From small, sightless, black-coated, fluffy squiggles of crawling furball, the pups grew into mischievous, playful, squeaking, mini-wolves, looking for adventure and desperate to explore the whole new world outside their dimly lit den. From milk sopping babes that never ventured far from their mother, they started to wean to diets that were part-milk, part regurgitated food.
Start reading from Chapter one
Despite their growth, the pups had yet to make their names. For a wolf’s name is not given to them and they are certainly not born with names. There are too many wolves in the litter to be able to give them each their own name and it takes a while for their individual personalities to come out. To begin with they are merely pups, a litter of pups, and are thought of in the collective sense, hardly as individuals at all. For a wolf pup to have a name, it must first survive long enough.
The first of the pups to make its name was the one that was slightly bigger and stronger than his litter mates. Always first to root for milk, he began to grow quicker than his siblings and to assert himself even more, such that he established himself first in the order of feeding. This was unusual in so young a pup. As the pups began to wean to a part milk and part solid diet, so the other pups would hesitate, to allow their brother to take regurgitated food from the mouth of his mother or father before they did. Being always first to feed, this pup made his name, and his name was First. Loved and revered by his brothers and sisters, First was to become first in other ways too. First to feed, first to develop more acute senses, the sight and smell and hearing essential to the wolf’s survival. First out of the den to play or to greet their returning ulfa. There was no doubting the name of this pup and he marked that name with pride, whenever he passed a tree, a root or a rock. At least until the stronger name of elfa and ulfa were imposed over it.
For two wolves to raise a litter of pups alone, without a pack to share the hunting and feeding, was no easy task. For the first nights that passed, Bahr would venture out alone in search of food, often consisting of scavenged scraps and the occasional lucky kill. Hunting game was hardly possible alone and he could not patrol too far from the den. The danger to the pups and a much-weakened Elha was all too evident.
Dear reader, there are not many chapters left in our story and I would like to add at least one more. I have some ideas, but what do you think? If you can come up with an idea for a new adventure, please let me know. I will credit any I use (will check with you first) to write any bonus chapters. Thanks for your interest in my little wolf family so far and I hope you enjoy the rest of the story. Just leave any ideas in comments below. Thanks again, Ray
One morning after sunrise, while Bahr was returning from a mostly fruitless night-time forage, he was suddenly alerted to a fierce commotion coming from the direction of the burrow. Sprinting faster than he had ever run, almost flying, his paws barely touching the ground, he returned to find a mother bear with its cub in tow, launching an attack on the entrance to the den. Elha was standing her ground, snarling and shrieking at the giant animal, snapping with her great fangs at the stupid ursa, as the single bear cub stood a safe distance behind.
Ignoring the cub, Bahr launched himself straight at the mother bear’s hind leg as it reared up, tearing away a patch of the giant’s fur coat, before ducking under the powerful swinging forelegs. Toppling the creature back onto all fours, Bahr again went for the bear, fearlessly taking a second piece out of the ample flesh of the aggressor.
The bear stepped backwards in surprise at the audacity of a wolf that would dare to attack it. Covering the now scared cub behind it, the bear continued to rage and rear up on its hind legs, standing like a huge furry tree with its now upper fore limbs swinging and flailing at the troublesome canid. All the while, Elha was making her own lunges at the bear while keeping her back and hind legs always close to the entrance to the burrow, fearful that she might leave a way for the bear to push past her and grab one or more of the pups in its enormous jaws.
For a while it was stalemate as the bear, roaring in anger, continued to flap about and try to push forward to the burrow, while at the same time guarding its own offspring. In the end, even a stupid bear will realize that it was getting nowhere with the two diminutive (by its standards) wolves that had snapping fangs that belied their lowly status. With a further last bluster of howling rage, the mother bear backed away before scooping the cub onto its back and blundering off into the undergrowth. It was too close a call and Bahr resolved to reduce the radius of his food and guard patrol so that he remained in closer contact with the burrow and his new family that now meant so much to him, even if he was yet seldom able to see the pups. For Elha guarded them jealously, still unsure whether Bahr would feed her young or feed on them.
This was perhaps understandable in a creature whose instincts were so strongly developed to survive and protect her family. She did not know of Bahr’s brothers and sisters or of the love he had had for the pups from his now distant family. She could not have seen the way that Bahr was the first among his siblings to return from the chase to share his food, so that the pups would be well fed and well nourished. The confrontation with the giant ursa perhaps helped her to understand that his role was one of protector as well as finder of food, and that she could rely on Bahr to be as ferocious as she was in protecting the new members of what had only just become the newest family of wolves to have claimed territory in the great forest.
For as Bahr headed out to his nightly patrols to guard the family from all comers and to scavenge what food he might, he also laid claim, on behalf of that family, to the whole area around the burrow and beyond. As he sprayed his name on every tree and bush along his patrol paths, he was no longer just marking his own name, he was marking the name of his family, his pack. For all comers, rival wolves and others, there could be no doubt that they entered this family’s territory at their peril.
Having scared off the bear, Elha retreated to the safety of the Den and refused to allow Bahr in, even to offer what little food he managed to find. Resigned, Bahr settled himself in front of the entrance, fully alert but torn between the need to guard Elha and the pups and the need to find more food. Without any older pack members to rely on, he was alone in providing food for Elha and the pups who were, as yet, too small to be able to leave them alone and too dependent on their mother’s milk to be separated from Elha, even for the shortest of times.
As he lay there on the ground Bahr was hardly resting but was scanning every scent that wafted by, for the slighted hint of animal, dead or alive. Ever conscious of the need to feed his family, he hardly noticed that he was himself in need of food. Almost all of the food that he had found in recent days had gone to feed Elha and the pups. Apart from the morsels that he had scavenged the previous night, his stomach was empty. He regretted not making a dash at the bear cub, whose plump and bulbous body would have fed them all for some days to come. Then he realized that, much as he and Elha might have chased off the mother without harm coming to their pups, it would have been a different story had they tried to turn the tables and snatch away the bear’s young.
His imagination therefore turned to less ambitious sources of nutrition. Nibbling some sweet grass nearby Bahr thought more and more of fresh meat and tried to picture in his mind the kind of animals that would satisfy his hunger and feed his family. He saw pictures appear before his eyes of magic hares dancing about in the early morning mists but soon the pictures faded as he understood that the time of the mad hares was all but over. He heard the scurrying of squirrels in the nearby trees but knew that the chances of snatching one low to the ground were small enough. Then he thought again of larger herd animals, picturing the great waves of legs and undulating bodies flowing through the forest and surrounding plains, like a great river of beings, rolling onwards in its own quest for food.
Bahr’s dreams of the animals he would hunt stretched even to the mighty bison in its herds of so many that the imagination could not hold the picture of so vast a spread of giant ungulates. Bison? What was the use of hunting bison? With their crushing, trampling hooves, you were as likely to be stamped to death by a bison as having a chance to get at one of their young, or a weaker adult. Even if you managed to separate and kill one of these enormous creatures there would be no chance of even the greatest of packs devouring it all before attracting the attention of some passing bear or rival pack. Two wolves and their pups had no chance. They would end up giving up half the carcass or more to other wolves, bears or whatever mangy scavengers happened to be passing. A wolf did not face the peril of running a bison to ground to feed half the forest’s beggars.
Inside the burrow, Elha had her own visions of fresh meat, having survived on pup broth these many nights past. As her strength returned to her, so did her need to follow, to stalk, to chase and to kill. She pictured again the images of the fawn she had killed alone, in what seemed a lifetime ago. Before her eyes she could see the unfortunate creature fall to her fangs, hear its pathetic bleating cease abruptly as she tore at the soft flesh of its throat. She could taste the sweet, tender offal as she pulled open its belly to savor the tang of its warm entrails.
The visions of fresh meat ceased as abruptly as they came to her. Elha began to picture herself again running through the trees and scrub, close on the heals of a herd. The profound changes that had taken place within her, that moved her to burrow and to dig, that produced the milk to feed her pups were starting to recede, to be replaced by the old Elha. Elha the fierce, Elha the hunter, Elha the strong. Growling at little First, as he struggled to stay on the teat, she brushed him aside.
“Enough,” she snarled in response to his whimpering. “Enough.”
Stretching her limbs, Elha rose from the den as Lazarus rising from the tomb, raising her snout to the sky and taking in great lungfuls of the chill forest air. Bahr, lying nearby, raised his head as if recognizing his mate for the first time. Seeing her stirred something within him too. At the same instant, they both began a long low howl to the passing wind. Rising, the pitch growing, a beautiful song of the forest.
“We are wolf, we are many, we are family, we are strong.
“We are hunters, we are killers, we are fierce, feel our fangs.
“Packs beware. Cross our path and you will die.
“We are wolf, we are many, we are family, we are strong.”
As the two wolves belted out their harmonious call to the forest, so the pups began to join in with a half-barking, half-squeaking, tuneless staccato.
In the distance other voices joined, singing their own family anthems, so that rising above the forest was a whole symphony of glorious wolf song echoing out into the infinity.
As the song finished, abruptly, Elha strode off into the forest, leaving Bahr surrounded by the pups who continued to sing their broken squeak at Elha’s hind legs as she left.
Bahr had no concerns at Elha leaving, for it left him time to rest and to play with the pups, marveling at how much they had changed and grown in only a few nights. Many games they played in the shadows of their forest. Bahr would leap off into the undergrowth so that the pups would have to run after him, before he stopped, bounding over the top of them so that they had to skid to a halt to turn around, tripping and rolling, before springing off after him.
Then they would attack him from all sides so that he had to dance about to avoid the nips to his legs and feet. Or he would pick them up each in turn and fling them away. Or they would scramble up on his back and cling to his coat to stay on as he reared up on hind legs or jumped and cavorted to try to dislodge them. All the while the pups yipping and yapping happily as they played with their ulfa, with Bahr acting the fool. For Bahr’s part, it reminded him of that happy summer he had spent playing with his sibling pups, and which seemed so long ago now.
For the rest of the day, Bahr and the pups romped and played and cavorted and rested, Bahr again the keeper of babes, busying them and taking their minds off their stomachs, so that they hardly yapped at all about food, with only the occasional “feed, us, feed us, feed us, feed us. Food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food.”
It wasn’t long before Elha returned with bloody muzzle, half-eaten carcass gripped in her noble jaw, reasserting herself as the hunter she had always been. Distracted as they were by Bahr’s fatherly japes, the pups did not scent their elfa returning, as Bahr had. As soon as they saw Elha, they jumped and yipped excitedly before a single low growl from their elfa silenced them.
Sitting back on their hind legs, the pups eyed Elha in silence as she walked past Bahr with barely a snort, heading straight for the burrow. It was only a moment before the pubs, eyeing each other, followed her into the darkness and safety of their lair. Bahr remained outside contemplating the mouth-watering image of the meal that had just passed right by his snout. He made no move to join in the family feast but deposited himself outside the Den’s entrance, ready there to remain, sentinel, protector.
Inside the burrow the pups tore excitedly at the softer portions of the carcass, hardly hesitating to allow the first taste to their brother, named “First”. For a while Elha settled herself into the center of the dark haven. It wasn’t long before they tired of chewing and tearing and instead rooted for their milk. Resigned, Elha lay there as her pups suckled away to their fill. Exhausted and bloated they eventually started to doze and snort before, abruptly, Elha got up and strolled back out of the Burrow to where Bahr lay. Looking around to see the elfa’s strong form, invigorated by the food and the exercise, stretching before the rising moon. Taking his cue, Bahr disappeared inside the den to tear away at the remains of the meat, as the pups gathered around, burying themselves in his coat. There he stayed for a while longer until he, too, raised himself and separating himself from the pups, took a long stretch before returning to the cool night air, the pups, bewildered in their daze, following him out.
The two adults nuzzled each other before Elha, with a snort, returned to the den, pups in tow, as Bahr took in the scentscape, before leaping off to his lone, night hunt, with growing confidence that the family were safe in the protective darkness of their burrow, under the watchful eye, ears and snout of Elha the fierce.
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Run with the Pack was published by Park Langley Editions in 2022. I will continue to post each chapter in turn here, as long as there is interest from readers. Please comment and/or like if you wish to read the next chapter.
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About the Creator
Author based in Kent, England. A writer of fictional short stories in a wide range of genres, he has been a non-fiction writer since the 1980s. Non-fiction subjects include art, history, technology, business, law, and the human condition.