A cold breeze blew over the dozing Copperhead making her ears twitch. It seeped into her pelt, waking her. She sat upwards and shook the chill out of her. She looked outside of the den. The Great Sakura wasn't visible from there, but she could see its reflection in the lake. As she yawned, her breath puffed out in a foggy cloud. Copperhead was surprised at this. Winter was coming early, meaning prey and herbs would be scarce. It was hard enough living as a young lawless.
She could never stay in one place too long. The older lawless would chase her out of any den she stayed in and steal any prey that she caught. Being young, she could never stand up to them. Now that winter was near, it would be even tougher for her, and it was coming fast.
She grabbed her bags with her teeth. She sat upright and used her forepaws to tighten them around her waist. Then she grabbed her cloak, threw it on her back, and buttoned it around her neck.
She touched the green crystal that was used as the button. It was her mother's, before she was exiled... She pulled the hood over her head so nobody would see her eyes tear up, if there even was anyone around. Finished gathering her items, she fell back on all fours and walked out of the cave.
Finally having the full view of the world instead of the tiny view from inside of the cave, she could see the light of the early morning sky. She saw the lavender clouds and the chirping birds fluttering above. She saw the mountains and hills that cupped around her and the trees scattered about with their orange, yellow, and red leaves. But most importantly, she saw the Great Sakura. It was higher than the tallest mountain, and wider than the largest lake. It had hundreds of millions of its gorgeous pink leaves upon its gigantic branches.
The territory of the two packs can only reach to certain lengths, so if you can no longer see the leaves of the Great Sakura, you're too far from home and need to turn back, for the lands beyond are merciless and horrible. She was taught this by her mother.
She felt her throat swell and her face burn remembering this and and trudged forward with her head down. She tried to change the subject quickly by thinking about what she would work on and where she would travel today. Would she hunt prey? Or collect herbs? Maybe she needed to search for a place hidden well enough where she wouldn’t be chased out? All of this was needing to be done, and it was stressing her out.
“Why has my life come to this, Terminaax?!” she questioned the god of the wolves under her breath. Now wasn’t the time to be questioning the gods though. She decided she would hunt for her morning meal, then collect herbs.
She sniffed out a skittering squirrel in a small group of trees, and sneaked up behind it. She pounced and finished it off quickly so it felt no pain. Though they eat the prey, they must always respect it. Her mother also taught her this...
She dug into her meal and licked the bones clean, leaving no scraps. She even snapped the bones and ate the marrow. A measly squirrel wouldn’t keep her hunger at bay for long, so she needed to consume every last bit.
She buried the bones and thanked the squirrel for its life, then went on her way towards the Great Sakura. She wanted to gather the leaves because they had a healing element to them when chewed and put on wounds, and when consumed. Though the leaves did not change color and completely fall out in the autumn like most other trees, they would be covered by the snow and wouldn’t fall until spring came. Since the top of the tree was unreachable (or at least it was said that it was), nobody could get their paws on them throughout the winter. Having a stock of them could not only benefit of course through its healing, but also by trading. They would be in high demand.
It took a few hours to get in range of the falling leaves, but Copperhead eventually made it. It was sunhigh, just enough time to collect a bottle or two of leaves, and start searching for a place to rest. She chose the brightest, prettiest, freshest looking leaves she could find and filled two bottles full of them. She had four bottles left to fill with other herbs that would leave in the cold weather. She was pleased with this, and started looking for a cozy place to stay at least the night.
The sun was setting and she still didn’t know where to stay. She’d passed a few wolves, some from the packs, some just wandering loners like her. You could always tell the difference between the two, pack wolves being full, healthy, and strong, with armor and jewelry and nice clothing. But loners were always scrawny and beat up with worn out clothing and little to no jewelry or any accessories at all for that matter.
Copperhead chuffed with jealousy. What she would do to have such a luxurious life. Maybe one day she could join a pack... But it was unlikely. Loners were thought of as criminals who were kicked from packs. She whimpered thinking she would never live an easy life...
She then stumbled to the ground. She was too much in thought to notice the tangle of roots under her. She growled, “How could this day get any worse...?” But she noticed something, under the tree where the roots were reaching from was an entrance. The roots hid it well, it was completely unnoticeable until she was on the ground face to face with it.
She got up and shook the dirt and leaves off, then took a closer look. It seemed there was a long tunnel... but there were so many roots, she wasn’t sure she would fit. It was worth a try, she didn’t want to be out in the open on a cold night. She tugged her way through, her bags and cloak getting caught a few times. She did finally make it through, feeling proud of her nimbleness.
But her swelling pride faded as she looked down the tunnel. It was spooky. All she could see was the occasional root sticking out, but the rest was dirt walls that disappeared into the darkness. It was warm in here though so she stayed and made the brave choice of traveling down it.
It had been a few minutes of using only her paws and ears to find her way down the underground path. She was starting to think this was a bad idea. But she saw something in front of her, a faint light, with a hint of blue. She knew what it was, the glowing mushrooms. They were used as herbs, but only in the darkness. If used in light, they would be deadly. She continued forward to get a closer look of these mushrooms.
To her surprise, there was a small, cozy little cave that was perfect to stay in. It was hidden and warm, and there was tiny underground waterfall leading to a small pond. The pond traveled down passageways and cracks in the dirt and stone walls, so it wasn’t stagnant water. There was vegetation too, which would be perfect bedding, and the glowing mushrooms would be the light source. It was almost too good to be true.
The took off her cloak and loosened the strap around her stomach that carried her bags. She then set them down against the wall opposite from the pond. She laid down against the wall next to her things. She got settled and rested her head on her paws. She was about to doze off, when suddenly she heard movement from the tunnel leading to the small cave. Her head shot up.
A small white wolf jumped through the tunnel entrance. Copperhead leaped up, their eyes meeting. The wolf’s eyes were blood red, like no other she’d seen before. Evil! Evil! It must’ve been evil! She started screaming. She was about to run past it and escape, when it started shrieking too. The evil creature was... Scared?