The sound of wolves howling echoed through the forest as the second of the moons rose into the sky. Shadows danced in the fire light that flickered from within a hidden cave in the forests not far from the Elven palace. Curious nocturnal animals skirted the edge of the firelight.
Several wolf cubs wrestled around the fire pit, trying to prove who the alpha wolf was. A large grey cub dominated the playful wrestling. This was the son of the pack leader, the Alpha of the Wolftracker pack that called this series of caverns their home. He was a large, mean, unintelligent boy that delighted in the pain of those that were smaller than he. Today he had his sights set on the pack runt.
Grathius was the grandson of Grriffith the brave. Griffith was the last Canavar to venture out before the great hiding that had caused the entire race of wolf-creatures to be forgotten by all but a highly select members of an organization that was founded to protect the Balance. They had become known as the Guardians of the Balance, and Griffith had chosen to leave the pack and consort with these individuals. In the eyes of several, this had brought shame upon the entire pack.
Grathius and a few friends had gotten into a friendly wrestling match. He was small, but he was fast. The group of friends had been utterly enjoying themselves before Taloren, the Alpha's son, had decided to join them. It didn't take long before most of the group had sustained minor injuries and run off to their mothers with their tails between their legs.
"What did you have to go and do that for." Grathius demanded of the larger boy. "We were fine until you showed up."
"Watch how you talk to your better’s boy." Taloren snapped. "You are a disgrace to the Wolftracker name. They should have drowned you the day you were born, runt."
Anger burned in Grathius's eyes. "One day, you and yours will get what is coming to you." He barked at the larger cub. "I only hope I am there to see it."
Tired of talking, and insulted that this tiny cub had seen fit to try and challenge his superiority, Taloren lunged towards Grathius. Grathius had been expecting this, so he nimbly stepped out of the way and watched as Taloren's mass carried him into the wall that he had been standing in front of a moment before. The larger cub stood on his hind legs, swaying dangerously through the daze that came from banging his head on the wall.
"I am going to kill you, Grathius." Taloren growled.
It didn't take long for Taloren to regain his composure. He lunged at Grathius again. As Grathius stepped out of the way, Taloren struck at him with his hands, the claws catching Grathius in the throat. Blood ran down the smaller cubs front from the wound he had just sustained. Bloody foam began to form around his lip, tinging his muzzle red with his own blood.
Grathius' mother rushed to him, keeping Taloren from finishing what he had started.
"Get away from him, you monster!" She snarled at the boy.
Taloren grinned maliciously. "My father will have the whole lot of you banished as soon as the hunting party returns."
Grathius' mother slapped Taloren across the face with the back of her hand, knocking him to the ground. "Your father knows the truth of what happened. He has always supported my father in his decision." She bared her teeth in a harsh smile. "You will do well to remember that your father and I have been friends for a long time. I will be speaking to him of this."
Fear filled Taloren's eyes. He knew that he had crossed the line, and he knew that his father was going to be furious with him. He turned and ran into his family’s living quarters as fast as he could.
Grathius’ mother lifted him into her arms gently and carried him to the infirmary as quickly as she could.
The healer cleaned the wounds and rubbed a salve on them. The wounds visibly closed seconds after the salve had been applied.
"The wounds will heal, but I think his voice will be affected for the rest of his life." The old healer said when he had finished. He then left to attend to his other patients,
"Why did you that?" She demanded of her son. "He could have killed you, and would have had I not stopped him."
Grathius whimpered slightly. "He cannot be allowed to get away with insulting our family, motherrr." As he spoke the last word his voice growled deeply.
His mother's eyes widened. Tears sprang to her eyes. "Oh, Grathius, I am so sorry."
Grathius patted his mother's hand. "It is not yourrr fault, motherrr. I will live with the rrramifiactions of my actions."
She smiled. Grathius may have been the smallest of the cubs in the pack, but he was extremely intelligent. He very often dazzled the older members of the pack with his understanding of the old texts, sharing his unique opinion on the translations. He was well liked, and would have been throughout the whole pack, if not for the stigma placed on them by her father Griffith. She shook her head as she once again scooped him into her arms to carry him home. He snuggled into her shoulder and fell asleep as she clumsily walked to their living quarters on her hind legs.
The canavars were an interesting race. They were intelligent, semi-bipedal, wolves. Long ago they had decided that it would be best if the world at large thought them extinct, so they went into hiding. It wasn't really that difficult to hide from the world. There were members of the other races that had seen them, but had mistaken them for large wolves.
Griffith Wolftracker, known among the descendants of those that really knew him as Griffith the Brave, had ventured out shortly after the great hiding had been undertaken to join his friend Paron Elloy in his quest to keep the balance between light and dark. This was several thousand years ago. He came and visited when he could. He never failed to show up when the death howl sounded, until recently.
It had been several months since the disturbance at the Elf palace. The dragons had attacked, destroying the palace and the surrounding town. There were rumors circulating that the Warbirds had been sighted, but those rumors held as much credence to most as a canavar sighting.
Tarisha Wolftracker knew better. She had watched the devastation. She saw the Warbirds erupt from the waterfall. She watched as her father, Grathius flew into the cosmos, never to be seen again.
She watched the survivors’ pilgrimage towards the Hope's Medical Clinic. She also watched as the two humans found the princeling and took him away.
Her heart was empty as she turned to go back to the den. She knew she would never see her father again, and that Grathius had lost many opportunities to get to know his grandfather.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Tarisha asked her son.
"Grathius nodded gravely. "Yes, motherrr. I am surrre that I wish to do this. I am rrready."
For several years Grathius had been a spiritual adept studying under the current Shaman. He had proven time and again to be a most eager and intelligent student, but the task that he was about to undertake was extremely dangerous.
It was spirit day, the day when the border between the world and the spirits was at its thinnest. Today, if fate smiled, a new shaman would be chosen to lead the pack spiritually. Grathius was hoping that it would be him.
He gathered in the main cavern with the other initiate hopefuls, awaiting the time of testing, It was then that they would all be sent into the spirit chamber. Only one could be chosen. The others would at best lose their sanity, and at worst lose their lives. Grathius knew the dangers, and he was eager to prove himself.
The first of the two moons had risen when shaman entered the main hall.
"Initiates," He nodded to the line of young Trarens that stood before him. "The time has come. If the fates will it, one of you will succeed me as the pack's spiritual leader."
A shiver of excitement rippled through the line.
The wall behind them slid open.
"Enter initiates, and I pray that the fates will smile upon you." The shaman said, pointing into the hole in the rock.
As one, the line of hopefuls turned and walked into the black cavern.
As soon as the last one passed through the portal, the wall close behind them. After a moment of silence, the screaming began. Sounds of youngsters being savaged echoed through the darkness on one side while sounds of insanity echoed from the other.
Steeling his nerves, Grathius sat on the ground and cleared his mind. A dim light appeared, growing in intensity as it got closer. There was a figure of a large silver haired Traren at the center of the light.
"Greetings, initiate." The figure spoke. "I am Ranan Moonwalker. I was alpha if this pack one hundred years ago."
Grathius bowed his head. "Honorrred Grrrandfatherrr." He said.
For the first time, he grew fearful. He knew that spirits were fickle beings, and he was afraid that the growl in his voice might offend this one.
"Be not afraid, young Grathius." Ranan said. "I am aware of your injury. You have done well. Take your fellows and return to the world of the living. Go, Take your place as the new shaman of the tribe."
Grathius was elated! He gathered those that had come with him and were still alive, and approached the portal. As he approached, the hole opened in the wall again, allowing them to re-enter the main hall. The whole pack was waiting with baited breath to see who, if anyone, would be chosen. Most of the pack let out a collective sigh of relief when they saw Grathius
"NO!... I will not follow the runt." Taloren screamed. "He will lead us all to ruin, mark my words."
Nathal Trapspringer turned to his son. "If you will not abide by the spirits’ decision, then you must go the way of the wild." He pointed to the mouth of the great hall. "By the law of the pack, you must be banished."
Shocked silence filled the room. There has not been a banishment in the pack for several hundred years, and never had an Alpha's son been banished.
"Father..." Taloren pleaded.
Nathal stood stiff shouldered as he pointed to the cave mouth. "Your fate has been written by your own hand. I have no son."
A low growl began to emanate from Nathal's chest. The sound was picked up by those close by, and spread until the whole pack was growling threateningly at Taloren. The sound was truly frightening. Taloren sped for the wild. As he was about to cross the threshold he paused, turning back.
"I will get you for this, runt. Vengeance will be mine." He turned and disappeared into the wild.
When he was gone, the banishment growl ceased.
"Nathal, I am sorrrrry." Grathius told the older wolf. "I did not mean forrr this to happen."
"This is not your fault, young Grathius." Nathal told him. "I have known since the day he injured you that it would probably come to this." He shook his head sadly. "Come with me, I have something for you.
They moved quickly, to the Trapspringer dwelling. When they got there Nathal had Grathius wait outside as he retrieved the item. What he held when he came out of his room, was the last thing that Grathius had expected. It was a sword.
"Nathal, what...?" Grathius began, but Nathal stopped him.
"This was your grandfather's. He left it in my care before he disappeared. He told me that it was to go to one of his descendants. I believe it was meant to go to you." He offered the sword to Grathius.
As Grathius took the sword, a warmth ran up his arm and into his head. He thanked the older wolf, and made his way through the caverns to his living quarters. He wasn't sure what he was going to do with a sword, his kind had little use for weapons, but he was going to keep it out of respect for is grandfather.
Thinking his mother would like to see the sword, he knocked on her door. The instant that she saw the glowing red blade of the sword she began to cry.
"I am going to lose you too." Was all that she would say when Grathius asked her what was wrong.
He wasn't sure what was going on, and he didn't have time to ponder it. He quickly stashed the sword in his room and left to start the next stage of his training to become the new pack shaman.