CHAPTER 2 I DARE YOU
"I think I'm going to claw my own eyes out, I'm so bored," Alari complained.
Midnight looked over from where she was leaping up at the ceiling of the den, snapping at roots and trying to pull them down.
"You should try this, Alari. It's kind of fun," she invited her friend.
Alari padded over and watched Midnight leap for the root again, her jaws snapping shut on air, her body falling back to the ground. Alari was highly unimpressed with this game, but gave it a try anyway.
Leaning low to the ground and bunching her muscles, then rocketing up at the root. When her face reached the ceiling she quickly snapped at the root, her teeth closing over it easily. Midnight laughed as she hung there by her teeth for a moment and then flopped to the ground when the root broke. The ceiling showered them all with a layer of light red dust. Midnight and Alari both doubled over in laughter while Bone paced nervously.
"Don't do that, you guys! The roof will cave in on us and well get buried!" he exclaimed, shaking the red dust out of his snowy coat.
Alari rolled over onto her belly, green eyes peering out from the mountain of red dust in her fur.
"Come on, Bone! We're just having fun!"
"But we might get hurt! Mom told me once that when she was a pup, there was this one den that collapsed and three pups died inside and"
"Oh My Moon, Bone. No one cares what Mom says," Midnight put in, "you're seriously ruining all of our fun. You always do that."
"Midnight, don't be mean," cautioned Alari, "Maybe Bone's right. This game is boring anyway. I want to do something else. Isn't there anything exciting we could do?"
"Do you want to do something really crazy?" Midnight grinned.
"I'm listening," Alari beamed back, her white-tipped tail beginning to wag in anticipation.
"You know Griffon? Terra's pup?"
"He told me about this human thing called The Fence."
Alari's enormous eyes grew wider and Midnight's smile widened to the attention of such a captive listener. She continued,
"Griffon told me that it's this big huge grey thing that shines like its wet even when it's dry. And its cold to the touch and there are big stocky deer on the other side with funny shaped horns."
"That sounds like a lie," Alari commented skeptically.
"No, no! Griffon swears its true! He said that when he was really little he got separated from his Mom and found it. It's so dangerous there, that Fang himself came looking for him because he thought it was too dangerous for Terra to go herself. And guess what."
"He told me how to get there."
"Can we go? Midnight, we should go, we need to go see it!" Alari's tail swung wildly behind her, and Midnight's joined in.
"Follow me!" She told Alari, dashing off towards the entrance of the den.
"Wait!" Bone called, "Mom told us not to leave the den! We can't go out there on our own! Especially not to that scary human place. Mom told me that if someone tries to leave the den again that I should pin them. And I will! I-I'm bigger than you, Midnight! Stop right now!"
Midnight gave him a long, measuring look.
"Okay, Bone. Two things. One why can't you just stop being such a chicken and just have fun with us for once? And two we both know you're too much of a wimp to pin anybody down. The question isn't are we going, it's are you coming with us?"
Bone looked at her helplessly, his mouth gaping, searching for words.
"Please come with us, Bone. It wouldn't be as fun without you," Alari put in, accompanying it with a warm smile. The two pups looked at each other for a moment, and Alari's smile was slowly reflected on Bone's face.
Midnight rolled her eyes. Bone's crush on Alari was embarrassing for everyone involved, in her opinion. Alari was the Alpha's daughter Fang barely tolerated their existence, he would never let his daughter choose a Thinblood for her mate. The whole thing was a lost cause, and the way Bone turned into jelly whenever he was around the red and white pup annoyed her to no end. At least it was useful for this situation, though.
Bone stepped forward cautiously.
"I guess if you guys are going, I have to go too," he looked at Alari, "so I can take care of you."
Alari smiled shyly at him, "Thanks Bone."
Oh, get over yourselves, Midnight thought bitterly as she led the other two pups into the forest.
Luna took a defensive stance between her mother and Lupis. The mysterious grey pup was all too happy for the defense, and he ducked his head down, shaking. She could smell the scent of true terror on him which was odd. He must know her mother wasn't actually going to kill anyone. Maybe his horror had something to do with the past he didn't remember? She shook the thoughts out of her mind and looked up at her mother defiantly.
"I didn't wander off. I was hunting, Mom. Cliff would understand."
"Yes, well I'm not Cliff, young lady. You'll be lucky if I don't pull you out of his hunting classes after all the trouble you've put me through! Now you come home with me right now so I canwait. Who is that behind you?"
"This is Lupis. He's lost," Luna replied, stepping to the side so that her mother could see Lupis fully. When he saw that his protected had stepped off, he tucked his paws over his head, behind his ears and buried his face in the ground. His entire skinny, bedraggled little body was shaking.
Blue's expression immediately grew soft and she leaned down to Lupis' level, examining the blood on his dull dark grey pelt, the way his ribs showed through his fur, how his pads were cracked and raw.
"It's alright, little one, I'm not going to hurt you," she soothed, her voice soft and sweet. She remembered how it had been for her left in the woods by a too-young mother who didn't have any desire to raise a pup. Her savior had been Fang's sweet mother, Flower, who had raised her alongside her own pups, Fang and Cliff, out of the kindness of her heart and against her mate's will. Was this young male abandoned by his own mother? Blue was fully willing to do what Flower had done for her, for this pup if he needed it. But why was there so much blood on him? His wounds couldn't be very deep the bleeding had obviously stopped, wherever it was coming from. Why would anyone attack such a small pup? There was something abnormal about the whole situation.
"I want to go home," the pup whispered, his face still buried in the pine needles and moss on the ground, hidden from Blue's sight.
"Where is home for you, little one? We can help you," she told him sincerely. He reminded her so much of herself at that age, she could hardly bare it.
"I don't know," he whimpered pathetically, finally looked up from under his paws, huge amber eyes glazed with emotion staring up at her.
"He doesn't remember anything, Mom!" Luna piped up loudly from behind Lupis, "Not his Mom or his Dad or his home or his pack or his brothers or his sisters or his alpha or his"
"Yes, Luna, thank you," Blue snapped at her.
"Can we keep in in the pack, Mom? Please? He has nowhere else to go."
Blue thought about this for a moment. She wanted to more than anything to be the beacon of light Flower had been for her to this pup. But this was different. Blue had known who she was, where she'd come from. She knew her mother abandoned her, she understood that she hadn't been wanted and she had been able to beg Flower's mate, Cedar, to accept her as a part of his family. Not to mention the fact that Flower was the Alpha female and she'd had both the right and opportunity to even ask Alpha Cedar to take Blue on in the first place.
Blue was not popular with Fang by any means, and even if he agreed to think about allowing the pup to stay, the little grey male had no recollection of his past and wouldn't be able to hold his own if Fang began to question him. It wasn't her place to ask anything of her Alpha especially not something as enormous as taking on a new pack member. She looked down at the shivered grey mass of unkempt fur and bones. But perhaps of Fang saw for himself the kind of shape the sad little creature was in, his better nature would shine through.
She decided to call Fang through a simple, wordless howl, for fear that if she relayed a message with her song, that he wouldn't come at all.
"If it were my decision, I would say he could stay with us for as long as he wanted. But we have to ask Fang," Blue told her pup gently.
She sat up, threw back her head, and let a loud, long howl escape her muzzle.
The howl echoed through the forest, and reached Fang faintly in his den.
"Did you hear that, Flutter?" He asked his mate urgently.
He was still wide awake, unable to sleep with the knowledge that his daughter was angry with him and guilty about the way he had so clumsily handled the issue with her friends. Flutter barely stirred beside him.
"Hmm? I didn't hear anything, Fang. Go back to sleep," she murmured absently.
"No, no, that sounded like Blue's howl," he said in agitation, standing up and squeezing out the exit of the den. Flutter was wide awake now, and she followed him swiftly.
"What do you mean that sounded like Blue's howl? Blue's supposed to be in her den, taking care of Alari. How far away did the howl sound?" she asked urgently.
The howl rang through the forest again, bouncing off the trees and rocks.
"Oh no," cried Flutter in terror. She ran to Blue's den and peered inside. When it was empty, her heart thudded audibly in her chest, "If Blue is all the way out there, where is Alari?"
"I don't know," Fang muttered, his expression stoic.
The howl rang through the woods again.
"There isn't a message in that howl, but I think she's waiting for a response. Maybe Alari's with her. I'll go see," Fang told his mate, lifting his head and returning the howl.
Flutter nodded fearfully, "You should have gone out after her. I'm sorry, Fang, I didn't know she would"
"It's alright, Flutter," he told her sweetly, licking her muzzle in affection, "you couldn't know. I'll go see if she's with Blue, you look around here. We'll find her she probably hasn't gone far."
"This is the farthest I've ever been!" exclaimed Alari in delight.
" Bone muttered, walking slowly with his head to the ground and staring around warily, "Midnight, maybe we should go back. How much farther is it?"
"Just a bit further, Bone. Stop being such a chicken," Midnight barked back at him.
They reached the top of a muddy hill that looked out upon the last edge of the Pack of Night's territory. Sure enough, there was a strange silver square covering a large portion of land with two wooden human structures off to the side, and the oversized shapes of almost fifty huge creatures grazing.
"Whoa," gasped Alari, staring down at it.
"Told you so!" gloated Midnight.
Bone had lain down and put his front paws over his face again.
"I have a really bad feeling about this, can we please go back now? Mom's gonna be really mad if we don't get home soon. Please?"
"I don't think we will," Midnight leered down at him, taking pleasure in his terror, "Maybe we'll stay here all day. "
"Oh! Or I have an idea! How about you go down and touch the Fence? I dare you."
"I double dare you."
"N-no, Midnight! Please stop."
"Why not, Bone?"
"Because I don't want to."
"Why don't you want to?"
"Because just I don't."
"Is it because you're scared?"
"N-no, I just"
"Don't be a liar and a chicken, Bone! It's because you're a big dumb fraidie-fox who can't even touch a stupid fence!" Midnight's tone rose to a higher pitch and her smirk grew into a malicious grin.
"Fine! It's because I'm scared, okay? Are you happy now? Can we please go home?" Bone yelled at her, fluffing up his thick white fur and appearing twice his already enormous size. Midnight fell back onto her haunches in shock and Bone stormed away further down the hill. She shook out her fur and bared her teeth at his back.
"You're a disgrace to Dad, you know, Bone!" she called after him, grinning as he stopped dead in his tracks. She knew she'd struck a nerve. It was a low blow, but she was willing to take it to get back at him for yelling at her.
"Would you go touch the fence?" Alari asked Midnight coolly, her green eyes narrowed into slits in her head. Midnight looked at her in surprise.
well, I mean
of course I would."
"Then do it," snarled Alari, calling her bluff easily.
"Why not, Midnight?"
"Because I don't want to right now."
"It's because you're scared. Whose the fraidie-fox now?"
"No! I justI mean
whatever, Alari. I don't know why you have to take his side all the time," she sniveled.
Bone came up behind Alari, half stumbling over the enormous paws he'd yet to grow into. There was gratitude in his little orange eyes.
"Thanks for standing up for me, Alari," he told her sincerely. She smiled at him.
"It was nothing, Bone. I'm sorry I didn't step in sooner," her smile widened and so did his. The two stood there awkwardly for a moment before Alari worked up the courage to place a quick lick on Bone's muzzle, and then look away shyly. Before Bone could say anything, Midnight cut in.
"Hey Alari, if you're so brave, why don't you go touch the fence? You can't call me a fraidie-fox if you're too scared to do it yourself! "
Alari looked up at her. That rocky determination set itself into her eyes again, and she subtly bared her teeth at the challenge.
"Alright. Fine. I will."