169 The whole pack
Greg's car stopped at the side of a small country road. On both sides, there was a thick, dark forest and the sound of trees swaying made echoed like a distant howl. Tony and Franky parked nearby. Michael and Paul got out of the car with them. Marina and Maddy also insisted that they would go with them as soon as they learned about the mysterious edict. To Greg's surprise, even his mother and Becky came with Tony. And their faces were serious, despite the paleness. His heart felt warm at once, seeing how many people had gathered at his first call.
Greg turned to the children, who were silent all the way, peering intensely into the forest thicket. Noticing his gaze, both got ready as if on cue and hurried out of the car. Their faces showed that they were also prepared for anything.
" Last time we were on the other side of this National park." - Tony said, looking around. - "Here everything looks like the real forest. Scary!"
At that moment, in the silence, the owl began to hoot, and Tony jumped up, grabbed Michael's sleeve, that silently stood next to him. The calm guy glanced at his friend, raising one eyebrow.
" What? I told you that I hate all this nature. I was born in the city. There I understand everything. And here ... Who knows what can jump out of the bush in the next moment." - began to make excuses Tony, still clasping his friend by hand.
" Well, In Greg's case, his great love jumped out on him from such a bush!" - Paul said sarcastically, smirking. - "You should pay more attention, maybe your destined one is waiting for you under some kind of moss. Although, in your case, the one who can match you could more probably be found in the swamp or a dumpster. It sounds more believable."
Tony snarled, but his attention was swept by another headlight that appeared on the road. A jeep drove to the edge of the trail and Brian, and Ryan got out.
" I thought you'll only take the children." - said Brian, looking around the whole crowd.
"You said the whole pack." - Frank replayed calmly in Greg stead, beaming. - "This isn't even our final form."
Brian grunted, but said nothing, moving closer to Greg and handing him a strange wax-seal scroll. Greg looked closer, but could only see the odd coat of arms on which he could only make out the head of the beast with an open, fanged maw and the moon.
Greg broke the seal and unfolded the sheet.
In sophisticated, elegant handwriting, was written:
Your pace her was long and arduous. You probably thought that all the trials were over. But one more thing remains to be done.
This is an ancient tradition. We call it the First Run. Take your pack through this forest. There you will find the place where your reward will be waiting for you. I think you already know who it is because for any man his woman is the most precious treasure. But be careful, in the forest you may face danger. Those who do not want you to end this path with success. And hurry, you must make it there before the Full Moon shines in full force.
Good luck, my boy.
I'll be waiting for you. "
Greg looked up at his friends, who were crowded around him. Everyone looked at each other uncomprehendingly and whispered, conveying the contents of the letter to those who could not peer over his shoulders.
"I know what place is mentioned here." - Ryan stated confidently. Brian frowned but having caught a glance from his friend nodded, apparently also realizing what place he was hinting on.
" But it quite far from there. The moon will come into full strength within an hour, two at max. On foot, we will not get there by this time." - The wolf said looking around the people gathered, trying to calculate something in his mind. Indeed, of all those who gathered here, there were only four shifters, who could run and carry someone at the same time. Four more women, one of whom still had a leg in a cast and five men.
"I can carry Greg." - Suggested Nicky in a solemn voice, stepping forward. - "Brian and Ryan will take, for example, Michael and Paul ... And Vicky ..."
Tony immediately blossomed in a smile glancing at Vicky with sparkling eyes, but Greg chopped off his dreams, stepping between them and barking.
"No, Tony! Back off! If you just try to say it out loud again. I will tear out your tongue and make you a bait, for all those shifters that are waiting for us in that forest. Besides, in the letter, it is written - to bring the whole pack. This means that we cannot leave anyone behind, just because it is faster and more convenient."
"Right said, boy!" - They heard a voice from behind. Everyone turned and halted seeing five familiar figures appear from the forest across the road. The first was Mr. Benne, the former head of the pack. Daniel followed him. Then Mr. Boyle, Mrs. Strombridge and Veronica.
"We heard some fascinating rumors that the old geezer turned up and decided to play a little joke on young ones." - Mr. Benne chuckled, coming closer. - "We just could not stay away and not participate in this fun."
"Our pack owes you, Greg. All the more Lana is dear to us, even if now she is not part of our pack. We came to help." - Daniel added, joining his uncle.
" I think with our help, you now have enough shifters for the Big Run." - Veronica smiled, looking at the crowd. - "Who wants to ride on my back?"
Greg didn't even have to turn around to guess who first raised his hand, judging by how Frank rolled his eyes, and Mike sighed wearily, shaking his head.
"What a cute boy!" - drawled Veronica, examining Tony, who was already dancing with enthusiasm. - "Come here, darling. Let's get acquainted."
The she-wolf smiled broadly, showing off her huge fangs and Tony instantly turned pale, taking a step back. All the enthusiasm immediately evaporated out of him. But everyone else seeing this burst out laughing.
"Well, if Gregory lets us choose." - continued Mr. Benne, taking a step forward. - "I would offer my services to this charming lady."
The eyes of the old wolf literally licked Rosie from head to toe, causing her to blush a little. Greg was ready to protest, but at that moment Mrs. Stormbridge moved forward. The woman walked over to Paul and slightly bowed her head to the side, said in a soft rumbling tone.
"Nice to see you again, Paul. Last time, you seemed to have something against my form. Do not like cats? Or just black ones?
"No!" - The guy Immediately shook his head, seeing dangerous sparks in the panther's eyes. - "I adore cats, especially black ones. You have a fantastic form. Very beautiful! Very!"
Friends looked in astonishment at the guy who in his life never uttered so many compliments to the woman. The panther in turn chuckled and, waving the tips of her tail in front of his face, stood beside him.
" We'll see. If you will be a good boy, I will introduce you to my daughter. If you love black cats so much, you will definitely like her." - She purred in his ear, forcing the guy to swallow nervously and throw a pleading look at his friends. Those, of course, ignored him, looking the other way.
Daniel silently approached Marina and placed himself by her side. The girl threw a surprised look at the werewolf, but the face of the young Alpha was utterly impenetrable, like a stone mask. However, as soon as the girl shrugged and turned away, the guy immediately sneaked a glance at her, examining Marina with such interest, as if he was trying to read something on the back of her head. But as soon as she peeked again at Daniel, he immediately looked up sharply, pretending to observe the sky with keen interest.
The rest divided into pairs without problems. Becky grabbed Nicky, the only Shifter to whom she was already accustomed. At least he didn't scare her to the point of a hiccup. Mr. Boyle silently shook hands with Mike. It seems they immediately felt the kindred soul in each other.
As expected, Ryan went to Maddy. She did not even resist when he picked her up without asking. But to everyone's astonishment, he turned and brought her to Brian.
" I'll have your head if even a small bruise appears on her! You got me?" - He hissed to his cousin. Brian raised his eyebrows in shock, glancing at Maddy who was not at all pleased by this turn of events but still nodded in agreement.
" And you." - Ryan continued poking the girl in the nose with the tip of his tail. - "Remember! Fur is disgusting! He has so many germs and bugs there that you can open a zoo. Do you understand? Don't even think about enjoy riding this contagious poodle! He is a dust collector, and he stinks!"
Brian flushed from anger, and Maddy almost burst out laughing, but still obediently nodded her head.
"Good!" - Said Ryan and sighing heavily, handed the girl to his cousin. Then he silently went to Frank and stood beside him. The big guy threw a puzzled look at the unhappy lizard. But Ryan only shrugged.
"You promised to be my best fan. You did well. Consider it a reward from your idol." - grumbled Ryan, and a few copper scales appeared on his cheeks.
" Oh, darling! I'm all yours!" - Frank rumbled, chuckling and taking out a pompom from his jacket. His grin became even bigger, seeing how Ryan's lizard eyes grew utterly round.
" Well, shall we?" - Greg clapped his hands, attracting everyone attention. Their group seemed ready to take off.
"Wait, Greg." - Franky interrupted the general agitation. -"You're not going to ride Vicky, right? She is not big enough. She won't be able to carry your ass!"
Greg smiled broadly and began to unbutton his shirt.
"Fortunately, I recently acquired some experience in the running through the jungle." - He replied, throwing off the top of his clothes, under which was his unusual suit.
"Plus, we managed to experiment a bit with Marina. Some employees of the GPS system can be so sloppy and accidentally spill tomato juice directly on the central server. Luckily, nothing was damaged. I checked it myself."