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 unusual occurred.

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! -- and yet...

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 his sister.

Yes OK sorry think too loud.

Sure OK?

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...

                    (all die!)

                    (Stop it!)

...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!

On line!

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 Prey.

                    (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...

What that?


Power immense.


Legs cannot.

Must up.


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 to.

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 back, Pup."

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 peaceful slumber.

Original post to Darkwind’s Garou Board as "Wolf Tales (7)" Sun 10 August 2003 10:30

Revised 09.10.2021


Pack Hunt