The First Suitor (Clandestina)

When doctors and healers began to converge in the realm of Clandestina, learning of its natural healing magic, its blancræft, the daimons of violent illness and death were forced out. The fée, who respected violence and death as they were volatile in their own way, returned to their plane of Faery. Everything that bound and tames the spirits of death was suddenly gone.

The magic of a realm was innate. While other realms survived without these chains, Clandestina began to crumble.

Plagues descended upon realm. They infected man, beast, and vegetation, bringing famine along with it. Wars sprung up as people tried to hoard the few resources that were left. In trying to keep sickness at bay Death began to thrive.

One last daimon remained, a ker by the name of Mora. As much as she delighted in this, she knew that if it was left unchecked then everything would die, and there would be nothing left. She was the last Keeper of Death, and thus it made her a Protector of Life as well.

A kingdom had formed during this time of war, the four main factions finally brought together under one ruler. This new king, who took the title of Roi, promised to bind together all of the people of Clandestina– the humans, the fée, and even the keres.

He was without a wife. Mora showed herself to him, told him the secrets of the realm, that it not only held magic of healing, but also of violence, and death. She showed him noircræft as well as blancræft, and even nekrocræft, weaving the three together so he could do anything from heal minor injuries to return the dead to life.

The realm began to heal. A second guardian kept much at bay, but when Mora wished to show her magic to more people, to begin to fix more, the roi became possessive.

“You are mine,” he said. “You chose me, out of all men. You will not show anything to anyone else. Make me yours and we will rule together.”

She complied. She continued to teach him until there was only one last test. As she was a Lady of Death, after this, he would be a Lord.

“Take your own life,” she told him. “Kill yourself, come, enter my plane and learn what it truly means to be a ker.”

That night they went to bed together. He ingested poison chosen by her own hand and taken with his own, and as they made love he experienced both little and true death.

Mists surrounded him. He was in Akhlys, the place of judgement before ones afterlife. Before him was a throne of limbs and bone, vines growing from the flesh and binding the seat together. Mora sat on the throne in her true form– great black wings like a bat unfurled behind her, her robes stained a many colors of red, her eyes the same crimson.

“And here are you mine,” she said. “Kneel, accept me as your queen, and you too will gain all of my powers.”

And here the roi shook his head, stepping back from her. “No. I am your king. I will not kneel before you.”

Before she could protest, say anything else, he used the cræft she had taught him to return his own soul to his body and left her.

He was alone in bed that morning. Quickly he took from his drawer a small knife and cut into a finger– his blood ran black, like it had ever since he began to learn magic from Mora. So he could still perform the deeds that made him great.

Time passed. Mora did not return to him, but as he had completed her last test, it did not matter. He was a lord of death, capable of even returning himself to life after death! He continued to rule. He finally married. He could not seem to impregnate his wife, but it did not matter as he continued to live on. He aged, true, but far slower than most men, bringing rumors that he had fée blood in him.

Then rumors began to circulate that there were men and women who were beginning to cure ills that should not be curable even with blancræft. A few more even said they could return the dead to life. The roi, now older than any other living being, found himself furious that Mora had betrayed him. He called this ‘necrocræft’ vile, and unnatural, and anyone learning or practicing such magic would be put to death.

They were killed. They had not passed her last test and remained dead.

Plagues sprung up again. Illness took root.

Mora still did not return to him.

It did not take long for the roi to be overthrown, by his own great-great-grandnephew at that. He was accused of practicing the same magic he outlawed, and when his blood ran black it was confirmed. He was sentenced to death.

The day of the hanging he felt his neck snap, but he then hung there, eyes wide, unable to feel or move or breath, yet undying.

He was buried amid silent internal cries that he had not died! He was still alive! But after they shut his eyes by force he could not even open them again.

Mora finally came to him. She appeared in his coffin, pressed up against him, wrapping her arms around him. He felt her breathing, felt her skin moving against his. She stroked his cheek and for the first time in days he could intake some breath. It was ecstasy. His flexed his fingers and slowly moved his arms so that he could hold her in return.

“Please.”

“You are not mine,” she replied into his ear. “And so you shall never enter my plane, never again see my throne, or have your life judged. You chose to return to this and so you may keep it.”

He was alone again. His breath was stuck in his throat, his arms no longer feeling. His eyes were half-open, staring into darkness. He lived. He could not die.

Mora never gave her heart in the same way. She continued to teach in secret, both men and women, her cræft. If rumors amid the people gave false information she let it be. And when her last test came she continued to offer her magic at a price. She hurt when they returned their own lives, but allowed it, still being with them and letting them help her. One day one would take up her offer, but it was not to be for a very long time.

Slave (Scorpiurus)

Even after years away from his service it was ingrained in her. She stepped back with her foot even before he was in the room, hands clasping behind her, and she sank to the floor in one fluid motion. Balanced on one knee she crossed her other leg over the first and bowed, turning her head only just above the stone, exposing her pulse, and waited with closed eyes. She was perfectly still in the strained position—this slave’s dip. Moments passed until he entered the room and walked towards her, his steps the only sound announcing his presence, and then there was silence as he stood before her to judge her and decide her worth. Finally, the tips of his fingers brushed her hair and he placed his hand in hers to pull her up. She unwound, knowing that if he desired, with a twist of his wrist her arm would be broken, but with his gentle leading she would rise like a dance.

For the first time in years she saw her king. Golden eyes stared at her, matched by his jewelry and circlet-crown. His black hair was tied up in a horse’s tail and the end rested over his shoulder. He wore no shirt, the heat that radiated off of him speaking of a day spent out in the desert sun, and she saw the scars from many battles across his chest. Some were new, and a few even fresh.

“What do you desire of me?” she whispered.

Another woman entered the room before her king could reply. She was clothed in purple robes and jewelry herself, and Tivela again made a move to curtsy, but Asar’s hand cupped her chin and forced her to remain standing.

“Tivela, my dear, you are free by my command. Bow to me if you desire it, but to no one else.”

A woman came to stand by his side, and she glared at the former slave, but said nothing. Her king finally let her go and wrapped that arm around the woman.

“Tivela, this is my betrothed,” he said. “She is the daughter of a rival, and I wish her to be taught my ways. You know me better than any other living soul. Teach her, and you will be rewarded.”

She knew better than to protest, though she wished to do just that. It was unheard of for a slave, even a former slave, to teach the queen anything.

“I am yours to command,” she said instead.

Feral (Noctua)

“These are your wolves?” their king asked. His drógi nodded from the shadows, Dante’s pale face a beacon in the darkness. It was midnight and Mother Moon was hiding herself tonight, and so save for the glow of their skin it was dark.

Volos stepped down from the dais, looking from one boy to the other as he made his way to the one on his left. They were identical in face, angular cheeks with harsh eyes glaring at him in mistrust. Their skin was as his own, an opaque moonlight, but their hair was the color of flame. They were children of the sun. Illegitimate in their world.

But they trusted Dante, at least enough to stand here before him, a stranger, at Dante’s asking, frozen not in fear but in readiness to spring. And he himself of course trusted his second and dear.

Taking off his glove slowly, so they would understand what he intended to do, he reached out a bare hand to touch one of the boys on the cheek. Before skin touched skin there was a growl, and the king paused. The brother had not moved, but the warning was clear.

“Instinct,” Volos whispered not turning his head. “You have been raised as pups from a young age, not knowing any civilized life until your first years were behind you. So I shall put this in terms you understand.” And he growled back, his head turning into a black wolf’s head on his human body, his hair becoming fur with as much haste as a shadow-puppet changed shape. When his form was again entirely man he turned to look at the boy.

“I am your king because outside of the forests we need civilization. Dante is my trusted friend, my raven, my fox. You are his. I will command you as I please and you will obey. But you must trust me. Let me earn this trust.”

With that he finally touched the cheek of the boy in front of him. A shock went through his hand, a chill up his spine. A moment later neither of them were solid in form and as heavy mist they rose into the air and melded together. When Volos pulled away they reformed as men, their clothes returning from the shadows, and they floated to the ground.

He proceeded to do the same with the second brother, this ascension letting him know their minds and hearts in a way that was infallible. It too allowed them to know him.

“Dante,” he said as he stepped back from the boys, Lyrian and Leith. “They are feral, but loyal, as good wolves are. They are accepted into the court under your hand.”

“Thank you.”

Wed (Astrarctia)

She was marrying another. After years as her beta, her confidant, her partner, the one she swore would be her king!, she stood beside another and gave herself to him.

Yet he too stood at her side, silent, obedient, her wish his desire. He had vowed such to her in a ceremony so very similar to this, hers for far longer, and hers in ways no one else could understand.

She did not love the man. Her husband was a political match, a powerful ringian who would help Jasmine in ruling those of this territory, and no more. While it was hopeful feelings would grow, and more than just power was taken into account, it was only hope.
He had more than hope. He had years. He had had her body, her heart, her mind. She had his entire being.

The kiss she gave her new husband was formal. No stretching on her toes out of eagerness, no wrapping her arms around his neck. Their walk was clumsy as they moved arm in arm. Kyva knew how to keep pace with her, how to cover her, how to steer her. He knew her openings, her blind spots, the rhythm of her body in a fight and in lovemaking. He had saved her life and she his. Right now her husband was a hindrance and beside him she would lose her life.

They parted at the end of the aisle, their respective betas moving to their sides. The king’s was a man, a cousin, and the two fell into an easy and practiced step as they walked away. Kyva took Jasmine’s hand and then slid his arm around her waist. He felt the dagger at the side of her thigh. In this position it would be faster to unsheathe her blade than to grab his own. She too kept an arm up on his shoulder, ready to slide down and take his sword while he stepped in front of her and she readied herself at his back.

The ringian were both a bestia and a group who began as mages, but the years had made their magia part of them in so much that they were now born with it in their blood. They hunted werewolves and were their own court and kingdom amid the land of Astrarctia.

They walked to the reception inseparable.

“If I may speak to the rhyia as her beta before we continue on?” Kyva said to those around him.

Jasmine nodded and the rest of her party went ahead leaving them alone. No one thought it odd or unusual. They were alpha and beta. They would not be disturbed.
When eyes no longer watched them Kyva stepped in front of Jasmine and knelt before her.

“You are mine,” he said to her. She did not reply. In turn he stood and pressed up against her, kissing her, forcing her to step back. He moved forward until she was up against the wall and then shifted her weight, gathering her up into his arms so she dangled in the air. “You have always been mine, and I yours.”

Her reply was a kiss with equal fervor. She reached towards Kyva’s trousers and he shoved her skirts aside. Only moments, but they consummated her marriage while her husband waited for her.

“The last time,” she whispered, smoothing her skirts after they stood apart again. “I am wed now, Kyva.”

He ignored her, tilting up her chin for a parting kiss. She stretched up on her toes to reach him and he enveloped her again. His bit her lip and tasted her blood.

Then, for the first time, he denied her.

“No. You and I were tied long before this day.”

She said nothing but turned to enter her reception.

He licked his lips, straightened his clothes, and followed.

Return (Clandestina)

Lord Dorian, Steward of Piques, sat across from Duc Felicien, who had been his childhood friend so very long ago. They had been playing in a creek in the woods when the younger boy disappeared at Springfinding. Dorian himself could barely remember it, but the after-effects had been grand. The duc and duchesse had held out hope for several years, every great change in season bringing with it a wish that their only son would return, but the hope faded as time went by. The steward at the time, his father, took over more and more duties as the grieving couple found themselves unable to. With their deaths came an end to the noble line of Piques. Until now.

It seemed as if only a fraction of the time had passed for Félicien, though. He was still young, a boy, and Dorian’s own children could now be his peers.

“How long were you there?”

“Ten years. Or maybe a hundred,” Félicien replied with a shrug. That those two measurements were vastly different did not seem to bother him. “Time flows, but rarely at a steady pace. How long has it been in this plane?”

“Sixty years. Exactly. You disappeared at Springfinding and today is—”
“The first day of our Midspring, yes,” the young man interrupted. “The celebrations began last night. We escorted those out who would help prepare this plane for Spring, and I went along because I reached my majority.” He smiled and his grin broadened as he added, “I came to cause some mischief, but it seems I have brought much of it with me.”

“It is less you,” the steward said, “and more your return, that has us all..”

“In a tizzy?”

“..Yes.”

The boy was enjoying this far too much. But he was, after all, still a boy. He was too young to be an adult in Piques, but a fée’s majority was at the start of puberty. So he was fourteen or fifteen. That he considered himself fée was also disturbing.

“Well then,” Félicien said, spreading his arms and leaning back in his chair, balancing on the hind legs in a way that should not be possible. “I can always put things to right by just going back—”

“You cannot. You are the rightful Duc of Piques, you have duties.”

“I, duties?” His chair slammed down and Félicien laughed. A dangerous glint entered his eye. “You say this land is mine to do with as I desire?”

“In a way.” Dorian tried to chose his words carefully. “I have been handling the affairs since your parents deaths, but there has been no duc for many years. You have been returned to us, please, perhaps you may take some time to be here. Do this for me.”

“You? And who are you to me?”

“Dorian Louis, your steward. And a friend, from when we were young. It was on an adventure together that you were lost.”

“Dorian Louis,” Félicien repeated softly. A chill went down the steward’s back as he realized he had told someone of Faery his whole true name.

“Very well, then.” Félicien inclined his head. “On our friendship, I shall stay a time. Perhaps there is a reason I have returned after all.”

“Thank you.” Tension eased from his shoulders and Dorian leaned back in his own chair. This would be difficult. He was tempted to let the heir go back, make Ophion continue his duties as planned, but it would be wrong to deny the land its proper ruler. A steward was all well and good, but they were not the duc.

A soft knock had both looking over to the door. Dorian bade them enter and a young girl in rich clothes came in. His daughter, Ophélie.

Out of the corner of his eye Dorian saw Félicien stand and bow to her (more than he himself had gotten).

His daughter curtsied in kind, and then gave her attention to him. “Papa, forgive the interruption, but I was told to come give you aid? Brother has already left.”

“Ah, yes, well- my dear, this is His Grace, Félicien, the rightful Duc of Piques. If you would be so kind as to show him around his home.”

She turned now-curious eyes to Félicien and smiled. “Of course. Your Grace, if you would like to follow me.”

“Thank you, mademoiselle. And thank you, Dorian.”

“I am not the duc yet, am I?” Félicien asked as they left the room. “Surely there must be some sort of ceremony.”

“Well, yes, but as both of your parents are deceased, it is your title already. Though you do not seem of age, so perhaps the actual duties shall not fall to you for a while yet.”

“I am sixty-four,” the boy said proudly. “At least, I was born sixty-four years ago. But I feel not a day over fifty.” When she looked back to him, unsure of how to take his words, he laughed once more.

“And how old are you?” Félicien asked, walking beside her, focused more on her than the path they were walking.

“Fourteen years and a month,” she said. “The month is important.”

“Of course it is.”

“Now, I will show you around the domain and tell you what I know. Brother shall help you after, he knows more than I as he is Papa’s heir, but is not home right now.”

“Oui, mademoiselle, as you say!” Félicien stepped out in front of her, walking backwards while facing her. She tried to ignore him, looking over his shoulder, but it was difficult.

“Your name, my dear?” he asked, having studied her from head to foot. She was pretty, with chestnut hair that was pinned up, and almost-violet eyes.

“Ophélie, though you may continue to call me Mademoiselle.”

Félicien grinned. “Ah, but if I understand this, I am your duc. I may call you as I please.”

“And I am your guide for the day. Without me you shall be lost and confused and the cause of much trouble.”

“I like being trouble.”

She stopped at this and he continued for a few paces before hitting a stand that held a decorative vase.

“Like that?” she asked, as he whirled around to make sure it did not fall.

He turned back around a bit sheepishly. “Yes, just like that.”

“Well then, if you shall follow me?”

He returned to her side, taking her arm and gesturing with his free hand that she should lead the way.

“And your name?”

“Félicien Faunus.”

“Is that your true name?”

“Of course not.”

Excerpt from Delphinium (Happy Valentine’s!)

“So what did you do this last year?” she asked as they began to walk around the clearing. They heard water and made towards the stream.

“Surgery work,” he replied. “We had corpses to practice on, to be able to know what went where, and why, and how.”

“How did you receive corpses?”

“Several people and families generously allowed us to use their loved one’s bodies after death.”

“I can not imagine that is popular. Did you share each.. Body?”
Pierre grimaced. He had not wished to inform Lizzy of this specifically. “Truthfully most were criminals whose deaths were not deemed important enough to give full funerals. At least this way they would be… of use.”

She took this in stride, nodding her head slowly though shuddering.

“A grim year, then.”

“Quite. Though it was not all gloom and horror.”

“Do tell?” While they had walked their hands had linked and she leaned against him as they found the river.

“We were students after all. Pranks were pulled, curfew ignored, alcohol drunk in excess. I was among the oldest so I mainly watched over the younger men.”

“And when you were younger?” Lizzy probed, reading into what Pierre had not said. He did not meet her eyes, staring up at the trees quite pointedly.

“Your brother and I had our fun at times.”

She laughed. They had gotten into enough trouble as children to guess the level of possible mischief Pierre and Piers could do when alone and bored.

“Anything illegal?”

I killed a man, he thought immediately. Several in fact, but one stood out to him in that moment. A prisoner taken straight from his hanging to his slab, so the students could see what was as close to a living body as possible. He had been not quite as dead as they had thought. After seeing the blood flowing and hearing the man let out a moan, even opening his eyes, many of the students turned away and one ran to alert a professor. Pierre had made it seem that he checked for a pulse, but he squeezed the very damaged windpipe. By the time someone with more authority was in the room the man was well and truly dead. It was deemed a delayed hanging. Pierre remained to finish the lesson even though he had been offered a pass at seeing a man die right before his eyes.

“No,” he told her.

“A pity. I hear from Piers that the best moments are those that might get you a night in jail for your troubles.”

“Oh, did he? What tales did he tell his dear little sister?”

“I believe there was a time when the boys in your dorm snuck in strong wine, or went out on the town. Perhaps those were actually in chronological order, it would explain much.”

“I never did such things.”

“Of course not. Though I now shall have to find myself another companion,” she said with a smile and glance to him. “I would like a partner with experience in such things so I have some guidance when I deem to try.”

Before he could answer she dashed ahead to where the stream was in view. He gave chase. At the edge of the bank she did not stop, pulling up her skirts and jumping to a rock that jetted out in the middle. She made it, arms waving to keep her balance and getting one shoe wet, but staying on the rock. With a laugh she turned and curtsied to him.

“And you think yourself safe there, Lizzy dear?” he called.

He took even less care of his attire, jumping straight into the water, mud, and stones. She gasped, looking around for another place to go, but the far side of the bank was, as named, too far.
He reached her then, grabbing her and swinging her in his arms as she shrieked.

“Pierre!”

“Hush or I shall drop you!”

“You would not!”

He pretended to, getting another shriek from her that had him laughing as he carried her back to shore.

“No, my dear, I would not,” he agreed, finally, placing her down in the grass. Not after she had been ill. Another day, perhaps.

They were the same height at the moment and he kissed her before getting out himself and looking down at his ruined clothes. His shoes were wet and the feeling was quite uncomfortable out of the water. He knelt down and began to untie the laces.

Lizzy bit her tongue to keep from asking naughtily if he would also take off his trousers, seeing as they were wet up to the knee.

When barefoot Pierre hopped back into the stream with the shoes in his hands.

“What are you doing?”

“Leaving my shoes,” he called over his shoulder, going back to the rock. He made sure they would not fall into the water before again returning. “They are quite nice shoes, but hardly my only pair. I am sure there are fée around, perhaps the gift would be appreciated. We cannot spare much food or drink.”

Her one shoe was hardly as wet as his had been but she sat and began to undo her laces as well. Without a word he bent down to help her.

“I shall buy you an even lovelier pair when we reach Piques,” he promised as he turned back to place her shoes next to his.

“Oh, you do not—”

“I insist.”


Not exactly a Scene as it’s from Delphinium and not a stand-alone, but I thought it fitting for Valentine’s. You’ll recognize Pierre’s thoughts from the Scene ‘Hanging.’

Wolf Girl (Astrarctia)

She should return to the woods. She’d lived in this town for five full moons, longer than she usually stayed in one human place, but she had been comfortable. Another like her lived here and though she had not met with him he felt like family. It was more than she usually had and she had not wished to give it up.

But they knew. She did not think it was her that was caught, but it was a warning she could not ignore. If a ringian had not already been sent for one would be soon.

The full moon had been last night, and unlike months before many had hid in their homes from late afternoon, when the moon first appeared in the day-sky. As a born werewolf she could change shape whenever she wanted and was not even forced to by the moon, so she had not dared shift. She had wanted it, desperately, and felt dizzy and on edge all night, but she sat with the other urchins and homeless of the town in the meeting hall and tried not to bring attention to herself. They were told they had been brought to the hall for their own safety, but more likely it was to make sure they were human. She stole a cap to wear over her white hair and did not look up, hoping her amber eyes would seem hazel in the shadows. She had not slept at all.

Now it was dawn and she felt safe enough to leave. She would eat, hide things she could not take, and disappear. Once she was far enough in the forests she would shift and find a place to curl up and sleep. If she was lucky she would run into a pack that could take her in for a time, but she had been a lone wolf before.

She had caches all over the town and she went from one to another. Most had food, meat she had caught or stolen and then packed in snow, and some had clothes. One had a knife she had found in the woods. She ate the food and left the clothes- maybe some of the other urchins would find them and use them. She would not need them with her fur. The knife she wished she could take, it was a good quality, but would be useless with her teeth and claws.

Every moment she stayed was another moment she was in danger. Some of the shops were opening for the day, people were beginning to leave the safety of their homes, and all would be wary and on the lookout for a werewolf in their midst. She decided she had eaten enough and abandoned the last few caches, heading towards the woods. It would be best if she was not seen, even though she had ‘proven’ her humanity. It would be foolish to be seen going into the forests the day after a full moon.

Voices stopped her. She froze behind the thick trunk of a tree and listened. They were speaking to each other and it did not seem they were looking for her.

“Go!” a woman sobbed.

“Quick, son.” A man’s voice, gruff with emotion.

“But if I leave they will know!” The third voice was of a boy.

“If you stay you will die.” The man again.

The wind picked up and blew towards her, bringing her a wealth of information. The man and woman were married, and the boy was their son. He also had the scent of wolf and blood on him.

She peered around from her hiding spot. The boy had a hand wrapped in bloody bandage, and his clothes were torn and ragged. This was not the werewolf she had scented before, though, this werewolf seemed to have shifted for the first time last night, not even aware enough about what was happening to take his clothes off.

She began to walk to them slowly, but the boy turned to her as the wind changed direction again, and now gave him information about her. The parents looked at her too and the mother’s eyes widened in fear. The father moved towards her, as if he could silence her and protect his son. If she was a human girl who heard what was being spoken, and then told the town it could be death for all of them.

“She’s one too,” the boy said, figuring out what her scent meant, moving to stop his father.

“Was she the one—”

“No,” the boy said quickly. “It was a male, a man, that..” He moved his hurt arm. His father took a step back, but did not look away from her.

“I’m Inisaira,” she said, reaching them. “Aira. I was leaving after last night.”

“Ander,” the boy replied when his father said nothing. “I was too, I guess. I… changed last night.”

“We want him safe!” his mother said. “Please, help us. Take him far away!”

How could she turn him away? He was was taller than her by a few inches, older than her,but she had certainly been a werewolf longer. She had felt safe enough just knowing a werewolf was in the same town (even though she now thought horrible things about the wolf that had bitten a child). This could be the start of her own real pack.

She began to take her clothes off. The man turned away, but the mother and boy did not. She was still young enough that it was not unusual to be naked in the summer months. Of course this was winter.

“Hurry,” she urged Ander, throwing her shirt on to the ground. “We will run faster as wolves. Your parents want you safe, that is more than I’ve seen in some other places.”

Once they were both naked, the boy looking more uncomfortable than her, she nodded to him. Good, he was listening to her. “You were bit, but you can still turn into a wolf if it isn’t a full moon. You need to mean it- say a prayer to Luna and picture yourself shifting.”

It took him a few minutes to change. Aira was a wolf in only a moment, and she observed the boy while he concentrated. Finally his limbs began to move and fur sprouted from his body. The mother gasped and she hid in her husband’s arms, but the father did not look away. Ander crouched and then fell in the snow, but quickly his new form appeared, one accustom to snow and the forest.

He stood, shaking off the snow that clung to his golden fur, the same color as his hair. He was an older puppy, like Aira, neither yet adults as people or beasts but needing to act without guidance from adults.

They regarded each other in this second form. Their scents filled the air and both knew even more about each other than when they had scented each other in human form. Ander knew she was a born werewolf, the alpha, and that she was tired and worried, even if she tried to hide it. She knew he was bitten a few days ago, the bite tearing when he shifted last night and reopening wounds. He was worried too, even afraid, but was determined.

She took a step to him and looked up into his eyes. He tilted his head in confusion, and then slowly bent his head in understanding. He licked her snout, crouching before her.

Brother, she said, nudging him. Beta.

Sister, he agreed, nuzzling her face. Alpha.

She looked to his front paw. He had taken off his clothes but had forgotten about the bandage. It was now lose and twisted up in his fur. She bent over and grabbed an end in her mouth, pulling and shaking her head until it came loose and she dropped it. When his wound began to bleed and he whined she licked at it until it stopped.

She glanced to the parents and gave a nod so they would understand. The father nodded back, and then mother tried to hide her tears by picking up their clothes. With a meaningful look to Ander she dashed off into the underbrush. He followed.