This is a shorter chapter. It's probably not as exciting as the last one was or the next one's going to be, but it's necessary to set up more spooky stuff next chapter. Enjoy!
Garth and Edgar strode down the path, the three young wolves behind them.
"That was very irresponsible of you three to come out here," Garth said sternly. "My dad's going to be very upset."
The three wolves started to shiver in fear.
Garth smiled. "But I'll try to put in a good word for you. Wolves will be wolves, after all."
Then Garth looked toward the bottom of the path, expecting to see the shining eyes and warm face of his mate greeting him. He was horrified to see no one there.
"Lilly?" he called out. "Lilly, where are you?"
Garth ran down the path looking for her. He looked all around and saw no sign of her. Edgar followed him slowly, though he did not seem particularly concerned.
"We have to find Lilly!" Garth said. "She could have hurt herself or… or…"
"Don't get my hopes up," Edgar muttered.
The three young wolves were about to take this opportunity to run off, but Garth suddenly turned toward them. "If anybody leaves before we find Lilly, my dad's anger is going to be the least of their troubles!"
"Why, are you going to do something?" one of the young wolves said.
Garth was in no mood to argue about it. "No, but I have a feeling my mother-in-law will."
The threat worked. The three wolves stayed put.
Garth returned to searching. As he approached the large, dark cave by the path, he thought he saw something. In the blackness of the cave, he could just barely make out something white.
His heart skipped a beat. "Lilly!"
He ran inside, followed by Edgar and the three young wolves.
Lilly was laying in the middle of the cave. Her eyes closed.
Garth ran for her, but Edgar quickly cut him off.
"Hold on, sir," Edgar said. He then reached down and felt Lilly's neck for a pulse. After a few tense moments, he said, "She's still alive."
Garth let out a sigh of relief. But it was short-lived. Even though Lilly was alive, he could tell that something was very, very wrong. She looked as though she had been knocked unconscious and her breathing, when it came, seemed to be very difficult.
"We have to get her out of here!" Garth said, trying to remain calm long enough to save his mate. "Help me lift her up."
Edgar began to move Lilly but suddenly jumped back. "What on Earth?" he said.
Garth, surprised, looked down to where Edgar was looking. He too gasped. On Lilly's shoulder was some sort of mark. It looked almost like a large, black paw-print – almost as though it had been burned into her fur.
"What is it, sir?" Edgar asked.
"No time to worry about that now," Garth said. "Help me move her!"
Together, they lifted Lilly onto Garth's back.
"What do we do now, sir?" Edgar asked.
"Let's take her to her parents' den," Garth said. "They'll know what to do."
They set off from the Haunted Caves, going as fast as they could. Unfortunately, they could not break into a run because Garth was afraid it would worsen Lilly's fragile condition. While probably a wise move, this meant that the journey took an hour or more to complete, with Garth barely able to contain all of his fears and worries.
Somewhere along the way, the three young wolves broke away and returned to the Eastern Pack. Garth and Edgar didn't much care, as long as they were out of trouble. The main priority now was saving Lilly's life, under whatever means necessary.
Lilly's lavender eyes opened slowly. She looked up to see her whole family standing over her. She now realized she was laying on her side in her mother and father's den.
"Wha-what's going on?" she said as she tried to get up.
Eve gently pushed her back down. "It's alright, dear. Try to get some rest."
"Rest?" Humphrey said. "She's been sleeping for two days!"
Kate quickly shushed him. But the damage had been done.
"Two days?" Lilly said. "How could I have been asleep for two days?" She now glanced toward the cave entrance. It was a calm, blue summer's night. A slight breeze came through the den. It would have seemed nice if Lilly wasn't so shocked.
"We hoped you could tell us that, dear," Winston said.
Garth leaned his head down and nuzzled her. "When I found you, you were laying in the middle of a cave. Honey, do you remember anything that happened?"
Lilly tried to remember. Slowly, she said. "I… I just remember you telling me to stay at the bottom of the path while you chased the other wolves and then… I can't remember anything."
"That's alright, dear," Eve said, showing the motherly side only her two daughters ever saw. But then she turned to glare at Garth. "Your mate should never have taken you to such a dangerous place to begin with."
Now she started to growl. Garth began to seriously worry. She continued, "If I'd had my way, I would have torn his liver out already…"
Winston silently put his paw on Eve's shoulder, snapping her out of her rage. She looked back at Lilly and smiled warmly. "But your father thought that you'd want him alive when you woke up. So I agreed not to tear his liver out… until you're feeling better."
"Uh, thanks, mom?" Lilly said, not sure if Eve was being serious about the last part.
Lilly tried to pick herself up. "It's okay. I'm fine, really."
But then she felt her legs become wobbly under her. She collapsed.
Eve immediately checked on her daughter. After ensuring that Lilly had not been seriously hurt in the fall, she said, "You are not alright. You've caught an illness or something and you need to rest!"
"That's an order, young lady."
"If only we knew what this is," Winston said quietly, hoping Lilly wouldn't hear. "She's not injured at all and she doesn't seem to have caught anything, as far as we can tell."
Eve turned toward her mate. "I know," she whispered. "There's nothing wrong with her, nothing physically wrong. But clearly, something's harming my baby."
Lilly rolled her eyes. "Mom, dad, I'm still here. I can hear everything you're saying."
But her parents did not respond. Instead, Eve kept looking at Winston, her eyes filled with worry and fear. "What is this, Winston? It's not natural."
"Of course it's not," came a voice from the entrance of the cave. "It's supernatural!"
Shock filled everyone's faces. Their heads jolted in the direction of the voice. Near the entrance were standing three grey-black wolves, their faces hidden in the shadows.
The middle one, also the tallest, spoke. "This isn't anything of the physical world. You know who's to blame here? It's ghosts!"
Who were these three mysterious figures?