Written by Stephanie Sky
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
-Prophecy of the Triform Council.
School is a pain. Aurum growled softly to himself. It was nothing but show. All this what humans call homework was frustrating. Even the class gym irked Aurum. He was tempted always to run on all fours or growl at the teacher.
Tamiki laughed as he saw Aurum snarl at his homework.
“Can’t stand school? Isn’t that the thought of every other hormonal teenager?” Tamiki laughed again. Aurum scowled at him.
“I’m not the ordinary teenager albino,” he spat the word. Aurum got very grumpy when he was frustrated. Tamiki flinched.
“I’m not a true albino. My eyes are safely black,” Tamiki pointed out. A picture of hurt was in Tamiki’s eyes.
“I’ll be in the forest.” And leave me alone! He glared the words to Tamiki. The boy understood, nodded, and left. Aurum bounded silently into the forest behind him.
A hunter happened to be hunting in that same forest that day. He was a person of unimportance, someone whose name wasn’t known widely. But he was content that way, he never really liked attention.
The man raised his rifle at a deer. It would make a fine meal. It was a buck, mature and full sized. The antlers would sell very nicely too. He was about to pull the trigger when a blue creature sprang out of the bushes. It killed the deer with a clean death bite.
When it sat up, the hunter could see it better. To his shock, the creature closely resembled a large wolf, though it was slightly leaner than a wolf. The wolf-creature sniffed the air. It whipped around and spotted the hunter. The man nearly jumped at the sight of its eyes. They seemed almost human.
The creature snarled, bringing the hunter out of his thoughts. Shakily, in fear, the man raised his gun. The wolf-creature bared its teeth, but slowly began to stand up on its two hind legs. The hunter trembled harder. Standing, the creature even looked more like a human. It growled and stepped toward the hunter. The hunter stepped back in response, fear shaking him to his core. What was this unnatural creature? When he took that step the creature growled harder and barked a command.
“Stay.” The hunter stopped dead in his tracks. The wolf-human-creature came closer.
“You say you saw me and I will track you down and kill you, understood?” The man whimpered. He did not doubt the creature’s word.
“You will go home and go on with your life like nothing happened.” The creature finished his command, snatched the deer, and disappeared. The hunter sat down, dazed. Only one thought ran through his mind. He’d kill me!
“Got any aces Xela?” Emmy asked her older sister. Xela (her parents named her that because they thought it was a cool name, but really it was an embarrassment to explain how to say it to new teachers and everyone else she met) threw out her ace to her 13-year-old sibling. Emmy won every card game. Her parents were out somewhere and Xela was left to watch her younger sister. They always left on Fridays.
Emmy threw down her pair of aces and asked if Xela had any two’s. Xela sighed softly to herself. When would this ever end? Her sister had demanded to play ‘go fish’, and they had been playing for the last hour.
The phone rang, and the two sisters glanced at each other. Almost in unison, they both sprang to their toes and cried the same words.
“I got it!” Both girls raced to the phone. Emmy reached to the phone first. Xela frowned. How was it that her sister got to the phone before every time it rang? Xela was 14 (almost 15) and yet beaten to the phone by her younger sister.
“Yellow!” greeted Emmy. She never wanted to say hello. Or she just liked to make people think she was cute by being a baby.
Emmy nodded into the phone. With a few murmurs, of yes’s and no’s, she handed the phone to Xela.
“Xela? Your sister is so cute! Can I trade you for my sister if I had one?” Xela smiled.
“Hey Rose, how are you,” started Xela. Rose sighed through the phone.
“Same old…” Xela heard the phrase they used to tell each other there was something. Leaving Emmy to pick up the cards, she raced up the stairs to her room.
“What happened?” Xela could hear the closing of a door on the other line; Rose must’ve gone to her room too.
“Steven’s got a new buddy. You know Luke? That freak with the white hair? Yeah, who honestly dyes their hair white…?” Rose ranted on and on. There was a tint to her voice as she said it, as if Rose was keeping in a secret and desperately wanted to share it with Xela but couldn’t. Weird, how unlike Rose. She always liked to spill. Also she likes to talk about this kid named Steven, and Xela was beginning to think that she liked him. The blue-haired boy (repeat- who dyes their hair like that?) never talked much, but when he was angry you would want to step out of his way. Why would timid Luke go to him? Maybe he felt safer with another freak.
“So what’s up with you?” Rose finished by taking a deep breath.
“Nothing much. Did you do the math paper yet? And by the way, how are those anger courses going?” Rose had been taking anger course since first grade.
“Yeah, it’s easy once you know what to do,” Rose laughed. “My courses are going well, thank you. Did you get your paper done?” Xela moaned an answer.
There was a knock on Xela’s bedroom door. Emmy came in and handed Xela two papers, smiling triumphantly. One paper was her math homework, and the other was how you do ratios, which was the subject of the homework.
“One minute, Rose.” Xela whispered to the phone. To Emmy she added, “Emmy, where’d you get this?”
“Off the internet. You kept thinking ‘crap, I have homework’. It got annoying when I was clearing the cards and playing with Dragon,” Emmy explained. Dragon, their ginger cat with unusual black stripes and sharp blue eyes mewed at Emmy’s feet.
They had found Dragon as a little kitten. He was at their door when they did. Dragon had mewed all night, and Xela had opened it finally and brought him inside. The next morning when little five-year-old Emmy saw the ginger kitten with black stripes she cried out in delight and said “Dragon!” Then she went over and hugged the kitten. Thus the poor helpless kitten was named Dragon.
Xela nodded. Emmy had a way of knowing what she was thinking when she was distressed. Dragon pounced onto Xela’s lap and purred. At that point, Emmy left Xela so she could talk with Rose.
Night fell. When Xela’s parents came home, both were not looking at each other, though her mom kept throwing glances mixed with pity and frustration.
Xela’s dream was of her parents. Then she inwardly groaned. Their confusing thoughts intruded. Slightly different from her sister (who only read her thoughts at certain times), Xela could hear all thoughts in her dreams. As far she could tell her parents did not know of their daughters’ abilities.
It’s going to be soon and he doesn’t understand!!! Xela’s mother thought.
Things like this don’t happen! Her father raged.
He’s got to listen! He won’t understand if he doesn’t!
A memory flashed in Xela’s father’s mind. A brown wolf stood in front of him. Hazel eyes flashed at him.
“You’ve got to understand how important this is,” it growled. It sounded strangely liked her mother’s voice, but gruffer and more of a growl. Father whimpered.
“Will she be like that?” The memory stopped as Xela’s father shook his head to clear off the memory.
All I wanted was a normal life… Xela’s alarm clock jolted her awake. She rolled out of bed. She looked at the time she set to wake her up. 6:00Am. Xela sleepily rubbed her eyes and yawned. She wondered what her dad meant by thinking he wanted a normal life. Wasn’t it normal now? Then Xela remembered his memory of the hazel-eyed wolf. Confusion swept through Xela as she got out of bed and got ready for school. As far as she knew, wolves weren’t normally brown.
At school Rose hunted down Xela. Rose’s blonde hair bounced about her as she went to her, her light blue eyes gleaming.
“Xela! Did you forget what tomorrow is?” Rose whispered as she approached. Guys turned to look at her as she passed. Xela silently agreed with them that Rose was striking. Her own dark red hair and dark blue eyes didn’t compare to Rose’s brightness. Xela had dreamt what Roes thought of her once. She liked Xela as a best friend, and she admired her hair color.
“What is tomorrow?” Rose rolled her eyes.
“Honestly Xela, of course you would forget. Your 15th birthday!” Rose sighed.
“Oh,” was all Xela could say in her defense. Rose again rolled her eyes. She grabbed Xela’s hand and towed her to her class.
“Who knows what else you might forget,” she murmured. Xela sat in her seat. She let her mind wander as her teacher droned on. What was that brown wolf Dad saw? Xela reminded herself to try to dream of that memory again. It was very frustrating that she didn’t know. Suddenly the class cheered.
Xela looked out the classroom window where everyone was crowding. The teacher tried to drag some students back to their seats, though had little luck. Xela felt a pang of joy and cheered with her classmates.
Snow was falling lightly to the ground. White flakes dabbed the bushes, grass, and passing people. Winter had begun.
Aurum’s class was peering out their window. Aurum growled softly to himself. Snow was too cold for him. He didn’t even have his winter coat in yet. Kayla strode up to him.
“This’ll make things more interesting,” she laughed. Aurum began to warm to her, but reminded himself to remain closed. Openness complicated things.
“Certainly,” he murmured. Tamiki laughed in joy and bounced over to them.
“I won’t stand out anymore now,” Tamiki’s eyes sparkled. Kayla laughed with him. Another group of kids glanced at them as they did often. Tamiki was a bit loud, and he annoyed most people. Aurum sighed and slid closer to his friends.
“Another one is transforming soon, don’t you sense it?” he asked Tamiki. Tamiki nodded and bent down to rub his ankle. Aurum grimaced as the scar on his ear throbbed. Kayla looked at both of them.
“Soon?” she asked excitedly. “How soon?”
Xela’s father seemed to be avoiding her ever since last night. Xela couldn’t think why though. She had done nothing wrong. She cleaned the kitchen, took the trash out, and cleaned out Dragon’s litter box (which wasn’t very hard, the cat preferred to go in the forest), just to get on her dad’s good side. But even then he didn’t speak to her. In her frustration she went to the forest behind her house. The forest expanded for as far as Xela could see. A few people hiked there, but Xela rarely saw them when she was there. She knew they were there because she would hear them talking to each other. Mostly it was two people at a time.
Snow was falling heavily, but that did not bother her. Xela liked the cold and its bite. Midnight came pretty quickly, though Xela was too lost in her own thoughts to notice. Suddenly she realized that she was 15 now, and that it was the first day of winter too. Xela smiled. She liked that idea of a snowy birthday.
Suddenly a spasm wracked through Xela’s body. She gasped as pain seized her all over. Xela quivered on the ground, the temperature around her magnified. Scents from the forest sharpened. Xela began to hear even the faintest of rustling in the bushes. Her vision cleared. Several wolves were pushing their way through the bushes. There was an orange wolf, lean and feminine. It had light blue eyes that shone with excitement. The next one was white. It almost blended with the snow if it weren’t for its black eyes and nose and the red scar on its hind leg. It seemed to be smiling widely at her. The last one was blue with green eyes. The blue wolf seemed to have a scar on his ear. It looked surprised to see Xela on the ground as pain coursed through her.
Xela didn’t see the wolves any more as she closed her eyes in pain. A snarl ripped from her throat. The pain was enormous! Then, the pain abruptly stopped. When she opened her eyes, the wolves were still there. Xela was on all fours, yet it felt some what natural. She was warm again so that was a comfort. Then she looked down at herself and howled out in shock.
Instead of arms there were forelegs and paws in place of hands. Black claws glinted in the star light. Xela turned and raced to the stream in the forest. There was one nearby, Xela could smell it. What was she? The sound of more paws crunched through the snow as the wolves followed her. Terrified, Xela put on a burst of speed. She reached the stream before they did and looked down.
A dark red wolf looked back at her, its dark blue eyes wild. Xela sat down, a numb feeling passed over her.
“I know, shocking isn’t it?” Xela jumped and turned to look at a blue wolf. Wolves don’t talk.
“What?” she stammered. The orange wolf chuckled as it came into view.
“She is so new to this,” it rolled its light blue eyes. The white wolf stepped forward. Xela stepped back and nearly fell into the stream in response.
“We’re the Outcast pack. I’m Tamiki and this is Aurum and Kayla,” the white wolf, Tamiki, butted his head against the blue wolf then the orange wolf. Outcasts, the name fit for some reason. Xela instantly felt a belonging to the group. Kayla padded up to Xela.
“Xela! I can’t believe you’re our new member! I just knew it would be you!” Kayla whined with joy, tail wagging furiously. It was the way wolves’ whine, the way that said that they were happy.
“But I don’t know you,” Xela whispered, ducking her head and backing away, this time along the stream. Aurum grinned mockingly.
“Yes you do. We go to your school,” he explained. “Of course we’re in human form then.” Xela still shook her head.
“No, I don’t know who you are,” she insisted. Why were they saying that she did? Tamiki sighed.
“Think Xela, our human hair is the same color as our wolf fur. Who do you know that has blue, white, and orange hair?”
“If it helps, I dye my hair blonde,” she put in. Xela thought. Then she gasped.
“Steven, Luke and…” Xela stopped. There were a lot of girls who dyed their hair blonde; Xela noticed a lot that they had different colored roots. But Xela remembered only one had orange roots.
“Rose!” Xela didn’t fight the urge to bounce up to Rose and brush muzzles, possibly a wolfy instinct. Xela yipped happily. Her best friend!
“Please call me Kayla,” she murmured shyly. Xela pulled back and looked around at the other two. Aurum (or Steven, but Aurum sounded better) was staring at Xela, confusion in his eyes. Understandable. Who would’ve thought that Xela would be the one to be like them?
Tamiki was sniffing the air and barked in alarm. The others growled. A pungent smell, like all the animals in the world put together, stung Xela’s nose. She whimpered and batted at her nose with a large for paw as if to swat away the smell.
“What is that?” she asked in alarm.
“Shape-shifters,” growled Kayla. She suddenly shoved Xela into the middle of a circle that the Outcasts had begun to form around her. Aurum growled to Kayla.
“I smell them coming, they must’ve sensed Xela transform,” he shifted from paw to paw, and Xela noted how sharp his claws looked. Tamiki nodded.
“They must’ve been waiting for her to come to the stream,” he put in. Suddenly a group of animals all with the pungent smell (Xela whimpered again as the smell reached her and flattened her ears by instinct) exited the bushes. Snow covered their pelts and growls emitted from each of them.
There were two bears, one large cat, and a small grey wolf. The Outcasts growled, protective of their new wolf. The small grey wolf stepped forward, her eyes glittered with anger.
“We do not wish to harm you and your new comer. We are here only to confirm your newest member will keep all the mythical races a secret,” it explained, though spite shone in its eyes.
“You werewolves live in the human world too much,” the large cat spat when it said werewolf, “something might slip out.” Xela whipped her head up.
“Werewolves?” she cried out. How could she be a werewolf? Tales of blood-thirsty animals were nothing like how the Outcasts were acting. But then they could have been warped by humans to look that way, and she could’ve guessed that she was a werewolf because what else could she be? Xela remembered the brown-hazel-eyed wolf in her father’s memories and how it sounded much like her mom. Xela’s mom might also be a werewolf. The feeling of shock left Xela and was replaced by excitement. The shape-shifters looked at her.
“You don’t know what you are?” the grey wolf asked, cocking its silver head to one side. Aurum spoke before Xela could.
“We will tell her all there is to what she is,” his voice was soft, “but I think she can guess that she shouldn’t bring this up around humans.” Tamiki reinforced Aurum’s words with a snarl. Kayla narrowed her eyes and tensed. Suddenly, her muscles seemed a lot bigger and scarier.
The grey wolf just bowed her head.
“Very well, we will leave now,” and with that the group left. Once the horrible scent left the Outcasts relaxed.
“They think they should keep track of everything, stupid no-forms,” muttered Aurum. Kayla nodded and Tamiki only sighed. The three of them seemed so synchronized; Xela wondered how she would ever fit in.
“Every Friday we meet here at midnight,” Kayla told Xela, “it’s our meeting place. Sometimes we meet other days, and we’ll let you know those.” Xela nodded, she thought that their scents were here beforehand. Then Xela felt very tired. It was probably two in the morning, and she hadn’t gotten any sleep. Tamiki spoke.
“Meet us here Friday at five and we’ll tell you all about werewolves,” he explained. Xela nodded again.
Later, when she transformed back into a human (the Outcasts showed her), she found that her clothes had been undamaged through the process. Tamiki explained that each wolf had a bit of magic that protected their human clothes until they were human again.
Xela was just sliding into bed when her alarm clock went off. Xela groaned louder than usual. She hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep. Still moaning, Xela got out of bed and got dressed. Dragon came in and wrapped around her legs, purring.
“Dragon, how do you stay up all night?” she asked her cat, bending down to pick him up. The cat often went on night strolls. Dragon only mewed.
“Night prowling?” Xela jumped at the voice of her mom. Silently she cursed. Of course, someone was following Dragon, or Dragon following someone. The cat was rarely seen without someone coming before or after him. She should’ve known.
“What do you know about it?” Xela glared grumpily at her mom. She was always crabby in the morning. Her mother smiled.
“Only that you’re going ice-skating with a couple friends this Friday,” her mother winked. Xela widened her eyes, morning grumps gone. Mom knew. Dragon purred again, only this purr was broken, like Dragon was laughing. Xela flicked him in the ears.
“Don’t you laugh at me furball,” she hissed at him. Dragon kept laughing. Her mom looked thoughtfully at Xela.
“You always treated that cat like it was a person,” she muttered. Then Xela’s mom straitened and left the room. Dragon leapt out of Xela’s arms and onto the bed. He waited there until Xela was done getting ready. In return, Xela went down stairs, put his food in his bowl, and set his bowl down on the floor. Dragon happily ate.
While her cat ate, Xela thought. Saturday was tomorrow. She would see the Outcasts again, hopefully in wolf form. Xela didn’t think she could handle seeing them human yet. Not after knowing what they were. What she was.
Aurum stared at Tamiki. The white werewolf looked at him back, one paw on a book, the other was nervously scratching at the ground. Kayla was looking back and forth from Tamiki to Aurum.
“What did it say Tamiki?” she asked. Tamiki had not her told her, but Aurum had heard. He even knew who it was from. Tamiki didn’t want to talk; he pushed the book over to Kayla with a snowy paw.
“Someone’s added a new rule,” Aurum choked out. Wait till she saw what was written. All rules written in the book are true, if not the rule simply disappears. Kayla opened it to the last page. There she found the new rule, and choked too. She dropped the book.
“What? How can that be? It’s never happened to m-” she stopped suddenly. Tamiki glanced at her, sorrow in his eyes. What did that werewolf have to be sad about? But then again, Tamiki always had a soft spot for Kayla, just never shown it. This rule must show him that Kayla doesn’t return his feelings. Poor pup…
Aurum didn’t say anything. He bent and picked up the book. Reading the new rule again sent shivers down Aurum’s back.
When two werewolves love each other, they can sense the other’s extreme distress. At the end was a paw print of a cat, small dragon, and a werewolf’s paw. There was only one triform that he knew with those forms. That triform was with Xela this moment, Aurum knew full well. He always was somewhere near her or her sister. That triform went by only one simple name.
“I didn’t know you ice-skated,” muttered Xela’s dad. Xela sighed. He must know what she was by now. Mom must’ve told him. Or tried to. Xela reminded herself to explore her father’s thoughts when she went to bed that night, though she knew that by the end of the day she would forget.
“Every now and then,” was Xela’s reply. Her mom beamed. She was proud of Xela for being a successful werewolf ‘pup’. That was what they called new werewolves. After that comes, senior pup, young dog, and then senior dog. Senior dogs were the highest ranking.
“You go have fun now,” Xela’s mother chimed as she ushered Xela out the door. When she opened it Aurum was at the door, his hand raised to ring the doorbell. His appearance startled all of them. They stood there, not knowing what to say until Emmy clomped down the stairs and rushed to Xela’s side. Sweetly, she smiled at him.
“Are you taking Zellie to the ice rink?” Emmy asked him. Xela silently cursed. She hated it when her sister used her nickname in front of other people. Xela’s mom excused herself and left. Emmy was still waiting kindly for Aurum’s answer.
“Yes, I am,” he told her, not resisting a smile. Zellie. Nice nickname. A mew at Xela’s feet told Dragon too had arrived. Xela bent down and picked up her cat. Aurum stiffened. His voice was strained when he next spoke.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked Xela tightly. Xela nodded. She set Dragon down and stepped outside, wondering if Aurum had allergies.
“Wait!” Both Aurum and Xela turned. Emmy was at the door still, now holding Dragon.
“What’s your name?” Emmy put on her extra-cute voice that made guests just melt. Luckily Aurum wasn’t the melting-type.
“Steven,” he replied. Xela found it strange to hear him so casually say his human name after mentally labeling him ‘Aurum’ in her mind. She would have to get used to the Outcast’s double names. Emmy nodded and closed the door. Aurum turned to Xela.
“You have an interesting sister,” he told her. Xela rolled her eyes in reply. They walked down the sidewalk a little ways before veering to go into the woods. Silence made Xela’s ears ring.
Kayla was in wolf form, lying by the stream and gazing off into space, and despite the slight troubled look on her face she seemed peaceful. Tamiki was also was in wolf form, under his paws was a plain book. When Aurum saw them in wolf form, he too turned into his own wolf form. It was quite something to see, a human morphing into the body of a wolf. Besides herself on her birthday, Xela had never seen someone else turn into their wolf form. Xela wished she could too turn into a werewolf at will.
Tamiki rose to his paws. Kayla stirred and both she and Aurum sat on opposite sides of him, while Xela stood between them. The Outcast’s wolf form was strangely human-like, especially the eyes she noticed. Tamiki raised his head and stood.
“I am Tamiki Whitefur. My curse is darkness, I was a bitten werewolf by an anonymous werewolf, and I am the keeper of the book of the Outcast pack,” he started, “my false name in the human world is Luke. My werewolf form is white with black eyes. Aurum Bluefur, rise and speak.” Tamiki sat down. Xela guessed it was a tradition just as Aurum stood.
“I am Aurum Bluefur, my curse is at will (Kayla muttered, “Lucky.”), I was bitten a werewolf also by a werewolf who is unknown to me, and I am the patrol-wolf of the Outcast pack. My false name in the human world is Steven. My werewolf form is blue with green eyes. Kayla Orangefur, rise and speak.” Aurum sat down like Tamiki did. Kayla rose.
“I am Kayla Orangefur, my curse is anger, I was born a werewolf, and I am the hunter and herbalist of the Outcast pack. My false name is Rose. My werewolf form is orange with light blue eyes. Xela Redfur, newcomer of the Outcast pack, rise.” Xela did, noting that she wasn’t commanded to speak. Tamiki stood again with one paw still on the book.
“Xela Redfur, you are a red werewolf with dark blue eyes, correct?”
“You were born a werewolf, since your mother is a werewolf?” So Xela’s mother was a werewolf.
“You have no false name?”
“Your curse as of currently is the first day of winter?”
“As of currently.”
“You do not know your position in the Outcast pack yet, yes?”
“I do not know,” Xela knew it was finished now. They had gone through all the subjects that the others had. Tamiki nodded.
“Now I will read you the Outcast’s book. First, turn into your werewolf form. You can do this by thinking yourself into it.” Xela nodded. In her mind she pictured her dark red werewolf form. Pain coursed through her again, though duller than the first time. Soon, she was in wolf form like the rest of them.
“Good. Sit.” Xela sat. Tamiki opened the book he had and began to read from it.
“Werewolves can change form at anytime, the only time they have to be when the time of their curse comes. Physical traits such as hair and eye color stay through both forms.” Tamiki continued while Xela listened attentively.
The sun was nearly setting when Tamiki was finishing. When he said what Xela thought to be the last rule, Aurum stopped him.
“When two-” Tamiki started.
“Tamiki, it’s almost dark, let’s get Xela home,” Aurum interrupted, a bit too quick. Xela saw the fur on the back of his neck rise and his tail bristle. Tamiki saw it too and nodded understandingly. Kayla looked away, but not before Xela could see the frustration in her eyes.
Xela was brought home by Aurum (in human form of course), and Emmy opened the door. Dragon was at her feet as usual. When Dragon saw Xela he mewed with delight. Xela gladly opened her arms and Dragon pounced into them. Aurum stiffened again. Xela thought she could faintly hear him growl under his breath. Dragon ignored him, purring in Xela arms.
“Hi Steven!” chirped Emmy. Aurum nodded to her.
Aurum said goodbye to Xela and Emmy and left. Xela stared at the spot he disappeared at. Weird, what was with him? Dragon was a pretty cat, he was kind, and he was clean, wasn’t he? Xela bent her head to sniff Dragon. Once Dragon hissed in annoyance, Xela knew she offended him by even thinking he was dirty.
“Sorry, just wondering what was bothering Au-Steven,” Xela stopped herself just in time from saying Aurum’s real name. A broken purr rumbled from Dragon in the form of his laughter. Emmy cocked her head.
“I thought his name was Steven?” she inquired, “not Awesteven.” Dragon laughed even harder. And Xela’s mom wondered why Xela treated him like a person; he acted like one.
“It is, Emmy,” Xela told her and went into the house.
As Xela was taking a shower to clean off the smell of the forest that clung to her, Emmy found Dragon lying in the last few rays of sun. He was on his back, letting the sun soak his belly fur.
“Dragon, where did Zellie go today? She didn’t look like she went to the ice rink and she smelled of the forest,” Emmy asked Dragon. Dragon opened an eye. With a sigh, he sat up, licked his paw and swiped it over his ear.
“She went to learn about werewolves with the Outcast pack,” Dragon mewed. “And Steven’s real name is Aurum.” Emmy nodded. That was all she wanted to know, for now. She sat down and stroked Dragon. He purred and jumped into her lap. After a while Emmy spoke again.
“I didn’t know regular werewolves change at age 15,” Emmy murmured off-handedly. The ginger black striped cat in her lap stopped purring.
“You were a special case,” Dragon explained. “You have a major role to play.” Emmy sighed.
“I know, but why me? I’m only 13,” she said her age proudly. It reminded Dragon that she was only 13. The poor girl had a lot ahead of her, and all too soon.
Dragon purred fiercely, hoping that it would soothe the girl so she wouldn’t question further.
Xela dreamt that night again. She tried to focus on her father so she could find out if he really knew if she was a werewolf. But instead she was exploring the thoughts of Aurum starting from when he interrupted Tamiki.
That can be left unsaid. A memory flashed through his mind. He was looking at the book. Tamiki was next to him, eyes wide. Both were in human form.
“You know who wrote this, right?” Tamiki asked Aurum. Aurum nodded, speechless. He knew who it was. But Aurum didn’t like it one bit.
When two werewolves love each other, they can sense the other’s distress. Aurum read. At the end it was signed with a cat, dragon, and large wolf paw print. Xela heard a growl, and she supposed Aurum inwardly growled to himself at the time. The memory dissolved. His thoughts were silent as they walked back to her house, besides the random thoughts concerning their surroundings, like how it was really snowy. Xela was getting bored. If something didn’t happen soon, she would bore herself awake. The moment came when Aurum saw Dragon. HIM! How dare he! Confuse us all! Hurt poor Tamiki, sent Kayla out of control, and me wondering… Xela heard him inwardly growl again as he saw Dragon leap into her arms and purr.
Oh, that’s right, act just like the innocent cat you’re not! Another set of thoughts entered her mind. It was Emmy’s.
Zellie didn’t go to the ice rink, she smells of forest. Where did she go? Xela felt bad for lying to her sister. She wanted to get out of bed and apologize. But what Emmy thought next sent chills down Xela’s spine.
I’ll ask Dragon about that later. He’ll know what she did. Like last time…a memory from her was reflected, but just then (oh, how annoying that thing is) Xela’s alarm clock went off. Xela roared. She was that close to finding out what her younger sister meant by Dragon would know! Xela looked at the clock. Wait, it was a Saturday… Xela roared louder. She forgot to turn her alarm off!
“Arggggg!” Xela screamed. There was a broken purr, Dragon’s laughter. Xela looked at the foot of her bed where her cat was. Suddenly she was angry. At Dragon because he wasn’t at all cat as she thought. That he was something more. And that it was a bad morning.
“What are you laughing at cat?” she yelled. “Wait, that’s right, you’re not a cat! I needed that sleep! Running around as a large wolf had disadvantages you know!” Dragon stopped laughing.
“Xela?” came a feeble voice. Xela saw her dad in the door way. He was leaning on the door. Fear suddenly spiked her. How much had he heard?
“Did you say,” her father gulped, “‘large wolf’?”
Aurum screeched. He would’ve flung himself at Xela if Tamiki hadn’t held his arm. Xela flinched. She tried to stammer and apology, but Aurum snarled, forgetting he was in human form. It was midnight, and the Outcasts were meeting when Xela had come, face downcast. Aurum kindly asked what was wrong, and she told him that now her father knew that she was a werewolf.
“You told him? You stupid pup!” he cried angrily. Her father was the same man that saw him kill a deer. Aurum roared with frustration. No matter what that man always got involved with werewolves. First Aurum, then Xela’s mom, and now Xela herself. This was all so frustrating.
He instantly turned into a werewolf, throwing off Tamiki. He leapt at Xela. As fast as him, Xela changed in his mid-leap and dodged out of the way. He turned and leaped at her again, this time she met his attack. Kayla and Tamiki held back, for it was one of the rules. Do not interfere with another werewolf’s fight.
Xela bit him on the shoulder. Aurum growled and rolled her to the ground. He held onto her shoulders with his forepaws. Xela bared her teeth and kicked him in the stomach. The kick sent Aurum flying. Winded, Aurum lay where he fell. He heard Kayla’s gasp, which was barely audible against Tamiki’s laughs of approval.
The fight resumed. Weight pressed him to the ground as Xela pounced on him. Aurum quickly jumped to his feet, throwing her off his back. Xela landed lightly on her feet and raced back to attack him. Through the red haze of battle, Aurum couldn’t help but admiring her fighting skills. Skills that would make a great patrol-wolf.
Eventually, Xela pinned Aurum good. She bit into his scruff. Aurum could remember hearing Tamiki laughing, but now the boy was in hysterics.
“Aurum,” he gasped through laughs, “this… is… the funniest…I’ve… ever seen…you!” Even Kayla started to giggle. Aurum felt a tug on his scruff as Xela smiled too.
“I aid orry” Xela hissed through her mouthful of fur, trying not to laugh. Aurum smiled. It was funny, fighting for who would be sorrier, Xela or Aurum. And the new pup beat the senior dog. Aurum laughed aloud.
“Apology accepted,” he managed. Soon all the Outcasts were laughing. Tamiki (who was already laughing hard) was screeching with laughter and rolling on the ground, holding his forepaws to his sides. All of them laughed even harder- a werewolf laughing like a human was downright hysterical.
“You could be a patrol-wolf,” Aurum commented when the laughing resided. Xela smiled widely. In the corner of his eye, Aurum saw Kayla go rigid, her eyes wide. Tamiki was smiling at Xela, and everything seemed to be brighter.
“Really?” Xela asked, swishing her tail. Aurum nodded.
“From my authority as senior dog, I give Xela Redfur the title of the second patrol-wolf in the Outcast pack.” Aurum smiled at the young wolf pup in front of him. “May she serve us well.”
Emmy woke with Dragon hissing in her ear.
“Emogene, wake up!” The tabby hissed. Emmy calmly opened her eyes, though she hated being called by her full name. Dragon always told her that calm was good for self-control. Emmy looked over silently at her clock. 11:45 pm. She glared at Dragon. The reason Emmy didn’t speak was because her parents put a super thin wall between her room and theirs so that they could hear if someone was taking her or something. They couldn’t hear Dragon’s soft mews, but they could most defiantly hear Emmy.
“Your sister is going to meet the Outcasts today, let’s go,” he explained. Emmy nodded. She closed her eyes and pictured a yellow wolf in her mind. Being only 12 gave her physical limitations because she wasn’t considered even a werewolf pup yet. Pain coursed through Emmy, but she gritted her teeth. The bed sheets became tangled as Emmy changed.
Standing in wolf form, Emmy went to the window and opened it. Then she crouched on the floor and sprang silently out. Emmy looked up and saw a red dragon fly out of her window. She never really saw Dragon transform, but he had told her about his other forms besides being a cat. She guessed that the transformations were similar to hers.
Emmy followed Dragon and came upon the stream. She hid in the bushes until the Outcasts came. There were two boys, one with blue hair who Emmy guessed was Steven or Aurum was his wolf name. The other boy had white hair and was grinning. Emmy liked him instantly. She liked happy people. They were followed by Rose. When Rose had first come over to play with Xela, Dragon had told her that Rose had started to be a werewolf early too.
Finally, there came a Xela, her face was down in dread. Dragon saw Xela and look down too. Emmy gave a look asking ‘what happened?’ Dragon jerked his head to the Outcasts saying, ‘watch’.
Well, later Emmy found out. Xela had yelled at Dragon that he wasn’t a cat and mentioning her werewolf-ness and Dad was standing right there. He heard Xela say the words ‘large wolf’ and knew that all he saw and guessed was true. Dragon told her later that he felt bad at driving Xela to it by laughing at her frustration. Emmy told him that Xela was always very grumpy in the morning and he happened to be there to take the wrath.
When the fight broke out, Emmy nearly jumped out of the bush to help her sister. But Dragon in his strong dragon form held her back. As the blue wolf and Zellie fought, Emmy whimpered. Zellie was a young pup, and Aurum was a patrol-wolf. Patrol-wolves was required to be strong and quick. Luckily Aurum was only angry, and anger makes the fighter blind.
In the end, all the Outcasts were laughing at the stupidity of the fight. Emmy relaxed. Dragon laid his scaly tail on her.
“See, your sister can take care of herself. You don’t need to worry about her. You can leave this place,” he tried hopefully; Emmy could just hear him over the laughter. Emmy glanced back at him sorrowfully.
“I know she can physically handle it, but it’s her emotions I’m worried about. Zellie and I are close, and she knows my thoughts through her dreams,” Emmy explained. She had found that out when Xela first had the dreams. She was once thoroughly stressed out about it. Dragon huffed, emitting smoke from his nostrils.
“It’s something that you have to do,” he whispered. The laughter had stopped and Aurum was talking proudly to her sister. Emmy listened as he entitled her to patrol-wolf. She wished so much that she could be normal like them. She wished that she could join her sister in the Outcast pack so bad…
Dragon knew what Emmy was thinking. But he didn’t interrupt or contradict those thoughts. Emmy was only 13, Dragon kept forgetting that. Of course she would want to fit into a group. No one wants to be alone.
The sun leaked through her blinds and woke Xela. Xela opened her eyes and smiled. What a great morning. Such a beautiful morning. Xela smiled wider when she thought of last night. Such fun.
She got up and got ready for church. Her family went every Sunday, and Xela loved it. It was somewhere you could be without having to be someone else. A place to relax.
He could hunt, he could track a thief, but for the life of him, Aurum could not tie his tie. Tamiki laughed when he saw Aurum. Kayla did too when they met up to go to Xela’s house.
“Your tie is messed up,” Tamiki informed him. Aurum scowled.
“I noticed.” he muttered. Kayla laughed softly. She came up to him and fixed his tie for him. Aurum nodded to her for thanks. She looked a little dejected at his lack of words.
They got to Xela’s just as they were getting in the car.
“Xela!” waved Kayla, “Xela, over here!” Xela turned her head. She smiled as she saw Kayla. Xela told her parents that she was walking there with her friends and left them to join the Outcasts.
“Hi!” she greeted them. Aurum noted that she was wearing plain clothes, a nice shirt and a pair of jeans. Aurum moaned inwardly. Here he was looking like a dork when he could’ve worn regular clothes.
The group started to walk to the church. When they got there, the service was already started. The Outcasts took the back row. Aurum ended sitting on the end of the row next to Kayla.
They sang the hymns, read the verses, and listens to the sermon with the church. Aurum felt like he finally fit in somewhere. Here everyone cared. The entire sermon made sense. When that was over, they headed over to the youth house. There they met the youth group and was welcomed instantly. Everyone became your friend. No enemies, no fights, just people coming together to worship. Aurum felt himself smile.
That smile didn’t go unnoticed. Tamiki saw it and smiled himself. It had been ages since Aurum had smiled like this. It was nice to see him smile again. It really made him more likable.
But Tamiki didn’t bring it up. Aurum would make sure he didn’t smile after that. Instead he went along with it.
The youth group had their own bible school teaching, and it was a good one. Tamiki knew that the whole of the Outcast pack was Christians, but they had never experienced something like this church. They really got down to it. They weren’t saints here, but people who wanted to be closer to God. It really blew Tamiki away; he wondered where he could’ve gone every Sunday and not here.
That night the Outcasts really went ice skating. They had a whole rink to themselves; no one skated on a Sunday really. Xela and Kayla have had lessons when they were little, so they zoomed around the rink, out-pacing everyone. Tamiki was well-balanced, and though he didn’t know how to skate, he could slide on his skates without falling. Aurum on the other hand, fell on his butt more than he stood. Eventually Xela took pity on him. She veered away from Kayla and made her way to Aurum. Through narrowed eyes Kayla watched her go. Xela ignored it and helped Aurum up.
“Here,” she laughed, “let me show you.” Aurum looked into her eyes. Then smiled and shrugged.
“You’ll have more luck escaping a whole hoard of shape-shifters unscathed though,” he joked. Both of them laughed, causing Aurum to fall again. Xela helped him up again.
“Great, you’ve already learned the first lesson,” Xela reassured him.
“And what’s that?”
“Falling.” Aurum stared at her. Xela knew that he was thinking that she was out of her mind; she didn’t need to dream to find that out.
“The first lesson is to fall and get up,” she explained. Aurum nodded. Xela skated behind him and shoved. Aurum slid forward. He flung his arms all around him and landed on his butt again. He smiled and looked at Xela.
“I think I’m getting pretty good at the falling part.” Xela laughed and helped him to his feet again.
Time passed and Aurum got down how to skate a few feet. Kayla told them that they had to go. All of them were covered with ice. They left the ice rink and went to McDonald’s to snag something to eat.
Tamiki ordered a large cheeseburger and a large fries, Kayla ordered a salad, Aurum got a large burger, and Xela got two large fries.
“I can eat fries like that,” she told the Outcasts as they sat down, snapping her fingers. “They just dissolve in my stomach.” Kayla didn’t say anything and picked at her salad. Tamiki laughed and snagged one of her fries. Xela smiled and took one of his. Aurum nibbled on his burger, smiling. Xela noticed that he was smiling more and more when he was with them. Tamiki had told her that Aurum was as solitary as an oyster, but he didn’t seem that way to her.
Xela. Was. Taking. Forever. Emmy stared out the window, bored. Then Dragon entered the room and leapt to the window sill. Emmy jerked back a few steps. Dragon could not leave her alone for at least five minutes. He say’s that what he’s teaching her is important, but Emmy is still 13 and needs what all 13year-olds need: friends and space. Dragon says it’s too dangerous. But would it be so bad? Emmy was getting lonely. Dragon saw Emmy’s pained look and knew what she was thinking. This time he needed to tell her.
“Emmy,” he began, but Emmy didn’t want to hear it. She was sick of it. For the past couple hours Dragon had been ordering her around like a servant. Annoyed, Emmy stood and left. Emmy told her mom that she was going outside and escaped to the forest like Xela always did. Emmy wished Xela could be her teacher instead of that annoying scrap of fur. Then it would be a lot better.
Soon a yellow werewolf was speeding down to the stream. Wind rushed past her and time seemed to stop. Everything was slow compared to her. Emmy felt pride as she reached the stream in no time at all. She was faster than other werewolves that Emmy knew.
She slowed to a stop by the stream and drank. The water was ice cold. It reminded Emmy that it was winter. With that thought, Emmy finally noticed that it was snowing. The cold penetrated Emmy’s thin yellow coat and she shivered. Her winter fur never grew in.
A noise in the forest made Emmy turn. The fur on the back of her neck bristled and she snarled. It was the automatic response. Five bears, two dragons, and a steel grey werewolf encircled her. All but the werewolf had a mixed scent. The grey wolf’s iron eyes met Emmy’s dark blue ones.
“Ironamo,” Emmy bared her teeth. Dragon had warned her about the shunned werewolf. So he found favor in the shape-shifters. Stupid no-forms. Ironamo smiled wickedly.
“My dearest Emogene! What a pleasant surprise!” he exclaimed with a voice too sweet for him to own.
“The pleasure’s all yours,” spat Emmy. This low-life was going to die soon if he didn’t leave. One of the werewolf rules that Dragon taught her was that a werewolf can have friendships with other mythical beings, but creating a pack with them was wrong. Surely Ironamo had those rules.
“Emmy, we came to make an offer,” Ironamo said in an oily voice. “Unfortunately, we could do it by force”- the shape-shifters perked up- “or the easy way. Whichever.” Emmy growled and leapt at Ironamo. He easily made her angry. The shape-shifters stayed back, they knew this was their leader’s fight. But Emmy suspected that they were ready to pull her off if needed.
Technically, it was an unfair fight. Emmy was considered a pup (going by her human age, even though werewolves mature faster than normal humans because of the half-wolf age Emmy wasn’t near being the normal age of a werewolf) and Ironamo was a senior dog. Skill-wise, Emmy had an advantage. Most werewolves teach themselves how to fight, but Emmy has had a Teacher.
But being a pup, Emmy tired. Her blows grew weaker until Ironamo had her pinned. The yellow werewolf struggled vainly, she knew what was next. Ironamo flicked his tail and a few shape-shifters held her head and a few held her eyes open. Ironamo looked into them.
Ironamo wasn’t a bitten or born werewolf. He was created by a miss-spell of a griffon that could do magic. Ironamo had been given the power to replace memories in the process. No one knew what griffon did it; he replaced its memory the instant he came into existence.
There was a hopeless struggle between Emmy and the shape-shifters. She tried to jerk her head this way and that, but they had a grip on her. Emmy let out a howl; they hadn’t clamped her mouth shut.
The events that happened next went so quickly, Emmy would’ve missed it in a blink. Before any damage was done, a black shape appeared and knocked Ironamo out of the way. It snatched her from the shape-shifter grip and sped away. It was a black male dragon with yellow eyes. After they were more than a safe distance away from Ironamo and his hoard of shape-shifters, they settled into a clearing.
“Thanks,” gasped Emmy. She shook her fur to rid herself of any snow. It was suddenly so cold…
“Any damage?” he asked her. Emmy shook her head. The dragon didn’t say anything, but nodded. The cold eventually got to Emmy and she shivered. The black dragon coiled around her, seeing that she was cold. Instantly she was warm. A dragon’s fire was kept in its belly. To be honest, Dragon had told her that that’s how they digest their food.
“Here, you must be cold,” he rumbled. The dragon wasn’t that big really. It looked to be around Emmy’s age.
“My name is Flamdura,” he introduced himself. “I don’t have any flock to belong to so I wander. I heard you yowl and I knew that something was up. To tell you the truth, I’m a were-dragon.” Emmy leaned closely onto his warm scales.
“Hi, Flamdura. I don’t have a pack either, though my sister is in the Outcast pack,” she curled into a tight ball. “My name is Emmy. And yes, I am a werewolf.” Flamdura smiled at her.
“Really? What’s your curse?” he asked her.
“Believe it or not, a full moon,” Emmy laughed. It was so ironic. Common werewolves in folklore always are cursed to a full moon and Emmy was anything but common, Dragon always told her that. Flamdura laughed with her.
“Mine is at will,” he told her. Emmy closed her eyes. Some part of her wanted to get home, but it was so warm here.
“I’ve always wondered, how do were-whatever’s find out what they are if they do it at will?” Emmy wondered aloud. Flamdura shifted slightly, nearly cutting her off from the heat he provided.
“Well, unknowingly, we want to be what we are and poof. Sometimes we’re taught by our families what we are and sometimes some live their entire lives without knowing,” Flamdura explained.
“So how’d you know?”
“I was told.” Emmy nodded, but she couldn’t stay awake any longer. Sleep dragged her into its clutches.
Xela trudged up the stairs, tired from the long day. Aurum had once again brought her home. When Xela checked if Emmy was home she found that her little sister was nowhere in sight. She supposed that she was out exploring the woods. Emmy often would do that to cool off.
Monday morning came with a load of rain. Xela’s umbrella was lost so Xela arrived to school soaking wet. Tamiki, as usual, laughed at the sight of her dripping into the class room. Aurum smiled and laughed too, but Kayla remained silent still. Growling at the two boys, Xela wrung her sweatshirt over them. Tamiki laughed even harder, causing a few kids to turn their heads. Aurum playfully swatted Xela on the head.
When school finished the Outcasts rode Xela’s bus home and walked the rest of the way to the forest. From Xela’s bus stop they walked to the forest. After they reached the forest, the Outcasts raced to the meeting place in their wolf forms. The rain on the grass collected on their paws.
When the Outcasts reached to the stream they slowed down. Xela smelled an odd combination of scents faintly in the air. There was a huge scent of shape-shifters that made Xela want to sneeze, a couple werewolves, and the brief scent of dragon. Xela stopped the Outcasts.
“Guys, do you smell that?” she asked. Aurum paused and sniffed the air. Tamiki shook his head. Although Tamiki didn’t smell anything Aurum and Xela could. The two exchanged glances. To be sure of what she smelled, Xela sniffed the air again. This time she could make out a familiar scent. Xela whimpered in fear. Emmy was here along with another werewolf and a bunch of shape-shifters. Hopefully the other werewolf helped fight those no-forms off. Aurum raised an eyebrow at her, or gave the impression of.
“My sister, Emmy, was here with the shape-shifters,” Xela explained. Kayla sucked in her breath. Tamiki kneaded the ground. Sniffing the air one last time she smelled something different. Xela howled, fear freezing her veins.
Blood was spilled.
Emmy opened her eyes. She was warm and the sun touched her like every other morning. The only thing missing was Dragon’s purr in her ears. Instead, something near her was snoring loudly. Remembering all of last night, Emmy shoved Flamdura to wake him up.
“Good morning! Time to wake up!” she laughed as Flamdura rolled away and collided with a tree. The were-dragon stopped in mid-snort and bolted upright.
“Funny is it?” he mumbled. Rolling her eyes, Emmy smiled brightly at Flamdura. Yes, he was very amusing, though she didn’t dare say that aloud. He was sort of like that white werewolf in Xela’s pack. Xela! Emmy jumped to her paws, itching to speed away and find her sister. Xela must be worried.
“What? Emmy, where are you going?” Emmy had begun to dart away into the trees. Flamdura unfurled his wings and flew after her.
“My family will be worried,” Emmy called over her shoulder. An errant thought made Emmy stop. What if she never saw Flamdura again? Even though she has known him for a very short time, Emmy would miss the black dragon. When she halted, Flamdura passed her and before he could turn he flew into a tree. Emmy couldn’t resist another laugh. Obviously, he hadn’t spent enough time practicing flying in forests. Padding lightly over to him, Emmy stood and her two hind legs and gave Flamdura a big hug. After a moment so did he.
“Thanks for saving me,” she whispered.
“You’re welcome,” he murmured. A sound in the bushes and Dragon in his werewolf form came into view. Quickly, Emmy and Flamdura stepped awkwardly apart. No notice went to Flamdura as Dragon bounded up to Emmy.
“Emmy! Thank goodness! Your parents are so worried about you!” Parents, Emmy mentally translated, meaning her father. Her mother wouldn’t worry because she knew that she was in the forest, roaming around as a wolf. While Dragon ranted on and on how she would get in trouble (which she probably wouldn’t- her parents never punished her), Emmy glanced over at Flamdura and mouthed the words goodbye. He nodded slightly so that Dragon wouldn’t notice. Eventually Dragon tugged on Emmy, beckoning to leave. Then he raced into the forest. Emmy turned, looking over her shoulder one last time.
“Bye,” she forced out and reluctantly followed Dragon toward the direction of the house.
The trees blurred as Xela rushed past. Snow sprayed into Aurum’s face as she darted ahead. They were on Emmy’s trail; though Xela could smell the dragon too. What if that dragon hurt Emmy? She would rip the being apart. Meanwhile, Tamiki and Kayla had been sent to find the shape-shifters. Low-life no-forms. They can’t even turn around without them sticking their nose in.
Soon Xela and Aurum came upon a spot that smelled strongly of Emmy and the dragon. They must’ve spent the night, and the smell was fresh. Adrenalin pumped through Xela’s veins and she ran faster. Aurum had to run at his top speed to come close.
“Xela! Slow down!” he called over the wind more than once, but Xela didn’t hear him. She was too focused on finding her sister. Emmy’s blood was found over by the meeting place so that meant she was hurt. To comfort herself that Emmy would be okay, Xela vowed over and over that she would hurt the creature that harmed Emmy.
Out of nowhere, a black dragon came into view. It was sitting there deep in thought. The scent coming of in waves from him matched the scent of the dragon that Xela smelled earlier. Screeching viciously, Xela launched herself at the dragon.
“Wha-” the dragon’s surprise was cut off as Xela tackled him.
“Where is Emmy?” she cried. The two wrestled until Aurum caught up to them. He halted and shouted to Xela.
“Stop!” Since Aurum was considered the senior dog, Xela had to back off the black dragon. Aiming one last blow to the head, Xela snarled.
“This is the dragon that was with Emmy,” she hissed at Aurum. Aurum glared at her.
“We don’t know if he hurt her or not, do you smell any blood on him?” Xela sniffed the air and to her embarrassment there was no smell of blood besides the blood she drew. Ashamed, Xela bowed her head to the dragon.
“Sorry, my sister is lost and I am worried,” she explained herself. A growing tiredness overcame her from all that running. The snow crunched as she collapsed. Aurum laughed softly; he knew that Xela would be tired after running so fast and far. No werewolf could withstand that without a complete shutdown.
“My name’s Flamdura,” the dragon introduced himself. Xela felt a nudge on her side as Aurum gently pushed her next to a tree where there was little snow. Though her eyes were closed Xela could hear the snow move as Aurum straitened up.
“I’m Aurum of the Outcast pack and this,” he nudged Xela again, “is Xela, our tired little pup.” In response to being called a ‘little pup’ Xela faintly growled. Aurum laughed again and settled down next to her.
“Calm down, we’ll find Emmy soon enough,” he whispered into her ear. Snow shifted again and Xela guessed Flamdura perked up.
“Emmy? Yellow werewolf with beautiful dark blue eyes,” Flamdura looked down at Xela as she opened her own eyes to look at him, “You two have very pretty eyes.” Xela just managed to lift her head. Next to her Aurum’s tail twitched.
“Rest,” he insisted.
“Where is Emmy?” Xela moaned, taking no heed of Aurum’s plea or the fact that Emmy was a werewolf too. Emmy…where was her Emmy… Flamdura stood and bent a wing down to the ground.
“If you would gladly change into your human forms and climb aboard.” Aurum transformed much faster that Xela did. After what seemed ages Xela was a shivering human. Why couldn’t she stay a wolf? It was much warmer than being a human. Aurum picked Xela up, though she struggled to tell him that she was fine. But Xela knew full well that she would fall as soon as her feet touched the ground and the snow didn’t look too welcoming.
Aurum placed Xela on Flamdura’s back and climbed up. He sat in front of Xela so that she could hold him while he was holding one of Flamdura spikes. When the dragon took off, the only thought that passed through Xela’s mind was, this is as close as I’m going to get to ride an airplane before she fell asleep to the rhythmic beating of Flamdura’s wings.
Aurum felt something land on his shoulder. He turned his head and saw that Xela had fallen asleep. He smiled to himself. Xela had to be exhausted after running. Xela only woke when Flamdura spiraled down to land in a clearing close to the edge of the forest. She squeezed Aurum harder and screamed as the ground rapidly approached. Laughing, Aurum joyously screamed as if he were on a roller coaster. Together they jolted as Flamdura suddenly pulled up and slowly beat his wings until he landed on the ground. He stretched out a wing again, indicating that they should get off. Aurum lithely formed into a wolf as he jumped off and Xela, well, she fell off.
“If you keep heading that way,” Flamdura inclined his head into the trees, “you’ll find Emmy at home.” Aurum thanked the dragon and Flamdura flew away. Aurum supposed Xela was still tried so he coaxed her to climbing onto his back. She nestled into his fur, tickling Aurum. Then he sped in the direction that Flamdura pointed to.
Emmy opened the back door and instantly her parents swarmed her. Emmy just ducked her head, muttered a few sorry’s here and there, and then escaped to the confines of her room. Unpunished like she thought, she glanced at Dragon triumphantly. The ginger cat bared his teeth in annoyance.
“You would’ve gotten punished,” he hissed. At that moment the sound of the front door slamming open startled them both. The fur fluffed out on Dragon and Emmy was tempted to turn into her wolf form but it was Xela who burst into Emmy’s room, followed by Aurum.
“Emmy!” exclaimed Xela in relief. She rushed over and hugged Emmy. The air was knocked out of her lungs. Patting Xela on the back Emmy managed to say, “Xela, I’m fine! Need air! Essential to live!” Xela’s arms loosened but she didn’t let go. Emmy stroked her head. Xela had a tendency to overact sometimes. Emmy looked up at Aurum.
“Hi, Steven,” she smiled at him. Aurum smiled back at her.
“Call me Aurum, if you’re a werewolf you should call me by my werewolf name.”
“That’s right!” Xela held Emmy an arm length away. “Do you want to join the Outcasts?” Before Emmy could reply, Dragon leapt onto her shoulder and hissed in her ear urgently, as if it were the most important thing in the world.
“You can’t join the Outcasts; you need to stay a lone wolf! If you join them it will complicate things beyond belief!” Anger spiked Emmy. This was it! She hated being told what to do! She shoved Dragon off her shoulders where he landed none to softly on the floor.
“You know what Dragon? I’ve had enough of this!” Emmy exploded. This was the last time that this annoying furball would irk her again. She was going to live her life the way she wanted to.
“Go run into a ditch! I’m through of you telling me what to do every day of my life! I’ll join the Outcasts and be part of a pack for once in my life!” Dragon winced, eyes wide in shock, hurt, and dread. Once Emmy turned to look at Xela and Aurum to confirm that she was joining, both looked stunned, though Aurum looked a little bit smug.
“I’ll join you,” she notified Xela, ignoring Dragon, who was looking at her in horror. As far as she was concerned, Dragon was only part of her past.
Darkness pressed all around Tamiki, engulfing him. Kayla didn’t watch his transformation, but was sniffing the air. When Tamiki was done she beckoned him deeper into the forest. Tamiki, now stuck in his wolf form, nodded. Together in silence they trotted, searching for the shape-shifters and the small hint of another werewolf.
Eventually Tamiki’s thoughts wandered to Aurum and Xela’s mission: find Emmy. As soon as Xela smelled that blood she wanted to run away into the forest, following her sister’s faint scent. Aurum had stopped her and told Kayla and Tamiki to find the shape-shifters that have seemed to have gone the other way while they went to find Emmy. Kayla hadn’t looked to happy at the idea of Aurum and Xela being together alone, but Tamiki didn’t mind. He knew that Aurum was a good person and so was Xela. And anyway, the Outcasts were all friends and nothing more.
Tamiki hoped that Emmy was okay. Xela would be heart-broken and wretched if she found out that her little sister was seriously hurt or even dead. The white werewolf shuddered at the thought, snow falling from his fur as he did.
“Cold?” asked Kayla. Usually Tamiki found it rewarding to be honest, but sometimes Kayla could get moody about talking about death or relevant to. Like the one time Aurum told them that he had found a dead squirrel in the forest and Kayla went stone still and wouldn’t talk for a while. And that was just a squirrel, Tamiki began to imagine what she would do if he mentioned the possibility of Emmy being dead and suppressed another shiver. But he decided to risk it.
“I was just thinking, what if Xela’s sister was really hurt?” he prepared for a verbal attack, tensing. Kayla only remained silent. After a few moments, Tamiki relaxed. He guessed that Kayla was thinking still when she answered.
“Xela can worry about that.” Tamiki jerked to a stop. Did he hear her right? He thought that Kayla and Xela were friends! She would always talk about her kindly even before she joined the Outcasts. How could she think that? Tamiki bounded in front of Kayla and forced her to a stop. Something was really bothering her.
“Kayla, what’s wrong? You and Xela have been best friends ever since the first grade,” Tamiki tried not to growl. Kayla looked away, sadness flashing in her eyes.
“Ever since Xela joined us Aurum has, well, you know,” she shuffled her paws nervously, “favored her a little.” Tamiki felt heat rise under his fur that the snow couldn’t damper. Kayla saw his awkward look and turned her head. She knew she couldn’t stop now.
“I’ve always liked Aurum, you know that, right? I’ve tried to gain his favor over and over but he’s still closed off to me. But when Xela comes along, he’s all happy around her. It just sucks to lose.” Kayla’s eyes welled. “I know that there are some people who lose, and I’m trying to accept that Aurum is lost to me. But it hurts to see him with her.”
Tamiki felt pain tear his heart. He knew how she felt. He himself liked Kayla, meanwhile Kayla liked Aurum, but Aurum liked Xela. It hurt to lose.
Kayla looked back at Tamiki again. Loss swam in the tears that were forming in her eyes. Tamiki’s heart again tore in shreds at the sad look.
“You understand, right?” Kayla whispered. Tamiki snapped out of his pain. No matter what he felt, others always came before him. In a friend-like way, Tamiki rested his muzzle on her shoulder in the way that werewolves comfort each other in their wolf form.
“Of course I do. I won’t tell anyone, Kayla.” He murmured. He felt moisture on his shoulder and Kayla cried her pain.
When Kayla was done, she gave Tamiki a tear-stained glance that silently thanked him. Tamiki rested his tail on her shoulder briefly before beckoning them to move on. Kayla nodded and rose to her paws. A trail from the tears went from her eyes to the corner of her jaw.
After a few minutes trot, a new scent made Tamiki recoil in alarm. Kayla smelled it too and cried out. Fear made them freeze. A common nightmare played in Tamiki’s mind.
He had just transformed for the first time in his bedroom. Surprise and shock ebbed away and was replaced by pleasure. Tamiki enjoyed the idea the he was different. Luckily Aurum was asleep already, he would’ve freaked out if he had come. Standing cautiously on his two hind legs, Tamiki looked at himself in the mirror.
Suddenly he heard a beat of wings and a weird creature was at his window. It looked half lion, half eagle. It was white too, only its eyes were red. It screeched at Tamiki. He backed into the corner of his room, hoping it would go away.
“Wolf! It’s a werewolf!” Another creature joined it, a purple one. Their screeches hurt Tamiki’s ears. They wouldn’t stop…
A black griffon, a brown one, and a white one with blue eyes (which Tamiki was glad to see), surrounded the two Outcasts. The fur on the back of Kayla’s neck rose. Tamiki bared his teeth, though fear widened his eyes. Together the griffons laughed. Two young werewolves would be no match for them if it came to a fight.
Angered by their laughter, Kayla snarled as she was bound to her curse. She stepped closer to Tamiki, who was trembling.
The black griffon looked at Tamiki closely. It beat its wings twice and the other two relaxed.
“This is one of them,” it told its companions. The brown griffon stepped forward to confirm it. In response, Tamiki stepped back and flattened his ears close to his head. A snarl from Kayla made the griffon step back too.
“Harm one hair on him and you’re dust, feather-brain,” she spat. The small white griffon eyed Kayla. With an unseen signal, the brown female pinned Kayla down. The white griffon then turned to Tamiki.
“I am Snow of Winter, leader of the Stone Colony. Our mission is to find the ‘alubus-color’, which is Latin for ‘white colored.”
“In other words, creatures that are white but not albino,” explained the black griffon. “We’re doing this because they are rare in most species other than those up north, and we are most fascinated by the thought of finding sentient ablus-colors.” Tamiki didn’t comment, though why this fascinated them was beyond him.
The black griffon folded his wings more comfortably. With a flick of his talons a notebook appeared out of nowhere.
“Don’t worry wolf,” a pen appeared, “we’re just recording you.” After that the griffon was quiet, his pen flying across the page. For what seemed ages, the griffon ended his recording.
“T-tamiki Whitefur,” Tamiki stammered. Kayla struggled in the brown griffon’s grip and it let her go. In an instant, she was at Tamiki’s side, trying to clam him down. Without another word, the brown griffon and the white griffon raised their wings and were gone. But the black griffon had his wings raised but looked at Tamiki one last time. Then he was gone.
A boy, around Aurum’s age, darted around a corner. Lungs screaming in protest, Aurum followed him. The kid’s black hair blew in all directions. It was so black that Aurum could only see it when the boy went under a lamp post.
An urge to switch forms tugged at Aurum. He was getting tired of running on two legs so he transformed into a blue wolf. The boy glanced back and calmly saw Aurum in wolf form. There was no panic or shock in the boy’s eyes like the other humans Aurum encountered in wolf form. Instead, there was a sorrow and longing look, like he wanted to be an oddly colored wolf. The boy ran faster and Aurum darted after him.
Eventually, Aurum caught up to him, backing him up into a wall.
“Who are you?” Aurum panted, turning back into a human. The boy didn’t look at him.
“You can’t even begin to imagine who I am, pup,” he hissed. Aurum bared his teeth, forgetting for a moment that he was human. It had been forever since someone had degraded him to a pup. He growled through his teeth and shoved the boy. He stumbled back and fell under a light. The boy whipped his head up and bared his own teeth, which were pointed. Aurum stepped back in surprise.
Now the boy had a pair of black wolfish ears and a bushy tail tore from his pants. In the place of his hands were furry paws. The boy was right. There was no imagining of what he was. Aurum hadn’t even guessed close to this.
“Wake now, you’ll see me again soon enough,” the boy growled.
Aurum woke in a sweat. He threw the sheets of his bed to cool his bed to cool down. Aurum felt sick. The dream was so realistic, but no such creature was alive. The genetics didn’t work that way! It always went one way or the other, not both. Aurum didn’t want to meet that nightmare ever again.
Dragon sprang to his wolfy paws. Fur on the back of his neck bristled and his red-black tail bushed out. A shocked cry shook the air.
“No! I can’t leave her! She doesn’t know what’s going to happen!” he protested. Wolf sadly turned his head away. He was second in command in the triform council, and orders were orders. But it broke Wolf’s heart to see Dragon torn emotionally right before his eyes.
“You know the rules, Dragon. She wanted you out and you will be out,” Wolf murmured. “Show her the danger her family is in and she will leave with the Outcasts.” Dragon hung his head. Wolf could see tears drop to the ground. Sorrow filled him. He hated this part of his job.
“From now on, Dragon Triform, you are no longer the teacher of Emogene Yellowfur.” Wolf turned and left Dragon to his pain. He had done his job. Dragon’s legs wobbled and they couldn’t support him anymore. As he sank to the ground he wondered how Emmy could do this to him. She knew that not wanting him would lose him. She would not see Dragon again for a long time.
The damp air lay thick around Xela. It was going to rain soon; she just hoped that she could make it to school before it did. The strangest urge to run on all fours tugged at Xela. It would be so much faster than walking on two legs.
Suddenly, a high pitch and shrill ring caused Xela to scream. She clutched her ears, trying to block the noise. It hurt so much that she sank to her knees. In front of her two kids to young to be in school looked at her in fright. Their mother leaned from her chair and looked curiously at Xela. Across the street an elderly lady flinched, the only other person that seemed to hear the noise.
“Honey, are you alright?” the mom asked Xela. Xela grit her teeth and looked up. She couldn’t show innocent humans that something was really wrong.
“I’m fine,” Xela managed to say without screaming. Slowly she stood up again. Behind her back she quickly bent her finger back so it hurt really badly. Slightly flinched in pain she held her finger up. The pain was nothing compared to the noise’s effect.
“I only sprained my finger, I think,” she lied. Hopefully the mother wouldn’t mention that she was holding her ears. Xela silently prayed.
“Oh,” the mother looked skeptical, but she left it be. She ushered her children into the house, leaving Xela with a sprained finger throbbing in pain. Across the street the old lady cackled.
“Nice thinking Red,” she crowed. Xela whipped her head to look at her.
“What’d you call me?”
“Red. I don’t know what pack you’re in, so I don’t know the last part to your name,” she said this as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Xela scowled. What did this granny know about werewolves?
“Oh, right, your finger. Come on in and I’ll fix it,” the lady stood up and went into her house. Xela crossed the street and hesitated at the door. Something made her cautious about entering this woman’s house.
“Come in, before that hunter comes back,” the old lady returned with a splint and medical tape.
“Hunter?” The lady nodded.
“That was a hunter’s whistle. They started hunting us were-species since the medieval times. There are still some hunter groups left and they’ve developed a whistle that only were-whatever’s can hear painfully. Sort of like a dog whistle.” Xela went into the house and couldn’t help laughing. A dog whistle. How about a large wolfy dog whistle? Xela chortled as the old lady fixed her finger. Looking around she saw a weird sort of flower, a sort of dark rose.
“There,” she said as she finished, “I better write you a note for school.” Xela remembered something.
“Hey, what were-thing are you? You flinched too,” Xela asked.
“Oh, sorry. I’m a were-hawk. Tremona Cloudfeather. My flock and I are the last of us.” Tremona hissed remorsefully. Xela murmured in sympathy.
“Sorry to hear that.”
“Well,” Tremona snapped, “what are you?” The harshness made Xela jump.
“Xela Redfur, pup of the Outcasts pack, ma’am.” She nearly put her hand up in a salute. Tremona sighed.
“Ah, a newbie. It’s been forever since we’ve had one of those. You’re lucky the Outcasts found you first. Shape-shifter and werewolves alike are eager now to have a young pup trained in their forces. You would’ve been trained dawn to dusk. The Outcasts don’t get involved in that kind of stuff, mind you,” she babbled.
“Look, I gotta get to school,” Xela stood. If she started another conversation she would be here all day. “Thanks again for your help.” Tremona bobbed her head.
“Bring your pack here after school. I have to tell you something, I think.” Xela nodded, but silently thought that the old hag was crazy. But after today, she would want to know everything about those hunters.
She was late for school. By the way her teacher glared at her she made mental note not to do it again. It was third period already, the class that Tamiki was in with her. He raised one eyebrow asking silently, Where were you? Xela held up one finger (the one that wasn’t hurt) that meant, wait.
He caught up to her when the fourth period bell rang.
“Xela! Where were you? Aur-Steven was going nuts!” There was an urge to roll her eye, which she gave in to. She held up her bandaged finger. Tamiki winced.
“Yeah, I’ll explain at lunch,” with that they departed for their classes before they were late.
Dragon and Tremona
Dragon knocked on Tremona’s door. The old hag grimaced when she saw Dragon’s human form. She knew him from when she was younger. He used to visit her flock with other triforms, and they had warned them that they were going to be the last flock. Her flock had ignored the warning and stayed apart from other were-hawks.
Triforms now annoyed her. They kept butting in and telling everyone the future. Who needed to know their future any way? And didn’t the future keep changing?
“What are you doing here, triform,” she spat. Dragon returned her grimace. He didn’t have fond memories of her either, Tremona remembered with satisfaction. Back then she would attack any creature that entered their territory without permission, and few things had permission.
“Tell the Outcasts they need to leave,” Dragon growled. Tremona nearly snarled.
“Why? What’s the trouble with the future now?”
“Tell them,” Dragon repeated, holding up a thin whistle. Tremona blinked in surprise. Then she nodded and quickly closed the door. Dragon snorted. Were-hawks. Always curt and never loving. Maybe that’s why that old hag was never married, Dragon thought happily as he walked down the street.
Aurum raced to the cafeteria. If Xela was still absent… But of course she was there, laughing with Tamiki and trying to start a conversation with Kayla. Kayla was staring at her food, ignoring Xela attempts. What was her problem?
“Xela!” Aurum couldn’t resist a sigh of relief. He plopped down next to Kayla, the only available seat. He wished that it could’ve been a little closer to Xela though.
“What happened to you?” he asked. Xela sighed and held up her left hand. One of the fingers was in a splint and wrapped up in medical tape. Aurum cocked his head.
“I was walking to school and I broke my finger. I’ll explain the rest after school,” she explained. Aurum shrugged and dug into his lunch.
Later, Xela dragged the Outcasts to Tremona’s. For some reason something told her that she had to go there. Tamiki pouted.
“I wanted to go ice-skating again,” he grumbled.
“Yeah,” Aurum glanced at Xela. “I want to learn how to skate in circles.”
“Well you can start by running in circles.” Xela thought she heard a faint laugh from Kayla before Tamiki burst out in hysterics again. Xela towed them up Tremona’s driveway and through her door.
“Tremona?” she called. The old hag peeked through a door. Fear sparked in her eyes briefly before she ventured out.
“Red! And the Outcasts too!” Tremona shuffled over. Tamiki groaned.
“This is who we’re here to see? Cloudfeather?” he grumbled.
“Joy,” Aurum muttered sarcastically. Xela shot them a glare, but was surprised. They knew each other? Well, at least that saved her from having to introduce them to her.
“Nice to see you too Whitefur,” Tremona chirped optimistically. Tamiki only scowled in response. Ignoring the other’s ‘excitement’ Xela turned to Tremona.
“What did you want to tell us?” Might as well get to the point. Tremona glanced quickly at the window, so quickly that Xela could barely tell that she had done it.
“You need to leave,” Tremona rasped. “Hide in the forest.” Everything went silent. Tamiki, who had been muttering to Aurum, stopped dead. Kayla sucked in her breath. Aurum put on the face that said nothing to Xela. If only she could control her dreams, she could find out what he was thinking.
“Leave,” repeated Tremona. “You’re in danger. Hide!” Her eyes went suddenly wild, her brief fear returning fixed on her face.
The old hag’s words ran in Aurum’s ears as he slid across the ice. After leaving Tremona’s house, the Outcasts had gone to the ice rink again. Xela showed him how to smoothly skate then zoomed over to help Tamiki. Not too soon later, Kayla skated up to him.
“Hey,” she muttered. Aurum blinked back his surprise.
“Hi, you better now?”
“Was I sick?” Kayla looked at him, putting on a mask of innocence. Aurum debated with himself. Respond or go away and have fun with Tamiki and Xela?
“You wouldn’t talk with us at all. What was your deal?” Aurum chose to respond. Kayla looked away.
“What was your deal?” repeated Aurum.
“No, something. Kayla, we’re a pack. A team. It only works if everyone is working together. Now work with me here, what was wrong?”
“I…I felt… excluded.”
“I dunno,” Kayla shrugged. Sighing, Aurum left her and went to find how Tamiki was doing. Why did she have to be this way?
The late night air stilled around K7289. His eyes scanned through the trees until he saw his target: a lone plain house on a barely lit street. Mentally calculating his plan, K7289 drifted through the trees.
He was one of Ironamo’s most trusted assassins. K7289 stood for Killer 7,289 actually. Seldom did his subjects escape…the thought tweaked at the corner of K2789’s mouth. It was so often said back at headquarters, which was a very large, old house made of stone next to a prison. But this task was almost offending; it was going to be easy. All he had to do was blow up a house with a few well placed bombs.
Silent as the night, K7289 snuck up to the house. He patrolled the perimeter, placing one explosive on each wall. Easy.
Now to wait. K7289 dissolved into the night, waiting for his prey to fall asleep.
Tamiki pushed aside Aurum’s many books to the side of the desk. Lovingly, he set the werewolf guide book down on the empty space. This was where it would stay for the night.
Suddenly, he heard something crawl along the outside wall. Tamiki left his book against all his instincts. Slowly, he approached his window, and looked out. There was nothing but the setting sun. Tamiki watched the sun set absently until he was in his wolf form.
“Tamiki?” Aurum popped his head through the den door. “You’ll lock up, right?” Tamiki nodded. Ever since Tamiki had joined the Outcasts, he had taken up residence with Aurum, who was previously all alone. Now his book had a special place in the den, and every night he would lock all the windows and the double doors. Tamiki turned to lock the window. When he looked back at the doors, Aurum was gone. He had probably gone to bed.
Tamiki left the room with a final glance at the book and locked the doors behind him. He padded down the hall and into his room, where there wasn’t a bed, just a bean bag for him to sleep on. After a while a bed smells if a wolf sleeps on it, but Aurum came up with the idea of sticking an air freshener in a bean bag. Also, it was a lot easier for Tamiki to sleep on something squishy than a hard bed.
Noise exploded his ears. Flames sprang around Tamiki; the house groaned at fire burned it. Before Tamiki could do anything rational, one thought came to mind. And that was all that mattered.
Tamiki raced down the hall and to the den. He tried to open the doors, but remembered that it was locked. Snarling, Tamiki smashed the door with his paw. It crumpled easily under his force. But by the time Tamiki reached the book, he was trapped by the flames.
Aurum dashed to his door, but it was blocked by flames that singed his face. Backing away, Aurum saw that he was trapped. The window, broken by the explosion, was his only escape. Aurum jumped and kicked the hole bigger. Taking a deep breath and taking a few steps back, Aurum jumped through the window.
When he hit the ground, numbness spread all over his body, but not for long. Pain filled his vision. Sirens blared in his ears; the faraway neighbors must’ve seen the fire and called the fire department. A shape rushed at Aurum. It kicked his head, and Aurum’s neck snapped. Then, black.
“Yellow?” Emmy picked up the phone. Meanwhile, Xela was picking at her dinner, fried rice. She hadn’t seen her two favorite werewolves in days. Worried thoughts haunted her in the day, and their thoughts eclipsed her dreams. Emmy handed the phone to Xela.
“It’s Rose,” she warned Xela (mentally translating Rose to Kayla), “she seems upset.” Xela nodded to Emmy, bringing the phone to her ear as she did. She wondered what was eating Kayla for her to call. Lately she never called, a surprising contrast to her previous constant chatter.
“Hello?” Instantly, Kayla burst out into words.
“Xela! It’s Aurum and Tamiki!” she cried. Xela perked up. “Someone’s tried to kill them by blowing the house up! The news says that they were probably just playing with fire that ended badly, but I went to their house and saw remains of explosives!” Xela sucked in her breath. Her voice came out in a hoarse croak.
“Are they okay?” she managed.
“Hardly,” Kayla let out a dry laugh. “Tamiki was found with major burns and holding ashes. He was barely conscious. They found Aurum in the backyard, his arms, legs, and neck are broken, and his hands had shards of glass. Don’t worry though, he’s alive. They think that when the fire started he was in his bedroom and he jumped out. I’ll meet you at the hospital.”
An hour later, Xela’s dad found a note on the table saying this:
Mom, Dad, or whoever else finds this,
My friends had a freak accident, gone to visit them. Emmy should be coming home by the time you find this; she just wanted to make sure I got there okay. Don’t worry; she’s perfectly fine coming home by herself. I’ll be back as soon as possible.
“Fool!” A shape-shifter whacked K7289. He stumbled back, his head buzzing as if there were a thousand bees. K7289’s brain instinctively blocked out the pain. It was all he could do to not whimper in the leftover pain that his mind didn’t manage to block.
Ironamo snarled, “They live! This ruins all my plans! I gave you a simple task- to blow up a home -and you failed!” He spat onto K7289. The assassin didn’t say anything; he took in the pain and ignored it. Failure was worse than anything that you could endure at Ironamo’s headquarters. K7289 wanted to snarl right back at Ironamo more than anything in the world, but that would’ve likely caused him even more pain. Not that it mattered, he was already in too much pain…
“Now she won’t come for me, now I’ll have to take her,” Ironamo mused, “and you’ll come up with a way.”
“Yes sir,” K7289 mumbled. After that he was sent to his ‘room’, an old bed chamber with a bathroom. He had a bed, a desk, and his very few pieces of clothes scattered across the floor. One of the guards peeked in.
“Yo, Killer, what was with Iron?” Then he saw the cuts and bruises. “Oh, you failed didn’t you?” K7289 snarled in reply.
“Werewolves are tough do beat,” he growled. The guard blinked. Then he looked amused.
“Does that mean you’re half-tough?” he teased.
“Shut up!” cried K7289. The guard laughed cruelly. The guard next to him elbowed him in the rib cage.
“Leave him be,” the other guard hissed, “It’s not his fault he is what he is. Or should I mock you for being a human?”
“At least I’m pure-bred,” the first guard snapped. K7289 flinched. He was often the center of mockery, being half-and-half and all. K7289 shut his door to close out the guard’s argument, which had turned to the subject of different species rights.
Correction: being mocked was worse than anything that you could endure.
Tears tugged at Xela’s eyes. The very sight of Tamiki and Aurum made her heart wrench in awful pain. Beside Xela, Kayla was trying her best not to whimper like a wolf. She was just as miserable as Xela.
Tamiki lay still on the hospital bed, his once laughing face crumpled into a pained sleep. His coarse, ragged breathing was louder than the heart monitor. White hair was coated in a fine layer of soot, and Tamiki smelt faintly of smoke. The doctor had told them that Tamiki was in subconscious, the overwhelming smoke caused a lack of oxygen and he probably passed out. Aurum on the other hand caused Xela to actually cry, however subtle.
Aurum’s hand was covered in bandages, along with the casts around his limbs. Around his neck was a brace. Every so often his hand would twitch. Xela could just hear his faint breathing above Tamiki’s ragged coughs.
Kayla dropped her cards on the small table. Their class made some cards, but she put them apart from theirs. Xela shuffled over and put her gifts beside Kayla’s cards. Tamiki’s gift was white chocolate, his favorite. Suddenly, Tamiki went into another fit of coughs. Xela bit her lip to keep from crying. Aurum’s gift was a picture of all of them at the ice rink, cheeks rosy and faces sore from smiling. On the bottom were the words, ‘Get well soon, we miss you!’ Kayla pulled up two chairs and offered one to Xela. She nodded numbly. The door opened and a nurse came in.
“Oh, hello. Are you here to see these two?” she asked. Xela read the name pinned to her uniform. Chloe. She probably wasn’t the brightest nurse; why else would she ask if they were here to see Aurum and Tamiki? Kayla spoke for them both.
“Yeah,” she croaked, voice chocked with grief. “We’re close friends. Came as soon as we heard.” The nurse nodded.
“The one with the blue hair, Steve, is the worst I think. He rarely wakes up and mutters weird things like ‘tamykey’, ‘fire’, and ‘trapped’. Poor thing.” Chloe blinked sympathetically. Xela shivered, the picture of Aurum trapped in a fire burning in her mind. She glanced at Kayla.
“I’ll get Emmy to meet us tonight.” Kayla nodded.
They didn’t leave until the hospital told them that they were closing to visitors. Even when Xela went to bed the thought of Tamiki lying in a hospital bed, coughing, made her want to cry all over again. But she had done enough of that at the hospital.
Emmy got home safely. All she had to do was walk to the Ever-growing Forest, which wasn’t far away, and run back as a wolf. The only problem was a thorn stuck in her paw.
At home her parents worried over her. Emmy easily shrugged them off. Naturally she expected to see Dragon stroll in with all the glory a cat could have. But he didn’t come. Emmy looked through all the rooms. After the first six rooms Emmy began to worry. She raced around the house calling Dragon’s name. Panic overwhelmed her. Where was Dragon?
Eventually her mom stopped her.
“Emmy, Dragon isn’t here. This was left for you,” her mom handed Emmy an old-looking envelope. She gave Emmy a sorrowful look before she left the room, reminding Emmy of the way Dragon had been looking for the last few days….wait… she hadn’t want anything to do with- no! Emmy tore open the letter. No! No! No! She hadn’t meant it! She forgave him! No!
Dear Emogene Yellowfur,
The triform, Dragon, can no longer be your Teacher. From this point on, until death will he mourn, you will not be able to see Dragon any more. Reason for this is that you choose not to have him with you anymore and so it shall be.
We send you our best regards.
The letter fluttered to the ground. Emmy put a hand to her mouth. No, why- how could she? A low, mournful sound came from Emmy. Dragon was gone, never to be seen again until her death. She looked at the letter again. The words ‘we send you our best regards’ sent something foul in her mouth. It made her cry. Snatching a pillow from couch, Emmy screamed into it until her throat was numb. Even then she didn’t stop.
There was a knock on the window. Emmy turned and saw a boy with black hair and yellow eyes. Flamdura looked concerned. He motioned her outside. Throat sore and eyes red, Emmy got up, opened the window, and jumped out. Luckily her mother saw no point in screens.
Once she hit the ground Flamdura pulled her into a big hug, transforming into a dragon so she would be warm in the winter air. In synchronization with her breathing Emmy turned into her wolf form. Then she began to sob again.
“I found you,” Flamdura whispered, stroking her wolfy ears, “and you seem upset.” Seem? Emmy snorted. Saying nothing, she clung to the were-dragon to keep her from falling apart more than she already was.
Pain drove a white hot stake into Dragon’s heart. Out beside the house, Emmy was being comforted. His own tears were falling to the ground, shattering into little shards. In his sadness and loss, there was no comfort for Dragon. A triform was on his own if they happen to be separated from their Student. But by far Dragon and Emmy were the closest of all Teacher/Student relationships. Again, pain hit Dragon, this time leaving a scar as the were-dragon shifted Emmy into a cradle when she fell asleep.
They then had visited Aurum and Tamiki’s house, or what was left. Local officials and the fire department were surrounding the area, so they crept there as a wolf. It was easier for them to sneak around that way.
Debris littered the ground. Xela spotted some blood where Aurum might’ve landed. A lump rose in her throat and she whimpered. Kayla glanced at her with sorrowful eyes.
“Some tried to kill them, look.” She crept close to the ground so no one would see her. When she returned she had a piece of singed metal in her jaws. Xela strained to get a look at it. There were red markings on it, barely intelligible. Xela could just make out the words: ‘Warning! Explosive!’ on it. Xela let out a howl of shock. Kayla quickly swatted her muzzle.
“Shhh! Don’t forget there are-”
“Hey, who’s there?” A flashlight beam nearly blinded them. Kayla hissed. The fur rose on the back of Xela’s neck. What would humans do if they found oddly colored wolves in a near-murder scene?
“Oh my- Nate, get over here! Look at what I found!” Xela and Kayla couldn’t escape. Behind them were more men and a remaining wall. A tall man loomed over them. Xela pressed her ears flat to her head. Beside her Kayla snarled.
“Human-wolves! Where did they come from?” The man whipped around to the other man who just arrived, probably Nate.
“What did you just say?” the man practically snarled himself. Nate came close and he looked foreign. Kayla let out a growl.
“Human-wolves,” Nate’s voice was heavily accented, “in your folklore they’re probably called wer-” Xela let out a screech. Shape-shifters warned her about this, not letting humans know. She leapt onto Nate with such ferocity that the tall man flinched and gasped. Nate cried out in pain as Xela bit into his forearm.
“Xela! Stop!” Kayla dragged her away from Nate. Several men jumped forward to help their friend, and a couple sprang at the two werewolves. A few stayed back in shock that they could speak. Xela snarled violently, baring her teeth. It caused a few of the men to stumble back, opening a space for Xela and Kayla to get through. Kayla darted away first, not looking back once. She was gone before Xela could blink. Xela followed closely. One of the men, probably a boy by his size, tackled Xela.
“Oh, no you don’t,” he whispered into her ear. “So you’re a werewolf? Nice.” He sounded to be around their age. Maybe he was part of the clean-up crew, because there was no way he could be a detective. No time to find out now. Xela thrashed with all her might. The boy grunted and pushed her closer to the ground.
There was a screech.
“Xela!” A bolt of light flashed at them, causing the boy to drop Xela. Instead of running like all her instincts were telling her to, Xela sat and stared at the boy. The light faded.
“You’re not scared?” she blurted dumbly. The boy sat up, supporting himself with his elbows.
“Nope. I’ve always liked the idea of werewolves.” He shook his head, grinning. “I personally think that they’re seriously misunderstood creatures.” Xela stared at him. Her mind went totally blank. The idea that a human could be on their side…
“By the way, werewolves are cool,” he leaned closer, “because I am one.” Xela recoiled.
“You? Prove it.” The words were out of her mouth before she could check herself. She should’ve run while she had the chance. Now she was stuck with talking with another werewolf. The boy shrugged and transformed before her eyes. Xela could just barely make out his color. He was a bright green color, like spring grass. Xela relaxed once he was a wolf too, but slightly.
“I’m Morano, my fake name is Josh though,” Morano pulled his tail closer.
“Oh, I’m Xela of the Outcast pack. Young pup and the second patrol-wolf.” Thinking of the first patrol-wolf, Aurum, made Xela whimper slightly.
“Ah, I’m of the Forest pack, leader and senior dog. My pack mostly lives in the woods. But when I heard that one of Ironamo’s assassins had hit another wolf I signed up for the spectator role, you know the people who make sure no one gets hurt? Yeah, I’m here to check out the remains,” Morano explained.
“Ironamo?” He was behind this? Morano cocked his head.
“He’s a steel grey werewolf-”
Xela snapped at him, “I know who he is. But why would he attack Tamiki and Aurum?” Why did she keep saying these things? He had no business with her pack. Xela wanted to slap herself.
“Aurum? I know him. They say he’s partially ma-”
“Xela Redfur!” Kayla pushed through the bushes. “What on earth are you here for- oh, hi Morano.” Tension levels rose. Morano stood and Xela could see his fur bristle.
“Kayla, long time, no see.”
“It should’ve stayed that way,” Xela could barely hear her mutter. Then, more loudly, “What are you doing here?”
“Checking out the wreckage, why else?”
“He says that it was an assassin from Ironamo,” Xela whispered urgently. Kayla recoiled in the same manor that Xela had when she heard the news.
“Ironamo? Why would he do that?”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out,” growled Morano. Kayla threw him an annoyed look and turned her gaze back to Xela.
“Let’s go.” She whipped around and bounded through to the forest. Skeptical, Xela glanced at Morano. He had turned back into a boy.
“She didn’t seem too happy to see you,” she commented.
“No,” Morano snorted, “She doesn’t like me at all. Like the other couple thousand boys I know.” Xela flattened her ears at such talk.
“What about them?” Morano snorted again.
“Please, there’s only one wolf for her and that’s Aurum.”
“Yeah. Ever since they formed the Outcasts she’s been in love with him from the start. The only werewolf who doesn’t know is him.” Xela blinked, suddenly realizing why she had been desolate for the past week or so. She must’ve thought that Xela liked Aurum when she went over to help him learn how to ice-skate. The thought repulsed Xela. Aurum was her friend, not her boyfriend. As soon as the idea of Aurum being her boyfriend crossed her mind, Xela shuddered.
“Well, I better get going. Kayla doesn’t like to be kept waiting.” As she turned to leave she heard Morano mutter something.
“No, but Aurum’s the exception.”
Emmy sniffled. Dragon was gone. In any case, Emmy’s mom went to the hospital to act as the mom for Aurum and Tamiki. Her dad had agreed that since they had no parents and were living on their own (which he questioned at first, but Emmy just rolled her eyes and said that their parents were on a trip and couldn’t come back for who-knows-what) and they were Xela’s closest friend that she should.
“Honey?” her dad called up from downstairs. “Your mom is going to be home in-” Someone burst through the door.
“Oh, hi!” Xela’s voice called to him as she rushed past him and into Emmy’s room. “Let’s go Emmy.” In a lower voice she added, “We’ve got to leave here. Ironamo’s tried to kill them.” Emmy nodded, understanding. Only Aurum and Tamiki’s near fate must’ve led her to decide to leave. Also, Ironamo would try to kill Xela’s two closest friends.
“But what about school?” she asked, getting up and headed to get her book- bag to pack her stuff in.
Xela thought. “Dad will tell them that we are on a trip,” she decided. Then she rushed downstairs to tell their father the news. Emmy stocked up on extra clothes (hers never wear out in wolf form, but just in case) and went and got some for Xela. When she snuck downstairs to get food and water bottles, she heard what they were saying.
“-this doesn’t make sense. Why do you have to leave all of a sudden?” Emmy could picture her dad crossing his arms. He was never the lenient one, always questioning what they do. Her sister sighed.
“There’s a camping site not to far from here. We’ll make it there by the next sunset... two days.” She quickly translated from wolf terms.
“That doesn’t answer my question.” Another sigh.
“I promised my friends we would go today,” she lied easily, though Emmy supposed she probably did promise Kayla that they would start their long journey tonight, probably more than two days. “We’ll be fine, dad.” This time it was her dad that sighed.
“Just be careful. I’ll tell the school you’re sick.”
“Thanks dad!” Xela suddenly appeared next to Emmy. Emmy jumped back in surprise.
“Got everything?” Xela peered at the pack in her hands.
“I need water and food and then we can go,” explained Emmy, sliding past to the kitchen. There she found her dad, sitting glumly in a chair. He looked up as Emmy entered.
“I know you won’t be back soon,” he croaked. “I can feel it. Before you go, just tell me one thing.” Emmy saddened. Her father was right. They would be gone for a while. She nodded.
“What are you?”
Emmy gulped. A promise made is a promise to keep, she thought, stuck between her loyalty to her new pack and their rules and to her promise to her father.
“I’m a werewolf.” Xela had joined them. There was no hopelessness in her eyes like they were Emmy’s, only pride and defiance.
“Me too,” muttered Emmy, but there was no defiance in her words like Xela’s. Her father blinked.
“Werewolf,” the word barely shoved past his throat. Both sisters numbly nodded. Their father put his face in his hands. “How does that work out? Were you bitten? And the full moon thing? Are all those myths true?”
“Humans have a way of twisting mythical reality into something almost entirely different. Werewolves can come into existence by a bite, but Emmy and I were born werewolves.” Xela explained.
Emmy nodded. “Each of us has a different curse. My curse is as a matter of fact a full moon and Xela’s is….” She didn’t know when her sister’s curse was. Emmy looked at Xela expectantly.
“Mine is the start of winter.” Xela finished. Her father dropped his hands and sighed.
“Werewolves,” he repeated. “Born werewolves. How are you born werewolves?”
Xela shook her head. “Ask mom.” With that, she turned to leave. Emmy glanced one last time at her dad. For some reason, she didn’t think she’d ever see him again.
“Bye dad, I love you. And I speak for both of us,” she added, thinking of Xela. Her father nodded.
Emmy followed Xela. She was scouring the garage fridge for water bottles. Holding five bottles up triumphantly, her put them into her own pack. Emmy coughed purposefully.
Xela looked at her. “Come on, we’re burning daylight.” Outside the house, Kayla sat on their porch, playing absent mindedly with a twig. She stood when Xela and Emmy came out.
“Time to go?” she tossed the twig aside. Xela nodded and Emmy sighed. Together they walked around their house and to the Ever-growing Forest. Then Xela and Emmy carefully shed their packs and transformed, as did Kayla, though she didn’t have a pack to carry. Picking up their packs again they raced through the forest, trying to get as far away as possible from the threat behind them.
Heat, battles, starvation, loss, and blood filled Aurum’s fitful dreams. But this was a common dream now, though every time he dreamt they became clearer and clearer. Fear chilled him to the bone as Aurum viewed the scene once more.
A blue wolf spattered with gore charged into the heat of battle. He raked his claws on a lion’s blunt muzzle. The creature’s scent stung his nose, but he ignored it. The lion quickly reacted, snapping the wolf’s head back with a well aimed blow from a powerful paw. Aurum could hear him growl in pain. Suddenly, a wild screech filled the air. A silver-she wolf launched herself at the lion.
“Back off no-form!” she hissed. The lion spat and ducked his head, ramming it into her chest. Aurum could hear her breath being knocked out of her lungs. The blue wolf winced.
“Linar!” the blue wolf cried. He and the silver wolf battled the lion until it roared in defeat.
“Fall back!” the lion could see that the battle was lost. From all around the blue wolf, battling creatures sprang into the air and transformed into anything that could fly. The silver wolf glanced happily at the blue one.
“That was great! We won!” she pressed next to the blue wolf. A dark red wolf flinched as she came into view. Another light green wolf slunk next to her and whispered in her ear. The red wolf shrank away, shaking her head.
“Hey, where’s Bullet?” asked an orange wolf. Other wolves began to join, but apparently the wolf the orange one had named wasn’t there. Suddenly a wail rose. The fur on the back of Aurum’s neck bristled. This part of his dream he’d never before.
“No!” a young voice screeched, filled with pain and grief. “No! Not him!” Aurum forced himself awake. The screams haunted him until Chloe came in with a glass of water.
“Good morning Steve,” she smiled brightly. Though the screams vanished, Aurum still inwardly groaned. She never left him alone, always making excuses to come and see him. Couldn’t he breathe in peace just for once?
“Morning,” he muttered. Silently, he reached under his pillow, looking like he was rubbing the back of his neck. His fingers brushed a flimsy surface. Aurum drew back his hand, quickly hiding the picture under his sheets.
“What do I have for breakfast?” he asked casually. He knew Chloe hadn’t brought any food with her; the scents around him were sterile and had no flavorful smell that could even hint food.
“Oh! I forgot! Let me go get it,” she rushed out.
“No one’s stopping you,” Aurum growled to himself. Tamiki stirred beside him. Pain seized his heart as Aurum heard him mutter mournfully.
“Where’s the book? Fire…book…Aurum………………xela……” Aurum recoiled. Xela? What was she doing in Tamiki’s dreams? Shrugging it off, Aurum took out the picture. He saw Kayla first, blonde hair and soft blue eyes managing a smile for the camera. Her cheeks were still pink from the cold. Next he noticed Tamiki. He was still laughing as he had the whole time. Aurum, who was standing straight, was also smiling like a fool himself. Lastly, there was Xela. Beautiful dark red hair flowed to her shoulders. Equally dark blue eyes stared into the camera. Xela’s smile made the picture seem a lot brighter. Pain again struck Aurum. Why was he still he still here? He belonged with his pack, running happily through the forest to the stream. Abruptly, Tamiki coughed violently.
Chloe breezed in and the smell of food wafted into the room. Aurum quickly shoved the picture under his pillow again. His lap slightly burned as Chloe set the tray of food down. Then she turned and set Tamiki’s next to his table. The half-albino’s eyebrows knitted for a moment before he relaxed again.
“Here you go!” the nurse beamed as Aurum nibbled on a strip of bacon. “I wish I could stay a little longer, but there are other patients you know. Your mom will be here shortly to check up on you.” Gratitude filled Aurum as she mentioned Xela’s mom. Somehow she had convinced the hospital authorities that she was the mother of Aurum and Tamiki because they really had no parents of their own. It has always been that way. Tamiki and Aurum grew up by themselves together, so naturally they called each other brothers. They even fought like brothers sometimes over silly things like whose turn it was to cook. Well, maybe normal brothers didn’t fight about that. Chloe left. The instant the doors closed behind her Tamiki sat up and tore into his food.
“Shesh, Tamiki!” Aurum laughed. “Leave me to Chloe would you?” Tamiki smiled through his mouthful of food.
“Most certainly,” he shoved more food into his mouth.
“I can’t say I blame you,” Aurum muttered, eating more of his own food.
“Oh, thank you, Xela!” Tamiki had spotted his gift. Suddenly glum, Aurum set down his food and stared at it.
“You said weird things in your sleep.” Aurum muttered. Tamiki, still chewing on his breakfast, looked at him. He swallowed before speaking.
“Yeah,” Aurum glanced out the window. Sun filtered through the ever-clean windows. “You said things like fire, and book.” Tamiki narrowed his eyes.
“And you said ‘Xela’,” Aurum blurted. “What was she doing in your dreams?” Suspicion shadowed Tamiki’s face as well as confusion.
“Why should you care?” Tamiki popped a forkful of eggs into his mouth.
“That wasn’t my question,” Aurum growled.
“I don’t have to answer that question.” Aurum growled deeper, desperately wanting to transform into a wolf and remind Tamiki who was boss. But just then another nurse came in to clean the already clean windows.
“So are you two feeling any better?” she asked. The button on her uniform read ‘Rose’. This in turn reminded Aurum of Kayla, then about the Outcasts.
“A little, though I have weird dreams,” Aurum glared at Tamiki.
“There’s also a lot of noise in the day,” Tamiki retorted. The nurse blinked.
“Oh, uh, I’ll close the windows then if that helps,” she stammered. The two werewolves continued to glare at each other until she left.
“Xela-lover.” Aurum’s eye’s widened.
“You did not just go there,” he snarled. Tamiki returned the snarl. Just like brothers, they could bicker easily.
“I did go there. What are you going to do about it?”
“The next time I see Kayla, I’m telling her your little secret,” Aurum thought he had the upper hand until Tamiki replied.
“Fine, but it’ll be false.” Tamiki looked away so Aurum couldn’t see his face.
“What?” Aurum sat up.
“Nothing, forget that.” Tamiki picked up the white chocolate and broke off a piece.
“No, why would that be false, Tamiki?”
“Nothing, I only realized that the only werewolf for her is you,” he said this so casually, as if it were no news to him. Aurum’s entire mind went blank and all he could say was-
“Really Aurum, you’re so blind.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Tamiki snorted. “Kayla’s liked you since the beginning of time.” Aurum blinked. No words came out of his mouth, though it was hanging open like a fish. Suddenly, it all made sense. Her grumpiness after ice-skating, the night when the new rule was added, all of it.
Tamiki was right, he had been very blind.
Xela blinked into the sunlight. At fist she forgot where she was, until the trees came into focus. Then she remembered all of what happened last night. They had stopped briefly at the stream to mark a trail for Aurum and Tamiki when they got better. Logically the first place they would go to when the discovered that they left was the stream, so Xela and Kayla made sure to brush against every tree and rock. After that they would stop every so often to mark another bit of the trail.
Lifting her head, Xela yawned. Around her, the scents of other animals caught her attention. Her stomach growled. She got up and padded over to the area where they kept their packs. Safely stowed in an old badger den, the packs were untouched by dew. Xela shoved her muzzle into her pack and ate something or another. When she was done, she sat back and watched the sun spill over the trees as it rose.
She missed Tamiki’s constant laugh and Aurum’s smile. The combination of both made her day. Also, Xela could tell that Kayla was dearly missing the other wolves too. As Xela watched the sun rise she wondered why she wasn’t having dreams anymore. Lately, while Aurum and Tamiki have been gone, Xela had no dreams and it was driving her crazy. For once having a dream wouldn’t be so bad. At least she could be reassured that she wasn’t losing her ability.
Kayla snored loud enough to jerk Xela out of her thoughts. The red werewolf whipped around, snarling, suddenly angry.
“Wake up! Let’s get going before the sun can rise any farther,” Xela shoved Kayla, then Emmy awake.
Emmy sleepily raised her head. “What? Oh,” her belly rumbled. “What’s for breakfast?”
“It’s only dawn, Xela. Dawn!” hissed Kayla. She crumpled back into a heap. Xela snorted. There would be no nonsense today. Both fur balls had gotten enough sleep.
“Get up,” Xela snarled more fiercely this time. Kayla glared at her.
“Why are you so grumpy all of a sudden?” she snarled back.
“Maybe if you’d stop slumping around-”
“Stop!” Emmy barked forcefully. Xela stopped in mid-growl and Kayla lowered her paw, which had been raised to hit Xela with.
“Ironamo would want us to fight,” with the snow gone, Emmy sat down on dead, wet leaves, making squelching noises. “What we need to find out is why Ironamo tried to kill Aurum and Tamiki instead of bickering over when to wake up!” For a moment, all three she-wolves glared at each other before Xela broke it with a sigh.
“Emmy’s right. What would we have done if Ironamo had succeeded?” Xela shuddered at the thought.
“We would’ve gone and tried to find and kill him. A fight perhaps?” Kayla suggested.
“Why a fight though?” asked Xela. Silence followed.
“Ironamo isn’t a bitten or born werewolf,” Emmy muttered. Kayla and Xela stared at her in surprise.
“Dragon,” Emmy choked briefly, “Dragon told me he was created by a griffin who could do magic. When he came into existence he was given the power to control memories. He could not age, but he could die. The griffon, realizing what he created was dangerous, attacked Ironamo. He escaped, but every mythical race shunned him, knowing his past. Almost everyone who met him felt sick and this made him angry. Werewolves were the worst to him, though, ashamed of sharing a species. Ironamo must hate everyone for that.”
“But why us?” Kayla repeated.
“That I don’t know.” Emmy replied.
Xela sighed again and stood.
“Let’s get going. Whatever Ironamo wants he’s likely to go at it again, and we don’t want that to be our families.”
Later that day they were deeper into the forest than Xela had ever gone. During the long walk Emmy explained that this was what the other mythical beings called the Ever-growing Forest. As it turns out, Emmy had learned a lot from Dragon.
Suddenly, a black dragon appeared out of nowhere. It looked as surprised as the Outcasts felt. Instantly Kayla launched herself at it, screeching. Emmy cried out as her claws ripped open already-there wounds. Within a heartbeat, Xela recognized the dragon and jumped to tear Kayla off of Flamdura.
“What’s your problem? This could be a spy-dragon!” Kayla snarled, turning her teeth onto Xela. Not only had Emmy explained the Ever-growing Forest to them, but also dragon rankings, which were determined by color. As it turns out, black dragons are used as spies.
“This is one of Emmy’s friends,” Xela growled as she fought Kayla back. Flamdura beat his wings in surprise.
“Emmy?” He cried as he spotted Xela’s sister.
“Flamdura!” Emmy bounded forward and pressed her wolfy head into Flamdura’s scaly chest. “I thought I’d-”
“You know him?” Kayla roared.
“That’s what I just told you!” Xela smacked the other wolf in the head. “Listen for once, will you?” Kayla turned back to her, her upper lip curled back to display her teeth.
“I swear, pup, I’ll put you in your place,” and with that said Kayla exploded in Xela’s direction, overtaking the younger werewolf.
“Aren’t you going to stop them?” Flamdura asked Emmy.
“I wish I could, but werewolves don’t stop another’s battle if it comes to a physical fight,” she explained. Whatever she said next was lost to Xela’s ears as she met Kayla’s attack. Swiftly rolling onto her back against her instincts as a wolf to show her belly but to her knowledge as a human, Xela kicked upward right as Kayla flew over her. The result was satisfying. Kayla was sent into the air, the breath being knocked out of her lungs and Xela eaily rolled back onto her paws with the momentum. She landed against a tree with an umph. There she lay, breathless. Now following her instincts, Xela leapt on top of her, biting gently but firmly into her neck fur. Kayla instantly froze and growled.
She suddenly leapt to her paws just like Aurum had once done to her. This time Xela had prepared for that move. She leaped off right as Kayla rose, pushing with her paws so that Kayla was thrust back to the earth. Xela landed a little ways away from Kayla. The orange she-wolf growled and jumped back to her feet.
“Nice going pup,” she snarled, “but I hope you enjoyed that because this isn’t going to be fun for you.” She pounced again, her teeth ready to tear skin. In that moment Xela knew that she could not avoid drawing blood anymore; this was a war for dominance. She met Kayla, snapping at her face. The two wolves twisted on the ground, clawing at each other. After a couple minutes Xela pushed Kayla away. Both she-wolves were panting and glaring at each other. Then they pounced to fight again. Xela got a well-aimed blow in while Kayla raked her muzzle.
Xela was getting tired but she couldn’t afford to lose this battle. Kayla had always been her friend, but now she was resentful and irksome. She had to show her that she wouldn’t put up with this. Xela quickly devised a plan in her mind.
Suddenly, Xela dropped to her paws, panting heavily as if she were exhausted. Kayla, seeing her chance, leapt on her to pin her down. But the second Kayla’s claws fastened themselves into Xela’s fur she flipped around and pinned Kayla instead. She buried her teeth around Kayla’s throat.
“Are you done?” she hissed through her mouthful of fur. Kayla glared at her, but flattened her ears in submission. Xela slowly inched off of Kayla, wary of another attack. Despite the sting of her wounds, Xela felt elated. She had won! Now she was a rank higher than Kayla.
“If you don’t stop sulking pup, I’ll show again who is boss,” Xela growled to Kayla, showing her fangs. Kayla only tucked her tail in and flattened her ears.
“Yes Xela,” Kayla muttered, looking at the ground. Sated, Xela turned to Flamdura and Emmy.
“Come on, half the day is gone now. Flamdura can come too.” Emmy gave a tiny yip of joy. Flamdura tucked his wings onto his back and smiled weakly.
“Is it always like this?” he asked.
“Sometimes,” Xela glared at Kayla, “some wolves just like to be dominant when they’re not.” Flamdura gave another weak smile as Xela whisked past them and to the forest beyond.
Tamiki blinked into the light. The night before the hospital had released him to Xela’s mom, and then she let him go find the other Outcasts. Aurum was still injured enough to stay in the hospital...lucky him. Xela’s father had explained that they had gone on a camping trip, but both Xela’s mom and he knew that they had escaped to get away from whatever had tried to kill him and Aurum.
So logically the first place to look was at the stream that had been their meeting place. Faintly he could smell their scent around a certain area of trees. He found that if he followed the faint scent that they had left him a trail to follow.
Then here he was, sleeping in the place that had the strongest scent. It was comforting to wake up to the scent of his pack-mates, but at the same time it was disappointing that they weren’t there with him.
Tamiki heaved to his paws. Sniffing the air to catch their scent again, he raced away. If he knew Xela, she would be moving as fast as possible. His paws became a blur. Tamiki went so fast that he made it impossible for him to slip on wet leaves.
I’m coming, he thought as he ran, I coming!
Xela was watching the sun set like she had watched the sun rise. She had gone a way off from the others to cool off and clean her wounds. Kayla fought real hard. But now that Xela had won Kayla was at the bottom of the pack. Then came Xela, Tamiki, and on the top was Aurum. Xela lazily licked a wound on her flank, wondering if she could rise above Tamiki without violence. She liked Tamiki too much to lift a paw against him.
Something crackled in the distance. Kayla emerged from the bushes with leaves in her mouth. She padded up to Xela and dropped the leaves by her paws.
“I thought you’d like some herbs for your wounds,” Kayla again showed signs of submission, flattening her ears, tucking her tail under her belly, and crouching low to the ground. She had to tilt her head up to look at Xela and whined. They had all been wolves long enough to let their wolfy instincts take over, and the bottom dog had to be submissive. Xela showed that it was okay by licking Kayla on the top of her muzzle.
“That would be nice, thank you Kayla.” Kayla relaxed and took one of the leaves, letting its juices drip onto Xela’s wounds. As instant relief overcame her wounds, Xela closed her eyes.
“Did you apply this to yourself yet?” she asked, thinking she could return the favor. But Kayla nodded her head.
“It’s mint. It soothes wounds infected with werewolf venom- that is if you’re not a human,”Kayla smiled, “then they turn into a werewolf.”
“I was infected with werewolf venom?”
“Yes, why do you think it stung?”
Xela shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Every time we bite any creature in wolf form venom automatically comes out,” Kayla explained. The two wolves sat next to each other, perfectly peaceful compared to the earlier tension. Xela eventually returned the favor by hunting a small hare and letting Kayla have the fist bite. Normally it would go to the highest in rank, but Xela remembered what Kayla had done for her and shoved her instincts down.
That was what separated them from normal wolves. They still could keep the part of them that was human- their mind. Werewolves could think true and clear thoughts and still have the instincts of natural wolves.
In the distance a pack of real wolves howled. The Outcasts responded through their own howls, though Flamdura just sat and listened. The other wolves stopped. Later they dissolved from the shadows to inspect the Outcasts. Xela let all her wolf instincts take over.
She bounded forward, crouching low and whining in submission. Kayla and Emmy followed suit. Even crouching they were bigger than the other wolves. The real wolves looked at them curiously. They threw back their heads and howled. The Outcasts returned their howl. One of the wolves, probably the alpha, crawled forward… and licked Xela’s chin, telling her she was the upper dog. Xela returned the lick and let out another howl. The alpha barked and wagged his tail. Soon, everyone was playing. Xela was wrestling playfully with the alpha who she named Silver. Kayla was lying next to a black wolf, licking its flank. Emmy chased silver-white wolf, tail raised in happiness. Flamdura had hidden so that he wouldn’t alarm the wolves and let the Outcasts play. But soon, the other pack left. Silver let out one last howl before the pack bounded away into the forest.
The moon rose into the middle of the sky. Xela yawned loudly and settled next to Emmy, breathing her scent. She could only wish that Tamiki and Aurum could’ve been there to greet the other pack.
The air was painful to breathe in, despite the spring wind. Tamiki had been running all day. The only moments he stopped was to eat a small hare. Pain…so much pain! Tamiki wanted to stop, but finding the other Outcasts was more important.
To be honest, finding Xela was more important. The first night that he had woken up in the hospital, a horrible, gruesome, gut-wrenching feeling overwhelmed him thinking about how Xela would react. In his dreams, pictures of her tortured face caused him little sleep.
He missed her more than he could bear. He knew Aurum did too, but for some reason, Tamiki knew that he missed her more. Aurum never said anything about pain stabbing him just thinking about her. Tamiki flinched, remembering his own pain.
In the distance a pack of wolves howled. Another wolf pack joined them. The urge to howl with them stung him, but it was only a dull longing.
Another wolf-creature far away felt harder pain. He would give anything to get rid of this torment. Not that he had much to give anyway….
“Emmy, did you find any food?” Xela greeted her sister. They had run out of food from their packs, and abandoned their packs in some tree. Kayla looked up hopefully. Ribs had begun to show through her thin fur.
Emmy dropped a small bird. She looked sadly at her sister. “Even the spring air doesn’t lure out the prey.” Kayla lowered her head, whimpering in hunger. After throwing an apologetic glance in Kayla’s direction, Emmy padded over to where Flamdura was resting. The warmth of his scales soothed her from the long day’s hunt.
“You did fine,” Flamdura reassured her as she flattened her ears against Kayla’s moans of hunger. Despite the feeling of gratitude for Flamdura, Emmy felt oddly despaired at her meager meal.
Xela nudged the bird to Kayla. She was always so caring. Always thinking of others before her. Emmy could see every rib plainly in her sister’s body, and yet she still gave it to a lower rank.
“Eat it,” Xela crooned, “it’ll make you feel better.” Kayla just moaned. She hunched for a minute, and then retched onto the ground. Emmy shivered. The orange werewolf had hit a temperature of 102, according to Flamdura, who was good at taking temperatures. And not only that, the hunger weakened her.
Flamdura spread a wing over her.
“Go to sleep. I’ll wake you when your sister comes back from another hunt. With her being a patrol-wolf, she’s bound to find some prey,” he whispered into Emmy’s ear.
When Emmy woke up, it was because Kayla was throwing up again. Next to Emmy, Flamdura had fallen asleep too. Xela hadn’t come back yet. Careful not to wake Flamdura, Emmy crawled out from under his wing and to Kayla.
She was still very feverish and there was a small pool of vomit around her. Emmy gently picked up Kayla by the scruff and tried to drag her away from the pool and next to a tree. Then, holding in her disgust, Emmy licked away the puke from the edge of Kayla’s muzzle. When she was done with that, Emmy kicked dirt over the pool of vomit. By that time, Xela had come back with a small deer. Her eyes were sad and lonely. Also a trace of anxiety played across her face.
“Let Kayla eat first,” Xela growled when Emmy rushed to her. As if to prove a point, Kayla moaned. Emmy sighed.
Sickness and starvation….she should’ve stayed home.
It didn’t take too long to track down a deer. Xela sniffed the air, searching for the scent she remembered from her dad’s hunts. The thought of her dad almost lost her concentration. Almost. Just then the smell of deer lured out her wolfy instincts again.
As she stalked the deer, another scent made it through to her instinct-driven mind. Just as she pouncing it made sense. Her instincts instantly pulled away as human emotions enfolded her mind.
“Tamiki?!” She cried out in shock, landing heavily on her front paws. She winced as pain stung them, but looked around for her white werewolf. The deer darted away. It didn’t get too far until a streak of white brought it down. The wolf turned up its head and smiled at her.
“Hey,” Tamiki greeted her. The emotions in his eyes contradicted his care-free tone. They were brimming with happiness. Xela burst forward.
“Tamiki! Oh, Tamiki! I’ve missed you so much!” Xela pushed her head into his wolfy chest. “Are you okay? Did you recover all right? How’s Aurum? How’d you get here? Did-” Tamiki chuckled at licked the top of her head.
“Shhh, Xela. I’m fine. Aurum’s still in the hospital, I think. But everyone’s okay.” Xela closed her eyes, forgetting about the deer corpse next to them. She pressed closer to Tamiki.
“I’ve missed you a lot,” she whispered.
“Me too,” Tamiki hissed in her ears. After a moment Xela looked up at him.
“Kayla’s really sick. According to Emmy’s friend, Flamdura, she has a fever of 102 and she’s puking a lot too. She won’t eat anything and all of us are hungry,” she gazed into his pure black eyes. Huh, she never noticed it before, but it was sort of attracting the way he was white with black eyes. And his eyes were pitch black, no hint of light touched them. Yet emotion was clear in them. A faint rustle in the bushes alerted Tamiki of something that only his sensitive ears could pick up. Pure happiness suddenly changed to confusion and anger.
“I’ll go find some herbs or medicine or what ever,” Tamiki abruptly stepped away from Xela. Pain tore through her like the time he was at the hospital. She didn’t want him to leave. Tamiki saw her pain and softened.
“I’ll be back,” he crooned, stepping closer again.
“I hope so,” Xela managed to croak. “I’m going to miss you doubly harder now that I know you’re somewhere close.” Pain hardened in Tamiki’s eyes.
“Me too,” with out any other words he turned and leapt away.
There was no anger that could out-burn this hatred. Fire raged deep in black pools of pure fury. It was all clear in Tamiki’s body language that he was furious. Aurum wanted to go back in time and let him go, but he couldn’t regret taking him from Xela.
He had gotten out of the hospital two days after Tamiki. Xela’s mom pointed out to where he had gone and he followed his faint scent at a ridiculously fast rate. Then, once he had reached the end of the trail, he found Xela happily pressing next to him in a wolf version of a hug.
Remembering how Xela had bounded forward eagerly to be near Tamiki again, Aurum also renewed the feeling of what he had felt to take him away and cause her pain. Xela was his and no one else’s. Seeing Xela so happy to see Tamiki raised bile in his throat. Could Tamiki take that from him? Would he?
All the white werewolf did was glare at him, shaking in fury, waiting an explanation on why he had mentally screamed to him to come back and leave Xela. Eventually he spit out what was bothering him.
“This has got to be good,” Tamiki growled, no, snarled, “That you had to drag me away from Xela and a very sick Kayla besides the fact that you don’t want Xela to be with me. Honestly Aurum? How could you be so shallow? Xela was just getting happier when I was there, but no! I had to come running to you because you were mad about her being happy! Give a very good reason why I shouldn’t fight you now so that I could be senior dog and order you around like a little hound dog!” Aurum flinched, thinking of how he had ordered Tamiki to come to him through faint whispers from a bush. You could not disobey the top dog. All wolf instincts said so. But Aurum had no reason other than to get him away from Xela. After a moment, Tamiki hissed.
“Then fight you coward!” Tamiki leaped at Aurum. A scream erupted from neither of them, but it stopped them both short. Emmy clapped a paw to her muzzle.
“I-I followed y-your scent and…Xela seemed sad and…w-when I smelled it was you…and then Aurum and you….fighting,” Emmy tried to explain. Tamiki flicked his tail. Aurum felt relief pour over him. If it had come to a fight, Tamiki would have surely won and gained the position of senior dog. Aurum could only dream of what he had in store for him if he had.
“This isn’t over,” Tamiki growled to Aurum, as if reading his thoughts. “It’s never over until she says it is.” And Aurum knew exactly who ‘she’ was.
The wind blew gently over her ears. There was a strange peace; she couldn’t feel pain any more. There was no cold, no hunger, and again, no pain. The only thing that kept her from this peace was the air being forced down into her unwilling lungs.
“Come on Kayla! Breathe!” Xela blew more air into her. Was she not breathing? Kayla floundered in her mind, searching for the answer.
More air. “Kayla, breathe!” Three more figures entered her view. One darted forward.
“Oh my goodness! Kayla!” a younger voice cried. Emmy. Young, sweet, Emmy. Another wolf shoved forward.
“Xela, what’s wrong with Kayla? What’s going on?”
“Not now,” Xela growled to Tamiki. The last wolf stepped forward.
“Kayla,” he whispered. That voice, that lovely voice. Where was it coming from? Kayla whipped open her eyes.
Instead of a dark forest drenched in night, it was cut in half by a brilliant beam of light. The wall between the dark world from where she was and to the lighter one seemed thin. On one side she saw all sorts of creatures, calling to her. On the other side, wolves tried to blow air into her limp body. They were raggedly crying for her to stay with them. One of them, a blue wolf, whipped back his head and released the most beautiful and heart-rending song Kayla had ever heard. The lighter side gently called to her, as if they knew she was going to them. But on the darker side were her friends.
Her true friends.
Suddenly pain went through her again. Air flowed into her by her own will. The others sighed with relief and Xela pressed her head against Kayla’s heaving flank.
“Oh, Kayla! Don’t ever do that again!” Soon the other began to echo her words, but each one was slightly different. Kayla knew she would go to that light eventually, but not soon.
Kayla’s fever had gone down, and with Tamiki and Aurum more food was gained. The next night they went to sleep with full bellies. Just before night fell, Tamiki suggested that he and Xela go for a walk. Aurum had narrowed his eyes and bared his teeth slightly, but Xela happily agreed.
“So, what happened when I was gone,” asked Tamiki when they were a little ways off.
“Before or after Kayla got sick?”
“Before.” Xela thought back to when they left.
“We traveled for a while, eating what we had packed. After that, we ran out of food and had to hunt. There wasn’t much prey so we began to starve. Kayla fell down with a fever and it got real bad.” Xela bit her lip. “It was horrible seeing her throw up and not being able to do anything.” Tamiki murmured in sympathy. He looked Xela over. She did look a little underweight. Naturally he walked closer to her to comfort her. She glanced up at him, her eyes brimming with some emotion that he couldn’t read.
“When I saw you in that hospital bed, I wanted to kill whoever tried to kill you. You’re like family to me,” she muttered. Tamiki resisted the urge to flinch. So he was family to her. What was Aurum then?
“The first night I was there I was horrified by how you might take this,” Tamiki confined. “But I knew you could handle it.” Xela looked away.
“Not really. I nearly cried an actual river and didn’t leave until closing hours.” She shivered momentarily. Then she whipped her head around and stared at Tamiki. “I wanted to die, Tamiki. I wanted do die because you were so ill! Please, don’t make me go through that again!”
Tamiki jerked back. Xela’s sudden outburst of her pain made him want to comfort her again. But something held him back. Xela lowered her eyes shamefully when she saw his surprise.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” Xela turned around abruptly and raced back to the camp area. Tamiki didn’t pursue her. His own pain was growing with hers. He kept walking.
So Xela had taken his pain badly. How had she taken Aurum’s pain? Was it the same reaction? If Aurum were in the place of him, what would she have said?
Tamiki furrowed his brow. Ever since the night someone tried to kill them, he had become more serious and felt Xela’s pain deeply. Would he ever be the fun, happy self he used to be?
Not bothering to answer his own question, Tamiki turned and headed back to the camp. All the way, more and more questions developed, and some he couldn’t bear to think about them. He was glad when he reached the camp, until he saw something that made his heart shatter. Now he knew how Aurum had felt. Jealousy and agony tore through him.
In the clearing, Xela had pushed her head into Aurum’s wolfy chest like she had done the other day. Tamiki could clearly see that she had been crying. Aurum was gently crooning into her ear.
Tamiki turned the other way, and raced into the dark forest.
She walked as calmly as she could into the clearing, head and tail held high. But as soon as she saw Aurum, waiting for her and gazing at the stars, she had to bite her lip again to hold back her tears.
What a stupid thing to say to Tamiki! She should not have burst out and startled him like that. He didn’t need to know how much pain it put her through. It would only make him blame himself.
Aurum glanced her way and saw how dejected she was. He stood up and padded over to her.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he whispered softly. Xela could see behind him that the others were asleep.
Xela said nothing but sat next to Aurum and pressed to him in comfort. She just needed someone who she couldn’t break. Aurum was the right kind of werewolf for that.
“I-I said something that I shouldn’t have said to Tamiki,” she stammered. Aurum didn’t press it further, though Xela thought she saw a gleam in his eyes. She swallowed. “I feel really bad.” Aurum said nothing but when Xela looked up at him his eyes were full of sympathy.
“I’m sure he understands,” Aurum soothed. At those words, Xela knew for sure that Tamiki was feeling pain and she burst into tears. She turned her head into Aurum’s furry chest, seeking comfort from what she had done.
Night was coming. Would he return? Could he return? Did he have a choice? Would he stay away for long? Did it matter? Would he make a difference? He stared deep into the water. His thoughts matched with another’s. They were far apart yet close in emotions.
They both made a decision. They would not go back until they needed to. Eventually they would have to go back, but not now. One of them, a white wolf with black eyes, threw back his head and released a sad, mournful song from deep within his heart. The second one flicked his dark black ears and blinked his silvery eyes. He too threw back his head and let out a song to match. They were both equal in more ways than they realize.
Running from pain. Running from life. Running from everything. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hunger. Hunt. Eat. Tired. Sleep. Run. Repeat.
Nothing else went through Tamiki’s mind as he raced away from what lay behind him.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hunger. Hunt. Eat. Tired. Sleep. Run. Repeat.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hunger. Hunt. Eat. Tired. Sleep. Run. Repeat.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Kayla wrinkled her nose as morning dew from a leaf plopped onto it. In the front of their procession were Aurum and Xela, followed by Emmy and Flamdura. Lastly, Kayla trailed behind. Aurum was gently trying to comfort Xela. They had discovered that Tamiki had left them and hadn’t returned. Aurum said that he would come back when he would and that they should keep going. Xela blamed herself for Tamiki’s disappearance.
After they had calmed her down and eaten, the Outcasts traveled east in their animal forms. It was easier that way. Human flesh was too soft and easily irritated. Kayla thought Flamdura lucky to have scales. Nothing easily went through them. And no ticks, she added, shaking one off her paw.
Suddenly, Aurum and Xela froze. Emmy, Flamdura, and Kayla ran into them. Kayla hissed. What were they doing now? Was Xela going into another fit?
“I smell other wolves,” Xela’s eyes became wide as she explained. Aurum stiffened beside her.
“Which kind? Werewolves or wolves?” Flamdura rumbled as Emmy sniffed the air cautiously. Kayla followed suit. Five different smells besides their own scent swirled in the air.
“We smell intruders,” growled a hostile voice. Just as Kayla had guessed, five werewolves surrounded them. Quickly Kayla counted the Outcast’s numbers. Five to five. If it came to a fight they would mostly likely win. Still, the Outcasts growled in unison. Flamdura raised his wings threateningly and spat fire into the air. Emmy bared her teeth and tensed. Xela snapped at the wolf nearest to her, a small black wolf. Beside her, Aurum stood higher with the authority of a leader. Kayla instinctively tucked in her tail as a lower rank, but snarled at the other pack anyway. A green wolf surveyed them.
“State your pack and business here in the Forest pack’s territory.” The green wolf was the one that spoke. Aurum stepped forward. The movement made Kayla nervous.
“We are the Outcast Pack. I am Aurum Bluefur, leader of the Outcasts. We are just traveling,” he explained. The green wolf stiffened and looked around at them. Once his eyes fell onto Xela, he brightened.
“Oh! Xela!” The wolf seemed to forget the tension in the air. Xela tore her eyes away from the black wolf and to the green one. Suddenly, Kayla recognized him.
“Morano!” Xela cried for them both. “This is your territory?” She turned around in a circle, observing their forest. Morano grinned.
“Wow, Xela! I didn’t think I’d see you again!” Aurum narrowed his eyes at Morano, then at Xela.
“You know him?” Aurum growled. Xela nodded and smiled.
“You have such a nice part of the forest!” she commented to Morano. Kayla growled. What was the red fur-ball doing? Morano just beamed.
“So what are you doing here, Xela?” Morano sat down. The rest of his pack relaxed in turn.
“We’re wandering from Ironamo,” Xela sat down too. Aurum glared at her and she stood up again. Kayla felt angry at Xela for being so comfortable with this alien pack. But the wolf in front of her smiled.
“If Morano is okay with you guys then so are we. I’m Bullet by the way.” Bullet was a grey wolf with vibrant black stripes. His eyes were pools of brown.
“I’m Kayla,” she replied without thinking. Aurum glared at her. She glanced and shrugged. The other wolves smiled. The black wolf in front of Xela cocked her head at her.
“My name is Lenak and this is Linar,” the black wolf beckoned to a silvery wolf, who nodded. A brown male wolf stood proudly.
“I’m Takalo,” he introduced himself.
“And you already know me,” Morano smiled again at Xela. Aurum stepped forward again.
“I am Aurum, this is Xela, Kayla, Emmy, and Flamdura,” Aurum pointed to each of them in turn. “We have one absent, Tamiki Whitefur. If you see him, do not attack him. He is a white werewolf with black eyes.” Linar gasped. Everyone glanced at her.
“What’s wrong, Linar?” Lenak asked.
“Did you see him?” Xela asked hopefully. Kayla thought she saw Aurum flinch. But Linar shook her head.
“Where I come from there is a legend of the black-eye white wolf.” Her eyes got wide. “The wolf is very powerful, and it is said that once the power is unleashed it cannot be stopped. The only way it can is from its opposite, the white-eye black creature. The creature too knows pain and soothes the wolf’s pain.” There was an awkward silence until Aurum coughed.
“No offense to your legend and all but Tamiki isn’t powerful, just a normal wolf with black eyes.” Aurum explained. Xela looked down and Kayla stared at Linar. The silver wolf shook her head.
“One will destroy, two will restore, three will over power, and four will stand in love and unity,” Linar chanted. Lenak nudged her.
“Linar stop, your scaring our guests,” she hissed. Indeed, the Outcasts were staring at her wide-eyed and scared. Morano glared at his pack-mate.
“That’s enough, Linar. Come,” he told the Outcasts, “let us show you our camp-site.”
Soon, ten werewolves were traveling down a wide path. Bullet dropped behind to talk to Emmy.
“So how old are you?” he asked her. Emmy looked at him in surprise, like she wasn’t expecting him to talk to her.
“I’m, uh, 13. What about you?” Kayla noticed that Flamdura was tensing up next to Emmy.
“I’m 13 too!” Bullet cried. Flamdura flinched. Kayla saw Emmy look at him.
“Oh, and Flamdura is 14, I think.” Flamdura only grunted in reply. Both Bullet and Emmy looked at him funny.
“Is something wrong, Flamdura?” Emmy asked. Flamdura shook his head. Kayla wanted to snort.
Right, nothing wrong. Nothing what so ever. She knew that feeling all to well.
A voice screamed in agony. Another voice, deeper and more panicked, tried to soothe it.
“It hurts! Help me!”
The deeper voice began to then scream the other’s name, but Xela forced herself awake. Emmy peered down at her.
“Are you alright? I heard you screaming and I-” Xela sat upright.
“I’m fine,” she protested as Lenak came over too. Emmy furrowed her brow.
“But I thought you called my name,” she muttered before she turned and lay down again. Lenak nuzzled Xela’s ears.
“You just had a nightmare, but you’re going to be okay now.” She said this as if she were sure. Abruptly, Xela wished that Tamiki was here to make her happy again.
“I’m going for a walk,” she told Lenak. Xela got up and padded into the forest. Once she reached the safety of the trees, she ran.
“Tamiki!” she panted. “Tamiki!” Then she threw her head back. “Tamiki!” Xela wasn’t’ sure if he heard her, and she doubted it. Finally she stopped after fifteen minutes and leaned against a tree.
“Tamiki,” she moaned. “Where are you, Tamiki? Come back!” She screamed. Morning came pretty fast after that. Xela returned tiredly to the Forest Pack’s camp that they had arrived to last night. Aurum was waiting for her.
“I heard you screaming,” he explained, but Xela shoved past to where the girls were still sleeping. Lenak raised her head.
“How are we feeling today?” Lenak asked Xela. Xela frowned, her throat to sore to speak. Emmy raised her head.
“Come here Xela, rest. You’ve had a long night,” her younger sister commanded. Xela silently slid next to her. Lenak smiled gently at her.
“You’re going to be okay,” she murmured. Xela swiftly turned angry. No, she was not going to be okay as long as Tamiki was gone. She jumped to her paws.
“I’m never going to be okay!” A look of shock froze on Lenak’s face. After a few tense moments, Xela blinked. Lenak wasn’t moving; nothing was. Xela spun around. Knowledge flooded her mind. Takalo had been thinking about the rabbit he had just caught, and had been licking his mouth to see if he had gotten all the blood off. Morano was quietly talking to Linar about a plan of some sort. Linar was reluctant until Morano talked about the benefits. Aurum was absent mindedly wondering if he should go check on her. Bullet had been stretching, waking up. Emmy looked at her in horror, ever since she had joined them she had started to see her sister’s true nature. Lenak was in mid-recoil from her outburst. Kayla watched in fear as Xela had shouted at Lenak.
Time resumed. Lenak was watching her cautiously.
“I’m sorry, Lenak,” Xela settled down again, and was fast asleep to escape what had just happened.
When she woke up, something tickled her ear.
“Xela,” it whispered.
“Tamiki,” she moaned, but didn’t open her eyes.
“Are you hungry, Xela?” Xela frowned in her sleep.
“Tamiki,” she growled more forcefully. She wanted Tamiki back and she wouldn’t eat until he did.
“Wake up, Xela,” Aurum nudged her. Xela opened one eye and glared at him.
“Tamiki!” she cried again. Aurum scowled at her.
“I thought that was in your dream,” he muttered almost too softly. Then he nudged her again. “Come on Xela, you slept through all day yesterday. You must be hungry.”
“All day?” Xela sat up.
“Yes, now come on!” Aurum bounced away to where everyone was gathering. Xela approached and saw that they had hunted a deer. The Forest Pack was politely letting the Outcasts go first. Xela found her hunger and tore into the food. Beneath her breath she sang.
“Oh where, oh were has Tamiki gone? Oh where oh were could he be?”
Something stirred within Tamiki. In his dreams he was tormented by thoughts of a red wolf called desperately to him. Tamiki! It screamed. Tamiki, where are you? Tamiki muttered.
“I’m right here. Where are you?” Again the voice wailed. Tamiki… Tamiki come back! Tamiki looked and saw a red wolf screaming. Tamiki come back! Tamiki ran to the wolf. Tamiki! He got closer and closer. Tamiki where are you?
“I right here!” He cried desperately. Tamiki…. The wolf vanished, screaming pitifully. In its place was a blue wolf. It glared at Tamiki with bright green eyes. Stay, Tamiki. Don’t come back. But Tamiki raced on a head, past the glaring blue wolf.
“Wait,” he called to the red wolf, which was being dragged away from him by an unseen force. The red wolf called to him, struggling to get to him too. Something yanked at Tamiki’s fur, and he too was being dragged away from the crying red wolf.
“No!” Tamiki struggled vainly. “No! Xela!”
Tamiki jolted awake. His heart raced in his chest painfully. The nightmare had been so real and yet so unreal. Tamiki’s fur felt damp with sweat.
It was early morning; the sun was just beginning to rise over the trees. Tamiki blinked around him. Where was he? Where was-
“Xela!” Tamiki leapt to his paws. He spun in a circle, sniffing the air for his previous scent trail. All he could smell was rain. Tamiki felt fear chill him. It rained last night and now he had no scent trail to lead him back.
“No, no, no!” Tamiki spun around faster, yelling and crying and sniffing. No! Someone gurgled, like a baby laughing. Tamiki stopped spinning to look dizzily at a small werewolf. Light brown soft fur covered his body and ice blue eyes blinked happily up at Tamiki. It had to be a werewolf pup. But werewolves don’t transform that young…
An emerald green werewolf rushed at him. She scooped up her pup and shoved him behind her.
“Stay away from my pup!” the she-wolf growled. Her sharp, blue eyes glared at him. Tamiki looked taken aback.
“I’m sorry. I just got lost,” Tamiki took a wary step back. He didn’t know werewolves could give birth as a wolf.
“It ensures that my pup would be a werewolf,” the mother explained as if Tamiki had thought that aloud.
“I didn’t say anything,” Tamiki stammered. The green wolf looked shocked, then sheepish.
“Oh, sorry. I’m Jewel,” Jewel brought forth her pup; losing all her hostility and forgetting that she had read his mind. “And this is Heart.” The pup grinned at Tamiki and gurgled. Tamiki bowed his head.
“I’m Tamiki Whitefur of the Outcast pack.” Jewel perked up at the sound of his pack.
“The Outcasts? Do you know Aurum?” Tamiki nodded. Jewel smiled.
“Well, that helps a lot then. I can get you home if you want to.”
Tamiki looked at her curiously. “How could you get me home?”
“Easy! I’m a magic wolf, you see. And so thus, knowing who you belong to (Tamiki flinched) I can send you to them!” Jewel chirped. “Easy!” Tamiki thought this over.
“Can we experiment?” he asked Jewel. She jumped up and down like a young pup. Maybe she was.
“Try sending me to Xela Redfur.”
“Alrighty then! Here I go!” Jewel furrowed her brow and stared at Tamiki. Light spun around him and Jewel and Heart were gone. Tamiki glanced around and saw deer, wolves, and Xela. From across the half-eaten deer carcass, Xela blinked unbelievingly at him.
“Tamiki?” she mouthed.
“Xela,” he mouthed back.
“Tamiki!” Xela leapt to her paws. She agilely sprang over the deer at him. She bowled him over and together they tumbled. After five or so summersaults, Xela landed on top of him. She placed her paws on his shoulder, licking him like a dog.
“Tamiki’s back!” Tamiki thought he heard Emmy cry through Xela’s licks.
“Stop, Xela,” he laughed, feebly swatting her with his paws. Xela did and grinned at him.
“Tamiki!” she cried out again. She got off him so that he could sit up, then she pressed next to him.
“I’m so sorry I caused you to leave,” she whispered apologetically. “Please don’t ever do that again, though.” Tamiki saw intense pain flood in her eyes. He suddenly realized that neither of them could be apart for too long before they went crazy. Tamiki bent to lick her on top of her head in apology, but at that instant the rest of the Outcasts joined them. All but five, who remained back, and until this moment he had thought that they were new Outcast members until one large green wolf stood and glared at Aurum.
“Who is this, Aurum?” the green wolf asked. Xela narrowed her eyes at his hostile tone and Kayla growled. Everyone tensed but Aurum, who regarded the green wolf coolly. Slowly, Aurum slid up to the green wolf, never taking his eyes off of him.
“This is Tamiki, Morano, our lost wolf. Now he is found.” Tamiki could sense tension in those words. The air between the two leaders was thick with it. There was a hint of mistrust in the Morano’s eyes.
Tamiki drew in a sharp breath. Morano had blue eyes to match Aurum’s fur, as Aurum had green eyes to match the Morano’s fur. It reminded Tamiki of his white fur and black eyes and the griffon who had looked at him curiously. And it was after taking notes on him about him being something that wasn’t albino.
A snarl dragged Tamiki out of his thoughts. Beside him Xela was glaring at Morano, who was glaring at Tamiki. Mistrust shone in his eyes more brightly.
“Are you judging my pack-member, Morano?” Xela growled. Mistrust swiftly changed to a mix of shock and anger. Morano’s gaze tore from Tamiki and to Xela’s angry face. The red werewolf stood. She raced up to Morano, shoving Aurum out of the way. Tamiki closely followed her. Morano appeared startled when she thrust his face close to his.
“Tamiki is one of our most valuable pack members. If you can’t trust him you can’t trust us,” she hissed.
“Xela, calm down,” Tamiki whispered into her ear. She ignored him. Morano glared at him again.
“Then why don’t you go? This is my territory, and that werewolf looks like a threat,” Morano retorted. Kayla hissed in outrage. A black dragon by Emmy’s side rumbled in displeasure, while Emmy leaned into him with fear in her eyes. But only one reaction caught Tamiki’s attention. Xela lashed out with a strong paw, clawing Morano with a cry of outrage.
“Tamiki. Is. Not. A. Threat!” Xela hit Morano with every word. Anger sparked in the green wolf’s eyes and his muscles tensed. Tamiki tracked his thoughts, which were shrouded in darkness. He shoved Xela out of the way just before the instant Morano attacked with an upper blow aimed to her chin. Instead, it hit him.
Blood spilled from Tamiki’s wound to the throat. Fear stiffened her. She couldn’t do anything to help but watch him die.
The Outcasts screamed in anger, but Xela didn’t hear them. Her heart pounded in her ears so loudly that it drowned their cries out. Tamiki lay before her, gurgling in pain, his eyes staring at something distant. Aurum leapt at Morano, and Kayla rushed forward barking orders at Emmy and Flamdura.
“Find some mint leaves and a small rabbit! But keep the rabbit alive,” Kayla was at Tamiki’s side in that instant. “Xela, lick the blood away while I check him over.” Numb, Xela did as she was told. Gingerly she lowered her head to Tamiki’s neck and began to lick the bitter-sweet blood away. Sounds from Aurum and Morano fighting echoed in her ears uselessly. Flamdura returned with the rabbit and Emmy came with the mint. Kayla took the rabbit and nipped it lightly then she released it. She kept her mouth open to show them an amber-colored liquid from her fangs. She then took the leaves and spread the venom onto them.
“Move,” Kayla commanded Xela. She placed the venom-covered mint onto his wound. Blood turned the leaf crimson. Emmy lifted a small paw and placed it on Xela’s shoulder. She had been shaking violently. Kayla looked up at her. Xela realized that she had been breathing hysterically and stopped.
“He’s going to okay, Xela. Werewolf venom cures most ails and mint is to cleanse a werewolf bite. He’s going to be fine-” But Xela had begun cry. The sounds from the fight stopped. Everyone was watching her. Morano snapped his head back, like he just comprehended what he had just done to her. Xela threw back her head and wailed. Aurum raced to her side, leaving Morano undefended. He pressed next to her, trying to comfort her, but Xela shoved him away.
“He’s going to die!” she sobbed. Turning away from them, she raced into the forest where she often found a haven. He was going to die because of her. Tamiki, her family, her pack member, was going to die for her!
“Go away Aurum!” Xela poured on the adrenaline and ran faster; knowing Aurum was slower than her. But she ran blindly, so she ended up tripping over a tree root. She didn’t get up, defeated. Aurum caught up to her.
“Xela, he really is fine,” he whispered softly, lying down next to her. She didn’t move or talk at all. After a while, Aurum sighed.
“Come on, let’s get back before he starts to worry about you,” he nudged her, but she again did nothing. Another moment passed. Another sigh.
“Okay, come back when you’re ready.” There was the sound of him stirring. Then Aurum was gone. That’s when Xela began to cry bitterly. This was the fourth time that she had lost him. Once to the assassin, once to get medicine and the two other times to her. Now, he would be lost to her forever. Tamiki was going to die!
Night fell, covering the forest with an eerie darkness. A cold wind buffeted Xela. She shivered. Maybe she should get back. She turned in the direction that Aurum had gone. His scent was still faint in the air.
Xela stumbled later into the Forest’s clearing and collapsed. Someone nuzzled her a moment later, but she ignored it. Tamiki would be dead by now. That wound… Xela shuddered to clear the image of his blood away.
“Xela, are you alright?” Emmy peered down at her. Kayla looked over her shoulder.
“Here,” Kayla handed Emmy a leaf, “give her this to calm her down just in case she goes into shock.” Xela nibbled on the leaf when Emmy handed it to her. Tamiki was dead…
“Is she alright?” a painful voice asked. A ghost pushed into view. “Xela, are you okay?” The ghost shone brightly, as did the moon.
“I think she’s gone into shock,” Kayla told the ghost. Xela blinked at the ghost.
“Tamiki?” she managed to say.
“Yes, Xela. I’m right here,” the ghost walked around Kayla and Emmy and lay next to her. “It’s alright, Kayla fixed me up.”
“Is she back?” Another voice. Aurum appeared next to Emmy. The ghost nodded at him.
“We think she went into shock,” it explained.
“Tamiki,” Xela groaned again.
“I’m here,” the ghost replied. Xela shook her head.
“Tamiki’s dead. You’re a ghost,” she whispered.
The ghost looked amused. “Do I look dead to you, Xela?” Then he looked at himself. “I guess the moon doesn’t help.”
“Tamiki’s dead. I saw him dying,” Xela repeated.
“Xela, I’m alive. Look at me,” Xela did staring into caring black orbs, “I’m here and will be for a while.”
“What’s going on?” Morano tried to look over the crowd that the Outcasts had formed. Kayla hissed and Flamdura glared at the green werewolf. The black dragon thrust his long tail in front of him to block his way. Aurum growled.
“Stand back, guys. Let him see what he did to our Xela,” he snarled. The Outcasts parted, glaring at Morano as he stepped through to see Xela. The ghost pressed closer to Xela, stiffening.
“Tamiki’s dead,” she croaked again. Morano looked pained.
“But he’s right next to you,” he protested.
“That’s a ghost.”
“Xela, look at him! That’s Tamiki!” Morano’s voice raised a notch.
“Morano?” A silver wolf peered through the part in the crowd. “What’s going on?”
“Xela’s gone into shock,” Aurum muttered to her. Xela furrowed her brow.
“Tamiki’s gone,” she repeated, “Tamiki’s gone, gone, gone.” She kept saying ‘gone’ until the ghost hummed a lullaby. Xela was soon asleep.
The next she woke she said the same thing, refusing the other’s help. Morano continued to look thoroughly stressed. The ghost tried to tell her that he was Tamiki, but Xela shook her head and said, “Gone, gone, gone.”
“Look at what you did to her!” Aurum cried at Morano for the fifth time. “This is more than shock! It’s delusional!” Morano flinched, but said nothing.
“Gone, gone, gone,” Xela whimpered, looking at the fight nervously. The ghost nuzzled her.
“Its okay, Xela. Let’s go eat. Look, Kayla’s got something,” the ghost guided her to where Kayla had dragged back a couple rabbits. As she ate, Kayla asked the ghost the same question everyone had been asking.
“Is she getting any better?” The ghost shook its head. Xela glanced up at them.
“Gone, gone, gone,” she babbled.
“Like that rabbit should be,” Kayla replied gently. She turned back to the ghost. “Tamiki, this is really bad. I don’t know what to do!”
“Tamiki’s dead,” Xela muttered. The ghost flinched.
“Tamiki’s alive, honey,” Kayla told her in the same tone as before. Xela shook her head violently.
“Dead, dead, dead,” she growled. The ghost turned his face away. Xela bobbed her head, repeating all that she knew.
“Tamiki’s dead, gone, dead, gone. You’re a ghost,” Xela then was guided away by Kayla to take a nap, but she began to shout.
“Dead! Gone! Ghost!”
Nothing hurt Tamiki more than the fact that Xela considered him dead. It hurt even more that she didn’t recognize him. Tamiki cried, his tears falling to the ground.
“What’s wrong?” Takalo sat next to him. The brown wolf looked at him expectantly.
“Xela’s taking this really bad. She thinks I’m dead,” Tamiki explained.
“Yeah, I heard about that,” Takalo muttered sympathetically.
“I don’t understand though! Wouldn’t she accept that I am alive? Or would she rather I was dead?” Tamiki cringed.
Takalo shook his head. “I think that she really needs you. I don’t know how to fix this, but I do know that this is because that Xela can’t stand the thought that you might’ve been dead. She cares for you a lot.” There was no response to that. This was because Xela cared for him so much? Tamiki screwed up his face, becoming cynical.
“Right, Xela is pretending I’m dead because she loves me this much,” he made the last two words child-like, holding his front paws out wide. Takalo didn’t break even a grin.
“That’s exactly what I think, Tamiki,” he told him, face serious. Tamiki dropped his paws, exhaling loudly.
“I just wish she would live again, I miss her,” Tamiki confessed.
“I think-” Takalo was broken off when Aurum came running.
“Tamiki, come quick! Xela’s have a fit!” Tamiki was on his paws in an instant, following Aurum at top speed, leaving Takalo behind with his next ‘I think’. Xela was stomping around, screaming and thrashing every now and then. Kayla looked stressed, and was missing a few clumps of fur. Emmy flattened her ears to her head, frightened to see her sister this way. Flamdura covered her protectively with one wing.
“Xela!” Tamiki cried out, rushing at her, ignoring that he could easily get hurt. “Xela look at me!” Xela whipped her head around at him, panting heavily. Her dark blue eyes that had once looked beautiful now looked crazed and wild. Tamiki halted, planning his next move.
“Xela, come to me,” he said slowly and gently once she stopped moving. Xela blinked at him. Then she moved slowly to him.
“That’s it,” he crooned, “come to me.” Once Xela was close enough, Tamiki carefully transformed back into a human. He opened his arms. Xela eyed him, then she too transformed back into a human. She inched cautiously into his open arms. Tamiki wrapped her in his arms. The whole procedure was done carefully so she wouldn’t be set off again.
“It’s going to be okay now,” he whispered, “you’re going to be fine.” The words were also for himself and the other Outcasts and the few Forest members that had joined them. Xela looked up at him, eyes sad.
“Tamiki’s alive, Xela’s stupid,” she murmured.
“Xela not stupid, Tamiki happy now,” he replied. Xela nodded.
“Happy now,” she breathed before she fell asleep in his arms.
It was fool-proof. This plan was perfect and simple. Ironamo was pleased. Nothing could see through this deception.
“Perfect,” Ironamo breathed. K7289 looked up at him happily. For once he had gotten something right!
“Put it into action when you are ready.” And full command! K7289 felt prouder than he ever had in a long time. He left Ironamo to assemble his ambush. It would be called Project Hunted. K7289 smiled to himself.
“Let’s go hunting!” Bullet suggested to Emmy one morning.
“Okay,” Emmy chirped. “Do you want to come, Flamdura?” Both Bullet and Flamdura flinched.
“No, I think I’ll stay here. Catch something good for me,” he muttered as he turned to saunter off.
“Oh, okay,” Emmy managed to say before he left. To Bullet she said, “I wonder what’s wrong with him. He was okay this morning.” Bullet rolled his eyes but didn’t answer. Emmy got up and followed Bullet through the forest. After a while Emmy broke the silence that clouded them.
“You sure know how to navigate through this forest,” she commented as they weaved through trees. Bullet laughed.
“Naw, I’m just trying to impress you with fancy twists and turns,” he replied.
“Emmy, I’m kidding.”
“Oh.” There was the scent of deer and the pair fell silent. She crept through the undergrowth with Bullet until they came upon a large clearing. Luck on their side, there was a whole herd of deer. Emmy’s mouth watered. One was enough to feed them, but two…
On Bullet’s signal, they darted out together and zeroed in on a huge doe. Adrenaline pumped through Emmy’s veins. Excitement of the hunt caused both of them to run faster.
The herd scattered, but their target was still visible. It was trying to urge a small fawn to its feet. The fawn bleated, and Emmy could see that it had a broken leg. The doe quivered, but didn’t leave its baby.
Something struck inside of Emmy. She veered abruptly away from the mother deer and attacked another deer. She couldn’t kill a mother. Bullet saw her change in plans and matched her new goal. Once the other deer was killed, Bullet looked up at her in confusion, the hunter’s glare gone.
“What happened Emmy?” he whispered over the silence. Emmy looked away. The image of the mother deer never leaving her fawn, even though the fear was shaking in her whole body appeared in her mind again.
“The…thought of killing that faithful mother…it was too…” Emmy groped for a word, “painful, I guess. Even in the face of death, it never left it young.” The instant those words were spoken, and vision overwhelmed Emmy. Everything was red, and in some type of liquid. A yellow egg-shaped object floated close to the wall. The wall near it was bruised and looked even redder. Emmy swung her head around and saw a large black wolf connected to the wall by a long, fleshy tube. Every now and then, it kicked and opened its huge mouth in a silent moan.
Suddenly, the egg-like object tumbled away from the wall. It rolled around, hitting everything but the wolf, which was being pushed by the wall down to the end of the area. It briefly opened its eyes at Emmy and smiled. Before Emmy could react, the egg-object tumbled more violently and cut off her view. A large voice screamed in pain. Emmy realized in shock what she was witnessing.
The reason the egg-object looked like an egg was because it was an egg. The large wolf was really a tiny pup, being born into a foreign world. The egg now was being pushed, also to be introduced to its new life. The mother screamed in pain, and then the tone turned desperate. Then, it fell silent. A muffled voice rose in loss, another trying to soothe it. The womb went dark and still.
“Oh, I see now,” Bullet was muttering.
Bullet looked at her curiously. “You didn’t kill the mother deer. I see your reason now.” Emmy blinked. No time had passed during her vision.
“Let’s bring this back,” Emmy quickly lifted one end of the deer, leaving Bullet to grab the other.
Pain seared his veins. K7289 sprang away from his opponent, lithely flipping in the air then landing lightly on the ground. His opponent, a shape-shifter favoring the form of a lion, slid to his side for another attack. The assassin quickly evaluated the muscles tensions and where the lion’s eyes traced. Fast as lightning, the lion sprang as K7289 leapt into the air way above its head. K7289 flipped in the air and thrust himself downward, landing heavily on the lion’s head. There was a sickening crunch of bones. K7289 flinched.
“Medic,” he called, but he knew that the shape-shifter could well be dead. Two foxes rushed over brandishing a medical kit. K7289 stepped away from his former opponent and turned to the shocked line of the other shape-shifters.
Aurum dragged her unwillingly away from lying around in the Forest packs camping area do explore the forest.
“You got to get away from this clearing sometime,” he had said cheerfully when she protested. So there she was, crawling over fallen trees and chasing Aurum angrily through forest.
“Where are we going?” Xela asked as she scaled another log. Aurum turned his head a little, showing her that he was rolling his eyes.
“The point to exploring is to discover,” he answered. He ducked swiftly under a low branch. Xela followed. She scanned the forest, and devised a wonderful plan.
Xela burst onto a low, curving branch, ran along its edge, and then jumped into the next tree. From there she launched herself up the tree. When she reached around its mid-section, Xela jumped to another tree.
Aurum called up. “What on earth are you doing?” Xela ignored him, falling silent. Slowly, she crept along the branch she was on until she was right above Aurum.
The perfect plan…
“Ambush!” A heavy weight landed on top of him. The breath was knocked out of Aurum’s lungs as Xela fell onto his back. After a few moments on the ground, Aurum gazed up at Xela.
Her face was shadowed from the sun, but the rest of her brilliant red fur shone. The sun lightly traced Xela’s outline, giving her a radiant halo of gold. It mingled with her red fur, turning it golden red. When she turned her head, the light caught her face, reflecting in dark blue eyes.
Aurum lost his breath. He felt himself go still, his eyes locked on Xela. Xela started at him back, her eyes never leaving his face. Neither of them seemed to breathe. Finally, Xela rolled off of him.
“Are you hungry? Why don’t we go find something to eat,” Xela suggested. Still dazed, Aurum sat up blankly. Eat?
“You know, prey,” Xela looked at him, “animals are food.” Aurum shook his head to clear his daze.
“Oh, right, food,” Aurum raced past her. Embarrassment flooded his veins. Xela caught up to him pretty quick, so he wasn’t alone for long.
“I think there is a herd of deer that way,” Xela told him, pointing with her muzzle. But Aurum had already burst through a clearing, almost startling a herd of deer. But they were already running away. From what, Aurum wondered. Xela cried out, and dashed right through the stampede.
“Xela!” But she was already gone. Aurum tried to stand on his hind legs to see if she made it out. “Xela!” No sign of any red fur. Panic seized Aurum. A stampede was dangerous, it could kill a wolf. Slowly, the numbers of deer lessened.
There was no sign of Xela. The whole clearing was empty. All but Aurum and a single deer. The deer was shaking, but it didn’t run. Confused, Aurum stepped closer. The deer still didn’t move, though fear was evident in its eyes. He could see now that there was a fawn underneath its thin legs, its tiny leg broken and twisted.
Aurum turned his head, showing the deer he wasn’t going to hunt her. Then he sniffed the air. Under the dominant smell of deer, werewolf scents were detectable. Aurum followed their scents back to the Forest Pack’s clearing, where Xela, Emmy, Flamdura, and Bullet were feasting on a deer.
Xela looked up at him. “Aurum, come eat.” She moved over a little to give him room. Aurum took the empty spot, but he didn’t eat.
“I thought you got trampled,” he hissed into Xela’s ear. She rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“No, I made it out without a scratch,” she boasted. Aurum glared at her.
“I’m serious, don’t do that again,” he growled firmly.
“Yes, sir,” she said, and then tore into the deer. Guts spilled from the deer easily. Xela ignored Emmy’s gasp and Flamdura hold back puke as she fell onto the food, snarling with a wolf’s ferocity. Bullet didn’t seem to react at all. Testing her, Aurum edged forward to the deer, but Xela turned on him. Her eyes glowed with a fire Aurum did not recognize. She snarled and snapped at Aurum. Aurum recoiled. Shock gripped him, as it did to Emmy, who gasped again. Xela whipped her head around to the source of the sound. She growled again, upper lip curling to reveal sharp glistening fangs.
“Tamiki!” Flamdura suddenly roared, so loudly that Aurum felt the air vibrate. Xela flinched, but snarled more loudly. She put her paws on the deer and roared at Emmy. Emmy cried out in fear, leaping back. Flamdura stopped his roar. He set himself in front of Emmy, fire blazing in his eyes. He too growled fiercely. To his other side, Bullet advanced slowly.
“Xela!” Tamiki appeared out of nowhere. Surprise seized Aurum, but he dismissed it. As long as Tamiki was here, he could calm Xela. “Xela, stop! Look at who you’re growling at!” Xela blinked, emerging from her daze. Her gaze seemed to clear. The emotions on her face turned from feral, to shock, to horror, to shame, and then remorse.
“Emmy? Flamdura? Oh, no…” Xela’s eyes filled with tears. Tamiki was at her side in an instant. She leaned heavily on him. Something went through Aurum and fried his nerves.
“Shhh, it’s not your fault. Your instincts took over and you didn’t have any control,” Tamiki tried to reassure her, but Xela burst into tears again.
“That seems to happen a lot lately then,” she hissed through sobs.
“I’ll say,” muttered Flamdura. Both Tamiki and Aurum glared at him. He shrugged. Emmy was still crouched down next to the black dragon. Xela spotted her.
“Oh, Emmy! I’m so sorry you have to see me like this,” she broke off into another fit of sobs. Tamiki gestured Emmy forward to soothe her sister. As she went forward to Tamiki, close to the ground, Aurum turned away from them and ran away as fast as he could.
How could he compete with Tamiki? He was so close to her…closer than Aurum could ever get. It was hopeless. Tamiki had won.
Tamiki won and that was that.
But was he going to give up that easily? No. Aurum growled to himself. He could still steal the prize. He would swipe it from under Tamiki’s own nose. Tamiki had better watch out, Aurum was going to win this duel yet.
Days lulled by slowly. Everyone did what they wanted, but they always returned to the clearing. Xela was beginning to get bored. She complained one day to Tamiki.
“Why don’t we set up a really big hunting party,” Tamiki suggested after some thought. This got Xela excited, until she thought of something. Her face fell.
“What if something happens and I go crazy again? With my luck, that’s bound to happen again,” she whimpered. Tamiki only smiled at her worries.
“If that happens, I’m here.” Xela felt herself smile. Tamiki could always make her happy. Tamiki stood on his hind legs as the best as he could. “Hey, who wants to go hunting?” Linar stopped walking and Lenak smiled broadly. From across the clearing, Aurum narrowed his eyes. Takalo, who had been talking to Emmy and Bullet, perked up. Flamdura fluttered his winds a little and smiled.
“Sure!” Takalo stood up. Emmy and Bullet followed him.
“We’ll come too,” they said in unison. A little ways off, Flamdura’s eyes darkened. But he still got up to join them.
In the end, everyone wanted to go but Linar. The silver wolf shied away from Tamiki when he when over to ask her about coming.
“White one, please leave me be!” she cried. Xela growled, but Tamiki shrugged as if this didn’t disturb him in the slightest.
“Whatever.” Tamiki turned around and returned to the hunting group. Morano glared at Linar.
“But you are coming, right?” the Forest pack’s leader growled. Linar ducked her head and crawled over. Her ears pressed flat against her head. Anger boiled in Xela’s stomach. Tamiki was like any other wolf, and there was nothing wrong with him. Flamdura rumbled a dragon’s growl echoing Xela’s inner growl. Linar glanced at him. She gasped as she took in his color. Quickly her gaze went to his eyes. Flamdura returned her gaze with a glare. But once Linar saw that his eyes were yellow and not silver like her legends, she relaxed slightly.
Moments later, they were all slipping through the trees, silent as mice to find their prey. Tamiki kept closer to her, as did Aurum. The two wolves glared at each other, shocking Xela. What had happened between them? She missed the care-free Tamiki and the ever-happy Aurum. Speaking of, she also missed how Kayla used to be before she joined the Outcasts. Xela climbed a tree nimbly, not caring when Tamiki called out for her. She later dropped down next to Morano. The green wolf looked at her.
“Hey,” he greeted her. Xela grunted. Moments passed.
“Are they bugging you?” Morano beckoned to Tamiki and Aurum. Xela glanced back at them. They were arguing with each other. She sighed.
“Yeah, I wish they could be the way they were before the assassin,” she muttered and found herself spilling all that was bugging her to Morano. Weird, why did he always make her want to tell him? When she was done, Morano furrowed his brow.
“So, they were different, but when you came, things started to happen?” Morano summarized.
Xela nodded. “I think I might consider leaving.” It had been on her mind lately. If she left, maybe the Outcasts could become normal again. Sure, Tamiki would be devastated, and Kayla some-what sad, but it would be for the better…right? One thing Xela couldn’t picture was how Aurum would take it though.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.” Morano’s words brought Xela out of her thoughts rapidly.
Morano snorted, “Xela, both Tamiki and Aurum care for you deeply, and Kayla’s found a faith in you. Emmy would be devastated and Flamdura would be really upset if Emmy is. Think, Xela. They need you more than you know. You’re their tie to each other. Without you they would fall into chaos.” Xela looked away at the passing trees. Every now and then she could spot flashes of black, grey, and both.
“What if I never came to the Outcasts?” she muttered. Morano was silent for a while.
“I think you would have ended with them anyway,” he said at last. Xela growled.
“Since when were you so wise?” Xela looked at him cynically. Morano replied with a shrug.
“I think Bullet has something to do with it,” he explained.
“How did we get to Bullet?”
“Bullet’s a magic wolf. Any wolf with a true name that is an object is magical. You know how we have a little magic that keeps our clothes from being destroyed?” Xela nodded. “That’s why we have true names. The more magic you have, the closer your name gets to an object. Anyway, before Bullet came, Lenak, Linar, and I were complete savages. We ignored our human minds and followed our wolf instincts.” Morano’s eyes darkened. Xela sensed him tense. “One night it got really out of hand. Linar challenged my authority as top dog and we fought. I would have killed Linar, but Bullet appeared just in time.” Xela noticed how he said ‘appeared’ and not ‘came’. “He stopped our fight and brought back our human consciousness. Sort of like Tamiki does to you. Some magic wolves have that effect on the wolves whose fates are intertwined deeply.”
“Are you saying Tamiki is magic? And that our fates are intertwined deeply?”
“He might be, though his true name is a little off. As for your fate, I have no idea.”
“And what had this to do with you being wise?”
“Bullet lends us knowledge by his presence, something he can’t avoid. Though he tries a lot to.”
“But he’s 13! Emmy’s age!”
“Magical wolves mature a lot faster than most,” Morano suddenly raised his nose to the air. He let out a howl, startling Xela. But soon everyone else joined them.
“A pack of deer isn’t far a head, and I think they’re in a clearing not to far a head,” he explained to all of them. He looked at Aurum. “If you don’t mind, I’ll take charge of both out packs for this hunt.” Aurum agreed.
Xela followed Morano closely to the edge of the trees. The sun was beginning to set, so its light was bathing everything in red. Five deer stood still in the very large clearing. Suspicion clouded Xela, but Morano and Aurum had darted out to attack the deer just as the mixed scent reached her nose.
“No! Wait!” Xela cried, but it was too late. The deer transformed into various animals, and more shape-shifters emerged from the forest. The other werewolves (and dragon) that had been left behind darted out to their leader’s defense. Xela let out a battle cry.
The battle exploded around Xela. She saw Aurum briefly attack a lion shape-shifter before a pale green dragon attacked her. Screeching, Xela thrashed, fighting for her life.
“Xela, watch out!” But his cry was too late; the pale green dragon attacked her, clawing her viciously.
“Hang on, Xela! I’m coming,” Tamiki rushed to Xela, but she was being dragged away. Xela screamed out to him.
“Xela!” But something grabbed at Tamiki and hauled him back. Looming over him, a humanoid figure glowered at him.
“Tamiki Whitefur, I’ve been dying to meet you,” it hissed.
“Maybe I should have kept you a little longer,” Tamiki growled, “then you’d be dead. Let me go fiend.” Tamiki thrashed, but the creature dragged him back. Suddenly, the familiarity of this situation struck Tamiki numb.
His dream the night before he returned to Xela. They were being dragged away from each other, but now the sources were known.
“Who are you?” Tamiki snarled as he launched himself upward at this creature. The setting sun’s ray hit the creature and Tamiki could see what it was. Terror sent ice through his veins, freezing his thoughts.
It was a boy, but the boy had wolfy ears sticking out from his dark hair. Even though the boy was in light, no reflection of it shone on his hair or ears. A black bushy tail lashed. But that wasn’t what froze Tamiki. Not even the fact that the boy was a werewolf hybrid did.
The boy had slivery eyes, so pale they were almost white.
“You’re….you’re my opposite,” Tamiki gasped in disbelief. Xela had told him what Linar’s legends were, and now they were just proven true. The hybrid growled.
“I am your nothing! I am K7289, Ironamo’s most prized assassin! I have tried to kill you once, and I will succeed now!” Tamiki only calmly stepped off K7289.
“You can not hurt me,” Tamiki stated. But he tried anyway. K7289 threw out a fist in outrage, but it stopped short in front of Tamiki. Tamiki gazed at his opposite.
“Look at me,” he commanded. K7289 looked up. The assassin clenched his teeth. Abruptly, both went still. Light swirled around Tamiki in wisps, while shadows surrounded K7289.
“Sir!” one of the soldiers cried out, and the battle slowed, staring at Tamiki and K7289. In the corner of Tamiki’s eyes he saw Xela return with the dragon in pursuit. Both stopped when they spotted them.
“What are you doing fiend?” K7289 shouted, but suddenly they weren’t at the battle scene. Instead, they were surrounded by soft grass, blowing gently in the wind. In the middle, a giant dark rose bent to the wind. Knowledge flooded Tamiki, as it did to K7289.
The assassin looked at Tamiki, tears in his eyes.
“I am not K7289, I am Akov Black.”
“I am Tamiki White.”
“We belong to no pack,” Akov whispered. Tamiki shook his head.
“No, you do not belong to a pack. Akov, you have to continue to deceive Ironamo. One day his rein will end by us, but for now you must misguide him.” Akov nodded, though he looked crestfallen.
They were suddenly backed at the battle scene. No one moved a muscle. Akov winked briefly at Tamiki before he attacked him.
“Attack you fools!” he cried to his soldiers. Soon the battle was reborn. War cries resounded.
“One of my soldiers is supposed to call a retreat the minute it gets beat,” Akov whispered to Tamiki as he fought. “This won’t last long.”
The lion attacked Aurum again. Aurum snarled and brought his paws across its muzzle. Blood welled. The lion growled and aimed a blow to Aurum’s head. Aurum gasped in pain.
A wild screech filled the air.
“Back off no form,” Linar growled as she attacked the lion.
“Linar!” Aurum cried out in shock. The lion hissed and butted his head against Linar’s silver chest. Aurum winced as he heard the breath being knocked out of her.
“Linar!” he cried again, this time he leapt to his feet and joined Linar. Together they beat the lion.
“Retreat!” it called. Surprisingly, every one of the ambush’s soldiers did, transforming into anything that could fly. Linar sighed and leaned onto Aurum in exhaustion.
“We did it! We won!” she cried breathlessly. Those words brought up something Aurum had tried to forget.
Xela came into view, and flinched when she saw Linar and Aurum. Morano slid up to her. He whispered in her ear, but she shrank away, shaking her head.
“Hey, where’s Bullet?” Kayla asked. She was followed by Tamiki, Lenak, and Takalo, but there was no sign of Bullet, Emmy or Flamdura.
A wail rose into the air that chilled Aurum to the bone. In that instant Aurum wished that it was a nightmare so that he could wake up and leave this terror.
“No! Not him! No!” Emmy’s voice screeched.
“Emmy!” Xela darted in the direction of her voice. The other Outcasts followed her. When they reached her, Aurum wished now more than ever that this would be a dream.
Close to death, his black scales pale, blood gushed from his wounds. Emmy desperately tried to hold it back with her paws. The yellow fur on her paws turned deep red with his blood.
Flamdura was dead.
“No,” Xela breathed as she approached Flamdura’s still body. Emmy threw back her head and wailed. Next to her, Bullet was still, shocked. But as Xela bent her head to Flamdura’s scaly muzzle, she could feel faint breathing stirring the fur on her muzzle.
“He’s not dead!” Xela recoiled. “Emmy-no, Kayla, go find some healing plants! Aurum, go find some water. Use your human clothes to carry it by lining it with leaves.” Xela crouched down as they darted away.
“I’ll start licking the wounds.” Tamiki knelt down and licked the blood.
“He nearly died because of me,” Bullet’s voice was hoarse. The familiarity of those words struck Xela hard, but Bullet continued.
“I was fighting a huge griffon and losing badly,” Xela suddenly noticed his many wounds, “and he came to help. When the retreat sounded, the griffon bit into his throat quickly and left. I thought he had died right before my eyes.”
“Luckily the griffon missed anything important,” Tamiki commented, inspecting Flamdura’s red throat.
“Here,” leaves and plants dropped as Kayla deposited them. Xela pawed through them, asking Kayla which ones were what. But Kayla shrugged and said that she just knew that they were healing plants. She had forgotten. Panicked, Xela searched her mind.
Everything stopped again. Like the time when she had gotten angry at Lenak, sudden knowledge spilled into her mind. Bullet was still in his memories, Emmy was watching Xela hopefully. Tamiki was concentrating on Flamdura’s wounds rather than her.
Xela shook her head to clear their thoughts. She needed to know the plants, and hearing everyone’s thoughts wasn’t going to help. Xela focused on the plant, narrowing her eyes in concentration. A single plant glowed darkly. The stem was dark green and the budding flower was a black rose bud. Spontaneously, the name came to Xela.
Xela snatched up the shadow rose. Time resumed. She turned back to Flamdura. From behind her, Kayla asked her a question, but she ignored it. Within her mind, instructions came and spilled from her mouth.
“Tamiki come next to me. Kayla, Emmy, and Bullet stand back.” Tamiki slid into her view. Xela handed him the shadow rose and the instructions left her mind.
“Do you know what to do?” Xela asked, suddenly dizzy. Tamiki held out a paw to steady her. He nodded; the rose in his mouth comically. Xela would have laughed at any other time but this. Tamiki must’ve seen the amusement in her eyes; he smiled in response. It made him look funnier than before. Xela giggled slightly before she too backed away. Aurum retuned with water as a human holding a soaking shirt. Luckily some water was still left. Aurum handed it to Xela. She thanked him and handed it to Tamiki. After staring into the water a few moments, Tamiki delicately tore one petal from the rose. He let it float into the water. All eyes watched as it silently fluttered to the water. Xela marveled at its dark perfection. Even though the sun was shining brightly no reflection of light shone off the petal. It was pure darkness like Tamiki’s eyes.
Shadowy wisps exploded from the petal the instant it touched the water. It spread like poison throughout until the water itself was as dark as the petal. Tamiki hesitantly dipped his paw in the shadow water. He cried out violently as it soaked his paw greedily. Xela fought the urge to run up to him. What was wrong? If her mind instructions had been right, it shouldn’t hurt. Tamiki stopped his howl and turned to Xela as if she had spoken aloud.
“Xela,” he croaked, “come here.” Once she had he continued. “Bite my paw,” he managed to spit out. Tamiki withdrew his paw from the shadow potion. It was all black.
At first Xela was alarmed, but she then remembered that she was a werewolf and that she did have werewolf venom. Kayla once told her that werewolf venom can cure most ails in other mythical creatures.
Gingerly placing her mouth around his paw, Xela bit down on it. Tamiki gasped in pain. Xela tried to pull back, his blackened paw still in her mouth.
“Bite harder,” Tamiki growled, gritting his teeth. Xela whimpered, asking why. “I need more venom…think of a human if it helps.” Xela thought of her father and tightened her bite.
This time, Tamiki shouted to the sky. Xela felt the venom burn her mouth.
“Let go!” cried Tamiki. Instantly Xela released his paw in relief. Causing Tamiki pain was harder than anything. “But keep your mouth open.” Venom dripped from her mouth and onto Tamiki’s paw. It mixed with the shadow potion on Tamiki’s paw, turning it a shadowy orange like the edge of a sunset.
Tamiki limped over to Flamdura, keeping his paw of the ground. He moved around Flamdura, applying the potion to all his wounds. Then he turned to Xela again.
“Hold his head up,” he commanded. Xela padded over to Flamdura’s head, shifting her weight to her hind paws to hold up his head. Tamiki took a deep breath, and then plunged his hand into Flamdura’s mouth.
The black dragon convulsed a little. Then, slowly, Flamdura began to return to his human form. Emmy cried out in relief. She threw herself at him and let her tears fall. Streaks of yellow fur shone, the tears washing away some of the dirt from the fight off her face.
“Oh, Flamdura! I thought you were dead!” Flamdura blinked briefly, and Xela could see what he was observing.
Tamiki was off a little ways, licking his blackened paw. Kayla examined the shadow rose before she shrugged and tucked it behind her wolfy ear. Over near Morano, Aurum and Linar were discussing with him about how the ambush had gone. Lenak flitted around, checking that everyone was okay. Takalo trailed behind her, helping those who needed it. Bullet still stood stiff next to Emmy.
Relief was plain on her sister’s face. Xela didn’t think she would leave Flamdura ever now. Surprisingly, this didn’t disturb Xela. For some reason, she had already guessed that she was going to end up with him.
Over the next few days, Emmy consistently watched over Flamdura. It was needless, Flamdura seemed to have healed. If anyone needed healing, it would be Tamiki. He still winced every time he walked on his shadowed paw. The potion lingered on his paw. Xela wrestled with self-blame, but Tamiki quickly ended it.
“I’m really fine. It just stings,” Tamiki tried to laugh it off but ended in a half grimace, “Want to go for a walk?” Xela pursed her lips. He was avoiding the question. Tamiki took in her expression and sighed. “I’m really fine, Xela. Imagine a bee sting- it’s there and it hurts a little. But if you ignore it the pain will go away. So, will you help me ignore the pain?” Something froze Xela at his words. Her brain stopped working, reasons unknown. But she shoved it away and forced thoughts into her mind before wolfy instincts took over again. It was only a walk. Just a walk…a harmless little walk…
“Xela!” Aurum became a blue streak as he raced over to her. “Do you want to take a walk with me…oh.” He spotted Tamiki.
“Hello, Aurum,” Tamiki’s words were ice cold.
“Tamiki,” Aurum replied curtly. “So, do you, Xela?” A growl emerged from the back of Tamiki’s throat.
“I was just asking her that.”
Aurum’s eyes narrowed. “Who’s it going to be Xela?” Panic gripped Xela fiercely, screaming at her heart to race. It beat faster.
They were going to make her choose. Go with Tamiki, or go with Aurum. Xela didn’t want to hurt either of their feelings. Aurum was her leader and friend. He was usually kind and playful around her, but now it seemed like he was fighting a battle. Tamiki used to be happy and joyous, full of energy, and now he was serious and still a little playful. What happened that would turn them into serious creatures instead of the happy werewolves she knew?
“We didn’t mean to change, Xela,” Tamiki whispered softly, as if she had said her thoughts aloud. Aurum looked confused.
“But I liked it when you were happier!” Xela burst. “It was much more enjoyable to be around you guys when you were happy! Now it’s like you’re in a war! Stop the war and have fun. I miss you guys the way you were.” Tamiki took a step forward, the movement involuntary. Aurum growled and thrust past him to Xela. She recoiled.
“See! This proves my point! Will you ever just stop?” Xela snapped at them. Tamiki flinched, but Aurum regarded her coolly.
“This won’t stop until we know the answer. Me…or him?” There was a pain in her chest as her heart wrenched. Xela’s breath came short. Why wouldn’t he stop? Didn’t he see this was hurting her? It took all of her strength not to fall down from the blooming pain in her heart. She didn’t want to choose.
“Aurum, stop!” Tamiki shoved him aside. “You’re hurting Xela!”
“I’m doing nothing!” Aurum snarled. He pounced onto Tamiki, snarling and biting him. Xela couldn’t do anything with the pain overcoming her.
“Yes, you are! Making her choose is causing her pain!” Too quick for Xela to see, Tamiki pinned Aurum. He turned his wonderful, sympathetic, black eyes onto her. Pools of black were all she could see.
“Go back, Xela. Go to the Forest pack’s clearing. We’ll meet you there.” Aurum roared.
“No! Let’s get this done now!” But Tamiki held firm.
“Go.” Xela glanced at Aurum. His green eyes blazed with a fire that she hadn’t ever seen before on him. The fire sparked and set heat blazing in her heart.
Xela turned and ran.
The pain in Xela’s eye was what finally made him realize what he had done. Aurum bowed his head, his own pain throbbing within his chest.
“Aurum, please,” a voice managed to reach him. “Get up.” Tamiki stood over him. There was no trace of the previous anger that had shone in his obsidian eyes. Instead it was replaced with understanding.
Aurum heaved himself to his paws. At first, his head felt light, but he shook his head to clear it.
“Tamiki, is Xela okay?” He felt really bad for hurting her. Aurum couldn’t understand what came over him.
“She’s fine. Are you okay? Light-headed or nauseous?”
“Light-headed, but fine.” They trotted back to the clearing side by side. In the clearing, Xela was sleeping next to Kayla while Emmy was tending to Flamdura’s nonexistent wounds. Aurum didn’t even glance at the Forest pack as he padded up to Xela. Kayla nearly growled at him when he got close.
“I’ve come to apologize,” Aurum explained. Xela must’ve told Kayla what happened. Kayla shook her head.
“Wait until she wakes up. She needs to cool down a little,” Kayla informed him. Aurum sighed and nestled into the grass.
“I think I’ll sleep too,” he muttered before he sunk into darkness.
Even though Aurum hadn’t glanced at the Forest pack, Tamiki had. They were all bunched together away from the Outcasts. Deciding that he should go see what was wrong, Tamiki went up to them. Linar recoiled from him, and next to her Lenak shivered. Takalo growled. Only Morano kept his cool.
“You’re not one of us,” he hissed.
“Well, no, I’m an Outcast,” Tamiki replied, but a chill went down his back. Morano’s cobalt blue eyes were icy.
“Yes, you are an outcast among outcasts.”
“What are you saying?” Tamiki growled. The fur raised on the back of his neck. His eyes narrowed.
“You are a Lethroe, magical wolves. Show me your human form.” His tone set Tamiki into snarls.
“Who are you to order me around?”
Morano growled back at him. “Do it.”
“And if I say no?”
“Do it, Tamiki White.”
“Whitefur,” Tamiki snarled.
“You are no Outcast,” Morano snorted. “Do it!” Tamiki raised his head higher, but obeyed. “Just as I thought,” growled Morano.
“What?” Tamiki bared his teeth, forgetting he was human. The Forest pack snarled in unison.
“No werewolf.” Tamiki looked at himself. Nothing seemed wrong. His clothes were a little torn, but that was all.
“Look behind you, Tamiki,” Morano bared his fangs.
White large wings stretched out behind him. Tamiki gasped, flexing his snowy wings to see if they were really his. Their feathers fluttered in the air. Face hot, Tamiki transformed quickly back into a werewolf…or what ever he was. He glanced behind him to check if any of the Outcasts saw and to see if he still had his wings. It looked like the incident had never occurred, but the Forest pack was still glowering at him.
“Leave us now,” Morano growled. Tamiki flattened his ears angrily.
“Whatever you say, I am an Outcast,” his voice raised up a notch. “They will stand by my side no matter what I am! I don’t care what you say, the Outcasts are my family!” He exploded in light, though it was intertwined with shadows. Tamiki turned from their gasps and ran to his family.
He would leave them alright. But the Outcasts were coming with him.
She saw Tamiki coming, light and shadowy wisps flinging about him. Kayla leapt to her paws as she saw the anger flashing in his black eyes. With his every paw step, light burst from his paws. Behind him, a small trail of shadows dissolved away. She tried to contain her fear, and was successful.
“We have to go. We are no longer welcome,” Tamiki growled once he was close enough. He bent to nudge Xela and most of the shadowy wisps disappeared so that he was mostly glowing.
“Wake up, Xela. We’ve got to leave,” Kayla heard him mutter before she turned to wake up Aurum. The movement was wasted; Aurum was already nudging Flamdura and Emmy toward them. Xela emerged from behind her, blinking sleep from her eyes.
“Ready?” Kayla nodded. Aurum met everyone’s eyes for a moment to assess that everyone was ready. Then he threw back his head and released his heart song, the same one he had sung the night she almost died. Kayla tossed her eyes to the stars and joined him. Xela, Tamiki, and Emmy joined in, while Flamdura spat fire into the air. Then they turned and raced off into the forest, together and whole.
It had been months after they left the Forest Pack. Between that time, Emmy and Xela visited their family just once to assure them that they were okay, but left soon after that. Kayla knew her family didn’t miss her much, so she didn’t visit them. And of course, Aurum and Tamiki had no family to visit.
The war between Aurum and Tamiki diminished. But there were still battle scars. From time to time they would quarrel viciously, and sometimes it would get out of hand. Xela decided that it would never fully heal for them.
Now Tamiki was happier and more like his old self while Aurum still liked to be serious. He managed to be content despite it all. This made Xela happy, and it seemed like they would be like this forever.
But of course it wouldn’t.
“Hey, Xela,” Aurum raised his head from where he was sleeping, “let’s go hunt, see if we can find anything.”
“Sure,” chirped Xela, happy that it wasn’t a walk anymore. Hunting was much more fun. Aurum heaved himself to his paws.
“I think we should head in that direction,” he pointed his nose south. Xela sniffed the air. The scents of deer, rabbit, and squirrel wafted strongly.
She followed Aurum silently through the forest, remembering the time when she ambushed him on a hunt similar to this.
“I’m glad you and Tamiki smoothed things out,” she finally commented to break the silence. She didn’t say it too loud so that prey wouldn’t be alarmed if it was close.
Aurum grinned. “We got over our differences.” Xela grinned back.
“I’m glad.” They continued to walk in silence. Xela scented a rabbit, and not too long after she spotted it. The scent was a little weird, but Xela’s stomach growled at her. She took off after the rabbit. Aurum didn’t follow her. Instead, he sniffed the air.
Xela, no! Stop! A voice cried in her head the instant Aurum cried the same words.
“Xela! Stop!” Xela glanced back, skidding to a halt. What was wrong? Wasn’t he hungry too? Was the rabbit sick?
But it was too late.
A band of shape-shifters swooped onto Xela, pinning her. The ground receded as she was being pulled upward. Xela struggled vainly, blood pounding in her ears.
“Aurum, help me!” she wailed. Thrashing with all her might, Xela roared. She could just see Aurum dash through the trees, keeping the shape-shifters in sight.
“Xela! I’m coming!” But the shape-shifters put on a new speed. Xela howled and stopped thrashing. She lost. Tamiki would miss her, and she would miss him. Poor Emmy, how would she deal with this? And Aurum, and Kayla?
“No! Xela! Nooo!” Pain so close to agony ripped through his words as well as it did to Xela.
“Aurum!” Xela shrieked in her final good-bye. Aurum’s heart broke.
And far away, another’s did too.
It was like being run over by a train a thousand times all at once. Aurum doubled over in pain, gasping from not just running. Xela’s gone!
“No!” Aurum howled to the sky, singing a wolf’s grief song. Something broke in Aurum. Maybe it was his heart, but in any case, Aurum collapsed in agony, grief, and loss.
No! Tamiki punched a tree, sending wood splinters flying. Xela! His Xela’s gone! Why did he just watch? Oh, Tamiki winced. Aurum’s pain filled his vision. It was quickly cleared as anger seared his veins. He let this happen!
Tamiki roared and chopped the tree in half. It shuddered briefly before crashing into the ground.
“What’s wrong?” Kayla padded over to him. Flamdura ducked as a chunk of wood flew over his head. Emmy whimpered.
Tamiki shook his head back in forth. “You’ll find out.”
Without Xela, the Outcasts would fall apart.
Days past, and no sign of return from Xela. The Outcasts didn’t really expect one. Aurum is the worst of them. On a good day he’s nibbling on a piece of prey and withdrawn. On the other hand, a bad day he’s tearing up a tree.
Tamiki blames himself for what happened, even though the other Outcasts knew he couldn’t have done anything to stop it. He too gives way to stress by hitting a tree, and occasionally wandering off on his own.
Kayla is dumbstruck, and falling into shock. She can’t believe that Xela is gone. Emmy is crying almost all the time, grief-stricken. The loss of Xela is causing destruction.
I only wrote this to inform you. Do not go to them, or you would be in trouble and the Council would have my head.
Wolf’s signature was followed by the paw-prints of his three forms. Dragon stuffed the letter into his pocket and sighed. He missed Emmy, and hoped that the Outcasts would get better.
Dragon returned to what he had been doing before the mail arrived, reading prophecies. In front of him lay a huge book, the legend of the True Pack facing up at him.
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. -Prophecy of the Triform Council.
Dragon felt a burning desire to go to wherever Emmy was and tell her this. He knew that the Outcasts could well be the Pack. But he furrowed his brow and flipped to the index. Running his finger down the page, he found The True Pack….pgs 145 and 178. Dragon flipped again to the other page listed.
Two will destroy one, three will create four. Bound tighter, tried by the heart and mind, then the True Pack come. Once pain takes them for its own, who will save them? Surely it must be Pain itself.
A little blood spattered on the floor, the prisoner coughed raggedly. The guard smirked at the sight. What a pathetic werewolf. And here he thought they were tougher than that, but this she-wolf proved him wrong.
On the other hand, she had withstood his beatings for the longest any prisoner had. This didn’t please him at all. Nor did it to Ironamo. The guard flinched at the thought and kicked the prisoner again. She growled fiercely, morphing into her wolf form. The fur hung onto her in clumps, matted up blood and sweat.
“Look at our little wildcat, all beat up,” a mocking voice sang. “Where’s her bite I heard about?” The guard turned. Ironamo in human form grinned mockingly at the prisoner.
She snarled, despite the pain heaving in her sides. “Don’t get too close, or you might find out why.” Ironamo just laughed.
“Nice puppy,” he grinned, making Xela want to rip out his throat. She roared, lunging forward, eyes gleaming for the kill. Her paws were knocked out from under just before she remembered that she was chained to the wall. Her chin fell onto the floor with a sickening smack.
“No-form loving scum!” Xela snarled. Ironamo just turned to his guards, beaming. Acid burned in Xela’s stomach.
“See? A fighter, just like her father.”
“What do you know about my father?” Xela hissed.
“More than anyone else in this room. See, Xela, do you honestly think that the genetics work in the werewolves favor?” Xela began to feel sick as he continued. “Usually when a werewolf takes a human spouse, the children come out human. I am your father-” ironic laughter emerged from Ironamo, “-not that pathetic human your mother chose.” Xela blanched. What? Her mother would never betray her dad like that! But what if she had no choice? Xela thought bitterly of Ironamo’s ability.
“I did some research,” Ironamo bent close to Xela, his putrid breath singeing her nostrils. “Do you want to see the closest you would get to being a werewolf?” Without waiting for the answer, Ironamo stepped aside. Xela fought the urge to scream. All her instincts told her that it was unnatural.
A boy glared at her. Pointy, black, wolfy ears flicked at her muffled hysterics. A black bushy tail twitched. Silvery eyes filled with pain as he took in her expression. It looked like a werewolf in mid-transformation.
Horrible thoughts instantly filled Xela’s head. But the pain in the boy’s eyes caused Xela to feel bad, so she tried to send an apology with her eyes.
“Now, back to work,” Ironamo gestured to the guards. They leapt forward, eyes gleaming. They held Xela’s eyes opened and kept her still. Ironamo looked into them.
Grasping what he was doing, Xela cried out and thrashed, but she couldn’t move. Memories started to disappear from her mind. Memories of ice-skating with the Outcasts, Emmy, Flamdura, seeing Aurum and Tamiki in the hospital- all of them seemed to fade. Tears welled up in her eyes. She didn’t want to forget them!
But it was all over soon. The guards released Xela. She fell to the floor with a thud. Cackling manically, Ironamo left with his guards, leaving the boy with Xela.
Cautiously, he crawled forward. During the process, Xela had turned back into her human form. Once he got close, she opened her eyes, incomprehension flickering in dark blue pools. She whimpered and bared her teeth as her instincts told her to.
“Hey, it’s okay. I’m a friend,” the boy whispered. Xela blinked at him.
“I’m Xela,” she told him in a loud voice. He flinched.
“Shhh!” Xela blinked again. She stumbled forward, but was yanked back by chains. Surprise shadowed her face.
“Am I in trouble?” The boy shook his head. Xela cocked hers.
“What’s your name?”
“Oh, uh, Akov.” After that, the two became instant friends. Akov visited her as often as he could. He taught her some things of her past, and their friendship grew.
What Ironamo didn’t know was that those tears had blocked some of his power. Xela still possessed a few precious memories of three wolves running besides her in her dreams. She would explain these dreams to Akov, and he realized what had happened. He filled in as much as he could of the blank spots in her memories.
One day Akov visited her in anger, holding a small device.
“Ironamo irks me,” he spat curtly, sitting down to fiddle with his device.
“Irk?” asked Xela.
“It means ‘to annoy’,” he explained. “Here.” He pointed the device at Xela. It was rectangular, and had one button on it. Light flashed. The colors dazzled Xela, but she couldn’t figure out what Akov was aiming for.
“Remember anything yet?” Akov asked hopefully. Xela shook her head. From then on, Akov brought in small contraptions, trying to restore Xela’s memory through different theories. Nothing worked.
“I think it’s hopeless,” sighed Xela one day. Akov nodded sadly.
“But that doesn’t mean I won’t try,” he declared. “Xela, I swear to you, I will find a way to cure you.”
And Xela had a feeling he would.