The Lupine Saga 13

Kelin showed an adeptness for Go’tei ball that was unmatched by any of the other students. He also happened to be the only lupus there, aside from Va’il. The school had few lupus, and they didn’t generally go out with other species. Va’il and Kelin were their own pack, and Pete was supposed to be the “pig who was raised by wolves.” Pete did not find the modified cliché funny, but he still secretly practiced howling at the moon. That is, until his parents caught him doing it one night. The ensuing talk was the most embarrassing event Pete had ever experienced.

After three games of Go’tei ball, lunch was served. Once they were done eating, Va’il and Pete slept through the afternoon, and Kelin read. Once night fell, everyone felt like swimming in the lake. The water was chilly and crisp, but it was still very refreshing. Va’il and Kelin competed to see who could swim the farthest, but they were quickly stopped by Sensei. He lectured them on the dangers that swimming too far out can have. Tershi was only a lake, but it was still very large. Swimming across it would take a few hours. Not only that, but only the shallow waters were safe. The deeper waters held unknown mysteries, Sensei warned.

The moon was slowly rising, and dinner was served. Camping at the edge of a lake surrounded by forests required that dinner be barbecue, which the bearans, swine, some avians, and felis loved. Va’il and Kelin were no exception, but the deeri were. A couple of the deeri didn’t mind eating meat, but the rest were satisfied with vegetables and grains. As a species in general, the deeri exhibited many of the conservative traits their deer counterparts had.

A few campfires were started, and the children sat around lazily enjoying themselves. Out there, away from everything and everyone, they were complacent to do absolutely nothing. Va’il especially enjoyed the freedom, so much so that he didn’t mind being away from home anymore. Well, what freedom he actually had. Harnes was an attachment to Va’il anytime she was awake and Va’il wasn’t playing a game. Unfortunately for Va’il, she had slept through most of the day, because Va’il wasn’t available for most of it.

“Hi, how are you?” Yan asked. He had walked over to Va’il’s group alone, and then had walked up to Va’il. Harnes looked up at Yan, thought for a moment, and then went back to staring at Va’il.

“Hi Yan. I saw; you got to play today,” Va’il said.

“Well, defense still isn’t the position I want, but it was much more fun than being a referee.” After Yan said that, Va’il nodded in agreement.

“You say that like you’re bad at it.” Kelin had put his book down and was looking at Yan in a menacing way.

“I see you’re still a little upset at that.” Yan smiled as he talked. Va’il was confused, because he didn’t know that Kelin and Yan had played at the same time earlier. It was a game played while Va’il was asleep.

“Ruined my streak,” Kelin said. “Was supposed to be a perfect game; a score on every attack.”

“You have a pattern,” Yan said, “which I understood by the second attack, but you’re much too fast for me. That last attack was the only one I managed to somehow get the timing for. You’re very good.” Kelin was smiling at the praise. He purposefully used a pattern of attack, and was extremely glad that the sole reason no one could stop him was his speed and skill.

“That’s right,” Kelin said in boast, “the only reason no one could catch me is because of my abilities, not because they didn’t know how I would move. I love it when brute force actually outdoes strategy. Fiction books just never convey that possibility.”

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. Besides, isn’t strategy about intelligence and planning? Aren’t those supposed to defeat an unthinking but simply strong force?” Yan and Kelin had just jumped into a conversation that put Harnes to sleep. This was bad for Va’il, as she then held onto him tighter.

“A thousand arrows won’t pierce a castle’s walls,” Kelin said. “A giant boulder flung from a catapult cannot be stopped by any means. A plan with a thousand actions that will eventually lead to a strategic victory has a thousand chances to fail. One man with the strength of a thousand needs only to fight a thousand men to be the victor.” Kelin held out his hand to Yan, signifying that it was Yan’s turn.

“Who aims an arrow at a wall? Who places the catapult? The best plan has the least actions, and the greatest result is achieved through a simple thought. Who will feed the man whose strength fades after a thoughtless task?” Yan countered Kelin, and then held out his hand. However, it wasn’t a gesture signifying a change in turn; it was for a handshake.

Kelin saw the hand, and then held out his hand as well. They both smiled as they shook hands. Both of them seemed to understand the other a little better.

“Little Va’il, you really do have some interesting friends. Although, they seem to enjoy playing in the thoughts of others,” Yan said.

“None of you make any sense,” Va’il said to Yan and Kelin. Yan laughed, and Kelin went back to reading.

“It’s not supposed to make sense.” After saying that, Yan walked back to his friends over by another fire.

After a little while, Sensei and the other parents proclaimed that it was time for bed. All the fires were put out, and everyone went to their respective tents. The day was fun but tiring, so the children were soon sound asleep.

#

Va’il woke to the sounds of clamor and commotion. Va’il was alone in the tent, and he could hear that almost everyone was up and outside already. He quickly got up and ran out to see what was going on.

“Gone, more of it is gone!” Yelling frantically was a yellow-feathered avian named Twill. She was pointing at the containers where their food was held.

“More? What do you mean more?” the surrounding children asked.

“A little had disappeared last night as well! I didn’t think much of it at the time, because I thought I had misjudged how much was left before that. But to happen again, I’m sure of it now. Someone is stealing food,” Twill said.

“Are you sure you didn’t count wrong?” the crowd of children asked.

“Absolutely!” Twill replied. “I had everything in perfect rations, and now we might have to cut back on how much we eat. A little more was taken last night compared to the night before.” Sensei then stepped in before anyone could object.

“Thank you Miss Twill, please retire for the moment, I will handle this from now on.” Twill obeyed Sensei and left the attention of the group. She walked over to Harnes, who at that moment was leaving her tent. Harnes had just woken up. Twill was Harnes’ cousin, Va’il remembered.

“Now children, let’s not worry. There is plenty for everyone. Surely, you will recall that we had feasts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner yesterday. Now we might have to cut back to large portions. I know that some of you wanted to be gluttonous during this trip, and I admit I thought the same. But there isn’t anything to worry about. Let’s just enjoy the rest of the trip,” Sensei said.

The kids were annoyed, but they dispersed into their groups anyways. For the rest of the day, they would grumble about the size of the portions received at mealtime. Something else happened though. There was less association with others in general. Not a single game of Go’tei ball was started either.

The groups that separated everyone formed again. The deeri all stayed together, as did most of the avians, Harnes being the exception. The others mostly kept to their small circles of friends. Yan and his few friends also stayed together. It appeared that everyone was suspecting that someone among them was the culprit, and so they naturally separated from anyone they didn’t know well or trust. The group that was most separate of them all was the small group of slitherers. They were as cautious as snakes, and were very unwilling to speak with anyone, except for one person who eventually forced them to speak.

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The Lupine Saga 12

The last time Yan had felt horribly guilty was when he was Va’il’s age. An incident happened with his brother one day. The two boys were only a year apart, Yan being the older one. His brother was up in a tree, asleep on a low branch. Yan had just lost a footrace the day before, and so planned to take his revenge this day. He climbed up the tree until he was right above his brother. With all his might he roared at his brother below him. The boy woke up startled, and only glimpsed Yan laughing as he slid off the branch. Yan felt his smile turn into a grimace as his brother fell, and the horrible feeling of guilt became entrenched in his being when he heard the snap of an arm. Yan felt a little cold as the old memories were surfacing for the first time in years. Older, and wiser, the two boys had made up long ago, but the impact of what real guilt felt like sickened Yan.

Here and now, Yan’s comments were accurately dissected by a young child that Yan had casually dismissed as someone too young to understand adult matters, and thereafter an acute and depressing conclusion was drawn from them. Yan steadied his being for a moment, and tried to stutter out a word or two, but he could only open and close his mouth without word. He lamented that he didn’t yet have the training and mental resolve needed to guide a younger child’s heart.

“Hah, of course he couldn’t be the priest! That’s a noble position, isn’t it? Someone so important, of course not. But this priest job sounds interesting!” Va’il laughed twice at his comments, and then patted Yan’s shoulder. “So, what about your father Yan? I don’t know mine, other than that he is a human and alive.”

Yan looked at the boy, and searched for a tone of sadness or hidden depression in his voice. But he could find none. He wondered if the comments Va’il had made were simply casual comments, or if they shared a deeper meaning. Two things occurred to Yan. First were Va’il’s comments to the king at the musical, which Yan had attended as part of his duties to the school. They were direct, and devoid of malice. Simply true, was the impact that Yan had received at the time. The second thing was something much more obvious, which had completely passed Yan’s observation.

“You’re a half,” Yan said.

“Yes,” Va’il replied, “but that’s obvious.”

“That explains a few things. I wasn’t thinking before. I grew up around lionel only, so fortunately I lack the prejudice that you must surely be subject to.”

“Really? Well sometimes, but I try not to think about it a lot. I can always cry with Mai’ou on the days it’s really bad,” Va’il said honestly. It was also the first time he told anyone but Mai’ou that he felt bad when people talked about him.

“I’ll have to avoid making you my idol,” Yan said with a slight laugh, “even I have reservations about making such a small boy a person I look up to. It’s a height issue. How old are you, anyways? Nine?” Though Yan was joking, Va’il also found it quite funny to somehow be the idol of the school’s idol.

“You’ll address me as senior from now on,” Va’il said arrogantly, “even though I am only a small boy of just eight. I turned eight just last week.”

“Five full years and more younger than me?” Yan barely managed to keep his voice down. He had almost forgotten that it was the middle of the night, and other kids were still sleeping.

“I’m the youngest in my class, and I think in our grade. Even my two friends are about a year older, each. Apparently, it’s because I’m a half. I develop faster. Mum has been finding more stuff about halfs, and explaining it all very clearly,” Va’il said proudly. For once, he had a chance to impress someone by being a half, instead of the usual degradation and insults about his parents that he had to suffer.

“Well, I’m quite impressed,” Yan said. “Let me answer your question from a while ago, now that I’ve heard about you some. My father owns a very large vineyard. He sells grapes and wine. He wakes up early, works hard all day, and falls to sleep quickly. He has his own rules about how everyone else should live, and no one argues with his rules. Really, he is my hero.”

“Hero? Rules? I don’t see how the words are related,” Va’il replied smartly. Va’il smiled a bit, since he knew that truthfully, Mai’ou made rule after rule for him, and he regarded her as his hero.

“Yes, really,” Yan replied. “He is a strong person. He is completely reliable and utterly loyal to his family. He does his work without letup. He is determined to work hard. Because he is so strong, he makes the rules, and the rules usually work. He can seem stubborn, but that’s only until you realize that he works hard in all matters. If someone doesn’t like him, he does what he can in his own way to change their opinion, and always in his own way. I cannot help but respect him, especially since he lives his life daily, simply, and consistently.”

Yan and Va’il remained silent for a while, only speaking again when they said goodnight. They both walked back to their tents. Yan looked at the other three boys in his tent before he rested. Here I am, he thought, idolized and admired by friends and schoolmates, yet even these three know nothing of the words I spoke to a child so much younger than me.

Yan mulled over the thoughts some more, and decided that he should eventually become good friends with Va’il. The priest in him had pulled out some of the more personal thoughts of the younger boy, which Yan was grateful to hear. In turn, the frankness and truth Va’il emanated helped pull out emotions Yan hadn’t had in a while. And never once did Yan feel or smell the thing that had originally woke him up.

Before talking with Va’il, Yan had suddenly woken up, fully alert. Someone, or something, was moving in the area. In the air was a faint smell that Yan had trouble making out. But he eventually did. It was a small bit of fear in the air, coming from someone who was outside. Yan listened carefully, but he couldn’t hear anything after he had woken up. He knew something had disturbed his sleep, but it hadn’t woken him until it was already gone. He had gotten up as fast as he could while still being silent, and left the tent. When he walked out, he smelled something in the direction of the forest, but he wasn’t sure. He then saw something shimmering in the moonlight. Shining blue hair and tail; it was Va’il bathed in soft blue light.

As he drifted off to sleep again, he understood what had happened. Va’il had walked around, which didn’t wake Yan, only set him on guard. It also spread Va’il’s scent around. The faint bit of fear was Va’il’s homesickness. Finally, what woke Yan was that everything stopped. The walking, the smell, and the fear all stopped around the moment Va’il sat to stare at the moon. To a beast on its guard, any change from one instant to the next can be interpreted as something being wrong. Things were definitely wrong.

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The Lupine Saga 11

Va’il collapsed in sleep before anyone else. After they had all decided that it was too dark for a second game of Go’tei ball, they had walked back to camp and ate. Va’il ate all he possibly could, then lay down in the tent that Kelin and Pete would also end up sleeping in. He stirred when the other boys came in, but instantly went back to sleep.

In the middle of the night, Va’il suddenly awoke. He was hot and cold at the same time, but he wasn’t ill. He felt like he should walk around, so he very quietly made his way out of the tent without stirring Kelin or Pete. Kelin happened to be on his side and smiling widely, probably dreaming of pig’s tails or lupus girls. Pete was solid and boring. He only moved a bit as he breathed, and was otherwise motionless.

Outside the air was colder than expected. The lake was to blame, but blame was the last thing Va’il wanted to give that lake at the moment. The moon was in the sky and reflected in the lake. The blue light being reflected in the blue water was a beautiful sight, and it made Va’il think of home. He had just said goodbye to Mai’ou a little while ago, and now here he was, alone and uncertain. He had stayed overnight at Pete’s house just a few times in the past, but that was nothing like the kind of separation this trip was creating.

He turned his head to look at his tail, and felt a bit sad that, for once, there would be no threats of it being bitten the next morning. As he was looking at his tail, something moved in the forest. Va’il instantly turned his entire body and looked closely as he saw a flash of white appear for only a second in the forest nearby. He strained his eyes and ears, but if there really had been anything there, it was gone now. He lost interest and instead walked towards the lake. Picking a spot a few meters away from the water’s edge, he sat down and looked up at the moon.

The sound of someone exiting their tent grabbed Va’il’s full attention. They were very quiet and didn’t disturb anyone who was sleeping. The entrance to the tent was in the shade of the moon, and the person exiting appeared to be darker skinned, so Va’il couldn’t make out who it was at first. Then the lionel took two steps from the exit towards Va’il. Yan scanned the area first, and then continued walking until he was close to Va’il.

“Oh, it’s just you.” Yan spoke as if he hadn’t noticed Va’il until now. Va’il wasn’t sure how to respond, so he nodded and continued to stare at the moon. Yan sat down a few feet away from Va’il and also looked at the moon. “Sendes is radiant tonight.”

“I hope it looks just as good there as it does here,” Va’il said while staring upwards.

“Do you mean home? Do you miss it already?” Yan had turned towards Va’il, who kept staring at Sendes.

“I haven’t been away like this before. I don’t know why, but thinking that I’ll be away for a while makes me sad,” Va’il said.

“I understand,” Yan said while nodding slowly, “because I’m away from home as well.”

“You’re older; does that make it easier to be away for a few extra days?”

“Yes and no.” Yan laughed once to himself, which confused Va’il even further as to the meaning of Yan’s words.

“That’s not right,” Va’il said.

“Yes, because once you’re older you want independence. No, because the older you get the more you realize that you need people to rely on. Even more so when you live separately from your family.”

“Live separately? Well, I’ve never met him in the first place, so I don’t think I need to be sad that I’m living separately from that man.” Va’il was referring to his absent father; however, that wasn’t what Yan meant.

“You have a situation, I see. I live in Rising alone. We lionel are very territorial. My family lives on its territory, and will never leave. I left,” Yan said. Va’il was shocked that Yan was telling him something so personal and astounding.

“Alone? Really? That’s amazing, but kind of sad too.”

“True on both, little Va’il. But I resolved to make the capitol my place, my territory, and the holder of my goals. Part of the way of life I plan to live involves a lot of self-sacrifice. So sacrificing my home will only strengthen me for the future.” Yan was really starting to sound like a kind of noble hero.

“Don’t you like your home though?”

“Of course,” Yan said emphatically, “there is nothing I love more! Every instinct I have tells me that I have to go back to the domain my clan lives on. But there is a part of me that screams insistently. It compels me to ask myself what I want, and then forces me to take action. It’s my head and heart in unison, fighting the only part of myself that I truly trust. I knew that I must let go in order to be happy, and that I have.”

“Wow. That’s amazing.” Va’il’s words made Yan laugh.

“You already said that, you know?” Yan smiled and poked fun at Va’il, who looked like he wanted to say the words again.

“Well it just is. Those are the best words I know for amazing things like that. I think things should be said directly.”

“That’s an interesting explanation.” Yan crossed his arms and nodded.

“Yan, what makes you want to be the priest of Rising?” Va’il thought about it for a moment, but he really had no idea what a priest was or what he did. He had never seen the priest before, and was too young to notice many of the things going on in the nation.

“People, all people,” Yan said with an extremely warm feeling. “I want to help everyone feel better about themselves and others. There is only one person who is charged with that in all the capitol, and that is the priest of the nation.”

“Okay, make people feel better. But how? What does he actually do?” Va’il still had no idea what the position involved. It took a minute for Yan to think before he could reply.

“First, the priest organizes meetings of the people on a regular basis. Once every few months a day is picked when many people in the nation gather, and the priest gives a speech to them, and then listens to their concerns. The speech is usually about how to be happier, and how to help others. It also is about the history of the world and how the past wars and misgivings between all peoples have shaped the world as it is now. The priest promotes unity of creatures on Fervi. That is one part of his role. The other is to find out what is in the hearts of the citizens, and relaying that to the royal court. Of course, that means he talks with the king about how the people feel about his decisions. The priest is one of the few members of the nobility that can speak frankly to the king in front of the court. Because the priest relays concerns and problems, he can also offer suggestions, or even rebuke the king without fearing retribution.” Yan paused to catch his breath.

“Can you slow down some? I think I get it. The priest tells the king what the people think of him, and is free to say it truthfully.” Va’il scratched his head thoughtfully.

“I’m sorry; I did get a little worked up. One more thing. The reason the priest is free to talk like that, and another special part of the position, is that the priest is the moral authority for the nation. A man of upright standing with others, maybe with one loving and exemplary wife and even a few children, and free from corruption and the desire for power is what the priest is. Honestly, even when I think of it, it seems like a challenge to be upright when so many desires exist. But my greatest desire is to please; therefore my natural desire to be honorable greatly advances me towards my goals.” Yan looked up at the moon and smiled. He had finished his lengthy explanation of what being the priest of a nation meant. He opted not to speak of what priests of other nations or species did, as it might get even more complicated. A priest communicates with the people, Yan thought. It occurred to him that that might have been a much better explanation for the young Va’il, who might not get all the nuances of the job.

“So my father definitely could not have been the priest,” Va’il said, but not in Yan’s direction.

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The Lupine Saga 10

Lake Tershi was much larger than Va’il expected. He had to climb one of the tallest trees in order to see the entire lake. Fervi had much larger lakes in the world, but being the first one Va’il had ever seen gave it a special meaning.

In the west, Va’il could see the giant structure known as Tuni, the flat mountain. It was so large and tall that if it had been in the east, it would cast a shadow over everything to the west of it until noon. It was grey and had four flat faces. It was called a mountain, but it was really a plateau. It was a rectangle of grey rock.

The forests surrounded most of the lake, and paths and cleared areas took up the rest. Even though Lake Tershi was popular, at this time the only people there were the students of Makeen. The first arrivals had already set up shelters and fire pits in one of the larger areas that had been cleared. Va’il’s group was one of the last to arrive, though no one seemed to mind.

“So this is Tershi,” Pete said. The group had just left the forest path a few minutes ago, and the clearing provided the first real view of the scene. Va’il had already climbed three trees, and was making his way down the last one. Harnes followed him from tree to tree, but she wouldn’t climb.

“Sensei, will we be able to catch some fish, at some point?” Rowlf asked. The bearan had come into his natural environment, and the sensation was exciting to him. Fresh fish was a thought that had crept into his mind and refused to leave. Not even a parfait could satisfy him now.

“Most definitely. Although, you don’t want to eat everything that can be found in Lake Tershi. Some of it might just bite you back,” Sensei said with grin. Rowlf laughed, and then walked over to a group of older bearans that also had the same ideas in mind.

“You had your head in a book the entire time? I’m surprised you didn’t get sick earlier,” Sensei said. Kelin looked like he had just swallowed a live frog. Kelin had read the entire journey, never once lifting his head up. His neck and back were aching, now that they had to move.

“It’s worth a little sickness. I finished the entire book. The series even; that was the last one. I’m happy. Excuse me for a while,” Kelin said. He started walking towards the woods, but was running by the time he entered them. Sensei chuckled a bit, and motioned for Hein to go after him. To make sure he’s safe, explained Sensei.

Va’il jumped from the lowest branch of the latest tree to the ground. Harnes was instantly standing beside him, but she was thankfully detached. He grabbed Pete and dragged him over to where the other kids had set everything up. A few were resting inside tents, a few were splashing around in the lake, and a group of older boys had started a fire. Kelin had appeared near the fire and was staring at it, mesmerized.

“He has a special love of fire,” Va’il told Harnes. She cocked her head to the side in wonder. She was wondering what could possibly be so fascinating about something you could never touch. “It’s because it’s always fire, no matter how small. It will always burn. Water becomes steam, wood becomes ash, wind disappears altogether, and metal melts. But fire always burns.” Harnes nodded at the explanation. She then walked off and into one of the tents, presumably to sleep.

“Va’il, you free now? Just that bird’s nature to be fickle.” Jo’se was holding a bundle of sticks.

“Yes. Are we going to get more wood?”

“Oh, no, this is enough. I wanted to see if you want to play a game.”

“Yes and yes!” Va’il’s silver eyes shined at the thought of a game. Jo’se smiled, and then dropped the sticks in a large pile already made near the fire. He went around to a few other boys, telling them about the game. Once enough people had been gathered, they all walked a little ways around the edge of the lake until the campsite was a couple hundred meters away.

Go’tei ball was a game involving teams, a ball, and a goal. There were two teams of seven. Four players would be offense, two defense. The last player was the scorer. The goal was a circle drawn on the ground that measured about four feet at its diameter. The ball was made of leather, filled with air, and round. It was large enough to be kicked, but small enough to be held, depending on one’s age.

Each team had five attacks per turn, and five turns each. A team could only score if it was their attack. Each attack could last no longer than two minutes. If they were tied at the end, then they would take another attack each until someone scored, which would make the scorers the automatic winner. If, at the two-hour mark, they were still tied, then each scorer would stand inside the circle of their own goal. They would then kick or throw the ball towards the other team’s goal. Whichever scorer landed closest to the other team’s goal would win the game.

In order to score, the attacking scorer must be stationary for a moment while in possession of the ball and inside the goal. No one but the scorer was permitted to enter the goal ring. The players are allowed to kick, hold, punch, and run with the ball, unless defending. The defending team can hold the ball for up to five seconds before releasing it. They must at that point try to throw the ball away from the offense, or the ball would be turned over. After the defending team has held the ball, they are not allowed to hold it again for ten seconds. However, hitting and kicking the ball with fists and feet were always permitted in almost all situations with either team.

Touching other players was only permitted based on what position they had. A scorer’s goal is to score, and so the only real rule restricting the scorer is how they must stop with the ball inside the ring to score. Also, they could only play while their team was on offense. Otherwise, they could always go after the ball in almost any means if it wasn’t in their team’s possession during an attack.

Violence was a penalty in all situations for all positions, and each penalty means the loss of an attack for the offending team. In Go’tei ball, a single penalty was enough to give the other team a completely overwhelming advantage. Accidents would not be a penalty if they were obviously accidental.

Attackers were permitted to engage attackers, but attackers were not allowed to engage the defenders. Attackers were allowed to impede the scorer by trying to take the ball away from them; however, an attacker could do nothing to a scorer that did not have the ball. No one was allowed to grab or be forceful with other players.

Attackers tried to get the ball from other attackers or from the scorer. Defenders blocked scorers that were not inside the goal. Defenders were limited in where they could move by a large circle that surrounded the goal. Because they were not allowed inside the goal itself, the area that the defenders could move in was really a thin ring. The other limitation was that the defenders were not allowed to cross paths with each other. That also meant that they could never be behind the other defender.

Va’il’s head was spinning at the long explanation of the rules. He had just been put in a team with a few older boys and Jo’se, and the boy who was going to serve as referee was explaining. Yan’s deep voice and natural dignity made him a perfect fit for referee, the boys decided. He secretly wanted to play much more than judge, but he was nonetheless proud to make sure that no one got hurt.

The fourteen boys made up the two teams. Va’il, Jo’se, and Rowlf were the three youngest, and all on the same team. Joining them were four older boys, two were two years older, and the other two were three years older. The other team was made up of four people two years older than Va’il, and the other three were three years older. Va’il and Jo’se were the only lupus and avian, respectively, and there was only one other bearan besides Rowlf. The rest of the boys were deeri, felis, swine, slitherer, and human. The deeri absolutely loved Go’tei Ball, as they were very swift and agile.

Va’il was chosen as the scorer for a few reasons, most of which he exhibited on their second attack. He was small, fast, and agile. His hands were better suited to holding the ball. And he had trouble remembering the rules. The scorer only had a couple rules to follow, so Va’il was happy to forget everything but “get the ball!”

Yan dropped the ball for the first attack. Jo’se picked it up and ran with it towards the goal. Va’il ran ahead, past the attackers, and came upon the two defenders. Va’il’s plan to enter the goal and have the ball passed to him failed, however his team had already lost the ball. Soon the time limit was up. He watched the other team struggle to do something similar and fail.

The second attack went much differently. When Jo’se grabbed the ball, Va’il ran in front of him. The first attacker, a deeri, ran head on towards Va’il. Jo’se threw the ball to Va’il. Va’il grabbed it and ran right up to the attacker, who was much taller up close. Too tall, because Va’il held the ball too low for the boy to grab at. Va’il dove under the boy’s right arm, and then zigzagged his way past the next attacker. One of the other attackers had gone after the attackers on Va’il’s team, and was unable to stop and turn around when he realized that Va’il hadn’t lost the ball. Va’il came to the last attacker, a slitherer. The long arms were annoying, and Va’il wasn’t able to find a way past his reach. He had pivoted a few times back and forth while the boy instantly covered the open spots. Va’il’s back was facing the boy. And then Va’il disappeared from his sight.

Va’il had dropped into a squat while holding the ball to his stomach, and then did a backwards somersault underneath the other boy’s legs. Once past the boy Va’il turned and jumped from a squat into a sprint. He took a few long strides while holding the ball close to his body. He arrived at the defender’s ring where the swine-human combo awaited him. Va’il ran right at the large swine. The human boy was to the left, so at the last second Va’il changed direction and ran to the right. Neither of the other boys could keep up, and so Va’il managed to get into the goal and successfully stop.

It was an exciting start, and set the pace for the rest of the game. Va’il managed to make a couple more goals, however later on it became apparent that his team’s offense was better than its defense. Try as they might, the other team was composed of older children. The final score was four to three, Va’il’s loss. None of that mattered though, since the boys were enjoying themselves immensely. No one was as happy as Jo’se, though Va’il did come a close second. The thrills of chasing an object and competing with others were unexplainably joyous in the minds of every young boy of any species or upbringing.

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The Tershi Arc Begins

Tomorrow TLS 10 will go live. This next segment of the book will be referenced as the Tershi arc, because who doesn’t love segmenting stories into specific arcs? I do. Arcs are wonderful.

And, of course, it’s finally where the meat of the plot starts. Everything prior to this was generally setup. I didn’t follow hard rules when originally writing the book, but I’ve since learned that scenes should generally be character development, setting, or plot. We’ve introduced characters such as our MC Va’il and his friends, established minor parts of the setting they are in, and established some elements of plot regarding the health of the King.

And also, up to this point certain plot items are “obvious,” given the title of the story and our characters. But for now place that aside, as that plot is the overreaching “Lupine Prince” arc that covers the whole book, and now it’s time for an internal arc in that, Tershi.

Why take a moment to reference this arc before it starts? Because it’s just that important to me. It is vital to everything. Everything. In fact, it was part of this arc that formed the foundation for the story. Before everything else in the story was even thought of, a major event in the upcoming arc was the first and cornerstone scene of The Lupine Prince.

It’s quite important to me, and that’s worth repeating.

That said, tomorrow’s post will be longer than usual and slightly more technical, as a sport that is played is introduced. It isn’t critical to the plot so it’s fine to not remember all the details for the reader. At the time I wanted to think of how I could make a sport that kids could play with a ball in this different world. All that said, it’s just this one section, so this section is going to be about two thousand words, and after this the plot will get further into the substance of the Tershi arc.

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