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  from The Wolf and the Tigress (10k Challenge Submission) by Zach Bromfield

The Wolf and the Tigress
A forbidden romance spells doom for both lovers.

(The following was written for the 10K writing challenge. I am thinking of making a longer version as I ran out of words, which I did not expect! Let me know what you guys think! Constructive criticisms welcome! This is meant to be a full and rounded off short story, but there was more to it than I realised.)

Rated NC-17 for strong language, strong violence and mild sexual references

By the time the creation of Athiral reached its conclusion, flora and fauna had spread far and wide across the land, claiming dominion in the world from the vastest of valleys to the meekest of mires. Ruling over them were the god’s beloved children, the elvanoe, or as we would know them, the elves. The graceful and peaceful elvanoe ruled sovereign over all the land, and their immortal lives saw their kind quickly spread far and wide across the realms. These gentle people were united in their undying love for their creators and for the sanctity of the beautiful lands which they called their home.

Yet the days of paradise that all elves shared were numbered. Dir’thales, the god of shadows was wroth with jealousy and rage at the gods for their seemingly perfect lives and happiness. He went on to conceive and sire the vampyris, creatures of abomination and darkness that were designed for one purpose. To exterminate the elvanoe. And over one hundred years, they nearly succeeded as their hordes wiped out millions of elfkind in their relentless hunt, shielded by shadow from the god’s wrath.

In their punishment, the pantheon captured Dir’thales and severed him from the light of creation, before casting him down into the void. The vampyris, no longer protected by shadow, were almost annihilated when they fell under the light of the sun, and so, with their numbers irreparably reduced, they retreated into the dark places of the world.

The elvanoe turned their backs on the seemingly impotent pantheon, after an age of desperate and devastating warfare that tore the lands and ripped the continents apart. They soon began to fade, and grew less and less in number as the years drifted by, unwilling to endure in a world now tainted by death and loss. In their grief-stricken desire to heal the world, the gods made another race, humans. Although weaker than the elvanoe, they were adaptive, resourceful, and devoted to their traditions and each other. Over time, they would come to inherit the lost kingdom of the elvanoe in their path to obtain oneness with their heavenly creators.

The god-like dragon, known as the void draconis, was agonised by the death of his father Dir’thales, and sought to wreak vengeance on the world. With his corrupting influence, he unified the vampyris hordes and made war upon the lands of man and elf alike. His war soon spread to the animal kingdom, and it was within the land of the king of beasts, Toriafax, the White Lion Spirit, that the dark dragon would plot his most devastating and yet his most erroneous attack. An attack that would shatter the idyllic lives of the animal royal family, and see the end of the dragon’s short-lived war on the people of Athiral.

But to understand the true extent of this tragedy and the evil of the dark dragon, one must read of the passionate and yet all-too brief romance that flowered forth, from a daughter of the king, and the warrior chosen to guard and protect her. The story of the Wolf, and the Tigress.

***

Griseo Connall lapped at the stream from the wellspring that had sprouted from underground.

It was not a large or dramatic stream that issued forth from the ground like a barely contained fountain. It was more of a body of water that had chosen to emerge from the ground and journey down the hillside to join the river below. A larger body of water would have been more preferred, but Griseo was thirsty and impatient. He would use the larger body of water to wash and make himself presentable before Toriafax.

Griseo had found a dip in the hilly grassland valley which preceded the immense green jungle that lay ahead of it. This told him that he was going the right way. After dodging elvanoe patrols and hyena packs, not seeking confrontation unless he had no other choice, Griseo was anxious to know if his journey had come to bare fruit. And now, it seemed, it had.

Griseo knew the home of the Lion Spirit, the king of Beasts, was immense. A vast territory that spanned miles beyond miles. Beyond what the sun touched, but he could truly not comprehend the scale of such reach that Toriafax’s authority bestowed upon him until he had arrived a month ago. A month had passed and for all his running and travelling, he had only barely reached half way in his journey.

Yet Griseo was proud of himself. Seeing the jungle ahead gave a resurgence to his spirit and stoked the fires of motivation in his heart. With the end goal in sight, he had practically made it. He had inherited such tenacity and persistence from his father, who was of course the Alpha of the pack and a strong determined wolf.

Father was a brave explorer and a powerful warrior. He had rightfully deserved his role as pack leader, and with it, the queen of the pack, after he claimed it from the previous Alpha in brutal yet honourable battle. Father had persevered and allowed the previous alpha to die in peace from his wounds, letting the snow settle on his old body and protecting it from scavengers before moving the pack along. The old alpha’s queen had lost her life when she had fallen afoul to a snare left by the two-legged ones with the pointed ears. The snare was made to trap a nightcrawler, yet had done its job grimly well with the old alpha’s queen. The two-legged ones, wrapped in their furs and their clothes, had also been respectful when they came to inspect their trap. Father had observed that the snare had bitten deep, and the leg injury caused by the snare had become infected. Taking the old queen’s age into account, the eldest of the two-legged had slipped a quiet metal-claw into her ribcage, then spoke in his strange tongue, waved his hands, rolled his eyes and threw his arms up. When speaking of this to him and the other pups, Father had spoken of… something… rising from the old queen’s body, and after some time observing the old alpha’s body, had seen also a ‘something’ rise from his body as well, standing and running off into the grey-white blur of the cloudy skies above.

This indescribable yet very present and very real something was their soul, Father had explained, and they had gone to rejoin the spirits of the rippling lights in the north. “One day you will rejoin them, when you come of age, or die in battle.” He had spoken to the pups. “You must prove yourselves worthy of such an honour, by accepting your rank and roles in the pack, or die unremembered and with curses upon your name and all of wolfkind.”

Father did not mince words when speaking of the honour bestowed on wolves. For they were the snow-stalker people, the white-eyed night hunters and the snarling jaws of wintery black night. He was truthful and did not hold back the truth, traumatic as it could be sometimes. Griseo thanked Father for this, and would always be thankful of him for that.

Mother was strong too. The strongest queen he had ever known, whose qualities as an alpha queen were what he aspired to find in other females when the time would come to choose a mate. Her fur was black, and Father’s was grey and white. She was dark but with a kind heart. Father was light but with a warrior’s soul. Their litter reflected the mixture of light and dark forged to make perfect children of the mated alpha pair. Power. Strength. Justice. Balance. Griseo himself had inherited his mother’s black fur and held a stripe of grey originating from above his right eye and flowing down his back to the beginning of his tail.

Father had chosen well with his choice of mates, and Mother had been good to accept him. Griseo was proud of them, and though he would not say it, he liked seeing them together. It was refreshing. Heartwarming even, especially on the coldest of nights. When they were sat together, Father showed a rare side of himself with her that he never showed with Mother. A sense of humour. It was, as the normally stoic and taciturn alpha revealed once in a rare but unforgettable moment of candour, how he won her over. That and that he had also saved her from coyotes when she had fallen ill and struggled to defend a kill that she made when separated from the pack. Once she recovered, she would later redeem herself by chasing away a short-faced bear that had come along to try and claim a bison kill as its own, snapping and nipping at its heels.

Yes, Griseo truly did have worthy parents.

And now, the time had come to honour them.

Half a year ago, a raven came to his pack with a message for his father. A message from the court of the animal royal family. It had read that a cruel fate had befallen the previous bodyguard of the princess of the White Leo Family. The bear was a strong and powerful beast from the frozen lands to the north, and dutifully protected and kept the princess from harm everyday that he served. He had also grown fond of the princess, and she of him, as a niece may love an uncle. Yet the bear had sacrificed himself after the nightcrawlers attacked. The princess had been saved, while the bear fought the elf-hunters to his last dying breath. Now the highly prestigious and honourable position had become vacant, and the royal family had turned their eyes to the leader of his pack to fill the position, with full accommodation and protection offered as part of the benefits of being accepted into the office of the royal guard.

Father had responded in a way that Griseo did not anticipate, nor, he reckoned, did any of the others in the pack. He declined the position, but turned to Griseo. The next words that he spoke would burn into his heart forever.

“My son, the time will soon come when I am to exile you from my pack, lest you soon seek to make progeny of your own with my females and sire a family unapproved of. I give to you instead this, this honourable position. Raven! Tell the King of Beasts this. The Lord of Direwolves has heard your message, and I send my answer back. Wolves do not belong in the jungle or deserve a pampered and pleasant lifestyle within the court of the king. They belong in the wilds, where the cold and the darkness destroys and reshapes us as warriors everyday! Yet one wolf in the court shall, in his wildness and his strength of spirit in the frozen wilds, be a worthy guard to the king and his progeny. Do you, my eldest and fiercest son, accept this gift I grant unto you!”

Griseo had opened his mouth in shock, and knelt before his father in reverence at this great honour bestowed upon him.

“I accept your gift, father.”

“Good.” Father spoke. “Then go forth. Leave the pack tonight and journey south into the M’Kayan wilds. Do not stop or dally, but hurry forth with haste to your post! Your calling awaits, and with it, you will honour wolf-kind everywhere with your duty.”

“I feel I am not worthy of such a task, father…” He had asked, unable to fully believe what he had been given.

“Do not think yourself in such a base a way as humble!” Father had snapped, and Griseo had winced and flattened his ears. “Put your ears up, and sit up! You are worthy! For you are my son and my issue, and can only succeed and do well, but not if you meander and pussyfoot and gripe for compliments. Keep your worth, and increase it only by being true to your calling and your duty. Seize any and all challenges you face by the throat and bring it to submission! Bid your mother goodbye and then go!”

Griseo had turned and bumped noses with Mother. She had more encouragement to give, albeit not as sternly as Father’s.

“The pack rides with you, my son. If any fool wishes to visit harm upon the king or his children, you will bring down the full fury of winter’s teeth upon them. You will fight until you cannot stand to ensure the royal family are protected at all times, not just the princess!”

She kissed him again.

“Fight above and beyond what you are given to task, and bring us honour!” She urged.

The raven nodded, and took off in flight, with Griseo following close behind at full speed. As he crested a rise before the dark woods that led to the south, he gave one last look to his pack. The direwolves then rose up their heads and gave one last song of farewell, with a blessing of strength and speed in your jaws and stride, as they howled into the night sky, mists of vapour drifting from their upraised jaws in unison. Griseo gave his own answering howl, wishing the pack fortune in their hunts and good health for all of their days, and ran off into the darkness. He would not see them ever again.

And now, after months of travelling, he crossed the land bridge offered by the desert lands, where he had seen the hairless apes fighting over the pointy ear’s pyramids, and journeyed further south, until at last, he had come to the grasslands, where the jungle had lain ahead.

He continued to lap. The wellspring was fresh and was warmer than the icy water of his homeland, but he could not complain. It was as good as any, and he could trust the water that flowed forth from the mothering earth’s crevices.

“I hope the princess’s new royal guard doesn’t intend to bloat himself on the wellspring of the mother’s land. Land that the king owns, mind you.”

Griseo looked up as the raven, Tullus, glided down and landed with two hops to inspect the black wolf more carefully. His large beady black eyes blinked once as he tilted his head, impatiently awaiting an answer from the wolf.

Griseo lapped and cleaned his nose with his tongue, before snorting the droplets from his nose. He looked to the raven and asked.

“I wish to bathe, if it so please you, messenger. I have trekked though desert and mud to reach my destination.”

The raven sighed, lowering his head.

“The King expects you by evening at the latest! Do not keep him waiting, nor make us regret seeking out a new guard so far from home!” Tullus implored haughtily.

“Perhaps a bath may cool off the messenger, and keep his mind afresh and temperament pleasant.” Griseo grinned as he raised his head. Tullus looked absolutely tiny at his massive clawed feet. If he so desired, he could squash him flat with one stomp of his right paw. But he bore the raven no ill will, only a mild enmity for the bird’s impatient nagging and pestering every time he rested his head. The raven made a good scout however, and he was a respectable and decent conversationalist on lonely nights. In return, Griseo kept him safe from dangers, and hid him under his forelimbs whenever hawks, falcons, and eagles were seen hovering in the skies. Another benefit for his black coat to compensate for the exhaustion and the numerous rest-stops in shelter to escape the burning heat of the M’Kayan sun.

Tullus backed away at the grin and the sight of his fangs, shrinking slightly before he cawed back.

“I assure you! I am perfectly fine in appearance and humour! Which is what you won’t be if you do not make haste forthwith! The king will not forgive lateness.”

“He appears to be not be forgiving of many things, if what you have told me in our journey is true, messenger Tullus. But I assure you, I will not forgive myself more if I present myself to his Highness as rough as a common jackal. I shall bathe, and will do so to please his highness and in doing so thus please you.”

He trotted away from the stream and headed further down the trail, hearing Tullus sputter and then flap his wings hastily to catch up.

Along the pale grassy bank, clothed in mud and pate, the steam became denser, and then widened to a satisfyingly deep looking body of water. It was a small pond, and too small to house log-biters or tuskers. He would bathe here.

“Tullus, keep watch for trouble, will you, friend?”

“My pleasure so depends upon it, apparently.” The bird quipped back sarcastically, but settled on a branch of a small tree by the side of the pond and did as asked.

Griseo waded in, satisfied that the pool was not deceptively deeper than it appeared as it reached up to his undercarriage. He dipped his body, lowered his massive head under the surface, then lifted and shook the water free. He padded onto the bank, appreciating the cooling waters as they seeped into his black coat, and shook his whole body, freeing himself from the dregs of pond water.

“Oh-oof I say- I say, Master Griseo- do not shake yourself around me. My wings shall not fly me if I am wet!”

Griseo looked back to Tullus, who had erroneously hopped from his branch and trotted over to where Griseo had surfaced. The raven was now sodden with some of the water from Griseo’s coat, and was looking up at him angrily.

“Ah, well perhaps you got your bath after all! My apologies. Wolfkind shake very fiercely when in water. To be wet is to invite death where I am from.”

“Oh drat and rot!” Tullus opened his feathers and flapped them to disperse the wet, but was not successful.

“Ah, forgive me my friend,” Griseo spoke. He bent and laid on his haunches. “The evening sun shall dry us both. Climb on my back. I shall trot briskly but not harshly so you may stay balanced.”

“Oh…” Tullus moaned, and then relented. “So be it. I will not enjoy such a rudimentary means of travel but the day’s end draws near.”

Tullus hopped on and seated himself between Griseo’s shoulders. Griseo f...







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