As I approached them, I noticed the sudden staleness in the air, the quiet falling around them. Ocean watched me prod up to her. Ivory ignored my presence... silently. My nose twitched and I tried to detect scents from my thoughts. It’s them. The whisper came out of nowhere, echoing along the wind, almost as if it came from my head. Oh wait, it did. My voice must be back, lovely. I flashed a questioning look at Ocean, who nodded, and flicked her tail to a thicket. A tunnel like thicket. I snorted. “Let’s have some fun.” I growled and let loose a howl.
“Battle positions.” I snarled. At the sound of my howl, there was immediate barking and yipping beyond the bramble thicket. Instantly I flattened my ears and took a fighting stance. Silhouette and Ocean flanked my left, fanning out in a semi circle. Heather too to the ridge, where she blocked off a possible escape route and had access to the pile of herbs she brought, but wasn’t necessarily out of the danger zone. She was close enough to the thicket that she would probably bite a throat or two. Fear was right up against my side, with his lip curled and his black fur bristling. Ivory stood off by Heather. Well out of harm’s way and ready to ‘fight’ any stray coyotes.
Trout placed himself near the tunnel, the mid-morning light adding dampness to his fur, he waited for my signal. I nodded at him, and he dashed inside the tunnel, acting as our bait. Within moments, our opponents emerged after a taunting Trout. He danced away from their jaws, parking himself at the edge of the clearing we were in. The coyotes all paused when they saw us.
It looked like there were seven or eight coyotes. All short and looking gaunt. One looked at me hungrily; it was larger than the rest, with deepest eyes and dark chocolate fur. I assumed that this was their leader, for he walked out into the open last, and as he walked toward us his, friends spread out to make way. He glared at me and spoke in a raspy and obviously want-to-be authoritative tone. “Well hello there my pretty, you look good enough to eat.” He broke off into a nervous laughter like coyotes tend to do. His neck curled as he laughed, and bits of scraggily fur flew out of his pelt. Like when a rabbit sheds during the summer.
I didn’t respond. I only looked at him, imagining the way to inflict the most pain quickest. How about his back? A long rake along his back, and maybe an ear torn off. Then go for the throat, only missing the bubble of blood so he died slowly. Rabbit stopped laughing and looked at me, either expecting me to flinch or respond in some way. He must have taken my quietness as a sign of weakness. Fear shifted on his paws beside me, and I could feel Silhouette’s eyes on my back. “It’s too bad you’re a wolf,” Rabbit decided to break the silence. “Because now I have to kill you.”
I smiled slightly, it becoming only a twitch upon my face. “Attack.” I whispered, and in a second, I was upon him. Behind me, I heard Silhouette howl with fury, and the festivities began. Rabbit squirmed below me, fur as I collided into him, he fell to the ground, and I quickly dug my claws into the dirt to pin him down. I tipped my head as I glared at his face, and snarled in a voice foreign to my own. “Who is your pretty now?” came my threat.
Rabbit lunged forward, trying to grasp my soft and vital neck fur, where just beneath lied my throat. By only shifting my weight, I evaded his futile attack, and slashed out with my teeth, and they met his shoulder.
The coyote beneath me yelped with pain, and with adrenalin and his last desperate attempts to be free, he yanked out from underneath me. The brown coyote looked at me bewildered, and I smiled at him, my only recently disengaged fangs glinting with blood. His blood. “What kind of sick creature are you?” he whimpered, rooting himself to the spot, trying to fight his instinct to flee. I would’ve caught him anyways.
“My name is Agony,” I lashed back in reply, and then jumped at him again, this time using the full force of my momentum and knocking him to the ground, on his side; with his belly in the air. I snickered as the thought of my previous killing method vanished. I leaned to whisper in his ear; he neither struggled nor made any sound. “And tell that to the gods, won’t you? Tell them that you died writing in your own pain, because you did not heed my warning.”
Rabbit flinched, even if only slightly, I saw the movement, the turned to his upward belly. My paw danced across the fur, and sliced it open. Blood began to pool out of it, staining the mud I was standing on. That was the last I saw of Rabbit, for he howled in pain when my lethal attack cut him. Silence befell the clearing, and all the coyotes watched in utter bewilderment as their leader died, before a single one of the other coyotes did.
Rabbit twitched in pain, and then yowled again. I turned away from him, laughing psychotically. I just couldn’t help myself. That was the quickest fight that I’ve ever dealt with. I looked at Silhouette, then wolf closest to me, and he nodded. He understood my message. Leave none alive. Silhouette howled, and I quickly joined in, and as quickly as the fighting had stopped but only a moment ago, it flared up again. But this time the coyotes weren’t fighting to defend their territory. They were fighting for their lives.
I jumped quickly to the left as three abnormally large coyotes came rushing towards me. I snarled with fury at their stupidity, and jumped on the nearest one. Swiftly I bit his ear, and he yelped in pain as soon as blood seeped into my mouth. I bit harder, and then I felt part of the ear flesh tear off. Then pain seared along my back, stinging like a fire ablaze on it. My grip on my prey loosened, and I fell off and landed in an awkward and ungraceful lump beside the whimpering coyote. I groaned slightly as the pain momentarily seeped away, then looked up.
The coyote whose ear I had just torn off glared down at me, his eyes glazed with pain, and beside him was a lighter gray-brown coyote that looked like dust, who I assumed was the one that knocked me off of his comrade. They lunged for me at the same time. I stifled a sudden terrified yelp, and retreated backwards, so their head knocked together here my neck was only previously, and both of their teeth clamed together with an audible ‘snap’.
This time I growled with not only fury, but with the pain that was in my back, and swiped a claw at the wounded opponent. It raked across his chest and lower neck. Just where his throat was. A snarl quickly turned into a gurgle and he fell to the ground. Dead as their stupid leader. Dusty looked at me, then turned tail and fled. I chased, right on his heels, and passed as Ocean brought an oddly pretty female coyote to the ground and broke her neck. She looked up at me as I slowed beside her.
My back began to throb at the sight of blood oozing from her jaws. The scout looked at me, slightly amused I thought, and Dusty kept fleeing farther away. “Kill him.” I barked sharply, and the scout nodded slightly, the raced after the stupid coyote. I stared into the trees after them, just standing there and trying to regain my strength.
The clearing was peacefully silent. I stood there for a couple of heartbeats, knowing that our mission was over, and it didn’t matter if any of my wolves were wounded or dead. Only the strong belong in DarkPack. I heard a distant yelp and growl off deeper in the trees, and knew that Ocean had found the one coyote who thought he could flee. Then I turned away from the forest, and finally, mercifully assessed the wreckage.
Six dead coyotes lay around the clearing, with Rabbit in the dead center. Haha, dead, get it? There was my trustworthy voice, there when I needed it. Shut-up, I spat back to the voice in my head, I was in no mood for Canary’s dry humor. For that, after all, is what the voice reminded me of. A canary, it’s singing so annoying and there just at the wrong times. Stupid Canary.
Silhouette was sitting over the ridge by Heather, lifting a paw that looked slightly disoriented, like it was twisted or sprained. Fear sat next to him, being smothered with herbs along the back of his neck and his shoulder. And heather had a large niche in an ear that looked like blood was still seeping out.
I trotted over to them, with my head held proudly in the air, and not even wincing as pain lurched across my back with every step. Trout was coming out of the tree behind heather, and Ivory following behind him. She averted her gaze from mine, and stopped walking before she reached me and the other wolves clustered around the Healer apprentice. Even Ocean had joined us by now.
Ignoring the excited yip around me, I glared at Ivory and her perfect shimmering coat of fur. There wasn’t even a blood stain. Sensing what I was thinking, Ivory spoke, and attempted to hold my gaze. “I fought.” She assured me, before prancing past us, brushing my fur with hers and heading back in the direction that we came. Her scent was heavily masked with that of a sharp odor, something like the crushed leaves of a fern. I’ll let her go, and play her stupid game… for now. Her time would come. Just not yet.
By now, Heather had reached me, and was nosing my back, then spat some foul herb pulp onto my wound, I yelped with surprise, and bared my teeth at her. “What in the name of the gods are you doing? Trying to kill me?” I snarled instantly, snapping my teeth at her foreleg, but she merely pulled away from my attack at looked at me calmly.
“The wound on your back is long and raw, but not deep. If I don’t treat it now it will get infected.” She pointed out, and I grunted at her with a huff, and turned my head away from her gaze. What did I care if one measly wound got infected? I was Agony, after all, and no stupid injury can hurt me. Now there, you’re being irrational. Canary dutifully chimed in m head, as I had assumed she would. I thought I told you to shut-up, dammit. I snorted back at her, and could almost imagine her laughing at me. Yeah, a voice inside my head was laughing at me. Don’t act like it’s never happened to you.
Come on now Agony, you and I both know that I’ll never leave you, no, matter how much you wish it, or think I’m annoying. So quit pissing everybody off and just let the healer do her job. Logic, you see, is something I’ve always been capable of but never truly embraced. For backing down, even just a little, was one of the endless weaknesses that could be displayed. Still, I let Heather move forward to treat my gash. I flattened my ears and snapped at her when her poultice stung, but she carried on anyways.
“Good job!” barked Fear, loudest amongst the voices. I just looked past him with a flick of my tail as Ocean took up the conversation with the teen. I heard Trout yelp as Silhouette nipped his shoulder, probably scolding the younger wolf for getting in his way. Heather moved away from me and I stretched my legs forward with a very exasperated yawn.
Silhouette flicked an ear in my direction and nodded at him, tilting my chin up as he approached me again. “Yes?”I said briskly and he smiled like he didn’t understand I was trying to be authoritative. I let the fur lie flat on my shoulders and spine. What was I thinking, this was Silhouette - I could trust him. “Yes Silhouette?” I said again quieter.
“Nothing much Agony, I was just wondering what you wanted to do with the corpses.” His muscles ripple juicily under his fur as he spoke. I snorted in reply to this though.
“Leave them for the crows. We owe them after their help with the hunt from the yesterday. We can pray to Raven before we leave.” I decided, and raised my voice. I thought I saw Ivory’s pelt flicker by the trees. “We’ll pray to Raven, God and Lord of the Birds, and then rest in the heat of the sun. As night falls, we shall travel home, with the stars of our ancestors and the path of Safra to guide us home.” My wolves nodded in agreement and Silhouetted dipped his head, and whispered in my direction. “Yes my alpha.”
Pride and embarrassment mad my ears grow flame hot. I looked away and howled to the midday sun. The patrol joined in for a short and hardly sweet chorus in praise of the god of the birds.
His color is black as a raven’s wing
His fur as soft as the smallest feather
His eyes see everything
And in his run, he flies over the deer’s heather
With a howl as sharp as the caw from the night creature
And an attitude belonging only to the messenger of the skies
It is Raven, the wolf of the birds, that is mine
My god, my majesty
He who shall watch over our kill
And his companion, the bird, who shall head us along
And bring us mercy in death when the messenger comes