Lupa’s Quest: The Journey Begins
I set forth from my master’s house, his den, and went to go find the Broodmother. She would be where she usually was most days; in her room with the gift Max had given her. Perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much. The bitch did love her creature comforts, and she did love Max, so I considered her faults negligible, for the most part. I did have to tell her to spend more time with her animals from time to time, but she was usually able to keep herself in check.
The Moon was full. A good omen for my journey. I could feel my ancestors pelts brush against mine as I walked, preparing me for what was to come. I’d filled my stomach at master’s den on his stores, so I would not need to bother the Broodmother for a meal. I suppose that random things cross one’s mind when they know they face their demise.
I felt bad for lying to Max about how long I would live with him. I had few enough years left, if I remained outside of the Everfree, but if I stayed there, I could not serve my master when he requires my assistance, so I would confront my ancestors and assume my birth right. I had put off becoming the next Wolfmother for as long as I could, but Max’s life was simply too long for me to do anything else. I could have dealt with passing when he reached his sixtieth spring, but to know that he would go far beyond that left me with a yearning to be by his side during that time. My master was no fool: He knew the risk I was taking, but I’d given his warnings no attention, as he’d known that I would do.
I left my thoughts behind and reached the Broodmother’s domain. I allowed myself entry since no one was going to stop me and padded up the stairs to the Broodmother’s room. I allowed myself entry here because I could, and no one had told me not to. I caught the Broodmother doing something she probably hadn’t expected to be caught doing and walked into the room.
“Lupa! Can you please knock!?” The Broodmother covered herself.
“I’ll disregard that request every time you make it. Find a mate to satisfy your urges.”
I felt her anger swell. “Well not everypony can just come by whenever I want them to!”
“Then seek them out. This isn’t the reason that I’ve come for. I am leaving.”
The Broodmother sobered. “What? Already? I thought you said you had years to prepare?”
“I do, but I can’t waste my relative youth while I have it. The journey is hard on the paws and pelt. I must complete it while I’m still free of the aches of old age.”
“...Be safe, Lupa. I know you said that it’s dangerous, but don’t take any unnecessary risks, okay?”
“When I return, I will ask you to call me Nashoba”
The Broodmother felt confused. “Why are you changing your name?”
“It has always been Nashoba. When I return, I will no longer be a servant to master, Broodmother. I will be his equal, if not his superior, though I doubt that would stand for such a thing.”
“...I know you won’t answer any questions, but can you at least tell me where you’re going?”
“Into the Everfree, as all journeys must begin for the Zgon. I will ask a few of our friends if they wish to accompany me.”
“If they want to, I won’t stop them, but please tell them what they’re getting into.” The Broodmother requested.
I flicked my ear to let her know that I would and closed the door behind me on the way out. The Kendani swarmed around me, asking me to open the door for them. I refused, stating that I had only interrupted the Broodmother because of the nature of the Path of Ascension, but they are simple creatures. They understand little of the world besides emotion and food, so I could hardly blame them for understanding. Dealing with Kendani for extended periods of time always made my muzzle itch.
Maybe I’m allergic to stupid?
I set the thought aside and asked Angel to gather the Zgon together for a meeting. He hopped off quickly since he knew better than to waste my time again, so I waited underneath the Gathering Tree and surveyed those that had come. Foxy would be a good choice if he decided to come along with me. His quick witted solutions were often apt fixes for most problems. I waited around for Bearett, or as he is called in our tongue, Krel, but he did not show. Molly the Border Collie would be another fine choice since her physical ability rivals mine, though she is far weaker. She and Foxy had the same issue with being weak, which is why I’d wanted Bearett to come. When he didn’t, I sent one of the hares to find him.
Krel finally made an appearance, so I began once he joined the circle. “Zgon, my friends. Three gatherings ago, I told you of the The Path of Ascension. Today, I am leaving to follow The Path. I ask those of you that are willing follow me to speak now, though I must warn you; the journey will not be easy. Prey may be scarce, and plants may be tough, but it is nothing that we have not faced before while becoming adults in the Everfree.”
Foxy, a badger named Honey, and Krel offered their assistance. All others in attendance wished us well on our journey before dispersing. With nothing else left to do, I set the pace and lead our pack into the Everfree. We were left alone by the Kendani of the Forest since Krel and I had reputations for being ruthless when the need arose, but Foxy and Honey would find trouble if they were alone as they often did in the Everfree. It was of little consequence at the moment, but if they needed to return without us, a part of me worried for their safety. There was no guarantee that any of us would return.
We trotted through the Everfree as quickly as we could, but Honey slowed us down since her legs were even shorter than Foxy’s. Krel eventually tired of her speed, or rather, the lack thereof, so he picked her up in his maw and I allowed him to place Honey on my back as if she were a wounded pup. I did not mind too terribly, but that did mean that Foxy was now tiring more quickly trying to keep our pace, so he ended up on Krel’s back and we made much faster progress.
After passing the Hydra’s swamp, we passed through the evil flowers known to Two-Legs as Poison Joke. Thankfully, as residents of the forest, the flowers were happy to save their poison for another set of victims, so we were able to walk through them without an issue, but it was unfortunate that we had to pass through the large patch of track covering flowers anyway. I myself had strode through Poison Joke to lose extra tails before, but now was the time where I secretly wished that someone would follow us, to escort us back to safety. Now was not the time for doubts, however, so we pressed on through the Everfree.
Dawn was coming by the time we came to the Heart of the Everfree, which meant that we had but a few moments to wait for the Watcher. Krel and I laid down on the bare earth that surrounds the Heart and waited for an hour before the Thunderbird came and landed. Watcher took his sweet time in addressing us.
“LUPA.” He cried, hurting my ears.
“Watcher.” I replied.
He flapped his wings, blowing any Kendani with wandering ears further into the forest. Honey and Foxy held on for dear life. “Your quest begins now. Do you understand what must be done?”
I rose from the ground. “I do, Watcher. It will be done.”
The Watcher let loose another cry. “Then so be it! Travel across the Wolf Mountain, through the Arid Desert, over the Grand Lake, and to the Place-Where-Moon-Touches-Equus. The Lulamoon will be your guiding star.”
“I understand. What is the Lulamoon?” I asked.
“The Lulamoon is a Pony. You will seek her out on the Wolf Mountain, practicing her parlour tricks and so she shall guide you to the Place-Where-Moon-Touches-Equus. Ask not where she will take you, but that you may consume her magic when you arrive. She is critical to your mission.”
I nodded my head and let loose a howl to end all others. My ancestors gathered to join their voices with mine and Krel offered his own roar to aid the cacophony, signalling the true beginning of the quest. With nothing left to say, the Watcher took flight, beating Krel and I down back into the ground as he rose. Watcher always made it a point to show off whenever he could, despite being told by many of the Gathering's members that he often lost plumage by taking off so hard. He ignored every warning most days, and rarely listened to those that were not Guiding Spirits.
With the Watcher gone and my ancestor’s spirits fading, we began anew, this time, heading toward the Wolf Mountain. It would be a simple task to avoid it in its entirety, but it was a part of the quest, and it was the easiest leg of the journey, so we set off without another word. Krel lumbered alongside me as we travelled through the undergrowth of the Everfree, but once we found a fruit tree, we stopped to hunt before continuing any further. Food would be scarce from this point on, so it was pertinent for us to eat when we could. We waited for a Kendani jungle deer to pass by, and after a few hours, a few did. I had Krel take a far loop around them so I could chase our prey into his claws, and once he was in position, I sprang, clearing enough distance to put me but a few feet away from them.
The deer were startled, and made easy prey once I made my second leap. Tearing my target’s throat out was the quickest and easiest way to make my kill, and from a distance, I could hear that Krell had been successful in making one of his own. Honey was with me, so we ate as much of my kill as we could, and I was quite surprised to find that the small Zgon had such a voracious appetite. Upon finishing with my meal, I learned that Foxy had taken his fill in Krel’s kill in much the same way, so Krel and I traded riders since badgers ate more like bears than wolves and foxes more like wolves than bears.
With Foxy on my back, we continued to the main river of the forest and stopped to fill our stomachs with as much water as we could carry before finding a safe place in a nest of brambles to rest. Manticores hated the smell of bramble and Orthus’ hated the feeling of them on their pathetically soft paws, so we were safe for the morning until we decided to move again. The sun was high when we came through the Everfree, and the Wolf Mountain lay much further ahead of us.
We finally broke the forest’s cover and walked onto the open ground of the plains. The Wolf Mountain loomed in the distance, and there was much ground to cover, so Krel and I set our pace moderately, making sure that we would not anger the Elder Spirits by rushing through their lands. I don’t understand why the Elder Spirits are so touchy about Zgon making haste over their lands, but in any case, being haunted would be but one more issue that facing would do us no favors, so we travelled as slowly as we had to. We still heard the Elder Spirits howling with the wind, but we were abiding by their laws, so they could not lay so much as a claw on us, lest Watcher wage war against them. Lest I wage war against them once I return.
Crossing the plain was tedious. I never did like the smell of field rabbit,s and their odor coated the plains freely and thickly, but I had no reason to stop Foxy from trying his paw at hunting for himself. I knew that he would have little luck since we last fed not long ago, but much to my surprise, he managed three rabbits in the time it took for him to catch up to us. The Elder Spirits were appeased when he left on of his kills behind, so the wind stopped howling and our journey across the plains eased considerably since we were no longer fighting against gusts.
It took us two days to clear the plains, despite being able to see the mountains. Our pace was the problem, and being able to finally speed up once we set paws to stone was a blessing that we’d desired since we started across the plains, but I reminded Krel that the pace in the plains was the pae we needed to maintain in the mountains as my ancestors had told me. Neither of us were happy about this, but the wisdom of those long passed was invaluable and we both knew it, so we accepted our fates for what they were. It didn’t stop us from going a little faster, however.
The winding paths of Wolf Mountain were not made for any of the predators I had brought along with me, but Foxy and Honey were proving their worth in catching prey. Honey battled a cougar straight into my paws, and I finished the job while Foxy took the time to hunt more rodents for himself and Honey. Krel and I shared the cougar, but the tough cat meat proved gross. It was just gross. Cat meat is disgusting on the best of days, but Krel had always been fond of the feline fragrance while I detested it to no end. I’d almost rather eat another wolf than a cat of any kind, but when food is scarce, you make do with what you have.
Travelling up the mountain was boring, tedious, and occasionally tumultuous. Foxy was nearly blown off of the mountain by a strong gale, so it was a greed the the smaller creatures would remain in my dense fur for the remainder of our time in the mountains. IT was no issue to me, though Honey’s claws felt amazing against my pelt. She’d chosen to next in just the right spot which occasionally made my leg shake, though I tried to cover it. Krel spent far too much time being amused by it, so I nipped his tail and told him to straighten up before I went for something softer and lower.
He was less amused by that.
Still, he asked to mount me once we reached the summit of the mountain, but I told him to find a she bear to carry his seed for him. Crossbreeding never ends well, and despite how much I care for Krel, I can’t give my life for an abomination of an offspring. He was understandably put off by my denial of his mating offer, but he knew the reason behind it, so no one was surprised when I said no. Fucking horny bears, they’re just as bad as rabbits most days. At least they weren’t as bad as ducks, however.
We slept on the summit, huddling together to keep our warmth and waiting for the Lulamoon to arrive. After a day of hunting with no luck, we struggled to find enough water for the four of us. On the second day, the Lulamoon did arrive, but she was not able to commune with us. In fact, the Lulamoon was terrified, so I yipped at her a few times and turned in circles to show that we were friendly for the time being. The Lulamoon crept closer to us as the Sun set on the second day, keeping her magic at the ready all the while. When she came close enough to lunge on, I trotted toward her and put my head under her hand so that she would no longer be fearful. Krel gave her other hand a lick and our smaller companions poked their heads out of my fur to see our guide.
The Lulamoon petted my coat, but she shivered from the winds, so Krel and I pushed her toward the cave where we’d been staying and we took a moment to slumber for the night. We would wake the other up once the Lulamoon got moving, but for now, it was time to rest.