Hey, guys! Here’s the next chapter of my story!! The AJ Story is not its official title; I’m still looking for one, but I can’t think of a good one. If you have any suggestions, PLEASE post them in the comments!!
“What do you mean, she hasn’t come back?” cried Flora. They were standing on the edge of the plateau called Peregrine Peak on the edge of Coral Canyons. The view was beautiful, looking down on the wild forest outside Jamaa, but the three wolves and the panda had much more on their minds than the scenery.
“She was supposed to return an hour ago,” said Liza worriedly.
“Juniper’s worthless on patrol,” said Lucky with a scowl. “I’ll admit she’s a whole lot better than me in a lab, but you should have sent someone else. Or, better, never separated us in the first place.”
“All the more reason to search for her,” said Greely. “You said it yourself, Lucky, there’s far too much trouble an incompetent teenager could have gotten into out there. I’ll go find her myself, if you won’t.”
“I never said – ”
Greely had already disappeared. Flora had long suspected the Alphas had a means of teleporting, but perhaps he was just fast.
“’Incompetent teenager’,” murmured Lucky. “Do you think he meant me or Juniper?”
Flora almost laughed. “He would have to be one stupid Alpha to have known you for your whole life and think you were incompetent.”
Crashing was having the time of her life. Scooter was great with kids, and never ran out of things for them to do, Fauna was tons of fun to play with, and LaSelle was one of the nicest animals she’d ever met. All in the magnificent Raccoon Alpha’s palace.
The house had four bedrooms, all with a walk-in closet, and had a giant ballroom-like room with a fountain that they couldn’t keep Fauna out of.
“Look at meeee!” the silvery penguin squealed as she jumped into the fountain from the third-floor balcony.
“Fauna, you’re going to hurt yourself,” admonished the Raccoon Alpha. Even though an ordinary eight-year-old would have been a splat on the polished marble tiles by then, Fauna seemed to have a great affinity from heights, and had even stuck a landing from the fifth floor.
“I thought penguins couldn’t fly,” said Scooter with a grin.
“Yeah, ‘cause penguins like to swim,” Crashing confirmed.
“Well, I don’t even have wings.” Scooter tweaked one of her own long white ears. “That’s the closest I got.”
Crashing was so small she could have been a rabbit, but she was looking more wolflike by the second. She had even learned to howl.
Fauna waddled out of the fountain, still dripping wet. Scooter could not get over the penguin’s odd look. She was silvery gray with pale golden streaks, but gray was not unusual; Flora herself had a light silvery pelt. It was her eyes that looked so abnormal. Instead of dark blue like Flora’s, they were a strange light yellow, like the color of the moon. They were very fractal-looking, with streaks of white and rimmed with tan.
“LaSelle, I like your palace,” said Fauna with her pretty smile.
“Oh, you poor dear, you’ve spent your whole life in that awful cell in the Hive,” crooned LaSelle. “You haven’t seen anything; I’m a minor Alpha. I hear Peck’s palace is beautiful, though, maybe you could check that out sometime.”
“It is,” sighed Scooter. “The whole – ”
LaSelle looked up as she heard a knocking sound. “I’ll be right back, then, dears, just let me get the door.”
She came back a minute later with none other than Flora Cottoncloud.
“Flora!” cried Crashing, bounding up from where she was talking to Scooter, Fauna, and LaSelle and giving the silver-and-purple wolf a hug.
“Hey, Crashing,” she said with a smile. “Are you having a good day?”
“Yeah!” cried the little wolf. “Are we going home now?”
“Not yet,” said Flora evasively. “We’re having some problems, but you can come back with us now. Greely’s fine, and we missed our little Cutestar.” She turned to the other animals. “Scooter and Fauna, you’re coming with us, too, of course. Peck’s unconscious – ”
“ – but she should wake up pretty soon, and we can get you placed, Scooter. Fauna, we may have to keep you for a little while, but I know you won’t mind.”
“Nope,” agreed Fauna.
“We can’t take you two with us right this second, but we’ll come back in a few hours.”
Flora and Lucky met back at Greely’s palace to wait for him. Crashing was playing in the big gathering room downstairs. Liza didn’t accompany them because she was still patrolling. Unfortunately, she didn’t know just how far gone the purpose of the patrols were.
Greely showed up ten minutes later with Juniper’s still form hanging limply from his jaws. With Flora’s squeal and Lucky’s hoarse shout, the two wolves ran over to where Greely had put down their fallen sister.
“Is she okay?” said Lucky hoarsely. There was a burnt hole in the back of her hood, and there was a purplish cut on her head. With a terrible feeling of déjà vu, she put her ear to the blue wolf’s chest and listened. She had a thrill of relief when she heard her little sister’s slow, shallow breathing.
“She’s okay,” said Flora, releasing a breath she didn’t know she had been holding.
“Let me wake her up,” said Greely, with an uncharacteristic air of awkwardness. Greely was usually a smooth creature, but he acted like there was something on his mind.
He disappeared for a minute or two, then returned with a bowlful of something sticky and grayish-green. Lucky gagged as he dripped a stream of the lumpy concoction into Juniper’s mouth. With a start, she awoke with a choking noise and sat up.
“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I – ”
“Juniper, what happened?” Greely growled. Juniper, still not fully herself, only panicked more at his deep-voiced demand.
“Phantoms!” she cried. “I’m so sorry, there was a hundred of them, there was nothing I could do – ”
“Phantoms got in?” said Flora, trying to keep her head. This could be worse than bad. This could be the start of one of the biggest wars in Jamaa’s history, besides the first Phantom Invasion when the Alphas fought alone.
“I tried,” she sobbed. “But they attacked me, and – I don’t know, I just blacked out.”
“It’s alright, Juniper, I doubt even Lucky could have held off a hundred phantoms,” said Flora, shooting Lucky a negative look as the golden wolf opened her mouth in indignation.
“We have to tell the other guards,” said Juniper, finally coming to her senses. “We need to – ”
“Wait,” said Greely. He slowly inhaled after he said it, like he’d been waiting to get out that single word for forever.
“What?” said Lucky impatiently. “Don’t you get – ”
“I understand what’s going on here, and don’t think you know it better,” he growled. “I fought in the first Phantom Invasion, and six Alphas died. But this is serious.”
Even Lucky shut up.
“I know how you may have missed it,” said Greely carefully. “Crashing was in horrible shape when you found her, and I understand that wound of hers made her face look different, and she couldn’t have told you herself. She believed she was what you thought she was, and she believed it with all her heart.
“What are you – ” said Flora, with a hint of defense for their adopted little sister in her voice.
“I didn’t know it myself until the acceptance ceremony. I didn’t know she hadn’t already been accepted, because I hadn’t accepted her myself.”
His brow creased as his face darkened. In the moody light inside the mountain, he looked dark and slightly menacing. “That’s where I made my mistake. When I gave her the second acceptance ceremony, not my mark but Peck’s appeared.”
“What are you saying?” gasped Juniper. Lucky hadn’t moved at all the whole time. She just stood there and looked offended, but just by her slight change of expression, her sisters knew she was listening.
“She is no wolf,” breathed Greely. “She’s one of Peck’s rabbits.”
Thanks for reading! I hope you like my story! Stay tuned for the next chapter next week!!