Chapter Ten

Hail trotted gloomily through the dark woods. The rain-scented winds blew hard against her fur coat and she let out a long shiver. Her green eyes searched unhappily into the woods, and every tree, shadow, rock, and bush reminded her of her Pack. The bush over there was in the shape of the mighty wolf Rain…even if he had been the one to banish her into this terrible abysmal state. The trees ahead morphed into the pine that sheltered the To-Be den, and the shadows formed into the shape of a wolf she didn't recognize.

Then the wolf shape grew glowing blood red eyes.

Hail leaped back and yelped, pulling her tail in between her legs. When the auburn wolf looked up again, the eyes were gone and the shadow looked harmless. "I'm going insane. I just know it." She looked up at the dark sky and sighed. The moon was still fat and shone down on her, as if it was forgiving her of her terrible deed. "I'm sorry, Queen. I'm sorry…."

Hail frowned and padded in a circle, thinking about what she had lost…her sisters. Now, when it was too late to tell her sisters how much she loved them, she realized she cared for them more than anything else on this world. Hail did not know what she had done wrong to deserve this twisted fate, but this is how it was. So she ran. Faster than any wolf could have thought possible. The wind tore at her pelt, and the blossoms in the trees above her became a blur, as her perfect life had become atrocious. Her paws became wings and she flew. Away from her tears, her confusion, her life with the Pack. No…none of it mattered anymore. Perhaps she could find a small Pack to join? She would need to look as pitiful and loyal as she could if she was going to be allowed into a Pack…especially a caring one like the one she used to belong to.

Hail miserably slowed to a trot and stopped to stare into a small pool of water. Her sullen expression reflected back at her, a painful reminder of her misery. But as she looked closer, she saw more than her self…she saw all of her sisters. Song's body gracefully lined up with hers, and like Cloud, she had many colors. Thunder's round eyes were also very similar to Hail's, even if the colors were different.

A drop of water rippled the image in the puddle, and Hail looked up to the sky. The moon no longer was shining down on her; instead, a thick cover of dark clouds hovered ominously above her. She let out a long sigh, and when she looked back at the puddle, everything was distorted. All things that reminded her of her sisters had disappeared, and she felt a sharp tug at her heart. The reflection was gone, along with all things good.

"What is a Rogue doing here?" A prickly brown colored wolf stood above a sleeping fuzzy body, eyes narrowed in disgust. "I thought Ember made a pact with them a few moons ago! They shouldn't be here, the filthy things. Always sneaking and lying, those Rogues." The words were gorged with venom and hate.

"This wolf looks very young," said a white, aged female with a grey ring framing her face. Her voice was warm, wise, and calm. "Perhaps she was separated from her Pack?" A hesitant paw tapped the sleeping auburn body. Hail barely shifted at the touch.

The prickly wolf snorted. "Right. I honestly doubt that. Come on, let's kill this filth now." The mysterious brown male wolf stood up and paced around the sleeping body, prodding the she-wolf harshly with his muzzle. Even more disgust crossed his angry features.

"Thorn! Look! She's barely more than twelve moons old! There is no way that this adorable puppy is a Rogue."

The dark brown wolf—called Thorn—growled at the sleeping mass of fur, but sat down on his haunches. "You better give me a pretty darn good reason why I shouldn't kill that filth right now. And don't use that 'Oh, she's so young!' excuse again. It won't work, Ring."

Hail stirred slightly. "Cloud, Thunder…stop bickering…it's too early…"

Ring looked down at the auburn wolf with a kind expression in her eyes. She quickly flashed Thorn a look that said "You better not hurt her," and then went to lick the young wolf's ear. "Hey there," she said softly, her yellow eyes gazing into the freshly-opened green ones. "What's your name?"

It was as if she had been struck with lightning. Hail jumped up, went into a fighting position, and let out a deep snarl. Her green eyes flashed between Thorn and Ring, and she quickly decided that the brown wolf was the greatest threat. Hail angled her body slightly towards Thorn. "Why don't you tell me what I'm doing here and who you are?"

"Calm down, honey." Ring took a tentative step forward. "I'm Ring, and that's Thorn. We belong to the River Pack, which is just a bit over that ridge over there." The white wolf looked over her shoulder. "As for what you're doing here, we don't know. Do you want to tell us?" Honey-colored eyes gazed kindly, but warily, at Hail.

Hail paced in front of Thorn, eying him, sizing him up. "I'm Hail, and I am from—was from—Mountain Pack." She spoke slowly and her green orbs never left Thorn's face, except for the few times it flickered to look at Ring. "I was banished for cursing at the Moon and Clouds. I was sneaking out to see Bay, and the light from the moon gave me away. The Pack chased me out, and I ran. I ended up here, I guess."

"Liar!" Thorn hissed. "Tell me why you Rogues are breaking the pact!" He lunged at Hail's throat, but she easily side stepped him. Her eyes burned into his skull.

"I'm not a Rogue." Hail's mouth burned at the foul word. "I am a To-Be. I made a mistake and now I have no where to stay. That's all."

The sun beat down on them, watching their every move. Ring gazed at the newcomer with curious eyes, and spoke softly. "Do you want to join our Pack? The River Pack? We'll ask Ember—our Alpha—of course, but I don't think he'll have a problem. He likes Mountain Pack." The elderly wolf smiled at Hail. "Well, I'll show you our camp. I'm sure you'll love it."

Hail followed silently behind the white wolf. She smirked when she heard Thorn growl and mumble to himself. She knew that she was making him angry, and it was fun. Hail didn't like the brown wolf much, but quickly forgot her fun when she reached the top of the hill. Below her was a mighty crystal-clear river. It churned quietly where it split down the middle, forming a small island. Wolves were prancing around on the land mass, and Hail's eyes widened. "You live on an island? How cool is that?!"

The auburn wolf pranced after Ring. Her tail was up and her eyes were shining. Hail quickly overtook the elderly white wolf and sprinted to the water's edge and looked at her reflection. She wasn't a pretty sight—her fur was caked with mud and stuck up in random directions and her coat had lost its glossy sheen—but Hail didn't care. Her face was alive and happy. Energy just radiated from her.

Hail glanced warily at the water. The river was deep, and the mud swirling in the center of it showed that a strong current was lurking under the seemingly gentle surface. It would be dangerous and stupid to try and cross it where she was.

"Over here. There are a few stones that we jump across on."

Ring, of course, was right.

When Hail stepped onto the sandy beaches of the island, she was awed. The island itself was actually bigger than it appeared from afar. A huge willow tree towered over the front tip of the camp, and there was even a complete forest! The woods weren't huge like the ones that covered the Mountain Pack territory, but Hail could see different dens that lurked under the sweeping pines. Little rodents and such twittered in the forest, too.

"Ring! Ring!" A voice shouted from across the island. Hail stepped forward when she saw a multi-colored wolf bound towards her. "Branch is being an insect! He's so stupid!" The unfamiliar she-wolf paused. Her red ears flicked forward and she stopped. A white paw slowly reached ahead before being quickly pulled back. "INTRUDER!" she yowled at the top of her lungs. "WOLF IN THE CAMP!" Her black, red, and white tail waved skywards as she charged at Hail.

"Whoa, there!" Ring shouted. "Calm down! This is Hail, she's from Mountain Pack. She's not a danger to us."

The she-wolf stopped her attack and smiled guiltily at the alarmed Pack members that had charged towards Hail. "Oh. Sorry then." The female walked over to Hail and grinned. "I'm Dance. Don't bother saying it, I know. My name is weird. My parents were Loners that lived in the East. Apparently, "Dance" is something weird that humans do. I've never seen it, but I want to. Mother and Father just said that it was really pretty, like I am." The black fur on Dance's back rippled as she spun around in a circle excitedly.

Hail scrutinized Dance. She seemed friendly and open enough…like a very excitable, playful Thunder. Except not as whiny. And big-headed. And obnoxious. She was fine. "I'm Hail, and I'm from Mountain Pack, like Ring said. I was banished for cursing at Queen Moon and Lord Cloud…it was stupid really."

"Like Branch!" Dance paused and shook her head quickly. "Oh, no. He didn't swear at them, but he's stupid." She beamed at Hail.

"Oh."

A puffy brown wolf stormed up to Dance. "Are you saying bad things about me again? What have I done to deserve thi—" The brown wolf with a white face paused, just noticing Hail. His demeanor instantly became shy and cautious, and he backed behind Dance. "Oh. Hi there…" he said softly.

"And this is my dumb brother Branch!" Dance announced loudly. "I think he likes you! He's never this shy. He's shy, usually, but backing behind me is a first. Wow! You are really something…" the multi-colored wolf rambled. "I mean, honestly! I have never seen him…"

Hail tuned her out. "I'm Hail. I'm from Mountain Pack. Got banished. Blah, blah, blah." She winked playfully at him.

"And then there was this one time…" Dance kept talking.

"My sister is kind of annoying," Branch said softly, keeping his eyes trained on his light caramel paws. "Her mouth isn't connected to her brain, I think."

Dance flipped around and jabbed her paw at him. "You shut up and take that back!" Branch just shook his head, trying not to smile. "Argh! He is such an idiot! Why am I related to him?!" She pouted and started to slink away, faking misery. "I am not wanted here anymore. I shall perish now!" She galloped over to the river and jumped in, an expression of agony on her face.

Hail's green eyes widened in horror. That water was dangerous! She sprinted over to the bank, as did Branch. Dance was nowhere in sight; the water foamed hungrily. Hail looked at Branch in horror. Their noses accidently touched, but neither of them paid any mind to it. They just jumped apart quickly and continued to search the water's edge.

"Ooooooh! You kissed!" Dance cackled. The auburn and the brown wolf both flipped around, startled by Dance's sudden—and very wet—appearance.

Both wolves spluttered at both her claim and appearance.

"The water is calm behind the little nook on the shore," Dance explained, eyes still glittering with mischief. "But nonetheless, you kissed." Her expression furled. "Wait. Ew! My newest best friend just kissed my brother. Oh gross!" Dance shuddered in disgust. "Okay, no more kissing for you guys. That's just nasty." Dance shook her head and pranced toward the camp, leaving Hail and Branch alone by the water.

"Um…maybe we should head back," Branch said. Neither of them looked at each other.

"Yeah. We should."

As they followed Dance, Hail couldn't get two thoughts out of her mind: "Wow that was embarrassing," and, "Branch is very cute."