The following is an excerpt from Chapter One of Book One of The Wolfcat Chronicles manuscript. As it is not yet published and has yet to go through the editing processes, it is not a finished version of the story and may be subject to change. It is offered here as an example of what the story is about and an introduction to the fantasy world I began to create in May of 2000. The Wolfcat Chronicles is a ten book series in three master volumes and in total is over 3000 pages.
1. Ela’na and Rotor
Ela’na woke at the dawning of the first sun. Already the first rays of the new c’eun crested the mountaintops and dimly lit the world outside of the caverns of Mt. Belkul. It was an enchanted morning, she already decided, freshly made and presented especially for her personal approval and perfectly suited for playing with her friends. For now, her formal education was finished. She could continue to enjoy her holiday along with her friends before official training began at the beginning of the next season in anticipation of their becoming adults.
Still warm and comfortable in the shadows of her cozy notch she stretched and yawned lingering in her bedding awaiting the return of Tharr, her father, from the night’s hunt. Sniffing for any scent of his approach, finding only the smells of other wolves, none of them hunters, she fell back resting on her side and extending the retractable cat-like claws scratching against the granite walls of her alcove.
Ela’na’s most urgent and important plans always involved the Pack’s other wolfcat pups. She cherished the time they spent together and the adventures they shared exploring the great forest, Dammerwald, relishing their mutual friendship. Each morning they planned to play, as was expected of second season pups. She didn’t remember whether it was her turn to play hunter or if, yet again, she would have to be the hunted. Whichever it was, she didn’t much care. Sharing fun times with all of her friends was what mattered.
When Ela’na got-up from bed of freshly gathered leaves and grass she recalled the story her father told her just before she fell asleep. She had fought to keep her eyes open but it proved impossible as Tharr needed to get to the hunt. He owed her the rest of that story and she couldn’t wait to hear it. Of course she’d heard about the tragic death of her ancestor, Eltath, but there were no stories or songs taught to pups about that.
It seemed that every time Tharr told her tales of the great wolves and wolfcats of the old, she got sleepy before she learned how everything turned out. Sometimes, when she fell asleep during the telling she wondered if her father bothered to continue telling the story past his noticing she had fallen asleep. Perhaps he did, for it seemed to her that every good story deserved to be told to its conclusion whether anyone heard it.
She loved nuzzling into her father’s side as he recounted his own stories as well as the legends of the Pack. To her Tharr’s deeds were as great as any of those of their important ancestors. Her father made history come to life even if it was only in her imagination. She fancied herself a great warrior princess who would become the Wolfcat like Eltath. After all, didn’t she have the same dark brown fur and a white star emblazoned on the breast. Everyone pointed that out. She had heard speculation that she might be Eltath reincarnate. To her that did not matter as much as the speculation about what her own future in the Pack would be.
The time she spent with her father before he went on the evening hunt was the best part of any c’eun. As lead hunter Tharr was a very important member of the Pack, but then he always had been. Previously he was a member of Old Tull’s private guard. She understood sharing him with the other wolves for everyone depended on his hunting skills, providing not only for her but also for the entire Pack.
Even though she was extremely proud of Tharr she missed him whenever she awakened in the evening and he was already out and about the Pack’s business. It never felt proper unless he told her a bedtime story before departing. And when she woke in the morning she knew he would be somewhere about. She might see him but only in passing. Understanding her father’s duty, often as not, her father was dealing with the needs of the Pack even when he was not hunting.
As she tidied up her part of her father’s quarters she hoped rain would not ruin her plans. If it did she knew Rotor, her hun, would insist on playing his silly little game of ‘pulling twigs’. Even though he had not invented it, he had learned it well enough to be its master. Only he ever won. Then again did it really matter who won? It was playing together with all her friends that mattered. That was all her life needed to be about.
If the suns were shining, they could play ‘hunter and hunted’ in the forest. She preferred to be the hunter, of course. Any young wolf or wolfcat would. In her lineage were Pack leaders and honored warriors, amongst them were some of the greatest hunters remembered in wolf lore. In past times males and female hunted side-by-side in search of prey and it was well known that the females were the finest hunters of all. But the mothers of pups had more important duties to raise their young and so, over time, the Pack had given males most of the responsibilities for feeding everyone.
Ela’na never mentioned her heritage to her playmates. The point was moot as every wolfcat shared many of the same ancestors. She treasured her friends too much to pretend she was better than them. Amongst the wolfcat pups at least everyone played together fairly, taking turns at leading their mock hunts.
In her mind her father was the best and bravest wolf that had ever lived. It was true that he could have easily been the Alpha Male had it not been for his lifelong devotion in service to Old Tull. In fact many wolves thought about challenging the venerable leader of the Pack but never followed through simply because of Tharr’s support and stalwart defense of the elderly Alpha.
Since Tharr had taken charge of the hunters they had never once failed the Pack in harvesting the bounty of the plains to the south of Dammerwald and for that reason there was little discontent with the present Pack leadership. Despite her pride in her father’s accomplishments Ela’na was still jealous of the time that he spent away from her.
In the quiet of the evening, when it was just the two of them, she sometimes fell asleep before telling him just how much she adored and idolized him. He might already know that he was like a god to her, but even so, she would always promise to remember to tell him the next time they were alone. Sometimes she did.
To wake with the rising of the first sun wanting food was nothing new, but now she forced herself to be more patient. She was becoming a lady. No longer did she mewl like a drooling first-season pup complaining if demands for instant gratification went unmet. Usually she waited with her friends and they ate together but for the past few c’eun she had been eating with the adults.
Her father taught her well. The youngest of the weaned pups always got the first right after Old Tull and the Wolfcat Mentha honored the achievement of the hunters and blessed the kill. She understood respect for tradition. The ceremony meant to honor the efforts of the hunters, so the leaders never did more than sink their fangs into a carcass or tear it open so that the very young that still bore their milk teeth might partake, acquiring the taste for the fruit of the hunt.
Soon enough the hunters would return to the commons at the base of the caverns beneath Mt. Belkul. Bearing the bounty they claimed from the fertile southern plains where most recently they had found the greatest success in their hunts, their arrival would signal her father’s return as well. She knew that as soon as Tharr reported to the Alpha Male and the Wolfcat, she might see him for a few moments.
This morning, Ela’na was up and about a little later than usual. As the first sun brightened the skies outside of the mouth of the caverns, she realized that the hunters were unusually late in their return. It worried her a little. Usually it meant the evening’s hunt was difficult. But being out at night on the plains was a dangerous endeavor and wolves had been known to die. For that reason her concern grew the longer her father was away from her. Who would care for her if anything ever happened to him?
She paced nervously, hoping nothing was wrong. She sniffed again for the first scent of her father, confident in her keen sense that she could detect the faintest hint. She trusted her natural gifts as every wolf and wolfcat must but her sense of smell was more finely honed as any other wolfcat her age with only one exception, her best friend of all, Rotor.
Even now she knew, for example, that her playmates were already awake and preparing to depart the caverns as soon as they had eaten a little something. She drew some small relief from hearing the off duty guards departing the caverns in anticipation of the hunters’ imminent return. They would help convey the carcasses of the kill to the caverns.
Stretching and yawning as she lingered just inside the threshold of her father’s quarters, she waited impatiently for Rotor, her faithful escort. Tharr did not want her to leave his quarters without his permission or a proper escort. It wouldn’t do well for Rotor to know she was waiting specifically for him, though. When she sensed Rotor’s approach, she would pretend to still be getting ready. It irritated Rotor, which was precisely why she did it.
Already Rotor was gaining quite a reputation. Although he was nearly the same age as she, he had grown well, albeit awkwardly, into his oversized paws. He was stronger and faster than any other pup their age. Because of his acute sense of smell, many a wolf had predicted that one c’eun he would lead the hunt. Some had speculated a greater destiny. Though among the pups of his birth season, he was often teased and taunted for being a rare, all-white wolfcat and for being unusual and awkward,
Ela’na knew from overhearing Tharr talking to his father, Ronin, that her best friend might begin official training for the hunt much earlier than normal. Rotor’s father was second in command of the hunters and, along with Tharr, was pushing for a waiver as it was otherwise considered inappropriate for a second season wolf to train as an adult.
Whatever the outcome, whenever the time came for Rotor’s training, she would miss playing with him. He alone amongst the young wolfcats was the greatest challenge to her. As the only male wolfcat of their season, Ela’na was positive he would one day lead the Pack. Even Tharr allowed for that possibility.
As was the case with all male wolfcats, Rotor’s traits were already favoring the lupine side of his heritage. Female wolfcats favored the feline. Ela’na found his wolf-like traits immensely attractive. But she also a little jealous that the other females shared her interest in him. First and foremost he seemed to acknowledge her, though. So, she did not care so much about the flirtatious overtures of others as long as his eyes were focused on her.
For her part, Ela’na liked the fact that sometimes she mostly resembled a cat. It was the clearest sign that he was descended from Druella, the revered Wolfcat Goddess. Some suggested that she might be her reincarnation, but Tharr always told her to discount such idle notions. He told her to always be Ela’na and never feel obligated to live anyone else’s fantasies but her own.
There were very few disadvantages to the cat heritage in her blood. She could climb trees with far greater ease than any ordinary wolf. Her agility embarrassed the common wolf pups of her season as sometimes they playfully tried to pursue her. Despite the wolf pups’ attempts to show some interest in her, she could usually avoid their silly little traps – that is, if she chose to.
Finally her friend arrived. Rotor growled low with some authority, as was his way of expressing his displeasure with her for not being ready.
“What’s wrong?” She feigned innocence knowing full well without being told.
“Just once, it’d be nice to find you waiting for me. I know you’re just as hungry as me. And you’re as eager as the rest of us to go out and play.” He rested on his haunches to wait
She pretended to be busy tidying up Tharr’s quarters as she growled back. “Be patient, will you?” Amused at his taking offense, with her back turned to him she smiled. “Anyway, you are hardly ever on time and this c’eun is no different.”
He responded with a whimper that caused her to soften a bit.
“It’s nice of you to treat me so very special.” She added a flirtatious wink for emphasis as she turned toward him. “It makes me happy.”
“You’re the Princess of the Pack, like everyone says,” Rotor chided. And then he chuckled. “I figure I may as well worship you, too.”
“You make it sound like a chore.” She shook her head. “Anyway, it isn’t like anyone seriously believes that.”
“Well, I do.” Rotor replied, punctuating it with a return wink.
Ela’na licked his snout as she finally greeted him at the threshold, but then quickly looked around to make sure that no one saw the untoward display of affection that was inappropriate between pups so young.
Immediately she thought she had acquired the scent of Tharr’s return. Sniffing to confirm it before she darted out into the main corridor toward the cavern’s mouth she left Rotor behind as she ran out the main entrance to greet her father and the other hunters.
She no longer needed to wait for Rotor’s escort. Her father was home. Even so, Rotor followed her and stepped back as Tharr nodded acknowledgment in passing. Ela’na followed, insisting that he tell her all about the hunt. Rotor turned away as he wondered whether he would ever be truly important to her, enough that he might gain her undivided attention. He provided escort as a courtesy and she claimed to appreciate it, but as soon as anyone else was near, she completely ignored him. Of course he was jealous of the attention that others gave to her, but mainly he wanted as much consideration in return for the attention he paid.
Rotor followed behind Ela’na and her father down into the caverns where Mentha and Old Tull presided over the ceremonial blessing of the hunt. Even after the youngest pups had eaten, Ela’na and Rotor remained back, letting others of their season take their turns before them. They would eat along with the adults, something they hoped to signal to their elders their readiness to become adults as they neared the end of their second season as pups.
When the two young wolfcats had eaten their fill, Rotor again offered his services to escort Ela’na. She accepted but continued to probe the gathering of wolves in the commons for their friends. She saw them eating only moments before yet could no longer see them amongst the younger members of the Pack. So, side-by-side Ela’na and Rotor ascended the corridor to the threshold of the caverns, still looking for their friends.
As they reached the mouth, she darted off with blazing speed, almost instantly down the hill and through the town before Rotor could give pursuit. Already a good distance behind, he shook his head in amazement and followed at a more leisurely pace, observing where his best friend went as she headed toward the edge of the forest in quest of the other young wolfcats. She could win her silly personal rivalries for now, though it irritated him that at every opportunity she embarrassed him. He knew he could not only run faster but also sustain his speed for a much greater distance than Ela’na ever could. He had nothing to prove to anyone, especially her. What impressed him about her, though, was that instinctively she knew the precise location and relative proximity of their other wolfcat playmates. He envied her that and wondered if it was something only females of their species could do.
He should have anticipated that once she knew where the others were she would go directly toward them. He shared her motivation and was also happy to see the other wolfcats. Even if the morning was still very young, every moment of playtime was precious to all of them. All of them were more than ready to get started except that lately none of them were in the mood to play the same old games. And it was that lack of exuberance that bothered him. These were his lifelong friends. He suspected in some very real ways they might always be his only true friends. He never quite fit in with the wolf pups and generally preferred not playing with them. Now that the other wolfcats were disinterested in what he wanted to play and, at the moment, seemed to be ignoring him, all he had was Ela’na’s fickle attention.
He knew the others regarded him as devoted to her. That was obvious. Although he was fine with it, maybe that was why the others hardly paid anything but polite attention to him and only whenever it was absolutely necessary. Just as long as Ela’na acknowledged him, what did it matter whether the others knew he existed? What bothered him, though, was lately she was beginning to act more like the others.
Ela’na had just reached the others with Rotor trotting along a short distance behind taking his time so as to not seem too eager or let anyone see how much Ela’na’s indifference was annoying him. But as he drew closer he scented others. Pausing, sniffing the air to be certain, he stepped back, recognizing the scents he could associate with names. There were older wolf pups around and about, probably tracking Ela’na as if she were their prey. It wasn’t the first time he’d noticed them doing that. Irritated, he growled but only to himself, not knowing what he could do about it.
The wolf pups were at the edge of Dammerwald just past the ravine that formed the natural amphitheater that the Pack used for the largest assemblies and celebrations. Oblivious to the deception, Ela’na focused on the other wolfcats who were some distance ahead on the path that led deeper into the forest. The pranksters were drawing closer. Some of them were now concealed amongst the brambles and brush in the shadowy places downwind just as stalkers would do.
As she ran past them, the young wolves sprang out from all sides, startling her as they quickly and completely surrounded her. Taunting her, playfully attempting to impress her with their hunting skills, they acted in concert to attack their mock prey.
“Do you intend to eat me?” She sat back on her haunches, fluttered her eyes and teased them with as much sarcasm as she could manage.
They were wolves, only a single season older than she, but considered nearly adults as the completion of their pup training ended with their current season. Therefore, they were already accomplished in the art of deception and the hunt and almost ready to commence their final training before becoming full-fledged members of the Pack.
Obviously, at least some of them were good. They tracked a second season wolfcat that should have known better than to fall prey. Why they chose hunting her irritated almost as much as it amused her. She sensed they liked her, especially Scooter and Tekno. They were two wolves she had met personally and she considered both of them handsome. She’d mentioned it to Rotor, though her intention was mainly to annoy him more than to express any real interest in either of the young wolves.
She was just about ready to prove her agility in escaping them when abruptly, Rotor leapt from the shadows surprising all. Displaying his superior agility, he landed squarely in front of her, positioned directly between her and the would-be assailants. His hackles raised in anger, fangs bared as he circled, protecting her, demonstrating his intention to defend her to the death, even against a small pack of slightly older wolves. Snarling and snapping at any perceived advance or threat. The young wolves stood their ground though they were wary of Rotor’s sharp fangs.
“What is this?” Scooter laughed in an attempt to conceal his fright.
“It looks like a pup who’s finally tired of playing with the she-wolves,” Slammer jeered, daring one step forward.
“Either that or he’s lost,” Tekno said. “Why don’t you go back to playing with the lady wolfcats, Rotor? They’re just a little ways ahead.”
“I could direct you to them if you need help locating them,” Slammer added.
Rotor changed his focus to Slammer and growled low and deep, in the threatening way that only a male wolfcat could possibly muster.
“Oh, well now, am I supposed to be so-o-o-o afraid that I turn tail and run away?” Slammer laughed even though he took up a defensive posture just in case the threat was not a bluff. Although Slammer was a season older, Rotor was already grown to rival his size. He was a step quicker and he possessed the deadly retractable claws that made a wolfcat an adversary to be respected if not feared.
“Why are you messing with Ela’na?” Rotor challenged with determination in his deep voice, demanding an answer.
“Why don’t you go chase your tail?” Slammer responded, hearkening back to a time when Rotor was much younger.
“Better yet, do you still have that piece of cloth,” Tekno suggested. “Do you remember that, Slammer?”
“Yes, of course I do. Old Tull named him after that sound he was making going round and round trying to attack it. It was exactly the same sound he made whenever he was chasing his tail.”
“It was so-o-o-o cute,” Haplo said with a good deal of disdain for Rotor as he came up from behind in support of his friends.
“There will come a time that you will not be so eager to pick a fight with Rotor,” Ela’na warned, countering in support of her best friend.
“Well, well, so it’s Ela’na that speaks on behalf of her supposed protector,” Haplo mused as he stood beside Slammer.
“I think they’re sweet on each other.” Dire approached from the other side of his twin brother Slammer.
“Do you think so?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Scooter asked, rhetorically.
The brush behind the attackers rustled, calling everyone’s attention toward it as it parted and suddenly two adults emerged. “Well, well, well. What have we here?” One forceful voice asked.
“It’s just pups at play, Red,” Grem said, punctuating it with a laugh as he focused on Rotor.
“They’re not all that intelligent, if you ask me,” Red said. “I don’t like the odds. Let’s see. Six wolf pups against two wolfcat pups, how do you think that’s going to turn out, Grem?”
“There’ll be six very embarrassed wolf pups. That’s just a guess, though.” Grem chuckled, but then he directed to the wolves. “You pups are in way over your heads and more greatly outnumbered than you could possibly imagine. You go on home before any of you gets hurt.”
Slammer began to growl in challenge to Grem, but as the adult wolfcat turned on him Slammer thought better of it. Although Slammer was solidly built still, he was somewhat smaller than Grem yet almost Red’s size. Even though Slammer felt that he could maybe take Grem in a fair fight, there was always Red – the intangible. He would surely come to Grem’s aid. Despite Red’s size he had never been defeated in challenge, even against wolfcats. As one of the instructors in the art of defense, even if he was getting on in age, Red was well respected. Not even Damon, Old Tull’s great nephew and likely successor to the Alpha Male, would not think of challenging Red.
Nevertheless, when Slammer was a little more mature and had the fullness of growth, he promised himself he would remember this affront. That self-deception satisfied him for the time being as he stepped back, yielding to his elders.
“We were just playing,” Scooter offered an excuse.
“Well, go play somewhere else,” Red growled. “This Pack doesn’t attack its own.”
“C’mon, Scoots,” Haplo said. “Let’s go down to the river and swim.”
“Yeah,” Scooter concurred. “I could use a bath.”
“We know,” Jus’tin said in jest.
“You were reading my mind,” Dire agreed.
Slammer glared at Rotor for one last time before he turned away and joined the others. Most of the sextet sauntered off through the brush and trees toward the nearest of the three rivers that ran through Dammerwald. Only Tekno lingered for a moment. He grinned at Ela’na before he too turned to hurry off, catching up with the others.
When the young wolves were gone, Ela’na expressed her gratitude to Red and Grem.
“Anytime, little lady,” Red said adding the gesture of a polite bow.
“Not that your boyfriend here didn’t have the situation well in control.” Grem winked at Rotor.
“I’m not her boyfriend,” Rotor denied, but then he looked away, not wanting his eyes betray his little lie.
“We’re merely good friends,” Ela’na reinforced in confirmation. “Rotor always protects me.”
“As well he should,” Grem said as he laid a paw on Rotor’s shoulders. “I think that very soon you’ll be ready for official training. Even if it is a season earlier than normal, I don’t see why we can’t start some of that before your advanced studies in wolf lore begin, We’ve had our eyes on you for many roles that you may serve.”
“You have the necessary size and strength for the training,” Red concurred. “And your tutors have told us that other than Ela’na here you are were their best student. Your ability to acquire scent even at a great distance is already well known. So I don’t see why we shouldn’t give you a little physical training before your studies resume next season.”
“Will the High Council allow that?” Rotor asked.
“Well, they are a stubborn lot and overly cautious at times but there was ways around the rules.” Red replied. “And I’m sure your father wouldn’t want you to ignore your lessons, but what is the harm of taking advantage of the free time you have, and the weather while it is still warm. If that’s okay with you?”
“Sure,” Rotor agreed eagerly. “That would be great!”
“Good, then we’ll discuss it with your father and Old Tull,” Grem said. “I know Tharr and Ronin have proposed a waiver of some sort already.”
“Thank you. Thank you both.”
“Meet us tomorrow, first light of the first sun at the base of the clearing at the edge of the forest,” Red said. “Even if Old Tull says no, what would it hurt for a pup to learn a few things about self defense from a couple of trainers?”
Grem grinned and winked again, but this time Ela’na was the intended recipient. She returned a smile to Grem. She understood that her uncle intended to make certain that her best friend would become the great wolfcat that she desired him to be.
As Grem and Red continued on their way, Jade and Alina approached side-by-side down the trail with Saffron and Tweety only a little ways behind. Ela’na had wanted to start the morning off with a swim. It was a good way to remove scent prior to a game of ‘hunter and hunted’ so it tended to make the game a lot more interesting. But with the older, very rude wolves already at the river she did not think it was wise. They would just have to find other diversions to pass time.
Ela’na glanced at Rotor. She was concerned that he was still agitated over the confrontation with the older wolves and especially Slammer. That rage would need some time to dissipate. She understood that. Even so, she sensed it went far deeper than anyone else might suspect. It was an acknowledgment that regardless of how much they felt that they belonged to the Pack, as true wolfcats they were a distinct minority. Wolfcats were admired and respected as adults but it was very hard to be a pup growing up amongst wolves while constantly reminded of the differences.
“Are you okay?” she asked as she came over to where Rotor sat on his haunches.
“You don’t look fine.” Eyes of concern met his and in that instant she felt the deeper bond between them. It frightened her a little as it might anyone as young as she, but she did not turn away.
“You don’t understand,” Rotor said.
“I think I do,” she said as she extended one of her claws and with his turned his chin upward so that he could no longer avoid her eyes. “Sometimes, I think it would be better if I was just another wolf. But I’m not, Rotor and neither are you. That’s why I need you to be my friend.”
“I’m already that,” he responded even as he continued to allow their eyes to connect but only then he looked away and stood on all fours.
Ela’na brushed against him in a provocative way as she passed by him.
“Are you coming?” she asked.
Almost instantly he darted past her and toward the others, meeting them a little ways down the path, leaving her to pursue him for once.
Copyright 2015 Elgon Williams – All Rights Reserved
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