This was actually the piece that inspired me to write the longer version of Marked. It can be read without Marked, I suppose since most things are explained by the end. I plan on making it a dream sequence in the main novel.

Notes: Casandra and Eli are both Spanish and do sometimes use that language. The words aren't that hard to figure out but I'll include a translation at the bottom.


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Hazy shapes started to become clearer before his blinking amber eyes. It took a moment for the week-old Wolf cub to realize that his eyes were open. A second later he had to shut them as a gust of snowflakes blew in his face. The off-white cub sneezed and swatted at his face with his paw. Squinting, he observed the white flurries surrounding him. He had felt their touch before, even though he hadn't been able to see them then. They smelled off sweetened rain. He sneezed again when one flake dropped into his nose.

Glancing to his side, he saw a Wolf about three times his size. It had a bright coat that blended in perfectly with their snowy resting spot. Its amber eyes held a tint of irritation and it lashed its tail or violently twitched its ears as the snow fell. Once or twice, it even snapped at the flakes and growled menacingly.

The cub yapped zealously. How funny it was that the other Wolf seemed so angry at the snow. Was it that bothersome? It was an easy foe. His eyes met the Wolf's, calling for it to watch. The Wolf yawned and lay on its front paws, giving him the barest indication that it was interest.

Ah, forget that grump. He arose on tottering hind legs and bit at the flakes, loving their crisp taste on his tongue. When he fell backwards into the snow, he leapt back up and continued to devour them. After a while he tired of this game and began to lap at the air. It had become a massive pool of tastes and he was determined to drink up everything. He dashed about, feasting on the falling treat and making a great deal of noise.

"Eli!" the other Wolf barked. Startled, he stopped suddenly and tumbled headfirst into a snow mound. Whining, he poked his head through and stared back at the Wolf in annoyance.

Its muted pink tongue lolled out in a laugh, "Clumsy cub."

WHAT? It was making fun of him. Eli gave a tiny growl and burst from the mound, charging the Wolf. It waited for him to get close and then knocked him aside with its paw. Then, it scratched at its ear. Eli rolled onto his side. He scampered back to his feet. A familiar musk lofted around him. Dry, crackling grasses and scorching sands. Mother?

Eli sniffed again. Yes, the other Wolf was Casandra, his mother, and the only creature he had known since his birth. He dropped to his belly and wagged his tail, eager for play. Casandra had other plans. She sighed and shifted onto her side, presenting her smooth underbelly with its full, pink teats. Eli crawled closer, contemplating a meal and then decided against it. He was too excited to eat.

A pine bough broke lose from a tree and crashed to the ground nearby. Eli's ears picked up the sound and he bounded over to it. He pawed at it, expecting some sort of movement. It was stationary. Confused, he smelled it. Would it taste good? He opened his jaws.

"I wouldn't do that, hito," Casandra advised, lifting her head. Eli faced her and flattened his ears, growling. Casandra sat up. "You won't like it."

Meh, what did she know? He crunched into the bough. YUCK! He spat it onto the ground.

"Tonto," his mother giggled, rolling onto her back and kicking up her legs in hysteria.

Hanging his head, the cub kicked at the bough. It had looked tasty. He nipped at an itch on his back. Something white flashed by his eyes. Casandra sprang past him, kicking snow into his eyes. Eli whined and ran after her.

She was considerably faster than him and the snow was thick and tall. He had to jump to keep up his pace. Casandra was more concerned with her prey than her son's troubles. Eli called for her, barking in fright. He was falling too far behind.

He misjudged the depth of the next snow bank and sank into its frigid clutches. Trapped, the cub howled, jumping against the slippery snow and trying to climb its sides. His claws failed to secure a decent hold. He howled louder, begging for his mother. She did not come to his rescue. He was on his own.

Dropping onto his haunches, Eli tried to figure out some means of escape. More snow was falling over the hole he had made, covering the splotch of light. He dug at one of the sides. The tunnel quickly collapsed on him and Eli had to struggle free. Eli attempted to use his fangs against the snow, but it was harder down here and it hurt them. He felt them with his tongue, making sure the fangs were still in one piece. They felt sore.

This was frustrating! He lay on the bottom of the bank. Suddenly, the cold seemed to evaporate from his fur. Eli opened his eyes. Looking down at him was a wolf even bigger than Casandra. It wasn't white like her and seemed to be made from many colors: reds, oranges, whites, and blues. Strange noises surrounded him, crackles and hisses. The fur on the new wolf's body moved of its own accord. It made him feel warm. He had never experienced anything like it.

The wolf didn't speak. As soon as it saw Eli could see it, the creature leapt to one side of the snow wall and then to the other, using the momentum to help it climb. It grasped the top and pulled itself from the bank. Eli could no longer see it but could hear the wolf rumble, encouraging him. He lunged at one side and tried to repeat the wolf's technique. It wasn't as smooth and precise, but he managed to reach the top. He dragged himself up, searching for the animal that had shown him the way. It was gone. His ears fell.

Casandra trotted by him, a rabbit dangling from her jaws. Eli wanted to find the other wolf, but he didn't want to get lost again. It was too cold. He hurried alongside his mother. Her eyes moved toward him. They seemed amazed. She hadn't expected her runt cub to find her on his own.

"Impressive, Eli."

Eli batted his tail. "Yep." His mother licked his ear. He nipped at her.

~~~~~

            Having eaten her kill, Casandra and her cub dosed within their lair. The air was thick with death and blood. Casandra didn't mind. She had been the one to clear the cave of its previous tenants. Their blood still coated her muzzle. They had died too easily. No challenge at all.

Eli was sleeping on top of a prone furred body. He snuggled in the wet hair, preferring it to his mother's flank. She kicked too much in her sleep. The scent of fresh blood was intoxicating, making him feel drowsy. It was headier than the weak fragrance of the rabbit's blood. These creatures had been powerful. The taste of their blood was more satisfying. He adjusted his head on the body, inhaling the luscious scent.

What had his mother called these animals? Cougars? They had been so large yet she had crushed their throats with a single snap each. Their claws hadn't been fast enough to catch her as she overtook them. She might have had a better challenge had the younger cat not been occupied with Eli. It had made the mistake of cornering the cub and soon paid for its indiscretion through the loss of an eye. Eli's fangs had also been faster than the cougar's claws. It had been so simple.

"So big," he had mentioned to his mother as they gazed at the dead cougars.

"It doesn't matter," she had replied, cleaning some red from her forepaw.

"Why?"

"Because we are gods, hito. Life and death is ours to choose. For these creatures, we chose death."

"Why?"

"They were in the way."

He had lost interest after that and pursued a beetle that roamed about. Casandra had left him to his play. Eli had given up on the insect once it took flight up the wall. Though his jumps took him halfway up the wall, he couldn't quite reach the ceiling, where the beetle found sanctuary. He had taunted it with a couple angry yips before returning to his mother.

His eyes now had begun to shut when he caught a whiff of something he had never smelled before. It was similar to the musk of his mother yet it was more pungent like a mingling of cinnamon and pine. The scent brought a strange giddiness to his being. He wanted to find this scent. He had to find it.

"Mother! Mother!" he yapped, pushing at her side with his head. He nipped at her skin when she didn't answer.

Casandra bared her teeth. "Go away." She clenched her eyes and drew back one leg to kick her son away.

The cub snarled and backed up. Then, he ran at her, lowering his head. He butted her on impact and continued to butt her belly. "MOTHER!" Eli was indignant.

He heard the savage growl as his mother seized his nape painfully with her teeth and flung him nearly five feet away. "Callete! Go to sleep!"

"Not tired!" Eli pouted. He lifted his tail in an aggressive stance.

"I don't care. I am."

"Outside. Something outside."

"There's nothing," Casandra groaned, turning her back to Eli.

"Uh huh!"

Her head whirled in his direction, eyes displaying her rage. The black lips pulled back and the jaws parted, releasing the same snarl Casandra had given to the cougars before attacking them. Her fur stood. "Callete!"

Shocked by his mother's reaction, Eli stopped his protests and dropped his chin to the ground. Casandra resumed her nap. Peering to make sure she was asleep, the cub treaded to the mouth of the cave. If she wasn't going to help him explore this new smell, he would just do it without her. Casandra could sleep all day for all he cared. She wasn't any fun when she was tired. He would rather do this by himself anyway. He threw back his head and walked ahead.

"Where are you going?" Casandra muttered, sleepily.

"Outside," Eli answered without stopping.

"Don't get lost again."

Eli bristled. Last time wasn't his fault. The snow had cheated. Besides, how was he supposed to keep an eye around him when he was trying not to lose her? Mala, he thought.

Outside, it was still snowing but it had let up some. Eli was disappointed that there weren't as many flakes to chase. Then again, he didn't have time for such things. He was hunting...or something like that. Drawing the scent from the air, Eli moved with his nose to the ground. It was his first time tracking so he took pride in being so good at it. His tail bounced about him like a little flag.

He froze when he came upon another wolf burying the remains of his kill under the snow. The wolf was still young. By the look of his size, not much past six months. It was white-silver with green eyes hued in gold. Eli knew this wolf was different from Casandra. He didn't know how but this wolf had a different feel about him, a connection to its realm. Casandra always seemed detached. He did too.

Still, the whelp enticed the cub. It made his heart patter against his chest. He raced toward the wolf. Fear and anger flashed through the whelp's eyes. Both emotions vanished as Eli reached him. The whelp lowered his head and sniffed the cub as Eli sniffed back, pressing their noses together. Eli barked and licked the whelp's nose. The whelp whisked his tongue over Eli's muzzle, which shook in excitement. He shook his tail and darted to the side. His companion chased after, capturing the cub between his paws and rubbing their cheeks together. Eli placed his paws against the whelp's chest and gazed up at him. It was an instant connection. He belonged with this animal more than he belonged with Casandra.

Flipping Eli with the side of his head, the whelp renewed their game of tag. He coaxed Eli with tosses of his head and playful hops in the snow. Eli tagged along, easily catching up to the whelp. He snatched the end of his tail. The whelp made a sound of surprise. It sounded like a high-pitched 'kii-yii.' Eli had to release the tail to bark in laughter. Kii-yii pulled his tail between his legs, looking wounded. Eli wove around his legs to get the whelp back into the spirit. Kii-yii's ears perked and he forgot about being sad.

They played for a while before they were interrupted by a resonating howl. Casandra was summoning her son. Eli snorted. He wasn't going home.

Kii-yii seemed interested in the howls. His ears moved to the cadence of the sound. He shot back his head and howled along with Casandra. Eli blinked and then started to howl as well. The noise sounded weak compared to the others. He began again, putting more force into the effort. It came out the same. Eli whimpered. Why did his howls so puppyish?

Casandra emerged from the distance. She seemed irked with her cub but calmed when she saw Kii-yii. She rushed the whelp and licked him all over. Kii-yii licked back, adoring the attention, especially from a female. Eli had never seen his mother act so friendly. Casandra pawed at Kii-yii and scampered around him, behaving very much like Eli had. Kii-yii's attachment to her was equally immediate. When their fun was over, the trio rested in the cave, Casandra's head perched on Kii-yii's back as Eli propped himself against the whelp's shoulder.

~~~~

The group remained together for a week. They moved as a pack and Casandra often enlisted Kii-yii's help in a hunt. Eli usually slept while they were gone. Casandra forbid him from joining. He was too young. It upset Eli but from what he had seen, hunting did look like a lot of work.

Any time the pack wasn't hunting, they played. Eli loved the happiness he felt around Kii-yii. His mother seemed to share his joy. So it was completely unexpected when she showed up one day and told him that they were leaving.

Everything had seemed different that day. He recalled stumbling as he arose that morning. His body had been so off-balanced and the cold had penetrated his flesh, which felt oddly smooth unlike his normal pelt. Even his daily routine of scratching his ears before waking Kii-yii was different. It had been hard to bend his leg back.

Casandra hadn't been around when he awoke. She appeared when he was wrestling with Kii-yii, who hadn't noticed any changes. Kii-yii had pinned Eli and the cub was scratching at the whelp's paws. Casandra called him off.

"Not yet," Eli pleaded, turning to his mother. Her image shifted in his eyes. For a moment, she was some unknown creature braced upon two legs. Most of her now tawny blond fur hung from her head, falling over her clothed chest in wide curls. Just as quickly, she was a wolf again. The switch repeated itself every few minutes until Eli jerked his head from her and grabbed Kii-yii's ear. "Let's play," he whined, tugging on it.

"Not now, Eli," Casandra told him. She took him by the inside of his forelegs. It was bizarre to be lifted like that. Casandra cradled her son in her tanned forelegs, which bore only miniscule hairs. He was confused.

"Mother?"

"Things have changed, hito. They always do for our kind. Now we must find your father." Her voice was heavy with regret, though Eli wasn't foolish enough to believe it was for him.

Kii-yii could tell something was amiss. He whined and paced along the ground. His ears drooped so that it seemed they would fall from his head. Casandra approached him and pat his head with her strange hairless paw. She stroked him under his muzzle.

"Lo siento, mi corazon. We cannot stay with you and you cannot follow us."

A desperate whine broke from Kii-yii. He licked at her face, eyes bright with fear. Casandra pressed her face against his head and then walked away. Kii-yii fought with himself not to follow. His frame trembled with the effort.

Glancing over his mother's shoulder, Eli smiled at the whelp. "Tomorrow," he promised. Of course, this would all be fixed by tomorrow. Casandra's words were nonsense to his ears, not worth trying to understand. She was just being difficult. But he wasn't worried. If she took him away, he would just come back.

His mother shook her head at Eli's statement. "Gods cannot reside in solitude, Eli. We all must eventually return to our subjects. We are drawn to two worlds. Now, it is time to take our place in the other."

Eli yawned. He was tired and Casandra was talking in riddles. Why must gods do anything? Weren't they masters of their own destiny? Meh. He would settle this after his nap. He dozed off, barely noticing when Casandra picked up a coverlet from the ground and swathed his nude one-year-old human form in it.

They had a train to catch.

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Spanish Words Used:

hito---son
tonto---idiot
mala---mean
callete--shut up (pronounced "kajah tay"
lo siento---I'm sorry
corazon---literally meaning heart but in this case it means dear or honey, a term of affection

Oh why doesn't Eli use Spanish? He doesn't know it yet and Casandra uses both languages around him.