The pack moved swiftly and efficiently through the late afternoon landscape, the wooded ridge of the mountains standing proud as the sky darkened around them. Nine wolves ran along the line of trees, stopping at every large tree and rock to scent mark. Their territory was not large but it was high up enough for deer and there were rabbits and other small game all through the year. Several small streams ran through it and the snows did not fall too deeply in winter, and it was easily defended - a good home for such a small pack.
The lead wolf, a large black Alpha, paused to drink at a small stream on their path and trotted slowly up the rise, signaling the end of the night’s patrol. There he stood, looking to the east as the moon rose bright and silvery over the forest. That was the cue for the others to relax and snuffle around, the breeze gently moving the scents about them.
They had been out for hours, first to hunt, then to patrol. Their neighbors were for the most part peaceful and respected their need for space but still they were wary, long-ago hurts still too near for trust. So on quiet evenings they took their true forms and wandered their lands, always watchful. Sometimes the large Alpha took his other form, his cursed form, and wandered the cities of men, always returning when the moon was full with a truck full of supplies. He had returned that morning with flour and canned goods, bolts of cloth and seed packets for his sister, school books for his nephew. It had been a good month’s work and there was enough to share with everyone.
He climbed to the top of the rise and raised his voice to the Moon in her beauty. The others climbed up beside him, their voices joining his, rising and falling together in the ancient song. A smaller black wolf walked out to the edge and looked down into the river-carved valley that marked the boundary of their land to a neighboring pack’s. Although they lived close to each other they met rarely, sometimes at Gathering, sometimes catching sight of each other while hunting. They did not mingle.
The young wolf was filled by a feeling of longing for some thing that he could not identity. He longed to follow the deer path down to the creek and see what was on the other side. He wanted to know that there was more than their little farmstead. He wanted to meet the other packs his mother told him stories of, see other lands, hear other voices than the ones he had known all of his life. These feelings came burbling up in his chest until he had to give them voice and he raised his muzzle to the Moon and sang out all his want and loneliness, singing as if calling to someone far away.
He sang until his was the only voice calling and listened as the notes fell away into darkness. A throaty huff sounded behind him and he turned to see the large Alpha looking at him. Always he felt as if he were doing something wrong under that gaze. The big Alpha huffed again and turned to go, signalling the end of the evening. As they started to move out an answering howl echoed up the canyon, a solo voice, a voice with as much loneliness and longing as the young wolf had sang. They stopped and listened, and the song was sung again. This time the young wolf answered, raising his own song to meet this new one. Together they sang, each song finding the other beneath the starlit sky.
The young wolf was ready to plunge down the trail when he was suddenly bodychecked by the large Alpha. The big wolf growled a low warning deep in his chest. The young wolf dipped his head and lowered his tail in submission. The rest of the pack watched as he followed the other away from the rise and into the trees.
In the valley, on the other side of the creek, a young wolf with tawny fur and light eyes stood listening. The song had ceased abruptly, as if silenced and he fervently hoped that it would return. He had smelled the scent of wolf on the breeze that floated down the canyon, heard the song of the other pack. But it was one voice he was interested in, a voice now silent. He tried twice more and getting no response trotted away towards home and his family.