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Let the Courting Begin

Stanrick Longfang

It was about midday when Stanrick found himself near the banks of the river. He had been wandering for over a day now hunting: not for food or Mordok, but for something else. He knew that he was not far from the village and luckily what he was hunting for did not allow for him to travel far.
“A rock? Really, I’m looking for a rock? How in the name of Gaia am I supposed to find a rock that is most like Selena?”
Instead of getting supplies ready for his journey in to the darkness of the Dirge Swamp, he went hunting for a rock. He had turned over thousands of rocks, if not more, looking for the right one. He found brown rocks, gray rocks, black rocks and white rocks. He picked up big rocks, small rocks, round rocks and sharp rocks. None of those rocks even closely resembled Selena. Ulven mating was a strange matter, but not as strange as courting. Males would do the oddest things for females once courting began. Courting would start with a male attempting to gain favor with the female. This in itself could be strange. Some males would sing, some would dance, and others would fight.
Selena, however, chose Stanrick because of his little brother’s stupidity. Yawn saw Stanrick leave Selena’s tent the morning after the fair in New Aldoria. If he would have talked to his older brother about it and not let it fester like a splinter in his mind then he would have known that Stanrick and Selena did nothing but discuss her dreams. The whole fight could have been avoided. If Yawn had not attacked him, Stanrick would have been trying to impress Selena on his own. The elder brother had made a drawing of Selena by firelight as he kept watch while he was escorting her from the Graytide’s land to the Long Fang outpost. He had planed to use the picture to impress her. He felt an attraction to her at the outpost months before, and it only grew over time. Finally, he did give her the drawing, after she pulled the glass from the back of his head. It was that night, under the full moon that the courting began.
Stanrick had done strange things before. He had climbed a tree to get an egg out of a bird’s nest. He once captured a live rabbit by hand. Yet here he was, in the middle of the woods looking for a rock. This was by far the strangest thing he had done. He stopped and sat down. “Ok Gaia, I am listening. What can I do to find this?” He listened to the wind, the birds and the water. He looked up at a cedar tree: the sunshine was coming through the branches and a beam was shining in to the stream. He got up and walked over to look. The roots of the tree were twisted in knots over rocks and dirt, growing into the water. He looked into the stream where the sun light shown, and he saw it… a small smooth stone. It was blue like Selena’s eyes. It sat there, in the middle of the rushing water. Reaching for the stone, Stanrick fell into the stream, thrashing around and trying to keep his head above water: Ulven were not made to swim. He started to panic, not thinking straight. This is going to be it, he thought. I am going to die in this damned river. The Great Wolf would laugh at him, and eat him for this death, all because of a female.
It made him smile and he stopped his struggle, the water flowed over his legs and he sat up. “Oh Great Wolf damn it!” It was only about a foot deep and cold as winter. He got up and turned to look for the rock, which was still sitting in the stream. He reached down and picked it up, it was smooth and had different shades of blue. A smile crossed the veteran’s face, for he knew he had found the stone. He got out of the river and sat on it’s shores looking at the stone, turning it around in his hand, content with his find.
The walk back to the village was short, but gave him time to reflect on the crazy thing he was about to do. He was going to go deep into the swamp. He knew it was crazy and he had begged his friends not to go. He even saw to it that Yawn and Siren were sent elsewhere so they would not follow. He could not do that for Selena, for she had not listened to him. This would not be the first time he went off deep in a place that did not want him. But for her, he was glad to go; if even to just to keep her safe. They would get out just fine. He saw the gate to the village and Selena sitting and waiting. He smiled and looked at the gift in his hand, but as he looked at the stone a thought crossed his mind.
“Why is this stone like Selena?”

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