The rising sun's rays seeped threw the trees leaves to dapple the ground below with sunny, warm spots. Tiny whimpers could just be heard above the sounds of the forest as it began to wake.
A catahoula she-dog lay sprawled out under the protection of the massive oak roots. A mottled purple and green male quietly creeped into the den, a plump squirrel trapped securely in his powerful jaws. Despite the hint of blood that lie at the corner of his mouth, he smiled affectionately at his mate and their pups.
The dark male dropped the squirrel infront of the she-dog and wrapped himself around her, his large from easily making a bed of warmth that she needed as she ate. He looked down at his new family, glowing with pride.
"Storm's outside, she'll be in soon." He assured her just as Sasha was about to open her jowls to ask where her eldest daughter was to be found.
"There beautiful Sasha. Have you chosen names for them?" He murmured softly in between the licks he was giving her to the ear.
Sasha licked her chops and looked at the four, tiny bundles, her tired eyes glowing with love only a mother could have.
"No, Dear. I wanted you to name two of them as well." She said looking up at him with affectionate eyes.
"Well," He trailed his eyes along the bundles until they rested on a beautiful she-pup. She was white with black and red tips.
Sasha observed the color of the tips. The rich red popped the most to her. Almost like..
"That's perfect my dear," Sasha agreed. She nuzzled the a black male with purple tips, "Keko."
The male cocked his head in confusion. Keko was a name for one who would seek out love. How did Sasha know that their pup would do that. He ignored the urge to ask about. His beloved was tired and she needed rest.
They both had a silent agreement before moving onto the last two pups. One was a mottled light brown male with black tips and the other, a blue-gray-and-golden brown catahoula. The same breed as her mother.
Sage nuzzled the closest pup to them. "He should be Iraq. He looks just like your father."
Their eyes landed on the last pup, a catahoula, just like Sasha. Poor thing had rolled over, away from the others and was squirming helplessly over the soft, rich ground.
Sasha used her tail to gently sweep the pup towards her belly and the she-pup began to suckle.
1. Beginnings Edit
Nine Years Later...
She closed in on her target, making sure not to step on any lost foliage for it might give away her position.
She was so close now. She could almost feel the fur underneath her hungry teeth and perfectly sharpened claws.
Then, with one massive leap Zearafina bounded out of the leafy ferns and landed square on Storm's back, sending them both rolling in a ball of fur and playful yips.
Storm was older and (probably) much stronger than Zearafina but the blue-gray-golden Catahoula mix breed was larger for a pup and made up for it with her strength and size.
The two tumbled all around the warm, soft bank they called home. Their den -the massive oak tree with it's larger, slightly uprooted roots- sat at the very edge of the sandy clearings. The beautiful ocean bordered the rest of the mini beach. When the sun sunk below those rippling waves, it was the most amazing thing Zearafina had ever seen. Saying so, she hadn't really seen much past the guarded stone walls of her home.
The rest of the forest lie atop the large cliff. Their mother told them never to go their until they where old enough. That it was dangerous. She told them stories of evil, ruthless dogs that lived their. Dogs that would tear tiny pups like them to smithereens. She called them the Crimson Isle's, probably because every dog in the story always had a smear of crimson in their pelt.
Their mother told great stories, rather it be stories about the ancient dogs that lived in the night sky or about the ones that walked in the Dark Fog, sentenced to live a lonely life for eternity...
Sasha said as long as you had a pure heart, you'd walk among the Canines Of the Horizon. Zearafina had vowed from the day she heard those stories that her entire family would walk among the stars no matter what the cost.
Now, Storm and Zearafina wrestled playfully until the almost barreled straight into their little sister, Crimson, who had been looking at how the suns light reflected off of her curved, polished claws.
"Hey watch where you guys are going!" she snapped as she moved on top of one of the oaks roots, "Oh," she added with a smirk, "my meats on Zearafina."
"No way," Keko barked as he leaped onto the same root Crimson was on to sit beside her. "Storm's alot more skilled than Zeara. Plus, she has storm-manipulation. Storm-freakin-manipulation. I bet you half my breakfast for a moon that she wins."
"Well-" Iraq began as he attempted to sit beside his siblings on the root but, sadly, his clumsiness got the best of him and he tummbled off landing with a thud on the ground below. Their little brother settled for the sands below. "-Zearafina is a bit bigger than Storm. You never know! Plus, Storm can't use her powers while playing with us 'member?"
They all rememberd the first time Storm and played with them. The no storm powers rule hadn't been made yet and she'd nearly blown all four of their pelts off!
The trio always betted when Storm and Zearafina where play fighting. They'd over heard their parents talking about it was all about dominance and since the two where the oldest, they's constantly play fighting to see who was stronger. Storm was definitely stronger than Zearafina as well as being the oldest off them all but Zearafina was alot bigger thanks to getting some of her grandfathers genes.
They'd even tallied up the scores on the back of the oak tree. Zearafina had won about 19 times while Storm'd won 36. That's how often they "played".
And those were without Storms powers.
The three continued to argue about logic and strength while Storm and Zearafina tried their bests not to hurt one another as they tussled around the bank, getting sand all in their beautiful-now-pretty-ragged-and-sand-filled-coats.
At all this, their parents sat infront of the entrance to the den, watching their pups affectionately. Sage bent his head down to lap at the top of Sasha's head who leaned into it before turning her head and giving a quick lick to his muzzle.
They stared at each other, their eyes filled with love and affection for each other.
"I love you." Sage murmured softly without breaking eye contacted with Sasha.
"I love you more," she whispered back.
"Do you remember," he began as he nuzzled closer to Sasha, "that one time, when we were still in the pack, and we went out on the ridge that one night. We walked along the bank and you, with your clumsy self, managed to tumble right over your own paws and would have landed face first in the sand-"
"-If you hadn't caught me." Sasha finished with a small, loving laugh that always managed to warm Sage's heart. "And with you being clumsy as well, managed to topple over me and we landed," Sasha placed a paw on Sage's chest and in one swift movement pushed him to the ground and pinned him down, "in a position relatively similar to this."
Sage squinted his eyes and looked up, pretending to look thoughtful before he flipped Sasha over to where he was on top and leaned down to where their noses where only and inch apart. "I remember me being on top."
"Me too, from the stories you refuse to stop telling us." Crimson pipped from where she sat on the branch, looking down on them along with Keko and Iraq. Even Zearafina, who had Storm in a successful head lock, both were staring at them with amusement shining in their eyes.
Sage quickly scrambled off of Sasha who awkwardly stood up and gave her chest a few embarrassing licks.
After an awkward moments (along with awkward looks) of silence they all burst into laughter.
Sometimes it was incredible how they could all still act like kids.
2. "Days" Of Training Edit
Iraq couldn't sleep.
He kept squirming around in his moss bed and rolling over but he still couldn't get a wink of sleep.
It wasn't that he was having trouble going to sleep it was just the he was way to excited about training tomorrow to even close his eyes. He was scared he'd sleep in and they would leave him and he'd miss out on all the fun (even though that probably wouldn't happen, not on Sage's watch).
So Iraq just looked up at the bark roof of their hollowed out wooden den and sighed.
But then again.. he had to get some sleep. If he was too tired in the morning then he wouldn't be able to do his best! And that's the last thing he wanted to do.
He didn't know when it had happened but, he managed to drift off in a peaceful sleep, dreaming of being the best of the best of hunters, best of the best of hunters, the best of the best of trackers.
Being the best of the best.
"Listen up troops! Were going into dangerous territory," Sage barked, trotting back in forth infront of the four siblings with Storm and Sasha sitting a little ways away trying extremely hard (and failing) not to laugh. "Their are creatures that will eat you up and spit you back out then eat you back up all over again! Are you ready?!"
"Where ready!" They all barked in simultaneous squeakiness.
"Where off!" And with that Sage led his pups towards what looked like a thin path jutting out from the side of the cliff, hidden underneath a sea of foliage. Or he was supposed to be leading them in that direction.
Storm halted, looking around in confusion. "...Um Dad? Im pretty sure it's the other way.."
Sage stopped, suddenly realizing his mistake before he whirled around. "I knew that! I was just.. making sure you hadn't forgotten!" Sage barked, still keeping up the commander act. "Yea that's exactly what I was doing.." he murmured to himself.
Storm rolled her eyes as she fell in step with her siblings. "Sure dad. I'd forget the path I took literally this morning."
Sage just snorted, nosing a clump of fern leaves out of is way and made his way up the path, quickly followed by his bouncing pups.
Iraq bounced around beside his brother as they made their way through the forest, stopping at every flower to smell or staring in wonder at a butterfly that would flutter past his nose. "Hey Keko, what do you think were gonna be doing? I bet were gonna hunt something! Or, or we could like, mark our territroy or something!" Keko opened his mouth to respond but Iraq beat him to it. "Wait don't you have to pee on a bush or something to do that..?"
Keko just shrugged and padded ahead to keep up with his sisters.
"Iraq keep up!" Storm called from over her shoulder. This brought Iraq back from his storm of thoughts as he dashed froward, almost knocking Crimson to the ground.
"He watch it! Iv'e said this two times this week!" Crimson barked, clearly annoyed.
"Sorry Crims!" Iraq laughed.
Zearafina looked back at the three of them from where she walked beside Storm. They both had tittered smiles on their faces thinking the same things.
My siblings are freakin' lunatics.
It felt like they had been walking for hours (when it'd really only been about 10 minutes) when they finally stopped at a sandy clearing.
Despite Crimson's aching paws, she stared in wonder at her surroundings.
The suns slowly dying rays turned the sand a beautiful golden color, warming it as well as her paws. leafy ferns and bushed lined the outskirts of the area. A small pond flowed calmly to the far right and Crimson was pretty sure that she saw a flash of orange disappear deeper below the surface.
Sage turned to them, a gleam of his mid-aged humor flashing behind his serious face. "I will be leading you threw the first lesson, defending your territory."
A smile began to curl at the edge of his mouth as he looked at an unseen object behind them. "Zearafina, you first. Come here."
Zearafina shot a wary look at Storm, who just shock her head with a grin plastered on her face. Well that didn't help her already wearing confidence.
"Defending your territroy. Zearafina, tell me what you see."
"Um.. I see plants."
"And.." Sage urged.
"And.. water." She deadpanned.
"And.." Sage persuade.
Zearafina gave him a confused look. "And.. umm Sand?"
Sage looked at her with an expression that could only be described as pure confusion. "For the lord of The Horizon.. Sheldin!"
Zearafina immediately looked up in shock and pure horror. "W-Wait. S-Sheldin!? He's here?!" She all but shrieked.
Sheldin was the massive (and extremely playful) black, white, and creamy tan Mudi, German Shepherd mix breed. Zearafina remembered her all to well from when she was a younger pup. The feminine he-dog had been relentless when it came to playing, teaching, or anything of the sorts. Zearafina was all for a good tussle but that dog didn't seem to ever run out of energy!
"Surprise Squirt!" Came the familiar looming voice followed moments after by being promptly squashed under a massive cloud of fur.
"What you failed to notice during your mindless deadpanning," Sage barked and Zearafina could already see the smirk on his face. "Was that my dear friend Sheldin was waiting for his cue in a nearby clump of ferns. Those of which you failed to comprehend in the equation."
"Could you get off me.. please?" Zearafina wheezed.
"Oh sorry." Sheldin squeaked as he trotted over too stand beside her father.
"That's the first rule when defending your territory." Sage continued as Zearafina attempted to regain breath control, her siblings (minus Crimson who was just obnoxiously smirking) tittering behind her. "Always. Be. On. Your. Guard. You never know what could be hiding in the shadows."
"Lets practice some more!"
The lessons went on for weeks upon weeks until the three had mastered it. Usually Sage and Storm would take them out, but sometimes Sasha or Sheldin would lead them out, leading them to the same clearing and teaching them new technics, new strategies, and new elements needed to survive out in the world.
Zearafina had always wanted to explore the world, it's not that she didn't like going out and doing new things.
The thing that Zeara wasn't to fond of was waking up at the crack of dawn by Sage's commanding voice and being rushed out the den. Then getting yelled at to 'stay awake' and to 'pay attention' during lessons.
And again, this went on for weeks.
The second week was all about tracking.
Storm would leave a rather.. unpleasant trail for them to follow and if they managed to catch her before she killed the leader (aka an already dead rabbit on a stump), they got to go home early.
Zearafina and Iraq where an unstoppable force, trudging through whatever got in their way. They where able to reach Storm before she even got close and pounce on her, their combined weight bringing her down. Several times.
While Keko and Crimson were to busy arguing about who was the better tracker that they couldn't get anything done.
Zearafina and her siblings spent this entire week with Storm, learning and practicing their hunting skills.
When they finally where able to continue onto the next stage of this lesson -late due thanks to Crimson who couldn't keep her tail down and pissed everyone off- which was the actual hunting part, Zearafina managed to catch herself dinner; A satisfyingly plump pigeon.
Iraq caught a squirrel.
Keko snagged half a hare (Don't ask).
Crimson managed to snag a paw full of fur and had to share Zearafina's kill -which the blue-gray female had no probably with- and spent the rest of the day muttering to herself about her 'hopelessness' and 'unacceptable failure'.
This week was based around fighting.
Zearafina was a god at this. She pinned everyone, snagged every coat, won every single match.
Crimson was second to follow, she was actually good a thing, her perfectly trimmed (and shinned) claws coming to splendid use.
Keko wasn't to far off but his longer coat kept getting the better of him (aka snagging on every branch they passed and giving the others a big advantage)
Iraq didn't do so well. He didn't like hurting his kin, especially his sisters. He actually didn't mind the watching the others but when he did have to fight back it only came to a soft pin.
This actually worried Storm and Sage. Alot.
This week the group flailed around in the ocean until they got the hang of it.
Crimson didn't speak to Storm and her father for the next moon. Literally. She hated getting her coat wet.
On Week 5 they finally got a break from the brutal training. Sage and Storm let them sun bathe on the warm bank or splash around their aching limbs in the cool waters.
This lasted for a relieving two weeks. But good things never do seem to last.
The 8th Week came and it was back to training. Training from dawn till dusk. At least when they came back Sheldin or Sasha has managed to catch a plump meal for them and their moss beds where waiting for them, warm and relieving.
The family slept peacefully end of the tenth week, the younglings filled with new knowledge and new power to protect the ones they love.
3. The Strangers Edit
We have.. to find shelter...
Cant.. go on much longer..
We have to.. find her...
Rain crashed down to the earth, soaking everything that lay in it's path... Including Zearafina.
"Ughhhh!" Zearafina groaned as she shook out her pelt. "Why did we have to leave at the crack of freakin' dawn!? Im gonna be soaked for days!"
"Zearafina." Storm growled, shushing her younger sister. Storm had never been a pleasant person on early mornings. Especially wet ones. Zearafina still had the faint scar on her flank from when she had tried to get her older sister to play with her. Yikes. "Dad said we have to patrol the border, just shake it out. Not on me!" She added with a shriek as Zearafina began to shake her wet fur out.
"Well nice job, now you look like a poodle."
The hadn't gone far when Storm suddenly stiffened and came to a halt. Zearafina new better than to ask why. She could smell it too.
The smell of a dog that for sure wasn't anyone familiar.
Storm nosed a clump of ferns off the path to reveal a paw print. An unnervingly large paw print. Storm let out a low growl and whipped her head around, scanning her surroundings.
Her icy blue eyes fixed on something in the near distance. She let out another growl and slowly made her way back to Zearafina's side, her eyes never leaving that spot.
"Over their. The tree at the very back of the clearing. Look under the largest root." Storm whispered into her ear.
Zearafina trained her eyes on the spot Storm had described and sure enough, under the largest root, in a shallow dip, was a lump of black and brown fur, slowly rising and falling.
They must be sleeping.. But why here, How did they even get past the borders without smelling the markers..
"There're sleeping Storm... What's the plan." Zearafina asked.
By the gleam in Storm's icy eyes she was sure already knew the answer and the words were already out of her mouth before she could stop herself. "We can't do that Storm. You know we can't do that."
Storm gave her a questioning look. What she was questioning was the difficult part to figure out. Her mouth parted as if she was going to say something before they closed again.
"Im just going to see what they want. No unnecessary harm will come to the intruder.. Zeara," Storm looked at her with stern eyes. "Stay here."
Zearafina swallowed hard. She wanted to argue that she should go with her, incase the intruder was dangerous, but she thought better of it. Storm was already on a short circuit and Zearafina didn't feel like cutting it. So instead she nodded stiffly and padded over to a more hidden spot among the foliage to watch.
Storm made her way to the area and from where she stood facing the back of her, Zearafina could tell by the way her muscles rippled beneath her pelt and how her ears flicked by every tiny sound and by the way her claws flexed from their tendons, that she would be ready for anything, that if someone jumped out at her she would be able to leap out of the way and pin them down at any moment.
That's why Zearafina admired her older sister so much. She was brave and loyal to her family. She'd fight to the death for them. Storm cared for them when they were pups and put up with their madness and ignorance. She put her family infront of herself.
She loved them. She loved her entire family to the death.
Zearafina didn't know what she would do without her. And she didn't like thinking about it.
And that's exactly what she was thinking as Storm made her way to this complete stranger, not knowing where they came from or how dangerous they actually were.
That's what she was thinking when two more dogs suddenly leaped out at Storm from the undergrowth, blocking her off from the now awake canine that had his eyes fixed on where Zearafina was hiding.
Storm let a low growl slip from her lips as her eyes darted from the collared dalmatian to the russet colored male whose eyes were glowing an eerie shade of crimson.
Her eyes eyes scanned over them for a moment, taking in their possible weakness', their stiff formation, the odd leather armor they had strapped around their lower legs, the glinting weapons located in even odder leather pouches on each thigh, everything, until her harsh gaze landed on the black and brown male that had put her in this mess.
Doberman... Pinscer. Male, she mentally guessed. Then her heart stopped. Her eyes flicked to where he was looking, where she knew Zearafina was hiding, watching everything.
She wanted to whip around and tell Zearafina to run, to run as fast as she possibly could and get dad.