Swift stood on her hindlegs and scanned the terrain with her sharp cobalt eyes. She scented the breeze as it whisked past her. No sight or scent of predators. Her gaze fell on the figure of her father, his head submerged in a hole.
He dragged out a large millipede and proceeded to gorge on it. Not bothering to rub off the awful secretions that covered its shell or kill it before consuming it. Swift struggled to conceal her disgust. Bull had never been the kindest father but until her mother’s death he had at least been sane. Now, he was a terror to his own family. A young meer crawled over to sniff the scraps that fell from Bull’s mouth. Bull gave her a hard nip to the shoulder and the young meer bolted a safe distance away. After that, no one approached him. Swift did one last scan of the surroundings before dropping down to all fours. For the moment, the family was safe from outside threats. If only the same could be said for the threats from within.
A young male meer made his way over to Swift, keeping out of Bull’s way as he did. Lucky for him, Bull was too busy eating to notice. The male stopped once he reached Swift’s side. He was still a pup, only one season old, but he was built like his father. He was as big as a meer over half his age. The same female that Bull had nipped worked her way over to join the duo. Her name was Genet, and she was the male’s littersister, they were the last litter that Cloud had borne.
“Civet.” Swift said with a look at the male pup. “Who is loyal to our father?”
Civet shook his head. “Only a few. The older meer. The rest are scared.”
“Too scared to disobey?” Genet piped up.
Civet responded with a grave nod. Swift narrowed her eyes in thought. She was familiar with the fear they spoke of. Ever since Bull had banished Sun, she felt it heavy as a stone in her chest. Sometimes it was so strong it was dizzying. Her father had crippled the family with his insanity, randomly attacking those who he felt weren’t worthy of the family’s protection. She glanced down at her swollen belly. She couldn’t raise her pups in this family, not with Bull at its head. She didn’t want them to carry the same fear that she lived with. And she couldn’t manage being afraid for them as well as for herself.
“Then we will have to leave.” Swift announced.
“It won’t be easy.” Genet murmured.
“No.” Swift agreed, but she didn’t change her mind. She couldn’t.
“When?” Civet asked.
Swift set her jaw as her gaze lingered on her father, who had returned to foraging. He dug with swift movements of his powerful front paws. Dry sand clouded the air around him until Swift could barely see Bull anymore. She turned to look at her younger siblings, her only two supporters. The only meer she could trust now that Sun was gone. She felt some of the fear that hung around her in a constant haze evaporate like mist in sunlight. “As soon as my litter is ready.”