2nd place- fiction story contest
Wild Harte written by: Stargazer5
As Moon walked into camp with Alnilam, Mintaka, and Alnitak she could hear others muttering amongst themselves. “Look at her,” “Look at her fur,” “Look how beautiful she is,” where among the things they were saying.
“Why are they talking about me like that?” Moon asked modestly.
“The meek may inherit the Earth, but right now it belongs to the conceited,” Alnilam said with a chuckle, “You are a beautiful wolf, one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.”
A russet red brute and a grey female walked up to the new group, “Who is this Alnilam and why did you bring her here?” the russet male asked Alnilam.
“May I speak to you in private Rowan, Sir?” Alnilam asked while dipping his head low to show he was of lesser rank then the other brute.
“Rise, Alnilam. Rise and speak with me, I grant you a private audience.” The brute called Rowan stated, “Carla, take this female to Alnilam’s grotto, she can wait there.”
“Yes, Rowan Sir,” the grey female replied with a bowed head. Carla flicked her tail at Moon with contempt, “Come with me.”
Watching Moon leave Alnilam felt a slight ache in his heart, turning to Rowan he stated, “Carla is a mean female Rowan, I don’t know why you keep her around…”
“I keep her around because she is strong and is a good mate for it, but we are not talking about Carla, we are talking about that radiant female you brought home. Who is she and why did you bring her here?” Rowan redirected the topic back to Moon.
“She’s a shifter…” Alnilam replied.
“I know that, Alnilam, don’t play games with me. I am still Alpha and you are still Beta, you will not play word games with me.” Rowan growled at Alnilam.
“She is a strong shifter, when I found her she had her foot caught in a trap with a wound that would have taken me days to heal even in wolf form. She, on the other hand, shifted and healed the wound in seconds. Plus she is the most beautiful human I’ve ever seen, not to mention her wolf form, I couldn’t just leave her there to the hunter’s bullet,” Alnilam replied with tones of admiration running through his voice.
“Really…” Rowan stated, pondering the possibilities, “Maybe I should take her for myself…” At this Alnilam couldn’t help but scrunch up, “But I think not, as I said before, I have Carla. You on the other hand have nothing…she is yours Alnilam, for your dedication to the Pack and your loyalty to me.”
“I don’t think she is that kind of girl…she grew up in the human world with their values. I don’t believe she will accept being given to anyone,” Alnilam replied.
“Well you have free rein to make her yours then; I will let the others know she is not to be harassed, of course, it will be up to you to keep the brutes at bay. The females are her problem, you are a desirable brute, if she is as strong as you think that shouldn’t be a problem,” Rowan retorted.
“Thank you, Rowan Sir,” Alnilam replied with a bow.
Returning to his small grotto inside the communal den Alnilam found Moon sitting on his collection of furs in human form. Shifting as he entered to make Moon feel more at home Alnilam went and sat next to her. “This must be kind of overwhelming for you, is there anything I can do to help you acclimate? Ask me and I will tell you the truth,” he asked her.
Moon looked him over quickly, noting how even in human form he had an animal grace to him, he could easily spring up and attack or just lie down and fall sleep. “Where am I? Who was that russet wolf and why did everyone call him Sir?” she rambled quickly.
Something about this man made her just speak without thinking.
Alnilam flashed a quick smile at her as he replied, “You are in the heart of the Wilde Heart Pack, we are a group of shifters that live in the wild and provide for ourselves. We don’t follow the rules of the humans; we follow the rules of the Shifters. Sed lax, Dura Lax which means ‘The Law is hard, but it is the Law’. The russet wolf was Rowan, he’s the Alpha of the Pack, while I am Beta, and he is called Sir out of respect, took him forever to get us to stop calling him Master,” he added with a chuckle.
Moon couldn’t help but giggle at that, “Am I going to be staying with the Pack then?” she asked.
Alnilam looked into her eyes as he replied, “Only if you want to… We will not force you to do anything you don’t wish to do, but know this; we will not judge you for shifting to your animal state. We accept that that is who you are, it is who we all are.”
Blushing, Moon looked away, “I will stay with the Pack, after all I have no home to go back to… Where will my room be?” she asked sadly.
“You have a home here with us, one you will always be welcome to come back to, as for where your room will be…you will be sharing this one with me,” Alnilam replied.
“What do you mean I will be sharing this room with you?” Moon, starting to get angry asked, “Until when?”
Alnilam cleared his throat while trying to figure out how to answer this without making her even angrier, or at least as less angry as possible. “Um… You would sleep here next to me and um…this is where you would keep your things…” he replied slowly.
“And for how long?” Moon asked with a growl.
“Well…I don’t know…permanently…” Alnilam replied quietly. For some reason this girl got to him, made him feel bad about the fact that she was given to him.
“What do you mean permanently? Whose idea was this room arrangement?” Moon asked starting to get frantic, “Tell me the truth, you promised me that, what’s going on?”
With a sigh, Alnilam replied, “Rowan gave you to me as a mate…in the Shifter world the Alpha can match two people together as mates; they are paired together forever and are expected to stay in the same grotto. I wont force anything on you but you will have to stay here…there’s nothing I can do.”
Moon lay down on the furs and replied with a sigh, “Fine… So I’m stuck with you…so you know I’m not a gift to be given at will. I grew up in a place where love is earned not expected.”
“I have honor, I would not force myself on any woman. We are stuck together, as you put it, yes, but if I could I would release you from that bind. I do like you but I want you to like me by choice not because you have no other option,” Alnilam replied slowly.
“Is there at least a place where I can bathe around here?” Moon asked Alnilam.
“Of course, follow me,” Alnilam replied as shifted and led the way out through the small entrance hole. Without checking to see if Moon was following him he led the way down to a shaded inlet of a shallow river, “You can bathe here; I’ll wait while you wash so no one disturbs you.”
Moon looked Alnilam over, trying to decide if he was perverse enough to watch her bathe or if she could trust him, “Wait here and don’t look at me,” she replied.
Alnilam sat on the bank of the river, honored that Moon trusted him enough to keep watch over her without looking at her as she bathed.
Mintaka walked up to his brother, wondering why he was sitting on a river bank and facing the Pack. “What are you doing?” he asked Alnilam.
“I should think the answer is rather obvious Mintaka, I’m sitting,” Alnilam replied sarcastically.
“Harde har har, Alnilam, you have such quick wit… I meant why are you sitting here?” Mintaka asked his brother.
Alnilam sighed as he replied, “I’m making sure Moon is alright, she wanted to bathe and I’m here to protect her from the disgusting ideas that the other brutes would act on.”
All of a sudden a shout came from behind the brush blocking Moon from view. Pushing his way through the thick bramble Alnilam emerged just in time to see Moon being swept into faster currents.
Jumping in, Alnilam used his powerful wolf paws to reach Moon. Shifting back to his human form he grabbed her about the waist and started swimming back to shore where Mintaka was waiting to free them from the water.
Heaving Moon into his brother’s arms Alnilam pulled himself out of the river after her. Grabbing the bear skin towel from where it fell, Alnilam draped it over Moon’s prone body but not before seeing bunches of “W” shaped scars all over.
Waiting in his grotto, Alnilam couldn’t help but pace. He had given Moon over to Mintaka’s care. Mintaka was the shaman of the Pack, the healer. Moon was in good hands.
If only she would come back, all Alnilam’s worries would disappear if only Moon would come back. Taking a deep breath, Alnilam could smell her fading scent and already the cave felt less whole. Alnilam took up his pacing again, waiting for Moon to return.
What seemed like days later, but was probably no more then an hour, Moon returned to the den. Alnilam was near her in an instant, breathing deeply to check for any scent of illness or injury. She smelled fine but he couldn’t help but look her over. There they were, the scars, how could he have not noticed them before? Backing down he went and dropped into the pile of furs he used as a bed, wondering if he should ask.
Moon saw the way he looked at her, at her scars, the pain in his eyes a mirror of the pain in her heart, “Do you want to know?” she asked quietly.
“Only if you want to tell me,” he replied just as quietly.
“I’ve know about my wolf self for about two years now. Everything went well for a year or so, until another shifter was found in my village. My father, the mayor of the village, was forced to decide the fate of the poor boy. He decreed anyone found to be a Shifter, or as they called it a werewolf, was to be branded with hot irons so that all may know them for what they are; they are then to be cast from the village and shot on sight if they return. I tried to stop myself from shifting and it worked for about two months, but the pain of denying myself got to be more than I could bear so I had to resume my midnight outings. I came home one day to find my father waiting for me in my room. He told me he was disappointed in me, disappointed I let myself become a monster, and that he must pass the same judgment on me that he passed on the other boy. I was branded and chased from the village. I caught my foot in the wolf trap about two hours before you found me, my brands healing but burning all the same. Then you and your brothers came and, well, here we are,” Moon recounted slowly.
“Oh, Moon…I am so sorry you had to go through that. Those humans were cruel to you, cruel for not accepting such a beautiful, special person. They didn’t know better though, they fear what they don’t understand, and us, Shifters; they understand us least of all. I wish I could remove every one of your brands and heal all your wounds, the mental and the physical. I may not be able to undo the cruelness dealt to you but I can promise that I will cause no more and I will also do my best to prevent anyone else from hurting you as well” Alnilam replied as he gently hugged Moon.
Moon pulled herself out of Alnilam’s embrace and asked, “It’s late, can we just go to sleep? I’ll sleep over in the corner if you will let me use some of your furs Alnilam…”
“Don’t Moon, don’t ever think you have to sleep in the corner. You can sleep next to me, even if only to have someone to wake up next to, even if only for the company. I won’t do anything to you unless you will it. I will always respect you.” Alnilam replied.
“I’ll sleep next to you…but only for the company…” Moon stated as she curled into the pile of furs.
Feeling as if his heart was both breaking and flying Alnilam draped himself next to her, “For the company,” he repeated as he faded into sleep.
Waking in the morning, Moon found Alnilam’s arm around her shoulders and her own arm draped across his stomach. Not wanting to disturb him, Moon scooted away from Alnilam, climbing from the pile of furs. Taking a look back at his handsome form, Moon shifted and exited the den.
Walking to another female wolf, Moon asked her, “Where does one go to get some food around here?”
The other female let loose a chuckle as she replied, “The forest. One has to catch one’s own food or have one’s mate catch their breakfast.”
“Oh…” Moon replied puzzled, “Okay…”
Moon left the grouping of caves that formed the living area of the Pack and stalked off into the forest. Feeling the leaves and twigs crunch under her pads, Moon couldn’t help but feel the thrill of the hunt.
Laying low in the brush she could smell the deep, heady scent of deer. Taking slow, silent footsteps she crept closer to the deer. Once she was within pouncing range Moon jumped and grabbed the deer about the neck. Biting deeply she felt the lifeblood run into her mouth, drinking it in, she felt power overwhelm her. As the deer died she felt a new energy course through her veins, the life the deer gave making her strong.
Moon dragged the deer back to the inner sanctum of the Pack; other wolves glanced longingly at her kill. One wolf, a lean female, came and tried to steal a leg off her deer. Moon growled at the female, trying to impart the message ‘Leave me and my kill alone’ but the female kept at it. Dropping the deer for an instant, Moon snapped at the skinny wolf, biting and catching the female’s lip, tearing right through it. The female ran away from Moon, whimpering. Moon stood above her kill, growling a challenge at all who would try and steal her meal.
Alnilam woke to the sound of commotion outside his den. His younger brother, Alnitak, strutted into his grotto, grinning from ear to ear.
“What are you smiling about?” Alnilam asked.
“You should see what your female is doing Alnilam…” Alnitak replied smartly.
“She may have been given to me but she is not my female, Alnitak, she belongs to no one but herself,” Alnilam retorted.
“Well then, you should see what your radiant free spirit is doing,” Alnitak replied right on pace with his brother, “And you should stop her from doing what she’s doing before she kills someone.” The grin faded from Alnilam’s face as he quickly shifted to wolf form and shouldered Alnitak out of the way, listening to Alnitak’s laughter fading away as he moved off.
Shouldering and growling his way through the mounting crowd he came upon Moon growling over a large deer, guarding it from the other wolves. Alnilam couldn’t help but notice that Moon looked even prettier when she was furious. He walked over to his supposed mate, then turned and faced the crowd.
“If you want this deer you had better be willing to die for it because we will not be giving it up willingly,” Alnilam stated to the gathering crowd, a growl rumbling deep in his stomach.
“It is yours Alnilam; your mate caught it and brought it back on her own. It belongs to her and to you by extension and none others!” Rowan growled at the wolves, letting them know the fight was over and he was decreeing the winner. “You may share it if you wish, but you will get the first choice of meat and the others will wait until you are finished,” Rowan ordered, hidden in the form of a possibility.
“But of course we will share; it is far too much for the two of us to eat alone. The pelt however is ours and ours alone, we will not share that,” Alnilam replied stepping up next to Moon.
“Leave this one alone Moon, back down. You fought well to defend our food and to even hunt it was a near miracle. We will take the trophy of the pelt and share the meat, it is too much to keep around and expect it to keep fresh. We also have the honor of eating first, a right that usually belongs to the Alphas’, which is not to be taken lightly.” Alnilam whispered in Moon’s ear.
Moon could sense the truth in his words, lowering her fur she climbed off the kill and started eating from the deer’s stomach and intestines. Moon gorged herself almost to bursting, then finally backed away to let Alnilam in.
Alnilam took a stone knife from a stock of tools and skinned the deer, putting the pelt away for later. He shifted to his wolf form and started eating until he too was full to the point of illness. ‘Let them fight over the scraps…’ he thought to himself. He walked to his mate and started licking blood from her muzzle before it stained her white fur red.
Moon looked up at Alnilam, trying to decide if she should fight his cleaning or just be thankful she didn’t need to do it herself. In the end her full belly and the tiredness of being full took over and she followed Alnilam back to their den where he finished cleaning her snout as she fell into a deep, food induced sleep.