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Understanding Never
#1
Sierra watched as they dove under the water and bit back her desire to hold her breathe until they came back up.  Who knew how long it would be.

She leaned back against the tree trunk and stoked the fire to a nice burn and then close her eyes while she waited.  Never curled up next to her, he awaited her in the dream

****

She opened her eyes in the same place.  But it was different.  It always was the same.  Never jumped and crossed her path with a wofish grin on his muzzle.  He loved the dream.  His images came across more like words now. 

So happy!  He danced.  Wish Bre could be here!

Miss pack already.  Soon?  He looked up hopeful.

"I hope so."

Sierra scratched behind Never's ears. "You were trying to say something before?"

But Never was bounding around the dream for the moment.  Sierra would have to wait for him to center himself again.  Or it might not happen at all today.  He was a still a pup eager as ever to explore.
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#2
   

A howl rose up long and loud in the distance.

Wolves came over the ice in winter, and spent good hunting until thaw. The pack was not always on the island, but in the dream it was part of their territory and they ran where they willed to. Curious attention found the stranger and her lone pup, but like recognised like without trepidation. Howl had never met one of the two-leg kin, and his ears perked curiously. Old things woke, all the wolves knew, but it was another to see it.

He was sleek and black, and followed by another wolf, this one female, who trailed after him with light-footed steps. The pup with the two-leg frisked and spoke loudly all manner of excitements. The paler wolf trotted to make her greetings and calm the young one of his exuberance, at least for long enough to make introductions.

Pack welcomes. You are far from home?

The sending of Howl’s name was a finder of kin, the wolf who howls longest and loudest for those who are lost. He paused near the two-leg, sat, tucked his tail around his haunches. The other was named Sure Foot, an image of dexterous leaps bounding over icy tundra.
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#3
Never pranced excited that others came. The female of the pack quickly soothed the pup and he sat down with Sure Foot. And Sierra introduced herself as Long Eye and Never's images of butting his head up against a tree.

Sierra nodded to the dark one. "We are far from home. I'm here with my pack mate. He searches for an old one with a dreamer."

Never wiggled in his seated position but with elders present he didn't speak in so hurriedly. She is oblivion. He whispered on the wind. Sierra still ddin't understand but at least the words came instead of the images. She gave a slight bow to Howls. "Do you know of this ancient one? Or of who Never speaks?"
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#4
Howl considered the question a moment. The tenets of the pack were simple; they valued good hunting, the safety of the den, and the joy of a mate and pups. There had been other things once, and would be again; things that spiked the hackles and bared fangs. But the Last Hunt was not close, even if things were stirring in new ways unseen by wolves with living memory. As such Howl was surprised to push his thoughts beyond normal concerns. Many things shared the dream, and the wolves knew which to avoid. In the waking world, too, there were changings, but there the dangers were nearly always ignorant two-legs and their ways. He was not sure exactly what Long Eye sought, but if there was a threat she may have his teeth. His very name reflected his desire to keep pack together. Equally, it was a name that made him wish to nudge her away from accidentally nosing into a thorn bush. Or worse, a hornet nest.

Many ancient things roam now that did not roam before, he told her eventually. If they do not snarl at us we do not snarl back. Why do you and your packmate seek one of the old ones? Many sleep still. It is not wise to disturb them.

Pack knows there is an old one below, Sure Foot interjected, sending an image of the lake frozen over in deepest winter, and a sense of shadows skirting below her swift-running paws.

Yes, below, Howl agreed. But it does not concern pack. We do not go below.

He stood and shook his coat, then moved to ruffle his nose in Long Eye’s hair and against her skin. His ears flattened a little, disconcerted but not alarmed, for he was only confirming the faintest tickle to his nose with a closer inspection.

You smell of the Twisted Ones, Long Eye, though only a very little. Have you passed them on your long travels? We see them rise from the water sometimes, on far hunts. They are stone dead things here, and cannot hurt us. A growl rumbled his throat, but it was only an inborn instinct against all things wrongly born. They are old things also, but you should not go near them, you or your packmate. Better to stick with pack, always.

Sure Foot nuzzled into Never encouragingly. Speak clearer, little brother, of whom do you speak?
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#5
Sierra didn't know the answer to the question. "Tristan," an image of a wolf jumping across the sky and devouring the sun followed by complete darkness filled her mind naming Tristan Sun Snatcher to the wolves, but calling him by his name felt more natural to her. "Tristan didn't tell me. I don't know as if he really knows either. He's trying to save her. He speaks of things like fairs and trolls and has shown me pillars of stone. I don't understand any of it."

Sierra missed the touch of fur and warmth of pack. She missed Elsie and Mara, but this was more pack than that. Sierra wasn't a leader and she felt more at ease with Tristan helping to guide the way. She still was a teacher, but not leading the pack. Sierra smiled. "Tristan, Never and Bre are all the pack I have. I promised to stay with him."

Never was claming down thanks to Sure Foot's assistance. He spoke slower. He whispered into the darkness. She is oblivion. Forgetful. Can be dangerous. Jumps into dreams. Old soul. Must be careful. Never projected an image of the Thalia running from the room afraid of them -- of something. He didn't know but that was the impression Never picked up.
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#6
Howl’s ears twitched. She spoke an Old Name, one he recognised from pack memory and not his own. It was not a name bestowed by wolves, though it translated well enough in their language.

There was a howl in the dream recently that touched us all with a warning of danger. But Thorn Paw bid us wait, and we did. He is old and wise and we listen. It was something to do with the Twisted Ones and the name you speak. Sun Snatcher has lived the dream before, I think. But the memories of that are very old, Long Eye. Very old.

He could not say, nor understood, much more than that. Thorn Paw himself might know more if Sierra wished to ask him; he was old and awaited rebirth in the waking world. He was also the one who went where no wolves dwelt and found the full-grown man-pup isolated and alone. No brother should have ever been left to grow like that. Uncomfortable with the understanding of such potent loneliness, Howl shook his coat a little, and lay himself down. His large head nudged onto Sierra’s lap companionably.

But then that is why I smell the Twisted Ones on you; your packmate has shown you the stone pillars, and that is what they are, he said, glad of the explanation. Though he understood them to be dead things in the wolfdream, it was natural that such things would still raise the hackles. Two-legs especially he expected to surrender to instincts they did not fully understand. Twisted Ones were wrong and the natural enemy of wolves, but they could not harm here. Or at least, they had not been able to for a long time. Given the flux of changes lately he thought it far better to stay away from the pillars than to test the theory. Chasing after ancient ones of any description seemed a foolish errand, and one likely to end badly. The sooner Sun Snatcher realised the value of his pack, the better. Life did not have to be so complicated.

It is good that he has you, Long Eye, Sure Foot added. It’s good to stay together.

Howl also repeated the sentiment, and then both wolves turned their attention to the images sent by the wriggling pup. Sure Foot sent a note of encouragement for his articulation, which came through much clearer this time. Very good, little brother Never, she said, you remember well and protect your pack.

The Forgotten One, Howl said plainly. Another thing of long ago. She is one of the old things we avoid, Long Eye. The image he sent was as if she were a part of the dream landscape itself, a seemingly unending river; the joyous rush of a springtime stream that nonetheless disappeared into the darkness of a crevice and away from view. She lives in the dream always, but she has no pack to carry the memories for her. The burden is too great and it makes her strange. We do not understand her, and it is better to stay away. Never is right. Does your packmate Sun Snatcher also heed the warning? Is she why you are both looking for ancient ones? I do not understand from what one might need saving. Is there anything we may do to help you, Long Eye?
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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