They had been tracking Jagger for several hours now, and they were getting
nowhere. Jagger seemed to have sensed Elyth's presence before, made a run for
it, and made it harder for them to find him now. As they headed deeper into
the warmer forest, away from the perpetual cold of the mountains, all the scouts
but Learene started grumbling about the heat. It was perfect for Cheppie, but
to the thick-furred scouts, who were used to the cold, it was steamy. They had
already wanted to turn back, and finally Taghiro gave in and said that if they
didn't find Jagger in another hour, they would.
Cheppie was desperate now. He was sure that Jagger was out here, somewhere…
he had to find the Lupe, even if it meant leaving the others…
And then his thoughts were cut short as a wailing, pitiful Lupe howl cut through
Cheppie's long ears perked up instantly. "That's got to be Jagger!" he cried,
and then he was racing through the forest in the direction of the call. The
leaves and bushes whipped past him as he raced at breakneck speed, but somehow
Learene seemed to pass him and lead the way.
Fifteen minutes later, they came to a sunny clearing, filled with trees whose
vines stretched to the ground below. And under one of those trees, laying limp
and unconscious, was--
Cheppie was aghast to see how gaunt and matted his protector and savior looked
now. His fur was streaked with mud, and he looked starved and exhausted. Still,
this was Jagger, and Cheppie quickly rushed over to his prone form.
"Jagger. Jagger, wake up. Jagger!" he cried, bending over the Lupe, his long
ears trailing on the ground. Beside him Learene looked just as concerned.
Jagger slowly and cautiously opened one eyelid. "Cheppie? That--you?"
"Yes! It's me! Jagger, we found you!"
"Wha--we?" Jagger looked confused for a moment, and then his gaze fell on
Learene. Suddenly his blue eyes met her silver ones, and he let out a muffled
gasp. She was the most beautiful Lupess he had ever seen… and from the look
on Learene's face, she felt exactly the same way about him.
"Yes. Yes. We. Yes. We." He stammered, seeming quite unaware of anyone else's
presence but Learene's. He did not know why he felt this way, but he knew he
just… did. And Learene did too. He knew that, from the look in her soft, silvery,
And even though neither of the two Lupes realized it, Cheppie had: they had
fallen in love.
The rest of the scouting party had found them in the clearing; Cheppie was
standing off to one side while Jagger and Learene were staring at each other
as though mesmerized. Cheppie was quite sure they were, too: in the ten minutes
or so they had been here neither of them had spoken a word.
After some time, the group found a way to get Jagger back to the pack's cavern;
Mott, the red scout, had discovered that they could make a sort of carrier out
of one of the bigger, thicker leaves that they found around the clearing. They
had eased Jagger onto one of those leaves, picked the leaf up, and began the
It had not been easy going, but finally the air had taken on a chill and there
was snow in sight. Not a lot of it, of course, but it told them that they were
getting close to 'home'.
When they finally got there Jagger was amazed at the size of the pack's cavern.
It dwarfed him just as it had dwarfed Cheppie, and the pup could see the wonder
in the Lupe's eyes as he gazed up at the ceiling that seemed to skyrocket into
the air. "H-how did you find this place?" he asked with incredulity.
"Oh, it was our pack's home for years on end," replied Taghiro. "We don't know
who found it, and we really don’t care. It's a good home: safe, roomy, practically
indestructible. Now--why don't I get you to my set of caves and get some rest."
Rest… Cheppie longed for it with all his heart. He wasn’t quite sure how he
got to Taghiro's set of caves, all he knew was that moments after he entered
the cave designated for him, he hit the ground and fell into a deep slumber.
It was later that day when Taghiro came to wake him up; nearly sunset in fact.
He was led, yawning, into the meeting cavern, where he found Jagger already
relaxing on the speaking-platform. The rest of the pack was also assembled and
ready to listen to their leader.
Taghiro stepped up onto the platform and began his speech.
"Fellow Lupes. I have, today, a peculiar question to put to you. It concerns
the issue of the Gelert pup Cheppie and the errant Lupe Jagger. I would like
to know this: would you have them in your pack, and accept them as your equals?"
Cheppie tensed at these words, prepared for a massed cry of "NO!"
But, surprisingly, no cry of disagreement came. Instead, the whole meeting
cavern rang out with the voices of sixty Lupes, all crying: "YES!"
Cheppie was amazed. How had this happened? Surely these Lupes would not allow
a couple of strangers, on of them a Gelert, into their pack? Unless… he glanced
at the corner where Elyth was sitting alone, and saw the white Lupe wink at
him. She had obviously intervened, convinced the rest of the pack to let them
join, and for that he was grateful.
"As you can see, fellow Lupe Jagger, the pack has made their decision. Now
it is time for you to make yours…" Taghiro trailed off.
Cheppie so wanted to stay, so wanted to live here, in the North, with this
pack… where even though he was a Gelert he would not be alone… he would have
playmates, maybe, and certainly friends…
But it was still Jagger's decision, for where the Lupe went Cheppie would go.
He was sure that Jagger would decline the offer, say no, and go back to his
territory as soon as his paw healed… after all, he was a lone Lupe…
And then Cheppie got the greatest surprise of all: Jagger smiled, looked once
at Learene, who was standing nearby, and then… nodded. "I will accept this great
honor of joining your pack, for as you and Cheppie have shown me, sometimes
a group can do more than one person alone. And besides, I am forever indebted
to your pack for saving me, and to Cheppie… But I am wandering. What I truly
want to say is: yes. I will join your pack."
Cheppie felt like cheering. When Taghiro presented the question to him, he
knew exactly what his answer would be…
The sun shone brightly onto the peaks of the mountains, making the snow shine
with a brilliance that hurt Cheppie's eyes to see. So he turned his glance away
from the mountain peaks, and to the pups.
They were wonderful pups, the four of them. Two of them were pure silver, and
the other two were a sort of silver-green, a mix of colors from both mother
and father: Learene and Jagger. His gaze traveled from the pups onto Jagger
himself, standing a few yards away, also watching the pups fondly. He was standing
tall and proud, and the limp he had gotten from the trap had almost disappeared…
So much had changed over these years since Cheppie first became a member of
the Whitestone Lupe--now Lupe and Gelert--Pack. He had changed, too… he smiled
as he glanced at Kaeta, his red Gelert mate, and she smiled back. Her attention
was diverted, however, as she got hit by a blue puff ball--one of his pups.
He had first met Kaeta on one of his patrols in the very southern part of the
territory, and as with Jagger and Learene, it was love at first sight…
He sighed contentedly and plopped himself down into the snow, thinking peaceful
Jagger watched Cheppie out of the corner of his eye, watched how the pup-turned-grown-Gelert
laid himself lazily down onto the snow in front of his mate and his pups. What
a life the pup -- for in Jagger's mind Cheppie was always a pup -- was leading.
What a life he was leading, in fact. Years ago he would never have dreamed of
rescuing a Gelert pup, then being rescued in turn by the pup himself… and then
joining a Lupe pack…
But things had changed since then, and in Jagger's opinion, all for the better.
But somehow, deep inside, he knew that this wouldn't have happened if not for
Cheppie--his dear pup of the wilds.