Azure waves lapped lazily at the white sand of the beach, as the sun shone yellow and warm above. Two wolves ran down the shore, nipping playfully at each other and laughing.
"Can't catch me!" the first, a white female, teased. Her snow colored fur blew in the breeze as she raced along the beach.
"Oh yeah?" said Lukos, a brown male, "You wanna bet, Lupin?"
The two ran straight down the shoreline until Lupin swerved toward the ocean, leaping with a splash into the cool, clear water. Lupin splashed him, and he fell back, startled. Lupin tripped over him and they both fell into the water, laughing. They pulled themselves up and Lupin smiled up at Lukos.
The wolves' eyes met, Lukos' deep, warm brown ones staring straight down into Lupin's icy blue. They stayed like that for a short moment, though to Lukos it seemed like ages, even thousands of years. That was what it always felt like, looking into her beautiful face.
Suddenly, Lukos turned away, turning back towards the beach and shaking the water from his fur. Lupin trotted after him. What's wrong with him? She wondered.
We're just friends, Lukos thought, It would never work. It's difficult… loving someone and knowing the pain it will bring in the end.
He lied down on the beach next to the dunes, powdery grains of white sand sticking to his still-wet pelt. "Such a burden," he whispered to himself.
Lupin came and lied down beside him. Both were silent for a long time, just staring up at the sky, wishing it could stay this perfect for forever, watching the clouds roll by.
"Hey Lupin?" Lukos started, then stopped.
"Hm?" She was only half listening, her eyes still closed.
He hesitated, then started again, beginning differently than he was going to originally. "Things aren't always going to be this peaceful… are they?" he asked.
"Hmmm… what makes you say that, Lukos?" she murmured sleepily.
"I don't know; just a feeling, I guess."
Silence. Lukos tried to shake the thought out of his mind, but it only returned with a chill running down his spine.
"What if… what if Canis is still out there?"
Lupin laughed, a sweet laugh that pierced Lukos' heart. "Sorry," she said, "but you just worry too much, Lukos. You've always been a worrier. Canis was exiled many years ago; there's no way he could ever swim that far, especially against currents like those."
Lukos stared out at the ocean, where a dark, pointed shadow rose silhouetted against the bright blue sky. "Yeah," he said, "I guess you're right." He flopped back down on the sand again, his head turned to the side, facing away from Lupin. "No one else believes me, either."
That night, Lupin lie awake in the dens, unable to sleep. She always acted as if nothing bothered her, but nothing could be further from the truth. Lukos seemed to be avoiding her lately. She had invited him to the beach, hoping things would return to normal, but he still seemed distant. She tried to think of anything she could have said to make him angry, but she couldn't remember anything happening between them. It was as though one day they were the best of friends, and the next they were growing apart.
And then there was that whole thing about Canis. She regretted laughing at him about it when she remembered what he went through. Before Lupin and Lukos were born, an evil wolf named Canis had slowly taken over the island of Lupine Haven with his army of wolves called the Wargs. Lupin and Lukos were just pups during the end of the war against the Wargs. In the final battle, Lupin's father, Spectre, led all of the island's packs as one army against Canis and his followers. They won against all odds, and Canis was exiled to Black Island, a barren place surrounded by fierce currents and sharks. Many of the Wargs were killed, and the remaining ones dispersed throughout the island.
Unfortunately, many wolves died in the war, including Lukos' father. Spectre, who was a good friend of Lukos' father, took in Lukos and accepted him into the South Beach Pack where he was Alpha.
Laughing about it was Lupin's way of calming her nerves, but here in the dark, it wasn't so easy to dispel the thought of Canis returning. Canis has been gone for years, she told herself. There's no need to worry about him now. She pushed the thoughts of Lukos and the war out of her mind and attempted to get some sleep.
Everything was white, white as the blizzards in the Northern Mountains, or the sand on the Southern Beach. White as Lupin's fur. She could feel the ground beneath her, but nothing appeared to be there. No beginning, no end to anything.
The stranger was a white wolf too. Lupin squinted her eyes, barely able to make out the shape in all the whiteness. "Hello?" she called, but her voice seemed small, like it was being drowned out by a wind that didn't blow. "Who are you?" The stranger was silent. "Hello?" Lupin repeated.
The wolf lifted its head in a long, sorrowful howl, then began to fade. Lupin ran after her, but when she got to the place where the wolf had just been standing, there was nothing there. Snow spiraled down, clinging to Lupin's fur. "Wait!" she cried. "Who are you? What do you want?"
She yelped as the shadowy form of a wolf came rushing towards her and everything faded to black.
Lupin woke with a jerk, her head lifting quickly from the cold stone floor. No longer was everything the same blank white; only the darkness of the cave surrounded her.
"What's wrong?" asked Fey, Lupin's mother. The blue-gray she-wolf touched her cream-colored muzzle to her daughter's.
"Nothing," Lupin whispered, "I'm alright. I just had that same crazy dream again. The one with the white wolf. It always seems so real."
"A white wolf, you say?" Fey's eyes seemed to be looking past her daughter, as if in a trance, staring at something unseen. "It may be Luna coming to you in a dream."
Lupin rolled her eyes, glad her mother could not see her in the darkness. Luna was the great wolf spirit who supposedly created Lupine Haven from her sacred howl. Lupin doubted she would be honored by a visit from the creator of the island. "This time the dream was different, though," she continued. "I was attacked by another wolf."
"Perhaps Luna is warning you of something."
"Sure. I guess I'll keep an eye out for… whatever it was. You know, if it was Luna trying to warn me, she could be a little clearer about it." Lupin yawned and stretched, then curled up with her head resting on her tail as she went back to sleep.
Fey rested her head on Lupin's shoulder. "Sleep well, my daughter." Maybe one day you will believe in the legends. I hope with all my heart I was wrong about your dream being a warning.
The next day, Lupin went to the beach, but not for long. She had an appointment with Zayin. She climbed over the sand dunes that separated the beach from the Dens, then ran over to the mouth of the cave of black stone. Pawprints dimpled the rock where ancient wolves had trod long ago.
"Hey Zayin!" she called. A cool breeze blew through her fur, carrying the scent of plains, forests, and the sea. She knew it was going to be a good day.
"Hey," her young uncle called back. He was a dark gray, nearly black wolf, with a cream muzzle and underbelly and an odd tuft of fur on his chest. He seemed to be constantly smoothing it down, which Lupin thought was more than a little suspicious.
"So what do you have planned for today?" Lupin asked. She was impatient to get their day started.
"How about we… go hunting in the Northern Woods?" Zayin said slyly.
Lupin nearly leaped over the moon with joy. She howled and danced circles around Zayin, who just sat there, happy that she was happy.
Sound like a good idea to you?"
"Of course! But how did you ever get Spectrum to okay that?" she breathed, shocked.
Zayin's eyes narrowed and shifted back and forth, and his mouth was turned up in a grin. He sat up tall.
"Oh no," Lupin said. This was the look: the look that Zayin always gave her when he was up to something he shouldn't be doing, but just couldn't help himself.
Zayin was usually very responsible, guiding his niece and trying to discourage her from getting into too much trouble. But he was young, and could be reckless at times.
Zayin was racing across the plains that were just north of the dens. Lupin stood behind in the tall grass, wondering if she should follow him. "Zayin!" she shouted, "Come back here! We're going to get in so much trouble if Spectrum catches us and it'll be all your fault!"
But her uncle was already too far ahead, and couldn't hear her. Lupin took a deep breath, then bolted after him. For a moment, her fears seemed to fall behind her as she ran through the tall grass with him, but when they swerved to the right and faced the edge of the forest, she slowly backed away a few steps and gulped.
"Come on," Zayin said, "There's nothing to worry about." He disappeared into the forest, and Lupin followed. They both hid, crouching behind a bush together.
"Zayin, we are going to be in so much trouble when Spectrum finds out." Lupin shut her eyes tight, just imagining what her father would say.
The dark gray wolf beside her didn't seem worried in the least. "Aw, come on Lupin! My plan is foolproof! Have I ever let you down before?"
Lupin looked at him, unconvinced.
"Okay," he continued, "So maybe once… or twice."
Lupin hated to admit it to herself, but his mischievous escapades usually were reliable in the sense that they were hardly ever caught. They both crawled out of the bush and stood in the center of a clearing, sniffing the air for scents of prey.
"So," she said, "Do you think there are still any deer or boars out here since Canis' reign?"
Zayin looked around the clearing, into the forest. There was a concerned look on his face. "Well, there should be. Canis' overgrown, bloodthirsty Wargs slaughtered a lot of them, but that was many years ago. They should've had time to repopulate by now, but…"
"But there aren't any out here," Lupin finished in a whisper, "That's odd."
Both were silent for a moment, listening to the chirping of birds, trying to catch a whiff of the trail. But there was no clue as to where the animals were.
Suddenly, Zayin dropped to the forest floor in a crouch, and Lupin followed his lead. "What is it?" she asked him, "Do you smell something?"
"Well, yes," he said, "But there's also the smell of blood."
"Something killed it?"
"Yes. You stay here; I'm going to go check it out, but whoever it is may not want us around his kill. I don't want you to get hurt."
"I can handle it! We'll outnumber him!"
Zayin glared at her. "I mean it. I don't want to have to explain to your father why you're lying dead in the Northern Woods.
Lupin ducked her head and scooted backwards underneath a bush. Zayin must really think this wolf is a threat, she thought, He's not usually so worried about things like this.
She waited silently, trying to catch a glimpse of the scene through the branches, as her uncle prowled forward and disappeared into the bushes on the other side of the clearing. She couldn't see him anymore, but maybe she could tell what was going on if she listened hard enough, or caught a bit of scent.
She strained her ears as hard as she could, but not much was going on. There was rustling in the bushes, then a grunt from another wolf, then nothing. Lupin's heartbeat was all she could hear in the quietness of the moment.
When Zayin shot out of the bushes into the clearing, Lupin jumped. Zayin padded over to her and lied down on the ground. "It's just as I feared. A Warg."
Lupin gasped. "But how? I thought they were all gone now that Canis has been banished. Why would there be one here, now, after so many years?"
Zayin shrugged. "It's not like they all died out just because their leader is gone, although… it is strange to see one around these parts, and they aren't very common. Let's go; he doesn't look like he'll do us any harm, but I'm not going to take the chance. I have you to look after."
Lupin squeezed out of the bush and shook the glossy, dark green leaves from her white fur. "Okay," she sighed, "Thanks for bringing me anyway." Zayin lovingly flicked the back of her head with his tail tip.
"Come on," he said, smiling gently at her, "We'll come again another day."
In the Past…
Spikathron crept through the Northern Woods, his steps surprisingly silent for his large size and the crispness of the leaves. It was autumn, and a damp, spicy smell hung in the air of the forest. He buried his nose into the ground and took a deep whiff, trying to find the trail he had just lost.
A twig snapped in front of him, drawing his attention to a great dark stag standing in a clearing not far away. It looked up from grazing and stared straight at him, then bounded away into the forest.
Spikathron growled, then gave chase. What did he have to lose? There had been less deer and boars lately, so he took every chance he got to catch something.
He gained on the beast, nipping at its legs and flank. He was a strong, larger-than-normal wolf, but he wasn't sure he would be able to take it down without his brother at his side. He missed him, but there was no way to get him back now. He was too far lost.
Spike fell behind for a moment, then caught up again. But the buck seemed to gain a sudden burst of speed, and was gone in a flash. It was easier when his brother was there. Fangorious' speed combined with Spikathron's strength was nearly always enough to take down a good sized deer. But the other half of the duo had turned away.
He stood there panting for a moment, then took a deep breath: in, out. His warm breath left a puff of white hanging in the chill air for a second. He lied down, resting his head on his paws. Now what?
A branch snapped behind him. Had Luna sent him another chance for food? He stretched, then stood up and turned around. But the smell was not of prey. Something was lurking in the forest, and it smelled like another wolf.
Spike crouched low and raised his hackles, growling a warning deep in his throat. The smell was not familiar but he knew it was an adult male. No, more than one. And the group was getting closer by the second. That was all he knew. He had to be prepared for anything.
The bushes in front of him parted, and there stood a group of about ten wolves, all Spikathron's size. Whatever he had expected, it hadn't been this. "Wargs…" he growled to himself, then flung himself at them. He knew he didn't stand a chance, but he wasn't about to back down, as foolish as it was to fight them.
He pinned down a light grey one, just slightly smaller than him, but then the others came down in a wave over him. He fought as hard as he could, and was holding his own for a while, but there were just too many of them. He stood no chance against them.
The fray turned deadly as a huge black one lunged for Spikathron, snapping at his neck. Spike was on his back, his bare throat exposed. He kicked out with his hind legs, trying to knock the breath out of his opponent, but it didn't work. The other wolf showed little sign that he had even felt the blow, then returned to tearing at his victim.
"Stop!" a young tan wolf with a black stripe down his back said, stepping forward and pushing others aside with his shoulders. He was much smaller than the other Wargs, and could have been mistaken for an ordinary wolf except for the notch in his ear that marked the elite warriors of Canis.
"What do you think you're doing?" he asked. He pushed Spikathron's adversary against a tree, pointing one claw at the wolf's chest. "Let the Fang handle this one. We're not here to kill him."
"Yes sir," the wolf said. Spike wasn't sure if he was being sarcastic or not. Either way, the Warg backed off, his head low and tail tucked between his legs. The young wolf obviously had some kind of power over the others.
It took him a second, but then what the small Warg had said hit Spikathron. The Fang! He gasped. It couldn't be, but it had to be! His brother Fangorious!
"Follow us," the young wolf said. "Don't resist." He then leaned in closer. "Just do what I say," he whispered.
Spikathron marched deeper into the forest, to where he knew not. Was this strange wolf on his side? He wasn't sure. He took a deep breath and narrowed his eyes, looking ahead with determination. They could capture him, but they would never break him.
In the Present…
Lupin and Zayin ran back to the home of the South Beach Pack, Lupin dreading what Spectre would do if he caught them. He was a good father, but very strict, and he was always lecturing her about how the daughter of an Alpha should be a good example. Spectre also wasn't so fond of his mate's brother, because of the trouble he was always getting into.
Lupin was surprised when they arrived at the dens and no one was to be seen anywhere. Usually there were wolves everywhere: fishing, talking, lying on the beach. Today the only sound was the rolling waves and the sea birds. She caught a flash of brown out of the corner of her eye and turned to see Lukos, running over to them.
"There you are! I was looking all over for you! We were all worried to death!"
"Why?" Lupin asked. A sense of dread was growing inside her. "I'm always running off places. You know that."
"There's been an attack," Lukos said. "The weaker wolves are hiding in the dens. The others are fighting down in the west field."
"Is… is everyone okay?"
"Not everyone." Lukos bowed his head, and Lupin felt like throwing up. "Don't worry, though," he said. "No one you know. Not your father."
"I'd better go help," Zayin said, and ran off in the direction of the fight.
"Me too!" Lupin said, about to follow him.
Lukos bit hard on her leg and pulled her to the ground.
"What was that for?" Lupin yelped.
"There's no way I'm letting you fight. You don't know the first thing about fighting. You'd be killed out there."
Lupin examined the new wound on her leg. "I might be killed right here," she growled
"It won't kill you, only keep you from fighting. Now get back to the den. I'm going back to join the battle." He turned and began to leave.
"Who are the attackers?" she asked.
He turned back to face her. "I don't know. No one does. They're a big group of young wolves. Large, maybe North West Pack, although I don't know why they'd be attacking us." He began to leave once more, then stopped again. "It's strange. I'd say they're almost big enough to be Wargs. But that's nonsense."
Lupin didn't answer. She watched in silence as he ran off to join the battle. At least he still cares about me, she thought, looking at the bite on her leg. He knew that was the only way I'd stay behind at the dens because he knows me better than anyone else. Too bad he still seems so distant. She began to wonder if he'd ever be the Lukos she knew again.
She returned to the den and went to sleep, exhausted from the day with Zayin at the Northern Woods.
She dreamed, but for the first time in a long time, it was not the dream with the white wolf. It began with the same vast blankness, but the white soon faded to reveal that she was on the beach just outside the dens. The wind was blowing hard, and a tigerlily flower rolled down the beach in the breeze. Ahead, a cloud of sand obscured her vision, but as the wind died down, the sand began to settle. She ran to see what was lying on the beach ahead.
As she grew closer, she saw the body of a wolf with cream-colored fur, lying motionless on the shore, except for her fur, which danced in the breeze. Blood stained the sand beside her.
Lupin gasped and looked away, but curiosity overcame her. She opened her eyes to see who the wolf was, but now everything was dark. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness, and she made out the form of a large wolf nearby. The wolf turned to face her, and she saw his pleading golden eyes in the small amount of light that came from who-knows-where. Then, something hit her from behind, and the dream faded away.
She woke up, the memory of the dead wolf still on her mind. She looked around at the other wolves in the den, which slowly brought her back to reality. It was just a dream. It was just a dream.
Zayin was lying down across the cave, and he stood up and walked over to her. "Oh, you're awake. Good. I was starting to worry about you." Part of his ear was gone, and there was a scar on the bridge of his nose.
"Why?" she asked.
"You went to sleep yesterday afternoon and all into this morning."
"Oh! The battle! What happened?" I feel so bad! Here he is asking me if I'm okay and my pack members just fought a dangerous battle against attackers.
"The intruders were big, and well-trained, but they were outnumbered. We chased them off in the end. They ran off towards the mountains in the north. There was one death of a warrior. He fought bravely." He bowed his head and was silent for a moment. "Everyone else escaped with their lives, if not their good looks. I think mine were preserved, even enhanced if that's possible."
Lupin tried to smile, but there were just too many things eating at her.
"What's wrong?" Zayin asked.
"I don't know," Lupin said. She didn't want to mention her dream. He'd probably tell her that it was just a nightmare and that she shouldn't worry about it too much.
"Yes you do," Zayin said. "Now tell me. You can't always handle your problems on your own, Lupin."
"It's dumb, but… I had this dream. More like a nightmare. It really bothered me. I was walking on the beach, and there was a wolf lying on the sand. She was dead. I distinctly remember there being a tigerlily blowing in the wind."
Zayin seemed to freeze up. He avoided her gaze and didn't say anything for a while. Then he said, "I'm leaving in a couple of hours. Your father asked me to track the intruders and try to find out any information about them."
Why did he change the subject? Lupin wondered. "How long will you be gone?" she asked.
"I don't know, Lupin. I just don't know. It could be a couple of days, it could be a whole moon. However long it takes me to follow them and find out all we need to know. And if they happened to catch me…" His voice trailed off, and Lupin was glad. She didn't want to think about that right now.
She hesitated, then asked, "What if I go with you?"
"Absolutely not! Your father would have my head! This is a dangerous mission, and I can't be pup-sitting you."
"You wouldn't be pup-sitting," Lupin said indignantly. "I would be helping." She lowered her voice. "Plus, I feel like I have to go. I've been having these weird dreams lately. Mother said they may be from Luna. I didn't think so, but it wouldn't hurt to try and find out."
Zayin sighed. "I don't want you coming, and I would tell you to stay here, but I know you'd just follow me anyway, and I wouldn't be able to keep an eye on you if you're following me. So let's get a move on before your parents find out."
"Alright!" Lupin said. "Which was did the wolves go?"
"They ran north, but we'll have to follow their trail to be sure exactly which way they went. Follow me." Together they left the dens and Lupin followed Zayin to the west plain, where the battle had taken place yesterday. The tall grass there swayed slowly in the wind, spotted with blood from the fight. Zayin inhaled deeply and began to follow the scent of the attackers. "They definitely were heading somewhere up north," he said. "We'll just have to follow the scent as we go from there. Come on."
Lukos watched Zayin and Lupin, crouching in the grass nearby, listening as they talked about the direction the intruders had gone. He wanted to stop her from going on this quest with Zayin, but he knew it was hopeless. She was a wild one, she did what she wanted. He was surprised when he'd been able to keep her out of the battle yesterday. Not that she needs protecting. If only she knew who she was, she'd probably be the one protecting me. Again, he felt the weight of the secret he held. Well, he may not be able to stop her, but he could always follow her to make sure she was okay.