It happened so fast: there was a crash, cries of terror and anger, another crash, and then all of the sudden blinding light shone in my face. The brightness was blocked out by a large shadow, and I can’t remember anything after that.
Now I’m – where am I? This place doesn’t look anything like the cave. It smells salty, even a bit rank – it reminds me of fish. The ground is sandy, with a few pebbles scattered around, and it’s so soft that I notice my heavy limbs and exhaustion.
“Sun?” I try to call, but all that comes out is a thin, dried-out rasp – how long has it been since I’ve drank anything?
“Seaweed,” a deep, gruff voice says quietly into my ear. “Relax.”
“Who are you?” It’s a struggle to say that one sentence.
The unknown wolf doesn’t answer my question; instead he growls to himself, “You were the first to wake up.”
First? My head feels like it’s going to explode from this confusion.
His voice lowers down so much that I can hardly catch it as he adds, “Funny – you were also the first to be brave enough to kill a FrozenWolf!”
Kill a FrozenWolf! Why on Avalene would I do that? Besides, Shard is the only wolf of that tribe that I know. Yet, for some nagging reason, I can still hear fuzzy words in my head that say, “She drowned me to save her own hide!”
“What are you –“ I have to cut off my sentence as an awful bout of coughing shakes my body.
“I said relax,” he snaps.
This wolf’s tone of voice is familiar, yet not . . . he must be a FrozenWolf, which means that has got to be Shard; but what’s going on? Where are we?
“Where’s Sun?” I manage to get out.
There’s a long pause before Shard mutters, “I’d have chosen that deceptive beast to wake up first over you.” And then he adds to me, “She’s nowhere.”
Offended, I try to sit up and face him, but it hurts my entire body when I try. So I settle down and snarl to him, “Don’t talk about Sun like that. She is not a deceptive beast.”
“I wasn’t talking about Sun,” he replies briskly, heavily. “I meant Anthill.”
Since when is Anthill a “deceptive beast?” What does that even mean? And what are we waking up from?
“I’m impressed you still manage to get a single word out,” Shard goes on, but I don’t respond to him; out of confusion, mainly.
The sound of a terrified young wolf echoes through the cave, making my head snap up and my whole body ache at the movement, so I lay down again.
“Wh-where am I?” a puppy-voice stutters, obviously terrified. I think about it, and realize that I’m wondering the exact same thing.
“You’re home,” Shard mutters carelessly.
“Home!” The pup’s voice sounds just as raspy and dehydrated as my own. Its tone is bewildered as well.
“Who are you?” the FrozenWolf asks, not sounding the least bit curious – maybe a bit angry though, “What’s your name?”
“My name?” the young wolf pauses before answering quietly, “Pebble. You’re a FrozenWolf!”
“Wow, it’s smart,” Shard grumbles sarcastically.
“I thought FrozenWolves were evil!”
“Who says I’m not?”
A long silence stretches between the two. Through my confusion, pain and exhaustion, I can’t help but feel amused by their sudden quietness.
The pup, Pebble, finally starts speaking gingerly again, “Did you rescue us from the ShadowWolves?”
“Yes,” Shard growls calmly.
“Thank you!” Pebble yaps excitedly; suddenly I feel something soft bumping against my back, which is probably the puppy’s tail.
“Hey, knock it off,” I mutter to her.
“Seaweed!” Pebble gasps happily. “You were rescued, too!”
“Rescued?” I force myself to roll over to face them, no matter the pain I feel doing it. I’m startled to see Shard hunched over to fit in one corner of the cave, Anthill splayed out on the floor near him, and a silver-eyed WaterWolf puppy staring right at me. I shoot Shard a glare, silently demanding an explanation. But he just glares back.
“Yeah, don’t you remember?” Pebble frowns worriedly at me.
Tiredness tugs at me as I say distantly, “Remember what?”
“Why can’t she remember anything?!” she shrieks, horrified.
“Be quiet!” Shard snarls. “She’s just dehydrated.”
“But so was I and I feel fine!”
“That’s because I gave you water. Now sit down and be quiet.”
I stare at them with half-closed eyes, my paws growing heavy and falling limp at my command.
“You didn’t give her any?” Pebble whispers.
I can’t catch what Shard says next, before sleep finds its way into my mind, and I drift off.
* * * * *
“Are they waking up?”
“Yeah, they are.”
I can hear Shard having a conversation with another wolf in the distance as I slowly start gaining my senses again. But my pain is still here – cramps in my stomach, rough throat, dry mouth. I can hardly open my jaws because of how thirsty I am.
“Seaweed, you’re awake!” an eager little voice yips, “Are you feeling better?”
It’s the pup – I still don’t know who she is, though I feel like I shouldn’t ignore her; she seems genuinely concerned about me. I shake my head, but cut myself short to prevent headache.
“Are you thirsty?” Pebble asks, tipping her head to one side and her strange silver eyes changing into a shape I can’t explain that means she’s worried.
I can’t move my head again, as just trying to shake it before is starting to make it hurt internally, so I just grin weakly – hopefully she understands.
“That stupid furball Shard didn’t give you any water. I wonder why?” Pebble grumbles half to herself, and then stands up slowly and starts bounding out of the cave, carefully moving around Anthill’s limp frame and whisper-calling over her shoulder, “I’ll get you water!” As she reveals her whole body to me for the first time, I see that she’s missing a large chunk of fur on her left hip.
I sigh heavily and rest my head back on the soft, cushiony ground again. I stare at Anthill’s dark ginger bulk, her chest rising and falling very slowly – she seems peaceful. Her fur color reminds me of Embers’, which is also ginger. Where is he?
Pebble trots back inside, tail high in the air and carrying a large chunk of moss larger than her head. She dances around the TunnelWolf again, her bundle of green leaving behind several droplets of water on Anthill’s hindlegs. She drops the moss in front of my muzzle, splashing a few drops on my nose; I use my tongue to lick it up, and eagerly, place my mouth on the rest of it to suck up every little bit of liquid that I can until it’s bone-dry.
“Do you want more?” the pup asks me.
I nod, and my head doesn’t hurt by doing so – the water must be helping me.
Pebble brings me another bunch of soaked moss, and I drink everything out of that, too. I continually cross my tongue over my whiskers to get every last drop of my precious water – being hydrated, I can finally think straight, and I realize just how hungry I am; also, I have this nagging feeling that I’ve seen Pebble someplace besides here, and that there’s something that happened that I don’t remember.
“Do you feel better?”
“Yes,” I sigh gratefully.
Growing excited again, Pebble asks, “Do you remember me now?”
I narrow my eyes into little slits. What is this wolf talking about? “Should I?”
Her excitement melts away instantly, replaced with a sorrow that makes me feel pitiful and a bit guilty. “Oh . . .”
I want to ask her if she has food, but I feel like it’s the wrong time . . .
“Are you hungry?”
Thank goodness she changed the subject to this! “Yes! Do you have food?”
“Of course we do!” Pebble smiles, happy again; she stands up and adds, “WaterTribe always has plenty of fish!”
My heart skips a beat and my eyes widen. Did she just say WaterTribe? But she’s already running out, so I can’t ask her.
A sudden groan startles me – Anthill shifts, lifts her head, groans again, and finally flops her head back down.
I sit up on my haunches slowly, craning my neck forward just enough for me to see one part of her face. Her eyes snap open and her limbs start trembling uncontrollably.
“We’re in WaterTribe,” I try to reassure her, “I don’t know what’s going on though.”
She lifts her head slowly, blinking several times as she looks around the cave. Her softly-colored brown eyes settle on me, and I can see the confusion in them. All of the sudden her eyes widen, and her breathing quickens; she jumps to her paws, only to fall over again.
Shard storms in, his face hard and his eyes narrowed – Pebble comes in behind him, but stops at the entrance. “Relax,” he growls to Anthill, “You’re safe now.”
The mute TunnelWolf bares her teeth at him and sticks the tip of her tongue out in between her fangs – a wordless insult.
“Hold your tongue,” the FrozenWolf snaps angrily. “Can you remember what happened?”
She nods fiercely, and falls onto her side again at the motion.
“Good. I can only handle one jerk-muzzled wolf with short-term memory loss!” Shard snarls, with a glare in my direction.
“What did I do?” I growl to him.
“Never mind it.”
I sigh and lay down again, my nose on my paws.
Pebble, cowering slightly, slips underneath Shard’s belly quickly and tosses a fish in my direction, narrowly missing my face. I give her a thankful nod and take a bite of my sweet meal, the flavor exploding in my mouth as I chew eagerly. It tastes creepily familiar, but I can’t figure it out.
“What are you so angry, anyway?” Shard growls to Anthill. “You should be thanking me for rescuing you!”
Anthill glowers at him from her weak positon on the ground; seeing that she’s just as hungry as I am, I rip off a chunk of my fish and nudge it towards her; she takes a ginger bite out of it without looking my way.
Shard glances outside of the cave for a brief moment, sits down, and mutters, “I know you’re wondering about Hawk and Embers. We didn’t have time to rescue Hawk, and we couldn’t find Embers.”
Anthill launches herself at him, snarling and spitting angrily; Pebble cowers against me in terror. Despite Anthill’s brave attempts to hurt him, Shard flings her off like she weighs nothing. “Trust me, I’d have chosen him before you if I had the chance!” he snarls.
All of the sudden, my puzzlement vanishes, and new memories start filling into my mind: Sun’s death, escaping the cave, being captured by ShadowWolves, and Embers’ dying under the paws of Star.