Prologue: Dandelion Dreams
Cold. Dandelion's world had turned cold.
The howling winds pulled at the wolf's red fur. The freezing air stung his nose even as he pressed it to his daughter's head. The pup was already cold and dead, a stillborn. Dandelion was a superstitious loner, and he knew that this did not bode well for the rest of the litter. He curled around the tiny corpse as if he hoped his own feeble warmth would somehow wake her.
Beside him, his beloved mate was still in labor. It was horrible for him to see her in pain, but he obviously didn't know a thing about how pups were born or how to help her. All he could do was provide Firefly with encouraging words and hope for the best.
Two more pups came that night, one with a red coat and one with fur as black as raven feathers.
Dandelion helped Firefly gently clean them off and guided them over to nurse. The exhausted she-wolf said nothing. She gave her mate an affectionate lick on the muzzle and returned to tending the pups.
Watching the surviving pups, Dandelion couldn't help but feel a spark of joy in his heart. His family wasn't perfect. He and Firefly had been barely catching enough to eat before the pups were born. But somehow, with his tail wrapped around his mate's and his pups alive, he felt as if it was all destined to be.
It was now morning. The storm had finally calmed down. With Firefly too busy with their pups in the den, it was Dandelion's duty to bury that poor, dead one. He slowly trudged up a hill. He wanted the body as far away from their den as possible. It just didn't seem right to keep her around. Dandelion still believed in that old saying, Ghosts dance on winter nights.
Oh, Dandy, Firefly always said, you and your crazy Dandelion dreams.
He finally found a suitable place for the grave beneath a cluster of tall pines. The world fell silent except for the subdued whistling of a chilly breeze, the last remnants of last night's storm. He set the dead pup down and started digging. "Born of the winter storm," he mumbled. "What a way to come and go."
Right as he was about to place her in the shallow grave, a thought struck him. A name! She still needed a name! Perhaps he would never know her, but it just didn't seem right to leave his daughter nameless. "Winter," he finally decided, "I'll call you Winter Storm." Winter, the pup born cold. Dandelion wept silently as he filled in the hole that she now rested in.
Once he regained his composure, he headed back toward the den. He couldn't let himself get caught in his grief for the stillborn. He still had two healthy pups to take care of.
"We need to give them names," he told Firefly upon his return. The newborns, still blind and deaf, pushed and shoved each other out of the way in search of warmth. Dandy studied them. He noticed that the red female pup's coat closely resembled his own. She was only a little lighter and had different facial markings. Her dark brother bore a much stronger resemblance to his mother. Firefly's coat was black like his, but she had a few coppery streaks that he was lacking.
"Yeah," Firefly said in agreement, "I was thinking...well, I know I'm always saying those dreams of yours are silly, but I had a very odd dream last night. I...I don't know, maybe I'm going crazy, but I think it meant something." She sighed. However, one look at Dandy told her that he was very interested in the dream, so she continued. "I was running through a scary forest, shadows everywhere, when suddenly I stopped at this small tree. A cedar tree. It just felt right to stop there; if that even makes any sense!" Firefly laughed. "I looked at the little sapling, and I saw this little bird in it. A dark, speckled little bird finding shelter in the branches of the cedar. There was a feeling of rightness to it. The bird and the tree just seemed perfect for each other."
She paused, looking at Dandelion as if she feared that he wouldn't believe her.
He only nodded slowly. "So...how did this give you an idea for a name?" Her story confused him, but Dandy had always believed in special dreams and visions of the future.
"Cedar. I was thinking of naming her Cedar. It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? And I always liked that old cedar tree that grew near my old pack's camp." She winced unintentionally at that memory. Firefly had once been a part of a pack (with her own parents as the alphas!) before she challenged her mother and was exiled. Dandelion knew she still missed that life, even if she never talked about it.
He gently nudged the black pup. "How about Bird or Feather for this one?" he suggested, going for the same theme as Firefly's dream.
"Hmm," Firefly took a moment to contemplate, "What about a kind of bird? Like Raven, or Crow, or...or....a little bird. What do you call those small ones?"
"Jay?" Dandelion said. "Starling? Finch?"
"Starling!" Firefly's ears perked up at that name. "That's it! That's the bird that I saw. Do you think it fits?"
"Starling?" he repeated. The pup squirmed. His sister, Cedar, kicked him lightly with one of her delicate puppy paws. Dandelion chuckled. "I guess he's Starling now."
Firefly's tail wagged contentedly. Dandelion settled down next to her to rest. A light growl started in his stomach. I'll need to hunt even more now that the pups are here, he thought. He tried not to worry too much about that and enjoy this precious moment. "Winter, Cedar, Starling," he said quietly, going over all the names.
"Winter?" Firefly asked curiously.
Dandy shuffled his paws. "Oh, yes...I didn't want to bury that first pup without naming her, so I called her Winter. Is that all right?"
"A season, a tree, and a bird. What an odd bunch of names." Firefly distractedly pulled Cedar off of Starling. The tiny she-pup was already showing herself to be the more aggressive of the two.
Dandelion only smiled. "They are a rather odd litter of pups."
Edited by iluvorpingtons - 9/30/15 at 9:17am