Toshro laid near the entrance to the makeshift den, holding a deep wound in his side. His dark grey fur was matted with blood and dirt from the night's fighting, and the nearly fatal wound that he pressed closed, gasping for air. He knew his pack-brothers Romus and Eglo were nearby, but his sense of time was failing him. They were searching for water in the blazing hot plains, a long shot for anyone without digging equipment, and the three Lun had only their claws about them.
He thought back, trying to piece together what had happened. Keep his mind off the pain. He'd started the day normally, woken up in the den at the outpost with his pack-brothers, and gone for food. It was basic, instinctive precision that they expected with the Lun warpacks. They heard the wardrums sound as they had taken the small ration of meat and water, devouring it and charging to the edges of the camp to see what had happened; A horde of Irco were approaching. The nasty green creatures were common on the plains, and threatened the territory Toshro's tribe held there. The beak-faced devils wielded jagged chunks of metal and vicious stone maces, often fighting for a time even after taking a fatal wound. The war-alpha Omin planned to route them by killing the biggest and nastiest Irco they could find. The plan had failed, and the now-enraged Irco swarmed the encampment, and killed many of the Lun warriors there.
Toshro had been wounded badly, and hidden in the den, a short run away from the outpost. He waited there now, terrified that his packbrothers had been captured or killed, and he would be soon after them. He shut his eyes, letting his head lay back, falling into unconciousness.
* * *
The wolf-warrior felt his sense of smell come back first. He was surrounded by the coppery tinge of blood and wet fur. He couldn't move, and his eyes opened slowly into a sickeningly bright, blurry world. He twisted his face and shut his eyes again, yelping in alarm. He felt a claw press on his chest. Romus was there, and he clasped a hand over his pack-brother's, thanking Luna for the blessing. He didn't hear what they were saying, trying to reorient himself. His hearing returned for him to catch the tail-end of the converstaion.
"The answer is no, Elgo," Romus' deep voice echoed through the cave - Home, toshro thought, "He is not of our tribe."
"Wait, we need a full deision, Romus. Tosh gets a chance to decide as well." Elgo protested, growling irritably, "Either way, we can't just throw him out, he'll get killed!"
"No. I won't endanger the pack like that."
"You aren't! He's barely three months old, plus Toshro needs a Second. This little guy'll be perfect."
"Let Tosh decide when he wakes up, Romus. I can't believe you're gonna break the Traditions like this. Just because he's not our Tribe doesn't mean we can ignore him."
"Enough," There was a gurgle as Romus grabbed Elgo by the throat, "Sit down and wait. Better use of your breath."
"Fine..." Elgo croaked as he presumably sat down.
Toshro felt a heavy pressure on his chest again. Romus attempting to wake him up a little more. He squeezed the other Lun's hand, shaking his head and searching about with his still sightless eyes. He knew Romus was there, and Elgo was close by, but who were they talking about? He tried speaking, but only managed a hoarse moan.
"Easy." Toshro felt himself levered up by someone bigger than him - Romus - and held there. He knew the almonds-and-smoke scent of his bigger 'brother', and that he was stubborn enough to stay put right there until he'd recovered.
"You nearly got killed again, Toshro," Romus scolded him, "You need to stop taking risks like that. We could have lost you," He felt Romus press something to his lips, "Drink this. Healer made it."
Toshro did so, letting the sickly mixture choke him as it slid down his throat. His head swam, and what little he could see faded away into a grey, then darkness again.
* * *
Days later, Elgo and Romus returned Toshro and the cub to their clutch's hut. The hut was a sort of simple affair built about a mile from the Lun city of Y'mo was shaped like an octagon divided into eight sections. One where the doorway and weapons were kept, a simple toilet behind a wall opposite the door, six small pack-rooms and a central room with a fire-ring and opening above it for meetings and rituals. The walls were made of mud and wood, decorated in harsh graffiti and runes proclaiming insults to foes or celebrating victories, though those had long passed. The entire building was in disrepair and falling apart, even carrying a slight stench of something nobody could quite identify. At present, the clutch consisted of two three-man packs. Toshro's, and another lead by a young hotheaded beserker named Keus.
The two packs occupied facing sections across the fire ring, walled off to the other two into smaller rooms. Ever since they had been assigned there, the two packs squared off on almost everything from food to strategy, often resulting in bloodshed and destruction of the hut. Truces came and went between the two packs quicker than alliances made by the tribe as a whole, leaving Toshro's pack to often sleep where they were patrolling and only visit the clutch when injured badly, such as the case was.
Elgo held aside the door flap for Romus as he carried Toshro in, followed by the cub who had stayed silent for the time, keeping close to Toshro's silent form. Romus laid his packbrother down on a sleeping mat, watching as the cub laid near him. It was strange to him: Like most of his tribe, Toshro had dark grey fur and was somewhat scrawny, bu well-muscled. As usual after a fight, he was bandaged and unconcious, needing to stay down for a time. The cub next to him had been badly hurt too, but recovered quickly. His fur was brown, except on his chest that was a pure white. He wore a strange hook-shaped necklace engraved with runes, though he wouldn't let anyone take it off him or read it. The cub fussed over Toshro, making sure he was comfortable before he curled up on his chest, seeming to fall asleep.
"I don't understand 'im," Romus confessed, taking a seat on the far side of the room and shaking his head, "Just takes care of him."
"Well, duh." Elgo itched at his perpetually-shedding fur, shaking a little and sending a cloud of fur into the air around him, "He's attached to Toshro... I bet he's part of Toshro's Line or something."
"No such thing as Lines anymore. Last one died out years ago."
"Oh, come on, Rom, I heard there was one that came back on the southren border. They don't do anything but like mys--"
"Mystically bond lines of Seconds and Warriors from past lives. I know, Elgo, But its a myth. It doesn't happen anymore."
"I bet it does," Elgo maintained his position, listening to the silent hut, "Keus is gone... thank Luna."
"Probably out mating with everything that he can," Romus said that with such a level of disgust that it made his pack-brother's mind crawl, "And causing us no end of trouble."
"Hey, just... Put up with it?"
"No. His behavior's unacceptable."
"Oh, lookit that!" Elgo fixed the biggest pack-brother with a smug look, "All of a sudden you're all about the Laws!"
"Knock it off. He," Romus indicated the small red wolf, "Is only here because he's been useful."
"Riiiiiight. Meaning you saw my point about him becoming Toshro's Second."
"No. Toshro never expressed any interest in it."
Elgo shrugged, "How do you know that?"
"He pitched away what he needed for it a year ago."
"Why wouldn't he want a Second? The three of us grew up together. We were seconds to the same Warpack. He didn't have it rough."
"No. Therun died first, Toshro became a full-fledged warrior before he could finish his training."
"And? That happens a lot."
"He doesn't want to risk it. He never feels like he's up to Therun's standards."
"Whatever," Elgo moved over and laid on his mat, yawning, "He worries too much. We come through everything fine."
Romus shrugged, keeping watch on the three as they slept. Everything seemed to be turning on his side. If and when Toshro came to, he would find a small Lun that was obsessed with his care and wanted to learn from him it seemed. Very strange indeed. The Irco had also overrun a lun camp, which was unheard of, and it seemed the Hume - those strange, flat-faced furless creatures - were moving into the area as well. It concerned him deeply.
The big fighter looked at Toshro, who began stirring. Romus reached over and nudged Elgo, who muttered something about his mother and rolled over. He woke immediately though when Romus kicked him and pointed at Toshro. Elgo nodded and moved towards their packbrother, keeping an eye on Toshro. Romus kept his eye on the cub, who had woken and sat next to Toshro, stroking his hand as he came to. Toshro coughed wildly, sitting up and startling the cub.
"Tosh! You woke up!" Elgo jumped for joy a bit, smiling widely at his fellow who seemed busy reorienting himself with the world, "You've been out for days!"
"Elgo," Romus eyed the other wolf.
"You got in the fight with the Irco and took out the big one but he stuck the huge poisoned sword in your side, you felt like you were going to burst into flames!"
"Elgo!" Romus repeated, straining to keep his cool.
"Healer Orria said you almost died and that you were --"
"ELGO!" Romus shouted, half in irritation and half in surprise as the small cub jumped on Elgo and held his muzzle shut with his arms and legs, glaring at the chatty wolf.
"Thank you, Cub," Romus seemed relieved. The cub nodded in acknoweledgement, looking back at Toshro, looking for approval in some way.
"I..." Toshro steadied himself, looking at the other two, "I didn't mean to fall like that."
"Its allright," Romus said, "You did what was needed."
"Where am I?"
"Home. Keus' pack is patrolling. We're alone."
"Why aren't we at the camp? We should be back there fighting!"
"It's gone, Toshro."
"GONE!?" Toshro roared, slamming a fist into the ground, "How can it be gone!? There were twoscore Lun there!"
"And twoscore Irco for each of us. We're lucky to be alive."
Toshro growled, laying down and trying to relax. He was unbelieveably pissed, and seemed to be seething in anger. His packbrothers knew he was holding himself responsible for it. It meant he'd be fighting with anyone that tried changing his mind or cheering him up. Reguardless, Elgo peeled the cub off of his mouth and held him at the length of his arm by the scruff of his neck.
"Tosh, don't beat yourself up about it," Elgo tried being as encouraging as possible, despite the growl coming from Toshro, "You got poisoned, and there was no way we could've beat those odds. We were bound to lose."
"Shut up, Elgo."
"C'mon, Tosh," Elgo kept trying, eyeing the cub who looked to be getting just as pissed as Toshro was, "You're not doing us any good brooding about it."
Toshro growled in response.
"Please? Just this once don't think you were responsible."
"SHUT UP!" Tosho roared, slashing his claws across Elgo's chest. Elgo jumped backwards, holding the wound.
"The heck, Tosh!?" Elgo seemed surprised, and looked at Romus for some sort of response. He shook his head in disgust, letting the two go.
The cub moved towards Toshro, looking up at him from where he was sitting on his haunches. He reached out and touched the bigger wolf's arm, trying to get his attention. Toshro looked down, eyeing the smaller wolf intently.
"Who are you." Toshro asked, still sounding like he was going to rip him apart.
"My name's Horu," The cub spoke softy so Romus and Elgo had to strain to hear, "This's yours?"
Toshro inspected the necklace, seeming troubled. He didn't seem to like what was going on here, and got up, leaning heavily on the wall as he dug a claw into it, showing a small compartment hidden in it. He reached in, pulling out a similar hook necklace, though unlike the bone of the other it was crafted out of a sparkling blue jewel. He knelt down, and touched the two together, reading the carvings aloud.
"The one who is bound shall find this and return," Toshro looked to the bone piece now, "To learn the Pack's Courage and Strength."
He hung his head, shaking it. It seemed to the others Toshro, their brave and somewhat suicidal leader, was about to finally break apart. Toshro placed the jewel-hook around his neck and wiped his hands on the remains of his clothes. He patted Horu's head, smiling a little, "How did you find the necklace?"
Horu nodded, sitting near Toshro and matching how he sat: one arm rested on a raised knee, the other laying loose, "See... my folks are fishers in the southlands, at the other end of the Falls. Dad found it and gave it to me, said I'd like it... Well, I learned how to read the carvings on it. I knew if he found it on the river, it came from upstream, so I ran away and followed the river towards here. When I saw the Irco, I thought i could outrun them, so I figured to look for the outpost... I was too slow, and got caught in the fight. One of the big Irco attacked me, and I got beat pretty bad," He seemed ashamed of that and stopped, but continued when Toshro put a hand on his shoulder, "So Elgo found me, and started fighting with Romus about me... Since you were the only one not fighting, i figured you'd lost it in the river. I guess i did what I thought was best for you, you know? Make sure you'd make it through okay."
"Why did you choose him like this," Romus asked his packbrother, eyeing the cub, "I saw you throw both necklaces away a year after Therun died."
"That was my decision... I did throw both of them, but one caught on my hand," Toshro leaned back against the wall, and Horu seemed to get agitated that he was hurt so bad, "I realized that as bad as I didn't want to take a Second, that would mean your lives would be at risk one day."
"So you let luck handle it." Elgo asked, still seeming to get himself together, "And no matter who it was, you were going to take them."
"Exactly. Therun chose me in the same way."
"He did?" Romus was skeptical, "How can you prove that?"
"He told me."
Romus nodded, and Elgo gave his customary whatever look. It seemed the issue of how and why was at rest. They sat in silence for a time, each to their own thoughts. After a time, Toshro pushed himself up, leaning heavily on the wall and Haru for support, heading outside. The others followed, standing out on the dirt ground as the sun set the skies ablaze in its final farewell as nighttime came on. Toshro started a small fire using sharp sticks, and eyed the other three, nodding to them. The three warriors stood in a line with Haru in front of them across the fire, with the sunset to the smallest Lun's back. They stayed silent until the moon was visible.
"My pack," Toshro began, addressing his brothers, "This child is Haru of the Southlands. I wish for him to become my second."
"I do," Elgo and Romus replied in unison, "And understand that he is my brother, to be bound by blood and spirit, battle and victory, by Gracious Mother Luna and the Father of the Hunt"
Toshro nodded, looking across the flames that were quickly growing as the spiritual energy around them increased, "Haru, child of the Southland."
"Yes, Father," Haru replied instinctually, seeming to get nervous as the fire grew.
"You wish to take the path of the Warrior. What do you believe this entails." Toshro questioned, falling slightly before he was caught by Elgo, who helped him to his feet again.
"Unasked sacrifice and understanding that the Pack is the greatest force behind the Lun Tribes. Also to posess the strength and courage to lead battle and keep our kind safe from battle."
"And also the Will and Wisdom, and the Cunning and Knowledge the pack demands of you." Toshro placed a hand near the fire, which grew slightly.
"Haru, Child of the Southland," Romus now questioned Haru, who seemed to be more nervous.
"Yes, Father," Haru replied again.
"Answer truthfully: Do you trust your Father to give orders in the Pack's best interest, even when you question its logic?"
"Even it may lead to your death, trust in your Father," Romus knelt near Toshro, placing a hand at the edge of the fire, seeming to revel in the heat of it as the flames grew again, licking the tips of his claws.
Elgo eyed Haru, nodding encouragingly, "Haru, Child of the Southland."
"Yes, Father," the small wolf replied again.
"When you are faced with a problem, what is your goal?"
"I..." Haru shook his head, seeming to search for instinct, "I intend to find the best solution with my knowledge and the knowledge of my pack."
"You better, or I'll knock you silly." Toshro and Romus glared at Elgo's response, who shook his head and muttered, "Stuck up traditionalists. Our strength lies in the Pack, and the thoughts of the pack together. Remember this."
Elgo placed his hand near the fire, which burned intensely and drew a light from the three Lun's hands. It joined with the fire briefly, then rose, each carrying a tongue of flame and began to circle around Haru. He shook a little, obviously frightened.
"Throw the trappings of your old life into the fire. Remove your clothes and valuables, all that is yours except the necklace Father has given you," Toshro said, concentrating on the fire, "Stand bare in soul and body before us."
The cub did so, feeding the fire with a meager vest and pants, and a small leather bracelet that he lingered on a moment. He tossed it into the fire, and the tongues circling him glowed brighter, now joined by a weaker fourth light bearing a tongue of flame. The lights dove towards Haru, charring his fur in looping, graceful patterns. Their work complete, the flames returned to their owners, scoring their fur in the same manner before rejoining the fire.
Toshro siezed one of the burning sticks, moving around the fire and driving it through Haru's shoulder. He held the cub, who howled and sobbed in pain, then stopped, wimpering softly as he sank to his knees.
"This wound will heal, as will others. You are no longer mortal, but a blessed Child of Luna, Haru." Toshro said, "Know that Mother Luna's light shines now upon you, and finds you as a Warrior in her eyes. Swift of foot, deadly in battle, and sharp of mind."
Toshro pulled out the stick, stamping the fire out with his foot. He eyed Haru, standing before him, "Rise now, Haru, Child of Luna and Warrior of the Lun."
Haru stood for a few moments, then fell, overcome by the pain of the wound.
Toshro smiled, looking at the other two, "Well... Now the real work can start."
"You freakin stabbed him!" Elgo said in absolute shock, "Man, that's... Hell!"
"Elgo... They did the same to you when you were chosen." Toshro scooped Haru up in his arms, cradling him and calming him as best he could by putting his hand over the cauterized wound.
"Still," Elgo moved in front of Toshro, "Don't you think that's a bit harsh?"
"No," Romus cut in, lifting Elgo's slender frame out of the way and letting Toshro into the Hut, "Its the traditition. Which you, as always, want to break."
"Hey," Elgo broke Romus' hold, slipping into the Hut, "Sometimes you have to."
"Enough." Toshro shouted, glaring at the two, "No more arguing... Tomorrow we need to start for the City, and speak with headquarters. Make sure we didn't retreat improperly."
"And then what? Please say 'reassigned' because i hope Keus is getting his ass kicked right now." Elgo settled down on a sleeping mat as Toshro laid Haru down, "It'd be a nice surprise..."
"Won't happen. He's got an in with Headquarters. You got clothes for the cub?" Romus was settling down himself for the first watch.
"I'll borrow from Keus," Toshro said, laying down with Haru beside him, still pressing a hand to the cub's wound, "He stole a set of mine a while ago."
"Fair enough..." Elgo said, rolling on his side and drifting off to sleep. Romus looked at Toshro, moving the stool he was on outside to give them space. Toshro kept looking at the cub who clawed at his hand, trying to get at the wound. He pulled his hand away, wiping the blood on Haru's fur before laying back to watch.
"Stop picking at it," Toshro said, "It'll heal if you let it alone."
"But it hurts! There's ashes and splinters in it!"
"Stop picking at it."
"It hurts!" Haru protested, pulling a measely splinter out of the wound for the damage he caused to himself.
"Stop," Toshro held both of Haru's wrists, pinning them to the ground, "If you let it alone, your body will heal it itsself. This is nothing to you now. The wound will push the ashes and splinters out while it heals."
Haru struggled, whining in pain and wincing as the wound started healing, pushing the wood and ashes to his skin. Haru stopped after a while, not feeling the pain anymore.
"I will NEVER," Toshro said, "Do anything that will seriously hurt you. Trust me."
Haru nodded, despite the deep ruts tears had carved in the fur around his eyes. Toshro let go of him, wiping away the tears.
"Never cry unless a packmate falls... It makes you look stupid."
Toshro nodded, laying down with an arm around Haru, keeping him close to him, "Tomorrow... We'll go to the city. Talk to Headquarters about the Irco attack... They will want to speak with you."
Haru nodded, getting comfortable and yawning. Toshro closed his eyes, and for the first time since his mentor died, slept well and through the night.
Toshro sat bolt upright at the first bit of light with dawn, eyeing the surroundings with an angry growl, hovering over Haru as he surveyed the interior of the hut. He could see Romus was laying on the mat where Elgo had been, and that Keus and his pack hadn't returned. Toshro shook his head, pushing Haru roughly to wake him up. The cub murmured and turned over. Toshro huffed in irritation and siezed him in his mouth by the scruff of the neck, walking on all fours to the far side of the hut, searching through Keus' clothes. He found the tight-fitting sort of tunic that Keus preferred, tearing off the bottom to keep it from dragging. He dressed Haru, and took him by the scruff again, stealing a pair of black pants from Keus and donning them before heading out to speak with Elgo.
Elgo was sitting on the stool outside the cabin. He wore a black vest with a blue stripe across the top and a pair of black linen pants with blue stripes at the ends held up by a belt with a multitude of pouches and bags hanging from it. The Lun toyed with a weapon he'd recently invented, a yo-yo with blades that became exposed when at the apex of the weapon's swing. They'd proven effective against the Irco, and especially Humes who didn't seem to understand the threat of the weapon -- most thought of it as a toy and suicidally charged him.
"Well... If it ain't sleeping beauty... You slept clean through your watch, Toshro." Elgo snickered, eyeing the cub in his mouth, "Geez... Could you treat him like an actual Lun and not some mongrel?"
Toshro set the cub down, "He's still asleep... Needs the rest."
"So you're gonna carry him the whole way?"
"No. Wake him up when we're ready to leave."
"Great... If you didn't check the stores, we're out of food."
Toshro growled, seeming dissatisfied.
"Hey. Not my issue. Last watch catches food if we're out, right?"
Toshro nodded, moving off, "Watch the Cub."
"Yeah... Sure." Elgo said, picking up Haru and moving him out of the doorway and setting him beside him, watching toshro meld into the grass. He leaned back, reclining on two legs and spinning the bladed yo-yo, yawning.
"Where's Toshro?" Haru yawned, looking around and trying to figure out where things were, and what was going on.
"Getting food. Take it easy today, squirt." Elgo caught the yo-yo, looking at him, "You're gonna have a lot of our instincts kicking in on you... Part of the ritual last night."
"Just... pay attention... Here." He reached into one of his pouches and set a collection of objects on the ground, a spring, a wooden bird, a few metal cylnders and a small razor blade, "Put it together into a trap..."
"I..." Haru stared at the objects, utterly baffled, "Don't get it."
He nodded, picking up a few of the pieces and looking at them, trying to figure it out, "None of these go together."
"Yeah they do... Don't give up so easily."
Haru growled in frustration, pushing on the spring, getting nowhere. He looked up at Elgo wearing a big smirk.
"Look... All of us share a sort of bond. We can tap into the other's abilities on a need basis, but while you're doing that whoever you're borrowing them from won't be able to do that... Try it again, but think about what I would do."
"I don't know you that well."
"Yeah you do. Instinctually at least. Don't give it any more thought than if you were running away from something that was trying to eat you."
Haru huffed, trying again as Elgo chuckled, shaking his head and setting down the Yo-yo. After a minute, the cub assembled the pieces into a small sculpture. he pressed down on it, and the razor shot out, sticking into Elgo.
"OW!" Elgo yelped, standing up and pulling the small sharp out of his leg, "Good, you got it."
"The heck are you apologizing for? The point was to get it to shoot at me."
"No... I broke the bird..." Haru held up the small wooden bird that'd been split cleanly into two pieces.
"Aww, man," He took the two pieces from the cub, "Oh well. Things break, yeah? rest of its in one piece, so we're okay."
Elgo placed the remaining pieces and the razor back into the pouch on his belt, and pitched aside the split bird. He took a seat again, nudging the cub out of the doorway.
"Three... Two... One." Elgo pointed at the door, and Romus came charging out wielding a huge axe. He looked around for anything attacking, seeming ready to kill something.
"Morning, Romus." Elgo said cheerfully, chuckling with Haru.
"Nothing. Just wanted to wake you up."
Elgo ducked as Romus swung the axe, embedding it in the side of the hut. He tugged it out, and the hut gave a groaning protest.
"Yeah... It won't take much more of that." Elgo said, leaning back into place, "So... Don't swing unless you're gonna hit me."
Romus growled angrilly, eyeing the horizon and then looking towards the City.
"Toshro's out hunting... Chillax, Romu, nothing's going to happen."
"Shut up, Elgo."
"Hey... Do you two gotta fight like that?" Haru asked, seeming fairly confused.
"Yes!" They both responded, glaring at the Cub.
"Okay, okay..." He backed off, letting them go at it.
Elgo and Romus quieted down, brooding on how bad they were going to mess the other up for a while, leaving Haru to his own devices. He wandered about the hut, sniffing about and trying to find something to do. The older wolves weren't much fun to be around in the morning, he figured, and he wanted to stay away from them. Rather, he'd want to be around Toshro more. After all, he was easier to be around. He got back to the front, watching Elgo and Romus glare at eachother for a bit, turning around as Toshro came into view.
He carried a small brown rabbit that seemed barely bigger than a newborn. Its neck had been snapped and a few teeth marks bled a little. He tossed it at Elgo, growling a little.
"Only thing I could find. Area's been overhunted." Toshro eyed Haru, then looked at his packbrothers.
"Eeeh... You want it Romus?" Elgo held the rabbit up to the bigger Lun, who shook his head. Haru caught it as Elgo whipped it in his direction, tearing into it.
"That's not exactly good news, Tosh. I mean, we're the only two packs out here, right?" Elgo resumed throwing the Yo-yo, carving a neat trench in the ground with the blades.
"Other predators and Leos may have moved in too." Toshro cracked his back, heading into the hut.
"No... The Leos only go for bigger stuff."
"We'll report it and see what happens."
"Yeah, that'll be great, Tosh. Headquarters never does anything."
Toshro came out, carrying a large sword with a crook about halfway up and an ornate handle, "We're reporting it. Don't go investigate."
"Fine." Elgo pushed himself up, "Are we ready to go?"
Toshro and Romus nodded, starting off with Elgo. Haru looked up, tossing aside the remains of the Rabbit and running after them, slowing down once he caught up with them. He wove around Romus and fell into step with Toshro, doing his best to keep up with his quick pace. He looked up at the bigger wolf, then back ahead.
"Where are we going?"
"To Y'mo." Toshro said, eyeing the cub, "Save your breath and dont' talk when we're travelling like this. Keep your eyes open and stay alert."
Haru fell silent, scanning the area around them and jogging to keep up with the others. To him, the entire landscape seemed dull and uninteresting. All the same color and nothing different about it. All the same grass and no hills or cliffs or anything. Not like his home at all. The only thing he could really see was a busy road a good distance off to his left, and the river running away to the right. The city loomed ahead of them with its high stone walls. Toshro changed direction and led them towards the road, keeping his pace up and joining the traffic on the road.
Haru had never seen so many people in one place before. It was absolute chaos as different people moved back and forth, carrying all manner of things, and merchants hawking their wares even before they entered the gate. Haru yelped as Elgo pulled him out of the way of a floating bed pushed by an irritated-looking Lun.
"What was that!?" Haru asked, awed.
"Floatbed. Enchanted to float and make things easier to move." Toshro answered, keeping a hand on Haru's shoulder and guiding him through the thickening crowd.
Haru gazed up at the magnificent stone walls with deadly steel spikes protruding from the bottom to ward off intruders, and the dark crimson color of the thick wooden gates held back by massive chains. As they moved into the northren market district, the buildings around them towered three or four stories tall, with businesses on the bottom floor and the homes of the owners above them. The height served mainly to block the view of the hovel dens to the north, and the docks further away. the road they were on angled southwest, flirting with an intersection that lead into the Hovels.
"This road," Toshro said, stopping Haru, "You are never to go past. The Hovels are too dangerous for you now. Stick with me, and don't make eye contact with anyone."
Haru nodded, pressing back into Toshro as he was almost run over by another Floatbed. He didn't want to question that. He was too interested in what was going on around him. There were a multitude of vendors, swarming around and chattering loudly, shouting that they had the best prices or the rarest goods in the city. Toshro pushed Haru slightly, moving him past a stand selling fishing tackle. They made their way south towards the river. Haru had to stifle a gasp at the huge bridge that crossed the mighty river Y'mo. The bridge was made from living trees, with the roots and branches intertwined and made to a smooth crossing over the river with openings that allowed a view of the powerful current below. Elgo snickered, watching Haru's reaction to it.
"One of the best places in Y'mo... Some old magikers did it a long time ago, used to be the main gate into the city until folks started moving in here to be safe from the Irco." Elgo explained, nudging the eerily quiet Romus, "Of course there's folks that can't stand it too."
"Wow..." Haru stepped back from the edge, following the others as they headed across the crossing, into the southren half of the city. Unlike the market district, where they now stood looked like they had crossed back into the open plains. The different roads were dirt, trodden down with the passage of time to be almost rock like in quality, and the different buildings seemed to be made like the pack's hut but much sturdier, excluding the temples they could see to the right.
Those were made with white marble and rose into the sky, but were dwarfed by the large, pure-white steepled temple with a glowing moon-like sculpture at the top.
"Luna's Temple." Toshro supplied, "Its said Luna will appear there from time to time. Not where we're going. Pick up the pace. Still early, I don't want to deal with a lot of others."
The others had to run to keep up with the maddening pace Toshro now set, diving through people and weaving wildly. Haru barely had time to see the structures change into small homes on the left, and gigantic mansions to the right. the street was winded and crooked here, taking them north and south then north again, heading towards a huge fortress-like structure that sat at the end of the road, dead-ending it. The gate was tightly shut, cleaned meticulously and showing graphic carvings of past battles and Lun warriors effortlessly triumphing over their enemies. The towers at the corners of the structure were patrolled by bowmen, calmly pacing the ramparts and eyeing passerby. The whole structure made little sense to Haru, but he followed as the others walked through the gate.
The inside of the fortress was as impressive as the outside, all neatly level and uniform stone buildings and courtyards, regularly patrolled by lun armed with a variety of weapons and some followed by smaller Lun a bit older than Haru, also serving as seconds. they headed for one of the buildings in the center of the compound, marked with a small plate reading 'Patrols'. The four entered, heading down the stone corridor to a wooden door on the left. Elgo held out a hand to Haru before Toshro knocked.
"Keep quiet, and don't talk unless you get talked to, squirt. It'll make this easier." Elgo winked at the younger Lun as Toshro knocked, waiting.
"Who is it." A gruff, irritated voice answered from inside.
"Toshro and pack. Filing report on our patrol." Toshro answered, waiting.
Toshro leaned on the old door handle, letting the others file in before he did. The office was somewhat cramped, filled with barrels of weapons and stacks of aging scrolls and papers, with the heavy scent of ink clinging to them. In the center of the strange chaos was an aged wooden desk, with an even older Lun sitting behind it. He wore a green tunic decorated with various talons and medals, a few hidden behind his long white mustache. He looked up at the younger Lun, setting down the quill pen he was writing with.
"Toshro... Romus, and Elgo... Good to see you three." The old Lun answered, smiling a little, "You are on time for once."
"Yessir." Toshro answered, "Third pack of the fifteenth clutch reporting on our patrol."
"I know who you are, Toshro... Now, what did you find?"
"The southren river outpost was destroyed, from what we can find we are the only survivors. We were overrun by Irco, and we believe they still hold the position. We have not heard back from any of our other clutch members. I have accepted my Second, Haru. We discovered this morning that the area has been overhunted, but were unable to determine the cause of this."
The older lun looked down at the tiny wolf, a small smile playing on his face. He seemed amused, and apparently believed the same as Elgo and Romus about Toshro. He chuckled, smiling warmly.
"Haru," He said. Haru snapped to attention, trying to look somewhat official, "I am Commander Ferun. Welcome to the Pack of the Warrior. Formalities aside, Toshro is a good warrior, you'll learn a lot from him and his pack... Maybe lead it one day yourself."
"Y... yeah..." Haru seemed very nervous about that, "Th...thanks."
"Good.. Now, you know where the barracks are. Your pack is on reserve duty for a week or so. Rest and enjoy yourselves... Same section as always. You're dismissed."
Toshro bowed, his packmates following suit before filing out of the office. Romus caught Toshro as he nearly collapsed, finally feeling the weight of his injuries.
"Enough of that. Rest for a while, Toshro." Romus said, "We're out of danger." Toshro nodded, using Romus as a crutch as they left the building, ready to take some time off.