Clan of the Wolf

By: Avery Kloss

Chapter One





Voices woke me, a commotion occurring in the camp, although my mind felt groggy, clinging to a dream … the feeling warm and safe. Something moved beside me—a body—my sister, Ara, stirring. Despite not desiring to wake so early, I peeked out from one partially open eyelid, seeing nothing other than the darkness of the pelt. The barking of an animal ended any hope of slumber, Ara bolting upright and tossing the hide aside.

“Wake, Peta! Get up. Something’s the matter.”

Were we not with a group this size, that announcement might have produced fear, but I knew safety resided in numbers. “You go see what it is.” I snuggled into the fur, feeling the delicious warmth all around me. From this angle, I eyed her, her hair tangled and long, falling around her thin shoulders. “It’s nothing.” I yawned. But I knew why she feared any sort of disturbance, her expression watchful, tense. I sat up, wrapping my arms around her. “Lascox won’t let harm come. You know that.” I referred to the leader of our clan, the man having taken us in two seasons ago.

Grey tendrils of smoke from now defunct cooking fires hovered over us like a mist, the air pungent. The smell clung to my hair. A great meal occurred last night, the grilling of bear flesh, my belly grateful for such a feast.

Ara nodded, her thick brows drawn together in worry. “Perhaps.”

The arm around her neck emphasized the differences in our coloring, my skin lighter. Her hair, black as a starless night, contrasted starkly with my golden strands. I felt the warmth of the sun then, the camp positioned to take advantage of this, our fires scattered to one side of the river, while the other side stayed cold in the shadows until midday. All around, a great forest provided food and shelter, although it brought danger as well.

Those of our clan woke, the men first on their feet, most grasping spears, the tips made of flint, the blades sharpened to fine points. Some wore leather skirts around their waists, while others remained bare, their manhood hidden beneath a thick mantle of hair.

“Do you see anything?” asked Ara.

“No.”

“Where’s mamma?”

Eyeing the empty pelt next to us, I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Boys ran by, the older one, Luca, glancing at us, shouting, “Men come! Strangers!”

I sucked in a sharp breath. “The elders will take care of it.” Despite receiving a frosty reception from this clan two seasons ago, I felt a moment of relief to be among them, having been accepted into the fold. “We needn’t worry.”

Ara frowned, her dark eyes glinting. “Mamma!” she cried. Despite the noise of men, the sound carried, the girl’s voice sure and strong.

Movement caught my notice, a woman emerging, striding through a haze of smoke, her feet encased in fur, tied with leather strips. Short in stature, the others towered over her, her legs muscled and stocky. I breathed easily now, knowing all was well, our family intact. Our mother, Kia, held a sturdy branch, the wood having been her tool ever since I knew her, the object smooth to the touch, yet strong.

“Get up now,” she commanded, her dark gaze skimming over us. “You’ve slept long enough, you lazy little beasts.” A hint of a smile emerged, but it looked like a frown.

Crawling over the pelt, I grasped at her leg, clinging to her. “You mustn’t leave us.”

Her fingers drifted through my hair. “There, there. I can’t be with you every second, child. You’re in no danger here.” Ara jumped to her feet, hugging her. “The same goes for you, girl,” she murmured softly, holding her tightly.

“Yes, Mamma.”

My cheek against her leg, I felt the muscles beneath the skin, knowing my mother to be a woman of great strength. I had seen her once ward off a bear with her hands, the scars on her arms and chest testaments to that battle.

She touched my face, a smile appearing, which softened her features somewhat. “It’s two strangers—men. They appear friendly enough. Everyone’s gone to greet them. Why don’t you come? There’s no need to hide. Be brave, my children.” Then she frowned. “I worry you’ve grown soft being among this clan. I’m guilty of it too, but … you’re both so young. You must always be wary, ready to fight.”

Ara nodded vigorously. “I am. I’m not afraid, Mamma.”

Finding that statement ridiculous, I snorted. “She’s scared. I’m not afraid.”

“Ha!” Ara shouted, anger flaring. “I’ll show you!” She reached beneath the pelt, withdrawing a short length of wood, with a stone tip sharpened to a fine point. “I’m ready to greet the strangers. Where are they?”