Truly, it was one of the stranger places she had been. The house she entered looked like one of the sheds used for the wildlife services. Next to that, was made of what seemed salvaged wood bound together with nails and other material. Just beneath the surface there was the coax cables peaking under indicating there was some power and the sound of water closer meant working water system.
It made little sense of why there was this town. They were fifty miles away from Whitehorse and likely close to the Takhini River. So why was this here?
"Oh, okay..." Zara said clearly lost on the reply. Looking to him, she felt her nerves on edge. She wasn't even sure why they were on edge. "That really doesn't answer anything. Why is there a random shanty town in the middle of the Yukon?"
An involuntary smile came to her lips when he moved closer to her, wrapping a strong arm around her shoulder. At least until he touched that shoulder. Giving a low sound she winced.
"Absolutely not....think I might need to go to a doctor for that...and tell my parents I'm okay," Zara said watching him, he was acting weird in this moment. Still there was the distraction of a new location. The housing meeting the forest around it was actually quite lovely.
"It's kind of pretty here..." She slowly said, attempting to let her shoulder escape her attention. The less thoughts on her outside life, the better, at least for now.
Zara’s voice called out to him as Jasper was lifting a large black kettle for an older woman. Worn wrinkled hands reached out to help him though he didn’t need it. When Zara had finally emerged from the home where she was being cared from it was midday. All the older women were preparing lunch for the village, young boys and girls stood at the ready to lend a helping hand. Many of the boys carried water buckets to the tables being set up in the center of the shanty town. Glancing over his shoulder at her, Jasper called for her to wait a moment as he finished doing his part. The entire village buzzed around Coleman stoves and large brick fireplaces. On long wooden tables youngsters were put to work with an elder cutting roots and natural growing herbs to go into the kettles holding stews. The smell of roasting meat and cooking vegetables drenched the air and made every mouth water. The warriors or “men” of the village did most of the heavy lifting, shifting tables, kettles, even bringing an entire deer to a wooden table to be cut. Lightly jogging to her, Jasper found relief fill him. It was touch and go for a little while. Her fainting spell had prompted him to bring her to his home, his village. Immediately and without asking any question the doctors of the village took her and began treating her. As though she were one of them.
“This is my home. My family. My village.” He hoped that his quick explanation would suffice. Over the years he pondered what he would call his family. Even though many separate families lived here, they lived as one entire unit. Caring for each other selfishly and as though they were all brothers and sisters under long forgotten gods. Tenderly he looped an arm around her and started to lead her toward the activity, but he paused. The inside of his forearm touched a bare piece of skin. Instantly he noticed and recognized the warm radiating off her skin. Jasper paled. Turned to her.
“Are you feeling alright?” he questioned, getting closer to her than necessary to smell her natural smell. If the transformation was upon her he would be able to smell it. The cooking food and the shifting bodies masked her smell sufficiently, taking it and blending it with everyone else’s. If her natural smell held any trace of wolf, he couldn’t tell.
If the location wasn't so remote it would have been idyllic. Located close to Takhini River, at most times there was a constant roar of the river. The water itself was fighting for it's place. As the ancient civilizations before, the river gave life to the village.
For the sake of the many sorts of people there it was called Haven. It started as a sort of shanty town with tents, but soon involved to little buildings made of wood and other various materials around.
Zara had woken up in a small tin box. It wasn't really but the walls was more like that of a shed, in fact, it probably was a nice shed with one of those heaters. There was a native woman helping with the wound but spoken broken English so she had no clue what she was saying.
By the second day she was feeling well enough to walk around. It was the strangest place she had been. There was satellite dishes, in some of the bigger buildings. Like it was a Vietnam base there was mesh over the top of the houses, using a small branch of the water was apparently how they got some power.
What a place! There were many different people padding about of walks of life. Jasper wasn't ever too far away for the last two days, she knew she would find him by taking a few steps away. Unable to stretch her arm, she felt the same fire consuming her, but it wasn't making her weak.
"Jasper, what is this place?" She asked, gesturing to the random, chaotic sprawl of make shift of houses and other living places. It seemed that everyone had a job here. Feeling her body shiver, though she was hot.
Tightening her grip on the mug, Alice hears the small cracks splinter over the smooth surface. Eyes wide and nostrils flaring wildly, she struggles to control her anger. With jaw locked and chest heaving breath after breath, she places her mug down carefully. Distantly staring at the creamy brown liquid dripping from the cracks. The slamming of her door was the last straw. Controlling her anger carefully, she follows him outside. Her long stride quickly catching him. Jerking him back toward her, Alice plants the back of her hand to his cheek shattering teeth. When she speaks her voice is half a growl half a shriek.
“How dare you slam my door! To think I took pity on a boy.” She snaps, her knees bent, and her arms locked at her sides. Ready to attack if he should be so brave. Circling him, her tawny eyes flashing gold and crimson. Her tanned skin darkening to that of her wolf with silk rusty brown fur threatening to break through. All activity around them stops. Silence traps them as her voice bounces off the mountain. Younger wolves, a year or two older than Zach, crouch in the pathway. Small terrified whines escape them as they pin their ears to their heads and their tails between their legs. Alice’s anger is felt by all like a lightning bolt striking a telephone pole.
“Not a single shred of respect or gratitude. I could have had your sister killed! Or worse.” She continues, straightening and standing to her entire six-foot height. Being born wolf gave her an advantage over the others. Natural selection made Alice’s bloodline stronger, faster, and smarter. She carries an ancestral gene named Moonblood by the elders that connects all wolves in her pack to one another. Moonblood is what sets her apart from betas. Grasping Zach’s shirt collar, she begins to drag him through the village, snorting and snapping insults at him.
“Pathetic runt!” She growls as others flea from her path. Alice drags Zach through the village, following the worn dirt path until it branches and starts downstream. Taking an unkept trail, she forces him to stumble over roots jutting from the ground and wet leaves littering the way. Cut into the mountainside is the cells where disobedient wolves are kept. A large man with ebony skin stands at her approach. Glancing at her and then back at the ground as a sign of respect. Throwing open the cell, Alice forces Zach inside, making sure to catch his foot with hers to trip him onto the hard stone. Slamming the cell door closed, she locks it with the key hanging around her neck on a piece of twine. Alice fixes her flashing eyes on Owen, the black man that is to guard the cells. Neither one speaks as Owen drops his gaze to the wet ground again. Even though Owen had a few inches on his Alpha, he couldn’t stop himself from backing away from her slightly and slumping his shoulders. Clearly her message was delivered, the boy was to starve today, possibly tomorrow as well. Turning on her heels, Alice leaves the pair to suffer in silence. The crystal-clear water here was contaminated by the urine and feces of the entire pack. Both a strategy and a necessity, regardless it smelled horrible and during certain times in the winter gave off a cloud of steam.
The world he lived in before was a quiet one where people lived by free agency and manners. There were those that didn't follow the lines and those that did. Zach didn't find his place there and knew there was another world, he hoped it would be his world, since the other one just didn't fit right. There was something to be said for this situation...something wise that wasn't coming to mind.
In this moment there was that temper, it rose drastically here, as the wolves competed to rise above where they were. Normally that was in violence and shaming the others. It was an interesting world, Zach wouldn't deny, but it was raw and basic.
"What the fuck was I supposed to do, Alice?" Zach demanded, voice rising. "I don't give a shit about this newborn crap or hierarchy. It's y'all that's blinded by this as if there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when there isn't. That's my sister! She came here from a good job doing what she loves to find me. How wasn't I not supposed to go and try to do [i something]."
That bite, there was the smell, he knew it and the symptoms as well. Alice gave an order but he didn't budge only remained where he was, only standing. "You say the order was to warn, yeah? That's not the case, Alice. I could smell the change and the way she was acting was just when the fire takes over your body before you collapse. Either someone made a mistake or someone lied to you."
Turning to the door he looked back to her. "Something isn't right here, and you know it, too. Bye." Stepping out of the door, he slammed it harder than intended. He needed supplies, he needed to get to his sister.
[b “You followed?!”] She hissed, standing outraged. [b “How could you disobey a direct order?!”] she shouts. Flaring her nostrils Alice turned her back on him, silently uninviting him into her hovel. Alice makes her way into her kitchenette to pull open her icebox and get a gallon of water. From a cabinet she pulls out a small mud brown mug and pours herself a mug of water. She takes the mug and places it on a small single burner she uses to make her meals. Alice waits for her water to boil. She intends to make a mug of tea, while pondering what to do about Zach. Part of her couldn’t blame him for wanting to be there, to see if they found his sister, though the other half of her hated that he directly disobeyed an order. Alice found she couldn’t make herself trust him.
[b “Out.”] She orders, keeping her back to him.
Never would the man deny that this version of the world was not interesting. They created a new culture, hierarchy, and standards entirely separate of the world outside of them. The lofty ideals that they crafted from somewhere. Zach truly had no clue about this world or his own, only that there was a real feeling of regret in his bones. He could try and imagine that he wasn't the core reason his sister was hurt and parents were worried.
Begrudgingly he followed Alice, despite a deep feeling of resentment. Giving a scoffing sound at some of the words coming out of her mouth. Zach hadn't been in that situation where he followed like a puppy because he wanted to sleep with her, also being lost and hating this at the moment.
It really was hell.
"Do you really think that or is the punch coming out anytime soon?" Zach asked raising both eyebrows. "This whole situation is really starting to feel like Charles Manson and his group of hippie killers. Granted the Yukon is better than Death Valley..."
Of course she knew more than he had, but he followed to a point, he knew the smell and her sounds. "I've told you, all of you...she's my twin...she'd follow after. We used to protect each other and sense. Now I have gotten her hurt...Jesus...what's wrong with me."
Don't mention he followed, don't mention it, the voice inside his head hissed at him. Of course he never listened to that voice which was why he was here.
"I was there, Alice. I was close to the campsite when I smelt her and I think she is going to transform," Zach's voice dramatically rose and then dropped. "I want her okay, she doesn't have to pay for my mistakes!"
Turning suddenly, Alice faces the newest member of their growing pack. Tawny brown eyes flash to his hand. Again he asks about his sister. Over the last week he had been with them, learning their rules and ways he asked, about her more and more. Fed up, Alice had agreed to send a few out to search the mountain, to see if she was looking for him. Indeed, she was. Alice’s scouts returned with good and bad news. Zara, Zach’s twin sister was looking for him and was heading in the wrong direction, but she was traveling with a Wierson. Thinking the name made spit into the dirt beside her. Medium lips purse into a hard line. Cinder and Owen had attacked Zara, intending to drive her off the mountain and warn the Wierson. Evidently the warning wasn’t heard, nor heeded. Report filtered in through the ranks that they were even closer than before. Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, the alpha looks at the runt.
[b “She’s fine, Zach.”] Alice replies, her small nose wrinkling at saying the boy’s name for the first time. Flicking her tongue over her teeth momentarily, she whets them and then her lips. Jerking her head to the side and turning, Alice strides confidently through the mountain village. A dirt path splits the town in half. Each side of the path is lined with one-story houses made of stone. The rooves are made of tin covered in a layer of rich soil; the rich soil is designed to grow grass, moss, and various vines. Decades of being in the same spot has allowed some houses to be completely covered; a part of the surrounding mountain side. The dirt path cuts down a flat side of the mountain, widening at places where clear streams trickle down and fork between houses. Stepping onto a bridge Alice brings Zach to the other highest part of the village. Here wolves canter between boulders and trees, yipping and barking. The path widens to a road creating a compound of vegetation covered homes. The bridge separates the wolves from those that do not carry the gene. Red wood fences, the same wood that the bridge is made of, pens of sheep, cows, ducks, and yews litter the mountainside and empty spaces.
Continuing, Alice leads Zach to her home. Unlike the other houses Alice’s home is covered in animal skins. Thick lush vines and tall grasses dip over her roof, becoming natural curtains for her windows. In recent years she added red ferns to her roof and to the area surrounding her door. Bright yellow flowers sprouted from between the animal skins, breaking through to catch the sun’s light. Reaching through a screen of tall grass and vine she pushes open her door. No one locked their doors here, everything in their homes was marked with their scent, proving to be more effective than any alarm system. Alice’s short pointy hair fell around her eyes and ears as she ducked slightly to move into her home. Leaving the door open for Zach as she entered. Inside the three-bedroom home looked close to the outside. Animal skins decorated the walls, pictures of the mountains were painted on them. In clay pots sat flowers of every color, their small blooms carefully looked after. The living room and kitchen blended into one room. In the living room the carpet was weaved tall grass tacked down in the corners. A layer of rock acted like the tile in a normal kitchen. Throughout the rest of the house was tall-grass carpet. Alice’s bedroom floor was animal skin, fur side up. The living room consisted of a redwood couch, chair and coffee table. With no electricity this high up the mountain the living room didn’t have a T.V. Plants covered every available space in the living room. The kitchen remained surprisingly clean and neat. With a huff, Alice instructs Zach to have a seat on the couch while she disappears into a back room to fetch a few papers.
Faded yellow and crumbling maps are brought to Zach. Clearing the coffee table carefully, Alice lays out several of the maps, one on top of the other. With a worn greying pencil, Alice traces the main river on the map, marking the spot where Zach was camping with a very light X. Running a finger east along the map and to a clearing along the trails most hikers take, she marks another X.
[b “Your sister was here,”] She taps the second X. [b “When she was ‘attacked’,”] using air-quotes around attacked. [b “We were trying to send a message to her to get off the mountain and stop looking. You want her to be safe correct? In that case, the bite she experienced isn’t deadly, nor is it transformative. Merely a warning. We did as you asked, we tried to make her stop looking. Now we have reason to believe that she didn’t get it. That she’s still looking. In that case we need to send another message to her, this time we’re going after [+i him].”] Alice sneered, glancing up to Zach, checking him comprehension.
[b “You have a choice.”] She leans away from him, distancing herself by sitting in the chair opposite him. [b “Stay here, learn our way, spread your bloodline. Or leave and die. What is your decision?”]
Harsh red veins splintered away from the bite on her shoulder. Jasper noticed them when he picked her up and laid her carefully in her sleeping bag. Zara and Jasper were huddled around the campfire, the silence between them deafening, when Zara turned ghostly pale. Quietly her eyes fluttered closed, her face contorted into pure agony, she rocked a few times. Passing out soon after. Scrambling to her side, Jasper placed his hand on her forehead and resolved quickly that the bite might be infected, or worse. Tucking her inside of her sleeping bag, he made sure that she was comfortable. A short trip to the river yielded clean fresh water. Next he took a ripped piece of shirt he’d saved to use a rag from him bag and dipped it in water. The cool water trickling down back into the bowl he used. Zara didn’t appear to feel his touch as he dapped the cool water on the wound. Mentally he cursed himself for not doing this sooner. Allowing her to push herself like she had.
Emerald green, sea blue, and rose orange twist through the beautiful night sky above their little campsite. Sitting cross legged at the mouth of Zara’s tent, he stares up. Watching the colors dance across the sky in nature’s most beautiful display. Tall birches, hemlocks, grove oaks, and ferns grow and inch in the green rainbow. Deep within him, the most instinctual part of him stretches and yawns. He too feeling the aurora’s regenerative powers. White stars wink in and out of existence, hidden and revealed by the aurora. Jasper’s thoughts stay with Zara though, wondering what would happened next. What would happen to him after it was all over? Something didn’t feel right, something he was missing.
If ever there was a more heated version of Hatfield and McCoys it could be found here. On the river there was a makeshift town that had various names, mostly it was just called Haven in English, there was other native names. Zach wasn't sure what this new home was called but it wasn't haven. After his attack, Zach woke up, feeling as if he was being burned alive, in a cage. There was lines of them for the newbies. After the first transformation he had been released from the cage only to be met with a new ultimatium.
"Stay with us, or go."
That truly meant he would be possibly hunted down if he tried to leave in a strange place. He hadn't been sure where he had been at the time, or truly what was going on. The explanation of the two different ideas battling was just Hatfield and McCoys.
Phasing back, Zach changed into the baggy sweats and a shirt, following the other two werewolfs with a huff. "You were supposed to leave her alone! Sure, you said that she was with the other pack but she was clearly hurt."
The idea of his twin being attacked, made his blood boil, but he wasn't sure what he could do. If he wanted to leave what would he do? He didn't fit in that world, and this one was a nasty world just about to boil over into war.
"Damnit! I need an answer finally, anyone," he ran up to the female's side. He wouldn't grab her arm again, that mistake had been a painful one.
For it being in the remote, cold Yukon it was quite warm. Zach was dead. If he wasn't dead, he was injured and missing. That thought should have hit more than it dead. In a single moment she thought of several reactions but one of them would reach her body. Feeling her arm grabbed, Zara looked to him with a slow nod.
While she looked at him, her eyes were years away. It was merely trying to cope and the pain in her shoulder was like flames going down her arm and back. It was both the most painful and numbing feeling of her life. The emotional impact only added and dulled. All in the same moment, it was a confusing feeling.
Following him up, she left that piece of Zach behind, the tent and items. Camping that night was more like hell. Food wasn't appealing at all, though she drank some water. Talking was also an option that she didn't prefer taking.
Zara was prepared to attempt to try to sleep before she felt her shoulder burning more. Holding her arm, she gave a grunt, adding some rocking motions before passing out right there.
Jasper smelled the rotting food before she found it. The faint tracks around the campsite were too faded to make anything out of. Even the normal wildlife smell had overwhelmed her brother’s scent. The farther way from the tent Jasper ventured the harder it was to smell him. He had clearly heard her step on something with an extra crunch, in spite of him being on the farthest northern part of the campsite. Also the campsite wasn’t near anything. No source of clean water, not even a game trail. Other than the stunning birches, hemlocks, and few sappy oaks Jasper couldn’t see why her brother picked here. Gradually making his way back to Zara, Jasper kicked at the fallen leaves and dead needles. Trying to ruffle a smell or two, possibly uncover a familiar track. The camp looked as though her brother had merely left for the evening. The only real sign that anything out of the ordinary had occurred was the opened, but untouched, ration meal. The flies and maggots were appreciating the gesture.
Returning to Zara’s side, he took a moment to listen. He focuses on the birds. Well, lack of rather. Not a one. Something had happened here. Something that made the wildlife weary of this area. Only the brainless flies seemed brave enough. That could explain why there were no fresh tracks, not even a raccoon or doe.
“Interesting.” Jasper murmured to himself. Gently taking Zara’s good forearm in his. Tenderly he gives her a warning squeeze, a habit he’d learned from his father. With his back facing the tent and the hair on his arms standing on end, he nudges her toward the worn path. They needed to go. Right that second. Something wasn’t right here. Every animal instinct he’d been breed with screamed at him to leave. A strong gust of wind picked up the tree branches and swayed the bushes noisily. A bitter forest smell assaulted him. His mouth watered with stench of hard granite and burnt pine. The classic stench of the others.
“Zara this place isn’t safe. We should go back up the path and talk.” Jasper big green eyes scan every shrub and tree shadow for them. This was still his pack’s territory, just the very edge. Normal everyday hikers were warned about venturing this close to the mountain, special guides had to be hired to take them in the mountains. Often members of opposite packs would meet half way on the boarder, handing off the hikers like children. Another way they remained hidden from normal humans.
There were words spoken but the young woman was not listening. She could hear her heart beat in her ear from the pain and excitement. There was also the swelling in her throat at the possible discovery that he was indeed dead and her heart was wrong that he was alive.
The tent flap was open, there was his bed roll and bag, the jacket thrown to the corner. It didn't look fresh though. He spoke again but she didn't hear him. Giving a soft sound, she poked through the tent before turning over the wrong item.
Reeling back from the maggots she stepped out of the tents. "No, he hasn't been here long enough for...this..." Zara said pointing to the maggots but not looking to it. He wasn't there but not a sign of a body.
Turning away from the tent she walked, the boots adding it's own crunching noise till there was an extra crunch sound. Leaning down she paled once again, seeing the sattelite phone crushed.
The same thing that had happened to her. Swallowing that lump in her throat she stood up. He was alive but had been taken somewhere. Her thoughts spun before feeling her shoulder burn painfully.
Giving a sound she placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Zara...” Jasper begins as she tramps passed him on the path. Even as familiar as he was with the path he still took his time. She had seen something he hadn’t. The faint smell of human drifted on the wind. Zara disappeared into the trees at the end of the path. He could see her bend and pick something up before venturing farther away. She moved faster than she had since last night. Since last night he’d grown used to her snarky tone. He couldn’t blame her though.
“That’s his lucky tent.” He could hear her speaking through the brambles. Finally pushing his way through, Jasper joins her in the untouched campsite. In the light breeze, the tent door flapped lazily. The fire was long dead. Towels, hung to dry, also swayed in the lazy breeze and smelled faintly of Zara. Somehow Jasper knew the not-quite Zara, Zara smell was her brother. Moving to her side, he reaches toward her offering comfort.
“He could have gone to the river or hunting.” Jasper’s words sounded hopefully. Deep in his chest he already knew what had happened here. Her eyes lock with his glittering with unshed tears and wide with hope. Undoubtedly her heart was full for the first time in weeks. The first real proof she had seen that her brother was alive.
“Let’s look around.” He offered, taking a step back and dropping his backpack to his feet. Groaning slightly, he rolled his shoulders and neck before moving to the edge of the campsite. He looked around the brambles and small sapling birches, looking for animal tracks or any signs of man. The rain could have washed away any sign or smell Jasper could have picked up.
When Zara was eight she had been too friendly with the neighbor dog and got bit. She required five stitches and avoided dogs for a whole year. During that entire time she hadn't remembered any bite or wound ever burning as much as this dead. It was the sheer determination and the fact her mind wouldn't stop till knowing, the twins had a connection.
Hearing the question for one too many times, she remained behind him but shot him an annoyed look. "Yes, staying hydrated and moving my shoulder often."
Hearing his words and looking to the path she sucked in a breath. This would be perilous. "Then let's hope this doesn't end up worse than it already is," Zara answered before taking one step at a time, her feet side ways in order to avoid slipping. Without incident she reached the bottom.
There seemed to be little left of people, she caught sight of a possible canteen buried in the dirt. Catching sight of something orange, she moved faster than the entire trip. There was an intact campsite sitting peacefully, and she knew whose it was.
Growing pale, Zara stopped, afraid of possibly seeing a body there. "That's his lucky tent and bag..." She whispered her throat feeling dry. Looking to Jasper with an expression of mixed emotions.
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