3rd Preview: Star Wolf
Hello and welcome to the third and final preview from my upcoming space opera series Songs of Star & Winter. The series launches June 1st so not long to go. You can find all three previews in the blog section of my website in case you've missed one.
The grizzle-haired Badger was a strangely familiar creature to Star. One who did not wear the usual burgundy colour of the House of Badger, instead he opted for black leathers and what looked like chainmail, of all things. He was sat in between two younger Badgers, one male and one female, both with lustrous black and white faces and neatly cut burgundy robes. The short, stocky Badger in between them had a face set so rigid he took on a stone visage. He provided a glimmer of hope that not all the animals so gullibly swallowed the Winter Tiger’s speech. The old Badger’s round barrel chest left the diminutive Badgers sat either side of him struggling for space.
It wasn’t difficult to wonder why a Badger would dislike a Tiger, between Tiger, Hound and Wolf they had all but removed Badgers from the galaxy. They now contented themselves with staying on their home planet, afraid to venture across the stars for fear of another cull. The younger Badgers being in attendance made sense, Star Wolf could spot diplomats, here no doubt to secure plants and supplies for their planet but the surly-looking stranger stood out. Why’s he here?
Star Wolf couldn’t stand the diatribe the Winter Tiger laid out against a species, Krakens, long gone from the universe, so he stood, despite his father tugging at his sleeve, to address The Council of Worlds.
‘You wish this Council to believe a beast that’s rumoured to feed every ten thousand years has emerged and consumed five planets in the space of a month?’
All eyes spun from Star Wolf to the Winter Tiger, whose face made granite look like putty, the only sign he was alive the slight twitch of the scar at the edge of his left eye. He broke into the slightest of chuckles, an odd expression of amusement before responding.
‘Our intelligence suggests there’s more than one Space Kraken in existence.’
‘And what intelligence is that exactly?’ demanded Star Wolf as the murmurs erupted in the Council chamber. The palpable tension lifted way up the banks of marble seating.
‘Each planet’s final distress calls were of monstrous beasts devouring their people.’ Answered the Winter Tiger in an easy, aloof tone. ‘That could be any number of predators,’ Star Wolf paused, aware all eyes were fixed upon him, especially his father’s, ‘an Apex perhaps.’
Silence filled the Council at the mention of Apex.
A wry smile fell over the Winter Tiger, his black and white fur looked glorious against his black and gold outfit.
‘That is what we will ascertain, if the Council so wishes.’ The Winter Tiger looked Star dead in the eye. It was a stare that sent a shiver up his spine and caused an involuntary shudder. To his shame, he turned his gaze away.
‘The young Wolf pup,’ the Winter Tiger’s words took on a condescending tone, ‘speaks wise words, who here among us, however, can lay claim to the title of Apex at one point or another in our own race’s unique history. I’m sure the Wolf cub,’ again another subtle dig, ‘does not lay such an accusation before The Council of Worlds lightly. He is right, the perpetrator of these heinous crimes could well reside within this room.’
The Winter Tiger swept a broad, muscular left arm around the room, as he did so a rare ray of sunlight glistened off the elaborate gold metalwork of his armoured black jacket. In fitting with their wealthy status the Tiger race always wore fancy garments, both exquisite and practical. A pair of matching black leather trousers, lined with gold, and a robust pair of black boots with golden laces completed his resplendent attire. The only items missing, weapons on account of the founding rule of no firearms or blades at Council meetings.
As Star Wolf’s daydreaming dissipated, he turned to his glaring father and thousands more eyes pinning him, most with what he deemed shock but a select few with genuine, obvious anger. A Crocodile’s jaw shook as he glared. A Black Bear three rows up bared his teeth. Any creature that could lay claim to the tag of Apex gave Star Wolf death stares.
Murmurs spewed throughout the grand chamber.
All eyes fixed on Star Wolf.
‘Order, order,’ demanded the Goat Master. ‘Do you have any evidence to back these claims up, Sun Wolf?’ He directed the question to Star’s Wolf father, the only Wolf who should be speaking at Council meetings.
Sun Wolf stood, masking to all but Star Wolf the aching joints in his hips, too long Star Wolf noted the failing movements of his father. A proud warrior and leader for nearly five decades now, the longest and most successful reign in known Wolf history. Sun Wolf’s white muzzle and chalky blue eyes showed further signs of old age but still he wore the dark-grey uniform of the House of Wolves well, his every movement seemed to be in defiance against old age.
‘We do not, Master.’ He glanced at his son. ‘Forgive Star Wolf. He is merely eager to help, and protect the galaxy, I’m sure you understand Winter?’
‘It’s quite alright, Sun, that’s all any of us want,’ the Winter Tiger pinned Star Wolf with a hard stare, his face rigid but his eyes wild pools of fire that Star Wolf couldn’t help but gaze into as Goosebumps trickled over his flesh, ‘the safety and future of the galaxy and all those touched by the Universal Beacon is all that matters. Now if it pleases the Council I will depart at once to investigate the rumoured Space Krakens,’ he paused, changing his tone to a playful one, ‘or Apex’s.’
Laughter echoed around the vast marble room.
‘Yes of course, all in agreement for the Tigers to investigate these rumours and report back in two weeks,’ a few audible groans, most likely at the proximity of the next meeting, left a few of the younger animals in attendance, ‘say I.’
‘I’ one word came in unison from the entire Council of Worlds.
‘Very good,’ the Winter Tiger bowed before departing. Followed immediately by his legendary pack of warriors. Though in times of peace Star Wolf couldn’t help but wonder why the Tigers needed a pack of fighters. As the Tigers departed so too did the throng of animals.
Despite everyone else leaving and saying their goodbyes Star Wolf caught another animal staring, the old Badger who, now not surrounded by other animals, he realised was the veteran fighter of legend, the Night Badger. A hero of many a battle, a creature famous enough to have songs based on his endeavours. A great warrior who never succumbed to any foe, or so legend told.
He strode over to where the Night Badger sat.
‘I didn’t see you nodding up there like everyone else, you don’t trust the Winter Tiger?’ Star Wolf hoped his desperation to form allies wasn’t too obvious.
‘Oh aye, he’s a liar that filthy White Tiger make no mistake,’ the scorn all too clear in the Night Badger’s gravelly words.
‘So you agree with what I said? And yet you said nothing?’
‘I didn’t say that, did I? And I said nothing because my granddad taught me to only enter a conversation when someone says something intelligent.’ His words offered no hint of humour.
‘Very good, so you believe in Space Krakens?’
‘I do not, I believe what my eyes show me.’ A wry smile fell across the Night Badger’s silvering face. ‘But you however want to pray to the Universal Beacon that Space Krakens exist.’ He began to walk away.
‘And why is that?’
He turned, his scarred face of black and white alive with intensity, ‘because if it’s not Space Krakens destroying planets you’ve just called out the number one suspect in front of the entire galaxy. Good luck. It was nice knowing you, Star Wolf.’
The Night Badger strolled off, chainmail vest clanking underneath a thick, black leather overcoat. He whistled a slow, methodical tune as he walked, a death march.
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