"You don't have to be nervous," my eldest brother, Eric, comforted me the day before my 15th birthday. "It's not like you can be Chosen," he reminded me, like this was common sense. Unfortunately, his calm words weren't enough. Of course I was nervous. Every 14 year old was, the day before their birthday.
I knew Eric was right, of course. He usually was. It was an annoying habit of older brothers… I was a shapeshifter. I could not be Chosen. I already had a path to follow. It wasn't a path I picked, since it would mean that I'd have to marry another shifter one day, but it would be a better path than being Chosen. Father and I also had an agreement on the subject of marriage: I would meet the boys he paraded in front of me, but he wouldn't pressure me to get married until after I graduated from college. It wasn't the perfect arrangement, but it was better than the one my mother, or many other shifter girls got stuck with.
Of course, shifter girls were much more rare than boys. I alone had four brothers, some of the other girls were seventh in their families. I didn't know the reason why girls were rarer, just that they were. I knew all of the shifters around here. Most specialized in a certain animal. My parents shifted into wolves.
I chose wolf occasionally, but I could take whatever animal shape I wanted. It wasn't a widely advertised ability. Even though I was only 14, it wasn't wise to advertise that to the other shifter tribes. They would put more pressure on my father, and even though he was an Alpha, there was still only so much he could do.
"Besides," Seth, my twin, added. "I'll be there with you, and of course mom and dad will be there too," he grinned at me. "No reason to be scared, Sammy," I punched him in the shoulder. I hated when they called me Sammy. My name was Samantha. Most of the time I went by Sam. I was athletic, more than most 14 year olds. It came from spending so much time in wolf form with my brothers in the woods. I had also been studying karate with them since I was old enough to convince my father that I needed to learn. He had balked at it at first, but when he caught me convincing my older brothers to teach me, he had relented, and finally decided it was a good idea if I could protect myself. "All we have to do is remind them we're shifters and they'll let us go," Seth added, drawing me again from my thoughts.
"C'mon, let's go for a run, that'll clear your mind," Eric suggested. "Dan and Dave are already out there," I grinned at him. It would be fun to chase those two down, and Eric and Seth would help me. Seth was my twin, so we seemed to always be on the same wavelength, and since Eric was the oldest, he had taken it upon himself to protect me, as the baby and the only daughter. I had been tagging after my brothers since I was old enough to toddle after them. This showed in my wardrobe, which greatly disappointed my mother, who had wanted a girly-girl for a daughter, and got the tomboy who dressed in flannel and jeans whenever I could.
"Let's go get them, then!" I called and raced for the backdoor, my brothers at my heels. Off of our backyard was a small forest, plenty big enough for a pack of wolves to go running, but it was still private property, which kept hunters and other humans away from us when we were wolves. After we reached the treeline my brothers instantly stripped so they could shift forms. I found a tree to hide behind so I could do the same. Shapeshifters weren't supposed to be self-conscious, since we have to shift in front of each other all the time, but I was also a 14 year old girl, and wanted some privacy. The boys took longer for the shift than I did. I forced myself to calm down and concentrate on the other form, the one I wished to take. I saw my wolf in my mind and felt my bones and muscles change, expand, contort. It didn't hurt so much as feel like cracking knuckles. There was some pain, but the relief I felt was so much better. I felt the fur grow and my hearing and sense of smell sharpen as I fell to all fours, stretching into the wolf form I was quickly acquiring.
When the transformation was complete, I stretched again before bounding back to Eric and Seth. They were finishing their own transformations. It seemed to pain them more, and they were slower about it, but they were also bigger wolves than I was. As soon as they had finished shifting, we ran into the forest to find Dan and Dave.