“The Beast with the Four Dirty Paws”
Little but the scent of the hunt fell from his sickly sweet breath.
Cold air wafted through his fangs like refugees slipping the gates.
Yet in the snow he with his dirty paws lie, because what else is a sated wolf-pup to do?
He dreamt the tales of wolf kind, of his coming greatness and glory, as he did so many days before.
At times, perhaps, he’d been something else.
Maybe this wolf life wasn’t his first.
But those thoughts passed with an ebon blanket tucking away the dusk sky.
He stalked through the Thickets by moonlight, following the scent of larger game.
Whether he was brave or dumb, the red-eyed pup would not be swayed.
By an old lake rested a weary traveler that would a make a fine meal.
From around the bend the wolf-pup came, creeping with due diligence.
The sleeping fool’s apathy insulted the wolf’s cunning, but a meal is a meal all the same.
The pup lunged, and received a stern bop in-kind as the sleeper dropped a stick unto the pup’s skull.
The ground welcomed the wolf’s body with great force, shattering his teeth on impact as the fool stood above.
And so the pair’s eyes met.
The pup snarled as best he could, while the glint of the hunt shone in the wanderer’s gaze–the large man holding a steely knife.
The deathblow loomed.
The hunter’s knife swooped above the pup’s head, presenting a keen opportunity.
The wolf struck, pinning his foe to the ground and gnawing away at the weapon hand with broken teeth.
The hunter broke free, and in bloodlust the rivals stood wanting.
Until the man drew from his satchel a fresh kill, and tossed some for the pup to devour.
Before long the two sat, sated, though no more at ease than cutthroats could ever be.
Yet the sway of the traveler tugged at the pup’s insides, as though the wolf had been hunting brethren.
As the wanderer stood to leave, the pup bore the remnants of his teeth to little affect.
The traveler watched, and waited, as the pup stared him down.
The pup waited, and watched, as the traveler returned the gesture.
Each took a step toward, and a step away, circling one another.
As the game waned, the two cautiously wandered on together, no more content than an infant at birth.
By the time they’d drifted from the Thickets, the pair had become less like enemies and more like old thieves, exploiting their schemes amongst the other by moonlight.
No the matter the victor, the two continued on together.
Beasts amidst beasts can never have friends, yet all creatures know respect.
The red wolf’s first litter dwelt in the wanderer’s earliest den.
And the wanderer’s first daughter knew her guardian beast well.
When the time that always comes finally came, there were no tears to see.
For no feeling could do justice to losing half of the once and future king.