The nuances of differences was mildly annoying, it was even more difficult to explain [i how]. Even more weird was the sudden change in Jasper after the old woman talked to her. One thought had been why did she smell like old roots and a little bit of some animal shit? The next had been why she had even thought that or noticed it.
Listening she rose her brows before giving a slow nod. It wasn't a nod of acceptance, rather, it was more subtle. "Yeah, okay, saying that sort of is like...saying the sky will be falling soon, but don't be scared. That's not working, though..."
Pausing in that train of thought, she gave a shuddering breath. The same fire was there only it felt as if it was spreading to her joints and bones. Gasping she moved to lean on something. Only some of the words came back to her.
"What is [i happening], Jasper? Is there something in the water? None of this...just tell me what the hell is happening instead of some psychobabble..." Zara asked, feeling an unfamiliar wave of frustration and more. Though he said it'd be fine, this did not feel fine, and there was the urge to panic right here and now.
With every wage of panic there was the blinding pain in her bones as it spread. This was not normal, the pain was more intense than anything in her life.
For a long moment, Jasper loses himself in her eyes. He could see the newly created consciousness swimming behind her bright pupils. Zara’s mind would soon explode in thoughts that weren’t her own. Naturally she would be terrified, everyone was when their soul split. As tenderly as he could without alerting her to the fact that his hands were trembling, he takes her hand and tugs her toward the center of town. Away from the outskirts where they had wandered. With the shifting of the wind, he could now smell it. A sweet floral smell mixed with rain and earth at the same time new; unfamiliar. Others in the village noticed her new wolf smell and turned their gaze toward the secluded couple. A little more insistent, Jasper tugs her getting her stand and follow him. For the sake of the village, he needed to pull her away from the others, just in case she freaked out. Deep down he knew she would. That changing without any prior knowledge or preparation would scare the shit out of her. Quietly he reminded himself to be as calm as possible. To show her that everything was going to be okay. That he would take care of her while making it very clear that she couldn’t return to her parents. It was too late for that. She should have never come here, come to the Yukon to look for her twin. Zach was surely dead, or part of the others. A well-worn path stretches away from the village heading south. The trees reach for the pilgrims following the root riddled trail. The hair on his airs stand on end as the village disappears behind them. Growing smaller and smaller. Inside of him, his wolf wakens and looks around excitedly. Knowing fills his heart and blood.
“I know you don’t understand. You won’t for a long time. But I need you to be calm. Zara, are you listening? Be calm, I’m right here. I promise I won’t let anything hurt you again. I swear to our gods.” Jasper said, glancing at her from over his shoulder. Breaking into the pine needle lined clearing, he steps aside and lets her hand fall from his own. The wide-open spot was lined with sharp brambles and tall oaks, hemlocks, birches, and pines. Towering spruces create the shade and provide a sense of protection. Rotting in the center of the perfect circle is an old oak trunk. Its roots sticking out of the ground as deadly fingers. Nature has reclaimed it.
“You’re going to undergo a change. Every bone in your body is going to break. Your teeth are going to fall out of you gums and your eyes are going to burn, as though someone kicked sand into them. You’re going to get extremely warm and you’re going to hear a voice that isn’t your own. She’s going to tell you do things you would never consider doing in your life. You’re going to panic. You’re going to be scared and you’re going to be in pain. But you must remember: I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here to help you, to guide you. Say it back, repeat it to me and yourself, Zara.” Jasper continued. He blocks the only way out with his own body.
“You need to trust me.”
The scenery was almost enough to quiet her mind down. Most towns had greenery but it was suited to the city, here the buildings grew around the trees. Some trees in between, with the needles, leaves and whatnot on the floor yet there was still the pathways. The people were just as interesting. Some was Native Americans, the rest seemed random in ethnicity and appearance. She swore she heard someone speaking Russian as she and Jasper passed.
Zara pursed her lips for a moment, slightly annoyed at how chapped they were. There was a small voice that was sure creating quite a ruckus, "Jasper, I'm not so sure...well, of anything anymore," she said quietly stopping for a moment. Her shoulder still felt warm and was hurting a great deal, but only as far as there.
"When we were twelve, Zach went camping with Dad in Washington. They got separated. He did what we were taught and swears he saw footprints go from human to something else, and then he saw this huge wolf unlike anything he had seen before. He says the wolf lead him back to dad. Since then it's been Big Foot, werewolves and all these things..." She explained. "And I thought he just was being his eccentric self. That's why he came here was because he thought he find what he was looking for, and why he didn't tell me..."
Feeling that same sensation again she moved to sit down. There was this awful smell in the air like fish...but how? She saw the woman who had cleared her approach Jasper whispering something.
"Her fate is sealed, Jasper, but she's fighting it. You need to help her with the transformation or it may kill her," the elder woman whispered to him, eyeing her carefully. It was remarkable to see how well one could fight it, this was inevitable though.
“Here we can keep our culture alive.” He answered. Eying her carefully. “Here we don’t have to worry about being frowned at for being resourceful and following our own laws. In the northern Yukon we can raise our children the way we were all raised, no questions meaning no answers have to be made up.” He turned toward the deep forest and distant mountain range. She was right, it was beautiful here. Sometimes Jasper got lost in the village. Losing sight of why he stayed here even though both of his parents were gone now. The tall hemlocks and birches grew with him, he with them. Drawing his eye away from the surrounding forest, he watched her take in everything. Watched her observe the village and all its motion.
“I’ll guide you back to Whitehorse, we’ll leave tomorrow morning, that way we don’t have to race the sun. You’re shoulder was looked at by our doctors and they say you’ll heal fine, may even have a very small scar. That the warmth and fever you experienced was just your body fighting off an infection.” He finishes.
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 unselfishly 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 warmth 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.
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