1. The Ice-wolves
Jupiter’s moon, Europa, whispers secrets on the winds that swirl around and freeze solid the snow-covered ground. Secrets about Albo and his mate Salsa: secrets that are carried far and wide across this icy world, to packs from the far north to the remote south.
Other places would call such secrets legends, but those who know the prime pack leader know that these are not legends at all, but the truth.
Albo is an eight-year-old Icewolf who was born to be pack leader. His eyes, piercing blue from birth, have remained that way throughout his life, and in Icewolf society the blue-eyed boys become kings.
His mate of five years now, Salsa, has been his queen throughout the time of their togetherness, and mother to fifteen cubs, who have all left their frozen palace to make dens for themselves around Europa; each becoming prince or princess noble of their own sub-packs.
Salsa is slightly larger than Albo, which is ideal as she is the defender of the realm who will stand up to anyone who encroaches upon their vast territory without invitation.
They both hunt for food, both for themselves and the pack, and always manage to bring enough food back to feed everyone – a trait that has been passed down to all fifteen cubs, who feed well their own domains.
This is part of the legend carried on the wind. How, on a moon inhabited only by Icewolves can they hunt, find and feed regularly? What do they eat? Where do they find it?
They hunt in the dark. With perfect night vision, and an ability to run and leap even on the softest of snow-covered surfaces, they can stealthily chase and catch their prey with ease.
According to the legends, Albo and Salsa both leave Europa, and travel to the other nearby moons and even Jupiter herself, and bring back their catches from there; but the legends vary, depending on where they are told.
The stories in the west talk of how they transform themselves into large plumes of water, reaching out across the vastness of empty space until they reach their destination, where they take back their lupine form, ready for the hunt.
The south has a little more far-fetched version, where the Icewolves use vessels to travel to their neighbouring worlds; they originally, the legends say, started travelling as stowaways, before watching and learning how to use the alien vessels themselves. They keep the vessels hidden in a vast underground cavern, when not in use, watched over by Jupiter’s eye.
The eastern legends include both vessels and transformation – where Albo and Salsa take on a humanoid form, and pilot ships which belonged to their ancestors when they arrived on Europa centuries earlier.
There is chatter on the wind that perhaps all three versions of the legend are actually correct, although combined. Albo and Salsa take on humanoid form, ride the water plumes generated by the moon itself, and then use some kind of ship or portal to go to their destination.
Those who see the plumes, whether in the north, south, east or west, howl a song for good-hunting; singing for another successful catch and another enjoyable meal.
There are always more than two water plumes, however… could this indicate the royal cubs, and perhaps, others from this race of Icewolves also venture out into the stars?
Those who know the prime pack leader know the answer to this. The others think they know, but make up their own stories to be carried on the wind.
Next time… the Firewolves of Io.
(Also posted for Six Word Saturday)