"It's taking her to the very top of Wolf Mountain," Lime said, coming to a halt at the base of the stone edifice. "Why? Why is it doing that?"
We crowded around the mountain, watching the skeletal figure wind its way up the "ear". "Why aren't we following it is the real question," Interpol said, eyes unmoving from the coydog. His voice was nearly lost in the winds of the oncoming storm, but his sentiment was clear. Why weren't we following that thing?
"Only the Alpha and the Beta are allowed up there," Lime said. She gritted her teeth. "But... I can't let this happen. I at least have some influence..." She turned to us and searched the battered and weary pack. "Fine. Interpol, I'm trusting you not to get any smart ideas, but you're in charge of the pack until I return. Got it?"
"And if you don't?" Interpol said.
Lime looked at each of us and I could see she was afraid. "If I... don't come back, and if I was unsuccessful in saving Frac, you'll be the new pack leader."
"What?" Sir barked. "I don't want him as an Alpha!"
"Don't worry, pipsqueak," Interpol said. "I'll establish clear mating rules."
Sir barked and snapped at Interpol's ear. Lime laughed before shaking down her coat. "Make sure he doesn't bring shame on Reggy, will you, Bubbles?"
"Yes, ma'am!" Bubbles said. "And Lime!"
Lime tilted her head. "Yeah?"
"Don't make me have to keep that promise. Please."
"I'll do my best," Lime said before turning back to the mountain. "I just hope it's enough."
And then she was gone, racing after the coydog that was slowly, but surely, nearing its destination. "Good luck, Lime!" I howled into the winds.
Overhead, thunder rolled out with an echoing roar and then the light of the moon vanished behind the heavy rain clouds closing in on the plain.
I looked away from the blacked out sky and stared at my pack mates. If they were not looking at the mountain, their eyes were fixed into the distance, tails hopelessly low. I sighed out all the tension that had built up over the past few hours and sat down.
"Where are Radio and Sheriff?" Interpol said. He looked around at us. "Did no one go back and check on them?"
"Well, Sheriff was badly hurt," I said. "I don't think she can walk that far."
"Go check on her," Interpol said. I growled at him. "I'm in charge. You listen to what I say now, Fang."
I rose. "Why do I have to go?"
"Your Sheriff's new best friend," Sesshy said, pacing around the base of the mountain. "Seems fitting."
"Shut up, Sesshy," I growled, but started to trot away. It seemed a little unfair, that I should get to miss the return of Frac going to search for Sheriff and Radio, but if I hurried...
My trot turned into a lope and then a flat out run as I pounded down the cooling dirt path that led me deep into the battlefield. The roar of the river was surprising, but I gave little thought to it as I continued out toward the embankment that we had left Sheriff and Radio.
Rain had started to fall and it stung my eyes, blinding me. Coming to a stop, I threw back my head and howled. With this much rain, I wouldn't be able to find Sheriff and Radio by sight and their scent would definitely be washed away by now.
Thunder roared, drowning out my howl. Bowing my head, I listened hard for an answering howl, but the rain was coming down in sheets. "Sheriff," I whined. "Where are you?" I skulked onward, trying to hide under trees and bushes as I neared the embankment.
The dirt, once soft and loose, had muddied and become sticky like clay. I clambered down the wall of earth and padded across the lower plane, nose to the ground, ears forward. "Sheriff!" I howled. "Radio!" I tried a few high, sharp yaps, then waited.
No answer came back to me. Whining, I started toward a path that led away, higher into the territory, and as I went galloping up that incline, I was surprised to see something of a ghost. Or a reflection of myself.
I raised a paw and the other white wolf raised a paw. Unfortunately, the wind was coming in sideways, so I couldn't not smell this other wolf, but something made me think that maybe that was... "Radio?" I said, perking my ears forward.
"Fang!" Radio said, her tail wagging. "Oh, thank goodness you came back."
I ran up to meet Radio, licking her face and sniffing her for any unfamiliar scents, but all I could get was Sheriff's scent. "Is Sheriff okay?"
"Yeah, she's just in a lot of pain, you know?" She started to turn, but stopped. "Is everything okay? Is the fighting over?"
I looked away, and against the roar of the pouring rain, I heard Radio whine. She sank to her haunches and stared at me. "Fang, what's going on?"
"It's... well, it's-"
"Fang?" We both turned to see Sheriff, standing on three legs, patches of fur and flesh missing. "I knew someone would have come back for us. What'd I tell ya, Radio?"
"Sheriff, you need to stay out of the rain!" Radio said. She started to move, but Sheriff took that moment to collapse.
"Sheriff!" I yapped, bolting over to her, Radio at my side. "What happened? Is she sick?"
"No, the blood loss just makes her... dizzy," Radio said. "Oh, Sheriff." She grasped the other she wolf by her scruff and started to drag her through the mud up to a small overhang. "Phew! I guess we're going to have to wait out the storm, huh?" Radio shook her coat out, then sat down.
"Yeah, I guess." I hadn't stepped under the overhang with her and the rain continued to pelt down on me, trying to force through my coat and chill me to the bone. My eyes roved the landscape, trying to see past the white sheets of rain, to locate whatever was causing this anxiety.
Where is it? Where is it? Where is it? It was starting to get harder to breathe and my heart was thudding louder than thunder. Light flashed across the sky and for several seconds, the only sound I could hear was my own heart. "Gods," I whispered, and then, thunder boomed and I took a breath.
"What?" Radio said and her shout was enough to make me look at her. "Fang, you totally zoned out," she said to my staring. "What did you say just now?"
"Radio, we have to get out there," I said, shaking my head at the sky. "Something crazy is going on. See, cause, Frac got speared by one of the coydogs and it took her up to Wolf Mountain and just now..."
I turned back to Radio and she looked on the verge of collapse herself. "She's not dead, though, right?" she whimpered. "We would know if she died, right? Please, Fang, tell me Frac's not dead."
"Well... I-I don't know," I said, staring down into the puddles forming in the mud.
Radio whined and threw herself to the ground. "We can't leave, Fang. Someone has to be here for Sheriff."
I looked back to the sky and hoped the same could be said for Frac.
Lime had never seen a god before, and even if this wolf god was Ygger, she was still an awesome sight to see. The spirit towered miles high into the sky, the tips of her ears brushing the stars, and Lime was almost glad this apparition of cosmic light wasn't solid enough to need to stand on the earth.
"Oh, Reggy," Lime whispered, staring down at the lump that was Frac. Blood was oozing out around her and the coydog that had pinned her was standing at her side, staring up at Ygger. Lime had low crawled onto the scene, but she wasn't anywhere near Frac, and with Ygger that close, Lime wasn't sure she would be able to do anything.
Even a suicidal run into the open would be pointless without a cavalry to back her up. Lime was going to be forced to watch Ygger... eat her Alpha, or whatever it was Ygger wanted with Frac.
She looked back up at the colossus and felt a shiver run down her spine to find Ygger's blood red eye, an eye that was frighteningly substantial compared to the rest of her body, was fixated on Frac with hungry delight.
Oh, yeah, she was definitely going to eat Frac.
"You have brought the sacrifice?" Ygger said though her mouth didn't move at all. And it seemed that her voice came from the earth and the sky and the wind. It was in every leaf and every droplet of water that was pouring from the sky. Lime gagged, overwhelmed by the sensation of having something inside of her resonate with the being that was about to kill her Alpha. "This is the true sacrifice?"
Ygger tilted Frac's head toward her eyes and they widened just a bit, if that was possible. The eyes themselves had no lids, they simply rolled around in space. "Reggy's chosen one is mine at last. Power will finally be restored to me, just as it was in the beginning."
The coydog made some hissing noises and Ygger focused on eye on it. "And yes, you and your brothers shall be restored to life, just as you were in the beginning."
Lime had the vague idea that Ygger wasn't telling the truth, but then the wolf god was leaning even closer to Frac. "My brother Reggy used his maw, where he used tooth, I use claw." Ygger pulled back one claw and began to lower it to Frac's forehead, but Lime cried out.
"I won't let you take her," Lime howled, charging forward. "Give us back our Alpha!"
"Stop!" Ygger said and Lime yelped as her muscles went rigid. "Kill her," Ygger said to the coydog.
There was no hesitation. Lime growled as fiercely as possible, but the curly horned coydog was swift in goring Lime straight through the stomach and ribcage. Lime coughed, a blood and mucus mix spewing from her nose and mouth. Ygger hummed with satisfaction before turning back to Frac, but before the point of her claw could tap into the well of power locked within Frac, the very ground began to heave.
Ygger reared back, her feet trailing comets in the sky, as she watched a silver dusted head emerge from the mountain. With a growl that rolled like thunder, she raked her claws across the top of the head. The emerging spirit roared, its snout rising, all its teeth displayed, followed by two massive paws that pushed the rest of the body forward and straight at Ygger.
"You are trying to undermine me once again, Ygger," the silver, heavily ruffed wolf spirit said, barring his teeth at Ygger. "You do not learn very well, other half."
"I am not your other half, Reggy," Ygger said. "But I will be soon." She smacked Reggy across the face, then rolled over, trying to bite into his neck. Reggy backpedaled, his ears flat and his disembodied eyes fixed solely on Ygger. "Give me the she wolf!" Ygger snarled, throwing herself at Reggy.
Reggy reared, catching Ygger in a bear hug. Their teeth clashed as each sought leverage in the others face. Then, Ygger pushed off the ground and dug her claws into Reggy's flanks, her full weight throwing him on his back and laying him out so that he leaned over the edge of the mountain face.
Thunder cracked overhead and for a moment, neither spirit dared move. Piercing howls and yips mingled with the rain, trying to reach the ears of Reggy. Ygger smiled in the only way a wolf spirit can. "Do you hear them, Reggy? Do you hear your children calling out to you?"
Reggy's eyes swiveled around, but he was leaning too far out to do Ygger any damage. His face wrinkled into a snarl. "What can you do? Without me, you are not whole. Without me, you are nothing!"
Ygger roared and the howls turned into screams. "Lies! Lies!" Her toes flexed and her claws dug deep into Reggy's chest. "I will create my own other half. I will take your power just as you took mine! But you, O Mighty 'Other Half', you made a fatal mistake when you stole my power." She bared her teeth into a wolfish grin as she leaned over Reggy. "You forgot to kill me."
Reggy lunged, his teeth gnashing and tearing away at Ygger's celestial body, and as she stumbled back, she pulled Reggy with her. With all four feet back on the ground, Reggy threw Ygger across the mountain and crouched down in front of Frac. The coydog standing in front of her bowed its head and pawed the ground.
The wolf god snorted, then let out a roar that sent the wolves below screaming in pain. The coydog suffered a more violent effect. All of its bones shuddered and then they simply disintegrated, blown away in the slicing wind and rain.
Behind him, Ygger growled, pulling herself across the plateau, her body mass pouring out from the wound Reggy had inflicted on her. "You can't defeat me, Reggy. The she wolf is dead!"
"So long as my other half has power within her, she will never die."
"Not unless I kill you first!" Ygger snarled, bunching herself up. With everything left in her, she launched herself at Reggy, but even as her claws dug into his back, she felt the shift in power. Reggy's tooth had re-instilled life into Frac and with Frac's first breath, Ygger knew that she had lost. "No!" she howled, landing on Reggy's back. She popped him over the ear, but the attack had no bite. Reggy bucked her off and lashed out, snapping into her chin and disrupting her fading form.
Thunder combined with Reggy's snarls and shook the earth. "Dear Reggy," Frac said, sucking in air. She rolled to unsteady feet and watched Reggy tear Ygger apart. "Oh, I knew you had it in ya, ol' boy," she said, swaying around. Her legs nearly went out from under her again. "No. No, no, no. L-Lime... Lime!"
She jerked forward, but her eyes only confirmed what her fast beating heart already knew. Lime's dull eyes stared at Frac's toes in an almost apologetic way, like she knew she wasn't allowed up on the mountain. "Oh, Lime..." Frac touched her nose to Lime's cheek, squeezing her eyes shut. "But I can fix this. I can fix this, Lime." Her eyes flew open. "I have the power to fix this nightmare."
Lightning flashed and Ygger roared, throwing her head back as Reggy tore into her throat. "You may have won this battle, Reggy," she said as her body began to dissipate. "But I am everywhere that you are not and I will definitely win the war." Reggy bellowed and whatever was left of Ygger disappeared in the rain.
"Reggy, you did it," Frac said. "I always had faith, you know? So, I kind of have this request..."
Reggy's eyes spun around to find Frac and he fixed one bloodshot eye on her. "What is your wish?"
"Bring Lime back to life."
Reggy growled and turned around. "Do you wish her to become second in command?"
Frac bowed her head. "Mini is dead. I'm going to need a new beta."
"Very well, Frac." Reggy took one giant step over to where Lime lay and tilted her head toward him. "With this tooth, I give life to you." Reggy leaned forward and sunk his tooth into Lime's forehead. Lime's eyes popped open and she gasped at both the life surging in her and the giant wolf god standing above her.
"Lime!" Frac said.
"Frac?" Lime said as Reggy pulled away. "I thought, I thought I was dead. I thought you were..."
"Be careful of this world, Frac," Reggy said. He was sinking back into the mountain, fading in the background of the night. "I am always with you, and Ygger is always close behind."
"Of course, my love," Frac said, bowing her head. "Thanks for all the help, by the way."
Reggy let out a low growl before he was completely gone and Frac turned back to Lime.
"Do you always talk to him like that?"
"They're never going to come back down," Austen said, staring up at Wolf Mountain.
"Don't say that," Sir said. "They will come back down. You saw Reggy kill Ygger. They're coming back down."
"Reggy didn't kill Ygger, Sir," Bubbles said. "You can't kill a god."
"Yes you can! Reggy just did," Sir said.
"He didn't kill her," Bubbles huffed. "He can't. Ygger is the other half of Reggy. If he kills her... he'd destroy his identity and become something else."
"Who calls upon the name of Ygger?" came a bark that rose above the rain. "Death to the traitor, I say!"
"Well, well, well," Interpol said, ears perked as Lime and Frac came trotting down the mountain. "Look who's got a funny white mark on her forehead."
"What?" Beatles said. "Lime, you're... beta now?"
Lime wagged her tail. "Yeah. He brought me back to life."
"Where is my pack?" Frac said, peering through the rain. "I see Interpol, Sir, Sesshy, Bubbles, Lassie, Austen, Karas, Beatles, and Zion. Where is everyone else?"
"Well," Interpol said. "Fang, Sheriff, and Radio are somewhere out in the territory. Everyone else is dead."
"Half of my pack is dead..." Frac sat down in the mud. "Alright. New order of business. Make babies, all of you!"
"Frac!" Bubbles, Sir, and Lime squeaked.
"I need more than twelve wolves, guys," Frac said, rolling her eyes. "Sesshy, go get Radio and the other two. Everyone else, get some sleep. Lime and I have to talk."
There were sighs from everyone, mostly in relief to have their Alpha back. Even with the rain pouring down hard, tomorrow didn't look so bad.
"Are you excited?" Sheriff said, looking at me over her shoulder as we followed the sound of Lime and Sesshy's barks. Sir trailed in the background, her tail high.
"Why should I be excited?" I said. "It's just a new pup."
Sheriff eyed me, but smiled. "Sure." The three of us pushed through the shrubbery and found Lime circling a small gray wolf with wide eyes. "Aww, it's so little," Sheriff said.
"Little?" the pup said. "I'm not little!"
"Yeah, you are a lot bigger than Sesshy," I said. Sesshy huffed and laid his ears back. "You got a name, pup?"
"What's it to you? I'm not doing anything, just passing through," the pup said, growling at Lime.
"That's what they all say," Sir said.
"Believe me, it is," I said. I smiled at the young wolf, amused to think that this what I had looked like just months ago. Scared, confused, refusing to believe that I wanted anything to do with the wolves that were so much bigger than me. Padding forward, I joined Lime's circling, getting in a few whiffs of the pup. "Is Frac coming to name this one?"
"Nope, I get to do the honors this time!" Lime said, wagging her tail. She considered the small, gray she wolf for a moment before smiling. "How about Otaku?"
"Otaku?" Sheriff said. "I like it. Welcome to the pack, Otaku. I'm Sheriff."
"Pack?" the pup, Otaku, said. "You, you guys aren't going to kill me?"
Sir and Sesshy laughed and I shook my head. "No way, pup," I said. "You're one of us, now." I smiled. "We look after our own." Otaku wagged her tail, eyes searching our faces. "Come on, you've got to meet the others."
Final chapter. Finally done. Gimme your thoughts, I'm dying to hear them. Thanks for sticking with me through this story. Sometimes I feel it was more labor than love. :P Hope you enjoyed it!