Chapter Three

Dead silence.

 

That was what the tribe's reaction that evening when Orville relayed the news that I had given him earlier about the pack of Feral wolves.

 

"It is time to move the camp," the chief proclaimed.

 

"No!" Edward protested.  Edward was one of the tribe elders, and he was never without a few complaints and a scathing remark.  "This land has been good to us.  Why abandon it at the first sign of trouble?"

 

"We will continue to follow the river," Orville continued, trying to ignore the old man.  "It will take us to more fertile ground."

 

Despite his sound reasoning, discontented murmurs could be heard throughout the tribe.  I, myself, sat near the fire tonight, though I was still not allowed near the rest of the tribe.  I didn't care.  The tall crackling flames warmed my skin, bringing a happy purr to my chest.  This was far better than the cold nights, even if everyone made sure there was at least ten feet between me and them.

 

"We should fight the Ferals!" Edward persisted.  "It's been done before.  One wolf pack is no match for the entire tribe!"

 

"At what cost?" Orville demanded, turning on the elder.  "How many of us will be turned into Ferals as well?  Would it be worth it?"

 

The old man's face turned red with humiliation, but he still did not drop the subject, "We have lived here for, what, two years now, Orville?  And not one of us has seen a trace of these wolves.  Who told you that they're here?"

 

Now it was Orville's turn to turn red in the face, and he cleared his throat self-consciously, "It was Eve," he said at last.  "Eve was out hunting today, and she was attacked by the Feral wolves."

 

"Bah!" Edward exclaimed.  "So, it was the beast who told you that the entire tribe needs to move?"

 

"She said no such thing," Orville snapped.

 

Hearing this, I raised my head to look at him.  Had Orville just defended me?  In all the years I had been a part of his tribe, this was the first time I'd ever heard him say something in my favor.

 

"She merely reported their attack," the chief went on.  "It was my decision to move the tribe."

 

"And how can we trust her," Edward ranted, gesturing wildly at nothing in particular, "when she is hardly more than a Feral herself?"

 

I looked to Orville, eagerly waiting to hear what he would say next.  My heart sank, though, as the chief merely bowed his head in submission.  He was not willing to press his point, not for the sake of a Hybrid.

 

"If she is the one who claims these Ferals are on our territory," Edward concluded, sensing victory, "then let it be her who goes out to slay them!  After all, if she survived their attack once, she is obviously well suited to such a task."

 

All eyes turned to me.  The urge to look away was almost overwhelming, but I resisted.  This time, I glared at them.  Each of them.  For the first time since I'd become the outcast member of their tribe, I forced myself to stare directly into their eyes, trying to show them all how much I hurt.

 

"Now, Edward, I..." Orville began, but the elder cut him off.

 

"Why shouldn't she go?" he demanded.  "Give me one reason!"

 

"Because without me, our tribe would have starved long ago!" I shouted, finally losing my temper.  I stood up and faced the old man.  "Have you forgotten who found that entire colony of rabbits under five feet of snow two winters ago?  Or who brought back twenty geese in a single day when our tribe had nothing else to eat?" Almost without realizing it, I began to advance on Edward. "And have you forgotten who knelt on the hard ground for eight hours straight yesterday in order to bring home the largest boar this tribe has seen in years?"

 

"I, uh..." Edward stammered, taken aback by my outburst.

 

"And now tell me this, elder," I went on.  "Who was it that received only half a rabbit out of the twenty that she brought back?  Who was only given a single goose leg when everyone else was allowed an entire bird?  And tell me, Edward, who it was that only received a piece of meat that could barely be called a mouthful when the rest of the tribe went to bed with full bellies?"

 

I was now only two feet away from Edward.  I was sure he could smell my breath from here.

 

"And who was it that never complained?" I hissed, my eyes narrowing dangerously.  "I have slept out in the dark and the cold every night, and yet I have worked harder for this tribe than anyone else here.  If it weren't for me, this tribe wouldn't exist anymore, and you want to repay me for this by sending me out to die?"

 

There it was again.  The dead silence.  Edward stood in front of me, aghast.  Everyone else was too stunned to speak up.  Finally, the old man regained his composure.

 

"Step away from me, Feral!" he spat.  "I do not wish to catch your disease."

 

That was the last straw.  My eyes widened with fury, and I drew my fist back to strike the old man.  Before I could, though, I felt Orville's hand clamp over my own.  I may have been strong, but Orville had spent his life being a leader in one way or another, and even I could not overpower his brute strength.

 

"No, Eve," he said in a low voice that was neither calming nor condemning.  "Don't."

 

I relaxed, though not willingly, and he released my arm.  Finally, it was my face to darken with embarrassment.  Despite this, I refused to back down. Turning back to Edward, I spat as his feet.

 

"If this is what you want, then it's what you'll get.  I'll go after the Ferals myself.  You'll probably never hear from me again, but if I do come back, I want you to promise me one thing."

 

I didn't wait for him to respond, "I want to be a part of this tribe.  REALLY a part of it.  I want to be treated like everyone else here.  I want to be given enough to eat when I'm hungry.  I want to sleep by the fire when it's cold."  Despite my best efforts, I couldn't keep tears from stinging my eyes, "I don't want to be thought of as an animal anymore!"

 

Edward's face turned indignant, "I will agree to no such..."

 

"Agreed," Orville interrupted.  "Eve, if you rid this tribe of the Ferals you claim are at our doorstep, then you have my word that you will no longer be thought of as a Hybrid here, but as a human being."

 

Edward sputtered indignantly, "You- you cannot do this!"

 

Orville rounded on Edward, an angry spark burning in his eyes, "You forget your place, elder!  I am the chief of this tribe, and it is my decision what is best for my people!"

 

"But you..."

 

"You were the one who didn't want to move.  You were the one who suggested that Eve hunt down the Ferals.  You're getting exactly what you want, Edward.  What do you have to complain about?"

 

"She is an ANIMAL!" Edward screeched, his voice high with outrage.

 

"Sit down!" Orville roared, and the elder promptly sat down, a cowed look on his face.  The chief turned to me now, "Very well, Eve.  You have your task.  Kill the wolves, and bring back proof that what you've told us was true, and you will be granted what you want."

 

I nodded my agreement silently.  Edward wasn't the only one who was in shock over these events.  Never in what I could remember of my life had anyone ever stood up for me, and now Orville was doing not only that, but he was offering me exactly what I'd dreamed of ever since I'd become a Hybrid. Without a word, I picked up my spear and turned from the fire.  With my tail lazily sweeping back and forth behind me, and my ears already listening intently to the forest, I ventured into the darkness of the night.  But not to sleep this time.  This time, I went to prove my worth to my tribe.  There was still one nagging doubt in my mind, though.

 

Should I have told Orville about the wolf Hybrid?

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