Instincts of Blue Part 9
Forests of Eyulf: Instincts of Blue
This is the conclusion of a fantasy story in which the main characters may follow the archetypes represented by Xena and Gabrielle . It probably would be classified as Uber. This story depicts a loving relationship between characters of the same sex. Violence occurs within the context of good fighting evil.
Comments are welcome and appreciated. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgI want to personally thank each and every one of you who have hung in there during the writing of this story. (Yep, it has been years to complete) The story idea started out of a challenge in Xena Netforum for Halloween. It started as a Xena Gabrielle werewolf short story that evolved into so much more. So I wanted to take a special moment and thank those early Xenites who paved the way towards not only good fan fiction but also uber fiction.
I never realized I had forgotten whats most precious.
I lost it long ago amidst the bloody grasses of the Adean.
I reasoned away my behavior behind the guise for peace;
And my heart turned away from what was true and just.
I never realized what I had lost 'til my beloved innocently reminded me.
I remembered what was lasting and eternal, gazing into her face.
I loosed hold of my anger and the carnal lust for retaliation,
And let my heart be guided by natures serenity.
Rolling thunder riding upon the west wind swept across the forest heading in the direction of the Adean. It carried with it a strange chill that descended upon the encampment of Nadirean troops like a damp fog. Natures portentous warning was not heeded by most scattered around the various campfires. While the young merely grumbled bad-naturedly at the storms approach, older more seasoned fighters moved closer to the firelight. Not one of the one hundred or so men dared to seek shelter, for logic was telling them that Johns wrath would be worse than weathering the most furious of storms.
An ominous violet cloud was also carried in on the wind. Glowing brighter and brighter, it spontaneously expanded around the encampment. From its midst, a jagged streak descended, landing dead center amidst four campfires set by the Kildyr. Its flash incinerated the twenty-five men gathered there before even one of their number had time to scream. Striking with the deadliest accuracy, the most seasoned half of the Nadirean army was reduced to embers and smoke in an instant.
The violet cloud then enveloped the camp, denying the option of retreat to the remaining number. The once-brave warriors ran around screaming like frightened children, as they were seemingly herded like beasts from the warmth and light around which they had huddled. The mist attacked like an angry badger snapping at the heels of its victim, and soldiers were driven deeper into the forest, steered in the direction of the mountain. Men gasped and choked as they sloshed through the water of the Kildyr--which they had been forced to either cross, or refuse to cross and stand and face natures judgment.
Somehow having managed to latch onto a horses reins before it bolted, John, the self-proclaimed leader of the Nadireans, blinked water out of his eyes, forcing them to clear. He knew that unless he found some kind of shelter, all of his men would die before even engaging their prey.
A soldier he did not recognize pointed at the large opening of what appeared to be a cave, and screamed to be heard over the winds angry howl. "My lord, there!"
"Yes, yes," John agreed, mounting the horse and digging his boots into the animals flanks. He would not die like a beast. "Follow me!" he commanded at the top of his lungs, rallying his men to his side.
"Do not look back," someone hollered behind him.
"On the hilltop above us--the ghost of the wolf!" another voice rang out. "Dont you see it? Tis a sign, it is."
The bedraggled survivors crowded into the stony refuge. Torch high in hand, John looked around the cave surveying the remnants of his army. Maybe forty percent of his original force was left. Of that number, only fifteen percent or so were over the age of twenty. He could count on one hand the number who had been on an actual campaign in the forest. The losses of the night had been devastating, while not a single enemy had even been sighted; but he was still alive. John had stood up against the forces of nature itself and had lived to tell about it.
To bolster the morale of his troops, disheartened by the carnage that the cloud had wreaked, the Nadirean leader drew himself up to his full height and addressed the unseen forces of destruction. "Gods be damned. You will not defeat me!" John vowed, brazenly stepping back out in the elements and raising an angry fist to the moon. "I will have this forest, its treasures and powers. I will build my castle here and carpet it with the wolf pelts, not leaving any of the earthen floors bare. Perhaps I will keep the blue-eyed black one of my dreams at my feet as a pet. This forest and all within it are mine. You cannot defeat me. Gods and beasts all be damned!" John raged passionately, his sword rising high in the sky in challenge.
Inside the cave itself, haggard, wet men looked out of the rocky entrance. Some watched their leader with awe as he cursed nature itself, but most eyes were glued upon the solitary silhouette of a white wolf that stared over at them with glowing, angry eyes.
The mist was the color of violet, and when the lightning flashed, the color was illuminated to an intense lavender. It felt warm and moist against the half-Ulfs skin, not cool or uncomfortable. It clung to her body like her own flesh and permeated her whole being with a sense of well-being and purpose.
The half-Ulf was not alarmed when she realized she was floating above the tree line.
Green eyes distinguished the Kildyr beneath the ever-rising moon, as the night breeze carried her along an invisible path in the sky. Thoughts of fright or discomfort never entered her mind. Instinctively she seemed to know that all was as it was supposed to be.
A searing touch accompanied each rumble of thunder, as the ever-approaching storm caught up with her and the lightning. Fascinated, the blonde watched and listened. Thunder had brought with it furious winds which it used to draw the lightning to it. The result was a resounding crackle that reached down effortlessly to the forest floor.
Somehow, it heated her groin, encouraging her to open up more of herself to its intensity and passion. Only her mate knew her body in this intimate manner.
Zya was here with her in this somehow. And then she heard the words in her mind, "Surrender to my love."
In her dream-like state, the half-Ulf lowered her stomach to lie on the pillowing violet vapor and stretched out her limbs. It felt as if her mates large hands were parting her thighs and lifting up her buttocks. A warm mouth licked up and down her crease, then tongued a trail through her nest hair before pushing its way inside her.
"Love me," the blonde rasped, arching her buttocks higher and higher as dew poured from her flower.
"Our love," her lover answered, thrusting into her deeply and powerfully. "Feel my love for you. All that I am, I give to you now." Dreamily, Brielle cried out with each thrust, one after the other. The half-Ulf could have sworn that the thrusts were those of the lightning strikes themselves. Her whole body was on fire, and she felt a power fill her completely.
"Open your eyes," commanded the voice of someone unknown. The blonde struggled to obey, gritting her teeth in concentration. Her mates thrusts consumed her almost completelymind, body, and spirit. She opened her whole aura to the violet cloud and its sensations.
Many campfires with men and bloody swords were below her. They were in the forest, her home. Instinct warned her of danger and the threat these men posed.
A hand crept into her flower and nudged itself to her point of pleasure. The gentle caress of her mate whisked away her fear of the gathering below her.
About the time that the burst incinerated the first campfire of men, Brielle jumped. Her mates seed began to fill her, and with each powerful pump, searing lightning transformed men and their weapons to smoldering embers. The half-Ulfs own pleasure was forgotten as she realized that life had been snuffed out. There was no more danger, and she did not feel threatened as before, but what she had witnessed left her unsettled.
The psychic energy her lover was exuding roused the Lupus of the Blacks to wakefulness. Without opening her eyes, the dark-haired she-wolf used her senses to tell her it was still night. Her lovers small, warm body lay tucked in the crook of her arm. Brielles muscles were not totally relaxed, which told the Moon Warrior that the half-Ulf was awake. Drawing upon their mental bond, Zya felt her young mates confusion, guilt and uncertainty.
Blue eyes flickered open, then were quick to locate her mate, gazing at her with gentle, contemplative eyes. Brielle lay on her side, facing away from her. The muscles in the smaller females back were tight, revealing to the Lupus her mates stress.
Concern flickering in her eyes, Zya lightly fingered a loose tendril of hair which rested against the blondes neck. Zya rolled from her back to her side, pressing her full breasts into her mates bare back. Letting her gestures and actions convey her concern, the blue-eyed she-wolf lightly massaged the pale back while leaning forward to search her mates face. Their eyes connecting, the blonde turned in her mates arms, melting into the warm kiss that brushed first across her forehead, then to her nose, before tenderly touching her lips.
"Does the night call to you, my little she-wolf?" Zya inquired gently, wrapping an arm around Brielles waist in comforting possession. "Your eyes remind me of my mothers. I used to wake in the night when I was still very young and see her looking out into the darkness thus."
"Reina?" the blonde asked, avoiding for the moment answering the Lupuss question. Zya recognized the evasion immediately, but decided it was best to be patient and let her mate communicate at her own pace.
"When I was small, the Nadireans were encroaching on the forest much as they have done now. It was a violent time, a scary time for all. And a lot lay on my mothers mind. As you know, she is a healer, and seeing harm to life upsets her."
Zya spoke in a composed alto voice.
"But she still fought them. People died," Brielle replied in a suffocated whisper.
"Yes," Zya spoke matter-of-factly. "Such is the law of nature, young one. Not only here in the forest, but on the plains of the Adean, in the mountains and beyond. Evil attacks good. Strong challenge the weak. And to not meet each challenge means death and, as often as not, the end of your existence."
"Why must it be so?" Brielle asked the age-old question that no one could ever answer. Zyas heart wrenched as she saw her mate pull away from her abruptly,
sit up, pull her knees to her chin and wrap her arms around them.
"I dont know, little one. I dont know," Zya answered honestly, reaching out a hand and gently placing it on her very young-at-heart mates shoulder. "I only know, for myself anyway, in all things I try to let my actions be ever guided towards peace, protection, and what is best for my people."
Lifting her head off of her knees, Brielle looked deeply into her mates eyes. "What about their people?" she asked with firm conviction.
Startled, Zya pulled back into herself for a moment. Sensing this, Brielle reached for her mates hand and wrapped it in her own smaller one. "Do not all kinds of creatures, people, deserve the same?"
"Yes." Zya spoke in a resigned voice, pain lacing her tone. The Lupus closed her eyes, then opened them slowly. Seeing the uneasiness in the gentle, green eyes, the blue-eyed woman tried to explain. " This is a really hard concept for me, little one. My whole life, these people have disregarded everything but their own needs and desires. By force they have taken. I have seen them deliberately inflict infinite pain and cruelty. And in honesty, it has made me want to do likewise. I had forgotten, until recently, that they were people." Zya took a deep breath and squeezed the hand that held hers. "Our love is what has helped change me, changed how I see things and want to do things. You have helped me seek to let my words and actions in dealing with all things be motivated by goodness and love, not rage, darkness and vengeance."
"Love is a powerful force," Brielle spoke, as her mind reflected on her vision. The things she had seen in her mind just that night were somehow making sense now. Her fear upon waking was from realizing the potent force of the bond she shared with her mate. She had seen the capabilities of its full intensity. It had been a driving force that had the ability to inflict deadly harm. But she also believed her mates words. Love had the ability to heal, bring about change and engender goodness. "I love you," Brielle spoke, unwrapping her arms from around her body and looking into cloudy blue eyes. "Hold me?"
"Always." The Lupus spoke emotionally, feeling a weight lift off of her at her mates acceptance and love. When the blonde took her finger and placed it to her temple, Zya looked at her curiously.
"I saw something, felt something, when--or after--we became one. I want you to see it, to feel it," Brielle tried to explain.
"Okay, then look into my mind," Zya purred hypnotically. Inducing her mate into a trance, she entered the half-Ulfs dream path and relived the moments in the violet cloud and its decimations. Grateful for her mates openness, and wanting to support her with this vision, the Lupus wove a new section to the vision and attached it expertly, the way only a Blue had the ability to do.
The violet mist closed, and Brielle felt the cloud had begun to move once more. "Love can be a very powerful thing, my little she-wolf." The unfamiliar voice seemed to be speaking into the blondes right ear. " Like all powerful things, it must be safeguarded and treated with the utmost care and respect. It can be dangerous and intense. But it is also tender, sensitive and produces many wonderful things."
Brielles feeble attempt to process what the voice told her failed when her mate rolled her hips and once more began to caress her fingers against her mates pleasure point. "Climb with me, little she-wolf. Surrender to my love. Let me fill you with pleasure and all that is good and right."
Zya pulled out of the dreamscape, but left her mate in a hypnotic trance. Wanting to reinforce the message about the strength of love, she lowered her mate to the furs and fondled the gem still attached to her groin from earlier. "You are now going to open to me and surrender to my love," the Lupus purred hypnotically with her mind. She placed a series of drugging kisses all over her mates body and expertly aroused each of her bodys pleasure points.
"This is our bond, sweet Brielle," Zya purred erotically, biting and licking a wet, rosy nipple. "It is good and pleasurable," Zya projected, tracing a path with her tongue down her mates stomach, through her blonde nest hair, into the petals of the pink, dewy flower. "Goooooood," Zya purred, circling the lips and sucking on them, causing the half-Ulf to gasp. "Position yourself to receive me, sweet one," Zya spoke with a low growl, helping her mate to get on her hands and knees. With a plunge she entered, letting the phallus rest deeply in Brielle and letting it fill her completely. "Say it," the blue-eyed woman spoke through gritted teeth as she began to move. "How does this feel?" The Lupus twisted one nipple while pulling on the nipple ring. Feeling Brielles body surrender, she slid her hands down, letting one support Brielles weight
"Gooooooooooooooddd!" Brielle screamed, hovering on the edge of pleasures peak.
"Feel our love!" Zya groaned, "Come," she commanded, removing the dreamscapes trance as both of them peaked.
"Zya? Zya?" the half-Ulf whispered as she came back to consciousness. Feeling her mates gem inside of her and feeling the gentle hand still caressing her flower petals, she sighed in relaxed pleasure.
"I am here, little she-wolf," Zya whispered in her ear from where she lay spooned behind her. "Does this feel good?" she inquired throatily, pressing her thumb deeply into her mates flowers pleasure point.
"Yes, so good," Brielle spoke, already starting to move her hips as her muscles clamped down on the blue phallus. "We are one. I love you."
"I love you, too," Zya replied gently, taking her mate to pleasures heights once more. The blue-eyed she-wolf knew that never again would her impressionable mate associate their bond and mating with anything but pleasure and goodness.
The Lupus lovingly watched over the drowsy woman who lay with her blond head against her breast and their flowers caressing. Gently, the she-wolf rubbed her mates back, pleased that all of the earlier tension was gone. Both of them had learned a lesson that night. Come dawn, Zya knew she would have to confirm that this vision had been true, and had actually occurred during their earlier mating.
As the half-Ulf drifted off into a healing sleep, she took comfort in her mates vow.
" Love will guide my actions always now, my little she-wolf."
"Hold the poultice there, Brielle," Reina entreated, smiling at the half-Ulf as she would to a child. The Mother Lupus rocked on her heels, lowering her ear over the prone form lying on the pallet before her. Though the older womans breathing was still labored, it was no longer as ragged as when Freya had sent for her at dawn.
"Thats good, Brielle," Reina complimented her protégé. "Keep your hand positioned there, hon, and we will see if you and I can get your grandmothers breathing to normalize even more,"
Brielle nodded at her mates mother, appreciative of the older Blues trust in her abilities and pleased that she was able to be useful. The blonde pushed an errant lock of hair away from her face and let her green eyes study the visage of the elderly woman she sat beside. I have no memory of you, the blonde thought sadly, while a lone tear rolled down her cheek. And if you die, I never will.
Though the elder Blue saw her childhood friends family hovering just outside the entrance, awaiting word of their loved ones condition, the green eyes of Nali's child spoke the loudest to her heart. Moving around to the side of the pallet, Reina draped a long arm around the half-Ulfs shoulders. "You have your grandmothers nose and cheeks," the healer spoke softly. "You are the spitting image of your Momma, though, Brielle."
"She seems taller than me," Brielle said, sniffing, examining her grandmother and then looking out the entrance toward the people there she was related to but did not remember.
"Folks never quite figured out where your momma got her shortness from. You are her size." Reina spoke gently, lifting her heart daughters hand from on top of the healing poultice and drawing it into her own.
"I know this is all very hard for you, young one. Even now you cry for someone you dont remember. You are confused, unsure. But listen carefully, Brielle of the Blacks," Reina emphasized, her blue eyes serene yet serious. "All around here are your family and have a special place in this family group, as you do now with your mate and, on a greater scale, your fellow family members in the pack." Reina caught Freyas brown eyes and motioned her to join them.
"How is she, Mother?" Freya inquired respectfully. Needing to feel useful, Brielles aunt dipped a wet rag in the bowl of the healing water and patted her mothers forehead with it.
"The poultice will ease her breathing, and she should be able to rest now. That is what she needs the most. That, and to be surrounded by those that love her and care for her." The healers voice rang out in tired huskiness. Patting her heart daughters shoulder, Reina stood up, arching her back til it popped. "I must go now. Zya has ridden out to check on the enemys position and meet up with the Silvers."
Freya stood as well, tipping her head in thanks for the healers time. "I thank you, not only for coming, but for bringing Brielle as well," Freya projected.
"I believe it is good for your mother. I firmly believe she knows her grandchild is sitting beside her," Reina projected looking outside to note the position of the sun.
"And its good for Brielle, too."
"Mother has been so sick, or I would have brought Brielle to see her grandmother sooner," Freya projected, guilt once more entering her mind at not reuniting her niece and mother sooner. "I am not even sure mother is able to comprehend who Brielle is."
"Brielle needs this time to connect with her grandmother. If it is okay, I would like to leave her here this morning. I will retrieve her at high sun for the meal," Reina projected, gathering all of her supplies and placing them in a basket.
"Of course. That would mean a lot to me also. For her to be here, I mean," Freya agreed quickly, then slipped back into conversational speech for her nieces benefit.
"Brielle, I was wondering if you would mind sitting with your grandmother for a while this morning. She has been breathing so much better since you arrived, and later you can show me how to place that poultice."
"Would it be okay? Could Aura come inside and stay too?" Brielle asked, uncertain why she wanted to stay, but knowing this was where she wanted to be.
"Aura is most welcome," Freya spoke, tentatively reaching out to touch her niece on the forearm "I am going to walk your heart mother out and speak to the others. I will return in a while"
"And so shall I, little one, and after lunch we can go visit Sierra and the colts," Reina spoke, winking at the green-eyed girl before exiting the cave.
The white ferret scampered in the entranceway soon after Reina and Freya departed. Its chittering rapidly faded when its beady eyes zeroed in on the pallor of the elderly woman. That, combined with the reserved expression of his favorite two-legged being. Aura quietly moved to her mistresss side and hopped to her shoulder.
Feeling her pet nuzzle her neck, the blonde gratefully accepted the loving affection.
Feeling stronger for it, she took the hand of the woman lying at her knees and wrapped it gingerly in her own. Time seemed to stand still. All noise and situations around her faded as the young half-Ulf set about the task of monitoring her grandmothers breathing.
The half-Ulf closed her eyes and addressed the gods, moving her lips without speaking. "Please, to grant my grandmother peace and, if it is at all possible, to let her know that I was here with her."
"Child," a frail, tired wavering voice quavered out. Weary, glassy brown eyes opened just enough to take in the small stature and blond hair of the person beside her before closing once more. Surprise sparked memories of seasons of separation from her long-lost child, which elicited an all-too-unusual surge of clarity from the aging womans mind. "My child, how I have missed you. You are home. Home," the old woman rasped til a cough seized her lungs.
Shocked and surprised, the half-Ulf stared dumfounded as her grandmother talked to her. When the coughing fit overtook the elder, the blonde supported the uncomfortable woman and helped her raise up her body so as to ease the spell. When it ceased, the blonde lowered the woman back down and tucked the blankets around her chin.
"You must save your strength and rest." Brielle tried to speak in such a way as to mimic Reina. "Save your voice til you are feeling a little better."
"Nooooo," the old woman spoke hoarsely. " My body is weakening, and there is something between you and I left unspoken for far too long. I must tell you. I shall not carry it silently to the other side." The old woman pointed at the bowl of water. Quickly obeying, the half-Ulf filled a wooden cup and helped bring it up to the parched lips.
When the woman pulled her head away and settled it down more comfortably on her pillow, Brielle placed the cup aside. "It will keep until you are feeling better. Rest now," the half-Ulf tried again. A very uncomfortable uneasiness was settling over her, and now she wished for nothing more than for this discussion to end and to be able to depart and visit her grandmother another time when she was feeling better.
"No. Honor a dying womans request. Listen to my words, child of my womb," the old woman spoke with tired authority. Her face shining with determination and internal resolve, Nalis mother spoke that which she had kept locked in her heart and hushed from her lips.
"Forgive me. I love you with all my heart. I always have and always will. I have carried regret for how we parted for these many seasons. I refused to accept, to listen to you. I was blinded by prejudice and anger. It repulsed me to discover my own flesh and blood had not only allied herself with the enemy, but fallen in love with one of them." After a long pause, during which the older woman searched for just the right words, she continued. " I allowed my inner demons to estrange me from my own child. My child who was better than me, in that she saw people for who they were inside and not whether they were Nadirean or Ulf. I am so sorry. Forgive me, that I may untether this burden of guilt from me before I cross to the next world."
Brielle sat there stunned. Does she think I am my mother? What do her words mean? Who is my father? the half-Ulf thought to herself. Is this woman crazed from age or sickness, or does she speak truth? Truth that no one has shared with me. I must know! Green eyes flashed with emotion.
"I deserve your silence. I have hurt you and the man with whom you chose to mate and build a life with. But you are here now. I had hoped, I hope, you could forgive me. And all those here that did not totally understand. We were ignorant, close-minded. I love you very much, my daughter Nali."
"Nali," Brielle mumbled, too low for anyone to hear. My mother was named Nali."
Green eyes searched her grandmothers brown ones. She saw in those tired eyes honesty, grief and repentance. Instinctively, she responded in kind. "I love you and forgive you. Rest now. I understand, and am home."
Brown eyes closed, and the peaceful expression of healing rest overtook the older woman. To the half-Ulf, there was never a doubt about forgiving this stranger who was her grandmother. The brown eyes that stared up at her were full of love, a love that she would neither rebuke nor reject. For she realized that she loved this woman too. Just like I love Zya. Zya, the half-Ulf thought, remembering how her mate had looked at her while they had spoken just last night when Zya confessed her feelings for Nadireans and how Brielle was helping her get past that. But still she kept this from me. Why? Doubt and hurt stole into her heart. Instinct pulled her toward the sanctity and sanctuary of the forest, and she obeyed.
The half-Ulf stood up and moved noiselessly out of the small dwelling. She ignored all attempts at conversation, instead moving at a steady pace out into the pasture, then further into the pines.
"Reina, this is Freya," Nalis sister sent a private frantic projection across the compound. "Somehow mother woke up and spoke with Brielle. She has run off. Youd better get Zya. I think her Brielle knows."
John studied the silver wolf through blood-shot, hardened eyes. Like a vulture, it had sat lurking just far enough away that it would be impossible for any of his archers to get a shot off. To him, it seemed almost as if this animal possessed a degree of intelligence. Just behind his place near the entranceway, his soldiers rested. The events of the evening had left all gathered there quiet and somber in their aftermath.
Just before daybreak, the wolf cocked its head and let out a long, powerful howl. Immediately, it was joined by a chorus of others, seemingly from all directions: from across the river, in the direction of the mountains, even from the direction leading to the Adean.
So you found us first, the man thought to himself, scratching a couple days growth of beard on his grimy face. He had engaged such beasts before. As a young man, he had been hired by trappers to provide protection as they hunted in the forest. Though their task as described to him was to gather the pelts of big game such as bear and bison, he quickly had discovered the trappers' deepest interest was in the wolf. And as the day waned, instead of resting, the trappers enthusiastically and seriously took up the task of following, hunting, and gathering pelts of their most dangerous prey. Surprise was always the best weapon. Somehow he had not managed to have that in his favor this time. The vile beast on the hillside had been able to squelch that. "Let them come to me," he spoke to himself after a time of contemplation. Let those vile beasts come to me if they dare. I have shelter here that can withstand all of natures fury. I can send word back for fresh troops to meet me here while my injured recover, John thought to himself, formulating his plans. "Upon my vow under that forsaken storm, I will see all these damned wolves destroyed or in cages for display in my new royal palace." John stood abruptly, unsheathing the sword at his side and walking into the sunshine. He quickly did a head count of the horses and materials with which they had managed to flee. If this was to be their base camp for the next few days, they would have to go back to the site of destruction, see what else could be salvaged, and bring it back here.
"Conrad." John whistled the twenty something aged young man, who was feeding and watering the horses, to him. "I want you to go back to our camp of last night. Round up the horses, recover what you food and supplies can, and bring it back here. Take Mac with you. And fetch Randall. I have a message I want him to carry back home."
Dismissing him, John sat on a log and pulled a piece of parchment from his saddle-bag and began to write.
Even if she had not gotten Kern's report at dawn of the strange occurrence, Zya would have known this place. It was a mirror image of the glimpse she had seen in her mates mind. The camp was deserted as if left in a hurry. A few horses roamed free over the burnt, smoking ground. Nature had done its best to tell no tales, as evidenced by the absence of corpses and no lingering smell of incinerated mortality.
The Lupus tugged Nyka to a stop, then held up her hand to halt the twenty or so Ulf behind her on horseback. She quickly counted five large burnt craters in the ground. "Kern," Zya projected with her mind, calling her second in command to her. "I want each of their horses caught and taken back to our corrals. None are to be given an opportunity to find their way back across the border to raise Nadirean suspicion."
"Yes, my Lupus," Kern projected, pointing at Bodi who quickly dispatched a group of seven to follow the Lupuss command.
Sliding off of her horse, Zya walked to one of the craters and peered in. The bolt from the sky had hit with a tremendous force, and the only thing left at the point of impact was ash. "The gods have spoken, Kern. How many of them managed to get away?" Zya asked, kicking a pile of ash with the toe of her boot.
"Under half of their number. Sandreen was one of the first to the cave where they spent the night. We can go there now if you like," Kern offered, signaling one of his men to him who waved a parchment message in his hand.
"Yes, but first we need to get a detail up here. I want this place cleared of Nadirean presence. I want nothing left, Kern--no weapons, no tents and no footprints!" Zya spoke with an air of authority, gesticulating her hand around in a circle at the camps perimeters as they spoke.
"It will be done, Zya." Kern glanced at the parchment, then handed it to the she-wolf. "A message from Sandar. They are following directions given by Sandreen who was the first to locate the Nadireans. She observed them until dawn," Kern spoke. "They should reach the Nadirean on our flank by nightfall."
Zya read the note quickly, then passed it back. "Send a bird. Tell them we will come about from the other side," Zyas voiced droned as she spoke to Kern. "I want our people in position by nightfall, as well."
The mid morning breeze sent a shiver down the seasoned warrior womans spine. Something was not quite right. Is it Brielle? Zya quickly thought to herself.
No she is with Mother, and if something was wrong, Mother would have projected to me, the Lupus reasoned internally, shaking herself to focus solely on her task of Lupus and not worry like a mother wolf. Nykas whinny drew the blue-eyed womans attention outwards once more as a rider quickly approached on horseback.
"Lupus, there has been a skirmish further up the Nadireans trail, and there were casualties," the rider blurted from astride his gray spotted charger. "My commander has bid me take you there."
"Of course," Zya nodded, whistling Nyka to her and sliding into the saddle. See it wasnt Brielle, she told herself in passing. Zya looked briefly over her shoulder at Bodi and Kern, nodding her head at Kern in a directive for him to accompany her. With a mere wave of her hand, the Ulf leader split those under her into two groups. Two thirds would ride on with her, while the other third would remain.
Anticipating her Lupuss words, Bodi spoke up. "It will be returned to the way nature intended, my Lupus."
"They must have sent a group back to check the camp site," the young mans voice spoke to the healer who was spreading powder on the shoulder wound inflicted by a Nadirean sword. The man gasped in pain as the herb came into contact with the open wound. His pain quickly eased, and he was able to continue to speak. He leaned forward as the blue-eyed healer began to wrap a linen bandage around the skin. "When we failed to identify ourselves, they attacked. We could not let them give away our presence, nor make their way to the border. There were no other options. They got Vesta in the side."
"Vesta?" the blue-eyed healer said, raising her eyebrow. Vesta was one of her best warriors, very strong and stubborn, never admitting weakness or vulnerability of any kind. It was a trait that was an asset at times and other times not. "Let me see your wound," she demanded, kicking a fallen log with her boot.
"Just a scratch," the woman rasped as the healer cleaned it with water from the Kildyr.
"A scratch that was bleeding all over the ground and could leave a nice blood trail for any other Nadirean who decided to return," the blue eyed warrior corrected blandly, reaching for a bandage to wrap around the womans waist. "Vesta, Cease! come off it?" Zya spoke in a low crisp tone so only one of her child-hood playmates to hear. "I know youd much rather have me treat this here than have Mother do it back home where it would be more public."
Vestas jaw slackened as the stocky, short woman forced herself to relax. Grabbing the water skin from beside the fallen tree, the soldier took a few long deep swallows, then handed it to her male companion who sat beside the healer. "Thank you, Zya. I dont see how you put up with a stubborn cuss like me sometimes."
"It's easy," the blue-eyed healer spoke, rising from the log. "I am stubborn too."
"I never killed a Nadirean while I was in my human form," Vesta admitted under her breath to her childhood playmate.
"A fight with Ulf in human form has not occurred in generations. Id say you did just fine. You and Tomas both," the healer commented, tying her healers bag up and sliding back into her role as she-wolf of the Blacks. "I want you to take your horses and ride home. You need to rest a good three moon rises and sets before you can return to active duty." Dismissing the two with a tilt of her head, the Lupus walked to her second in command who had been waiting a discreet distance away.
The two walked without speaking towards the bodies sprawled at awkward angles on the ground. Zya suppressed a growl and conjured up the sunny smile of her mate. Her enemies lay dead at her feet after attacking her brother and sister.
Instinct told her to revel in the kill and to grasp tightly onto this victorys momentum. Instead, the younger Blue bent down on one knee and felt for a pulse--first on one body then another.
"Why is she feeling for a pulse on a Nadirean?" Zya heard mumbled under someone's breath. She chose not to address the comment immediately, instead turning to the third man who was the most disfigured, sporting a broken neck. Doing what none there dared to do, Zya reached out her thumbs and closed the dead Nadirean's eyes. The gasp of surprise she heard behind her seemed to come from many mouths. But did I not gasp silently inside last night when my mate spoke to me of the wishes and desires of all creatures, not just Ulf, she reminded herself. Ever mindful of a Lupuss role as a teacher and an example to all those under her, Zya engaged those standing near her in conversation.
"Kern, does this one not look to be no older than your middle male offspring?"
Zya spoke in an impersonal tone that broke through the silent stillness.
Not really expecting a response, Zya continued, " None of them look like they had seen their last growth spurt before full adulthood. Boys, really. Boys that were given swords, fed lies, and believed them with their youthful naiveté. A naiveté that blinded them to the truth that they were surrounded with since coming into the forest." Zya spoke philosophically. " Brothers and sisters, it is time to think of things not only in terms of this forest, but rather of the soil and all that walk it."
"My Lupus? These men are our enemies, not our brothers." Kern, who had known Zya the longest, spoke with confusion.
"Yes, an enemy that must be defeated and handed over to the justice of the gods," Zya agreed, bending down to collect the weapons--the dead Nadireans sword that he still held in his hand. "But, as a small blonde female who shares my furs reminded me even that first day I rescued her from Drads jaws--all who walk this earth are individuals. And they deserve to be treated as such. To think of them as a piece of flesh, a scourge, makes us no better than they are."
Hearing whispers and mumbles, Zya walked to one of the larger pine trees and spoke to those who hung on her words and ideas. "Here now, let us all kneel down under these sacred pines and commit ourselves to the task before us. Brothers, sisters, what is that task?"
"To protect and defend our homes and families." "To defeat the Nadireans."
Comments rang out from in the crowd.
Stepping forward, Kern added his opinion. "To fulfill our duty as caretakers and guardians of the forest to the best of our ability."
"To strive to establish and maintain the balance in harmony among all creatures," Zya added to the discussion. She had stripped this corpse of weapons and, motioning a young female to her side, placed the various knives and the sword in her arms, then moved to the next body. The Lupus purposely kept herself busy, not speaking to her subjects in an autocratic manner or pushing on her people the change of perspective she had undergone. Instead, she chose to speak to them in this gentle manner, to plant a seed for them to mull over privately. "To be swift with justice. To be advocates for peace."
In quiet procession, the brothers and sisters bent beside the pine tree, their eyes closed and hands clasped together. A chorus of howls broke through the morning clouds. Standing up, the pack members began the task of cleaning up from the skirmish and sending the injured on their way. Each knew that the tasks of this day were far from completed.
"We found this on one of them." Kern spoke emotionlessly, pulling the parchment out of his vest and handing it to his Lupus. Zyas eyes darted back and forth as she unrolled the scroll and read the hurriedly penned note.
"It is from John. He was sending these three home to gather more troops. He is citing a natural disaster for eliminating a great deal of his number. He goes on to say he will be continuing with his original task of exterminating the wolves in the forest, and will leave a trail for them to follow." Zya read the contents of the message aloud so all of the twelve or so other Ulf gathered there could listen.
"None that John sends will get through," one spoke with fervor, an instinctual growl curling on his mustached lips.
"Nor will we allow any to enter the forest, who attempt to do so," another added
"Lupus, what shall we do with the bodies?" asked the young female who had finished the task of collecting and bundling up the weapons. Zya looked into brown eyes and gave the girl a gentle smile. Her words had been heard, and if this young one, along with the young seasoned ones, took such messages to heart of what it truly meant to be Ulf, the forest and beyond would be a better place. As quickly as the smile appeared, Zyas expression changed back into one of confidence, strength, determination and authority.
"They died as warriors. So let them be sent to the afterlife as such. Burn their bodies and gather their ashes. Let them then be mingled with the wind and returned to the earth." Zya spoke in an air of calm confidence and assuredness.
Zya reached up and touched her jeweled ear and rubbed the stone gently. Standing in the direction of home and where her mate was, the Lupus massaged the stone to warmth until it glowed a rich blue. She wrapped her own spirit around that of her mate, letting the glow radiate through her whole being. "I love you," the regal warrior whispered under her breath, once more whistled her mare to her.
Riding to meet her cousins, Zyas mental caress sped to her true loves heart.
Brielle stared blankly out into the forest depths as she stroked the black colts nose absently. "Why did Zya keep this from me? Can she truly love me, considering the blood I carry in my veins? She said herself she has trouble thinking of Nadireans in any way except as adversaries."
"Who am I really? What am I?"
Questions stabbed the half-Ulf to the heart, leaving her shivering with a coldness seeping into her very soul, her head swirling with doubts over her place in Zyas heart. She felt like a young child who had stumbled upon a secret she was not supposed to know. It stirred up feelings of distrust and not fitting in. She scratched the colts ear, then instinctively moved her hand up to her own jeweled ear.
"If you ever need me, rub your earring and I will come," Zya had once told her. The half-Ulf instinctively raised her hand to her ear, then quickly jerked it back down.
"No, I cant. I wont," the half-Ulf scolded herself, telling herself to be strong. The hurt she felt at the moment was too consuming, raw, and overwhelming for her to break free of it even for a moment, to call her lover. Brielle was not sure she wanted to see the blue-eyed Lupus right now anyway. Disconcerted, she crossed her arms and tried to rub away the chill she felt from down deep inside.
Her mind conjured up that place where she had felt safe, loved and secure. It had been there that her familiar had nursed her and held her close. It had been there that there had been only them. "Isnt that what the old woman had spoken of as home?" Brielle mumbled to herself under her breath. "Home," she spoke again, her voice stronger this time.
The petite blonde plunged through the split fenced pasture, heading northward.
"Help me, Aura," she spoke to the white ferret that was running at her heels. "Do you remember the way home?" She stopped suddenly in her tracks as she felt the unique sensation of her lovers mental caress stroke across her very being. It made her long even more to be away from this place and head back to the place where that caress had always encircled her. Determined, the half-Ulf strode into the forest.
The mid-afternoon sun was to her back now as she and her fighters pressed onward.
Vibrations of anticipation, and attentiveness flowed across the trotting riders as each seemed to sense that they were closing in on their prey. In the back of her psyche, something did not seem quite right, but it was easy for the Lupus to hypothesize that that was due to the escalation of events since last nights storm. Zya could feel the heavy pressure in her milk filled breasts, but chose to ignore it.
The sooner I get there, the sooner I return, she reasoned re-configuring her mind to channel all but a bare minimum on the task at hand.
Zya could smell them now. They were close. Both close to her foe and close, hopefully, to the end of this conflict once and for all. Her skin prickled with excitement like a young cub awaiting its first hunt. Her muscles were taut. Her nostrils could faintly detect the scent of her cousins the Silvers now.
Determine their numbers and casualties. Assess their battle skills and weapon strength. Surround them. Move with the strength of the combined Silver and Black Ulf forces, Zya ticked off in her mind.
"Will we engage them on horseback and in this form?" Kern asked, maneuvering his horse directly next to his Lupus.
"No, we must have patience and use the same skills as we do when we engage the wild boar or mountain panther," Zya spoke, internally exasperated that she could not shake off a vague feeling of discomfort and distress. "We get there, combine forces with our cousins, and decide the best strategy." Zya spoke loudly enough for all to hear, calling upon her warrior skills to not let the increasingly strong vibrations affect her.
"Daughter," a loud, strong mental message cut through Zyas mental stronghold to resonate in her mind, commanding her full attention.
The younger Blue drew her horse off the trail of Nadirean tracks, making it appear as if she were moving to water Nyka at a junction of the Kildyr nearby. Seeing her actions, all on horseback mimicked them and rode at a slower pace to the crystal waters.
"Yes, Mother?" Zya sent her mother a private reply, leaving Nyka to drink her fill and walking to lean against the large trunk of a pine.
"Brielle has wandered off, and I question her mental state," Reinas voice projected, full of concern and emotion.
"Why? Why would she do such a thing?" Zya asked in a shocked, projected reply, already reaching for Nykas reins.
"She was left alone for a period of time with her grandmother, Nalis mother, this morning. Freya said her mother seemed more alert than usual when she returned to the lair to check on Brielle. We speculate Brielles grandmother might have spoken to her of something from the past and upset her," Reina explained, her mental projection hammering in the younger Blues heart, causing a wave of apprehension to spread through her.
Her priorities changing in an instant, the Lupus answered her mother in a way uncharacteristic of her when about to face down an opponent. "I am on my way," Zya projected in an emotional manner. Debating whether to change forms and run home, or run on an already exercised horse, Zya turned Nyka abruptly and headed towards home.
"Wait!" Kern yelled at the top of his lungs. "Where are you going?" the man asked, confused at the totally uncharacteristic behavior of the Great She-Wolf and Moon Warrior.
"Determine their numbers and casualties. assess their battle skills and weapon strength, and surround them. Then move with the strength of the combined Silver and Black Ulf forces," Zya ticked off hurriedly. "I trust in your abilities. Report back when you are in position and the Silvers are also in position."
"But, why? You always " Kern began, a bit dumfounded at his leaders abandonment after seasons and seasons of relentless pursuit of the Nadireans who dared infringe on the sacred forest.
"Brielle is missing." Zya spoke quietly, nudging Nyka into a fast trot. Not waiting for a response, but feeling many sets of eyes upon her, Zya headed for home.
"May the gods watch oer her til you reach her," Kern sent out in a private projection meant only for his leader. He wanted her to know he understood and supported her decision. Low-pitched cries spontaneously began to echo around him. As Nyka leaped across a fallen log, Zya wiped a tear as she felt her peoples support.
"Who am I, please?"
The question rang over and over through the fleeing blondes mind as she strode through the forest. Uncertainty adding to her dismay, a new surge of adrenaline shot directly into her already quickly pumping heart. Brielle quickened her pace, determined to escape this place that had caused her pain and insecurity. She squared her shoulders and willed her eyes not to cloud to tears. She was going home.
"Home," she mumbled to herself, pausing in her descent down a steep
hill to look over her shoulder in the direction from which she had come. She rubbed her cheek against the coarse fur of the ferret on her shoulder,
unable to escape a trickle of doubt. She tried to conjure a memory,
any memory, beyond coming to the place to be joined only a short time previously. "Nothing, nothing," Brielle admitted aloud with a slight tremor in her voice. She thought of the stable, Reina, Sierra, her aunt and grandmother. She reflected back also to Zyas lair with its steaming pool and the furs where she had been sleeping. But those thoughts alone were not enough to consider turning around and heading home.
The half-Ulf shied away from any thoughts of her mate. The blonde felt tainted by the secrets that had been revealed by her ailing grandmothers lips. And, with the undisclosed truths came doubts of what was real and true. "She lied to me. Was she that ashamed?" she asked herself, anger rising up to mix with the hurt she felt. "She hurt me."
"Lies, all lies." She spoke in a broken whisper, clenching and unclenching her fist. "I never fit in. NEVER!" she told herself. Grief and hurt poured down her cheek.
Coming to the river, the half-Ulf contemplated its crossing. "Did we cross over water?" she asked the white ferret whose pink nose tickled the underside of her chin. "I dont remember. I just dont remember," she stammered, biting her lip and looking at the suns position three-fourths of the way across the horizon. Have to make it home before dark, she told herself, and stumbled forward.
In her mind, she conjured up images of the first place she knew: the fields of tall white grasses laced liberally with dandelions and plum colored moonflowers that had opened up when the moon shone down. It was quiet there, not full of the activity and noises of the Black. No fighting, swords clanging, endless talking and milling people. It had just been her and Zya.
Thinking of her mate, Brielle felt the ground wobbling beneath her bare feet. Arms flailing, the half-Ulf landed hard and fast. "Uhhhh," she whimpered, searing pain lancing through her shoulder. Gingerly, she rolled onto her back and closed her eyes.
Strong arms cradled her frame and pulled her close against soft warm curves. Long, callused fingers wiped her brow and dripped cool water on her fevered skin. Pain lessened under the rhythmic pulse in her ear while she rested on an evenly rising chest.
"Familiar," her mind cried out, calling out to the one with the blue eyes and the soft touch. "What we shared, still share, is real," she croaked, opening pained green eyes to stare up at the sky. The sun was behind her now, and the half-Ulf was growing cold. Brielle flinched as Aura nosed her collarbone. The white ferret chattered nervously.
"I know, Aura. We need to get out of here," Brielle spoke with her furry friend. Crawling to a pine, the half-Ulf pulled herself up with a groan. Breathing heavily both from pain and exertion, the blonde looked all around.
"Aura, I dont know which way to go," the young blonde spoke through tears. Wiping her runny nose, she looked down at her oddly behaving friend who ran nervously through her legs as if trying to get her moving. The air had a certain stillness to it now that was making even the half-Ulf anxious. The hair on the back of the Brielle's neck bristled, and a sense of danger crept over her.
"No, Aura," the blonde whispered, stepping away from the tree and moving in her pets direction. Aura responded by standing on her hind legs and shaking her head in displeasure. Just behind the animal, Brielle saw a flock of birds circling in the sky. She suddenly felt uneasy. "Ok, I think I understand: we should not go that way."
With the river behind her and danger in front of her, the half-Ulf uncomfortably considered her options. Still uneasy about swimming, the blonde quickly abandoned the idea of swimming to the other side of the river. And with her shoulder hurting, she knew better than to attempt to climb a tree. Aura chattered at her and bade her to follow.
The white rodents expertise in remaining alive made its survival instincts easy to trust. Brielle had not even seen the long hollowed out tree trunk that the ferret clambered into, checking it out before dashing back out to her mistress. Hearing distinguishable human voices, the half-Ulf scooted herself backwards on her stomach. Trying to remain silent, she bit her lip to stifle the cries of pain she felt as she scraped her body along the rough tree bark.
One by one men, in soldier's uniforms dragged deer and mid sized game to the side of the river. With sharp swords they split them, tore off their hides and cut the meat into huge chunks. Though she could tell they were speaking, she was too far to understand. "Leave, please leave." She mumbled a mantra to herself as she counted seven men gathered now at the rivers edge.
Relief spread through her as she felt what could only be a mental caress stroke through her whole being. Brielle squeezed her eyes shut, letting her hand slide up to her earring of Blue. Rubbing it into a glow, her heart instinctively opened in trust to the Blue; and with the opening, a memory burst forth of when she first came to the lair of the Blacks.
"Little one, your heart beats faster than that of a rabbit being stalked by a fox," Zya spoke in an intimate whisper. "Tell me, your mate, what concerns you so."
Brielle swallowed, trying to moisten her dry throat, not wanting to answer the older womans question. I dont want her to see how afraid I am, she thought to herself. Brielle fiddled with the lacings of her top, loosening them. In her mind, the half-Ulf was trying to conjure up images of home. Zya had spoken of home with such affection--a home in which she had a place of leadership, according to her. I dont know what to do or how to act, Brielle thought to herself.
"My little she-wolf, " the leader of the Blacks said tenderly, "your mind says so much to mine." Zya unlaced her vest, baring her chest. The cool air caused her nipples to harden. Zya turned her love so she sat sidesaddle, supporting her green-eyed mates back with one hand while she removed the half-wolfs top. Instinctively Brielles body slid into Zyas, her smaller but well-rounded breast resting just below the Ulfs. Zyas keen connection with her mates every nuance alerted her to Brielles slowing heartbeat "Now listen carefully, my anxious mate. Note how our bodies touch, how it is comforting, relaxing, pleasurable, secure. This is home Brielle. Yes, there is a home where we will build our lives--the place where I rule--but this is, and always will be, our home. Do you understand?"
Brielle touched her palm over Zyas beating heart, feeling the rhythm.
The young woman thought for a while, then reached out a hand. She gently
took the large bronzed hand in her own and placed it over her own heartbeat.
Zya was so touched that for that moment in time, all of the rest of the world melted
away. She felt in a real conscious way, that Brielle had given her heart to her, and
asked Zya into her own.
"That is right, Brielle, our home is together--in each others heart. Connected as tightly as when our chests fit with each others," the leader of the Blacks spoke.
A bit of perspiration was beginning to collect on Brielles upper lip, bringing with it a ravenous gnawing in her empty stomach. The soldiers had built small fires to work by in the waning daylight. Miserable, the half-Ulf clutched her earring of Blue and imagined her mates arms holding her close.
"When?" the younger Blue asked brusquely, trying to check the many emotions swirling inside her. It had been hard enough to ride away from the fight that she had dreamed of having ever since her brother had died. Added to that, Brielles grandmother mistaking the half-Ulf for her daughter and the half-Ulf then running off undetected were just about too much for the Lupus to bear.
"It was a little before high sun when Freya called me. I was tending to the casualties you had sent back to me. When Freya entered her mothers home, Brielle was gone and her mother was calling out for Nali," Reina exclaimed adjusting her newly cleaned leathers and strapping a sword around her waist. "It is the most lucid her mother had been in many seasons. No one could have imagined that she would wake up and speak with such clarity. Especially in her declining state of health."
"I know," Zya replied gruffly, not really able to fault her mother or Freya. She had been happy that morning when the opportunity had presented itself for her mate to visit her ailing grandmother. The Lupus had thought it would be a chance for the blonde to connect and bond more with her maternal family group.
"My Lupus," Freyas soft voice rang out apologetically.
With a wave of her hand, Zya bade her to remain silent. "There is no need for words or apologies, my sister. Your emotions bubble from your already weary heart. Concentrate on your mother; I will get Brielle back." The Lupus spoke with a sense of conviction that rang in her words. Out of the corner of her eye, she noted Nyka had lifted her head from the water trough, her eyes clear and refreshed. The horse and riders eyes connected in unspoken communication.
Nyka pawed her foot in the soft earth restlessly, ready to be on her way. Zya knew her horse was not intending to be left behind on this venture and quickly dismissed the idea of taking a fresh mount.
Freya looked into the younger Blues eyes and then into older blue ones. "I request your permission to return to my mothers side," Freya projected.
"Of course," Zya replied in a tone that was almost a murmur, her blue eyes already tracing out the route that Brielle had probably followed when she left. Opening her psyche and caressing her jeweled ear, Zya walked towards the stables. Grasping hold of Nykas reins, a mental picture emerged foggily in the Lupus's mind. Brielle was running recklessly through the forest, her green eyes brimming with confusion and pain.
"Zya?" a familiar voice broke through the Lupus's stream of troubled thoughts. The blue-eyed she-wolf lifted her chin to stare up at the regal posture of her mother sitting on Andromedas golden back. "I am heading to where our brothers, sisters and cousins are massing. Sandar and Sandreen are expecting one of the Blue."
"Sandar is honorable, but can be impatient, cant he?" Zya commented, punctuating her words with a long sigh. "And we both know his philosophy is to fight with the same ethics that his enemy shows to him, without hesitation or second thought," Zya thought aloud, mounting Nykas back.
"And that could make us no better than our foe." Reina finished her daughters train of thought. Andromeda matched her daughters mare stride for stride as they rode past where Brielle had last been seen. The older Blue opened her heart and mind and drew her daughters psyche to her in the way only a mother can do. Zya responded in kind, letting herself be encircled by her mothers unconditional love and support, gathering strength from it. Reina nodded curtly, and both Blue rode through the encampment, purposely choosing the way that Brielle had most likely gone.
Side by side they trotted into the pasture, following a zigzag path of trampled grass. The half-Ulfs scent was faint, but still distinguishable to her experienced mate.
"Auras with her," Zya said with some relief, noting a paw print in the soft earth as they neared the place where pasture transformed into forest. Silently relieved, Zya was grateful that the tiny creature was with Brielle--with its quick reactions, strong survival instincts and fierce protectiveness of the half-Ulf.
"Brielles flight was reckless and quick," Reina said, noticing some broken low branches that she suspected the half-Ulf had barreled through. "She is not a tracker, nor does she have the skills to mask her trail. This will be both an advantage and disadvantage in attempting to effect her safe recovery." Traveling onward down a hill, Reina pulled Andromeda to a halt. She placed a warm hand on her child's knee, and then studied her expression. Reina saw a familiar look on the beloved face, one she had seen in her daughter when Brielle was first recovered from Drad's jaws and lay ravaged with fever. The same concerned, pensive, disturbed expression was mirrored in Zya's eyes now. Circumstances had caused doubt and fear to overshadow what Reina saw as a gods blessed, loving bond.
"Let your heart speak to hers, my child," Reina projected, reaching with her palm to caress the dirty cheek. "She will answer back."
"Her thoughts assault me. She questions me, our bond, her very identity,"
Zya mumbled as a tear dripped off of an ebony eyelash.
"Trust your instincts, child. That is what guided you to her that fateful night. It is what inspired you to defy your cousins and claim her as your mate," Reina patiently whispered, wiping away a single hot tear. "Your instincts of Blue." Reina patted her daughter's thigh then nudged Andromeda to a gallop to join her kinsmen who were assembling against John, leaving her child to absorb her words.
Zya paused for a moment, closing her blue eyes and letting the early evening breeze blow through her hair. Taking long deep breaths, she undid the laces to her vest, peeled back the leather and exposed her skin to the winds touch.
Licking her lips, she brought her finger to the wolf silhouette that her body had borne since birth. She swept the digit across the brazen shape, willing her mind to float upon the breeze. The blue-eyed she-wolf felt her spirit take flight across the swirling crosswinds that traversed her mate and her bond. Instead of forcing her way through the harsh current of distrust, Zya let her mind surf, letting the currents propel her forward in the direction of her mate's psyche.
Determined to bridge the choppy disturbances between them, Zya stretched her whole being in her mate's direction. But the emotional current was too strong, and the Ulf felt her body lose its balance in the waves and spiral downwards into the pain itself. She had to pull back out of her mind journey, leaving her feeling frustrated and tired. She opened her eyes and took a ragged breath. Noticing the long leafed pine beside her, the blue-eyed she-wolf composed herself, thus quieting her spirit.
"My spirit seeks your guidance, oh sacred pine," Zya projected laying her palm upon the pine's trunk. Fingering the fragrant green needles, she whispered a heartfelt wish. "Hear me." Breaking off a branch, she dabbed her thumb in the sap. "Sacred Forest, show me the way to my love and destiny." Zya dabbed her sign with the gummy residue, spreading it liberally.
"Nature in harmony, I vow to revere." Zya spoke with a bowed head and open heart. "A servant and defender of life's living balance"
Opening her eyes, Zya noted the way the wind blew through the trees and spurred Nyka to follow. "On this same wind, let my spirit carry my love to you, my little she-wolf," Zya spoke to herself against a horizon that was filling with oranges and pinks. "Feel me," she whispered, exhaling a long sensuous breath.
The gentle rushing of the Kildyr's waters now seemed to echo in her head. "The river," she projected to herself, leaning forward on the horse's back so her mouth lay just above the velvety ear. "To the water's edge, girl," the rider instructed the prancing warhorse, brushing her fingers through the ebony mane. Upon reaching the shore, Zya dismounted, sharp eyes sweeping across the sandy banks. "The earth has left a path to be followed," Zya spoke aloud to her horse as she bent downwards.
Zya was visibly heartened as she lightly traced her finger along the indentions she so easily recognized as the heel and toe prints belonging to her mate. It was not too far from here that Zya had originally come across her mate for the first time. The Black pushed that irony from her mind as a faint scent rose from the ground where the footprints were visible. The darkening shadows rose around her, but the Lupus gave that no thought. She would rely on her Ulf senses from here and gather clues from the forest itself. Zya held on to Nyka's mane and mounted her bareback once more. Night's dark curtain had fallen. Above her head, a bright constellation of the starry host illuminated the darkest of shadows.
An all too recently familiar sensation was beginning to course through her breasts, bringing with it heaviness and a need to void. To the Blue, this was less uncomfortable than the knowledge that her mate was hungry and needed her. Once more she reached out with her heart to communicate with her wayward blonde mate. As with the other times before, bonding seemed just out of her grasp, though this time she felt Brielle waver. The half-Ulf was no longer blocking out all thoughts and feelings towards her.
"Open your heart, little she-wolf," Zya projected with tender implorement.
"I open my soul and let its contents spill forth. You are its contents, Brielle.
I love you."
The Lupus leaned forward, keeping a firm grip on the horses mane, cocking her head and pulling her unruly locks behind her ear. The songs so familiar to the night had been replaced by a somber silence. Zya slowed Nykas pace, softening the mare's steps to a faint soft crunch in the pine straw. The mare shook her head and her nostrils flared.
The special kinship between rider and horse that Zya and Nyka shared was unique, even among Ulf. The two truly were able to converse and understand each other; but most importantly, they trusted each other.
"I smell it too, girl." Zya's voice took on a steely edge. "Nadirean." She wrapped her long fingers around the hilt of her sword, then nudged Nyka
onward. Zya leaned forward on the horse's back and whispered, "If I need to change forms, stay close, girl." The crescent moon on the ebony mare's forehead bobbed as Nyka shook her head knowingly, understanding.
"Ffffffffaaammmillliarrrrr," the wind whispered with a tone of needy entreaty.
"Little she-wolf," Zya answered back with a response the speed of lightning, the urgency in her mate's communication sending her Ulf blood racing. The Blue kicked her heels into Nyka's sides, bidding the horse to greater speed as the Lupus focused her senses fully on homing in on her mate's mental signal.
The distance--both mental and physical-- diminished layer by layer as horse and rider blazed quickly and quietly along the riverbank. And as the Moon Warrior drew closer, so the hair on the back of her neck bristled higher. Though the Nadirean scent remained minute, it was emanating from the very direction she was going. Superimposed atop that smell was the scent of freshly killed prey.
Adrenaline surging and her Ulf blood in a boil, Zya of the Blacks confidently descended upon the Nadirean predators, vowing to turn them into prey if one blonde hair had been touched.
With horror in her green eyes, the half-Ulf felt her stomach grow queasy as she watched the Nadireans at the riverbank remove a dead fawn from the womb of the doe they were butchering in the starlight. Despite the need for silence, the blonde began to heave over and over, each rasping expulsion increasing in intensity. The half-Ulf gave in to the uncomfortable sensation, unable to hold down the contents of her stomach. She wiped her mouth with her forearm, then took deep breaths, shuddering at the realization that the men had stopped their bloody work.
"There. Over there, I tell you," a male voice rang out. Brielle scooted further back into her hiding place. The unmistakable sound of footsteps drew closer and closer, and Brielle sucked in her breath as a beefy hand reached into the darkness, fingers waggling towards her.
"Uhhhuhhh." Brielle cried out in pain as fingers found their way to her blonde hair and pulled. Her whimper of pain turned into a low-pitched growl as the pair of arms surrounded her and instantly pulled her from her hiding place.
"It's a woman!"
"No, its an animal. A feisty, pretty, female animal," another answered, lewdly staring down at heaving rounded breasts. He reached his hand down and pushed blonde hair away to get a better view, only to jerk it backwards when a tiny set of jaws snapped at him.
"No, Saul, tis a witch. She carries the mark of the beast emblazoned upon her chest."
"We must take her to Lord John"
"No, she is evil itself. Probably commands the beasts and spreads open her thighs to those wretched wolves. She must die now"
The one with lust in his eyes, unlacing his breeches and reaching for his organ, answered, "We must do with this one what we do to all the creatures in this forest--dominate and have them submit to will of Man. And right now, my will is to ride this wild animal."
"The time of the subjugation and domination of all other living things by Nadirean wishes is over!" an alto voice with a ruthless edge resonated out of the darkness.
An ebony warhorse appeared out of the shadow, snorting loudly as it charged. Upon its bare back sat the tallest woman the Nadireans had ever seen. The female warrior's intent was immediately recognizable by the jeweled sword raised menacingly above her head. From out of her leather vest, the Moon Warrior pulled a breast dagger and let it fly towards the one who crouched between the legs of her mate. With her expert abilities, the blue-eyed she-wolf speared her quarry's organ, sending her dagger in one side and out the other. Stupefied blood-shot eyes glazed over, and Zya's Nadirean target staggered backwards. Zya bared her teeth and snarled at the injured man. With her blue eyes flashing lethally at him, the man fainted dead away. Her blood burning hot with fierce protectiveness, the Blue caught the man by the hair as he stumbled, propelling him as far as her Ulf strength would allow her.
Keeping her other two enemies in her peripheral vision, Zya rubbed her mate's cheek in a need to reassure Brielle as well as herself. "I'm here now," Zya projected simply, thrusting a leg out to kick the one whom she had heard voice a desire to take her mate to John. She angled her booted foot to connect with the man's stomach, causing him to retreat gasping for breath.
"Listen to me, Brielle, go to Aura. Go to Aura." Zya projected a firm directive, following it with a gentle shove towards the fallen tree trunk. Keeping her sword raised in a defensive posture, the Blue met the two pairs of Nadirean eyes stare for stare while she listened for the sounds behind her of her mate's retreat to the protection of the hollowed out pine.
When the sounds behind her had diminished to only Aura's nervous chattering and Brielle's breathing, the Blue spoke, "Who are the beasts, Nadirean?" Zya taunted the three, twirling her sword in an intricate pattern. "Destroying nature's balance, taking what is not yours, raping, meaningless killings. Who are the beasts?"
Brielle swallowed hard, clutching the ferret to her as she considered her mate's words. In her time with Zya, she had seen only goodness in those she lived among--society that lived by a code of honor and justice. In her visions and short encounter with her father's kind, she had seen nothing but cruelty and selfishness. Who are the beasts, indeed? Brielle thought to herself, feeling a strange numb comfort in her self-discovery.
Brielle did not understand the rage that erupted forth from her father's kind after her mate's words. She shut her eyes to the flurry of violence and gave in to the primal trust that the blue-eyed female would protect her. Her heart seemed to beat in syncopation with the clanging of swords, and its pounding matched that of the physical blows raining down on the combatants. Then, after a period of time, it was her heart's pulsing that rang the loudest. Slowly its rhythm slowed as she detected her mates voice rung out in an Ulf victory cry. The constriction eased as familiar warmth spread through her, which the blonde knew was emanating from her mate. The mental connection made her feel the same as she felt physically when her nose was buried in the crease of her mates breasts, the feeling of the nipples against both of her cheeks; and Brielle appreciated the connections comfort.
Only after Zya felt her mate lean into their joined mental connection did the Lupus allow her muscles to relax. Over the seasons, she had engaged the Nadireans in battle many, many times. As leader of the Blacks, she had become legendary for her victories. Zya looked at the scattered carnage that lay between where she stood and the river. In the past, such a scene would have fueled her blood to a greater boil, and she would have channeled her anger to eradicate the Nadirean threat once and for all. But even as she stood observing the gore and destruction, a conversation the younger Blue had had with her mate came to mind.
"When I was small, the Nadireans were encroaching on the forest, much as they have done now. It was a violent time, a scary time for all. And a lot lay on my mothers mind. As you know, she is a healer, and seeing harm to life upsets her." Zya spoke in a composed alto voice.
"But she still fought them. People died," Brielle replied in a suffocated whisper.
"Yes," Zya spoke matter-of-factly. "Such is the law of nature, young one, not only here in the forest, but on the plains of the Adean, in the mountains and beyond. Evil attacks good. Strong challenge the weak. And to not meet each challenge means death and, as often as not, the end of your existence."
"Why must it be so?" Brielle asked the age-old question that no one could ever answer. Zyas heart wrenched as her mate pulled away from her abruptly.
"I dont know, little one. I dont know," Zya answered honestly, reaching out a hand and gently placing it on her very young-at-heart mates shoulder. "I only know, for myself anyway, in all things I try to let my actions be ever guided towards peace, protection, and what is best for my people."
Lifting her head off of her knees, Brielle looked deeply into her mates eyes. "What about their people?" she asked with firm conviction.
Startled, Zya pulled back into herself for a moment. Sensing this, Brielle reached for her mates hand and wrapped it in her own smaller one. "Do not all kinds of creatures, people, deserve the same?"
The Lupus stroked wiped her sweaty brow and looking down at the ground. Even in death, a Nadirean still clutched his sword in his hand. Thoughtfully, the Lupus pulled back the corpses stiff fingers. The blade she pulled from it was of simple craftsmanship not unlike that of which her heart-mother could make. Around the Lupus the forest was quiet as if it was tired and weary. Walking back to the tree trunk "Yes, Brielle, I believe all living creatures do," Zya spoke in a whisper, looking up at the moon. " It is time for peace. Unfortunately, I believe we shall all pay for it in blood."
Zya looked down into the weary face of her mate. It was pale and streaked with dirt and dried tears. The Lupus knew that Brielle required physical and emotional attention, but she dared not stop to provide it until they reached a safer haven. The Nadireans were too close to their proximity for them not to seek a hiding shelter at the earliest opportunity. Brielle had not let go of her since she had pulled the blonde from the hollowed tree trunk. Even now, as Nyka carried Zya and her mate away from the violent encounter, Brielle still had yet to open her eyes.
Zya traveled with one hand around her mate and the other on the hilt of her sword.
The energy of violence and danger reverberated all through this section of the forest. The proximal smells of her pack, the Silvers and the Nadireans were fairly distinguishable. Going to them would have taken less time than returning to the encampment of the Blacks.
But the Lupus quickly dismissed that idea for a more quiet, suitable location. It had been designed as a hideaway for those of her brothers and sisters who were assigned to long-term observation of the Reds and their activities. The carved out cave had a natural spring that ran through it, and the Lupus knew it was kept stocked with basic supplies and medicinal herbs.
Keeping a reassuring hold on Brielle, Zya slid from her horse's back. There were neither suspicious tracks nor scent of intruders. Content that she could safely care for, and keep her mate safe, the Blue entered the small, cozy lair. Her breasts were so full that Zya felt that they would spurt at the slightest of pressures. But up til now, she had focused her priorities on immediate survival and elimination of danger.
The blonde protested with a ragged sigh as contact was broken between herself and the Blue. The swiftly and efficiently built fire provided warmth and light, but did nothing to quell the dark chill she felt deep inside herself. Hunger gnawed at her stomach producing a large rumble.
"I know, little she-wolf," Zya said softly. "But you will be much more comfortable after we remove our dirty garments." Zya picked off the tattered remains of her mate's outfit and tossed it over her shoulder into the fire. Her own, she removed and set aside to clean later. Brielle's eyes followed the movements of her mate--first to the wooden crates of supplies, then over to what sounded like a babbling brook.
When the Blue returned to her at the fireside a short time later, the statuesque woman had cleaned herself up and carried a bowl of water, soap and a piece of linen.
"I bathed you like this when you injured your shoulder," Zya spoke in a velvety voice as she ran a small soapy linen square over her mates right arm and then left. Zya's blue eyes were captured by green ones when she dipped the cloth into the bowl. With a feather light touch, Zya drew the cloth along Brielle's forehead, then let it move to dab gently at a dirt caked laceration. "You had a bad fever, and I was very worried," Zya continued. "But what got me through that time?" Zya asked, wrapping a rabbit skin quilt around the narrow shoulders. "You did." Zya spoke with gentle tenderness, brushing a fingertip across the still-closed eyes fringed with blonde eyelashes. "It was as it is now: your green eyes that looked into mine," Zya finished, kissing eyelids and coaxing them to open. Blearily, the blonde opened her eyes and found them instantly gathered up by moist blue ones.
For a moment, the green-eyed blonde just studied the black-haired woman's expression and visage. Can I trust her? was a simple question that burst forth across the half-Ulf's mind. What is truly real? the young one asked herself, searching the bronze colored face, trying to read its true intent. Her stomach protested loudly once more. Embarrassed and feeling vulnerable, the blonde dropped her hands down to her belly, holding them there as if to silence any further rumblings.
Moisture seemed to be collecting in the right eye; and when the blue eye seemed to be unable to hold any longer, the overflow pooled out of the corner. The half-Ulf's heart spasmed, but she held back, restraining her urge to rush to Zya. But then another tear formed and dropped, and then another.
'What do your hear? What does your mate tell you as she sits here before you?'
Brielle heard whispered--only not in a human voice, nor was it a projection sounding off in her head. The two questions repeated themselves even louder as a rushing breeze streamed into the lair and caught up in her hair.
"Your hurt and mine are strong, but our love and the spirit of forgiveness is stronger." The young blonde spoke with wisdom the likes of which was unusual for one of Brielle's age and life experiences. Reverting back to her need for reassurances, the half-Ulf 's green eyes implored the misty blue ones. "Are you still my familiar?" she whispered, so softly that only one with Ulf hearing could discern.
"Always, little she-wolf. Always," Zya whispered, drawing her mate to her chest and inviting her beloved to nurse. The Lupus felt her own body relax as Brielle settled into the regular rhythm of suckling. In the darkness outside the lair, Zya could hear the howls and yips of her people. Because she did not discern any Nadirean vocalizations, she surmised that her kind was playing a psychological game with their enemy. Fear and intimidation were powerful weapons. The threat against her mate past and their bond reaffimed, the younger Blue felt the restlessness tease her mind.
"Zya?" a tired, quiet voice called up to her.
"I thought you had drifted to sleep," the Ulf commented, brushing blonde hair away from her mate's face.
The Lupus knew that from here onward, she and her mate must communicate openly and truthfully if they were to nurture the growth of their still fragile bond.
"They are in the forest but surrounded by our pack and that of our cousins the Silvers," Zya answered, honestly and bluntly.
Blood flows west down from the plain;, the balance of nature rests in the sign,
Brielle thought to herself as the phrase rose to her conscious mind. Looking first
at her chest then that of her blue-eyed mate, she announced," We must go there."
Zya recognized the look in her mate's green eyes. It was the same as that of the
night that a blonde haired beauty had stared down a whole pack of violent red Ulf.
It was the moment Brielle had come into her life.
"The time to act is now," the silver male projected dominantly, his tail raised high and his ears pointed upwards. He crossed past the small group of Black and Silver's leadership with restless energy. He stared intently at the blue-eyed wolf with just a touch of gray in her muzzle. "Reina, be reasonable, dawn will be here in only a few more twinkles of the night stars," the leader of the Silvers tried to reason with the Blue.
Undaunted, the older Blue rose from her sitting position, meeting her cousin muzzle to muzzle. "Sandar, all present here share the burning in our blood and our mouths water for battle," Reina answered smoothly, her tail swishing in wide arcs. "We are on the edge of history and I, for one, would like to experience this historic occurrence with a full belly," she added, hoping her attempt at humor would be well received instead of infuriating her cousin further.
The Silver's eyebrows furrowed, then he sent his cousin a grudging nod.
"I suppose it would not hurt to wait to hear from Kern and Sandreen to
affirm that we now have our enemy completely surrounded."
"I agree, cousin; plus my daughter just sent me a private projection. She should be joining us shortly," Reina projected, nodding at Maya to go intercept her daughter to see if she could offer assistance. Careful to mask her emotions, Reina let her face exhibit only the cool, confident leader, not the mother who was very relieved that her daughters were reunited and safe.
"Sandreen mentioned having spent some time with your daughters mate,
one carrying the sign of Ulf?" the Silver wolf inquired, finally relaxing enough to sit next to the small fire that had been stoked there at sundown. Reina gave a quick nod, cocking her ears and smelling, not one Ulfs approach but several, one of which she knew with great intimacy.
"Look who I found," Sandreen quipped in a projection happiness showing in her eyes that her cousins mission was successful. Behind the Silver female trotted a large black mare carrying two riders--one of which was sound asleep.
Behind the mare, a procession of four more horses followed, all of which were
heavily loaded down with fresh meat. Maya brought up the rear, snapping at the heels of the last horse, who was the slowest and oldest.
Coming to a stop, the younger Blue nodded to her mother and addressed all gathered around in a projection, "Anyone hungry?"
"Sandreen? Are our brothers and sisters in position now?" Sandar projected to his sister while he chewed a tender piece of venison. The silver male was keeping watch on the moons position out of the corner of his eyes as he replenished his strength
"Surrounded completely. Our pack on the west side and the Blacks on the east, and both sides share positions the north and south," Sandreen answered in a projection to her brother. "Distribution of the fresh kill should be about complete Id say."
"Good," the male projected, feeling stronger and battle ready. "Tell them we attack after the feeding!" he ordered, swallowing the last bite of his meal and flexing his muscles.
Curled around her mates body like a warm blanket, the younger Blue snorted through her muzzle and pushed herself to her four paws. "What is the rush, cousin?" she projected politely, licking her mates cheek lovingly before walking to sit beside her two Silver cousins.
"Dawn approaches, Zya. We must move before daybreak or we lose our opportunity," Sandar answered, trying to be patient with his cousin.
"And daybreak would mean a loss of an opportunity just how?" Zya asked,
rising to her feet once more, cocking her head to the right, and arching her back slightly. "Do you doubt your peoples fighting ability in their human form?" Sets of yellow eyes 'round about them glittered and narrowed as Blacks and Silvers alike sensed a difference of opinion in their leaders. Moving to within mere inches of Zyas muzzle, Sandar stepped forward closely flanked by Sandreen.
"No, Zya. I do not. I have utmost confidence in my peoples abilities in our day forms, as I do yours. Nor do I doubt, now, that together we can attack or enemies when we have the advantage and then celebrate our victory come the morning dawn!" Sandar projected, snuffing loudly amidst the yips and growls of the yellow eyes that watched the leaders of the two packs.
The sounds of yips and growls woke the half-Ulf with a start. Blinking her green eyes open, the half-Ulf immediately began to search for her lover, looking for either a tall blue-eyed woman or a large blue-eyed wolf. Beside a firepot, there stood her mate, muzzle to muzzle with a large Silver wolf. Both wolves' tails were arched high and their fur was on edge. Though unable to comprehend what was being communicated, instinct told her that the two were in great disagreement over something.
Maybe they argue over how to fight my fathers kind, Brielle thought to herself, sitting up off the ground, pulling her knees to her chest, and wrapping her arms around them. None of the Ulf around her paid much attention to her now as Zya and the Silver snorted louder and growls rose from both of their curled lips. They argued over destruction and death, that much the half-Ulf knew. Zya, she surmised, would fight for a more honorable, just way to defeat the Nadireans than to descend upon the cave en masse and slaughter them.
"Blood flows west, flooding the plains; the balance of nature rests in the sign," the half-Ulf spoke. Her voice grew stronger with each word she spoke.
"The signed avenger be justice's champion. The signed innocent holds judgment in her hands." The visitation of the birds--messengers of the gods--seemed like ages ago. Then it seemed what had been spoken had only been gibberish. Now it seemed so clear. Her mothers people and her fathers people had generations of bloodshed between them. Wounds ran deep that were not healed. The birds had come to her for a reason. Only she understood because of her unique heritage. It was up to her. Can I just sit here and watch both sides hurt and kill each other, each side growing angrier and angrier? the half-Ulf asked herself soberly. "I am the judge of what happens here," she murmured.
Truth be told, from what she had seen of them, she did not think she liked her fathers kind very much. She knew that she wanted them out of the forest and to stop taking and wasting the resources around them. They were a selfish people. But maybe, like Zya, some of what they were resulted from generations of selfishness and greed. No one had taught them to be respectful and revere all that was around them. Her mothers people had such values. Zya herself had taught her so much.
Donning some clothing which lay folded beside her, Brielle motioned for the white ferret sitting beside her to hop to her lap "It's all up to me," the half-Ulf spoke, gathering strength and determination at the realization. Stroking her pet, she spoke specifically to Aura. "Go to Zya. Tell her I go to make peace and restore harmony. Tell her I go to speak for peace." The white ferret scurrying on her way towards her other mistress, Brielle stood, wiping her hands on her deerskin skirt. Glittering eyes fixed upon their leaders' disagreement, no one noticed the young blonde slip away towards the cave.
The petite blondes lithe body moved purposefully through the four-legged bodies of silver and blackish brown. A gentle breeze brushed her ear, sounding almost like the beating wings of the messengers that had visited her. It blew across her face and shoulders bringing with it a sense of purpose. The blondes bond with her Lupus mate brought with it a sense of calmness that she hoped she was reflecting back to her lover.
Pairs of golden eyes barely gave her notice as they listened to the mental exchange between the leaders of the Ulf nation. But as she drew nearer to the cave, the blonde noticed the parti-colored black/brown coated wolves attention riveted to her. A group of ten that included both Myya and Layne followed closely at her heels. Trying not to be intimidated, she called down to her pack mates in a shaky quiet voice, "Its time for peace, and I am its messenger.
Peering out into the darkness, John rubbed the whiskers on his unshaven face. There had little change in their situation since the last time he had checked; for they were still surrounded by the largest throng of wolves he had ever laid eyes upon. He twisted his lip into a cynical smile as he let his gaze travel across the endless pairs of golden eyes. He hoped that the group would disperse come dawn and he could regain the upper hand, following their tracks to their sleeping lairs. But for now, John admitted, the hunter had become the hunted.
"Begging your pardon, your lordship?"
"What is it now, Simon?" John asked, spacing each word out evenly.
"It's Ronald, my lord. He is dead," the middle-aged man explained in a weak whisper of emotion, "What should we do with the body?"
"Throw it out to the beasts for all I care. Maybe they will grow full and lazy and take leave of us," John answered tersely. He laughed heartily to cover the annoyance he felt for this whole campaign. A smirk rose to his lips when he heard a collective gasp behind him. Out of what had started out as fifty strong, the twelve or so men left with him were weak bodied and weak minded. His best had died the night before in the freak storm of nature, and three more besides since they had sought refuge in the cave. Turning briskly on his boot heel away from the entranceway, John addressed Simon. "Might as well, take out the other two bodies too. Joseph, Phillip, Brian, throw the bodies outside. But first strip them of any armament or weapons."
Along with Simon, the three inexperienced soldiers blanched to a pasty white as a shadow of alarm fell over their faces. Outside, the yips and growls had risen to a furious level.
"The whole lot of you act like a bunch of frightened women," John grunted, pushing Simon out of his way and grasping the closest corpse by the ankles. "Joseph, Phillip, and Brian, you'd best be following with the other two or it won't be those golden-eyed beasts that will send you to your maker."
From the caves entranceway, John stared into the golden eyes of his enemy daring them in his mind to blink first. A log thrown carelessly on the fire beside him sent ash into his face and his eyes teared. The golden eyes that flickered just outside his refuge blurred. John blinked his eyelids rapidly to clear his vision, ignoring the men beside him rushing to do his bidding. The last expelled corpse landed in a heap a few paces in front of him, and he backed away yelling at the top of his lungs, "Come and get it, you blood thirsty beasts."
John continued to watch the golden hue with curiosity. It was higher up than the beasts of the ground, and bobbed up and down as it wove a pathway through the wolves.
As it drew closer, features began to emerge. It stood on two legs and seemed tall enough to be a human of small stature. The barricade of golden eyes broke apart, allowing the Nadirean lord and his men a glimpse of what had caught their attention. It was a girl of slight height with blonde hair and a petite frame. On her shoulder was a white ferret, while at her sides trotted wolves with their ears erect-- jaws bared, unafraid and loyal.
Drawn to the opening despite their fear, the group of twelve stood just behind their leader with swords drawn. The girl stopped for a moment and knelt, sharing a few words with the animals at her feet. As if sensing the attention of both Nadirean and Ulf alike, the blonde lifted her chin proudly and stared squarely into the Nadirean leaders eyes.
"Its time for peace, and I am its messenger," she uttered, tossing the blonde hair over her shoulders in brave confidence, unveiling her mark of Ulf--colored not red but blue.
The blue-eyed she-wolfs attention broke off abruptly and her ears cocked.
Recognizing the soft lilt of her mates voice, the Blues eyes widened in surprise and alarm. Without explanation to her companions, she pushed off of the ground with her hind legs, following the sounds of excited wolves and verbal conversation.
"Who are you?" The voice of John rose menacingly over the yowls of her kind.
"I am but a voice of harmony and peace, a part of you and a part of the lifes breath of the forest." Brielles voice answered back with a tone of gentle assuredness.
The hair on the back of her neck tingling, the black she-wolf pushed past her brothers, sisters and cousins. Out of the corner of her blue eyes, she saw their mystified expressions. Truthfully, she was a little surprised herself as her eyes finally made contact with Brielle. Surrounded by some of her most trusted pack mates, the half-Ulf was engaging the source of her peoples blood lust with cool authority and wisdom.
"Seems the signed one took matters into her own hands," Sandar projected to her, catching up with his Lupus cousin. "While we argue, she gathers your pack beside her to confront the enemy."
"We cannot attack now without risking her safety," Sandreen projected from beside Zya.
"It seems the little one holds the forest in her hands," Teldar projected from off to the side.
Listening though not commenting, Zya stopped and rethought her plan of attack. Her heart no longer thundering, the Blue could now feel her mates spirit reaching to her. It called to her, needing her strength and Ulf spirit; and Zya of the Blacks gave it to her, fully and instantly. The black she-wolf raised her blue eyes to the moon, blinked, and instantly changed forms. Her finger rose to her sign, and she rubbed it gently in small circles. A power engulfed her--the likes of which she had not felt since her sign and Brielles had touched back in the place of the Blue. Leaning into her strong mental bond with her mate, as well as watching the half Ulf, Zya knew that the blonde was experiencing the same thing. The two signs blazed blue. Quietly whistling Nyka to her, Zya clothed herself with her leathers and weapons.
"You speak in riddles, little girl, and try my patience." John ground out the words, gritting his teeth. With a crisp snap of his fingers, he motioned for his archers to nock their arrows. "Call off these beasts and surrender to me, or I will tell these men to kill you where you stand."
Undaunted, the half-Ulf merely blinked her green eyes and rubbed her sign.
An instantaneous breeze lifted the bows into mid air and snapped them in two with a loud crack.
"Throw down your weapons and come out of the cave. You have my word that
if you do so, you will not be harmed," Brielle spoke with quiet but deliberate firmness. Sword drawn, John took one step toward then stopped abruptly at the sharp teeth of the wolves bared at him. Trusting her kinsmen beside her, the half-Ulf let her eyes shift from one soldier to another. Instead of eyes hard with dislike as she saw in John, the blonde saw fear and distrust. "Choose," Brielle said simply and softly, meeting each mans eye. "You will not be killed by those at my feet if you first lay down your weapons."
"Never!" John roared, even as he heard the soft thud of swords and knives
dropping on the ground behind him. Not daring to look back lest he be attacked in that moment of weakness, he yelled, "Arm yourselves and stand firm. We will end this fighting and go out in a blaze of Nadirean glory!"
Garbed in her darkest of leathers and royal cape, Zya stepped past her pack mates. The jeweled sword of Blue firmly in hand, the dark haired woman watched astonished as, one by one, Nadireans dropped their weapons and came out of the cave with their hands empty. Brielle was directing each to his knees.
All Ulf surrounding them stood still, their bodies shaking slightly with suppressed adrenaline.
Johns eyes lit up as he saw the tall warrior approach. "See, you fools, you trust this witch, and this warrior woman will cut off your heads where you kneel."
Coming up behind her mate, Zya noted the slight relaxation of the muscles in Brielles shoulders. In a show of her own desire for peace, the Lupus kept her weapons sheathed and her hands open and not clenched. Brushing against her mates shoulder, Zya captured Johns hazel eyes with a flash of her blue ones.
"The only fool is one who chooses to spill blood rather than accepting the offer of peace, John of the Nadireans." Zya spoke without malice, with a voice as cool and crisp as the night air. " As leader of the Blacks and a dweller in the forest, I give my word that all here seek the restoration of harmony and peace--not only in the forest, but every place that the night moon stands guard over."
"Choose," Brielle said again simply, unfolding arms that lay crossed over her chest and letting them drop to her sides. In a show of support for both Nadirean and Ulf to see, Zya clasped hold of her mates smaller hand cradling it gently in her larger one. As their palms touched, a warmth was sparked that spread outwards to the skies itself in a rush of wind.
"You, " accused the Nadirean leader, pointing his sword first at the blonde then the brunette. "You created that freak storm. You killed my men as surely as if you had slit their throats with a knife." John attempted to yell over the growing rush of wind
that was now accompanied by rumbling thunder. " I will never surrender to you,"
he spat out, waving his sword in Zyas direction. "I know those eyes. You are one of them, arent you? I remember those blue eyes, dark wolf--those stricken eyes when I picked up my sword and skinned your cub, peeling off his downy coat."
Brielle tightly clasped hold of her mates hand, experiencing Zya's subtle stiffening, understanding that the older womans heart had been stirred by the taunting words. Behind her, the sounds of growls were buffeting in the wind. In truth, the half Ulf could feel one seeking to rise from the back of her own throat. The hard reality piercing her consciousness was that the man before her was a threat to peace; and by the sounds from the heavens above; she determined that the gods felt likewise.
Zya circled her arm protectively around her mates waist as the wind began to swirl downward, coming towards them. Suddenly unconcerned about the events occurring below them, her mind remembered a vision she and Brielle had once shared. The Lupus grasped her mates body to hers, not fighting the wind as it picked up the two signed ones. Feeling her body carried upwards, her changing of form spontaneously occurred as she looked over at her mate. Beside her in the funnel was a beautiful, petite female wolf with fur the color of innocence. Vibrant green eyes that the Ulf had grown to associated with the sacred pines themselves set off its white fur. Zya felt the wind's power buffet her. It was strong, but not as strong as the love and connection she shared with the white Ulf swirling in the heavens with her.
"Love is the greatest of all things," Zya thought to herself, also projecting her thoughts to her life mate. "Through it comes all that is good, just, and eternal."
With these thoughts, the Lupus shimmered into her form of the night.
As suddenly as it had appeared and swooped them upwards, the wind carefully deposited the black and white Ulf back on the ground. Where the soldiers had knelt, there now serenely sat twelve white doves. Where the leader of the Nadireans had stood, lay only his sword.
Slightly disoriented, the white wolf shook her white furred body, trying to clear the fuzziness. Checking her senses, she felt the dewy earth beneath her. But it felt different somehow. And things looked different too. Why, she was not quite sure.
The trees seemed so much taller. The sky looked so much further away. Confused, she whimpered when something brushed up beside her. Inhaling, she recognized the scent.
"Yes, it is me, my little she-wolf. Know you my scent," the dark black wolf projected to the white wolf whose head only came to her shoulder. The Lupus rubbed her head against the white one that fit so perfectly under her muzzle. "You have changed form, little she-wolf," Zya gently explained in a projection. "Remember the vision we both had that time past?" she asked, attempting to jog Brielle's memory. "It came true; and with your help, the threat from Nadirea is gone and there is peace in the forest." Dipping her head and staring intently at her mate with her piercing blue eyes she asked, "Do you understand what I am communicating to you, little one?"
The Lupus ignored her pack members and cousins that were descending upon Brielle and herself. She had no wish to try to explain what had just occurred.
Truthfully, she barely understood it herself. She only knew that the Ulf nation and the Nadireans too were indebted to Brielle. She also knew her mate had a gift, a spiritual ability, no one had ever heard of or seen before. In an act some might have interpreted as rude, she bristled her fur and cocked her ears back threateningly.
Spinning around, she gently picked up the white wolf in the same manner a mother wolf picks up her cubs, and trotted off into the sunrise.
Zya licked the soft white fur of her mate who was curled up beside her. She had chosen not to bring her mate back to the lair they shared. Instead, she had taken the small white wolf to the Falls of Ria, a place that had become a favorite of the half-Ulf since she had first seen it on the night of their mating ceremony.
"I have never heard the birds sing so loudly," the Lupus projected to the small white wolf curled into her body. "Nor so many creatures of night such as the raccoon and forest mouse scurrying in the light of day. It is as if the forest is at peace and all want to be a part of it."
Brielle craned her wolf head upwards to watch a mockingbird fly to the uppermost part of a nearby pine. Forgetting her discomfort and the confusion of being in her present form, Brielle admitted that the songbirds call was more melodious than most mornings. The Ulf's gaze swept back down from the trees to study her form with both curiosity and trepidation. Nausea erupted in the pit of her stomach and threatened to spew outwards.
"Little she-wolf, your aura is likened to the falls beside which we rest. Your thoughts churning powerfully then slipping downwards into the deepest recesses of your soul," Zya projected, looking into fatigued green eyes. " But, see the falls, little she-wolf? Even the water seems clearer today. The sun seems to sparkle, sending bands of color forth like those usually only seen after the spring showers," Zya projected, drawing her mates mind to focus on the beauty around them. "You, like the Falls of Ria, are always beautiful. Yet today you are breathtaking, my love."
The black wolf ignored the look of disbelief that flickered beneath the wide green eyes. "Do you doubt me, daughter of Nali?" Beside her, Brielle could imagine that her mates eyebrow had risen up, as if she had communicated these words in her day form.
'Look at me,' Brielle longed to yell out. She panted in apprehension at the unfamiliar form that she had taken. She was shocked enough at the recent events and her integral part of it all; even if she felt at peace about the end results. Well, mostly at peace.
The black she-wolf nuzzled the neck of the white wolf beside her, luxuriating in its softness. Zya quietly listened to her mates thoughts while enjoying the way her mates fine fur felt against her own pelt."Brielle," Zya finally communicated, "listen 'round you. What do you hear?"
'Round the black and white wolf, the gentle hum of the falls vibrated. The sounds of songbirds' trills were interspersed with the chattering of squirrels above the wolves heads. A gentle breeze whispered so gently through the pines. With her mind, Zya replayed a recent conversation she, Brielle and Sandreen had together.
Pulling Circe to a stop so as to give the signed one her full attention, Sandreen asked, "Brielle, how can my pack help the Blacks?" The co-leader of the Silvers had found throughout her reign that sometimes one learned the most not by barking out orders, but by asking questions. Also, knowing now that her cousin carefully monitored what her mate was exposed to, asking a question seemed the best approach.
"You want to know what I think?" Brielle asked quizzically, pointing to her own chest a little surprised. The half-Ulf straightened her posture and turned her thoughts inward, but not before sneaking a peek into the blue eyes she loved.
"You know, customarily that question should be directed to me," Zya projected to her cousin, amused rather than insulted.
"Custom?" Sandi projected, a grin plastered on her face causing Zya of the Blacks to roll her eyes. "Custom?" she teased her cousin once more, verbally this time.
"Cease now, Sandi. I am your elder by a half a season," Zya teased back, enjoying
having her cousin's company. Because of their like titles, status and age, the two could relax and engage each other in ways they could not with other Ulf. Both women ceased their picking when they heard a quiet voice question them.
"Do you hear it?" Brielle asked, leaning slowly back into her mate's large body while her eyes remained closed.
The blue-eyed she-wolf scanned the landscape, sniffed the air and cocked her head, using all of her senses to detect whatever Brielle was referring to. Unsuccessful, Zya questioned her cousin by raising her eyebrow, only to receive a shake of the head. "What is it, little she-wolf?" Zya spoke tenderly, concern lacing her velvet voice. "Tell me what you hear."
"The pines cry when the wind whistles through them. It shouldnt be that way.
The gods raised them high so they could sing." Brielle spoke in a heavy voice.
The half-Ulf looked directly at Sandreen and spoke, "Help make the forest sing."
Tears in her eyes, Brielle understood. Though unable to directly project to her mate, the half-Ulf instinctively knew that the black wolf could hear her thoughts. 'I hear the pines,' the white wolf thought to herself. 'They no longer wail. The forest: it sings!'
"Yes, little she-wolf," Zya praised her mate. "The forest now sings. The gods must be smiling upon us this day after peace within the Forest of Eyulf has been restored," Zya projected to the white wolf who was becoming more calm, moment by moment. The sun had risen above the tree line, and a rainbow arched from the falls mist. . A warmth beyond that of the morning sun heated up the Lupuss skin beneath her fur.
It was then that Brielle reached into her bond with her larger wolf mate. In a show of the gods blessing of the connection linking the two bearers of the sign, an arc of color reached 'round to encircle the two wolves. "You taught me to stem my anger and let my quest for vengeance and blood float way like the dandelion seed. What of you, my sweet mate? What of your search for peace and self acceptance?" Zya projected. The Lupus received her answer in the shimmering that enveloped her white wolf mate. As Brielle resumed her human form once more, Zya of the Blacks blinked her blue eyes and joined her.
Her hand clasped gently around her mate's, Zya walked through the village in the late morning sunshine. It was abuzz with activity, but instead of preparations for conflict, a celebration was being planned. Zya had already declared three sunrises and moonrises of feasting and the Blacks and Silvers were more than ready to begin their party.
"Zya, did you see that? Dad and Kern are roasting a pig?" Nerri said excitedly.
Zyas curly haired nephew danced around excitedly, enjoying the Ulfs good fortune. The boy did not even seem to mind his little sister Kerri tagging along beside him.
Zya had to laugh at the five-seasoned female mimicking her older brother's dance moves, which were series of high kicks and spins. "Yes, Nerri, I helped build the fire," Zya replied, licking her lips in mock exaggeration of anticipation of tender roasted ham. Kerri, Zyas niece, giggled, then reached out to hug her aunts knee. Threading her fingers through the sweet tempered childs long locks, Zya was glad that her mate was distracted and not paying attention to anything except reaching her and Zyas destination. The half-Ulf reacted negatively to the killing of animals, and the only way the half-Ulf could stand to be around fresh meat is if it was dressed and unrecognizable to her. The blonde would be horrified at the killing of the largest pig in the barnyard. Zya steered her impressionable mate away from the roasting.
Walking briskly towards Zya and her family, Bodi caught her leader's eye by waving a rolled up parchment. "Zya, Skyracer has returned from the borders with a message from the spies. Shall I call Sandar and Sandreen and have them meet you under the sacred rock in your command tent?"
"Zya, are you going to enter the race? Sandar says Sandreen is a faster runner than you are," Myya, one of the fastest runners of the Blacks, inquired of her second cousin. Zya could not help but notice that she and Rayne had become inseparable.
Reina had predicted that it was only a matter of time before they became mates. Opening her mouth to speak first to her second in command and then to Myya, Zya paused, feeling a gentle tug on her hand.
Zya looked down at the set of green eyes watching her and winked before
addressing those gathered round. "If you all will excuse me, my mate and I have an important appointment," Zya spoke to the group. "Nero, Kerri, run to grandmother and ask her to meet me at the stables, please," Zya spoke, giving her nephew a gentle shove and then giving he and his sister a mental caress as they ran towards the healer's shelter. "Bodi, have you read it?"
"And are things quiet and secure?"
"Well, yes, but.."
"Then I dont want to hear it right now. Place it on my desk in my command tent,"
Zya commanded, dismissing the woman with a pat on the shoulder. Hearing a long sigh from beside her, Zya started to walk in the direction of the whinnying horses.
"Ohh," Zya said, turning to Myya and Rayne. "Go win the race for me, cousin.
Tell Sandreen she and I can race privately under the moon tonight if she has any energy left after losing to you," Zya kidded making sure she said it in a mental projection too so Sandreen could hear her.
"Tomorrow night I will leave you in my dust, Zya," Sandreen answered, poking fun at her cousin. "Tonight we feast and celebrate under the stars."
"See you later then, Zya, Brielle," Rayne spoke. "Come on. I've got a bet riding on you," the Ulf spoke to her companion as the two walked off in the direction of the large group of Silvers and Blacks.
"Bye," the blonde called politely; glad she and Zya were alone once more. Seeing Sierra wave at her from the stable yard, she tugged once more on the Moon Warrior's hand. The Lupus leaned down to meet her mates eyes with a relaxed, blue-eyed twinkle. She brought the hand that pulled on hers gently to her lips, while her mouth curving into a smile. "Let's go, little one. No more interruptions," the Lupus promised, wrapping a privacy shield around her and her mate that she was sure all Ulf would respect.
The Lupus leaned up against the stable wall in a relaxed pose. Bending down to pick up a sprig of hay and twirling it in her fingers, she casually watched Nyka chomp on the apple she had brought. She turned away from her black mare, glancing over at the blond-headed figure meandering in the pasture. Lines of concentration furrowed her forehead and crinkled under her green eyes.
Rounding around the corner of the stable and giving her heart daughter an affectionate smile, Sierra whispered to Zya, "I called your mom and told her to meet us over here. She wants us all to attend the feast as a family, and I told her that we were delayed."
"Brielle is taking the task of the colts' naming very seriously," Zya replied blandly, watching the colts darting 'round and 'round the pasture nickering playfully.
The Lupuss gaze turned openly amused when one snuck behind her mate, bumping her back and making her jump.
"Guess I'd better go out there," Zya drawled, winking at Sierra. She pushed off of the stable wall and walked in her mates direction. Patting Nyka one last time, she walked quietly forward then stopped behind her mates back. She wrapped both arms around the blondes waist, threading her hands together. "How is it going?" the Lupus purred into the pink ear, taking a moment to lick the pink ear with a long stroke of her tongue. "My MATE," she finished throatily, her hot skin sliding against the smaller woman. Noting a shiver and Brielles attention wavering for a moment, the Lupus broke into a smile that had a spark of eroticism.
" I, I want to pick a name that they each will like," the blonde spoke shakily. The half-Ulf recovered her senses only when Zya ceased her seduction to gently squeeze her mates shoulders, placing a kiss on the top of her head. A flash of humor crossed the Lupuss face, and her blue eyes twinkled. She had witnessed the sacred rite of the naming of the horses of Eyulf since she was a cub. But no one had ever expressed a desire to make sure the animal liked it. But Brielle is not everyone is she? the Lupus thought to herself.
Clearing her throat to suppress a chuckle, Zya walked to stand beside her smaller mate and took her hand. Noting green eyes waiting for a response, the Ulf rubbed her chin and pretended to study the horses with the same keenness Brielle had earlier displayed. "The black male--what have you noticed about him, little she- wolf?"
"You mean, what kind of names I am thinking about?" Brielle asked, picking up the white ferret who had run up to the pair.
"No," Zya replied. "His personality, that type of thing. What have you noticed he does a lot?"
Brielle bit her lip, paused, then her eyes lit up in understanding. "He kicks up on his hind legs a lot, so proud. And he nickers so loudly I believe the whole pack hears him. And when he runs, it reminds me of thunder. But he is also loyal and protective of his sister," Brielle spoke with a gentle softness in her voice.
"Have you watched him at night, Zya? Brielle spoke, entreating her mates blue eyes with her voice tone. "He looks like you when the moon hits. And his coat turns a blackish blue."
Black finely arched eyebrows rose up in surprise. Never had she been compared to a horse. It was not even a warhorse, but a tiny colt. Not knowing whether to be complimented or insulted, Zya chose the former, inclining her head toward Brielle and giving a tiny nod. "Me, huh?" Zya spoke, her mouth curving into a tender smile. "Well, I am flattered, little she-wolf, but--first off, he is a male and I am female. Also, if there were two here with the name Zya, it might be a little confusing."
"Ohh, I had not thought of that," Brielle said simply, her cheeks brightening into a blush.
Having an idea how to aid her mate in this decision making process, Zya spoke up. "It's up to you, of course, but I know a name that might suit him. Its a name that I have been compared to my whole life. And its a boy name too," she finished, letting go of her mates soft hand to tickle her under her ribs. The half-Ulf broke into a peal of giggles, propelling herself at her mate in mock attack. "Gotcha," Zya purred, whirling her mate about in a circle, much to the half-Ulfs delight. This was the first time since returning from the place of Blue that the two had gotten to tease and play in such a manner. "How about Ares?" the Lupus asked, drawing her mate against her muscular feminine frame. "He is the god of war, dresses in black, and is generally boisterous and thunders around the forest and beyond."
"Ok," Brielle spoke, pleased, turning her attention to the much more mild mannered, gentle spirited white female colt that was grazing amidst the wildflowers. "What about her?" Brielle asked her mate, shuttling her gaze back and forth from Lupus to colt. "She is so unlike her brother. Gentle, sweet tempered. I have thought of a name," she murmured, crooking her finger downwards in invitation, wanting Zya to bend down her ear. "Venus," she whispered, taking a moment to kiss the ear at her lips.
Heartened by her mates voluntary act of sexual flirting, Zya wrapped her arms around her mates waist. With a gentle sliding motion, she brought her hands up her mates ribcage, then further up until they rested on rounded breasts. "Tis a name that suits, little she-wolf. 'Tis one of the names of the goddess of love," Zya spoke in approval. Unable to hold back any longer, she covered her mates mouth in a kiss. Her tongue traced the softness Brielles mouth, simultaneously sending a mental projection, "Open, let me taste of your sweet lips."
Across the pasture, Reina looked over at her mate Sierra and winked. "My Lupus hearing made out the names I think," she reported light-heartedly, her voice free from the tension present in the recent past. "The male is Ares. The female is Diana."
"Should we go on to the festivities without them?" Sierra asked, inclining her head at the passionately kissing pair in the open pasture.
"Yup," Reina spoke, after pausing to watch her daughter and heart-daughter sink into the private bower provided by the wildflowers
The blue-eyed Lupuss presence was such that Brielles senses reeled. The blonde swore she could see changing in front of her in the dark warriors profile. She could feel her gaze literally probing her to her very soul. With nostrils flaring and her long hair blowing in the wind wild and free, the Lupus exuded sensuality. The blonde surrendered to it and opened herself to her mates passion. Zyas nearness made the half-Ulfs senses spin. It felt powerful, seductive; but it carried with it a loving tenderness which the blonde could not help but surrender to. Her eyes drowned in the eyes that caressed her with softness; eyes that beckoned her to follow, which she did willingly. She placed her hand in the one outstretched to her and allowed herself to be guided away from the horses to a field of wildflowers that bordered the pine tree line.
Strong arms that held her close lowered Brielle into the soft grasses. The air had a scent that was uniquely her mate. It was of sweat, pine and feminine musk. Brielle inhaled it deeply, then reached out instinctively to bring the source of that smell closer. She was instantly obliged as the tall naked form of her mate bent down and brushed a gentle kiss across her slightly parted lips. "I love you my little she wolf," resounded in her mind as the lips left hers to nibble at her ear lobe. "Here, now, at this moment, I give myself to you. I am yours," the projection sounded again. "Join with me, sweet, in pleasured lovings," Zya requested in tender love language as she laved the pulse point of the blondes neck. She kept her blue eyes fixed upon the green ones until she received a nod of consent. "Love me," Zya asked, flipping herself onto her back so she was staring up at the richest color of green she had ever seen. In a position seen as submissive among Ulf, the Lupus lay with her arms stretched above her head. If Brielle had lived longer among Ulf, she would have known just how unheard of it was for a Lupus to position herself in this way, especially in public.
She arched her neck in such a way as to invite the blondes exploration. She took her mates hand in hers, then slid both down her stomach to rest in her flowers nest. For the first time as mates, in an act of trust, the Lupus slid her mates fingers between her own folds. "Touch me, please. Come inside me that I may feel you inside me. I open myself to you in love and trust."
Brielle dipped three fingers into her mates dewy wetness and swirled her fingers around the passage in between the folds. She mimicked the way that Zya had touched her, and was pleased when she heard her lover groan and arch her hips upwards. "I feel I brush my fingers on your very being. I feel your very soul
surrounds me safe, warm, and tight in your channel."
Zya tipped her head upwards, reaching to sear a path up the half-Ulfs neck with tiny wet kisses. "Your soul touched me from the moment I saw you. I wish always to love you with my heart, spirit and body, and only wish for you to do likewise.
"Yes," Brielle whispered gently, pressing her fingers into Zya as far as she could then flexing her fingers. At the same time, she moved her head to her mates chest
and rested her cheek on the dark large nipple. A feeling of love radiated through her mates skin into hers. . The feelings it drew out were sensual and comforting. She exhaled the softest of sighs, stroking her cheek against her mates in tiny circles. She stretched her body upwards until she could clasp her mates hand in her own. The blonde opened her legs slightly, rubbing her flower on her mates stomach.
"I love you too," Brielle murmured into Zyas skin, causing the Lupus to shudder.
Zyas took a ragged breath, raised herself and rested on her elbows. She studied the face of her mate above her. Green eyes looked down at her with innocence and pure, loving trust. The Lupus returned that gaze with one of gentleness and eternal commitment. After the last night, she wished to show Brielle her love and trust through lovemaking. She wished their joining to reflect the commitment she and her mate had made in the forest the night before. Their love had withstood so much: civil war between the Reds and Blacks, a Nadirean assault, injury and near death, and secrets kept purposely hidden.
Zya had a reputation among her pack of seek sexual release at the earliest opportunity. It had been a common occurrence to seek a partner to copulate with even before she left the scene of the skirmish. She had not been particularly choosy, seeking only for hard and fast release of the inner fire that was burning deep inside of her. But since meeting the green-eyed blonde, the fire that had kept her seeking to hunt and kill all Nadireans in her beloved forest had been banked back. Still after the intensity of the last sun and moon period, her need was great and her blood burned as it always did after a skirmish. But she also had a great need to love Brielle, not merely to mate with her.
"What is it?" Zya asked, lowering her arms to wrap her arms in the small of her back. She reached into the mental bond she shared with the blonde to evaluate the half-Ulfs feelings. Brielles eyes were studying the pendant of Blue. "Your soul wishes my touch as well, little she wolf?" Tenderly, she nuzzled the top of her mates head while letting herself enjoy her mates fingers within her a little while longer. She thought of asking Brielle to bring her to pleasures heights first, but the exploration of Brielles aura had shown her mate was far from ready for that type of initiative. So instead, she gently rolled their bodies over and spoke, "Never feel shy to ask such a thing, little she-wolf. Our love is NOT something to be afraid of, but to feel good about asking for and experiencing. Understand?"
"I long to fill you too," she reassured her still relatively inexperienced mate. Rising to her knees, Zya lifted the pendant off of her neck. She slid the warm gem down her frame to her groin. Its connection to her skin was immediate. It quickly morphed into its phallic shape and rose outwards from the black dewy hairs.
The cheering of a crowd arose from the distance at the site of the festivities of Black and Silvers. The Lupus frowned. Green eyes had darted in the direction of the yips and whoops. The black she-wolf could feel her mates distraction. It was tempered with a sudden shyness, probably leftover from her Nadirean upbringing.
"Look at me," Zya spoke huskily. "Stare into the Blue," she purred seductively, lowering herself to her mates side, letting the erect gem rest on Brielles thigh. She reached into her mates mind and wove a light shield. When she saw responsiveness in the green eyes, she sent a mental message to her pack mates to stay away and grant them privacy. Satisfied, she traced a fingertip over her mates lip before showering kisses around her lips and jaw. She rekindled the blondes desire, arousing first one part of her body then another. Slowly she skimmed her hand downwards, her hands massaging the blondes inner thigh. She moved her body to partially cover the half-Ulf, purposely letting her gems tip tease her mates flower. She dragged her long dark hair across her mates marble hard nipple and expertly rolled her hips.
The blonde spread her thighs wide for Zyas viewing. The blonde surged upwards instinctively pressing her nest against the blue gem attached to her mate.
"Noooo, not yet, my little she-wolf," Zya crooned, masterfully increasing her mates need. The Lupus prolonged their love dance, pulling her gem back out of the opening. Letting it rest in the blonde nest, Zya rose up and buried her face in Brielles neck, marking it. "Waiting makes it sweeter," she purred with her mind. She fondled a pink nipple, rubbing the underside with her thumb. "Croon for me,"
she projected, moving her lips to nip down from her mates neck.
"Uhhhhhhhhh, Uhhhhhhh, mmmmmm," Brielle moaned, her body rigid with desire. "I need, I need," she pleaded, clawing at her mates shoulders.
"I share your need, little, she-wolf," Zya groaned against her ear. "Turn over, turn," she spoke, gritting her teeth in an attempt to hold back her swollen pleasure. Brielle shivered, leaning heavily into her mate as she turned onto her stomach and rose to all fours. "Yes, open your legs to receive me," she encouraged, spreading her
mates thighs further, opening the flower folds with her fingers. But instead of plunging she beckoned to her mate, "Welcome me into your depths, little she-wolf."
"Come," Brielle whispered, moving her body backwards. The gem slid easily through the slickness, and it swelled until it was firmly planted against her fleshy walls. With the first plunge, Zya wrapped her arms around Brielles waist,
then plunged in and out with deep, slow thrusts. Higher and higher Zya took her mate until they reached pleasures pinnacle together.
A comfortable silence was shared between the Lupus and her mate as the two walked through the forest. From the look on Zya's face, Brielle knew that the blue-eyed woman had a specific destination in mind. Their passionate encounter in the pasture had changed from fiery hot with passion into the kind of touches that left her feeling cherished and loved.
"We go to the sacred tree," Zya spoke in a purposely-lowered voice that left a hint of mystery and sacredness. "The gods have smiled on our kind and have come to the aid of all that dwell in the forest. We go to give thanks," she spoke in her characteristically low, smooth vocalization.
Brielle nodded, both in understanding and agreement. She stopped abruptly, waited for Zya to stop, then moved to stand in front of her.
"Yes, little she-wolf? What is on your mind?" the Lupus asked curiously.
"I dont understand totally what has happened in the last moon rise. But some things should just be accepted, shouldnt they? the blonde queried, placing her hands on her hips while she bit her lip in thought.
"Mmmhmmm," the listener replied with a soft nod, tipping her mates chin up with her fingertip before she spoke.
"The gods brought us together; I know that now. You said you were drawn to me."
"Yes, a force stronger than my blood lust, more compelling than logic, and more insistent than instinct drew me to make the choices I have since I first saw you, little she-wolf, " Zya answered quietly, bringing her hand to caress her mates cheek. Tucking a strand of blond hair behind a small ear, Zya took Brielles hand and started walking once more.
" Guess what," Brielle ventured, a faraway look in her eyes as they traveled along what she perceived as the path of their destination. Quickly, green eyes made contact with blue ones, sharing a knowing smile.
"Yeeessssss," Zya replied light-heartedly, not breaking her stride.
"From my earliest memory I remember your eyes, your blue eyes; and I was drawn to you too." Her voice was tender, almost a murmur.
"I love you too," the blue-eyed she-wolf replied in a projection, feeling the love so strongly in her mates aura. "Do you recognize this place? We came here the night of our joining and I asked the gods to help me be a loving, caring mate, showing you love, patience and understanding always."
A blush colored the petite womans cheeks. "It's sort of fuzzy, but I remember you kneeling at the tree over there," Brielle admitted, feeling a veil of shyness drape over her.
"And I remember how beautiful you looked and how proud I was, and still am, to claim you as my mate," Zya replied, giving the blonde a tender gaze. "Over there, my little she-wolf, there is much for us to give thanks for," Zya spoke, tilting her head to the side in the direction of a majestic broad tree. Reverently, she removed her garments, then helped Brielle to do the same.
Zya lowered herself to her knees arching forward 'til her sign contacted the pine bark. Modeling her mates behavior, the blonde knelt on the other side of the tree,. Closing her eyes, the half-Ulf reached around for her mates hand, smiling at the contact of the larger hand threading with her smaller one. Though Brielle did not understand the ancient words her mate spoke, she knew the sentiment and shared the emotion.
Walking back towards the lair of the Blacks, a lunar eclipse appeared that ran a pale blue. Nadireans vowed it was a sign of the new kings demise. Those of Ulf
knew otherwise, and that night Zya was recognized as the god-chosen Lupus of all Ulf.
Nadirea had been thrust into even darker times than when the old king was so brutally executed by John and the cruel successor and his legion of elite soldiers had marched brazenly into the forest with the goal of eradicating the wolf population. And now, with his return overdo, the people whispered of the forests retribution for the slaughter of the wolves on the plain. With no decisive leadership in the land, the people sought out the holy men who had been cloistered away long ago for leadership knowledge and nurturing. . Called the Hold Order of Eyulf, the spiritual sect taught the delicate balance between man and nature. Sensitive to the cries of their people, those of the Order worked tirelessly grateful for the opportunity to spread peace.
The aged holy man pulled his blue robe more snuggly around his shoulders to ward off the early morning chill. Picking a piece of lint off of the wolf blazoned insignia; he shuffled with his cane to a crude desk to answer the secret holy correspondence. It had only been a fortnight since the first message had arrived at the holy place.
Picking up his quill, he dipped it in the ink, then composed a carefully worded note in quick, crisp strokes. As dawns morning light rose through the closed wooden shutters of the small room, the elder priest put his quill down then rolled the note up compactly.
Rising unsteadily from the chair at the desk, the ancient made his way over to one of the gilded cages that held cooing doves. A half dozen had arrived some days ago, one bearing a strange note with a single, short sentence. "On the wings of doves shall peace descend upon our lands." It had been signed "The Forest Guardian" and had borne a wolf paw print in ink. The second note had arrived with equal mystery and had gone on to state the writers hopes for peace and harmony between the living creatures of the forest and the Nadireans. The note also requested a dialogue with the holy men who, the writer had stated, understood the ways of harmony and respect between the land and all its inhabitants.
So doves now flew regularly between the priests private study window and somewhere deep within the forest. For now, the messages remained a closely guarded secret that only the eldest of the Order knew about. It was a time for learning and privacy. It was a time for building a bridge between two ways of life. . And the priest knew that the ethics and foundation built here could be passed on to his people in the form of spiritual lessons.
The priest coaxed one of the doves into his hand and drew it to his chest. So much mystery remained, but the aged man suspected he would learn more over time as trust developed. He tied the parchment to the doves leg, then shuffled to the shuttered window. Squinting against the rising sun, he released the bird, watching it fly into the early dawn. The first time a message had been returned, he had tried to watch where the bird flew, but his eyes were old and weak. For now, he would content himself that within a few days, a white dove would carry a reply to his study at dawns first light.
Zya clasped her cousins forearm in a warrior farewell. Most of the time she had spent with her cousins, the Silvers, had been under war conditions with only a few days of feasting since their victory. "Safe journey to you, Sandar," the blue-eyed warrior woman spoke with warm sentiment.
"The gods have shown favor upon us all, cousin. Peace has been restored, and the time has now come to refresh ourselves and rebuild before the winter snows," Sandar replied, nodding to the other Silvers in his company to mount up and prepare to travel. "Plus, it will be nice to see my sister again." He spoke loudly enough for his approaching sister to hear, giving her an indulgent wink.
"She and Brielle have really taken up with each other the last few days," Zya agreed, while watching her cousin and mate trot up to them. "I know you are anxious to get home. I appreciate you sticking around a few extra moon and sun rises."
"I like Brielle, Zya, and its been good for our people to bond and relax together after such a hard time," Sandar spoke, his expression growing serious. " And Sandreen has a special insight on the spiritual side of things. She felt a need and desire to remain a while longer, and I know better than to pull Sandreen away from something before she is ready."
"Thank you," Zya said simply, meeting her cousins eyes. Looking behind Sandreens broad back to where the petite blonde sat; Zya gave her mate a warm mental caress. "Brielle and I will miss you, wont we, little she-wolf?"
"Must you go so soon?" Brielle asked.
"We need to get home and look after the sick and injured Red cousins, little one," Sandreen said patiently. " Sandar and I must also see that extra food is gathered before the winter snows come."
"You will see them come spring," Zya spoke, sliding Nyka close to Sandreens mount and lifting the petite half-Ulf to sit in front of her on the dark horses broad back. The Lupus glared hard at each of her cousins in warning not to bring up the fact that spring was the mating season. Brielle was truly an innocent in many ways, and the leader of the Blacks was in no mood to discuss the rituals of the mating season right now.
Casual amusement spread on the brother and sisters faces, but neither chose to explore the subject further. The sun shone on the dew, making it glisten and lighting their path home. Brielle leaned into her warrior while the Lupus said her final goodbyes. She gave Sandar and Sandreen each a shy smile and wave as the group of riders and shaggy horses rode into the forests thickness.
"Look," Brielle exclaimed, pointing up to the circling white dove on the horizon.
The dove, one of many housed within a newly created aviary, had once been a Nadirean soldier. But none would know of their uniqueness except by the sign of Ulf blazed under their left wing. Trained as soldiers to follow orders, the doves had been put into service in the first steps to peace--this early tentative communication between Nadirea and the Ulf. The idea for this step, Zya owed to her half Nadirean/ half Ulf mate. In this female at her side, Zya did not doubt she had the best advisor for living in, and maintaining peace within, the forest itself and stretching outwards to the Adean plains.
"Hold out your arm, little she-wolf. Let us see what word has come to us this day,"
Zya instructed her mate, lifting her fingers to her lips and letting out a shrill whistle. With a swoop, the agile bird descended to the smaller of the two riders forearms, perching there gently while the Lupus untied the tiny parchment tied to his leg. Her blue eyes doing a quick scan of the messages details, Zya nodded her head while stroking Brielles stomach lovingly.
"Zya?" Brielle spoke with a soft lilt drawing the older womans attention from the parchment. "You know what you are?"
Amused, the Lupus rolled up the small parchment and stuffed it in the bodice of her leather vest. "No," she answered, her blue eyes twinkling with amusement and curiosity. "What am I?" The leader of the Blacks did not reveal that in this message, she had just been asked the same question.
"Why, you are the Guardian of the Forest, of course."
The time of peace looms oer the horizon like the approaching dawn.
I stand and watch for the colored canvas painting the sky and vow to cherish them,
Too long the skies have been dark with hate, and blood has oozed from the earth.
Each of us has the choice to look at the sky each morn
What do you see, Nadirean? What do your people envision in this
season of change?
Long have I fought for this day. Lost sight of my calling more than
once to grasp hold of anger and retribution for injustices from your kind.
What do you see, Nadirean?
I see hope on the wings of these doves. I will devote my energies to it with
the same devotion I gave to eradicating the evil, selfish influence shown by
your kind-- destroying the holy forest and all its inhabitants. But know this, my devotion as well as the devotion of my kind to harmony in this forest can take the form of the night cry of the wolf or the soft beating of the doves wings that deliver this note.
Signed, The Guardian of the Forest
Zya put her quill down upon the wooden desk in her lair and re-read her message to the holy man with whom she had been corresponding. Satisfied, she grunted before rolling the parchment into a tiny roll, sealing it with some dripping wax from the candle beside her. She peered over the horizon at the rise of the rich fragrant pines. The daylight would soon be waning into night. Her pack mates would soon be changing into their form of the night, and the hunting parties would go out in search of prey.
With sharp eyes, the Lupus scanned the perimeter of the camp, also using her sense of smell to locate her mate.
Against the backdrop of the setting sun, Brielle was silhouetted in front of a plenitude of oranges and reds. Standing in the pasture with her hair shining in the last rays of sunshine, Zya swallowed emotionally and thanked the gods for their divine intervention. She had gone out hunting on an evening such as this, driven to try to quench the blood lust brought on by an insatiable desire to eradicate her enemy from her home.
Pushing away from the table, Zya walked out of her lair in the direction of the setting sun. I dont know what drew me to her, the Lupus mused to herself, yipping a greeting to a pack member as her brother trotted past her. I saw her, standing up to my red cousins, so brave, with those green eyes; and I was drawn to her, Zya continued to recall, crawling through the open railed pasture fence. It was instinct. I just jumped into the fray without a thought of the ramifications, Zya completed her thoughts, coming to stand beside her mate and drawing her arm around the slender waist.
As the new moon rose, the blue-eyed Lupus leaned her head down to the soft lips of her mate. "I know the greatest of powers and strongest of weapons, the greatest of riches," Zya whispered in her mates ear. "The love we share."
In the year 3900, the people of Nadir returned to the ways of their forefathers--
pledging themselves to harmony between nature and man under the direction of their spiritual leaders. Only in the light of day do men dare whisper of the king and soldiers who entered the forest. Some of the aged swear that, because of their intrusion into the forest sanctuary, they were turned into large pines by the one known as the Guardian of the Forest. Stories abound of this Guardian. Parents tell their children that the song of the wolves is a reminder to all of the Guardians eternal wrath or blessing to all creatures--man and beast.
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