The big gray wolf sat impassively a hundred yards or so from the east gate to the Compound. It was broad daylight, a dangerous time to be out, and that danger was compounded greatly by being so blatantly visible. Yet the wolf was puzzled, because even though it had been sitting there for quite a while, no one had seen it.
It kept an eye on the tall log wall, built to keep creatures like him out, it thought. It had expected the people who lived there to have been active, but instead there was nothing. It was almost about to give up and try another gate, when the east gate opened.
From inside emerged two figures on horseback, both wrapped in furs that concealed their bodies quite well. The wolf's attention grew sharper, and it could feel the instinct to flee build within it. But it stood its ground; what it had to do was far too important.
The riders only got a short way before seeing the wolf, and they brought their horses to a stop.
The wolf wondered what was going to happen next; were they going to yell in an attempt to scare him away? Were they going to draw a weapon of some kind and attempt to kill him?
Or was something different going to happen, something he hoped would happen.
The riders didn't do either of the first two things, but that didn't mean the third choice was the only option left.
The wolf watched one of them gesture to the other, and then climb off his horse. This pleased the wolf; a man on horseback was more dangerous.
The figure on foot started walking toward him, limping slightly in the snow.
"Be careful," said the other rider in a feminine voice that was strangely hoarse and not well formed.
The figure on foot turned, and the wolf just caught the words. "Hush, Ruthy."
The wolf decided to find out who these people were; it raised its snout slightly and sampled the air with its nose. It had picked this gate because the wind would be in its face, and its sense of smell didn't let it down.
The one on the ground was male, and smelled much like the horse he rode on. There was subtle undertone to the man's scent that spoke of hard work; the man had sweat glands that were used to being used.
The other was definitely female, yet she too seemed used to hard work. The female was also in heat, or what passed for it in humans. It was a shame that humans so ignored what they could smell; they might be surprised.
What didn't surprise the wolf was that this pair of humans was mated; it could smell each of them on each other. Yet the female wasn't pregnant. The wolf wondered why.
The man was closer now, and the wolf was able to see his face. He had an eye patch on, something the wolf had never seen before.
"There, lad, it's okay," whispered the man.
The wolf had just been listening with half an ear to what the man was saying, but as he grew closer, he could feel something about the man his nose couldn't tell him. This man had a power...something...the wolf didn't know. His calm and quiet voice relaxed you, made you feel safe.
The wolf jerked himself awake and stood up. It growled at the man, who stopped dead.
Now was the moment, a dangerous moment if it didn't work. It meant revealing himself, revealing the pack, and if these humans had changed since their last visit, it might mean the end.
The wolf stretched, and to an astonished man named Patch, it gave its
Further down the mountain, almost in the deep valley that separated it from the next one, walked Lilly and Carlo.
Ahead of them, bounding around more like a big dog than a noble animal, was the young wolf.
Lilly and Carlo kept one eye on it, but otherwise ignored it. Carlo had wondered for a moment about the wolf's injuries. Out in the sun, it looked like most of them had disappeared. Certainly the long gash along the wolf's side looked a lot more healed. He wondered how quickly wolves healed, but as he walked with Lilly, those thoughts got pushed away. He just let himself enjoy the company. As did Lilly. While the splendor of winter in the Rockies was stretched out all around them, their eyes were more for each other.
Lilly had begged off kitchen time in the Great Hall, telling her mother that she and Carlo had something for school they needed to work on. Elizabeth Anderson gave her teenage daughter a knowing smile, and allowed her the time off.
"Don't spend the whole day on it!" was Elizabeth's last comment, and Lilly thanked her and sped away.
Watching her daughter go, Elizabeth made a mental note to talk to Carlo's mother. If things were going to continue to progress this way, then some formal changes were going to be necessary soon. Elizabeth would have preferred her little girl to be older before getting serious about a boy, but then she had been Lilly's age when Paul first noticed her.
Elizabeth chuckled as she thought about that day at the dough station, and she wondered if there would be any spare flour she could take home with her tonight.
Lilly lost no time in meeting up with Carlo, and the couple snuck the wolf back out of the Compound, where it was able to relieve itself in safety.
Now they had been walking for hours, talking of nothing and everything, and generally enjoying each other's company. They were even holding hands as they walked, each very conscious of the touch and the heat that had built up between their palms.
It was shaping up to be an idyllic day!
"'Loup-garou', what the hell does THAT mean?" said one of the men, one of the few who wasn't chuckling at the foolish tale they had all just heard. The men in the bar had just been told a rather fantastic story and half of them were wondering when the punch line was going to come.
The Compound's only bar was Men's territory, women not being allowed to drink alcohol. It was a small room, decorated in the usual outdoorsman-type taste with mounted animal heads and dark paneling. In one corner was a dartboard, a little out of place in this community yet popular with the men, and along one wall was the bar, tended to by one of the older men of the Compound. Tables and chairs were scattered about the place, and the whole room smelled of decades of spilt beer.
To the men of the Compound it was very comfortable.
Right now it was populated by about a dozen men, all a part of that day's roof scraping crew. The roof scrapers were a necessary evil during the winter. Since the buildings of the Compound were mostly lit during the day by sunlight coming in through skylights in the roof, falling snow had to be continuously scraped off them. Different men went out each day to do this, and one of the traditions was a break in the bar to "Warm up."
This was where Patch had found Paul Anderson, and after getting over the shock of what he had just seen, he came to tell the Guardian.
Paul listened to Patch's story, and wondered what was wrong with the man. He knew of Patch's history, a man tortured to the point that his original identity decided to retreat to the depths of his mind, maybe never to surface again. What got left behind was a different person with almost no knowledge of his previous life. Patch, formerly Cory Lincoln of the FBI, had been brought to the Compound by Rhianna Anderson, his former partner. Here Rhianna hoped the man would find some salvation in a place where he would be appreciated. Maybe even Cory would eventually return.
For such a man to start seeing things would not be surprising, yet Patch had been a very stable person in the year and a half he had lived in the Compound. To be suddenly seeing wolves that weren't wolves, who could talk in French, didn't make sense! Paul was puzzled.
"Patch," Paul said, focusing on the man standing in front of him, "you're sure that's what he...what you heard?"
"Loup-garou," whispered Patch. He had to whisper; one of those tortures had almost destroyed his voice box. He could utter a few sounds, but whispering was always best. Despite the handicap though, he could still make himself heard in a room full of people.
The men in the room did hear him, and a few chuckled more openly. Patch looked around, glaring at those who sought to make him feel foolish, although he had to admit to himself that what he was saying seemed pretty fantastic. Yet he couldn't deny his own two eyes.
"Did you have Ruthy with you?" Paul asked him.
Twenty-two-year-old Ruthy had come with Patch to the Compound, rescued as he was from the last people to hold the former FBI Agent captive. Ruthy was the only person Patch let close to him, and she was similarly attached to him. It wasn't as if the couple was unfriendly toward others--they were quite popular really--it was just that despite knowing them for so long, no one really knew them at all.
Patch and Ruthy had quietly married shortly after their arrival, a quick private ceremony very unlike the big public affairs the Compound usually had. They were an unusual enough couple that some allowances had to be made as far as tradition went. For example, no one had ever heard Ruthy say a word to anyone, yet she had been seen talking to the horses they tended, and it was rumored she talked to Patch.
The two were rarely separated; in fact right now Ruthy waited patiently in the hallway outside the bar, hence Paul's question.
Patch nodded, but went on to explain that she hadn't seen what he had seen. Apparently his body had blocked her view, and the...change...had only been for long enough to say those two words. Then the wolf had bounded off into the woods.
Some of the men started laughing again, telling Patch to give up the joke, but Paul looked at him. He wasn't concerned about talking wolves, but of Patch's mental status. He turned to the rest of his crew and yelled at them to shut up, which they did grinning into their beer mugs. The Paul turned back to the stable hand.
"Thanks Patch, I'll need to think about this for a while. But if you remember anything else, come tell me, okay?"
Patch nodded, and with an eye on the rest of the men, he left the bar.
"Next he'll be seeing Bigfoot!" someone said, while Paul stared at his beer and considered going to see their doctor.
No one noticed the bartender slipping out the back way.
"Hand me that wrench will ya?" said Sean, bent low over the engine of his snowmobile.
The four teenagers had been stopped for the last couple of hours at the base of the mountain, engine trouble crippling one of their two snowmobiles. The others had bitched about the stop, but Kale hadn't minded. He liked it up here in the middle of nowhere; it was better than school at the very least. He was also more aware than the others that there was going to be hell to pay when they got back to town, so he wanted to delay that for as long as he could.
"You going to be much longer?" he asked the Sheriff's son.
"Depends on if it starts this time or not," was the reply.
Kale grunted and wandered off.
Sean finished up and climbed on to his machine. He tried to start it, but after several tries, it still wouldn't catch. He still had one more idea to try, and got off again.
Kale watched in amusement as Andy and Ed both threw their hands up in disgust.
"Dammit, Sean!" one of them said.
"Come on, guys," said Kale, "Let's go for a hike, it'll warm us up!"
"Sure, anything!" Andy said.
"You going to be okay out here alone?" Kale asked Sean.
"I'll be fine, you guys go ahead. Another half an hour ought to do it."
"That's what you said an hour ago," Ed said.
The three boys left the fourth alone to work on his machine.
"You've got to be kidding me!" said Robert Klink, one of the community elders.
Rick Abrahamson, the elderly bartender, had walked straight to Klink's quarters after hearing the news Patch had brought in. Unlike the rest of the men in the bar, Rick had heard the phrase "Loup-garou" before, and knew how important it was. He had to tell Robert Klink.
"Tell me again, exactly what Patch told Paul," Robert said.
Rick repeated what he had heard in the bar.
Robert sat back, his mind on the past and the last time the pack had been to visit. He had been a young man back then; it had been what, thirty years since that day. He remembered the stories, the silent arguments, the controversy. Was the Compound to be put through that again?
He had known the full story before he became the Compound's Guardian shortly afterward. The shock really hit him and he had to admit that a part of him had never really believed it. Yet now it was happening again.
He thought that perhaps he should have passed on the news to Paul Anderson when he took up the position Robert had left, yet by then so many years had passed that Robert considered it unimportant.
But Robert knew there was a different reason he had never told Paul about the Loup-garou.
"You'd better get back to the bar, my friend," Robert said to Rick.
"You going to be okay?" Rick asked him, concerned over the way this news had made Robert turn pale.
"I'll be fine, thank you."
Rick turned and with a wave left Robert's apartment.
Robert waited a few minutes in order to collect himself, then he went to the nearest building entrance. Opening a wet weather locker, he pulled out a set of outdoor furs and began to put them on.
Robert was worried about the Loup-garou. He was worried what they would do to his community. He had no doubt in his mind that they were dangerous, that given the chance they would destroy everything his father had built here.
That the Loup-garou and the Compound had met peacefully before didn't enter his mind. He refused to think that such...creatures...were capable of being trusted.
Well, now he had his chance to protect the people he loved. Now he had the power he didn't have thirty years ago, to refuse the Loup-garou no matter what they wanted.
It occurred to him, as he left the Compound and began walking up the mountain, that his refusal might mean his death. But Robert was prepared for that. He had his trust in God and his belief that he was right; it would see him through.
It wasn't a long walk, but it was a tough one. Uphill through unbroken snow to a clearing known as 'Look out point', a place where children played their tie up games and where couples could come in the evening to watch the sun go down. It was also where the Loup-garou had met with them before.
The clearing was empty; Robert hadn't expected it otherwise. He swept some snow off one of the benches someone had built there years before, and sat and waited. Presently his still sharp eyes saw movement in the trees, and out from a thicket came the wolf.
It looked bigger than average to Robert Klink, meaner too. He tensed up at the prospect of locking horns with this beast.
The wolf watched him for a moment, then padded through the snow to a fallen tree, jumping up on the log with ease. A moment later Robert was looking at a man.
It was a big man, with short graying hair and a face that didn't seem quite right. The man stood naked on the log for a few seconds, then crouched down.
"I know what you want," Robert said, speaking first in order to take the initiative. "You can't have it."
The man watched Klink with unblinking eyes, seemingly oblivious to the cold air. He lifted his face as if to sniff the air, and scowled. "Wherrr...iss...Godfreee?" said the man, forming the words with difficulty.
Klink frowned. Jan Godfrey had been the first Guardian, the chief founder of the Compound. He had also been the main contact between the people and these...things.
"Godfrey is dead," Robert said bluntly. "He died many years ago. You deal with me now."
"No. You're an abomination, not one of God's creatures. You don't deserve to exist, and we're not going to help you this time," replied the old man.
"We'rrre...dyyying," said the man, his eyes dark with anger.
Robert stood up, anger and hate in his own heart. "Go ahead and die!"
Suddenly he was staring down a wolf, teeth bared, with a deep growl coming deep from within it. Robert was suddenly afraid for his life, but stood his ground. He knew that if the wolf killed him, then no way would anyone in the community help the Loup-garou.
But this wasn't an ordinary wolf, existing on instinct alone, although if no help came soon that is what the pack would eventually become. This wolf knew it could not attack this man.
Instead, it turned and fled into the forest, quickly meeting with other members of its pack. One of them had a conference on the run with its leader, and it knew there was still hope. There were other humans on the mountain.
Robert Klink watched it go, not knowing about the other wolves that
had surrounded the clearing during the brief conference. He waited
until it was gone, and feeling victorious, he began the hard walk home.
Carlo and Lilly hadn't said much of anything for a little while now. They sat on a log, a small fire going at their feet, and shared the edible contents of the sack Carlo had been carrying. Normally women didn't eat meat at the Compound, but few other foods traveled as well out on the mountain. So they shared some jerky, Lilly frowning at the unfamiliar tastes and texture. She knew how to make it of course, but refrained from eating any whenever she could.
Still, as dinner alone with Carlo, it was worth it. She smiled at him.
Carlo chewed his meat thoughtfully, and watched as the wolf lay quietly beside Lilly as if guarding her. He thought the wolf was a very strange animal indeed, but it had given them an excuse to be alone for a while.
The wolf chose that moment to get up. It gave Carlo a look as if it was warning the boy, then it trotted off into the trees.
Carlo returned his attention to Lilly. "You know," he said, "I've really enjoyed this time together."
"Me too," said Lilly, her heart suddenly pumping a little harder as she wondered if Carlo was finally going to make his move. It wasn't anything sexual she was expecting, both kids had been brought up to believe sex before marriage was wrong. But she was hoping that Carlo would ask her if they could start formally dating. It would be the next best thing to getting engaged.
"It's not often that...well, we hardly ever get time alone, do we?"
Lilly laughed. "I know, you either have Donny tagging along with you or..."
"Or you have Catherine or Saffy. Either that or you're mooning after Rhianna," he said with a grin.
"I do NOT moon."
"Yes, you do, I've seen you. You watch what she does and then try to imitate it later."
"Well, what's wrong with that?"
"It just seems...strange to me, to try to pattern your life after an outsider."
Lilly suddenly felt hurt. "She's not an outsider, Carlo."
"Yes, she is, you know that as well as I do. She might be fitting in around here, but you've seen her, she wishes for the life she used to have."
"How can you say that?"
"Well, look. Where is she now? Off the mountain the first chance she got."
"Her dad was dying," said Lilly.
"I know, and I'm sorry about that, but do you really think she's coming back?"
Lilly looked hurt enough that Carlo realized he had just put his foot in it. The conversation he had meant to have had just gone south.
"Yes, she's coming back," said Lilly slowly.
Carlo looked down. "I'm sorry. I'm sure she will. I don't know why I said that."
"You just don't know her very well."
"I guess I don't. But I do know you though, and..."
"Well, I was wondering if...you and I could...well, could we see each other, as a couple I mean?" Carlo swallowed, suddenly nervous.
Lilly quickly got over her indignation. "Yes, Carlo, I'd like that."
Carlo looked up and grinned, and the couple stared at each other like that for a few minutes, hand in hand.
"You know," Carlo said after a bit, "there is a tradition we could follow."
"What tradition?" Lilly asked.
Carlo reached into a pocket and pulled out a length of leather cord.
Lilly looked at it with a puzzled expression, and then figured out what Carlo meant. "Hey, wait. That tradition is for couples who are getting engaged. You're not asking me to marry you, are you?" Lilly was surprised to feel that she wasn't completely hoping he would say 'No'.
"No, I'm not. But we could do this, just for a little while, just between the two of us. Kinda in celebration."
"For how long?" Lilly asked eyeing the cord.
"How about until we get close to the Compound? We ought to be heading back anyway."
Lilly considered it for a moment, then nodded. She turned around and gingerly placed her hands behind her back. Carlo had practiced his ties on her several times, but this would be the first time his binding her would carry any real meaning. Her heart was thumping hard.
She felt the thin cord wind around her wrists, holding them back to back, with loops around her thumbs and little fingers. Once done, the tie wasn't as tight as she expected, yet it was still good enough to keep her from pulling free. Carlo had done a good job. As she turned to face him once more, she couldn't help thinking of the tradition they were copying.
She knew traditionally how an official engagement was made, and had thought a lot about it while growing up. As a little girl, she fantasized about a man asking her to marry him and her saying yes, then waiting eagerly for him to take a cord and bind her like Carlo did to her just now. What little girl in the Compound didn't think of her imaginary suitor taking her to her Head of House, and again formally asking for her hand in marriage?
Her Head of House, her dad, would agree in her fantasies as most Head's of House usually do. She would then proudly stand while her father took the cord from her wrists and keep it for himself. Sometimes Lilly thought about the old way, when that cord might have two short pieces cut from it and tied to the left wrist of each of the couple, kinda like an engagement ring type of thing, but that wasn't done much anymore.
That cord, incidentally, was the cord used in the wedding ceremony when the man binds the woman in marriage.
Wearing Carlo's binding right now, was a big deal to Lilly, she was quite excited.
"How does that feel?" Carlo asked her.
"Er...okay I guess," Lilly replied with a grin.
"You guess?" Carlo asked.
"It feels great...you know I wouldn't want anyone else to tie me like this."
Carlo grinned. "Glad to hear it!"
The couple stared at each other for a few moments, before Carlo instinctively leaned forward and kissed her on the mouth.
It was a first kiss, for both of them, and they were both startled at how it felt.
"Wow," said Lilly, feeling things deep inside her.
"Do you want to...er...do that again?" Carlo asked.
"We shouldn't," Lilly replied.
"I know," Carlo said.
"Then just one more time, that's all," said Lilly with a sly smile.
Carlo chuckled and reached out for her. He took the bound girl by the shoulders and kissed her once more, this time taking his time. The electricity again startled both of them, and as Carlo pulled away, he had to remind himself that they could not go further, no matter how tempting it was. He could feel the pull of having a helpless and willing beautiful girl under his power, it was intoxicating.
"Well, will you look at that!" yelled a voice from the tree line. "How romantic!" There was laughter from the trees and Carlo stood up looking wildly around.
He felt like he had been caught doing something he shouldn't have, then he realized he didn't recognize the voices.
To his and Lilly's alarm, three figures stepped out from behind the trees. All three were dressed in modern snowsuits and jackets; these were not Compound people.
One of them pushed his hood back, it was Kale, although neither Carlo or Lilly knew that. He was just a town boy to them.
"What are you doing here?" Carlo said, trying to watch all three of them as they circled around. "You're not allowed on the mountain."
"Keep your pants on, Nature Boy!" said Kale with a grin, and the other boys laughed.
"Go away," Carlo said.
Kale pointed at Lilly, who sat still and frightened. "Look at her; you boys remember this one, don't you?"
"Oh yeah," Ed replied, "a fantastic bush!"
"I liked her legs," said Andy, not really recognizing her but wanting to get in on the act.
"I liked her tits," Kale said, "I thought they looked nice and tasty. What about it, Nature Boy? Are they tasty?"
The boys laughed.
Carlo was angry and getting angrier. Yet he was no fool. Three to one was no odds at all; he didn't bother to count Lilly. He turned to her so they could leave. All he could really do was ignore the town boys.
"Hey, Nature Boy, I'm talking to you!" yelled Kale, knowing an easy mark when he saw one. "I asked if her tits were tasty?"
"He probably doesn't know, Man," said Andy.
"Sure he does," chimed in Ed, "these perverts know all that stuff. I bet everyone there knows how her tits taste, they probably have tit sucking contests or something!" The laughing continued.
His face red, Carlo began repacking the bag he had brought while Lilly stared and cowered. The thought of untying Lilly didn't even cross his mind, he figured they would just leave and it would be the end of it.
"Well then," said Kale, "how about we have a little contest of our own. How about it, Nature Boy, mind if we suck on the little lady's tits for a bit? I see you already have her nicely tied up for us. I bet we got here just before you planned on doing her yourself!"
"Get lost!" Carlo yelled back, standing up and taking Lilly by the arm.
"Hey now. You guys aren't going anywhere," said Kale. He moved forward to stand in their way.
"Don't try to stop us," Carlo said angrily.
"All we want is to suck a little titty. Just a little iddy biddy little titty..."
Carlos couldn't hold back anymore. He reached out to the taunting teenager with his fist, connecting nicely for someone who had never thrown a serious punch before.
Kale went staggering back but didn't go down. All the amusement fell from his face and he almost growled.
"Fuck you," he said quietly, and he launched himself at Carlos.
The two boys met in the middle and it became an even match. Kale had street smarts on his side but Carlo was a lot stronger and fitter. They went down and rolled around in the snow, rolling right across the fire at one point.
Lilly began to scream and she tried to move away. But Andy had come up behind her and took hold of the bound girl. He held her steady despite the way she struggled to break free. When at one point she almost got away, he grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled her head back. "Don't move!" he growled in her ear.
Lilly froze, suddenly more afraid than ever, and they watched the fight.
Kale managed to break free and got quickly to his feet. He turned and began kicking Carlo with his heavy boots.
Carlo rolled and tucked as he took the beating, but when Kale slipped on some ice and fell Carlo was able take advantage and get to his own feet.
Kale was up again as well, and had his back to Carlo.
Carlo thought this a perfect time to charge, he couldn't have been more wrong.
While Kale had been down, his hands found a sturdy branch. While getting up he kept it hidden and as Carlo began his run Kale whipped around and brought the branch to bear.
The end connected with Carlo's head with a heavy thud and the bigger boy went down.
Lilly began screaming and Kale turned to face her, his anger full blown and not satisfied at all by the felling of his foe. "Now I'm gonna get me some titty," he yelled over her screams, "and maybe some pussy too!"
The grin left Andy's face. "Hey, Man, you serious?"
"Just hold her there, Pal, and when it's your turn I'll hold her for you!"
"You're talking rape, Man; I didn't sign on for no rape!"
"Well guess what, you just upgraded!" Kale was pissed; he stomped up to the still screaming Lilly and slapped her across the face. This shocked her to silence. Kale grabbed the front of her fur jacket and attempted to pull it open, but before he could get a good grip, he heard Ed yell, and a heavy weight crashed into his back.
He was bowled headlong into both Andy and Lilly and the three of them went down in the snow rolling around. When Kale stopped rolling he looked up straight into the angry face of a wolf, it's teeth bared and a tight growl coming from within it.
Kale froze, his fear making itself known inside his snow suit.
"Oh shit!" he whispered.
The wolf coiled, about to spring again, but this time IT was hit from the side. A second wolf had streaked out from the woods and broad sided Lilly's new friend. A third wolf also came and joined in the fight.
All the humans, with the exception of Carlo who lay motionless in the snow, watched the furball of fighting animals. The fight was a cacophony of yelps and growls and worked its way to the only side of the little clearing not bordered by trees. This was because it happened to be a steep drop off.
It only took seconds, but Lilly's rescuer was forced to the edge and two attacking wolves worked together to send it over the precipice. The yowl of the wolf as it fell through the air dug deep into Lilly's heart and she looked away, only to be frightened anew.
The town boys turned also, and they too got a scare, for surrounding
them all were close to a dozen wolves, all looking for a fight.
End of Part 6