The idyllic peace of the meadow is suddenly
disturbed by the swift arrival and departure of six quadrupeds. As the birds
take wing and the rabbits dive for their holes, the creatures top the rise
and surge over the grass, three in front and three behind. And then they're
gone, only wind in their wake. No tracks are visible on the ground and not a
flower is broken; only the blades of grass which were under their feet are
bent and even these are reverting to their normal, upright position. Now the
birds return and the rabbits venture forth from their holes, as if nothing
The Wolf likes the pack hunts. Flying along with
your pack mates at your side, the wind whistling in your ears and running
its fingers through your fur, the landscape a blur! And that collective
presence, six moving as one, the power of the pack greater than the sum of
its individual members. It always makes him giddy. What could stand against
such awesome force? Nothing ever had.
His pack sister -- ranked
4th of six in the pack, runs on his right -- catches his eye and flashes him
a grin as they race over the meadow. The Wolf returns the grin and runs on.
But there's something
different about this hunt, thinks the Wolf and he frowns inwardly, tries to
place it. The excitement, adrenaline, rush of emotion -- all there, as
usual; but something else too. A kind of ... foreboding? The Wolf shakes his
head as he runs, tries to clear it -- how many pack hunts has he been part
of? More than a few. Sure, there's always danger -- no danger, no fun! --
It's nothing, really, he tells himself now as the
pack races along. An old fence looms ahead, part of some farmer's attempt to
mark his pasture. The three wolves in front spring over it in a graceful
arc, land lightly on the other side and continue to run. The three behind --
including the Wolf himself -- do the same a few seconds later.
Aaaahhhhhhhhh! Flying without wings -- is there any greater thrill? For a
few wonderful moments, he forgets his anxiety.
But after he lands on the
other side and resumes the pace, it rears up in his mind again. Damn it all,
there's something Not Right about this hunt -- Intuition tells him so. But
Logic is quick to point out that no one else in the pack feels anything
abnormal and even so, the Pack never lost a wolf -- Leader is too good for
that. He always anticipates danger and won't lead us into anything fatal.
(What if he doesn't know?!)
The horrifying implication
hits the Wolf so hard that he misses the pace and nearly stumbles. Not
possible! Declares Logic emphatically. Who are you? Just a pup! You
think you can sense something so important, but Leader can not?
Pull yourself together!
OK in back?
The message is a kind
of singing and howling combined and he hears it only in his head; in fact,
the whole pack hears it, but no one outside the pack, be they man
or wolf, can pick it up. This message comes from Leader, running in the
front row, on the left side, directly in front of the Wolf. And the Wolf
realizes, to his embarrassment, that his thought to "pull himself together"
was so strong that it escaped the boundaries of his mind and entered the
realm of "pack talk" -- a telepathic bond that pack members share. He
glances to his right and sees a mix of amusement and concern in the eyes of
Yes OK sorry think too loud.
This time from
Shamaness, running on Leader's right.
Yes fine sorry lagged
now on pace OK now sorry.
No worry pup
(Leader again) almost there now.
Ah, good, almost
there, where we will...
...hunt the prey, kill it, and feast on its corpse
as we always do! We are the Pack, the Hand of Gaea, and nothing...
(will save us now)
(I said STOP IT!!)
...will stand in our way!
Leader. He only
orders this when he believes the foe to be especially tough and he wants the
whole pack to strike at one time. Usually the pack keeps one, two, or even
three members "in reserve" to react to the situation as it develops. The
order comes just as they climb a little ridge. Six abreast, they top it.
And at that moment, the
Wolf sees. The "ridge" is actually the lip of a depression. Nothing
grows in it -- just dirt and rock. At the bottom, in the center, is their
(YOU are the prey!)
(Quiet, damn you!)
It has a cylindrical body of irregular shape. It
stands three meters tall and half that in diameter. Dozens of tentacles grow
out of the top third of its body and it has no visible eyes, mouth or any
other facial features. Its lower body is embedded in the ground. It looks
like some madman's concept of a tree, with tentacles for branches.
The Pack clears the bowl's
rim and begins the descent, quickly closes the distance. Now they'll execute
the Battle Plan: Keeper will howl his rage, freezing the foe with fear,
while Leader, Shamaness and Grinning Sister lunge. The Wolf and his youngest
sister will distract with feints and harries. That will take care of the
first seconds -- after that, the Pack will react according to how badly it
hurts the Prey...
(Prey hurts YOU)
...and adjust its attack on-the-fly.
But the Battle Plan
doesn't happen. Just before it should, all Hell breaks loose.
Before any wolf can rage,
lunge, harry or do anything, the Tree-thing lashes out with exactly 15
tentacles and simultaneously strikes each pack member -- four for Leader,
three each for Shamaness and Keeper, two each for Wolf's two other sisters
and one for the Wolf himself.
(It understands the pack rank!)
That thought races through
the Wolf's mind just as the tentacle slams into him like a great fist.
Everything goes dark for a moment and, when he manages to open his eyes, his
vision is blurry and his head hurts awfully. He tries to get up, but there
is no strength in his legs. Messages flood pack talk...
Wyrm. It is Wyrm.
That last one from
Shamaness, always the most sensitive member of the pack. On the surface,
that's a no-brainer -- all their enemies are of the Wyrm. What Shamaness
means is: this one is different, purer, stronger.
And the Wolf suddenly
understands that the weakness in his legs has nothing to do with any bodily
injury -- he cannot stand because the Wyrm-Tree does not want him
Sudden resolve burns in him and he struggles to
his feet, even though his Wyrm-infected mind strongly assures him that he
needs to lie down and take it easy, that the world would be so much nicer if
he just relaxes. With a final push of will, the Wyrm's power snaps. The Wolf
regains his feet and howls his triumph. Five other howls join his and the
Pack springs at the Wyrm-Tree.
And promptly lands on
their backs, victim of some invisible force the Thing unleashes. Too
powerful, thinks Wolf as he fights the pain.
(We underestimated this foe. Leader did not know!)
Now the tentacles come
again, punching and grabbing. One wraps around his sister and holds her
aloft, squeezing. Keeper lunges and bites down on the tentacle, shakes his
head furiously, bites completely through. The tentacle falls to the ground
and twitches harmlessly -- but his sister is prone and doesn't move. Three
tentacles hit Keeper, then two more pick him up and squeeze. The Wolf sees
his other pack mates in the same predicament and now it grabs him too and
the ground falls away from his feet.
Breathing is difficult and
he just manages to remain conscious. And that's all he can do -- all
attempts to move, attack, or break free are in vain, though he struggles
mightily. And then something really terrible happens...
...the Elf awakes with a
gasp, drenched in a cold sweat. A few seconds later, he realizes where he
is. Then remembers to breathe. A full minute after that and he's calm enough
to go for a walk -- sleep is hopeless for a while. He walks the twisty
passages that lead from the pack cave to the Meeting Hall and then finds his
way to the Spring. He drops to his knees before the water, draws some into
his cupped hands and drinks. It's icy cold at first, but then its clean,
wholesome taste fills the emptiness in his being. There. Much better. He
sits back and breathes deeply.
Someone comes. He sniffs.
Shamaness. She enters the cave and sits down next to him, eyes filled with
concern. Neither says anything for a while. Finally, Shamaness says, "Would
you like to talk about it?"
To his surprise, the Elf
realizes that he does want to talk about it. And so he relates the
dream to her, but she doesn't look satisfied. "You are holding something
Shamaness was like that -- you can't fool her. She
doesn't exactly read minds, but her intuition is formidable. You simply
never lie to Shamaness!
The Elf swallows and then
tells her the worst part. "Just before I awoke, when the Thing had me in its
grasp, I saw all of you die. But I remained alive. It kept me alive so that
I could see you all die. And there was nothing I could do about it". Saying
it makes him relive it. He shivers and can't stop the tears.
Shamaness put her arms
around him. "OK, Pup, it's OK now," she soothes. "Rest. We'll talk later."
But the Elf can't help
asking one more question. "Why didn't Leader know? Why did I know
but Leader did not?"
She's silent for a while, strokes his head in her
lap. Then she sighs. "Strong I am by Gaea's grace, Pup, as is Leader; as are
all of us, including you." She smiles down at him and then
continues. "But I cannot know all. Mayhap you are sensitive to this thing
because there is something unique in your spirit that neither Leader nor I
possess. We all have our talents and it is the combination of those unique
talents that, in the end, make our Pack strong." She smiles again.
And in a softer voice:
"Enough now. Sleeeeeeep." And in spite of himself, the Elf drifts off into a
Original post to
Darkwind’s Garou Board
as "Wolf Tales (7)" Sun 10 August 2003