Let me start with a few announcements:
After "A Jasper Ghost Story" was so popular, I got a lot of reviews asking about a sequel. My poll closed last week and the results were unanimous; all votes were for Lilith coming back. So I will be doing a sequel... but not yet. I want to give Lilith a rest so that she doesn't get overused. Besides, I need time to plan it out. I hope I'm not disappointing anybody but, trust me, the next Lilith story will be better for not being rushed.
Also, I'm doing stories for "Alpha and Omega: The Series," which Dancing Lunar Wolves has set up. It's a collaboration between different authors taking place after the movie and featuring a number of new adventures for all the movie characters. Be sure to check it out and follow it as more stories come out.
But, in the meantime, I'm doing a story I've been planning for awhile. This one is going to be a long story, based on a popular medieval plotline. Kate, Lilly, Humphrey, and Garth will all be here - along with action, adventure, some crazy new OCs and a new villain with a grudge against one of our favorite wolves.
So, without further ado, read on:
Here Begins Book the First of the Epic, Perils of the North
I. In Jasper. I.
"Nations are not truly great solely because the individuals composing them are numerous and free and active.
Nations are great only when these numbers, this freedom, and this activity are employed in the service of an ideal
higher than that of an ordinary man, taken by himself."
- Matthew Arnold, "Democracy"
Jasper Park was peaceful. It had been some time since Lilly and Garth's marriage had united the pack. It had also been quite some time since Winston, Eve, and Tony stepped down, letting Kate, Humphrey, Lilly, and Garth to take over as full leaders of the pack.
There had been peace ever since the union of the packs. There was no more feuding between East and West, and in fact, the wolves were already beginning to forget their old pack designations. Alpha and Omega couples were common now as, despite initial hesitance, the wolves of the pack followed their leaders' example. Nor was the caribou supply a problem, since the two packs worked together to keep from overhunting the caribou. In fact, the caribou population of Jasper had rebounded, meaning that there was no more threat of food shortage. Everything was perfect. It was – as far as it could be with wolves – a golden age.
Kate, as proud and strong as ever, shook off sleep and strode out into the early morning sun from her and Humphrey's den in the central mountain. Nearby, Lilly and Garth were stirring in their own. In order to represent the merger of the packs, it had been decided that the ruling family would relocate to the one place held in common by both packs. It had been this way for some time, and Kate was very happy with her life. Neither she and Humphrey nor Lilly and Garth had yet had pups to take over for them someday. But there would be time for that later, and besides, Kate had no intention of retiring from the leadership for a very long time.
She looked down toward the valley, where she saw many little specks – the wolves of her pack – happily going about whatever they were doing. Kate smiled as she watched them; it lifted her heart to see them all so happy. She thought in amazement at how, despite how hard things had been and how trouble seemed inevitable when she was supposed to marry Garth, everything had managed to work out for the best.
Suddenly, Kate's world went black. "Morning, hun!" came Humphrey's voice from behind her. Kate pulled his paws out of her eyes and spun around to meet him.
"Humphrey, I thought I told you to stop doing that!" she said playfully.
Humphrey smiled. "You did, but you never meant it!"
Kate laughed. He had her there.
Kate now noticed that Lilly and Garth were watching them. Lilly was giggling and even Garth had a smile on his face. It was definitely a good day.
"Come on, guys," Kate said. "We've got a pack to run!"
Hutch and Can-do were busy marching along the pack's northern border. It was their turn to patrol for intruders. As there didn't seem to be anyone around, Hutch and Can-do were engaged in conversation.
"I still don't get it," Hutch said.
"What's not to get?" Can-do protested. "Just because some people prefer to have something a little different to eat, you've got to start criticizing them."
Hutch shook his head. "But bitter berries?"
"I prefer to think of them as tart berries," Can-do answered.
(Author's Note: Another joke from "Lilly Saves the Day".)
Hutch was about to offer his own witty retort when he heard something in the bushes. "Shhh," he said to Can-do.
"Oh no, you can't just win an argument by shushing me!" Can-do complained.
"Not now, Can-do!" Hutch whispered.
And then Can-do heard it too. And soon, he picked up a scent. The scent of a wolf, but not a wolf of the United Pack. It was a stranger.
Hutch nodded to Can-do to conceal himself in the bushes. They would wait for this stranger – he was coming their way – and then figure out what was going on. They only had to wait a few seconds before the stranger came fully into view. He was a little wolf, dark grey and otherwise completely ordinary. But he was not one of the pack's wolves, so Hutch and Can-do jumped in front and behind him.
"Hey, buddy," Can-do said. "You're not from around here, are you?"
"State the reason for your presence in the territory of the Jasper pack," Hutch said, attempting to be more diplomatic.
The little wolf shivered a little but tried to speak. "I'm… I'm a lone wolf… who's just passing through. I was hoping that there would be a pack in the area that might give me shelter until I move on."
Can-do smelled him cautiously. He did not seem suspicious. There was a slight hint of other wolves, but that would be normal for a lone wolf going from pack to pack. Finally, Can-do nodded to Hutch.
"Come with us," Hutch said. "Our pack leaders will decide what to do with you."
It was Kate's turn to lead the caribou hunt and she was waiting for Hutch and Can-do to arrive. Finally, she heard them approaching.
"Where have you two been?" she said. "We're almost fifteen minutes late!"
Though Humphrey had taught Kate to relax more, she could still be obsessive about punctuality on occasion.
"We would have been here sooner, ma'am," Hutch said, "but we encountered a problem."
Kate turned swiftly. "A problem?"
She now saw that Hutch and Can-do were escorting a small grey wolf who did not look too happy about his company.
"We found this lurking around our borders," Can-do said gruffly. "He says he's a lone wolf!"
"I am a lone wolf!" the stranger cried. "I have been ever since I had to leave my pack. Since then, I've been wandering around Canada like – like lone wolves always do, I guess. But could you please tell me where I am now?"
"You're in Jasper National Park, Alberta," Kate said, figuring she could at least tell the stranger that much.
The stranger's face lit up. "Jasper? You mean, you're the Jasper Wolfpack?"
Kate nodded, "Yeah, that's us."
The stranger gave a yelp of delight. "Oh, I can't believe my luck! To actually meet the Jasper Pack! It's truly an honor!"
Kate tilted her head in confusion. "You know who we are?"
"Of course," the stranger answered. "Every wolf in Canada has heard of the Jasper Pack! The first pack ever to allow the mating of Alphas and Omegas. The first pack ever created by the joining of an Alpha and an Omega. You're famous!"
Kate looked from Hutch to Can-do trying to think of something to say. She did not know how to respond to being a household name among the wolven population of Canada. "Um, yeah… okay," she finally said.
The stranger grinned. "Oh, that makes me feel so much better! I honestly wasn't trespassing or anything, but I was hoping to find a friendly pack that would give me something to eat and some shelter for a few days. Could I stay with you? I don't eat much or take up much room and I'm only going to be staying for a week and then I'll move on. Please?"
Kate considered this. The stranger did not seem like a threat.
Finally, she nodded. "It has always been the custom of our pack to take in any wolf who comes to us in need. You can stay for as long as you need to."
Kate turned to walk away. The lone wolf, however, was too excited to stop talking.
"Oh, thank you, thank you!" he said. "You Jasper wolves really are as kind and wise as they say you are! You must be the second-greatest pack in all Canada!"
Kate, who had been enjoying the praise, now shot a look at the stranger over her shoulder. "Ahem, second greatest pack?" she said.
The stranger said. "Yeah, almost the best, but not quite."
Kate felt her pride being stung, not just for herself but for her whole pack. She turned back around. "Okay, so tell me, who would the greatest pack be?"
"Hey now," the stranger said, "being second best ain't that bad. I mean, sure you couldn't make it to the top, but think of everybody else who couldn't either."
Kate repeated her question. "Who is the greatest pack?"
The stranger continued. "I mean, no matter how could you are, there's always somebody better, right? So you shouldn't feel too bad about not being good enough to be number one. I mean, perfection is overrated anyway, isn't it?"
"Who is the greatest pack?" Kate asked again, her voice becoming harsher. Her patience with this stranger had run out and she was now demanding an answer.
"The Yukon Pack is the greatest, of course!" the lone wolf said, as though it was common knowledge. "I mean, they're the best at everything."
Neither Kate nor the Betas could ever remember hearing of this pack before.
"Yukon Pack?" Hutch said. "The Yukon's a big place. You must mean the Yukon packs."
"No, just one pack," the stranger said. "All the packs united into one that covers the whole Yukon. I mean, now you see why they're better. I mean, you just united two packs and only got a single park to show for it. They united about ten or so and got a whole territory."
Kate glared and pointed at the stranger. "Now you listen here! Jasper can do anything the Yukon Pack can do and we can do it better! I can promise you that!"
The lone wolf rolled his eyes. "Whatever, Kate. There's no need to be jealous just because you're not as good!"
"Not as good? Not as good?" Kate was really starting to lose her temper now. Hutch and Can-do instinctively backed away, as Kate was beginning to look a lot like her mother. "Well then, why don't you pay some attention while you're here and see our pack for yourself? I think you'll agree we're much better than some northern pack!"
"Is that a challenge?" the stranger said with a laugh.
"Um, ma'am," Hutch said. "I think something's wrong here. Maybe we should think twice about letting this wolf into our valley."
But Kate was too upset to listen to her subordinate. "Yes it is! You just watch – we're gonna make those Yukon wolves look like circus dogs! Just you wait and see!"
Would the United Pack impress their new guest?