It was not their fault, and they should not have been going to places they shouldn't go, but they did anyway. If they had been a bit older, and maybe a bit wiser they would have known to stay away from the woods.
As young boys, they were taught that the woods were the root of all evil, the backward resistance against a civilized, developed town. Even though they were stronger, they must never set foot in the woods lest they come face to face with a Wolf. Meeting a wolf or even seeing one was bad luck, and one would be reserved a seat in hell should he be so dare as to disobey direct orders and care for a wolf.
As boys it may have kept them in line, but as men it just piqued their curiosity. Years of constantly staring at the dark recesses that held supposed evil had gnawed through the forced fear rooted deep within them and left them feeling nothing but excitement and curiosity. They wanted to explore the woods, and that was what they did.
So then it came to be that the one day they were not on sentry duty, the five young soldiers found themselves walking through the dense wilderness, the only sound the crackling of the dried autumn leaves under the soles of their sandals. They had their swords sheathed, turning their heads in many different directions, taking in what to them was a larger than life dream.
Maybe they were foolish, maybe they weren't, but common sense would have told them to be more careful and more cautious in lands that didn't belong to them. However, common sense is born out of experience, and these boys were inexperienced.
This inexperience was the reason that when they came upon two bodies of animals laying on the ground, their inner compassion took over and they rushed over to help. If they had been older and wiser, they would have turned and run, especially because then they would have recognized the animals.
What they beheld were two large four legged animals, with thick fur, a long snout and perked ears. To the boys, they somewhat resembled the dogs back at their home, but at the same time they didn't. These two were much bigger, their jaws thicker, their fangs sharper. To them, they were the Wild versions of their faithful companions that roamed their streets at all times of the day.
And indeed they were the ancestors of dogs, separated by generations of association with humans. And maybe unconsciously, they were aware of what the two creatures were. Maybe unconsciously, they were aware that they should turn and run, lest they regret it, either right at the moment or later on in life. But, they were humans, and they had detached themselves from their innate gifts given to them by nature, choosing logic and reasoning over instinct and intuition. And logic and reasoning told them that the two canine-like creatures were injured, and needed assistance.
They brought the wolves back to the town, taking them into their sacred sanctuary behind the castle walls. They placed them in front of their healer, who immediately refused to treat them, for they were the devil incarnates and saving their lives would only mean their downfall. He chastised the boys for not following the rules, and told them to leave the wolves back where they found them. However the human weakness that was compassion and sympathy had overtaken their hearts, taking the place of fear and caution. They begged shamelessly with all their lives, promising that they would give anything, anything, just as long as he would heal their wounds.
After hours of persuasion, the healer finally gave in, warning the boys that they would have to take responsibility for the wolves themselves, and the king would be informed as well. He told the boys that they better have no regrets later. They agreed, but then again, they were young and inexperienced and had no idea that what they had done they would regret for years. Maybe later in life, when their hairs were graying, they would look back and lament what they had done. But that was then again in the future, and in the present, they were completely convinced that what they had done was right. And it was right according to their upbringing that told them to shower all living beings with compassion and care. Then again, they had never seen a predator in their life; all their knowledge about the other side of the food chain was from stories that painted predators as evil and shrouded in darkness.
The king wasn't ecstatic when he found out that wolves were in his sanctuary, and the second he found out he sent for the boys at once, demanding an explanation as to why there were two satanic demons in his chambers. Then proceeded the task of convincing the king that the wolves were pure at heart and not Devils like they were all thinking. And of course they were dismissed as just mere sentries who had no right to decide such things without prior consent. It was then that the healer stepped in, saying that these two wolves were unlike any he had ever seen and that they defied what was written in the books as wolves. If they didn't follow the visual of wolves painted for them, how could they possibly be wolves?
The king mulled over it for a while, carefully considering his healer's words. He then decided to consult with his ministers, who all advised that the wolves be kept under supervision, but not driven out. Indeed, it seemed like even all his valuable advisers were under the same spell his sentries and his healer were under. He then reluctantly let the wolves have shelter and ordered them to be well fed and well maintained.
While the servants were initially reluctant about the fact that they would be serving two animals with the power to tear open their throats if they so wished, eventually even they became mesmerized by the two canids. Within no time, the two of them had the run of the castle and the town.
They had been found weak, skinny and limp with their ribs showing and their fur thin and lifeless. By the time the next full moon came around, they had regained their original body weight and their fur had grown out its usual luscious self. They began to look more like wolves and less like skeletons. And like always, they had captured the hearts of every single person in the town and the castle.
They had been tolerated by the people at first due to the fact that they didn't look like wolves. Yes, they had the thick fur, the gleaming eyes, the sharp fangs, but they lacked the characteristic grey wolf coat that had been prescribed for so long. Hence, many even speculated that they might be part dog. However, as time went by and they increased their boundaries, people fell in love with them. Or rather...one of them.
The male, a stunning wolf with fur as white as snow and beautiful amber eyes that shone golden in the sunlight, was aptly named Leigan, carrying the meaning of "snow haired". He was the more social of the two, always ready to greet people and mingle and allow them to run their hands through his silky fur. He was the one who sucked them all in into his spell, and got close enough to the king that he was allowed to accompany the king when he took his private walks. As time passed, he became synonymous with the color white, as he had the kind, peaceful personality to go with his stark white coat.
His sister, however, was different. The owner of a jet black coat as black as a Raven's feathers with steel grey eyes that shone silver like the breastplates of the soldiers, she was named Keeran, meaning "black", but little did they know that the name was more apt for her than most, also being used for the word "dark". She was never as social as Leigan, and while she never snapped, she was prone to giving quiet growls that no one seemed to know came from her. People quickly learned to stay away from her, and she stayed away from them, preferring to lay on the side in peace. When she wanted to go somewhere, she would get up and slink off so quickly and quietly that none would notice until they thought about the empty space where she used to be. When they saw her slinking off, they attributed her movements to being that of a ghost, gliding over the land with smooth long strides.
Needless to say, the people feared her. Whether it was the fact that her black fur unsettled them or the fact that her behavior made them fear, they felt an ominous presence about her, like something bad was about to happen. However, they didn't do anything as Leigan seemed to be the only one who loved her with all his heart.
Despite the stark contrast between the two, they were hardly ever separate. In fact, no person in town had ever seen either of them apart from each other. They were most commonly seen walking shoulder to shoulder, and when they crossed each other's paths, they would always make sure to lick the other's muzzle. If they weren't side by side, then they contended each other by simply being in each other's sights and presence, which was the situation Keeran found herself mostly in. The people loved Leigan, that much was clear, and whenever they cooed around him, allowing him to lick their hands, she would stay in a corner of the room, not too far yet not too close, her head on her paws and eyes fixed on her brother.
The adults quickly learned to stay away from Keeran, but the children needed some time to learn. They loved Leigan and he loved them right back, going to lengths such as nosing their faces and licking their cheeks, making them squeal, and they presumed Keeran to be the same. So when they approached her, little hands stretched out to touch her, she would perk up, her eyes looking over them in an intimidating way. When they didn't back down, she would begin to growl, a soft yet audible rumble from the bottom of her throat that was but a warning, but served its purpose well as the children would back off, and their mothers would cast worried looks in the direction of the black wolf.
No one in the town trusted the black wolf, that was for sure, but because the king had not given his verdict that the wolf must be driven out, all they could do was stand back and watch with bathed breaths at the monster that would eventually crawl out of the depths.
Whether Keeran was aware of all the impressions of her or not, she was loyal as her brother to the town, and she proved her loyalty when a bear visited the outskirts of the town, just a little way into the woods. A young boy, out on his routine rounds of collecting firewood was jumped by a large brown she-bear, out on her own rounds looking for meat. She was hungry, half-starved and would take anything for a meal, even a young boy.
He dropped down to his behind, scrambling back as the bear approached him, hungry, sunken eyes glittering in a large jaw that could snap him in half. But just before the bear could barrel down on him, the sound of a bloodthirsty growl was heard, and Keeran arrived on the scene, standing protectively in front of the boy. The bear took a step back, but soon came to realize that in terms of size and weight, she was the one with the advantage. Keeran then took the chance to strike, leaping upon the bear with jaws opened wide, showing a set of fangs. She leapt upon the bear continuously, biting and then jumping back to avoid the hit from the bear's large paws.
But one fateful jump had been miscalculated, and the bear achieved a swipe, throwing Keeran a ways to the side. Keeran landed and slid a little on the ground and began to pull herself to her feet as the sounds of the bear drawing near filled her senses. At that moment, Leigan showed up, a white streak of fury as he launched himself on the bear, all one hundred and thirty pounds of pure terror as he struck with the speed of a hummingbird. When he managed to get a bit of the bear's fur and skin in his mouth, he would shake fiercely and then back away. This gave Keeran the time to recover and get back on her feet, and she wasted no time in joining her brother in sinking her fangs into the bear's skin through its thick fur.
The process was long and exhausting, but soon enough when the parents of the boy ran up because they were worried, they found him with his back against a log and the two wolves standing over the body of a dead bear. Their muzzles were tinted with red, and drops of blood that fell off seeped through the ground.
No one doubted their loyalty after that, but that didn't mean that their suspicions were any less appeased. Anytime during the night that one would spot Keeran patrolling the streets, they would close all their blinds and doors. They would keep their children inside once night fell. And in the night, when Keeran and Leigan would sing their song, serenading the town in a holy spell, they would feel the prickling of fear in their hearts.
Despite the fact that Keeran would always stay loyal to the town, the people didn't trust her. And why should they? She was black, the color of Darkness. That certainly meant that she wasn't as pure as Leigan. Add to her wolf-like behavior, the townspeople confirmed with themselves that Keeran was but a ticking time bomb.
At the end, it was her that dug her own grave as one night, she found herself strolling through the town by herself. In the back alleys, she came across a young girl. The young girl suffered, and was laying on the ground, and the second she saw the black wolf her eyes glazed over with fear, making her condition grow worse. Keeran was unsure of what to do as she approached the whimpering child and sniffed her. All her instincts told her to do something as it was her responsibility to protect the people. However, at this point, she only had her instincts to guide her, and her instincts saw the girl as a pup. So she did what any wolf would do and placed her jaws around the back of the girl's neck so as to pick her up and soothe her.
It is common practice for the mother to console her pup by picking it up by the scruff of the neck. However, humans are very different from wolves in the fact that humans lack the thick fur and layers of loose skin on the back of the neck. So when Keeran applied slight pressure, her fangs dug into the girl's neck like a dagger cutting through bread.
The girl's dying scream drew out the townsfolk, who stood in silence as they stared at the body of the dead girl with blood on the back of her neck and her eyes wide open and glassed over. They turned their heads to look at the confused young wolf, stepping back in confusion and fear. Then the people snapped.
Goodness knows what would have happened to Keeran, had Leigan not arrived at that very moment, standing in front of her to prevent her from feelings any more hits. For the very first time, the townspeople saw a side of their beloved white wolf that they had never seen before. Fur bristling, lips curled, eyes blazing with anger, he stood over his companion, and the people saw all the ferocity of a warrior that he had unleashed on the bear directed towards them.
Needless to say, they approached the king at once, who ordered Keeran confined to the castle walls, as he couldn't bring himself to tie her up like a mere dog. However, she had gone into hiding that night, and the soldiers spent the most part of dawn searching for her.
But, that night, the black wolf left. However long the soldiers patrolled the streets, they found but a set of paw tracks leading through the town and into the woods. But they dared not pursue further and seek out Keeran, and they justified it by the fact that their orders didn't tell them to go into the woods. But as usual, it was lie, a small diversion from the fact that they feared for their lives.
The people breathed a sigh of relief now that the only source of Darkness was gone, leaving them only with Light. They relaxed as they felt safe in the white wolf's presence, thinking of him as an angel sent from heaven. However, he didn't think so.
The effect on Leigan was phenomenal and seemed to happen overnight. His appetite ceased, his energy decreased and he no longer enthusiastically bounded around the people, lighting their lives with laughter. His fur thinned out, becoming thin and frizzy, and he lost enough weight for his ribs to begin to show. His face sunk in, making every single bone on his face prominent and his golden eyes lost their sheer.
He still accompanied the king on his walks, but his breaths soon became laboured, and he struggled to move. He held his head low to the ground, showing the image of an animal ready to die. At night, when he would finally make his way to the cliff overlooking the town, his song would take a deeper, melancholy tone, as if he was calling for his sister to come back. Others felt that he was calling to the God of death in preparation for his own.
The entire town began to panic, as they did not wish to part with their beloved wolf. They ran about, bringing food, water and milk for Leigan, hoping that one day he would resume eating and continue to live.
Sadly, there is no life without sustenance, and it was one fateful morning that the five sentries who had strayed into the woods all those months ago now came upon the white wolf lying on the ground, devoid of life. His amber eyes were open, glassed as if made from marble, and his mouth was slightly open, allowing his tongue to loll out. The sight was so creepy, that three of the sentries turned and ran, while the other two stayed and closed the wolf's eyes, letting him rest in peace.
They lay his body at the feet of the king, and the entire courtroom sat in silence, heads bowed in respect for the animal who had brightened up their lives, if only for a short time. The king declared that he would receive a proper cremation with all the honors of a royal guard. His body was put on display for the town and then he was cremated when the Moon was at its highest, and they watched as the flames reached out to touch the Moon.
Not long after that, the king received a visitor from across the sea. He was part of the great Chinese empire and was looking to set up a trade route there, and had come to negotiate using their town as a base. While the negotiations were going on, the king noticed that he wore a strange pendant. Hanging on a chain around his neck was a circular pendant with a swirl going down the front of it, separating it into two colors: black and white. He also noticed that the black side of the pendant had a white dot and the white side of the pendant held a black dot.
Noticing the inquisitive stare of the king, the visitor explained what it was. He explained that it was part of a faith in their culture, called "yin-yang" which basically was the principle that dark and light cannot exist without each other. He explained it as the principle of balance.
Hearing that, the king's eyes widened as he thought back to the wolves who had shared his home not too long ago. As he thought about it, he began to realize why Leigan had died all of a sudden.
And if he had put the pieces together, so had the sentries. One of them, the one who had personally been responsible for finding them, thought about the position he found them in; side by side facing each other with their bodies curved inwardly ever so slightly, their noses inches apart. As he thought about it, he realized just how much of a coincidence it was.
He went outside and then fell to his knees, lamenting that they should have left those wolves to die right from the start.