The Imprinted Chronicles: Book Three

Prologue

Since the Time Of Beginnings, there has always been the wolf.

It is the wolf that caused the Great Creator, the Transformer, Q'wati to flee through the lands from the wolf's jaws. It is the wolf's chase that caused Q'wati to spill his cup of oil, drawn from the bodies of the creatures of the sea, the oil running freely downhill and becoming the rivers and streams that the wolf must now cross over. It is the wolf's chase that caused Q'wati to drag his comb through the land, changing the shore into the steep seaside cliffs and the deep calm bays that the wolf must now swim around. And it is the wolf that Q'wati returned to one day and transformed into the Quileute people.

Amongst the Quileute, the courageous ones, there were those rare souls that were gifted with a spirit guardian, and in doing so, were allowed free entrance into the ceremonial societies of their people. One such society was that of the Tlokwali. Those of Tlokwali were those of the wolf.

The Quileute were a brave people, but a small one, numbering in hundreds when their enemies numbered in the thousands. They were a fierce tribe, who defended their own, who protected what was theirs, and who looked to the sea and the earth and the sky for wisdom. They were guided by the spirits in all manner of things. And perhaps it is that which drew the Cold Ones upon them, for it has always been the way of the fire to scorch the earth, and the earth to choke the fire, the spirit-filled destined to be consumed by the empty and spiritless. It has been said that if there were no Cold Ones in these lands, then there would be nothing for the Tlokwali to hunt, and should the Tlokwali decide his hunt is finally finished, perhaps the Cold Ones would fade away into the dust from which their hunger is born. It is whispered on the winds that the Cold Ones' hunger is endless, and thus too is the hunt of the Tlokwali. The spirit of the hunting wolf is restless.

As it has been since the Time Of Beginnings. As it shall remain.

There has been a hunt tonight, a successful one, and the sickly sweet scent of the enemy's burning flesh is still lingering in their nostrils. The Tlokwali are many now, few choose to grow old and allow their own spirit guardians to run with those of the times before, and as the Tlokwali's numbers grow, those of their people dwindle. It is said by the ancestors, who whisper into the minds of those who lead the Tlokwali, that the night the last Quileute draws his final breath, is the night that only the Tlokwali will remain. There will be no more of the humans that Q'wati transformed the wolf into so long ago, and it will be that night that the spirit of the wolf will be appeased, his hunt for Q'wati will cease, and the wolf shall curl up on the shores of this land and in sleeping finally know peace. Tonight will not be that night, for as long as the Cold Ones' steps freeze like frozen fire into the earth, the wolf spirits know no slumber.

The wolf spirits may know no slumber, but they know a good hunt, and they fly along the forest floor as if Thunderbird himself had given them wings with which to glide. They run hard, because there is no finer way to run, and the cool earth beneath their paws is only made better because it is earth shared with each other. In their minds they are separate, but in their thoughts they are one. And as the Qa'al, the Third, catches a faint scent on the softly blowing wind, he shifts towards the north on a new hunt, towards the lands of their enemies, the Makah.

Qa'al was an old wolf, only days younger than their Alpha, but deeply loved by the Tlokwali. So when Qa'al was curious, they glided at his heels and were content to follow where he would lead them, just as long as he would lead them at a run. The youngest wistfully hoped that when Qa'al was done being curious about this scent, perhaps he could become curious about the elk meat roasting on the youngest's mother's cooking fires? Tasi found it amusing, because the youngest's mother was still beautiful and their Qa'al was always distracted by beautiful women. Perhaps Qa'al wanted to adopt a pup that was already Tasi's? The Fifth didn't mind sharing, and the woman had turned Tasi out of her longhouse long ago.

The old wolf bumped Tasi's shoulder in gentle rebuke as the pup seethed, although Qa'al's tongue lolled out of his mouth in amusement as he dropped down to a lope. When one was as old as Qa'al, one has learned to love all things, and to find beauty in everything. If the youngest wished it, Qa'al would give the woman another look, but there would have to be looking another time. There was something they must do first. After all, the scent was of humans, a young woman and an even younger boy, barely more than a child, and their scents carried with them that of two enemies, the Makah and the Cold Ones. In Quileute lands, this could not be allowed.

Qa'al padded quietly through the forest, his Alpha's Pack at his heels, and when he reached the great fallen redwood where the pair had paused to take shelter for the night, he crouched in the darkness, observing. The fire they burned was small, gathered from fallen twigs and dried leaves as was the way of the Quileute people. The larger trees were considered "those-with-a-spirit", and part of that redwood was still alive, even as it slowly succumbed to its death. To have taken from it for fire would have been an insult, and a worthy enough insult for these two to have been killed, or at the very least driven from Quileute lands. But Qa'al didn't begrudge them their fire. He wasn't so old that he didn't remember the chill of the earliest winter freezes, or the bite of the mountain winds through his skin, or the pang of hunger in his belly.

The Tlokwali always felt the pang of hunger in their bellies. Perhaps the youngest's mother had enough elk meat to share? Qa'al hushed them and crept forward on his stomach further, inhaling deeply. They smelled of Makah cooking fires, but also of Cold Ones and that worried Qa'al. The pair should not have been alive, not if the Cold Ones had been hungry enough to make an approach. One more deep snuff caught the faintest trace of something else, and the Third understood. He rose to his feet and phased mid-step, never breaking stride as he slipped from the shadows into the light of the pair's fire. It was a skill only the eldest of the Tlokwali could achieve without landing on their human noses, but Qa'al couldn't remember a time when he was unable to do such. He was, after all, their second oldest wolf.

The boy was sickened, it was clear by the way he lay stretched out by the fire, covered in a woven dog hair blanket and trembling from fever. The woman wasn't sickened, but she was exhausted, and even as she kept the boy's head in her lap and hummed a Makah lullaby, she swayed wearily. Qa'al's nose told him what little food they had was recently consumed, and neither was in the state to hunt or even to gather what late fall vegetation was still around, meaning that soon they would starve.

His Alpha's approval of this decision slid over his bones, and he allowed that warmth to distract him momentarily. Then Qa'al deliberately stepped on a twig.

As if she had been shot by an arrow, the young woman was on her feet, a sharpened knife carved from deer antler clutched in her hand as she crouched in front of the boy. Her brother, Qa'al decided, their scents were similar and she was too young to have borne him herself. The woman let out a warning cry as he strode out of the darkness, and in the words of her people commanded him to get away, to leave them alone. She recognized him for what he was, a Quileute brave, her enemy, and one who could choose to kill them both if he wished. When Qa'al ignored her and took another step forward, eyes riveted on the trembling boy, she screamed and lunged at him. Qa'al's mouth curved into a small smile as the young woman attacked him, and he stood still and allowed it. Her knife broke on his skin.

Understanding dawned in the woman's eyes and she hit the ground, face buried in the dirt.

"Please," she whispered in broken Quileute, a language only spoken by their tribe and the Hoh. "My brother is sick. My mother told me to bring him here, to the…" She stumbled on the word, but Qa'al walked past her and crouched down, placing a hand on the boy's head. The boy stirred beneath it, and even as fever ridden as he was, he still managed to peer up at Qa'al through reddened eyes. His gaze was dark and fierce, but only for the moments before his eyes rolled back in his head. The women kept her face in the dirt, but he could smell her need for movement. She didn't like him over here by her brother, alone.

"You smell of the Cold Ones," Qa'al murmured, and she went still. Then the woman sucked in a tight breath.

"I took us too close to the mountains in search of food, but I had to. He was growing sicker every day," she whispered. "We were approached, but my brother…it took him two days to return to what he is now, and by then the Cold One was gone."

Frowning, the old wolf pressed a hand to the boy's heart. Not all that changed survived the experience, and those who did so alone for the first time with no Alpha to support them were often damaged, sometimes beyond repair. The steady beating of the boy's heart was reassuring, but only for the time being. Qa'al's presence would help, but not enough. This child needed someone greater than he.

"Please," the woman whispered a second time, and Qa'al looked over at her. The same fierceness was in her eyes, even as she knelt subserviently. "I'm to be a gift from our mother in exchange for accepting him. She would have come herself, but she was too ill to make the journey. I am Makah, but his father was…" She stumbled again, the word foreign on her tongue.

"His father was Tlokwali," Qa'al supplied softly. "And if he survives the ceremony, than he is as well." His sharp ears caught a stirring in the brush, his brothers growing interest at hearing this, and she must have noticed it too. The young woman said nothing, but he saw her reach carefully for the broken antler knife out of the corner of his eye. Qa'al tipped his head, and when she realized he was watching, the woman froze, then she glared at him and deliberately tucked the broken knife into her braided cedar belt.

"I am a gift," she said clearly in Makah, the firelight playing off her features. And when she turned bold eyes upon him, her dark hair a tangled sheet over her shoulders, she was stunning. Then she snapped her teeth at him and added, "I am a gift, but never a slave. Not for you and not for any of those that conceal themselves from us. I am my own." Then she picked up a rock, as if it was a better weapon than her knife, and gave him a pointed look.

This time when Qa'al smiled, it was a full boyish grin that belied his age, although again he said nothing. It wasn't up to him what happened to her. A full blooded Makah woman on Quileute lands was a slave unless determined otherwise. The fate of the boy would tell, because if he was Tlokwali, then his sister was one of their own, to be guarded and protected and cherished. If the boy was merely sickened and didn't survive, then the gift of a slave was adequate payment for breaching their land. Their tribes would not fight over it, not more than they fought over everything else.

Still, as his wolves slipped out of the cover of the darkness at his unspoken command, lifting up the boy and bearing him away to the elders, Qa'al watched this woman who reeked of fear but tried so hard to stay composed beneath his gaze. It was a long walk home and he wondered if she had the strength to make it. Qa'al stood up and offered her his hand, but she refused. He took her hand anyway, hoisting her to her feet, and she pulled it back. He took her hand a second time just to tease her and got a rock over the head for his trouble.

It had been a long time since anyone had openly attacked him and Qa'al barked out a laugh. When she growled at him, this beautiful young woman growled at him, he grinned again and took a step backwards, letting his other form rest over his bones with a crack of bone and magic. The woman stared at his animal form with huge eyes as he shifted mere paces away from her, and then he padded up to her quivering form. Quite carefully the old wolf took her knife between his teeth and out of her shaking hands. He'd give it back when she stopped attacking him.

Having nothing else she could do, Tuktukadi took a deep breath, let her eyes drift towards the mountains one last time, and then followed the brindled wolf to her new home.

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A/N Welcome to Book Three! For those of you who are new to my work, this is a series of imprint based fics that are extremely NON-CANON after Eclipse, although I do pull from some of the events in Breaking Dawn. There is no Paul/Rachel imprint and no Jake/Renesmee imprint. If you have never read my work, I know it is tempting to skip the first stories, but please, DO NOT READ BOOK THREE UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS. I promise this will make absolutely no sense, and you will get annoyed and frustrated with the story. My work is rated M for language, sexual references, and werewolf action scene violence. Lastly, this is a Jack/Renesmee child imprint fic, so if you can't handle a child imprint, please don't read this. There will be more Quileute and Makah vocabulary than usual, and I will translate some of the words that are not as apparent in their meanings, although some are more fun to let you guys figure out along the way. ^.^ Tuktukadi is Makah for owl.