Blankeyes's Sight: A Stormwood Tale
The forest was pitch black, a soft mist stifling the senses. Elk chewed at the soft grass underfoot, every so often picking their head up to sniff the wet air. Wolves slipped through the shadows, eyes intent on a young doe who had strayed away from the herd.
"Darkcloud," Stormheart, the alpha wolf, hissed. "Left flank. Snowdance, Stormice, come with me."
Their footsteps were hushed as they plodded across the spongy ground. The black wolf called Darkcloud broke from the group, heading to the left of the shifty doe.
The elk lifted her head, alerted suddenly by smell. Her nostrils flared, her bad leg raised inches off the ground as her eyes widening in panic. The realization that she had strayed too far from the herd dawned as Darkcloud sprang.
Stormheart jumped, racing forward across the dirt and earth, kicking up stones. His mate, Stormdance, was beside him, running. Snowdance, Darkcloud's oldest daughter, let out an almost-silent bark of excitement.
"Neck! Neck!" Stormheart instructed, letting Snowdance pass. She was too slow and Darkcloud had to jump in front on the elk to keep it from merging with the herd.
"We're going to loose her!" Stormice howled.
A gray bolt shot past her, running in a zigzag and soon overtaking the young crippled doe. In a moment it had latched onto her neck, slowing her enough so Snowdance and Darkcloud could bring her down. Thanking the gods, Stormheart ended the doe's life and looked up at the newcomer.
"Blankeyes?" He said in surprise.
Colorless, sightless eyes stared back. The small gray wolf shifted his weight and smiled. "Hello father."
"You took the doe down alone?"
"Was it hard?"
"Was Stormheart and Stormice mad?"
Blankeyes chuckled, listening from friend to friend. "It wasn't that hard, really."
"But you're blind!" Wetmusk, Blankeye's brother, barked.
Blankeyes flinched a little.
"He can smell and hear, you know!" Snowdance snapped then looked affectionately at Blankeyes. "Still, it's amazing."
Blankeyes glowed under her praise. "I'm sorry I took your doe down," He apologized after a second of thought.
"My doe? Don't be silly! She would have gotten away if you hadn't!"
"And we wouldn't have gotten this yummy food!" Snowdance's brother, Blackmist, added.
Blankeyes smiled, but shifted nervously. If they knew the real way that he 'saw', his friends would never forgive him.
Blankeyes walked from camp as noon swung across the forest. Many of the Stormwood wolves were sleeping or lounging about the camp so he easily slipped away.
The trees got closer together as he headed east. The smell of the border came and went and Blankeyes started down a steep gully towards the river below.
"Hello, Blankeyes." The voice came from an old wolf who sat at the edge of the stream. Blankeyes turned his head in that direction.
"Gnarls," He acknowledge with a sightless bow of his head.
"I heard from the carrion birds about your victory against Steps-Across-The-Bog-With-A-Broken-Limb. They say the meat was warm and good," A haunting laugh trickled like stream water from Gnarl's mouth. Unnerved, Blankeyes sniffed the air 'seeing' his teacher.
The smells were a mix of earth and an ancient whiff of Stormwood pack. As the elders said, Gnarls had once been one of the Stormwoods before his evil magic warped him. Blankeyes knew that his parents saw him meet with Gnarl, he would be cast out forever from the pack.
"Steps-Across-The-Bog was the elk?" Blankeyes didn't like that Gnarl had given his prey a name.
"Ha! That scares you, doesn't it? I can smell the fear on your flesh." Blankeyes heard Gnarl step forward. "What can you smell on me?"
It was subtle, but Gnarl was normally that way. The lessons had begun.
"Amusement," Blankeyes started. "Berries from the western moors, a young crow, water, bark, soil…" For a moment he caught the smell of wolf blood but dismissed the thought.
Gnarl smiled but Blankeyes couldn't see his grotesque, broken teeth. "Good, good. Now, let us hunt without our eyes. Let us taste flesh."
Stormheart shook his head. "Blankeyes, you were lucky with the doe today, but what if a buck had caught you with his horns? What if you had fallen under her hooves?"
"Steps-Across-The-Bog was crippled! I wouldn't have gotten hurt!" Blankeyes pleaded. "Let me join the hunting party! Please!"
"Who is Steps-Across-The-Bog?" Stormheart narrowed his eyes.
Blankeyes hesitated. "That's the name I made up for the doe." He lied.
Stormheart's eyes narrowed further.
"Mama! Mama!" Across the camp Blankeyes listened as Snowdance raised up to her bother, Brightpelt. "There is a strange wolf in our territory!"
Stormheart was on his feet at once. "Stormice! Brightpelt! Darkcloud! Cawingraven! Come quickly!"
The five wolves raced towards Snowdance. Questioning her on the whereabouts of the intruder, they headed in the direction she motioned.
Blankeyes glowered after them. If I chase out the loner will Father approve? Blankeyes thought to himself. Deciding, he jumped down from the rocks where he was sitting and started after the still-fresh sent.
"I don't recognize the smell," Cawingraven said uncertainly as he followed a few steps behind Stormice and Stormheart. "It isn't Shatterbark, it smells almost like…"
"Stormwood? Because it is. We are stalking a magic-taker called Gnarl. Stormice and I chased him out last hot-moons." Stormheart said over his shoulder.
The wolves stepped through a stand of alders and the smell became overwhelming.
"There," Darkcloud motioned to a still figure across the clearing.
Gnarl was hunched over a strange piece of wood-stone. He lifted his head, showing yellow teeth.
"See this, Stormheart? This is petrified wood. Hundreds—thousands—of years old." The wolf put his paw on the strange artifact. "Full of power."
"Step away, Gnarl. Don't make us attack you." Stormice threatened, her voice sharp and cold.
Gnarl gave a long, cool laugh. "Beautiful Stormice! Don't make me hurt you too! If you're lucky, I'll keep you as my mate."
Stormice wrinkled her snout, repulsed.
"No one is going to be hurt—except for you if you don't leave our lands." Stormheart snarled. "You are not welcome here—not by me, or my pack."
"But I am by your son."
Stormheart stiffened, confused.
Gnarl laughed. "Don't you understand, you stupid dog? Your son is my apprentice. Come out, Blankeyes."
Stormheart and Stormice recoiled as Blankeyes padded uncertainly from the stand of alders.
"Blankeyes?" Stormice whimpered.
"Mother," Blankeyes's voice was equally as pained. He turned his head towards Gnarl. "You aren't really going to hurt them, are you?"
Gnarl frowned at his student. "Blankeyes, it is time for you to rule the Stormwood pack. Think of it—Stormeyes, the king of the woods."
Blankeyes shuddered. Stormeyes—it was great and terrible at the same time.
Gnarl saw him falter. "I gave you sight, Blankeyes! I gave it to you when your own parents deemed you as crippled. I taught you how to see with your nose, ears and paws! You owe me!" The magic-takers voice cracked with sudden uncertainty.
"But—Mother—I—" Blankeyes shook.
Stormice looked at her son. "I won't fight you, Blankeyes. It is your choice. Join Gnarl, or stand by us."
Blankeyes's ears twitched. He took a step—towards Gnarls.
"Son," Stormheart whispered.
Blankeyes was just a blur of gray for a moment. Then he was in front of Gnarl, barking and snarling. "Get out! These are not your woods!"
Gnarl bristled. "Don't make me hurt you, you unthankful pup!"
"Hurt me! Go on! At least I'll die beside the wolves I love! You lied to me from the beginning—promising to restore my sight with your magic. But all you did was show me what I already had. I'm still blind."
Gnarl's mouth twitched. Stormheart saw the familiar glaze in the magic-taker's eyes—he was drawing power from the wood-stone!
"No! Blankeyes run!" Stormheart shouted just as the magic exploded, sending the Stormwood wolves flying backwards.
Darkcloud was on his feet first, chasing after Gnarl. Stormheart and Cawingraven took off in pursuit.
"Blankeyes!" Stormice ran to her son, nudging him with her nose. A trickle of fresh red blood ran from her ear to her muzzle.
Blankeyes was still, his fur singed.
"Blankeyes…" Stormice whispered. "No, no, please no…"
"Mot…Mother?" Blankeyes opened his eyes. His face was covered in blood, a deep gash in his side from the explosion of magic.
Stormice could feel his life leaking out. "Son?"
His eyes were no longer colorless. They were a brilliant blue, the color of clear, endless skies.
Stormice watched as her son's eyes focused on her own. Her breath drew in quickly in sudden realization.
"Mother…" Blankeyes smiled. "Gnarl was right—you are beautiful."
Stormice nuzzled him softly. "You can see, my son."
But he didn't hear. He was already running, running beside the herd of elk in the endless sky.
For your reference, here is a list of the wolves and their relations.
Stormheart: The alpha male, a large silver wolf
Stormice: The alpha female, Stormheart's mate
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.
Other Stormwood Wolves:
Foundstar: A former loner, kicked out from her pack and taken in by Stormheart.
Cawingraven: A former loner, hated and wanted by the Shatterbark pack.
Loners and other packs and animals:
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.
Gnarl: A outcast of the Stormwood pack, a magic-taker.