Out from the murky depths sparkled the sickly yellow eyes of an old wolf. He was injured, no doubt from the last hunt. The prey had went down, but so did he...hard. He labored to walk, his next meal uncertain. He had to keep pace with the young males or soon they overtake him; soon he would starve. Then he would become repulsive, abominable. Feral beasts yearning for one more morsel. One last squeal.
Betrayal could come at any moment. It was inevitable that one of the scrappy, energetic hounds would grow to taste real strength. Youth fueling his muscles so that he would have no choice but to challenge the alpha. There had already been three or four contests which he had won without much effort, but of late the fights were not coming as often. The tests of wills was over. They weren't playing anymore. The constant wrestling, quarreling, displaying their raw, natural power. He feared, however that one or two of them had been biding their time, waiting for the moment when they would strike. He did not count it against the beast; it was his nature. Instinct drove the youth to conquer, to maim; to lead once the alpha was broken.
He was beginning to rest longer after hunts, his joints weren't what they had once been when he was at his peak. When the sunshine had no end. The breeze moving him forward, not holding him back. He had felt them from time to time, nipping at his heels. They longed for the glory of the kill. Eventually they would take him down, eventually he would fall into the death roll where the elders had once fallen.
He could feel the wind changing. There was a northern song floating upon the air, it told of the coming cold, whispering a cruel warning that soon; they would be migrating. There were markings upon some of the wolves. The brothers had already started drawing blood. There was an uneasy feeling among the proud hunters. The leaves were turning and with every blink, one more was gone. One day less. The young would be forced to bare another hard winter and only a handful of his children would survive. It was that way. The cruelty of the unknown. The burden of barren lands.
Wearied joints cracked as he rose with first light. The pink silhouette filled the sky over the lofty mountains. He could smell the scent of his prey upon the wind. The herd was resting at a stream that would soon freeze. The old wolf began the descent, hunger sharpening his senses. He had to be as cunning as he was fast. The others would rely on strength and speed, but he would use wisdom; the hidden gift of passing days. He moved methodically through the thicket, spotting the dark eyed offspring.
She bolted over the cold ground. The old wolf had made his presence known by the mist of breath he let go from his nostrils. The young elk went bolting over the cold ground, but the old wolf was following along the incline. He rode in stride over the terrain which ushered him forward as he leaped from the embankment. He landed perfectly on her, rolling with it as its legs flailed. There was nothing like the kill. There was no amount of adrenaline that was equal to the sensation of the vein beating slow as the prey went quietly into the abyss.
He clamped down on the pulse, its heart beat vibrating his fangs as he sank them deeper. It cried out, kicking one last time. The sudden jerk loosened the old wolf's grip and then the fawn jumped, pushing itself clumsily forward. There was no use resisting what had come. The stench of death hung heavy in the atmosphere as she let out a few more cries and then there was nothing. He let go, her pulse so low that it was enough to keep the flesh warm. He didn't eat rotten animals.
He let go of her spirit as it went drifting up into the wind in nothing more than a mist. Her spirit disappeared along with that one final glance toward the watering hole from which its tongue would never again be satisfied. There would never be another spring when the water tasted of pure honey or the smell of nuts on the breeze. There would be nothing left except the darkness between dreams.
The blood was what he craved, he drank in the crimson elixir that at once made him feel young again. The pack moved in cautiously as the old wolf's tongue went dancing to cauterize the wound that would keep the prey fresh. Each of the wolves ate their fill, lifting their eyes toward the eternal eye unto which they lifted their voices. Their arcane tongue rang out over the falling leaves, vanishing somewhere in the infinity of clouds.
There was movement.
The wolves stirred, moving carefully as the scent of the enemy came creeping in. It was not an animal that came under that eerie red light, it was a tall figure with no fur. The elder wolf could smell his scent from over a mile away. He could feel his jaws salivating as he recognized the stench of a true enemy; an outsider bent on taking control of the pack. He would rip the throat out of a wolf who came from strange blood.
The aroma of another alpha filled the air, it pushed the old wolf's ears back onto the sides of his head. He was ready for a dogfight. There was nothing more honorable among the pack then for the leader to fall in combat. He prepared himself for the fight, the ecstasy of battle, the unhinged nature of a wolf. He was about to show the young what leadership truly required.
To be fearless.
The strange priest stood in the clearing, upon his black skin he had smeared white chalk. The wolves showed their teeth to express dominance, but the man did not move. The old wolf noticed that he was standing in the midst of a symbol that had been written by the same chalk that covered his skin. The vagabond stood without fear as the elder began calculating his attack strategy. He began shaking the stick in his hand that made a noise. He began to chant in some forgotten tongue that only his people knew.
The old wolf darted toward him, shooting to his throat in a matter of moments. The painted stranger did not move as he saw the wolf baring down on him. Instead he lifted his hands to the sky along with the staff he carried. He leaped into the air, catching the stranger on the neck. He clamped down on the jugular as the priest struggled against the horrible rending of flesh, but there was no stopping the process now.
He drank of the blood, but it tasted strange. He back away from the darkened victim; the other wolves pushing passed him as they closed in on it. He could hear the rending of the flesh, the tearing away of muscle from bone and worst of all the low growl from the hungry dogs. He stumbled into the trees, his breathing becoming labored. He could feel his heart beating in his ear as it struggled to pump the blood through his veins. The others seemed to pay no attention as he went wandering toward the brook where he would taste the water one last time.
He had barely lapped up enough liquid to quench his thirst, when the world went dark...