I walk silently, making sure not to break any twigs or crush any leaves under my paw. Normally we pack in hunts, and I’m definitely not one to break that rule, but I’ve never been very keen on following them all the time. Not to mention, being able to hunt by yourself can be refreshing sometimes— especially when summers out. I glance up at the sky, not a single cloud in sight, and I could smell all kinds of prey scents. Sticking my nose in the dirt below my paws, I pick up a strong scent of rabbit, and carefully, I follow it.
Nearly moments later, I find myself within a few yards of the rabbit, it’s light brown pelt sticking out against the full green grass of the meadow I’d wondered in. I can’t help but let my tail wag enthusiastically when I spot it. I chase after it, catching it by surprise, easily killing it with a swift blow to it’s small belly and then biting it’s neck.
“You know you’re not suppose to hunt alone, Rein” I hear a voice behind me, but I don’t flinch— even though I couldn’t scent him with the smell of prey in front of my nose, I heard him approaching, and I knew the voice well.
“What’s it to you, Turow?” I ask with a mouthful of rabbit fur, turning around to look at him. He is a dark brown wolf with a longer coat and bright blue eyes. Setting the prey down, I add, “And why are you following me?”
He shrugs his thick shoulders, approaching me and sniffing the rabbit, I give a warning growl and he backs off without taking a bite. “Well,” he says, shaking his head, “The Alpha requested to see us both in his den, and then he calls you only to find you’ve left the dens alone… again.”
I laugh, picking up the rabbit and giving him a playful nudge as I pass, “Relax, I’m not gonna get my fur ripped off,” the mouthful of rabbit muffles my words.
“Even so,” Turow proceeds, “You need to stick with the pack, you know the rules.”
My ears go back and I give him a glare, “Stop parenting me, you’re not even older than me.”
He sighs, “Then stop being so irresponsible.”
I nod, fair point. I’m not necessarily rebellious, I just know which lines I can cross, and how far I can go. “You’re right, I should set a good example,” I tease, “You are my little brother, after all.”
His ears perk up and I see his tail wag behind him, “Yeah, but I bet I could beat you back to the huts!”
I give him a challenging look, “You’re on!” And then watching him take off, sprinting like mad. There was no way I was running and risking the chance of tearing apart my prey just to win a race.
When I arrive back in camp, I see Turow waiting outside the largest hut where our Alpha, Kaynen, and his mate, Maple, sleeps.
“You’re way too slow,” he says, knowing I wasn’t trying. I drop the rabbit off where the newborn pups and their mothers slept. Us fighters ate after every other wolf had their fair share, so we hunt to provide for the pack, and then eat ourselves. We’ve got a small pack, so there’s always enough food to go around.
“Don’t taunt me,” I bark at him playfully as we enter the Alpha’s hut.
“There you are, finally,” the Alpha speaks as we enter, I notice that Lilith isn’t in the hut, she must be outside. The Alpha is the largest of us all, as Alphas normally are, with gray and reddish splotched fur and dull green eyes. "You went off hunting on your own, Rein?” he asks me wearily, probably tired of bringing up the subject so often. He gives me a fierce look and adds, “What if you’re caught hunting by yourself by a human? Who knows what could happen— you could get killed with their fire-spears!"
I wince at the thought. Fire-spears were a horrible human invention. They look like sticks, but when pointed correctly, they release a painfully loud roar and anything in front of it drops dead. I shake my head, “That won’t happen,” I say confidently, “I never go out far enough for human encounters.”
The Alpha just sighs, “Fine. But that’s not what I called you two in here for,” he says, glancing at Turow, “Apparently their has been some suspicious activities from a mother bear and her cubs.”
Turow gasps beside me, “Have they hurt any of the pack?”
“If it did, don’t you think you would’ve heard of it?” I say quietly, and he gives an apologetic look to our Alpha.
“Sorry,” he mumbles.
“No need to be sorry for worrying about the Pack, Turow. You’re a fine fighter, no need to be ashamed of being worried.” The Alpha looks to me, “I would like you both to lead a small investigation. Make sure the mother bear and her cubs are no threat to us. It would be bad if they started to take our prey after we’ve killed it.”
Bears, since they’re as big as they are, are usually left undealt with, but they sometimes take advantage of their size with us wolves, stealing our prey after we’ve freshly killed it. When this happens, we have no choice but to relinquish it, otherwise we’d most likely die. In these situations, we usually try and chase out the bear if we're in large quantities.
“Of course, Kaynen.” Turow and I turn to leave, but the Alpha stops me in my tracks.
“Rein,” he commands, “You’re a fantastic she-wolf, but if you keep this behavior up, I’m afraid I won’t be able to let you investigate or leave the dens for a while. Can you promise me you’ll stop behaving so recklessly?”
I nod, “Yes, my apologies, Kaynen.”
“Good, you may leave now. Make sure to bring three Fighters with you, Rein and Turow!” he calls after us as we leave his den.
Turow leans over to me, “You’re not planning on actually listening, are you?” he asks, a bit of humor in his voice.
“He called me reckless!” I act offended, “I’m far from that,” I say, “I just know what I can and can’t do.”
“Clearly not,” a new voice adds to out conversation, I look to my right to see Jackal laughing. He was a lean black wolf, even his eyes were nearly black, with short fur and he was slender and quick— one of our fastest fighters.
“Whatever, Jackal. Anyway, are you interested in our investigation? We’ve apparently got a mother bear clawing around our territory,” I inform him.
He nods, clearly interested, “Sure.”
“I’ll go fetch Nash,” Turow says, “Would you get another wolf, Rein?”
I agree, glancing at Jackal, silently asking his opinion. “I don’t care who accompanies us, as long as I can get out of the huts for a bit,” he shrugs.
I look around the camp, trying to think of a good wolf with keen eyes and a keen mind. “Perhaps… Mercy?” I look over to where Mercy sat with a few other she-wolves. She had hazel eyes and dark brown fur, but when her pelt hit sunlight, it would occasionally sparkle red.
“As I said before, I don’t care who— it’s your job to lead this, not mine,” Jackal stalks past me and waits near the entrance of the huts.
“Mercy!” I bark across the dens, she looks up and sees me, then excuses herself from the conversation.
“What’s up, Rein?” she asks.
“We’re going on an investigation to make sure a mother bear and her cubs stay a safe distance away,” I retail the information Kaynen gave Turow and me earlier.
She nods, “I can come.”
“Okay,” I glance to see that Nash was waiting impatiently next to Jackal and Turow by the entrance. Nash was a thick light brown and white wolf with ice-blue eyes, a fabulous fighter, but his wits are quite… dire. “They’re waiting for us, let’s go,” I motion with my orange blond tail to where they sat.
Mercy gives a satisfied growl from the back of her throat when we exit the dens. “My paws have been itching to get out and do something,” she says happily, bounding forward to sniff the ground.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Jackal says, “It’s been too peaceful back in the dens, almost as if mother nature doesn’t seem to give us any bother.”
I laugh, “That’s a blessing, you know.” I jump forward near Mercy, “Bothers aren’t a good thing, Jackel.”
He snorts, partly to agree and also to disagree. It’s hard to explain, but I grew up with him since we were pups, so I can understand every grunt he mutters. “I know that, but sometimes I wish we’d have some excitement,” he sighs.
Nash bounds up beside him, his tail so high you’d think he were a cat getting groomed. “Maybe you’ll get a pup to instruct,” he suggests, “There are a lot of rambunctious ones in the newest litter.”
“Like that’s any better!” Jackal growls, facing Nash with playful annoyance, “Being friends with you keeps my paws full already— and pups are too much work.”
I roll my eyes, “What a great father you’ll be, Jackal.”
He nods humbly, his tail drooping down with gracefulness, “Thank you.” He’s being sarcastic, blatantly so, and I can’t help but laugh.
Turow looks at us from a side glance and grins— only to sneeze and halt in his spot.
“What’s your problem, Turow?” Jackal asks, and Mercy gives me a weird look as if I knew an explanation. I shrug and push past Nash and Jackal to take a big whiff of the air around us.
It's completely silent when I lift my snout and breathe in, parting my mouth to taste the wind. Oh, I think, my eyes widening in realization. “It’s bear,” I say, Turow, glances at me and stiffens his shoulders, “And metal.”
Mercy and Jackal both take wild looks around us, sniffing the air as well, only to find out the obvious. Nash crouched behind a tree and looked into the meadow I had hunted in earlier that day. “The metal scent must be in the meadow,” he grunts lowly in his throat, “And I can smell the bears farther ahead, but they came through here— and very recently, their scent’s extremely fresh.”
Metal may as well be a curse to wolves. We know the smell only to relate it to death, traps, and humans. We react to metal as a mouse would to a night-owl, stricken with fear. We understand to stay clear from them, but they can kill a wolf, snapping a foot or slicing a tail, leaving our breed to bleed out. But Turow’s reaction seemed over-exaggerated, and I look at him to see him staring intently at me.
“I’ll check over here with Turow, just to make sure we haven’t missed anything. You three try and find the trap,” they set off quickly and I feel a rock settle in my stomach, “And be careful!”
“That’s the meadow you were hunting in earlier,” Turow whispers to me, watching Nash, Jackal and Mercy run forward.
I nod, “Yeah, but why are you so nervous—“
“You could’ve easily got snatched in a trap!” he says, not loudly, but clearly worried. “What if that rabbit ran a bit further and I found you caught in a trap?”
I sigh, understanding his nerves. “Relax, Turow. I told you earlier, I won’t get my fur ripped off. And besides, I would’ve noticed the trapped pretty quickly, you know how easily I get distracted by glittering objects,” I tease myself, hoping to make him less guarded.
He shrugs, “I know, I just worry about those death contraptions, is all,” he says briskly.
I understand why too, his mother was killed, left to bleed alone in the winter because of one of those traps. He was only a newborn pup, so my own mother took him in when we found him huddled by his mother's cold and motionless body. I don’t say anything about it to him, knowing he didn’t need consoling on the subject, and aware he knew I understood his dilemma.
“Well,” I begin, sniffing the air to make sure we didn’t miss anything, “There aren’t any scents here, we may as well catch up with the others.”
He agrees, following at a tail-length behind. “The bears are close to camp,” he says behind me.
“Too close,” I mumble, “We may have a run-in with them and need to scare 'em out.”
“Over here!” Jackal calls.
My claws dig into the dirt and I sprint quickly towards Jackal, “It’s the trap, and it isn’t triggered.”
I grab a stick near my feat, preparing to press the bottom and let it magically close, ending the threat of the trap, but my eyes must have shown worry because Jackal takes the stick from me and presses it himself. And though I want to scratch his flank for it, but I decide against it. He only meant good and he knows I can handle myself.
The trap snaps close. Jackal jumps back and releases the stick, “Those damned contraptions,” he mumbles, “They give me a heart-attack every time!”
Nash cackles behind him, nudging him with his front paw, “You’re not scared are you?” he taunts.
Jackal snorts, “Of course I am— and I should be! Those things can kill!”
Turow nods, padding past us and sniffing the ground to trail the bear. “It must’ve gone through only moments ago, I say we’re right on it’s tail!” There was excitement in his eyes while he added, “I bet the Alpha will be impressed with us if we chase out a mother-bear and it’s cubs on our first outing!”
Suddenly, an earth-shaking growl ripped through the leaves from the forest ahead. All of us perk our hears towards it, flattening our bodies to the ground.
“That’s the mother-bear, isn’t it?” Mercy whispers beside me.
“Yeah,” I say, inching forward, “And it sounds like it’s in pain.”
I see Mercy’s eyes glare ahead, “Hopefully she’s gotten herself stuck in a metal trap, that way we can take her down and chase out the cubs.” Unlike her name, Mercy shows no mercy. She was a confident wolf, nice to her friends, yet prideful and ambitious— in a good way. “That would save us a lot of trouble,” she finishes.
I agree with her completely, but it’s hard for me to imagine chasing out helpless cubs when their mother is fighting for her life. I shake my head, We need to protect our pack, I remind myself.
We trample through the meadow, careful of traps and other threats, reaching the forest within seconds. As we pass through the first thicket of brambles, we skid to a stop to find ourselves nearly face to face with an angry mother grizzly. And she is most definitely not trapped.
But one of her cubs are.