Haunted by the Past
(By InspirationalButterfly, Owner of Inspirational Writing)
Bear shook her head, blinking. Where was she? She had been in her den a moment ago. She looked around. Well, that was interesting. She was back at camp. How had she gotten here? Her birthing-den was a way away. Ah, well. No matter. The she-wolf stretched luxuriously, muscles flexing.
Bear was an absolutely admirable wolf. Her fur was thick and chocolate brown, her eyes an icy blue. Her breed was the maned wolf, so her fur was exceptionally thick around her neck and ears, somewhat like a lion’s mane. She was very muscular and had many scars, but she was really quite pretty. She was popular among the males as she had yet to choose a mate. Bear was the leader of the Sunset Wolf Pack, and she didn’t have much time to be thinking about a mate. Not that she wasn’t interested, of course. She was, but again, she had little time on her paws. Being a leader meant you had to deal with a lot of problems…
“Bear! Bear, help!”…like this one. Bear looked up to see Sun-Wolf, a beautiful golden-furred she-wolf and Bear’s best friend, limping toward her as fast as she could. Sun-Wolf’s bluish-furred mate (technically, his fur was black, but it always looked so strangely blue in the sunlight), Moon (when Sun-Wolf and Moon became mates, everyone said it was destiny), was leaning heavily on her shoulder. He was bleeding from a gash on his shoulder. Bear shook herself out of her thoughts. Her packmates needed her now. She bounded down to Sun-Wolf and her mate.
“What happened?” Bear asked. She saw that Moon’s shoulder wound looked like it had been made by something with large, sharp teeth. “You guys didn’t meet that grizzly again, did you? I thought we had chased it off!” she exclaimed worriedly. Sun-Wolf shook her head. She started to speak, but Moon interrupted her.
“Pine pack wolves…” he wheezed, “They attacked us…stole…our prey…” He stopped, coughing.
Bear was furious. “I can’t believe this! It’s one thing to steal prey, but to attack my wolves to get it? Oh, that’s a completely different thing!” she said, her voice quaking with anger. Suddenly, Moon collapsed, gasping in pain. “I need a healer wolf! Immediately!” Bear barked. Several low-ranked wolves rushed to the unconscious Moon. Bear nodded her thanks as they began to carry him to the healer’s den. Sun-Wolf insisted on carrying him herself. Bear watched her and sighed. If only I had a mate, she thought, then shook her head. No time for wistful thinking-there was work to be done.
“Right here.” Sun-Wolf padded over to a shady area between to thick pine trees. It had taken a while for Bear to convince the golden she-wolf to come away from Moon, but she was finally able to get Sun-Wolf to come by saying that it would help her injured mate.
“This is where they attacked you,” Bear confirmed. All her senses were alert in case the attackers were still lurking around. Sun-wolf nodded.
“We didn’t have much prey-just a couple of skinny rabbits.” The golden she-wolf shook her head wistfully. “Apparently, they were appetizing to the two Pine Pack wolves. They didn’t really hurt us-just pushed us over and stole the rabbits. I reached out with my paw to grab one of the rabbits, but the one holding it just yanked it away, mumbling something about a sandstone or something needing it more than I did. It didn’t make any sense.” Sun-Wolf’s beautiful amber eyes were full of confusion.
“If that’s all that happened, then how did Moon get that gash?” Bear asked inquisitively. “And your claw? How’d it get torn out?” In response, Sun-Wolf gestured to a large, sharp, tooth-shaped rock that was protruding from the ground.
“When they pushed us over, Moon slid onto that rock. It tore a gash in his shoulder when he got up. It didn’t go very deep, but it really hurt him.” The young maned wolf looked worried. “Can we go back now?” she asked. “I’m worried about Moon.”
“Not yet. Soon. What happened to your claw?” Bear asked as she sniffed the rock. It was definitely sharp enough to give a nasty scratch. A tiny bit of the blue-furred wolf’s blood was still on it. Bear dug it up and pushed it over to avoid any more injuries to her wolves. She sat down and looked expectantly at Sun-Wolf, waiting for her to explain her own injury.
“My claw got caught in a knot in the rabbit’s fur when I swiped at it. It got twisted when the Pine wolf yanked it away. Then, I stepped in a hole on our way back to camp, and the claw was ripped out.” Sun-Wolf winced. “It really hurt.”
Bear nodded. She knew from experience(technically, it was two experiences) that yes, it really hurt to lose a claw by accident. The brown she-wolf began sniffing around the trees, on the rocks, and in the grass. Wolves and dogs could get a lot of information from a scent. For instance, Bear knew from the scent that there were two male Pine Pack wolves-one that was quite young, and another that was a bit older than her. Bear sat up, satisfied.
“Definitely Pine Pack. I even recognize one of them-do you know Timberfur?”
“The handsome black and tan timber wolf?”
“That’s the one. There’s another scent, too-this one’s a young male maned wolf. He was feeling rather nervous and guilty, while Timberfur was very determined. I wonder if Timberfur is one of his trainers.” Bear wondered. She stood up, shaking herself. “Come on, Sun-Wolf, let’s head back. Thanks for coming-you really helped.”
“Of course, Bear. Do you mind if I run ahead?” Sun-wolf’s eyes were clouded with worry for her mate. Bear nodded.
“Go ahead. I’ll catch up eventually,” she said. Sun-Wolf nodded her thanks and ran off as fast as she could with an injured paw.
Bear started in the same direction, but she soon veered off to the side when she was about halfway to the Sunset Pack camp. The brown she-wolf came to a beautiful, sparkling lake that was divided in half over the borderline between the Sunset and Pine Pack’s territories. It served as a well-hidden meeting place for the leaders of the two packs, but it was hardly ever used and no one really ever came there except Bear. She often went there to relax when stress was high.
Bear sighed, rolling onto her back. She closed her eyes for a moment, content. Suddenly, she heard a twig snap behind her and a new scent flooded her nostrils. She stood up quickly, all senses suddenly alert. Before she could do anything, however, the intruder spoke.
“Hello, Bear. I didn’t expect to see you here.” A deep voice said from behind her. Bear whirled around to face the speaker. It was a light gray wolf-no, wait, his fur was dark gray at the base, but it grew lighter until it was white at the tip, as if it had frost on it. He was very muscular and had deep, sea-blue eyes.
“Hello, Frost.” Bear greeted the handsome Pine Pack leader coolly, narrowing her eyes. “Did Timberfur happen to tell you where he got those two rabbits he had this morning?” Frost looked surprised at the question.
“No, I just assume he caught them himself. Although not as good as you, Timberfur’s a very skilled hunter.” He cocked his head curiously. “Why, did he not?” Bear had to stop herself from wagging her tail at the compliment. She glared at him instead.
“No, but he attacked Sun-Wolf and Moon and stole their catch!” she growled.
“He did what?!” Frost’s fur fluffed up in surprise. “The rabbits did smell like Sunset Pack, but I just assumed Timberfur had caught them by the border!” His voice softened as he looked at Bear. “I’m terribly sorry, Bear. I’ll speak with him about it.” Bear nodded.
“You do that. Thank you.” Bear couldn’t help noticing how nice he was being to her, and how handsome he looked in the sunlight. Something she’d never felt before stirred deep inside her. Bear suddenly felt that had to know more about him. “So, how’s life in the Pine Pack?” the chocolate brown she-wolf asked amiably, sitting down.
“Oh, everything’s fine,” Frost replied, also sitting. His eyes clouded. “Well, everything, except…” He trailed off. The handsome gray wolf suddenly seemed sad and vulnerable.
“What is it? You can trust me,” Bear promised gently, moving to sit next to him. He sighed.
“It’s just that…well, Sandstone, my sister and Timberfur’s mate, is very ill. She has a terrible cough and can’t keep much down.” So that’s what Timberfur meant when he spoke to Sun-Wolf, Bear thought. A sandstone didn’t need the rabbits-Sandstone the she-wolf did! She saw that Frost looked extremely worried. Without thinking, Bear buried her muzzle in his fur, comforting him. Frost was surprised at first, but then he sighed tiredly and leaned against her. They sat there for a moment in silence until Bear reluctantly pulled away from him.
“I really must be going,” she explained regretfully, tail drooping. Frost gave an understanding nod.
“Thanks for comforting me,” he said. Frost had a distant, wistful look in his eyes. Bear nodded absentmindedly and started to walk away from the lake. “Bear, wait!” Frost called to her. The muscular she-wolf looked back, pausing. “I want to see you again.” Frost looked up at her hopefully. “Can you come here tonight?”
Bear was absolutely thrilled. “I’ll be here!” she agreed. “See you tonight!” she called over her shoulder as she ran off into the forest. Suddenly, she realized what the strange feeling must be: love.
That night, Bear snuck out by using the secret tunnel in the leader’s den. She padded silently through the thick undergrowth of the forest, all senses alert. What am I doing, sneaking out here to see a Pine wolf in the middle of the night? the blue-eyed she-wolf thought. I must be crazy. It wasn’t against the Rule of the Packs for two leaders to become mates-the two packs would simply unite if that happened-but because of what happened to Sun-Wolf and Moon, the Pine Pack was currently viewed as an enemy by her packmates. If Bear got caught, she could be viewed as a traitor.
The clever she-wolf shook her head. So I just won’t get caught, she thought determinedly. The lake was now in view, as was Frost. Bear could see his muscular form as he crouched by the water to take a drink. He looked white from a distance. The she-wolf’s ears pricked as she picked up her pace.
Bear slowed as she neared the lake. Dropping to a crouch, she crept toward Frost on silent paws. Just a little closer, she thought, her eyes narrowing. Just a little more…now! The powerful she-wolf leaped at frost, bowling him over into the shallow water. Frost let out a surprised yelp as his flesh made contact with the cold lake. She made sure his head stayed above water, pinning him down nonetheless. He thrashed about, trying to get Bear off of him, but he only succeeded in splashing her. She leaped off of Frost and sat down calmly, ears twitching in amusement.
“What on Earth are you thrashing about for?” Bear asked, stifling her yipping laugh. Her eyes glinted mischievously as Frost sat up.
“Bear, you big lump! I didn’t recognize you,” he growled, shaking off his soaked pelt. “Take this!” Frost barked, jumping on her. They wrestled like pups until Bear pinned him down.
“Ha!” she growled playfully, baring her teeth and swooshing her tail. “Got you!”
“Alright, alright. You win. Now get off of me!” Frost protested good-naturedly. Bear complied, eyes sparkling with laughter as he shook the dust out of his pelt.
“You’re strong, Bear. Not to mention very pretty, too,” Frost complimented, padding to her side.
“Shut up, Pine wolf,” Bear lightly head butted his side, embarrassed. The praise had made her feel good, though.
“It’s true, though. You’re the prettiest she-wolf I’ve ever seen.” Frost’s deep blue eyes met her ice blue ones.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “No one’s ever called me pretty before.”
“Seriously? That’s a little hard to believe.” Frost pressed against her. Oh, he was so warm. Bear buried her muzzle in his thick, soft fur, much like she had done that evening. This time, Frost wasn’t surprised. He licked her cheek ear affectionately and whispered softly, “I know it’s a little soon, but…I love you, Bear.” Bear looked into his eyes, feeling so happy she thought she’d burst.
Without warning, Frost tipped back his head in a jubilant howl. Bear quickly joined in, voicing her love for him in that one, long, continuous note. Their voices twined together under the moon, dancing in the still air and echoing across the forest. Nothing can separate us now, Bear thought. If only she had known how wrong she was.
The next day, Timberfur and his trainee had stolen prey again. Thankfully, no wolf got hurt this time, but Bear had decided it was time to take action. She was hiding in some strong-smelling bushes with Sun-Wolf while Wind, a many-colored young Alpha-ranked male, walked by the border with a pheasant in his mouth.
“Remember,” she had told Wind and Sun-Wolf before they had set out. “We’re not going to hurt them. Just pin them down, act scary, and tell them to stop stealing prey!” Hopefully, Sun-Wolf remembered that before teeth met flesh.
Bear nudged her best friend. “Get ready,” she ordered as Wind strolled by. Suddenly, two large, muscular wolves shot out from Pine Pack territory. “Now!” Bear barked, and the two she-wolves leapt into action.
Bear and Sun-Wolf slammed into the attackers, taking them by surprise. The two Pine Pack wolves recovered quickly though, and kicked the Sunset Pack females off. Sun-Wolf growled and backed up a small hill in Pine Pack territory. Bear pricked her ears. How come she could here water? There wasn’t a stream in sight. Wait a moment…
“Sun-Wolf, stop!!” Bear barked from the other side of the borderline. She felt panic well up inside of her as she realized that Sun-Wolf hadn’t heard her. Bear pelted toward her best friend, but she wasn’t going fast enough to stop Sun-Wolf from falling into the gorge that was behind the hill. Grunting, Bear put on an extra burst of speed-when out of nowhere, Frost appeared, pushing an astonished Sun-Wolf away from the deep chasm. Bear was relieved until she realized what was about to happen. Frost had saved her best friend, but he was in Bear’s way, and she was going way too fast to stop before running into him!
“Frost, MOVE!!” Bear howled, trying to stop her running paws, but it was too late. She crashed into the Pine Pack’s leader, who slid into the gorge. Yelping in surprise, he managed to get a paw hold on the edge.
“Bear…I’m slipping!” he whimpered. “Help me!” Bear put her paws on top of his, momentarily holding him in place. She could feel herself losing her grip, and dug her claws in as much as she could without hurting Frost. Bear met his eyes, whimpering. He sighed. “Bear, it’s no use. I’m going to fall.”
“Don’t talk like that!” Bear was terrified. “You can’t die. I’ll save you!”
“No, Bear!” Frost’s voice was firm. “I’ve dreamt of this exact moment several times. It’s my time to die.” There was no fear in his eyes, only sadness for leaving her. “I love you, Bear. More than anything else. I promise that always will.”
“I…I love you too, Frost,” Bear whimpered. Leader’s dreams were special. If Frost had dreamed about this more than once, then it was bound to happen. “I love you more than there are stars in the sky, and I’ll never, ever forget you, I promise.” As soon as Bear said this, his paws slid out from under hers. “No!” she gasped. Bear reached for him, but it was no use. They both said the same thing as Frost plummeted to his death.
“I love you always!”
“Bear? Bear, wake up!”
“Huh? What?” Bear awoke and shook her head fuzzily, still half in her dream. “Frost? Is that you?”
“No, Bear, It’s me, Wind, your mate.” His voice was soft and kind. Bear blinked and nodded, waking up fully. She saw the tan fur with brown and black speckles that belonged to her mate and felt her two newborn pups kneading her stomach, asking for more milk. She looked up at her soft-eyed mate. “I had a dream about Frost again. It wasn’t just his death this time-it was everything that happened, from the day that I met him to when I…when he fell into the gorge.” Bear whimpered. “It was terrible. His death was all my fault!”
Wind nodded sympathetically. He never acted jealous or upset about Bear’s feelings for Frost. He knew his mate missed the former Pine Pack leader, and possibly still had feelings for him, but he just accepted it. That was one of the reasons why Bear loved Wind.
“Frost’s death was not your fault, Bear. It was his destiny. Stop blaming yourself.”
“I know, but it’s just that…I keep having that dream, and it makes me feel terrible every time I relive his death!” Bear was trembling.
“Sshh, Bear. It’s OK. I’m here for you now.” Wind murmured, laying down beside his mate and licking her cheek comfortingly.
“Thank you,” Bear whispered, feeling a bit better. She rolled onto her side so her pups could feed and she could rest her head on Wind’s strong chest. She looked up at him. “Can we call the gray and white male River, and the little white female Ice?” she asked him hopefully. He nodded.
“We can call them whatever you like,” Wind said softly. Bear licked his cheek in response and lay against him again. She had named her little white pup after Frost. She would never forget him, of course, but that was in the past. She had a new mate now, and he loved her unconditionally. She also had two beautiful pups, born only yesterday, and she would do absolutely anything for them. She had to focus on the present and the future, even though she would always be haunted by the past.