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message 1: by Briaq (new)

Briaq  (briaq) Though it was dark, the forest's trees shimmered with a faint glow, casting a dim, calming feeling through the undergrowth.
A bush rustled suddenly, and a strange, four legged creature padded into the dim clearing in which others like it were gathered around a rock. Pelts of different colors shimmered with the strange starlight that flickered with each movement. Each creature had at least one stripe running down each flank, if not two or three.
The creatures looked like wolves, with large paws, and broad, hunched shoulders like an anteater's. Powerful muscles rippled beneath their pelts and on their flanks and shoulders. The creatures were called cawnifs.
The cawnif continued to pad to the gathered cawnifs. It was brown, and three stripes, one white, one black, and one dark gray ran down each flank.
As the approaching cawnif padded past the others to the center of the clearing, each paw print glowed for a moment, and the starlight seemed to gather around his paws.
The gathered cawnifs were murmuring to each other, in low voices and growls. As the brown cawnif shouldered his way through to the center of the clearing, the gathered cawnifs began to sit or lay down on the mossy ground. They turned their attention to the brown cawnif. He padded to the center of the clearing, and leaped onto the rock, his muscles rippling beneath his brown fur.
"Hello," he began in a low, calm voice. "Cawnifs of MoonPack, how has your hunting been?"
Several murmurs of "good" or "well" could be heard from the gathered cawnifs.
"Good," said the cawnif on the rock. “And now, my reason for calling you here." He took a deep breath. But before he could speak, a dark gray cawnif with two stripes, one white, the other brown, let out a bark that ended in a howl.
"You always worry too much, Blazingclaw. What is it this time? A slight food shortage? A TravelPack that crossed just a little too far into one of the Pack's territories? Some--"
"Lionstripe, an Alfa of NightPack is speaking! Show some respect!" barked a tan with brown patches and a single white stripe she-cawnif. But Lionstripe didn't stop.
"You always think every little problem is something worth--"
"NightPack and IcePack are thriving in their permanent territories, I agree, but as snowfall season draws nearer, TravelPacks continue to journey across their territories on the ShadowPath."
Another cawnif cut in, a dark gray with a black stripe.
"So what?! The TravelPacks know to stay on the ShadowPath. They know they’ll be driven out by either IcePack or NightPack if they try to invade and claim the territory for themselves. Blazingclaw, nothing bad could happen. They’ve lived there for many seasons, with no huge conflicts.
“Sure there’s been an occasional border skirmish between IcePack and NightPack, and first-time TravelPacks may get a bit confused and wander into the territory a bit too far, but nothing terribly bad has ever happened. The Packs are strong enough to drive out any TravelPack that thinks they could take the territory. NightPack is about to battle FirePack for about the hundredth time, and of course they will succeed in keeping their territory, as always. I wasted my time coming here!" Other cawnifs murmured agreement, and some began to stand up.
"Leaptooth, I know you want only the best for the Packs, where you have kin. But you have to face facts," Blazingclaw growled, raising his voice so the others would listen. "Sorrelfur and Scaleleaf were hunting on the edge of our SkyTerritory, near the river, where Littleclaw has his den." He nodded to a smaller white cawnif, who also had three stripes, a black one, a brown one, and a tan one. "They reported another SkyPack having crossed the border, instead of staying on the SkyPath. They scented trails of the other SkyPack leading deep into our territory, and found the remains and evidence of the SkyPack killing our prey. Even SkyPacks that follow their living TravelPacks know to stay on the SkyPath, and only hunt three tree-lengths from it. The SkyPack cawnifs are here to drive us out! Littleclaw told me his den was attacked and destroyed by the ancestor cawnifs, and he was driven out." Littleclaw bowed his head.
Cawnifs leapt to their paws, barking and howling things like, “No way!" and "What will we do?!" It took several minutes to quiet them down.
"No way, I don't believe you!" barked Lionstripe.
"Scaleleaf, Sorrelfur, Littleclaw, tell them what you scented and saw.”
Two light brown she-cawnifs, one with a tan stripe, the other a black stripe, stood up and padded up to sit in front of the rock where Blazingclaw sat. Littleclaw limped forward and lay down next to them.
Suddenly, cawnifs gasped as they saw the smear of red on his hind leg.
"That's...that's impossible! We're a SkyPack, we're...we're, no offense, dead, so we can't be injured!" howled a light gray she-cawnif, leaping to her paws.
“How can this be?” murmured Lionstripe, a deep growl in his voice.
"That's right. Lionstripe, I was attacked and injured by another SkyPack cawnif. He was not from MoonPack, or from SunPack with whom we share a border. He was huge and strong, and black with a brown stripe. He said he'd kill me if I didn't leave my den so the others could shelter there. After seeing myself wounded, I decided it'd be better to retreat, than find out if I really could be killed a second time," said Littleclaw quietly, so that the other cawnifs has to stop arguing and listen closely.
"Black? Are you sure? Black cawnifs have never been seen in SkyPacks, not even in TravelPacks," said a brown and tan patched cawnif with a black stripe. "Are you sure? It could have been dark gray, or--."
"I know what I saw," growled Littleclaw quietly, but determinedly. "It was black as night."
"And," the light brown she-cawnif with the black stripe added, "I scented a powerful, evil scent. Sorrelfur, too." She nodded to her companion, who shot the arguing cawnifs a glare, as if daring them to challenge their evidence.
A shimmering white she-cawnif with a brown stripe and tan patches stood up and barked over the other cawnifs, silencing them. "If there truly are other cawnif ancestors invading our territory, we must drive them out. And SkyPacks always travel with their living kin, so that means that not only MoonPack is in danger, but also NightPack and IcePack. We must drive out the intruders, and we must warn the Packs."
"I still don't believe it, but I haven't fought for moons, and a fight with some black cawnifs sounds great," growled Lionstripe. Other cawnifs barked and yelped and howled their agreement, rising and leaping to their paws.
"Then it is agreed. Tomorrow at dawn, we will launch our attack. Toadtail, Gorseclaw, Fishstripe, go find where the black cawnifs are now, and report back so I can make our battle plan," said Blazingclaw, leaping off the rock. "Other MoonPack cawnifs, go gather as many cawnifs as you can and tell them we need help in this battle. And we will need herbs, if we are to be injured, so the former medicine cawnifs should gather some. This will be our base camp, and we will bring all injured cawnifs back here. Hurry. We must fight while we are strong, and while the element of surprise is on our side."
"And who put you in charge of all this?" challenged Lionstripe, as the other cawnifs raced off through the glowing undergrowth to fulfill their given duties.
"No one. But I believe I am the most organized and efficient, and the other cawnifs do not seem to mind my authority over them," he replied to Lionstripe, whose fur was bristling. He was angrily sheathing and unsheathing his claws into the eerily glowing moss, tearing it to shreds.
"Fine. But watch out during the battle. I am deadly, and you know it." Lionstripe turned and stalked off into the undergrowth. Blazingclaw stared after him, a bit puzzled. When he had been alive, and Lionstripe was one of his Alfa Hunters and NightPack and IcePack were allied TravelPacks, he had known that even when he died MoonPack would not choose Lionstripe to be the next NightPack leader. He had been excellent at defending the Pack, but he was a bit too violent and quick to fight. He would have led NightPack to devastation, possibly destroying IcePack, their allies and friends, with whom they had divided their newly claimed territory at the time with. When he had come to join MoonPack after his death to wheeze-cough, he had still been furious about not becoming Alfa of NightPack and earning his Alfa name and stripe.
Blazingclaw had a bad feeling about Lionstripe, that he somehow still held a grudge at Blazingclaw and MoonPack, even though he was a part of the SkyPack and Blazingclaw had only done what he thought was best for his Pack at the time, by choosing Littleclaw to lead his Pack while they still organized their new territory. The strange thing about the Alfa Hunter was that he’d always refused to use his special power, even in the tightest situations. Even though Lionstripe was a loyal MoonPack member, Blazingclaw couldn’t help but feel that the grudge might lead to further devastation…


message 2: by Briaq (new)

Briaq  (briaq) * * *
"Retreat! Hurry!" Blazingclaw called. He opened his jaws and shot black flames at the black cawnif that was charging at him. It dodged, leaping over the flames and shot a powerful black beam at Blazingclaw. He ducked, feeling the energy whistle over his head, brushing his fur. That must be their special power, he thought, like NightPack’s black fire and IcePack’s ice.
Another MoonPack cawnif launched himself onto the black cawnif, and they rolled away, scratching fiercely with their unsheathed claws. Another black cawnif launched itself out of the undergrowth and shot another beam of dark energy at Blazingclaw.
This time, it hit him on the shoulder, and he was forcefully slammed into the tree behind him. It burned where the beam had struck, and aching pain shot through him where he had struck the tree. Blazingclaw was dizzy for a moment, as his head had also hit the tree, but then he looked at the wound on his shoulder, watching in horror as blood gushed out. The fur was singed around the edges, and the skin burned, and a thin line of smoke curled around the wound. The wound stung furiously, but anger flashed into his mind, and he leaped to his paws, charging at the black cawnif. He leaped, unsheathing his claws in mid-air, and landed squarely on the enemy cawnif’s shoulders, raking his claws down its back and hooking his claws in the skin.
The black cawnif, having thought Blazingclaw was defeated, yelped in surprise but reacted faster than Blazingclaw had thought it would. It rolled over, crushing Blazingclaw. His aching shoulder burned furiously, but as the black cawnif continued to crush the Alfa, Blazingclaw bit it hard on the scruff, and shot black fire. The black cawnif leaped off, surprised and terrified, and ran, yelping in terror, towards the territory border and SkyPath.
"Retreat!" Blazingclaw called again. He could see the enemy cawnifs were stronger and that MoonPack was slowly but steadily being pushed away from their base camp and out of their territory. He stumbled in the direction of the base camp, his paw steps unsteady from pain, and was suddenly yanked up by his scruff by Lionstripe.
"Lionstripe, what are you doing!?" barked Blazingclaw. “I don’t need help; I’m fine!” Of course he could see that Lionstripe could tell he was lying; his tone of voice had pain in it, and the wound in his shoulder was stinging and burning. But something besides concern for the Alfa glittered in Lionstripe’s eyes.
"I’m not helping you,” the Alfa Hunter sneered, his words muffled by Blazingclaw’s blood-caked fur. “I’m killing you," he growled. "You really didn't think I would let you beat my kin, did you? When I discovered my ancestry was to DarkPack, I felt more loyal to them than I did MoonPack. And when you and your little MoonPack cawnifs chose Littleclaw to lead NightPack instead of me, even though I was the strongest of the Alfa Hunters… Now, I have my chance to get revenge. You will go to the Dark Lands when I kill you, be imprisoned and suffer there like this SkyPack was. I helped DarkPack escape from the Dark Lands, and told them of the great territory we had, that they could take it for themselves.
“I met with them one season, and their living kin live close to your living Packs’ permanent territories, but they want more territory, and will succeed in driving out your kin! Now they will take over MoonPack’s territory, and DawnPack, our living kin, will drive out IcePack and NightPack." He threw Blazingclaw to the ground, and before Blazingclaw could conjure any black flame, Lionstripe ripped his unsheathed claws across the past NightPack leader’s flank, and blood spattered out. Then the Alfa Hunter grasped Blazingclaw’s neck in his jaws and bit down hard on Blazingclaw's throat. Blazingclaw yelped and went limp, the light dying from his eyes.
Dropping the bleeding brown cawnif, Lionstripe growled to another black cawnif. "Kill them. Kill them all. Send them to the Dark Lands, where they can’t warn their living kin, and where they belong."
* * *
Blazingclaw awoke, to see darkness all around him. His shoulder still burned, but not as fiercely. He peered at the wounds on his flank, and then began to lick them, cleaning off the dried and fresh blood from his pelt. Then he took in his surroundings.
The sky was black, the trees were black, and no stars or moon shone.
Other MoonPack cawnifs, still appearing around him, were beginning to awaken, too. As they licked their own wounds and looked around, some began to howl. Not a triumphant howl, like it should have been, but a low, wailing, defeated howl that defeated Packs often did after losing a battle, usually while mourning for their dead. More and more cawnifs joined in the howl. Except for Blazingclaw.
"We will not surrender to them," Blazingclaw vowed under his breath. "I will send an Omen to the Packs, entering a cawnif’s Dream World to warn them, to prepare them for the fight that is soon to come. I will not let MoonPack, or IcePack and NightPack, be defeated by these dark, blood-thirsty creatures, which truly do deserve to be imprisoned in a dark place like this, forever. And MoonPack will not be defeated, and neither will IcePack or NightPack. I will watch them and guide them, no matter how hard, until DawnPack and DarkPack have been driven out and imprisoned here again, forever."
He took a deep breath, and, though it made his aching muscles ache more, howled a triumphant howl, and barked, “We will not be defeated! We will fight and lose our lives a hundred times more if it means reclaiming our lost territory!” He ended this with another howl. Then his stomach rumbled. He hoped there was food here, since it was such a dark place. Maybe the cawnifs of DarkPack had to endure eternal hunger…?
Blazingclaw turned from his Packmates and padded off through the dark trees, thinking of the fate of the living Packs if DawnPack attacked them.


message 3: by Briaq (new)

Briaq  (briaq) Chapter 1:
This was quite odd. Reedpup sniffed at the black log in front of him, covered with black lichen.
No wait, he suddenly remembered. I’m Reed now. And tomorrow when I wake up, Brackenclaw’s taking me to meet MoonPack and place my paw print in the Pool of Prints, and I’ll receive my new Hunter name. Almost forgetting that he was in this strange Dream World, he let out a small, joyful yip. Any other cawnif that hear this would think he was a pup or To-Be again, but this was a dream. His dream. Right?
Reed, after moons and suns of training, had made it to the Hunter rank of his Pack at last. Along with his sister, who used to be Wavepup, but was now Wave. Reed hoped that when Wave received her Hunter name, that the name Brackenclaw and MoonPack chose would be a good one for her. Reed wanted to be called something strong and fierce. He was no longer a To-Be, training and learning and following the orders of the NightPack Hunters. Now he could order the To-Bes around, and sleep on the softer moss covered bedrock, instead of on the edge where it was cold and hard.
Then his thoughts drifted back to this strange Dream World. The dream world he always went to was sunny, with lots of undergrowth and prey that he could hunt. Speaking of prey, he thought. Glancing around, he spotted a gueeble nibbling on some sort of black leaf. A black gueeble.
Strange, he thought. But a gueeble’s a gueeble I guess. He crouched. This would be his first catch as a Hunter of NightPack, even if this was a dream.
The brown cawnif slid forward on the strange black moss, and leaped, unsheathing his claws. But the moment his claws should have pierced his prey’s body, the gueeble dissolved in a wisp of smoke that made Reed cough, leaving its half-eaten black leaf behind.
Even stranger. I’ve always been able to kill prey in my dreams, without it dissolving, he thought. He cautiously took a step forward, and sniffed the leaf. It didn’t smell of anything, just as the black, lichen-covered log had.
A twig snapped behind Reed, and he whipped around, unsheathing his claws, expecting to be attacked. But it was only a brown cawnif, with three stripes.
Three stripes! He’s a leader! If he’s not a dream…, he thought. Though he did keep his claws ready, he let the leader approach him.
“Greetings. You are Reed, a new Hunter of NightPack. I would have met you tomorrow, when you place your paw in the Pool of Prints. But this cannot wait another moment longer,” said the brown Alfa cawnif, sitting down. The brown cawnif winced in pain. Reed noticed a deep wound in the cawnif’s shoulder. The Alfa beckoned Reed to do the same, and Reed did, but keeping his distance.
“Who are you? And where am I? This isn’t the normal Dream World,” said Reed. “And how do you know me?” he added suspiciously, and then licked his brown pelt, running his tongue over the black stripe on his flank. This was a test, to see if the strange brown cawnif would attack while Reed was supposedly distracted. But the Alfa cawnif made no movement, just looked around nervously.
“There should be another. This is important. I must not be delayed,” he murmured, looking around. Then he opened his muzzle and began to answer Reed’s questions. Or tried to, but another cawnif appeared from behind a black boulder, whining in terror and running blindly, tripping over sticks and stones.
“Help!” the young white she-cawnif looked at the Alfa cawnif with terrified blue eyes. She stumbled forward, tripping over a black twig. A black stripe ran down her side, the same as Reed’s.
“Help!” she repeated. “Where am I!? This isn’t my normal Dream World! Please help—.”
“I know you!” exclaimed Reed, jumping to his paws, thankful to have something familiar, even if this cawnif was from IcePack. “I’ve seen you on patrols across the border. You’re…Mosspup, right?”
The white she-cawnif looked into Reed’s orange eyes. Relief seemed to come over her. She was only slightly younger than Reed, a To-Be from IcePack.
“Yes, but I’m taking my final test to become a Hunter tomorrow. And you’re Reedpup. Who’s this cawnif? He looks like an Alfa, with his white, black, and dark gray stripes. And where am I?” She said this all very quickly, and the terror returned to her eyes. Her white pelt seemed to shine like snow on a mountain in the midst of all the darkness. “Actually I’m Reed now, and I’ll be getting my official Hunter name tomorrow,” Reed replied, and couldn’t help puffing out his chest proudly. Then Reed noticed the starlight in the Alfa cawnif’s pelt.
“You’re one of our ancestors!” he realized. “But this isn’t SkyPack territory! Where are we?” Reed repeated his question.
The Alfa cawnif beckoned the terrified IcePack To-Be to sit down. She did, slumping down closely to Reed, her bristling fur finally flattening. She began to groom herself as the brown Alfa cawnif began to speak. Reed noticed the Alfa’s claws agitatedly being sheathed and unsheathed into the black moss, shredding it. His voice quavered as he spoke.
“I am Blazingclaw, a former Alfa of NightPack,” the Alfa began calmly. “NightPack and IcePack live in permanent territories, as does MoonPack in the SkyLands. But we…we’ve been driven out. You will not meet us when you come to the Pool of Prints. Instead, you will meet the Pack that has driven us out. DarkPack.”
“But this isn’t SkyPack territory. It’s dark and not at all like what the older Hunters say SkyPack territory looks like,” said Mosspup, her tail twitching nervously.
“You were driven out? How? Why? And where is this place?” Reed added. It couldn’t even be a part of SkyLand, where all ancestor cawnifs live.
“You are right, young ones. Be quiet and I will tell you what happened, and why I’ve called you here,” said Blazingclaw, looking over his shoulder. “But I cannot stay long. This world, what I call the DarkLands, is where an evil Pack of ancestor cawnifs used to live, and where MoonPack’s been driven to.
“You know that TravelPacks usually travel with their ancestors, but they stay on the ShadowPath, right? Well, we have a SkyPath, and that’s where traveling SkyPacks are supposed to travel on. But the other day some MoonPack cawnifs found scent trails from another SkyPack leading deep into our territory, and then one cawnif, Littleclaw, was attacked, and wounded. These cawnifs, called DarkPack, are black with a brown stripe. They were imprisoned here, in the DarkLands, but a MoonPack cawnif betrayed us and helped them escape.
“We launched an attack on the DarkPack cawnifs, but they defeated us. Instead of dying, we came here. We had all our wounds except for the ones that had killed us, and I discovered there’s no food here,” Blazingclaw finished.
“But I just saw a gueeble. I tried to catch it but it vanished,” said Reed.
“Exactly,” growled Blazingclaw. “I think I know how to get out of here, but it will require a long journey for MoonPack, and, for you and your Packs to band together and attack DarkPack’s living kin, DawnPack. Once all of them are killed and their living kin all dead, they will again be imprisoned here and we will be freed into our territory. But I must warn you, these cawnifs are bigger and stronger. They have no code of honor, saying a Hunter does not need to kill to win their battles, and to leave cawnifs unable to defend themselves alone. They have trapped all of MoonPack here, ‘killing’ us.
“Please, you must help us, or when your time of death comes—no, even when you come to meet with MoonPack tomorrow—you will not meet MoonPack, but DarkPack, and they will kill you and imprison you here.” When Blazingclaw finished, Reed heard Mosspup whimper beside him. He was scared to, though he didn’t want to admit it.
“Tell your leaders. Prepare to fight. And do not lose. We will root for you here, and guide your paws as much as we can.” Blazingclaw’s figure suddenly wavered. “I cannot stay, young ones, but the fate of not only MoonPack, but maybe the whole cawnif world could rest in your paws. I have a feeling these evil, greedy cawnifs will not stop at just IcePack, NightPack, and MoonPack territory, but will eventually seek to destroy and drive out and imprison all Packs.” Blazingclaw dissolved in a wisp of smoke, and Reed’s eyes shot open.
It was still dark, and most of the cawnifs were still asleep. Reed stood up, careful not to wake Wave, who was lying next to him. But she was already up, and sat up, too.
“I’m scared, Reed,” she said quietly, fear in her blue eyes. Scraps of moss and leaves clung to her gray pelt, which also had black flecks of fur in it. Reed suspected that she’d been up all night, tearing up her nest with worry.
“About the battle?” he asked.
“Yes. I’ve never fought in a real battle before. I don’t want to die before having the chance to place my paw print in the Pool of Prints and receive my Hunter name.” She whimpered and pressed her nose into Reed’s brown fur, which also had scraps of moss in it from his sister tearing her nest.
“I know,” whispered Reed. “I don’t want to die, either. But FirePack cawnifs are cowards, and they’re a bit smaller than us. They’ll have been weakened from travel, so they’ll be easy to beat. And I’ll fight right next to you.” Wave was trembling, so Reed licked his sister’s ears affectionately, and then added, “Let’s go out to the camp commons and see if there’s anything on the prey-pile to eat.” He nudged her hindquarters and Wave stood, still quivering.
“Thanks, Reed. And,” she dropped her voice so if any of the other cawnifs were awake but not up yet couldn’t hear her, “please don’t tell any other cawnif that I’m scared.”
“I won’t,” Reed promised. He slipped between the other sleeping cawnifs, careful where he put his paws so that he wouldn’t step on a stray tail or paw. He stepped off the soft-bedrock, where the cawnifs slept, and led his sister out into the camp commons. Once Wave had stepped past Leafpup and Nettlepup, the other To-Bes, and stepped off the bedrock, she shook herself, sending scraps of moss and leaves flying everywhere.
“Hey!” protested Larkpelt, who was grooming himself in the shadows just outside the entrance to the sleep-den.
“Sorry!” yelped Wave, as the older Hunter began to lick his dark gray pelt again, glaring at Wave with his green eyes. His tan stripe stood out in the darkness. Reed began to clean off the scraps of moss and leaves from his brown pelt as well.
After shaking himself to get rid of the last of the scraps, he looked to the piece of coral where Brackenclaw, their leader, stood to make announcements. Must still be asleep, thought Reed. The dark brown cawnif always sat up there in the morning to survey his Pack. Reed knew he needed to tell the Alfa about his dream and Blazingclaw’s request as soon as possible.
“Come on, Reed! There’s a tipeck here that we can share!” Wave dragged a small creature with ears like a hare, the tail of a fox, and feet with four toes that pointed in each direction, splayed out, out of the prey-pile, sending two gueebles rolling across the small camp clearing. Reed quickly scampered to pick up the half-beetle, half-mammal creatures that were always cross-eyed back to the prey-pile before any other cawnifs noticed. The Alfa Hunters and Elders would not appreciate dust-covered prey.
“Larkpelt, it’s your turn for guard duty,” said Blackstripe, coming in through the camp entrance, a hole in the bramble wall.
Larkpelt padded past the dark gray cawnif, grumbling something about how he hated guard duty, and out of the camp.


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