Chapter 3

Chapter 3

A Chapter by MildmayFoxxe

In which we get a better understanding of our Pack, and Shylock is surprisingly absent.

Chapter 3

Her touch was soft. Always so soft, hands smooth, not a callous to be found, and so very small. He could wrap her hand completely in his own- could close his palm around her forearm with room to spare. She was small all over like that; delicate and tiny. He’d towered over her, and always the fear that he was going to hurt her without meaning to.  But she had a steely strength to her, one that always surprised him, and she would laugh and lay a hand on his chest- or on his head, when he stood by her side as a wolf- and say “Amerok, I trust you.”

She’d trusted him, right up until the point where he’d gotten her killed.  

He’d never forget the way she’d looked at him, right before the arrow had taken her through the chest. Her eyes, big and blue and clear as a summer sky, locked onto his. Unafraid. Calm. Trusting. And she’d smiled at him.

“I love you.” She’d said. Her last words. The last time he’d ever seen her.

He hadn’t even gotten to bury her.

Cold. Wet. Slimy.

“Ugh, Tobias-” He shoved the kid’s furry head away, forcefully.

The silver wolf in front of him- lanky and rangy  with half-grown awkwardness- let it’s tongue loll merrily.  Tobias’s blue eyes- like hers, soft and gentle and naive- laughed at him.

“Alright. I’m awake. What?” He reached out to absently stroke one ear, swinging his legs off the bed even as the what became clear- Murdock’s voice, speaking low and urgently.

Tobias lopped off in that direction- he tended to stay Wolf for Milo’s sake, so the kid could have another four-legged to interact with- and he followed, more slowly.   

“He’s not with you.” This was Nathanial, lounging by the entrance of their cave. Alexander stood beside his twin, standing where Nathanial sat, arms folded across his chest. “Did he refuse you?”

“No.” Murdoch actually looked a hair shaken. It was as rare for their leader to be shaken up as it was for Amerok himself, and it was that more than anything that made the broader man step up and shove aside Milo, who was sniffing Murdoch with a single-minded curiosity.  The push was gentle but pointed, and the more submissive Wolf instantly backed away.

“What happened?”

Murdoch  sank down, pressing his fingers into his eyes. “I scared the hell out of him.” He sounded honestly concerned, a little lost. “He looked at me like I was- like- none of you ever looked at me like that. Not even Milo.”

The Wolf in question whined softly and crept forward, pushing his head under Murdoch’s hand. Absently, the older man caressed it. “It was like I was something…something out of a legend or a story.  Once he stopped and looked at me…”

“Stopped what?” Tobias had regained two-legged form to speak, and he now came up by Amerok’s side, just a step behind, submissive.  His head was down lower then Amerok’s own, despite the height difference, in another show of submission, unconscious and frankly unnecessary, but instinct was instinct.

“We-played a game of tag.” Murdoch chuckled, weakly. “Kid’s a hell of a fighter, I’ll give you that. Wouldn’t last a minute in the wild, but in that arena? No wonder he holds champ position so easily. He was almost a challenge, and neither of us was even really trying.”

“You fought him?” Nathanial lifted a brow. “Murdoch, honestly-”

“What, do you think someone like that kid is going to listen to a polite conversation? He’s a fighter, Nathanial, I’ve been there.We think differently. We are different.” He bit out, tightly. There was a darkness on his face Amerok didn’t like, something old and aching, like a wound that had never healed over right. He looked…his age, in that moment, every one of his years, and tired and battle-worn.     

Nathanial went quiet, bowed his head, sufficiently cowed by his s alpha…and ashamed of his words. Murdoch lifted his head, rolling it back on the wall and letting out a soft sigh.   

“He’s not ready yet.” Their oldest breathed, softly. “He’s close- he’s so close- but not ready.”

“How can he not be ready?”  Alexander this time, though more gently- more empathetic- then his younger brother. Despite being the more physically aggressive one, he was the more gentle-natured of the two.  “He’s wanting out, isn’t he? Who wouldn’t want out of that place? And he can fight, and-”

“And he’s not ready.” Murdoch’s eyes opened, slowly. “I understand how long we’ve all waited, Alex, and I understand the impatience- I am, too- but if we went in there and brought him out he’d just end up even more confused and conflicted. He’s not just going to come with me because I tell him to. Even if he wants to.”

Tobias sat, cross-legged, beside Nathan. “So what are we supposed to do? Just- wait more?”

But Murdoch shook his head almost before the sentence was done.

“No. No, if we let him be he’ll turn against us in his mind. We need to- Amerok. Come with me.” He pushed to his feet, not without some effort, the warrior noted. He extended a hand to help, and Murdoch accepted with a small, closed-lipped smile. Wolves didn’t tend to show their teeth to each other- while it wasn’t unusual to grin, it was, especially in a pack like this, not the most common expression, either.

“Private meeting?” Tobias again. “The rest of us don’t get to be privy to this?”

Alexander reached out and cuffed the back of Tobias’s head roughly. “Some things aren’t meant for pup’s ears.”

“I’m not a pup!” He rubbed at the back of his skull, lightly.

“Could have fooled me with that breaking voice there, kid.” Nathan chimed in, and Tobias dove forward. Within moments, the three were tumbling recklessly around, Milo bouncing circles around them barking.  Amerok smiled slightly, falling in step beside Murdoch.

“He needs to see us.” Murdoch said, as they moved outside of the cave, into the green and bright and beauty of the world around them. “To know us. We’re something mysterious and unknown, right now.” He leaned against the side of the cave, looking out at Fallspell with something almost soft in his eyes. “That was fine for most of us. But he’s different, Amerok.”  He looked down at his feet, closing his eyes for a moment.

Amerok watched the older Wolf- his Alpha, his friend, hell, even his rescuer, though he’d never been a slave proper- for a long, quiet moment. Murdoch didn’t seem aware that Amerok’s gaze was on him, steady and level, and he seemed- lost in his own world, for a while. Amerok let the silence pass. It was something he’d always been comfortable with- he’d never been the talkative sort, anyway.

“I didn’t realize,” Softly, “I didn’t remember, what they do to you, there.” Murdoch lifted his head at last. “The bitterness, the anger, the hate they build. They feed off it, force it down your throat and watch you become a monster that they came muzzle and own. I called him a dog,” His right hand had closed around his left wrist, around the faint scar from a band that had been there years ago. “I was wrong.  They turn you into something much worse.”

Amerok had never been a slave, let alone a fighting one. His upbringing had been…strict. Controlled. Regimented. But never unkind or unfair. He’d known from childhood what he was, that he was, technically owned- that he was not allowed to be Amerok The Person but Amerok the Guardian from the moment he was old enough to grasp the meaning.  But he’d never been unhappy.

It had been considered an honor, to be a Guardian. He and his family had been treated with a sort of respect- even when he’d been taken from them at the age of fifteen, it hadn’t been traumatic. He’d known it was going to happen for years, and the week before there had been a little ceremony and the companionship and support of his unofficial Pack, the other teens he’d been trained with. After, there had been quiet time spent with his family, bonding and growing closer.

“We are not free,” His father had told him. “But neither are we slaves. Your family to be Guarded will be your new Pack. Treat them as such, and you will be content. Respect them, and you will receive it in turn.”

And he always had.   Right up until the day he’d-

He turned his mind away from those events, glancing back over at his older companion. Murdoch was staring into space, blankly, hand still around his other wrist. Amerok had no idea what it must have been like, that life. What his companion- companions- must have gone through. His own pain was born of failure, of loosing the one person he’d most loved and been set to protect. It was as different as night from day to what caused Murdoch’s suffering, and- as stated, never big on words to begin with- Amerok was at a loss at the what he was supposed to say now.


“He needs a chance.”  His alpha blinked, coming back from wherever he’d come from. “He needs a reason to be loyal to us. He needs to know he can trust us.”

“Freedom isn’t reason enough?”

“Freedom.” The older man chuffed a laugh.  “If only. Perhaps in a fairy tale, the thought of freedom is enough to convince someone to take a leap as big as this.”

“Like Alexander and Nathanial said, it was enough for most of us. It was enough for you.”

Another breathy laugh. “No. No, it wasn’t just freedom that made me act. If it was, I wouldn’t have found the rest of you. Wouldn’t have formed us.” The man let out a low, heavy sigh.  “I had to. Certainly freedom was a part of it, but only a small part. I am only a small part.”

“You always say things like that.”

“Are you- finally- asking me to explain myself, Amerok?”

He paused, considering the next words carefully.  “We’ve always trusted you, Murdoch, unquestioningly. You say you’ve seen something in the future- something that mean we’re all meant to be together- we accept it. You say we’re going to change how things work, we accept it. For our own reasons, all of us.” Amerok looked down at his hands- big hands, powerful ones that had no more been able to stop her- or the rest of them- from dying then a child’s would have.   “Some of us want freedom, some of us want revenge…”

“But you do follow me.”

“We trust you.” The big man tilted his head back to watch the sky. “And most of us have- limited options.”

Murdoch laughed softly.  Amerok smiled a little, crookedly, and went on. “You want to tell me what’s going on? I’ll listen. I won’t go anywhere.” Softly. “Even if I had somewhere to go. You’re Pack now, all of you.”  

Murdoch tilted his head to regard him.  “Are you scared, Amerok?”

“Yes.” A low chuckle. “But that’s not what you brought me out here to discuss. We were talking about Shylock.”

Murdoch nodded. “He needs a reason to be loyal to us,” He said, tone more brisk, more businesslike. “And the only way to give him one is to feel an attachment to us. The yearn for freedom will pass. A budding Pack is far harder to destroy.”

Amerok nodded. “I’ll be the first.” He said, mildly, even though he wasn’t at all sure of it. He wasn’t the most amiable of the group, nor was he the pup, who Shylock would likely feel a-however grudging-- instinct to protect. He wasn’t even an ex-slave. “If that’s what you want.”

Murdoch was looking at him as if reading every thought.

“He’ll think of you like he likely thinks of me. Better he meet fellow warriors first.” Softly.  “Give him a day or so. Let him settle- digest- come to terms with meeting me and the aftershocks. He’s probably not in a very pleasant position just now, and he’s going to feel betrayed and hurt. We need to give him time to settle but not start resenting us.”

“I’m not to try and bring him back.”

“No. Not yet.”  

“Within the next few days, then.”

“Day after tomorrow, I would think.”

Amerok nodded.  Murdoch pushed off the wall, turned to face him.

“How are you doing?” He asked, quiet and serious. Amerok lowered his head and eyes, rubbed the back of his neck.

“It was a long time ago.”

“Not that long.”

“I’m as well as you are.” Biting, hard, crueler then he’d meant for it to be. He closed his eyes and sighed. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair.”

But Murdoch’s smile was soft and sad- there was no anger. “But true. We’re all broken toys, aren’t we?”  He chuffed a humorless laugh. “Sometimes, you know, even I wonder if it’s worth it. If perhaps I’m not simply seeing what I want to see in the visions, rather then…what is.”

Amerok looked away. “That’s not you. You’re not foolish like that.”

“Not like that, hu?” He laughed, but this time it was with real humor.  “Just a fool in other ways , then?”

“That’s not what I-”

But Murdoch clapped a hand to his shoulder, stopping him. “Don’t. I’m teasing, Amerok, for all the truth that may be behind it. Find us some dinner? I’m going to sit with Milo for a while tonight.”

“Is he doing any better?”

Murdoch pushed a hand through his hair. “He’s getting a better grasp on his abilities. But it’s slow.”  He pushed a hand through his hair. “They did a number on him. I’m not sure he’ll ever be…alright.”  Murdoch closed his eyes, pushed a hand through his hair.

“You’re helping him, Mur. You are. He’s better then he was when I first came.” Amerok said, gently, but Murdoch didn’t look up or relax.  “If nothing else, he’s happy. Isn’t that enough, for now?”

Now Murdoch did look up.

“For now isn’t what I’m worried about.” He whispered, and slipped away, back into the darkness of their cave.


 Grooming was something all Wolves indulged in if they had been raised in a pack. Nathanial’s heart broke for any Wolf that had been raised alone; even when captured, he’d always had Alexander to keep him sane and safe. Now he lounged on the floor of the forest, under a canopy of ancient trees, while his brother groomed the thick fur at his neck, meticulously cleaning him and throwing in a nuzzle now and again.

The hunt had been almost ridiculously successful; they’d eaten their fill and still had plenty to bring back to the others. The buck they’d brought down lay behind them, unmarred but for the marks in it’s neck where Alex had placed the death blow. Quick, clean death- and respect for the dead. Life meant that there were hunters and hunted, but there were rules all Wolves learned to live by.  These were two of them.

The pair themselves had fed on the buck’s mate, a lean, slender doe that had no children of her own- yet another thing you weren’t to do, kill one with child- and the remnants were just a bit further away. Other things in the forest would feed on them, and the bones would be used by the forest-dwelling people.

He rolled over luxuriously on his back, wincing slightly when Alex’s teeth closed in gentle bullying around his throat. He was too full and too sated to turn it into a wrestling match, but made a cursory nip in return. Alexander batted him upside the head and rolled off. When he landed, he was human.  Nathanial whined in disappointment, but Alex just raised a brow and reached out to rub his belly.

“We should get the buck back. And check on what Murdoch’s got stirring.”  

It was convenient that a Wolf,  unlike a typical wolf, could understand human speech, even if they couldn’t speak in turn.  He rolled back over and shook remaining dirt out of his coat, trotting over to grab the buck’s hind leg. We can take it faster like this.

“We’re not dragging it through the dirt all the way back. Change, Nate.”

But this will be easier.


It’s not like they mind.
He tugged, and Alexander’s foot came and inch from his ribs. With a yelp, he dove backwards.






Tongue lolling with Wolfish laughter, he dodged artfully- it wasn’t as if Alexander was truly trying to hit him, anyway- leading his brother on a merry dance.  He dove in, nipping at his brother’s ankles, racing between his legs in an attempt to trip him. Before long, Alex was laughing, too, the silent laughter of all Wolves, and his irritated kicks had turned into playful tussles every time Nate darted by.

Eventually, Alexander’s arms snagged his neck, and the pair tumbled back down to the earth, rolling head over tail and landing in a small stream. Wet, laughing, they sat up, Nathanial finally turning back.

“Now look what you’ve done.”  Alexander pushed sopping hair from his eyes. “Will you ever grow up?”

Nathanial smiled charmingly at his older brother, head tipped like a cub. “Very. You needed a bath anyway.”

“Upstart.” A laugh, and Nathanial was splashed quite cruelly.

“I thought we were supposed to be getting that buck  back?..”

“And a wiseass.” But Alexander was pushing to his feet, wringing out his hair. Nathanial followed, smiling slightly to see his brother smiling and laughing.

It had been a painfully long time since he’d seen that; since Alexander had been happy.  He smiled softly himself as the pair crossed to the buck, Alexander easily lifting it on his own. Their strength was far more then a normal human, and he carried the prey as if it were a fawn, without any real effort. Nathanial kept just a step behind him, watching for any signs of threat or danger; he could have done the same as a Wolf- he hadn’t really needed to change at all. But this way, at least, he could talk to his brother properly, and they looked rather less suspicious if they were seen by anyone.

Well. Sort of, anyway. At first glance.

“Alex?” The word was out before he could stop it- his brother flinched a little, head tipped.  He knew his brother accepted the nickname only grudgingly- Tobias had granted it to him, and out of fondness for their pup he had given up on trying to put a stop to it.  Nathanial had become ‘Nate’ for a similar reason. Tobias had told him, in fact, that Tobie was just fine, though they rarely ever applied it.

Nicknames weren’t something the brothers were used to.

“-to Nathanial, calling Nathanial, anyone there?” Alex had stopped, spun to face him. “You’re somewhere else, little brother.”

“Sorry.” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.

“Fine.” He took a breath, started walking forward once more. After a moment, Alexander followed.

“What did you want to ask me?”

It took him a minute to actually remember. Then;

“It- wasn’t important.” Because really, much like the nickname, the question had been going to escape without his full awareness or permission.


“Really. It-” He lowered his head, pushed a hand through his hair.

Are we going to stay here forever? Even after the fighting’s done, even after what Murdoch’s got planned, will we get to stay with them?

Do we have to go home? Because this- feels like home now. Wherever they are. They’re Pack.

“-wasn’t important.”

Alexander’s frown said he wasn’t buying it, but he shifted the buck on his shoulders and kept walking. He didn’t push- if Nathanial wanted to say, he’d say. On his own time, in his own way.  

His people didn’t push.  Most Wolves didn’t, actually; they were very unlike humans in that way. If you needed to say something, you said it when you were ready. You got pushed only if you had to be.

Amerok was the first one they saw, lounging outside the cave mouth; Tobias sat beside him, the two talking animatedly. Or rather, Tobias was, and Amerok was interjecting on occasion with a wry smile and tolerant look in his eye.  He glanced up as they approached, Tobias on his feet and bounding towards them, Amerok pushing to his feet to follow more sedately.

“Took you two long enough.” He drawled, but there was gentle amusement to his tone.

“We brought you dinner, hush.” Nathanial grabbed Tobias by the ruff and pushed him away playfully. The boy stumbled, the doubled back and shoved in return. The pair quickly we into a wrestling match that Alexander and  Amerok delicately side-stepped without so much as a sideways glance.  As the two shifted and became a pair of snapping, snarling Wolves, darting off into the trees, the older pair set the deer down in a clean spot and Alexander licked blood from his own hands and forearms. It was on other places, too, but not badly, and one of the others would clean it off later.

“Have you two eaten?”

“Mm.” Alexander watched as the two younger Wolves tumbled by.  He chuckled. “Is Murdoch with Milo, then?”

“For the last hour or so. I’m not sure we’ll see them anymore tonight.”

“What did he want?”

“I’m to go to the Arena tomorrow. Met with our…Shylock.” He frowned.”Or the day after. Probably then.”

“Ah. Murdoch’s sending in his backup forces?”

Amerok chuckled. “He feels that Shylock must know us before he feels loyalty to us. I agree.”

Alexander hummed in low agreement himself as Nathanial burst out of the woods, followed by the high, sweet sound of Dryad laughter. He was covered in pollen. Beside him, Amerok began to laugh himself, low and soft.

“You’re lucky,” Alexander called, grinning, “That the forest citizens take kindly to Wolves.” For the most part.

Sneezing, pawing at his face, Nathanial snarled once in his direction, skulking towards the cave.

“Where’s Tobias?”

Amerok, voice filled with mild amusement.

The Wolf that was Nathanial stared at him for a long time, then paused and shifted back. “He took off in the other direction when they…pollen bombed us, for lack of a better term.” He interrupted himself with a sneeze. “They thought it was funny.”

“The Dyrad equivalent of throwing water over the pair of you, I suppose.” Alexander snorted. “You deserved it.”

“I’ll find Tobias.” Amerok rose, rubbing the back of his neck. “Before something worse then they do.”

He shifted easily into his big Wolf form, lopping off into the woods…

And of course, leaving Alexander to deal with the buck.

© 2011 MildmayFoxxe

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Added on June 3, 2011
Last Updated on June 3, 2011



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A Chapter by MildmayFoxxe

Chapter 2 Chapter 2

A Chapter by MildmayFoxxe

Chapter 4 Chapter 4

A Chapter by MildmayFoxxe