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Svea's CaptureCaptive Creatures Story by Aardvark04I padded softly down the stone hallways of my pack’s underground home. Torches lit the walls as I emerged from the Alpha’s section of the compound and into the large common room, with high ceilings, a small waterfall, and plenty of perches for the wolves to lay and relax on. Conversation filled the area as I found the nearest pack member.“Where is Boreal?” I asked Grear, a slightly older female wolf than I. “Your brother has gone hunting, Svea. I believe your father has gone with him.”“Ah, yes, right. Well then, have you seen Nomad?” A suggestive smile flashes across her face. “Yes, your highness. He is in the lower lake. Saw him a few moments ago; went down there with Dorian and Flora.Dorian and Flora, huh? I knew they were growing closer. “Thank you, Grear.”“Not a bother, miss.”I’d grown up with the three wolves I came across in the caves of water below the dens. It was slightly odd these days as our friendships shifted into different forms of relationship, but I didn't mind. My father wasn’t there restrictive type to only allow me to mate a beta. In fact, the Hirden pack didn’t have betas, as the Alpha leaders and their offspring were seen as fairly equal to the rest of the pack. Within the pack, the only system of ranks corresponded to their roles, such as hunter and lead hunter, apprentice medic and medic. I’ve gone down a rabbit hole; I saw the other young wolves, no longer pups but nearly adults, as they bathed in the water. Dorian and Flora playfully flirted in the corner, and upon my approach they pretended they hadn’t been. “Nice to see you as well,” I taunted.“Oh, don’t act like you haven’t been eyeing Nomad,” She responded, giggling as she rose from the water. I had in fact, noticed him walking over from where he had been resting under the dancing torchlight, laying on one of the many rock ledges. I nuzzled his thick, light grey fur as he approached in recognition. His brown eyes gleamed and reflected the water’s movements. He did the same to my black fur, staring into my emerald eyes as I attempted to look away.“Hello, Svea. I’ve- we’ve… been looking for you all morning. I assumed you’d gone out with your brother,” Nomad trotted over to Dorian, and they sat beside each other as the friends they had always been. “I slept in, you could say…”“Ha, by two hours. Happens to the best of us.”I’d been close to the three wolves before me for my entire life. They seemed the same to me as when we were pups, plopped down on the cold stone, watching as our parents went about their duties. I emerged myself in the hot spring. Dorian and Flora went to retrieve some food from the floors above, dismissing themselves with, “We’ll be back in a few minutes.” There I was, left with Nomad. He came into the water with me, splashing my face with his tail. I laughed, a pleasant, short laugh, and returned the gesture. We circled each other in the shallows of the steaming pools before coming together to nuzzle. He was warm, his fur damp. Most wolves of the pack knew of our relationship, though it had only emerged a few weeks ago. I know what you must be thinking; but yes, I did sleep in. Though the Alpha encourages equality and progressive ranking within our walls, he would tear me to pieces if I became pregnant before official ceremony. At that, I was a year or so young to mate as an alpha anyway. Essentially, he didn’t mind how close we were, but likely didn't want us much closer.No sooner had I settled next to Nomad, he whispering in my ear that even as a just awoken mess, I was rather elegant that morning, than Flora and Dorian came prancing back down the sloped entrance bearing meat. It had only been a few moments into our collective eating that our ears perked at commotion upstairs. All of us rose, and I led the way to the common room, where I nuzzled my brother as my father rose to the highest of the perches, both of them out of breath. They had clearly run home.“Wolves of my pack, I alert all of you that the Warren Pack has invaded our territory. They impose threats if we do not surrender parts of our land to them, claiming that they wish to expand into our south than into the north. We will not bow to them! However, for your safety, I ask all of you to keep your cubs under your watch, and hunt only to the south of here. Warriors and guards; I will send patrols out methodically. Scouts, (of which I was one) stay safe. The last thing I need is for one of my spies to be discovered on my own soil.” Gasps filled the room. I looked back at Nomad, who nodded, his tail swishing behind him. We were in the next shift of scouts to leave. Gusts of wind howled through the trees. The group of scouts split near our border, six miles from our den. we patrolled the area for hours at a time, but we all ran low, scanning for wolves. I spotted a few here and there, but they all appeared within their territory, stalking caribou, or patrolling under their own orders. Nothing seemed out of place. I passed Nomad and the other scouts once in a while, exchanging soft nuzzles with him. He told me to be careful both times I came across him, his expression worried, and I responded with a grateful nod, a smile. We ventured quietly into the snow spotted woods, careful to walk on the dirt, and avoid twigs and branches that could snap. I overheard two wolves of the Warren pack conversing, but merely about which type of rabbit they had caught. My shift ended in an hour, and the sky was just barely beginning to tilt into darkness. If I left now, I could make it back before the sun disappeared behind the tree line. I was well into my own territory when I heard dry leaves crack and crinkle behind me. I was quiet, and glanced behind me. The air carried no scent of wolves. I saw no one in the bushes or clearing. “Nomad? Holly? Pine?” I whispered into the shadows. There was no response. I took another step forward, and as I did, I sensed movement to my right. Once again, I saw nothing. But I could smell it now. I was downwind of whatever, or whoever, was following me. I heard a whizzz thunk as something flew by and hit a tree next to me. A dart. I whirled around, and felt the weight of another wolf land on my rear end. As a snapped back to bite them, another appeared in front of me. A third lay across my midsection. I attempted to howl, but my jaws were painfully driven into the ground by the weight of the second wolf. I heard one of them snarl, “Princess Svea of the Hirden Pack… just who we were looking for…” as my body was held still by their weight. It is no surprise that they didn’t miss the next dart, as I was unable to move. My innards filled with dread and hopelessness. My world went black merely a few seconds after I felt a sharp thorn impact my neck. I woke on a sled of wooden planks, pulled swiftly across the snow by two of the wolves, while the third ran behind. Vines left me hogtied to the boards, and my muzzle was securely closed. We approached the foot of a large rocky hill, arguably a small mountain, with a gaping hole that was the entrance to their den; the Warren den. I squirmed and grunted through my restraints, but they refused to give way. Little did I know, they would only become worse.Once the sled was inside on the rock floor of their bleak common room, wolves emerged from the halls and rose from their perches. The wolves here were much more mangy, with uneven fur or stains on their lighter areas. I kicked viscously at the wolves who dragged me from the platform, just as a young wolf, likely only a year older then I, emerged from an opening in the wall. The light of the small fires cast shadows that created a ghastly image, and his face was drawn with sour pleasure. I knew who he was before he said a word, Alpha male Quenn, who’s father had recently passed. He chuckled in such a stereotypical malicious way that sent shivers down my frightened spine.“Princess Svea, the pleasure is all mine,” with that he bowed mockingly; his status was above mine. “Lttttt mmmm gwwww!” I screamed into the makeshift muzzle. There were vines both around and in my mouth. “Oh, don’t like these…,” he brushed one of the vines near my face with his claw, threatening to slice it, “… very much? Well, does it make you feel any better that they’ll be replaced son enough?” He gazed around the room, prompting the collective wolves to laugh with him. I had no idea what was in store for me, but it couldn’t be good. “Wolves of Warren, meet Princess Svea, soon to be Alpha female of the Warren Pack!” He lowered his head to my level as the cave erupted with howls and cheers. I was overcome with dread as he whispered, “I expected you to be more excited, darling. You’re going to be a queen, and a wonderful mate…” Those words; ‘a wonderful mate’. “The ceremony will take place in two days, after my little princess here has been… acclimated to her new surroundings!” He motioned with his tail, and several large wolves took my vines by the jaws and began to drag me downwards, Quenn following us.I was dropped in a large cave, barren of anything connoting happiness. Four wooden poles stood in the middle of the room, forming a slim rectangle. Two wolves stood at the door, while four remained in the room with Quenn and I.“Remove her muzzle, she shall be granted time to speak.” The tight vines were slit, and I spared no time in expressing my feelings. “HOW DARE YOU KIDNAP THE ALPHA’S DAUGHTER TO BE YOUR MATE! MY FATHER WILL HEAR OF THIS, YOU SCOUNDREL! YOU BETTER REMOVE THE REST OF THESE VINES THIS VERY INSTANT SO I CAN TEAR YOU UP BEFORE I TEAR EVERYONE IN THIS CAVE SYSTEM UP! DO YOU HEAR ME!?! YOU BETTE-“ I was cut off, a lasso of vines thrown around my muzzle. I shook them off and attempted bite off my other restraints, but more were thrown on. Quenn stood there, condescendingly looking down on me. “Oh good, you’re finished. Better get you set for the night. Boys…” I was dragged to the poles, where my previous restraints were undone. I pushed against the stone, refusing to move, but was outnumbered and overtaken. Each of my feet and lower legs were tied to the poles, and my neck, chest, and lower stomach were tied off. I bucked around frantically, and hissed through clenched teeth. My head spun, and I struggled against the vines. My head was tied into a slightly down facing position, so I wasn’t able to see the whole room, and my body secured in a harness of sorts. I glared ferociously at the wolves surrounding me, mercilessly following the commands of their alpha, who stared me down the entire time. I screamed incessantly, and threw my head around as much as the vines allowed. They were only tightened after that, however. I noticed two wolves walk in, each holding a bucket with a stick in it. While distracted by what appeared to be tree sap in buckets, a small branch was forced into the back of my mouth just as the lasso of vines was removed. My eyes narrowed in rage, ad I attempted to snap the branch. Quenn approached, telling his minions that he would like to do “the honors,” whatever those were. I snarled as my head was pulled back by two wolves biting the ends of the stick in my mouth. My muzzle was pressed together, rather hard, by two other wolves. I watched in fear, helpless, as Quenn stirred the sap with the stick in the bucket. He lifted the dripping stick, slathered in brown glue, from the wooden container. “Shhh, shhh honey… keep those lips pressed, little one.” I moved my mouth as much as possible, quivering and growling, whimpering and nearly crying, but he was still able to force the sap onto and between my lips. It tasted of maple, and I hated the feeling of it. I tried to spit it off, but it only got on my tongue and teeth. For minutes I squirmed as the sap dried, hardening my mouth closed. The second bucket was left in the corner of the room, covered by a slab of wood, likely for later use. The wolves released the stick once my jaw was fused. Quenn laughed at my helplessness, taunting me, staring at my solid mouth. I couldn’t move my jaws at all, and the stick in the back of my mouth prevented much air from passing through. I breathed heavily through my nose, trying to squirm out of my restraints. My eyes welled, and my brow furrowed in frustration. I looked down at the amber casing. My tongue felt only the smooth, hardened, sap that had slipped onto my teeth. Quenn came over, sniffed it, and merely sauntered out of the room, leaving me to wallow in my futile anger.MEANWHILE…Nomad pranced into the common room, followed by Falcon, and eyed the wolves in the room. None of them were who he was looking for. She surely would arrive any minute. But the minutes passed, the Alpha began to pace, the sky darkened, and still the Princess did not return. Not many wolves noticed, of course; they went about their evening, caring for their pups, carrying fresh kills to their mates, gossiping with their friends. Nomad doubted that even her brother, the Prince Nomad, had noticed. He slunk off to his den, presuming that she was following a lead, carefully listening to a conversation from behind the branches of a bush, or heading home at the moment. As he passed by the Alpha dens, he quickly felt he should check her chamber, just in case she had slipped in before him, or after him without his noticing. Nomad rehearsed a quick, “Just checking that you made it back safely,” before poking his head around the corner, where he found merely her cave, lit by torches, a corner of assorted furs, and a perch above them. The same small, trickling waterfall trickled in the corner and into the small pool below as the one they had both played under as pups, frantically licking at the spray. As he recalled such good times, he began to worry, but padded up the slanted hallway, passing the Alpha along the way. He kept walking, thinking nothing of it when he was asked, “Nomad, have you seen my daughter? I have been awaiting her arrival. I assume you were speaking to her?”Nomad nodded his head in respect before responding, “No, sir, I came down merely to look for her. I saw her out there, but I haven’t seen her since.”The Alpha sauntered off with nothing more than a quiet gruff. Nomad found his friends among the wolves of the common den’s open space, which was not much smaller than the common room. He was unable to focus, swaying his tail often, and checking the entrance often for her arrival. “Heh, look at him. He’s helpless, his heart given away,” Falcon jested from behind him, while several others laughed with him. Another wolf, only a year older, named Ashten approached. “It’s alright,” he assured. “I’m sure she’ll be back by morning.” Nomad didn’t take his eyes off the entrance. “Come on, Nomad. Come to rest. Fretting will get you nowhere other than the list of people to make fun of for these friends of yours.” And so Nomad lay his head on the ground by the fire, not bothering to go to his den. The conversations that quietly continued around him didn’t phase him; he simply drifted off, the warm light of the fire dancing upon his face. Later that evening, he felt Falcon lay beside him, their backs resting against one another, and several other males lay around and atop one another by the dying fire.The morning came without news of Svea, and Nomad grew increasingly worried. By the mid morning, the Alpha made his way to his perch in the common room, diverting all attention to himself. “My daughter, “ he began, his deep voice booming throughout the stone cave system, “has not yet returned from yesterday evening’s scout shift. I have grown worried, and will be sending out a group of our finest to track her down. Who before me can I count on to bring her home?” Gasps surrounded him, as many members of the pack hadn’t noticed, nor would have ever really needed to notice, her absence. Cliché as speeches got, Nomad waisted no time in volunteering. Without second thought, he spoke up; “I will go, Atlas,” he said, bowing. “It is my duty, as one of her partners in the shift, to assist in relocating the princess.” Several other wolves joined in. They went their separate ways to eat quickly, before meeting again at the cave entrance. The five of them, Falcon, Ashten, Flora, Dorian, and of course, Nomad, set out, the sun at it’s peak, and delicate rays of beautiful light reflected from the patchy snow.MEANWHILE…It wasn’t until the next morning that Quenn, or anyone, for that matter, returned. The solidified sap that encased my jaw was carefully removed, and I was fed, albeit while vehemently screaming; “You let me out of these restraints this very instant! Do you have any morals?! Get me out of here, you crooked mange!”“Alright, alright, darling, calm down-,”“Calm down!?” I cut him off boldly. “You expect me to calm down?!” Quenn let out a sigh. He nods, and a wolf approached me. “What are you doing? Quenn, what are you planning now?” Before I know it, the wolf is behind me, striking down with a heavy paw. I am stunned, and low power dart is impaled into my neck so I am nearly asleep, but left awake. More sap is applied to my mouth, I am removed from the posts. After being dragged out to the common room, where vines looped over deep roots that have woven into the ceiling hoist me above the room, I sway slightly as the wolves stare up, chuckling to themselves. Drowsy, I can barely make out Quenn, who stands assertively, staring up at me. I’ve become a centerpiece, a beautiful chandelier for the wolves to admire. A chandelier who is painfully bound, her dignity stolen from her.“You can come down, darling, when you’ve accepted my proposal, calmed down, and I trust you to be free of restraints.“Mmm ehhh gww emmmm rwwww,” I mumble, half conscious and my muzzle sealed. The gathered wolves laugh with their alpha, watching as I groan and tug about.By the time night fell, I was lowered to the floor, limp, quiet, and thoroughly embarrassed. I lay upon the stone as the last of the vines were unhitched from the ceiling, and Quenn put his nose to my face, nuzzling me with a cruel laugh. I shied away, moving my head, but of course that was pointless. He followed me back to the cave, where I was tied again, but laying down, at least. He settled in front of me for a few minutes, staring into my dreadful eyes, before leaving. I wasn’t fed that night, instead my muzzle reinforced. My body ached from the tight embrace of the vines while I had been suspended, and the sap pulled at my lips. I drifted off, too weak to fight sleep, and thought only of my family, my friends, Nomad, and the other scouts. When I awoke, I wasn’t in the same place. The chamber was well lit, a bed of leaves in the center, and a small perch in the corner; Quenn’s den. “Ah, you’re awake,” he teased softly. I moaned, my muscles without any power. “Oh, now, now, little princess, you’re in for a treat.” He came over to me, rubbing against my now mess of fur, nuzzling. I hated every moment of it, but I hoped solely that he would wait until he forced us into partnership to go any further. Small tears escaped the corners of my eyes, my teeth clenched, and I tensed in nervous uncertainty. He lay above me, rolling on and off. A wolf passed by the entrance, asking for Quenn to attend to something, and he left, pulling his weight from my quivering body.MEANWHILE…The wolves trotted along for hours, carefully examining every part of their territory for an injured wolf who could not move, or for Svea to be caught in something. Each wolf returned home twice a day to replenish and report, and soon Atlas was planning to send wolves to the Warren den in peace, to question the whereabouts of their missing alpha’s daughter. They would leave at dawn, he sufficed, and kept them in the den to refuel.Nomad lay near Ashten and Flora, by the fire of the main common, awaiting the sun. The horizon remained dim, but as rays broke free, spilling into the canopy, the wolves rose. Nomad was lost in thought as they set out, and Dorian nudged him breaking him from his mind. “I’m sure it will be alright,” he said, not quite confidently, as if trying to assure himself. “She. I’m sure she will be alright.”“Yeah..,” Nomad drifted into worry again as they ran towards the border. They rested for a moment there, to regain their breath, but Nomad was eager to continue. He stared hopefully out into the snow dusted woods. They treaded through the snow, across a vast meadow, in which some wolves of the Warren pack were stalking rodents. A few split, some sprinting to the den to alert their leader, another two coming to confront the visitors. “What are you doing here, scoundrels?” One of the wolves snickered.Ashten responded, stating, “We do not come to harm anyone. We simply have a question for your pack members and alpha.”“Is that how you request and audience, pretty boy?” the other wolf responded. To that, Dorian snarled, but Ashten stepped forward to block him. “Please, good wolves, we would like to be escorted to your den. Would you, please?,” Flora mumbled to them over the slight commotion.“When you as like that, honey, we will.” The pair started off, careful to gaze behind them often. They arrived at a towering rock hill, a large cave entrance greeting them as they approached. Inside was cast with shadows, and Nomad was suddenly tense; he could smell her. He leaned into Flora and Dorian, whispering that he could, and they responded with the same. Out came a roan brown wolf, white socks and chest. Alpha Quenn, he could see. The wolves, even the visitors, bowed in respect, careful to avoid getting on his bad side. They had strict orders to keep things diplomatic. “Welcome, wolves of the Hirden pack. What is it that you come to us for?”“Sir, we have travelled here to find our princess. We are concerned that you have her…,”“Ah, yes, I expected as much.”As he neared, Nomad, and likely the other wolves, noticed something he hadn’t bothered to brush away; his white chest had sparse black fur, shedded strands. Nomad’s thoughts blurred, he questioned what had appeared in his mind, shooed it away, but it returned. The only way… they had to have been rubbing against… “You have her?! You release her at this moment! We will return home with her now, please,” Nomad fumed, but Dorian prevented him from tearing the alpha apart, jumping in front to block his angered friend. “Sorry, he’s, um, forgive us, sir.”“Haha… yes, yes, my future mate is below.” The alpha condescendingly examined his claws. Nomad stood, out of breath, following the alpha’s statement. He was speechless, but Ashten had it in him to contest. “Sir, I doubt she has agreed. Release her, please, and we will return home in peace.”“You are funny, aren’t you? I am taking her to be my lifelong partner, whether she likes it or not, and anyway, I’m afraid she likely couldn't make the journey home.”“What do you mean?” Flora questioned, her brow furrowed.“Your princess… is… rather tired at the moment.”“Elaborate…,” Nomad mumbled in frustration, staring at the ground to prevent his searing gaze from reaching the alpha, his eyebrows raised in near explosion.“Well, I suppose you could see her. Yes, I think that would be fine. Boys, bring the Alpha’s daughter to us.” Nomad began to step forward, and Flora was holding back shivers of fear. Wolves snarled around them, and the alpha merely stood there, awaiting the horrifying sight that surfaced from the depths of the cave system. Several wolves held vines in their jaws, and what was limply dragged behind them might look like a pile of dark fur to anyone else. Nomad’s heart sank, Flora began to approach her, and Ashten and Dorian immediately began to berate the alpha. “This is no way to treat an alpha’s daughter! Have you even fed her in the last day?! What is that on her muzzle?! Is she conscious?!”“Woah, woah… quiet down now. Guards, hold them back please,” Quenn mused.“Get your paws off of me,” Dorian hissed. Still Nomad stood, barely able to look at her. Flora hadn’t been allowed near her, and began to quietly whimper into Dorian’s thick fur. Svea lay there, thin and brittle, her eyes barely a sliver, her limbs limp, and her pressure points raw, some slightly red with blood, from being dragged across the stone day after day. Ashten was pushed to the ground when he continued to challenge the alpha, but this was no place for a brawl. They were seriously outnumbered, surrounded by wolves. Dorian turned to leave, to tell their own alpha of their experience, but was cut off. Wolves pounced on top of the visitors, but Flora, small in stature, slipped between the crowd, and without anyone’s noticing for a few moments, she was off and running, bounding home with the conviction of a prodded bear. Nothing, no one, would stop her. The males fought at first, Nomad obtaining a nasty scrape, and Dorian a painful ankle, but all three ceased when they realized Flora’s disappearance. They had a chance, and they knew it was no use to hurt themselves more. As they were roughly dragged past their fallen princess, Svea moaned, and all three lashed, trying to get near her, protect her, comfort her, especially Nomad.MEANWHILE…I had fought, but now I was left with nothing but thirst and hunger. Again, I was dragged to the depressing cave, my skin trickling with blood in some places. The males, Ashten, Dorian, and Nomad, poor boys, were dragged off, likely tied to poles as I was before. I was granted a scrap of pheasant, just a single bite, before being left to my pain, and to drift into unconsciousness again. MEANWHILE…Flora was thoroughly exhausted and shaken when she returned, the whole pack holding their breath in anticipation as she ran in. Murmurings of concern erupted throughout the room when only she returned. The alpha approached, his son, Boreal, at his side.“Where is she? Is she alright? The boys…,” Boreal began, but was cut off.“What happened, young one?” Fighting to regain breath, “It… it was terrible…,” escaped from Flora. “They… surrounded us… in their den. We were peaceful… I promise, I promise sir. Then they brought her out,” at this tears rimmed Flora’s eyes as she quivered. “She’s alive, though barely. He… he wants to make her… he wants to make her his mate….”“What?! “ Disbelief overtook Boreal’s expression. “Father, this can’t… no… no he can’t,” He could not contain himself. The alpha sat down, unable to stand any longer. Without looking up at either of them, he timidly asked, “And what of the others? Do they live? Do they remain by choice?”“I slipped out, sir. Commotion began once the alpha showed her to us, and the boys,… I think, I hope, they’re alive, but they may be injured. They were taken into the caves by force, likely bound and gagged as… as Svea was.” Flora could barely repeat it. Both the alpha and his son stared in horror at anything but the bearer of news. “Sir, we need more wolves. We could outnumber them. We cannot win by diplomacy; they will take us one by one if you send another small party. We’ll need sleds, too… Svea cannot walk back, and maybe not the rest of them. They will be taken straight to the medics upon return if they’re as injured as I suspect.”“Yes, yes… take sleds… gather the strongest of the pack. Retrieve my daughter, young Flora. Go, Boreal. I want all of them home,…. now! I don’t need four of my wolves taken from beneath my nose! Gather wolves and depart as soon as possible. Ashten has a family that awaits his return, and the other two… the other two are valued members of this pack. I want all of them, and if need be, do not let Quenn stand in your way. Avoid innocents, but if that wretched mange dares to go further, cut him down.” The wolves that had gathered in the common room howled and rallied in unison. Mates bid their pups goodbye, lovers departed, while others stood side by side, ready to face whatever obstacles stood before them. The sleds were led out from below the overhang outside of the den, and leather packs were strapped to some wolves containing small amounts of skin wrapped food, furs, and vines, for securing any injured wolves to sleds. Other wolves hitched, pulling along the wooden snow sleds. The group of about 20 wolves trekked, made up of mostly males, but included the females on the hunting, scouting, and medic squads. The nursery watchers, mothers, some medics, some hunters, young pups, and older wolves stayed behind. Upon reaching their border, some wolves went ahead to make sure the path was fairly clear. Sled wolves remained, prepared to emerge from the tree line and collect the injured wolves on signal. Flora stared out at the open fields of snow, charging with her pack mates to claim what was theirs. They entered, a force of unstoppable anger that commanded attention.MEANWHILE… They hadn’t been fed for a day, and slumped, tied to the poles on either side of them so tightly that the vines dug into their skin. Ashten nuzzled Dorian next to him, whose paw was unbearably in pain from the fight. Nomad refused to drift into sleep, staring out into the hall incase Svea was dragged past. The muzzles that they wore were suffocating, and Nomad longed for water, but he refused to complain; he was in much better condition than his close friend, his lover, than Svea. Damp stench filled the air, and a melancholy weight hung in the room. Suddenly, he heard soft beats, and soon they became a hoard of footprints that came to a halt above him. Perking his ears, he could barely make out the powerful, booming voice of Boreal, one that rivaled, overtook, and showed no respect to the young alpha male above. Quenn sent his guards towards the group upstairs, but after that, he heard some whimpers. He could only hope they weren’t coming from his own pack members. His cell mates were attentive, catching as much of the conversation as they could. Wolves thundered down to them, dragging their stubborn, agitated forms deeper into the caves, just as the pack above began to move, a fight had begun, and looking back, Dorian saw Quenn rush to his prey, his prize, that was waiting below. Pine and Aren, other scouts, came down the passage, yelling to the wolves in their caves to stay put, that they wouldn’t be hurt. More Hirden wolves appeared. Down came Elk, Permafrost, and Dove. They tackled the wolves dragging them. Flora appeared, pushing one of the guards into another cave, leaving him to be dealt with by Pine, and slicing the vines from Dorian. They nuzzled, both trying not to cry, though Dorian out of pain. Flora bore most of his weight as he hobbled up to the sleds. Upon being unleashed, Ashten rushed up to assist the other wolves in holding back the Warren pack, but nodded to Nomad to do as he needed. Tearing off, though weak, He peeked in every cave and entrance. Deeper he went into the system, the passages less lit. But he knew he was going the right way, because though it sunk his heart beyond words, he could make out the occasional skid of blood on the stone floor from being dragged. One of the last caves, outside of which stood a guard, seemed to be the one he was looking for. Behind him skidded Dove and Holly, other wolves of his pack, who acknowledged his first priority of getting to Svea. They pinned the guard as he sauntered into the cave, where she lay, in the same weak heap she had been in the last time he had seen her, barely awake, dehydrated more than ever before. Before he could get to her side, though, Quenn pounced on top of his back, attempting to bite Nomad’s ear as he spun around. “I knew you’d come looking for her, scout wolf. It ends here. You’re tired, weak, out of breath already…”“Get your repulsive ass off of me,” Snarled Nomad, his legs indeed buckling beneath him, his lungs empty as Quenn held him down. The edges of his vision began to blur, and he fought for breath and energy. “Now, now, good boy. Time for bed… yes, sleep now, sleep now and forever…”Nomad’s gaze wandered to Svea, her groaning form, her black fur that contrasted in his hazy vision. At that he bucked. If he died, she was subject to a life comparable to death. No, that couldn’t happen. He inhaled as much as he could, replenishing his limp muscles with the oxygen they needed desperately. Snapping back, he caught Quenn’s left leg, and bit down hard, feeling a quiet snap of a small tendon, or thin bone. Holly and Dove entered, the guard likely then care of, knocked out outside. They pounce on Quenn, and he let out a howl of pain. Nomad separated from the brawl, spitting blood from his mouth, and turns to face me. He runs over, laying beside me, nudging me softly. He takes a few minutes to peel the sap from my lips without hurting my, Quenn now laying, half conscious, on the ground weighted by the two Hirden wolves.I smile, though it is painful. My head aches from lack of water, and Nomad appears blurry through my small tears. He slices the vines, and puts his head under my stomach to lift me, but I only fall upon standing. He’s patient though, and tries again, this time leaving his head there, and sliding underneath to standing so I am on his back, limp, and licking his wounded, scratched shoulder. I doubt it will help, my mouth dry as it is. I know it must pain him, knowing how weak he is right now. He turns his head, smiling but noticeably sad, upset by my frail condition. Dove offers to carry me, but he refuses. It takes several minutes for the four of us to make it into the main common room, Nomad breathing heavily under my weight, decreased as it is. I dig my nose into his fur, absorbing the warmth, and Holly licks some of the blood from my raw pressure points. When we surface, the Hirden wolves gasp, then bow. I can barely nod to them. The Warren pack are held back, gathered in a surrounded corner. Our wolves simply leave; leave them to gape, and to watch us depart, after the injured wolves are taken care of. Nomad gingerly sets me down on one of the sleds, staring at me with kind, worried eyes. I return a smile, but it is interrupted with a grimace as pain shoots through my head. He steps forward, licking my muzzle affectionately in an effort of relief, his face overtaken with love and selflessness. Two medics begin to secure vines over my body, but Nomad interjects. “No,” he says quickly. He collects himself, then continues. “The princess has been bound enough lately.”Sorrel, one of the medics, responds in a soft tone. “We don’t have a choice, Nomad. We will be careful, and avoid all areas of pain, but all of the injured wolves, of which you are one, must be secured. It would be far worse if she fell as we were going along.”“Alright…, but I want to walk alongside. I’m… I’m completely fine-,” He began to fall sideways, his shoulder giving way. “Nomad…,” I let out. He tries to stand and face me, but he can only turn partly as Sorrel allows him to lean as she supports his weight. “Go, you’re in need of rest,” I smile as much as I can as I speak, my voice slightly hoarse, and my throat painfully raw. “I will be alright.” “Are you sure?” He is standing on his own a bit more now, though the blood has begun to drip through his fur, onto the ground, the wound reopened with the stress of fighting Quenn in the bleak cave. He tries to hide his pain beneath a concerned, eager expression.“Come, it’s no longer up to either of you. I don’t want that getting worse. You’ve done enough to help, Nomad,” Sorrel finishes for me, as the other medic, Hawk, allows me to sip from a small wooden bowl of melted snow; much needed water. Nomad stares back as he is led off to the sled ahead of mine, but winces and turns to lean on Sorrel again. I try to nod in recognition, but can barely move, though my headache from dehydration has faded slightly. As the pack sets off, nearly every sled occupied by an injured wolf, I drift off despite the groaning I can tell is coming from Dorian. Flora trots along beside him, ushering him into sleep, but he refuses for most of the journey. I awake with commotion as the group split off to find their mates and pups, and the medics begin to undo the vines. I see that they must have darted Dorian, because he lays limp as they drag him on top of a pile of skins, sliding him into the medic cave without so much as a stir. I am laid on furs in the medic cave as well, slid in before Nomad and Ashten, who bears a dark bruise on his cheek from the fight upstairs from where I had been. His mate and three young pups follow closely to his section. I am fed, and given more water. The medics clean and rub herb pastes of sorts onto my raw wounds, and carefully bandage them with thin leathers. My sore muzzle is cleaned of excess sap, the medics worried when they find a small bit left. One goes to ask Nomad about it, and returns pitiful. I hear the commanding voice of my father as he bounds in, Boreal rushing to my side. He instructs the medics to do this and that, have me in tip top shape. Boreal laughs quietly to me bout our father, and I give him a short smile, still dizzy and weak. He allows me to rest my head on his paws, my body leaning back on him. After a few minutes, Sorrel emerges from behind the corner of my small alcove. On a slab next to her rests various supplies, including darts. “She’ll need to rest now. If you want her to remain with you, that’s fine, but all of the wolves are being induced into sleep. It’s been traumatic for some, making it hard to sleep now that they’ve recovered slightly, but she will need to sleep either way. If you would like a bit more to eat or drink, this is your last offer.”“Thank you, Sorrel,” Boreal says, hushed, looking to me for a response.“A bit more water, please? Thank you so much. How, um, how are the rest of them doing?” I mumble the last bit, shifting as I do so I can drink a bit more. I catch a glimpse of Ashten, his pups ushered away by a nursery watcher, fast asleep next to Bohemia, his mate as of one year. “Nomad is fine, put to sleep with the rest of them. He was the only one who didn’t sleep all of last night,” Sorrel slipped in, smiling to herself. I caught Boreal’s gaze, but pretended to have not. “I will stay with her a few more minutes,” Boreal whispered, as to not wake anyone else.“Alright. I will wake you later, miss, to feed you more. You will be on and off of sleep for the next few days.” At that, she slipped the thorn into my neck, promoting a slight wince, before I settled my head into the furs again and drifted off, my brother’s shared warmth seeping into my back side. Boreal had long left when I woke, Hawk carefully treating my wounds and offering meat as my eyes opened again.“Welcome back, Svea. How are you feeling? Answer when you can, your jaw may not work for a minute.” Indeed, when I attempted to all that came out was a groan, my head pulsing in pain. “Drink some water, princess. You may feel uneasy. That’s just the herbs; they’re very strong. Try to relax as best you can. I will be back in a few minutes to check on you,” he mentioned with a bow of his head. I nodded, settling into the plush caribou fur that engulfed me. I noticed that my fur had been brushed out, returned to it’s usual softness from the dirty, dry mess it had become. I could not bear to think of my time in that cave. I realized then what Sorrel had meant when describing that sometimes it was better to sleep by force. Flora stopped by on her way to Dorian, exchanging a nuzzle with me. “How is he?” I whispered, my words still slightly jumbled as the dart wore off.“He’s… alright. Poor thing, shattered his ankle. Those ruffians pushed him into that stone so hard it just shattered. He’s set to be in here the longest,” she motioned to the medic caves and alcoves. “Anyway, how are you doing?”“Getting along. Everything hurts, really, and I’m shaken up.” Her expression soured, and she came closer. “Are you sure you’re alright? You can tell me anything, Svea… it’s alright…”“I know,” I smiled, though I understood exactly what she thought had happened. She turned to go, nodding in respect, when I slipped out, “He didn’t. He didn’t go that far. Quenn, he came close, but even he wouldn’t… even he would wait for the ceremony… the… consumation.” It was hard to say, and I was careful to be extremely quiet, but I saw pity cross her face. She came closer, lay beside me, and rubbed her forehead against my neck to comfort. “At least… at least it’s over, Svea. Rest now.”I was grateful she had stopped by, and Hawk returned to feed and water me as promised. Flora left just as I fell into darkness again, off to sleep beside her love, and I peacefully rested.I awoke again when I felt something beside me. I opened my eyes to see Sorrel, a slightly annoyed expression on her face, staring at me. No, not me, whoever was settling down behind me, encircling me in warmth. The drug had worn off, I had just continued to slumber. I looked up to see Nomad, playfully smiling down at me. I guessed he had had enough of the darts, completely disobeyed the medics, and hobbled his way over here. I smiled back, then furrowed my brow at the amount of bandages that encased his left shoulder.“Shhh, you don’t have to move. I know, I know, we shouldn’t, but screw it…” I look subtly to Sorrel, who shrugs and explains, “We’ve had him pretty sedated, but he woke up and was rather set on seeing you. He may be… a bit drowsy, woozy, if you know what I mean.”“Nonsense…” He drawled while carefully laying down. We link necks, his muzzle massaging along my neck slowly; lovingly. I push my face into the warmth of his fur, glad to see him beyond words, even if he is a bit impaired at the moment. I am more in debt to him than he would ever admit. I allow my head to rest on his withers, careful to avoid his shoulder blade, and he brings his head to rest on my crossed paws. His breathing is comforting, though sometimes interrupted as he tenses in pain. My weak muscles are thankful that I may lean against him, barely able to hold myself up. Hawk walks up to Sorrel, who stands a few feet away from Svea’s bedding with a sweet expression. “What is it- oh, uh, was I supposed to watch him?”Without turning towards Hawk, she jokes, “I guess we didn’t need any darts this round.”“Yea,.. yeah I guess.. ha ha, they’re out cold. Wow, that was fast.”“I want to know immediately if Alpha Atlas comes in. For now, don’t bother separating them. She hasn’t slept without murmuring in two days, and I’m intent on keeping it that way.I open my eyes slowly, and Nomad lifts his head from my paws.“Hi,… you slept well,” he smiles, carefully shifting his likely sore shoulder.“Sorry, did my head slip onto it?” I turn to him, rubbing his neck affectionately. “I see your raw scrapes are healing. You’ll be up on your feet in no time.” I notice that he has avoided my question, and take note that he is no longer drugged; fully in his right mind. “Nomad…,” I chastise jokingly, “You were rather tipsy earlier. Good to see you’ve settled.” My eyes light up kindly, a smile forming as I lick his ear. He laughs at both my comment and my attempts, then curls his tail around me in a loving embrace. We lay together, nosing one another, warm in each others fur, quiet as to not disturb any of the sleeping wolves around us. I saw that Ashten still slept with Bohemia, but that their cubs had haphazardly piled between them. Nomad nuzzled me passionately, an act of pure appreciation and care, and moved to put his head over my back as he stood, as if to playfully climb over me. In my mind I knew he wouldn’t, to avoid my scrapes. I jolted back slightly, the memory of Quenn’s rough figure above me, cruelly touching me, resurfacing. At my movement, Nomad froze. I pretended to shake it, as if I hadn’t meant to, but he lay back down softly, respectfully, a few inches further away than before.“Svea..,” he near silently whispered.“No, its alright. Sorry, I just felt something…,” I answered just as softly, trying to cover it up. He knew, somehow, and I was about to find out how.“Don’t you dare apologize, and its not alright… Are you… ok?” I forced a quick smile, but that faded in an instant. “Do you need me to leave? Svea, when he came to greet us, Quenn,” and at his name Nomad felt me tense, pausing a moment, “…I noticed, well I noticed your fur… all over him… … Svea did he, did he ra-,”“No.” I close my eyes, inhaling, exhaling. Nomad slowly moved from me, not wanting to push me. “No, he… he didn’t go that far, and you don’t have to leave. Please, please don’t,” I murmur, gazing up at his young, supple face. His expression in concerned, but full of the urge to comfort; I can see it. “While I was restrained… he did… rub….” A conviction flamed in his eyes, and fury crossed his face. Before it could take over, though, he brought his attention back to the moment, staring back at my pained eyes. I tried not to look at him, but I knew shying from him would distance us. I gingerly, slowly, placed my head over his back, and for a moment he refused to move, afraid to scare. Nomad was respectful of my timidness, returning the gesture with graceful lightness of touch. I smiled, convincing myself to allow my worries to drift for just a moment, that I was safe, that Nomad was not the molester that Quenn had turned out to be. I nuzzled into his fur, a tear slipping down my muzzle and into his warmth. I was no longer nervous around him again. He was Nomad, the same wolf that I had grown up with and grown to love. It brought such pain to him, as he felt a spot on his fur grow damp. Unable to sleep, he brushed along her neck with his head, continuing long after she drifted off. He heard hawk, and saw him scamper off to the lead medic. They exchanged worried glances as the alpha came in, glancing at them. Nomad knew I was in deep trouble, laying with the Alpha’s daughter, but part of him didn’t care. Atlas followed their gazes, his eyes widening in surprise, his mouth opening slightly. Nomad closed his eyes, both out of the calm of the moment he felt with me, and out of fear for my father. I continued to sleep peacefully, my head falling up and down with Nomad’s breathing, resting along his neck. Nomad tells me that my father just shut his mouth, straightened his posture, and awaited the nod of respect he was given. With that, he left, mulling the situation in his mind. The medics stood, mouths agape, and Nomad smiled. He smiled so wide to himself, containing any soft laughs of satisfaction to not wake me. Laying his head to the right of his paws, so that when my head slid a bit further along the side of his neck our noses were barely apart, he drifted into sleep with me.The night grew cold, the torches extinguished, and Nomad woke with my shivers. He didn’t dare disturb me, resting beside him, so he slowly slipped away, venturing into the center of the room to retrieve one of the many blankets of fur that were piled there for convenience. Around him, Flora and Dorian lay huddled together, and on the other side, in their alcove, Ashten had already laid a blanket over Bohemia. Grabbing two, he approached Dorian, who smiled, and nodded in permission, Flora still asleep. He spread the fur over the pair, and limped back to me. He recognized now that he had found what all of these other wolves had; he had the pleasure of love. He slid under the blanket after placing it over me, just as I moved to place her head on his paws. He laid his head over my neck, as if protecting me from whatever came towards them.Morning came with more light, and more warmth. We had shaken the fur, and the light that reflected from the walls all the way into the chamber cast the shadows of the six sleeping couples. I lifted my head, looking back at Nomad, who remained zonked. I stretch my neck, and nudge his face softly. He groans a bit, then slowly opens his eyes in the light. “Oh, now, now,” I whisper in jest. “Need your beauty sleep?” At this he smiles, cocking his head in an undeniably handsome way. I rub my head against his neck, and he stretches. I move some of the furs out of the way so I may or my way out of the alcove, and stretch my legs as I do. Nomad is suddenly at my side, his head below my body incase I stumble, or collapse as I did last time. Licking between his ears, I let him know there’s not need. I carefully step forward, making my way to the main common room, Nomad anticipating my weakness giving way. I walk out into the room, wolves rising in recognition. All this time Nomad has been nurturing me, but I spread my legs to support his weight as he leans slightly, his shoulder wrapped, but still in pain. I raise my head, and turn toward him, who nods that I may keep walking. Still, I continue slowly, allowing him to regain his balance. Falcon began to separate from a conversation when he caught his friend’s eye. “Oh, boy,” Nomad whispered as Falcon and a few other males approached, their expressions lifted with joy. “Hey, Nomad, too bad you’ve got that scrape there,” at this he leaned in, adding, “I heard you obtained it while bravely saving your girl, here.” He giggled, nuzzling him, though Nomad smiled nervously when I gazed at him, smiling at his pal’s comment. Falcon bowed, the others doing the same, following his lead. “No need,” I told them, to which they nod, and prance off glad, glancing at Nomad. We made our way outside, and sit by the cave entrance, inhaling the brisk morning air. The snow covered woods lay spread before us. Leaning against one another, the walking taking a toll following our injuries. He stretched his head forward, wary not to damage the early bloom of winter that he had plucked from the moss. It was a small white flower, a sprig of perfection. He slipped it behind my ear, blushing slightly. I simply lean into his fur, closing my eyes, allowing the rays of the rising sun to bathe my face in warmth.
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