This story is from a loose idea Skywish, a friend from the Wands and Worlds fantasy fanforum, gave me. It's sort of like a commission.
This'll most likely just be a sort of novella thing. Nothing huge. Enjoy. :3
Flight stood frozen on the hill as she watched the scene before her. The golden light of the distant fire, dulled from distance, slightly burned itself into her eyes. A calm breeze rustled her red-dusted fur.
"So that's what they were talking about at the howling," the old silver wolf beside her said mournfully. Though he was Flight's brother, he was several years older. "The never-ending fire. The star-speakers warned us, but who would believe in the word of a crow?" He sighed.
Flight grimaced. "Something tells me that we'll all be paying a bit more attention to the star-speakers next time they predict the end of all things. If there's a next time."
"I'd like see a next time."
Flight nudged her brother. "Come on. We should tell the pack."
"They probably know already."
"What if they don't?"
With that, the gray siblings ran off into the forest. They crested the hill and sprinted down the other side to where their pack waited.
As they approached the pack's lead male, they lowered their ears and tails. Flight gave the address. "Ruthai Sky-tail," she said softly, bowing her head. She waited for him to return the nod before continuing. "Song and I were watching on the other side of the hill, and... we can see the fire now. It's already come this far."
Ruthai stared at her, along with the rest of the pack. Flight's fur bristled nervously. "Already?" the sky-tail echoed disbelievingly. "I knew it was spreading fast, but... for it to already have come so close..."
"Will the river stop it?" a young wolf called from the crowd.
Ruthai's mate, Shira, shook her head. "The wind will blow the sparks across, and it will spread from there. Though the wind may fan out small fires, it only feeds the large ones. The recent gales haven't at all been helpful. What we need is rain..."
"But it's the middle of summer," Song interjected, aged voice cracking slightly. "There will be no water. The gray weather has passed, anyways. Now it will be nothing but dryness and heat again." Several of the wolves groaned, but the wolf continued. He was highly respected in the pack—especially since he was well-founded as a tala, a speaker to spirits.
"What we need is actual help. Not just from other animals. We need help from the spirits, if we can get it. And you all know I don't take these summonings lightly."
Song was very careful when dealing with spirits. He hated feeling like he was disturbing them, and so tried to call on them as little as possible.
"What kind of spirit would you want?" Ruthai asked warily. "A fire spirit?"
"The fire spirit, yes. Be careful with the articles. Spirits can get touchy about them."
Ruthai snorted. "Whatever. Anyways, why do you want a—er, the—fire spirit? Why not the water spirit? It seems like something else would be safer."
"I know more about this than you do, sky-tail, and you know it. If you agree to the general plan, then you have to let me do the deciding."
Song glared at Ruthai. The sky-tail promptly shut his mouth.
"So," the silver-furred tala said, sounding quite satisfied with himself, "what do you say to the spirit plan?"
Ruthai's lips twitched and drew back slightly. He wasn't particularly comfortable with the idea of spirits in general, but he knew Song was probably right. What could any other animal do that wolves couldn't do? He tossed his dark-furred head and met Song's gaze.
"I guess I have to say yes. I don't know what else to do." He looked at Shira for support.
"I'm fine with it," she said simply.
Song closed his eyes and nodded. "Very well." He turned to the rest of the pack. "Do you have any objections?"
Some of the wolves looked at each other, but none said anything. Two appeared to have mouths that wanted to say something, but kept them under control, knowing better than to let them speak.
Ruthai gulped. "It appears we have reached our decision. Song, when do you plan on performing the summoning?"
"Tonight, if I can. The sooner, the better."
"Good. Meanwhile, we should do our best to make as much of our territory as we can. For now, we'll stay here in the part closest to the fire. As the fire approaches and prey lessens, we'll move further back to regions of more safety and more food. Hopefully the wind will remain calm—or blow in our favor and beat the fire back. Perhaps Song can do something."
Song realized that Ruthai was prompting him to speak. "I'll see what I can do," he replied with duty.
The sky-tail nodded. "Now it is getting late. There is only some light left, and the moon will set soon, too. We should return to the den, and Song can conduct his business." With that, Ruthai and Shira rose to lead the pack to its current sleeping-place.
Song stayed behind, though. "Brother? What are you doing?" Flight asked.
"I want to stay on this hill. It's the highest point in our territory for a while around. Height matters when contacting spirits... or at least, it feels like it does."
Flight nodded, but her eyes were set on the ground. She licked him and then ran off to follow the rest of the pack.
Song took a deep breath and began to make his way back up the hill. The faint light left from the sun and setting moon shone in broken shafts through the trees of the forest. The light silver of his fur caught the light, and in contrast to the dark around him, he seemed to glow.
He reached the clearing at the top of the hill. He found the highest point he could—a boulder reaching slightly higher than the actual summit of the hill. Jumping up onto it, he lied down and closed his eyes. He let himself relax while he thought about what to say. Once he felt calm, rested, and ready, he stood back up, threw back his head, and let out a long, descending howl.
"Poweful beings above," he called, "hear this. I am Song of the valley forest wolf pack, and I speak for us all. We seek the help of the spirit of the flame, and I wish to speak to her."
As the howl's echoes faded away, the stars above shone with an extra energy for a heartbeat. Though the air was dry, a thick fog quickly settled around the hill. The mist before him shimmered and then took on color until they formed the image of a great wolf made of flame. The wolf stared at Song for a long time, growling. The silver wolf gulped. Was this image real? With all the fog, it was hard to tell...
The flame-wolf's soft growls finally subsided. Song took a deep breath of relief. Then it began to speak. Its voice was strange... he could hear it, but he didn't seem to hear it with his ears. It was more like he was merely thinking that he heard the voice, except that he was being forced to think it by some outside force. He knew this feeling, and he hated it. Spirits were powerful and they knew it.
"Hello, my name is Saruma. I'm sorry, but I am not available at this time. Please try again later, or if you'd like to leave a message..."
Song blinked. What on earth?!
The message-vision stopped, and when Song did nothing, it simply said "Have a good day" and vanished.
"I have never, ever seen anything like that before," he whispered to himself in disbelief. Then he grew concerned. Where was Saruma? He thought about who might know. Which spirits would be best? Ones that reached everywhere... the sun spirit? He only saw half the world at a time. The moon spirit didn't see much different, but he might know anyways. But the one spirit who could touch everywhere at once...
Song threw back his head to howl again. "Powerful beings above, hear this. I am Song again, but I have another summons—I now seek help from the spirit of the wind, the singer who touches all and knows all."
The howl faded, the stars pulsed again, but instead of fog this time, a great wind blew. Dust and leaves flew past. Then the dust riding the wind began to swirl and eddy, and soon the patterns began to form a shape, another wolf. The wind-wolf slowly, calmly approached Song and bowed his head. "Greetings, Song. You wished to speak to me?"
Song nodded, glad to have an actual spirit here. "I did, Caelum."
Caelum smiled. "What for?"
Song felt strangely comfortable around this wind spirit. Something about his attitude and tone made him feel like a generally good figure to be around. Song bet that Caelum could talk with any normal wolf, and the wolf would never realize it was speaking to a powerful spirit.
"I... well, I do have a request, but my main purpose is actually to ask for the whereabouts of another spirit. I'd like to know where Saruma is... we need her help."
Something sparked in Caelum's eyes. (Song wasn't entirely sure how he managed that.) "I see. I think I can guess why you're asking this to me of all spirits, and I do know. She... well, this may come as a bit of a shock to you. Saruma is with humans in the west. They're having fire problems of their own."
"Can I summon her here instead?"
"Not now that she's already been summoned. She has to be done with her current job before she'll do anything else."
Song's face fell. "Oh."
Caelum looked sympathetic.
"So she's with humans, huh?"
"In the west... um, where exactly?"
Caelum frowned. "Um... a small village by a big snowy mountain carpeted in forest... there's a river nearby..."
"Caelum, we're wolves. We don't travel all over the world. We know virtually nothing of this geography."
"I'm sorry. I guess I'm just so used to everything... I never really think about explaining things like this. Usually those who summon me just want me to get the wind to do something."
"Oh yeah! About that..."
The wind-wolf grimaced. "Yes?"
"Would you be able to set a nice westerly wind blowing around here? Recently your wind's been pushing that fire super-fast around the forest... if you could keep it back while I get Saruma's help..."
"Fire... oh yes, the big fire over there. I believe lightning started that a few days ago. I'm not particularly aware of what my wind does to things like that... I apologize."
Song's hackles raised slightly. He sounds so superficial! I know he's a spirit, but... can't he sound a bit more sorry about this? It's a great disaster! It's killed countless beings!
"Well, could you?" the silver wolf asked impatiently.
"I suppose so. It's not like you're asking me to send a huge hurricane over an enemy's land... ugh, so many humans have asked me to do that. I hate it."
Song laughed. "That's good."
"Well, sometimes I do, but only if there's a really good reason behind it. Like if said enemy has betrayed me before or something, or if I promised the summoner a favor."
"Hmm. Well, you aren't exactly answering my question."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I get so distracted. I- er, I mean, yes, I will help. You seem worthy."
There we go with the condescension, Song thought with a sigh. Oh well. "Thank you," he said with a nod.
Caelum nodded back. "You're welcome. Oh, and... I don't get many chances to see the world as your kind—I mean, earth-life—does. If you don't mind, I suppose I could come with you and guide you to Saruma. I suppose simply guiding you would be easier than having to constantly update you on where to go, huh?"
Song brightened. His ears and tail rose. "That would be fantastic."
"I'm glad I can help."
Song gave a sort of crooked smile. "Thank you so, so much, Caelum. I don't... I don't know what else to say. And I can only imagine what the pack will think..."
"Don't worry about it, friend. I'll see you in the morning, okay?"
"Okay." The silver wolf's hopeful voice shook slightly with nervousness and a bit of excitement. As he thought, the apparition swirled apart. The dust scattered and the wind died down.
Somewhat anxiously, Song padded back down the black hill. A journey with the wind spirit... how in the world had he gotten himself into this?
BTW, Flight IS still the main character.
And I'm not really sure why Song decided that he should be the tala. Oh well. It all works better that way. smirk