Myron walked by his father's side as they moved through the small wood they lived in. His father was taking him on a hunting trip, just a little ways from the den, to test his hunting skills. Myron was excited. He had killed a few snow hares before but today his father was taking him to find a caribou. He had heard that they were really hard to take down and track from the stories that his parents told him.
"Are we there yet?" asked Myron.
"Almost," said Cilian, his father, "The caribou herds usually pass through right about here…" Out of nowhere, something zipped over their heads. Cilian covered his son and looked around. Whatever had just come over them had dashed into the bushes. Cilian was about to get up but another zipped over their heads and then another. Cilian got up, certain that no more things were going to jump over them.
"What was that?" asked Myron curiously.
"I don't know," said Cilian, "But let's continue."
"Let's follow whatever that was!" Myron exclaimed with sudden excitement. Cilian looked down at his son, who was running around in circles. Myron was almost a moon cycle old, but acted like an immature child still.
"But Myron, what about the caribou?" asked Cilian, trying to coax his son out of his excitement.
"Oh right," said Myron, "Where are they Da?" Cilian sniffed the air. It was still thick with the scent of those who had just passed over them. They were all three wolves.
"On second thought, why don't we go yell at the ones who almost took our heads off shall we?" said Cilian with a smile. Myron looked confused but nodded his head yes. Then he got excited again and ran into the bushes that the other three wolves had entered. Cilian smiled and followed behind quickly.
Cilian stopped Myron when they came to the edge of a large clearing with a lone tree in its center. There were three wolves there, just as Cilian had predicted. Two of them seemed to be squaring off against each other, while the other was on her belly watching. Both of the wolves who appeared ready to start a fight were male. One of them lunged at the other. They began to tussle on the ground, the one on top seeming to be stronger.
"Oh boy," said Cilian, "Watch your father break this up." Myron watched eagerly as his father dashed into the clearing and jumped the two wolves that were fighting. They both looked up in surprise and dashed out of the way.
"Whaddya want!" one of them yelled.
"I happened to see that a fight was occurring so I broke it up," said Cilian, "I can't have my son seeing how awful some wolves behave right?" He gestured to the edge of the clearing where Myron was watching. The wolf to his left looked at him angrily. The female seemed as though she didn't care much and went to grooming her own fur. Then they both tried to jump him but Cilian rolled on his back and pushed them off. Then he rolled back to his feet and smacked them both to the ground.
"You can come out now Myron!" Cilian called to his son. Myron trotted over to his father excitedly.
"That was awesome Da!" he exclaimed.
"Now why are you fighting?" Cilian asked fiercely.
"It was his fault!" the weaker one said, poking his nose at his opponent, "He wanted to steal my mate so I attacked him!" Cilian looked to the other, who respectfully bowed down.
"He's got it all backwards," said the wolf submissively, "She is my mate, and he tried to steal her."
"You can't possibly believe him!" said the other wolf. Cilian looked between the two of them and then at the female.
"Who is true to their word?" asked Cilian. The second he asked the question, he looked between the two male wolves. The one on the left, the weaker one, was trembling and seemed to be backing up, just as Cilian had thought.
"You really think I'd go with this idiot over here?" she asked, gesturing to the weaker wolf, "My mate can only be a strong wolf." The stronger of the two fighting wolves stood up and licked his mate's muzzle. She returned the gesture with affection. Cilian turned to the weaker of the two wolves.
"I may be a free runner," said Cilian, "But even free runners follow some of the rules of this land. And that is one of them. Stealing another wolf's mate is profane. Get out of here!" The weaker wolf nodded quickly and ran off.
"Thank you for that," said the male wolf, "I am Ferrus and this is my mate, Galea. We are free runners as well."
"So there are more of us," said Cilian, "I had no idea that free runners actually did take mates. I thought my wife and I were the only ones."
"What about me?" asked Myron, who seemed to have had the whole conversation passing over his head until the part about free runners came up.
"Yes, you are a free runner too Myron," said Cilian, smiling and ruffling his son's fur with his paw.
"He's a cute one," said Galea as Myron ran around his father playfully, "Tell us, would you mind sheltering us for a while? A few Outclanners drove us from our shelter a while back and we've no place to stay."
"Not a problem at all," said Cilian, "I'm sure my wife will understand."
"And on the way, you can tell us about that missing eye," said Ferrus.
"Well, if you're going to be staying with us, I suppose you should know," said Cilian, "But first, we shall find a caribou and take it down. We can talk during that."
"Alright!" Myron exclaimed, "Finally!"
While they were hunting for the caribou, Ferrus and Galea told their stories. Ferrus had once been a malcadh himself because his front left leg was shorter than the others. Yet he was so strong because he had figured out how to use that to his advantage. He had never gone back to his clan and taught himself how to hunt in the wild. He had actually only met Galea just a few weeks before, and it was love at first sight. Of course, then the other wolf showed up and tried to take her from him.
Galea was a different story. She was born into the MacAngus clan and found a mate almost immediately after she became fertile. However, her first litter of pups contained two malcadhs, which was an extreme rarity, and she had been cast out of the clan. She never bothered finding another clan after that and became a free runner.
Cilian shared his and Iris's story with them and then they found and killed a caribou. Myron did most of the work, though with Cilian's instruction, and severed the animal's head from its body, while the adults held down the caribou so that he could get a steady grip. This particular one had been obviously separated from its herd. Then they brought it towards the den they would share.
"Mum! We caught a caribou!" Myron shouted as he ran into the cave. Myron ran up to his mother and nuzzled her chin.
"It was awesome!" he exclaimed.
"Where is your father?" she asked.
"He's helping the other wolves bring the caribou here," said Myron. Iris's ears perked up at the words 'other wolves'. Who had Cilian found? Her question was answered as soon as the caribou was dragged into the mouth of the cave.
"There you are," said Iris lovingly. She licked her mate's muzzle and he returned the sign of affection. Ferrus and Galea walked over to introduce themselves.
"Iris, these are Galea and Ferrus," said Cilian, "They're free runners as well. Ferrus, Galea, this is my wife Iris."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," said Galea. Ferrus nodded. They all ate their fill and Myron fell asleep shortly after, giving the two couples time to talk.
"So we heard from Cilian you both came from the MacDuncan territory," said Ferrus as they all lied down on the cave floor together.
"Yep," said Iris, "We were both gnaw wolves but we were expelled after Myron was born. We lost the clan just beyond the river that splits the Beyond in half. We haven't been bothered since."
"That's what we were told," said Galea, "But don't you think they would remember and come back after you?"
"No wolf clans sting the western Beyond," Cilian answered, "It's possible that they could be afraid of danger because there are no packs here."
"Or the Outclanners," said Iris.
"Yep, I've had a few run-ins with those fools myself," said Ferrus, stretching out and lying closer to his mate, "They really aren't very strong." They went on like this for a while, talking about their former lives and how they were doing as free runners before they turned in for the night.
They went on living like this for a while, six moons to be exact. In that time, Galea and Ferrus had their first litter together, two she-pups, one with a missing dewclaw who they named Tyra and the other, her sister, who was called Violet. Myron took to them like an older brother. Though he was over a full moon cycle older than them, he loved the two sisters. Eventually, even more were added to their number. A lone auburn furred she-wolf named Orani wandered into the forest they lived within shortly after the girls were born. Myron found her on a hunt and brought her back to the den, taking to her immediately.
Yet another starving wolf was found at the edge of the forest, unconscious. He had once been a MacHeath wolf but sired a malcadh, so he was cast out of the clan. Eventually, when Tyra and Violet were a little older, Galea and Ferrus decided that they would leave the den to go find one of their own.
"I'll miss you two," said Myron as he licked both Tyra and Violet's muzzles.
"We'll miss you too Myron," as they licked him back. The other wolves all said their good byes. There were twelve of them staying in the den in all and they were all very close. Then it came to Cilian and Iris.
"You two were the ones that started it all," said Cilian, "Perhaps we will meet again sometime."
"Yes, perhaps we shall," said Ferrus. He shook paws with Cilian and turned to his mate.
"Shall we go?" he asked. Galea nodded.
"Come girls, we are to leave now," said Ferrus. Tyra and Violet said one last good bye to Myron and then the family left the den. It was a new moon outside when they left. Another moon cycle passed. The four wolves aside from Orani, two males and two females, left in pairs of two to start new lives together as free runners. They also left under a new moon. Two more cycles passed. Orani still didn't leave. Another. She still hadn't left. Then the time came at two moon cycles old, that Myron would leave the den to fend for himself as a free runner.
"Promise us you'll remain safe," said his mother, tears welling up in her eye.
"Mum, you and Da raised me well, both of you missing eyes or not," said Myron, "I will be fine." His father approached him.
"If there is anything we can do before you leave, just tell us now," said Cilian. His parents had grown a little brittle with age. They could no longer hunt for him, but he didn't need them to anymore. He had become stronger and more mature.
"Trust me Da," said Myron, "I will be okay. And I promise I will come back someday, maybe with a family of my own."
"About that," said Orani, approaching him shyly. Cilian stepped back. Her head was down as she talked to him.
"Myron… I really like you," said Orani as her head came up to meet his, "I was wondering if you'd… you'd let me go with you." Myron seemed shocked. He had grown to know her well over the time she had spent with them, nearly ten moons. He didn't realize it until now, but he had deep hidden feelings for her. He licked her muzzle.
"Of course you can come with me," he said with a warm smile, "We can live together travelling the Beyond." Orani returned the gesture of affection.
"Then what are we waiting for?" she asked. They turned and approached the exit of the den they had shared with all of the wolves for so long. Myron turned.
"Mum, Da… don't worry about me," he said, "As I said before, you have raised me well, as though one wolf. You two were destined for each other and make each other whole." And with those last words to his parents, he left the den with Orani at his side, under the final new moon that the two couples would see together for a long while.
A/N: I finally figured out what I'm going to do with this story. It is to be a foundation for my Wolves stories to come. I hope all of my readers are enjoying this story so far! Sorry if that part where all the wolves are joining them in the den feels rushed. I wanted to squeeze it all into this chapter and that was the only way it would fit.
I do not own Wolves of the Beyond, all characters, ideas, and places belong to Kathryn Lasky.