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Highrock Pack History Songs: Birth of Skysong Pack


by shinkoryu14

--------

Steel That Glints swept his head around, watching his pack mates as they settled in for the night. His good friend, First New Leaf Of Spring, was romping with the pups, energetic as a pup herself. Mighty Rolling Thunder was leading out a party to patrol the border. The first stars were winking to life in the sky, and a playful breeze tugged his iron grey fur. Steel sighed. The pack was content.

     Roll and his patrol vanished into the dark cave that was the only way out of the pack's lair. After being forced from their home by human pressures, the Dragon Canyon Pack had traveled for many moon turns in search of a new home. The wild Lupes had finally settled deep within the Haunted Woods. The lair itself was a high, steep caldera, the core of an ancient volcano. It was accessible only by a series of mazelike caverns, making it the perfect place to defend. The pack had taken the name Highrock, in honor of their new home.

     One pup seemed to lose interest in romping. She squirmed out of the writhing mass of fur that was her siblings, and searched for some other form of distraction. Her eyes lit on Steel, and she scrambled toward him.

     "Uncle Steel!" she squealed. "Mama says that you are very wise! She said you are one of the wisest Lupes in the pack."

     Steel smiled. "I suppose if Whisker says something, it's true. What about it?"

     The pup seemed nervous. "I... I was wondering if you could tell us a story." She looked up at him, eyes shining with enthusiasm. "Puh-leeze, Uncle Steel!"

     The other pups overheard her, and quickly abandoned Leaf. "Yes!" said the eldest, "Tell us a story! You must know lots of good ones!"

     The other pups chorused their agreements. It would have taken a much sterner soul than Steel's to turn them down. He exchanged an amused glance with Leaf, and then focused his attention on the pups.

     "Well," he said, "I shall sing you the history song of the first Lupes of the Dragon Canyon Pack, back when they were but a renegade band of loners searching for a home."

     The pup's eyes widened in anticipation. Steel pointed his nose to the stars, in the ancient tradition passed down be his ancestors, and howled the song that had been passed down for centuries. The magic in the notes began to take effect, and Steel's voice deepened and roughened. It was as if the Lupe who had first composed the song was lending his voice to the telling of his story...

  _______________________

     The Tyrannian Lupe took a deep breath of the rain soaked jungle air. As it passed over the scent glands in his nose, he detected the odors of trees, prey, and damp earth. There was a faint scent he didn't recognize, but that wasn't important. What he didn't smell was what was important. He had not detected the rank odor given off by a rival pack.

     He felt a rush of excitement as he nodded to his companions hidden across the canyon. They quickly leaped across the rock spires that formed a natural bridge across the ravine. The first to make it across was the rainbow Lupess, Aura Around Mountain Peak. Her youthful energy had been a great help in maintaining their spirits in the long exhausting journey to find a home. Now that the end was in sight, her enthusiasm seemed to almost double.

     "Well, Tusk? Is this it? Is this our new home?" she asked.

     Tusk That Guards Your Sleeping laughed. "There is no scent of other Lupes, and the place is rich with prey scent. Yes, this may well be our new home."

     Silence After Fierce Wildfire leapt down beside Peak. The cloud Lupess was still favoring the paw that had been injured in a battle against the Tyrannian natives. She licked it, and promptly collapsed, panting. Tusk felt for Silence. Her paw was bothering her more than she would admit, and it was especially good for her that they had found a new home at last.

     A white Lupe with black paws nudged Silence with concern. Oozing Black Tar had developed a close bond to the cloud Lupess, and had been diligently caring for her injury. He managed to get her to rise, so that there was room for the final member of their group to cross.

     Tusk flicked his tail in a cheerful greeting to the brown Lupess. He was quite fond of Mud That Slides Down Mountain. Mudslide's calm nature and cool intellect had been priceless in their journey, and at last they were coming to their home. She winked cheerfully, and shook the rainwater from her fur, rumpling the red bandana she always wore.

     "Peak, stay here and keep an eye on Silence. Mudslide, Tar, you're with me. We've got to explore this place, to see if we can really live here."

     "Aw, I never get to have any fun!" Peak complained cheerfully. She settled beside Silence as Tusk led Tar and Mudslide to explore the territory. Our territory, he thought with a surge of joy. He broke into a trot, with Tar and Mudslide following close behind.

 * * * *

     Tusk rubbed against a tree, leaving his scent on it. So far, the place seemed perfect. Tar had caught a plump Bread fish in the river, and they were bringing it back to Silence and Peak. Mudslide and Tusk allowed him to get far enough ahead that he was out of earshot, and then Mudslide grinned shyly.

     "Well," she said, "we're here."

     Tusk nodded. "It's been a long journey. Perhaps now we can finally be a true pack."

     "We've always been a true pack, silly. It's a home that makes a pack. It's that the hearts and spirits of the Lupes are as one." She grinned. "Of course, Peak has enough spirit all on her own to equal a dozen packs."

     Tusk crinkled his whiskers in amusement. His belly was rumbling as it digested ransaurus meat, and his nose was full of Mudslide's sweet scent. His pack had found their home. For Tusk, all was right with the world.

 * * * *

     "What's that smell? It's yucky!"

     Tusk sighed. Peak's impulsiveness was going to get her in trouble one day. "That's what you get for sticking your nose in a strange cave."

     The rainbow Lupess shrugged. "I thought it looked like a good place for a den. What is that?"

     Tusk took a deep breath of the cave air. It was the same scent he had picked up earlier. It was musky and rancid. There was something vaguely familiar about it, but Tusk couldn't quite place it.

     "Should we go see? I could sneak in, take a look, and come back," Tar snarled, flexing his claws in anticipation.

     Tusk snorted. "Not a chance, Tar. You know better. We couldn't defend ourselves within the confines of the cave, and even the mildest of prey will fight like a berserker when cornered."

     "I say we all go in," Silence suggested. "If whatever's making that smell has teeth, two of us can distract it while the others get away."

     Tusk grimaced. "I don't know, Silence. It sounds pretty risky."

     "We have to deal with whatever it is sooner or later," the cloud Lupess pointed out. "We might as well get it over with."

     Tusk sighed, but he had to admit she was right. "Very well. I'll lead. Tar, you take up the rear, we need a strong Lupe to guard our backs."

     The Lupes fell into a single file line. Tusk crept slowly into the cave, the others of his pack following. The rank odor grew once the got inside the cave, and he wrinkled his nose in disgust. The sooner they got rid of this thing, the better.

     Soon it was too dark to see, but Tusk's nose told him readily enough where to go. I know this scent, he thought. Where have I smelled this before?

     "Are we there yet?" Peak hissed. Her voice echoed around the cave walls, reverberating around the tunnel. A loud snort sounded from further in the cave.

     "Peak!" Silence snarled. The rainbow Lupess' ears flattened.

     Suddenly, a monstrous roar blasted through the cave. It wasn't so much noise as force, shaking the cavern and knocking rocks from the ceiling. "RUN!" Tusk yelped, spinning around. The Tyrannian Lupe found himself running at the back of the line, adrenaline pumping as the sound of hoof beats echoed behind him. The sound was growing closer.

     "It's gaining on us! Hurry!" he cried. The others scrambled frantically for the entrance, but Silence was rapidly falling behind. Then her injured paw betrayed her. Her knees buckled, and the last ounce of strength left her body. She collapsed, panting. Tusk skidded to a stop, and nudged her desperately.

     "C'mon, Silence! We've got to get somewhere defensible!"

     Realizing that Silence was no longer with them, the others turned. Silence tried to rise, but she had nothing more to give. Her paws slipped out from under her, and she passed out.

     Tar ran back to them. "We have to carry her!" he snarled, and sank his teeth into the scruff of Silence's neck.

     "Watch out! Behind you!" Mudslide screamed, her eyes full of horror. Tusk whirled around, and his mouth fell open.

     Charging toward them, eyes glowing and mouth foaming, was a Monocerous.

     Peak snarled, and leapt past her pack leader. She grabbed the giant bull's foreleg with her fangs. The monster bellowed in pain, and with a single fearsome kick, launched Peak into the cave wall. Tusk shook off his shock, and pounced at the Monocerous's head, only to be slammed aside by its horns.

     "Tar!" he snapped, his voice tight with pain. "Get Silence out of here! Peak, Mudslide, help me distract this thing!" He grabbed a mouthful of the creature's back fur, but the fiendish bull didn't even seem tickled. Mudslide attacked the creature's hind end, leaping clear of its hooves. Peak wove in and out of its legs, tripping it up.

      It bellowed in mindless rage, spinning about in a fruitless attempt to catch the Lupes. Its bovine eyes fixed upon the flash of red that was Mudslide's bandana. It charged at the surprised Lupess, bashing her into the wall. Mudslide gasped in pain. The Monocerous pulled back to smash her again, but the Lupess squirmed aside at the last moment. The great bull found itself stuck by its horns in the wall.

     "Now! Before it gets free! Run!" Tusk howled, making good on his word and turning tail. The other two followed him to the mouth of the cave where Tar was waiting, and together they dragged Silence to the relatively safe distance of the canyon.

 * * * *

     Peak turned to Tusk, frustration clear in her eyes. "I guess we can't stay here either. Not with that thing." She sighed.

     Tar, who was lying beside the now awakened Silence, snorted. "I say we fight the thing. We never said that this would be easy."

     "Are you insane, Tar?" Peak said bitterly. "That thing would eat you alive and still have room for dessert!"

     Silence shook her head. "Maybe it would, and maybe it wouldn't. But to be honest, I'd feel better about living here if I knew I'd earned my right to."

     Mudslide frowned. "Silence, I understand how you feel, but are you really in any condition to fight? We saw today just how weak that paw is, and I'm fairly certain it wouldn't last you through a battle."

     The cloud Lupess shrugged. "I'd like to try anyway."

     "Well," Tusk began, and then hesitated.

     The others turned their heads toward him. Tar sighed. "Out with it. You've got an idea. You might as well tell us."

     Tusk flicked his tail uneasily. "We all know that the Monocerous tires easily. We Lupes don't. So, say that we lead it in a cross country chase. Then, say we turn and fight it, injuring it and then turn and run again. We repeat the process until it wears out..."

     "And then we defeat it!" Silence crowed, her eyes bright with excitement. Then she sighed. "But I'll have to sit this one out. I'm just too weak for it."

     Tar gave her a reassuring nudge, and then turned to Tusk. "It's as good a plan as any," he said, "and it might just work. I say we give it a try."

     Mudslide nodded. "We can't give up now that we're so close. We should fight."

     Peak chortled. "We must all be insane," she said. "But you're right, and I was wrong." She turned to Tusk. "I'll fight my best tomorrow."

     Tusk nodded. The others discussed how best to go about this plan, but Tusk excused himself to hunt.

     He came to a clearing in the dense jungle, through which the bright Neopian constellations were visible. He stared into the vast sky, as bright Kreludor crept toward its zenith.

     "What's wrong, Tusk?" Mudslide's sweet scent filled his nose, and he turned to see her pacing slowly toward him. The faint breeze stirred her bandana, causing the cloth to rustle. Her deep emerald eyes were full of concern.

     "I fear for them, Mudslide," Tusk admitted. "They think my plan will gain them a new home, but what if I've sentenced them all to death? To think that I might never see any of them again... And that I was the one who lead them to it..." He turned back to the stars, unable to continue.

     Mudslide nuzzled him comfortingly. "I wish I had words to comfort you, but I would not wish to lie. We may very well die tomorrow." She rested her tail on his shoulder. "You have incredible courage, Tusk. You took charge on this perilous journey, and none of us envy that. I wouldn't want to be the leader under any circumstances.

     "But one thing you have to understand is why the others follow you. It's not obedience, or habit, or desperation. It is respect, for you, for everything you've done, and everything you'll go on to do. You truly are a great leader, Tusk."

     Tusk looked at Mudslide in surprise. Her eyes glimmered with complete trust, and she whispered, "I know that whatever the morrow brings, you'll pull us through it. We all trust you. Try trusting yourself. No pack has ever had a leader like you."

 * * * *

     Tusk nodded to the others. It was time.

     They stood in front of the Monocerous' cave, poised to set their plan in action. All of them lifted their heads to the sky, and howled long and loud. As they had expected, the monster inside bellowed in rage, and came charging out. The Lupes waited until they were sure it could see them, and then fled.

     Tusk raced with what felt like the speed of all his ancestors put together. He could feel the monster's hot breath on his back and the wind of his passing on his face. When they heard the beast starting to gasp for air, he flicked his tail in the silent signal.

     Tar and Mudslide cut straight sideways, while he and Peak turned around and charged strait at the bull. He leapt for its face, while Peak dove at its legs. The creature, unable to stop its forward momentum, charged right into the fangs of the Lupes. It bellowed in pain, stumbling backward, into the rear attack of Tar and Mudslide, who scratched it rapidly before dashing away again.

     The enraged bull chased them until Tusk signaled the attack once again. Again the Lupes scored against the monster, and again they fled. They repeated the process four more times. Tusk and his pack mates were beginning to tire, but the Monocerous, fueled by its rage, seemed as fresh as if the chase had only begun.

     "Tusk, this isn't working!" Tar cried.

     "Alright," Tusk said. He felt a pang of regret but he knew what he had to do. "Follow my lead! We've got to use some fancy footwork to lose it. The retreat is real."

     Tar, Mudslide, and Peak nodded sadly. Tusk flung himself directly sideways, counted to ten, then turned sharply again. He continued to make erratic turns, the others right on his heels. He kept at it until he could no longer hear the Monocerous's hoof beats.

     Peak gasped for air, her sides heaving. She glanced at Tusk. "We have to get Silence at the gorge."

     Tusk nodded. "And from there we can cross back, and start looking for a home again."

     Disappointment weighed heavy on Tusk's heart as he and the others headed towards the canyon, dusk settling upon the jungle. Silence looked up, and seeing the dejection in their faces, summarized what had happened.

     "We're leaving, aren't we?" she said sadly.

     "Yes," Tusk said. "The plan didn't wo-"

     Tusk felt a sharp pain in his side, and suddenly he was sent flying into a tree. Gasping in agony, he scrambled to his feet. He turned and gaped.

     "It's the Monocerous!" Mudslide cried in despair. "It followed us here!"

     Sure enough, the giant bull stood, panting, before the Lupes. It threw back its head in a bellow of rage, and charged at Tusk again. He fled away, screaming over his shoulder, "Get out of here! Now, while it's busy chasing me!"

     Tar nudged Silence to her feet, and led her toward the rock spires that went across the gap. The Tyrannian Lupe fled for his life along the canyon, the monster hot on his heels. Suddenly, he came to a place where the canyon formed a right angle, cutting him off. He whirled around, but his escape was cut off by the Monocerous. The monstrous bull bellowed in triumph, and lashed at Tusk with its horns. The Lupe yelped in pain, backing up instinctively. His rear foot slipped off the edge, and he scrambled forward. The bull paced slowly toward him. Tusk was paralyzed with fear.

     "Tusk! Duck!"

     The voice cut through Tusk's terror, and he could do nothing but obey. The Monocerous roared with surprise and pain. Tusk looked up in time to see Mudslide slam into the creature, forcing it into the gorge.

     And herself as well.

     "MUDSLIDE!" Tusk shrieked, watching in horror as the brown Lupess disappear beneath the murky surface the river at the bottom of the canyon. The fast moving current would soon carry her miles away. He almost dove after her, but firm teeth took hold of his scruff.

     "Don't! She did it for you!" Tar snarled, his voice tight with grief. "Don't waste her sacrifice!"

     The Tyrannian Lupe struggled against his friends grip for a few more seconds, and then the words penetrated his mind. "Oh... Mudslide..." he gasped, collapsing. He threw back his head and howled his pain to the unfeeling sky, as the first stars of the night winked to life. He howled and howled Peak and Tar joining him. Silence was living up to her name, staring in unvoiced grief at the canyon.

     Tusk thought he would never get to sleep, but the combination of the run, the fight, and his grief forced his unwilling mind into the depths of slumber.

  * * * *

     Tusk stood alone in an empty clearing in the center of the jungle. He vaguely recognized it as the clearing where he and Mudslide had talked the night before. He could almost detect her sweet scent.

     Wait. He could.

     Tusk whipped around, and his mouth fell open. The brown Lupess stood before him, her bandana rustling in the breeze. "Mudslide!" Tusk cried, his heart filling with joy. The run, the fight, the fall, it had all been a dream. Now he could lead his pack away from this place. He leapt for Mudslide, and nuzzled her cheek. To his surprise, his snout passed right through.

     His heart fell. It had all been real. This was the dream.

     The brown Lupess smiled at him. Yes. It is a dream. But it is also quite real. I have need to speak with you.

     Her voice seemed to echo from everywhere and nowhere. Tusk shivered, his tail flicked with tension.

     You must stay in this place. I have seen into the future. Though I cannot tell you what I see, you can know this. If you stay, this place will be a territory you can be proud of. Raise pups to fill the next generation, and live on. She blinked slowly. You and I will be together again soon enough. And you will not be without aid.

     She took off her bandana, and placed it in front of Tusk. The Tyrannian Lupe placed his paw over the red cloth, and opened his eyes.

     The scents of his pack mates enveloped him, and Tusk sighed. To think that Mudslide had visited him in a dream...

     He heard a soft rustle, and looked down in surprise. There was a scrap of red cotton under his paw. Mudslide's scent wrapped him in a shell of warmth and comfort, and her voice echoed in his head once more.

     If some day, you should hear my voice, know that it is my heart, calling across time and space... to yours.

  _________________

     As the last haunting notes of the song floated through the air above the Highrock, Steel lowered his head. The pups watched him with shining eyes, all of them looking quite solemn.

     "Ever since then," Steel said quietly, "the spirits of our ancestors have come to us from the Skysong Pack. They sometimes warn us of danger to come, or sometimes simply share our dreams, to once again run with the pack they once knew."

     The youngest pup grinned. "Will you tell us another story, Uncle Steel? Please!"

     Steel laughed. "Not just now, little pups. It is late, and Whisker of Nervous Angelpuss will be looking for you. Perhaps another time." He grinned. "But only if you are very good."

     The pups scrambled away, chattering to each other in excitement. Steel shook his head in amusement, and looked up into the star strewn sky. A playful breeze tugged at the red bandana he wore around his neck.

The End

 
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