Weed tried to suppress the shaking, but against his wishes his whole body trembled. His heartbeat thundered in his ears, making it difficult to hear what Grace was saying.
Today would be the Alphas first battle. Their family was growing, and they needed to expand their borders. Foraging in the Outlands wasn’t an option, and neither was challenging the Powers, their closest neighbors. That left the Deltas. The Deltas gang wasn’t much larger than the Alphas in numbers, yet their territory was huge. Almost as large as the Powers territory was. Queen said that was because no one was brave enough to take on the Deltas cruel leaders, Cloud and Bull. That didn’t exactly instill confidence in Weed.
Queen had produced a plan of attack, one involving an ambush. Lucky Weed got to be part of this patrol. They crouched near the edge of the long grass, waiting for their signal to strike. The patrol was made up of Grace, Ruff, Stripe, Sorrel, Mist, Hawk, and Weed. The rest of the Alphas had joined Queen in launching her frontal assault. Weed wished his mother were there, but she was back at the burrow watching Queen’s newest arrivals. Her quiet strength and support always made him feel stronger. Now he felt no different than he always did. Anxious and afraid. He was stocky but small for his age. His former guardian Daisy wasn’t even in his patrol to offer him advice. Neither were his littermates. He was on his own.
“Hey.” Hawk whispered. He had moved back to crouch beside him. “What’s wrong?”
Was Hawk making fun of him? Weed looked at Hawk to find that his orange eyes were sincere with concern. Of course, Hawk wouldn’t mock him. They had been raised together. They were the same age. Hawk was as much a brother to him as Crow and Wildcat were. “I’m just nervous.” Weed replied honestly.
Hawk’s gaze turned thoughtful as he brushed his tail against Weed’s side. “It’s ok,” he said, “if you aren’t ready for this.”
Weed tilted his head. “What do you mean?”
“You don’t have to fight today.” Hawk answered as the sounds of battle erupted. Queen’s group had attacked and were falling back, close to where the rest of the Alphas were hiding. The other meer in the patrol were fixated on watching the battle. No one was paying attention to Weed and Hawk. “Go home.” Hawk said and his expression was much wiser than his years. “I’ll tell Grace you were sick. I’m sure Poppy would appreciate your help at the burrow.”
Weed nodded and his trembling tail stilled. “Are you sure?” He asked.
“Yes.” Hawk gave him a confident nudge. His canines glinted in the sun. “You shouldn’t have to fight when you aren’t ready.”
“Thank you, Hawk, for understanding.” Weed rubbed his cheek fondly to Hawk’s. “I will repay you.”
Hawk shook his head. “Don’t thank me. Just train hard. So, you’ll be ready for the next one. Now, go. It is almost time.”
With his vow still ringing in his head, Weed left. He would carry his vow with him until he found a way to repay the kindness and understanding of his almost-brother, Hawk.