Mountains and Valley
House of the Elders
Valley of Shadows
The young mother wolf nuzzled her pups lovingly. They slept soundly against her belly, and she smiled. They were so innocent; completely oblivious to the impending disaster around them. Kageon had once been a great land and glorious paradise, forever guarded by the guardians. Their names were Nakota, Izou, Collia, and Stone. But last year in winter, something terrible happened. A dark wolf whose powers had never been seen before arrived, wrecking havoc left and right. The guardians, once thought to be the most powerful creatures to ever exist, were completely helpless. One day, however, his general rebelled. He took over and was much more fierce than his ex-leader. He had even turned the guardians against them. With every passing day, Kageon's outlook became darker and darker. The mother hung her head.
"Silver," A voice said before her. She looked up; it was her mate, Flame. "Lark's called the team together for a meeting." Silver bit her lip, nodding as she rose to get paws. She looked back at her two adopted pups- or, better said, pup. One was a baby dragon who had been abandoned, though the pups considered her as one of their sisters. The pup was a young collie who had been rescued from the first tyrant. Silver sighed sadly, following her mate into the lower cavern, where meetings were held. Here, no one could hear them, unless they were in the cave. The only way they could be heard from the outside was if they were shouting as loud as they could, and even then, only snippets could make it through.
"A great darkness has fallen upon us," An arctic fox murmured quietly. "I fear soon, the darkness will be more powerful than ever. Much has changed since this war started."
"No." A large, muscular white she-wolf with icy blue eyes stepped forward. "The only thing different is our enemies. Our goals remain unchanging."
"But here's the real question," A falcon said, "is there anything left to fight for? The guardians are long gone, as well as Gina." Everything got noticably quieter at the mention of Gina. A few of the other creatures hung their heads with grief. "Most of Kageon has turned to the dark."
"Are you saying we should just go down without a fight?" A barn owl snapped. The falcon ducked his head a bit, lowering his eyes and said nothing.
"No," the she-wolf declared. "We will not give in; not yet. Kageon may be in shambles, but this war can still be won."
"Riko..." Lark murmured, "are you okay?" Lark's vision swam, and her stomach was doing triple somersaults, not to mention the countless gashes and scratches that covered her entire body. Stone had put up quite a fight, and the tyrant had gotten away. Lark set her jaw angrily.
"Y-yeah..." the wolf beside her muttered. He was in an even worse condition than she was in. Lark felt her heart lurch. He could give his life soon. How guilty she felt for treating him so badly for all those years. She closed her eyes tightly as bad memories that she had been trying so hard to forget came flooding back.
"Just..." Lark grunted as she tried to rise to her paws, but failed, and plopped right back on the ground. "Hang on... I'll get the team." She bit her lip as an odd feeling nested itself deep within her. Something inside her rattled, like an old memory. She shook her head fiercely, much to her headache's protest.
"No," Riko protested weakly. Lark felt another wave of the strange, overpowering emotion roar within her. The best way it could be described was the sense of impending doom.
"We have to get out of here," Lark muttered, almost involuntarily. Her instincts were screaming to get as far away from this place as she could.
"You won't be going anywhere." Lark felt her heart plummet. Her worst fear was coming true. Bristling her fur, she put on the bravest face she could and whirled around. She tried not to flinch as she looked into that creature's eyes... those eyes... they would never leave her mind.
"What do you want?" She hissed ferociously, though it was all an act. Truthfully, she wanted to just cower away... something that no other creature succeeded in doing.
"You know perfectly well what I want." The creature's glowing red eyes seemed to bore into her. Lark suppressed a shudder.
"Get lost," Lark snapped.
"No." The creature's eyes hardened. "I'll leave it up to you. Should we use Riko for the sacrifice, or you?"
"Me," Lark replied instantly. She wouldn't let her fear get in the way. No matter what Riko had done to her, she wouldn't let this creature take him as it had done her.
"Absolutely not!" Riko protested.
Lark put a paw on Riko's chest. "No, Riko. I love you. After all these years of treating you so badly, I owe it to you."
"You owe me nothing," Riko whispered.
"Go, Riko," Lark commanded forcefully, "warn the team! I'll catch up to you later!" Riko was still hesitant. "I can fight him this time!" Biting his lip, Riko turned and pelted out. Lark turned back to the creature, growling.
"So, finally made up?" it smirked. "After he left you in my paws?"
"Yes, yes we did," Lark snapped, though felt a growing pit of unease in her stomach. The creature only chuckled with cold contempt as smoke began to fill the cave, burning Lark's eyes and disorienting her. The creature lunged for her, but underestimating the difference, only knocked her slightly off course. Lark ran for the exit, using her powers to determine where Riko had gone. The creature followed, and as it exited shortly after Lark did, the moonlight revealed it to be a massive wolf. Its fur was like smoke, hence the name it had been given, "The Smokewolf". Having larger legs, it was slowly catching up to Lark, when suddenly a black shape shot out from under the snow and knocking the smokewolf back several feet. Lark skidded to a stop, looking back in shock before she nodded in understanding. She pelted away.
The smokewolf growled furiously as it shot back to its paws. "How dare you!!" He snarled, lunging for Riko. Riko yelped as it caught his leg, and as he struggled, the bone broke. Riko howled desperately as the smokewolf unfurled its wings and flew away.
Lark winced painfully as she heard Riko's desperate cries. How she wanted to just turn around and kill the smokewolf herself. But she couldn't. She had to think of her team. She forced determination as she pressed on.
Moaning groggily, Ranik awoke. His vision swam into focus, but didn't unblur due to his decreasing health. Again, he had woken up in the prison cells with his four brothers. He cursed his old ally for the millionth time in his mind for the betrayal that had landed them in here. He hoped someday that he and his brothers could get revenge on them. But, I doubt I'll be leaving these chains and shackles anytime soon, if at all, he thought somberly with a sigh. They just left my brothers and I here to rot...
His eyes flashed red again briefly in anger. How he longed to kill them; to kill them all. That filthy traitor, Sorin, and that stupid pterosaur... but most of all, Gina. She was the reason that the king had been captured. The reason that Sorin had turned against them. The reason the king's army had shrunk to such a pitiful size. But most of all, the reason they were in here, stuck without anyone to help them. They had been here for, what, two weeks now? Ranik had lost track of time, and his mind was beginning to go numb. He was starting to question his own sanity. He struggled fiercely for about the billionth time for several long moments. Though he was a powerful hellhound hybrid, he was no match for the old, strong shackles and the old and rusty, yet amazingly strong chains.
"It's no use..." His brother Kurokaze murmured. Ranik exhaled; Kurokaze was right. He had refused to admit it, but it was the truth, no matter how grim it was. They were going to die here, slowly and painfully. Two weeks, or however long ago, Ranik had no idea that the day he had woken up and left to go find their ally, Stone, would be the last day they were free. Ranik hung his head. It was hopeless; they would never leave this cell.
...Or would they?
Ranik's ears lifted as he heard footsteps outside the cell. Maybe someone's coming to rescue us, he thought hopefully, before a second thought crushed that one. Or, maybe it's just one of Gina's team members walking by, and I want out so badly I'm dreaming over footsteps. But somehow, Ranik doubted the last part...
Just as he thought that, a *BOOM* resonated through the air. "What is that?" Kurokaze breathed, looking around wih bewilderment. Suddenly, the cell door collapsed with a bang. Ranik looked up and saw a large black wolf standing at the entrance, with fur that looked like smoke and luminescent ruby red orbs for eyes. It dashed in, breaking the chains and shackles like they were nothing.
"T-thank you!" Ranik stuttered. The wolf nodded curtly, and turned around, beckoning them with its tail. They ran out after him, having to run very fast to keep up with it. At the end of the hallway, it slammed into the door, instantly busting it down. The brothers took a gulp of air before they plunged into the water after it, paddling as fast as they could. The smokewolf went down farther and farther, and Ranik started to struggle. He desperately needed air. Right when Ranik thought he was going to suffocate, they reached the end. Ranik gasped for air, and the smokewolf flicked its tail irritably.
"Let's go," it growled, pelting away before unfurling its wings and flying. Ranik ran along the ground after it, feeling a slight pang of jealousy for its wings.
Eventually, they arrived at a lush green valley. It was different from Kageon's, though Ranik could still sense that they were still within Kageon's land. Not too far away, Ranik could see a darker bunch of mountains, looming ominously against dark skies. As they got closer and closer, the landscape gradually changed from lush and grassy to rocky and desolate. Some of the rocks were brown, while other sections of the utterly colossal canyon were gray. The valley was clearly ancient, cut by glaciers long ago.
"Welcome to the St. Aegolius Valley," the smokewolf said, "also known as the Smokey Valley." He turned to face them and inquired, "What are your names?"
"I am Ranik," Ranik stated his name, bowing. His other brothers stated their names as well, and the smokewolf nodded.
"How could we ever repay you?" Kurokaze exclaimed.
"I will tell you," the smokewolf said. "However, let me say this. I am neutral to your current leader, Torik, though we both share the same goal. To destroy the rebels." A crooked smile curled up at the corners on Ranik's muzzle. "I will punish the rebels to the full extent, and will allow you to kill them with your own fangs. But, I will need your help. You must give me your complete loyalty."
The brothers nodded without hesitation. "I would kill my own brother if he dared turn against you!" Ranik exclaimed.
The smokewolf smirked, nodding. "Good. Let me give you your wings." He closed his eyes and began to chant a spell. Smoke began whirling around each of the brothers' backs, and when it dispersed, it revealed large, elegant bird-like wings. Small flames flickered on the edges of each feather, and when they flew at high speeds, they would catch fire.
The brothers were astonished. "Th-thank you!" Ranik exclaimed.
The smokewolf smirked again. "Now, will you all do me a favor?" The brothers nodded. "I need you all to go out and collect one child of any species." A determined grin came to the brothers' faces, and they unfurled their new wings, flying away.
"Imma get you!" Shadow barked playfully, lunging at her sister. Onyx giggled, wrestling with Shadow. Shortly after they hatched, their parents had died. Silver had taken them under her wing, and they had no memories of their parents. They simply believed that Silver was their mother.
Onyx lifted her little head, blinking. It was now nightfall, and she hadn't even realized it; she had been too occupied playing with Shadow. "W-we should be heading back, Shadow," she stuttered, looking around. Everything looked different in the darkness. Suddenly, she saw a spark in the sky. It was getting steadily bigger... or was it flying towards them? Onyx's eyes snapped wide in alarm. It was a hellhound... and it was flying straight towards them. "Shadow, look out!"
Shadow looked at Onyx, rolling her eyes. "Don't scare me, Onyx. It's creepy enough out here as it is."
"No, look!" Onyx screamed. Shadow turned to look, and was swooped up by a figure. She screamed, frantically trying to wriggle out of the creature's grip.
"It's no use," the creature hissed.
"W-where are you taking me?" Shadow asked fearfully.
"That's for me to know and you to find out."
The sun was rising. Shadow saw other hellhounds gather beside the one that was carrying her, each holding a creature. Shadow looked down fearfully, and saw that they were flying over a valley. They made a turn, going deep into a rocky valley. Above, birds sat on tall pillars of rock, their eyes glinting red under their helmets. Shadow shivered.
The hellhounds swooped into a HUGE cave, dropping the creatures roughly onto a patch of soft moss. The moss softened the blow, but the landing was by no means gentle. The creatures were instantly thrown into an uproar, looking around wildly for an exit. The hellhounds, however, blocked the only entrance.
"Silence!" A voice thundered. In front of them was a massive draft horse stallion. "Children, your parents and families have abandoned you. So for now, you will be classified as orphans." The children were thrown into a frenzy again, shouting indistinguishable things. The stallion raised his voice to get them to quiet down again, "Horribly tragic, I know. But, on the bright side, by the mercy of Glaux, you've been rescued!"
"Why did our families abandon us?" A fennec fox pup cried.
"They don't care about you anymore." The children huddled together and cried. "However, we, the soldiers of the smokewolf, are your new family. You will all repay that kindness of being rescued through helping us achieve our ultimate goal." The children didn't know what to do. They just panicked, until above, two gryphons screeched as they came down. They sat on two ledges on the side, and before them, a wolf whose pelt seemed to be made of smoke stood on a tall rock; almost as tall as the pillars where the sentries sat upon.
"I am the smokewolf," the wolf thundered. "I am Kageon's future king. I know right now that you all must be terribly grieved by your losses, and that you must miss your families. However, just as Kasper here told you, we are your new family. Unlike your blood families, we will stand beside you to the end. But, by the same token, you will stand beside us and help us achieve our goal."
A golden eagle stepped forward. "I am willing to fight with you..."
A gryphon came to the eagle's side. "Me, too."
The smokewolf nodded. "Good. Follow me." The smokewolf lofted down from the rock, going down a tunnel.
Shadow turned and looked at a charcoal foal, "should we..?"
"We have to," a grizzly bear whispered, following after the other creatures. Shadow closed her eyes for a minute, then opened them again. Her family had abandoned her. Determinedly, she padded after the bear, not just going into the tunnel, but into her destiny.
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