Suri sat in the mouth of the tunnel; head tilted up to watch the sky. Her shoulders were hunched in thought and her tail was stiff at her side. She had only been accepted as a full member of the Powers a few moons ago. She was young and in her prime. She was a beautiful meer, with a glossy tawny pelt, vivid brown stripes across her back, and sienna eyes. Her name meant ‘beauty’ in the ancient tongue, or so her father said. Soon she would be a leader. Her mother was stepping down, she was an old meer ready to join The Before Us. She had chosen Suri to take her place.
Suri was a good meer, logical, stern when necessary, and willing to put the family’s needs above her own. She glanced behind her and caught a glimpse of Haywood curled up at the bend in the passage. His tail was over his snout, and he was snoring in quiet little huffs. He was her best friend in the world, so they had been raised together. He had offered to wait with her here but the stress of foraging amid the dry season had caught up with him.
Suri glanced back at the sky. The rainbow of oranges, reds, and pinks were fading. A tinge of dark blue was spreading from the edges inward. Night was sweeping in faster than a swooping rainbird. It was time that she left to meet Terror.
Terror was the meer who would be her mate. His name was intimidating but he wasn’t a terrible meer. He was strict, forceful, and loyal. She had known since she was a season old that she would one day take vows with him. He had been picked by her mother to rule the group with her. He was the obvious choice, ambitious, fierce, and strong. Terror was large for a male and already carried the scars of many fights. He would protect the family well. They had announced their intentions that morning. Tonight, they would take their vows together and become mates. They would return the next morning as the dominant male and female of the Powers.
With a slight sigh Suri stood and shook out her pelt. She turned to look at Haywood, still sleeping, and wondered if she should wake him. A dull throb built in her chest. She yearned like never before to nuzzle him awake and tell him that she had changed her mind. But she couldn’t. She was the most capable female in the group. She had been raised to lead. If she rejected Terror, then what? Would the family still follow her?
And the shame she would feel. To go back on her word. No one would trust her again. Everyone was expecting this. There was no going back now. This was her destiny whether she liked it or not. Sacrificing happiness for family was a meer’s duty under The Three Truths. Sacrificing integrity for pride, that was justifiable right?
Shaking her head, Suri peered out the tunnel. Once she was sure that there were no predators about, she darted out of the burrow and disappeared into the dusk. She was so quiet Haywood didn’t even stir.
She was so quiet Haywood didn’t even stir.