Author's Note: Well, I actually wrote this about a week after the prologue, but I was to shy to post my prologue when I wrote it, so they're both going up in the same day. Not much more I'd like to note on this chapter, except that I hate thinking up chapter titles. Yick.
Warnings: Not much in this chapter. A little bit of blood, but it's not super descriptive or anything. See the prologue to read the entire story's warnings.
Chapter 1 - Repetition
But time flows like a river... and history repeats...
—Secret of Mana
Skart glided on the air easily, his enormous wings holding fast against the sky. The wolves below him looked like little more than specks, and he could barely differentiate between them. They had finally reached their old pack territory after the long travel back from Harja, and the atmosphere had finally lightened up; there were no more looming shadows full of dread and despair. There was only peace.
The eagle cawed triumphantly, and in the single beat of his wings a brown feather became dislodged. It drifted down towards the earth, lazily hovering from side to side. It could not fight gravity forever, though, and finally fell onto the mossy colored grass. A slender white paw came down to the feather, toying with it.
"Bran would've loved this," said the owner of the paw, Larka. She couldn't forget his curious eyes, greedy for all and any kind of knowledge. They had returned him to his own kind, and Larka found herself missing him.
"Still thinking about the child, are you?" Kar responded, suddenly serious. That tone was enough for Larka to turn her head towards him curiously, forgetting about Skart's feather.
"I can't ever forget. While he could not speak, he taught me many things." Besides, he's the one who gave me the power of the Man Varg, Larka added in her thoughts. The power of the Man Varg had left her with the child's return, which she felt relief for. She wasn't exactly comfortable knowing she could control any Lera.
"Oh..." Kar mumbled, sounding a little disappointed.
"Is something wrong, Kar? I thought you would be happy to be back home, and safe," Larka craned her neck forward to lick his muzzle, and the warmth of her pink tongue made Kar a little happier.
"But we were safe before, too, by the power of our pact," Kar said, "It's nice being home, it's not about that... but you know, I..." He looked over shyly, "Seeing you with Bran made me realize you would be a great mother to our cubs. I thought we could run off into the wilderness, and start our own pack."
"Already?!" Larka exclaimed, but immediately regretted the word she chose. It seemed like she didn't want to be with him at all. Inside, her heart had leapt into the air as high as Skart could fly, both in joy and anxiousness. She wanted nothing more than to be the Drappa to Kar's Dragga, but somehow the wrong words erupted from her.
"Not right away..." Kar replied, shaking his head. "We just got back. We should take some time to relax, and learn to be real wolves. We've been living through the prophecy for a long time now... I don't think I even remember how to be a real Varg."
Larka was silent for a while, careful not to misspeak again. She glanced over at the gray colored wolf, and then back at the feather sitting in the grass.
"Then, when the time comes, we'll go off together. You are the only Dragga I could ever love," she spoke lovingly, her lips just curled up into a wolfish smile. Their tails wagged in sync, a symbol of their young and innocent love.
"Likewise, you are the only Drappa for me," Kar responded, "You are perfect, and wonderful, and caring, and—"
"—Stop it, Kar," Larka interjected playfully, "I am just a wolf, as you are." She then paused, looking around. "I'll go and find Fell. He should join our pack, too."
Kar gave a single, understanding nod of his head. "I wonder where he is... He's been pretty quiet lately, but maybe the good news will cheer him up."
Larka gave Kar another lick across his snout, then walked away, her nose twitching as she followed her brother's scent. Fell had indeed stayed quiet since she'd found him; that could only make Larka wonder what kinds of things he went through with Morgra. Her ears fell back in empathy.
She ventured deeper into the trees, which were exactly as she remembered them from so long ago. Their leaves were beginning to crisp and turn warmer colors, even as the air was becoming colder in early autumn. The Lera were noisily preparing for another winter; every one of them feared it would be as difficult as the last. She normally loved embracing the surrounding nature, but she had something else to occupy her mind right now.
Larka followed Fell's smell to the river, at the Meeting Place where they used to play as pups. He was sitting at the water's edge, his front paws getting mud splashed up onto them. His head was down and fixated on the stream, and he hadn't even noticed her appearance.
"Fell," Larka greeted from afar, for as the black wolf visibly jumped, she feared he might have lashed out at her from surprise. After Fell acknowledged her presence with a look, Larka walked closer and sat next to him. "How are you, brother? I thought I would bring you some news."
Fell stared for another second, silent. "I am as well as I can be, Larka. But why don't you give me this news, first?"
It was Larka's turn to go quiet, and their conversation turning choppy and awkward. "Kar proposed that soon, we should... start our own pack and have pups of our own. I couldn't imagine it being a pack without you, though. It's always been the three of us, not just me and Kar." The white wolf reached out a paw to touch his, but Fell drew away with a slight growl. Larka looked hurt.
"No, Larka. That's exactly what's wrong," Fell began bitterly, "You couldn't imagine life without me, but... I've never really been a part of this family, have I? Just look at them all. They all thought I died, but they hardly said a word to me since I came back. But when you almost die, they're all over you."
"You know that's not true! Mother and Father were trying to give you space. I told them you didn't remember everything, so they didn't want to crowd you and make you upset. You are a member of the pack, just like the rest of us. You're family, Fell."
"I'm beginning to remember some of the past. They were always worried about you more than me. I remember one sun when Huttser scolded me for wandering off, instead of you or Kar. He wasn't even worried about me hurting myself, he was worried about you."
Larka thought back, remembering the day. She remembered watching the event guiltily, but she was also too afraid to interrupt Huttser. She had no idea it would plague Fell for so long. "He was worried about you too. He just wanted you to understand the consequences of your actions by making you think about someone you love getting hurt..."
Larka paused, reminded about her near-death at Harja. Without giving Fell a chance to reply, she continued. "Can I tell you something? You can't tell the rest of the pack..."
Fell's expression didn't look any more cheerful at her desire to confide in him, and Larka could see as well as feel his anger using the Sight. Regardless, he growled under his breath, "yes. While you are the one that steals the love of our pack, you are also the only one who seems to care about me. I'll listen to whatever you have to say."
Larka still didn't say anything for some time. She still wasn't sure if she wanted to tell him, but she forced the words out. "I saw my death before we battled Morgra. I saw it in the water... I watched myself fall off the bridge that night. And I... Sometimes I think I should have died, just like I saw in the water. It would be like what Huttser did to you... The Varg would understand that hate has consequences, and they would learn to love each other."
Fell's chest moved slowly, taking and dispelling deep breaths. "And you know that I'm the one who saved you."
"Yes," Larka muttered, staring up at him sadly. "I know you only meant well, and I don't blame you... It does my heart good to see Kar so happy, too. I shudder to think how he would feel if I was gone... But still, I turned my back on my responsibility."
Larka looked into the water, but the blue liquid quickly turned into something more. She could see a wolf jogging through grass, stumbling every so often in pain. For not only was its fur red-tinted, but it was also covered in its own blood. It seemed to have a destination in mind, running in an arrow-straight path... The Varg's eyes did not turn or get distracted by a single thing, watching the ground he treaded. Though its deep wounds seemed to say otherwise, the wolf looked more like a hunter than the hunted.
Before she could watch any more of the vision, Huttser's deep voice interrupted, echoing from afar. "Larka! Fell! Kar! Come here, quickly!"
Fell looked over at Larka and nodded, a sign that her secret was safe with him. The two ran back to where Larka had left Kar, where her parents were also gathered. Huttser's expression looked angry and unforgiving, and Palla's was... also angry, but there was something deeper in it. Fear.
"A Varg has entered our territory without Tratto's Blessing," Huttser said in that powerful voice of his. Their children couldn't help but be wrapped up in it. "I have also smelled blood... we must stay together."
"This is just like when Morgra came," Palla considered. Those were the wrong words to say to Huttser, and he glared at his mate.
"Skart found Morgra's body pecked at by the flying scavengers! Don't be foolish," he replied, receiving a glare back from Palla.
"I am not the one who is being foolish, Huttser. We have to be ready for whoever this Varg may be, whether we like it or not."
Larka stared up at the sky, mentally reaching out for Skart. "Morgra is gone, isn't she? You told us you saw her dead. Why would any other wolf come here?"
"I'm not sure, Larka," Skart said. Larka was watching through his eyes, and she spotted the wolf from her vision below, a red line of blood trailing its steps. So the vision had been one of the present. "A wounded Varg, it seems. Who could say what it wants with your family? The prophecy is done with. It could just be a Kerl."
"It looks like it's heading straight for us, though. I think, with what our family's been through, it's too much to hope it's a mere Kerl."
"To be honest, I agree with you, but there is always a chance. Be wary, but do not harm it without hearing its purpose, either."
Larka broke her connection with Skart, digging her claws into the dirt. It wasn't long before the stranger broke through the darkness of the woods. It slowed down into an elegant walk, now holding its head up triumphantly. Its face didn't even show any pain. Such an expression, however, was not the reason Larka gasped.
Seeing it up close, she realized the creature wasn't a gray wolf at all. It was smaller than any member of her pack, but even so its ears were the largest. Its muzzle was thin and sleek, and its whiskers jutted out handsomely from its muzzle. Its colors were similar to Kar's normal gray markings, but instead of gray its colors were tinted red and brown. That red-brown fur was short and thin, not at all fit for the coming winter.
"What... are you? You are no Varg," Huttser asked with a growl.
"How dare you," the strange wolf said, "I am one of the finest of my pack. You gray wolves think you're so great... I am not one of you, no. I am one of the red Varg." The effort to speak took a lot out of him, and so he whimpered again, his prideful façade shattered.
Palla stared incredulously. "But Tor and Fenris sent the red Varg to a far away land... How did you get here?" Palla shook her head, realizing there were more important questions. "Why are you here?"
"Our Drappa has sent a message... the Ancients couldn't keep me from bringing it to you, even if the wounds they inflicted will steal my life," he looked up at the pack, spying Larka behind Huttser and Palla. "That is white wolf with the Sight, from the legend.... But... I also sense another with the Sight." He closed his eyes to sense his surroundings better, and when he opened them again, his eyes peered at Fell. "You."
"You have the Sight, too, then," Fell snarled.
"I do," the red wolf said, breathing quickly. He then searched his mind for the message he kept—the blood loss made him weary and light-headed. "You must turn south... that is where our pack lies. We need your help," he started, but Huttser then growled.
"We have had enough of these legends! Why should we help a pack of you... half-wolves?"
"I suppose you don't have to help us... but the creatures that did this to me will soon be after you and your family. They will kill all of the Lera."
Huttser, however, wasn't convinced. "We are stronger than you are. We are a family... we will fight off any evil together."
The red wolf shook his head, "Just head south... you'll find our pack near a river. Ask for Sefti," he then shut his eyes, and threw his head back into a howl.
Larka stared at him, caught up in the sound. It was not the sound of the summoning howl, but there was something unnatural in it. It was ethereal and mysterious and airy, as if the sound of heaven. Suddenly, Larka lifted her neck up and began to howl along with the red Varg. She wanted to stop; however, her muscles were like ice, unable to obey her. She heard Fell join their howling as well. All three of their voices rose into the air.
All of nature seemed to go wild with the sound, the birds flying off and Kar started whining and barking. It seemed like forever, but in reality the howl had only last a minute. Their voices cut off at the same instant, usually an impossible occurrence.
With that, the red wolf's strength had left him, and he collapsed, dead.