Promise of the Wolves (Wolf Chronicles Series #1)

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What is the promise of the Wolf? Never consort with humans. Never kill a human unprovoked. Never allow a mixed-blood wolf to live. At least that’s what the wolves of the Wide Valley believe. Until a young wolf dares to break the rules–and forever alters the relationship between wolves and the humans who share their world.

This is the story of such a wolf. Born of a forbidden mixed-blood litter and an outcast after her mother is banished, Kaala is determined to earn a place in ...

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Promise of the Wolves (Wolf Chronicles Series #1)

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Overview

What is the promise of the Wolf? Never consort with humans. Never kill a human unprovoked. Never allow a mixed-blood wolf to live. At least that’s what the wolves of the Wide Valley believe. Until a young wolf dares to break the rules–and forever alters the relationship between wolves and the humans who share their world.

This is the story of such a wolf. Born of a forbidden mixed-blood litter and an outcast after her mother is banished, Kaala is determined to earn a place in the Swift River pack. But her world is turned upside down when she saves a human girl from drowning. Risking expulsion from their pack and exile from the Wide Valley, Kaala and her young packmates being to hunt with the humans and thus discover the long-hidden bond between the two clans. But when war between wolves and humans threatens, Kaala learns the lies behind the wolf’s promise. Lies that force her to choose between safety for herself and her friends and the survival of her pack–and perhaps of all wolf- and humankind.

Set 14,000 years ago, Promise of the Wolves takes us to a land where time is counted in phases of the moon, distance is measured in wolflengths, and direction by the scent of the nearest trail. Years of research into the world of wolves combines with mythical tale-telling to present a fantastical adventure set in a world filled with lore.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The debut of former Jossey-Bass senior editor Hayes is a crackling foray into a dangerous past, the first of a projected trilogy. On Wide Valley plain 14,000 years ago, wolf Kaala is born into the Swift River pack-a half-breed outcast with Outsider blood. As she grows into adulthood, the spirited pup continues to come into conflict with pack leader Ruuqo. She also sneaks off to be with humans, who are encroaching on wolf territory and who often drive the wolves from their kills. Fraternization is strictly forbidden, but as Kaala's mother has foreseen in dreams, it may also be the key to saving every wolf and human in the valley. Hayes's remarkable fluency when writing in Kaala's voice is immediately absorbing. The mythologies of the societies she invents are underdeveloped, but the relationships between the human characters and the wolf characters are keenly felt, and the conflicts sharply imagined. Hayes's keen interpretations of wolf behavior, senses and sensibilities will enchant paranormal fans and animal lovers alike. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

For anyone who ever wanted to run with the wolves, this debut novel (and the first in the author's "The Wolf Chronicle" trilogy) opens a window into life in the pack. Kaala, a wolf pup whose mother was banished for having a mixed-blood litter, must fight to make a place for herself in the Swift River pack. She finds herself drawn to the nearby humans, even though any contact is forbidden by the ancient Greatwolves, who rule all wolfkind in the Valley. Humans and wolves can't seem to live together even though they need each other's skills to survive, but Kaala and her friends may be able to find a way. Though the story is fairly simplistic, animal lovers will enjoy the close-up view of wolf-family dynamics, and a favorable blurb from animal behavior expert Temple Grandin indicates that the portrayal is an accurate one. Dog owners may even learn a thing or two about their pet's inner life. Recommended for public libraries and also appropriate as a YA crossover. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/15/08.]
—Jenne Bergstrom

School Library Journal

Adult/High School- The first in a proposed trilogy, this story set in a wilderness 14,000 years ago is told from the wolves' viewpoint. Kaala is a young female whose relationship with her pack is strained by the portentous crescent moon mark on her chest and her affinity for humans. Her bond with them is formed when she rescues a young girl from drowning. Through repeated conversations with Greatwolves, spiritwolves, and Ancients, the young wolf comes to realize that she is the latest in a line of mixed bloods who have the opportunity and challenge of forming an alliance with humans in order to remind them of the interconnectivity of life and to prevent them from destroying their world. The road Kaala travels to ultimate understanding is a tortured one that, at times, borders on the tiresome, but this is a minor drawback in a book whose strength is in the depiction of life in and among wolf packs. Clearly, Hearst has done prodigious research, and her story is infused with a great depth of understanding. Her depiction of the animals' lives, from raising pups to hunting strategies to the protocol of both inter- and intra-pack associations, makes her lupine cast both captivating and believable. A favorite character, however, may be the raven Tlitoo, who plays the part of a Sancho Panza sidekick and provides some comic relief. With its engaging blend of animal science and mythology, and a strong environmental message, Promise will appeal to a variety of teens.-Dori DeSpain, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

From the Publisher
"The story of Kaala and her pack takes readers on a journey into a rich and fascinating world. A remarkable look into the mind of another kind of being." — Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

"A vivid, enchanting tale of friendship, trust and adventure, good Tolkien-esque ingredients." — Kirkus Reviews

"A crackling foray into a dangerous past...remarkable fluency...immediately absorbing...the relationships between the human characters and the wolf characters are keenly felt, and the conflicts sharply imagined." — Publishers Weekly

"If you liked WATERSHIP DOWN, you should not miss Promise of the Wolves." — JEAN AUEL, author of THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739328972
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/3/2008
  • Series: Wolf Chronicles Series , #1
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: ABR
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Dorothy Hearst was previously a senior editor at Jossey-Bass and now serves on the advisory board of Children's Environmental Publishing. Promise of the Wolves is her first book.

Dorothy Hearst was previously a senior editor at Jossey-Bass and now serves on the advisory board of Children's Environmental Publishing. Promise of the Wolves is her first book.

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Read an Excerpt

Promise of the Wolves

A Novel


By Dorothy Hearst Simon & Schuster

1

14,000 years ago

The legends say that when the blood of the Wide Valley wolves mingles with the blood of the wolves outside the valley, the wolf who bears that blood will stand forever between two worlds. It is said that such a wolf holds the power to destroy not only her pack, but all of wolfkind. That's the real reason Ruuqo came to kill my brother, my sisters, and me in the faint light of the early morning four weeks after we were born.

Wolves hate killing pups. It's considered unnatural and repulsive, and most wolves would rather chew off their own paws than hurt a pup. But my mother never should have whelped us. She was not a senior wolf, and therefore had no right to have pups. But that could have been forgiven. Much worse than that, she had broken one of the most important rules of the Wide Valley, the rules that protect our bloodlines. Ruuqo was only doing his duty.

He had already given Rissa a bellyful of pups, as was proper for the senior male and female of the pack. Unless given permission by the leaderwolves, no other wolf may mate, for extra pups can be difficult to feed unless it is a very good year. The year I was born was a time of conflict in our valley, and prey was growing scarce. We shared the Wide Valley with four other packs of wolves and with several tribes of humans. While most of the other wolves respected the boundaries of our territories, the humans did not -- they drove us from our own kills whenever they got the chance. So the Swift River pack did not have food to spare the season I wasborn. Even so, I don't think my mother truly believed that Ruuqo would hurt us. She must have hoped he wouldn't notice our Outsider blood, that he wouldn't smell it on us.

Just before dawn two days before Ruuqo came to end our lives, my brother, Triell, and I climbed eagerly up the incline of soft, cool dirt that led from our den to the world outside. Dim light filtered into the deep hollow of the den, and yips and growls from the wolves outside echoed off the walls of our home. The scents and sounds of the world above intrigued us, and anytime we weren't eating or sleeping, we were trying to sneak outside.

"Wait," our mother had told us, blocking our way, "there are things you must know first."

"We just want to see what's out there," Triell wheedled. I caught the mischievous glint in his eye, and we tried to dash past her.

"Listen." Our mother placed a large paw over us, pressing us to the ground. "Every pup must pass inspection to be allowed into the pack. If you do not pass, you do not live. You must listen to what I teach you." Her voice, usually soft and comforting, held a worried tone I'd never heard before. "When you meet Ruuqo and Rissa, the leaderwolves, you must show them you are healthy and strong. You must prove that you are worthy to be part of the Swift River pack. And you must show them respect and honor." She released us, gave us one more worried look, and bent to wash my sisters, who had followed us up to the mouth of the den. Triell and I retreated to a corner of the warm den to plan what we would do to become part of the pack. I don't think it occurred to me that we could fail.

Two days later, when at last we emerged from the den, we saw Rissa's five pups already stumbling around the clearing. Two weeks older than we, they were ready to be presented to the pack and given their names. Rissa stood slightly back, watching, as Ruuqo looked over the pups. Our mother hurried us to join them, though our weak legs made us stagger.

Mother stopped as she looked around the small, dusty clearing. "Rissa is letting Ruuqo make the choice to accept pups or not," she said, her muzzle pulled tight with anxiety. "Bow to him. You must show him respect and win his favor. The more you please him, the better your chances at survival." Her voice grew harsh. "Listen, pups. You must please him, and you will live."

The world outside the den was a jumble of unfamiliar and intriguing smells. The scent of the pack was the most powerful and exciting. All around us, wolves had gathered to watch the pup welcoming. At least six different wolf-scents mingled with the smell of leaves and tree and earth, confusing our noses and making us sneeze. The warm, sweet air beckoned, drawing us out and away from the safety of our mother's side. She followed, whining softly.

Ruuqo looked at our mother and then looked away, his gray face unreadable. His own pups, all of whom were bigger and fatter than we, yipped and trembled around him, licking his lowered muzzle and rolling on their backs to offer up soft bellies. One by one he sniffed them, turned them just a little this way and that, carefully checking for disease or weakness. After a moment, he accepted all but one of them into the pack by taking each small muzzle gently in his mouth.

"Welcome pups," he said. "You are part of the Swift River pack, and each wolf of the pack will protect you and will feed you. Welcome Borlla. Welcome Unnan. Welcome Reel. Welcome Marra. You are our future. You are Swift River wolves." He ignored one small, raggedy pup, leaving him to the side and refusing him a name. Once a pup is named, every wolf in the pack is pledged to protect him, so the leaderwolves do not name a pup they think might die soon. Rissa crawled back into her den and brought out one limp form, a tiny pup that had not survived to greet the pack. She buried it quickly at the edge of the clearing.

The pack howled a welcome to its newest members. Each wolf bounded up to the pups in turn to welcome them to the pack, tails wagging and ears pricked in delight. Then they began to play, chasing one another and rolling in dirt and leaves, yipping in excitement. I saw them dance with joy, a joy inspired by pups no different from us. I nudged Triell's cheek.

"There's nothing to be afraid of," I said to him. "You just have to show that you're strong and respectful." Triell's tail wagged gently as he watched the pup welcoming. I looked at his lively eyes and small, strong neck and knew we were just as healthy and worthy as Ruuqo and Rissa's pups. My mother had worried for nothing. Soon it would be our turn to win Ruuqo's approval. Our turn to be given our names, and granted our places in the Swift River pack.

Ruuqo lowered his eyes as he approached us. He was the largest wolf in the pack, broad across the chest and taller by an ear than any other Swift River wolf. The muscles under his gray fur moved commandingly as he left his own pups with the rest of the pack and stalked over to where we stood. He hesitated. Then he bent over us and opened his great jaws. Our mother stepped in front of us, blocking him.

"Brother," she begged, for she and Rissa had been littermates, and had joined the Swift River pack together, "you must let them live."

"They bear the blood of Outsiders, Neesa. They will take meat from my children. The pack cannot support extra pups." His voice was so cold and angry that I began to tremble. Next to me I heard Triell whimper.

"That's a lie," our mother said as she raised her head to look up at him, amber eyes unwavering. She was much smaller than Ruuqo. "We've managed before when prey was scarce. You're just afraid of anything different. You are too much of a coward to lead the Swift River pack. Only a coward kills pups."

Ruuqo growled and slammed into her, pinning her to the ground.

"You think I like killing pups?" he demanded. "With pups of my own standing not two wolflengths away? Your pups are not just 'something different.' They smell of Outsider blood. I did not bring them into this world, Neesa. I did not break the covenant. That is your responsibility." He took her neck in his teeth and bit down until she yelped, then he stepped off her.

Mother scrambled to her feet when Ruuqo released her, and backed away from him, leaving us to face his deadly jaws. We all ran back and clustered around her. "But they are named!" she said.

My mother had given us names at birth, in defiance of wolf custom. "If you have names," she told us, "you are pack. He will not kill you then." She named my three sisters after the plants surrounding our den, and named my brother Triell for the dark of a moonless night. He was the only black wolf in her litter and his eyes shone like stars from his dark face. She named me Kaala, daughter of the Moon, because of the white crescent on the gray fur of my chest.

Triell and I stood trembling beside our mother. My sisters cringed on her other side. We had believed our mother when she told us we could find our places in the pack. I had laughed at her worries. We believed we needed only to act like wolves worthy of pack to be accepted. Now we understood that we might not even be granted a chance at life.

"They are named, brother," she said again.

"Not by me," Ruuqo said. "They are not legitimate and they are not pack. Stand aside."

"I will not," she said.

A large female wolf, almost as big as Ruuqo and scarred along her face and muzzle, leapt upon my mother, forcing her aside. Ruuqo joined the large female, forcing our mother away from us.

"Pup killer! You are not my brother," she snarled at him. "You're not fit to be wolf."

Even I could tell my mother's words hurt Ruuqo, and he growled and chased her back to the mouth of our den, leaving us alone on a rise on the warm side of the clearing. The large female guarded her. Then Ruuqo turned to us. Rissa stepped forward, leaving her pups crying and trying to follow behind her. She stood beside Ruuqo.

"Lifemate," she said, "this duty is as much mine as yours. I should have kept closer watch on my sister. I will do what must be done." Her voice was deep and rich and her white fur shone in the early light. She smelled of strength and confidence.

Ruuqo licked her muzzle and rested his head briefly against her white neck, as if gathering courage from her. Then he shouldered her gently aside, moving her away from us. The rest of the pack stood around the clearing, some of them whining, some merely watching, all keeping a distance from Ruuqo, who now stood towering above us. Even now, I sometimes look at him and see him standing over me, ready to grab me by the neck and shake me until I stopped moving. That is what he did to all three of my sisters and then to Triell, my brother, my favorite.

Ázzuen says I can't possibly remember what really happened that day since I was only four weeks old, but I do. I remember. Ruuqo took my sisters, one by one, in his jaws and shook the life out of them. Then he picked up Triell. My brother was lying beside me, pressed up against me, and then he was not. The warmth of his flesh and fur was suddenly gone from my side, and he yelped as Ruuqo lifted him far off the ground. Triell's eyes held mine and, forgetting my terror, I struggled to stand on my back legs to reach him. My weakness betrayed me and I fell to the ground as Ruuqo's sharp teeth closed on Triell's small, soft body. He grasped my brother in those teeth and crushed his small form, until the bright light of Triell's eyes flickered out, and his body sagged and then was still. I couldn't believe he was dead, that he wouldn't lift his head again to look at me. Ruuqo dropped him beside the limp bodies of my sisters. And then he turned to me. My mother had crept back from the mouth of the den. Now she crawled forward on her belly, her ears flat against her head and her tail invisible beneath her, begging Ruuqo to stop. He ignored her.

"He does what he must do, Neesa," an old, gentle wolf said to her. "The pups bear Outsider blood. He does what any good leaderwolf must do to protect his pack. You shouldn't make it harder for him."

I stood, looking up at Ruuqo's massive height. Cringing and pleading had done my brother and sisters no good. When Triell's body left Ruuqo's jaws and landed on the earth with the softest of thumps, my trembling turned to fury. Triell and I had slept and fed as one. Together we had dreamed of winning our places in the pack. Now he was dead. I bared my teeth and copied the growl I'd heard in Ruuqo's voice. Ruuqo was so startled he stepped back and shook himself before coming for me again. Anger swept away my fear, and I leapt for his throat. My weak legs took me only to his chest, and he easily cast me aside. But Ruuqo looked as though he'd stared the Deathwolf himself in the face. He stood still, watching me for a long moment as I snarled with as much fury as I could summon.

"I'm sorry, littlewolf," he said softly, "but, you see, I must do what's right for the pack. I must do my duty," and he bent his head and opened his jaws to crush me. The other wolves of the pack cried out in distress, trembling and pressing against one another. Dawn was turning to day, and the bright light of the morning stung my eyes as I looked up at my death.

"I think this one wants to live, Ruuqo."

Ruuqo froze, his jaws still open, his pale yellow eyes wide and startled. Then, to my amazement, his deadly jaws closed, and he raised his head, flattened his ears, and stepped back to greet the newcomer.

When I followed his gaze, I saw a wolf larger than any wolf could be. His chest was level with Ruuqo's muzzle, and his neck, which seemed to me to be nearly as high up as the beams of sunlight now filtering into the clearing, was thick and strong. His voice rumbled with amusement. He had strange green eyes, unlike the amber eyes of the adult wolves of my pack, or the blue eyes of the pups. After a moment, another huge wolf with the same green eyes and a darker, shaggier coat stalked up to stand beside him.

All the wolves in my mother's pack hurried from the edges of the clearing to greet these strange and frightening creatures. They approached respectfully, lowering ears and tails, and dropping to their bellies to offer the larger wolves the greatest respect.

"They are the Greatwolves," my mother whispered. She had crept close to me when the large wolves entered our clearing. "Jandru and Frandra. Two of the only ones left in the Wide Valley. They speak directly to the Ancients, and we all answer to them."

The Greatwolves graciously accepted the greetings of the smaller wolves.

"Lordwolves, welcome." Ruuqo spoke respectfully with his head down. "I do what I have to do. I did not authorize this litter and I must care for my pack."

"Second litters often are allowed to live." Jandru bent his head to nuzzle Triell's still form. "As you well know, Ruuqo. It was only four years ago that you and your littermates were spared. A long time for you, perhaps, but not for me."

"That was a time of plenty, Lordwolf."

"One pup does not eat so very much. I would have her live."

Ruuqo did not speak for a moment, unwilling to risk Jandru's anger.

"There is more, Lordwolf," Rissa said, stepping forward. "The pup is of Outsider blood. We cannot break the rules of the valley."

"Of Outsider blood?" There was no longer any trace of laughter in Jandru's voice. He glared at Ruuqo. "Why didn't you tell me that?"

Ruuqo lowered his head even farther. "I didn't want you to think I had so little control of my pack."

Jandru watched him a long time without speaking and then turned to my mother, speaking to her in real anger. "What were you thinking, risking the safety of your pack?"

Frandra, the female Greatwolf, spoke for the first time. She stood even taller than her mate, and her voice was strong and sure. Her eyes shone from her dark fur. She spoke so loudly and startled me so much that I leapt back, falling on my backside.

"Easy for you to say, Jandru, when you can breed wherever and whenever you please without consequence. She did not conceive alone." Jandru looked abashed and lowered his ears just the slightest bit. Frandra watched him for a moment and turned her great head to my mother. "But why did you allow them to live long enough to call themselves wolf? You must have known they could not live. You should have killed them when you bore them."

"I wanted them to be pack. I thought they would be important." My mother's voice was soft and frightened. "I dreamed they would save wolfkind. In some dreams, they stopped the prey from leaving the valley. In other dreams, they drove the humans away. Always they saved us. See how fearless she is?"

I stood again, and tried to still the trembling in my legs, to look like a wolf worthy of pack.

"Lordwolves, my sister has always wished to have a greater role in the pack," Rissa said. "Sometimes her dreams have led us to good hunting, but she's always wanted pups."

"It doesn't matter," Jandru said abruptly. "The pup's of Outsider blood and cannot live. Do what you must, Ruuqo."

Jandru turned away, almost stepping on me, so I growled at him, too. "I am sorry, Smallteeth," he said. "I would save you, but cannot go against the covenant. May you return to the Wide Valley again."

I felt the unfairness of it like the cold, damp wind that seeped sometimes into my mother's den. How could a creature be so great and not be able to do what he wished? I began to look again around the clearing, searching for a place to hide. I turned to run. Frandra stepped over me, placing her own body between me and Ruuqo's sharp teeth.

She growled.

"I will not let you kill this pup," she said. "So what if it is not what we usually do! Things are changing, Lifemate, and we must change with them. The humans are taking more prey than ever before, and each day they grow more out of control. The Balance has already been upset and we can wait no longer to take action. We must change and change now." The Greatwolf looked down at me. "If she's of the blood, so be it. Letting this fierce one live may have consequences, but it may also be our hope. The will to live is too strong to ignore. We must listen to the messages the Ancients send to us."

"Frandra," Jandru began.

"Have you lost use of your nose and ears, Jandru?" she snapped. "You know we are almost out of time. And we are failing."

"I won't take the risk," he said. "We did not give permission for this exception and we cannot go against the Greatwolf council. That is my decision."

"The decision is not yours alone." Frandra met his eyes steadily. "Do you want to fight me? Come, fight me if you will."

Jandru stood still as death for the briefest moment. Frandra spoke again.

"Look at her chest, Lifemate," she whispered softly, urgently, so that only Jandru, my mother, and I could hear her. "She bears the mark of the moon, the mark of the Balance. The council is rigid, and they do not always see what is before them. What if she is the one? Maybe the Ancients have chosen this one for us."

"I have named her Kaala, daughter of the Moon," my mother said.

Jandru looked at me a long time. He flipped me over onto my back to better see the moon shape on my chest. As he held me there with a paw nearly as big as my body, I tried to think of something, anything, I could do to convince him I deserved to live. But I could only stare into his strange eyes as he decided my fate. Finally, he stepped away from me and bowed to Frandra.

"Give her the chance," he said to Ruuqo. "If it's a mistake, the Greatwolves will bear the burden."

"But Lordwolves," Ruuqo began.

"You are not to kill this pup, smallwolf." Frandra towered over him. "The Greatwolves make the rules of the valley, and we may grant exceptions as we so choose. We have good reason for sparing this pup."

When Ruuqo tried to speak again, the Greatwolf growled and, placing both her front legs on his back, forced him to the ground. When she released him, he scrambled to his feet and bent his head in submission, but resentment burned in his eyes. Frandra ignored his anger.

"Good fortune, Kaala Smallteeth." Frandra opened her great jaws in a smile as she shouldered Jandru aside and trotted into the woods. "I will certainly see you again." Jandru followed behind her.

As the Greatwolves left the clearing, my mother whispered urgently to me. "Listen, Kaala. Listen carefully. Ruuqo will not let me stay with the pack. I am certain of it. But you must stay, and you must live. You must do whatever you have to do to survive, and become part of the pack. Then, when you are grown and accepted into the pack you must come find me. There are things you must know about your father and about me. Do you promise me that?"

Her eyes held mine and I couldn't refuse her.

"I promise," I whispered. "But I want to go with you."

"No," she said. She pressed the soft fur of her muzzle to my face. I inhaled her scent. "You must stay and become part of the pack. Do not come for me until then. You have promised."

I wanted to ask her why. I wanted to ask her how I would find her, but I didn't get the chance. As soon as the Greatwolves were out of hearing range, Ruuqo turned on my mother and bit her savagely on the neck, drawing blood and making her yelp. He knocked her to the ground and as she fell, she shoved me out of the way with her hip. I stumbled backward, landing on my back. I staggered to my feet.

"You have brought chaos to your pack, my children, and me," Ruuqo snarled, "and forced the Swift River pack into conflict with the Balance."

Wolves do not normally hurt each other when they fight, since most wolves know their place in the pack and avoid conflict. But Ruuqo could not take out his frustration on me, and he certainly could not fight the Greatwolves. So he turned instead on my mother. She tried to fight back, but when Minn, a yearling male, and Werrna, the big, scar-faced female, attacked her, too, she whimpered and scrambled to the edge of the clearing. When she tried to come back to the rest of the pack, they attacked again, driving her away. I wanted to run back to my mother, to help her, but my courage had deserted me and I could only watch in terror.

Rissa took the closest pup, Reel, in her mouth and ran back into her den.

"Let me stay long enough to wean her, brother," my mother said desperately. "Then I will leave."

"You'll leave now," he said. "You are no longer pack." He chased her to the edge of the clearing and each time she tried to come back, he and the other two wolves attacked her again. At last, bleeding and whimpering, she darted into the forest, her three attackers chasing her away.

When he returned, Ruuqo gave a commanding bark, and he and all the rest of the adult wolves except Rissa quit the clearing. They had only a few hours before the hot sun would make hunting impossible and Ruuqo had a pack to feed.

I wanted to follow my mother into the woods, but I was exhausted in body and soul and sank to the hard ground, cold even in the warmth of the morning sun.

Two of Rissa's largest pups, the ones named Unnan and Borlla, swaggered to where I sat and looked me up and down. Borlla, the bigger of the two, poked me painfully in the ribs with her muzzle.

"Doesn't look like it'll live long," she said to Unnan.

"Looks like bear food to me," he said.

"Hey, Bear Food," Borlla said. "Better stay away from our milk."

"Or we'll finish what Ruuqo started." Unnan's mean little eyes swept over me.

The two pups trotted toward the entrance of the den into which Rissa had disappeared earlier. On their way, Borlla swatted the smallest pup of the litter, the raggedy male who had not been given a name, and Unnan growled at Marra, another smallpup, and tumbled her into the dirt. Satisfied, they lifted their tails high and strutted into the den. After a moment Marra got up and followed, but the smallest pup stayed crouched where he had fallen.

I stayed alone in the clearing, waiting for my mother all that day, even as the sun grew hot and oppressive. I thought if I just waited long enough she would return for me, take me with her in her exile.

My mother did not return for the rest of the long day, or into the night, though I waited until the pack returned for their afternoon slumber and left again for the evening hunt, until the terrifying sounds of unknown creatures made me fear for my life once again. Still she did not come back. I was alive, but I was alone, frightened, and despised by the pack that was supposed to care for me.

Copyright © 2008 by Dorothy Hearst

2

I would not return to my mother's den, for it smelled of my dead littermates and meant only loneliness. But I did smell milk and warm bodies, and heard the unmistakable sounds of suckling. Hunger pierced the numbness that kept me huddled in the dirt. A part of me wondered how I could think about food when my mother was gone forever, but I couldn't see the point of standing up against Ruuqo only to die of hunger mere wolflengths from Rissa's warm milk. I didn't know if she would feed me, but I was her sister's pup and shared her blood. I had to try. I hadn't forgotten Borlla's and Unnan's threats, but the pull of hunger was stronger than my fear. I turned my back on the bodies of my littermates and crept toward the good smells and sounds coming from Rissa's den. I stopped when I saw the raggedy pup hunched miserably at the edge of the den.

"You'll starve if you just stay out here." He looked up at me when I spoke, but didn't answer. He had a cut over his right eye where Borlla had swatted him, and his matted dark gray coat made him look even smaller than he was. But he had bright, silvery eyes. It was those unusual eyes, so like Triell's, that stopped me and kept me from ignoring him on my way to my meal.

"Littlewolf," I said, using the endearment our mother used for us, "if you let them bully you, you'll always be a curl-tail." Most packs have a curl-tail, a wolf who is picked on, one who doesn't get as much to eat and is kept at the fringes of the pack. But I didn't think the smallpup would even live to be a curl-tail if he didn't get some food and the safety of the den soon.

He wrapped his scraggly tail around his legs and looked back down at the equally scraggly grass growing in the dirt. His scowl hid his brilliant eyes. "That's easy for you to say, with the Greatwolves on your side. They all want me to die. That's why they didn't give me a name."

Impatient, I turned from him. I didn't have time for a pup who didn't even want to live. My brother, Triell, would've given anything to have this chance at life. He wouldn't have whined and trembled in fear had he survived. A pack had no place for such a wolf. I poked my nose in the den and Rissa spoke.

"Come, pups," she said. "Come drink and rest."

My heart lifted and I began to climb into the den. And then I stopped and looked again at the smallpup. The memory of being alone and unwanted nagged at me. I couldn't leave him to starve. I backed out of the den and, without wasting any more words, shoved him from behind, toppling him into the den. He rolled forward with a surprised yelp and I crawled in after him.

Rissa's den was larger than my mother's had been, its solid dirt walls held steady by the roots of the great oak that dominated the den site, but was still small enough to feel safe. The four pups fed hungrily at Rissa's belly. As the smallpup and I crept closer, Unnan rolled one eye toward us and growled. The smallpup standing next to me trembled and backed away.

I was heartsore from the loss of my littermates and my mother, and angry at the way the entire pack had treated me. My body grew hot and tight and I felt the fur on my back rising up and when I saw Unnan and fat Borlla feeding so contentedly, keeping everything for their greedy selves, I shoved Unnan away, making room for myself and the smallpup. I didn't stop to think about the consequences of making an enemy of Unnan. I was just mad. When the smallpup hesitated, I grabbed the soft fur at the top of his neck and dragged him to a feeding place.

"Eat," I told him.

Unnan harried me as I tried to feed, and Borlla growled, but I ignored them, reaching for Rissa's rich, life-giving milk. The smallpup nestled between me and Marra, the kindest of Rissa's pups. Full and warm, we all fell asleep against Rissa's strong body.

The next morning Unnan and Borlla tried to get rid of me for good. Rissa, weary of her long confinement, left us with the pack's two yearling wolves and bounded off beside Ruuqo to join the predawn hunt. Yearling wolves are often pupwatchers when adults are away. Minn, who had helped chase my mother away, was a bully and not particularly interested in watching us, but he was afraid of his sister, Yllin, and she took her responsibility seriously. They played roughly with us, and I loved how they growled and pretended to fight us. When they tired of allowing us to pounce on them and bite their tails, they watched us from a shady spot as we continued to wrestle with one another. When they slipped into their naps, I played with Marra and the smallpup. He was almost as small as I, even though he was two full weeks older, and he did not have the physical strength of a survivor wolf. But I looked more closely at his sparkling eyes and saw that he no longer had the hopeless, weary look that a pup-to-die would have. He was alert and lively, even with too little food in his belly, and in spite of the harassment of Borlla and Unnan. Surprised and pleased by this change in him, I pounced on him and he yipped joyfully as we rolled in the dirt.

Because he was dark-coated as Triell had been, and not much bigger than my lost brother, I felt I had known the smallpup for longer than a day. Amidst our scuffling, I nosed him gently on the cheek. Delighted, he poked his cold nose into my face hard enough to knock me over. I landed with an undignified thump, sending up a cloud of dust. At first he looked startled and apologetic, but then he pounced on top of me, and we wrestled happily. With a yip, Marra joined the game. The three other pups ignored us at first. Borlla was fat, pale-coated, and smelled of the milk she took first of all of us. Her fur was not the bright, pure white of Rissa's coat, but a duller, dingy shade. Unnan was a dirty gray-brown and had a thin muzzle and tiny eyes that made him look more weasel than wolf. Reel, though larger than Marra and the smallpup, was smaller than Borlla and Unnan, and he struggled to keep up with the big pups as they fought each other in a rougher game. I played and wrestled with Marra and the smallpup until finally, too tired to continue, I sat to rest by a prickly berry bush as Marra chased the smallpup under the oak tree. I closed my eyes, lulled by the rising sun and the happy exhaustion of playing with the other pups.

Moments before my assailants attacked, I heard them and leapt to my feet. Unnan, Reel, and Borlla all pounced on me at once, knocking me flat on my back. I was unprepared for the attack and they quickly pinned me down and began to bite. To Yllin and Minn, watching sleepily from the shade, it might have looked like play. But the pups were not playing. Their teeth bit into me and they tried to crush the air from my chest.

"Ruuqo was too weak to finish killing you, but we'll finish," Unnan growled.

"There's no room for you in our pack," Borlla whispered as she tried to bite through my neck.

Reel was silent as he tried to rip at my belly.

I growled and bit and snarled and fought against them as best I could, but there were three of them and only one of me, and I knew that even if they did not kill me they could injure me severely enough to make me too weak to survive.

Just as my strength was giving out, something knocked Unnan and Borlla off me. I bit Reel on the shoulder and scrambled to my feet. The smallpup had come to my aid and had so surprised his two littermates that they had fallen awkwardly onto the hard ground. Now Unnan had him pressed to the ground as Borlla prepared to rip at his throat. I leapt over Borlla, landing on Unnan, rolling him off the smallpup and biting into his ugly fur. He tasted like dirt. Borlla abandoned her attack on the smallpup and came to help Unnan. Together they pinned me to the ground.

"Your father was a hyena," Borlla sneered, standing over me, "and your mother a traitor and a weakling."

"That's why she left you," Unnan added, baring his teeth.

Both pups growled and snarled, expecting me to be afraid of their larger size and greater strength. But I had been angry already when they ganged up on the smallpup. Their insults about my mother only made me angrier now.

How dare they? A voice in my head was so loud I could not hear the sounds of the clearing. The stench of blood in my nose blocked all the scents of oak and spruce and wolf. Kill them. They are not fit to be wolf. For the second time, fury took me like the wind takes a leaf, and I threw off both pups. I would have killed them both, I know I would, but Reel had the smallpup trapped and I had to help him. When I tumbled Reel off him, the smallpup stood beside me, and together we faced the three of them, snarling. I heard Marra running to get help from the pupwatchers. I smelled hatred in Unnan and Borlla, and fear in Reel. I saw the smallpup looking at me out of the corner of his eye, with something like awe on his face. My back left leg bled from a deep gash I had not noticed in the fight, and I felt it weakening beneath me. The smallpup held his right forepaw up as if it hurt him.

I looked over the heads of our adversaries to see Yllin racing back across the clearing followed by an angry Ruuqo. The other pups followed my gaze and Borlla, Unnan, and Reel spun around to face Ruuqo, dropping to their bellies. The pack had returned early from an unsuccessful hunt. As they drew close I heard Yllin speaking softly.

"I'm sorry, leaderwolf," she said, ears low. "They were playing, and then the big pups attacked. The smallpups fought only to defend themselves." She paused, and dared to speak again, which I thought was very brave, since Ruuqo might be angry at her for letting the fight get out of hand. "They fought well."

Ruuqo raised his ears at her but did not discipline her. I could tell he liked Yllin. He let her get away with more than another young wolf might. His eyes swept over us.

"No wolf deeply injures or kills a packmate without cause," he said. "If you cannot learn that, you cannot be pack. All Swift River wolves know the difference between challenge fights and a fight to kill." He turned to a cowering Reel. "What is the difference, pup?"

Reel looked around at Borlla and Unnan for assistance and Ruuqo swatted him.

"I did not ask your littermates, I asked you. Well?"

Reel said nothing, just rolled over on his back and whined.

"Yllin," Ruuqo said, "please explain the difference."

Yllin's ears and tail lifted. "Challenge fighting is the fighting a wolf must do to win his or her place in the pack, or the fighting a leaderwolf must do to discipline pack members, to keep order. And you hurt your opponent only as much as you must," she said. "In a fight to kill, you are trying to hurt or kill your opponent. You only fight to kill when you have no other choice."

Ruuqo whuffed in approval. "All wolves must know how to fight or they will have no place in the pack," he continued. "But only leaderwolves may kill or tell others to kill a pack member. And we of the Swift River pack will not kill another wolf unless we are being threatened by a rival pack or if pack lives are at stake."

Ruuqo struck Borlla when she tried to rise. Unnan and Reel had more sense and stayed low. Then he turned to the smallpup and me. We lowered ourselves to the ground and awaited his blow. He nosed the smallpup gently. He did not even look at me.

"There is more to being wolf," he said, "than the strength to win a fight, or the speed to catch prey." He spoke loudly enough for the whole pack to hear, but his words were clearly directed to the pups he had disciplined. "Size and strength and speed are all part of what makes a wolf worthy of pack. But courage and honor are just as important. The interests of the pack come first, and every wolf must serve the pack." He spoke directly to Borlla, Unnan, and Reel. "Wolves who cannot learn that are not welcome in the Swift River pack."

I know it wasn't kind, but I have to admit I took pleasure in the trembling and whining of Borlla and Reel, and especially of Unnan, who had lowered himself so far to the ground I thought he might disappear into the earth. But what Ruuqo did next surprised me. Usually, when a pup is not given a name, he waits as long as three moons to be accepted into the pack and then is almost certain to be low ranking. Ruuqo turned to the smallpup, and spoke softly.

"You have shown courage, honor, and strength of spirit, all qualities of a true wolf. And I welcome you into the Swift River pack." He took the smallpup's muzzle in his jaws.

Rissa eagerly stepped forward, tail high, her white fur shining in the sun, and spoke before Ruuqo could continue.

"We name you Ázzuen, a warrior's name, the name of my father," she said. "Carry your name well and do honor to the Swift River pack."

And just like that, the smallpup became pack. It had happened so quickly I couldn't untangle my happiness for him from my jealousy -- my mother had given me a name, but no one would call me by it. I had fought more fiercely than Ázzuen, but Ruuqo had snubbed me, would not acknowledge my courage. For just a moment, I'm ashamed to say, I wanted to take Ázzuen by his neck fur and shake him. But as he walked back to the den, his little tail whipped proudly back and forth so temptingly I couldn't resist it. I felt the meanness in me dry up and I snuck up behind him, leapt, and playfully nipped his tail. He turned in surprise, and I grinned at him and ran into Rissa's den. With a bark louder than should have come from so small a pup, he leapt after me, into the milk-smelling earth. I could never bring Triell back, but in Ázzuen I had once again found a brother.

Ruuqo would not defy the Greatwolves and kill me outright, but he would not accept my name and did not make it easy for me to survive. The first time we pups fed outside the den, he stood glowering in front of Rissa, stepping aside to let the other pups pass by to reach their food, but growling and snarling when I tried to do so. It took all of my courage to wriggle past him to get my meal. Every time he saw me, he growled. Though they dared not try to kill me again, Unnan and Borlla followed Ruuqo's lead, attacking me whenever they got the chance.

Three nights after the Greatwolves intervened to save my life, Ruuqo howled to assemble the pack, to tell them to prepare to journey the next morning.

"Ruuqo!" Rissa raised her head angrily from where she rested by the den. "None of the pups are old enough for the journey."

"What journey?" Reel asked Borlla.

"The journey to our summer home," answered Yllin, the young female who had spoken up for us after the fight. She stood beside us by the large oak that shaded the den site.

"It's our best gathering place, where you can be safe while we hunt and bring back food for you. The den site is too small and too warm to stay in all summer."

"Is it far?" I asked.

"For a pup, it's far. Most packs have summer gathering places near their den sites, but our old den site was flooded last winter so we must travel farther." She frowned. "Last year Ruuqo waited until we were eight weeks old to move us. I can't imagine what he's thinking."

Rissa narrowed her eyes, watching Ruuqo as he paced the clearing.

"You want to get back at the Greatwolves," she accused. "You want the pup to die." None of us had to ask which pup she meant. She rose and walked to him, placing her nose to his cheek. "The decision has been made for you, Lifemate. You cannot defy Jandru and Frandra."

"No," he said, "I cannot. But I cannot anger the Ancients, either. You know the wolves of the Wide Valley must keep their blood pure, or risk the consequences. If we allow her to live, the Ancients could send drought, or a freeze that kills all the prey, or a plague. It's happened before. The legends tell us so." He shook his head in frustration. "And where will Frandra and Jandru be if the other Greatwolves see her and do not like what she is? Or other packs in the valley? Greatwolves do not live with the same consequences we do, and yet they can force us to take action that could be our ruin. I won't let my pack suffer."

Werrna, the scarred female who was Ruuqo and Rissa's secondwolf, spoke up. "The Stone Peak wolves killed the Wet Woods pack -- while a pair of Greatwolves watched -- because they allowed a mixed-blood litter to live. And it's not as if we can hide it," she said, looking at me. "She bears the mark of the unlucky. She could bring death to our pack."

Rissa ignored Werrna. "Then we will carry the smaller pups, if they cannot make it across the plain."

"No pup is carried. Any pup that cannot make the journey is not fit to be a Swift River wolf," Ruuqo replied. "If the Wolf of the Moon means her to live, so be it. But I will allow only strong wolves in my pack."

"I will not let you endanger my pups for your pride!" Rissa snapped.

"It is not my pride, Rissa, it is our survival. And we journey when the sun rises." Ruuqo almost never used his leader voice with Rissa, almost never bullied her. But when he did he made it clear that he considered himself top wolf. Rissa was several pounds lighter than he, and weak from giving milk to us pups. If she challenged him, she would lose.

His voice softened. "We have known since we were young that we must honor the covenant, Rissa. And we have both made sacrifices to it before." I had not heard sadness in his voice before, and wondered what caused it.

Rissa stared at him for a long time and then stalked away. His ears and tail drooping, Ruuqo watched her go.

Early the next morning, the pack set out. Rissa refused to take part in the leave-taking ceremony and stood aloof as the rest of the pack gathered around Ruuqo, each touching him and crying out for a good journey. I watched, fascinated, as the adult wolves wove around Ruuqo, touching their noses to his face and neck. He in turn placed his head on shoulders and necks, and licked outstretched faces.

"Won't you join us, Rissa?" he asked. "A good ceremony means a good journey."

"Good planning means a good journey," she snapped. "I will not celebrate this leave-taking."

Ruuqo said no more to her, but lifted his voice in a great howl. One by one the other wolves joined him, singing to the sky. And the journey began.

We walked away from the den site and the old oak, and scrambled up the rise that protected the den. Our clearing was at the very edge of a small stand of trees that sheltered us, and beyond the trees stretched a vast plain. It sloped gently uphill, and I could not see the end of it.

I remember little of the first part of that journey. At four weeks old, I was only two weeks younger than Rissa's pups, but it made a difference. My legs were that much shorter, my lungs that much weaker, my eyes just a little less able to focus. The wound in my leg had not yet healed and it hurt to put all my weight on it. I could see that Ázzuen's front paw was still hurting him, too. We were all terrified of being left behind, and did not even try to sort out the new sounds and smells. But Ázzuen, Marra, and I were the smallest and it was harder for us than for the other pups. Soon we fell behind the others. After we walked for what seemed like hours, we saw the wolves ahead of us stop in the shade of a large boulder. We hurried to catch up, and collapsed in a heap of fatigue. Even Borlla and Unnan were panting with effort and were too tired to harass me. We were allowed to rest for only a few moments before the adult wolves pushed and prodded us to our feet and we began the journey again. I had less time to rest than the others since I had reached the boulder last of all, and my legs shook as I stood. As we reached the crest of the long slope, we could see across the great plain to a distant stand of trees.

Rissa gave a great howl. "Your new home lies on the other side, pups. Once you make it to the woods and to Fallen Tree Gathering Place, you will be safe. You will have passed your first test as wolf."

The rest of the pack joined her in the howl. "Keep to the journey. Call on your strength."

We walked forever across that great plain, cringing against the openness of the sky. We were so used to trees above us, and the sights and sounds of this great flat land overwhelmed us. After what seemed like a lifetime of walking, I looked up at the sun overhead to see the day half over, and I could not believe we would reach the other side before dark. Ruuqo and Rissa led the way, with the rest of the pack following, the adult wolves surrounding the pups. Rissa, the yearling wolves, and the oldwolf, Trevegg, kept coming back to check on stragglers, and one of them always walked beside us. Marra, two weeks older than I and better fed than Ázzuen, managed to keep up, but soon the gap between the core pack and the stragglers grew, leaving Ázzuen and me behind.

Ruuqo barked for the adults with us to catch up. Trevegg turned back to me and lifted me gently in his jaws. From far ahead, Ruuqo gave another sharp bark.

"Every pup must walk the journey. They will arrive on their own feet, or they are not fit to be wolf."

Trevegg hesitated, but put me gently down.

"Keep walking, littlewolf. If you do not give up, you will find us. Keep the strength. You are part of the Balance."

When Trevegg set me down, I could not lift myself up again, but sat in despair as the rest of the pack moved away. Ázzuen sat beside me, whimpering.

Then Yllin, the strong-minded yearling female, broke away from the pack again and ran back to me. Her strong legs closed the distance between me and the rest of the pack in a matter of moments and I despaired of my tired legs ever being strong enough to carry me far enough and quickly enough. Yllin had a sharp tongue and little patience for weakness and I was certain she had come to mock me. But when she stopped, ignoring Ruuqo's angry warning, there was mischief in her amber eyes.

"Come, little sister," she said. "I plan to be leaderwolf of Swift River someday, and will need a secondwolf. Do not disappoint me." She bent to speak so softly only I could hear.

"It's the way of the wolf. This is the first of three tests you must pass. If you pass all three -- the crossing, the first hunt, and the first winter -- Ruuqo has to give you romma, the mark of pack acceptance, and every wolf you meet will know you are a Swift River wolf and that you are worthy of pack." She paused. "Sometimes a leaderwolf will help a weaker pup through the tests. All of us love pups and want them to live. We'd sooner give up hunting and live on grass than hurt a pup. But if leaderwolves want to test a pup's strength they may challenge her. If a pup is strong enough to survive such trials, she is strong enough to be pack. If not, there's more food for the others."

Then, before Ruuqo could come back for her and punish her for her defiance, Yllin pelted back to join the rest of the pack, tail low, and I could see her asking Ruuqo's pardon.

The pack moved farther and farther away, until I could barely see their dark shapes on the open plain. But Trevegg's kindness and Yllin's cheerful defiance heartened me, and I got to my feet and began to take one painful step after another. Ázzuen followed. But after an hour, my breath came in gasps and I no longer looked up so often to see where the rest of the pack was. The gash in my leg began bleeding again and burned with every step. Ázzuen began to fall behind me and I slowed my pace even more, allowing him to catch up.

We walked. We walked until my paws felt bruised and each breath took so much effort I wished again and again I did not need the air. I could no longer see my pack and their scent grew fainter and fainter until I could no longer trust the trail I followed.

The sky darkened.

Grown wolves travel at night, avoiding the heat of day, but a pup is prey and any pack that values its pups does not take them out in the open after dark until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

"Bear food," Unnan had whispered to me before we left that morning. I was listening to Ruuqo and Rissa argue about the journey and had not heard him come up behind me.

"You'll be bear food before tomorrow morning. Or a mother long-fang will get you for a snack for her cubs."

I had stalked away from him with as much dignity as I could scrape up, but now as Ázzuen and I stood alone out in the open, Unnan's words haunted me.

And yet we kept walking. I was angry and hurt that the pack did not care if I lived or died, but I had nowhere else to go and they were the only family I had. So I walked on until my legs gave out beneath me and my tired nose could no longer distinguish the scent of my pack from the other scents on the plain. As a cloudy dusk crept over the sky, I sank down on the ground and waited for death to come. Ázzuen crumpled beside me.

Sleep came, and dreams. Dreams of bears and sharp teeth. But as I fell deeper into sleep, I saw a face, the kindly face of a young shewolf. She was no wolf I knew, for only my pack was familiar to me. She smelled of juniper and an unfamiliar warm-acrid scent. And, like me, she had a white moon shape on her chest, like no other wolf in the pack had. I wondered if she might be a vision of my mother from a younger, happier time.

The dreamwolf laughed. "No, little Smallteeth, though I am one of your many mothers from a time longer ago than you can imagine." I felt a warmth suffusing me, easing the aches in my body. "You are not meant to die today, sisterwolf. You promised your mother you would survive and become pack. You must live and carry on my work. You have much to do." And her kind face grew suddenly sad, and then angry. "You will suffer for it," she said. Her sadness and anger left as quickly as they had come. "But you will also find great joy. Stand now, my sister. Walk, my daughter. Your way will always be a difficult one and you must learn now to persevere when you think you cannot. Walk, Kaala Smallteeth. Take your friend and find your home."

Dazed, I struggled to my feet, ignoring the pain in my sore leg. I poked Ázzuen awake and, ignoring his groans, bullied him to his feet. When he fell to the ground again, I bit him.

"Get up," I hissed, my throat too dry and tired to speak loudly. "I'm going now and you're coming. I won't let you die here."

"They gave me a name and they still don't care if I live or die," he whispered miserably. "They just left me here."

Impatience with Ázzuen's self-pity rose in me and I bit him again, much harder this time.

"Stop feeling sorry for yourself," I said, ignoring his yelp of pain. "You saved my life when the other pups tried to kill me, so you have to come with me now. Show them you belong in the pack. Do you want Unnan and Borlla to be right about you? To be able to say you're too weak to be pack?"

Ázzuen stood shakily and thought for a moment. "I don't care about Borlla and Unnan. You cared if I got milk or not. I'll go where you go, Kaala." He looked at me with simple trust as if I were a grown wolf, and his belief in me gave me strength. Ázzuen trusted me to get him home, and so I would.

The pain in my feet and in my chest seemed distant from me, and the dreamwolf's scent guided me as the pack-scent had before. I did not even know if it would lead me where my pack had gone, but I could no longer distinguish the scents of my family, so I followed it. I looked up and saw the great light of the moon, completely round and so bright that my way was not dark. It did not give warmth as did the sun, but its light heartened me, and I walked with determination. I could see, out of the corner of my eye, the shape of the young dreamwolf guiding me on. If I tried to look directly at her, she disappeared, and I got the sense that she was laughing at me. When my legs tired, I would remember Ázzuen plodding trustfully beside me and keep on going.

And, then, when I thought I could walk no more, the night became darker and the ground beneath my paws cooler. Trees rose above my head, dimming the light of the moon. I had crossed the great plain. The dreamwolf faded with the moonlight and everything in my body hurt. Being alone in the forest didn't seem much better than being alone on the plain, and my weary nose could not pick up the scent of my pack. At last I caught a familiar scent.

"I waited for you." Yllin stood tall at the edge of the wood. "I knew you'd find your way here, little sister. And welcome to you, smallpup." She grinned at Ázzuen. I was too tired to do anything but gratefully touch my nose to her lowered muzzle. We found the pack-scent and walked the last hour to the gathering place and fell into a heap of exhaustion.

Ruuqo didn't even greet us. He just looked over at Rissa, who gazed at him with a challenge in her eyes.

"She can stay," he said, "until her winter coat comes in. But I make no promises that I will make her pack."

I didn't know what he meant, but Yllin had spoken of something similar. I didn't have the energy left to figure it out. And after a moment I didn't care, for Rissa, and then the rest of the pack, came to me and licked me in greeting, and called me by my name.

Copyright © 2008 by Dorothy Hearst

Continues...


Excerpted from Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst Copyright © 2008 by Dorothy Hearst. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Introduction

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. What do the three rules that guide the covenant of wolves in the Wide Valley — to stay away from humans as much as possible, to never kill a human unprovoked, and to mate only with wolves inside the valley — reveal about the tensions between wolves and humans in this region? How did this covenant originally arise, and what roles do the Greatwolves and the krianans play in transmitting this to the packs that inhabit the Wide Valley?

2. "'You must stay and become part of the pack. Do not come for me until then. You have promised.'" How does the forced departure of Kaala's mother, Neesa, from the Swift River pack affect Kaala's standing among her fellow wolves? Why do the Greatwolves support Neesa's being exiled, but refuse Ruuqo when he wants to kill Kaala because of her mixed blood? To what extent does Kaala's existence in the Swift River pack depend on the Greatwolves' ongoing protection of her?

3. How would you characterize Ruuqo's relationship with Kaala? To what extent does Kaala strive to win Ruuqo's admiration and respect? In what ways does Ruuqo thwart Kaala's efforts to obtain romma? How are Ruuqo's feelings for Kaala complicated by his own brother's being exiled for interacting with humans?

4. "My legs shook and my head whirled. My chest began to burn like the very fires the humans kept, and I felt as if an invisible vine had wrapped itself around my heart, and now pulled me over to the human homesite." How does Kaala's attraction to the humans in her midst betray her unique heritage? Why does she risk being exiled from the pack to help save TaLi?

5. In Promise of the Wolves, author Dorothy Hearst gives thereader a deep look at wolf life from the actual source — the entire novel is narrated from the perspective of Kaala. How did the insights you gained from seeing the world through the eyes of a wolf impact your appreciation of this novel and the wolf as a species? If you could have asked Kaala any questions about her experiences, what would they be?

6. "Trevegg walked over to him. 'No wolf is a pack unto himself, Ruuqo,' the oldwolf said softly." How does the author explore the similarities between wolves and humans in Promise of the Wolves, and why does she choose to juxtapose them repeatedly? Why might the human-wolf relationship elicit anxiety or fear in some cultures or societies? How is this anxiety related to long-standing historical assumptions about wolves?

7. Throughout Promise of the Wolves, other animals — including the raven Tlitoo and the elkryn Ranor and Yonor — are given voices that wolves can understand. How do some of the more fantastical elements of this novel — the fact that animals can communicate with humans and with one another — affect your regard for this work of fiction? To what extent did you find yourself appreciating or being distracted by some of the more fantastical elements?

8. "I'd thought my feelings for TaLi were wrong and unnatural. Now this wise and ancient human was telling us that it was not so, and that so much of what we'd been told about the humans — and about our own history — was untrue. How could I believe her?" Why do the Greatwolves mislead Kaala and the other wolves in her pack, and why does TaLi's grandmother, a krianan, choose to expose their deception?

9. Kaala is helped along her journey by many: her mother, Neesa; her aunt, Rissa; Zorindru and the other Greatwolves; her packmates Ázzuen and Marra; Trevegg; Tlitoo; Lydda, the spiritwolf; and TaLi and her grandmother. Of all of these aides, who do you think is most responsible for her survival and why? How does Kaala's development over the course of the novel, from outcast and misfit to mature she-wolf, reflect the typical arc of a fictional protagonist? In what respects is Kaala like other heroines in novels you have read?

10. "'I started a journey that you must complete, daughterwolf.'" What role does Lydda, the spiritwolf, play in Kaala's awakening to her heritage as the wolf that can unite wolves and humans? How do her interactions with Kaala throughout Promise of the Wolves reveal her allegiances? Why do you think the author chose to begin and end the novel with glimpses of Lydda, and how did her decision to do so affect your appreciation of this novel as part of a continuum, or larger story, about the wolves in the Wide Valley?

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. What do the three rules that guide the covenant of wolves in the Wide Valley — to stay away from humans as much as possible, to never kill a human unprovoked, and to mate only with wolves inside the valley — reveal about the tensions between wolves and humans in this region? How did this covenant originally arise, and what roles do the Greatwolves and the krianans play in transmitting this to the packs that inhabit the Wide Valley?

2. "'You must stay and become part of the pack. Do not come for me until then. You have promised.'" How does the forced departure of Kaala's mother, Neesa, from the Swift River pack affect Kaala's standing among her fellow wolves? Why do the Greatwolves support Neesa's being exiled, but refuse Ruuqo when he wants to kill Kaala because of her mixed blood? To what extent does Kaala's existence in the Swift River pack depend on the Greatwolves' ongoing protection of her?

3. How would you characterize Ruuqo's relationship with Kaala? To what extent does Kaala strive to win Ruuqo's admiration and respect? In what ways does Ruuqo thwart Kaala's efforts to obtain romma? How are Ruuqo's feelings for Kaala complicated by his own brother's being exiled for interacting with humans?

4. "My legs shook and my head whirled. My chest began to burn like the very fires the humans kept, and I felt as if an invisible vine had wrapped itself around my heart, and now pulled me over to the human homesite." How does Kaala's attraction to the humans in her midst betray her unique heritage? Why does she risk being exiled from the pack to help save TaLi?

5. In Promise of the Wolves, author Dorothy Hearst gives the reader a deep look at wolf life from the actual source — the entire novel is narrated from the perspective of Kaala. How did the insights you gained from seeing the world through the eyes of a wolf impact your appreciation of this novel and the wolf as a species? If you could have asked Kaala any questions about her experiences, what would they be?

6. "Trevegg walked over to him. 'No wolf is a pack unto himself, Ruuqo,' the oldwolf said softly." How does the author explore the similarities between wolves and humans in Promise of the Wolves, and why does she choose to juxtapose them repeatedly? Why might the human-wolf relationship elicit anxiety or fear in some cultures or societies? How is this anxiety related to long-standing historical assumptions about wolves?

7. Throughout Promise of the Wolves, other animals — including the raven Tlitoo and the elkryn Ranor and Yonor — are given voices that wolves can understand. How do some of the more fantastical elements of this novel — the fact that animals can communicate with humans and with one another — affect your regard for this work of fiction? To what extent did you find yourself appreciating or being distracted by some of the more fantastical elements?

8. "I'd thought my feelings for TaLi were wrong and unnatural. Now this wise and ancient human was telling us that it was not so, and that so much of what we'd been told about the humans — and about our own history — was untrue. How could I believe her?" Why do the Greatwolves mislead Kaala and the other wolves in her pack, and why does TaLi's grandmother, a krianan, choose to expose their deception?

9. Kaala is helped along her journey by many: her mother, Neesa; her aunt, Rissa; Zorindru and the other Greatwolves; her packmates Ázzuen and Marra; Trevegg; Tlitoo; Lydda, the spiritwolf; and TaLi and her grandmother. Of all of these aides, who do you think is most responsible for her survival and why? How does Kaala's development over the course of the novel, from outcast and misfit to mature she-wolf, reflect the typical arc of a fictional protagonist? In what respects is Kaala like other heroines in novels you have read?

10. "'I started a journey that you must complete, daughterwolf.'" What role does Lydda, the spiritwolf, play in Kaala's awakening to her heritage as the wolf that can unite wolves and humans? How do her interactions with Kaala throughout Promise of the Wolves reveal her allegiances? Why do you think the author chose to begin and end the novel with glimpses of Lydda, and how did her decision to do so affect your appreciation of this novel as part of a continuum, or larger story, about the wolves in the Wide Valley?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 207 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(142)

4 Star

(25)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(17)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 207 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 30, 2010

    Finally!

    Finally a series about wolves! ( The kind that don't turn into hairy men at night)This is the best book I have read in my life! I would reccomend this book to anybody 9 years or older! Thank you so much Dorothy Hearst!

    24 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2009

    A Great Read: A Wolf's Eye View of Pre-History

    Dorothy Hearst is a talented writer who combines meticulous research with a story so compelling that you never notice how much you're learning along the way. In Promise of the Wolves, she gives you a vision of the world 14,000 years ago from the point of view of Kaala Smallteeth, a young wolf in the Swift River Pack of the Wide Valley, and in doing so she teaches you about the co-evolution of humans and wolves.

    Kaala is an outsider, a wolf of mixed blood who is attracted to humans for their wolf-like qualities. (There's a particularly nice scene where Kaala sees human children tumbling over one another like wolf pups.) Kaala's most unusual trait is her capacity to love another species. Because of her special talent for empathy and compassion, she becomes peacemaker who struggles to prevent a war between wolves and humans. This is not an easy role for Kaala to assume, because it involves serious risk. The leader of her pack has warned her that if she associates with humans, she'll be banished from the valley forever.

    Kaala is brave and appealing, but Hearst has given her problems and flaws that keep her real. She's stubborn, rash, and something of a renegade; and there are times when you want to step into the story warn her that she's clearly headed for disaster.

    Promise of the Wolves takes place in a fully imagined world. Besides Kaala, it contains other riches: ravens who croak in haikus, spirit wolves who come to Kaala in visions, Great Wolves who are the secret guardians of human and wolf destiny, human grandmothers who can speak to animals in their own tongues. But beyond all else, this is a wolf's eye view of the moment when wolves domesticated humans and in the process became dogs. After you read this novel, you'll probably never again see a dog on a leash without wondering who's walking whom.

    This was a great read. I'm waiting impatiently for Book II of The Wolf Chronicles.

    21 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2012

    By Far One Of The Best Wolf Books Of All Time

    This book, Promise of the Wolves, is the first wolf book that I have ever read, and it is by far one of my top favorites. It doesn't tell of wolves as humans think they are—vicious, bloodthirsty, murderous carnivores—and it doesn't tell of them as werewolves—two-legged, hairy, filthy, slobbering beasts whos only wishes are to kill—but it describes them as they truly are: generous, loyal, loving creatures; it tells of who they are through their own eyes, all the dangers they face, the feelings they feel. Just as we do. It describes the evolution of human and wolf, with so much detail, it feels as if you were there, witessing every event; as if you were a wolf yourself. I personally recommend this book to all ages, big and small. Also, if you liked this book, you won't want to miss the book Watership Down, and another series called Wolves of the Beyond.

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    I loved this book.

    I have just recently lost my one of dearest friends, a wolf/akita mixed, named Kuno. This book was a beautiful written story that had be laughing and crying as I remembered all the antics that my Kuno pulled as a puppy. I always believed that she knew what I was thinking before I did. I look forward to reading future adventures...

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2009

    surprisingly good

    I read this without great expectations. While I have been known to read fantasy every once in a while, I was never hugely into the whole werewolf thing. Luckily for me this wasn't about werewolves, it was about actual wolves that can talk and communicate with other animals. It was oddly compelling and written beautifully. I really enjoyed reading this and I recommend it, even if you're not a fan of the genre.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Incredible book.

    I first found this book during a trip to Singapore, and since I didn't have much else to read, I bought it. I could hardly put it down; Kaala's adventures from pup to young adult were vibrant in the storytelling, and the plot is original.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2008

    A reviewer

    As far as I'm concerned this book is up there with some of the best books I've read. Though written in the first person as Kaala, it transports you to view all of the action and adventure in Wide Valley in a third person aspect. You don't read this tale of the Swift River wolves so much as you imagine it along the way.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Very good.

    Very good book. I was lucky to have found a signed copy at the book store:) I thought the writing was amazing and was very unique having the view point of the wolf. I'm looking forward to the next book:)

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2008

    Finally!

    Promise of the Wolves was an outstanding novel, and I find myself researching the second book often! Hearst defenetly has a way with words, because I could imagine everything Kaala and her family were going through. I can't wait for the second!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Absolutely wobderful!

    I have read this book five times by now and it never gets old. Doroth hearst clearly knows how to write a great novel!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 14, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Harmony for TeensReadToo.com

    Kaala was born with Outsiders blood. She watched her siblings die and her mother exiled by the leaderwolf, all because of the blood and the rules broken by it. <BR/><BR/>Yet Kaala's life is spared when the Greatwolves step in for unknown reasons. Though her life was spared, Kaala is on a difficult path. Ruuqo, the leader of her pack, does everything possible to keep her from becoming pack, and there's something pulling her to the humans that she just doesn't understand. <BR/><BR/>With the help of a mysterious wolf, a raven, and two of her wolf friends, Kaala learns more about her destiny and the humans. But as war looms on the horizon, Kaala learns that she's not the only wolf keeping secrets, and without the help of those more powerful than her, everyone in the valley may face dire consequences. <BR/><BR/>PROMISE OF THE WOLVES is an action-packed book, full of surprises and turns. Though it dragged on for a bit at first, I quickly fell in love with Kaala and the life of the wolves. I found myself struggling to put the book down because I wanted so badly to find out the fate of Kaala and her pack, along with the humans. <BR/><BR/>So whether you're a wolf lover or not, I'd recommend picking up this book. You definitely won't regret it.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2010

    Promise of the Wolves

    Did not expect to like it as much as I did. I felt myself being drawn to the wolf characters. Enjoyed it and so will you if you liked Watership Down or the Redwall books by Brian Jacques.Appropriate for all ages.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2008

    A reviewer

    i loved this book so much there was so much drama that Kaala brought to their pack and i could not put it down! i was sad, happy, shocked, and felt the suspense throughout the whole book

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    WOLVES ROCK!!!!!!!

    This book is awesome for wolf lovers, like me!!!!
    When i bought this book, i knew it was perfect for me!!!
    Wolves rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Your friend,
    Silvermoon

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 17, 2011

    Must Read

    One of the best series I have read. The second book is awesome too! The characters are so dynamic and the imagination behind the story is incredible. Must Read if you like Wolves!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    Excellent Book

    If you like wolves, you will absolutely LOVE this book. Dorothy Hearst puts you inside the mind of a wolf so you get a first hand perspective of being in a wolf pack while reading this book. It was a fun and exciting read and I highly recommend people to try it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    Wolves

    I liked the book. It was different taking on the mind of a wolf, and interesting to go through the day to day activities that the allowed you to in the day of a wolf. It actually seemed human in a way.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    well worth your time

    because i love fantasy books, i really enjoyed the book. was fun to read, suspended belief that animals can't talk so, i really got into the book. it appears the author did a lot of research to learn the mannerisms of wolves and the way they act toward each other. i came away from the book wanting more so, immediately got the the second book in the series. am reading that now. and it's just as good.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2014

    Happy New Year!!!

    Loved this book; almost as good as the Sight (did not like Fell).

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2011

    wolflet

    GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!! AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!! SPECTACULLAIR!!!!!!!!!!!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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