CSS Test Blog #2 [ignore please]

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/!\ Please Read /!\

The following story contains some dark themes such as death, depression and self-harm. Of course, I did my best to keep them as light as possible, but better safe than sorry.

I'm also likely to edit the story due to my perfectionism.
I'm open to constructive critism, whether it's about the grammar or the narration/plot, as English isn't my native language and I'm willing to improve on my writing.

There might also be minor errors here and there while I copied/pasted the story here, I apologize. Feel free to let me know in the comments (or if you have my Discord, don't hesitate to tell me there).

For anyone who has reached the end of the story, thank you for reading!





It was dark. Dark like a void.
Faint whispers could be heard as her consciousness was slowly coming back. The voices became louder and louder, like they were getting closer, yet Alpha was unable to make out a single word. She struggled to emerge from her slumber, constantly blinking until she could finally keep her eyes open.

Silence. The only thing she could hear now was the wind whistling through the tall grass.

The young wolf slowly got up, but as soon as she put her left hind paw down, she yelped in agony.

She couldn't remember the last time she felt such pain. For a long time, her leg no longer hurt as much, to the point that she had completely forgotten about the injury. Why was she now feeling intense pain again? What happened?

She took a look around and realized she was in a meadow, with no tree or mountain in sight. The grass was of a yellowish green and the sky was of a strange orange color. The clouds were black yet she didn't feel a drop. She sniffed the air in an attempt to figure out where she was.

No scent.

The grey wolf was completely disoriented. There was nothing in the horizon. Just tall grass. Everywhere.

Some bribes of memory resurfaced. She vaguely recalls stumbling upon a portal.

Wait, no, that's not it, she told herself. That can't be it.

Surely there was a rational explanation to how she got here. Portals weren't a thing, that was for certain. They were magical. Magic doesn't exist. So what happened? It was clear she was out of the Forest, but where exactly, she didn't know. The place felt off, like something was missing.

Alpha howled, hoping to receive a response.

Only the wind answered.

That's when she noticed there was no bird chirping. No bird, no critter. In fact, there was not a single animal nearby. More questions filled her mind as she wandered. Her three paws could barely carry her weight. She was feeling weak, as if she had not eaten for long. Her stomach growled, confirming it. The grey canine wondered how she would be able to sustain herself, with nothing around her but grass. It was in those moments that she wished she was omnivorous. Life would have been easier that way.


Days had passed.

Water puddles were scattered across the meadow, thanks to the rain. Alpha managed to find berries along the way, but that wasn't enough. She needed meat. Her leg wasn't hurting anymore, yet she stil had to be careful with it. She sat down for a moment, tired from the hours of wandering aimlessly, and howled again.

No response.

She was alone.

Letting out a sigh, she lay down and closed her eyes. Despair started to gain her as she kept asking herself questions that she feared would remained unanswered. The thought of death quickly crossed her mind.

I don't wanna give up now, she thought.

She sat up and noticed something in the distance, on her right. Instinctively, she jumped on her four legs and sprinted toward it, hoping it was something that could help her. She ran as fast as her hind leg allowed her to, although she had forgotten about it. Eventually, she recognised what the thing was.

Trees. All across the horizon.

A forest!

Suddenly, she sprinted even faster, as if her leg was completely healed. Where there were trees, there were animals. Birds, squirrels, rabbits… Exactly what she needed! Perhaps there was someone there who could guide her as well.

And so, carried by hope. she arrived at the forest. Immediately, she stopped in her tracks as a horrendous yet familiar smell invaded her nostrils.

Death.

It instantly brought the female canine bad memories from back when she was still with her family. She had never seen the corpses of the predators that died in her father's care, but the smell was there.

The only difference here, however, was that the smell was way stronger and overwhelming, to the point that Alpha was hesitating to go further. Unfortunately, there was no other option. Therefore, after resting her leg for a few minutes – as it was sore from the sprint – she gathered her courage and reluctantly moved forward.

The place was shockingly quiet. The only sound she could hear aside from the wind, was faint distant chimes. Or at least, that's what she thought, as they were so faint that it could be just her imagination.

As she went deeper into the woods, the young wolf's heart skipped a beat.

There were carcasses everywhere. Birds and rodents lying on the ground all around her.

She couldn't believe her eyes.

"This isn't real… right?", she whispered in an attempt to reassure herself. "Either this is a bad dream or I must be hallucinating…"

Her whole body was shivering, like a little pup that had just woken up from a nightmare. For a moment, she was unable to move, horrified by the sight. She wanted to know why. Why were they all dead?

At first, she thought that maybe a really big group of predators hunted them down. But that theory was quickly debunked as it wouldn't have made any sense for predators to not eat the whole prey, especially since the carcasses were really small. Not only that, but when Alpha took a closer look at them, she noticed there was no bite or scratch mark. Not to mention that there were way too many to be a simple hunt for food.

Some seemed to have died only a few minutes ago, while others were already rotting. A few even barely had any flesh left.

Her heart pounding, she searched around the area for an answer, but couldn't find anything or anyone. When she peeked through a hole in one of the trees, she saw two dead chipmunks inside. It felt like she had stumbled upon a huge fighting ground that had turned into a cemetery.

The young wolf needed to be careful. Whatever caused this massive killing spree could still be around.

She grabbed two small squirrels that were still warm and hurried between the trees, wanting to reach the other side as fast as possible.

Everywhere she looked, there were more and more carcasses of small critters. Yet, oddly, there was no sign of bigger animals at all. It was like the whole forest was left to die. And the constant sound of distant chimes made it feel like the entire place was haunted.

Finally, after what felt for an eternity, Alpha emerged from the trees, the brown rodents still in her mouth. She stopped and looked back at the forest, still unable to figure out if this was reality.

She lay down and began eating the rodents. At least now, she had a place where to get some meat for a while. But it was potentially dangerous since she had no idea who or what was behind that slaughter and it could very well still be there, waiting for its next victim. She didn't find any living creature whom to ask for directions either.

The meal over, it was now time for her to resume her search. But before that, she went back into the forest to get another couple of squirrels for the trip. Luckily, it didn't take her long to find the most recent carcasses, located inside a tree. She took them in her mouth and quickly left.


After a few long days of walking, the grey canine finally reached a big rock, with a tree next to it and different sorts of flowers around. Upon inspection, she realized the rock was actually a den and peeked inside to see if anyone was there. To her great joy, she saw an old lioness lying in the back of the den, looking back at her.

However, her smile immediately faded away as she understood that the feline was sick. The latter had black rings around her eyes, indicating lack of sleep, and was all skin and bone.

"Hello", she said to her. "I'm not here to harm you, I promise. I just need help but… I see you're ill. I'm a healer, I can help you."

The lioness opened her mouth yet struggled to speak. Only distress sounds came out of it. Seeing her like this broke Alpha's heart. The poor female was suffering, all alone in this big den that could fit a whole pride.

The wolf rushed to her side and put her paws on the feline's cheek to examine her.

"AH!", she yelped, instantly withdrawing her paws.

They were burning.

She briefly touched the lioness's back. Same.

Alpha had never seen something like this before. It was like a fever, but instead of the forehead, It was the entire body. At least, she knew for certain that it wasn't something she was familiar with. But that meant she didn't know the cure either. Nonetheless, that didn't stop her. She had to do something about it. She couldn't leave the feline here without at least trying.

The grey canine hastily went outside to grab some flowers of each kind. The poppies and sages could help with the throat – since the lioness clearly had troubles talking – while the gentians were perfect to reduce the fever symptoms. The fact that the flowers she needed were just outside the den was very convenient, especially considering they were the first she ever saw since she found herself in this endless meadow.

Back inside the rock, she dropped the plants near the lioness before looking around the place. If only she had a bowl she could use to get some water and soak the petals in it.

That's when she noticed a curtain of ivy that she didn't see at first. Behind it seemed to be a hidden room. Alpha took a look inside and was happy to see different wooden bowls and tools on the ground, as well as a small stash of meat. She picked up one of the bowls and ripped the petals off the flowers and into the round container using her paws, before leaving the den to look for water.

Fortunately, there was a pond behind. She filled the bowl then went back to the feline, careful not to spill any drop on the way.

Now all she had to do was to stir with a spoon and wait.


Countless hours and the lioness still had not recovered. On the contrary, her condition had worsened. The temperature of her body had cooled down a little, but not enough for Alpha to be able to touch her.

There wasn't much the young wolf could do except looking after her, making sure she had everything she needed. Since there was hardly enough meat for the both of them, she had decided to give the lioness more than herself. Unfortunately, the feline couldn't eat much, her muscles now almost completely paralyzed.

Alpha was desperate. She felt that the old female was about to meet her end, yet refused to let her go, even though there was nothing she could do about it.

With a sigh, she sat near her patient, looking away through the entrance. Her mind flew back into the past, wandering between the memories of the Forest. She thought about Sindile, Noelani, their daughter and the other creatures she met there, wondering how they were all doing. She thought about her den and all the other locations. The unexplainable yet pleasant humming of the Old Oak, the sound of water falling from the Crying Idol, the Ruins… She missed everything.

She sighed once again. The questions she had already asked herself before came back and she spent long minutes trying to answer them, but in vain. Without a single clue, she could only speculate. The grey female had been lost for a very long time now and she was starting to panic a little. What if she never finds her way back home, condemned to stay here forever?

To calm herself down, she was anxiously chewing on some petals from the lavender stems she always kept wrapped in her scarf. It helped her relax whenever she was stressed.

Alpha turned her head to check on the lioness. Suddenly, she stopped chewing.

Something was off.

The young wolf swallowed her petals and jumped on her four legs. The feline's flanks weren't moving anymore.

"Hey… Hey. Hey!"

She tried to wake her up, but to no avail. She put her paw in front of her muzzle.

No breathing.

"No… No… No, no, no no no no…!"

Alpha shook the female several times.

"Wake up, wake up!"

It's only after a few minutes that she sat down, trying to process what just happened. When she finally did, her heart sank and tears came rolling down her cheeks.

She knew it was going to happen yet still couldn't believe it. If her mother was there, she would have told her how naive she was to think that she could save a lost cause. How stupid she was to waste so much time and energy on someone who obviously was not going to make it. And she would be right.

But Alpha wanted to believe there was still a chance. Her father would have done the same. He would always stay up all night and day by his patients' side, even if it was impossible to save them. He would always believe, waiting for a miracle to save their lives.

But as her mother always told her: "only the weak believe in miracles. The strong accept and let it go."

The grey canine let herself fall to the ground and cried. Despite not knowing anything about the lioness, she couldn't help but to feel like she had lost something. The fact that someone she interacted with, someone she took care of, wasn't going to awaken ever again was unbearable.

She blamed herself for being so weak. For not doing enough. For not knowing how to save a life.

She bit her front leg as hard as she could. She was a failure, a fraud. Had she not been lost in her thoughts, she could have acted in time. Why did she have to be so dumb?

With fury, Alpha screamed and bit every other part of her body her jaws could reach. She deserved to feel pain, to be tortured, to die.

Some spots were covered of teeth marks while a trickle of blood was running down her body. Eventually, she got tired and stopped, a small puddle of blood beneath her as she was lying on her side, motionless. She closed her eyes, her entire body exhausted from the blood loss.



When Alpha opened her eyes, a huge variety of trees and plants were surrounding her. Oaks, pines, sunflowers, hibiscuses… So many types that it would take a long time to list them all. The sun was lightening the whole clearing like a huge holy beam of light. It was a wonderful place.

The young wolf looked around her, amazed. She joyfully ran around, smelling the flowers and gazing at the trees. Where was she? Was it a dream? Was she dead?

Suddenly, just as she turned around, she froze.

In front of her was standing a grey wolf that resembled her but taller, with yellow eyes and two yellow feathers on his head.

"Dad?"

The male canine responded with a warm smile.

The female wolf leaped to her father and hugged him. She hadn't seen him since she was a pup and thought she would never see him ever again. He returned the hug and gave her an affectionate lick on the top of the head.

"I missed you so much…", she said, tears in her eyes.

"I missed you too", he replied, pressing his cheek against hers. "I'm happy to see what you've become."

Alpha stepped back.

"What I've become…? What do you mean? Someone just died when I was supposed to save them! I'm the most useless piece of dirt ever!", she yelled.

Her tears of joy had turned into tears of sorrow.

"You are not. It's not your fault. You didn't know what kind of illness she had. How could you cure something unknown to you? You did the best you could."

"But it wasn't enough… I should have known… If I was actually paying attention, I could have saved her."

"It was already too late for her and there was no way you could have known."

He gave her another gentle lick on the forehead.

"Listen, sweetie. I too had my share of failures. There were times where I made mistakes and other times where there was nothing I could do. It just happens. I know it's hard, especially the first time. But you'll eventually come to accept it. At least, you didn't abandon her like the others of her kind did. Deep down, you knew she wasn't going to make it, yet you stayed with her anyway."

"She still died though…"

"Yes, but she wasn't alone. You were there. You cared enough to stay. That's what I always did with my patients. Some of them either had relatives that couldn't come in time or had no relatives at all. Thus, I would remain by their side until the end. Not just in hope that a miracle would happen, but also so that they wouldn't feel lonely. Your mother always believed it was pointless, but that was never the case."

As he paused, Alpha pondered. Despite their death being inevitable, he still kept them company. He never gave up on others and she admired him for that.

With his paw on her chin, her father gently made her look up and into his eyes.

"Alpha, listen closely. You cannot save everyone. Sometimes, creatures have to pass away. It's part of the cycle of life. I understand how you're feeling, but you need to move on because there are other creatures that are still alive and need you."

The grey male hugged his daughter, whispering to her ear: "You are not worthless. Never was, never will be."

"Thanks, dad…", she whispered back.

He looked at the sky for moment.

"It's time for me to go now", he declared.

"Will I ever see you again?", she inquired.

He didn't answer, but a grin could be seen on his lips.

The wind was picking up. Leaves and petals were taken up to the sky. After giving her a final lick on the head that she returned on his cheek, the father gazed at his daughter one last time.



Alpha awakened, back in the lioness' den. She looked at her wound, still bleeding. With moans of pain, she slowly got up and went to the pond to fetch one of the yarrows she had spotted the other day. After sitting and chewing a bit on the leaves, she applied them to the wound, then took some sips of water.

As she sat there, she thought about what her father had told her. It was just a dream, but it made her think.

Back then, the little pup that she was didn't know anything about death. She was just an innocent kid wanting to help those in need, but never realizing what the role truly meant. The suffering of the ill and the injured, the inevitable failures, the crying of the relatives as they hear the bad news… But now, she understood the true implications. The real difficulty of being a healer.

She knew it wouldn't be the last time someone would die in spite of her help. Her father was right. She couldn't save everyone, but that wasn't going to stop her. As long as she never gave up, as long as she always did her best, she could still save lives.

Once the bleeding had stopped, she briefly cleaned her fur in the pond then started digging a big hole nearby.

When she deemed the hole big and deep enough, she returned to the rock to fetch the old feline's body.

She touched it.

Cold.

Alpha wanted to tear up, yet she had to be strong. She dragged the body all the way to the hole and gently placed it inside. After climbing back up, she filled the hole again, struggling to choke back tears.

The burial done, she couldn't hold it anymore and cried her heart out. She took the remaining stems of lavender she had left and placed them on the grave, hoping that it would help the lioness rest in peace.



She stayed there for several days, lying by the grave.

When there was no more food left, she picked up some flowers and placed the bouquet with the lavender on the grave before bowing farewell, then left.

After taking several stalks of different flowers and wrapping them in her scarf, she resumed her search of a way home.


Alpha couldn't tell how much time had passed since she left the rock. Days, weeks… maybe months? She had completely lost notion of time at this point. Every day looked the same to her.

The grey female had come across many dens and strange structures, but they were either deserted or the creatures inside had already passed away. The structures were made of stone, wood, and a transparent material she had never seen before. She could see the inside of the structure through it.

She managed to get inside one of those strange dens several times. While they were very messy like the others and full of things unknown to her, she was often able to find some food that was still edible.

The lack of life in this place made the young canine shiver. She thought she saw a black silhouette through the transparent square in the wall, but it was probably her imagination again.

At last, she stumbled upon a giant willow tree, away from the odd structures. Alpha was so small compared to it that she felt like she was being crushed.

The inside was full of beautiful tribal decorations and objects that she was familiar with. Wooden tools, dreamcatchers, carved drawings… Many things that she used to have in her native world.

In the middle of the den was lying a gazelle wearing pretty accessories as well as beautiful markings all over her body.

"Hello, young one", she greeted the wolf.

"Oh, hello!", the latter replied, tail wagging.

Alpha was enthusiastic to finally see someone still alive and able to speak, yet also surprised to see that the stranger wasn't frightened by her presence.

"You're not scared of me?", she asked as she approached her.

"I know you won't hurt me", the gazelle replied. "You're not just a wolf."

"Are you ill?"

"Yes. I am."

The grey canine examined her. Her temperature felt normal.

"Your illness isn't the same as the lioness' I met. Her whole body was burning."

The gazelle shook her head.

"I assure you, it is the same disease. It's just that the symptoms are different from creature to creature."

Alpha was confused. A disease with completely varying symptoms? Is that even possible? She couldn't remember a single sickness similar to it.

"So… What are yours?", she inquired.

"Weakness for now, but it's only a matter of time before it spreads entirely through my body."

"You just caught it?"

"Sort of, yes."

The young wolf thought. If the illness had just reached her, then maybe she could still save her.

"I'm a healer, I'll help you", she said.

"Sadly, this isn't like any other disease", the stranger replied. "This one is uncurable."

These words were like a lightning striking Alpha.

"Uncurable? No disease is uncurable!", she responded, raising her voice.

"This one is", the gazelle calmly insisted. "There is no way you can help me. I'm sorry."

The wolf was silent. She refused to believe it. There had to be a cure. There had always been a cure to everything. At least, that was what she thought.

"I'm Kara, by the way", the bovine introduced herself.

"Alpha", the canine replied absent-mindedly.

"What a strong name", Kara smiled.

Silence.

"This illness appeared out of nowhere", the gazelle began to explain, after getting no response from Alpha. "We don't know what happened. Creatures became unexplainably sick. Death was instant for some but slow for others. Some think it is due to the overuse and misuse of magic. I believe it's the work of our goddess, Hustisyana."

"Your…Goddess?", Alpha repeated, perplexed.

"Yes. Hustisyana must have created the disease to punish us all for all of our misdeeds. Not just the magical unbalance."

Goddess? Magic? Unbalance? What is she going on about?, the grey female wondered.

Kara continued with what Alpha saw as religious ramblings. She talked about their goddess, who she was and what she did. She talked about the end of the world and the wrongdoings of the creatures that used to live here.

"So… What you're telling me, is that your goddess decided to punish everyone for the misdeeds of some?", the wolf questioned after the gazelle was done.

"Sometimes, there's no other option", the latter answered.

No other option. To Alpha, this was total nonsense. Weren't gods supposed to be fair and omnipotent? Why should some suffer because of the actions of others? The more she thought about it, the angrier it made her. Did creatures truly believe that? Were they really that stupid?

"How can you be sure that this 'Hustisyana' actually exists?"

"I saw her myself. She appeared to me once while I was taking a stroll in the nearby forest."

"You're sure you weren't hallucinating? Maybe you ate the wrong mushrooms."

"No, I was not hallucinating. It was real."

Kara remained unfazed during the entire conversation. Alpha, on the other hand, was starting to lose patience as she kept questioning the existence of the so-called goddess. Eventually, the grey canine opened her mouth but no word came out of it. She felt the urge to speak to the gazelle in a condescending manner. However, she remembered something very important.

Kara was going to die.

This prompted Alpha to shut her mouth. Even if she was irritated that Kara believed in a such powerful yet crual nonexistent being, she didn't want to upset her in her last moments. Therefore, she sighed and simply said:

"This is leading us nowhere."

The bovine nodded.

"You are more mature than other atheists I've met", she added.

The young wolf didn't respond. While her ego was proud of the compliment, the other side of herself didn't think it was true. After all, she did want to lash out against the gazelle. In fact, if the latter wasn't in such dire situation, she would have definitely done it.

"So how do we get the disease?", she inquired, going back to the initial topic of the discussion.

"Nobody knows. We've tried to figured it out, but every test proved to be fruitless."

Alpha panicked.

"Wait… you mean I may have caught it too?!"

"Do you feel sick?"

"Hum… no?"

"Then you don't have it. If you did, you would already feel one of the symptoms."

The female wolf was relieved, but also surprised she hadn't catch the illness yet. After all, she had been roaming in the meadow for such a long time, she should have been infected by now.

"I don't think this is mere chance", the gazelle said. "There's something special about you."

"What do you mean?", Alpha asked, confused.

"Where are you from?"

This question reminded the grey canine of her current objective, which was to find a way back to the Forest. With the whole dreadful situation going on, she had completely forgotten she had somewhere else to be.

"A place called the Endless Forest", she answered.

"Never heard of."

"It's a forest that basically keeps on looping. It's impossible to get out of it."

"Is that so? Then how did you leave?"

This was a good question of which even Alpha didn't know the answer. There were times where she attempted to escape from the Forest, yet failed to do so. Many creatures would have thought it to be literally magical.

Not the young grey wolf, though. She thought it was some kind of perfect illusion. Unfortunately, she had no clue how it was done. Nevertheless, it couldn't have been magic.

Magic doesn't exist.

Seeing that the female canine was unable to reply, Kara went on.

"You're not from this world, that's for sure. But you're not here by chance. You're here for a reason, I can feel it."

Alpha remained silent.

"Could you fetch me my paint and canvas please?"

She stood up and complied, bringing a bowl of green paint and a thick square-shaped piece of wood to the bovine.

"I am a shaman. I was chosen by Hustisyana to help the sick. And I can see, hear and feel things no one else can."

While Kara said that, she drew strange and undistinguishable shapes on the wood. Then, once she finished, she turned her head to Alpha.

"And you? Do you see anything?"

As the young wolf sat and intensively stared at the art, the weird abstract shapes slowly became familiar to her. The entire drawing was transforming, like it was visually translating itself for her to understand.

Once the picture became clear, Alpha began to describe it to the gazelle while her gaze was exploring every detail.

She recognized herself in the center, facing front with eyes closed. Glowing vines that seemed to be connected to her body somewhat were surrounding her, giving the impression they were magical. All around her were also beautiful plants of many types.

The grey canine couldn't look away, desiring to understand. Was it just a drawing of her or did it have an actual meaning? And how were the shapes able to change like that?

"I knew it", Kara said with a smile. "You are not a simple healer. You are destined for something greater."

Alpha finally looked at her, now even more puzzled.

"Alpha, listen to me carefully. You've been given a gift. A powerful gift. But it can be unlocked only by opening your mind and heart."

Unsure what to say, the grey female kept listening.

"I am confident that you will do so eventually. You just need some time. However, swear to me that you will do everything you can to fulfill your true purpose."

"I swear."

Although she was sincere, Alpha didn't know what to make of it. While she did believe that everything happens for a reason, a part of her thought she wasn't special in any way. That everything Kara said was just her being delirious.

The gazelle soaked the tip of her hoof into the paint bowl, then drew a strange symbol on the canine's chest.

"Hey, what are you doing?", the latter groaned.

"This is an oathkeeper", Kara explained. "It will help ensure that you'll be able to keep your word."

Alpha nodded. She wanted to say something about magic not being a real thing, but if it made the female bovine happy, then so be it.

"I suppose you'd like to go back home now."

The canine nodded once more.

"It's time for you to go, then."

"But I can't leave you here!", the grey wolf protested.

"You have to. There's nothing you can do for me."

"Yes, there is! I'll take care of you!"

Tears could be seen in her eyes as she stood up and raised her voice.

"Why won't you let me?"

"You'd be wasting time. There are other creatures who need you more than I do."

Alpha suddenly recalled what her father told her in her dream. She could hear his voice echoing through her mind.

You need to move on because there are other creatures who are still alive and need you.

She looked at Kara with a spark in her eyes. Even though the gazelle was right, she still didn't want to leave now.

"Okay", she said. "But can I stay a little longer, please?"

Kara nodded.

The young canine lay down next to her.

Truth being told, it was still very difficult for her to let go. She was going to lose something once more, yet couldn't do anything about it. She tried to imagine how her life would be after those encounters.

While she was deep in her thoughts, she felt a lick on her cheek and immediately looked at Kara who was smiling at her. Alpha was shocked by the gesture. They had just met and yet, the female bovine was already showing signs of affection. This brought more tears to the wolf's eyes who returned the lick before snuggling up to the gazelle and curling into a ball.

After a long moment of cogitation, Alpha eventually fell asleep, soothed by Kara's lullaby.








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