A young Ghelina finds herself wrapped into a journey that will change her and far more.
| A solitary creature silently stalked through the undergrowth a young creature as well, her coat rippled and shone with the dappled lighting of the forest filtering through the trees. Her silence, however, didn’t match the notion that she would have to be slow, she moved with ease covering ground quickly. She was a member of one of the more rare species of animals in these forests and mountains, the humans never understood the fact that such creatures as her and her pack roamed these woods. Her muzzle curled with disgust at the thought of those slow blundering creatures with those odd coverings across their bodies. Then a look of contempt as she remembered how many of them had mysteriously “vanished” into these woods. It was all part of the aura they had to maintain, with humans and their constant encroachment the task they had been left with was to ensure the humans feared these small places where they were.
Spinning her head from her thoughts the flicker of a body through the undergrowth caught her eye and she dropped lower. It had definitely been furred, of that she was certain. Just a little way and she’d have its warm flesh between her jaws and filling her stomach, satisfying her hunger. It would also make a good meal to bring back if she could follow it to its burrow, then she could bring something for her pack, the elders, and their caretakers. Enjoyment filled her as she thought of her pack, brave, strong, loyal, that’s what her kind was for, that’s what every youngling was taught, bravery, strength, and loyalty. That loyalty lead to a wonderful relationship between all of them, kindness within the pack and understanding. Everyone was looked after, even the older members who couldn’t function quite as well as they used to, their caretakers looked after them, those who had been born with something that made normal pack life impossible for them. Whatever it was, be it a twisted leg, missing leg, deformed windpipe that made heavy breathing difficult for hunting or any number of other things, they looked after the older members and kept them happy and well. She liked that, it marked the vulupes from other creatures, especially the wolves. She shivered at that thought, she didn’t like the wolves, never had, but still, they were necessary, despite their lack of intelligence they had at least enough to recognize how they needed to defer to the vulupes.
Her mind began wandering as she stopped moving continuing to contemplate. If they didn’t have their use she would have stamped them out, though they brought the fear to humans that was needed, it meant that whenever a human saw one of the vulupes they turned and ran, except for that one time… She winced at the memory, she could still feel the bang and the winding impact of that long weapon, it barely made it past her flesh but it had certainly hurt. She had been left in her den unable to move for two days and it took a full week after until she could walk without the pain in her side slowing her down. Running had been another matter altogether, it took another week for the pain to completely be removed. All in all, she didn’t want to face another one of those weapons again.
Suddenly returning to her senses she realized she was altogether too close to losing the rabbit entirely. Slowly pacing and keeping the slight wind blowing towards her she stalked towards the small creature keeping just far enough away that she could see it but wouldn’t be seen by its occasional quick looks around. It was far from its burrow she realized it may have been lost, but that didn’t matter, lost or not it was plump and would find itself her catch before long.
Finally abandoning her attempts at concealment she used her superior speed and agility that all vulupes possessed to dart forward ending the creature's confusion before it even had a chance to flee. She elegantly picked up the rabbit listening to the wind in the trees, such a calming sound she thought. She then picked her way back the rabbit's quick squeal had been cut off in seconds and had stilled the forest sounds and she smiled around her mouthful satisfied for a successful hunt.
In about ten minutes she was padding back towards her pack her face alighting as the pups came tumbling over to her. She was a renowned hunter and always brought something back. It always amazed them and they would never seem to be still about it, they all wanted to be like her it was a strange thing to be honored in this way in fact, but it felt good.
Back into the clearing her pack used as a den, she gazed up the great tree in the center with the black star design in its trunk. The same mark transfixed her forehead and the foreheads of all the vulupes. It marked them apart from the other forest denizens in a way, they were one of the few survivors of the mighty creatures that once roamed the land. The creatures who had that deep almost elemental connection to the magic of the world. The vulupes themselves couldn’t wield it like some of the others but they were stronger, faster, harder to kill and more able to stay silent. There were other small things but they were not as important to the vulupes as those abilities that allowed them to hunt better than the wolves that inhabited the forest as well.
Slowly padding up to the food pile she smiled at how well it was stocked, the pack had done well and it brought satisfaction to her to know that they wouldn’t go hungry. Her ears pricked as she picked up footsteps and swiveled her ears noticing the presence of one of the other vulupes behind her moving closer. She waited for a few seconds until he gently nudged her side with his snout obviously thinking he needed to get her attention. She in response rolled her eyes a bit and turned to him “Yes Fenal?” She questioned. She had a while back taken it upon herself to ensure she could engrain herself farther into the pack by remembering all their names. She’d been born to a disgraced mother, her mother had tried to steal food from the humans during lean times, it was disallowed by pack law in case they were caught doing so by the humans, as such she’d been removed and her young daughter had been left motherless. With a shadow of mistrust from others, she’d worked hard to earn her place in the pack. She’d climbed it with difficulty and now, now still relatively young she’d gotten to a position as one of those that the pack leader confided in and trusted.
Now slowly Fenal worked his jaw a bit forming his words, Fenal had always looked at her as somewhat of an idol. She in response to his hesitation turned to him motioning gently for him to continue with her paw. With that motion, he seemed to snap free from his stupor and smiled a little embarrassed. “The Alpha called for you, he said it’s very important and he needs you immediately.” She nodded slowly to him and slowly walked past him a little remorseful at missing out on a meal after her own exertion in her hunting. However, she knew for herself to be called in this fashion it must be highly important.
Slowly she padded into the pack leaders den, set deep in the roots of the massive tree that protected them from prying eyes and rain. With her head lowered in a gesture of deference to his rank, she waited for him to give her permission to lift her head. Finding it quick in coming she lifted her head a little surprised by the speed at which he’d allowed her to do so. Gazing into his eyes he gazed back into hers before they both gave a small grin, greeting in that friendly way they always did. Tilting her head she gave an inquisitive look to ask what he wanted of her and why he had summoned her at such a time. “Har Ghelina” He started and she smiled a bit at the honorary Har, it had taken a long time for her to earn that from her old Nar, the mark of a disgraced individual. Those days were long gone now though and she was now respected and honored by almost everyone in the pack. He soon continued after the small pause. “I have been informed that there has been suspicious activity near the human settlement” Her eyes widened a bit worried that he was about to think that she hadn’t paid enough attention on her patrols. He, however, waved her worry aside with a paw. “No, it’s not your fault, it’s an individual who lives there…” She tilted her head once again at this wondering where he was going, the vulupes normally stayed in the forest and didn’t take notice of the humans in their settlement. Her Alpha, however, was soon on his way again. “As much as I would like to keep this pack out of human territory, I have been told that there is an individual of particular interest and… I’m obligated to have someone investigate”
He then took a step back and a little confused at the motion she gazed at him before a voice broke through her curiosity nearly making her jump as a figure seemed to appear from the wall itself. “Ghelina, I’ve heard much about you, from what I know you are an accomplished tracker and hunter. That is important for me, I need you to go where the rest of us can’t, give us a sight into the human's territory.” Her eyes which had widened in shock from the figure seeming to melt from the shadows slowly focused as she could barely make out the form of a humanoid figure. Then in shock, she realized exactly what it was, it was a latem, the observers of the forest, those who would watch and enforce the laws set down by the rulers of it. They were virtually myths though, but, this was one, one of the creatures fabled to know everything and to bend and play with reality like a game.
Slowly her mind dawned on the fact that she was just gazing in shock and she quickly attempted to recover trying to remember what he had said and just meeting a blank. “I… What?” She stumbled over her words attempting to say something, anything to this creature. Slowly she watched it bend down catching what looked like a glint of humor in its eyes and at the same time she realized that there was a cloak that was draped over its entire body. “Now, Ghelina, I am honored by your admiration but I need to know if you’ll do this for me. I need you to come with me into the human's territory, there is an individual that I saw yesterday… You have the talents to get into there and get closer than I can, so, will you help me?” He questioned her causing her mind to recoil in shock once again. A creature like him, needed her? “I…” She looked to her Alpha waiting for his own input on the topic and saw a small motion of his paw in her direction. This was her choice, but, it was something so huge, how could she ever refuse? “I accept, I’ll go with you” At her words, a stroke of satisfaction seemed to cross the creatures face and he turned to her Alpha and she caught a small motion under the hood that must have been a nod.
Watching the two she realized that suddenly the latem was gone and turned around in surprise spotting him at the entrance in the roots of the tree. “Ghelina, this’ll be good practice, I know you are incredibly good at seeming to vanish, try not to be seen by your pack, I know you can do it.” With those words, he seemed to vanish and left her alone in the small cave. She soon felt the air stir next to her as her Alpha padded to her side. “Uncanny aren’t they, and to think they don’t use any magic to accomplish that…” She nodded slowly in reply before looking back at him. “Well, I suppose I should be going…” She simply obtained a nod in reply before feeling her body relax in the same fashion it always did before she began moving silently herself. Ghosting free from the cave she felt herself slip from shadow to shadow her packmates walking near her but never seeing her. It dawned on her that she had never tried doing this before and she was a little shocked once she reached the edge of the clearing, somehow she had made it through nearly open space without anyone spotting her.
“Nicely done Ghelina, knew you had it in you, now let’s get going, it’s a ways that we are gonna need to go.” Shocked once again she truly lept into the air from surprise at the appearance of the latem. Recovering herself she realized that he was off already and she had to look closely to follow him and constantly almost losing him as he slipped back and forth through the trees. As she slipped through the undergrowth the realization hit her that the smell of gases and fumes was intensifying, that could only mean one thing and her mind started to pall as it hit her exactly what she had agreed to.
To her, there was no thinning of the trees and she just stopped with a gasp as the trees just vanished in front of her, a perfect line it seemed, they were just… gone… “I know what your thinking Ghelina, yes… those things over there, that bare stone, that’s the humans.” Her eyes just gazed at the structures barely registering his words, they were not natural, they went against everything she knew or had been taught. It was completely unnatural. Her jaw finally coming under control started working once again. “W… what, what are we going to do here? How… How am I supposed to… get in…” The words even as she said them set her mind alight with a sort of fear that she didn’t know was possible. “You are gonna go ahead, I need you to go ahead and get closer, you look more like a dog and would seem to fit more in there then I would. I will be nearby but you need to report to me what you see and hear. I can hardly stand in the open with my bow, and I refuse to part with it, don’t worry though, I’ll ensure I always have a clear line of sight, if you get in trouble I’ll return that trouble while you escape.”
She nodded slowly, pushing her own misgivings to the side, she gulped to tried to relieve the stress she was feeling. “Remember, stay loose, don’t look like your going to pounce, they shouldn’t take much notice of you.” He said which registered to her vaguely but nevertheless, she took deep breaths forcing her muscles to relax. Solidifying her resolve she slipped from the protective darkness of the forest tuning out the scent of fumes and the fear she was feeling. Slipping into her own state of focus she felt her muscles loosening of their own accord as she slipped from one patch of cover to another.
It took what felt like an eternity to her and from what she could tell by the sun, it had only been an hour. Coming against a building it unnerved her even more as she slipped around it before stopping and seeing a figure in front of her scaring her then she relaxed a little seeing the cloak of the latem with her. “Good, you were almost as quick as me, now, I know you’ll be going into human territory, try not to jump or flee. Around this structure a little ways you will find a spot of hardened black stone, follow it and you’ll find a branch take the second branch to the left and you will find a group of bushes, meet me there.” Before she knew it her head was nodding slowly her mouth dried out from the stress of her situation. Moving forward again the latem was already gone seeming to have almost vanished from existence.
Stepping around the structure she spotted the black path that she had been informed of, still, it seemed to appear from nowhere, it was solid black, and there was… a yellow substance in the center. Slipping slowly from the shadows the warmth of the sun seemed to burn into her fur like prying eyes, square objects surrounded her on all sides. It was worse than she imagined, panting a bit and trying to calm her beating heart she took a slow step matching it with another looking around and not seeing any of the creatures who inhabited these places. Looking down the black object in the ground she spotted just as he had said two more in the distance one after another that split off the one she was standing on. Taking a few more steps the burning in her fur slowly felt to let up, there wasn’t anything here that could hurt her, right? Her attempts to calm herself were suddenly interrupted by a loud thundering starting up a little to her side and she snapped her head to it. Widening her eyes she gazed in shock as the wall of one of the objects slid upwards and revealed one of those gleaming objects within. This one however as her eyes followed it, it moved, it moved towards her and as it did she realized how many there were around her and she gave a panicked yelp fleeing at full sprint to the nearest bush she could find jumping into it and concealing herself within its branches.
As her heart pounded in her chest she watched it move then thunder down the black path and into the distance. As it left she slumped down feeling herself fall in the branches of the bush, she couldn’t do this, there were so many. Panting in shock and fear she was unaware as her hyperventilating left her passing out in the bush concealed by the shade it cast.