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after a precius half hour wasted sitting around, she didn't know how much of her life it was, but it was too much, frost came back with some other wolves, including Promise, who had been told to watch Forest, and Secrets beta, Seafoam, and frosts friend or boyfriend or brother Zephyr, she didn't know or care how the wolf pack worked. he looked like her brother, especially in human form, where he had the same platinum hair, altho he had amber eyes as a human and piercing gold as a wolf, and his coat had a hint of cream in it as a wolf. they dragged a large doe with them, and Frost had a blue bound journal she was trying to hold with her tail, it kept slipping. Secret bounded down.
"well done." she glanced at echo. "do humans eat deer?"
"don't you know?"
"of course not. we eat as wolves."
"Oh. yes, but raw meat is gross, and unhealthy."
"if you say so. frost, you're in charge of feeding her." "what? how do i do that?"
"i don't know. maybe you can cook her food on the flame?"
"wait, what about vegetables? don't you need a balanced diet, if only as humans?" "echo they don't know what vegetables are."
"uh... but they all went to school."
"you think we bother to remember that?"
"then why do you go to school?"
"because humans have resources young wolf walkers can get, and they need to be able to blend in. and learning reading and writing, and other intellectual stuff like math, helps us be connected to our human forms. stuff like vegetables we don't bother with."
"uh..." "you're going to make me get you vegetables, arent you?"
"i need them to be healthy."
"will fruit cut it?" "i wish, no. i do like fruit."
"maybe i can find some wild lettuce of something. we do have a grove of magic apple trees."
"oh, what do the apples do?"
"lets stop there to. actually, lets go to the graveyard last. we can probably hit at least 4 things before dark. secret can i show her the-"
"you can take her to the graveyard, the flame, the grove, and the fountain, i guess."
"ok. are you sure about the graveyard?"
"i dont know i want to see bodies..."
"you wont. they're buried." frost said.
"but isn't it where you put the bodies of the stuff you hunt?" both she and secret laughed.
"we'll cover it when we get there. lets go."
"ok." she climbed on frost and they left. "why do you and secret talk so much? she doesn't do much with most wolves."
"shes training me, I'm the best of my litter, ill replace her as alpha when she dies."
"so what is it yo cant show me?"
"i shouldn't say."
"did she tell you not to?"
"no, but if she didn't want me to take you there she wouldn't want me to tell you."
"would it really hurt?"
"i guess not. if you snuck off to try and find it, which if you had any sense you wouldn't, but if you did 10 trackers would instantly find you."
"ok. there's a place on the top of a mountain, full of smoke like what marked you. It's where the cursed go and talk to whatever did it to them or something. I'm not quite clear on what exactly it is."
"i certainly don't want to go. by the way, you said that it has to infect humans, right?"
"if you're going to ask if we can try making you a wolfwalker, it won't unmark you."
"how do you know?"
"it's been tried before. if we could save cursed humans we would. but we can't, so we kill them."
"but isn't there a solution?"
"yes, but it's far away and wouldn't be possible to reach in time."
"do you even care? is there anything else that matters to you besides pack and duty and stuff?"
"i did care, but now youre marked. ill try and make this month pleasant for you though."
"seriously? what about how i feel about this? why did i even get marked?"
"no clue. Secret blames me." frost shrugged. "i don't know, it doesn't really matter. we're here."
before them was a field of bright light green grass with trees, not gnarly and scratchy like most apple trees, but lush, with straight trunks and full of leaves. there were about 20, all bearing light golden apples, or maybe yellow, it was hard to tell.
"they'll do different things depending on the tree. one is like a lie detector, feed it to your enemies and they'll be unable to lie. one leads you to a truth, one makes you fly a few feet off the ground, that one would be fun, i think one lets your morph at will for a couple of minutes, also fun, tho you cant control which. i don't really know, we don't eat fruit, so I'm just guessing." frost became a human. "but i guess ill eat one with you, just for fun." an apple fell, near frost. echo thought she saw a flash of silvery blue on the tree, but when she blinked it was gone. oh, it was just a spot from rubbing your eyes, she hadn't noticed herself do it but now she was seeing little multicolored impressions of lights.
"looks like i don't have to climb for it." frost picked up the apple, and echo picked a different tree. when she jumped as high as she could close to the trunk she could just reach a branch, so she pulled it down further and walked with it until she could reach an apple.
"on 3..." frost said, pulling her apple out.
"1..." echo began.
"2..." Frost smiled.
"3!" they both bit their apples, and echo could fly. nothing noticeable happened to frost." "here, ill get you a new apple."
"ok." she flew to a new tree and grabbed an apple.
"here." frost bit it and turned gold and shiny, they laughed together, and echo got herself one, she turned a royal blue.
"This is my favorite tree!" she laughed, and they kept turning random colors. frost pocketed her original apple and turned bright orange. the colors also affect her wolf coat.
"We have to take some of these back for the pups." frost smiled as if imagining how cute it would be. echo took another bite off the flying apple and flew back up to collect some.
"We need to get going now though." Frost said, currently a disgusting shade of neon green or really awful yellow.
"oh... does the next thing give us purple polka dots?"
"i bet one of these trees does, but no. the fountain is for healing, and i want to try something."
"maybe your mark counts as a wound, in which case it could heal. one of the young wolves decided to be stupid and get a tattoo, and the fountain fixed that."
"don't get your hopes up. it might not be a wound."
"i tripped when i got it and bruised my ankle!"
"which is part of why i hope this will help. the area around it is bruised, an injury inflicted when you were marked. and i hope you don't mind getting wet, because while your their you should go completely underwater, it will heal all your scars, even internal injuries or just aches."
"ok, let's go." they didn't talk much on the way to, at least not anything new or emotional. when they arrived, she crossed her fingers.
"good luck, i hope this works" she apprehensively stepped into the little pool, with the foot that wasn't marked, she was too nervous to do that first. the foot felt so marvelous! pains she didn't know she had were cleared away easily, and when she ducked her head under the spray of the fountain and the water ran over her head and down her back, she felt something so unearthly and perfect she didn't have words for it. she was utterly whole, and all her scars, brushes, and dirt, was washed away. she didn't hesitate, she just jumped in, barely remembering to hold her breath. she didn't close her eyes, but they didn't hurt, they felt really good. rested. she went up, dripping wet, and still felt phenomenal. she glanced hopefully at her ankle and saw that same accursed black spot.
"it didn't work? that's too bad. you can dry off at the flame, and then-"
"too bad? that's all? why don't you care?"
"i do. but i didn't really expect it to work."
"but do you really care?"
"look at my actions. i got you another month-" echo silently snorted to herself. for selfish, r only pack related reasons. "-and you know that living after you change is worse than death."
"by whos definition?" according to secret both of theirs, but she was angry. Frost laughed, which engaged her.
"i can smell your emotions. this is stupid, you're too clouded by emotions to think clearly."
"i wonder why..." she only muttered it, tho she was certain frost heard.
"let's go. you don't want to be wet after dark." she reluctantly climbed on, deliberately gripping frosts fur too tight, which frost ignored, maybe just to prove a point. she refused to say another word to frost until they reached a big campfire with a flickering orange fyre. Frost pulled out some of the deer meat and pu9t it over.
"dry off. it will do it automatically, that's part of its magic. it also protects the forest by warding off evils. we aren't sure exactly what it does, but some creatures don't go near it. it might be a problem for you, with your mark." echo approached it tentatively and instantly felt warm and dry, but not afraid or anything. she actually felt safe.
"Nope, I'm fine."
"ok is this done yet?" she glanced at the half-raw venison frost held over the fyre.
"uh not exactly."
"how much longer?"
"it's about half done now." Frost nodded, and they sat together in relative silence. Frost glanced up.
"We better hurry, humans are afraid of graveyards at night, right? you especially won't like it."
"hey! what exactly is it? does it have magic?"
"no... but i will say there are 22 graves there."
"you have to have more than 22 dead wolfwalkers."
"We do. it's not... our... graves.." echo paused. the wolves had started hunting the cursed around 200 years ago, which translated to around 20 dead. but there was no way they would be so insensitive.
"Seriously? why do i need to see my own grave?"
"i don't know. I tried to say it was a bad idea, but Secret was fixed on it."
"can we just go back now?"
"I'm sorry, no. Secret said for some reason i had to show you, and i cant disobey her."
"at least they're buried."
"yes. i think she wanted you to see that we deal respectfully with the bodies? I'm not really sure what she thought this would achieve but upset you."
"let's just get this over with."
frost nodded and resumed her wolf form, which unnerved echo. she had kinda been weirded out at first, but then she was so overwhelmed by what frost said and what was happening she just suppressed it, but now that she was about to head into the graveyard of her predecessors and her future permanent home, she let the creepy thru.
"I'm sorry, Echo." Frost's voice surprised her, not by its presence but by its genuine, gentle tone. she nodded robotically and climbed on. frost again didn't try to make her speak, and she just sat there, paralyzed. she wasn't ready for this. she was almost starting to decide whether to come to terms with them deciding to kill her, and now she had to face this. it was too much. she really hoped her grave wasn't dug yet. the trip was too short, and a blazing sunset graced the horizon just as they arrived. she hoped it was long, but it wasn't. it quickly faded, leaving them in the dark. she looked around. 23 tombstones, each with names and dates of death carved on them, and paintings that were probably magic stood like eerie sentries, promising her death. i the moment, she couldn't take it anymore. she couldn't keep trying to be strong, or tough, she just let out her fears.
"will it hurt to die?" frost looked at her, from where she had been staring at the place where the sun disappeared, as if willing it back.
"i would imagine only for a split second. we kill quickly, unless the prey is running. when i corner rabbits they squeal for a millisecond before they go limp, until- actually, you probably don't want to hear about that." why did she have to be so honest about it? she had more questions, but she didn't think she wanted them answered anymore. she felt small, insignificant, weak. and so very afraid. suddenly she saw mist gathering, it flew from each grave, but Frost didn't even look up, she had taken out the apple that didn't do anything and glancing back at the wolf cave. the mist consolidated, and she saw her mark, glowing pale blue in it. vaporous white 3d versions of the images on the tombs surrounded it, all looking grim and expressionless. she heard a voice, like from her dream, but also like the sound of lighting.
"You MUST Succeed Where Others Could Not! If You Fail All Will Fall!" all of the evil.
"Frost?" frost glanced up.
"what's that?" she pointed at it.
"THAT!!" frost looked confused.
"Are you ok?"
"there's a giant blue fog thing yelling at me surrounded by ghosts from the gaves! what do you think?" frost became alarmed.
"your having a vision that is potentially dangerous, lets go, now!"
"ok!" frost transformed instantly and she jumped on, frost running as fast as she could for a while and echo baly able to stay on.
"i wish i could tell Secret i told her so..." normally echo might have laughed a little, but she just wanted to get back and curl up in her corner. frost ran her back as quickly as possible, and she staggered back to her corner.
"it seems she was upset by the graveyard?"
"you could say that. her mark gave her a vision and it really startled her. and possibly damaged her mentally.""
"oh, that was unexpected." frost explained what happened to her.
"she probably wont be able to handle herself, i think shes trying to process and having a hard time, but i have to go. can you watch her for me? its really important."
"what is it?"
"i dont know. i just know i have to go."
"alright. Truth, you watch the marked girl and make sure the pups leave her alone!" Frost smiled in gratitude and took back out the apple, and then took another bite. but echo couldn't understand anything, so she ignored it. 26 days left.