[We’re proud to share that today’s post has been published over at Wolves By Strangers, a site we found in the first days of our blogs creation, which we’ve diligently followed since. WBS boasts a serious collection of wolf fan art, and a reverence for the lupine no less than our own. Each new post features a stranger’s depiction of a wolf, which can range from classic, to comical, to outright wild (a la the ride through the tunnel in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory). Unless a submitter attaches their own story, the WBS crew will pair every piece with humorously original observations.
Check out the site and send your own wolf themed art in! Don’t miss out on the chance to take home the best cookie jar ever by participating in the first ever WBS contest.
Warm rays of light beckon my eyes to open. A cold air tickles my throat as I breath in the first morning breeze.
Soft strands of grass stretch tall in the lazy light when I raise my arms and legs high to do the same, granting my little green friends a much needed reprieve. The night had been cool, but not unpleasantly so, and the steam from the nearby spring, rising to battle the chill, kept a constant blanket of warmth in the low gorge.
Trees full of leaves, waving and shoving about in the soft wind, vying for a spot with a view of the surroundings, crowd in on all sides. Wide oaks with armies of branches standing vigil over their short-reaching kingdoms.
They wrap greedy arms high over the small dell, capturing what heat they can from the happily oblivious spring, and keeping it for us. They protect me form eyes I do not wish to see me, as I protect them from the wild things that lurk in the darker parts of the forest.
I prop myself up to leisurely survey the area. The small brook, born of the seemingly endless spring, flows down and over a small drop-off into another shallow gorge at the end of my own.
Rolling to my feet I can hear the hushed thrashing of the rest of my living bed, rejoicing in the fresh air. I quietly approach the bank of the spring, quietly being the only way to move in the forest, and kneel between a pair of delicate ferns.
The pool greets me with bubbles that rupture the clear surface. I dip my hands into the heated waters in response, scrubbing away the sleep from my face. Quickly cooling water trails down my arms and bare chest, gooseflesh chasing in its wake.
Going back for another handful, my hand stops abruptly as my eyes tell them something is wrong. A subdued red, a color unknown to this part of the wood, reflects off the water to my left. The rippling surface teases me by withholding vital details, yet reveals enough to tell me something hides on the other side of the thick ferns.
No time to reach my blade, still concealed under a series of roots near my bedding, my fingers probe about for a suitable weapon. They earnestly close around a solid river rock, worn smooth and hard.
My heart thumps the opening of a battle hymn that only I can hear thundering in my ears. The muscles in my arms and legs tense in anticipation of the pounce they know I am about to ask of them. Eager to heed my call they surge with strength as I jump through fern fronds, river stone held high.
Swinging wild, my attack fails to connect, given the posture of my intended victim. Curled in on itself, what is left of itself anyways, is the husk of some animal that had been viscously ripped apart. Right next to where I slumbered? How did I not sense this? How did I not wake?
Blood coats the trampled grass and dubiously swaying foliage surrounding the scene. Bits of viscera and gnawed bone litter the ground, which I can feel slip under or jab into the soles of my feet.
In the center of the ring of carnage rests the largest portion of left-overs. A large ribcage, picked clean. Dirty scraps of fur rest nearby. The carcass hasn’t yet begun to smell of decay, which means this kill is recent.
Grabbing a fallen branch near my feet, I kneel down for a closer inspection. With a prod the scrap of fur dislodges from a nest of gore and rolls over on itself. I quickly stand at the sight of a pair of eyes glaring up at me, much like the ones that stare back at me in the water every morning.
Another human! The hunt must have already begun.
I crouch low once more and scan the opposite bank of the spring. The woods beyond echo with all the appropriate sounds – bird song whipped through the rustling boughs by a meandering wind. A strained moment passes.
My nerves loosen as I consider the possibility that I am indeed alone.
Just as I begin to drop my guard a low growl menaces me from behind. Time stops. The bird song slows to a muted hum and I can hear the individual leaves within my guardian trees flail about as if in warning. I can smell the fetid breath of my opponent across the short distance to the edge of the clearing at my back.
I slow my breathing and fully concentrate on the rhythmic thudding of the heart in my chest. It will tell me when to strike.
Little green allies across the lawn cry out in alarm as the beast at my back stalks closer. They whisper to me his proximity. They shout to me when he is about to surge. They wail in protest when he does.
At the last moment I spin around to meet my attacker, using the momentum of the turn to aid the strength of my blow. A monstrous grey ball of fur, fang and claw hurtle towards me, too close to bring my meager weapon to bear – I’d misjudged the speed of my opponent.
The much larger figure cashes into me and pushes me back into the pool, dashing the serenity of my home into the liquid, me along with it.
Completely submerged, I wrestle with the dark form, my fingers tangling in matted hair. Rough padded feet brush past, jagged nails dig shallow furrows into my exposed flesh. I shove away to put distance between myself and the beasts thrashing weaponry. The turbulence caused by our struggle keeps me from seeing where I am in relation to my assailant.
Then, just as quickly as I found myself submerged, the water clears of angry bubbles and dark fur. Spinning in all directions I can no longer see my assailant.
My lungs let me know it’s time to move and I breach the surface with a sputter.
Wiping the water from my eyes I twist about to locate my withdrawn adversary. My eyes narrow when I find him, a massive grey wolf standing statuesquely a short distance away.
“You idiot!”, I hiss, the force launching water-droplets form my lips.
The wolf’s ears perk up and turn forward, listening intently.
“The hunt is upon us and you play games, Fenris?” I continue.
At the mention of his name, Fenris hunkers down with his forepaws while arching his backside high, tail wagging playfully. His tongue lolls form the side of his mouth, an eager pant escaping his toothy maw.
I stride forward, my steps taking me out of the pool. Steam rises from my silhouette. Setting my feet firmly in front of his much larger paws, I plant my fists on my hips and stare accusingly into his white eyes.
After a moment, Fenris yips sharply and smoothly rolls onto his back, exposing his belly and neck to me. I can’t hold out any longer and a wide smile betrays the anger even now slipping from my face. I can’t blame him. It’s been a long winter, with little decent hunting to be had and no battle to speak of. Some fun with the onset of the spring was hardly inappropriate, despite the the fact we were still at war and the cleared snows meant renewed fighting.
Joining him on the ground I nuzzle up to his wet, yet still soft, fur. My fingers know all the best places to scratch.
A few more and I rise back to my feet. He sits up to join me.
I gesture to the human remnants nearby.
“Your handy work?”
He barks out his affirmation.
“Where are the others?”
He looks to the tree line and lets out a clear, but short, yowl. Two similarly coated, yet smaller, wolves bound over the lip of the dell, nipping at one another in a game of tag. They stop their play long enough to say hello with a nudge and receive a quick scratch behind the ears. They are Gorm and Dylla, Fenris’ younger brother and sister. What they lack in size, they make up for in speed and stealth.
I watch them leap away to continue their fun, seemingly careless of the previous night’s encounter with the manling. Uncomprehending of the meaning behind a lone man in the woods. There would be more. This was just a scout and the rest of his hunting party would soon follow.
In response to my dark musings, my large companion nudges my hand with his wet nose. I let my touch follow the familiar curves of his snout, to come to rest on the comfort of his wide brow. We watch the younger of our troupe together.
“They are ready.”
I look down into Fenris’ intelligent eyes.
“Tonight the hunt begins anew. Only this time, we are the hunters.”
Turning away, I can feel Fenris watch me as I head to gather my gear for the coming battle.