Chorus: A Mixed History
Also by derahoters
Mighty Rolling Thunder, Beta Lupe of the Highrock Pack, shook himself roughly. He gestured with his tail for the youngest of his Packmates to be silent. He nodded to the lightning struck tree in the clearing nearby.
“See that?” he growled. “That tree marks the boundary with Running Pack. Memorize that scent, and make sure that you never cross the line.”
“We won’t,” the eldest of the no-longer-pups yipped, “But I don’t think Running Pack would get too upset if we crossed accidentally, would they?”
“Not accidentally,” an unfamiliar voice said, “but if you stray too far or stay too long, we’ll have to take it out of your hide. That is the law.”
Roll bristled, but kept his voice level, “Hello Shadow,” he said coolly.
The Darigan Lupe padded out of the shadows beyond the burnt tree, nodding politely. Beside him was a red brown Lupe, bigger than any the youngsters of the Highrock Pack had ever seen. When the big one spoke, it was with a trace of amusement. “I take it you haven’t told your young about the conflict that took place between us when you first settled here?”
Roll flicked his ears. “No, Storm, we haven’t.”
“Then it is time and past that they learned,” Shadow said briskly. With a gusty sigh, Roll settled down, his sense alert for some sign of trickery, but the Running Pack Lupes merely lay down on their side of the border and began talking. It was their side of the story, and Roll knew that good manners meant he would have to take it in turn to share the story from the Highrock Pack’ perspective.
“When Highrock pack came here, we were starving and sickly, and needed all of our prey. So when we... I mean, Lily, found them and when she told us, we attacked without question."
Suddenly, a young sky blue Lupess rushed passed Shadow, bowling him over and accidentally crossing the border.
Shadow turned to the Lupess, "Lily, where have you been? You were supposed to join our hunting party over an hour ago." He hissed slightly, annoyed, as she had knocked him over.
"I... was chasing a miamouse," Lily said. Noticing she had crossed the border, she stepped back. "So... What are you doing?" She looked at the young Lupes of the Highrock Pack and said, "Aren’t you all so cute?"
The adolescents were at the stage were they weren’t entirely thrilled with being called “cute” anymore, but a hard stare from Roll warned them to hold their tongues.
“We were just telling the story of when our pack first came to settle in this land,” the yellow Lupe said, his bronze crest bristling instinctively at the rival Lupess’s scent. He forced it to lie flat again. “I believe it was you who first realized we had been in an uninhabited part of your territory for a moon, was it not? Perhaps you should begin the story.”
"I guess I should." She sat down and began to howl of those fateful days....
Deep in a marsh, a large pack of Lupes howled to their ancestors. A tiny light blue pup stumbled away from the pack. In her youthful innocence she intended to hunt, for prey was scarce and she wanted to do all she could for her pack. She walked far into the woods, farther than she had ever gone before. Suddenly, she stumbled into a clearing.
This part of the territory had been abandoned for several generations. Her pack still claimed it as their own, but they never actually came here for anything. It was very far from their den, too far to make visiting it worthwhile. In fact, their scent had faded entirely from the area.
Apparently someone had decided to take advantage of this. The scent of unfamiliar Lupes was everywhere. A surge of fear coursed through Lily’s body as she realized that the scents were fresh and coming this way. She ducked into a clump of wild rosemary, praying that it would hide her scent.
“Great catch, Whisker,” said the Neopet that would change Lily’s world forever. She watched as three figures emerged from the undergrowth; a white Lupess, a red Lupe, and a Halloween Bori.
A Bori? Lily thought, confused. What was a Bori doing in a Lupe pack?
“Thank you, Darkwind,” the white Lupess said around a mouthful of meat, “but I think it was asleep. It didn’t stand a chance.”
The Bori laughed. “Food is food, however you come by it. Isn’t that right, Clay?”
The red Lupe smiled. “It hasn’t been that long since we were nomadic, wandering from place to place and unable to find any food as often as not. I’m not going to start being choosey now.”
"You not supposed to be here!" she cried, and then became silent, immediately silenced. She started to run away, to tell her pack. But the Bori was bigger and faster. He darted past her, cutting her off.
“Who are you?” he demanded, “And what did you mean when you said we aren’t supposed to be here? This is our territory; we’ve been here for a moon turn and haven’t seen or scented anyone else.”
“Darkwind, she’s just a pup,” the Clay began, but he was instantly silent when the Bori glowered at him. The red Lupe ducked his head, and tucked his tail between his legs, acting as any submissive would when being reprimanded by a higher ranking member of the pack.
"I... I... I'm Lily on the Water," she stammered. "No, it not, it ours, we been here longer, we been here like... eleventeen moons."
Darkwind chuckled, “Then why haven’t we encountered your pack? Surely if you claim this land, you should be hunting here.” With a flick of his tail, Darkwind moved aside. “Go home, little one. We mean you no harm, but you are better off staying in your own lands. Territorial claims sound more impressive coming from the mouth of an older Lupe.”
“Darkwind,” Whisker said softly, “what if she is telling the truth?”
“Then it is her pack’s fault for leaving their territory empty for so long,” the Bori replied. “We’ve been on the run for over a year, Whisker. We aren’t leaving now that we’ve finally settled again.”
"I'm telling Storm! He’ll tell you get out!" she cried.
She ran back to her den site, her mind whirling with fear and anger, but deep down she also felt strangely pleased; never before in her young life had she ever known or done anything important! Telling the pack about the intruders was going to make her so valuable!
She finally arrived at the den. Most of the pack was gone, off hunting. As she had hoped, the Beta, Storm had been left behind to guard the den. She rushed over to him, breathless from her run.
“Storm!” she squealed. “There are intruders in our territory!”
At once, she had the Lupe’s undivided attention. “What?”
“A pack is living near the Highrock! I saw them. They have a Bori in their pack; isn’t that weird? And he told me that they were staying ‘cause we haven’t used that part of the territory in so long and our scent has faded from it!”
"That is our territory, no matter how unused!" he snarled, running to the rest of the pack. He told them the news; they howled with rage.
“How dare they?” growled one of the elders.
“We can’t just let them walk in and take our territory, Storm!” bellowed Shadow, the Darigan Lupe. “We should attack them!”
The rest of the Running Pack howled with agreement. The cacophony would surely carry to the Highrock; so much better. The interlopers needed to know the depth of their mistake.
“Very well,” he growled, “Lily, you stay here; you’re too small to fight. The rest of you, come with me. Let’s show these intruders that our territory will never be theirs for the taking!”
* * * * *
Roll yawned, his teeth flashing in the moonlight. Staying at the den was annoying, but someone had to do it. Though they would never be friends, the yellow Lupe had come to respect his alpha over the past few moon turns. Apparently that increased trust had been noticed; Darkwind had recently promoted Roll to the position of Beta, or second in command.
Reflecting on how the Bori had come to join, and eventually lead, the pack would always bemuse Roll. Most thought it had been a matter of coincidence and happenstance, but others insisted that the Skysong Pack themselves had led Darkwind to aid the Dragon Canyon Pack in its darkest hour.
Though I suppose we’ll need a new name, now that we aren’t living near the Dragon Canyon anymore.
Roll’s thoughts were interrupted as the hunting party returned. He nodded courteously to Whisker and Darkwind. Clay he ignored; though the red Lupe was Omega in name only, Roll liked to keep pack hierarchy firm, even if his leader tended to be more on the lax side.
Darkwind padded over to his Beta. Roll’s eyes were drawn to the Bori’s left foreleg; it had been touched by magic of the foulest sort, and as result no fur ever grew on it.
“How was it?” the yellow Lupe asked.
“Mostly quiet. I met the neighbors. A young Lupess told us this territory belongs to her pack.”
Roll snorted. “I’d like to see her pack back up that claim.”
"Then see it," Storm snarled, leaping out of the cave that lead to the Dragon Canyon Pack’s den.
Darkwind spun around, his fur bristling.
"This is our territory!" Storm growled, showing huge yellow teeth. Shadow snarled, fanning his wings as the other Running Pack Lupes around him lashed their tails and glowered menacingly at the interlopers.
"Yeah! We’ll show you," a young voice chirped, as a small blue head popped out of Wreath, an island Lupess' holly ring.
"LILY ON THE WATER!" Storm yelped. “What are you doing here?”
Meanwhile, Roll had leapt upright, snarling, “To me, Dragon Canyon Pack!” The other Lupes rushed forward. First New Leaf Of Spring, the alpha female, padded up beside her mate. There was a great deal of amusement in her eyes.
“Well now,” she said, sounding for all the world as if she were commenting on the weather, “I must say, I’ve never seen a pack so desperate to defend its territory that it brought pups into battle!”
"We didn't... She followed us!" Wreath said, stammering.
Darkwind snorted, “Take your pup and go home. We don’t want any trouble, but you haven’t missed any of the prey that we’ve taken from this territory in the past moon. I don’t see why you are suddenly so keen to fight over land you don’t use.”
"It is still ours!" Storm launched at Darkwind. The Bori leapt backwards, so that Storm landed uselessly on the ground. Darkwind lifted his bald left leg. It began to swirl with chaotic ribbons of dark blue light, as if something lived inside it and was yearning to escape.
“Last warning,” Darkwind snarled. “Leave us alone. I can’t be responsible for what happens when my blood gets up. I promise it won’t be pretty.”
"Save the lightshow,” Storm growled. “You won’t frighten me that easily.” Turning to his Packmates, he howled, “Running Pack, attack!”
The den site of the Dragon Canyon Pack was a tall, sheer rock face with a broad flat top. Almost at once every surface was heaving with snarling, yelping Lupes.
Roll grappled with Shadow, his tawny yellow and bronze fur helping to protect him against the Darigan Lupe’s fangs. Shadow roared with frustration as one of his claws became snagged in Roll’s pelt. Dragon Canyon Beta took advantage of this momentary distraction to score a bite on his opponent’s shoulder. His advantage did not last long, as Shadow began to use his superior weight to overwhelm Roll.
Wreath leapt for Clay, only to find herself slamming the stone where he had once stood. The Omega hated violence, avoiding conflict whenever possible. Wreath leapt for him again, and again he skipped out of the way, head low and tail lashing.
“Stay still!” the island Lupess snarled.
“And let you beat me up?” Clay retorted. “I think not!”
Meanwhile, Storm had once again charged at Darkwind. The Bori’s red eyes flared brilliant cobalt, and he dashed charged as well. The two collided in midair. Everywhere that Darkwind’s cursed claw struck Storm’s flesh, the Lupe felt a searing pain followed by curious numbness... a numbness that spread from the point of impact, making it hard for the Lupe to move.
Lost amidst the chaos, Lily looked for an enemy she could take on. However, now that everyone was fighting, the intruders looked a whole lot more dangerous. She doubted she really stood a chance against any of them.
Suddenly, a stray leg connected with Lily’s midriff. She yelped with pain, tumbling backwards over the rocks. Suddenly, she realized that she was too close to the edge of the Highrock.
I’m going to fall! she thought, panic making her unable to shout it. She scrabbled at the ground, trying to slow herself. However, on the slippery rocks her claws had no purchase, and she suddenly found herself hanging in the air.
Very high in the air.
Then, like a blessing from the heavens, a streak of green shot out of the chaos of the battle, and Lily felt firm teeth grab her scruff.
She looked up into the violet eyes of the Dragon Canyon alpha female, Leaf.
Lily finished, "That’s how Leaf saved my life.”
"And when we realized that your pack was compassionate enough that your alpha would save one of our pups," Storm added with a smile, “we decided to set a border to divide the territory equally. After all, we really hadn’t been using the Highrock, so it made sense to have an honorable pack as our neighbors instead of leaving that territory to potentially be overrun by rogues later.”
Roll coughed politely. "I hope the wounds from your fight with Darkwind didn't trouble you for too long. I know from personal experience that his attacks can be singularly slow to heal."
"Don't worry, it healed fine," he said amiably.
"Did you like the story?" Lily asked.
The adolescent Lupes flicked their ears agreeably, and the youngest female piped up, “It was neat. Almost like the stories Uncle Steel tells us.”
“Speaking of Steel,” Roll said, standing up, “he is going to sing the ballad of the Icerunner tonight. You don’t want to miss that.” The Highrock Pack Beta nodded politely to his Running Pack counterpart. “May Skysong Pack run in your songs until they are silenced by time.”
"Thank you, goodbye,” Storm rumbled as he and his pack vanished into the trees.