“When the remembering was done, the forgetting could begin.”
― Sara Zarr
Tala had made it so far that she had only thought of Marrok once this cold day. His soft warmth radiating unto her when she touched him. When she hugged him. When she had told him, about whom she wanted to be. How she had teased him and how everything about him always fell into the right place.
“Why Hello, little miss daydreamer” Tala quickly snapped out of her daze, cursing herself for daydreaming again and just as before about Marrok. “Are we going out to hunt or what missy?”
Leela had been in a particularly good mood-even for her- today and that made it seem very likely that she was readying a surprise for really anyone in the inner pack of Froth-Kyan. So with Leela’s spirits high and Olive and Tala making half conversations they started on their journey through their four of the territory.
“And just where are we hunting?” Olive asked which would have surprised anyone who remotely knew Olive for she was not one to inquire unless under very special circumstances. The only other times Tala had really known Olive asking was twice. Once when they had been pups, and then Olive had been scared because Leela was being as stupidly fearless as always had brought the other two to a human camp, and they almost had shaken hands with death. The second time was when Olive had complained about having to wait for her mothers to come back, which for Olive complaints were even rarer than the questions.
“We,” Leela said with lots of dignity, “are going to hunt out of our territory.” A devilish smile crept onto Leela’s face, she wore this quite a while and Tala often shared with her, the only wolf stopping them from getting kicked out was Olive, who had the only smidge of common sense in the group. “A couple days ago, I had smelt many caribou just over the border but you see… I did not want to go alone … I wanted you guys to get some credit too.” Tala had almost thought she was going to say she had been too scared to go out of the border alone but Leela-like all ways- remained fearless.
“…uh, I uh have actually been over there” Tala burst out. This startled even Leela who usually got distracted too much to be startled, but she quickly shut the door to anyone who thought she might be getting smarter when she replied with the phrase
“You went without me?” Leela demanded, though it was more of whine than an honest inquire, but Tala ignored the comment and peered at Olive who seemed more dazed than anything did before simple speaking six simple words.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” and turned and started to walk the way that they had been going. Soon after the she-wolf was followed by Leela and finally Tala.
Marrok had tried to pry for information for days now, but could not crack Alpha not the smallest detail was given to Marrok. The only things Marrok could piece together was that One, Alpha had gone crazy with his long held power, Two, he knew he would need a new alpha soon, and three, that Marrok was to challenge Alpha today and then win. But, why? Why did Alpha want a new leader now? Of all times and of all situations why look for one that was not a deputy? Marrok’s head spun with questions that he hoped would be answered after he became the official alpha. Marrok just hoped Alpha himself was not looking just to get more power by giving leadership over a ‘failed’ new thing and gain more respect for his self. Marrok shook his head to clear it for his fight as he entered the clearing where Alpha had told Marrok he would be. In the middle Alpha was talking of something big and important so Marrok waited for him to finish talking before the challenge.
“… put patrols out by our borders with the other inner packs, because I un-fortunately have heard rumors of them stealing from our land! This my fellow members is why I separated the packs my mate’s packs and this pack are the ones of pure heart and pure spirit, but! The other two packs are full of the tainted ones, ones that have betrayed me, betrayed you, betrayed our children, they have betrayed the pack. So I say why not let them have what is coming for them!, so I say give them what they disserve, let our god-if there even is one- decided whether they are to live or die! You may debate with your selves on this topic, but unless anyone is to challenge me in order to ‘save’ their mates and children then speak up and challenge me!”
Marrok took this as his cue to challenge Alpha so as the rest of the crowd swirled into frivolous whispers He stepped forward and bellowed.
“I challenge you! Your views are wrong and I feel to set your own wrongs right and remove you from the position you are in!”
A few wolves cheered on Marrok and only a couple booed most though looked at him in disbelief. The tight group of wolves started backing away from Marrok and Alpha, not wanting to get in the cross fire of a challenge, the winner would either kill the loser or the loser would surrender and live out the rest of his or her life an omega. As the circle around Alpha and Marrok grew so did the tension and the amount of eyes on the two. All but two wolves howled the traditional bell of the start of a fight unless in war.
Marrok and Alpha started to circle each other, slowly at first, but quickly picking up speed, until they were practically chasing the other’s tail. Alpha started to snarl, saliva dripped from his mouth, bubbling slightly, his teeth had yellowed with age and red stained his lips a crimson red from blood. A feral danger shot into his eyes, it soon dawned on Marrok that Alpha was not going to let Him win. Marrok now in the duel with his father could not back down. Alpha had come up with a plan to show that not even his own son could defeat him. Marrok too snarled, his teeth glistening white, shiny with saliva that dripped a little from his mouth. His lips shone black in the noontime sun, the cream-colored part of his lips showed only the faintest shade of pink faded from the last time he had eaten, but soon was speckled with an intense crimson. Marrok jumped onto Alpha’s back, digging his claws in. However, Alpha shook him off and with practiced agility was pinning Marrok down. Marrok pulled his head as far as he could, snapping ferociously. Alpha was just out of reach, he panted, his head high with triumph.
“Your mistake” Marrok choked out, blood falling out of his mouth, to the distracted wolf above him. He shoved his paws under Alpha’s chest and pushed hard, launching the ivory wolf. He stood and pounced onto his dazed father. “You betrayed me, so now you will die,” he whispered into his father’s ear before stepping on his shoulder and biting hard on the life-giving vein in the neck.
Marrok spit out blood, and backed away from his father, who was struggling to hold onto life. Blood poured out of his open wound, pumping out to the rhythm of his heart. Realization flooded Alpha’s eyes at what he had done to the pack, to his son. He drew in a shaken breath, and stared at Marrok, life draining from his eyes, he said nothing, and he did not need to as Marrok could not understand what was going through his father’s mind he knew that he would know that the Kyan pack was in good hands. Relief suddenly poured through Alpha’s grey eyes and a hint of a smile played on his lips as the last light of life fell from his body. All the horrid twitching stopped, and blood from the vein came out but slower, as if nothing was making it move any more but it still came out like in a trickle. Crimson blood wet the dead alpha’s body, and nothing moved for what seemed forever.
Marrok abruptly threw his head into the air, a long howl from his deepest throat started, he sung for his father’s death honoring the great fight that had happened. One by one howls honoring the deceased came from wolves. Some so sad that tear rolled down the eyes of those nearby, some howls were so sad that they had to stop for a case of whimpers had taken them. What no one noticed, not even Marrok, in their state of grief however was behind howl, though ringing with the truest sadness and grief was a bit of pride.
Tala, Leela, and Olive arrived to where Leela had first found the scent. Even as they neared, they knew that Leela had been right. The overruling smell of caribou washed over them. However, something did not seem right to Tala, there were no caribou in the area. Olive seemed to notice this too as they circled the area. It smelled like they were everywhere but they could not find a single deer.
“Leela, where are the deer?”
Tala was very anxious now something seemed very off. Hunters were known to be able to change their scent at will, to draw their prey, and trick their prey before killing whatever they had wanted.
“OH! There is one!” Leela barked trotting off in the direction of a brown deer-ish blob, which stood still in the distance. As Leela trotted over to the blob, she stopped and turned shock covering her face as she slowly trotted back over. “That was no deer,” she told them glumly as they walked away from the blob. Just some flimsy wood.
As the three reached, the border there was a rustle from a nearby bush.
“Might as well not go home empty handed” Tala piped up and crouched, so that the other two were flanking her. She was going to kill whatever was behind the bush. She started to flick her tail when Olive and Leela crouched. An all too familiar feeling came to her. The feeling of living the hunt.
One. A smile spread onto Tala’s face despite her efforts to look solemn. Two. all of Tala’s muscles tensed until they hurt, you would think that by years of the hunt she would be used to the pain but it always came as a surprise and became part of the hunt. Three! However, before any of the threesome could pounce on their unsuspecting prey a boy crashed down in front of them. On his back a gun and he wore a disguise that all hunters wore, wafting off him was the enticing scent of caribou. He must have been hiding in a tree and they had smelt him not any deer.
Olive started to growl, a deep guttural one, one that she used only when protecting something. However, Tala quickly shushed her and glared at Leela when she started to lick her lips. The boy’s gaze only was on her. She kept her eyes on the gun while she shooed Olive and Leela away. Reluctantly they left, but not before brushing up against her and licking her as a goodbye.
Tala still was crouched rigidly, and she started to growl after she had let her friends gain some distance. As she growled the boy started to squeal a little, before he actually started to scan her.. His eyes first fell onto Tala’s head where her ears twitched around. Then his eyes drifted to her tail, still was in a half flick frozen on three. Next the boy’s eyes found Tala’s claws they were gleaming from melted snow under her hand, the only difference between his hands and her own was that long hard nails protruded out of hers not like his, slim white nails, neatly trimmed, but much more like a wolf’s claws. All of a sudden, his eyes fell to her chest. She looked down to see if anything was out of place but nothing seemed to be, the was no scraps left or blood dried on her fur. Still, Tala then had a strange urge one she knew she had felt before but could not remember from where or why. Tala felt the urge to cover her body. A pink flushed to her cheeks, but she soon shook herself straight. Tala took a dangerous step forward and started to snarl. Her lip curled up and a growl came from her.
“Father! Where are you!” words, a calling came out of the boy’s mouth. They seemed strange and odd for she was used to the simple language of wolves but somehow she knew what they meant. Tala had heard snippet’s of hunter talk before but it had always had sounded foreign, this boy’s speech however was familiar in a terrible sense, that drove dread through her. Her growl cut off and fear filled her eyes. She pulled her foot back and waited for the boy to turn.
“What is it Jack, my boy? Have you found something? I thought we’re here to hunt not sight see” The boy turned and Tala silently backed away into the shadows of the forest following Leela and Olive’s path when she heard the word hunt. Whenever a human said hunt that usually meant death for a near animal. In the distance, Tala heard the boy in the distance.
“ I saw the wolf girl you know the one from the stories!”
“Son there is no one and nothing here! Well except for animals but that’s beside the point!”
“But she was here I swear!”
Tala made a small promise to herself as she ran to the pack grounds. I will never go out of our borders again, even if the boy seemed different, he could not be all hunters were the same. As she ran, all she noticed was that Leela and Olive stopped up ahead, they gave each other worried glances at each other until they saw Tala.
“You did not want to kill the human immediately,”
”So? Your point is?”
“You acted human” Tala stopped in her tracks. She had acted human. But, she was not at least part human? She should not have showed compassion to the human. But why had she? What was different about the boy that made her heart speed up just ever so slightly and make want to cover herself? But how was it that she could not see the difference in his eyes when he looked at her and when the other wolves looked at her. Full of wonder and curiosity and but a slight hint at disgust as if no one had seen her before and she was repulsive but they wanted to hide it. I am going to find him after the next howling. Tala smiled because she knew that by then if she acted normally they would forget about her human tendencies and she would just say that if she did not come back to look for her. With that, thought she slowed her walk, and said she regretted not killing the boy and said if she ever saw him, again she would kill him.
It was too dangerous to make it so even her best friends knew how she felt. Not even Marrok could know and he was her mate. Then an odd thought struck Tala when she thought of Marrok a smile came to her face always and she got giddy to see him. But when she thought of the boy she felt the same way. As if she could just be by their side forever and not leave. She loved both of them. She wanted both of them. Tala had to choose she realized if she would stay as Marrok’s mate or go to the boy and be with him. The difference was she had pure love for Marrok. The love she had the boy however, was different she wanted to protect him. But love him also. I have to choose” she thought to herself. I have to choose. I have to choose. Tala kept repeating in her mind, as if it might help her make a choice but it did not. All it did was make it worse.
The old Alpha was dead, and his challenger got to take his place. Marrok would take on the name of Alpha. Marrok would now take on the duty of Alpha. He would take everything on. The only thing he would lose was his name.
“As my first proclamation as Alpha I say that all packs shall once again and just as before be put together and we shall hunt together, we shall all be family, and every one will get a specified food portion so that we will not once again and just as before run out and go in to starvation. All the wolves that surrounded Alpha cheered for they knew they would not have empty bellies today, tomorrow, or any day to come for this winter. However, most did not stay for long. Most were more ecstatic to find their families that they had been separated from for almost a month and a half to praise the new Alpha.
Alpha stood tall and proud but inside he asked himself what he had gotten himself into. Before him lay a bloodied wolf who, even in his evil reign, had known how to lead a pack into greatness even if it was on a twisted way. When the last wolf left, Alpha slowly and sadly turned to the leader’s cave. What was he going to say to Tala when she found him, what was going to happen when she found out he had killed another wolf? What was the old Alpha’s mate to do when she found him? Alpha knew that usually they went to be either a beta or a lone wolf. So sadly, Marrok walked to the leader’s cave.
When Tala and the other two returned to Kyan-froth, they found a particular sight. Far too many wolfs bustled about, in fact, every wolf in the entire Kyan pack was present, looking for others, but why? Alpha never changed his decisions, not even if the situation called for it. Nevertheless, one by one they found in their minds a way to make sense of what had happened. Both Olive and Leela steered off quickly to find their families in the insanity.
However, Tala stayed behind. She had sharper eyes than most other wolves. A benefit of being her, she guessed. Where was Marrok? A worry started to come into Tala’s gut. Distressing questions came to her head. Had he gotten in the cross fire of Alpha and the new Alpha? Had Marrok challenged the old alpha first and lost or died then another went up? What had happened to Marrok? One thought came to Tala an impossible, but wonderful thought. What if Marrok had become Alpha? Tala had to check, she had to know.
Tala’s feet however, did not lead her to the Leader’s cave. She could not think, could not she put together any pieces that came to her. Wolves happy and relieved blurred past her, as did trees and bushes. Tala fell in the dark; she could not see where she was, or where she was going. If there were a tree in front of Tala, she would not have seen it. An owl called somewhere in the distance pressing her on and on. Tala had to get to the leader’s cave. Then her feet stopped. They had not carried Tala to her loved one, But to a human place. A place where monsters of metal and rubber ran resided. A place of smelly fog, which burned Tala’s throat and made her hack and cough until her throat stung even more. Something about this place left an uneasy feeling in her gut, aside from the monsters flying past her. Tala had been here before.
Tala looked around. Daylight now came to the earth. It seemed like such a happy day for everything else, big puffy clouds floated around in the sky, bees drunkenly flew past her in the heat. She was huffing and panting. Fear and anxiety etched at her heart, also betrayal and sadness. Cars whizzed by and sirens wailed in the distance. The black highways brought heat onto Tala on otherwise a cold day. Tears dropped from Tala’s eyes and fell to the grass below her. Through bleary vision she held her tail and pet it feeling it. She was getting to know it. Above Tala, a crow flew out of a tree that led to the forest. Tala stood slowly and faced the forest. She could live there and never be found. Tala took her first step and felt her anxiety start to seep away, another and her fear walked out the door of her mind, another and the sadness washed away. With each step, all doubts and bad thoughts seemed to go away. Lastly as she stepped into the forest the betrayal she felt that gripped her heart for so long dissolved too.
Tala opened her eyes the memory still fresh in her mind. Tala’s head pounded with a headache, but that was no matter she had felt worse before. But a heavy weight was left on her heart. Even as she was confused he felt long berried sadness, and fear come back. But why should she be sad? She did not know yet if Marrok-or Alpha- was alive but somehow she knew he was. And nothing bad had happened that day. Today was a day of celebration, but all Tala wanted to do was sleep until the sadness was gone. Then there was the fear, but was she afraid of? Nothing had scared her not even the cars-
“I know their names?” Tala had not known them just a second ago, she had called them monsters, but now they were cars? Tala shook her head. She would ponder on everything that had happened in her Memory on the way home, she decided as she slugged home.