Wild Howls-Book one: Arctic Moon

The first chapter of one of my books!

Hunter sat on top of a tall snowdrift and gazed around at the snowy landscape around him.  He pricked his ears forward when a soft rustling came from underneath the snow at the foot of the drift.  He rasped his dry tongue over his lips when the warm scent of Arctic Hare drifted up to his nose.  He turned his ears backwards and tuned in on his pack resting in the snow behind him.  Most of them were breathing slow and steadily.  But a few were huddling with each other or brushing the snow that had gathered on their backs off with a good shake that sent it flying in all directions.

The rustling stopped as the Arctic Hare became aware of its hungry enemies at the sound of their fur whipping about while they shook the snow off.  It stood stock still, its white coat blending in with the snow perfectly.  It might have looked just like the snow but it certainly didn’t smell like the small ice crystals.  Hunter stood slowly to his paws and leaped on top of the Arctic Hare with such force that its breath was yanked away from it on the frozen air and its body flattened against the snow like a deflated balloon.  A horrible way to die, he thought.  But it was all a matter of life or death in the snowy Arctic.  You had to kill unless you’d rather starve to death.  He grabbed the dead Hare by the hind legs and dragged the limp body back to his pack.  Instantly his two pups stumbled forward on clumsy paws whimpering pitifully.  They were pushed aside by a young wolf named Fin who had yet to learn his place in the pack.  He sank his teeth into the Hare’s shoulder and pulled a large piece of meat of the bone before swallowing it in one greedy gulp.  Turning back for more, he was pushed away with one large paw while the two pups leaped onto the Hare as if it would run away like a live one.

He had a female pup and a male pup.  The female was named Aurora and the male was named Polar.  Polar was a pure white wolf with red eyes.  He was an albino.  Aurora was a pretty mix of gray and white, with a thin black streak going down her right foreleg.  Their mother had died in the long trek through the snowstorm that they had taken while they searched for new territory.  All because of humans and their buildings on our ground.  He thought bitterly.  He sighed at the bittersweet memory of the beautiful gray wolf with long slender white legs and face with bright sea blue eyes like the Arctic Ocean.

He understood human speech as well as dogs who were the supposed Man’s Best Friend of the human world.  Those stupid pooches didn’t do much but lie in front of a fire and guzzle down food their humans provided them.  They had never lived out on the snow with the instinct to protect their pack compelling them to work as hard as they could to find territory that would fit the size of their number.  Even the sled dogs were being replaced by the Snowmobiles and bush planes that humans rode in.  He would hear the humans talk about helping the wolves by shooting less Caribou and building less houses and factories on wolf turf.  But he’d given up long ago on help from humans.  Life as an Arctic wolf was hard.  It had many goals and few victories.  That’s just how it was and probably ever would be.  Plus he needed to expand his pack.  He needed more members to help hunt and fight off intruders.  Although he didn’t need so many that he didn’t have enough prey on their territory to live on.  That would be horrible, he thought with a shudder.

But the only other members of his pack were his sister, Seal.  His Grandpa, named Orca and Eskimo.  Eskimo wasn’t related to him.  But she was beyond mating age and even at the time of need they were all in.  He didn’t really consider the gray elderly wolf to be very attractive.  This meant that the pack lie in the freezing paws of him, his sister and Fin.  Fin wasn’t much of a help to any of them.  But he was learning every day about what and what not to do when you’re a wolf.  Such as sticking your nose in the face of an angry husky.  That had been a mistake!  Hunter chuckled as he recalled the sight of Fin pulling his head away to stare cross eyed at his bleeding nose in surprise.  He’d obviously not expected a dog that lived with humans to act the way that one had!  Huskies might not know the life of a wolf in the snow and ice.  But they could tread snow, ice and the arctic tundra for hours if only to deliver a small package or two.  Their claws might be dull from running so hard and far.  But their pads were tougher than a walrus tusk and quick to hit you on the head if you looked or acted in a way they didn’t like!

His brownish red sister padded over and sniffed the Hare with her tail between her legs to protect them from the cold.  She nipped tentatively at it but looked up at her brother in case he thought otherwise.  He nodded his head and she instantly began to rip the meat off of one hind leg furiously.  Fin was standing behind her with his teeth bared hungrily at the sight and smell of the freshly killed Hare.  But its fur was clotted with frozen blood and its body beginning to freeze as well.  He thumped his tail for Fin to fallow him and he walked up the snowdrift with Fin fallowing slowly behind.  He sighed with exasperation.   “Fin that’s an order from your leader, do you understand?!”  He barked over his shoulder at the young wolf.  Fin dashed forward and began to walk beside his leader as they went in search of prey.

“Well, why did your sister get to eat and not me?”  He whined as they padded through the snow.  Hunter snorted, his breath riding on the air in a thin white cloud.  “You’ll have to start earning your meals for now on.  You have to give up the life of curling up by your mother’s side in a cozy den and having food brought to you.  You’re a wolf now not a pup!”  He growled.  Fin shrank back slightly but was quick to talk back.

“But I didn’t do anything wrong!  You expect me to watch those gull hearted pups of yours sit there and stuff themselves when they’ve been spreading mischief wherever they set claw?!”  He barked, this time with scorn filling his voice.  Hunter turned on him and cuffed him sharply over the head with his thick padded paw.  Actually.  You spread about as much trouble as they do.  And it’s part of living in a pack that you respect your leader and care for the pups rather than shove their wrongdoings in their father’s face!”  He snarled and placed his paw back on the ground.  “Both rules you just broke I might add,” he growled and walked on with Fin staring after him with his mouth hanging open so that his teeth glinted in the cold sunlight.

As he slunk after him he heard Fin mutter under his breath.  “They ought to make a rule about not howling your head off at other wolves because of what they should, and should not do.  Hunter flicked his ears before saying.  “Well they also should have a rule about not talking behind your leaders back,” he said before continuing sarcastically.  “Oh wait; they do have a rule like that!”  He barked with an edge of a growl to his voice.  “The great leader speaks,” mumbled Fin while he bore holes in Hunter’s back with his large yellow eyes.  “Glare on it won’t catch any prey,” he said coolly as he padded onwards, putting bounce in his step just to annoy Fin.

Finally Fin sighed and drew alongside Hunter with his mouth gaped in a yawn.  “So where’s the food all gone?  I don’t know any more than a clawstep of the territory out of our camp you know,” he said with a wag of his tail.  “That’s why we have to explore,” said Hunter.

He climbed snowdrifts and trudged through snow when he couldn’t stand on top of it as they examined their new territory.  He stopped and motioned for Fin to stop as well.  The young wolf halted and stood with his ears pricked towards Hunter for more directions.  “Tell me what direction the winds blowing,” grunted Hunter.  “Oh, well it’s just like a leader to not notice which way the winds blowing isn’t it?”  Snickered Fin.  “You know very well I’m only asking you this to see if that lump of blubber between your ears can remember how to check the direction of the wind.”  He snorted as Fin retaliated.

Fin let his slobbery tongue hang out of his mouth and raised his head to swivel it around a bit.  Finally he stopped with his gaping snout facing east.  If there was a breeze at all, he should be able to feel it on his wet tongue, thought Hunter.  “Ith that they,” muttered Fin with a nod of his head east.  “I’m sorry Fin, but could you put your tongue back in your mouth?  I can hardly understand a word your saying,” he snickered back and Fin clamped his snout shut, whining when he bit his tongue.  After a moment of eating snow to ease the pain in his bleeding tongue, he raised his head to talk once more.  “I can smell female wolf sent to the east.  It’s really fresh; I mean she could even still be there!”  He said excitedly.

“Oh, and she doesn’t smell like other wolves either.  I reckon she’s probably a lone wolf about your age,” he barked.  Hunter’s hackles raised and he swiveled his ears to the east before kicking up snow as he began to run in pursuit of the scent.  He stopped short with Fin slamming into his rear end when he caught sight of the she-wolf.  She was tall with a large bushy tail and black fur on her back and tail.  All her paws were white except the right hind one which was black and her eyes sparkled like amber jewels in the glint of the snow on the ground.  With the snowy landscape about her, she did look quite beautiful.  He walked slowly up with Fin fallowing behind him cautiously.  He sniffed the wolf over and climbed on top of her back to show her who was boss in this area.  He squeezed her sides and scraped the snow with the tips of his claws as they dragged against the ground.  She stumbled a bit before lying down with her head on her paws.  Ha!  So he had showed her who was leader around here and she’d actually accepted it without fuss at all!

With another look at her amber eyes something dawned on him.  If this wolf excepted the idea…Could she join and be a help to the pack?  After all he was looking for new recruits.  If he had even the smallest chance of that, he’d better get to know her better.

“I see that you’re a Lone Wolf no?  Well my name’s Hunter, leader of MoonPack.  And you do realize that this is our territory?”  He said adding the territorial behavior just to show that he was a reasonable leader.  She nodded and barked.  “My name is Cavern because I was born in one.  Life as a pack-less wolf is hard and your pack’s sent was so faint that I crossed your border in search of food,” she said with a nod toward a dead Lemming that lay at her paws.  He noticed that her ribs could be seen clearly through her skin and her pads were pink from being rubbed raw by the sharp ice against them.  “I used to belong in a pack you know.  I lived in BearPack.  We were strong and proud like the Polar Bear itself.  But our strength had a limit.  My pack died from Human hunters who took their skins and meat for their own,” she shivered with her eyes closed.

He figured now was his chance to make his move.  “You may be a Lone Wolf, but I cannot refuse a wolf in need even at a time like this.  You may come with me back to MoonPack’s camp and rest.  Bring your lemming with you.”  He barked and turned to face the gawping Fin.  “Fin you still have work to do.  While we’re heading back to camp can you try to catch some prey?”  He said with a flick of his tail.  Oh, and Fin,”  He said leaning forward.  Walk around our border and leave fresh traces of Moonpack living here.  If she couldn’t tell she had walked into Moonpack territory, neither will other wolves,” he finished quietly. Fin staggered away on shocked paws in search of some food that would fill their bellies for the night of howling to come.  And, also to walk around their border.

When they got back they found that Fin had supplied them with another Arctic Hare, a Lemming and two medium sized fish from a small spit of water that was partly frozen.  Cavern went directly to the den to sleep while Hunter went over to play with his pups a bit.  But he found that Orca was telling them a story about a giant Polar Bear and instead went to sleep in the den as well.

The Full Moon was at its highest in the sky and he stood on the top of the snowdrift with Cavern as they gazed at the moon.  Orca and Eskimo were chuckling over Polar and Aurora as they slipped and slid on a large frozen puddle playfully.  He chuckled as well and Cavern soon joined in.  Her voice was cracked from use but was strengthening every time she talked.

He puffed out his chest and raised his head to the moon with her mimicking him.  Closing his eyes he leaned his ears back against his head and let out a deep growl that turned into a howl that drifted on the moonlit air in a shimmering frozen cloud.  Cavern joined in, her howl rusty at first but then a sweet melody.  He scraped his claws against the ground in appreciation and let out another deep howl.  Their howls turned into beautiful songs that danced on the air and around the moon in silvery twists and turn like icy wolves dancing.  They howled about snow and ice and battles and the moon.  About starry nights and Polar bears and Penguins and Seals and Arctic Hares and Lemmings.  Even about the joy of living in a pack and protecting the elderly and the pups and play and leadership.  While their songs danced and rose and fell twisting about on their breath as it left the tips of their tongues and transformed into beautiful words that rang with melody.  They sang of one last thing.  Love…….

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4 responses to “Wild Howls-Book one: Arctic Moon

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