Caught Between Worlds
Amara - A Lesson Well Learned
Amara wound her way through the maze of streets that surrounded The Den, the Wolf Mother’s outpost and gathering place in Cillimar. As the afternoon sun streamed around her, Amara saw all sorts of strange figures walking through this quarter of the city. Because so many temples and other Power–associated organizations were here, there were a large number of the Power-touched. The Tells, the physical manifestation of a Power’s connection with a Sensitive, were very diverse and visible. She saw folks with feathers, wings, halos of power in all the colors of the rainbow, features of animals, and even their own personal weather effects. Rex padded along at her side, his hackles occasionally rising at some of the darker aspected Powers, but otherwise very obedient to her wishes and commands. As he had grown here in size, power, and ferocity, she had also sensed her connection with him becoming stronger as well. He was her constant companion, and in many ways, one of her best friends here.
“I wonder what it will be like once we return to the University,” she said, looking at him with an expression of concern. “I don’t know if I want to go back to the way we were before.”
Rex looked up at her and whined in sympathy.
Amara was heading to The Den because after the events of the Six Trials of Larazod, she felt as if she had reached a new level of understanding, a deeper connection with nature that was just out of her reach. It was times like this that Char, the Packmother, had told her to come in to learn one of the lessons. The first lesson had been Survival. It had been paired with an understanding that survival was a pack trait, that everyone in the pack had to work together in order to survive.
She wondered what this second lesson would be.
Approaching The Den, she marveled at its exterior construction. It was hardly noticeable on the edge of a small green park. A small rocky outcropping hid the true space, which was mostly underground. A trickle of a spring danced down the side and a small cave entrance lead into a dry tunnel.
As she passed through the entrance and went down the ramp that led to the larger meeting areas, she was distracted with thoughts about her upcoming trial. As such, she did not notice there was no sentinel guarding the entryway, as there had been every other time she had visited before.
As she rounded the corner and came upon the large stone statue of the Wolf Mother standing guard over her pups, with the smallest held lovingly in her mouth, Amara got her first clue that something was amiss. Sybil, the precocious 12 -year-old girl who had been her guide since the first day in Cillimar, ran in from the larger common room. She was accompanied by a burst of acrid smoke and hot air that stung Amara’s nostrils and made Rex growl
“What,” Amara started to say. Sybil cut her off frantically.
“Attack!” Cough cough “We’ve been attacked!! Char is—“ and with that the pale girl collapsed into a hacking fit, her lungs full of the thick black smoke that now was billowing out of the common room. She could only point, panic in her face. Amara ran forward, Rex bounding after her and Sybil at her heels.
The common room was a wreck. Scorch marks covered the room like an inkblot test. The very stone of the walls was cracked in many places and pounded into powder in others. Tapestries were tattered and dark blood stained the floor and walls like an impressionist painting. Large scratch marks were visibly etched deep into the stone.
Amara’s blade was in her hand before she even thought about it. The smoke burned her eyes as she scanned the room. Sybil, coughing violently, pulled her weakly toward a pile of rubble in the corner. As Amara ran over, the roof groaned ominously, flinging stone splinters.
Char lay underneath the rock, only her head and shoulders exposed. Blood ran down her cheek. Amara bent down in a panic as Rex began to dig frantically at the massive amount of rock that covered the Packmother. Char was still breathing, thank The Mother.
Amara’s eyes darted round, looking for something to pry the stone off with. What she saw were three small figures crouched under a demolished table. Two girls and boy, none older than 6. Some of the children who were wards of The Den. Mute with terror and frozen in fear, they starred at her, their eyes pleading for help.
“Sybil!” Amara shouted. “Grab those kids and get them out of here! I have to free-“ but she was interrupted by Sybil’s collapsing almost on her lap. Amara caught her before she hit the ground. The poor girl had fought the smoke as long as she could.
“Shit,” Amara swore, and then things got even worse. With a rumble the ceiling began to drop around the entrance, turning this cave into a fiery tomb. Suddenly, a massive figure filled the exit, slamming two giant paws into the descending stone. Heartrender! The bear-like druid grunted, his muscles as taught as steel cables.
“Hurry!” he roared. “I can’t hold this!”
Amara turned to Char. Rex, loyal friend, hadn’t stopped digging for a second but he had barely shifted a tenth of the stone that was needed. The kids seemed statues, paralyzed.
“I…” she started, torn.
Heartrender bellowed in pain, and dropped to his knees.
With a snap, Amara leapt into action. “Rex!” she shouted, dropping Sybil. The wolf-like German Sheppard jumped forward and caught Sybil’s tunic in his teeth, dragging her toward the shrinking exit. She swung her scimitar and cut the table remnant in half, scooped up the terrified children, and bolted after her beloved pet.
She allowed herself one glance over her shoulder at the mute form buried in the rubble.
Heartrender arched his back, making a gap. Everyone squeezed through and then leapt outward as tons of rock came crashing down, filling the antechamber with dust. The shockwave of the impact extinguished the candles which lit the room.
“Are you hurt-“ Amara started to ask one of the children in her arms, but then was surrounded by cheering. She blinked as the light came back up suddenly. “Wha…?”
“You did it!” squealed Sybil, suddenly very much awake and hugging her fiercely about the waist. Heartrender, now his normal size, gave her a pat on the back that knocked the wind from her as the other Den residents poured out of the entrance tunnel to surround her. She looked back at the rubble-choked entrance to the common room to find it clear, and Char walking through, smiling her quiet smile.
“This was the second lesson,” Amara realized. She gave a frantic laugh as crashing adrenaline ran down her spine like ice water. She punched Sybil in the shoulder “You little brat, you were acting!” The young girl beamed.
“Indeed,” said Char, coming forward to embrace her. “Forgive my deception, but The Wolf Mother believes in practical application over theoretical discussion. Have you discovered what the second lesson is?”
Char nodded, smiling faintly. “Correct. The pack must work together for survival, but there will be times when in order for the pack to survive, individual members must be sacrificed. Such decisions will always be difficult ones, but they often must be made very quickly, in times of great crises. You chose to ensure the future of the pack, to do the greatest good.
“The Wolf Mother is pleased with you, daughter. Come, I believe a feast has been prepared in anticipation of this outcome.”
While the crowd cheered and howled, Heartrender lifted Amara onto his shoulders, and they left to celebrate a lesson well learned.
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