Currently after this chapter this story is on halt. I will get back to it, since I rather like its plot. But until I get a decent amount chapters finished on my other story THE FROST, I won't be updating. If I get a good number of reviews I may be convinced to update sooner, but otherwise this story may be going rather slow.
Snow choked out the sun, leaving a comfortable darkness in the stone den. Delicate white crystals of snow - seemingly grey in the gloom – clogged the entrance. The resulting pocket of heat, building up from the warmth of the sleeping wolves bodies made no one want to stir, not even when the blizzard died down. Kyrie stretched contentedly; it had seemed so long since she had experienced this sort of warmth. It was an alluring refuge from the bitter sting of ice pinching between her pads and the usual chill that crept into her fur.
But then the gnawing desire of hunger was beginning to settle in their bellies, arousing the need to hunt in the wolves. Ember was the first to rise, padding over to the snow choked entrance. He extended his muzzle to sniff inquisitively at it, before scraping a paw through the thick white mush. Then he narrowed his eyes and shoved his muzzle into the snow, Kyrie watched, comfortably curled in her hollow as he struggled into it. Snow skittered across the den as Ember dug into it with his forepaws, white falling away around him. Then a white, dazzling light poured through the growing gap. Ember pulled himself free and emerged outside.
With a yawn Liulfr padded out after him, making his way more easily through the opening Ember created.
Allowing a sighing breath through her nose, Kyrie reluctantly pulled herself from the dwindling pocket of warmth. Gradually the heat inside the cave began to bleed outside into the bitter chill, almost forming a wavering distortion in the air as it wafted out of the den. Outside Ember shook the snow encrusting his coat, not managing it very well. Grudgingly leaving the ice clinging to his fur, he settled to chewing out the snow caught between his toes.
Kyrie crept through enlarged break through the snow filling the stone dens entrance. Siri followed as soundless as a pallid spectre behind her, her lithe white form almost melting away into the blankness of the snowy landscape.
Fiers shaggy black head glanced though the entrance, his eyes narrowed as he regarded the thick blanket of snow with distaste. "You hunt. I will watch Canna," he said brusquely.
Liulfr dipped his muzzle faintly in agreement. It was an unspoken taboo to leave a she-wolf heavy with cubs unaccompanied. A soft noise came from the back of the den as Canna voiced her disapproval.
Liulfr lifted his muzzle to the sky as Fiers head ducked back into the den. He paused for a bit, studying the pale forms of the few diminutive clouds streaking the sky like pulled cotton. Then he let his mouth fall slightly open and began to croon to the sun, softly at first. His song languidly getting louder and louder. Ember in turn tilted his muzzle like an offering towards the firmament above and joined him, the sound echoing forlornly across the wasteland.
It was a matter of rank who sang at what time in a hunting song. The leader obviously went first, and then his highest. Since Fier wasn't joining the hunt he was excluded, Ember taking his place.
Almost simultaneously Kyrie and Siri lifted their heads and began to sing. Siri watched Kyrie as she called gently, a subtle hint of animosity in her golden eyes.
Then Liulfr slowly brought his muzzle down, the howl becoming a low hum in his throat before he ended his call. The others stopped a time after him, bringing their heads down to survey Liulfr. With a sharp gesture with his muzzle, he set off into the bleak snow, the others trailing him.
The hunting party veered around the stone den, skirting the cliff where the rocky outcrop lay. Their legs sank deep into the snow, hindering their progress and forcing them to run at an uneven lope.
The backwoods rose out of the icy wasteland. Its trees were twisted gruesomely like gnarled hands reaching towards the sky. Their scarce leaves fluttered like tattered flags in the light, arctic breeze. Weed-like scrub bushes dominated the wood, clumps of dusky green blotches from afar.
Liulfr deliberated, nose twitching in the frigid wind as he scented the air. Then with a keen slowness he stalked sinuously into the trees.
Kyrie lifted her muzzle into the breeze. She could smell the scent of the forest, a weak fertile smell in the crisp, cold air. And with it, the distant, musky tang of something warm. Crouching automatically, she moved soundlessly with the rest of the pack as they entered the backwoods.
No one talked, hunting was something automatic, something they didn't need to think about. Each of their individual personalities seemed to fall away as they worked as a merged identity. With Liulfr at the front, everyone was strongly attuned to his movements, his posture. If he was to pause, the whole pack would halt. When he swept his muzzle of to the left, everyone would follow his gaze. Only when they were directly ordered would they move independently.
Liulfr jarred to a sudden halt, his eyes focused intensely on the delicate curve of a tawny leg. A doe bent her gaunt neck down to graze from the lower leaves of a scrub bush, the tapering point of her muzzle hidden from view.
With a sharp signal with his muzzle, Liulfr gestured to Ember towards the right of the deer. Without pause Ember crept away from the pack, his belly slung low to the ground. He kept a careful eye on both Liulfr and the doe and he circled around. When Ember was almost behind the deer, Liulfr pointed to the ground with his muzzle. Quickly understanding the gesture, Ember stopped and crouched low to the ground.
Next he signalled to Kyrie to take up the does left flank. Lifting her paws carefully from the clinging snow, she slunk into the cover of the scrub. Her ears straining forward for the slightest crunch in the snow as an indication that perhaps the doe had caught their scent and shied. Cautiously she made her way around the doe, pausing as Liulfr indicated for her to stop.
With a swift glance at Siri, Liulfr began to advance. The stalked forward slowly, raising their paws from the snow and placing them down with caution. Kyrie stood poised, tensing her back legs so that she was ready to spring.
There was a muted snarl from one side as Ember tore forward, as Liulfr swept his muzzle towards him and motioned at the doe.
The deer threw up her head in alarm, taking a swift step backward. Her scrawny frame quivered as she noticed Ember bearing down on her. Then she swung around wildly, scrambling frantically over the snow. She darted away, towards the spot where Kyrie crouched in anticipation.
In the deep snow, the doe had the advantage of her long legs, while the wolves had to leap over the drifts. She was already good distance away from Ember. But in the carefully laid trap, it was almost certain there would be no escape.
She crashed obliviously into Kyrie, who surged upward and lunged at the doe's throat. With a startled scream, the doe flailed, catching Kyrie on the shoulder as she lashed out with her hooves. The silver wolf snarled as the doe managed to jerk out of her insecure grip. She made a desperate scramble for freedom.
But Liulfr leapt swiftly out of the bushes, jaws agape. He grabbed at her lean foreleg, his teeth crunching together with a sickening snap into the bone. Siri sprang out behind the doe, fastening her teeth into the loose skin on her flank.
The doe recoiled from them, straining against their hold on her. She struggled feebly between the two wolves. Her chest heavily violently, tremors ran down her length.
Kyrie picked herself up as Ember joined the others, snapping his teeth together in the doe's throat. She gave a gasping snort and her eyes rolled back to reveal the whites, she slumped downward as she gave up resisting. Crimson seeped around Ember's jaw and dripped onto the grizzled grey fur of his throat.
Kyrie padded slowly towards them, drinking in the scent of blood.
Liulfr glanced a sharp look off Ember. "End it," he growled between clenched teeth.
Embers eyes flicked between the doe and Liulfr, and then he jerked his muzzle steeply downward. There was a muffled crack as the does neck bent unnaturally. She gave a last heaving sigh and went still. Liulfr relinquished his hold on the doe's foreleg, licking the blood off his teeth. Despite the definite limpness of her in his jaws, Ember kept his fangs locked into the doe's throat.
Liulfr dipped his muzzle over the deer's body, a distant glaze creeping into his eyes. When he pulled his head back up to survey the wolves gathered around the carcass, crimson stained his jaw.
Kyrie felt a slight revulsion as she watched Ember and Siri join him, jerking the doe's flaccid body into a grotesque, abnormal position. For a moment the alluring scent of blood was nauseating. She walked stiffly over to the doe and joined Siri at her flank, a grim wound carved into her flesh by the wolves' merciless teeth. The heat fleeing the deer's body enveloped them as it rose like steam into the frigid air.
Kyrie gritted her jaw, vehemently pushing away the disgust that welled up inside her, forcing herself to give into her instincts. The sharp ache of hunger in her belly muffled it, but the revulsion she felt lingered faintly in the back of her mind. But it disappeared almost instantly and the moist smell of blood began to seem enthralling, as the blood-thirst tugged away her disgust. The sudden, overwhelming infatuation with it made her reel slightly. It was like the deep hunger was peeling her away from her character, until it was just the irresistible desire of the blood-thirst left.
With need glittering in her eyes, she plunged her teeth into the does flesh. She almost forgot herself as the warm taste of it filled her mouth, leaving only a tiny shred of sanity remaining in her. Across from her Liulfr snarled a jagged warning at Ember as he jostled him.
A satisfying weight grew in the wolves stomachs as they ate, the ache of their hunger softening. With it the blood-thirst began to fade, the fog clouding their minds clearing away. Content, they began to back away from the carcass and sit in the snow, waiting patiently for the last wolves to finish.
Kyrie took a step back and ran her tongue over her teeth, sweeping away the taste of blood. Her lucid reflection was not the revulsion of flesh, but for herself. Are we monsters indeed? We live, but to live we must kill others. How is that moral? She glanced at the blood staining the snow a light cerise .Why must we lose ourselves in our hunger?
"We must take meat for Canna and Fier," Liulfr instructed as he looked over the doe's twisted body. He returned to it to tear off a piece of bloody meat from her side. He held it in his jaw, making no move to eat it. The others did the same, holding the meat gingerly in their teeth. With an approving dip of his head, Liulfr turned and began to make his way back to the stone den.
They followed their tracks back – the snow was packed against the ground from the trail they had beaten with their footsteps. It allowed them more easily through its icy clutches.
More from habit than caution, Kyrie scented the air, tasting it for foreign smells. She could make out the faint smell of blood. Disregarding it as thick bloody stench pouring off the meat held in her jaws hindering her nose, she made no comment on it.
Beside her Ember narrowed his eyes, his nostrils flared but he stayed silent. Kyrie looked quizzically at him for a moment, wondering what had caught his attention.
Further towards the stone den, the bloody scent grew more distinct, it was unlike the does smell. It made Kyrie jolt to a halt as she recognized it. The scent of wolfs blood wafted gently towards them on the breeze, telling nothing of the violence that had brought it forth. She went rigid as she smelt Canna's scent tied to it.
"Liulfr! That scent," Ember snarled suddenly. "Canna..."
The fur along Liulfr's spine rose as he adopted a severe stance. "No..." he murmured in disbelief before his voice hardened. "Quickly, back to the den."
Kyrie followed his lead as he lunged forward, paws digging into the snow and propelling her after him. Siri fell into step at her side, her apprehension belied by the show of her teeth.
Unfamiliar scents mingled with Canna's as they got closer, making an uneasiness rise up in Kyrie.
A figure staggered through the snow ahead, her sides heaving in exhaustion. Canna's scent grew stronger, grimly mixed with the smell of her blood.
"Canna!" Siri cried, leaping forward.
Canna swelling sides were streaked with crimson, red soaked her jaw too. Blood glinted wetly on her teeth as she panted with her jaws agape.
Liulfr sprinted towards her, anxiously pushing his muzzle against hers. Canna's tail beat weakly as she greeted him.
"Fier... He stayed behind... Liulfr, they had him." Canna spat, her eyes narrowed furiously. "I couldn't fight. I tried, but they were too much... They let me go... but only because of the cubs."
Liulfr held Canna's eyes. "It is Shane's pack, isn't it. They have come for our territory?" he mused softly.
Siri nosed her mother's bloody flanks, then she whirled around. "We should make them pay for this!" she hissed vehemently.
Canna shrugged off Siri. "No... there are too many. Twofold our pack..." she moaned. "But Fier, they may kill him..."
Ember growled. "Liulfr, challenge him. Challenge Shane. I know that he cannot resist a fight, challenge him for our territory."
"No!" Canna snarled. But Liulfr's features were thoughtful, with a fierce edge to the clench of his teeth.
Canna repeated her words again. "No. He will kill you Liulfr. He will backstab your challenge. He is scarth." Her curse rang through Kyrie's ears.
A muted howl rang up from ahead, briefly silencing them. The pack turned their heads in union, ears pricked. Another cry came, the sharp sound of pain echoing in it.
"Fier..." Kyrie breathed, instantly recognising his howl.
Liulfr shook his head. "Canna, I won't leave him. And I won't let Shane take our land this effortlessly." His eyes glinted angrily. "I will show him a fight yet."
Canna bared her teeth as he sprung forward. "Stay Canna, for our cubs," Liulfr commanded.
Canna swept her head to one side, to watch the rest of the pack behind her. The defiant gleam in her eyes made it easily known that she would not. Kyrie knew that no one would rebuke her, Canna was their mother. Silently she whipped around and charged after Liulfr, sprinting hard despite the obvious fatigue she was suffering.
Kyrie leapt after her, the fur raised threateningly on her shoulders. She could hear scuffling in the snow behind her and the others dropped the meat they had brought and followed Cannas lead.
Another frantic howl tore through the air, in the midst of the indistinct roar of many wolves snarling and growling. The grey plane of the stone outcrop rose into view. A throng of wolves surged over it, snatches of black showing between their writhing bodies. A few sat back, eyes flashing with triumph at an easy gain. Shane's ragged pelt surged over Fier, the old leader stood over the black wolf with a cruel leer twisting his features. Blood slicked Fiers fur, innumerable gashes cut into his pelt. But despite his wounds he snapped furiously at Shane's chest, refusing to give in. The other intruders eased back from Fier as Shane pinned him to the ground.
He looked almost ready to deliver a killing blow when Liulfr crested the rise. He let a furious snarl tear lose from his throat. "Shane!"
Painfully slowly, Shane titled his head up at Liulfr, his cunning eyes scrutinizing the younger wolf. A malicious smile curled his muzzle as he recognised him.
"Why Liulfr." Shane's voice had a superficial warmness in it, his tone silky and misleading. "Perhaps you are not a coward. You had us believing that you and your pathetic pack had run off and left you're highest to die." He paused to sound a low warning growl as Fier thrashed beneath him, trying to struggle lose of his hold.
In a movement that was almost a blur, Shane streaked his muzzle downward, tearing his teeth into Fier's flesh. A muffled yelp escaped Fier as he gritted his teeth.
"Leave him," Liulfr snapped, anger present in every line of his body. "I know what you want Shane, but I won't let you take it. Never will I allow that."
Shane threw back his head to laugh. "Won't let me! Liulfr, your pitiful pack is no match for mine. Whatever you are delusioned to believe, it is certainly not true."
Liulfr narrowed his eyes at Shane's remark. "Then fight me. I challenge you Shane, for my territory. When I win, your pack must leave, or I will kill you."
Shane paused for a moment, the superiority in his eyes slackening somewhat.
"Unless, you are afraid, Shane?" Liulfr continued darkly.
Almost immediately Shane regained his confidence. With a quick slash of his fangs, he brought his teeth down on Fiers flank. Fier rose to counter with a snarl, but instead of pressing the black wolf back to the icy ground, Shane stepped back. Fier bared his teeth at the old wolf, but Shanes pack forced him pack. Grudgingly, Fier stalked stiffly away towards Liulfr. Every limping step he took his face contorted with pain. Wolves jeered and snapped at his heels.
"Very well," Shane growled, taking a defensive stance. "I accept your challenge.