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The Lupe Pack

by fierwym


Note - This was my original entry for the "Short Story Jamboree" Random Contest that Neo had a few weeks back. It was (I found out as I tried to send it) about three times too large. So I wrote a new story that won… third place. *is happy she got the trophy and avvie anyway* So, here's "The Lupe Pack", as told by me…

The white form on the crest of the tall hill was nearly eerie in the moonlit night. To one not accustomed to the rolling plains under the stars, they might think they were seeing a ghost. The wind echoed over the plains, brushing up against the pale form. She sighed and let it pass through her fur. Once the wind died down, she turned and began to climb down the hill.

     At first one might think she was just a normal Lupe in one of those free-roaming packs that lived on the plains. While it was true that she was part of a free-roaming pack, she was far from normal.

     "Shakia?" a voice asked quietly. "Is that you?"

     The question itself was unneeded: Shakia was the only white Lupe in their pack for many years. "Yes," she replied quietly, looking in the direction the voice had come from.

     Movement came, barely perceptible in the dark night. She was only able to discern the shadow Lupe's features when he was a yard from her.

     "Hello, Shade," she said, sitting down and looking at him with her amber eyes. He sat down as well, his sharp eyes holding her own. Shade was her only true friend. She was so different from the others. She was…

     A sharp howl cried out in the distance, signaling danger. Shakia blinked. Danger? Both the white and the shadow Lupes jumped to their feet. Another sharp howl echoed, this time from the opposite direction.

     "Two dangers?" Shakia asked herself quietly, watching Shade bound off in the direction of the first call. Of course he would go that way: that was his brother's voice.

     Shakia had no family, save the pack, and they didn't really like her. Yes, they let her stay, and yes, they accepted her, if coolly; but they didn't trust her, nor did they like her. More than anything Shakia wanted to fit in, but no matter what she did, things always went wrong. She didn't understand why they went wrong: they just did.

     She blinked, realized that she still stood at the base of the hill, alone; and that many other danger-cries were beginning to echo. She did not feel frightened: nothing much frightened her. She was merely confused, worried, and wondering what she should do. If she went one way, her pack might just chase her off, rejecting her; if she went another, the same might happen. It was a constant war within herself, trying to fit in, trying to be something they could look to for help.

     A new cry split the air: fear. Shakia's amber eyes widened, her ears perked up and listening to all sounds. She began to walk forward, her pace quickening with each step. Ahead she heard her pack gathering.

     She trotted toward the whispering circle, quiet and swift. The whispering drew silent as she came near, and then the muttering started. They always muttered when she was near and they were trying to make important decisions. She had grown quite used to it, even if it hurt something inside her.

     "Shakia," hissed a red Lupe, Roald. He swept his paw over the dry ground, sending dust into her face as a sign of greeting. She yelped slightly, and then sneezed.

     It was the sneeze and not the yelp that angered her pack. For as she sneezed, her fur had lit up like a beacon in the night: magic.

     "Shakia!" cried several Lupes in anger and shock. They growled at her, every one, save Shade. She hung her head and lowered her eyes.

     "Out," commanded a deep, harsh voice, the voice of the pack-leader, Marcus. Shakia looked up at him quickly -- did she hear him right?

     "Out, filth," he repeated. "You are no longer wanted here."

     "The hunters will capture her!" exclaimed Shade. "She has to come with us."

     "Shut your mouth or you'll join her," the leader growled. "She'll attract the hunters." He looked to her. "If you ever wanted to do anything good for this pack, here it is. Lead the hunters away. Let us escape."

     "But she'll be captured!" cried Shade.

     "Shut it!" the leader snarled at the young shadow Lupe, who backed away with his ears flat against his head. Marcus turned to Shakia, snarling. She backed away warily, and then turned to flee.

     She was all alone now. No family, no pack, no friends…

     She ran to her hill, the tallest hill in the plains the pack called home. There she could see almost everything. Some distance away, she could just barely see the shadowy forms of the pack, still discussing their plans for escape from the hunters. Noises sounded behind her, and she quickly dropped low. Now that she really looked, she could see many solo shadows all heading toward her pack. They would never discover the intruders until it was too late. They would be captured.

     Briefly she considered simply staying where she was. Obviously the Lupes were to fall prey to the hunters and be made tame; going first to the pound and then, someday, to some human owner. Briefly she considered simply allowing that to happen. After all, they didn't care for her. Why should she care for them?

     Then she thought of Shade. He had stayed on her side the entire time, never backing down. The only reason he hadn't pursued defending her just moments before was because he was frightened of the hunters and of Marcus. At any other time, he would have stuck with it. Perhaps she should do something just to save him.

     Then she realized something even deeper, something that she had always wished for and never seemed to get. More than anything she wanted to fit in with the pack, to be a part of them… But no matter what she did, no matter how hard she tried, things always went wrong. Ever since they had let her enter their ranks, and even before then, she had always wanted one single thing: to be a part of the pack. Every Lupe was born with that inner chord, that one thing nagging at the back of their mind that made them want to group and sing the pack song. It was that pride of being part of the pack, that pride of singing the song only Lupes know… It was this that Shakia had always wanted, and yet had never received.

     Then her mind decided.

     She would save her pack, even if they didn't call her a part of it anymore. She would do it because it was the thing a pack-member did for another, the thing they always did.

     She slunk off the hill, running swiftly and low to the ground. How long had she been thinking? In the distance she heard shocked yelps.

     Throwing aside all caution, Shakia ran as if she were the wind that rushed over the plain. She began to glow. She had magic, and though she didn't know quite yet how to use it, she would have to try. Silvery sparks that looked like stars glistened in the air around her, either the reason she ran so fast, or an effect of running so fast. She didn't know. She didn't care. Her white fur began to glow with silvery light.

     She reached the place where the pack had been conversing. Most of the pack was trapped in individual nets with humans looming over them. A few had managed to escape capture for the time being. The struggling below stopped when the bright light had appeared on the rise of the hill.

     The pack stiffened in shock; the human's eyes widened. "The Ghost Lupe!" one human cried out quietly. "He's come to punish us!"

     "How can you be certain?" another hissed, looking to Shakia, who was just as surprised at being called the Ghost Lupe as the humans were at discovering her.

     She took her cue. Growling, she sent some of her magic to make the nets glow. She pulled up anything she could think of. Glowing objects, illusions, echoes… Soon the humans were nervous and frightened, backing away. Growling low, she took a few quick steps forward, and that seemed to be the final warning. The hunters turned and fled.

     Amazed that they had done so, it was several minutes before Shakia descended to the stunned pack. They all looked at her in wonder. With her magic-filled claws, she quickly tore open the nets and freed the captives. Her magic then faded, and the silver-star coat she had recently worn changed back to its normal white.

     "Why did you come for us?" asked Marcus after a moment. "You could have left us. You could have let them take us."

     She shrugged slightly, turning slowly around. She knew her place. She was outcast, as Marcus had decreed her not an hour before.

     The pack-leader bounded around, blocking her exit. "Where do you think you are going?" he asked.

     "Where else?" she replied. "You banished me."

     "Well, I take that back," he said, and she saw truth in his eyes. Suddenly she realized that he trusted her now, that he actually might turn to her for help in the future. "You're part of us."

     She smiled, realizing that she was finally fitting in, that she had proved herself to be something. Finally, she could sing with those she had wanted to sing with, with those that she was meant to sing with. In pure happiness, she tilted her head up and raised her voice in a howl, which was quickly joined by the others until it became the song. Finally, she was a part of the Lupe pack.

The End

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