That’s what the female wolf had called him. I hadn’t forgot in the days that followed my embarrassing induction to the pack - Even if it was difficult to see the alpha. After my bulldoze into the tree they had taken me in - begrudgingly, because their alpha gave them no choice - and had treated me like a moving tree. Not speaking to me and moving out of my path when my large ass got in their way. Wonderful, I’d found a pack and instead of being better than the last one it was worse. At least the last pack acknowledged my existence, this one treated me like I was an ugly monument from the forest to simply accept and walk around.
Although I had to say the dens were nice. Almost all wolves moved around as a rule of nature, but this pack seemed to plant permanent seeds here in the side of the mountain where an assortment of small caves that hosted up to five wolves each. I had thought when I’d first stumbled upon the pack that there was only about 10 members. I had been very wrong. Once they had lead me to their den I realized that they were pushing close to fifty in total, it was more than double what my home pack had been and I could understand why they wouldn’t find me so intimidating. Twenty male wolves could take me down, without a doubt, hell I was sure their alpha could take me down by himself.
They had not given me the right to sleep in one of the dens, I would have to earn that bounty. I didn’t mind, it wasn’t cold out and it had been nice watching them go about their lives from my spot in the middle of the clearing. I had tried in the first few days to help wherever I could, lifting a branch that was too heavy, helping to pick up things that had dropped, but all of my attempts had been met with uncertain eyes and growls of intimidation. So I had resigned myself to finding another way into their hearts. I would work for every drop of affection I was sure of it, but I wouldn’t let them down. Wouldn’t let the alpha down, not after he had given me a chance.
I watched now from one of the trees along the edge of the dens, finally catching a glimpse of the ashen wolf I always looked for. He was closely followed by the female wolf that had spoken out the day they had encountered me. She had not changed her tune in the past few days since, she was openly disdainful towards me. Whereas the others would ignore my existence she would growl or sneer (depending on her form) whenever I was nearby. It goes without saying that she was the alpha bitch and I would have to get in her good graces to move the rest of the pack.
I watched as they moved towards the woods with a group of other wolves, the same group I had seen that first day. They were getting ready to go on a hunt. The thought sparked an idea, which made me grin mischievously. I was big and albeit sometimes clumsy, but I was almost always able to take down a large animal if the other wolves could track it. As my mother had always said, subtly wasn’t my strong point, but force was something I could do. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to help.
Getting up I quickly approached Naga, the alpha bitch and Zora the alpha, keeping to all fours and as low as I could so I did not appear intimidating. In their wolf forms their ears flicked as I approached, stopping them in their tracks when they noticed it was me that came near. The whole pack stopped when they realized, only the sounds of the pups scuffling off in the distance remained in the silence. I hadn’t intended for there to be such an….audience.
Naga growled lowly, her warning for me to stop where I was some 20 feet away. I did, awkwardly sinking to my belly, my ass still kinda sticking up due to my legs being under me.
“What do you want?” She barked her irritation shining in her yellow eyes. Zora remained still beside her watching the scene play out. I looked at the alpha and back to Naga when she growled. “I asked you a question!”
“I can help...with hunting.” I said as softly as my rough voice would allow, not that it helped much, but no one could say I didn’t try.
“You will be a hinderance, as clumsy and loud as you are.” She said sternly, her voice holding only conviction. “Only proven wolves go on the hunt.” Her voice had changed to a reproachful tone used with insolent pups, and I understood that this was her way of putting me in my place in front of the whole pack - in front of the alpha.
She turned her back on me, Zora doing the same, his dark eyes a lingering gaze over my black pelt. I felt the surge of multiple emotions burning through my body, anger, pain, sadness, anxiety, all of them a kaleidoscope of feelings that urged me to do something.
“How do I prove myself?” I say quickly rising slightly, my voice coming out more growl than I had intended.
Naga stopped and looked over her shoulder at me and narrowed her gaze before a sadistic light started to form in those eerie depths. I was so fucked I could already see the metaphorical cock coming at me. “The pack is in need of Mountain mint. As you can guess it grows on the mountain side in some,” she paused turning her whole body while walking towards me, her fangs appearing in a laugh like pant, “precarious places.” She looked around the pack - whose attention was completely focused on our exchange - before she continued. “I think you should get us some.”
“Naga.” The harsh growl of the alpha made her look back. “You ask too much of the youth.” He growled.
“He wants the chance to prove his worth, Zora. Besides, he’s more than capable, since he is not normal youth.” She argued looking back at me with a wicked gleam.
How had I become her target? Had I somehow painted a target on my ass without realizing it? Maybe I was wearing a “mythical beast” badge that made her want to turn my ass into her next trophy kill.
“I’ll do it!” I said quickly, chasing any chance for the alpha to pull me out of the rabbit hole. I didn’t want him to help me, I wanted to prove to him that he hadn’t made a mistake, and if I had to go get these flowers than I would.
Zora growled but said nothing else on the matter just barked a command for the others to follow as he went into the woods. His disapproval apparent with every step he took into the tree line. I had set out to show my worth and had somehow made discord and agitation. I could do nothing about it now, by speaking out I had sealed my word to getting those herbs and I would do it.
“You’ll find them on the mountain's edge, it should take you most of the day to collect them.” Naga said and then turned and followed the other wolves into the trees.
I was in way over my tall head.
Finding the mountain mint hadn’t been that hard. Getting it was a whole other story. Right now I could see it some fifty feet up on the rocky edge of the mountain side, the steep incline only giving little ledges for the flowers to bloom on. I would be lucky if a mountain goat didn’t eat this stuff before I clambered up there. At least I could take back a mountain goat and maybe if I was lucky it’s stomach wouldn’t ingest all of the herbs before we cut the dumb creature open. I shook my head. I needed to focus. Getting those herbs without dying or breaking every bone in my body was the main goal and I was determined to do just that.
“Alright Ira, you can do this. It’s just some climbing.” Hiking the bag across my shoulder - which had been given to me without word when I left the dens - I grabbed onto the first small ledge and pulled myself up beginning my ascent.
After about twenty minutes I realized that climbing wasn’t one of my strengths and also that I might be afraid of heights. Tentatively I looked down to the twenty odd feet I had climbed, clinging to the small ledge with a death grip that would make my damma proud. Looking hadn’t been my brightest idea of the day, actually it was right up there with approaching the alpha and the alpha bitch with my proposal of helping.
Looking below I became dizzy seeing the distance that separated me from the ground. Yup, phobia confirmed! I do not like being up high, no I fucking don’t. Taking a deep breath I closed my eyes and let a small shiver race through my frame as I calmed my racing heart. Only another thirty feet or so and I’d have what I came for. I could do this, I had to do this. Growling with determination I grabbed onto the next ledge and hoisted myself up with all my strength pulling my weight with everything I had. I had a pair of dark eyes in my mind and I wanted to make them look at me with approval.
I felt the pain in my hands and in the pads on my feet, but I pushed through it, even when the smell of my blood drifted through the air. The sharp rocks cut into my skin, scratching and tearing at sensitive flesh. It was worth it when those flowers were in my line of vision only inches from my nose. I had done it. With ears laid flat I rested my head against the ledge taking in deep gulps of air. I felt the joy rolling through my body in great waves as I stared at the white small flowers. Shifting the pack to my front I tore the flowers free roots and all and started shoving them into my bag, pulling free as many as would fit into the leather container. I’d done it. Moving the pack onto my back again I reminded myself that I still had to climb down and that would require more effort that getting up here had. I just wouldn’t look down to much, just at my feet, one step at a time. Taking a shallow breath I took my first step down and another until I had a slow pace to my decent, one that I was comfortable with. I was okay until the rock under my foot slipped, giving way until only one foot and my talons buried into the rock kept my body from falling the rest of the way. Panting I clung to the wall as fear tinged my happiness. Think Ira! I panted through the rising panic and looked for the next closest ledge and found it a few feet to the right. The only chance I would have at reaching it would be to jump. Jump mid air, with nothing but my clumsiness and a prayer that I’d make it. With a deep breath and all my willpower I launched for the rock face, that prayer my only hope.
The leather bag landed at Naga’s feet, some of my blood flecked on it the only clue to my struggle. Well that and my slightly battered body as I stood in the front of the main den where the highest ranked wolves slept. I was dirty and scored with bruises and cuts that were mostly felt but not noticeable under all my black fur. I’d made that jump, but I’d also fallen the last ten feet with very little grace and with a lot of pain to my right side. Tomorrow I would hurt, badly. Hell I hurt something fierce right now.
Naga, looked up from the bag her naked two form expressing more upset than she had earlier in her four shape. She had not expected me to succeed, I understood that now. Before I had generally thought she wanted me to prove myself, but now I knew she just wanted to get rid of me. The understanding had come right after I prayed that I’d make it and right before I feel ten feet off the rock face, bouncing off the jagged surface like a sad piece of debris.
Her yellow eyes narrowed at me her corn yellow hair framing her face in waves, eyebrows furrowing in an expression I knew was irritation and disbelief. “You could have gotten more.” She finally said, looking at me with a dark glare.
“I got all that I could fit in the bag.” I said quickly, already feeling the other's attention gathering on us. Ears flat on my skull I hunched to make my body smaller and less of a target. She could easily instigate something among the pack being the alpha bitch.
“You should have gotten more when you were up there. Now we will have to risk more valuable pack member to do what you did again.”
“I got all I could.” Even to me it sounded weak.
She approached bearing her white straight teeth at me in flash of irritation. “You got the amount someone half your size would have carried.”
The remark cut deep and I just nodded dropping my eyes quickly, feeling the undignified sting of tears. I had wanted to prove myself to her, but more than anything to the alpha that had given me a chance. I didn’t seem to be doing much of either. I didn’t see Zora, but I was glad he wouldn’t be here to stare at me with those dark eyes that I had become so infatuated with.
“Naga!” The barked words came from behind me and I jumped at how sudden they were. Turning I saw a sight that easily made up for all my troubles thus far. There walking from the tree line was the pack alpha in his two form, all his bronze skin exposed to the world to scrutinize and accept.
He was big, bigger than I had expected, this version of him was at least six and a half feet tall and his hair was a dirty shade of browns and blondes that mimicked the same patterns of his pelt. Everything about him down to his smooth dark tan skin and to his sinewy body made me react in a way I had never felt before. My blood heated with every heavy step he took, the thundering noise clouding my head only seemed to get louder. I could see his mouth moving but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I couldn’t think past what I saw right in front of me and those ebony eyes staring straight at me.
“W-what?” I said shaking my head trying to catch up to what had been said.
Zora looked past me to where Naga stood, an expression of consternation overpowering his handsome features. “You will leave Ira’s care to me. I don’t trust your judgment in this matter anymore. You have disappointed me in this, Naga. Your punishment tonight will be to relinquish your spot in the den to Ira as payment for your bad instruction.” He said with finality already walking past me to enter the den.
The she wolf squawked with horror before growling. “I had done nothing to deserve this!” She shouted. “Zora! You cannot let this strange beast into my den and my spot! I will not sleep outside!” She screeched. Through it all I kept silent not moving or bringing any attention to myself.
Zora remained impassive to her temper, only staring her down with those dark eyes. “I have made myself known. You will either do as I say or not, but if you do not you will face an even worse penalty.” He turned his broad back on her going into the deeper into the den. By now the whole pack watched with wide eyes and small whispers.
I felt uncomfortable standing among their gazes, and Naga’s, whose eyes burned through my black pelt.
“Ira come.” Zora said from inside the cave, making me startle slightly. Did he really intend to let me take the alpha bitches place for the night? Stepping forward I heard Naga growl but continued when Zora called again.
Inside the den was cozy, pelts of numerous animals were laid about in various places, and it was obvious this pack was not nomadic like my own pack had been, and that they were also more accustom to being in their two form than I was used to seeing. Moving towards the alpha I was surprised how nice it was to have someone so close in height stand besides me for once. I didn’t feel quite at abnormal with him in this form, it was nice.
“Alpha, I’m sorry about earlier. I shouldn’t have accepted, I know that it was wrong but I just wanted...to.” My voice rumbled in frustration, the deep timber so conflicting with what I was trying to convey.
“You are right, and next time I will punish you as well. This time though I think you were punished enough, your body is battered.” He said, his final words laced with humor.
I looked up surprised to see a small smile gracing his hard face, lips slightly tilted up at the corner. A contented rumble formed in my chest at the image and I had to drop my gaze to hide my embarrassment.
“You are different Ira. Just remember it is me who you have to please not anyone else, the others opinion is secondary to mine.” He gave me a responding rumble, much like an adult would to a pup when they were giving them a compliment or endearment. It was how we soothed one another and I appreciated that simple gesture from him. It meant he understood how the others treated me, how hard it would be to assimilate, and that I was not alone in my attempt.
“You’ll sleep here,” Zora pointed to the white pile of furs that took up the whole corner of the cave. It look beyond comfortable and my sore body begged me to curl up into the nest of warmth and safety if only for the night.
“with me.” He finished saying as he layed down on the soft furs.
I think that prayer was really working, or I was dead. Knowing my luck I was probably dead at the base of the mountain. I approached the soft furs laying my less injured side on the ground facing the alpha his eyes already closed as he rested beside me.
Even if I was dead, this was undoubtedly worth it.