Chapter One - Hunted
The run started as usual. Or so I thought it had.
There was a brief, momentary pause in my thoughts as my brother Leon rammed another of my five brothers in the rib cage. River growled, the hackles rising on the back of his neck rising with the heat of retaliation. We were not supposed to fight among ourselves like this, but we knew it kept our abilities sharpened.
I trotted forward and nudged Jasper's red-tipped ears with the tip of my wet muzzle. By far, the oldest of all my father's children and the heir to the Arctic Pack, Jasper held the most authority and was the most admired of all the Pack's children. He twisted his head, large brown eyes stared back at me, worry flashed in the dark depths. I shook my head to let him know I was fine. My own eyes were a dark, midnight blue- a colour I'd gotten from my mother. At least, that's what my father had said.
Jasper shifted his weight slightly and I lay down beside my favorite brother. He lifted on paw and rested it on my back. This was how we communicated, my Clan, through a series of gentle touches, mild yips, and clipped barks and our left the youngest of the male children in my family napped in the fading rays of the evening sun. Colton and Quincy- the twins- were older than me by two years. Leon was older than me by four years, River by six, and Jasper by seven.
Yeah, my father was a busy man, but he'd only ever loved one woman. Our dear departed mother who died to bring me into this world. I never got to know her, but everyone has told me that she was the light of my father's life. The one person who ever made his resolve waiver in the slightest. She was his hopes, his dreams, his love- in essence, my mother was my father's life.
Her spirit was strong when she fought to reach the safety of the Sanctum- a small thicket in the forest where the females gave birth to their young. Hunters had been on her trail for days and she was desperate to get herself to safety. Unfortunately, as you may now know, she never made it. I was born in the open on the vastness of the dark, icy lands of the Arctic tundra. A victim to the elements that surrounded me.
According to the Elders, I should have died that day as the wind and snow whipped around me in perfect, violent usion. That was the day I gave myself over to the Earth that was always mine to guard, to protect with the very blood that flowed within my veins.
Now, though, we were alone. It was the seven of us against the wild after Hunters entered our peaceful village and killed off a great number of our kin.
Jasper's tongue, rough and wet with slobber, gently licked the side of my muzzle. I wanted to smile at him, but couldn't. It just was not possible in the form I was in at the time.
Suddenly, as though the world had been lit up by hundreds of high-voltage lamps, the darkness of the night vanished. Wolves were running in every direction as gunshots sounded out in the clearing. Jasper nudged my side, 'get going!'. He projected the thought into my head.
'Just run. I'll find you, I promise.' I obeyed. The forest became a blur as I bolted through the dense trees. The foilage rustled slightly under the pads of my paws. I jumped over a brook and stopped, listening. There was no more sounds other than the gurgling water of the brook as it flowed. I closed my eyes.
There were no more shots, no more unnatural lights, and, as I looked around, I found that there were no other Pack members that had taken this way. I was alone.
I sniffed the air. The clean, crisp scent of new-fallen snow on the breeze drifted toward me. It wrapped me in its familiar embrace, pushing me to where I needed to be rather than where I wanted to be. The cold zephyr wind was like a set of gentle ghostly fingers as it caressed my fur.
Another sniff told me that there was no other living thing around that I could pick up on.
Three days passed quickly as I gathered as much as I could from the city that I'd stumbled upon while hunting for my nightly supper. I was reduced to this wilder side of myself that I never really had to use before.
The city's twinkling lights created a dazzling, but fake light show in the night sky. Voices drifted from the streets to the alley where I was hiding. Curiosity had gotten the better of me and I found myself inching further and further into the busy city. I could hear the pounding music of a near-by night club- the fast beat of modern rock hurt my sensitive ears. Cars of every size, shape and color zoomed past my hiding place as their drivers sped towards their destinations.
This was the alley I'd chosen to use on each of my trips into the city. From here, it was easy to get into the unlocked doors of the general stores and clothing stores. I shifted forms and put on the clothes I'd stolen from the mall a few streets over. The ink black pants and tee hugged my curves.
My stomach growled painfully loud as I tied up the laces of the black boots I'd taken from the same store as my clothes. It had been nearly twenty-four hours since the last time I'd eaten and it was beginning to take its toll on me. I had to find food, even if that meant rummaging through garbage to feed myself.
I rounded the corner and ran into the one group I'd been trying hard not to cross paths with. The Lords. I'd heard many things about them, but was not about to test the theory of their demons or angels. One of them lifted his head slightly, testing the air with his inhuman senses.
"The people were right," a pale faced man with bright blue eyes said softly. I suddenly felt safe as one of them stepped forward and let his gaze wander the length of my body. He did this not once, but three times.
"She's a looker that's for sure." This from a man who had a girl at his side. By the smell of her she was a Harpy. Her eyes bore into me, into the maze that was my mind. "What's your name kid?"
I didn't answer. As certain as I was that I would be mistaken for Bait or a Hunter I wanted to run, but was rooted to the spot.
'Mother Earth, guide your lost daughter to her needed place, I beg of thee.'
The wind stirred slightly, pressing me in the direction of the warriors I now stood in front of. I had my answer then and there. They needed me, or was it me that needed them? I wasn't sure.
"Probably Bait." Ah, there it was. That demeaning accusation that boiled my blood like crazy. Suddenly, I felt like speaking up to them.
"You dare," my voice was scratchy from not being used in days "call me that vile name?"
The one that stepped forward, the scarred one, put up his hands defensively. "You should tell us who you are and why you've been breaking into the local stores."
"Planning on bringing me to justice, then? Shall I roll over and play dead as well?"
"Are we roll playing now?" The pale one said excitedly. "O-oh, nice."
"Pipe it down., Paris." Paris. So, he did have a name. "Now, tell us the truth."
Another stepped forward. "Let me tickle it out of her."
"No, Gideon, no torturing."
Oh. My. Gods. They were Demons. My father and brothers had told me bedtime stories of their rise and fall since I was a little girl. They really were the Lords of the Underworld and I was stuck facing them down all by my lonesome.
I was acutely aware of how close they were closing in on me. I swayed on my feet, dizzy. Hunger ate at my insides. My vision swam and I felt a whoosh of air that meant I was falling. The thing is, I don't remember if I even hit the ground...