A Good Leader

Entry by: percypop

27th August 2015
The early sun sent a brilliant shaft of light pouring across the blue green ice. Warrior, the pack leader stretched his back and sniffed the pure crystalline air. He left the den and set his mark against the nearest rock to claim his territory.
From the mouth of the cave, a few muzzles drew in the air sensing the new day and the weather. No other wolf stirred but they watched him as he circled the area raising his head to the sun and blinking in the bright light. He let out a call in one long lingering howl, challenging the world.
When the snow came, they moved down from the high country to hunt the deer and caribou feeding on the rich grassland. Now with the freezing winds, snow drifted lower and their food became scarce. The herds moved on down the valleys and now the pack had to deal with other predators driven by cold and hunger competing for the same prey.
For three days Warrior led them on trails but they made no kills. Hunger and vicious temper brought a wild challenge from Tyrant who dared to fight him for supremacy. If he could find no food then what right had he to be leader?
The contest had been savage and now Warrior limped where Tyrant mauled him. The rest had stayed quiet and silently prostrated themselves in submission. Tyrant's body lay outside untouched.
This new day promised better hunting. The breeze blew from the south and fresh scents mixed with the powerful smell of the pinewoods. The whole pack began to stir with excitement and the eight animals crowded round Warrior whimpering and looking to him for a lead. Lean and agile from the hunger which gnawed at them, they would not stay still but he did not move until he filtered the wind and found animal scent.
They set off in file stepping in the prints of the leader and drawing in the new scents of vegetation and life as they went. Small tracks in the snow led them to warren of pine martens and they ravaged the mound as they dug for their meal. Briefly, they rested. Certainly, there was a need for more food. Two of the dams were heavy with swollen bellies and needed nourishment.
Warrior went on alone to spy the tracks and movements ahead. Something big and smelling strange was among the trees some distance away. Creeping flat on his belly he moved forward scenting and looking between the trees. The stench grew stronger; acrid and meaty with a wet tang. The noise of gnawing teeth added to the mystery as he edged closer to the sound. He moved so quietly he disturbed no stones or branches on his way.
At the far side of a small clearing a brown shape appeared. Standing man-tall, a grizzly bear was stripping bark from a tree and grinding it into a pulp.
Warrior drew back from the space and ran quickly back to the pack. The scent he brought with him told the wolves of his contact with a large animal.
They whimpered in fear, undecided what should be done. He nipped Trojan and Hunter and they yelped but followed him as he set off in the direction of the bear. The rest trailed him in a subdued way, fearful but obedient.
As they approached the clearing, the sound of the bear became clear. Its violence showed in its musky scent and they formed a pack at once. The weaker males and the females circled the clearing and lay just out of sight at the snow's edge, under the trees.
Warrior stepped forward to confront the bear. Breaking off at once from its work on the tree, it turned to stand, man-high facing the wolf. Its maw gaping with anger and its fangs exposed to show its intention. It roared furiously and stormed across the clearing on all fours in a rush to seize the wolf. Warrior jumped aside at the critical moment and the bear skidded in the snow, swiping wildly at the dancing wolf.
Behind it, Trojan sprang at its hind legs attempting to unbalance it but it was agile and twisted quickly to engage him. The bear struck out with a flailing paw and the wolf was flung into the trees bleeding from his flank. Hunter jumped and sank his teeth into the fleshy back of its neck snarling and twisting his teeth to get a better grip.
All this time Warrior waited stock still, observing the struggle and gauging his next move. He moved like lightning when he saw the bear stretch to reach Hunter with its bright claws. He sprang at the creature's throat from the front and clung there as the giant flung himself to and fro to remove his attackers. Standing at full height the bear struck once, twice, teeth flashed, wolf -blood spurted- claws tore at flesh and roars of pain echoed through the clearing. Warrior took another hold on the bear seizing its lower jaw in his muzzle to stifle the huge beast.
Hunter was weakening as he hung on to the back of the bear. Battered by the claws of the animal and slammed against the tree, his strength faded and he lost his grip and fell to the floor. Now the contest became terminal. Warrior knew only his courage could keep him in place as the beast tore at him, raking his flesh. He tightened his grip and felt for the first time the bear was weakening. It staggered from side to side and moved erratically while continuing to grip the wolf with its mighty claws. Then it fell forward, dragging him down with it... Still Warrior kept his grip on the jaw, though the weight of the huge animal pressed down on him. Gradually, the strength of the beast slipped away and Warrior clung on sensing the struggle was ending. With a sigh the bear slumped forward shrouding him in a heavy covering of fur.
The pack rushed to reach him and tore at the corpse, pulling it from the body of their leader. They whimpered and nuzzled the unconscious form as Warrior lay motionless on the bloody soil.
Some minutes later, he revived and staggered to his feet, licking his wounds and then lapping snow to cope with his thirst. Hunter and Trojan lay dead in the bushes under the trees. The pack keened as they mourned their loss but soon began to tear at the warm flesh of the fallen bear. There was plenty to feed them for several days and the pack was safe.
Warrior limped to the centre of the clearing. He surveyed the carnage and the triumph. Then he lifted his head and howled to the risen sun.