The yellow Lupe stepped into the front room. The Collared Greens looked attentively at their Alpha, waiting for him to address them.
Inc smiled. "We're going to play a game. Each of you will track another pet and lead said pet back here. There is no time limit."
Eagerly, the young Lupes and one young Aisha gathered around.
"Wait, line up, please. I have an item for each of you to get fresh scent from. Then, you are free to begin," Inc explained.
The CGs did as they were told. Each of them were given an item in a sealed bag. Brandi, standing beside her best friend, Adino, could tell who each of them was going to find, just by the item they were given. She was absolutely delighted when she received her bag. It held a Shoyru Flower Hair Clip.
The nine year old Aisha knew that the hair clip could only belong to her Aunt Sweet. She would have to find her! Her excitement took a hit, however, as her Uncle Inc told them one last thing.
"You may not help one another. The pet you are supposed to find is yours and yours alone," Inc said, with a nod to release the Collared Greens.
Most of the other Lupes dashed off to begin their searches while Brandi's face fell. She looked helplessly at Adino, who gazed impassively back.
"Now what am I going to do," Brandi almost wailed in her despair.
"Look for your Aunt Sweet, Brandi. You have her scent. Track her," Adino said sensibly.
Brandi's ears drooped but she opened the bag, even though she hardly needed to remember what her Aunt Sweet smelled like. Her Aunt Sweet smelled like grape jelly because she was a jelly Shoyru. Trying to be confident in her own abilities, Brandi set off. Adino stayed beside her as they exited the Neohome. Then, to Brandi's dismay, she found that the trail led to her Uncle Legend's garden.
The orange Aisha cast a sidelong glance to her silver Lupe friend, who stood beside her, "Do you think my Aunt Sweet went around the garden?"
"What if she is hiding in the garden," Adino questioned.
Brandi groaned. She knew full well her friend made an excellent point. Did her aunt have to hide in such a place? Recalling what Adino had said the day before, Brandi did her best to sift through all of the other scents, hanging on to the grape jelly scent that she sought. As she moved forward, Adino finally left her side to track his own pet.
Intent as Brandi was, she didn't realize she was alone. A light wind blew past, making a corridor for the scent that she was focused on. She had been moving slowly but now she had something tangible to follow. She began to move swiftly, pulled along by her nose. It didn't take long for Brandi to reach a wall of scent.
The strong grape scent was almost overpowering. Brandi's eyes flew open, surprised at what she saw. She had followed her nose directly to a mass of grapevines. Her confidence from only a moment before was gone. Brandi turned away in dismay, at a loss at what to do next; Adino was no longer there to give advice.
The Aisha girl stood still for a few moments, thinking. Her Aunt Sweet wasn't in the garden, she thought. The grapevines were the only grape scent nearby.
"So, Brandi, get out of the garden."
Brandi wrinkled her nose, feeling silly about talking out loud to herself. The nine year old was rarely quiet and rarely alone. She didn't like it too much. Deciding that heeding her owning advice would be the best course of action to end her solitary state, Brandi made a quick exit out of the garden. She took stock of her surroundings.
The sky was overcast and the wind was beginning to really pick up. It seemed there would be a time limit after all. That is, if Brandi didn't want to get caught out in the rain. While the young Aisha enjoyed swimming, she did not enjoy the cold drenching that was rain. This dislike stemmed from her ability to control fire, no doubt.
Besides herself, Brandi saw no other pets. She did catch Adino's scent and longed for her friend to be beside her. Shaking her head to clear it, Brandi once more focused on the task at hand: finding her Aunt Sweet. She zeroed in on the grape jelly scent but still had three false starts back into the garden. Finally, she seemed to find the right track.
The scent led into the nearby forest. This time, she did notice that she seemed to be following Adino's scent almost exactly. It didn't take long for her to come upon her friend and her Uncle Lofty. Predictably, her Aunt Sweet's trail ended at the tree where her uncle and friend sat.
"So, your target was my Uncle Lofty, was he, Adino? Where one is, the other will be also. Aunt Sweet is in the tree, isn't she," Brandi said rapidly.
Now that the game was over, all Brandi wanted was to get back as quickly as possible. Without waiting for an answer, Brandi leapt into the tree. Then, she paused, arms hanging, legs swinging, to look at Adino.
"Have you ever climbed a tree, Adino? It's really fun," Brandi said.
Again, not waiting for a response, the Aisha girl continued her ascent. Moving swiftly, Brandi soon came to the top of the tree, where her Aunt Sweet was patiently waiting. She was about to address her aunt when she was distracted by the view.
"Wow! I can see everything from up here! Aunt Sweet, is this what it feels like to fly," Brandi asked, looking up at the jelly Shoyru.
"This is only a taste, I have to tell you, Brandi. Well done, by the way. That's showing those wild Lupes what you can do," Sweet said.
Brandi began her climb down, while Sweet lifted from her perch and dived straight down to the forest floor, neatly coming to light beside her brother. Coming to the last branch, Brandi swung, gaining momentum before letting fly and landing easily on her feet. Her aunt and uncle applauded her and she turned towards them, beaming.
"Lofty, it's high time we got going," Sweet said, looking at the baby Yurble.
"I recognize rain when I smell it," Lofty said, rising to his feet.
The group of four headed back, a shiver running through Brandi at the near miss of being caught in the rain.
"We'll get back before the rain, Brandi," Lofty said confidently.
The baby Yurble was correct. They were the last to arrive back, the others already gathered in the yard.
"What are we all standing around for? Let's go inside," Brandi said, casting an anxious look at the sky.
Abene and Abaddon, the mutant and Halloween Lupe siblings, leered at the orange Aisha.
"Afraid of a little rain, are you? Everyone could tell you'd never make it in the wild," Abene taunted.
Before Brandi could respond, Inc noticed the disturbance. "Alright, everyone. Now that we're all here, let's head inside, shall we?"
No one questioned the yellow Lupe as they headed indoors, just before the first fat drops of rain fell from the dark grey sky. Brandi noted the four newcomers almost immediately. Three of them were new young Lupes to become Collared Greens while the fourth just happened to be...
The room had gone suddenly quiet as the yellow Lupe caught sight of the blue Elephante. Inc walked towards Snar, smiling broadly. They shared a hug before Inc recalled that he had three new Lupes to settle in. The rest of the day passed swiftly by. Blue, Rose and Lavender, the three siblings, seemed to get along alright with the other Collared Greens and the entire pack went to their bedroom to hopefully sleep soundly that night.
For the first time that day, Inc and Snar were alone. Snar was going through Inc's journals, learning all she wanted to know about what she had missed since she had last been there. The yellow Lupe sat on his bed, his gaze never leaving his friend's face. He answered her questions when she asked them. Then, Snar reached the last entry from the day before.
The blue Elephante looked up at Inc then, holding his gaze, "This is meant to relax them, right? So that they can just enjoy themselves. Good. The CGs need that."
"You should have seen Brandi, Snar," Inc began.
"She held her own?"
"This should help with the others respecting her."
"Let me tell you about what happened to the others."
As Inc regaled Snar with stories of Trick hiding in a chimney, Legend hiding in his garden and Sport and Noedin hiding in a nearby pond, Snar could only alternately shake her head and laugh out loud.
"Some game, huh?"