Crow paused beneath the boughs of a bristling shrub with Wildcat only a heartbeat behind. Lucky for the brothers it was the wet season, so despite the sparse vegetation of the desert landscape they were able to use the heavily leafed shrub to hide them. At least for the time being. The air was split with alarm barks and aggressive spit calls. When Crow scented the air all he could smell was the Powers. Their stench surrounded them, a reminder that they were indeed very far from home.
“What do we do, Crow?” Wildcat panted at his side, his eyes round with panic.
Crow scanned as much of the ground as he could. Peering between the branches he could make out the blur of racing paws as the Powers searched for them. The Powers was the largest meer family in the desert, as far as Crow knew. And every one of them was looking for him and Wildcat. How could they have been so careless? They had been roving for moons now and never had they been discovered. Until today.
Then Crow spotted it. A dark shadow less than a tree span away. The entrance to a burrow! If they could make it to that tunnel without being discovered… Crow glanced at Wildcat, then nodded to the tunnel. “That’s how we’ll escape.”
“Are you insane?” Wildcat shrilled. Crow thought he might have laughed if the situation hadn’t been so perilous. If they were caught, they could be killed. “We can’t go in there! That’s a Power burrow! For all we know they could have reinforcements down there, especially if they have pups.”
“Think about it.” Crow snapped. They didn’t have time to waste explaining, but Wildcat was staring at him with his jade eyes as skeptical as Crow had ever seen them. “The Powers would never expect us to escape them using their own burrow. All we have to do is pick the tunnel that leads the farthest from the main burrow entrance.”
“How will we do that? We’ve never been in that burrow before! We’ll get lost and make it even easier for the Powers to find us.” Wildcat threw his head back as if he might faint at the very thought.
Crow rolled his eyes. Were the dramatics really necessary? “We follow the stalest scents and stay away from the strong scents.” Wildcat just stared at him. If there was time Crow would have nipped his judgmental brother. He didn’t see Wildcat producing any sort of plan.
“Fine.” His brother finally hissed. Crow could tell by the twitching of his tail that Wildcat was not happy about it. Crow sniffed the air. No Powers in the immediate vicinity. His heart quickened and a hint of a smirk touched his lips. Despite the danger, he loved the rush of an adventure gone wrong. He had always thrived under pressure. He nodded to Wildcat. It was time to move.
As one the brothers sprinted across the open ground. Crow listened for piercing alarm barks, but none came. They had not been spotted, yet. They paused for a moment when they reached the tunnel. Wildcat gazed at him; his expression scared. Crow blinked grimly back. Then he was plunging into the tunnel, his sides scraping the walls as he went. It was pitch black the further down they traveled. Crow could hear Wildcat’s shaky breath behind him. Crow slowed when they got to the first bend. Using his whiskers to guide him, he rounded it. He was forced to stop completely as he came face to face with another meer. It was a pup, he could tell by its rich, milky scent. A female. She was standing in the chamber before them. Crow could smell no other meer with her.
“Hello!” The pup said. Her voice was loud, and Crow flinched as it carried through the tunnels.
“Hello.” Crow responded. The pup must be too young to realize who he was. He perked up as an idea flitted into his head. “Little one,” He started, his tone friendly. “We’re quite lost. Would you mind showing us the tunnel that leads the furthest from the heartmound or main burrow entrance?”
In the darkness, Crow saw the outline of the pup tilt her head. “Sure!” Her small haunches wiggled with excitement. “Follow me!” The pup turned and trotted through the chamber, Crow and Wildcat followed on her heels. “Here it is!” She exclaimed as she stopped in front of a tunnel that was branching off from the chamber. She stood back so that they could move past her. Wildcat padded forward, but Crow hesitated.
“What’s your name?” He asked the pup.
“Wind.” She responded with a proud lilt in her voice.
Crow touched his nose to her forehead. “Thank you, Wind.” Then he ran after Wildcat. He soon caught up to his brother. They could smell the breeze as they neared the exit. Crow was burdened by a sudden doubt. What if Wind had been incorrect? What if this was the wrong tunnel and they were delivering themselves right into the enemy’s paws?
First, Wildcat burst into the above. Crow was right behind him. The sunlight was so bright that he was disoriented for moment. When his vision cleared, he glanced around and scented the air. No fresh scents of the Powers. He looked at Wildcat. “Let’s go.” Wildcat didn’t need to be told twice. They took off.
They didn’t stop running until they reached the border of Alpha territory. Thanks to Crow’s cunning and a little help from a kind pup, the brothers had escaped their first encounter with an enemy gang. It would not be their last.