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  1. #21

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf



    Just felt like posting this. The lyrics, man, the lyrics.
    In Loving Memory of Toraish, Rex Avium: http://apforums.net/showthread.php?t=40786 | 3DS Friend Code: 3196-4274-7836

  2. #22

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Who wants the longest chapter ever?

    Chapter 6: Fragments

    Spoiler:
    Nukka woke up that morning with a start. The sun had probably only been up for an hour or so, judging by the light shining through the windows. She frowned for a moment, wondering how she got up so early despite last night's restless sleep. Deciding not to press the issue, she exited the hut. Upon stepping outside, Nukka noticed that the sky was particularly bleak for the hour. She scanned the village before catching a glimpse of Shila near the center of town, her back turned as she sorted through the commons. Nukka ran to her gleefully, waving her arms about, her fatigue slipping away, replacing itself with anticipation.

    “Shila, it's today!” she yipped excitedly. “Today!”

    Shila turned her head toward her sister and smiled. Her olive skin and black hair seemed to glow oddly in the glum that day. Though Nukka knew her glowing smile to be a front.

    She may have only been a child, but even she understood the gravity of Shila's burden. Their mother and father, along with their Spirit Wolves, had died just the week before in the fire, and Shila still had to worry about taking care of her sister. But Nukka was turning five today, which meant she was no longer going to be a burden for Shila. She was finally growing up.

    “Oh, good morning, Nukka!” Elder Ahnah greeted her warmly as she joined the girls at the commons, completing whatever business she was attending on the south end of the village. “Your fifth birthday is upon us at last?”

    “Yup, yup,” she chimed energetically, bouncing up and down with every word. “When do I get to meet my Spirit Wolf?”

    Nukka glanced at her sister, who appeared anxious, as expected. It had been four years ago that Shila got her Spirit Wolf, Siku, but it didn't change the fact that because of that incident, the two of them had been extremely distant.

    Shortly before receiving Siku, there had been an accident. When Shila turned five, she received a Spirit Wolf... but it had not been Siku. She was given a wolf linked to a boy turning five a few days later by mistake, and the wolf quickly rejected her. She had been attacked in frustration and the wolf was nearly put down for its assault, but Shila and their parents begged the villagers not to kill it. Still, once the mishap had been corrected and Shila received Siku, the attack had no doubt scarred her, severing the possibility of a close relationship between them.

    “Right now, actually,” Ahnah smiled. “Would you like to see her?”

    “Oh, would I!” Nukka practically leapt into the air in response.

    “As energetic as ever,” Ahnah laughed before motioning in the direction of the village entrance, as if to say you can come out now.

    A couple of village men appeared from beyond the village gates with a small wolf pup trotting along beside them. Its gray-blue fur shimmered as a break in the clouds flooded the village with sunshine. She was beautiful by every definition of the word.

    “Tikaani,” Nukka grinned as she put out her right hand, as if to shake.

    “Tikaani?” Shila scowled. “That's a poor name.”

    “What's so wrong with it?” Nukka asked defensively as Tikaani inched towards her.

    Tikaani means wolf in the Old Language,” Shila explained pretentiously. “It's like getting a pet dog and naming it Dog.”

    “Well, I like it,” Nukka challenged stubbornly before jumping in surprise when she felt something cold and wet touch her outstretched hand. She turned her head sharply to see Tikaani had approached her. “Sorry, Tikaani,” she responded sweetly, stretching her hand out once more, which Tikaani met with her muzzle. Nukka responded by petting the magnificent beast's cheek and head, running her fingers through its majestic fur. My Spirit Wolf.

    * * *

    Tikaani woke up that morning with a start. The sun had probably only been up for an hour or so,
    judging by the light shining from the cave entrance. She was puzzled about last night's dream, but paid it little mind. Upon stepping outside, Tikaani noticed that the sky had been particularly bleak for the hour. She scanned the forest before catching a glimpse of Immuyak near the forest's edge, his back turned as he pawed away at the ground beneath him. She trotted to him sleepily, wagging her tail about as her fatigue fought against her, thought it slowly faded.

    “Good morning, Tikaani!” Immuyak hailed once he caught sight—or perhaps scent—of her. He dashed toward her, though before they could converge, Nukilik emerged from a nearby bush with a sour face.

    “Good morning to you too, Nukilik!” Immuyak added gleefully.

    Nukilik chose not to respond as he dragged three rabbit carcasses from behind the bush.

    “Oh good,” Immuyak shouted in delight as he charged toward the male wolf's offering. “You brought breakfast!”

    Immuyak took to devouring a rabbit as Nukilik turned his attention towards Tikaani. His eyes were as cold as before. “You're going to eat too, aren't you? Or are you turning your muzzle up?”

    Tikaani rolled her eyes as she followed Immuyak and sank her teeth into one of the rabbits. The taste of its blood electrified every taste bud on her tongue. The taste of its meat and flesh stirred every corner of her body to life. As her teeth tore through tendon and muscle, she felt her own muscles recharge with strength. Food had almost seemed a foreign concept to her, a distant memory of life on the other side. But now here it was before her, and suddenly, for the first time since her death, she felt alive.

    “Be careful, Tikaani,” Immuyak chuckled as he circled around her. “You're going to choke.”

    She did shove quite a large amount of the rabbit into her mouth. She seemed to have overestimated just how much a wolf could eat at once...

    * * *

    “Be careful, Nukka!” Shila cried as she rushed to little Nukka's side. “Eat like that, and you'll choke.”

    She did shove quite a lot of the roasted deer meat into her mouth. She seemed to have overestimated just how much food a girl her size could eat at once.

    The campfire dimly burned as Nukka took the last bite of deer. Tikaani lounged across from the two girls, asleep as far as Nukka could tell. Siku had been out hunting on her own. Nukka turned to her sister, who seemed to be gnawing at her own chunk of meat.

    “You're incredible, Shila,” Nukka smiled. “You're not even thirteen yet and you're already one of the best hunters in the village. You've gotta teach me to hunt like that!”

    “Do I?” Shila grinned mischievously. “And why would I want to do that?”

    “Because I'm your sister. You've gotta show me how to take care of myself. You're not always gonna be here for me.”

    “That's nonsense,” Shila laughed, rubbing her little sister's head affectionately. “I will always be here for you.”

    * * *

    Having her fill, Tikaani rose to her feet as Immuyak continued to tear away at his rabbit. Nukilik had taken one for himself and tended to it a few feet away. Tikaani approached him as cautiously as she could. She had no way of knowing how he'd react to her company, but she thought she would hazard to try.

    “You're a pretty good hunter,” Tikaani said, catching his attention. “You have got to teach me to hunt like that.”

    “Do I?” Nukilik scowled icily. “And why would I want to do that?”

    Tikaani took a moment to answer. She didn't have a good reason to give him. “So I can take care of Immuyak,” she finally decided.

    “That's nonsense,” Nukilik responded fiercely. “You're tagging along with me to Angelrouwak Lake, aren't you? Once you're there, you can have someone else teach you. Even better if Immuyak's mom happens to be in the neighborhood.”

    “It still wouldn't hurt,” Tikaani tried to plead.

    “Then be upfront with me.” Nukilik took his attention off his food and got to his feet. “Admit that your reasons are selfish.”

    “Excuse me?” It was Tikaani's turn to growl. “Forget I asked, then.”

    Tikaani turned to go. “Let's go, already. We're burning daylight.”

    “Just give me the real reason,” Nukilik groaned. “Just admit to me and to yourself that you plan to run away from everyone like a coward!”

    Tikaani stopped. Did he really assume she would leave Immuyak with him?

    “I'm not going to run away,” she approached Nukilik and shouted in his face. “I'm going to find Siku!”

    “So you are going to leave the kid with me,” Nukilik shouted back, perhaps a little too loudly.

    “Of course not! I'm going to Angelrouwak to find Immuyak's mother, then I'm going to find my sister!”

    “Then what do you need me to teach you anything for?”

    “You're going to leave?” Immuyak interrupted with a frown, cutting off the argument.

    “Of course not,” Tikaani assured him. “We've got a mother to find, remember? I bet she's worried sick about you.”

    “Then I want to learn to hunt too!” Immuyak shouted. “You can teach us both, Mr. Nukilik! That way I won't be a burden to you or Tikaani.”

    “Oh, alright, already,” Nukilik rolled his eyes. “Just upstream, there's a small clearing with a pond. It's where the smaller animals around here go to drink. It's as good a place as any to start.”

    Nukilik walked ahead of them, with Immuyak following close behind. Tikaani sighed before following as well. The trip to the clearing was uneventful and it took them close to an hour to reach it. When they arrived, a bunny had been drinking carelessly, unaware of the hungry pack of wolves behind the bushes that was looking to make it their prey.

    “There we go,” Nukilik lowered his voice. “A little guy, perfect for beginners like yourselves.”

    “But it's just a child,” Tikaani challenged, flashes of the baby rabbits from the other night crossing her mind.

    “Eat or die,” Nukilik shrugged. “If you're going to get soft, then you're going to starve. It's that simple.”

    “You really should consider taking some lessons from Immuyak on empathy,” Tikaani muttered.

    “I'm sure you know all about empathy, don't you, Nukka?” Nukilik snapped back coldly, getting under her skin.

    Just you wait, she thought to herself. She really wanted to put this jerk in his place. “Whatever, boss. What do we need to do to catch lunch?”

    Nukilik grumbled something inaudibly before answering. “Well, for starters, rabbits are small-time prey. If you're going at it alone, that's really all you can handle. So, we'll start there.”

    Nukilik crouched low in the bushes. “The first thing you must do is mask your presence. The element of surprise is crucial...”

    * * *

    “Like this?” Nukka asked her older sister as they eyed the small fawn intently.

    “Yeah,” Shila nodded. “Now, the next step is to observe. You need to know your mark inside and out. Watch its mannerisms and look for any sign of weakness. Once you've found that weakness, you lean in...”

    Nukka crouched even lower, grasping the makeshift hunting spear in her right hand as tightly as she could.

    “Wait for your target's attention to lapse for only a single second...”

    * * *

    “..and strike!” Nukilik shouted, but before he could leap himself, Tikaani took charge. Before the rabbit could react, she would have her teeth at its throat. Her excitement, however, caused her to put too much spring into her vault. She stumbled trying to correct her mistakes in futility, scaring the bunny into the bushes.

    “What the heck was that?” Nukilik snarled darkly as he darted toward her, putting his muzzle to her face. She could smell his hot breath as his eagle-like eyes pierced through her own like a machete. “Get serious, why don't you?”

    “Excuse me?” Tikaani growled as she got back to her feet. “I am serious. I just tripped is all. My mistake.”

    “Can you afford to make mistakes?” he asked her. “If you can't even catch a baby rabbit, you're done for.”

    Immuyak then emerged from a nearby bush with the bunny's blood dripping from its broken neck. “How'd I do?”

    “Not bad,” Nukilik's eyes lit up as he dashed over to Immuyak. “Not bad at all.”

    * * *

    “Ouch!” Nukka screamed as Shila rubbed the ointment on the abrasion on her knee. “That stuff stings!”

    “Don't be such a baby,” Shila sang as Tikaani approached, sniffing at Nukka's injury. Nukka could see the fear well up in Shila's eyes as her body instinctively jolted back.

    “Same goes for you,” Nukka quipped, rising to her feet and limping closer to the campfire. “You know you don't have to be afraid of Tikaani. Or Siku, for that matter.”

    Shila kept silent as she placed the wooden lid back on the ointment container. “Ahnah's going to be upset when she finds out we took this.”

    “Well, it does come in handy,” Nukka shrugged. “I'm more concerned with how worried everyone is going to be that we've been gone for a couple days.”

    “Let 'em worry. We'll be back soon enough.”

    “Yeah, I guess so. So what's on tomorrow's agenda?”

    “Tomorrow?” Shila frowned before her face began to glow with recollection. “Oh! We're fishing.”

    * * *

    “Fishing?” Tikaani scowled. “Seriously?”

    “Yeah,” Nukilik growled, visibly annoyed. “You seem to have a problem with that.”

    “Only a minor one,” she snarked before approaching the river. “Now, tell me, what am I supposed to do?”

    “You just have to study the paths of the fish and strike in their expected location,” Nukilik explained. “Fishing is easy once you've got the whole predicting their movements part down.”

    “Easy for you to say, Shila,” Tikaani rolled her eyes.

    “Shila?” It was Nukilik's turn to scowl.

    “Oh,” Tikaani shook her head. “It's nothing.”

    * * *

    “Easy for you to say!” Nukka screamed back to Shila as she tiptoed across a large fallen tree branch that bridged the river, watching intently as the fish jetted along in the water.

    “Quit being a baby and do it already!” Shila shouted.

    Nukka closed her eyes and clenched her fishing spear. Alright, here goes. She opened them again and watched the fish zoom past. One was closing in on her fast. Fifteen feet. Ten feet. She pulled the spear back. Five feet.

    Crack.


    As she thrust the spear toward the water, the branch snapped under her weight, causing her to lose balance and stumble into the blue rush beneath her.

    * * *

    Tikaani burst from underneath the water empty-mouthed. She overshot her strike at the water, causing her to lose balance and stumble into it. Nukilik and Immuyak splashed in after her, paddling along the water, scooping up fish here and there with relative ease.

    “I am so happy you guys are enjoying yourselves,” she groaned as she swam to shore.

    “Lighten up, will you?” Nukilik shouted as he slapped the water with his tail, splashing the retreating Tikaani. In response, Immuyak started splashing wildly as well, laughing more than she'd ever seen him laugh before.

    “You asked for it now!” Tikaani roared as she splashed into the water herself, sending her own splashes back at the two boys. For a brief moment, she felt like she had been splashing with Shila, just like that day Shila taught her how to fish.

    “That was... exhausting,” Immuyak gasped as he crawled out of the water and rolled on his back. “You guys have an unfair size advantage.”

    “If you wanna complain about advantages,” Nukilik laughed as he nipped at Immuyak's legs playfully. “You're way too small of a target, kid.”

    Immuyak laughed along with him as the two of them dashed around in every possible direction. Tikaani watched casually as she let her fur dry, shaking the water out every now and then. Their casual play reminded her of how her and Tikaani would dash about and wrestle with each other when she was Nukka. The thought of Shila crossed her mind, but she pushed it out and instead laid her head on the soft ground. Tomorrow, Nukilik was going to show them how to hunt larger prey.

    * * *

    “Alright, Nukka, we've gona after small game and fish, but now it's time to start going after the herds,” Shila nodded as they approached the clearing.

    Nukka poked her head through the brush to see a small herd of caribou grazing. She counted no more than seven or eight of them.

    “What you're looking for is an injured one,” Shila continued. “Or an old one. Either will work.”

    Nukka nodded and scanned the herd, noticing a sickly looking fawn wobbling about.

    “There,” she whispered, pointing to the baby caribou.

    “Good choice,” Shila grinned, clenching her hunting spear. “You ready for lunch?”

    “Whoa,” Nukka cried as she turned her head to her sister. “You're going after it with a spear? What about Siku and Tikaani? Shouldn't they help?”

    “I don't think that's a good idea,” Shila frowned.

    “And why not?” Nukka challenged. “They're our Spirit Wolves, aren't they?”

    Shila stood silent for a minute. “I'm going,” she answered before darting off.

    “Hey! Wait a minute!” Nukka cried.

    * * *

    Nukilik dashed past her, straight for the caribou. “Come on, you two! Like we practiced!”

    Right, Tikaani assured herself, following suit. Nukilik would scare the herd while her and Immuyak too turns giving chase. It was important to take turns so that way the three of them could tire out the fleeing beasts without tiring themselves.

    “Tikaani!” Nukilik cried from the northwest as he followed her. “Turn them this way?”

    “Right!” she responded, circling around the herd and changing the direction of the herd towards Nukilik.

    “I've got it from here!” Nukilik hollered as he took pursuit, giving Tikaani the chance to catch her breath.

    “I'm coming up!” Immuyak clamored as he caught up with and passed Tikaani.

    “Immuyak... be...,” Tikaani panted before catching sight of it. “...Immuyak!”

    * * *

    “Aw, they got away!” Nukka huffed as she caught up with her sister.

    “Ah well, it happens,” Shila grinned. “We'll just have to try again-”

    “Shila...,” Nukka cut her sister off as she felt the color flush from her face.

    “What?” Shila frowned. “You look like you've seen a ghost.”

    * * *

    “Run!” Nukka of the past and Tikaani of the present screamed shrilly as Shila and Immuyak each found themself face to face with a very large bear.

    * * *

    Immuyak took off in the opposite direction as the bear began to gave chase. Nukilik was out of sight and most likely out of earshot. She ran after the bear, hoping to distract it long enough for Immuyak to get away. The bear itself was large and grizzly, and looked to be female. She heard squalling in the distance, most likely the bear's cubs. Tikaani knew that they were in for it now: provoking a mother was the last thing she needed to accomplish.

    * * *

    Nukka fled into the trees as the black bear roared violently, causing the birds in the trees to fly away frantically. She bolted as fast as her little legs would allow as she tried to put distance between herself and the bear. But Shila... No! Nukka cried. She shoved her foot into the ground, pivoted about her heel, and turned around immediately. She had to go back for her sister.

    * * *

    “Hold on, Immuyak!” Tikaani cried as she pumped her legs as fast as she could to reach Immuyak and the pursuant bear.

    In response, the mother bear gave up her chase against Immuyak and instead devoted her full attention to Tikaani. That's it, Tikaani leered at the grizzly bear. Come this way! It let out a deafening roar as it bound toward Tikaani. In any other scenario, she would have ran away, but not this one. Immuyak needed her. She had no choice but to stand her ground until he wold manage to get a safe distance away.

    “Tikaani, look out!” Immuyak cried as he darted in her direction.

    “No, stay back!” she screamed. “Get away from here! Go!”

    “I'm not leaving you!” Immuyak jowled, not turning back.

    “Go!” she shreaked as the bear smashed its corpulent paws into her left side, knocking the wind out of her as the impact launched her out of the clearing and a few feet into the encroaching forest. When she finally hit the hard earth, she heard and felt an unsettling snap.

    As she struggled to regain her composure, Immuyak pounced upon the massive grizzly and latched his teeth onto the mother bear's hind leg.

    “Immuyak!” she exclaimed frantically, struggling to endure the pain in her own hind leg. “I told you to run! What are you doing?”

    “Saving y-” Immuyak began before the bear flung him off, tossing him into the air. He landed several feet in the direction opposite Tikaani.

    “Get out of here!” she screamed again, finally getting to her feet before collapsing once more, unable to hold herself up with the hind leg on her right side. No good, I think my leg's broken.

    The bear advanced upon Immuyak slowly, snarling and growling. Tikaani knew she was ready to kill.

    * * *

    “Shila!” Nukka cried as she finally caught sight of her sister in a nearby clearing just a few yards away. Shila clenched her spear tightly in a futile attempt to fend off the large black bear.

    “Nukka?” Shila shrieked as Nukka made her presence known. “What are you doing? Get out of here! Run!”

    “I'm not leaving you!” Nukka pleaded. “Let's go!”

    The bear used the momentary distraction to strike, knocking Shila to the ground with its massive limbs. Her spear flew high into the air and leaded near Nukka's feet. As the bear advanced upon Shila, Nukka couldn't help but notice their Spirit Wolves' absence. Where is Siku? Shouldn't she be here protecting Shila?

    “Nukka... run...!” Shila managed to choke out as the bear closed in on her, snarling and growling. Nukka knew he was ready to kill.

    “I won't... leave you...,” Nukka broke into sobs. “I won't... I can't...”

    Nukka took a deep breath.

    And screamed.

    * * *

    “SHIIIIIILLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Tikaani howled as she rose to her feet again and bolted after Immuyak with supreme adrenaline. The rush of emotion and energy, however, did nothing for her, as her leg gave out once more. She fell back to the solid ground, her heart racing in futility. No... No!

    It only took a second. In one instant, the bear was poised to strike. In the next, it was fighting off a reddish-brown wolf that locked his jaws around its neck.

    * * *

    It only took a second. In one instant, the bear was poised to strike. In the next, it was fighting off a bluish-gray wolf that locked her jaws around its neck.

    “Siku!” Nukka bayed with relief as Tikaani dashed toward them as well, joining Siku on the bear's back. It struggled to fight them off, but the two wolves were far more powerful. With the bear distracted, Nukka dashed for the spear. The next thing she knew, she roared at the top of her lungs as she and her reckless adrenaline converged upon the dogpile. She leapt high into the air and turned the point of the spear to the ground below, thrusting all of her strength into dealing the killing blow.

    “Nukka...” Shila gasped wide-eyed. “You... saved me...”

    “No... I didn't...” Nukka heaved as tears ran down her cheeks. “They did...”

    * * *

    “Nukilik!” Tikaani limped towards the struggle. “I'm coming!”

    “Tikaani!” Immuyak shouted, noticing her approach. “Are you okay?”

    “Are you?” she asked back before turning back to Nukilik and shouting again. “Nukilik!”

    “Little busy here,” he replied through clenched teeth as he tugged away at the bear's flesh.

    “Let her go!” Tikaani cried.

    “Are you crazy?” Nukilik challenged as the bear fell to the ground, running out of fight. “This beast won't stop until we're all dead!”

    “Let's just walk away! She's just looking after her cubs.” The image of the rabbit she killed flashed across her mind. “I'm begging you, Nukilik. Don't kill their mother.”

    Nukilik eased his grip and let the bear go. “You never cease to amaze me,” he growled as he leapt from the defeated bear. “I didn't take you for the motherly type.”

    “I've killed enough bears,” she responded, turning to leave, limping with every step. “Come on. Let's go.”

    “Whatever you say, Nukka,” Nukilik snarled coldly as he caught up to her and Immuyak. “I guess even murderers tend to have their fill of bloodshed after awhile.”

    “Do you have something you want to say to me?” Tikaani stopped and turned to face the bloody wolf. She had enough. “We've already been through all this a thousand times it seems, so what else do you expect me to do?”

    “Besides die?” Nukilik pondered sardonically as he walked past her. “I guess getting out of here before Mama Bear wakes up would be a good start.”

    “You're unbelievable,” she rolled her eyes before continuing after him, into the sunset. Immuyak padded along in front of them quietly.

    * * *

    “How are you feeling?” Nukka asked her sister as she passed her the chunk of bear meat she cooked over the campfire. “Rough day, huh?”

    “Yeah,” Shila gulped as she took a bite. “I didn't think we would survive that.”

    “Well, we did,” Nukka grinned as her pat Siku's furry head. “Though it's really all thanks to Siku.”

    Siku yawned and trotted over by Shila. Shila tensed up in response, but to Nukka's surprise, she stretched her hand out to Siku, who responded by licking it playfully.

    “You saved my life,” Shila smiled as tears began to bloom from her eyes. “I was scared of you too... I thought you'd try to kill me one day... I thought you'd turn on me just like the first wolf.... But you saved me instead. Thank you.”

    “I wonder what the Spirit Wolves' real purpose is,” Nukka pondered out loud as she watched the tender moment thoughtfully. “They don't teach the village children until they're about your age, Shila. That's what Elder Ahnah told me at least.”

    “A real purpose?” Shila frowned as she nervously stroked Siku's back. “I thought they just died so that their human links may live on. You know, like Siku did just now, protecting me.”

    “That's probably the case,” Nukka stated. “Nauja told me that in some of the other villages, especially the Village of Sounds, they tell the kids about everything at a younger age than our village does.”

    “Well, I'll find out soon enough,” Shila grinned. “Then I'll tell you right away.”

    “You promise?”

    “I promise.”

    * * *

    Tikaani groaned as she lay on the stone floor of the cave. Her leg had been throbbing ever since the attack. She wondered how long it would take to heal, especially if it were broken.

    “Don't worry, it's not,” Nukilik said lowly, startling her.

    “Excuse me?” Tikaani frowned coldly.

    “Not broken.” He circled around her and examined her hurting leg. “You've been limping the whole way here, not to mention you've been staring at it for over an hour since we got here.”

    “It hurts,” she groaned.

    “Of course it hurts,” he laughed.

    “How can you be so sure it's not broken?” she asked with a scowl.

    He grinned maliciously before stepping on her leg, sending flares of pain throughout her entire body. She screamed shrilly as she heard a distinct pop, the searing pain itself running through her veins like wildfire.

    “What the hell was that for?” Tikaani bellowed as she snarled at the red wolf.

    “Your leg was dislocated,” he pointed out. “Unless you wanted to be in excruciating pain for the next two weeks, I popped it back into place. It'll be good as new in a day or so.”

    “Uh, thanks, I guess,” she winced. “You could've warned me first.”

    “And miss that look of surprise?” Nukilik laughed. “You should've seen it! It was priceless.”

    “At least you're enjoying this,” she sneered as she got back up to her feet. She limped and wobbled past Immuyak, who slept soundly. She exited the cave into the cool night air. She let the gentle breeze comb through her fur as she approached the ridge. From here, she could see for miles, barring the nearby mountains off to the west. The forest itself seemed limitless, extending unbroken in every direction, save for the patches of black to the southeast. The moon hung low and large in the night sky, full as can be.

    “It's pretty gorgeous, isn't it?” Nukilik joined her on the ridge. “Tikaani and I would stay here on nights like this and just talk about everything and nothing.”

    Tikaani remained silent, unsure of how to respond to that. To Nukilik, she wasn't Tikaani: she killed Tikaani.

    “Sorry for earlier,” Nukilik sighed. “I was... being a jerk.”

    “Don't apologize,” Tikaani replied painfully. “You have every right to hate me.”

    “I do hate you,” Nukilik answered. “But that doesn't mean I should keep making this more uncomfortable for the both of us.”

    “I suppose so,” she nodded distantly. “You know, besides Tikaani, I've killed a lot of things. I've killed bears, rabbits, caribou, you name it.”

    “Well, you've gotta eat.”

    “I killed my sister too.”

    Nukilik did not respond to that.

    “At least, I think I did,” she continued. “When I died, I left Siku to die too. I didn't know at the time that she was my own flesh and blood.”

    “Well, not literally,” Nukilik added with a nervous laugh.

    “I guess not,” she responded with a weak smile. “But you know... I still think she might be out there. I think the Departed Ones gave me Tikaani's body so I could make it right somehow, you know?”

    Nukilik chuckled. “Well, while I can assure you that the world doesn't revolve around you, you might be right about one thing.”

    “Oh yeah? What's that?” Tikaani scowled.

    “I think that the Spirit Wolves are a way for you humans to get a second lease on life,” he explained. “A second chance to make things right somehow.”

    Tikaani stayed quiet.

    “That's what I think, at least,” he concluded. “That's why I can hate you and all, but I can't keep letting it show. It's not fair to you, since you've been given the chance to make amends.”

    She was shocked by how well Nukilik was able to internalize his hatred for her. She did find it admirable, however. She internalized much of her own hatred, especially toward the Spirit Wolves, but would not dare voice it. Not like this. And certainly not when something about that hatred felt wrong.

    “That's, uh, sweet of you, I think,” she replied, somewhat playfully. “Oh! I've been meaning to ask. While we're on the subject, you're a Spirit Wolf yourself, aren't you?”

    “Yeah,” he answered. “But my Link is still alive... I don't know much about him though. I've got a bit of a history after all.”

    “History?” Tikaani frowned. “You don't get along or anything?”

    “Well, they tried to kill me,” he sighed. “Mismatched me with another girl, and I didn't know how to react.”

    “You what?” Tikaani gasped. He couldn't be...

    “I attacked the poor girl out of fear and confusion. I felt so bad. When they sorted everything out and they gave me my real Link, I couldn't bear the thought of losing control again. So I ran, and here I am today. A lone wolf if there ever was one.”

    “I'm so sorry,” Tikaani answered consolingly. “You've had it rough.”

    “Eh, nothing I can't handle,” he smiled.

    He then raised his head and let out a piercing howl.

    “Howling at the moon?” Tikaani laughed derisively. “How cliché.”

    A distant howl came from several miles to the east.

    “You humans and your misconceptions,” Nukilik rolled your eyes. “It's communication. It's got nothing to do with the moon.”

    “Communication?” Tikaani scowled.

    “Yeah. I told the wolves over at Angelrauwok that we're coming.”

    “I see,” she nodded before yawning.

    “You should get some shuteye,” Nukilik offered. “We've got a long day ahead of us.”

    “Yeah,” she agreed and turned to limp back into the cave. “Good night, Nukilik.”

    Sleep came easily that night, and so did the dream. In fact, for the first time, the fragments pieced themselves together like a jigsaw puzzle. Tonight, she was going to relive the memory in its entirety.

  3. #23

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Here it is, the every important turning point of the story, I suppose. It still needs some work, but I find any work done to the story at this point will only be supplanted by MORE necessary work five chapters down the road. Speed, for now, then as the story gets closer to wrapping up, I'll start wrapping up and polishing all of the past chapters.~

    Ah well, enough talk, let's get to the song and dance... shall we?


    I don't necessarily believe in using insert songs, but this song quite perfectly fits the tone of this chapter, ESPECIALLY that final scene, and I listened to it as I wrote the chapter, so it's kind of magically linked to it.~

    Chapter 7: You Should Be Dead
    Spoiler:
    The sun was beginning to set on that fateful day, elongating the shadows of the forest. The amber-colored sunlight highlighted and illuminated that which was not cast in dark blue shadows. The colors of autumn were starting to come in as torrents of birds soared southbound overhead. A herd of deer dashed through a nearby clearing as the setting sun shimmered off the standing water of the pond.

    Nukka followed her sister's footsteps carefully as the two girls, Spirit Wolves by their sides, trekked through the northern expanses of the Great Forest. They had been out hunting and ranging for several days, searching for any game big enough to hold them over during the impending winter. Their efforts produced little success. The girls only managed to bag a few rabbits here and there. The deer were especially elusive, save for when they appeared in the evening, when the two girls were far too exhausted to pursue them.

    They approached the pond, which nested itself neatly at the base of a towering ridge. Nukka surmised that rainwater slid down into the pond from the cliff's edge, feeding its water supply during monsoonal seasons.

    “We'll camp here,” Shila announced as she started collecting small pieces of tinder. “The sun will be setting soon, so I'll get a fire started. Can you gather some pears from the woods?”

    Nukka nodded. “Come on, Siku,” she sang before catching a glimpse of the sun as it glimmer from the top of the ridge. She judged that the cliff was about two hundred feet tall. From that height, they could probably see for miles and finally regain their bearings.

    Nukka glanced at Shila and frowned. Shila was a thick-headed girl, Nukka knew, and would never admit that they were lost. Nukka stayed quiet about it, but could always recognize a disoriented Shila. She watched her sister absentmindedly collect twigs and other manageable pieces of wood. Shila began to hum a bit as she gathered the fuel, a tell of hers that she was lost in deep immersive thought.

    “Are you going or not?” Shila frowned as her eyes met Nukka's. Nukka looked away in embarassment, scolding herself silently for staring too long. “Is something wrong? You're wasting sunlight, you know.”

    “Right,” Nukka shook her head. “Sorry.”

    “You and your daydreaming,” Shila smiled. “Just stay close to Siku, okay?”

    Nukka nodded as she left with Siku. Time crept by slowly as she gathered the ice-blue hued pears from the nearby trees uneventfully. When she judged that she had collected plenty, her and Siku returned to the pond to see Tikaani and Shila huddled up near a raging fire. Shila grabbed her hunting spear and took the satchel of pears from Nukka, impaling them upon the spear's tip to roast them over the fire.

    “The fire's warm,” Nukka sat by the fire across from Shila, breaking the silence as the sun began its descent beneath the horizon. She lowered her head and wrapped her arms around herself as she mumbled in insight. “It's hard to believe that something so warm, so inviting, can leave so much black in its wake.”

    “Is that what this is about?” Shila frowned. “Are you worried about the Spiritless Men?”

    Nukka looked up at her sister. “No,” she shook her head. “I know they have yet to advance this far north. They've mostly kept to the south and east. That's not what troubles me.”

    “What's bothering you then?” Shila cocked her head to the side.

    Nukka realized she might have said too much and let out a long sigh. “Not really troubled, just concerned,” she answered. “I get the feeling you're not telling me anything. It's been a week and a half and you've always hurried me to bed every time we stop and I never get a chance to talk to you.”

    “About what?”

    “Well, lots of things... for one, I feel like you're the one who's troubled, not me.”

    Shila took a bite of pear and scowled. “Why would you think that?”

    “Well, we're lost, are we not?” Nukka took her own spear and put a pear to the fire. “You've been trying to get your bearings for days, haven't you?”

    “You're imagining things,” Shila lied unconvincingly. “I know what I'm doing.”

    “Then why are we going further north?” Nukka challenged.

    “Why would we need to go south?” Shila responded. “I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to head home just yet. Especially not empty handed.”

    “I see,” Nukka nodded, refusing to push the issue. Her sister had a way of being stubborn about things like this. She thought it best to just have her way.

    “But you really want to talk about the wolves, don't you?” Shila asked after a long, awkward pause.

    Nukka stayed silent for a moment. “Well, yeah, there's that, too,” Nukka admitted with another deep sigh as she rose to her feet. “You've started the teachings, haven't you? So what's the big mystery surrounding our Spirit Wolves? Why are they so important?”

    “Whoa, slow down a bit, will you?” Shila laughed as Nukka caught herself getting overly excited. She sat back down and crossed her arms, kneeling her head down to listen. Finally, she was going to hear it all.

    “Well, the main idea is that,” Shila began. “Our Spirit Wolves die for us so that we may live on. You know how the saying goes.”

    “Right,” Nukka nodded. “So what's that really mean?”

    “Well, to put it simply, it's quite literal,” Shila continued. “Our Spirit Wolves will literally die in our stead should our lives ever be compromised.”

    Nukka's face glowed when she heard that. “So, kind of like an extra life? If we ever find ourselves in a dangerous situation, our Wolves will take the fall for us.”

    “Well, if you put it that way, I suppose,” Shila shrugged. “But it's more complicated than that.”

    Nukka heard enough. An idea popped into her head. “Wait here!” she tossed her speared pear to the ground as if it wasn't even there.

    Shila frowned as her sister got to her feet and approached the cliffside. “What are you doing?”

    “If it's like you say,” Nukka groaned as she climbed atop a boulder engraved into the cliffside before getting her footing into a narrow groove. “Then I technically can't be killed while Tikaani is alive, right?”

    Shila rose to her feet as well. “I didn't say-” she shook her head. “Nukka, what are you doing? You're going to get hurt!”

    Nukka began to follow the groove as it widened into a narrow ascending path up the cliff face.

    “Stop pretending, Shila!” she hollered back. “I know we're lost, but I'm gonna change that. Just watch!”

    “Nukka, get down from there!” Shila screamed as she followed her sister up the cliff face. “What do you think will happen if you fall?”

    “I'll be okay!” Nukka shouted back, half paying attention, climbing to the next groove within the cliff wall. She was only partially invested in arguing with her sister, opting instead to focus on the task at hand: getting back home. “You said it yourself, didn't you? If our lives are ever compromised, our Spirit Wolves will die instead! So nothing will happen to me.”

    “Dammit, Nukka, stop and listen to me!” Shila's words filled Nukka's ears but she never processed them. “That's not what I mean! You'll die if you fall from there, do you understand me?”

    By now, she was about thirty feet from the ground, and found a wide path that wrapped around the cliff face to a noticeable vantage point about fifty feet higher. Perfect, she nodded. She only half-noticed that Shila was gaining on her quickly. Tikaani and Siku circled the base of the cliff restlessly, several feet below.

    “Nukka, please!” Shila's cries continued to fall on deaf ears. “Whatever you think you're doing, it's not worth it. Do you hear me? If you fall, you will not survive! Spirit Wolves or no.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” Nukka blotted out the words, though the sensation within her head was off. A part of her had began to register the words Shila shouted, even as Shila explicitly spelled out the truth about the Spirit Wolves to her, but the part of her that drove her continued to climb stubbornly. Nukka felt for a moment in a dream-like state, as if she was watching the events unfold from a consciousness completely separate from her body.

    She then realized that she was dreaming. She was reliving those painful events of that day, this time merely an observer. Despite all of that, everything felt foreign and new to her, as if she was witnessing these events unfold for the first time. Was this really what happened that day? Was it just a dream? Or was she in fact unlocking the long-imprisoned memories from their forgotten cage?

    Dream Nukka reached the vantage point after a few more minutes of climbing and scanned the horizon.

    “You've gotta see this, Shila!” she cried excitedly. “The view is incr-”

    Dream Nukka felt horror as the ground crumbled beneath her and she felt the pull of gravity tugging on her. The groove in the cliff gave way underneath her weight as she began to plummet.

    “Shilaaaaaa!” she screamed in terror as she heard Shila's own screams come into focus.

    “Nukka!” she cried as she grabbed Nukka's hand in the nick of time. Nukka felt her fall break as she dangled like a pendulum eighty feet in the air.

    “Oh no!” she began to weep. “What am I doing?”

    “Don't worry,” Shila urged as she began to tug. “I've got you. You're safe now, you hear me?”

    Nukka heard the sounds of cracking earth and looked up to the source, noticing the ledge beginning to give way underneath their combined weight.

    “Shila, we're going to fall!” Nukka screamed as Shila tightened her grip. She looked down to the dizzying earth below. Tikaani circled below, barking madly. But Siku was nowhere to be found.

    “Shila!” she repeated, looking back up toward her sister. Shila's gaze was strangely distant as she stared off into nowhere in particular.

    Her eyes began to well up as a fierceness began to cross her face. “You should be dead,” her sister uttered unnervingly and unnaturally. The words sent chills down her dreaming self's spine.

    Nukka was dumbstruck by the words as Shila's grip tightened further. She felt a tremendous force tug at her, lifting her up to the ledge above. She felt the muscles in her sister's arm constrict as Shila grit her teeth and let out a desperate growl. Nukka feel to solid ground and rolled toward the cliff wall along the ledge, her sister's grip loosening and releasing in the process. She stopped with her back to the open air and her head to the wall. She sighed in relief, got to her knees, and turned to Shila.

    But Shila was gone. Falling pebbles spilled through the hole where a large chunk of ledge used to be: the very place where Shila was standing moments before. She heard a crunch far below that echoed through the surrounding woods. And then there was silence.

    But not for long. She heard a howl from below. Then another close by. And two more. Soon, the entire forest sang with the chorus of howling wolves.

    Nukka panted a bit in shock before realizing what had just happened. No, no, no, no! She began to sob as the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, taking what remained of the light with it. Nukka struggled to her feet as she took extra caution climbing down the side of the cliff, overwrought with sheer terror and dread at the thought of her sister. What... what have I done?

    Her thoughts taunted her as she finally made it to the base of the cliff. The first thing she saw was Tikaani, who darted over to her in an instant. The wolf continued to howl sadly as the stars began to peek through the darkening night sky.

    She was obscured by the large boulder that Nukka first climbed to get up the face of the cliff. She put her hand to the cold gray stone as she slowly began to circle around it, terrified of what she'd find on the other side of it. Tikaani crawled alongside her, her howls breaking and fragmenting with fatigue.

    When the boulder was clear of her vision, Nukka let out a weak yelp. Shila was sprawled lifelessly in the shallow pond, facedown, her long dark hair spread over her head like a fan. The rest of her body was somewhat twisted into a odd position with her left leg bent back and her right arm clearly broken and twisted.

    Nukka fell to her knees as the sobbing began. She wanted to get close to her sister's body, but the shame would not allow her to inch any closer. Her sister lay like a shredded doll across the forest floor and she would never get up from it again. This is all my fault, Nukka admitted, but only once.

    The tears gave way to a hollow anger. Siku... Where is Siku? She wanted very desperately to find the wolf, but she was unable to rise from her pitiful crying position. She just continued wailing inaudibly, for what seemed like hours.

    She did not notice the villagers as they came to collect her and her sister's body. She did not hear the questions that they asked. She did not feel the warmth of the blankets that they brought, nor did she feel the gentle rocking of her mount's back as the strong village men carried her frail and broken self back to the village.

    She hated herself for calling herself broken when her sister was literally so. She had no room to talk because her sister's blood was solely on... on what? She did not complete the thought as she felt the events of the evening distort and blur in her memory.

    She barely noticed as the men dropped her off at her hut. She barely noticed as Ahnah entered moments later, her eyes heavy with tears. She barely felt the elder's firm embrace as she wept with her. She didn't even see her leave.

    Nukka was now a husk as the thoughts continued to warp and disappear. She could no longer recall any of the events of the evening. She remembered the pears, and she remembered the simple fact that her sister was dead, but everything in between was completely gone.

    * * *

    Tikaani woke with tears in her eyes. She gasped heavily as she took in the events that transpired within the dream. It was... me? She began to weep. I... killed Shila... Oh dear, no... I... killed her... not once... The image of Siku pinned beneath the fallen tree flashed across her eyes through her mind. Siku...

    Even though the dream was done, the memories were not. The nightmare was not done with her yet.

    * * *

    Nukka sat in a fetal position, staring blankly into no direction in particular. She was now empty and devoid of anything. But she needed her fill of something.

    That was when Siku emerged from outside the hut. Nukka, for once aware of her surroundings, heard the wolf whimper solemnly as it approached. She lifted her head to meet its eyes and felt a new presence within the wolf, one it didn't have before.

    Guilt.

    Well, to put it simply, it's quite literal,
    Shila's words echoed in Nukka's empty mind. Our Spirit Wolves will literally die in our stead should our lives ever be compromised.

    Then she remembered looking down as she dangled from the cliff. It was a brief flash but in that instant, she recalled that Siku was nowhere to be seen.

    Our Spirit Wolves will literally die in our stead should our lives ever be compromised.

    Nukka gazed for a long time into the wolf's eyes as her sister's words repeated in her head. Siku appeared to be sorrowful, but something about her was off. Guilt, the word echoed once more.

    * * *

    The Tikaani of the present saw the scene for what it was. Shila, in her new body, came to the broken Nukka with a mission. Tikaani frowned as she felt Siku's thoughts resonate. I'm okay, Nukka. Everything's gonna be okay. I'm still here.

    * * *


    What Nukka saw was different. Guilt, it echoed once more. Beyond that guilt, she felt a soothing emotion coming off the wolf, as if to say everything was okay. As if her sister did not just die at the hands of...

    The anger began to fill the hollow void as Nukka rose to her feet. Siku tried to approach, the warmth not fading. You should be dead, the words echoed through Nukka's head, screaming at her from every direction. The wolf let out a small, comforting whimper.

    But then it let out a loud one as Nukka kicked the wolf right in the jaw. The wolf leapt back and yelped in surprise as tears began to well up in Nukka's eyes.

    “It's all... because...” she choked back the tears as she grabbed a blunt club her sister had used for hunting. “It's all... your...”

    She brought the club down and smashed it against the wolf's left flank.

    “You!” she screamed as the tears poured anyway. “Where did you... why did you... It was all because of you...!”

    She pulled the club back, and struck again, this time resulting in an audible crack. Siku once again yelped as Nukka dropped the club.

    * * *

    Tikaani of the present winced in horror as the events played back in her mind. Shila... her thoughts began to overwhelm her. What did I do... What have I done... What kind of monster...

    * * *


    “What did you do?” Nukka screamed in delirium, planting her foot firmly in the fallen wolf's side. “What have you done?”

    The beast stayed silent, as if accepting its punishment. “What kind of monster are you?” Nukka wept as she continued to kick and kick and kick away at the brute. “You should be dead! You should have died in her place! You should be dead! You hear me? Why aren't you dead? Why is she gone? You should be dead!”

    The hysteria in Nukka's voice escalated soared as she continued to beat the wolf bloody. She continued shouting frantically, even as villagers burst into her hut to restrain her and stop her from doing any more damage to that... thing.

    “You should be dead! Do you hear me, you monster? You should be dead! Dead like her! You were supposed to... She was supposed to... She died so you didn't have to! You should be dead! You should be dead!”

    * * *

    Tikaani wept as the memory concluded, ashamed and embarrassed at who the true monster was. She moaned violently as she realized just how wrong she was and just how much she wronged as a result. On top of killing her sister twice, she even beat her half to death in the meantime.

    Were she in her own body, she'd probably be scratching away at her arms, doing her damnedest to sever her blood-stained hands from her guilt-ridden body. But instead, because of her own foolishness, she now found herself in someone else's body, someone who was also dead at her hands.

    How many lives will I take before I atone? She shook her head as the tears intensified. She rose to her feet and inched toward the stone wall of the cave she slept in. It was dark and cold, but not nearly as dark and cold as she felt.

    “It's all... because...” she closed her eyes as she pressed her head firmly against the cave wall. “It's all... me...”

    She pulled her head away and immediately slammed it into the wall. The force caused her brains to rattle a bit as she felt herself getting disoriented. It wasn't enough.

    Her head met the wall again, this time harder. “Why couldn't I...” The third strike was even harder. “Why didn't I...” Again, she struck the wall. “It's all... my... fault!”

    She continued to slam her head against the wall, shrieking and cursing with every breath. “You're a monster, Nukka! You're a... murderer...! What have you done...?”

    She felt dizzy and the pain intensified, but still she slammed her brittle skull against the cold stone walls of the cavern. She didn't care if her skull shattered. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered.

    “You should be dead...!” she cried pitifully. “You hear me? Dead! You should be dead...! You should be dead! You should be dead! You should be dead! You should be dead! You should be dead! You should be dead!”

    She didn't even notice as Immuyak and Nukilik forced her away from the wall, she still thrust her head into the air regardless. She didn't hear anything they said, she only continued her broken frenzy at the top of her lungs.

    “Shila! Siku! Tikaani! It was all because of you, Nukka! They all died so you didn't have to! You should be dead! You should be dead! You should be dead! You should be dead! You should be dead!”

  4. #24

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Very early and muddy draft, but with this arc, I'm more concerned with getting as much writing done as possible. I'll patch this one up a bit in time for the Monthly, but until then, enjoy this shoddily written mess :D

    Chapter 8: Big Sister

    Spoiler:
    The clouds hovered low in the sky on the following morning. Save for the occasional break, the sun stayed behind them for the most part. A cold rain drizzled from them every now and then, though it always stopped after about ten minutes, only to start back up a half hour later.

    The scent of the rain was particularly strong, no doubt thanks to Tikaani's wolf nose. It wasn't an offensive aroma, but it wasn't an inviting one either. She usually loved the scent of the rain, but not today. Today, she wanted nothing more than to fall over and die.

    Tikaani sat outside the cave pensively, staring blankly at nothing in particular, but at the same time, to the southeast. Nukilik and Immuyak were around, but she could not say where. After last night's hysteria, they were most likely afraid to approach her. With good reason too: she'd been a hazard to herself and they probably feared she'd be hazard to them as well.

    “Are you ready to go?” Nukilik asked plainly as he exited the cave. So much for fear. “I know it's a good day for moping, but we're only a day's walk from Angelrouwak. So we're going to have to get going now if we want to get there by sundown.”

    Tikaani did not respond. Neither words nor gestures came from her as she gazed off toward the black listlessly.

    “You doing alright there, Nukka?” Nukilik frowned. “We have to go, you know.”

    “I'm fine,” she finally replied coldly and distantly. “Just say the word and I'll be right behind you.”

    “Alright,” Nukilik sighed. “Just hurry up, will you? Immuyak and I are getting bored of your pity party.”

    She nodded, though she wasn't sure what about. She just needed to be alone. She needed time to herself to think. I killed Shila... It was all me. The thoughts stabbed away at her for hours, threatening to destroy her. But death never came. How could it? No, her punishment was living with the burden. But why remember it now?

    “You coming?” Immuyak called out from the mouth of the forest. The others had already started going. Tikaani just nodded haphazardly and turned to follow them. She padded along slowly, not quite stopping, but not exactly making much forward progress.

    Nukilik and Immuyak paced several feet ahead, but her lumbering gait put distance between them quickly. However, as she fell too far behind, the others would stop and wait for her frequently. She could see the frustration in their eyes as they waited impatiently. But what did it matter? What did she care?

    Why was she even going to Angelrouwak Lake anyway? To take Immuyak home? Nukilik was perfectly capable of doing that on his own. To find Siku? How could she face her after everything she had done?

    “You're slow!” Nukilik complained as she approached them for the fifth time. A clap of lightning flashed in the distance as the thunder roared over Nukilik's voice.

    “Just go,” she sighed. “Go without me.”

    “No way!” Immuyak shouted. “It's cold and wet and scary out here, Tikaani. What's the matter anyway?”

    “Immuyak,” Nukilik said crossly, as if to silence the pup.

    “No,” Immuyak shook his head. “It's silly. You said your sister died protecting you?”

    Tikaani turned her head and stayed silent.

    “You said you left your sister for dead after she saved you?”

    No reply.

    “And you're afraid she won't forgive you?” Immuyak's voice grew intense.

    “You don't understand,” she shook her head defeatedly. “I killed her, Immuyak.”

    “No, I understand perfectly,” Immuyak lowered his hind legs and sat on the muddy earth. “Nukilik, give us a moment?”

    Nukilik rolled his eyes. “Whatever, just make sure she quits slowing us down. I want to get there before it starts raining again, let alone this week.” Nukilik dashed ahead as Immuyak put his paw on Tikaani's foreleg.

    “Sit,” Immuyak commanded, which took Tikaani by surprise. His Messenger blood seemed to be boiling up to the surface.

    “You're wasting your time, kid,” Tikaani growled, though did what he said.

    “Did I ever tell you I had a brother?” Miki asked.

    “I think so,” Tikaani replied with disinterest. “Malak or something.”

    “Maxtla,” Miki shook his head. “His name was Maxtla.”

    Was?

    “I died, remember?” Miki took a heavy sigh. “Anyway, Maxtla was my big brother. He was a Warrior, strong and true. But he told me one time that no matter how strong he would become, he would always be weak. Do you know why?”

    Because he's a human? “No, why?”

    “Because he was a big brother,” Miki continued. “No matter how strong he was, all it would take was for the enemy to take me out, and he'd lose instantly. Everything would be over in a second for him.”

    “So you're saying little siblings are just burdens?”

    “Maxtla sure thought so,” Miki shrugged. “But one day, I begged and pleaded that he take me with him on a fishing trip. He reluctantly agreed, and so we went. But I was being a little reckless and got the attention of a big grizzly bear. It came after me, but Maxtla was there with me. He tackled that bear and wrestled it to the ground, and then he killed it! It was so awesome!

    “But at the time, I was really upset. Maxtla got banged up pretty good, you know. And it was all my fault. If I wasn't fooling around, or if I just stayed home, he would've never nearly been killed. It was all because of me that he was weak after all.

    “But he looked me in the eye and smiled. I asked him what was so funny and he said, Are you kidding, Miki? You don't make me weak. It's all because of you that I can be strong. I thought he was crazy, but he said that if I wasn't there, he'd never have the chance to kill a bear all by himself. But I was scared, because what would happen if he died? It would have been all my fault.

    “He laughed at that too. He ruffled my hair and grinned, saying he wouldn't die any other way. To Maxtla, protecting his kid brother meant everything. Better him than me, he always said.”

    Tikaani listened intently as she felt tears began to roll down her furry cheeks. “So she'll forgive me, then?”

    “For what?” Miki grinned. “What is it you think you have to be sorry for?”

    Tikaani closed her eyes and began to weep. “It's all my fault... I was a monster... Everyone tried to tell me I was, but I never listened. I abused her, I disowned her, and I killed her, and what do I have to show for it?”

    Better her than you, she would have said,” Miki shrugged. “At least you didn't kill yourself.”

    “But I killed her!” she cried.

    “You made her strong,” he frowned. “Sure, you didn't cope with her death the best way, but she will forgive you because she understands how much it hurt. She'd gladly shoulder your burden. That's what older siblings do.”

    “I'm still not convinced,” she turned away coldly.

    “Fine,” Immuyak took a deep breath. “Then I'm sorry.”

    “For what?” she scowled. “You're just trying to help.”

    “No, for the other day,” he lowered his head. “If I hadn't caught the attention of that bear, you wouldn't have injured your leg.”

    “It's just my leg. It's fine, isn't it?”

    “But if it weren't for Nukilik, you would have died for me.”

    “But you're...,” Tikaani began to cry harder. “...like my little brother. If something happened to you, then, I'd rather be dead.”

    “Now you get it,” Immuyak smiled before rising to his feet. “Now let's go. Nukilik's as impatient as ever.”

    Immuyak began to dash toward Nukilik, but turned around briefly and smiled. “What do you have to show for it? I'd say you have a lot.”

    Tikaani watched the wolf trot away as his words sank in. She appreciated the gesture and understood his intentions. But she was unsure if she was ready to accept forgiveness. It was her fault, there was no denying that. However, her sister's last words echoed in her head, further complicating the issue.

    “Are you still going to mope?” Nukilik called out, breaking her thoughts. “After everything Immuyak just told you?”

    “No,” she replied, though not loudly enough for him to hear. I won't. I can't. Siku is still out there somewhere... I'm going to find you!

    She bolted forth with new resolve to catch up to her companions.

    “Yay, Tikaani's back!” Immuyak cheered gleefully.

    “There's the Nukka we all know and tolerate,” Nukilik added with a sincere grin.

    “Sorry for everything,” she sighed. “It just all came rushing back, and it traumatized me a bit.”

    “That's what happens,” Nukilik nodded. “When I attacked that girl, I was lost in myself for days. Just forgive yourself and move on.”

    Tikaani nodded, but halfheartedly. Could she really forgive herself? Did she deserve to forgive herself? She shook her head. None of that mattered right now. Siku was waiting. She could feel it nagging at her in the back of her mind. A sensation boiled in her belly every time talk of Angelrouwak came up. She chose to ignore it until now, but it was unmistakeable now. Her gut was telling her one thing: Siku was at Angelrouwak, waiting for her.

    I'm coming, Siku. “I'm coming.”

    “Pardon?” Nukilik frowned.

    “Nothing,” Tikaani forced a smile. “Just thinking out loud.”

    “If you say so,” the wolf rolled his eyes as the trio pressed ever forward.

    By now, the sun was poking out more frequently as the clouds dispersed slowly. By mid-afternoon, the rain had ceased entirely and the sun poked out permanently around early evening. By this time, the three wolves had started following a river. They had traveled a good distance along the river; a waterfall could be seen on the horizon. A spectrum of color radiated from the fall as the sun hung low on the western horizon.

    “Just up there,” Nukilik raised his forepaw to point. “That's Angelrouwak Lake.”

    To Tikaani's shock, a pair of large grey wolves emerged from the trees on their right. “Who goes there?” one asked firmly. Tikaani was shocked to see other wolves for once.

    “It's just me, Nukilik,” Nukilik stepped forward. “We're here to meet up with somebody.”

    “Oh,” the same wolf growled impolitely. “Well, whatever. Come, Pukulria.”

    The second wolf shot dark eyes at Nukilik and followed the first.

    “What was that all about?” Immuyak grimaced.

    Nukilik wore a pained expression. “It's nothing... Those guys just don't like me very much.”

    “How come?” Immuyak began walking circles around Nukilik. “Are they jealous?”

    “Who would be jealous of the black sheep?” Nukilik snapped back in annoyance. “Let's just go already. You've got some wolves to meet and I've got places to be.”

    “You're not staying?” Immuyak groaned. “But you've been such a big help.”

    “I've got business to attend to here, but once I'm done, I'm gone.”

    “What kind of business?” Tikaani spoke up.

    “The kind that is none of yours,” Nukilik shot back.

    “Oh, come on,” Tikaani rolled her eyes.

    “I got you here, okay?” Nukilik turned to leave. “That was the agreement, remember?”

    “But aren't we friends?” Immuyak whined.

    “Friends?” Nukilik snorted. “Don't make me laugh, kid.” He embarked into the nearby trees and out of sight, leaving Tikaani and Immuyak alone.

    “I can't believe him,” Tikaani sighed before nudging Immuyak's back with her nose. “Come on, kiddo. Your mom is waiting for you.”

    Immuyak looked longingly in the direction that Nukilik left in before turning to Tikaani, smiling, and nodding. Tikaani walked toward the waterfall and the young wolf pup followed suit. Tikaani felt her heart race as she got closer to the waterfall as they rose in elevation. At the top of the waterfall, they would find the lake. And at the lake, she would find Siku.

    Just past the fall, they saw it. The sun had finally come out and stayed out, and with it, a warm light bathed the lake, which itself was tucked underneath a canopy of towering trees. Where the sun poked through the leaves, it shined off the lake brilliantly. Tikaani had to squint her eyes just to see, and what she saw was breathtaking.

    As far she could see, there were wolves. Big wolves, small wolves. White wolves, black wolves. Wolf pups, old wolves. She counted at least two hundred. Some were drinking of the lake, others were fishing from it. Some were swimming and splashing, others were on dry land and wrestling. Tikaani watched with mouth agape, amazed at the site before her. She was pretty sure that the living humans were unaware of this paradise. Not that they would ruin it or anything—the wolves and humans enjoyed a deep mutual trust—but it seemed almost like a wolf heaven, one completely untouched by the hands of man.

    Tikaani frowned for a moment as she caught her thoughts. For the first time, she found herself sharing a kindredness with her wolf identity. For the first time, she thought of her humanity externally, as something foreign. Her human side was one of them now. She found herself being one of the wolves now. It wasn't a completely unwelcome thought either. She and Siku could no doubt get used to this.

    “Um... Tikaani?” Immuyak mumbled shyly as he nudged her shoulder. To her surprise, she had failed to notice that every single set of eyes at the lake was on them.

    “Uh—hello?” Tikaani forced a weak smile, unsure how to respond.

    “It's Tikaani and Immuyak,” a hushed voice said aloud.

    “No, it's their human Links now,” another piped up.

    “Not little Miki!” a shrill voice cried. “Someone call Kanguyak right away.”

    “Their Links? Then that must be the person using Tikaani's body is...”

    Tikaani gulped guiltily. She could feel their judgment radiating darkly from them. She wanted to shrink and disappear as she felt their blame and hatred threaten to consume her. Though she did not disagree with them: their hatred would be justified anyway. Do your worst, everyone.

    “Nukka!” a gleeful voice shouted from the crowd. “It's really you!”

    “Shila?” she asked excitedly and instinctively, before realizing the voice was definitely a male's voice. A welcome one at that. “No, I'm sorry... Onartok.”

    Onartok emerged from the crowd and dashed toward her and circled around her. “I thought we lost you.”

    “You almost did,” she shrugged. “If it weren't for Immuyak here, I'd be a goner.”

    “Nukilik, too!” Immuyak added with a grin. “But don't give me all the credit, Tikaani. If not for you, I'd be bear food.”

    “Tikaani?” Onartok scowled.

    “Nukka died, remember?” Tikaani sighed.

    “I see...” Onartok hung his head low. “Glad to know you've come to your senses at least.”

    Tikaani did not respond as the rest of the wolves came forward as well to greet them.

    “Hey, where's Mom?” Immuyak asked nervously. “Has anybody seen my mom?”

    “Oh, and Siku!” Tikaani added. “Where is Siku?”

    “I'm right here,” a voice sang from behind her.

    Tikaani's blood ran cold as her heart stopped. Is it really...? Tikaani turned around slowly, taking a deep breath.

    “Mom!” Immuyak leapt onto the owner of the voice's back. She was a large, shaggy, and proud brown wolf with black paws and eye brows. She was Kanguyak.

    “I've been worried half to death, Miki,” Kanguyak began to cry as she nudged the young pup with her muzzle. “I thought I'd lost you.”

    “It's Immuyak now,” he closed his eyes as his mom began to lick his face. “That tickles!”

    “Thank heavens you're alright,” she sighed. “I don't know what I'd do... I can't...”

    “Don't cry, Mom!” the wolf pup laughed. “Tikaani took good care of me.”

    “Tikaani?” the mother wolf frowned. “Before she became... her?

    Tikaani shied away ashamedly. She could feel the mother wolf's judgmental eyes scanning her intently.

    “Nope,” Immuyak ran over to Tikaani. “It was all after Nukka took over.”

    “It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Kanguyak,” Tikaani smiled as Immuyak nudged her warmly. “I'm Tikaani, Immuyak's big sister. And I'm looking for mine.”

  5. #25

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Haven't finished editing either Chapter 8 or this one, but this is a better way to end 2012.

    Spoiler:
    Chapter 9: Alone

    Onartok was a big help in keeping the other wolves off of Tikaani's back. At first, many of them were very bitter and unwilling to talk to her, no doubt hearing of the horror stories she had been the center of as Nukka. But as she mingled with them, she found their misgivings seemed to fade away, or at least they did a good job of keeping them at bay.

    She recognized a few of the wolves around the lake from her time as Nukka. Aukaneck, Nauja's wolf, was among them. He was a cream-colored wolf with a white belly and markings. He was one of the rare cases where a Spirit Wolf and its Link were of opposite genders. She was very glad to know that Aukaneck was Aukaneck and not Nauja, though she wondered what it would be like if Nauja actually were Aukaneck. She laughed at the thought of Nauja enjoying the change. She had always been quite the tomboy.

    Aukaneck wasn't exactly friendly with her, though. He was quite blunt at times, and very unseemly with her. Not that he was expected to do otherwise. He knew her first hand. He knew what kind of monster she was. Even as the other wolves began to warm up to her, Aukaneck probably never would. His eyes echoed with a subtle yet unmistakeable message: You should be dead.

    A few other wolves from the village whose names she did not know caught her attention, though Elder Ahnah's wolf was not among them. Ahnah once said that her Spirit Wolf had died long ago, meaning that were Ahnah to die, she would die straight up. It was a little saddening to know, but Tikaani considered it a fair tradeoff for living such a long life. Ahnah was probably already very eager to take her rightful place amongst the Departed Ones.

    But one face she had been looking for failed to reveal itself. She thought maybe this one was off hunting or something, just like old times, but that did not seem to be the case.

    “Is everything alright, Nu?” Onartok asked as he emerged from the shrubbery with a rabbit carcass in his mouth. The sky began to fade to a dark blue as dusk set in. “Oh, sorry, Tikaani.”

    “Siku's not here, is she?” Tikaani hung her head sadly.

    “I haven't seen her in quite some time,” Onartok shrugged. “Since before you changed.”

    “I see...” Tikaani mumbled. “Do you think she's alive out there?”

    “Why wouldn't she be?” Onartok frowned. “She's tough as a stone, right? It'll take a lot to knock her down.”

    “Like, say, a burning tree?” she began to weep as the inevitable truth nagged at her.

    Onartok was silent for a moment before rubbing close to her. “Come on now... Don't beat yourself up. She's probably fine.”

    “I left her there...” she mouthed painfully. “It was all on me... Everything was my fault.”

    “I'm pretty sure she broke free,” Onartok said consolingly. “Let's go find her together, alright?”

    “But...” she tried to object. This was her problem after all, not his.

    “You're not alone, after all,” Onartok sighed. “You've got me here, always.”

    Tikaani was about to thank him before a large red wolf emerged from the bushes behind her.

    “I hope I didn't barge in on anything intimate,” the wolf rolled its eyes sarcastically, his unmistakeable trademark.

    “Nukilik,” Onartok growled. “What do you want?”

    “Nothing from you, fluffy,” Nukilik shot back. “I came to tell your girlfriend that I just happened to have heard tell from a couple of nobodies that some Spiritless Men were seen in the vicinity of the Village of the Sky with a very alive dark grey wolf in tow. Thought that might be your sis.”

    The Spiritless Men have her? She was taken aback. “You... She's... alive...”

    “Don't take my word for it,” Nukilik shrugged. “I'll meet with you at midnight at the waterfall. The Village of the Sky is a few days' walk north of here, but if we head east, we should be able to reach the Spiritless Men's camp in about three days.”

    “Hey, back off, would you?” Onartok interjected. “I'm taking Tikaani to the Village of the Sky first thing in the morning. We're not gonna take the word of a lone wolf's hearsay over what we already know.”

    “You and your unity, Onartok,” Nukilik barked. “Spare me your nonsense. If you don't want to believe me, that's fine. I'm doing a favor for Miss Pity Parade over here, not you. I'll still be waiting by the waterfall. Now I'll leave you two lovebirds alone.”

    Nukilik stormed off into the shrubs as Onartok heaved in astonishment. “That guy never ceases to be a pain in the paws.”

    “You know him?” Tikaani frowned.

    “Doesn't everybody?” Onartok shrugged. “He's what we call a Lone Wolf. Doesn't give a tooth about anyone but himself. I don't think I've ever met anyone in either of my lives as desperate to be alone as him.”

    Alone... Tikaani sighed and thought of her own desire for solitude. “But didn't he and Tikaani...?”
    “Yeah,” Onartok answered glumly. “That was a big mess. Tikaani ticked off a lot of the others over him, including me. Ran off with that joker one time. I went after them of course and dragged her back. I was keeping an eye on her until she went off with you on that fateful day. I trailed behind you and Nauja until Tikaani came darting out of the woods and begged me to go with her to Angelrouwak as fast as possible. I thought she was trying to get back to Nukilik, but I obliged anyway. We were on our way when she collapsed. The last thing I hear who say was Nuk--. Naturally, I thought she was calling out for Nukilik. I had no idea she was talking about you.”

    “So you were with her when she...,” Tikaani gulped out the next word. “...died?”

    “Um, I guess,” Onartok frowned. “If you want to call it death.”

    Tikaani was silent.

    “Oh, sorry to go off-topic there,” he forced a weak smile. “I thought you would want to know that.”

    “It's fine...” she sighed. A strange memory popped into her head immediately afterward. Come on, Nukilik, the voice in her head pleaded. Come back to Angelrouwak with me. You don't have to be alone...

    But I'm a mistake...


    “You feeling okay, Tikaani?” Onartok interrupted.

    “Yeah...” she winced, trying to recall the odd memory. Was that... Tikaani's memory?

    “Anyway, it's getting late,” Onartok sighed. “We can talk about Nukilik on the way tomorrow. Okay?”

    “Alright,” she nodded. She really wanted to learn more about Nukilik. Something about him seemed kindred to her, and she wanted to know why he was so angry and alone. Though she questioned how reliable Onartok's account would be. If she wanted to know more, she would have to...

    “You guys are leaving?” Immuyak gasped as he came from the shrubs.

    “Busy forest tonight,” Onartok laughed.

    “I have to go find Siku,” Tikaani told the wolf cub. “I found you your mother, like I promised. I'll come right back though.”

    “I want to go too,” Immuyak said sternly. “You helped me. I want to help you. Is that okay?”

    “But your mother.”

    “She said I could go!” Immuyak stood his ground. “I told her how big and strong you and Nukilik are and how you guys would keep me safe.”

    “Nukilik's not coming,” Onartok added in slight disgust.

    “So what?” Immuyak pleaded. “I've still got Tikaani. You said it yourself, you're like my big sister. I don't want you to be alone, so don't leave me alone...”

    “You're not alone, kid,” Tikaani smiled. “You've got your mother. And I won't be alone either.”

    No, the only one who was truly alone was Siku. Whether she was pinned under a tree or captured by the Spiritless Men, the Departed Ones weren't even with her. Siku needed her more than anything. That much was certain.

    “Then we'll go together,” she finally sighed.

    “But I didn't say anything,” Immuyak gave her a puzzled look.

    “You didn't have to,” she smirked. “You never stop until you get what you want.”

    “Heh,” the cub laughed. “You guys are leaving at dawn, right?”

    “Yeah,” she said thoughtfully. “I'll see you two then. I'm going to get some rest.”
    The two wolves nodded as Tikaani left into the shrubs. She found a place on the forest floor underneath the trees and laid down, closing her eyes. She wanted to go right now, but even she understood the importance of rest. She needed all the rest she could get. Siku was waiting. She needed her. That much was certain.

    Her dreams that night weren't as haunting as usual, but instead she dreamed up another strange memory. It was fairly short, and when she did wake up from it an hour before midnight all she could remember was one phrase: Stop throwing yourself a pity party already and get over it. But it wasn't Nukilik talking to her. It was the opposite. She deduced that this was yet another memory of Tikaani's. Was she really one and the same with Tikaani?

    It was an hour before midnight. Nukilik would be waiting for her at the waterfall shortly, most likely. Onartok and Immuyak were probably fast asleep. Good, she thought to herself. She didn't want to burden them. This was her mission after all.

    She emerged near the lake and found nearly all of the wolves were fast asleep. A few had been awake, but none paid her any heed, except maybe Aukaneck. He flashed her a heated look before returning to his business of not caring about her. It was for the best, after all. She didn't want to cause a stir just yet.

    When she arrived at the waterfall, Nukilik had not arrived himself yet. She lowered her muzzle to the water and took a drink as her eyes carefully scanned her horizons. She finally spotted Nukilik, still asleep to the west a few paces. He would probably wake up any minute.

    Meaning she had to act fast. She swam across the water quickly and reached the opposite shore. She turned her back to see that Nukilik still hadn't stirred. Good, she whispered to herself before dashing off into the trees to the east.

    She made it fairly clear to Nukilik that she would probably go with Onartok. That meant he wouldn't think to follow her until daybreak. By then, he'd probably no longer care. She would be miles away already. Onartok and Immuyak wouldn't take the deceit well, but it didn't matter. She had to go now. Siku was waiting. She had to steal her back from the Spiritless Men before it was too late. Even if it meant fighting all of them by herself. Siku was all alone, and to save her, Nukka would have to do it alone.

  6. #26

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Here we go, Act 2 begins here, I guess. This is a non-competition entry, so feel free to post critiques here.

    Chapter 10: Just Like Me

    Spoiler:
    The sun hadn't even peeked over the horizon yet, but its leading rays bathed the land in twilight. A frost coated the forest floor as the deciduous trees began to shed their leaves in anticipation of the coming winter. A chilly wind blew in from the southeast, and with it came a dense fog. Though this was no normal fog. As Tikaani inhaled, it threatened to choke her. No, this was smoke. The flames of the Spiritless Men were being carried northwest, and their white smoke even further. Soon enough, she would be in their territory.

    Tikaani knew to avoid the smoke as best as possible. As Nukka, the flames or the black didn't kill her. Nor did the Spiritless Men themselves. It was the smoke. That's why the wolf stayed as low to the ground as possible as she snaked her way through the dense, dying forest. Even the trees looked sickly under the smoke's dominion.

    She felt a low growling building in the depths of her stomach. She realized quickly that she hadn't eaten since leaving Angelrouwak two days prior. She glanced and sniffed at her surroundings, but found no hint of life. Everything that had lived in this portion of the woods was long dead or had long fled.

    The odor of rot caught the tip of her nose as she spun around to find its source. The wind had shifted direction, this time coming in from the north. Sure enough, about fifty paces in that direction, she found a decaying deer carcass. Her stomach turned as she circled around it, though her mouth watered as she contemplated eating it. Food was food and out here, she needed to sup on something.

    But then she heard the rustling of leaves. She once again spun around, determining that the sound came from the southeast. She stayed low as she tried carefully not to rustle any leaves of her own. When she came to a clearing, she spotted her prey: a small fawn sipping from a puddle of rain water. Tikaani judged that the deer was probably related to the dead one she had just found.

    The fog of smoke began to thin as she silently stalked her meal. It may have been a child, but morals had burned her once before. She needed to eat if she wanted to find Siku. That much had been certain. With a heavy sigh, she closed her eyes, wept inwardly, re-opened them, and pounced. Her teeth found their target and the small deer's life was over. Tikaani's life was rejuvenated.

    As she supped, she silently thanked Nukilik for helping her get the hang of her new form. As Nukilik crept into her thoughts, she felt regret for leaving him behind, as well as Onartok and Immuyak. If she knew them as well as she thought she did, the latter two were probably on their way now to fetch her.

    What disturbed her most was that she felt the same way about Nukilik. For a wolf who wanted little to do with her and seemed to abhor her entire existence, she was surprisingly certain that he would come looking for her. Was it because of how he came back to her at Angelrouwak? Or was it perhaps that she was certain he would come for her?

    She lifted her head once her belly was full. The smoke had already cleared to a reasonable level, though she knew that the shifting wind had a play in that. Even now, the situation around her was deteriorating. The black was taking over as fast as ever.

    She continued her trek to the east for a few more moments, before an eerie sound stopped her dead in her tracks. A faint voice carried itself with the wind, which has again began to blow from the south, carrying more smoke with it. She could not tell the gender of the voice, but it was certainly nearby. She wanted to follow it, but she was approaching fast the Spiritless Men territory. If she were found, she could be in just as much trouble as Siku. She opted instead to continue heading east. She'd eventually find a trail to follow, so it was best to keep on her current course.

    Unfortunately, she stepped on a twig, snapping it in the process. The sound of it breaking in two echoed violently all around her. The source of the voice seemed to hear it, as she then heard movement a good distance to the south. And whatever it was was coming this way.

    Wasting no time, she bolted ahead. She did not want to find out to whom the voice belonged, regardless of how friendly the owner might be. But still, the pursuer seemed to have caught her trail, and the fact they were so steadfast on catching her told her that whoever it was was going to be trouble.

    She rushed through the forest as fast as she could, but took a misstep once more, this time catching her right hind paw in an exposed root, causing her to tumble face first a few yards out into a clearing. She tried to get back to her feet, but she twisted the joint, causing immense pain every time she applied pressure to it. I swear, this leg will be the death of me! She tried to move, but it was too late: her pursuant was upon her. And its appearance shocked her.

    From the bushes emerged a young human woman, probably a year or so younger than Nukka had been. Besides the age gap, her appearance was striking similar. Her skin was dark, a shade or so darker than Nukka was, and her hair was long and black, down to her shoulders, just like Nukka. Her slender frame and loose-fitting skins implied that she was a warrior, much like Nukka had been.

    Tikaani was relieved when she saw her, but her relief soon became fear as the girl approached her slowly, spear in hand, ready to strike. In her eyes, Tikaani saw no emotion except bloodthirst. What village is she from? She tried to scramble away, but the pain had yet to subside.

    “Die!” the girl cried as she raised her spear. Before she could strike, however, she began to cough and heave violently, collapsing to the ground in the process. As the girl trembled, she fell unconscious. The reaction puzzled Tikaani.

    Tikaani limped toward the unconscious girl and inspected her closely. She had been very dirty, implying that she had been in the forest for a long time. As she scanned the girl's body, she noticed a wound on her back. It oozed and flaked, implying that an infection had set in. Tikaani put her paw to the girl's skin and pulled it back rapidly. Her skin was like fire.

    The girl panted feverishly as Tikaani lifted her head in response to new scents. The wind had once again changed direction, causing the smoke to clear up dramatically. The sun was starting to emerge from beneath the horizon. Now was Tikaani's chance to keep going. But the girl was lying there, probably dying.

    Tikaani had known a thing or two about medicine thanks to her own battle with infection. She and Shila had once been out hunting when Nukka had received a large scrape on her leg from a sharp rock. Initially, she had ignored it, but it quickly got infected. Soon, she had been unable to proceed, but Shila had used some herbs she collected to clean the wound and make it better.

    She later told Nukka what she had used: spiritweed, abascia root, and daphnia petals. On their own, abascia was used to fight infection, daphnia was a sterilizer, and spiritweed promoted fast healing. Luckily, the three ingredients were fairly common, at least in the northwestern reaches. Out here in the far south, collecting the ingredients might prove to be somewhat of a challenge.

    She began searching the immediate surroundings, knowing that spiritweed would be something that grows openly in meadows and clearings. It was unmistakeable, due to its green stalks and purple tips. A few yards away, she found something that fit the description growing near a large rock.

    Of course, the inherent problem of being a wolf revealed itself here: she didn't have hands with which to collect the weed! The only thing she could do was yank it out with her mouth. The taste of the spiritweed was bitter as she clenched the stem of the weed between her powerful jaws.

    She trotted over by the convulsing girl and deposited the uprooted weed nearby before continuing her quest for abascia and daphnia. She recalled her sister looking for a river when seeking out the plants for her medicine. Perhaps a water source would prove her best bet for finding the remaining two ingredients.

    As a wolf, her sharper senses allowed her to hear sounds from miles away. She sat still and quiet, listening meditatively for even a hint of rushing water.

    There! She heard the sound of water off to the northeast. She dashed forth without thought—ignoring the sharp, brutal pain in her twisted paw—and charged in the direction of the rush. She had to hurry. Infection was unpredictable: it could spread in an instant and no amount of abascia or daphnia could save the girl.

    About a thousand yards or so to the northeast, she came across the shallow stream. It wasn't much of a river, but Tikaani had little else to work with. She scouted the area for some sign of the distinct orange flower of the abascia. Or perhaps she would find the petals here, though she was unsure what to look for when it came to the daphnia.

    She spotted a small orange abascia flower on the opposite bank. She dove into the water quickly, though it was only about ankle deep. The stream was only a few yards wide and soon she was upon the plant. She took her paws to the frosted earth and began to claw away at the ground beneath the plant.

    Her ire for lack of thumbs had been superseded by her relief that she had at least some advantage in this form. Being able to dig quickly was a huge boon. Even being a wolf had its perks, and those perks just might save someone's life.

    She collected the abascia root from the earth and started searching for some clue about what daphnia looked like. She had never personally seen the plant, so she had little idea how to go about uncovering one for the medicine.

    It was unfortunate that daphnia was probably the most important ingredient of all. It would be fruitless to attempt to fight the affliction if conditions were left favorable for more infection. She thought hard and desperately fought to recall even a hint of what daphnia would look like, but nothing came to mind. She was certain it would stand out amongst similar plants. But even so, she had no way of knowing for sure. What if the plant she would mistake for daphnia turned out to be toxic? She wasn't willing to take such a risk.

    She started back towards the girl. At least she had two of the three plants at her disposal. She could at least start to mix the ingredients together, if it could buy her a shred of time. When she approached the clearing, the girl was conscious again and on her feet. While I'm happy she's alive, this can't possibly be good. Tikaani approached cautiously as the girl caught sight of the wolf. Immediately, the girl lunged for her spear and pointed it at Tikaani, defensively. Oh boy, this again.

    “Stay back!” the girl cried, the sound of her voice foreign to Tikaani's ears. Was it because of the girl's strange accent or because her ears were not used to human voices? She could not say.

    Another problem immediately revealed itself to Tikaani as her eyes met the scared sick girl. She had no way of speaking to her! Wolves could not talk to humans, obviously. She did find it strange that she could understand human words, though. At least this wasn't worse than it had any business being.

    Tikaani let out a defeated whimper and deposited the abascia root on the forest floor. She walked backward a few paces, doing her best to tell the girl, Here. Medicine.

    The girl took note of the gesture and her eyes glowed a bit in recognition. “Is that... abascia?” the girl spoke in her strange voice. She put her hand on her wound, then glanced back at Tikaani. “You brought me... abascia?”

    Tikaani, unsure of the proper response, wagged her tail and yipped playfully, though this startled the girl, who clenched the spear ever tighter. Tikaani would have to work on her communication skills a bit better if she wanted to diffuse this situation.

    She lowered her head to the floor and pointed at the abascia with her nose, wagging her tail and whimpering. The girl took note of this and stepped forward, still clenching the spear tightly, watching Tikaani's every move. She approached the root cautiously and picked it up carefully. She pulled a small satchel from underneath her shirt and added the abascia to it.

    “Now I just need some spiritweed and I can heal this affliction,” she said out loud to herself.

    Tikaani barked in response, setting the girl on guard, but Tikaani dashed forth anyway.

    “Stay back, I said!” the girl cried, pointing her spear, but Tikaani charged past her. The girl turned toward her and frowned.

    Tikaani approached the pile of spiritweed and wagged her tail excitedly. This was probably the most humiliating thing she ever had the misfortune of doing.

    “You brought me... spiritweed, too?” the girl gasped in disbelief. “What are you...?”

    Tikaani yipped and wagged her tail, nudging the spiritweed with her nose. No, let's work on trust, Tikaani thought and snatched up the weed in her mouth. The girl jumped in response to this as Tikaani trotted forward without pause. She would hand deliver the weed herself if she must.

    “What are you doing?” the girl cried in intense fear. “Would you... stay... I don't...”

    Tikaani stopped front of the girl and wagged her tail, raising her mouth to the girl's hand. Take it already! The girl put out her hand and Tikaani passed along the weed gently. The girl trembled before putting her hand on Tikaani's muzzle, which shocked even the unexpecting wolf.

    “You are not Tonrar?” the girl continued to tremble as Tikaani let her scratch at her head. Tonrar? What is that? “I don't... please... stay...”

    Ugh, again with the stay back nonsense, Tikaani growled inwardly. She pulled back and sharply and turned to go, done playing games with the strange girl. As she turned to leave, she heard a thud. The girl had collapsed again. Tikaani rushed to her side, realizing that the girl's fever had not yet broken. She needed to administer the medicine and get her hydrated before it was too late.

    Tikaani dug furiously at the ground beneath the nearly unconscious girl and tried to get herself under her. If she could get the girl on her back, she could drag her to the stream. The girl was responsive enough to understand and clenched onto the wolf's back. Tikaani pulled with all her strength and started to inch along toward the water.

    As she paced forward, ignoring the pain in her leg, she thought critically about why she was doing what she was doing. What was this girl to her? Why was she going to great lengths to save a stranger? The idea of saving someone she didn't even know, let alone who tried to kill her, was preposterous, yet here she was trying to do the right thing. Something about the girl resonated within her. As foreign as this girl was in so many aspects, Tikaani felt a sameness that she could not quite describe.

    It took a couple of hours before she finally reached the stream. She was tired, restless, and in severe pain from the heavy load. Once she put her down against a rock, Tikaani nudged at the girl's shirt, searching for the satchel containing the medicine. Once she found it, she ripped it away from her body and stuffed her muzzle inside of it. The smell of the plants was irritably strong as her tongue lapped as much of the stuff into her mouth as possible.

    She felt strange and heady as a result, but continued on, ripping away the girl's shirt with her paw and exposing the oozing wound to the cold morning air. She opened her mouth, letting the ecstatic ingredients fall to the wound. She began to lick rapidly at the wound, spreading around the medicine. The girl winced in pain as Tikaani continued her work. Once she felt she had done enough, she raised her head, stepped back, and immediately fell to the ground.

    “Whoa, be careful with that!” Shila screamed as Nukka let Tikaani sniff at the medicine Shila had prepared for her.

    “What's the matter?” Nukka frowned, pulling the mixture of ingredients close to her. “Isn't it medicine?”


    “For humans,” Shila tried to explain. “But daphnia... That stuff is highly toxic to wolves. Even a single whiff of that can kill a strong adult one. Don't mess around with that stuff around the Spirit Wolves, okay?”


    * * *


    If there was one thing Tikaani missed, it was the feel of lying next to a fire. There was nothing quite like letting the fire heat her fur and fill her with unparalleled vibrance. When Nukka was alive, she would lie next to her and drift off to sleep as the flames soothed and protected her.

    Tikaani frowned as her eyes shot open. It was dark outside, the only light being the fire she lay beside. Her head felt strange as she tried to process the foreign thought that just crept over her. It was another of Tikaani's. It was more proof that Tikaani may yet still live on within her. That or proof that daphnia truly was no joke.

    Her head was foggy and her surroundings foreign to her under the blanket of night. She looked about and saw a human girl lying across from her, deep in slumber huddled up near the fire. Oh right... The girl shivered under the frigid cold air, but she likely slept on the opposite end of the flame for a perfectly good reason.

    Tikaani, or rather Nukka at least, was all too familiar with the fear of wolves. Shila had been terrified of them for years, so she suspected that the girl had suffered a similar traumatic experience. She had a mind to discover what exactly that was.

    But prying into other people's affairs was never something Nukka cared much for doing. The notion of doing so was quite foreign, almost as if it belonged to someone else. Could it have been Tikaani's doing? Was the original Tikaani somehow reclaiming control of her mind? Whatever was happening, Tikaani knew one thing: Nukka's and Tikaani's minds could not be more different.

    She got to her feet and stumbled toward the nearby stream for a quick drink. Her hind leg seared with pain, but she was also still woozy and uncoordinated thanks to the daphnia. She was more lucky than anything that she was still alive. She did put her life on the line for a stranger, after all.
    That would have been out of character too were it not for her recent escapades with Immuyak. But what if those drives to protect him were Tikaani after all? What if the original Tikaani was the reason she was changing? What if she was still the same old bitter Nukka? She entertained these thoughts for a few minutes more before lying back down next to the fire.As she began to drift to sleep, she smiled. Today, she found herself a tiresome companion. Never had she met someone so stubborn, so fearful, so guarded, so reckless, and so malcontent. This girl is quite a handful, she thought before closing her eyes. She's literally just like me.

  7. #27
    this is my design LaCaSiNa's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Wahey, I actually managed to squeeze in some time to reflect upon your current chapter! \o/

    You probably remember my doubts over your solution of having Tikaani search for Siku alone. My main problem with it was that in the worst case scenario it might not have any purpose. Well, I’m glad to say that based on this chapter some of those fears have been alleviated. If I remember correctly, I wished Tikaani would experience something that makes sense in the context of her being alone. Meeting and helping a human girl is a good way to start. I don’t think it would’ve worked as fluently had there been other wolves around. The way Tikaani has to remember what plants to use for healing is a nice touch. The search is executed fairly well, even though I would’ve liked to have a bit more detail. Among the quest for the healing plants one of the problems of this chapter arises.

    ”Of course, the inherent problem of being a wolf revealed itself here: she didn't have hands with which to collect the weed!”
    Be very careful when considering adding exclamation marks. In this particular case I think you can get away with it, however. The way the paragraph continues from here is a smooth transition, so the exclamation mark isn’t too big a distraction. So where’s the problem, you ask? Well, you used it again.

    ”Another problem immediately revealed itself to Tikaani as her eyes met the scared sick girl. She had no way of speaking to her!” I really don’t think the exclamation point is necessary here. I understand why you used it, since it’s a similar sentence structure as the first one: the reader is being informed of the exact problem in the current situation. My opinion on the matter is that ending the sentence with a period doesn’t take away anything. It simply becomes a fact. With the exclamation mark it feels slightly childish. Furthermore, the next sentence (”Wolves could not talk to humans, obviously.”) isn’t that smooth of a transition. The adverb doesn’t necessarily have to be excluded with a comma.

    Okay, moving on. One thing I kept waiting and waiting in this was a paragraph where Tikaani questions her actions towards the human. It arrives fairly late, but it exists so it’s not a bad thing. You probably did it so you could easily weave into the conclusion that the human reminds Tikaani of herself. It’s slightly cliché, but the prospect of Tikaani and the girl becoming friendly – or even friends – is enticing. It’s a new dynamic. The reader has mostly dealt with wolf-to-wolf interactions in your story, so it’s a welcome change. For this to be more effective the chapter title should’ve been a bit different. As soon as we’re revealed that Tikaani is dealing with a human girl I immediately knew what your final sentence would be. If this title spoiler was intentional on your part, then pay me no heed.

    So, all in all I think this is a promising way to start Tikaani’s lone(or perhaps not so lone?) journey. I have a feeling it’ll both add to her character and introduce new ways of making the story more versatile. It was also a good decision on your behalf to have a bit of a breather before truly delving into the Spiritless Men action. You have me very intrigued indeed, Foxy!

  8. #28

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Good point on the title thing. I dropped the ball title-wise on this chapter. D: I almost always use the title as a guide to play with multiple contexts and try to finish the chapter in an unexpected way. (see: "Big Sister", probably the best example of this title play in action) However, I didn't do that with this one for some reason. If memory serves, there was a different context in the original chapter, but that got sifted out with the rewrite. And the title was originally different, but I forgot what it was. Might make for a good refocusing exercise! ^^ Thank you, as always, for the critique, LaCa.~

  9. #29

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Chapter 11: Fixed

    Spoiler:
    The cold rain was a far cry from the warm fire by Nukka's side, but it could scarce be helped. He was being stubborn, as usual, so she had little choice but to drag herself all the way out here in the summer rains.

    Nukilik liked to stay in the caves to the south. He enjoyed the solitude, and who could blame him? She was sure that as much time he spent in the caves, he still probably hadn't yet explored them all. One of these days, she wanted to explore them herself. Her curiosity would get the best of her eventually.

    “Nukilik!” she called out as she approached the mouth of the cave. “It's me! Where are you?”

    No response.

    Typical,
    she rolled her eyes. “You gonna mope all night again? Come on, I'm cold!”

    No response.

    “You're unbelievable,” she sighed before turning to go. One of these days she'd change him. One of these days she'd change Nukka. She was surrounded by so many broken people, and she felt like the only one who could fix them. That was her goal. Tikaani's goal.

    * * *

    “Wake up.”

    The cold, morning air was no match for the ice in the girl's voice as she stirred Tikaani without a hint of emotion. The wolf stretched as she let out an elongated yawn. She wasn't used to being awakened so bluntly. But that could hardly be helped.

    Tikaani glanced up at the sky. Clouds were rolling in from the west, obscuring the morning sun. Rain, she said to herself, sensing the change in air pressure. Never before had she been so attuned to nature as she was now as a wolf. It seemed the perks were starting to outweigh the detriments.

    “Eat,” the girl stated as she brought some cooked fish from the fire.

    No amount of perks were going to make up for the communication barrier, however. Especially with someone so blunt as the girl. Tikaani snatched up the fish without a second thought, enjoying hot, cooked meat for the first time since being Nukka. Strangely, she didn't care too much for it anymore. Not like she did as a human.

    “Good thing you survived,” the girl mumbled as she sat down on the opposite end of the fire, never daring to make eye contact with the wolf. What little compassion exuded from her tone was enough to surprise Tikaani. “I thought you were a goner for sure...”

    Tikaani whimpered in response. I guess we think alike... Tikaani thought the girl had been a goner as well. At least the concern was mutual, if not a little forced and awkward on the girls's part. How organic can it be expressing concern for someone you tried killing the day before? It even took a few days for her to come around from wanting Siku dead.

    “You're not like the others,” the girl sighed. “You are clearly not Tonrar.”

    Tikaani turned her head at mention of the word. What did that word mean? It certainly wasn't something she heard often in the Village of the Sky, if at all.

    “No, not Tonrar,” the girl closed her eyes and nodded. “So you must be Aningan.”

    You lost me already. Tikaani whimpered in confusion.

    “I will call you Aningan,” the girl forced a smile. “You have protected me well.”

    Tikaani still did not follow, but it seemed the girl was going to start calling her by a third name now. Pretty soon, she'd forget her name was Nukka in the first place with all of these extra names. But fine, I'll play along, she smiled inwardly. For the time being, in the girl's company, her name would be Aningan.

    “My name is Chena,” the girl rose to her feet. “Not that you'd understand that.”

    If only you knew, Tikaani rolled her eyes.

    “Come, Aningan,” the girl limped away from the camp, heading south. She still was not fully recovered from her injuries. “It will rain soon. There is shelter nearby.”

    Tikaani had little choice but to follow her. As important as finding Siku was, she couldn't just abandon the girl. Something about her spoke to Tikaani on a profound level. She wanted to find out what that was.

    As they paced along through the thick brush, Tikaani recalled last night's dream. It was another memory of Tikaani's. They were becoming clearer and more detailed by the day. She wondered if the memories and thoughts would stop with just sharing, though. What if Tikaani was slowly taking over her Nukka side? What if one day she'd wake up with no memory of her Nukka half at all? What if she would be suppressed by the pervading wolf thoughts permanently? It was rather easy to forget that she had been the parasite in the first place.

    She tried not to think too hard about that. She was content with the possibility that Tikaani was letting Nukka keep control until Siku was saved. After that, she wouldn't mind what would happen. If Tikaani got to reclaim the body, so be it. Just being able to rescue her sister was more than Nukka could ask for.

    “We're here,” Chena stated as a cold drizzle began to fall from the sky. Tikaani entered the clearing and her eyes widened at the sight before her.

    “It's just like the dream,” her mouth gaped open. Before her was the cave from last night's dream, where Tikaani had called out for Nukilik. What is the meaning of this? She dashed ahead of Chena to the mouth of the cave.

    “Nukilik!” she called out involuntarily. Despite her confusion from the outburst, she still waited with bated breath for someone or something to exit the
    cave. To her surprising disappointment, nothing did.

    “What is it, Aningan?” Chena frowned as she caught up with Tikaani. “Is something there?”

    No... she sighed before climbing the cliff face into the cave. The mouth of the cave was a good fifty or sixty feet from the ground, bored into a large limestone escarpment. At the top, the smell of mold and muck struck Tikaani's nose as the howl of wind reverberated along the walls of the cave.

    “Not much has changed here,” Chena said as she arrived, her voice echoing off the cave walls. “I've been camping out here every now and then since I found this place.”

    Tikaani shared her nostalgic feelings, even though her Nukka half had never set foot here. Even in the cold emptiness of the cave she found a familiar warmth that was simultaneously completely foreign to her.

    “I will be back soon,” Chena turned to exit the cave. “I'm going to find some firewood and food. Do as you please and I'll see you soon, Aningan.”

    Look at her telling me to stick around in so many words, Tikaani groaned. It wasn't like she had a rescue mission to worry about or anything.

    “Oh,” Chena turned around to face Tikaani. “Thank you, by the way. For saving me. And staying by my side.”

    Chena forced another smile, though this one was somewhat more genuine. She turned to go, leaving Tikaani to her own devices. The wolf laughed inwardly, amused by Chena's antics. The girl was quite the stick in the mud, though any time she did let her guard down to show emotion, she did her best to appear to be faking it. That was an old strategy of Nukka's. And an old one of his too.

    Tikaani frowned before looking deeper into the caves. She recalled that her dream self had desired to explore the caves more thoroughly. Perhaps she would take an hour or two to explore the caves while Chena was gone. They would be on their way once the rain subsided, so now would likely be her only chance to check them out.

    As she navigated her way into the caverns, she found it fairly easy to get around, almost as if she knew where every path led. She came through a large room that had several tunnels that snaked out from it, yet she knew that two of those were dead ends. The smallest one would lead to a small underground pool, so she followed that one.

    In the pool room, she noted an eerie glow coming from the pool. The glow, while faint, was enough to illuminate the entire room.

    Nukilik, she heard her voice echo within her head. Or rather, Tikaani's voice.

    * * *

    “Why didn't you answer me?” Tikaani growled as she entered the pool room to find Nukilik lying on the ground with a sullen expression. When he took note of her, his face glowed for an instant before it attempted to return to its previous sullen state. Instead it just looked silly. How typical.

    “Tikaani, you came...” the red wolf said distantly.

    “What made you think I wouldn't?” the blue wolf sighed. “Come on, you know me better than that.”

    “I guess,” Nukilik forced a chuckle. Tikaani noticed that his strained expression this time was authentic.

    “You're hurt,” she gasped as she rushed to his side.

    “It's nothing I can't handle,” he moaned and grumbled.

    “Let me see you!” she cried as she nudged at Nukilik with her nose. After a few more thrusts, she had turned him over on his side, exposing his bloody neck.

    “Those guys went right for the throat,” he laughed whilst wincing in pain.

    “Who did this?” she questioned him sternly.

    “Pamiiruq and Pukulria,” he mouthed. “They said something I didn't like so I attacked them. Two against one wasn't exactly a fair fight.”

    Tikaani backed away, somewhat annoyed. “So you instigated it, then?”

    “Yeah,” he rose to his feet. “Like I said, I didn't like what came out of their mouths.”

    “And what would that be?” she scowled.

    The color in his face flushed. “You, uh... you wouldn't understand.” Oh, really? “The point is, I got really mad and now I get to pay for it. It's only a scrape through, so I'll be all patched up in no time. It'll heal on its own.”

    “Good,” Tikaani smiled, which relieved the red wolf. You're not off the hook yet. She grinned wider, exposing her teeth before pouncing upon Nukilik, knocking the both of them into the pool. In response, the water sparkled brilliantly. Nukilik emerged from underwater, sputtering like a fool.

    “What was that for?” Nukilik groaned. “I'm injured, remember?”

    “Just shut up,” she smirked, splashing the water at him with her tail. “Instead of fighting over me, let's play a little.”

    “Fighting over you?” Nukilik laughed. “Yeah right. You're not that popular.”

    Tikaani splashed him again. “Why can't you always laugh like this? Stop being so moody and laugh a little, okay? You remind me of Nukka sometimes.”

    Nukilik instantly became rigid, which startled her. “Is something wrong?”

    “You wouldn't understand,” he frowned, trying not to make eye contact.

    “If it bothers you that much, then tell me,” she got close to him.

    He sighed heavily before continuing.“It's about your Link, Nukka,” he gulped. “I think I've found a way to fix things-”

    * * *

    A blood-curdling scream pierced the air all around Tikaani as it echoed off the walls. She instinctively knew to whom the scream belonged, and immediately feared the worst. Without hesitation, she darted through the small tunnel, into the large room, and out the next series of tunnels. Hold on, Chena, I'm coming! Before she knew it, she was at the mouth of the cave. The sight before her shook every fiber of her being.

    Chena was dangling over the cliff face, holding on for dear life. When she caught sight of Tikaani, she let out a desperate squeal. She seemed unable to lift herself over the cliff. As she struggled, her arms gave way, causing her to lose grip on the cliff. As she began to fall, she let out another shrill scream that was nearly drowned out by the clap of thunder.

    When Tikaani could finally process her thoughts, she found her teeth clenched tightly around Chena's arm as the rest of her dangled over the cliff side. Tikaani herself was nearly over the edge and using every ounce of strength she had to stay atop the cliff.

    “Aningan, you...” Chena gasped as she looked up at her rescuer, disbelief etched across her face.

    Hold on, Chena! Her thoughts cried out as she struggled back upon the cliff. She felt her grip on the girl loosening and bit down tighter, breaking the skin and pouring fresh blood into the wolf's mouth. Chena screamed in anguish, which caused Tikaani to wince. She didn't want to hurt the poor girl but it was a far better alternative than letting her plummet like Shila did.

    The thought of losing Shila consumed her consciousness and nearly caused her to let go of the falling girl in shock. She couldn't save her own sister from falling to her death. Why should she save a total stranger? The thoughts nearly caused her to let go, but a new stronger thought crawled out from the back of her mind. Because she needs me! Because I have to fix her!

    With unflinching resolve, she moved all of her muscles to pull the girl to safety as parts of the cliff face gave way under their weight. Once Chena was safely tossed onto stable ground, Tikaani released her painful grip from the girl and panted heavily. Chena began to convulse in terror at the sight of her mangled arm.

    “What did you do...!” she panicked. “Why did you...!”

    The girl was having a strange reaction to the wound, but nonetheless was out of any real danger. Tikaani circled around her and began tugging at her shirt.

    “What are you...?” Chena mouthed hysterically. “Get off of me, you Tonrar...!”

    Tikaani ignored her violent protests and ripped a piece of her tunic off, just large enough to place over the wound. She pulled the scrap of clothing over it and tightened it around Chena's arm with her teeth. She nudged at her other arm, signaling for the girl to tie the cloth down.

    Chena did so haphazardly, then trembled savagely. Tikaani was unsure if it was from the cold torrent or the hysteria, though she did suspect a mixture of both. Tikaani waited awhile for the girl to calm down before laying her head on her lap and whimpering in consolation.

    “I'm sorry, Aningan,” Chena heaved as she struggled to settle down. “You saved me... I was... looking out past the horizon... When the lightning came... It startled me... And then you saved me... But the blood... Oh Iqniq! There was so much blood...”

    Tikaani turned her head slightly and cuddled up against the girl. Who would have thought someone as thick-skinned as Chena would be terrified of blood? It was quite the strange, if not somehow amusing, revelation. It looked like Chena required a bit more fixing than Tikaani had imagined.

    The rain continued to pour and the thunder continued to roar, so Chena and Tikaani sat in silence for the rest of the evening. They must have dozed off at some point, because Tikaani did not remember it getting dark, nor did she remember the sun rising the next day.

    What aroused her from her slumber was not a shout nor a prod, but a smell. A pungent one that called out to her like a wailing lynx. Chena must have smelled it too as she was instantly up and on her feet. Tikaani drowsily looked around and began to cough. She could hardly see through the haze, though it was apparent that the rain had long since passed. What caught her attention most, however, was the dancing flame on the horizon to the east. It was a flame that could only mean one thing.

    Hold on, Siku... Tikaani glanced at Chena, who stared at the flames, treed in an eerie trance. Her eyes flickered with fierce resolve. Chena seemed to know very well what lie in that direction. Was it her village? Before she could question it, Chena was gone. She rushed down the cliffside and darted in the direction of the flames. Tikaani followed suit. Her destination—their destination—had been fixed.

  10. #30

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Aside from the usual 'read it aloud' stuff I say so that you can catch redundancies and stuff (also I'm tired bleh) I like the plot around Tikaani and Nukilik being expanded upon and I also love how you don't know that Chena was saved until Tikaani finds herself dragging her up, kind of like that moment in a movie where they save the person at the last second. Very well done.

  11. #31

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Chapter 12: Down in Flames

    Spoiler:
    For the second time that day, Tikaani stopped to rest. Her hind leg, the one she had injured against the bear, the one she had aggravated as she fled Chena, felt as if it were set to flames. When the pain became unbearable, she collapsed to the forest floor. On the bright side, she was able to stop and catch her breath. But every passing moment allowed Chena to inch further and further into harm's way.

    Normally, Tikaani would be able to keep up with, or even outrun Chena. But not like this. Not while the pain was too much to bear. Once she would find Siku, she meant to have Onartok check out the leg. He seemed to have capable hands when it came to medicines and injuries. Or capable paws rather.

    Once the pain had finally cleared, she struggled back to her feet, coughing a little as the air thickened with a faint smoke. It was now mid-afternoon, judging by the sun. The shadows of the trees and shrubbery had already begun to lengthen. Save for the smoke blowing in from the east, it was a bright, clear day. Tikaani had to wince just to keep from being blinded.

    As soon as her leg could bear her weight, Tikaani took to a slow trot. At this pace, she had no chance of catching up to Chena; she had already lost scent of her a couple of hours prior. She deeply hoped that the girl had not switched direction; she did not want to lose her any more than she already had. Yet the further south and east Tikaani traveled, the more she wished that Chena had indeed veered her course.

    The trees had grown sparse this far from civilization. Clearings were more prominent and the earth grew more and more hilly. She was certain of it now; any further south and she would be out of the Great Forest. She had never left the Great Forest before, nor did she know what lay beyond in the southern reaches. As adventurous as she was, she had no real intention of finding out. The thought sent a chill down her back.

    Luckily, her destination seemed more east than south, and judging by the presence of flames, something had to be burning. At least she was certain her destination was not quite out of the woods. But that thought wasn't entirely comforting either. She quivered as the scent of burning wood and black teased her nostrils. She was practically on death's doorstep, and had no guarantee of coming back from the flames unharmed. She had died once of choke, and now would likely be no different.

    But not only was Siku in those flames, but now Chena too. She had to brave the smoke and blaze, and thankfully she could crawl close to the ground, protecting her from suffocation for the most part. Yeah, I can do this! She nodded her head with determination: she was not giving up on Siku; she was not giving up on Chena, either. It was her duty as a sister and as a Spirit Wolf.

    She found that final thought odd. Was it another of Tikaani's feelings seeping through? Or did she actually fancy herself Chena's Spirit Wolf? She shook her head and laughed; Chena likely had a Spirit Wolf of her own. Though Tikaani did wonder what kind of wolf Chena had. Was it a strong and social one? Or was it like Nukilik, a loner and a coward?

    Was that really a fair assessment of Nukilik though? What was her opinion of Nukilik? Did she like him? Did she find him annoying? She had once come to a satisfying conclusion: he was a jerk. But now, as memories of Tikaani's trickled into her own, she found it a lot harder to peg her judgment of the red wolf down. He was certainly more complex than she initially decided.

    Lost as she was in her fleeting thoughts, she did not notice the sudden drop in elevation. As the ground sloped downward beneath her feet, she stumbled, twisting her hind leg once again in the process. She tumbled down the slope, all the way to the foot and beyond, only stopping once her back slammed into a tree, knocking a half dozen pine cones from its branches. Her head was not spared their descent.

    Her head felt dizzy and rattled for a moment, but immediately thereafter, her leg set ablaze with pain. She quickly forgot her new headache and backache, and struggled to her feet. The endeavor proved futile, as she soon collapsed once more. Her leg felt like a spear had been jammed through it. She wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, amused sardonically by her repetitive injuries.

    As she rested, a pungent odor filled her nostrils with every gasp: one which she had previously recognized only from afar. But now it was unmistakeable, and close. So close in fact that the tree she had slammed into was half consumed by it itself. She lowered her head and looked to the east. What had once been a distant nightmare, was now a dark, tangible reality before her eyes.

    “The black...” she whispered aloud, staring in awe.

    Gone were the trees and in their stead was sheer desolation. Grey ash and black char blanketed the land as isolated flames smoldered across it. Where once there were trees now stood tall black pillars, reminders of the living things that were once rooted here, now nothing but ash and death. She could not bring herself to imagine what it would be like if the black were to consume the entire Great Forest.

    A sound from the top of the hill startled Tikaani, who spun around in surprise. Something small and brown rolled down the hill against its will, much like she had just done. It stopped at the foot of the hill, not even ten feet away from Tikaani, eating a mouthful of dirt in the process. It looked up at Tikaani and its hazel-green eyes lit up.

    “Found you!” Immuyak laughed as he rose to his feet, then began to leap around excitedly. “It's her! It's her! It's really her!”

    Nukilik darted down the hill behind the wolf pup and circled Tikaani, catching his breath in the process before stopping, his face inches away from her hers. His eyes weren't nearly as excited.

    “What did you think you were doing?” he barked angrily, causing Tikaani to take a step back. “Did you want to get yourself killed?”

    “Hello to you too, Nukilik,” Tikaani rolled her eyes before helping Immuyak back to his feet. “What are you doing out here?”

    “Coming to get you, of course,” Nukilik rolled his own. They really weren't terribly different beasts, Nukka thought in amusement. “You have any idea what me and the kid had to go through to sniff you out? It's hard to track when you're dealing with smoke.”

    “Hey, guys...” Immuyak whimpered, interrupting Nukilik's tirade. “What's going on here?”

    He stepped back, trembling in fear, taking in his own first glimpse of the dreaded black.

    “What's wrong with you?” Nukilik asked impatiently.

    “It's his first time seeing the black,” Tikaani sighed. “It's mine too... This is what the Spiritless Men are capable of?”

    “This is what my village looks like now,” Immuyak began to cry. “This is what happened to my home...”

    “Get used to it, you two,” Nukilik said with a pang of defeat, unnatural for the seemingly relentless wolf. “There's nothing we can do to stop them. They destroy everything in their path. Give it another few months and the whole Great Forest will go down in flames.”

    “Why?” Tikaani shouted, startling even Nukilik. “Why are they doing this? What kind of monsters would do such a thing to our homes?”

    “They're men,” Nukilik growled lowly. “It's what your kind do. You settle. You take. You conquer. These woods belonged to the animals long before you built your villages here.”

    “But our people live in harmony with the animals here,” Tikaani challenged. “We don't destroy like this! This is senseless!”

    “It is,” Nukilik begrudgingly agreed. “But it's not entirely without motive.”

    “What do you mean?” Tikaani frowned. Did he know something?

    “It's only a theory, but...” Nukilik took a deep breath. “Okay, tell me. What do you fear, Nukka?”

    “What does that have to do with-”

    “Everything!” he shouted. “What do you fear?”

    She paused before answering with a mumble. “Losing my sister.”

    “And what would you do to alleviate that fear? What would you do if you had to face that fear and lost your sister for good?”

    “I still don't see-”

    “Answer the question.”

    She thought about it for a moment. What would she do to see her sister back safely? What would she do if the Spiritless Men had already killed her sister?

    “If I lost my sister...”

    She sighed and closed her eyes.

    “I'd kill them all. I'd topple their homes. I'd tear down the very sky itself. I'd make the entire world go down in flames.”

    “A little extreme, but you get the gist,” Nukilik nodded. “Fear motivates action. I think... I think the Spiritless Men fear us... They want us gone. Our way of life. As long as we exist, as long as their fear exists, they can never rest in peace.”

    “You really think so?” she asked.

    “I can't say for certain,” he admitted. “I really can't. But that's my guess. It does make some sense, wouldn't you agree?”

    “Yeah,” she nodded before turning to Immuyak. He was on the ground, shivering in fear of his own. “You guys should get out of here. It's really dangerous.”

    “Why do you think we came?” Nukilik scowled. “We aren't about to let you go kill yourself.”

    “Why did you bring him?” Tikaani snapped back. “You know what we're up against, yet you willingly put him in danger?”

    “It wasn't his choice to make,” Immuyak said, quieting everyone. “You're my big sister, aren't you? You should know better than anyone that sometimes the little sibling needs to save the bigger one. That's why I'm coming with you. To save Shila.”

    “No you're not,” Nukilik replied in annoyance, as if the two had been over this before. “We came to take her back.”

    “No,” Tikaani stood her ground. “It's not just Siku anymore. I can't leave her behind either.”

    “Leave who behind?” Immuyak asked.

    Tikaani let out a sigh and was about to speak when Nukilik hushed her. “You guys smell that?”

    The three of them began to sniff the air. Tikaani caught it too shortly thereafter.

    “Three of them,” Nukilik said. “Two male, one female.”

    “They're in the flames,” Immuyak added. “Not even a mile ahead.”

    “Men.” Tikaani sighed, though unlike the other two, she smelled recognition.

    “There's a struggle,” Nukilik continued. “Listen close and you can hear the sound of steel meeting steel.”

    “No...” Tikaani's eyes began to flicker. She's going to die... The Spiritless Men... No... No!

    Before the others could react, Tikaani was off. Her leg ached with dull pain with every step, but there was no time. Her friend, her link, needed her.

    “What are you doing?” Nukilik howled from behind her.

    “Tikaani!” Immuyak cried.

    She turned around to face her friends. “I'll come back. Give me time. I promise I'll come back. Please don't come after me.”

    “Tikaani!” Immuyak repeated as she bolted away, directly into the billowing smoke.

    She kept low to the ground, avoiding the smoke, which rose from the flames that surrounded her. Slowly the smoke thickened and burned her eyes. She was unable to see even two feet in front of her. The smell of the burning black lingered constantly, but every now and then she got a whiff of the three people in front of her. Every now and then she heard the sound of steel echo louder and louder.

    Soon she heard the grunts and shouts and she knew she was nearly upon them. The smoke began to clear enough to see as Tikaani darted into the clearing. She saw them for the first time. Two men, spears locked, gazing at each other behind decorated masks that covered their faces. Chena was nowhere to be found. Am I too late?

    No...
    she thought to herself. I have to act... These men... If I don't get rid of them now...

    Purely by instinct, Tikaani lunged out of the trees and dashed toward the closest man. She was upon him before he could react, pinning him to the cold ground and knocking his spear into the air. The other man leaped in surprise before charging forward to stop her. She swiped her tail, knocking him from his feet before he could approach.

    She took attention to the pinned man and knocked off his mask with her muzzle, revealing his face. It shocked her that he looked just like her own people. There was little difference between them. She growled as she tore for his throat, but the sound of a spear piercing the ground two inches behind her took her by surprise.

    “Down, Aningan,” said the female voice.

    Tikaani turned around slowly to look at the source of the voice. It was a tall rugged young woman, wearing an ornate mask with triangle patterns. It was a beautiful mask, but it did not change the fact that the woman in front of her was a Spiritless Man—or rather, Woman. It did not change the fact that her scent, her voice, her choice of words were all unmistakeable. Even as she took off her mask, it did not change the fact that without a doubt in the world, the woman in front of her was Chena.

    It can't be...

    In Tikaani's shock, the armed man took advantage of her confusion and charged toward her, poised to kill.

    “Die, you Tonrar!” he shouted, but his spear was met by Chena's before he could pass the sentence.

    “Fall back, Anyu.” Chena's eyes did not blink. Her face was a mask itself.

    “Don't stop him, Chena,” the previously pinned man got to his feet as Tikaani stepped back in fear. “Let's kill the bitch and be done with it.”

    “I will not have it,” Chena replied flatly. “She's not like the other Tonrar.”

    “She's a demon just like them all!” Anyu challenged. “You can't expect me to let her live after she nearly ripped out Sirmiq's throat! I'll rip out hers instead!” He pulled his spear back and lunged again.

    “I won't let you,” Chena clenched her spear and parried his once more. “She is my friend. Aningan saved my life, and I mean to repay that debt here.”

    “You're making a big mistake, little girl,” Anyu sneered. “She attacked us unprovoked. We were only sparring until she meant to kill us both.”

    “She is scared. She has every right to be. Look what we have done to her home.”

    “You think we have a choice?” Sirmiq grunted weakly. “You think we burn down the forest because we want to?”

    “I don't care,” Chena growled. “Take me to father already. I want to speak with him.”

    “You're both alike,” Anyu spat. “At least your father had the sense to do what was necessary.”

    “Be quiet,” Chena said plainly. “You speak of our leader. Now take me to him.”

    “Very well,” Anyu sighed. “Our camp is not far. I still find it hard to believe you lost it.”

    The two men paced forth as Chena turned to Tikaani. “Come, Aningan, let us go home.”

    Tikaani was frozen still. There was no way she could accept this. Her enemy was under her nose the whole time. And now she had no choice but to follow her. In an instant, every hope she had of saving Chena, of saving Siku, of saving Immuyak and Nukilik, and even herself, had all gone down in flames.

  12. #32

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    The twist is nice but Anyu and Sirmiq's dialogue feels too on the nose about the motivations of their tribe and their prejudices and such. Could use more clean up there.

    Also Numilik sucks at keeping Tikaani in one place. XD

  13. #33

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    Hello, faithful readers, there will be an update soon, I promise! Hopefully by this weekend. I'm making this post to inform you all that I will release the FINAL chapter of Spirit Wolf on July 5th, 2013, barring the occurrence of any of the following events:

    * Life
    * Death
    * The surprise release of Winds of Winter

    Yeah, there's a legitimate chance that this will not come to pass, BUT I work best with deadlines. :3 The important thing to note, however, is that this thread will be CLOSED and DELETED on July 31st, 2013, regardless of the release of the final chapter. But why!? I'm going to be shopping Spirit Wolf around to publishers effective August and I will begin the promotional process at that point. Please understand that the very existence of this thread becomes a liability at this point. Should everything go according to plan, you should have a little over three weeks to read and enjoy the conclusion.

    Assuming I meet the damn deadline, of course. But let's do it. Thanks for your support, guys! I'm gonna go finish this chapter now.

  14. #34

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    This chapter gave me a massive headache, but I need to keep moving. This chapter will likely be heavily edited and retooled in the final product but for now, I needed to get it out of the way. Expect some quicker, more interesting chapters to come now. Seven to go, let's go!

    Chapter 13: Fear

    Spoiler:
    There was an old saying in the Village of the Sky, that went something like: Impatient is the warrior who ensnares himself in his own bear trap. Her bear trap was the mother of all bear traps: she was a prisoner in the Spiritless Men's camp. She was a prisoner to even her own name. Here, she was not Tikaani or Nukka, but Aningan. Aningan the Tonrar.

    Had she taken the time to think, she might not have been in this predicament. She could have watched and saw her companion, Chena, for what she really was. She would have had time to make a plan and sniff out Siku undetected. Instead, she was now in the same trap as her sister.

    The sun was only starting to set upon their arrival at the Spiritless Men camp. Tikaani paced slowly behind the traitorous Chena as countless men and women came out of their tents to see them home. Murmurs and whispers resonated through the air as the wolf and the three humans found their way to the center of the camp. There was a heavy scent in the air, one not quite corporeal, but unmistakeable. The odor of fear blanketed the camp, and Tikaani knew to whom the cause of that fear could be attributed.

    For the first time she saw the Spiritless Men by the dozens, and their appearance was eerily kindred. They were not monsters nor devils, but men just as the people of the Great Forest were. To think these... people are capable of so much harm.

    A sharp pain jolted through Tikaani's skull as something made impact with her head. She staggered sideways as her brain rattled and a cacophonous laughter vibrated through her ears.

    “Throw another one!” she heard a shrill female voice jeer. Shortly thereafter, she was struck again, this time by a slightly larger stone. This one had a sharp tip that cut into her back and drew blood.

    “Again! Again!” a little boy sang.

    Chena immediately paused and spun around, spear in hand and eyes set aflame. “Throw another and it will be the last stone you throw.”

    “Hurry up and kill the Tonrar!” a man screamed as others shouted in agreement.

    “Don't be a fool, Chena!” a woman wailed. “Heed the warnings!”

    The shouting became inaudible as Chena kept Tikaani close and the pair paced onward. Anyu and Sirmiq joined the crowds and left the two of them alone.

    “Do not be frightened, Aningan,” the girl whispered. “I will keep you safe. I owe you as much.”

    Yet, if you owe me, why do you bring me here? Tikaanisighed, still in pain from the stone onslaught. Another few of those and she might have endured broken bones or worse. The pain in her leg was still present and threatened to creep back, but she pushed it to the back of her mind.

    At last, they reached the center of camp. The sun was gone now and the sky black, but the Departed Ones began to rear their heads. Tikaani took comfort in knowing that as far away from home as she was, she was still being watched over.

    “Come, Aningan,” Chena commanded as she motioned towards a large, ornate tent, red with gold trimmings. The girl walked in and Tikaani followed suit with a slight touch of hesitation. Inside, she found nothing but a makeshift bed and a pile of books, one open to a page somewhere in the middle. As the wolf's eyes met the page, they were challenged by words in a language she did not understand.

    “This is mine,” Chena said blankly. “It is not much, but you can stay here until father returns. I do not mean to put you in a cage. I owe you more than that. I owe her more than that.”

    Tikaani frowned as her eyes met the girl's. Her?

    “You are not the first that my people did not kill on sight, you know,” Chena explained, sitting cross-legged on the earthen floor. “My father found one of you in the woods up north, clinging to life. I... I didn't know what my father was doing bringing it back to health like that. But the rest of us feared it. It was dark like charcoal and ash, a reminder of the destruction we've wrought.

    “I wanted to kill it. Really, I did. After a few nights, I went to do the deed myself, and snuck into my father's tent. I met that Tonrar face-to-face. It looked blacker than before, but its eyes were swirling with fear and accusation. I moved to strike, but my father stirred and stayed my spear. He told me that there was something special about that one. I could not understand that at all, so I left. I needed some time to think, and then I found you.” The girl gave Tikaani an uneasy smile. “And now I see. There is something special about you. And my father was probably right about the grey one. Tomorrow, I will go see him. Then we can figure out what this all means.”

    Siku... Tikaani thought to herself. She was relieved, so very relieved. Her sister was here. She knew it to be true. And come tomorrow, they would be reunited. And then they could escape together.

    Tikaani was so lost in her head that she didn't even notice the sun begin to peek through the thin crimson fabric of the tent. She didn't even noticed that she had slept a few hours. Chena was fast asleep. The wolf stretched her legs, noting the soreness in her hind leg as she paced over to the book on the floor. Again, the words were unreadable to her. The spoken language of the Spiritless Men was not different, but their written language was another story. The glyphs were different and Tikaani could only make out a few similar ones. Most notably was the symbol for wolf being clear and obvious, exact down to the strokes.

    “You can read?” Chena mumbled, finally stirring and crawling over to the book. “I suppose not.”

    She carefully picked up the book and examined the page. Tikaani lifted a paw to the book, placing it directly over the wolf character.

    “You can read, can't you?” Chena gasped in surprise, with a faint unmistakeable tinge of fear. “That's the word we use for you Tonrar. The exact word is demon.”

    Tikaani scowled at the sting of that last word. Same meaning, different context, she sighed.

    “Father said the grey one could read too,” Chena stated expressionlessly before rising to her feet. “Come, we should go see him, his tent is on the north side of the camp.”

    Tikaani followed the girl out of the tent into the cold morning air. She shivered as a northern breeze ran through her fur. Some Spiritless Men had stirred, going about their daily routine. It confused Tikaani how simplistic a people they were, not unlike her own. Small children played innocently in the dirt, pretending to be a big scary Tonrar and a big strong warrior as they beat each other senseless with imaginary weapons. A woman laughed nearby as she needled together what looked to be a tiny dress for one of the children. Another woman nursed an infant as she caressed it lovingly. A young man watched sheepishly from nearby, eyeing one of the women with lovestruck eyes.

    Ask her already, Tikaani laughed to herself. It shocked her how easily she could relate with the Spiritless Men. It scared her just how human they were. She had been expecting cruelty and hatred spewing from them, but instead all she found was love. Well, that and fear. When the gathering noticed the wolf was eyeing them, the playing stopped, the smiles faded, and their eyes took on an accusatory glow. In an instant they transformed into what Tikaani knew they really were. But instead of hate, there was fear. Unparalleled, unmistakeable fear.

    “My father...” Chena gasped, catching Tikaani's attention. “Where is he?”

    There was an empty tent, also red and gold. Inside, there was no trace of life, but there was a scent Nukka caught instantly. Shila.

    “Ah, Chena, you are back,” an old woman approached the pair. Her dress was very traditional and ornate, of earthy colors and fine hide. She was beautiful for her age, and had an owlish appearance. She looked nervously at Tikaani before turning towards the girl. “Your father left with a scouting party a few days ago, Tonrar in tow. The villagers were glad to be rid of the beast, yet you've brought with you another.”

    “I wish to speak to my father about this, Uvlugiaq,” Chena nodded. “Something is amiss here. There is something about Aningan here that I cannot place. Something special. My father saw it in the other one too. If you'll just-”

    “You're going against the teachings themself, girl,” Uvlugiaq furrowed her brow. “You and your father walk a dangerous path. Chief or no, if you go soft, we will be punished. You know that, don't you?”

    Chena fell silent.

    “I've advised your father countless times to kill the last one and be done with it, but his ears have grown deaf,” the old woman continued. “As I see it, yours have too. Prepare yourself, Chena. The People will come for your pet. And they will kill it. They will destroy that which they fear. It is our People's way.”

    “What if we're wrong?” Chena spoke up weakly. “What if these Tonrar are-”

    “You will understand soon,” Uvlugiaq cut her off. “You will resume your teachings tomorrow, no? I am sure you will find some pertinent information therein that should clear your head. You are being led astray by ignorance, child. Do not forget your teachings.”

    Tikaani frowned, hearing Uvlugiaq's words echo with Ahnah's voice. Both women were fundamentally different, but both shared wisdom beyond their years. Tikaani knew the owl woman was one to watch out for.

    Chena turned to go as Tikaani followed suit. Before she could take a second step, however, Uvlugiaq gave her an eerie smile, one which made the wolf's nerves flare.

    “Nukka? Or do you prefer Tikaani?” the woman smiled with masked intent. A chill swept down the wolf's back as Chena turned around.

    “Pardon?”

    “I do not speak to you, child,” Uvlugiaq spat. “I speak to your guest.” She turned to Tikaani. “I know what you're here for, Nukka. And you will never have it.”

    “What are you doing?” Chena frowned as a growl began to resonate from Tikaani's throat. Her head was confused and filled with apprehension, but her instincts rang true. There was something she did not like about this woman.

    Uvlugiaq's voice grew hoarse and she began to make strange animal-like noises.

    “What is this?” Chena scowled. “What is the matter, Uvlugiaq?”

    The noises continued as Tikaani took a step back in bewilderment. The old lady smiled cruelly.

    “Nothing, child,” Uvlugiaq's face beamed as she turned to the girl. “I just had something to say to your demon.”

    “I don't understand,” Chena frowned.

    “You will,” Uvlugiaq smiled. “You will.”

    Chena and Tikaani returned to their tent. The wolf trembled with every step. What did it mean? Tikaani struggled to keep composure, but the woman's unmistakeable words echoed in her head. The old woman had voiced something even Tikaani's mind had cared not to admit. She wanted nothing to do with those thoughts, but here they were, all but confirmed. Never mind the fact that this woman knew her name, her past, her thoughts, everything.

    Shila hates your guts, Nukka. You should be dead, she says in her sleep. The words played in her head on constant repeat.

    As the words processed in her head, she passed out. Not from exhaustion or burden, but from fear. Sheer, primal fear. Nothing stung worse than the fear of rejection. It was the deepest fear she had ever experienced.

  15. #35

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    So much for THAT deadline, amirite?

    Let's try this new one on for size:

    "So, some news on the Spirit Wolf front. I've been having issues getting back "into" the story. So I'm gonna retread a bit and do some polishing and rewriting of the entire story. What's gonna happen is every Thursday starting August 1st, I will be posting edited (but nowhere near final) drafts of the entire story on this page for your eyes. This will continue into the final handful of chapters left unwritten with the story expected to wrap sometime in December. This gives me a more reasonable timespan to finish the story in that doesn't require me rushing head-long into it."

    --from https://www.facebook.com/AlexKINielsen (Like this page!)

    I'm going to extend that offer here, and beginning August 1st, every chapter posted here will be edited with a new draft. I'm not just polishing and grammar editing, I'm repiecing together some scenes and moving and adding and deleting. Hopefully, this'll give me the motivation to finish this one off already!

  16. #36

    Default Re: Spirit Wolf

    I like that old woman already. She adds a new element to the Spiritless Men: knowing what a Tonrar is and yet hating it anyway.

    Chena's exposition dump was pretty bad. :/ Find some way to have her say a lot less and in a more convincing way that she's talking to an animal, like just letting off steam without it being too on the nose, almost like she's talking to herself. Either way she wouldn't need to repeat every single detail.

    Otherwise this chap was pretty good.

  17. #37

    Default download tally erp 9 with crack

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