One of the Pack - Chapter 1

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One of the Pack

by tophatgoat

Libraries: Adventure, Fantasy, OriginalFiction

Published on / 1 Chapter(s) / 0 Review(s)

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Strive attempts to complete a dare. Great Harvest - Main Event

Tall, foreboding trees stretched far above Strive as their twisting branches blocked any and all light from the overgrown path he tread down. The soft, incessant chirp of crickets was only broken by the occasional rustle of leaves. Even with the verdant glow from his feathers, only a few feet in either direction was aglow.

Fighting back a violent shiver,  Strive glanced over his shoulder for the hundredth time. The tingle of something watching him had only grown the longer he walked. Clearing his throat, the hawk called out, “Very funny guys, trying to scare me so I leave. I’m not going to back out of the dare, you know.”


The silence felt deafening as Strive took a steadying breath in. He felt like a coil ready to snap, nerves frayed and muscles aching with the held tension. The recent attacks had done nothing to quell the rumors and stories of the Haunted Woods. Tales of stryx disappearing without a trace had been quietly whispered throughout the streets of Sol for years and only increased in volume as the rhakos threat surged. Some stories had more violent ends while others told of the stryx losing their way and succumbing to the forest. 


Strive took a cautious step forward, flinching when a branch snapped loudly to his left. “Knock it off you guys,” the hawk snapped. With a huff he turned and stomped further into the gloomy woods.

~~

The looming evergreens gave way to hazy clearing, tall grass growing around the winding path that Strive was following. The wooden remnants of a small house stood near the center of the field. The roof was caved in, nature slowly reclaiming the structure as moss and vines climbed up the remaining walls. Strive could feel the eyes on him, the feathers on his back standing on end. 


“I’ve almost completed the challenge. You better be ready to pay up,” the hawk cried out. Any boldness he might have had had diminished in the hours spent traversing the Haunted Woods. With a gulp, Strive took a few steps into the glade and paused. When nothing happened, he darted towards the shack and ducked into the doorway. 


The inside was even more overgrown with different fungus and mushrooms sprouting up from the cracked wood floor. Towards the back of the room grew brilliant pink flowers in large bunches. 


Before Strive could move, there was a powerful thump against the side of the home. The grass rustled wildly before a wisp leapt over Strive’s shoulders, its nails scrambling on the ground as it fought to gain traction on the wood it crashed into. Strive let out a scream as he shoved himself up against the wall and drew his wings up to cover his face. 


The two stared at each other for a tense moment before Strive let out an awkward laugh. 


“Are you the one that’s been following me?” The wisp gave a short bark, its body flickering before settling into the shape of a small wolf. Its tail wagged wildly as it pressed forward to nip at the hawk's tail. 


“You nearly gave me a heart attack!I can’t believe you would torment me like that.” Strive tried to be stern, only to dissolve into giggles as the wisp jumped around his feet playfully.


“You’re too cute to kill me aren’t you,” he cooed. “I bet you couldn’t hurt a fly.” The wolf yipped, spinning in a circle before tripping over its own feet. 


“I just need to grab one of those flowers and I’ll leave you be.” Strive shuffled around it, plucking one of the flowers and tucking it safely into his bag. When he turned around, the wisp was digging in one of the holes in the floor. It let out a muffled, triumphant woof as it reappeared with a red ball in its mouth. The wolf proudly sauntered over to Strive and dropped the ball, looking up at him expectantly. 


“Oh, you… want to play?” The wisp spun around once more and took a few steps back. “I guess I have some time.” 


Strive picked the ball up and threw it out the door into the grass. The wisp shot off after it, disappearing for a moment only to reappear seconds later with the ball in its mouth. The two repeated this for a bit, the wisp getting more excited with each throw. 


“Okay, one more time then I really need to get going.” The hawk threw the ball as hard as he could, watching as it bounced against the trunk of a tree and into the dark woods. The wolf ran after it, form flickering once more as it returned. 


It gave a sharp whine as Strive stepped away, tail falling as it gave a small tilt of the head. 


“You’ve been here alone a long time, haven’t you?” The wisp answered with a softer whine. “How about this, I’ll return tomorrow and we can play some more, okay?” Strive tried to smile, tried to offer reassurance. The wisp let its ears flatten against its head, body dissipating more. 


Strive moved further down the path, turning around to see the wisp gone with only the ball remaining. He frowned, unease starting to settle in his gut as he whispered one last goodbye and hurriedly pushed back into the forest. 


A sharp, ragged howl and the thumping of paws followed him out of the forest, until he was clear of the gloomy trees.

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