Kith and Kin
I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees, just where the others said they would be. With one last glance over my shoulder, I trotted away, following the tracks my brothers had left.
I was surprised when I’d awoken that morning to discover that Marcus and Brutus had already left the den. The three of us had always hunted together and for them to leave without me was unusual. When I’d asked my pack-mates about it, they’d explained that Marcus and Brutus had a surprise for me and I was to follow their tracks.
It was an odd request, for sure, but since our father had died, my brothers ran the pack with an unpredictable mixture of mirth and violence. It made us all uneasy, but no one dared to challenge their combined strength. As I followed their tracks, I hoped that mirth would greet me at my destination. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid.
For several weeks now, I’d been sneaking away to meet the lone wolf who had first appeared when the autumn colours started to wane. Lorenzo was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on, with his thick black coat and his evergreen eyes. He was passionate and soulful, with a howl that sent delicious shivers up and down my spine. I loved him more than anything and planned to run away with him in the spring.
If my brothers found out about Lorenzo, they would kill him. They had plans to unite our pack with the Storm Ridge pack across the river and I was their key. In the spring, they would give me to the leader of Storm Ridge to seal that bond. No lone wolf would be allowed to stand in their way.
I slowed my pace as I approached the clearing, wondering why my brothers had led me here. We had seen humans in this place many times. It was dangerous to stand in the middle of the clearing, especially during the day. But there my brothers stood.
As I drew closer, I noticed a shape on the ground behind Marcus and Brutus and my heart lurched.
“Lorenzo!” I cried. He lay on his side, badly beaten, but he lifted his head when he heard my voice. I started to run toward him, but Marcus leapt in front of me.
“So it is true,” Marcus growled. “I’m disappointed, Izzy.”
“As father would be disappointed in you and your leadership,” I spat back.
“You would have been the queen of Storm Ridge,” he said, walking closer to me. “And we would have had access to all their land. Your transgression has cost our pack dearly.”
I glared at him and stepped backwards, “We never needed Storm Ridge while father was alive.”
Marcus narrowed his eyes, rage burning in them, “Well, perhaps you can tell him how much you miss him in person.” His lips drew back in a twisted snarl and he nodded over his shoulder at Brutus.
Too late, I realized that Marcus had walked me over one of the humans’ traps. The last thing I saw before the ground dropped from under me were Brutus’ jaws closing around Lorenzo’s throat. Then my world went black.
When I awoke, the sun was low in the sky and I could hear human voices above me.
“Sally, get over here! I found a wolf in one of the traps. She’s alive. And I think she’s pregnant.”
The humans rescued me from the hole instead of killing me like my brothers had expected. They took me to a sanctuary, where I could have my cubs and raise them in safety. The humans said we would all be released once the cubs and I were strong enough.
As I watched my three children—two daughters and one son—grow into their beautiful black coats, I regaled them with stories about their brave father and their despotic uncles, the betrayers. I watched my children’s green eyes flash and I stoked their anger until it matched mine. I watched them become stronger and fiercer, and I dreamed of the day they would avenge their father’s life and take their rightful place at the head of our pack.
This is my submission for the Speakeasy #140. We had to write a piece of poetry or fiction under 750 words, beginning with the following line:
I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.
Our submissions also had to make some reference to the media prompt, which, this week, is the following painting by John Everett Millais:
There’s still lots of time to participate in this week’s Speakeasy, so come check it out.
Paw print image: Suzanne Purkis