Allyra: A Short Story - by S. L. Butler

I don’t remember much from my early youth, but then it was only a matter of weeks and not years like you humans are used to. Instead, in those early days, only hazy memories of my mother and siblings still cross my mind from time to time. I was born into a litter of seven Wolf pups, with three sisters and three brothers. But those early days were a dark time also. A very few words were ever spoken by my mother in that time. But I do remember her warning one day when two of my brothers were playing near the opening of the den. A small indentation in the side of a hill that give my mother and the rest of her pack a good view of the river through the trees. She spoke in a language only wolves comprehend. Her voice was harsh, and full of warning, “Silence children!” she growled as one of my brothers fell noisily into a pile of lose rocks.

“Sorry mother!” They both answered, returning to the place where the rest of us sat shielded by our mother. I was quiet then also, and not much seemed to change between then and now.

Her tone softened as she continued, explaining her warning more fully to us. “I know you all want very much to play, and one day soon you will get that chance. But for now, we must remain quite within the den.”

“Why mother?” Another of my siblings, my brother Altier asked.

She just smiled sadly to my brother and answered in a way meant to both inform and scare us. “The forest outside is very large, and it protects us from many dangers. But it is not endless, we must always be careful of humans coming into the forest. If they hear you, they will come for us.” Her sentiments were not uncommon and seemed to be reflected in the rest of her pack.

But she was true to her word in the coming weeks. As we grew, our mother became more confident, allowing us to leave the den for short periods of time if we were supervised. Eventually the other members of the pack were allowed to introduce themselves to us, and the Alpha’s, a brother and sister that ruled our pack, were soon discussing with our mother the best roles for each of us in the group. It was an exciting time for all of us that we would soon be full members of our family with our mother. Soon we would be able to experience the world and live the life we were intended for outside of the den.

In front of us the discussion was kept positive, reinforcing our excitement at the prospect. And so, we all worked very hard on our skills to impress our leaders. Altier especially had been noted for his size and intelligence already by the male Alpha. But we were both very young, and far too naïve to understand the world of Wolf politics. So, we both worked hard to learn what we could, and grow as quickly as we could, at least until I overheard them talking by the river just south of our den. Altier and I had been chasing moths through the floor of the forest, taking turns to practice our stalking before bouncing on them.

“There are too many for them all to stay!” The female Alpha said to my mother, “There will always be a place for the young girls, but not more than one of the boys and you have four of them.”

“At least give me time to prepare them.” My mother argued as Altier, and I crouched down listening.

The male Alpha spoke forcefully, “We don’t have that sort of time, we need to move the pack by the end of the week. Winter is closing in, and the humans approach us every day from the west pushing bears and other packs into our territory. We can’t afford disruptions to the group at this time.”

My brother and I shared a look, his expression fearful. He was not the strongest of my male siblings, but his intelligence made him an undeniable threat to the leadership. But it was clear that that is something they did not want. Then the female Alpha cut in coldly, adding, “We can leave the boys behind, and leave them to their fate, or out of kindness we may wish to kill them ourselves.”

“You mean kill them, so they are not a threat to you?” My mother shot back.

“The decision is made.” The male said, nodding to his sister who began stalking towards the forest. I stared at my mother, waiting for her to stop them, but she stayed still, cowering beneath the male as he watched his sister advance towards the den.

“Oh shit!” Altier growled fearfully, “What do we do?” Trembling as he backed away slowly from the place we had just been hiding. I struggled for a long moment, trying to decide what to do. I was a female and thus I would be allowed to follow the pack, but my brother and my best friend… the thought was too much to bear. “Allyra, you should stay. You will be safe.” He said as he back away towards the dense forest behind us.

“I can’t, I won’t, not without you.”

He growled, “Allyra!” his voice pleading.

I just shook my head and ran over to him. I couldn’t be a part of watching them kill one of my other brothers. The female Alpha stalked through the trees silently as she neared the entrance of the den. She seemed to realize in that moment we were not all there and began frantically looking around for the two missing pups. “Run, Altier!” I growled and the two of us turned and ran as quickly as we could into the forest, using the dense undergrowth for cover as we hid inside a log. The smell was damp, but it kept us hidden. No one came after us, but neither of us dared move, even when it started to rain, and the moisture seeped in through the rotting wood. We couldn’t have been gone more than an hour when the sound of yelping echoed through the trees, the howling of our mother mourning the loss before another yelp followed, and another howl. They had killed both remaining males, though it would be several more days before the pack left the area. Until then we survived on the moss and insects growing and living on the log and remained silent until we were certain they were long gone. Eventually we returned to the den and found nothing but a few patches of dried blood.

We couldn’t stay there any longer. They might come back, and then what would be the fate of two against an entire pack. We were both very young, barely out of the den, and at first all we had to survive off were the insects and grubs, practicing on small animals and rodents when we could but it was some time before either of us caught anything. The bugs were disgusting but it kept us alive, kept our energy levels up so we could continue our search for food. As time went on the two of us grew and learned to hunt together. First with small animals, before moving onto much larger prey as we learned to survive together, keeping each other warm throughout that first winter. For another year we continued as we were, with no real home to speak of. Altier and I were mostly nomadic, stopping for a few days over a fresh kill to rest before moving on again in search of our next meal. Occasionally we would smell other nomads like ourselves, and after more than a few fights Altier had established a reputation amongst the others that howled his name and his victories. I of course participated and took great pleasure in embellishing his legend to any passerby that would listen.

It wasn’t much longer before we brought down our first beast larger than ourselves, a young caribou with a poorly formed leg. Somehow, we nearly messed it up as it ran towards a steep ravine, but I lunged forward at the last second, getting ahold of its leg, giving Altier enough time to get its neck and bring it down permanently. It was our first proper feast in a long time, and apparently another pair of wolves had witnessed our hard work. They were nomads as well, young like us, starving and desperate, and much to Altier’s delight since both were females. His reputation preceded him with them, and he was able to convince them to join our party. And suddenly, he was Alpha of our small tight knit group, though he was anything but that to me. He was my brother still, and still included me in all decisions much to the discomfort of the other two who really didn’t like the fact that I seemed to get special treatment – but when they realized I was not a threat to their position and Altier’s sister they soon relaxed and one of the two soon emerged as an Alpha herself. Soon after she was carrying his litter, and the same problem repeated itself. I really didn’t mind the life I was living at all; we had established it together. I didn’t mind not being alpha of the group, I was quite small and certainly had little interest in leading anything, if I had a home with my brother’s pack, I was happy to play my part. And I did, which is all that mattered to me at the time.

The Alpha female soon gave birth, it was early autumn and I had become that main guard outside the den while she fed and raised her pups. I was trusted to watch the children to make sure they didn’t stray too far during play. Babysitter and guard duty all wrapped up together while Altier hunted constantly, bringing the mother and her pups’ food as they grew. He was quite attentive to them, and it was something that only served to cement his role as Alpha to our small pack. He was smart, and strong, and had become formidable in his own right. But me, I was just another member of the group, happy to blend into the background.

One of the young ones was in the habit of getting a little too adventurous, and this only served to compound my anxiety at the decision to make the den so close to the river was one that worried me exceedingly. So, I took babysitting duty very seriously, and on this day, it was no different. I managed to catch the little one before he could get too close to the water. But as I turned to bring him back, a loud crack echoed through the trees like nothing I had ever heard before. Instinctively I ran, breaking into a run before falling forward as if I had been bitten by something powerful. I crawled the rest of the way to the clearing in front of the den, and collapsed once more near the entrance of the small cave, pushing the little one into his mothers embrace. My brother was out on a hunt with the other female, while the mother cowered in her den, staring back at me with a pleading look. “I’ll try to lead them away.” I whispered to her, as I struggled back to my feet "Stay still and stay quiet until dark!" I whispered before limping away from them into. The second I was well clear of the den, I let out a howl and a loud bark before breaking into an uneasy sprint, attempting to lead whatever was after us away from the others. But it wasn't long before my consciousness began to slip away. My head and my eyes blurring with each step before collapsing beside a large cedar. Once more I struggled to my feet, letting out another howl before running on as far and as fast as I could. It was just a little further before I collapse expecting my final breath to come at any moment as I felt the forest floor beneath me pooling with my own blood. My mind soon went blank with all my senses and I began to dream.

I believed it was my end. The blackness soon gave way to a bright light and something much more. I didn't know it then that my life and my purpose was only just beginning. My memories flicking through my mind as if being drawn out by the light before my. Where am I? I wondered. “Altier?” I called out, though the sound from my own lips was very different. And as I opened my eyes and looked down, all my fur was gone. Reached down, realizing I now had five extended digits on the end of each of my front legs. "What on earth?" I said to myself, understanding my own words perfect though I now know the language would have made sense to no human what so ever. Then a dark figured filled the light around me, casting a shadow around me. The blur in my eyes could not give me a clear picture on the figure as panic and fear began to scream in my mind.

But then came a soothing, though unfamiliar voice echoed strangely in my unfamiliar ears, “Be still child, your body is still not fully recovered! Though your new form should help speed up the process somewhat. For now, remain where you are.”

Answers were not forthcoming in the days, weeks or indeed, months that were to follow as I slowly learnt to master this strange body. All my sense were so different, so altered to what I knew. Those that offered their assistance appeared human, like myself. But they, and indeed myself were anything but. I hoped answers would come soon enough and the other assured me it would come soon enough. As soon as they deemed me ready to confront 'The Watcher'.

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