The world around them seemed to grow deeper as they drew further north. The snow that had melted in the afternoon light in their village began to stay, crunching beneath their feet as they moved through the forest. And all too soon they both wore their winter furs as they followed Atalin’s enduring trot, which at times would take him far ahead as he scouted the trail ahead of them.
It was a silent journey for the most part. Both Feanra and Talia were still nervous around their new companion, even as they felt an instinctive trust, and something deeper, which neither understood. It was if they knew where Atalin always was, could sense his presence and life all around them, through them. When they flagged in the steady pace of the journey, it was as if a strength came out of Atalin, giving them the will to go on hours after they would have stopped. By the same token they slowly found a sense of peace as forests came and went, as the steady beat of the world pushed them onwards. Their burdens became lighter and minds clearer, while a light grew in their eyes, the light of a predator sure of its place in the world.
On the third night of their journey they stopped early. Feanra and Talia set a fire and boiled tea, and cooked part of a rabbit on a spit over the fire, while Atalin ate the other part near them, the rabbit held between his paws as he lay down, worrying it clean. They had been trotting along Atalin’s trail when the rabbit had dashed in-front of them, and without thought Feanra had pulled out his belt-knife and thrown it in one fluid motion. When they had caught up to Atalin there was a look of approval in his wolf-eyes.
Now they all sat by the fire, Feanra and Talia drinking tea, having finished their meal, stared into the fire. Atlalin, finishing his own meal, then moving closer to the fire to lay down, eyes shut and breath slow. His fur was glistening healthily in the firelight, a deep gray.
Talia broke the silence first, “Atalin, where are you taking us?”
One of his eyes opened up to look at the two, the firelight reflecting in it, dancing wildly. “We are going back to my, our pack. It is still far from here.”
Both Talia and Feanra were staring at Atalin now, their nervousness burned away and replaced by questions.
“Who are you Atalin, that you can speak as we do, and know our father? And you spoke of our father as if he was still alive, is he? But we buried him. How far away is this.. our pack? When did you last meet our father? Where? Did you know our Mother? Can you speak to her?...” Feanra and Talia asked in a stream, cut-off by Atalin raising his head to look at them fully.
“Who I am, and all these questions will be answered, but not now. Now you must rest your hearts and bodies, lose yourself in the way for a time. But for now, know that I am like you, one of the last of my kind.” Atalin’s eyes went distant as a sadness grew about him. “But who knows what is in-store for us all. For now, sleep, it is another long day of travel with the dawn. And know that you are safe here, if anywhere.” His voice grew softer as it continued, lulling them to sleep, and by the end of his talking both Talia and Feanra’s eyes were heavy, as they lay down, backs to one another, and fell asleep. Atalin looked at them for a time, a fierce love in his eyes that would have brought tears to Feanra and Talia’s eyes if they had seen, then lay his head down and slept as wolves do, half in this world and half in the next. The fire sparked softly.