The next morning Oona found herself not wanting to remove herself from her bedroll. It was snug, and warm, and she had drawn up into a tiny ball inside an could have laid there all day. One arm found its way out to unzip the tent. She looked outside and saw fresh snow. She took another deep breath, soaking in the special silence that can only be found when the snows remove all sound from air. Space, and the void between the stars was beautiful, but there was nothing that could touch this. This was life, in all its glory, in all of its silent splendor.
Eventually, Oona found herself dressed, and packing the tent away in her pack, making sure to leave little to no trace of her night here. Shed melted enough snow to fill her canteen, and 2 small pieces of sweet winter fruit would be her breakfast. Today would be exploring. Just walking about and seeing what the woods offered. Sorn told her that wisdom is often found when not actively looking. Somedays “it was best to let the Wisdom seek you, rather than you seeking IT.” Today she would test that. Living and growing up on station got the best of her though, and she began moving rapidly, wanting to see as much of the forest as she could in the time she had.
As mid-day moved closer, Oona had stopped to rest. The trees were thick here, with a small hill in front of her covered in high grasses, beside a small clearing just big enough to land a shuttle in provided the pilot didn’t mind scratching the paint.
Oona chuckled a loud at the thought of any Matari pilot being worried about paint. Most Matari pilots didn’t know what that was. Her chuckle was just loud enough to make a fat leporidae mammal pop its head up from beside a fallen trunk. Oona saw it, and thought to herself that it was a gift to her for dinner. Nourishment needed aside from fruit. She pulled the sizable blade from its sheath at her belt and affixed it to a small pole she had been using as a walking stick, effectively becoming a spear. The long eared rodent seemed unconcerned by her movement, further validating her thoughts that this was a gift from the spirits. With a smooth motion, she stood, and threw, and with a moment her dinner lay in the snow.
Ten minutes later, on her knees, she had finished dressing the animal out as she had been taught. It as skinned and she was preparing to pack it away until that evening when she would roast it over a spit. She looked forward to it, and was proud that she had hunted this creature, albeit a small one. It gave her a feeling of accomplishment. A GOOD feeling, that in moments would be replaced by fear.
She heard the first crunch of the snow behind her, and she knew that it was close. Too close. She heard the deep, cavernous exhale of breath and the steam of it washed past her head into her vision. Whatever was behind her, it had her. She was at its mercy.
She rolled forward, her momentum bringing her up to a crouch and she held out the knife in front of her with a grunt. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but what she saw was not it. It was a wolf. Huge, and white as the snow upon which it stood. No ordinary wolf like she had read about, this one was every bit as tall as a slaver hound…if not slightly more so. Thicker, stronger, and the terror it inspired was boundless. This was the end. Not like the instant death shed suffered in a pod once before, this thing was going to tear her apart. It would be gruesome, and painful, and it was more than she could stand.
Oona fought the urge not to collapse in terror. She stood there, unsure of what to do as the wolf bared its fangs and growled, but oddly did not take her. It would have been effortless, and it was confusing. She swallowed hard and blinked, and when she did, the image of her dying grandmother flashed. The old woman, a shaman herself, with a gaping hole in her ribs. The result of ramming the Amarrian ship she had stolen through the hull of another in an all or nothing bid to smuggle a ten year old Oona and her cousin away from the monster that owned them. She recalled crying and holding the woman’s hand as she spoke some of her final words.
“Oona…child. Promise me you will take my place one day. You have the heart to heal other hearts. You have a desire to protect. Seek out the White Wolf of Matar. The Queen of All That Is. She is the symbol of our clan. Find her, baby. Find her and submit at her feet. Show her your worth. The White Wolf heals. The White Wolf Protects. Become the White Wolf, Oona……”
Tears ran freely down her cheek where they froze at her jaw. She would listen. She was as good as dead anyway, so why fight. Oona slowly dropped to her knees, her arms stretched to the side. The knife dropped from her hand and stuck in the snow. She lowered herself and bowed, and waited.
The breath from the wolf was hot as it blew across the back of her neck. It was sniffing her, all around her. The growling had stopped and it nuzzle made its way into the pouch where the mammal she had just skinned lay, its bag still open. The wolf pulled it out of her pack and walked backwards. Oona raised her head to steal a peek, and for the first time, noticed the blood on the snow by the wolf’s left leg. It was not the blood of the prey, it was the wolf’s.
It had been injured?
The wolf turned and slung the carcass behind it, where, unseen till now, three pups hiding in the snow pounced it and began eating ravenously. It looked as if they had been longer than usual without a meal, which Oona attributed immediately to the wolf mother’s injury. The wolf sat keeping its gaze on Oona has her pups ate. Oona slowly raised to her feet, and with head down and palms out, approached the animal. Fear gripped her body, but she felt like she was being driven by some unseen force.
The wolf watched, never taking its eyes off Oona, but it allowed her to move, almost as if it was curious. She knelt beside the abnormally large canine, and gently tried to raise its injured leg. It growled lowly to signal caution, yet allowed her to raise it. Keeping her eyes from making direct contact, Oona very slowly worked at the leg. Pouring water to clean it, noticing minor infection. She used a small tube of antibiotic ointment which burned and caused the wolf to growl again briefly. She then wrapped it in a self dissolving bandage, standard in a survival med kit.
When done Oona moved away and the wolf moved and lay near her pups. They sat in each others company for a bit, and after about ten minutes, the pain in the wolf’s leg slightly subsided, and it began to give a contented pant, much less menacing than its cold stare before.
After a half an hour, when the animal was consumed, the pups and mother rose. As the pups made their way up the hill, with mother following, the great wolf stopped on top of the hill and turned back to Oona. After meeting each other’s gaze for a long moment, it inhaled deep, threw its head back a let out a howl that made the very snow on the ground vibrate. Clumps of misty white powder cascaded down from the tree branches, the sound causing Oonas head to swim in fluid from the volume.
When it was done, it turned and made its way out of side, and left Oona sitting in the snow, face buried in her hands sobbing. The voice from the most beloved woman in her life rushed back to her.
“Find her and submit at her feet. Show her your worth.”
The Queen of All That Is
The White Wolf of Matar
She had found her. She did as she was told, and received her blessing. Now the only sound left in the forest was a small, insignificant girl, barely a meter and half tall…bawling her eyes out in a mix of relief, joy, and sorrow for a lost loved one……