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The Wolves - Part 1

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"Once I saw him in the moonlight, when the bats were flying. I saw the werewolf, and the werewolf was crying. Crying nobody knows, nobody knows, nobody knows I love the man as I tear off his clothes.  Crying nobody knows, nobody knows my pain, when I see that it's rising, that full moon again."

-Cat Power, Werewolf

 

"We have doomed the Wolf not for what it is, but for what we have deliberately and mistakenly perceived it to be... the mythological epitome of a savage, ruthless killer... which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourselves."

-Farley Mowat

 

 

THERE WAS THE body of a child near the large oak tree.  The wound was on the left side of his face, pouring thick crimson blood.  If he hadn't been the one to tie the old piece of plaid fabric around the six year old boy's scraped knee that very morning, Fenrir wouldn't have been able to recognise him.  He was the youngest son of his sister Yrsa.  The hunters had shot him while he ran.  Digging a quick hole with the heel of his boot and sticking his lit torch into the ground, the Alpha crouched near the boy's body, trying to shield him away from the searching eyes of the others walking nearby.

The hunters had come at twilight, twelve of them, with no warning, carrying rifles and shouting accusations in Sami.  They closed in on the pack almsot exactly as a pack of wild wolves closes in on its prey.  The strongest had stayed to fight while the others ran back to safety.  Speed and strength was nothing compared to guns and bullets, however, and many fell before they reached the caves.  After it was over, there were only six of them still standin, but all the hunters were dead.  Loftr, who was generally the wisest and most reasonable of them all, had killed the last two with their own guns, shooting them in the feet, the knees, the shoulders, before aimint for the head. And then he dropped the rifle to the ground next to the humans' corpses and he spit on them.

Fenrir wanted to hide the body of Ravn from his father.  He didn't want the man to see him like this, but it was inevitable.  Kolfinn fell to his knees near the Alpha, rough sobs wrecking through his slender but muscular frame.  "No!" he chocked out, lifting the small body of his son and cradling it close to his chest, the blood quickly staining his already dirty clothes.  "No!  Please!  No!" Sandy brown hair fell on his face as he bent his neck towards the ground in pain.

Fenrir heard quiet footsteps behind him and he looked up to see Ralf's silent form towering over the both of them.  The Alpha could see the rage behind the other man's eyes as he glanced at the little boy's body and he knew that his own gaze held the same fury.  He stood to face the man.

"How many?" Fenrir asked, but he really didn't want to know the answer because he knew the number would be far higher than what it ought to be.

"With the boy... nine," Ralf spoke quietly.  "Eidnar didn't make it," he added, jerking his head towards the body of his brother lying near a tree stump, letting Fenrir know whose blood was staining his hands and shirt.  "The bullet went through his stomach... I think... I'm no healer..."

Fenrir watched as Eidnar's son, Janus, leaned over his dead father and kissed his forehead before gently closing his eyes.

"It's okay, Ralf.  You did what you could," the Alpha assured him.

They were silent for a while, looking over the sobbing form of Kolfinn mourning his son. They would leave him a few minutes before they started gathering the bodies.

Loftr joined them.  He was limping slightly.  "Oh, God," he mumbled as he saw the body of Kolfinn's son.  "Someone should go back to the caves and gather everyone," he said very quietly so that the man on the ground could not hear.  "We have to burn them before the animals come..."

"I'll go," Ralf said quickly.  

Fenrir could tell he was eager to leave the site of the massacre.  He nodded to them before leaving.

"What are we going to do about him?" Loftr asked.

Fenrir saw that he was pointing to the form of a younger man sitting farther away under a pine tree, hugging his knees to his chest.  Even though Fenrir could not see his face in the darkness, he knew that he'd been watching them for a moment now.

"The others will want retribution, Fen..." Loftr added with a warning tone.  "They will blame him for this..."

Suddenly, Kolfinn's cries stopped and gently, he laid his youngest son's body back on the forest floor, brushed the boy's hair away from his bloodied face and stood up slowly.  Fenrir recognised his stance and held out an arm to catch his shoulder before he could approach the figure under the pine tree.

"Kolfinn, don't," Fenrir warned and the other man froze in obedience to his Alpha.  His face, however, showed and uncontained fury as he turned to him.

"It's all his fault, Fenrir!  It's his fault!  He's the one responsible for all this!  He killed my son!  I want him dead!  How can you still defend him?"  He pointed towards the young man as he spat out the words with a hatred that Fenrir had never heard coming from his brother-in-law, but he understood it.

In his rage and grief, Kolfinn was saying out loud what everyone had been thinking, because that boy under the tree had been taken under Fenrir's wing and nobody was bold enough to confront the Alpha, nobody but Loftr.

It started about six months ago, when Eidnar and Ralf, who were responsible for hunting and bringing back enough food to feed the pack, reported to Fenrir that they had started finding dead animals in the woods, always in the days following the full moon.  There were many carcasses, all half-eaten, as if the predator had jumped from one prey to another, unable to decide which one to settle with.  This was obviously the job of rogue werewolves, but from the scent and the prints they had found, there was only one of them.  It wasn't long after that that they started picking up the scent around their territory, but never inside.  The lone wolf seemed clever enough not to penetrate an unknown pack's territory without the Alpha's permission.  This was especially important for packs that contained females and children, like Fenrir's.

The rogue werewolf had watched the pack for days, never showing himself.  Fenrir finally had enough, left the pack's territory accompanied by Loftr, and called to the stranger to come out.  They both thought it was better to deal with this wolf before he got too close to the Sami village nearby, risking exposing them all.  They were expecting something different than a twenty-six year old skinny young man who looked sick and wounded.  The boy told them he had been attacked by a wolf a year ago and left for dead.  Apparently the wolf hadn't planned on him surviving and turning because it was one of the first rules of the werewolves never to leave a newly-turned without basic instructions on how to behave, how to feed, and how to avoid populated areas.

Now people didn't believe as much in werewolves and magic as they did back in the early 1900's, but in this isolated wilderness, people in small villages still believe in those old tales of men transforming into heartless beasts at the full moon.  And unfortunately, those places were the best hideouts for the wolf packs - mountain areas surrounded by large, dense forests with plenty of prey, wide lakes of pure water and sometimes caves where they could sleep safely and stock up on food.

Fenrir's pack had been residing in Lake Inari, one of the largest lakes in Finland, but ti was frozen most of the year.  They melted snow or used torches to melt patches of ice so that they could get water during the cold season.  Mostly, they hunted large bears because the meat was good and they could also use the thick fur to shelter their human bodies against the cold.  They had to be careful of the Sami people who resided nearby and were aware of the old legends and easily became suspicious.

The boy had been bitten somewhere in Norway and had wandered around, searching for other wolves until, by chance, he stumbled upon Fenrir's pack.  His name was Tuomas.  As an Alpha, Fenrir couldn't let an ignorant werewolf loose into the world.  He had to take him in and teach him their ways.  And so Tuomas became one of them, almost.  He listened to the advice and showed respect to the older wolves, but seemed to do things entirely his way.  He was powerful for one so skinny and unhealthy.  On his first full moon with Fenrir's pack, four wolves had to join forces to keep him from sprinting up to the Sami village and satisfy his hunger for human flesh.  Apparently, he had tasted it a few times when he couldn't find any animal, and once you started on human meat, it was hard to keep away.  After this incident, there was considerable tension in the pack and they all seemed to want Tuomas gone.  Werewolves had good instinct.  They smelled the smoke before anyone had even thought about lighting a fire.

Two days before had been the full moon, and in the midst of it all, Tuomas had disappeared for an hour.  When he came back he was bloodied, and it wasn't from the deer the pack had feasted on.  He reeked of human blood as if he had bathed in it.  In the morning, the pack's guard - composed of Fenrir, Loftr, Kolfinn, Eidnar and Ralf - had cornered him.  Scared out of his wits, the boy swore that he hadn't meant to do it, that nobody had seen him, that they would think it was just a wild animal.  He had dragged the body into the woods.  Surely they would believe the woman had gone in there herself and been attacked.  Fenrir had feared for the safety of the pack, but there was nothing they could do.  They could not flee now because they were still too weak from the transformations.  As punishment, the boy was put in isolation and forced to stay away from the others as they comforted each other after the transformation, healed their wounds, warmed their bodies near the fire and ate a filling meal.

Someone in the village already had suspicions about the strange people who lived in the woods and the large wolves they could sometimes glimpse running through the trees.  The dead woman in the forest only pushed them to act out on their suspicions.  And because the pack had been weakened, they stood no chance.

And now the boy sat underneath the same tree had been confined to as punishment, hugging himself, trembling, scared, because he knew all of this was his fault, and he knew what was coming for him.

"Let me do it, Fenrir! I'll make him pay! You can't keep protecting him after this!" Kolfinn hissed through gritted teeth. There were heavy tears of rage in the man's dark brown eyes.

"No," was the Alpha's response. "I'll handle it myself." And he left the two men, making his way towards Tuomas with an air of determination on his face. It was partly his fault after all. He should have never taken him in.

"Fenrir," he heard as soon as he stepped closer to the large pine tree. The voice was faint and it trembled slightly but the name came out almost as a relieved sigh.

"Come out from under there, now," the Alpha said and he heard the boy shift slightly on the leaves-covered ground but he made no move to stand. Fenrir suppressed a growl of anger. "Come out, Tuomas, it's an order."

The boy jumped out of his hiding place and his slight body collided heavily with Fenrir's as Tuomas wrapped his shaking arms around the Alpha, trembling with fear. He knew what was coming.

Even if it hurts to admit it, Fenrir had taken a liking to this young werewolf, despite his terrible attitude and his rebellious ways. But this liking had been his downfall. There came a point when the boy knew that whatever ridiculous stunt he pulled, Fenrir would never punish him as bad as he deserved it. There was a small part of Tuomas, the carefree and adventurous part of him, that reminded Fenrir of what he wanted in a mate, but the insufferable brat part cancelled all that.

"You'll protect me, won't you, Fen?" he asked, his voice quiet against the Alpha's ear. "You won't let them hurt me."

"Of course I won't," Fenrir answered, raising his hands to cradle the boy's head against his chest. But there was no protecting this time and his heart clenched painfully as he reminded himself of this. As soon as he felt the body relax against him, he shut his eyes tightly, grabbed Tuomas' head firmly in between his palms and snapped the boy's neck to the side with brute force. The crack of the bones echoed through the now silent forest and Fenrir laid the body on the ground before him.

Janus, who had been wandering around to collect some wood for the burning, stopped near his Alpha and softly put a hand on the larger man's shoulder. "It was better to end it quickly," he said. His voice sounded raw and Fenrir supposed that it was from crying over his father's death. "The others, they wouldn't have been as generous as you."

"You're not angry at him for Eidnar?" Fenrir asked quietly to the twenty-four year old boy. His eyes were slightly swollen but Janus managed a soft smile.

"My father was a brave man and he died defending the pack. If he had lived to die of old age, he would have been insufferable about it. And there is really no use blaming anyone. It wouldn't undo what happened." Once again, Fenrir was astonished at the wisdom that boy possessed.

They had just started putting the wood together when the others joined them. There were hugs of relief as some of the men reunited with their loved ones, but mostly there were tears. And then they piled up the bodies of the fallen and Fenrir, being the Alpha, stepped solemnly forward and, with his torch, set fire to the large bed of wood and twigs. As the corpses burned, his gaze settled upon Ravn's small body being consumed by flames and the heavy sobs coming from his sister told him that she was doing the same. His large hand gripped hers tightly as she cried into Kolfinn's shoulder. If it had been summer, they would have buried him, but the ground was still half-frozen and there wasn't enough time to dig.

The fire burned through the night and they took some time to cry and some time to tend to their injuries the best they could, for their healer was among the dad. When dawn started filtering its light through the trees, Fenrir whistled for everyone to father around. Slowly, what was left of his pack – fifteen people, himself included – surrounded him.

He cleared his throat painfully but a long moment passed before he spoke. "You are my family," he said then and he wished his voice had been stronger. "Some of you are tied to me my blood, but I consider you all my family. Some of you have been with me from the start, others have joined us along the way, but my love for you is more than words can express."

He felt Loftr step closer to him, ready to offer his support. "What we have suffered, the losses we will have to live with, everything that happened here tonight is the consequence of my lack of judgement. I have failed you in the worst possible way. There is nothing that I can do to make this right and asking you to forgive me would be disgraceful on my part."

He paused and glanced back to the thirteen bodies left from the massacre. "I have disposed of the one who brought this upon us because his rebellious nature was uncontrollable." He couldn't bring himself to speak Tuomas' name, both from the shame of having once included him in his family and because he feared that it would start a riot among those left. "It should have been done sooner and I realise now what you have all been trying to tell me. I should have listened to you and I will from now on. I will never ignore you and I will never again doubt you, for you are all I have left in the world and often, I think, I have forgotten that." He could feel pain swell up in his chest as he spoke and glanced at the faces of his loved ones, one after the other. Some of them were crying, some of them were standing strong, but they were all silent, listening to their Alpha as he laid bare his soul for them to witness.

"My loneliness and desire for companionship has hurt us," he spoke then and his eyes travelled to the ground. The pack members knew that the main reason why Tuomas had been allowed to stay was because Fenrir saw in him a potential mate and a part of them understood. It was unusual for a wolf as powerful as Fenrir, as old as him, and for an Alpha, not to have chosen a mate already." I will never again let this weakness cloud my judgement. I promise that from now on, I will be a better Alpha and I will be a better man. I promise to fix us, to protect what is left of our family."

He raised his head again and when no one interrupted he continued more formally. "Morning is nearly upon us and others will come to look for those humans. I know you are still weak and afraid, and I know that you want nothing more than to rest and mourn our loved ones, but we cannot stay here. We have to leave this land at once."

There was a shift in the air as what everyone had tried to ignore was finally said in words. "I give you an hour to go back to the caves and gather your belongings. Take only what is necessary. The guard will gather rations of food and water for the road."

He hesitated for a moment before he continued. "I understand if some of you feel like this pack... If some of you feel like I..." He took a deep breath. "If any of you want to follow your own way, you have my blessing, for what it's worth." There was a stunned silence. "Now go. We will meet back here in an hour."

They dispersed quickly and headed back towards the caves. Loftr and Ralf remained with Fenrir with Kolfinn, after a nod from the Alpha, followed his family back to the caves to help them pack. Janus stayed behind to help, already knowing that he ought to take his dead father's place.

"Loftr, do you think you can catch something?" Fenrir asked his friend, eyeing his bandaged thigh. The bullet had just grazed him but still, the wound was there.

"Are you mocking me?" the older werewolf asked, feigning outrage. "I'll catch two somethings, three if I have enough time."

Fenrir managed a very weak smile and turned towards Janus. "Go with him. I think he might be over-confident." Janus nodded and followed Loftr deeper into the woods. "Ralf, will you get the water..."

The Alpha interrupted himself when his eyes fell on the forty-two year old werewolf who had been with his pack for eight years. The man was looking to the ground on his right, staring at a large stone covered with moss. His face showed regret and shame.

"You want to leave, Ralf," Fenrir spoke quietly, but there was no blame in his voice, just surprise. If someone did take him up on his offer to desert the pack, he hadn't thought it would be Ralf. He still had two nephews here, and a sister-in-law. Fenrir though that some of the other wolves, those who didn't have any blood family, would feel the urge to leave.

"I'm sorry... Fenrir... I can't stay..." the man said finally, raising his head to look at the Alpha. "It doesn't all have to do with this," he assured quickly, gesturing to the forest around them and the bed of smoke and the bodies of the hunters. "There is... I heard Goftrei's pack just arrived Tallinn last month. I've been thinking about it for a while now... They have many females, Fenrir and... I'm growing older and I'd like to try and... find a mate..."

"You need no excuse for wanting to leave, Ralf," Fenrir interrupted. "I understand and I wish you the best of luck." The Alpha ripped a piece of bark from a birch tree nearby and approached the fire to pull out a piece of charred branch. On the bark he drew his initials and his family crest in black and handed the makeshift document to Ralf. "Give this to Gotfrei. He will let you in without too many questions."

Ralf took the piece of bark with trembling fingers. "Will you tell Janus...? I'm not really one for goodbyes and all that..." he asked. "I packed my things already, but I didn't think you would..."

"It would be unfair of me to stop you," Fenrir said. "And Janus will understand."

"I know he will." Ralf extended his hand and Fenrir shook it for a moment, then he pulled the other man towards him in a brotherly hug. "Thank you, Fenrir," he said and the Alpha felt everything behind the words. Ralf was grateful not only for the years they had together, but also for the way in which they parted, with understanding. Then Fenrir watched the man gather a small bundle of clothes and possessions he had left near the foot of a tree and disappear deep into the forest, towards the south, without looking behind.

Fenrir gathered the water himself. Crouched near the small hole in the ice, filling bucket after bucket, he didn't notice that his own tears mixing in with the freezing waters.

 

 

Nobody else left and Fenrir was both surprised and grateful. An hour later he was leading his pack south, followed the same path that Ralf had taken. He knew they wouldn't catch up with him though, for he was one wolf and there were fourteen of them, moving at a much slower pace. As they walked, he explained to Janus the reason his uncle had left and, just like he had expected, the boy nodded but said nothing. His silence held the knowledge that he was now the leading figure of his family within the pack, with his father dead and his uncle gone. Eidnar and Ralf had joined Fenrir when they deserted their previous pack, eight years ago after their Alpha's death. They had been powerful, twins, both from werewolf parents. Fenrir regretted the loss of both of them. They had been a strong pillar supporting the pack. Janus knew that this responsibility now rested on his shoulders, much like his ten year old brother, Kosta, whom he carried around on his back through their journey.

That night they set camp in a clearing and built a fire. Fenrir asked Osgar, a strong twenty-nine year old werewolf, to stand guard while the others slept. The man nodded silently and climbed up a tree from where he would see the woods surrounding the camp. Fenrir gathered Loftr and Kolfinn farther away where they built a smaller fire and sat down to discuss the fate of the pack. He decided to let Janus sleep. The boy would need it.

"What are your plans?" Loftr asked. He sat with his wounded leg straightened out in front of him and with quick, precise movements he was sharpening the tip of a branch with a rusted pocket knife. He had, indeed, managed to bring back foursomethings with the help of Janus.

"We are going to find another pack," Fenrir announced quietly, his eyes fixed on the flames licking the pieces of wood.

"What do you mean?" Kolfinn asked, rubbing his hands together over the fire.

"I mean that we are going to travel until we find another pack of wolves. Then, I am going to challenge their Alpha, I will win the fight, and our pack will be strong again."

There was no answer, but the carving noises coming from Loftr stopped. When Fenrir raised his eyes, both men were looking at him as if he had just grown an extra head.

"Are you insane?" Kolfinn asked bluntly.

"There's really no other way to recruit werewolves, is there? It's not as if I can nail posters to the trees or put a fucking ad in the papers," Fenrir spitted out, trying to keep his voice quiet so not to wake the others.

Loftr couldn't help but chuckle at the way Fenrir had expressed himself, but also at his hopeless hard-headedness. "Gotfrei's pack is in Georgia, I've heard," he spoke.

"You agree with him?" Kolfinn said disbelievingly, but he knew that when the Alpha had an idea, there was no trying to convince him otherwise. They had seen the danger of such a trait of character the night before though, so Kolfinn thought it best to oppose to the idea anyway, if only to try and point out the flaws in the plan.

"It could work if we find a new pack that hasn't really had time to bond yet, or one with a weak Alpha," Loftr admitted. "That's what Fenrir's father did when he started his own pack. He left and challenged Nikodemus for the control of his pack. They fought at full moon so it was over with quickly. Old Niko wasn't in his prime anymore. I was but a cub when it happened, but I still remember. With the Alpha dead at the hands of another, the pack had no choice but to join the new leader. That's tradition."

Bitten when he was a young adult, there were still some werewolf laws which Kolfinn was unfamiliar with. "So it could work?" he asked, still unsure but more interested.

"It will if I win," Fenrir added. "I know that Gotfrei is in Georgia but I will not challenge him. He is too young and comes from a powerful family which my father had strong ties with. I have no desire to destroy that relationship by bringing shame on Gotfrei. And besides, Ralf is on his way to them and plans on joining the pack. If I arrive shortly after him, it will look as if I sent a scout beforehand. I want to allow Ralf his new beginning. He has served my pack well."

They were silent for a moment, the stillness of the night only broken by soft sleep noises from the others and the crackling of the fire. Then a voice dragged them away from their thoughts.

"Lucan Donegan's pack spends every winter in Lake Baikal." They looked up to see Osgar staring down at them from his perch overlooking the camp. He had been listening quietly to their conversation, probably from the beginning. At the curious glances the guard sent him, he dropped to the ground gracefully.

Osgar had joined the pack a year ago, but still nobody knew much about him, except that he had been turned when he was very young. He had a strong but serene air about him. He longed for solitude but didn't much like the nomad lifestyle and he had wanted a quiet life with quiet people. He assured Fenrir he just thought it was easier to live with a sedentary pack and the formality with which he had explained his intentions made Fenrir trust him. He helped the pack but kept to himself most of the time. He had been one of the men to stay behind when the hunters had attacked and he killed at least two by himself.

"They travel all year long but they settle there in winter," he added as he sat on a tree stump next to the Alpha.

"And you know this how?" Loftr asked. He was still in the process of sharpening that branch, but his interest in the conversation was evident.

"He is your Sire, isn't he, Donegan?" Fenrir asked Osgar then, turning to him. "It makes sense now, that you were turned so young."

"Who's Donegan?" Kolfinn asked, as Osgar simply nodded to confirm the Alpha's affirmation.

"I've heard a lot of people complain about him," Fenrir continued, narrowing his eyes trying to recall. "When I was still a teenager, my father told me that a new Alpha was making a pack. Making is the correct word because instead of gathering wolves like we usually do, he was turning new wolves. He chose children, took them young, not much older than ten, I think..." he looked to Osgar who nodded, "taking them away from their families, training them as werewolf warriors." By then Loftr had stopped his sharpening and Kolfinn and him were both gazing at him intently, trying to make sure he wasn't playing them. "There's really not much else that I know. I just know that his name is Donegan. Lucan, you said?"

"Lucan Donegan. He is from Wicklow, in Ireland," Osgar informed them. "His father was a wolf, but his mother was human. He is a Half-Blood." Fenrir frowned when he heard the term usually referred to by wizards, though no one but him seemed to have noticed. "He gathered his pack mostly in Britain. He took me in Norwich when I was eleven. I was with him until three years ago."

"How come we've never heard of this guy?" Kolfinn asked, astounded that there actually existed a werewolf, an Alpha for that matter, with this kind of behaviour.

"The pack moves around. In the last decade or so they've been travelling around Asia a lot, mostly Siberia. It's large, there's lots of wilderness and not much population. It's hard not to draw attention with a clan that size," Osgar spoke quietly, his hands hovering over the fire. He must have been freezing up there in that tree.

"What size are we talking about?" Loftr asked.

Osgar thought for a few seconds. "When I left... there were about forty of them, I think."

Kolfinn almost choked. "F... forty? You're shitting us, you are!"

Fenrir did not blame his brother-in-law for now believing Osgar. That had to be the largest pack he had ever heard about. Fenrir considered that he himself had had one of the biggest packs, with twenty-four wolves. His father had twenty-two and he knew Gotfrei had about fifteen, but his pack was still new. This man, this Donegan, had through the years, managed not only to gather, but to turn over forty werewolves?

"What are the stats?" Fenrir asked Osgar, rubbing his chin. That was the wolf way of asking about the strength of a pack.

Osgar explained that, unlike Fenrir's pack, Donegan's wasn't composed of men, women and children alike. And contrary to the Greyback clan, that possessed more born werewolves, Lucan's pack members were all bitten wolves. Unlike born werewolves, or half-blood, the bitten were humans that were selectively turned with the unique purpose of being raised and trained as werewolves. In the Donegan clan, there were thirty-eight of them, all males between the ages of twenty and forty-five, with the exception of Lucan himself who was in his mid-sixties, and an elderly man that he kept around, some sort of shaman. There was only one female.

"And Donegan, is he strong?" Loftr asked, eyeing Fenrir was thoughtfully evaluating the pack.

"He used to be, before he was poisoned. A snake bite somewhere in Mongolia almost did him in, but that shaman he keeps around, Bannock, managed to save him. He's never been very healthy after that." He stopped talking and looked Fenrir up and down. "You could definitely finish him off if you work hard enough. You're bigger than him and stronger but he fights like a son of a bitch."

"And you don't think the rest of the pack would defend him?" Loftr asked again.

Osgar grinned at the three men. It was something they hadn't seen him do often.

"I'm not the only one who wants him gone. I haven't talked to any of the others in three years but I'm sure some of them wish they had found a way out like I did. I think maybe he regrets turning so many of them. He barely manages to keep them in check anymore. They are a wild bunch, really."

There was a hint of a smile on his face as he remembered his fellow pack-mates, as if he remembered a bunch of troublesome but lovable siblings.

"It's just very delicate, you know... He's the Sire and the father of them all. He took them from their families. Most of them don't even know their real name. He's all they have. If there's no Lucan, there's no pack."

"He's clever," Fenrir said finally. "Only a born werewolf is strong enough to lead a pack. If he's the only one, nobody can overthrow him." He rubbed his forehead.

"That's it," Osgar nodded.

"How did you manage to get out?"

"I had enough. I know it's stupid, but I fought with him." He looked down in shame but Fenrir couldn't help but admire his courage. "I thought maybe I could set us all free but I'm not strong enough to kill him. He's a born wolf and an Alpha. He was furious, but instead of killing me he just told me to leave. I wandered around for two years. I felt like an orphan, I missed the others, I missed my dysfunctional family." He looked at Fenrir then and his voice was honest. "Finding you was the best thing that happened to me. You showed me what a real pack is. I think you're the one they've been waiting for. And if you're searching for a new members to protect your pack, they are definitely the ones you're searching for."

"They go to Lake Baikal, you said?" Loftr inquired, sticking the now sharp branch into the ground and cleaning his pocket knife with a corner of his jacket.

"From November to January, that's where they go," Osgar nodded. "The rest of the year, it's basically impossible to know. If you want to find them, it has to be during that period. Other than that, the territory is too large. It would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Even finding a scent would be a lucky shot."

"Lake Baikal, that's..." Kolfinn hesitated and then he shook his head. "That's fucking far. It would take us what, six months? We would get there around October. Are you sure you want to go through with it, Fenrir? That's a long way to go."

They waited as the Alpha rubbed the stubble on his chin, thinking hard.

"We might not find another pack that suits our tastes," he added finally. "And if our friend here is right, this one is in need of a new leader. They most likely won't oppose to me challenging their Alpha, which can't be said about every pack. And we are in need of strong members who can defend us and prevent something like what happened last night from happening again. We will go to Lake Baikal. We travel for five days with a two day break in between each streak. We should get there shortly before they arrive."

The discussion was closed and they all decided to get some rest before they started their journey the next day, this time with a destination in mind. Osgar went back up the tree and watched over the pack through the night. Being in charge of a werewolf pack meant that Fenrir was constantly on edge and when he slept he would wake up at the slightest disturbance. It was especially true now, after what happened in Lake Inari, but Fenrir had more trouble sleeping on that night than ever before. And it would be so for the following months, as he planned his next following months, as he planned his next actions and thought of the possible consequences. Let's just say that fate had more in store for him than he ever thought.