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𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐓𝐡𝐫𝐞𝐞 - 𝐒𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐫 𝐎𝐧𝐞-𝐓𝐡𝐫𝐞𝐞

WTWWHG ch3: Welcome

Chaos had ensnared sector one-three. The towering metal walls of the compound were torn wide-open; gunshots and metallic explosions enthralled the morning air, and as creatures fought against soldiers, the once green grass quickly adorned a blanket of crimson.

          From the windows of the V-22 Osprey, Luan and his pack stared down at the battle. His amber eyes widened as the aircraft flew overhead, approaching the landing zone. He could see monstrous bears and machine-mounted lizards, hundreds of gun-wielding humans, armoured vehicles, and deep, smoking craters.

          This wasn't going to be as simple as last night.

          "Hey," Caliban spoke into Luan's mind. "We got this."

          As Luan looked over at his brother, he frowned hesitantly. He tried not to be so meek as to tuck his black ears behind his head each time an explosion burst through the air, shaking the aircraft. He dug his claws into the metal floor, slowly turning his head to look out of the window again.

          "Get ready," Rakesh announced with a loud snarl.

          Everyone backed away from the windows, standing in two single-file lines behind their Alphas.

          The Osprey touched the ground, and with a violet rumble, the aircraft shook. Luan scowled, trying to banish his angst. He had never been one for large-scale battles; he preferred the easy, swift infiltrations. But this...this was a battleground unlike anything he'd seen.

          With a loud whirring, the aircraft's loading ramp opened, revealing the pack to their next assignment: take out the enemy, assist the humans, and make it out alive.

          Rakesh led the way out onto the battlefield with no hesitation. Aysel followed at his side, and the pack trailed behind him, heading for the burst-open walls of the compound. Everyone knew their assignments, and a plan had been formed on their way here. Now it was just a matter of getting it done.

          As they reached the walls, Rakesh turned right, and Aysel turned left, taking half of the pack each. Luan ran with Aysel, Raith, Tarkik, Feray, and Mani—it was their job to deal with the smaller Netherworlders: gargoyles, druids—there were even a few elves launching magic attacks at the collapsed building that had once operated in this compound.

          They all raced off in pairs, picking their first targets. Luan and Tarkik headed for an elf using the cover of a smoking jeep to launch his attacks, while Aysel and Raith went for a grounded gargoyle. Feray and Mani charged at a group of sword-wielding druids—they looked just like humans, but atop their heads, they possessed the antlers of deer.

          Luan snarled as he charged head-on towards the elf, while Tarkik used the cover of the battleground's smoke to scurry around behind the elf's cover.

          Noticing him incoming, the elf stumbled in preparing his next attack, and clamped his fist shut, deactivating the charging white magic in his hand. As Luan ran at him, the elf adorned a look of hesitation and jumped to his feet—

          Good, he was distracted.

          Before the elf could do a thing, Tarkik pounced at him from behind, sinking his teeth into his shoulder. As the elf yelled in pain and fell under Tarkik's weight, Luan pounced over his packmate and savagely sunk his teeth into a second elf, which had run over to try and assist the other.

          With both elves down, the pair then headed off towards a group of struggling soldiers battling gargoyles and shifted druids. As a soldier fired at the gargoyle's leathery wings, Luan leapt up into the air and clamped his jaws around the creature's leg. He pulled it to the ground, and before it had a chance to solidify, the soldiers behind Luan all fired their rifles, the silver bullets piercing its skin with ease.

          Tarkik slammed his body into a druid that had taken on the form of a tiger. They fought for a moment, but Luan swiftly joined his packmate and helped him tear apart the savage cat—it stood no chance.

          "Nice one," Tarkik spoke into Luan's mind.

          Luan nodded, and then, they both took a moment to scour the area. Each of their packmates was engaged in combat, more of the soldiers' armoured trucks were rolling in, and as the sound of an approaching helicopter rang through the sounds of metallic explosions and gunfire, Luan and Tarkik set their eyes on their next target.

          Not too far away, a huge golden-furred berserker crashed its body into a gun-mounted truck, sending it tumbling across the ground, and it missed Feray and Mani by mere inches. Despite the platoon of soldiers they had with them, they were going to need Luan and Tarkik's help against such a monster.

          So, without hesitation, Luan and Tarkik raced over to their packmates. The bear seemed to be avoiding Mani and Feray, and as Luan and Tarkik joined the fight, the creature started backing off, swiping its paws forward, whining each time a bullet from the soldiers' guns hit its thick pelt. Its blood started seeping from its wounds, and as it became slower and weaker, the soldiers stopped firing, and let the four wolves close in on the bear, finishing it off.

           But that was when an ear-piercing howl cut through the sounds of battle. The four wolves raised their heads from the bear's dead, bloody body, and stared in the direction of the howl.

          Luan frowned—that didn't sound like Aysel. And it didn't look like her, either. He set his amber eyes on the blurred figure of a white wolf in the far distance, just outside the compound's blown-open walls. It stood atop a jagged rock, its howl travelling upon the cold breeze.

          No wolf had any time to prepare for what came next—distracted, all four of them failed to hear the panicked calls of retreat from the soldiers and the whirring of the incoming helicopter—

          In a fiery explosion of rubble and metal, the helicopter collided with the building, the gargoyles that had brought it down scattering before it crashed. Luan and his packmates were thrown off their feet, and as he landed back on the ground with a loud thump, Luan groaned painfully.

          His ears were ringing, his vision was disorientated; the ground beneath him shook and rumbled, the sounds of distorted gunfire echoing through his head. He looked around for his packmates, but the bright fire from the burning building made it hard for him to see much at all.

          And then, sudden dread gripped hold of him—a heart-wrenching feeling of dismay. Something was wrong, and it wasn't the burning building beside him.

          Wolves began to flood out of the fire, pouncing over the rubble, sprinting past the recovering soldiers. Luan watched from where he lay—he'd not seen these wolves before, and none of them possessed the white collars he and his pack did. Why?

           One of the uncollared wolves noticed him—it paused in its fleeing sprint and stared at him with its emerald-green eyes. Luan felt panic strike him, and as the wolf started to hurry over to him, he tried his best to climb to his paws, but his startled body throbbed in pain—


          Luan flinched and gawped in horror as a bullet pierced the approaching wolf's head. Blood exploded from the side of its furred face, and as its pecan-brown body fell to the ground, Luan wasn't sure if he felt mortified...or relieved.

          "Get up, hound!" came the voice of a man.

          Turning his head, Luan set his eyes on one of the platoon's lieutenants. The man glared over at him as a group of soldiers dragged their wounded comrades to cover behind him. Luan knew better than to lay there and mope, so he forced himself to his feet and stood on his trembling legs, looking around for his packmates.

          Tarkik was helping Feray to her feet, and Mani was already up and assisting a nearby group of soldiers.

          "Stop the rogues from escaping!" the lieutenant called.

          Luan looked over at him and then turned his head, setting his eyes on a group of uncollared wolves fleeing the compound as soldiers shot at them. But he felt...hesitant. Kill wolves? Kill...their own?

          His eyes then shifted to Caliban. He watched as his brother raced towards the fleeing wolves, Rakesh not too far behind. Oh, how Luan envied his brother—he never hesitated to do what was ordered—

          "Luan!" Tarkik called.

          He took his eyes off his brother and looked over at Tarkik. He, Mani and Feray were heading for another berserker—Luan would much rather deal with that than chase down other wolves. So he followed his packmates, heading for the huge bear as it tore through the soldiers.

          But as it saw them approaching, the bear dropped down onto all fours, turned tail, and ran.

          It was running away?

          Luan and his packmates chased after it. However, as they followed it towards the walls, Luan could see that it wasn't just this berserker fleeing—every enemy was retreating, heading for the forest outside the walls. And that was when Aysel's howl summoned them back to the battlefield.

          The four of them abandoned the bear and raced back towards the fire and ash. Above them, gargoyles fled for the trees, the elves and druids rode atop what remained of the bears, and those of the enemy that couldn't escape were picked off by the soldiers.

          Was it over?

          As quickly as they could, Luan, Tarkik, Mani and Feray raced back to join their pack, but when they reached them, they were all crowded around something. Was Rakesh or Aysel giving orders? Was someone hurt?

          Everyone looked back at Luan and his packmates as they arrived—more specifically, they stared at Luan, some with looks of sorrow, others with stares of confliction.

          Luan wanted to ask why they were all looking at him, but as Judith and Lusine stepped aside, what lay in the centre of their huddle forced a painful dagger straight through Luan's chest.

          Upon the ground, Caliban lay in a puddle of blood. His white fur had been torn off in chunks, and the wounds all over his still body were gushing crimson. Tears, slashes, and bites smothered him, and his jaw was spread, a look of utter terror on his lifeless face.

          Disbelief struck Luan first—this wasn't real...this couldn't have happened. He stared, convinced his brother would get up, but when the realization hit him, Luan scowled in distress and pounced over to him. He lay his body over his brother's, concentrating, trying to force his body to heal Caliban's...but nothing happened. No aura, no healing....

          Luan's face contorted into a dismayed stare as his packmates backed off. He shook his head, grief tightening his throat, his heart racing, each beat sending a slither of pain through his trembling body. He whined and wailed in grief, nuzzling Caliban's face, trying to speak into his mind, but there was nothing there...just a cold, deep emptiness.

          His brother was gone.

WTWWHG ch3: Text
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