Thunder was dreaming.
Thunder was running, a black forest being blurred around her. Her heart was hammering, and her face was cold. Deep snow surrounded her. Something was hunting her, and she couldn't get away fast enough.
As she ran, she realized that the hunter was gaining on her. What it was, she couldn't tell, but it was dangerous, and that was for sure. Thunder kept sprinting, her muscles aching, burning from the pain. She quickly looked down; her front leg was ripped. Thunder winced, but kept on going.
All of the sudden, the snowy ground disappeared from under her feet, and she tried to keep balance on the new slippery surface.
Thunder's heart pounded and she scrambled to find a hold. She ever so carefully picked her way across the ice, but froze when she saw water rushing beneath the thin layer she was standing on.
Then the ice cracked, and Thunder panicked. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shadowed wolf grinning maliciously at her. Thunder flung her head around.
"Have fun, black wolf," the wolf snarled out, an evil smile on their lips. And then the wolf turned away, walking back into the forest, just as the ice cracked more, sending Thunder into the icy water. She was sucked beneath the ice, and she tried to claw out from under it.
It didn't work, and she was swept away, her lungs screaming for air, which she couldn't get. Slowly, her limbs stopped working, and a last bubble of air escaped her mouth. Her paw dragged uselessly against the top of the ice, a last sign of her attempt to escape…
"Thunder! Thunder!" A voice echoed around her, and Thunder's eyes flew open, fully awake now, out of the horror of her dream. There, blocking her vision was the blocky head of Cloud, who had a concerned look on her face. "You okay? You were yelling in your sleeping. It sounded like, 'Help! Help! Get me out of here! Can't breathe!' What were you dreaming?" Cloud peered at her sibling carefully. "Thunder…are you shaking?"
Thunder hadn't realized that she had, but she found out that she was. Thunder was never scared. Never. She was always the bravest one, and would never run away, or even show that she was scared.
"It was horrible," Thunder said, fright pouring into her voice. She saw that all of the other To-Bes were looking at her, including Song. "The shadowed wolf, Song. He was there. Chasing me. I went out on to the ice…it cracked…trapped…under…couldn't breathe…" Thunder broke into a sobbing mess. She looked at Song. "This is the beginning, isn't it?" Song nodded sadly. "I can't do this. I'm going…" She stood up. "And none of you are coming with me!"
All of the sudden, Stone bolted into the den. "Every one! Stay put! We have enemy wolves on our turf, and we don't want any of you getting hurt." Stone looked at Thunder. "And don't go. You won't survive." Then, Stone bolted out of the den, going to the Elders.
"Well, this should be exciting," Cloud said, stretching. "Who's ready to hunt some enemy scum?"
Petal squeakily replied. "You shouldn't do that, Cloud. Stone said to stay here!"
Cloud rolled her eyes. "Who cares about that wolf? Let's go, Thunder, Song!"
"I'm not too sure about this…" Song said carefully. "But it should give a chance to get the dream off of Thunder's mind." Song sighed. "Let's go."
Thunder carefully looked up, some light returning to her blue eyes. "Okay…why not? We're already in a bunch of trouble, just about to get off probation…Let's just ruin our lives again! I'm in!" Thunder was grinning now, tail wagging. The dream was in the back of her memory now. "TO WAR!"
Song and Cloud howled, and bounded out of the clearing. Stone glared at them, and he was guarding the entrance to the camp. "Oh, no you don't!" He said, growling, going into a crouch.
Thunder paused. If Stone was willing to fight them, than this must be serious…But her wolfish ways promptly ignored that fact, and besides, Thunder wanted to fight. She dropped into a crouch too, as did Cloud. Song just stayed back, watching wearily.
"You three…What am I going to do with you? If you want out, you'll have to fight me." Stone was being serious this time. His eyes glinted challengingly.
"BRING IT ON, OLDIE!" Cloud howled, tail wavering slightly. Stone's ears went back, and he snarled slightly.
Then, Thunder couldn't take anymore of this. Her muscles quivered, and she leaped forward, landing a blow on Stone's ear, before she was hit on the head and was flung sideways.
"Thunder, Thunder, Thunder," Stone scolded. "What did I tell you? Control your actions, and be patient."
Thunder's ears burned with shame. That was right, Thunder should have been more careful…
Thunder looked at Cloud, who was trying hard to get her attention. Cloud's tail did a little flick, and Thunder knew what that meant. When they were Pups, Thunder and Cloud would always fight Hail, and they had made little movements that meant something. A tail flick meant: "Attack from both sides! You get left, I get right!" Thunder responded with flicker her tail too, meaning that she understood.
Thunder looked at Stone, who had a curious look on his face. He was clearly confused by the exchange.
Cloud moved into position, as did Thunder. Stone looked wearily at them, and then Cloud flicked her tail quickly, and both sprang at the Claw.
"What the—?" He said, before being taken down by the two little wolves.
Thunder slashed at Stone's belly, and Cloud pounded his head. Stone was quickly dazed, and Song shouted. "Run! Go, go, go!" Thunder didn't hesitate, and ran out of the camp with Cloud and Song at her tail.
After running a long distance, Thunder stopped. She was breathing hard, and knew that it wouldn't be a good idea to be out of breath when enemy wolves were around. She looked up at Cloud, who had a good nose.
"I smell a wolf. Not familiar, so I'm taking it that they're the enemy wolves. They went that way." Cloud pointed her muzzle north. "Maybe they were fleeing. That would be a good idea, giving the size of our pack."
Song sniffed. "If they had come into our lands with a purpose, they wouldn't flee."
"That's right, young wolf." Song, Thunder, and Cloud all jumped and turned around. There, in the shadow of the trees, was a light red wolf. Behind him were two small grey wolves.
"You are smart," the mysterious red wolf said, circling the To-Bes. "Smarter than most. And yes, I have a purpose here." He glared at the three wolves. "You may not know why, but do your best. Why have you sent a spy to my pack?"
"A spy?" Song quivered. "All of our wolves are here. No one was sent out."
"Really now? How come at the beginning of fall there was 18 wolves, and now 17?" The red wolf looked at Cloud, whose eyes dawned realization.
"You guys! He's talking about Hail!" Cloud whispered.
"Hail? You have Hail? She's okay?" Song said quickly to the red wolf. "Thank the wolf gods! I was sure she was going to die in the cold…"
"She's okay, for now. Are you sure that she's not a spy?" the red wolf inquired.
Thunder puffed up angrily. "She's our sister. We'd know if our sister was a spy. She was banished from our pack after saying that she wanted to take over the pack. She was joking, of course. It's what all To-Bes do."
The red wolf looked down on Thunder. "She mentioned To-Bes, too. We've never heard of them, before. Are you To-Bes?"
"Duh," Cloud snorted. "Do we look like Claws?!"
"Interesting…" the wolf said.
Thunder took a step towards the wolf. "Okay, enough about us. Who are you, and where do you come from?"
The red wolf chuckled. "Feisty. But yes, I suppose that I should talk about myself…
"I am Ember, the Alpha of the River Pack. Your sister, Hail, ran into our territory. She was frightened when she met one of our patrols. She banded the patrol together against one of the other wolves, Thorn. A brave thing to do, for a youngling. Thorn is now banished from our pack, mostly because he acted like an Alpha, though he was not. But that is beside the point. I'm guessing you want to see her?"
Song looked at Ember and nodded, but Thunder cut in. "Of course we do, but she can't come here, and we won't go there. So…we're at an impasse."
"Hmm…yes. I see. Well, I suppose that you will see her eventually. Now, I have pressing matters. You know Stone, yes?" The young wolves nodded. "I have business with him. Show me the way to your camp."
"Now, wait a minute! I'm not letting a stranger into our camp!" Thunder protested.
"Well done, Thunder." A voice came from behind the To-Bes. It was Stone. "I was watching this whole exchange. Well handled, all of you. But for what you did back at the camp…that's not so easily excused, but we'll find something for you." Stone looked at Ember. "Brother, what news do you bring?"