Times of Change
A/N: My first Princess Mononoke fanfiction. I've had this idea for a long time now, but I won't let it interfere with 'Of Life and Arrangements', nor its soon-to-be sequel, "Of Promises and Perseverance'. Note, this story will be similar in structure to 'The First Legacy' for those of you who read it. Also, I couldn't find the names of San's brothers, so I'll have to come up with names on my own. The story is told partly in Moro's POV, her cubs' POV and even San's on occasion, so the storyline may be a little confusing.
I can still remember that day, even though it was well over a decade ago. I was somewhat past my prime, one of the few wolves remaining in my clan. My mother, father and sister were dead. My one living brother resided apart from our tribe, deeper into the humans' territory than I could have preferred. But being omega at the time gave me no say in the matter.
My mate and I had just welcomed our first pups into this hostile world. Our stone parapet high in the cliffs and out of the reach of humans served as the perfect den to raise them in safety. Two males, Kiba and Tsume, the last hope of our tribe.
My mate and I knew how serious the situation had become as we watched helplessly from afar as the humans killed my father, the alpha, leaving me in charge of our dwindling pack. My brother refused to take his position after our father's death, visiting only to bring us news of other wolf packs further to the north and west.
The day of our sons' births, I had seen firsthand the effects of the humans' strain on us; of the four pups I had carried, only two had survived. The two dead, nameless pups, I buried at the base of the den, abandoning them as I strove to raise our living sons.
My mate often left us to hunt the humans from their settlement they called 'Irontown'. It was due to our anger and hunting of them that my children and I developed a taste for their flesh, abnormal to what the Forest Spirit would normally provide for us. It was unhealthy, but we did what had to be done. We didn't prefer to eat them, since their meat was sour and tough, not like that of the limber deer we used to hunt in the olden days. But it became a form of revenge for us.
The drawback was the severe vengeance my mate incurred from the humans. Every time he attacked their forces returning to Irontown with rice or supplies, they were ready for him with guns and fiery torches that singed and scorched his fur whenever he got too close.
Kiba and Tsume would plead with me to let them accompany their father, but I refused. They had no idea how precious they were, not only to me, but also to our tribe. Then, my mother still lived and mourned the loss of her mate and my father for a long time. But she looked after Kiba and Tsume with me, and through her wise teachings and stories, they learned to hate the humans as much as myself. My mother and my mate would be alive long enough to see the little change I would discover, around two to three full moons after my sons' births.
Back then, I was more trusting and naive than I wanted, though it couldn't be helped. I had left my sons with my mother for the moment and had gone off by myself to hunt. It was then that I heard it; the unmistakable sound of a tree, screaming its final cries as it died. Unlike my brother, my mother had passed her gift of hearing the forest unto me. And it tore my heart to hear it. It filled me with rage and hate so fierce that I might have snapped at my own mate should the opportunity have arisen. I immediately forgot my desire to hunt and charged in the direction of the cries. I became filled with a determination to avenge the tree, to tear to shreds whatever had caused it pain. Mother told me this reaction was normal for the first few years. Then, after a time, I'd grow used to it and learn to mourn in silence for the trees.
But now, I couldn't think of anything else. As I grew closer, natural hunting instinct took over and I began to slink through the forest toward my goal.
Moving silent as a shadow, I saw them; a human man and his mate. The woman held something in her arms and I knew it was a human pup. It was crying and the woman was attempting to silence it.
I saw that the man was the object of my fury; he was about to fell a young sapling and from this short distance, the piercing cries were near deafening. Obviously, the man couldn't hear them, as he continued to whack at the soft inner bark. I knew that it was too late for the unfortunate sapling and that the most merciful thing to do would be to let the man finish cutting it down, and then attack. One the tree hit the earth, it would have died and its seeds will have scattered, continuing its forgotten legacy. I hunched down, waiting.
Finally, the man gave one final chop and with a single, dying cry, the tree toppled over, shaking the earth as it landed. I watched angrily and licked my muzzle in anticipation. Even if I couldn't get the man, his mate and child would surely be slower. I stood up and shook, stretched. Then, I charged out with a snarl, my hackles raised and fangs bared menacingly. The man shrieked in horror and ran to shield his mate, brandishing his axe as though he meant to fight me. I was tempted to chuckle in mirth at the thought of that simple axe penetrating my tough hide. But to do that would let him know that I wasn't simply an oversized wolf; I was a god and he should know that anyhow. I prowled forward, growling and snapping at them. They shook with fear, the woman clutching her baby ever closer to her breast. The infant continued to cry. The cries bothered me, as nothing ever had. I shook my head in discomfort and snarled at them. I wanted to silence that horrible wailing. I gnashed my jaws, anxious to bite off that little head and end that horrible sound.
They attempted to run away, but I parried their escape and darted in front of them before they could register what I'd done. The woman came tantalizingly close to me and I snapped out at her as the man pulled her back. He began to pull her away in the direction of their human village, away from the forest. I started to give chase.
But to my surprise, the man pulled the human pup from his mate's arms and ignoring her sobs of agony, threw the baby back in my direction. It hit the ground with a soft thud, rolling a few feet and screaming more loudly than ever. I was so shocked that I froze in my tracks and simply watched dumbly as they hurried away, disappearing along the trail.
Several minutes passed and I gradually lowered my head to peer down at their sacrifice. The baby was very little. Wrapped in a thin, white material, its dark brown hair poking out from beneath it as it squalled. I started to growl. I had been unable to eat its parents, but I could still make do with this pathetic little thing. It seemed only as old as my own sons, yet they were many times stronger than this baby, already. I opened my jaws to swallow it whole, and then stopped. To my shame, my instincts as a mother had begun to send pangs of guilt through me. This evil, innocent little…thing was too helpless to even fight me. Even the baby deer, standing by their mothers' sides just hours after birth had some chance against me if they could run. To be honest, this human pup had to be the most helpless little thing I'd ever seen. How could I eat it? My mate would call me weak. My father would have called me a disappointment. My mother would probably understand, but disapprove all the same. And I couldn't even imagine the reaction of my brother. Anger, yes, but otherwise, I wouldn't know.
I sighed and lay down beside the little thing. I lay my head down on my paws, casting occasional glances at it. Its crying had ceased and reduced to choking little hiccups.
A long time passed. Eventually, I heard the howls of my mate calling out to me from our den, asking where I was. I howled back, telling him that I was a long ways off, still hunting and would return shortly. I received no answering calls, meaning that he'd accepted my explanation. How could I tell him that I was currently sitting next to a human infant whose parents I'd just scared off? He would have asked why I hadn't eaten it, yet.
I looked down at the infant. It was so tiny, it could have fit on my tongue with room to spare. It was the size of just one of my eyes, and I was still growing, too.
It was then that I realized its eyes were open and staring up at me blearily. It was getting tired. Obviously, it was too young to know what a danger I was to it. Vaguely, I wondered whether it was male or female.
Knowing I had nothing to fear, I lowered my head to it and sniffed it. It smelled strangely…sweet. Not smoky and bitter like adult humans. Actually, until then, I'd never encountered a baby. Uncorrupted, innocent and little, baby humans were as harmless as the trees themselves. That's when I realized it; their elders and parents only taught baby humans their evil ways. This whole incident with the sapling must have been its first lesson and I'd put a stop to it. The baby human was still pure.
An idea began to form in my mind. I frowned at the human pup, still gazing at me. What if I were to raise this human pup as one of my own? Teach it the ways of the forest, such as the glory of the earth untouched by mankind, the taste of freshly hunted meat and the joys of running with the pack as one. Perhaps, if my reasoning was correct, the generations of evil inclinations would leave the human pup's mind and be replaced by the true heart of the wolf pack.
In any case, it was worth a try. And in the end, if it didn't work out, we could always eat the human pup, never to speak of it again.
But first, I would have to bond with it. Even as I nudged my muzzle closer, I knew that thinking of it was easier than doing it. I was still wary that the parents might return to see whether or not I'd eaten it. I gently pushed it with my snout. It started to giggle and I instantly yanked back, my ears flat against my head. To my surprise, instead of becoming scared, the baby pulled its tiny paws out of the material and started to reach for me. It spoke nonsensical babble as it looked up at me. I pulled my ears forward again and lowered my head to peer at it. One of the little paws touched my snout and I felt a shiver go down my spine at this unnatural connection. But I forced myself to remain still, knowing that touch was as important step.
The baby stroked my white fur gently, making tiny little sounds as it did so. Relaxing slightly, I lay back down and curled my body around the baby, sharing my warmth. The baby giggled again and snuggled against my fur. I was sure it would go to sleep. But I was wrong. It started to tug gently at the fur along my belly. I wondered if maybe, it was looking to suckle. I still had plenty of milk if it did, since Kiba and Tsume were almost passed the weaned stage and it would be awhile before I dried up completely.
It turned out I was right; I felt the gentle tug as the baby began to nurse from me. I supposed it was natural impulse for it that it learned from its mother.
I was truly surprised at the sheer gentleness with which the baby suckled. My pups had always bitten and fought each other and it was rather painful. But I barely felt it, now.
As I watched it, I knew that I was slowly bonding with it. I knew that it was one day going to become less human and more wolf to me if I kept this up. But for some reason, I couldn't imagine eating it, now.
Before I could stop myself, I lowered my head and licked it gently on the little tuft of fuzz clinging to its scalp. I supposed there was nothing I could do.
I was falling for it.
I had to face it. But for some reason, I didn't care.
"Very well." I said to it. "I shall raise you, as a wolf. You will know both the languages of your human ancestry and your wolf lineage. I will teach you the ways of the forest, and you'll become a part of our pack."
As I said this, I knew that my mate would disapprove and the human pup would probably be in great danger. But at the moment, it didn't matter. The human pup was still pure and innocent and I was determined to keep it that way.
A/N: I was told that Kai and Kahn are actually Kiba and Tsume, in that order. So I went through and replaced the names with the real ones. Hope you like it still.