Firekeeper rolled restlessly around in the grass, unable to sleep. It was only after spending so much time with the humans that she'd even considered that she might pass a night in restlessness; the mere consideration of the concept had made it a reality, it seemed. Or perhaps it was just that she had so much more to think about now; things other than her next meal occupied her thoughts constantly, and indeed the ready availability of food would have made such thoughts redundant. Instead she had to think about the future, about her family the wolves and her friends among the humans locked in battle.
She rolled over on her back, making a loud sigh and wishing she could form that low sound into the familiar howls that her family let loose when the moon shone so brightly above them. She closed her eyes, hoping sleep would come, but it stayed tantalizingly out of reach.
A push from her side made Firekeeper open one eye, lazily, blinking to free her eyelashes of dust when it seemed that her focus was not as clear as normal. She identified the source of the bump as Blind Seer before she could see him, from that distinctive and oh-so-familiar odor that marked his identity more surely than any other attribute.
Wake up, dear one, he whined at her, opening his mouth to show her a toothy grin. He looked altogether too pleased for someone who was preventing her rest.
I was already awake, she growled, and paused, her ears flicking up. Something strange about the way her voice sounded - they way it echoed in her ears, or the way it made her throat tremble. She couldn't quite catch it, though, and was distracted when Blind Seer darted off, his powerful haunches propelling him toward the dark of the forest.
Follow me, he called, laughter in his voice, but she was on her feet before the echoes of his howl died away; pumping her own muscles to catch up, but knowing that her weak, human legs were no match for his.
And yet, before long she pounced on him, knocking him to the ground in a joyful ball of fur and mud. At the base of a tall oak they played, nipping at each other until Blind Seer nearly drew blood from her exposed ear, and Firekeeper yelped.
You should not run slower because I must, she scolded him, panting.
Beloved, he said, I did not run slower. She looked quizzically at him, and he straightened up, scratched at his ear, panted; waited for her to come to the realization that something was... different.
She smelled his anticipation, and something clicked. Her sense of smell had always been weak, compared to a wolf's, and she had depended on her sight to give her some advantage. But now she squinted at him as if through a fog, and could smell the emotions that rolled over his skin.
Before she could finish the thought, Blind Seer had jumped forward again and nipped at her nose. Yowling part in feigned anger but mostly in unambiguous delight, Firekeeper raced after him, exhilarated.
They raced around the river, hunted spring-full rabbits - though Firekeeper could hardly contain her excitement, and more than once like a pup gave their prey warning - and snuck up on the humans' tents, where no one would be awake - except perhaps Derian, and he was never surprised by a sudden wolf howl in the darkness, nor was he afraid. Likely he would be able to recognize the mood of it. All the time Firekeeper near danced, in the nearest equivalent a wolf had, at the new smells she could sense, at the sensation of being able to pinpoint her location from the various signals her nose sent to her brain. Her hide was no less marked, but the luxurious grey-brown fur that now covered her made her look beautiful and whole.
Beloved, she heard Blind Seer say, as if from far away. She turned, was surprised to find him still immediately behind her, scratching at his ear. Dear one, wake up, he whined, worried.
I am awake, she replied, and stood up unsteadily.
Firekeeper rolled over, let one of her long arms drape over Blind Seer's neck. "Awake," she said, and her voice sounded rusty. "I am..." The sound of it, though, brought her back to reality. As she stood, she had to reacquaint herself with the inconvenience of unbalanced arms and legs, muscles that did not always cooperate, and no sense of smell to speak of.
But she could see.
You would not wake up, Blind Seer said reprovingly.
I did not want to, she admitted. I dreamed...
Never mind, she said, and sighed to herself. It was a human trait, too, to wish for what one could not have. Firekeeper darted off toward the tents, feeling the comfortable slap of her Fang against her thigh. Too slow! she called back to Blind Seer. I will eat your breakfast as well as mine. Both wolf and human, and neither; today her meat would be hot from the fire and coals, not from a neatly extinguished life, but tomorrow might be different.