Two will destroy one,
Three will create four.
Bound tighter, tried by the heart and mind,
Then the True Pack comes.
Once pain takes them for its own, who will save them?
Surely it must be Pain itself
-Prophecy of an anonymous
“Don’t you get it yet?” the wind snarled at the wolf in front of it. “You’re not like them!”
“So you tell me,” the wolf muttered. He glared upward defiantly at whatever it was that had interrupted his long-needed and long-deserved sleep. The wind snarled, tugging at the wolf’s pale fur.
“Then why do you stay? Go, leave! What’s keeping you for light’s sake?”
“I’m not powerful enough to,” the wolf replied simply. The wind grew, and then suddenly stopped.
“You tire me,” the wind dropped, emphasizing its words, “wake and leave me alone.”
“It’s not like I wanted to bother you in the first place!” The wolf felt a tug not only on his fur but in his mind as well. He fought, knowing too well that he was at least strong enough to fight a dream spell. “If I tire you so much why do insist on interrupting my sleep?”
“Wake!” The wolf fluttered open his eyes. Another wolf peered down at him with her soft blue eyes.
“Are you alright?” Kayla asked as a spark of concern fired in her eyes.
“Yeah,” Tamiki struggled to his paws, “just great.”
“Did you have another nightmare?” Emmy asked from besides Flamdura’s still sleeping form. Tamiki managed to nod. The effects of the dream spell made his mind reel in circles. Once the effects wore off a little, Tamiki looked around, feeling slightly light-headed.
Aurum’s normally bright green eyes were gazing dully into the distance. Tamiki closed his eyes to explore his mind. Yes, just like he thought, Aurum was rerunning the memory of Xela’s capture through his mind. He was clinging to the memory in a leech-like fashion, sucking it dry. Kayla was over by their pile of herbs for shock (that was rapidly decreasing) and nudged a few toward Aurum. Her caring for him rang through the air clearly to Tamiki. Emmy had fallen back asleep next to Flamdura. Subconsciously, Flamdura shifted closer and covered Emmy with one large, black wing.
Tamiki looked up into the sky. The stars slowly disappeared and the sun claimed the sky for day. The Outcasts woke from another long night with a pang of something missing. Pain settled over old wounds.
Oh Xela, Tamiki thought, feeling the Outcast’s pain, you’ve left so much destruction behind. Come back to us!
The heavy footsteps of guards thumped past Xela cell. She couldn’t see anybody; she was one of the unlucky ones of Ironamo’s prison so she had a solid concrete door and stone walls. The only proof she had that there was another world outside her cell was the small, barred window to the left of her. Xela glanced at her feet. A month ago Ironamo had her chains switched from her wrists to her ankles. This was because Xela couldn’t walk too far without being yanked back and falling on her face, literally. The guards complained that she was knocked out too much for any real torture. Great, just what she needed more pain.
The sun dial Akov had made for her read . In about ten minutes he would come to visit her. Ironamo thought Akov was trying a mental tactic to get her to tell information so he let him visit her daily. What information would he get if she had none to give? Maybe he should have tortured her before he stole her memories. Maybe he had, Xela wouldn’t know.
“Shut up Ace,” shouted one of the guards outside her cell. Bored, Xela moved forward for some entertainment. The other guard, Ace, laughed mockingly. Sadly, Xela had heard that laugh too many times to have it mesmerized.
“Are the really that hard to track? I’ve heard all they do is mope,” taunted Ace. The other guard growled. Xela guessed it must be a shape-shifter in the form of a…lion? Or maybe a mountain lion?
“It’s weird…it’s like they have a force field or something. Every time you think you’re getting close you suddenly forget where you are. My comrades found me sitting in a holly bush, muttering of something or another.” Oh, a tricky enemy. Xela smirked. She loved hearing stories of the ones who managed to foil Ironamo’s assassins.
“Maybe Ironamo will let Killer onto them,” Ace suggested. At this Xela shivered. To the stories of these ‘foilers’ it often ended with Ironamo’s best assassin, Killer or K7289, finishing the job. Akov said the stories disturbed him so she didn’t bring it up with him. But she still heard stories from guards gossiping outside her cage. The other guard muttered something and Ace scoffed.
“Please! Go torture a prisoner.”
“Fine,” spat the guard. Xela shrieked and back away quickly from the door. She was bruised enough already without this anger-driven mule!
The normally sweet clank of keys was now a bitter, spine-chilling ring. The door swung open with the brief form of a human before the guard turned back into what she had guessed a mountian lion.
Hadn’t Akov told her that she was a werewolf? She quickly pictured a Xela-like-Akov in her mind. The guard only laughed. Xela only managed what she imagined. She flattened her wolfy ears in shame. But she managed to snarl fiercely, causing the guard’s sick smile to falter a little. Ace peered in to see which prisoner was so unlucky, or maybe so brave as to snarl at a guard. He flinched.
“Uh, Spark? I don’t think, err, Ironamo would like it if you, um, hurt his daughter… so, yeah…” Ace stammered. Xela growled. She hated her ‘father’. As far as she knew regular dads didn’t chain their daughters in an old prison. Just a guess.
“Stuff it,” Spark bared his wet fangs gleefully as he sized Xela up. Angry, Xela formed a vicious wolf in her mind. She burst into her form with pride.
But Spark only smirked. “Finally, even fighting ground,” he purred and launched himself at Xela.
“Even?” Xela cried. She dodged Spark barely before her chains caught her. She jumped onto him. The length of the chains stretched with their height and brought both of them crashing to the floor. Spark snarled. He easily flipped over and bit Xela’s ear. She cried out in pain. Instantly she transformed back into her human form, only she still had her wolfy ears.
“Spark,” a half-strangled, half-angry voice boomed in her cell. Spark let go of Xela immediately. She fell back with a soft cry of pain. Blood gushed from where Spark had held her with his claws. In the doorway stood Akov, shoulder hunched and fists clenched. He was transformed into his hybrid form, which meant his strength was doubled and his fighting skills tripled.
“Dismissed,” Akov growled. To these guards Akov just looked angry and much ticked. But to Xela she knew something was making him upset. Spark crawled past Akov and Ace tried to smile nervously with little success. “We’ll talk later,” Akov told him. Once they had gone, Akov slammed the door behind them.
“Did he hurt you?” Akov was at Xela’s side in an instant. Xela quickly cupped her wolfy ear from sight. Akov would be further upset if he saw she had transformed into a hybrid.
“No, I’m fine,” she said too quickly. Akov stared into her eyes. Not looking away from her, he reached for her hand that was cupping her wolf ear. Xela couldn’t tense up when he did that. Dang it! Xela cursed in her mind. Xela did, however, close her eyes and waited for the storm to come.
Akov tightened his grip. He slowly peeled her hand away. The minute he drew her hand back, Xela opened her eyes to face the storm.
“Xela?” His voice came out strangled like before.
“Akov I’m so sorry-” But Akov stood suddenly and made his way to the door. Xela threw herself against her chains desperately. She had hurt him, and that hurt her. “Akov, please! I’m sorry!” Xela ended with a choked cry. Falling back she cried. Akov turned around, anger and sadness swirling in his silver eyes.
“Why is it so freaking hard to turn into a full wolf for you?” he cried out. Xela flinched, tears still flowing.
“I did turn into a wolf! When Spark bit me I couldn’t help but turn back!” Xela protested.
“Xela,” Akov looked into her eyes and her heart broke with the pain there. “Do you honestly expect me to believe that?” Xela gaped. What? Had she ever lied to him? This broke the pieces of her heart. Xela crouched on the ground with pain.
“How could you say that?” Xela coughed, looking up.
“I – oh,” the emotions in Akov’s eyes turned from angry to remorseful. “Oh, Xela, Xela, I’m so sorry.” Tears welled in his eyes. Xela moved forward and held out her arms. Without even thinking Akov automatically slid into them.
“Xela, oh Xela,” he kept crying. Xela stroked his dark hair. She let him cry. Sometimes…sometimes it was good to cry.
“Again!” Tamiki snarled to himself. The energy he worked so hard to concentrate into magic burst into a ball of light. The ball then bounced around, then exploded into nothing. Tamiki beat his wings in frustration. He growled, forgetting that he was in human form.
“Tamiki, stop.” Tamiki spun around to come face-to-muzzle with Kayla. “You’re wearing yourself thin. Take a break,” she nudged a dead rabbit forward.
“A-aren’t you alarmed?” Tamiki beat his wings that could only appear if he was in human form. Kayla met his gaze calmly and transformed into her human form.
“No.” Tamiki let his wings drop limply.
“I know you’re magical. But Tamiki, I’m your pack-mate…family. No matter what you are, I’ll always stay by you no matter what.”
Tamiki was speechless (unlike Kayla). A dozen questions were on his mind, but the pathway from his brain to his mouth wasn’t working. A few moments later, a tiny fission sparked in his mind.
“The night we left the Forest Pack, you were sparking with shadows and light. You don’t hide it well either anyway. Your mood effects your glow.”
“What glow?” Tamiki looked at himself. He thought the other Outcasts hadn’t seen his ‘mood lights’ as he called it.
“Stop playing dumb, Tamiki. I’m not blind or stupid. And neither are the others,” Kayla snorted. Man, she’s talkative, thought Tamiki. He shifted uncomfratbly. He shifted uncomfratbly. Ever since the day Xela was taken, neither he nor Aurum had wanted to speak for a long period of time. Tamiki had gotten better, but Aurum was still a wreck. His mind often wandered into circles.
This had left Kayla to do the talking, a job she did too well.
“I never said you were stupid,” Tamiki transformed into his wolf form and bent to eat the rabbit to end the conversation, but an orange paw slammed down on it. He slowly raised his head to meet her blue eyes.
“Promise me you’ll stop pushing yourself so far,” Kayla hissed. Finally! Just one sentence!
“I promise.” Empty words. Promises were only garentees of pain. He had promised Xela he would never leave her…
Tamiki closed his eyes and bite into the rabbit to hide the tears that threatened to spill. Kayla nodded and left him.
“Good,” she threw over her shoulder.
You think you know me! Tamiki growled and threw the rabbit at a tree. Blood splattered. You think promises and kind words can make everything better! Hah! Only Xela has that kind of power that you only dream of!
Dark fire poured from his paws and exploded onto the ground. His anger scared away even the lightest part of the clearing. Tamiki panted angrily as the shadows licked his pelt.
But suddenly the anger melted into sorrow. The shadows softened. Tamiki felt hot tears burn.
“Oh, Xela,” he whispered. “Xela, oh Xela! I’m so sorry.” He fell heavily to the ground and let his loss overwhelm him.
In the distance, far north, his message was delivered to the one who held his heart.
Her heart pounded in her chest. She scanned the undergrowth for any signs of movement. In the air, the ever-so-slight scent of wolf lingered.
“Who’s there?” she called into nothingness. Crap, something’s thoughts entered. She recoiled.
“Who’s there? Show yourself!” The fur along her spine rose as shivers made a trail. Suddenly the creature’s thoughts turned to red, and it attacked.
She had no time to react. Her adrenaline rush was a second late, and she ended sprawled on the ground being beat up by the creature.
Xela! Another creature’s thoughts cried just as she heard it being called out. A blinding light attacked her offender and drove him off. The light faded to reveal a wolf. Xela thought she could faintly remember this wolf.
Soft white fur glinted in the sunlight. The light traced him in gold. Only his eyes remained untouched by the light, for they were true darkness. A wide grin spread across his face. Oh, Xela! A thousand memories flooded his thoughts, all containing a red wolf or a girl with dark red hair the color of blood.
“Xela!” The white wolf bounded forward.
Xela suddenly awoke. The dream flew away from her, so she couldn’t remember almost anything. A tingle spread from her ear tips to her end of her tail. Her brow furrowed.
“And you let him attack Xela. Wonderful,” Akov snarled, sarcasm dripping on his every word. Ace winced.
“Honestly, I tried to stop him! I didn’t know we were at her cell!” After Akov had awoken in Xela’s arms, he had gently slipped out of her embrace (despite the longing to stay there) to get to duty. After work, researching the Outcasts, he dragged Ace into his quarters to ask why on earth he had let another guard beat Xela up. He knew that Xela was his closest friend other than himself. Ace lounged on his bed, hand picking out all the strawberries in a fruit bowl.
Akov opened his mouth, about to say, ‘Sure…’ when he remembered how that had gone so well with Xela.
“Never mind,” Akov stalked away and sat down at his desk. There he buried his face in his hands. Stupid Ace, stupid life, stupid Akov –
“Sir?” Akov raised his headed. A small messenger held out a note, sealed with a white substance. “For you, sir.” Akov paid the messenger. He broke the seal and began to read.
I’ve just captured a messenger to take this to you. I also put a special seal that only my opposite could open. I have no idea where your base is, but I will eventually. Anyway, I hope you’re keeping Xela safe. We Outcasts miss her so much. Aurum is the worst…I shall spare you the details. Let’s just say it’s a relief to see him angry. At least it’s some emotion, yes?
Yeah, just to let you know I’m on my way. It would be nice if you could get Xela out of there before I do…I don’t think my anger would stay in check.
Akov glanced back at Ace. He was asleep, snoring loudly. Akov rummaged temporarily for a pencil and a piece of paper, then began to write.
Xela is fine. I’ll get her out soon, can’t tell you when cause this might fall into the wrong hands. I don’t have all that magic-hoolaga.
“Ace! Wake up lazy! I need you to take a message.” Ace jolted awake at his sudden outburst.
“Who-wha-oh, sheesh, Killer!” Ace stretched. Akov flinched.
“Don’t call me Killer please,” he growled. “Can you take a message?”
Ace yawned, “Sure, where to?” At first Akov said nothing, playing with the pencil he had just used.
“The Outcasts, Tamiki Whitefur.” This caught Ace’s attention.
“Outcasts? As in the impossible-to-find-Ironamo’s-most-wanted pack Outcasts?” Ace grinned. “Sounds like my kinda job!”
Tamiki raise his snout to the cold air. He knew what day it was, very painfully. Old memories rushed over old wounds like a vengeful river…
Pain seared his hind leg as they neared the new wolf. Finally! A newbie! Tamiki smiled widely. It had been ages before there had been a new natural werewolf. Other packs were resorting on biting to keep their population from declining further. The Outcasts refused to give in to stoop so low.
And now, they were getting a brand new wolf! Something told Tamiki that this wolf was important. He put on more speed and left his pack mates to dart after him.
“We’re getting close!” called Aurum. Kayla yipped happily, picking up speed. All of them were excited.
Then, they found a girl, writhing on the ground as her first transformation convulsed through her. Years of passed down genes slowly turned her into a wolf, as if it was hesitant of its new form. Tamiki grinned. It was Xela, a friend of Kayla’s already.
Xela cried out in pain, closing her deep blue eyes. Dark red fur began to arise from her skin. Her teeth sharpened into fangs. A snout appeared on her face. She shook again. Another roar escaped from bared teeth. Hands to paws, clawed and ready to fight. A tail sprouted from her back. Xela cried out again, falling heavily to the ground, her transformation complete. Before the Outcasts was a dark red wolf, worried blue eyes going over them slowly.
Tamiki faintly wondered what her place would be in the pack. A small thought made him smile as they chased Xela through the forest to the stream.
Xela, newborn pup of the Outcast pack, was going to be something more. Tamiki found himself swearing he would do anything to make sure that was going to happen.
How could he if Xela was gone? Distraught, Tamiki clawed a nearby tree. Then, he remembered something. Tilting his head to the moon, Tamiki’s black eyes shone, for the first time, with light as he was filled with sadness and wonder. Snow softly fell onto his already white-furred face.
“Happy birthday, Xela,” Tamiki whispered to the night sky.
Xela convulsed into her werewolf form. But to her surprise, it wasn’t by her own will. Akov then explained to her that it was her werewolf curse that was doing this. If only she remembered what this day was. She glanced out the small window. A few snowflakes danced past.
“Hey, Akov, look! Snow!” Xela tugged against her chains. When they tugged her back, she growled softly and set to chewing on them to see if she could break through the chains, a habit she’d taken up.
Akov glanced at the window, and then returned to his latest device. Xela sighed. One, her chains wouldn’t break, just ground down more. Two, Akov never gave up. Wasn’t snow more fascinating than a device? Then again, Akov got to go outside. He wouldn’t know what it was like to not know what snow felt like.
Something rose from the back of Xela’s mind just as Akov pointed the device at her and pressed the button. It sparked and Xela cried out, not in pain, but surprise.
“I remember something!” A girl with blonde hair transformed into a werewolf. Next to her a black dragon glared at her. Akov in the real world blinked.
“It works!” he cried giving Xela a hug. Xela smiled and nuzzled him back (she was in werewolf form, after all). She wasn’t going to tell him that it wasn’t the device, though she didn’t know what happened.
Akov pulled back and stared into Xela eyes. His silvery eyes sparkled with happiness. Xela grinned.
“Congrats,” a cold voice snarled. Alarmed, Xela stepped back, her wolfy ears flat to her head. Akov’s own werewolf ears sprang themselves from his head and pulled back. He was scared, Xela realized with horror. If Akov was afraid, it was for a good reason. Ironamo stood in the doorway in his werewolf form, yellow eyes blazing.
“K7289, out,” he ordered Akov by his work name. Akov flinched and inched out of the cell. Ironamo glared at Xela.
“Beware, girl,” he growled, prowling forward, “knowledge is a painful thing.” Xela let out a scared, but brave, growl. Ironamo bared his fangs. With a snarl, Xela lunged first.
Times of wearing the chains down finally paid off. The chains snapped, allowing Xela to attack Ironamo with full force.
“Give me back my memories you slime!” she cried as she swiped with a powerful forepaw. It connected with Ironamo’s muzzle, leaving nasty cuts. He snarled and launched at her.
Instead of meeting his attack, Xela ducked and darted under him to the door. Her heart pounded painfully as she darted past the guards and down the jail hall. Creatures cheered her on as she raced past them. Many tripped the following guards to help her.
“Gotcha!” Out of nowhere, a mountain lion pounced onto her and biting her scruff. Xela gave a yelp, recognizing Spark, the vengeful guard. They skidded across the stone floor. Xela whimpered as she scraped her bruised side. She curled and managed to bite Spark’s tail. Spark growled but wouldn’t let go. Xela twisted from under him, clawing empty air, but nothing worked. Behind them, back-up was racing toward them.
Suddenly, a black wolf attacked Spark. It was huge, three times bigger than the average werewolf. Its fangs were about the size of Xela’s hand in human form. It dug savage teeth into Spark’s side, and the mountain lion let out a strangled whimper. The black wolf turned and snapped into the shape of Akov’s half-form.
“Run!” he cried to Xela, “I’ll follow you!”
Without another thought, Xela turned and pelted up the stairs and to the open, bright, and luring new world.
Want to go hunting Xela?
It was all his fault.
Why had he done it?
I’m glad you’re good with Tamiki now.
Why didn’t he stop it?
We got past our differences.
How could she be glad? Her capture was seconds away!
Nothing made sense in Aurum’s mind. He wandered in circles, asking questions with no answers.
No! Xela! No!
Pain crashed through him again. He lost Xela. It was all his fault.
“Aurum?” He opened his eyes to Flamdura’s rumbly voice. “Aurum, please. Live a little. You’re scaring Emmy.” Aurum swiveled his head to focus on Xela’s sister. On those blue eyes.
Suddenly, black filled his view. Flamdura beat his wings angrily, his yellow eyes blazing in anger. His pale fangs bared in anger. Gusts of winds made ripples in Aurum’s fur, but that was all it did to affect him.
“Don’t look at her like that,” Flamdura growled, “She’s not Xela!”
Aurum only blinked. I lost Xela. Again pain made him hunker down and wander his thoughts.
In the brink of his mind, something was moving north. Maybe Flamdura was flying again, but Aurum felt a strange tingling in his stomach, as if something inside him that had been broken long ago was being slowly mended…
Pain. Enormous pain bloomed in her chest, causing her to gasp. She just barely remained upright.
Didn’t he see this was hurting her? That he was causing her unbearable pain? Another spasm and she flinched.
“Stop it!” a melodic voice cried, panicked. Xela felt a faint urge to soothe the voice. She didn’t like how it sounded worried. A voice that wonderful should never be defiled by panic. “Don’t you see you’re hurting her?”
Abruptly, the dream stopped. Light flooded her vision. Trees came into view. Unfamiliar noises spun around her. Alarmed, Xela leapt to her paws. Akov jerked awake.
“Wha? Oh, ‘ssup,” Akov mumbled sleepily. Xela began to hyperventilate, eyes going wild with incomprehension. Seeing her expression, Akov blinked.
“Calm down, Xela,” he yawned, “we’re in the forest, remember?” Xela flinched, though she did. The word ‘remember’ didn’t apply to her much. Akov didn’t catch his mistake, standing and ambling toward the ashes of their fire.
“Hope you like squirrel,” he muttered, poking the ambers back to life. Xela smiled weakly, flashes of grey fur and excited hunts flickering in the back of her mind. She registered them as small memories of hunts. But when she tried to picture who was with her then, it ended.
“As long as it’s slightly charred,” Xela replied with a sigh. An image of a black dragon roasting a deer flew into her mind. Xela frowned. Another memory of a huge black wolf at their escape replayed itself in her mind.
“Hm?” He looked up at her, smiling.
“What was that back there when you were that huge werewolf?” Xela cocked her head. Akov shrugged.
“I really don’t have any idea, it just happened, so your guess is as good as mine,” he explained. She nodded, but an image a white wolf muttering, We didn’t mean to be this way, Xela. She winced.
“I keep have flash-backs of my past,” she sighed. Akov’s smile dissolved. He set down his poker and walked over to Xela. She shrunk and drew her tail towards her.
“What have you remembered,” Akov knelt by her, running his hands through her fur.
“Mostly random things relating to a conversation, hunting squirrels, a dragon charring prey,” she let it trail off. Akov visibly relaxed and smiled.
“You’re getting better and better,” he chirped, “maybe Ironamo’s powers weaken as you go away.” But Xela sensed that he was faking his smile. Akov fell silent, and returned to prodding the fire. A tingle spread through Xela, and she wondered why all of a sudden she could feel Akov’s sadness as her own.
She mentioned nothing of a white wolf.
In this moment, Akov hated Ironamo more than ever. Not only had Xela’s memory loss pained him, but the truth of being an assassin that Ironamo forced him to be. It hurt that when Xela’s memories were restored, their friendship would be destroyed. If for some reason Xela did get her memories back, he realized, she would remember a time when he tried to kill her friends. He knew that the Outcasts would be more important to her than he would.
Something grabbed his hand gently.
“What’s wrong?” Xela looked into his silvery eyes, searching for an answer. Afraid she could shed light on his secrets, Akov looked away.
“I…it’s nothing,” he stammered. After a few heart-pounding seconds, Xela let go of his hand.
“Then I’m going exploring. You can join me if you wish,” she sounded curt. It cut deep to his heart to hear her like that. He turned to apologize, but she was already gone.
Closing his eyes to keep the light sphere in place, he recited his message.
“I miss you so much, Xela. Trust me, if I could I would come with this message and restore your memories in a heartbeat. But I still am trying to figure out how. I’m so weak on magic that I can’t even say a name but yours on this message or the messenger would explode from holding information of that name. But I promise you this: I will keep going until I have you back all in one piece. Please take care until I do.” Tamiki released his message and watch the light zoom away to find Xela. It was way to fast for Tamiki to follow, flying or otherwise.
After finding a few moments to slip away, Tamiki had escaped from Kayla’s daily cheering up routine to try to devise a way to send a message to Xela. The answer was simple. Create a light sphere to record your message and let it lose to track down a werewolf by its aura. Just say the name, and it would find it.
Tamiki was going crazy without Xela. He didn’t care if she liked Aurum more than him when she came back, as long as she was back. He remembered the times before her capture that he and she couldn’t be apart for too long before they went insane. Xela had a complete break-down when he almost died at Morano’s paw.
He spun his muzzle to the sky and howled the grief song of the wolf.
Xela felt fury settle onto her, and in a few moments she was a wolf. Her wide paws thumped on the ground. Dark blue eyes flashed. Why did he have to act that way? Wasn’t she his friend? One minute he’s happy, next he’s sarcastic, then he’s sad, and then he stays silent. Much more of his mood swings and Xela was going to go insane!
A blob of light shot in front of her. Xela skidded to a stop. A sad, lovely voice wafted out of the light, conveying a message.
By the time it was done, Xela found herself crying. She sat down heavily. Her mind spun with thoughts that ended halfway.
Is he somewhere…
Why am I…
The light spluttered, then said, “If you would like to reply, say start, begin your message, and then say end.” Xela gulped in air, and then croaked ‘start’.
“I think I might know who you are. It’s weird; I’ve been having these weird memories. But they’re just flashbacks, and they only last for about three seconds. I’m trying to remember more, don’t get me wrong, really hard! And I have something to say to you,” Xela took in another breath, “I will never give up. For some reason, I don’t know entirely why, but I trust you. Take care as will I. End.” The light grew brighter and brighter. Xela shut her eyes, took a deep breath, and when she opened her eyes it was gone.
An emptiness overwhelmed Xela. She curled up into a small furry ball. She lay there until darkness fell and Akov found her. The stars behind him twinkled as he bent over her. Concern shone in his silvery eyes.
“Xela, what’s wrong? I looked everywhere for you!” Akov scooped the limp wolf into his arms. Xela closed her eyes and transformed back into a human. She clutched onto Akov, tears streaming down her face.
“Someone from my past tried to contact me,” she explained to him, but nothing more. She snuggled closer to Akov for comfort. In response he tightened his hold on her, as if he could keep her from falling apart.
In that instant, Xela felt deeply for the werewolf-hybrid. Her heart filled with caring for him. The area around them seemed to grow dark and light at the same time.
“Who was it?” he asked. The memory of the message caused Xela to flinch.
“I’m not sure, but something like Tam-key, or something like that,” she whispered. She felt Akov stiffen and looked up at him. He had turned his face from her, but she could see his jaw tighten. Dark wolf-like ears flattened themselves against his head. Xela thought she could feel the brush of a bushy tail.
“What’s the matter, Akov?” He didn’t reply. Figures, Xela thought. She stood abruptly, shaking Akov off.
“I’m going to go hunt,” she hissed. Only half-expecting Akov to follow her, she turned to go. But Akov threw out a hand and grabbed her ankle. Xela wobbled briefly before she crashed to the ground.
She didn’t see Akov dart under her, but somehow she landed on top of him. Startled, Xela blinked into his silvery eyes. Very quickly, as her werewolf curse were nervousness, she donned a pair of wolf ears just like Akov would have.
“Tamiki was part of your old pack,” he explained, “I knew him once.” There was a flicker of fear in his eyes but they were mostly searching her face. She scrambled off him.
“Oh, okay, thanks,” Xela stammered. Akov was still lying on the ground when she whisked away. Her cheeks flamed.
What was that tingle she kept felt throughout her body?
He sighed. That was stupid. Xela had looked frightened when she landed onto him. She even transformed into a hybrid like him! Akov groaned loudly, though there was no one to hear him. Would she ever relax around him?
Xela was even jumpy when he returned to their camp. The closest he got to approaching her was to take a little bit of the rabbit she caught. Xela seemed like she shrank away, but really stayed put. Maybe it was all in his head, but Xela did seem a little wary and had a glazed look to her eyes. Finally, Akov blurted out, “Xela, I’m sorry!”
Xela blinked, “For what?” Akov’s cheeks flamed, and he bent over his food again. Xela realized what he was talking about and shifted uncomfortably.
“I shouldn’t have done that. It was stupid and-”
“It was nothing,” suddenly Xela was at his side, giving him a hug. “I forgive you, Akov. You just startled me.”
“I won’t do it ever again,” he vowed just before Xela did something extraordinary. In the blink of an eye, she swooped her head and plucked a light kiss on his cheek. Blushing, Xela stood and rummaged through their pack for probably nothing. All thoughts that had been running in Akov’s mind suddenly went point-blank. He blinked, willing his mind to form a comment, but alas it refused. All it clung to was the incident of what just happened. Xela shifted again.
“Urm, yeah. Sorry,” she stared at her lap.
“For what?” Akov cried out loudly before he could check himself. Xela glanced at him in surprise.
“I, uh-” she couldn’t seem to finish her sentence, stammering. Akov just smiled, and she stopped.
“Thanks, Xela. That really made my day.” Akov finished eating, aware that Xela was slowly beginning to smile.
Dreams filled Tamiki’s head. For the first time since she was captured, Tamiki dreamt of Xela. She was crying, leaning into a boy. Dark hair fell over his face as he stroked her blood red hair. Xela was tearfully telling him about his message. When the boy didn’t comment, Xela became agitated. She stood up, knocking the boy away.
But time stopped. Xela froze in mid-storming. Only the boy moved. Slowly, he turned his head to Tamiki.
“What do I do?” he asked Tamiki, a hint of desperation spinning in his entrancing voice. Despite his racing heart, Tamiki replied.
“Tell her about me,” he whispered. No, begged. Time resumed.
Akov flashed out a hand. It caught Xela’s ankle, causing her to fall. At first Tamiki though she was going to land flat on her face.
Instead, Akov burst into a figure of shadows. He quickly darted under Xela so that she wouldn’t fall onto the hard ground. Both their surprise and emotions exploded into Tamiki’s mind. But something greatly disturbed Tamiki about Akov’s feelings. It upset him so much, he woke up.
Akov loved Xela.
Akov snapped his head. A long, mournful how echoed through the trees. Without a thought, Akov joined the wolf by throwing his questioning howl to the sky.
Akov would always be in debt of the white werewolf. He made Akov realize who he truly was – his opposite.
Something twitched next to him. Xela yawned and nudged him.
“What are you howling for?”
Akov shrugged, but stopped short, remembering how sensitive Xela was when he held back information to her. He didn’t like it when she ignored him.
“I heard another howl,” he answered truthfully. Xela nuzzled him gratefully.
“Thanks for not holding back,” she whispered. Relief flooded Akov. He had done the right thing.
“Good night, Xela.”
Dreams of the white wolf, along with others, bloomed in Xela’s mind. In her sleep, she whimpered. Were these real wolves (figures of her past perhaps?), or just figments of her imagination?
“Xela,” a yellow wolf hissed softly, as if not believing that she was there, “Xela is that really you?”
“Who are you?” Xela asked. A blue wolf growled. Next to him an orange wolf yawned, but acted as if it didn’t see Xela.
“Don’t you remember me?” Pain filled his eyes.
Xela shook her head.
“Xela,” a soft voice caught her sharp wolf ears. She whipped her head around, recognizing the voice and eager to see the source again. There he was again. The white wolf. A tingle spread through her paws. Something shadowy wavered at them.
“Head south, Xela. We are waiting.”
Xela’s heart beat painfully, her gaze saddening when she realized that this encounter would end soon. “Who are you?” she asked. The magnificent wolf opened his jaws, but before his breath could stir the whiskers on her muzzle, a loud, booming voice thrashed her awake.
“Good morning sunshine!”
Sunlight burned her eyes. Xela blinked into the waking world. Standing above her, Akov was smiling. His hands were on his knees so he could bend over her. He straightened up once she opened her eyes.
“Morning, moonlight,” she responded. Memories beat in the back of her mind of them exchanging words like that when she was still imprisoned. The smell of deer wafted into her nose.
“You caught a deer?”
“Yup,” Akov chirped brightly, “I got lucky. Any memory-dreams?”
“I don’t think it was a memory-dream,” Xela sat up, rubbing the sore muscles in the back of her neck. “But I have a feeling we should go south.” Akov glanced at her. His silver eyes sparked with surprise.
“Yes.” There was a pause, and then Akov shrugged.
“South it is then.” He returned to cooking the deer, but a tingle overcame Xela. She sensed that something was making Akov worried. But what?
Tamiki was tired. Why wasn’t this over yet? The tan wolf in front of him bared his fangs in frustration.
“Try one more time. This time send your mind out farther.” Tamiki only obeyed, too exhausted to rebel. Closing his eyes, he concentrated hard to search for Xela.
Where was she? Why couldn’t he find her? Did Akov say he would help her escape? Had they even escaped yet? The questions pounded in his head, each one loudly demanding an answer.
Nothing. He couldn’t find her. She was nowhere within his range. Tamiki collapsed onto the ground, all energy gone. He had spent it training himself to work on his magic skills. The tan wolf sighed.
“You did well today. More than I expected actually. Maybe I’ll meet you in person,” he chuckled, “or rather wolf.” Tamiki was in no mood for jokes.
“Let me sleep,” he begged. The wolf smiled.
“Yes, sleep well, Tamiki Magicspark.”
“Wha-” Tamiki was about to ask him why he had called him ‘Magicspark’ when he was a ‘Whitefur’ when the tan wolf bowed his head to touch Tamiki right between his ears. Thanks, give me sleep just when I don’t want it, Tamiki though groggily before the Lethroe’s sleep spell enfolded him.
The next second, Tamiki opened his eyes to the world. Kayla was nudging a squirrel to Aurum, hoping he would eat. Flamdura drew a sharp talon through a wood he was bent on carving into something or another. Tamiki, curious, investigated. A gift for Emmy, a carved image of smoke twining into a form of a dragon flying with a wolf perched on his back. The plan in his head was elaborate, recalling the days he had spent in art class carving. Flamdura’s wing twitched, a sign he was feeling Tamiki probing him. Quickly Tamiki withdrew and left Flamdura to his carving.
Emmy on the other hand, wasn’t far away.
“Tamiki,” she whispered in his ear. Tamiki gave a fright, spinning and accidentally knocking muzzles with Xela’s sister. Rubbing his snout with his paw, he stared dumbly into Emmy’s eyes. Xela’s…no! Tamiki shook the oncoming thought of Xela, placing his paw back onto the ground. Emmy seemed to not have noticed his inward battle.
“Y-yeah?” Tamiki stammered.
“I want to talk,” Emmy curled her tail closer. “It’s about…about Xela.” Tamiki nodded. If anything, Emmy would want to reflect on her absence.
“Go on, I’m listening,” Tamiki urged her.
“Well,” Emmy shifted her paws, dropping her gaze. Tamiki waited patiently. Suddenly Emmy thrust her head up saying, “Why? Why her? It could have been me getting caught, or you! But no, it had to be her!” Emmy shuddered, but kept her eyes on Tamiki. “I know for a fact that if it had been you in the place of Aurum it wouldn’t have happened! You’re much more protective of her! You loved her! Aurum doesn’t – he’s just obsessed! You would have kept her from being caught, she would still be here!” Emmy broke off, choking in air. Then, looking defeated, she bowed her head. “I want her back, Tamiki. So very, very bad.” Something struck inside Tamiki. He bowed his head over hers, letting her cry into him. She wailed, causing Flamdura to stir. Tamiki beckoned him to stay where he was with his tail, sending the thought I’ve got this one. At first Flamdura seemed shocked at hearing Tamiki’s voice in his head, but he took one look at his face and saw that he shouldn’t doubt his word.
“We all want her back, Emmy,” Tamiki crooned, “she’s very dear to us. She’s the one who gave this pack life. She drew you and Flamdura, asserted herself in the pack, loyal to the bone, and loved each of us with every hair on her pelt. She’s coming back for us, and nothing is going to stop her from getting to us.” Emmy sniffled, and then curled into a furry ball next to Tamiki.
“I think…I think I just want to sleep now,” she hissed, already dozing off. Tamiki helped her by sucking out a bit of her energy so that her body automatically fell asleep. Flamdura then came over.
“Is she okay?” Flamdura’s yellow eyes glinted worriedly. Tamiki nodded.
“She’s just sad,” Tamiki explained.
“No way,” Flamdura snorted cynically. Tamiki let him take his place, opting to go see how Aurum and Kayla were faring.
Aurum was staring in the direction of Emmy. His gaze was blank, but Tamiki could sense an emotion pulsing underneath his fur. He realized that he had heard Emmy’s outbreak, and he was feeling shocked.
“Aurum, it’s not your fault,” Tamiki bent his head, giving Aurum one of his hard obsidian stares. He blinked. Next to him Kayla glared at the squirrel, obviously angry that yet again Xela had become center of the pack.
“But I couldn’t stop it,” Aurum choked out. “It’s my fault. She gone, gone, gone…” He groaned, sinking into a heap. Kayla nudged the prey at him, but Tamiki turned before he observed anything else. This was such a mess. He would give anything to just make it stop. Anger bubbled inside him, growing and growing.
All the anger was channeled into one long howl up to the sky. It ripped from his throat, breaking into the sky tremendously. Tamiki tried to keep himself in control, but dark fire lapped at his fur, shadowing it to a color. Tamiki’s heart exploded with anger, sadness, and pain, his howl suddenly turning into a war song – a war against the world.
Emmy bolted awake. Aurum snapped his head up. Flamdura roared in surprise. Kayla sprang back.
“Tamiki! Stop it!” Flamdura roared in alarm, beating his wings.
“What’s going on?” cried Emmy. Kayla let out a scream. But all that mattered to Tamiki was the pain, slowly turning his fur black. Dark fire spun around him, blocking his view of the remaining Outcasts.
“Xela!” he bayed. “Oh, Xela!” The negative emotions exploded out of him, creating a bomb-like explosion without the physical wind. Shadows spread away from him like an avenging army. It went inside the Outcasts, and continued its path. From above, it was seen like a shock-wave.
Around him there were screams. Tamiki panted, the sounds muffled by his beating heart. “Xela,” he moaned. When he finally lifted his head, the destruction around him was astounding.
A few trees had toppled over, creating more light. The Outcasts were hunched over, bearing his pain briefly. But the light in them was consuming the shadows Tamiki had expelled, and at a fast rate. He could feel his dark emotions being depleted rapidly.
“T-tamiki, what have you done?” Kayla panted.
Next to her, Aurum was very still.
The stars shone in the dark sky, hiding his prowling form. He had left Xela asleep back at the camp. He needed to exercise.
The muscles on his back flexed themselves as if they were eager to be used. Akov smirked to himself. This was a secret that no one knew about – not even Ace. Turning to the sky, Akov shrugged out of his shirt. Then, he released the tense secret there.
The wind surged beneath him as Akov flapped his powerful wings. It buoyed him up into the night, letting his thoughts slid below. It was like nothing else, and Akov smiled, glad he was granted this small freedom of him and the open sky.
Xela awoke to a cold morning. The lack of heat sent her on all alerts. She sprang to her paws, Akov’s name on her lips. But, before she could even shout his name, Akov dropped out of nowhere. He quickly straightened, cheeks flushed and hair ruffled. Almost wind-blown looking.
“Morning, are you hungry?” Akov asked a little breathlessly. Xela frowned. She was aware that Akov was standing stiff, and facing her directly. He was hiding something, decided Xela. She craned her neck, but Akov shifted. She leaned the other way, he sifted again.
“Akov, what are you hiding?” exclaimed Xela. Akov had never hidden anything from her. And, he had no hands behind his back, so it was obviously attached to him…
Her mind gave her two solutions. He had either a severe wound on his back, or he had some deformity on his back. And he wasn’t bloody-looking, so it had to be the second solution.
“Akov, turn around,” Xela commanded softly. Akov stiffened. Then, he bowed his head.
“Promise you won’t scream,” he begged, and Xela nodded. He took a deep breath and turned around.
On his back, huge black wings were fluttering. His feathers were ruffled just like his hair was on a good day. Sudden realization hit her. He hadn’t been hunching his back in anger all those times he had gotten angry, it was his wings rising! Nights where he would come back right from a trip, his face looking wind-blown harshly now made sense. Akov tensed, waiting for her to gasp, but it never came. Instead, once he turned around, Xela gave him a hug.
“So this is what you kept from me all this time? The only thing that I never knew about you?” she asked quietly. Akov winced.
“Essentially, yes,” he murmured. There was something to his voice that Xela instantly picked up on. She drew back, but Akov tightened his grip so that she wouldn’t escape his grip. His wings folded themselves tightly to his back.
“What do you mean? Is there another thing that I don’t know about you?” Xela felt fury engulf her as Akov looked away. The rage built inside of her. She forced herself out of his embrace, and folded her arms across her chest.
“That isn’t fair! You know everything that there is about me, mostly because I told you everything I knew. And let’s face it, I didn’t have much to give, and yet you still know the little that I did. What is it that you can’t tell me?” Xela scorned. Akov only winced.
“There are things that you can’t handle –”
“Can’t handle? Can’t handle! That’s it,” Xela whipped around, picking up their pack and sorting through it to find stuff that she could carry, “It’s only stuff like this that I can’t handle. I’m going to go find my pack alone. You and your confiscated past can go back to Ironamo.”
“Xela –” Akov started, but she turned back to him with blazing eyes.
“Don’t you start,” she growled before she stormed off into the forest. There was a rustle of wings, and she heard Akov take flight. Maybe it was to follow her, but in any case, Xela transformed into her wolf form, put her sack into her mouth and raced into the forest.
“Tamiki! What’s wrong with him?” Kayla cried, flinging herself at Aurum’s still form. “What did you do?” Flamdura began to shake, and Emmy whimpered. Tamiki was confused. Why did this affect Aurum like this? He quickly thought over what had happened:
He was overcome with darkness, so he expelled it out of him so that the light in the others could consume it like eating a piece of prey. But if Aurum had no light…
“Oh my goodness!” Tamiki howled. “Aurum doesn’t have enough light!”
“What,” Emmy sputtered.
“There’s no time for explaining,” Tamiki placed a paw on Aurum’s cold flank, “just stay back and don’t touch either of us!”
Shutting his eyes, Tamiki willed his mind to explore within Aurum’s body. He searched for any shred of darkness. He finally found it up in Aurum’s mind, where his pain was the strongest. It had taken the form of a dark Xela. She prowled in his subconscious like a deadly panther, with an evil grin on her face. Aurum’s subconscious form was human. He looked terrified at the shadow-Xela. She spun her muzzle toward him, and displayed a row of sharp teeth.
“Oh, how it must be so terrible for you. You must miss this stupid wolf,” the shadow-Xela looked aloofly at herself. “She must’ve been really important if she’s the source of your pain. Oh well. Now let’s see…”
“Aurum!” Tamiki projected a thought-form of himself and launched himself in their direction. She whipped around, snarling.
“Back fiend!” she screeched, throwing herself at him. Tamiki dodged her attack, sending a sphere of light at her. It punched a hole through her chest. She screamed in agony. But instead of disappearing, she turned and raced to the shadows of Aurum’s mind. Drawing darkness from it, she healed the hole, and then turned to Tamiki cackling.
“You can never defeat me,” it advanced slowly, “not with this supply of darkness around.” From the shadows, more and more dark creatures arose. Aurum huddled back with a whimper. Despair filled Tamiki as an army of shadow-creatures began to assemble. He quickly decided to go out with a bang or die trying.
“Can I say one last thing before I die?” Tamiki asked, positioning himself in front of Aurum. The shadow-Xela laughed cruelly.
“Oh, please do. I do enjoy questions without answers, considering I feed off of misery,” she hissed.
“What,” Tamiki took a breath, concentrating energy within himself, and then cried out in a booming voice, “What happens when you shine a light into the darkness?” The shadow-Xela made a noise like a raven screeching in fury
“Kill him!” she screamed at her army, but Tamiki had already shouted the answer.
“IT DISAPPEARS!” Tamiki burst out a wave of light. It bore down onto the shadow army, engulfing it and smoldering it. The very last to disappear was the shadow-Xela. She screamed, and then was gone. The wave spiraled into itself and went away as well.
Tamiki stumbled over to Aurum. Creating a big enough wave had cost him a lot of energy, but now he just turned to Aurum with weary eyes and said, “Let’s go back.”
When Aurum and Tamiki roused, Tamiki found himself sprawled over on his stomach. Flamdura nudged him to his paws, while Kayla supported Aurum.
“What happened?” asked Emmy, as usual being the curious one. Tamiki sighed and explained the whole thing to them. Going further into his story, the remaining Outcasts grew shocked. But Tamiki was only tired now, and he wondered if the wolf from his dreams would come to him. He hoped not. For not more than once, Tamiki was in need of a good, long night’s sleep.
That night was the coldest night ever for Akov. Not even winter nights back at Ironamo’s fortress had been as sad and lonely as this. Not even the nights when he was punished to the dungeon and forced to sleep on the cold stone floor.
But he was relieved that Xela didn’t know about his past. It almost made up for the emptiness he felt. Almost.
In a clearing, Xela had chosen to rest on some leaves. There she curled up in her wolf form, and Akov perched on a branch to watch over her. Even though she had rejected him, he had to remain by her. Not only had he promised Tamiki that he would keep her safe, but he felt deeply for the dark red werewolf.
The sun was barely peeking over the horizon when the bushes crackled on the far side of the clearing. Alarmed, Akov opened his wings and silently glided down to the bushed. Xela didn’t stir from her spot. He landed softly.
“Well, well, a traitor. Ironamo will be pleased,” a soft voice snarled. Spark leapt at Akov through the darkness. His eyes shone gleefully, and his side was wrapped up heavily.
Thinking of Xela’s safety and not his own, Akov spun on the spot and hared into the trees. To his relief Spark was dumb enough to follow him. But that was went luck escaped from him with a bang. Literally.
Crap! A gun! Akov pumped his legs, searching for another clearing so he could take off. Spark fired again and again, each time getting closer and closer to Akov. He jumped swiftly over a log, and Spark was not so lucky. The guard tripped with a cry of shock, having transformed into a human to hold a gun.
Yes! Akov burst into a clearing. He unfurled his wings. His shirt ripped open. Akov pushed downward with his wings, slowly rising. Spark let out a cry of frustration, fury plain as the sky on a sunny day. Akov smiled, escape tasting sweet.
A bang rang in Akov’s ears, followed by a burst of light, then black.
“I wish you would come back sooner,” the wolf murmured.
“Mmmm.” She wormed closer.
“But Akov needs you.” A flash of a scene played in her mind. A boy flew into the air, plummeting the air with his wings. Fear shone in his eyes, but it was also matched with glee. There was a bang, and a burst of red bloomed on the boy’s shoulder area. With a gasp, the boy plunged downward.
She burst upright. “But what about you? And the others? Are there even others?”
“I’ll be fine. As for others…they’ll live.” The wolf nuzzled her ears. “I’ll see you later.”
“Bye,” she turned to go, but remembered something. “Hey,” she called turning around, “what’s your –”
The wolf was gone.
“…name.” She sighed, and everything went dark.
Xela flung open her eyes. Akov! Where was he? She sprang to her paws and sniffed the air. There was a trace of Akov’s scent, and a thread of a shape-shifter’s smell. It burned her nostrils, but Xela followed the stench. Her paws thudded on the ground, not yet warm enough yet by the sun. She ran faster and faster until her breath became short pants. A memory flashed in her mind.
“Xela, slow down!” A blue wolf called to her, clearly amused. Xela shut down the image. Not now, she told herself. She had to find Akov. He was hurt! Adrenaline flowed into her system. Suddenly, she burst into a clearing. Xela blinked in the quick light change.
In the middle of the clearing, a familiar mountain lion form crouched over a dark figure. To the side was a discarded gun. Xela felt her blood run cold when she could see a pool of dark red blood at its paws. I’m too late! Dismay caused her to sway her on her own paws. No…A flash of a memory, a black dragon’s lifeblood pouring out of him. Xela cleared the memory from her mind and let out a cry.
“Akov!” Xela howled, rushing at the mountain lion. It spun around with a sneer plastered on its sick and twisted muzzle. Spark. Releasing a roar, Xela leapt onto the guard that had so often beaten her up during her imprisonment. The lion snarled, but Xela could see that his side was heavily wrapped. That is were she should attack.
Xela aimed a dangerous clawed paw and struck Spark, ripping the white bandages. Fresh red blood oozed from Spark. He gasped in the pain. Wincing, Spark growled and flashed lightning quick paws at her face. She dodged, noticing he was slower turning, although his paws were as fast as wind during a storm.
A plan hatched itself in her mind. Every time that Spark made a slow turn toward her, she jumped out of his range and to the side. Bit by bit, Xela drew him away from the still body still seeping blood. The sight of his life edging away sent Xela into a panic. Darkness welled within her. It stormed inside until Xela with a rage unmatched. It swelled to a point where she could not hold it in any longer, and to her surprise, Xela spewed a column of dark fire at Spark. The mountain lion screamed in pain, and when the fire spluttered to a stop from her mouth he was no longer there. Instead there was a pile of white ashes.
Shivering away from what she had done, Xela raced over to where Akov lay. Emotions, and none of them happy, stirred her heart. Once she saw that Akov was pale and unmoving, her stomach plummeted.
“Oh, Akov, please don’t be dead,” she whispered hoarsely, pain invading her heart. “Akov, please! Please!” Gently she gathered the werewolf-hybrid into her arms. Hot tears burned themselves out of her eyes. Sobs shook her.
The dark form stirred. He coughed, blood trickling down the corner of his mouth. “X-xela?” Shock replaced her sadness.
“Akov? Akov!” Xela brought him closer, not caring that his blood was staining her shirt. He coughed again.
“There was Spark…and then a gun…and I was-” he cut off.
“Shot out of the sky, I know. Love your wings by the way,” Xela choked out. Then, quite impulsively, she kissed him fully on his bloody mouth.
When they broke apart, she whispered softly, “Don’t you ever die on me! Not ever, you understand?” Akov only kissed her again.
“Not ever,” he agreed.
Tamiki flinched. Oh, he thought. The wolf next to him made a sympathetic noise. The light sphere in front of them showed something that Tamiki would never let Aurum see or know about. And something that Tamiki himself was being torn in two.
“I’m so sorry, Tamiki.” The tan wolf muttered.
“Yeah, well,” Tamiki licked the bristling fur on his chest flat, “it was bound to happen, wasn’t it?”
“I suppose your right,” the tan wolf agreed. “Are you still going to bring her back?”
“Of course! Just because she-” Tamiki couldn’t finish his sentence. It was as if preventing from saying the words aloud would make the truth diminish. The wolf nodded.
“Very well, return to your pack,” he stood.
“Wait!” The wolf stopped in his tracks and turned back to Tamiki. The white wolf had a glint of darkness in his eyes. It could even be seen in his obsidian-colored eyes.
“Why do you call me ‘Magicspark’? I’m a Whitefur,” Tamiki asked.
“That’s your true name,” explained the wolf simply, sounding like it was the only natural thing. “Don’t you know that?”
The dream abruptly ended. Tamiki raised his head, panting from the sudden change from dream to reality. He snorted to himself. Yeah, this was so reality. Normal people wouldn’t be in this mess, much less werewolves!
Tamiki found himself wishing that he was a normal human being. Life would be so much easier than dealing with this. Hunting daily, wondering if your family would ever be the same, surviving with the grief of letting disaster happen to the ones that you love, it was almost to much to bear.
The sun climbed over the horizon. The sky burned pink under its command. Tamiki swung his muzzle to the sky, watching it change colors.
Then, with the will and the ability, Tamiki sent a bit of magic into the sky, where it exploded into bands of light. His own auroras. The sight caused him happiness, but it did not expel the loss that had made its nest in Tamiki’s heart.
She looked at the sky, and saw that rainbow-colored lights were splayed across the sky. Xela nudged Akov.
“Hey, the sky’s all colorful.”
Akov mumbled and rolled over to his other side, “It’s called a sunrise, Xela.” She only rolled her eyes, even though Akov was asleep to see it.
“I don’t think this is any normal sunrise. Just look, please?” she asked. Akov sighed, and promptly rolled onto his back. He opened his eyes.
Akov gasped, jumping into a sitting position. Xela leapt back in surprise.
?” Akov’s brow knitted. “They shouldn’t be here.” Auroras
“Do you think that someone put them up there,” suggested Xela.
“Like magic? There could be a few Lethroes around,” agreed Akov. But the word ‘Lethroe’ was new to Xela, so she cocked her head.
“What are they?”
“Basically magical werewolves. You had a few in your pack,” he explained. Then, with a grunt, Akov stood and glanced around the forest. Xela still stood in awe of the magical lights while he packed their things. Once their things were packed, Akov gauged roughly where south was, and beckoned Xela to follow him. She tore her gaze away from the still burning auroras and padded obediently after him.
“And he never came back? Send for Hramin.” Ironamo ordered, watching as the silver-blue wolf walked out of his chamber on its hind paws. He growled to himself. Did she have to be so stubborn?
“I’m a vertical werewolf,” she had stated, ignoring the fact that Ironamo was really powerful, mainly because she was just as powerful, “So get used to it.”
Ironamo waited impatiently for his Lethroe slave. He had caught the old man on the streets, trying to hide his wings from humans with magic, but being as Ironamo was a werewolf, he could easily see through the guise.
Hramin came in guided by Juniper, the werewolf he had sent out, and Ironamo’s second best assassin. K7289 was his first, but he had betrayed him to those low-life Outcasts. Ironamo inwardly hissed at the name, but addressed Hramin regally.
“I need you to seek out what happened to one of my guards. I sent him on an important mission and he hasn’t come back. Can you show me where he is?”
Hramin bowed. “What is your guard’s name, sir?”
“Spark the shape-shifter.” Hramin made another bow, and Juniper rolled her eyes. Hramin ignored her and waved a wrinkled old hand. A thin surface of shadows drew themselves in the air. Hramin whispered something in a hissing tone, and across the shadows an image of a red she-wolf appeared.
“That’s wrong!” Ironamo snapped. He loathed the sight of his daughter. “That isn’t Spark!”
“Just wait, your majesty,” Hramin pointed at the shadow mirror. “Look.”
Xela’s eyes glowed angrily, and instinctively Ironamo stepped back. He had never in his months of torturing her had seen an anger that great. Xela swung open her jaws and released a stream of dark fire. The picture swerved to show a cougar being devoured by the flames.
Even Hramin recoiled from the screen, but probably for different reasons than Juniper and Ironamo. He sent her the thoughts, That scum! Juniper only sent her surprise and anger back to him. She had rather liked the shape-shifter guard. But even she didn’t know that Xela was his daughter.
Hramin gasped softly, and the shadows dissolved into nothing. Ironamo got the feeling the Lethroe knew something else.
“She…had a halo of light surrounding her. Did you see it?” Hramin asked. Ironamo narrowed his eyes.
“No,” he replied. Hramin sat down with a thump.
“The Either has come,” he hissed.
“The what?” squawked Juniper.
“The Either. There are two kinds of Lethroes,” explained Hramin, “Darks or Lights. But legend has it that there will be a third kind, Eithers. It will wield each power separately, but never together. The only ones who are said to be able to do that are the Two. Sir,” Hramin looked up at his master, “You are in danger. There is a prophecy of the mythical world, surely you have heard of the Number Prophecy?”
“One will destroy, two will restore, three will over power, four will stand in love and unity, and the True Pack will rise to show what it means to be family,” muttered Ironamo, “What of it?”
“The two are said to be pure opposites of each other, sir. Back when you had your best assassin in your power…”
Juniper made a strangled noise.
“…I had a strong feeling that he was very high on his magic levels. I confronted him, seeing what his true name is, but alas, he was insistent that he had already revived his true name. But then there were his eyes. Silver is a very unusual color, my lo–”
Hramin was but off by Ironamo, who clutched him by the throat.
“Are you saying that my most powerful – will you stop that!” he shouted to Juniper, who bared her teeth at every mentioning of K7289, “that my most powerful assassin is going to destroy me? Well?”
“Y-yes, m’lord! The opposite of him would be a white werewolf with black eyes, and we could find records of them!” Hramin gasped as Ironamo let him go.
“Explain yourself,” Ironamo growled.
“W-well, the g-griffons have t-taken s-s-studies of ablus-colors, which means white-colored in L-Latin. Surely t-they would have found the white werewolf you are looking for sire,” Hramin stammered.
Ironamo nodded. “Go and find these records.” The old man trembled, nodding and turning slowly into his werewolf form. The newly-formed wolf turned and stumbled out on wobbling paws.
Juniper growled under her breath. “That old wolf is frailer than newborn pup,” she commented.
“Juniper, there’s something you should know,” Ironamo turned and wearily sat himself onto a throne-like chair. “That werewolf, the red one that killed Spark, is related to you.”
“Excuse me?” Juniper’s eyes glinted angrily.
“Just as you are my daughter, so is she. The only thing that separates you is your mothers. Hers is still alive.” Ironamo looked into her strikingly familiar dark blue eyes.
Juniper just snarled, and stalked out of the room, her silvery-blue tail bristled.
Great, thought Ironamo, sleep beginning to come over him, just another werewolf for her to be jealous of. In any case, I must find her and my traitor of an assassin. I’ll make sure he’ll feel every bit of agony possible!
Ironamo’s lips curled into a devious smile.
For several days, they had been walking south, using the less than sufficient supplies that they had. Pretty soon their food supply was gone, and Xela found that her shoes were worn down quite a bit so she resorted to traveling as a wolf. At least Akov’s wing had healed well.
There were many memories surfacing to her mind, but they were usually vague and Xela could never figure it out. For example, there was one memory that repeated itself in her mind of a sick orange she-wolf, coming back from the brink of death by a blue wolf's song.
But maybe that was just because she was hungry.
“So let’s get this sorted out,” Akov pushed a branch aside as he talked, “we don’t have any food left?”
Xela sighed and checked their pack. “No, we have nothing.” Akov bit his lip and nodded.
“So I’ll go hunting –”
“Oh no, you don’t,” Xela growled, “I’m the one stuck in wolf form, right?” She instantly regretted her words. Akov flinched, and walked on.
The sun was high in the sky when any excitement happened. A figure suddenly darted in front of them, a grey wolf edged with red. Xela would’ve mistaken it for a grey fox if not for its size.
“Hello, Ace,” Akov chirped.
“Killer! You’ve got to get out of here! Ironamo is on his way here!” And with that, the wolf darted out of sight. Two things happened at once. For one, Akov whirled, his wings tearing from his back. With a loud rip, his shirt was torn in two. Secondly, Xela recoiled from him.
“You’re Killer?” she cried in horror. Akov let out a breath.
“Xela now’s not the time for this! I…I was going to quit anyway when you came so it wasn’t that important –”
“Important? All those stories…” Xela broke off.
Akov winced. “Look, I regret every one of those stories! Can’t you see that?”
“You could have told me!”
“You would’ve hated me!”
Xela froze, and looked directly into his silver eyes. “No, Akov. I would never hate you for anything you have done.”
“How touching,” a sickly familiar voice sent chills up Xela’s spine.
“Xela! Run!” Akov shouted at her. Xela turned only to remember the last time she left him. He had ended with a bullet in his wing.
In the second she had hesitated, Akov had been pinned down by two guards. One of them looked up at her with a smirk.
“So you’re Killer’s partner-in-crime, eh?” he taunted her. Xela winced at Akov’s guard name. Akov struggled against the guard. His wings crushed into the ground.
“You leave her alone, you piece of crap!” snarled Akov. Xela saw him transform into his hybrid state and lunge in the guard’s direction. He drew back a hand. He hit Akov square in the face with it, the crunch of bones ringing in Xela’s ears.
That did it. Killer or not, Akov was her best friend. He had helped her through tough times. He gave her food when Ironamo ordered a starvation act on the prisoners, healed her wounds, and been there for her. There was no way Xela would let anyone harm her friend.
“Get off him!” Xela roared, charging at the guards holding Akov. They took one look at her and scrambled off of him. In unison they retreated behind Ironamo, who regarded Xela coolly. Xela nudged Akov to his feet. He looked weakly at her. He didn’t say anything at all – the look between them said it all.
“Xela, how are you?” Ironamo hissed silkily.
“Just fine,” Xela spat sarcastically, transforming into a human to help support Akov up, “how about you?”
“Wonderful, thank you. I’m afraid you’ll have to come with us though,” Ironamo replied. Xela snarled.
“In. Your. Dreams!” Xela tightened her grip on Akov and he snapped open his wings. With a hard down-stroke they were sky borne. Xela’s added weight didn’t seem to be a problem to Akov. Soon they were well above the tree line.
“See you later, no-forms!” Xela called down gleefully, the sky open before them filled her with boldness.
“Shoot them down!” Ironamo ordered. The whistle of bullets shot past them. Xela shrieked, and clung tighter to Akov.
Akov swerved in the sky, dodging the bullets though was futile. A few seconds flew by as the bullets did and one hit its mark. Xela felt the bullet burst through Akov’s just healed wing just as he gasped aloud. Suddenly they were rapidly plummeting down, the ground swelling to meet them.
“Xela, when you land, run as fast and far as you can!” Akov shouted above the wind. They were still a considerable height away from the ground.
Akov clutched her tight for a moment. “If I never see you again,” he whispered before he quickly kissed her. Her thoughts diminished and Akov kicked her away from him.
She was sent tumbling in the air for a full three summersaults before she realized that trees were rushing at her. Xela flipped over, and dived neatly through the trees, yet earning herself many scratches and wounds. She landed to the ground with a hard thunk, and a few bones in her paws broke.
Instead of turned and running to Akov’s aid, Xela obeyed his last words and limped as fast as she could for what could well be her life.
A couple of months later…
He coughed up blood. A guard that he has come to know as Sword, snarled in his ear, which for a while had been permanently transformed into a pair of wolf ears.
“Where did she go off to?”
Akov closed his eyes, relishing the memory of kissing Xela. It was what he was still fighting for. So that he could see her once again, so that he could see her smile…
“I don’t know,” he croaked. Even if he did, there was no way he would put her in danger.
“Hrk!” Akov gasped as pain exploded in his stomach. Sword snapped a kick into his side again, checking that he was well in pain. Akov heaved up more blood.
“You better tell me soon,” Sword smiled mockingly, “or you’ll experience things far worse than pain.”
“Taking me was the most you could do,” Akov spat defiantly. Sword continued to grin.
“Reports have told me that a certain red werewolf is whiskers away from restoring her memory. Soon she’ll remember what you did to her pack-members. What will you do about that, lover-boy?” This, indeed, caused Akov to wince. Would Xela be lost to him? But she’ll remember him reformed, right? How could she forget the countless days he spent helping her?
“I’ll go and find her, that’s what I’ll do.” Akov sucked in a cry when Sword twirled out his namesake and sliced a cut onto his arm.
“You’re a fool, Killer,” Sword drew his blade back, caressing it with his free hand, “She’ll have Tamiki. Their fates are closely intertwined, I hear.” Emotional pain washed over his physical pain. But Akov was tough. He’d cry later.
With his silver eyes burning with hate, Akov raised his bruised and battered face. The intensity of his gaze made Sword jerk back a few steps.
“As long as she loves me, I’ll fight you,” Akov snarled before passing out from pain and lack of blood.
Something entered his range. It blindly ran, sad and confused. Clear waves of hunger pulled at him, and the mind was scattered. But the familiarity of that mind, that being, clicked with Tamiki.
It was what he’s been searching for.
“Xela’s back! She’s here! Close by!” Tamiki leapt to his paws. “Oh my goodness, Xela!”
“Go back to sleep,” muttered Flamdura, “You’ll only make Aurum worse.”
“No she’s really here!” Tamiki rushed in her direction.
You’re home at last. I’ve missed you.
Faintly she wondered what was happening to Akov right now. She missed him. But she was also confused about his parting kiss. What did it mean? Would she never see him again?
Suddenly, her heart raced, and Xela halted to a stop. Light filled the entire forest around her. If it hadn’t been pure night a minute ago, Xela would’ve sworn that it was day out.
“Xela!” A white wolf appeared, happiness and pure joy in every shimmer of his fur. Perfectly black eyes were full of excitement.
The wolf from her dreams.
All at once, memories of him flooded Xela. She doubled over, gasping and fighting for breath. Scene after scene of wolves. Racing wolves, laughing wolves, fighting wolves, hunting wolves, and a dragon among their mist. They all flashed before her, and she knew it was her life on fast-forward. There was another burst of pain in her heart, and she released a howl into the sky.
She had been lost.
She was one of them.
She belonged to someone.
Xela Redfur was an Outcast.
Aurum’s stomach rumbled. He looked over at Kayla, who, in fact, was resting her head back down onto her paws with a sigh.
“I think Tamiki’s hunting,” explained Kayla.
“Oh, okay.” Aurum hunkered down again.
Xela. Where was she? The memory of her capture came up as if his brain wanted to help. He shook his head as if shaking water of his pelt. No, not that.
It pressed the image onto his, and Aurum could’ve sworn he could feel the words burning across his mind, look at this!
Aurum could see Xela standing next to Tamiki, surprise on her beautiful face. Tamiki beamed kindly back at her. A fine mist in the form of light spun around them, creating the effect of a dream.
He moaned. That didn’t help at all, he thought, thoroughly frustrated. Aurum fixed a piercing green glare onto a tree, tracing each grove with his eyes to occupy himself. Kayla glanced at him.
“Are you really that hungry?” she asked.
“Sure,” Aurum mumbled sulkily. He would rather be hungry for a thousand days than endure this for one.
“Kayla?” Tamiki emerged from the trees, a smile plastered onto his snowy face. “Guess who’s come for dinner!”
Kayla sighed, “No jokes now, please. I’m in no mood for –”
“Is that Kayla?” a painfully familiar voice asked. Emmy’s head jerked up so quickly that Aurum was faintly surprised it didn’t go flying off her shoulders. Flamdura fluttered his great wings and let out a soft roar...that was still quite loud. Kayla emitted a strangled noise much like words dying in her throat.
“Xela,” every Outcast sighed.
The sight they’ve longed to see. A sleek and slightly worn-out looking red werewolf stepped from around Tamiki. Orbs of dark blue darted nervously around the clearing. Taking in the scene, Xela winced.
“I know, you’ll be okay,” Tamiki whispered softly into her ear, so soft that Aurum barely managed to catch it. Before he could work out what Tamiki meant, Kayla took a step forward, distracting him.
“X-xela? Oh, it’s really you!” Kayla bounded forward and pressed her muzzle to Xela’s in a greeting. Emmy burst into tears. The sound made Xela snap her head back, distress clearly written on her face.
“Is something wrong? Did I do something?” she looked worriedly at Emmy. Flamdura chuckled.
“No, she’s just too happy for words,” he spoke for her, gazing at Emmy fondly.
“I-I just can’t believe you’re here…and i-it’s really you!” blubbered Emmy. Xela, not yet used to such talk, cocked her head to one side.
“Why ever not?” Smiles spread across the muzzles of the Outcasts, and a few giggled. Aurum could feel his sides heave with giggles, and surprised himself.
“It was a figure of speech,” Tamiki informed her.
Finally, it was Aurum’s turn. He took a step forward, happier than he’d ever been in a while.
“Xela,” he whispered, happy, content, joyful, grateful relieved, choked up, and so very happy.
They were a pack once more.
It wasn’t his fault. Ace had been caught in the attempt to bring the Outcasts Akov’s note, and since then he had been mercilessly tortured. When he had heard that they had captured Akov and how they did, Ace had waited until his guards were away to weep. It was his worst nightmare came true: Akov feeling betrayed by him.
Imprisonment wasn’t treating Ace well (how could it?), since he had the attention span of three seconds. To entertain himself, Ace exercised his most predominant skill – cards. He was so glad that the guards who searched him didn’t find his precious cards and take them away. The repetitive movement of drawing cards and arranging them into a complex design was soothing for him, and since he wasn’t a mind-caster, every card was a surprise.
Didn’t an old Lethroe say something to him once? That he could see the future written on the cards? Ace slid his deck into their case, and then twirling the case in his fingers thoughtfully. Yes, and he even gave Ace a pattern so that he could. Now what was it…?
Ace’s arm twitched. It seemed to beg him to reopen the case and free his cards. Ace obliged, frowning as his hand shuffled of its own accord. The cards seemed to magically fly out of his hands and onto the stone floor in order: right, left, up, down, center.
To the right was an seven of flames. On the left was the one of hearts, up was a two of skulls, and down had two of stars.
In the center was the ace of spades.
Ace blinked at the cards. His deck wasn’t like any other; he had six symbols instead of four: flames, skulls, hearts, spades, clovers, and stars. But even this was very strange for a reading. He couldn’t understand what the cards were trying to say, so he swept them up, and shoved them back into the case.
“Ready?” Heart whispered to Star. She nodded. He cast a quick glance around at his pack. They were ready for this.
“This is the night!” He started. “The night every creature will remember! The night that will test all that it involves! Prepare yourselves, my fellow wolves, for the night of Awaking!” His pack cheered. They threw back their heads, letting lose their individual heart songs. Star, who was due to be the director of the combined songs, sent hers into the sky as well. Her notes were warm and hearty, dancing in the air so vividly Heart could almost see her soul whirl in front of his snout.
“Let all awake! May the True Pack rise and claim its name!” Heart howled, joining in the chorus.
Tamiki’s heart suddenly felt heavy. Light filled him from everywhere, drawing it from even the darkest of shadows. A million images flowed into him at once. In a second it was over, plunging Tamiki into darkness. As quickly as it started, Tamiki felt oddly in pain…
She cried out. What was going on, and why did she feel so different all of a sudden? Dark fire tugged at her fur, silently playing at her paws. No matter how much she tried, Xela couldn’t wake up from this strange dream. Within her struggles she sensed something was horribly wrong…
Everything on him hurt to no end. Abruptly, all his pain halted. Akov sat up, heart racing madly. Dark shadows appeared to quiver around him, and there was a faint song on the air. But soon it was gone, pain consuming him once more.
Heart sang and sang. Lethroes everywhere stirred and became aware of something major taking place. Even Heart himself felt a tugging.
But something was wrong. The Pack wasn’t together, one not even existing yet. The tugging suddenly felt like a tearing sensation. Pain overwhelmed him. Heart stopped singing, his song pulled by a cry of pain. A torn pack! Why didn’t he see this?
Around him, his pack-mates were screaming. Despair tingled over Heart unpleasantly. Everything was wrong! He released the song. Gladly, his pack thudded to the ground to bear the pain, which ebbed away slowly. Heart glanced at Star through a haze of agony. She was panting heavily, slightly hunched over. This should affect her badly; Heart supposed in alarm, she was the main leader of it!
“Not tonight,” she barely wheezed. “Tonight is the Night of Pain, not the Night of Awaking! Our pack is torn, and who is there to piece it?”
“Let it be us!” Heart hissed urgently.
“Why?” a strong, grey wolf asked once he grasped his breath. He glared at Heart with yellow eyes. Then he closed them briefly before Heart felt himself being probed. “Your motives are…full of admiration…and closeness…”
Heart shied away, throwing up a shield in his mind, “I know one who could be the key to it all. I met him in my childhood. He helped my mother discover how to send anybody anywhere to anyone (a few wolves muttered, “may she rest in peace.”). He was so powerful, yet so under-taught! He had no parents to raise him. But somehow…” he trailed off, glancing at the rising sun, “he managed to find his kin, his opposite, and his fate!
“My mom didn’t see his power or past, but I saw it as clear as day. He, my dear Storm, is Magicspark.” A collective gasp rounded his pack. The wolf Storm bowed his head in understanding.
Oh, yes. Tamiki Magicspark would be even more powerful than Divine Heart himself.
“We can’t just leave him. If you’re not coming with me then I’ll go by myself.” Xela growled. Tamiki sighed.
“But you’re not telling me why,” he pointed out. A memory briefly lit up in Xela’s mind before she shied away from his probing. But it was enough.
Tamiki flinched. The memory was of Akov kissing Xela. It would have been new news if it weren’t for his dream-mentor. Kayla and Aurum padded over. Great, more audiences. It was bad enough that Flamdura and Emmy were already watching fascinated by Xela and Tamiki fight with their minds.
You could just tell me that! Tamiki sent her the thoughts.
“Just stay out of my private thoughts! What happened was done, and neither you nor I can change the past,” Xela snapped.
“But,” he protested, “you… you…” There were hardly any words. Not in front of Aurum. He wouldn’t take it well. You love him! Tamiki finished in his mind. Xela winced.
Please, Tamiki. He’s important to me. He’s helped me more times than I can count, Xela pleaded.
I’m sorry Xela. Of course we will. I’m just… jealous, I guess. Tamiki bowed his head ashamed. Xela waited until he looked at her again to gaze sadly into his dark eyes.
Oh Tamiki. Don’t be. She moved closer to rest her muzzle on his shoulder. You guys are still the most important things ever to me. And I love you just as much, then, since she was still thinking and if they were talking she would’ve adding this to herself silently, just not like I love him. Tamiki sighed, and rested his head between her ears. He could dimly hear Flamdura inform Kayla and Aurum about their mind capabilities. Aurum gazed enviously at Tamiki, green with jealousy. Under Tamiki, Xela cringed.
“Don’t fight,” she asked of Aurum. He blinked, and opened his mouth to protest but Xela snapped, “And don’t test me either, Aurum Bluefur!”
There was a silence. Then, what hasn’t been heard for a very long time, a giggle escaped Tamiki. And another. Soon, Tamiki was in a fit of laughter like he used to do when their pack was just formed. Xela withdrew from him to cast a quizzical glare.
“What’s so funny?” she asked reproachfully.
“You…just sounded so much like…a mother…oh my goodness I’m going to laugh out my guts!” Tamiki hooted.
Flamdura thundered with laughter his own. Emmy giggled. Kayla’s shoulders shook with silent laughter. Even Aurum smiled. Xela on the other hand burst out laughing, falling back onto Tamiki for support.
Once the laughter subsided into hiccups, Tamiki dismissed the jealous feeling and enjoyed Xela as she was. He didn’t even care that Xela might not return his feelings for her. As long as she was here with him, happy and well, the world could crumble and fall around him for all he cared.
In the darkness K7289’s silvery eyes just barely gleamed. Juniper mentally winced, but continued her descent down the grimy stairs. The stench of rot overwhelmed her nostrils. A raspy voice croaked.
“Who are you?” K7289 called out from his spot in the isolated dungeon.
“K34700 to you,” Juniper snapped. K7289 grunted.
“Great. I just love to meet fellow assassins. For some reason, they don’t seem to return that emotion. Weird.” He chuckled. Juniper felt her mouth spread into a wide grin, despite her intention of coming down here. She quickly forced her face muscles to grimace, though the action was painful against her urge to smile.
“I’m not here to chat idly, traitor,” snarled Juniper.
“Watch as my face displays the air of surprise,” a sarcastic voice echoed back. Another grin quirked on the edges of her lips. What was wrong with her?
“I need information,” Juniper forced out; glad the darkness was cloaking her smile.
K7289 sighed, “You fools keep trying to get information out of me, but alas, I remain firm.”
“Of course you do,” she muttered. “But I don’t need the information that Ironamo does. I need my own information.”
“Fire away, see if I reply. Mind you, don’t think that means a gun.”
“Alright, wise guy, is it true Ironamo is Xela Redfur’s father?” Her heart beat faster. What she wanted to really ask, or more correctly scream at the top of her lungs in a wail, was ‘Is it true that my daddy isn’t just mine?’
“Well, yeah. I was there when he told her,” K7289 shifted; Juniper could hear the chains clanking. His voice sounded abruptly closer. “Why do you want to know that?”
“I’m asking the questions! What is Xela like?” Juniper moved closer to where the voice was, eager to hear about her half-sister.
“Well,” K7289 sounded a bit breathless, “she’s a wonderful werewolf. Kind, caring, thoughtful.”
“What does she look like?”
“She – wait, why on earth do you want to know all about Xela?” K7289 suddenly sounded right next to her, his breath in her ear. Oddly, Juniper didn’t move.
“Who’s asking the questions here?” Juniper hissed.
“Who says I have to answer?”
“I do, you…you…” she stammered uselessly.
“Ah, running out of insults. Not a very good strategy if you’re to force me to talk,” K7289 laughed. Juniper stopped stammering to smile. This quirky prisoner intrigued her.
“Alright, you got me. What about you? You’re name isn’t really K7289 is it?” she asked.
There was a brief silence before he answered.
“I’m surprised. No, my name’s Akov,” he murmured. Juniper tried out his name softly. It felt like velvet on her usually harsh tongue.
“What is you’re real name?” Akov asked.
“Juniper,” she replied without thinking. Darn it! So much for keeping a cold stance. She sighed.
“That’s a nice name. Juniper, as in juniper berries?”
“No – well, yeah I guess, but… I don’t know!” Juniper stammered. “I’d hate to think I was named after a berry!” Another chuckled resounded in the darkness.
Maybe…maybe this could mean a friendship…Juniper thought. She then remembered that she had a meeting with her father soon, and jumped to her feet.
“I’m sorry, but I have to go!” She turned to leave, but then paused. “I’ll…I’ll come back later okay?”
“Okay, I’ll see you then.”
Juniper ascended the stairs slowly, now ignoring the gloom of the dungeon and thinking more about ‘later’.
The sun slowly set, her energy fading with it. Xela stared in the direction of the sun, soaking up the last of the light. Around her the pack settled down for the night. Amidst it, Aurum got up and went to go sit next to her.
Xela felt his heart beat faster and his mind reel at being home again. She smiled softly, but inwardly sighed. His emotions got annoying at times. Sometimes Xela became frustrated, wondering why she gained these accursed powers. There was nothing special about being able to sense what others were feeling.
But at least she could block it out. Xela closed her eyes quickly and set up a mind shield, which protected her from thoughts and emotions of non-magical werewolves. She could only sense Tamiki, but that was okay, since he was asleep and she trusted him completely.
“Hello Aurum,” she glanced at the blue werewolf. He smiled at her.
“It’s so wonderful to have you back, Xela,” Aurum whispered. Several feet away, Kayla twitched, and underneath her shield, Xela could sense a faint pulse of anger.
Xela recalled memories of herself and Aurum. It thrilled her any time she could remember something, despite her poor half-memory (she had discovered this as she went through her memories and finding that most of them cut short). The memory was filled with playful fun and games. But there was another memory that was tightly woven into Aurum’s mind, one that he would never forget.
It was the one of the day she left.
“I know. It’s wonderful to be back,” Xela rested her muzzle between his ears and closed her eyes. Opening a small hole in her shield (dismissing the rush of emotions from Aurum as she did), and allowed him to see into her mind to prove her point.
I missed you guys, she sent with memories of her previous confusion over their existence. Aurum’s weak mind-voice replied in a smile.
Her heart constricted. Aurum was not exactly a Lethroe, more over an advanced werewolf. He didn’t have enough magic to bring it into the physical world, like Tamiki and his light-spheres, but he could mind-talk a little bit, but only if he was in contact with someone.
“Why exactly are we heading north?”
At this, Xela paused briefly. “My best friend, Akov, was captured. So we are rescuing him,” she whispered gently. The sun slipped away, plunging them into darkness and Xela felt drained.
“Good night Aurum,” Xela murmured, and padded to where the rest of the back was resting.
The Outcasts trudged onward through the underbrush of the
. All Kayla knew was that they were heading north for some reason that was absolutely vital for Xela. It was always Xela this and Xela that. Why was it that Xela seemed to be the center of the Outcast’s lives? She sighed. Ever-growing Forest
Kayla jumped, looking behind her in a startled manor. Flamdura. He looked into her eyes with his vibrant yellow ones. They seemed to say ‘It’s okay, you can tell me anything’. She felt a tug in her heart, and found herself telling him what was going on.
“I can’t stand all this…magic,” Kayla spat the word. “It is always about Xela isn’t it?” Near the front of the procession, Xela winced. Kayla glared at her form leading the way. If she heard, well. It was her fault after all that she drew others around her like a blanket.
Flamdura cocked his head, about to say something when suddenly, Xela appeared next to Kayla.
“Can we talk?” Her fur bristled slightly, and her tail was lashing fiercely. Kayla didn’t need to be a Lethroe to know that she was really angry.
“S-sure,” she stammered.
“We’ll be catch up, Tamiki,” Xela called out to him. Tamiki nodded without turning around, and only Aurum looked behind to see who was going with Xela.
Xela gently nudged Kayla off the path and onto a parallel route out of ear shot. They walked together in silence. Kayla felt the time stretch unbearably, and she just wanted it to stop. Words were better than silence.
Finally, Xela spoke.
“I had a talk once with Morano about leaving the Outcasts,” she stated simply, looking into the distance.
“Morano from the
Forest Pack?” Kayla asked, remembering the green wolf. The last she saw him was that night when they had left. They had set Tamiki on edge and he urged (if not in words) the Outcasts to leave.
“Yeah, right before that battle. I can’t remember some of it but I remember that I…I wanted to leave all you guys. But I wasn’t planning on getting captured,” Xela added with a grin. Kayla couldn’t help but laugh. A sudden rush reminded her of the old days, back when Xela was human and Kayla was her friend. They used to joke and laugh about things that weren’t funny at the time all the time. She smiled at Xela, glad to feel some positive emotion again. Xela smiled back, and continued solemnly.
“I hoped that if I left that you guys would be normal. Morano set me right on that. And so did Ironamo. But do you think that I want this to happen?” The amused light in her eyes had disappeared and now dark shadows formed in Xela’s face. “Do you think I wanted them to always want to please me and be around me while you were alone and outcast? That I wanted my friend since first grade to suffer the loneliness that was always with me until I became one of you guys?
“I hated changing who they were. I was naïve back then, but now whenever I think about how much Tamiki and Aurum compete…”
Kayla saw her companion’s face twist in utter and complete self loathing.
“It makes me sick.”
When no more words came out of Xela’s mouth, Kayla jolted in realization that she was done. She was all caught up in seeing how Xela felt.
“I…I’m sorry, Xela, I didn’t know…” Kayla managed to force out. There weren’t really any words to describe the sympathy she felt now. Xela turned sad, dark blue eyes onto her.
“And as we speak, I’m changing you too. And I hate it!” Xela screamed. “What can I do to stop? What can I do against my own nature?” Her last words ended in a shout, a cry of anguish.
“But you’re changing me for the better,” muttered Kayla. Then she added more loudly, “You changed our pack for the better. I don’t really know how or why, but I feel that you altered our destiny for a good cause.” Xela paused, looking intently at Kayla.
There was a moment of silence, as each wolf reflected on what they had just discussed. Then, out of the blue, Xela put a wicked grin on her face.
“You know what, I think Aurum has a crush on you, Kayla,” she laughed. Kayla’s paws were abruptly clumsy and awkward.
“What? No,” protested Kayla. Heat rushed under her fur, and if she had been in human form she would’ve blushed.
“Hey, who’s the mind-reader here?” Xela nudged her playfully. “Come on…you know I’m right!”
“You’re playing with me. That’s it, I’m the toy!” Kayla laughed, nudging her right back.
“I’m not playing with you, but you’re right, this is like toying with toy,” Xela agreed. Kayla burst out laughing, and the two she-wolves turned to return to their pack.