The sylvan grove was verdant with trees and grass, rocks covered in lichen of a thousand colors. Flora bloomed, painting a scene only seen once a year, a painting so beautiful it could not be understood by lesser beings, only by mother nature herself.
Fauna, such as deer, rabbits, elk, and birds flew overhead or danced through the lush undergrowth. Deciduous trees, new leaves germinating after a long sleep, still glistened with fresh morning dew.
Spring was here, melting snow and changing furs stood as silent witnesses to the neverending seasonal change. Large icicles dripped their essence to the forest floor, some refusing to release even a single drop.
Red Baneberry gave splashes of color to the green undergrowth, Fly Agaric mushrooms littered the rich soil, making the damp soil seem more alive. Ants marched around the mushrooms, their path and reason clear. Above the never-ending line of ants and under a leaf rested a broken cocoon, the owner resting on the outside as her wings dried.
The butterfly flapped her blue and black wings before taking off into the scarlet sky of the morning. She disappeared into the mountains, their peaks lightly dusted with fresh snow, the snowstorm darkening the ground below.
A wolf’s howl broke through the air and heavy tramples echoed through the peaceful forest. Elk and rabbits dashed away from the commotion, bushes trembled as wolves bolted through them. The scent of fear was strong in the air as a group of wolves chased a single wolf. Multiple howls escaped the wolves and paw prints were embedded in the moist ground, only to harden later in the day.
A damp stream bed trembled as the wolves closed in on their prey. The lone wolf took a leap of faith straight into the river. Water rushed around his paws and the river swallowed him whole.
The wolves gave chase, each one following the river’s current and the wolf it was dragging with it. They chased until the half drowned wolf was pushed into an eddie, his fur heavy with water and his legs like jelly, weak, useless, and wobbly.
He took three steps, each one taking him closer towards the riverbed until finally, he collapsed on the damp, sandy ground. A river, fast and strong, stood between him and his foes. A broken and twisted bridge stood half submerged in the river but no wolf was foolish enough to attempt a crossing, at least that’s what the wolf hoped as he closed his eyes and released a large sigh.
His theory proved correct as the hunting party growled and snarled, pacing gently around the crumbling river bank. Damp soil fell into the river, each particle being washed away by the strong flow.
When they realized their prey was safe a few growls were left on the riverbed before the wolves left, leaving the lone wolf alone, nearly freezing and certainly sarving. A soft, almost inaudible growl forced him to open his eyes.
As he opened his eyes small paws were the only thing he saw, each one lightly caked with mud, or at least what looked like mud. It could have easily been clay for all the lone wolf knew.
His eyes moved up from the paws, the legs looked like they were covered in the same substance and it wasn’t until the wolf’s eyes reached the body of the newcomer that he realized it was fur, not mud or clay.
A silent minute passed while the lone wolf caught his breath, the newcomer not showing any sign of outright hostility. It took a while, long enough for several small icicles on a nearby tree to melt and escape the trees embrace.
Finally the lone wolf stood up to face the newcomer. The newcomer was a female, mud colored fur covering her pink flesh. Small scratches covered her would be flawless pelt, each one roughly the size of a thorn.
“Who are you, why were members of the Old Sun pack chasing you, and why did you come over here?” The hostility in her voice was clear and it surprised the loner. “I-” The loner paused before he spoke again.
“I’m Claw, who are you?” It took the loner longer than he wanted to steady his voice.
“You’re talking to the leader of the Cold Breeze pack, now answer my other questions!”
Claw shook his head before replying.”I’m still waiting for an answer as well.” The two wolves stood still, each one waiting for the first to answer. Finally, after a few minutes of staring each other down the female sighed and lowered her head.
“Fine. I’m Stream, leader of the Cold Breeze Pack, now answer my questions.” Claw nodded when she finished. “I am Claw, I was running from them to escape after they ambushed me while I was eating a deer I hunted. I came over to this side in hopes of escaping them.”
Stream opened her muzzle to say something before a chilling howl echoed through the glowing morning. “Alpha…” The female whimpered before she turned to run away, only to be blocked by a large brute of a wolf.
She stumbled back as she tried to regain her balance. The wolf who blocked her way growled as he took multiple steps towards her. He looked like an absolute monster, muscles rippling beneath his fur, unkempt and creamy.
“Stream? Why are you here?” The relief was visible in the female’s eyes when the brute spoke. “Oh thank the gods! Cage where is Alpha?” The brute, Cage, shook his large head before replying. “Alpha is coming closer. He’s hunting that rogue wolf.” His muzzle was thrust towards Claw.
Claw tilted his head. “Then what are you doing here? Aren’t you a camp guard?” Cage nodded, and without looking at Claw he growled. “You’re that rogue wolf. What are you doing with Stream?”
The brute turned from Stream to face Claw. “If you hurt Stream. I’ll hurt you ten times over.” Before the wolf could attack the other Stream stepped in. “Cage calm down, he-”
Before she could finish she was interrupted by the howl of a wolf.
“Alpha is near,” Cage growled, “Stream run! Alpha will hurt you!” Stream dipped her head and quickly said goodbye to Cage before leaving, Claw following her without invitation, his tail between his legs and his ears down.
Cage watched the two go, a heavy look on his face. When they were out of his sight he turned away to face a new group of wolves, five total. The leader, a white wolf with piercing blue eyes, stood rigid as small ice crystals grew around his legs.
The lead wolf looked at Cage, his eyes narrowing as he did. “You let the rogue escape?” The creamy furred brute nodded, his head hung low and his tail between his legs. “He went to the Dark Forest, Mortem and his pack have their home there! I couldn’t just follow.”
“Bah! The Ancients are just pup-tales. How could you let him escape?”
“But, Alpha! The forest isn’t our’s. I wasn’t going to trespass on another pack’s land.”
Alpha just snarled before he took off into the forest. With stolen, almost pitiful glances at Cage, the rest of the pack followed.