The spring storms had ended, and that meant that it was time
for the pack to meet. Carrow filed his new family out of the den, but soon realised
that there would be no maintaining order. The cubs were growing fast and walking
now, and their adopted brother was growing even faster, Carrow reflected. He
smiled indulgently as the four of them frolicked about in the grass, chasing
and pouncing on each other in their first real taste of the outdoors. These
four were fearless and full of curiosity. Carrow took the lead, with the four
young ones following after him excitedly, but still wandering off the path occasionally
to sniff a new flower or chase a butterfly. Jansa pulled up the rear, nudging
the children along when they meandered, reminding them that they had somewhere
important to be. They hadn’t learned to speak yet, but they understood well
enough what their parents said to them to know that they were going somewhere
very special today.
Carrow wondered, as he looked back at Stranger, whether they
also realised the apprehension that their parents felt about this day. Carrow
had met with a few pack members here and there when he left the den to find
food during the rains, but he had not mentioned Stranger to any of them. He
had felt it best to simply introduce the Eyrie with the rest of the cubs, as
simply another member of his family. And he had truly come to see the little
Eyrie in that way. He had even found himself in some of these meetings proudly
telling the other Lupes about his “four” pups. Jansa, with her mothering instincts,
had instantly taken to lavishing care and attention on the hatchling. Carrow
had been more reluctant, but he couldn’t help but fall in love with the baby
Eyrie, who obviously adored him. But would the pack be able to understand this?
Would they see the child that Carrow and Jansa had come to love as their own,
or simply the child of one of their natural enemies, a creature who they competed
with for food and land?
As they neared the meeting place, Carrow spotted a fellow pack
member heading down a nearby mountain. He stopped and threw his head back, howling
out a friendship call, and Jansa joined him. The other Lupe halted and howled
back. Soon the three cubs were doing their best to imitate their parents, yipping
and whimpering excitedly at their first encounter with a Lupe outside their
family. Even little Stranger gave it a try, though his howl sounded a bit more
like a screech. Carrow chuckled and bent down to nuzzle each of his four children
before turning back and continuing their trek. The pack would have to understand.
Finally, the young family arrived at the pack’s meeting place,
a small abandoned quarry in the middle of the forest. At the sight of all the
strange Lupes, the children became shy. Looking around, Carrow gauged that no
one had seen Stranger yet as he huddled with his brothers and sister beneath
their mother’s furry tail.
As more of the Lupes arrived and gathered in a circle, they
chatted and played, getting reacquainted after a long winter spent apart. The
last of the stragglers finally appeared, and Carrow cleared his throat, quickly
gaining silence and the attention of every Lupe present as he stood elevated
atop a large, flat stone at the head of their circle. He greeted them all happily,
feeling some of his anxiety disappear as he looked around at all the familiar
faces, all of them looking back at him with complete trust and loyalty.
The meeting began as it did each spring, with the introduction
of the new members who had been born that year. Going around the circle one
by one, proud parents pushed their timid pups into the center of the circle
and told their names. Then they waited for the pack to give their approval with
welcoming yips and barks. The pack always gave its approval; it was just a tradition.
As pack leader, the introduction of Carrow’s children came last.
Carrow took a deep breath as Jansa prodded Falen out first.
He was the oldest and biggest of the three cubs, with fur that looked like a
field of grass. He wagged his little tail and barked happily, and the pack quickly
gave their approval, smiling and commenting that he would grow up strong and
brave like his father. Next came Rasca, whose fur was the colour of the winter
sky, with big, blue eyes to match. She batted her eyelashes and smiled shyly,
receiving the same warm welcome as her older brother. Then was Mero, the smallest
of the three. He had inherited his father’s rusty shade and quickly lost interest
in the pack members who were examining and praising him as a butterfly flew
“All right then,” Carrow’s second-in-command Leer said loudly,
and Carrow gave him a disapproving look for interrupting the proceedings of
the meeting. He knew that Leer was a good Lupe there was no such thing as a
bad Lupe, after all-- but sometimes he worried that Leer was too ambitious.
The other pack members liked him though and took his thinking to heart, so Carrow
kept him by his side. “Now that all the cubs have been introduced,” Leer continued,
“We can get on with other--”
Carrow interrupted, “Actually, Leer, I have one more cub to
“When I met with you earlier, you told me you’d had three Carrow.”
“Well, he was a...late addition.” Carrow fumbled. It was now
or never. He looked back to where the little Eyrie still hid behind his adopted
mother. “Come on Stranger.” Hesitantly, the young one stepped out from behind
his mother. Jansa licked his head lovingly, making his feathers stick up at
a strange angle. Carrow smoothed them back down and then nudged Stranger out
into the center of the circle. Carrow heard gasps and cries from the shocked
Lupes around him who had been expecting another cute ball of fur and instead
saw this ball of midnight blue feathers that squawked at them in as friendly
a tone as he could muster to no avail. After a few moments, Carrow stuck out
his paw and pulled Stranger back, drawing him protectively against his chest.
“Are you crazy?” Leer raged. “Is this a joke?”
“It’s not a joke. I found him alone in the forest-- his parents
are gone. Jansa and I made a decision-- to adopt him-- and I’m asking the pack
to accept that.” Carrow paused in his heartfelt words and looked down at Stranger,
who looked frightened but faithful that his father would protect him. “I-- I
love him, like my own son.”
“Carrow, this is ridiculous!” Leer barked. Carrow heard a few
mumbled agreements in the group, but he noticed that many of the Lupes kept
quiet. “Lupes and Eyries have competed for land and food for many years. Now
you save one and you want to raise it? They are our enemies!”
“His parents were destroyed by our common enemy-- the Monocerous!”
A few more gasps emanated from the crowd. He turned to them and pleaded, “If
it was you in their place, any of you, wouldn’t you want someone to do this
for your children?” The pack seemed to be swaying in his favor as they nodded
their heads solemnly.
“Eyries are dangerous,” Leer stated firmly, not willing to
give up his argument.
“Look at him Leer. He’s only a child.”
“And he’ll get bigger. What if he decides to turn on you then?”
“He won’t,” Carrow said, with complete conviction, “But if
anything goes wrong, I will take full responsibility. If the pack agrees to
this and something happens...then I will step down as pack leader and-- and
you can banish us.”
Leer’s ears pricked and his eyes gleamed. Carefully, he asked,
“You would risk your family for him?”
“He is my family.”
“Very well then. I can agree to that,” Leer said. He turned
to the other pack members, who offered their unanimous consent.
“Good,” Carrow said, placing the small Eyrie back into the
center of the circle. “His name is Stranger.”
To be continued...