A Stormwood Tale
Dakota's foot falls were heavy, her breath jagged and burning. Her eyes blurred with weariness as she stumbled over a snowdrift, unaware of where her body was bringing her. Stars blurred together in the sky, tiny dots of fire that stung her unseeing eyes. The moon, no longer her friendly guide, looked down upon the lone wolf demonically.
'Cast out by your own kind, Dakota? Not worthy, too weak, too…too…' Even Dakota's thoughts were broken, as useless as a twig snapped underfoot.
It was near midnight when she finally collapsed. Her breathing slowed until it looked as if she wasn't breathing at all.
"Race you to the oak tree!"
"Only if you loose!"
The black wolf pup giggled, bouncing with excitement. "Fine, Snowdance, you're on!"
Snowdance jumped over her brother, speeding through the undergrowth. She could hear his breath behind her, closer then she would have liked. 'What are you thinking?' Snowdance asked herself, relaxing as her feet pounded the packed snow, 'you are the fastest pup in the entire pack!'
Blackmist narrowed his eyes, pressing forward towards his sister. She was fast, he'd give her that, but Blackmist had been practicing. He was gaining on her, inch my inch. By the time they reached the oak he would be ahead.
All of a sudden Snowdance screeched to a stop, sliding a little on the ice underfoot. Blackmist tried to stop, running into his sister's rump ungracefully.
"What? What is it?" Blackmist whispered as Snowdance raised her head, tasting the frigid wind. He noticed uneasily that Snowdance had not been running towards the oak—she had led him outside their pack's territory.
"I don't know—Smells like us, only…different." Snowdance looked into Blackmist's dark eyes excitedly. "Maybe it's another wolf!"
"A loner?" Blackmist said fearfully. The pack's omega had been killed by a rouge human dog the year before and the elders told stories of evil wolves that haunted the forests, looking for pups they could take away and eat.
Snowdance shrugged, padding foreword a little bit. "It smells like its right…here." She brought her paw down on a large clump of snow.
And the snow moved.
Blackmist yelped, jumping backwards into a tree. Snowdance raced off and dove into a bush. 'Lucky you, you can run fast!' Blackmist thought, cowering as the snow rose and took the shape of a silver female wolf.
"Ow…oh, where am I?" The wolf groaned, struggling to her feet and shaking snow from her pelt. Blackmist flattened himself to the ground, trying to blend in (unsuccessfully) with the white snow at his feet.
The silver wolf swayed for a moment before steadying herself. Her eyes flickered towards Blackmist and she showed her teeth aggressively. "Who are you?"
"B-Blackmist of the S-Stormwood Pack." Blackmist averted his eyes from the female submissively.
"Blackmist? What a strange name." The female mused, her aggression falling from her face like heavy snow from a pine bough, "I must have wandered farther then I thought—I've never heard of the Stormwoods before."
Snowdance must have been listening for she poked her head out of the bush in which she was hiding. "Never heard of the Stormwoods? You must be one dumb omega!"
The wolf bristled. "Why do you think I am an omega?"
Blackmist tried to signal to his sister to keep quiet but she pressed on, "Because you smell like Dirtyfox, our old omega. You were one, weren't you? But—" Snowdance inhaled again, taking in the earthy smell of the wolf, "—not anymore."
The female lone wolf gave a small nod. "Yes, I was the omega of my clan. I was banished. My name is Dakota."
"Dakota?" Blackmist couldn't help but laugh, "What a silly name!"
"Come on," Snowdance said with a flick of her tail, "I'll take you to our alphas, Stormheart and Stormice. They'll know what to do with you."
"Yeah, and maybe they'll give you a descent name while they're at it!" Blackmist cackled before falling in step with Dakota and Snowdance.
Stormheart flicked his tongue over his mate, smoothing out her fur. His cool eyes kept a careful watch on his pups that played with each other in the snow.
"Papa! Papa!" Snormheart's littlest, a blind pup called Blankeyes, raced unseeingly towards her father, nose lifted high in the air, guiding her, "Papa, there is a loner in the hollow!"
"Loner?" Snormheart and his mate leapt to their feet, eyes meeting briefly before turning to their runt.
Stormice nuzzled her child in an almost demanding way. "Show me."
Dakota lowered her head as the alphas raced towards her. She averted her eyes, tucked her tail between her legs and gave a small whimper.
"It's okay," Snowdance told Dakota as she stepped towards her leaders, "Stormice is real nice—"
"Snow, step out of the way." Stormheart demanded, showing his teeth.
"Why?" Snowdance whined, truly curious, before Blackmist dragged her from the alphas path.
Stormheart and Stormice slowly circled out towards Dakota, eyes down but full of hostility.
"State your name, loner!" Stormice called in her powerful voice.
"Dakota of the Shatterbark tribe!" Dakota said clearly though her body cowered, "I was banished by Shatterstream and her mate Shatterwind."
Stormheart and Stormice glanced at each other.
"I come with no challenge to you, great leaders! I come asking for a home!" Dakota's uncannily white fur bristled for a moment with her pride.
Stormheart hesitated. "We lost our omega to a human dog last winter. Our pack has been short one member—Do you take me as your leader and devote your loyalties to me and my mate?"
Dakota looked up surprised. "You'll really—really take me?"
Standing taller, though keeping her eyes on the ground, Dakota gave a nod. "I take you as my leader and accept the Stormwood pack as my own."
"Then we name you Foundstar," Stormice gave an approving nod.
Foundstar hesitated for a moment before touching her nose to the ground. "I thank you." She said and with a grin.
Stormheart frowned. "Foundstar, meet me at the Telling Place at sungone. We will bind you to our tribe with our ancestors present."
"Yes, Stormheart." Foundstar's eyes flickered to Snowdance who gave her an approving nod.
Stormheart gave a nod and turned to trot back to where he and his mate had left their pups.
Foundstar's foot falls were heavy, her breath jagged and burning but not because of exhaustion—because of excitement. The large, gnarled oak of the Telling Place glittered with stars that shown through its massive branches.
Stormheart and Stormice titled their head backs, singing a howl to the stars. The wolves of Stormwood joined in, their voices changing and becoming one. They were one wolf, one beast, one creature praying to the stars.
And for the first time in her life, Foundstar tilted her head back to join in. She was no longer not worthy, no longer weak. Now she had found a family.
She was finally home.
This is the first of a series of stories about the Stormwood Pack. For your reference, here is a guide to the members of the pack and their relations:
Stormheart: The alpha male, a large silver wolf (the left wolf in the picture at the top)
Stormice: The alpha female, Stormheart's mate (the right wolf in the picture at the top)
Blankeyes: The blind pup, child of the alphas.
Wetmusk: A silver male, takes after his father, Stormheart.
Laughingbird: A silver female, oldest of the alpha's pups
Darkcloud: A black male, formerly a loner, beta wolf.
Brightpelt: Darkcloud's mate, Dirtyfox's sister, beta wolf.
Dirtyfox: A dead omega.
Coughloudly: Darkcloud's mother, an ancient she-wolf.
Snowdance: A white female, Darkcloud and Brightpelt's daughter.
Blackmist: A black male, timid, Snowdance's sister.
Loners and other packs and animals:
Cawingraven: A creepy loner who sometimes enters the Stormwood lands.
Shatterstream: Alpha female of the Shatterbark pack.
Shatterwind: Alpha male of the Shatterbark pack.
Slip: A young, crafty fox.
Hornet: A crow, friend of Snowdance.
And happy new year to you all!