head.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow saw Blizzardheart go down. He sprang off the cat as it collapsed limply. He was instantly by her side. He called her name softly but she did not respond. He lowered his head and sniffed her. She was still. He nudged her then put his head under her. With a few tries and many nudges, he soon got her onto the other side so he could inspect the head wound. He knew what it needed. He raced off after giving her a lick and bounded down the mountain. He crashed into the forest and began to sniff the air, his gaze darting around. “Comfrey, where is the comfrey.”
He darted through the bushes and smashed right into the comfrey bush. If he was not so worried, he might have laughed. He just grabbed some comfrey and raced forward looking for speedwell. He found it and took a lot of it. He decided that he would probably need more of the comfrey and raced back for it.
Soon he was racing to the mountain. He bounded up and was soon by the place but the sight before him stopped him cold. A whole pack of wolves surrounded her and was busy mumbling amongst them. Nightshadow’s hair stood on end and he sprang forward. He lunged to Blizzardheart and stood by her side bristling and slashing at anyone nearby. The wolves yelped and clustered together away from him. When Nightshadow saw that they were not going to attack he began to tend to Blizzardheart with one eye fixed on them.
One of the wolves stepped forward. Nightshadow growled threateningly and sprang over Blizzardheart to face him. The wolf flinched but did not move. Nightshadow glared at him but a question was in his eyes. The wolf nodded his head briefly, “Greetings, I am Skybird, Blizzardheart knows us but I don’t think you do.” Nightshadow snapped at Skybird, “I know who you are; you are the one that betrayed my mate.” He had to restrain himself from leaping at Skybird. Skybird’s eyes widened with shock, “I did no such thing, she saved my life, and by becoming a lone wolf she saved my honour as well.” Nightshadow’s eyes narrowed in suspicion but he kept silent. He turned to Blizzardheart and continued dressing her wounds.
Soon he was done. He turned to the pack that had watched the whole operation in complete silence, “Then why did the Great Wolf’s mate tell us of such a thing?” Skybird looked confused then his eyes suddenly widened with realisation. He spun around and called out, “Burrtail, come forward to the call.” A scrawny wolf with a thick tail strode forward, eyes to the ground. Skybird growled, “Burrtail, it is your doing is it not? It has your name written all over it.” Burrtail nodded his head shamefully then whined, “I am sorry, you seemed so intent on finding her that I thought I could get other animals to cooperate for you.” “By telling them that I wanted Blizzardheart dead?” roared Skybird. Burrtail whimpered and crouched down. Skybird narrowed his eyes at Burrtail, “Do I detect a hint of treachery in this doing?” Burrtail winced at the mention of treachery, “Please, Alpha I am sorry.” Skybird watched him for a moment as he whimpered, “As punishment you will have to remain the last of the pack.” Burrtail whined but said nothing.
Nightshadow’s heart soared in relief as he heard a moan come from Blizzardheart. He spun around and began to lick her vigorously. She was alive
Blizzardheart moaned in pain. She felt as if she was lying on a branch in a river. Everything was rocking back and forth. Closing her eyes, she tried to raise her head but only succeeded in moaning some more. Instantly a warm, soft, and familiar tongue descended on her face and began to lick in a rhythmic, comforting motion. She opened her mouth to speak, “Nigh…Ooh.” She heard a laugh somewhere above her and tried to open her eyes once more. A blurry image of dark shapes entered her vision. One was a shape she might recognise, “N…Nightshadow.” The tongue stopped licking her and he answered, “Yes, you must rest now; I am so glad that you are alive.” Blizzardheart moaned and lifted her head with a hiss, “The pups, Nightshadow, the pups. I left them.” “I know,” he said soothingly, “I put them in the little cove and blocked up the hole.” She shook her head and struggled to her feet, reeling. Nightshadow pressed himself against her and they began to walk homewards.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow growled at the wolf pack as he passed, daring anyone to stop them. When no one tried to stop them, he focused his full attention and strength on keeping Blizzardheart from stumbling. A thought struck him, if they had been there the whole time then why had they not helped Blizzardheart kill the beast. Suspicion and anger clouded his thoughts. They would have let her die. He growled and steadied himself as a rock skittered from under his foot. He felt his energy growing from the anger that started to boil within him. He would murder the first wolf that tried to touch her. He would…would… Nightshadow shook his head; he would let them explain. Then, and only then, would he decide whether their excuse was pitiful or not. He growled at the rocks. He felt like swatting them. If it had not been for Blizzardheart leaning against him, he probably would have.
When Blizzardheart made no comment about his growling he began to be worried. He was relieved as they reached the foot of the mountain. He gently lowered Blizzardheart into the soft moss under a tree that stood nearby. He collapsed next to her with a weary sigh. Fatigue washed over him and he felt his eyes beginning to close. A vague thought entered his mind, something about Blizzardheart needing to go to the den. The thought quickly vanished as his mind sank into oblivion.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Blizzardheart’s mind was shutting down. She was only vaguely aware of the fact that she was lying on something very soft. It felt good. She jerked back into consciousness as if she had tripped and fallen. She lifted her head with a moan. Nightshadow was lying next to her, fast asleep. Her feet felt like lead as she tried to rise. The sun was going down and soon it would be night. That was not good. How long have we been lying here? A sudden and freezing thought clawed at her. She had not fed the cubs! They might even have found a way out of the little cove. They could be dead. Alarm spread through her. She jumped forward and yelped. Her head felt like it was about to burst.
A strong smell caught her attention. The smell of peppermint was alive in the air! She turned and heading towards the smell. She needed peppermint for the pain, of course. Soon the strong-smelling plant came into view. She gathered a few leaves and began to chew them. The taste was bitter but soothing. She lay down in some nearby moss and closed her eyes for a moment, waiting, resting. As soon as the pain dulled, she rose to her feet. Her mind and eyes were clear and she quickly made her way to the den.
When she arrived there, she dove into the den and made her way to the cove entrance. At the cove entrance, she tore back the thorns, noting that they were still intact. What she saw inside made her yelp in anguish. She bounded inside, whining and yelping. Her pups were dead. They lay scattered over the floor. A large hole in the bush told the story; someone had murdered them. Blizzardheart ran through the hole and looked around. Everything was peaceful. She lifted her nose to the skies and howled a blood-curling howl of anguish. An answering howl came to her ears. She turned as a crashing noise came towards her through bush. Her eyes clouded and she saw red. Whatever it was that was coming would suffer the brunt of her anger. She would tear it to pieces before it could utter a sound. She mentally reviewed herself tearing open the throat and belly. Whatever it was soon reached her. With a roar of indescribable fury, she leaped at the black blur that burst through the bush. A cry brought her to her senses, “Blizzardheart, no! It’s me, Nightshadow.” She collapsed to the ground in mid spring and whimpered. Her eyes bored into him, “Why did you leave the pups,” she roared, “you should have let me die instead.” Nightshadow’s eyes widened with shock and pain, “Noooo, it can’t be.”
Nightshadow stared at the bodies of the pups in horror. They were dead. He howled in anguish and turned around. Blizzardheart was watching him silently. Her eyes were vacant and cold. He shivered and turned hastily away. He hoped that she did not blame him. He noticed some movement in the corner of his eye. He turned with a growl and trotted forward. One of the pups was still alive and even unharmed. It was hiding under a branch. At the sight of her parents, she had immediately hopped out. “It is Falconwing.” Nightshadow looked up at Blizzardheart who had bounded forward at the mention of the pup’s name. She watched the pup silently for a moment then scooped it up and disappeared into the tunnel.
Nightshadow followed her into the tunnel and watched as she began nursing and licking Falconwing. Satisfied that they were comfortable, he turned and went back into the cove. He sniffed around the bodies. What could have done this? He growled as he caught a scent that did not quite fit in. It smelled like…oh no. He raced back into the tunnel to warn Blizzardheart. She looked up in alarm when he stormed in. She growled disapprovingly but he ignored it, “Pigs, Blizzardheart, pigs. That’s why they didn’t eat them.” Blizzardheart jumped to her feet, “We should have realised that they are the only animals that can make a hole that low in such thick bush.”
Nightshadow turned and sped back to the cove. He needed to bury the pups before it was too late. As he got through the entrance to the cove, something crashed into him. He pun sideways and hit the ground. He shook his head and rose to his feet, reeling. The thing knocked into him again. He yelped and scrambled for the entrance. The thing did not let him get there. He spun through the air and hit the bushes, thudding to the ground. Blood, he tasted it in his mouth and saw it on the floor. Was it his blood? A howl sounded though the tunnels. He heard the thing coming towards him again. This time he would probably die.
A sudden roar that filled the cove stopped his attacker. The air filled with squealing. Nightshadow closed his eyes; a pig, his attacker was a pig. He felt himself sinking into a dreamless sleep.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Blizzardheart gazed at the cub wistfully as it drank with vigour. She wished that she could be carefree, no worries besides where you will get your next meal. It seemed like it would be such a blissful life. Another thought struck her and caused her to reconsider, if you were in grave danger you would never realise it. She tried her best to think back to her pup days and remember whether she had ever realised that she was in grave danger. Nothing came to her mind. She probably hadn’t ever realised it. She again thought of the wondrous patience of her parents.
Suddenly a yelp and scuffling caught her attention. She looked at the entrance to the cove. The sound was coming from there but she really couldn’t see anything. As she tried to rise, her head began to throb. Oh no, the peppermint was wearing off. She hissed through her teeth as she began to slip in and out of consciousness. Nightshadow needed help. What could she do? An idea struck. She lifted her nose and howled a mournful howl. The kind of howl that demanded help. Her head sank down and hit the ground. Falconwing whimpered and nestled closer. All this noise must be scaring her, thought Blizzardheart. Her head was swimming. She was sure that it had cracked open. She closed her eyes and felt herself sinking…sinking. Nothing, sweet blissful nothing.
Nightshadow woke to water being trickled into his mouth. Murmurs were coming from every direction. Enemies? No, he wasn’t dead yet. He tried to raise his head he couldn’t move. A soft voice spoke above him, “Don’t get up just yet, you are not well enough.” He gurgled; something must be broken inside because blood came to his mouth. The voice spoke again, “You have a broken rib, it will heal.” He tried to speak, “Who…” The voice spoke again, “Who am I? I am Rosepetal.” Nightshadow wanted to smile. When he was still in his old pack, his mate-to-be had been named Rosepetal. What coincidence.
He gasped in pain as something was pressed against his head. He finally got the courage to open his eyes. All around him were wolves of different shapes and sizes. They were all scrawny and burr pelted. He turned his head to an angle that enabled him to look at Rosepetal. His eyes widened. The wolf before him was the colour of oak leaves in autumn. Her fur was sleek and smooth; she was beautiful and exactly like the other Rosepetal. Maybe she was the other Rosepetal. She lifted her lips in a grin. He smiled back, feeling shy.
He tried to raise his head again and succeeded. He surveyed the wolves. Something was missing. Where was Blizzardheart? He was about to ask where she was when Rosepetal spoke, “Blizzardheart is sleeping. She could not help you because she fell unconscious. Before she fell asleep she howled for help.” Nightshadow nodded, it fitted with his account of the story. “Did you kill the pig?” He whispered. Rosepetal nodded, “It was difficult, but he is now dead.” Nightshadow struggled to his feet. When he turned to Rosepetal, he saw admiration in her eyes. He looked at the wolves and growled, “Where is your alpha?” “Here,” growled another voice. He spun around and came face to face with his past. His eyes widened in shock as his fur rose on end.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Blizzardheart opened her eyes groggily. The pain in her head had subsided but she couldn’t imagine how or why. She raised her head slowly, testing, feeling. Her head felt no better and no worse. She sighed in relief and turned to look at her pup. She was nestled comfortably against her belly. Another sigh of relief escaped her lips. Blizzardheart rose to her feet, waking the pup. She gave the pup a lick despite its squeals of protest at losing the warmth. After making sure Falconwing was comfortable, she went to check on her husband. She moved as fast as she could. What had those noises she had heard meant? She had to find out.
When she reached the cove, she gasped. Nightshadow was bristling and face to face with a black and white wolf. Blizzardheart perked up her ears as she heard him whisper, “Father!” Her thought jolted to a halt. This father had betrayed his own son. She bristled and leapt through the opening. She stood next to him and made it clear that she would defend him with her life. She heard gasps and growls echoing around her. Nightshadow gave her a grateful glance.
She placed her head under his neck to make sure that they knew she would not let him be harmed. Her gut twisted as she noticed his wounds and heard his rattling breath. It gave her even more reason to protect him. She snarled and growled at the other wolves. If they had done this to him then she would kill them all. The black and white wolf nodded towards her, “I see that your new mate, Blizzardheart is very protective over you.” He smirked, “Does she really think that she could protect you against us.” Blizzardheart said nothing but swelled with appreciation and pride when Nightshadow spoke, “You should have more respect for my mate, she has done braver things then the whole lot of you put together Blackstar.”
Blackstar growled but answered vehemently, “What exactly did she do that could possible surpass all the things that I have done?” Blizzardheart lifted her head in fury, “I will answer you, you proud betrayer of your kind,” Blackstar snarled at that but Blizzardheart continued, undaunted, “I have killed the last Golden Face in the country singlehandedly. I have killed the great wolf’s mate singlehandedly as well. My father was the alpha of the wolves of the Grey Forest and I will not let a scrawny pack of wolves come between me and my mate.”
Blackstar stared at her for a moment then turned to Nightshadow, “Your mate has a tongue to match her deeds.” Blizzardheart snarled, “Your tongue is bigger than your deeds.” Blackstar ignored her and continued speaking to Nightshadow, “You left your other mate behind after she wanted to follow you. Now I see that you have made yourself comfortable with someone else.” Blizzardheart laughed, “Where is she, show her to me.” Blackstar smiled devilishly, “Rosepetal, come introduce yourself to this fine young lady who stole your mate. So much for all the trouble you took of saving his life.” Blizzardheart watched in shock as a beautiful wolf came towards her. Rosepetal did not smile or greet her. She just stared at Blizzardheart coldly. Blizzardheart ventured a hello but got no response. Boy, this was just great.
Nightshadow watched as Rosepetal stared Blizzardheart. His heart jumped with a mixture of feelings. Hurt, anger, and pain. He had missed Rosepetal terribly when he had left but he had cared for her to much to let her leave with him. He raised his head higher and spoke to Rosepetal, “Who is your mate now?” Rosepetal turned to him. Her eyes softened when she looked at him. Oh no, thought Nightshadow, she still loves me. What could he do? She whispered in a voice heavy with love, “I decided to find you first and see if you would not reconsider letting me come with you.” She turned to Blizzardheart with coldness once more in her eyes, “I see that you have someone else who you probably love much more. I can see that she loves you a lot.” Nightshadow started to protest but realised that Blizzardheart would be hurt if he did so he clamped his mouth shut.
Rosepetal looked at Nightshadow once more and walked towards him. Nightshadow backed away and stood next to Blizzardheart. He turned just in time to see Rosepetal turn to his father with and nod. He stiffened again and waited. Blackstar stepped forward and raised his head to meet Nightshadow’s eyes, “I command you, as your father, to leave Blizzardheart and join up with Rosepetal. You must remain a lone wolf but with Rosepetal at your side.” Nightshadow’s eyes widened, surely, his father did not expect him to do that.
His mind whirled as his thoughts turned cold. He would never leave Blizzardheart. He raised his head looking from his father to Rosepetal and back again, his gaze deliberate. “Father, you can have Rosepetal for all I care, Blizzardheart is my mate and she will always remain just that.” Nightshadow watched as Rosepetal’s face turned from grief to anger. She spoke with a hiss, “I will never stop loving you Nightshadow, if I have to kill your mate to have you then so be it.” He watched in horror as she sprang at Blizzardheart with the intent to kill.
He roared in with fury and leapt at Rosepetal. He knocked her to the ground and held her there. His head lowered as he whispered in her ear, “You force me, Rosepetal, you force me.” He held her down and let her simmer. She finally relaxed. He let go of her but did not move away. She rose to her feet and he gave a warning growl. She looked at him sorrowfully and walked slowly away, disappearing through the hole in the cove. Nightshadow suddenly began to feel the full consequences of his effort. His whole body ached and burned like fire.
He gasped for breath and collapsed in the dirt, his face a mirror of pain. As he lay there gasping he felt a familiar tongue begin to lick his face. It was warm and comforting. The pain began to ebb away, slowly but surely. Soon he was well enough to rise to his feet. He turned to thank his helper. It was Blizzardheart, her eyes filled with love and appreciation. He gave her a lick and brushed against her, it felt so good to be loved by someone else. He suddenly wondered why she had been so quiet during the whole argument. She had not even moved when Rosepetal had sprung at her. As if reading his thoughts he heard her whisper, “I wanted to know what you would say and I also believed that you would protect me.”
His heart welled with appreciation and affection. She was by far the smartest wolf he knew. A sudden howling interrupted his thoughts. Rosepetal raced through the hole in the cove, her eyes wide. She was bleeding in several different places. Her eyes were wild as she gasped for breath, “Wolves, a whole pack of them, strong ones too. They are well fed and fit.” Nightshadow breathed a sigh of relief, Blizzardheart’s pack. His father turned to his scrawny pack, “We will fight and teach them some Goldleaf Forest language.” The wolves looked at each other hesitantly. It seemed that they knew that they were too weak to fight. Nightshadow stepped forward, “Blackstar, these wolves are our friends, we advise you not to fight them as they are very strong.”
Blackstar sneered, “Do you take me for an ill experienced pup, I know my pack and they will fight to the death.” Nightshadow nodded to himself, his father had not changed. When he backed to Blizzardheart’s side, he felt anger surge through him. His father was making him look like he knew nothing. He quickly checked his anger and sighed, they would all probably die. Suddenly the thought struck him, would he fight for his father? His mind whirled with the possibilities and options. If he fought for his father then he would have to injure the wolves that wanted to help him. Did he even love his father?
His wonderings were cut short as Skybird and his pack arrived. He had to make a decision and fast. Pain etched his mind as he made his decision. He would not fight for his father. If he were in a similar predicament then his father would probably not fight for him. The thought forced him to turn away from the battle that had begun. Fear that he would change his mind clutched at him. Everything just seemed unfair. He didn’t even want to think anymore. It all seemed to be happening in a blur.
His mind jerked back to attention as a howl of agony split the air. The howl was strangely familiar. It dawned on him with a shock. His father’s howl. His heart jumped with unexpected pain. He whirled around as his mind spun with horrific scenarios. The sight that arrested his eyes seared itself into his mind for a while to come. His father was lying in a pool of blood with Skybird standing over him. Blackstar’s throat was torn open and blood gushed from it. Arteries hung through the opening and dangled toward the ground, dripping blood.
The worst part was that his father was still conscious. All fighting had stopped, leaving enough silence that enabled Nightshadow to hear his father call for him faintly. He hurried over as every head turned towards him. Skybird seemed puzzled but kept silent. When he reached his father’s side, he finally heard what his father had wanted to say to him for his whole life. His father barely had the strength to open his mouth.
It was a miracle that his windpipe had not been severed. His father gasped, “Nightshadow, forgive me.” This came as a shock to him. All his life his father had been proud and unwilling to accept that he was wrong in any situation. These words at once melted all the anger in Nightshadow’s heart. He felt tenderness to his father that he had never felt before. “I do, Father.” He whispered quickly before the last spark of life was finally extinguished from his father. A faint twist upward displayed itself in the corners of his father’s mouth.
Nightshadow’s heart lurched, he actually felt sad. It was difficult to imagine it but it was true. The aching in his heart could only be longing for more time with his father. He turned slowly to face the other wolves. Blackstar’s pack was staring at him with strange looks on their faces. They seemed almost sad. Nightshadow gave them a questioning look. They all just shook their heads and turned to their opponent. Skybird growled out, “That’s enough; your Alpha is defeated so you need to come with us.” The pack looked at each other. From his own experiences, Nightshadow knew that they didn’t like giving up.
Rosepetal growled out, “Or what Skybird.” Skybird smirked, “Well we will just have to get rid of you I suppose.” The pack howled in anger but was silenced by a bark from Blizzardheart. All of them turned to face her as her face contorted with a sneer, “You are not exactly in a position to argue fellow wolves, why don’t you just join the pack.” The pack looked at each other uncertainly. They didn’t know what the best choice was. Rosepetal just glared at all of them, “You are too cowardly to fight now you are too cowardly to make a decision.”
The wolves yowled and began to all speak at once. Blizzardheart gave a pained look and spoke loudly to try to be heard, “What is your answer?” The wolves all answered with one voice, “We will join your pack.” Rosepetal looked at them all coldly, “You have finally made a decision,” she growled, “Though it is not the best decision I will have to agree.” She then turned to Skybird, “If you mistreat us we will fight to the death to gain our honour back.” Skybird smirked, “There is no honour amongst thieves.” When he saw the shocked look on Rosepetal’s face he chuckled, “Yes, I know about your little, should I say, attempt to steal food from our kill pile.” Rosepetal bowed her head, “I am sorry but we were so hungry, I will pay you back and hunt hard for kill.”
Skybird nodded and walked towards the hole in the cove. The whole pack followed including the deceased Blackstar’s pack.
Blizzardheart opened her eyes slowly. It all seemed like a bad dream. Rosepetal had wanted to attack. A smile broke out on her face as she remembered Nightshadow’s words. He truly loved her. Now she knew for sure. A groan forced it’s way up her throat, she couldn’t help it. The effects of the previous day were not yet completely gone. She so badly wanted water right now. She turned her head to Nightshadow sleeping beside her. He was breathing heavily and when she put her ear to his chest, his lungs sounded like rattling stones. Not a good sign at all, it could mean nothing or it could be big trouble.
She yawned and rose slowly to her feet. Her head was pounding and her back felt as if the Golden Face was once again clawing it to shreds. She made her way slowly to the entrance of the cave and looked out. A gasp flew from her mouth but it quickly turned into a chuckle. All the wolves were lying outside the den. Their soft snoring sounded like a small creek. She grinned and lifted her head. The howl that emanated from her throat reverberated through the trees and caused the leaves to stir with inner awakening. She shivered as energy coursed through her body. A blue spiral ascended from her mouth and hung over the now awakening wolves.
Her eyes widened as she caught sight of the blue smoke drifting into the wind. The wolves all jumped to their feet and faced her with wide eyes. She looked at them quizzically and cocked her head. The wolves exchanged glances and Skybird stepped forward with a bow, “Mighty Blizzardheart, chosen one of the creator, please become our leader.” Blizzardheart looked at him strangely, “What are you talking about, I am not the chosen one of the Creator and that prophecy is as old as the hills.” Skybird nodded slowly, “You may think so but you are glowing with blue light and the prophecy clearly says that the chosen wolf would glow with strength and beauty in the form of light.” Blizzardheart laughed then stopped abruptly in shock.
Her eyes widened as her laugh seemed to travel through the whole forest. A leaf from the tree beside her floated down and landed on her back. She turned her head and gasped her fur was rippling and glowing stronger with blue light. She felt power course through her and flow around the leaf. On a whim, she thought about putting the leaf back into the tree. With a jerk the leaf flew into the air and stuck to it’s old position. She turned back to the wolves sheepishly as they gazed at her in awe. She could feel herself shimmering with blue light.
A sudden sound behind her caused her to turn around. Nightshadow was coming outside. He was staggering but determination glowed from his eyes. He frowned when he saw Blizzardheart then suddenly closed his eyes and sank down in the dirt. She rushed to his side and touched him with her nose. Immediately power coursed through her again and blue light surrounded Nightshadow. It flowed into him and Blizzardheart could feel it searching inside him. It seemed to find what it was looking for and flowed out with a burst. It once more attached itself to Blizzardheart and began to spark and shimmer. A spark landed on Nightshadow’s closed eyes and they opened. All this time Blizzardheart had closed her eyes and instructed the light, now she opened her eyes and smiled when she saw Nightshadow gazing at her.
Nightshadow rose strongly to his feet and stretched. His face bore an expression of amazement. He turned to Blizzardheart with shining eyes, “I knew you were the chosen wolf, I just knew it.” He grinned, “That’s why I wasn’t surprised.” Blizzardheart gazed at him in surprise, which only produced a chuckle from him. She lovingly brushed against him, which caused the blue glow to surround both of them and spark. She then turned to Skybird and the pack who had watched the whole operation in silence.
Blizzardheart bristled slightly as Rosepetal stepped forward. She watched her warily as she began to speak coldly, “You are all being deceived, Blizzardheart is not the chosen one. If anyone should be the chosen one it should be me.” Blizzardheart raised her head higher and growled. Her growl caused the leaves on the ground to swirl in a sudden burst of wind that knocked every wolf but her to the ground.
She turned to Nightshadow with a confused look though anger still smouldered behind it, “Nightshadow, did not the Great Wolf have these powers?” Nightshadow nodded grimly, “Then how did you defeat him?” Nightshadow cocked his head slightly, “My guess is that the Creator was displeased with his actions so He took away his power.” Blizzardheart nodded thoughtfully.
She turned once more to him, “If I am the chosen one then what am I supposed to do?” Skybird, who had now stood up shakily, answered her, “Blizzardheart, let me recite the prophecy to you, as a leader I was forced to memorize it by our elders:
From a leader she shall come
Becoming a leaderless one
With strength like no other
Yet betrayed by her own father
To rule her kind she will be destined
Though torn and broken, her joy lessened
Betrayed by one close to her heart
One in her life who will play a large part
Glowing with strength and beauty as light
Eyes keener than an eagle’s sight
Fur of snow-white eyes of ice blue
Heart of gold, no matter to whom
Listening to his heart and not his head
A creature of sky, feathers glowing red
Will assist her in life and also in death
Staying by her side till the very last breath
Hope renewed, strength returned
Returning to life death is spurned
Saving her betrayer with eyes aglow
To ascend into glory, her fur like snow.”
The whole pack gaped as the light around Blizzardheart burst out and spiralled to the sky. Blizzardheart closed her eyes and commanded the light to find her helper. With a sound like rushing wind, the light sent forth a call. The answer to the call came abruptly. The light reached out and seemed to take hold f something in the sky. Blizzardheart gasped and shivered as she felt her mind connect with another force of power though lesser than her own. Her mind touched the creatures mind and their thoughts intertwined. The creature spoke to her through it’s thoughts, “Who are you and what are you doing to me?” Blizzardheart could not help feeling a thrill at her answer, “I am the Chosen One.” Shock reverberated from the creatures mind, “I am coming.” It stated simply and the connection was severed
With a gasp, Blizzardheart regained consciousness. She opened her eyes and sighed in relief, “He is coming.” She stated quietly to the awed pack. She turned and looked at Nightshadow who at once spoke, “What is he?” Blizzardheart shook her head and turned sharply as a soft but clear voice addressed the pack, “Who of you….” The voice broke off as Blizzardheart caught sight of it and it of her. She automatically reached out with her mind and locked eyes with it. It was like no other bird she had ever seen. It’s feathers glowed with a fiery red light much like her own. The only difference was that it’s feathers were also red like fire. It almost appeared to be on fire.
Blizzardheart nodded respectfully and spoke out loud to it, “Please tell me your name and I will tell you mine.” The bird shook it’s head, “I will speak to you in private.” The bird was about to fly away but Blizzardheart quickly commanded the light and it immediately surrounded both the bird and her. To her surprise, she felt the light being resisted. She easily overpowered the resistance and lifted the bird into the air without looking at it. With a flick of her head, she transported both her and the bird to a quiet glade surrounded by trees some distance away.
When they finally landed the bird turned on her with fury, “I can transport myself thank you.” Blizzardheart just shook her head, “I wanted to test the full extent of my power.” The bird quieted down and said nothing. They stood gazing at each other for some time when finally she broke the silence, “What is your name and are you male or female?” The bird was silent for a moment then laughed a clear ringing laugh much like her own, “My name is Firebird and I am a bird. I am also male.” He cocked his head at her, “You are most beautiful, do you have a mate? I suppose you probably do, lucky wolf. Is it that handsome young black wolf I saw standing beside you?”
Blizzardheart blushed and couldn’t help noticing the slight accent with which the bird spoke. She laughed and met his loving gaze. For some reason she felt an uncontrollable love toward this creature. Her mind touched his and light from both of them met and spiralled together. They embraced each other’s minds and Blizzardheart was surprised to feel love greater than her own emanating from him. She shivered as his mind began to sort through her memories. His touch was soft and inviting.
She reached out with her mind and touched his consciousness. She sorted through his memory and her heart filled with pain when she realised that he was the last of his kind. She watched his parents dying to save his life as a vulture descended on the nest. She felt his rejection and hurt at being spurned by a young eagle he had fallen in love with. She enveloped her thoughts around the memory and murmured softly into his mind, “I love you.” She felt joy flow through her from his mind and she smiled gently. She withdrew from his thoughts and opened her eyes.
He gazed at her and slowly approached her. When he was in front of her, he put his wing forward and touched her fur. Her fur rippled and shimmered as she gazed into his eyes. He moved his wing along her neck and softly rested there. She felt a strange change in herself and looked at her light spiralling to her once again. The light now had touches of red that every now and again sparked from the blue. She looked at Firebird’s light and saw that it had touches of blue. She sighed softly and looked into his eyes, “At last I have met you.”
When they arrived back at the pack Blizzardheart felt like she was walking in a dream. She looked at all the startled expressions in the wolves’ faces in confusion. What was so strange? Nightshadow spoke hesitantly, “What happened Blizzardheart? You are shimmering with red.” Blizzardheart looked at him and smiled, “I have finally met my true love.” She felt jealousy emanating from Nightshadow looked at him with a measured gaze. She was a little bit surprised at the fact that she could now feel emotion that came from another animal.
Her voice was like vice as she spoke to Nightshadow, “I will always love you, but you may not always be there for me.” A sudden thought hit Blizzardheart like a blow from a Golden Face. She turned and ran; as she ran, she ordered the light in her mind. The light shot out from her and disappeared in a flash. She felt power surge through her and was surprised to discover that the light was still with her. Maybe the light divided itself, she thought.
She finally reached her den and dashed through the entrance. With a jolt, she realised that her cub was not there. She ran down the tunnel to the cooling room and gasped with relief. There, surrounded by soft blue, light lay Falconwing. She ran towards her and immediately began licking her comfortingly. She could not bear to think about what Falconwing might have experienced when she was gone. She had probably felt deserted.
A scuffling noise caused her to turn her head; Firebird was coming into the den. With a soft chuckle, he looked at the sleeping cub. He raised his head and met Blizzardheart’s gaze, “You have a beautiful cub, Blizzardheart, she is truly special.” A sad expression clouded his gaze as he turned his eyes to the cub again. Blizzardheart smiled sadly, “Don’t worry Firebird; you may not be the last of your kind.” Firebird just shook his head and walked towards her. He raised his head and whispered in her ear, “That doesn’t matter as long as I have you.” Blizzardheart smiled warmly and nodded.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow stared at Rosepetal. Her eyes were cold but filled with longing. He felt a pang of sorrow as he thought about his childhood with her. He had been in love with her. Now he was the mate of the Chosen One. The very thought of it wiped all his sorrow away. Him, the mate of the Chosen One, unbelievable. Jealousy suddenly appeared and soured his thoughts, that what’s-his-name bird was making moves on his mate. As he thought it, he knew it was childish and stupid of him to think that way. They were connected; they understood each other and could help each other better than anyone else could.
His brooding was brought to an abrupt end as Blizzardheart arrived into the clearing. Worry clouded his mind as he sprang forward to her side. He read the look in her eyes and gave a sigh of relief. She was calm which could only mean the pup was safe. Still he asked, “Is Falconwing alright?” Blizzardheart nodded. Nightshadow turned as a cough of laughter sounded behind him. “What’s so funny bird?” he growled. The bird took on a look of mock-offense and jerked his head back, “It’s just a very interesting name that you have given the cub. Anyway my name is Firebird and I am a bird.”
A gasp rippled through the pack and Skybird stepped forward, “So you are to be the companion of our Chosen One.” The bird nodded gravely and turned to Blizzardheart. They exchanged glances that brought another pang of maddening jealousy. He stifled it and turned away. He listened as Skybird ordered the pack to start hunting for food. He then trotted out towards the den. The sound of paw steps behind him caused him to wish for peace for at least five minutes. He quickened his pace and tried to lose his pursuer but they caught up with him.
He turned his head in annoyance and was surprised to find Skybird behind him. He slowed slightly; maybe he would not have to get angry about getting no peace. When Skybird came alongside him, he spoke softly and insistently, “Nightshadow, what do you think of all this?” Nightshadow just shook his head, “I don’t know what to think, the words of the prophecy keep on ringing in my head. The fact that I might betray her is overwhelming. I keep on wondering if she thinks about that.”
Skybird nodded slowly then spoke softly, “Do you want to get rid of her powers?” Nightshadow nodded enthusiastically, “I would love to, then maybe things can go back to normal.” Skybird was silent for a moment, “There is only one way to do this, which is to fight her and make her submit. Then you can force her to send the power away.” Nightshadow turned the idea over and over in his mind; right now, he was desperate for any ideas. It seemed like the only option. A nod was his only answer
Blizzardheart watched Nightshadow and Skybird talking. She wasn’t rude enough to eavesdrop but they seemed to be conspiring something. The glances Nightshadow had been giving Firebird earlier were venomous. If looks could kill… she shook her head. She didn’t want to think about that. She turned to Firebird who was watching her with concern. “Do not worry about what he thinks of me, in time he will realise that it can’t be helped.” His eyes twinkled as he spoke and Blizzardheart knew that she would be fine as long as she trusted him.
She turned to face the trees listened to the noises of the forest. They were so inviting, a little hunting wouldn’t hurt. She was starving anyway. She turned to Firebird once more with a question in her eyes, “Do you eat meat?” Firebird shook his head, “Ever since my parents were killed by meat-eaters I thrive on fruit and vegetables only.” Blizzardheart gave him a sympathetic look and turned once more to the forest. She bounded off into the forest, ears and eyes alert for prey.
After a while of running, she finally came upon something interesting. A small herd of deer were grazing just to her left. She veered off in the direction and continued until the smell was stronger. Crouching down she peered between the leaves of a small shrub. The deer were grazing peacefully. She sampled the air, good she was downwind. All right, she thought, time for action.
With a leap she settled on the back of the nearest unsuspecting buck. It squealed in terror and began bucking like a bronco. She hung on with all her strength and called upon her power. It once more surged through her. She closed her eyes and commended the light as it flowed into the buck. Suddenly it’s eyes rolled upwards and it sank down into the grass. Blizzardheart immediately tore into the flesh hungrily. It could be half-alive for all she cared. Ignoring the blood spattering into her face she ripped open the belly and began to feed on the juicy insides.
When she had eaten until she could not possibly fit anything more into her stomach, she staggered to her feet. All of a sudden, she was bowled over onto the grass. Immediately the weight lifted and she struggled to her feet. Her light swirled around her attacker and held them there. She cocked her head playfully when she saw Skybird, “What is the meaning of this my dear.” Skybird gasped and spoke hurriedly, “…Trouble with Nightshadow…he is alone…help him…by the river.” With that, his head sank down and he appeared fast asleep. Blizzardheart gently soothed him with her light and then turned and ran towards the river.
When she arrived there, there was no one in sight. She looked around puzzled. Looking down she saw the marks of a scuffle. No, it could not be. Was Nightshadow in the river? Strangely enough, there were no blood spots. Suddenly a force knocked into her from the side, knocking her to the ground. The first thought that crossed her mind was, don’t you all ever get tired of bowling me over? She tried to summon her power to kill her attacker who had now grabbed her throat in his teeth but something was stopping her. She could feel the emotions of the attacker rolling off in waves. Anger, jealousy, confusion, and regret. Man, this guy was confused.
She writhed and twisted but the attacker tightened his hold on her throat. She tried to gasp for breath but could not breathe with his chock hold on her. She tried to turn her head to see who it was but the attacker would not allow that either and remained discreetly out of view. With a sigh, she dropped her head, “What do you want?” A gravely, muffled voice answered her, “Send your power away.” She sneered, “As if I will do that.”
A ripping noise made her cringe. Her attacker was actually ripping her throat. She reached out with her mind desperately for her power and suddenly felt it coursing through her. With a lurch, she commanded her light and was jerked to her feet. Her attacker went sailing through the air and landed in the river. Using her light energy, she dunked her attacker several times until he was limp. She then dragged him out of the river towards her. “Stupid move,” she spat, “You should have considered the fact that I can use my power against you.”
Her attacker groaned and moved his head slightly. Blizzardheart felt her head spinning as her throat dripped hot blood. He must have punctured my jugular vein, thought Blizzardheart. She glanced down at the attacker again and started. He had turned his face toward her and the sight paralysed her. Nightshadow!
Betrayal, hurt, anger, pain. These emotions surged through her as she glared down at him. So this was what the prophecy had been talking about. Her own mate had betrayed her. She groaned and dropped her head. The pain was too much to bear. She would probably not survive this. Her throat was gushing blood and she was feeling giddy. Her legs gave way and she sank down into the dirt. Darkness closed in as her sight dimmed. Her power was fading…fading. She closed her eyes and her last though crossed her mind, “Is this why I was born?”
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow whined and rose to his feet. He still felt half-asleep from the dunking Blizzardheart had given him. Man, he was so stupid. Why hadn’t he thought about that? She could use her power against him of course. Why had he even done this? A gasp of horror escaped his mouth. He nudged Blizzardheart and tried to raise her to her feet. No…nooooooo, why did he do this? Why? He put his ear against her chest and listened for something…anything. There was nothing but a faint beat. He raised his head and howled mournfully. What sort of curse befalls someone who nearly kills the Chosen One?
He raised his head as Firebird flew in trailing red light. He crash landed in a flurry and rushed to Blizzardheart’s side. He glared at Nightshadow, “I don’t want to hear your sorry excuses, you nearly killed her. KILLED HER!” He screeched. His eyes narrowed with such malice that Nightshadow began to fear for his life. “Selfish! Selfish!” Firebird rushed at him and collided into him. He felt claws and talons tearing at him. Suddenly it all stopped.
He opened his eyes warily. Firebird was talking to someone. He raised his head. Blizzardheart! She was talking to Firebird softly. She nuzzled him and looked at Nightshadow. Her expression was not hateful but painful. Her eyes were filled with sorrow. Her throat was healed but he knew that the scar of what he had done would never be healed.
Firebird ignored him completely but stayed by her side his expression alert. The reason why he was not leaving her side pained him. He wanted nothing more than to erase everything that had happened. He moved forward to approach Blizzardheart but Firebird, without looking at him, moved discreetly in the way. He hung his head and started to walk away when Blizzardheart called him, “Nightshadow, you have only fulfilled the prophecy that someone would betray me.” Nightshadow recoiled at that. It was so painful that he actually willingly betrayed her.
Selfish, selfish, selfish, he couldn’t shake the words from his mind. What was Blizzardheart supposed to deliver them from anyway? Their lives here in the forest were perfect. What did the Creator see that they didn’t?
– – – – – – – – – – –
Blizzardheart watched Nightshadow carefully. She registered the pain and regret emanating from him. When she awakened, it was difficult for her to understand why. The Creator probably thought her job was not done. After all she had killed the Golden Face and it’s mate. What more was there to do?
As screech from the mountain was her answer. With her heart in her throat, Blizzardheart looked up. The sight paralysed her. There were at least 20 Golden Faces on that mountainside. She turned and sprinted into the woods. All of a sudden, she crashed into Skybird. Pieces flew together in her mind, “It’s alright Skybird I forgive you for conspiring to remove my power. Nightshadow almost killed me but I am alive again.” Skybird recoiled as if slapped. Horror displayed itself all over his face, “You nearly died? Please forgive me. I never told him to kill you.”
Blizzardheart nodded curtly and turned once more to the mountain, “We’ve got other problems though. At least 20 Golden Faces have arrived for revenge.” She dropped her head and thought for a moment. An idea suddenly popped up, “We should send a wolf carrying a fern to decide on a truce.” She turned to the horror-stricken Skybird, “Who should we send?” Skybird thought for a moment then spoke quickly, “Rosepetal is brave enough.”
Blizzardheart nodded and closed her eyes. Summoning her power, she sent out a silent call for Rosepetal. She focused on reaching her mind and found her busy hunting. She quickly surrounded her with blue light in her mind and spoke softly, “You are needed urgently Rosepetal. Come to the place where the trees cross.” She withdrew her light and opened her eyes nodding to Skybird, “She has agreed to meet us at the place where the trees cross.
Skybird stared at her in shock, “That is right at the foot of the mountain!” Blizzardheart nodded, “We cannot afford to waste time. We need to be as close as we can to the mountain so we can reach it faster.” With that, she raced off and ran to the foot of the mountain. When she arrived there, she had only to wait for a moment before Rosepetal came flying into the clearing. Skybird soon arrived as well.
Rosepetal nodded to both of them, “What is wrong. Why such strange summons?” Blizzardheart spoke quickly for there was no time to lose, “At least 20 Golden Faces are gathered on the mountain side and there could be no other reason than revenge. We need you to carry a fern and go up to them to make peace treaties.” Rosepetal nodded solemnly, “I will go for the sake of the pack and Nightshadow.”
Blizzardheart felt a pang of jealousy at those words. It quickly evaporated as she scolded herself. Now was not the time to mope about such things. Spotting a fern near the edge of the clearing, she hurried forward and pulled a piece off. She turned and handed it to Rosepetal who had followed her, “I would go myself, but I want to make sure that everyone is ready for battle if this does not work.” She looked deep into Rosepetal’s eyes, “Be safe dear friend.”
Rosepetal nodded and sprinted away to the mountain. Blizzardheart watched her leave. Turning to Skybird she lamented, “I just hope that isn’t the last time we see her.” Skybird met her gaze with amusement in his eyes, “Do you really?” Blizzardheart nodded, “She may be a rival of sorts, but she is still my friend.” Skybird smiled, “There is no time to regret anything. We must warn the pack.”
Nightshadow heard a screech and turned to find that all the nightmares he had ever imagined had just come true. Golden Faces, at least 20 of them. He sped off in the direction of the mountain. He had to find out what they wanted. It took him a while to get there but he finally found himself climbing up the side of the mountain. He paused to rest for a moment but was flung against the rock side as something rocketed into him. He jumped up and faced the danger. “Rosepetal! What are you doing here?” Rosepetal stared at him in horror, “I have to take a message of truce to the Golden Faces. What are YOU doing here?”
Nightshadow looked quizzically at her, “For the same reason that you are here.” Rosepetal shook her head, “Go home Nightshadow, go to your beloved Blizzardheart, the Chosen One.” Bitterness plagued her voice and Nightshadow felt sadness overcome him, “I killed her so I cannot go back to her.” Rosepetal laughed mockingly, “So now you have lost two mates, you are a sorry excuse for a wolf.” With that, she turned and scrambled up the mountainside.
Nightshadow, stung by her words was just about to go back down the mountain. Suddenly, an idea struck him. If she got in trouble, he should save her life to get his honour back. He quietly followed her tracks and soon came upon her speaking to the Golden Faces. Their voices were smooth and soft but had a deadly edge to them that was hard to miss.
Rosepetal was asking them what was wrong. The Golden Faces answered, “We are angry with you because you killed our leader.” Rosepetal was shaking visibly but kept calm, “Your leader attacked us, and we had no choice, but tell us how we can solve this.” The Golden Faces talked softly amongst themselves for a moment then spoke loudly and clearly, “You must give us your leader so that we may kill him.” Rosepetal gasped, “Is there no other way? Our leader is female.” The Golden Faces sneered, “Female or male, our leaders blood must be avenged.”
Rosepetal nodded solemnly, “I will discuss this with our pack.” The Golden Faces answered threateningly, “We give you 3 days to make your decision. On the third day, we will attack and fill the countryside with your blood. Truce or no truce.” Rosepetal nodded again and turned around, sprinting away as fast as she could amid the jeers and taunts from the Golden Faces. She ran into Nightshadow and nearly bowled him over. “Rabbitears! What are you doing here? I told you to go back down the mountain!” She hissed and carried on running. “Why are you still running?” Nightshadow panted beside her. “I want to put as much distance between me and them as possible.” She spat, running faster.
When they reached the bottom of the mountain, they met Blizzardheart and Skybird. Blizzardheart looked at Nightshadow with surprise, “What are you doing here?” “I wanted to ensure Rosepetal’s safety.” He whispered shamefacedly. Blizzardheart’s eyes filled with sorrow, “I see.” She said simply and would not look at him again. She turned to Rosepetal, her eyes cold, “So what did they say?”
Rosepetal paused to glare at Nightshadow then answered, “They said that we must bring our leader to them so that they might avenge the blood of their own leader in three days’ time or they will fill the countryside with our blood.
Blizzardheart sighed, “I thought those other two we had killed were the last in the country. If only I had known.” She turned to Skybird, “I am your leader, and I will go.” Skybird frowned slightly, “I am the leader of this pack. I will go.” Blizzardheart shook her head, “I am the leader of all the wolves in this country. Does not the prophecy say so?” Skybird nodded reluctantly, “If you must go then you must. Maybe this is what you were born for.”
Blizzardheart felt anguish tear at her. Who knows what she might suffer at the hands of those Golden Faces. They were well known for their brutality and hate. She frowned with determination; if this was what she had to do to save her kind from total extinction in this country then she would do it. She swivelled around and barked at Nightshadow, “I will go up and you will follow as punishment. You will not be killed but you will have to watch me die and report everything to Skybird. Understood?”
She watched as hurt and repulsion clouded Nightshadow’s eyes. He hung his head shamefully, “I…understand.” She nodded and began to walk to the mountainside. She turned as a flurry of wings alerted her to the presence of Firebird. She heard his desperate screech, “I will go. Send me. Blizzardheart, I love you and I cannot let you go.” She smiled softly, “Sometimes we are born for certain things that must be fulfilled Firebird.” Looking towards the mountain, her eyes thoughtful, she spoke once again, “What I will go through is irrelevant to what might happen if I don’t go through it.”
With those words, she trudged wearily on towards the mountainside with Nightshadow at her heels. When they were out of earshot Nightshadow came up alongside her, “Let me go, Blizzardheart my love. Let me die in your place.” Blizzardheart stopped and looked at him tenderly, “No. I love you too much. I am the one who was born to fulfil this prophecy not you.” She continued up the mountain as Nightshadow wept silently.
She looked up as she walked and spoke softly, “Firebird is following us.” She looked straight ahead and continued in silence. When they finally arrived at the place where the Golden Faces were gathered there was much laughter among them. They taunted and jeered at Blizzardheart but were silenced by a blast of blue light from her. “I have come; now do with me as you will.” She lowered her head and braced herself.
The blow was expected yet not expected at such a rate of fury. She was sent spinning and knocked into another Golden Face. A blast of pain attacked her, as her back was ripped open. She staggered to her feet but was once again sent down by a paw to her face. She heard the rip of flesh tearing and realised that someone had just torn her belly open. Agony erupted from her belly as her insides oozed through the gap. Teeth, lots of them were tearing at her insides. A sudden pull and everything went black. No feeling, nothing.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Nightshadow watched in horror as Blizzardheart was mutilated and torn apart. Then suddenly, as quickly as it had begun, it ended. The Golden Faces, splattered with blood all trooped away. A wisp of blue light escaped from Blizzardheart’s mouth and spiralled into the air. It hung in the air for a moment then was torn apart by a breeze.
He rushed to Blizzardheart’s side as soon as the Golden Faces disappeared from view. She was a sorry sight and looked as though they had tried to make a meal of her. Strangely enough, no bones were broken. He grabbed the scruff of her neck and began the long trip down the mountain. When he finally reached the bottom after much difficulty, she was extremely dirty and spattered with her own blood. He dragged her to the stream and began the long process of cleaning her up.
When he was finished, he noticed that someone was standing next to him. When he turned his head, he gave a start. The whole pack was standing behind him watching the whole process. He looked sorrowfully at them and turned when a soft but clear voice spoke behind him, “You have done well Nightshadow. I forgive you for your previous wrongdoing. We must now wait.”
Nightshadow looked at Firebird in confusion, “Wait for what? She is dead.” Firebird did not answer he turned and spoke to the pack, “All of you need rest. Go and rest till morning for it is late.” He turned to Nightshadow, “I will tend to Blizzardheart.” Nigh opened his mouth to argue but thought better of it and turned to walk away with the rest of the pack.
He felt like howling with the sorrow of losing the mate he loved. He raced off to the den and ran into the inside. He was surprised by a small, insistent voice, “Daddy where is Mother?” Nightshadow turned to see Falconwing stared at him with large eyes. She looked so like her mother it was painful. He sighed and lay down, motioning for her to do the same. “Your mother won’t be coming back anymore…”
He was interrupted by a squeal of delight. Falconwing rushed past him and collided with something. He turned around quickly and his heart skipped a beat. There, standing unharmed was Blizzardheart. He ran to her and licked her all over her face. He could not be happier. “How?” he gasped. She laughed and he noticed that the blue light surrounding her had intensified. “You forgot the words of the prophecy and chose to ignore it.”
Blizzardheart watched with a smile as Nightshadow hung his head. He was definitely regretting all his decisions to betray her. A sudden thought crossed her mind and she spoke it aloud, “I wonder what I was supposed to save you from?” Nightshadow raised his head and looked at her with appreciation, “You have saved me. You saved me from a life of guilt and shame for what I have done. I could not ask for more.”
Warmth and joy flowed over her in waves. She looked at Falconwing who was excitedly licking her cheek. She bent down and gave her a lick. Now her job would be to look after this child and ensure that she was safe from harm. She would do her job well and hope that tomorrow would bring more peace and safety.
Exiting her den, she walked towards the sleeping area of the pack. When she arrived there, the wolves stared at her in horror. She smiled at them and lifted her snout to the moon. Her howl was melodious and filled with joy. The leaves on the ground stirred upwards and spiralled around Blizzardheart as she lifted her voice to the stars. The wind whipped around her and caused her fur ripple and twist. The blue light around her spark and flashed. Brightening and pulsing.
All of a sudden, there was a flash of red light as Firebird swooped down from the sky. He circled Blizzardheart and began to trill joyously. The wolves around Blizzardheart could resist the urge no longer and lifted their noses to the sky. Their voices filled the air and joined Blizzardheart’s song. The song of one who was a lone wolf no longer.