Lupa's Quest: The Path to Ascension

by Ringtael


Moon-Touches-Equus

Moon-Touches-Equus

It had been a long journey across Equestria, but we still had one more plain yet to cross. I hoped that we would not lose another member of our Pack, but everyone seemed to be holding strong. Krel and Honey were bonding now more than ever and I was becoming closer to Summit as we walked along. The Lulamoon was still the focus of our attention and we made sure that she knew it. Summit and Honey had gotten over Foxy’s passing after our day of rest, but it was obvious to all that it stayed on the Lulamoon’s mind as we trekked on through the plains. It was unfortunate, but Ponies have always been tender when it comes to the passing of friends.

The plains held little to eat for us, but on occasion, there were wild plains deer that Summit and I teamed up to hunt so we could keep our stomachs full. The Lulamoon was no longer bothered by the sight of us consuming the flesh of another, though her own rations were running short. She’d been keeping us fed through the Dead Forest and hadn't really had a good chance to resupply. Sadly, Foxy was the one who was knowledgeable about flora and whatnot, though my nose and Krel’s natural ability to sniff out certain foods were key in keeping the Lulamoon fed. Honey found a few tubers that could be eaten after being roasted, so that was what she took along with her.

The plains as a whole were boring, but after travelling across them for four days, we eventually came to our destination. The Fire-Spitting-Mountain was within sight and we didn’t have much longer to go. I tried to do as my master would and tell jokes to keep everyone's spirits up, but it just was beyond my abilities to do more than poke fun at others. I made fun of Summit for her bobbed tail, Krell for his bad smell, and Honey for her random spikes of energy, but I couldn’t bring myself to find fault in the Lulamoon lest she crack the facade she’d put up. It was a little stressful walking on eggshells around her, but she was still healing and I knew that fact all too well.

We eventually came to the Fire-Spitting-Mountain and from there, we climbed it. My place would be at the top, but no one could follow me beyond there. The Lulamoon would get her magic and I would receive it in some way so that we could continue with our lives. I held off mentioning this to her just in case I actually had to eat her, but I thought that it felt wrong to do so, both morally and spiritually. I spoke my worries into the empty air and my ancestors pelts brushed along mine, guiding me to her side rather than to her tail. I was grateful for the symbology and now that I knew that she would not die, I felt better about the mission.

The Fire-Spitting-Mountain was tall, though the path was easy to traverse. Honey ended up on Krel’s back since her short little legs couldn’t keep up and I agreed to carry the Lulamoon when she twisted her hoof on a rock, though I was quick to let her know that this was a one time thing. I do not like being ridden, and for anyone barring Max, I would not allow someone on my back more than once. Foxy had been there a few times, but Foxy’s weight was barely noticeable.

“How much longer do we have to walk? The Lulamoon complained.

“You are not walking.” I pointed out.

“Still, we’ve been climbing this volcano for half a day now! Can we stop for a rest?”

Krel snorted. “Lulamoon, this is the final obstacle. Prolonging our journey more than you already have would make Nashoba take one of you limbs.”

“I would do it myself.” Summit added.

“...Let’s keep going.” she said quietly.

I yawned. “I would not take a limb from you. A small bite perhaps, but not a full limb. That is, unless Krel, Summit, and Honey would like a taste of you too.”

“It scares Trixie when animals larger than her say they want to nibble on her.” She said.

“Do not give us a reason to and we will not.” Krel stated simply.

“Which is why I’m still riding Nashoba.” The Lulamoon replied.

I shook myself and the Lulamoon nearly fell off, giving my Pack a chance for laughter. She herself eventually had a chuckle when she realized we weren’t laughing at her, but rather, her reaction. The Lulamoon would have been upset about such an occurrence a month ago.

We trekked onward and upward until we reached the summit. Not the Cat, the top of the mountain. It was quite warm up there, so I had the Lulamoon stop adding her heat to my back and we sat down and waited. This was the place we were supposed to be. My paws hurt from the long journey and I wanted nothing more than to lie down and rest like the others, but I had to wait for night to fall before I could allow myself such a luxury.

My vigil was sat in silence while the others spoke among themselves and eventually fell asleep, though the Lulamoon had taken a seat next to me. “So, Nashoba…” She trailed off.

“Yes, Lulamoon?”

“Why are we here? I know why I’m here, but why have you lead the Pack here? What’s so important.”

“This is the place where I earn my name. This is where I will journey into the stars and become the Wolfmother I was meant to be from birth.”

“What is the Wolfmother?”

“Me and my mother and my grandmother and my great grandmother. So on and so forth. There is one every so many years, though we rarely choose to stay on this world for more than a couple hundred years. There are tales of Wolfmothers lasting thousands of years and some that only lasted a couple of decades. It is up to the She-Wolf to decide where she falls on the spectrum.”

“Are you sure where you’ll fall on that spectrum?” The Lulamoon asked.

“I must last for thousands of years. It is my Master’s lifespan that will dictate my own.” I licked my jowls.

“So who is your Master? Do I know him?”

“You do. You have met him in Ponyville, I do believe. He upstaged you during your show.”

“Wait…” The Lulamoon thought for a moment. “Was he the Human stallion that everypony cheered for?”

“He was.”

“...I don’t like him.”

“Give him time and he will grow on you. My Master is a pup at times, but he is one worthy of following if you can get him to be serious.”

“If he acts like a foal, then why would you follow him anyway?”

“Because he is loyal and caring. My Master always fed me before he fed himself, always worried about me while I was away. He is truly a generous soul, but his ways are not the ways of the Ponies. He is too dark for life in the Pony lands, though I wish I knew if he’d chosen the Broodmother as his permanent mate yet. If I know him at all, he’s probably still ‘faffing about’, taking his choices into consideration.”

“...So what’s he like when he’s not being caring, loyal, or generous?”

“He is a prick.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“It means he can be unpleasant. He shouts at times, but it is simply his way of venting his frustrations. If he sees no point in arguing, he will not.”

“He sounds wiser than-”

The Lulamoon froze as the true Moon rose to its Zenith. I looked to the heavens and saw that I would soon become a starwalker as the path became clearer and clearer. I rose from my spot and the Lulamoon joined me, wincing once she put weight on her hoof and falling over when she finally stood upright. I caught her with my body and she slid off onto the ground.

I guess that’s what Watcher meant when he said I was to consume her magic.

Krel and Honey came over to wish me well and Summit tried to step on the path, but her paw sank straight through, as was expected. I gave her a chuckle and and bid them farewell for now, beginning the solo part of my journey.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The path disappeared behind me as I walked up it, and the gradient of the path was rather brutal, but I traversed it steadily, maintaining a decent pace while being sure to not tire myself out. I had a long walk to the Moon and I was glad that I’d eaten before taking on this part of the journey. It was told that the Ascension would take two days if you didn’t stop moving, but then again, I was also told that a She-Wolf such as I was rarer than a bear that didn’t smell absolutely terrible or badgers that weren’t unpleasant. Honey and Krel were their own exceptions, but I was mostly hoping that I was as good as I was promised to be.

I’d only let my pace falter twice, but when I did, I nearly fell off of the narrow path. It was difficult to continue after the first day and being so high meant that the air was thin and precious. The journey would wear down a lesser being than I, but there was no room for me to be a pup about my task. I had to get to the Moon by the end of the day, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Being so high in the air was, as Max might put it, ‘sucky as fuck’. I could not look down for fear of dizziness and looking at the path just made me tired, so I kept my eyes on the moon and continued. I had plenty of time to ponder my choices and what had lead me to this point, but as a firm believer in destiny, I knew that I’d never had a choice in the matter in any case. It was fine by me since there was no reason to fight against it, although parts of me wished that I could simply live my life with Max and die with him when the time came. I would still be able to die with him, but the thought of surviving for millennia scared me a little bit. I knew that most creatures broke into insanity at one thousand years and again in another five hundred, but I was certain that we would support each other in our own way while we lived on. Max had told me about his kind’s history with wolves and I couldn’t help but feel as though we shared a similar bond. We may trade barbs from time to time… Well, most of the time actually, but still. We are close.

Thoughts of my Master pushed me forth and kept me going for much of the second day, and the knowledge that I would be by his side soon enough filled me with enough courage to go on. I hoped that he would accept me in my new form when I returned, but I assured myself that he would still hold love for me even if I didn’t come back with the same coat or eyes. I would still be the same… No… I wouldn’t be the same, but my feelings towards him, I hoped, would remain. My heart fell as I thought of Max rejecting me as Nashoba, but I was never one to focus on the bad. That, and my doubts made me slow down enough to nearly fall off of the path again. Luckily, I was nearing the end of my journey and in but a few hours, I would be able to finally speak with my ancestors.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Moon… It was beautiful. I’d seen it for so many years, but when I finally passed through The Barrier, I got to see it in it’s true majesty. Shades and spirits of all the animals I’d ever known were there, and despite my fatigue, I found it in myself to expend a little more energy to canter to the surface. The spirits of my ancestors pushed the others aside and made a path for me to the Dark Side where we would do our business. For once, they did not allow me the comfort of brushing against them, but I wanted nothing more than to return to Equus and see my friends. The sooner I accepted my Birth Right, the sooner I could go home.

Whispers of ‘Wolfmother’ danced through the ranks of the animals behind my ancestors, but as I pushed myself to trot through them as if I hadn't just walked for two days straight, I noticed that my ancestors abruptly ended right before the second barrier. I took heart and snapped at the barrier, ripping a hole large enough to pass through and I saw why my ancestors had stopped.

There were two dozen Wolfmothers before me. I swung my head from side to side, meeting each of their stares readily as I walked. It would have been rude to continue running when I crossed the second barrier, so I’d slowed down considerably to give them each the time and respect they deserved.

I passed the first pair. “You will do well.” The chorused.

The second. “Stay strong, pup.”

The third. “Blessed be your path.”

The fourth and largest two. “Take no nonsense.”

The fifth and smallest. “You will see your companion soon.”

The sixth. “Be calm, Wolfmother.”

The seventh. “The end is in sight.”

The eighth. “May you find prey in plenty.”

The ninth. “Let your steps never falter.”

The tenth. “Let your mind never stray.”

The eleventh. “Command respect.”

The twelfth and final. “We are proud. We are few. We are strong”

The last Wolfmother, my own mother, was at the end of the path. “Welcome, my pup”

“Hello, mother. It has been years.” I said softly.

“It has. It is time to pass down the title of Wolfmother, Nashoba.” Asena replied.

“...Have you no other words for me?”

She came forth and brushed her muzzle against mine. “I have been with you since you started your journey and we will have far more time to speak when you take your title. As the Wolfmother, we will walk in your wake.”

“...Then I suppose it is shameful that I have a Master.”

“You are the only one who considers you less than his equal. His love for you is true, and we would be proud to call him a brother.”

“I am glad to return as his equal, then.”

No more needed to be said. From the beginning of the path they’d laid out from me, those before me lifted their heads and gave their voices to my future, each pair giving way to the next and combining their voices. It was more powerful than the Roar of the Gathering and far more pleasant to hear, but I knew what I was supposed to do. I added my voice to theirs and I felt my pelt cool and warm at the same time, my eyes watered and my nose burned with scents that I’d never smelled before. Before I even realized, I was floating off of the Moon’s surface and I hovered far enough away from it to be able to see it and Equus.

It was beautiful.

I’d never known that there were so many colors in the world or that it was so large. I was awestruck in the best of ways and I came to the realization that there were other beings that I’d never met, minds that I would never hear spoken, thoughts I would never be allowed to know of. Every single creature has a life of its own, and the sonder was strong within me; knowing that there were so many lives… There is no other way to describe it. My mind folded and opened, curled and uncurled as I saw the lives of each Wolfmother from start to finish, every moment of their lives unfurled right before my very eyes. All of their experiences entered my mind, all of their wisdom and thoughts, their strengths and weaknesses.

Once my mind was done spinning circles like a young pup chasing its tail, I was able to leap back down in a few strides to touch the Moon’s surface once more. My predecessors closed ranks as I walked through them, their fur feeling like hands against my own. It was a pleasant feeling and a comforting one. My mother waited for me just before the second barrier and came forth to greet me.

“Nashoba.” Her tail wagged.

My own tail did the same. “Asena.”

“We will see you on Equus.” She nuzzled me once more and I heard the rest of the Wolfmothers sit down. With my journey finally over, I decided to use some of my new power to leap from the Moon to the emptiness above and raced back down to Equus, listening to the cheers of my kin as I did.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I bounded back down to the Fire-Spitting-Mountain, or rather, the volcano to find that my friends were no longer there. I was quite hungry, so I wasted no time in following their scents to where I hoped I would find food. I could not feel their presence nearby, though I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I had a look around and followed their scent trails. They smelled somewhat weak, but at the same time, it was as though I was standing next to them. With nothing else to do and a familiar feeling in my stomach, I followed their trails until I got bored and started using my new found powers to bounce down the path, picking up the scent wherever I could. They’d been gone since I’d left or sometime near then, so they would have made good progress without me.

I tracked their smells for the better part of the day, thankful that Krel and Honey had dropped me some little presents to find along the way. The Lulamoon had also left a scent trail and I was going to be sure to mention it to her when I saw her next to embarrass her. With a bounce to my step and more energy than I should have had, I didn't stop to rest or find food until I fell over.

A Shade of my mother came to me while I was lying down. “It was foolish of you to try and go three days without eating or sleeping.”

“Perhaps, but I’m feeling whimsical. Carry me?”

She snorted. “You are going to be the silliest Wolfmother there has ever been.”

“At least I’ll have fun. Why do I feel this way?"

“Ascension affection different Wolfmothers in different ways. Geri and Freki became savage combatants, but the first Lupa was kinder and more nurturing. Different times call for different attitudes.”

“I hope I do not stay this silly.” I rolled over and pushed myself to my feet.

“Find food and then rest. Be careful not to overdo it again. I will only lend you strength so often.” She warned me before fading away.

“Thank you.”

I lifted my nose to the air and took a deep breath. There was adequate prey about three hours travel from where I was now. I could turn it into thirty minutes if I felt like it, and so I did. I bounded through the air, running on nothing until I realized that using my powers would most likely sap my strength faster, so I took to the ground and ran like the wind itself. I heard the grass rustle behind me and turned to look at it because something just felt right about the action. I saw that flowers were blooming in my wake and grass grew before falling to the side, marking my path with the blessings of nature. I noticed that there were strange uncolored markings on my pelt that seemed to swirl and match my body, though now I wanted to see what color the collar Max had gotten me was. If I could smile, I would have.

As it was, I bore my teeth to mimic the Human I liked so much while speeding along to the prey I’d sniffed out. My stomach growled and I felt the desire to slow down, so I did and sniffed around to see how far the prey was from here. It was only a few more minutes away and I was lucky that I’d stopped when I did otherwise I would have missed the opportunity to catch it. The prey turned out to be another deer of some kind, so I wanted to see if I could chase it down since they had once been faster than me.

Long story short, it wasn’t even a competition. The young buck tried to bounce away and I let it get some ground between us before I made myself pick up the pace and just take it down. I tore its head off in one bite, though I really hadn't even been trying to do so. It’s flesh came away just as easily and my fangs sheared through the meat of my kill like I’d been eating the bread Velvet Breeze had given me so long ago. It was an interesting feeling, but the best thing about it was that my kill was delicious. I’d never paid that much attention to the way things tasted before, but now everything was suddenly much clearer and I felt as though I was tasting through multiple tongues at the same time. I couldn’t enjoy it as much as Max or the Broodmother since I couldn’t chew like they could, but I could still take pleasure in it nonetheless. I tore my way into its rib cage and ate its heart, finding the salty taste of the blood from the still beating muscle to be quite nice.

I licked my muzzle clean and sniffed the air to see if I could smell my friends, but when I couldn’t find them, one of the Wolfmothers named Wepawet pointed me in the right direction, though she still told me to sleep. I had no reason to not comply, so I bedded down a little ways from my kill and had a nap.

When I woke up, there was a Two-Leg called a Buffalo standing over me. I took one look at it and said, “Go away.”

It blinked at me. “You talk?”

“I talk.”

“...You killed that deer?”

I yawned. “I did. It was tasty.”

“...I’ll leave you alone.”

“You look tasty too. Do you know what you taste like?”

“Uhh…”

“Lick yourself and check.”

The Buffalo did as I told it to. “I taste like fur.”

I stood and hopped up on its shoulders, pushing it to the ground. It was absolutely terrified of my until I licked its face. “You taste like fur. You were correct.”

I hopped off of it and looked started heading off in the direction Wepawet had shown me before I had taken the time to catch up on some sleep. I kept my nose to the ground and occasionally checked the air for the scent of my friends, and when I caught it, I started cantering along the trail, though that was still nearly a sprint with the speed I now possessed. I actually found a fresh pile of dirt made from Krel while the sun was high, so I was willing to be that they would be close by. The dirt was still wet, so I picked up my pace until the scent became just as fresh as the droppings.

I actually had to jump over them when I came across them, though I’d had enough time while in the air to see that they were all accounted for, though they all seemed a little slimmer since I’d last seen them.

“Nashoba?” The Lulamoon murmured.

I looked at each of them in turn. “Lulamoon. Krel. Summit. Honey. I see each of you needs a meal.”

They stared at me for a while until Summit said, “Your pelt has markings on it.”

“They make me run faster.” I jested.

“Do they really?”

“No. They are the markings of the Wolfmother. That was a joke. I was joking.”

The Lulamoon stared at me. “...That was something a Pony might say. I’ve never heard you joke like that, Nashoba.”

“Get used to it. The Ascension has made me somewhat silly.” I trotted over to her and butted her chest with my head. “Come now, it is a long journey home.”

There was a shift in the breeze and four Wolfmothers came. I saw them each bite the air and they started tugging like they were pulling at invisible doors until I saw them rip a hole in the empty space. I strode forward because they were being nice and turned back once I was through to see that none of my companions had made so much as a move to follow me.

“The journey home just got shorter. Hurry up before the opportunity leaves you.” I told them. The Lulamoon was the first to step through, followed by Krel and Honey.

Summit stood still for but a moment until I went back through and gently took her scruff in my fangs, dragging her through easily, despite her resistance. She yowled and swiped at me, but I ignored her blows since they felt like they were coming from one of her cubs. Once she was through, the Wolfmothers filed through and faded away into nothing again, following me from the shadows. I guess the return journey was too easy when you could cover a week’s worth of travel in but a few days, so why not make it easier on my companions?

“Nashoba, did you do that?” Krel asked in hushed tones.

“No, my predecessors did. I’m sure I will eventually be able to do something similar.” I told him.

Summit leaped at me, but when she collided with me, she practically bounced off and I just looked at her. “Now what were you hoping to accomplish with that?”

“You mangy mutt! You dragged me through that- that- thing!” She yowled.

“You could either have a week’s journey back to the Wolf Mountain or a month with no friends to help you hunt. I made the easy choice for you.”

She hissed at me, but had nothing else to say. I walked around to her side and saw that my teeth had still gone through her pelt, despite me trying to be gentle, so I licked her wounds and watched them heal. Cat blood was still pretty nasty, but now Summit had nothing to complain about.

I took the time to look around and found that we were back where our journey began: The Heart of the Gose Baio, or rather, the Everfree. “It would appear that we are as close to home as we need to be. Krel, Honey, lead the Lulamoon to Ponyville. Summit, I’m taking you to your home.”

Two of the Wolfmothers that I recognized as Medeina and Skoll stood on either side of Summit and she jolted, dropping into a crouch. “I feel something on me!”

“Don’t worry, Summit. The Wolfmothers take care of those who assist us. They will guide you home when you are ready to leave, though I was prepared to make the journey with you. I suppose I’m to return to my companion now.” I said casually.

Summit stared at me like she thought I was crazy. “Have you gone crazy?”

“You’re the one feeling their pelts. You tell me, molly.”

Krel snorted. “Never try to understand a Wolfmother. It’s said that they are rarely sane.”

I turned around and smacked his muzzle with the tip of my tail, careful not to swing too hard. “Be careful with your words Krel. I can’t really play around until I learn how to control my strength.”

He rubbed his muzzle. “That still hurt a bit.”

“I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not.”

The Lulamoon coughed to get my attention. “Trixie understands that you are different now, but can we leave this jungle? It seems like it’s not the best place to stand around in.”

I looked at her. “I can kill pretty much everything here with little trouble. We could camp right here for the next month and we would never be bothered anyway.”

“Trixie would like a warm bed and a real meal.” She said softly.

I butted her chest with my head. “Then we shall leave. Summit, may your path be clear and your prey plentiful. Should you ever need to return, call my name and I will hear you.”

She licked her paw and preened. “I may visit you sometime. Be well, Motherwolf.”

“It’s Wolfmother, you silly molly.”

Krel snorted and Summit waited for Medeina and Skoll to lead her away. I turned back to the Lulamoon when she left our sight. “I will take you to meet Max properly. I believe you'll like him if you’re the same as you are now.”

“Does he have a warm bed and a meal?”

“I believe he would be willing to give them to you for assisting me. He has the space and the supplies to allow you those comforts.”

Trixie sighed happily. “Then I’ll do whatever he asks if it means I don’t have to sleep on the ground or on a cot.”

I looked around to get my bearings, but my mother showed me the correct direction. I started heading off and looked back at my considerably smaller pack. “Come along. We have to go see the Broodmother first.”

“Why do we have to see her first? Can’t we just go see Max?” The Lulamoon complained.

“It’s polite to walk your friends home. You’ve traveled millions of tail-lengths; a few more will not kill you.” I told her.

Krel whacked me with one of his paws. “Since when do you care about being polite?”

I swatted his shoulder with my tail, making him stumble. “I don’t most of the time, but we’ve journeyed across a damned continent, so I’d at least like to see you home, safe and sound.”

Honey piped up. “I think that’s a really Broodmother thing to do!”

“Thank you, Honey. Would you like to ride me for a little bit?” I offered.

“Yes!”

I laid down and allowed her to nestle into my fur. “Is everyone else prepared?”

Krel and the Lulamoon nodded their assent, and thus we were off.