Well, we finally made it to the chapter where our heroes set out on their epic journey. See, I kept my promise. Now the story is really going to kick into high-gear.
Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed the first part of "Perils of the North." It means a lot to me to have you guys reading and reviewing, and I hope you'll all continue to do so with the parts to come. I've got some big twists and turns planned, so if you've read this far, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Also, stayed tuned for another chapter of "Wolves on Film" due out soon.
"No, Lilly, absolutely not," Kate said after she heard Lilly's proposal. "I am not going to turn over the United Pack to a lunatic like that!"
"Come on, Kate," Lilly said quietly. "He's tough and he's smart and he's the only one who knows the pack as well as we do…"
"No, no, no," Kate said. "Not him. I'd leave anyone in charge instead of him. I'd leave Edgar in charge instead of him!"
"Hey!" Edgar said proudly from the back. "Right on!"
"Shut up, Edgar," Garth commanded.
"I don't know," Humphrey said. "Lilly does make a good point. I mean, who are we going to leave in charge? The whole pack's so hooked on gambling that we'll probably come back to find that Jasper's been turned into a casino if we turn it over to anybody else!"
"Actually, I've been looking into having us registered as an Indian tribe," Edgar began. "Then we could build as many casinos as we want!"
"Shut up, Edgar!" Garth once again commanded.
'I mean, our ancestors have been living in this valley for, what, thousands of years?" Edgar continued. "I think that qualifies us as an indigenous people sure enough!"
"Shut up, Edgar!" All the Eastern wolves shouted together.
Kate was quick to regain control of the conversation. "As I was saying, we are absolutely, in no way whatsoever, ever possibly going to leave in charge someone like–"
The sound of lightning was heard suddenly in the sky. And in the entrance to the den stood an ancient white wolf, surveying them all with a look of wisdom – or madness – in his eyes.
"Ambrose…" Kate said, almost lost for words.
"A lunatic now, am I?" Ambrose asked.
"How long… how long were you eavesdropping?" Kate said, regaining some of her fire with the last word.
Ambrose shook his head. "I wasn't eavesdropping. I just felt my ears burning…"
"Ambrose, will you take over the pack while we're gone?" Lilly asked before Kate could stop her.
"No, he will not!" Kate barked. "The pack doesn't know him nor do they respect him. They'd just see him as some old wolf with no right to boss them around. It wouldn't work."
"Oh, don't worry, Kate, they'd learn to respect me," Ambrose said darkly. But then his old humor suddenly returned. "But you all seem to be assuming that I would want the job. Didn't I seclude myself to avoid the company of other wolves? I have no interest in your affairs."
"You see, he has no interest in our affairs," Kate said triumphantly.
"But I do know of a way to solve your problem," continued Ambrose, causing Kate to shake her head in disbelief. "At the edge of your territory, there is a cave, a cave which is eternally frozen over with ice. A cave wherein no mortal has set foot for generations. In that cave, there can be found–"
"No offense, Ambrose," Kate interrupted, "but the last thing we need right now is another one of your magical solutions. After last time, I think we all know better than to get involved with any of that!"
"As if you're not already involved," Ambrose remarked. "But suit yourself. If you don't want my help, I'll just be going."
Ambrose turned to leave, but Lilly quickly ran up and grabbed onto his shoulder. "Mr. Ambrose," said she, "please reconsider. Please take over our pack for us. We don't have anybody else and if you did it, we'd be really, really, really, really, really grateful!"
Ambrose turned around and saw Lilly's large lavender lights pleading with him. He smiled. "Well, when you put it that way, little lady, I guess I can make sure things don't get too far out of line. It seems to me like you need someone to sort out this gambling business anyway! Wolves gambling, just imagine! Ah, the things you pups get up to these days."
"Oh, thank you!" Lilly said, hugging him. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"The least I can do, my charming little friend," said he.
"Hey, hey, hey, hold on," Kate said. "Didn't I just say we weren't leaving Ambrose in charge?"
"Oh, come on, sis, you know we don't have anybody else," Lilly said, letting go of Ambrose and turning to face her sister.
"Hey, I'm perfectly fine with it," Humphrey said.
"I agree with Humphrey," Garth added.
Humphrey shivered. "That's, what, the second time in a week that you've agreed with me, Garth? No offense, but it's starting to creep me out!"
Garth just rolled his eyes.
"Um, ma'am," Hutch said to Kate. "It looks like you're outvoted."
"Well, that's democracy for you," Kate muttered. She was unhappy that she was getting so little support, but was not about to back down.
Ambrose now moved past Lilly and over to Kate. He smiled warmly at her. "Kate, you are like an overprotective mother! It's as if you don't trust me with your precious pack! And here I am, trying to help you with this foolish northern venture! I got a message back from my friend up north, you know, and he says he'll keep a lookout for you. But if my efforts aren't appreciated around here, maybe I should just tell him to forget the whole thing…"
"Sis, what's he talking about?" Lilly asked. "What friend up north?"
"It's not important," Kate said. But to her it was very important. She knew that whoever Ambrose's friend was, he must be a powerful wolf like Ambrose himself was. And they could use all the help they could get. So, it was best, Kate figured, not to alienate Ambrose or his northern friend. Besides, what was the worst Ambrose could do to her pack? After all, he was on their side. Or at least she thought he was…
Finally, Kate nodded. "Fine, Ambrose. You get to have the pack. But you have to sort out this gambling mess while we're gone, understand. Oh, and don't mess anything up!"
"Do I ever mess anything up?" Ambrose said with a smirk.
The big day had finally arrived. All the preparations were in order and now it was time to move out. Kate and Lilly were waiting on a hill above the train-tracks, with the Betas behind them. They had sent Humphrey and Garth to make one last sweep of the pack territories to make sure everything in the valley had been taken care of and so were now waiting for their mates to return. The whole pack had turned out to see our heroes off and were expectantly awaiting the train. But everyone had gotten rather bored waiting for Garth and Humphrey to come back.
But this did give Lilly a chance to remember something. "Oh, I forgot to tell you," said she. "Marcel and Paddy stopped by the other day. They brought a post-card from mom and dad."
"Hmm?" Kate said, facing the tracks and only half listening. "How's their vacation to Niagara Falls going?"
"Dad says him and Tony are having a great time, getting a lot of relaxation in," Lilly answered.
Kate turned her head toward Lilly, her interest now legitimately peaked. Not by what Lilly had said, but by what she hadn't. "But what about mom?" Kate asked.
Lilly smiled bashfully as she thought about it. Slowly, she said, "Well, um, you know that guy who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel a few days ago?"
"Yeah…" Kate really didn't know where Lilly was going with this.
"He was trying to get away from mom," Lilly said.
Lilly shook her head. "No."
Kate couldn't help chuckling. "Well, then I guess mom's having a good time too."
But even with this bit of fun news, Kate couldn't help but feel impatient. She had meticulously planned this moment for two weeks and she did not want it ruined because Humphrey or Garth had gotten lost. They were supposed to have been back ten minutes ago.
"Come on, where are they?" Kate said.
"I'm sure they'll be here soon," Lilly said.
Just as she had finished speaking, they heard the distinct paw-steps of Humphrey and Garth coming in their direction.
"Sorry we're late," Garth said. "Reba and Janice chained themselves to a tree at the edge of the Great Lesser Clearing to protest our contest with the north."
"The Great Lesser Clearing? Isn't that bear country?" Kate asked.
"Which is why we had to get them out of there," Humphrey said as he cradled his foreleg, in which were three large (but, fortunately, not deep) scratch marks. "Came this close to being lunch for a couple of nasty grizzlies. But luckily Garth was there."
Garth smiled. "Just doing my job."
"Would you two stop getting along?" Kate said, annoyed. "Now it really is getting creepy!"
Humphrey and Garth exchanged awkward glances, but before they could say anything, a loud rumbling was heard in the distance. It was the sound of the Canadian Express, bound for Calgary, and it was coming their way.
Kate breathed a sigh of relief. "We didn't miss it! Okay, everyone, on my count, we'll jump in."
As the train got closer, Kate said, "One," and the wolves moved toward the track.
"Two." They broke into a run.
"Three!" Kate, Humphrey, Lilly, and Garth, followed by the Betas, made a jump for an open car. Everybody landed easily inside… Everybody except Lilly. As she landed, her back paws slipped and she nearly fell out of the car.
"Lilly!" Kate and Garth screamed together. Garth quickly made a dive toward the edge and grabbed her in his forelegs, pulling her safely into the car. He put her down beside him and they both took a moment to catch their breath.
"What?" Lilly said sweetly as she realized everyone was staring at her. "I would have made it in anyway!"
Kate, Humphrey, and Garth couldn't help but laugh at that.
It wasn't long, however, until a new problem broke out. No sooner had they recovered from the scare of Lilly nearly falling out of the car that they heard the sounds of a scuffle. The four leaders turned quickly to see Can-do and Scar at each other's throats.
Hutch and Claw were just barely managing to hold back their temperamental partners.
"The lower left corner of the car is mine!" Scar barked as Claw tried to restrain him.
"No it isn't!" Can-do yelled as Hutch put all his strength into holding him back. "I need to have the lower left corner or else I'll get train-sick!"
"Can-do, how do you know you'll get train-sick?" Hutch said. "You've never been in a train before!"
"No, but I've seen pictures!" Can-do shot back.
Using all their might, Can-do and Scar managed to pull themselves free of their partners' grasps. They charged toward one another. But just before impact, Edgar jumped in between them.
"Come on, now," Edgar said, "instead of fighting, why don't we settle this like gentlewolves?"
"And how do you propose we do that?" Can-do said, obviously unhappy that someone else had stopped him from bashing Scar's head in.
Edgar now pulled out his deck of cards. "With a friendly game of chance, of course…"
Kate, Humphrey, Garth, and Claw all groaned at the suggestion.
"It's going to be a long train-ride," Kate said.
And so our heroes sped off from the safety and security of Jasper Park and towards the perils of the unknown. At this moment, none of them could possibly imagine \what this fateful journey had in store for them. For even now, their enemy was plotting their destruction and it will take all of their strength and cunning to escape the Yukon alive.
Here ends Book the First of Perils of the North