I kindof like that, but it sounds a little too good for this. Rick should use that title if he decides to adapt my story. And speaking of...
...Jack watched his prey from a distance and wondered if he could make the leap. This was only his second attempt at hunting on his own, and he didn't want to make the same mistake as last time. His jaw was still sore from that nosedive. Ahead of him about twenty yards was a wild possum, digging for worms. (I think they do that...) Not the best meal, and definitely not enough to feed the whole pack, but it would do well enough for now. Ahead of the possum was a small ditch that led down to the stream where the pack came in the evenings to drink, to meet with neighboring packs, and to have hearty discussions about this and that.
"I had better be careful about this one," Jack thought to himself. "If I botch this it's going to mean another wasted hunt, and not to mention the jokes from everyone else."
Jack crouched low behind a log and waited for the best moment to pounce. The possum was close to facing his direction, and if he jumped too soon, this afternoon's meal was sure to get away. Unfortunately, Jack's gut was in a betraying mood.
The possum heard the sound, and decided he had better find his own lunch elsewhere. He started to run, and Jack was forced to make a choice: chase, or find another option. He chose to chase.
Seeing a wolf is one thing. Seeing and hearing a hungry wolf chasing you is entirely different. The possum knew he had to get away, but his brain decided to go into full panic mode, and all he could think of was "run! Run! RUN!" And he did. That possum ran down along the bank of the stream just as fast as he could. But it wasn't fast enough. He could hear Jack steadily closing in with every few steps he ran, and on top of that, his heart wasn't used to all this running. In just a few more yards the wolf would have him.
Have you ever been near a creek as a child? If you have, someone probably told you to keep a safe distance from the edge. Do you remember why? Streams have a tendency to cut away at the dirt and stones under the grass, and leave a large amount of earth hanging out over the water. Well, the possum had never been warned of this, being so small, and Jack was too excited at the moment to remember the warning. As his teeth were just inches away from catching the possum, the ground gave way from under him, and he fell, back first into the water below.
Something I should mention about streams is this: when a stream is wide, it is usually slow and shallow. At the place where the wolves met in the evening, this was the case, but this was much further down, and the water was more narrow, much deeper, and... much faster. And it certainly didn't help that a rock had fallen on Jack's head as he had hit the water.
As he floated downstream, he started to dream. He remembered the lessons about streams, and how dangerous they could be. He remembered how streams led to rivers, and how rivers could take a wolf very far from home. He also remembered the words of an uncle, (now gone)
"If you ever find yourself in a river, don't try to swim for a certain point on the shore. Just swim away from the current, and wherever you get to shore, that's where you'll get out."
At that point Jack began to wake back up. The cold water was very numbing, but he knew he had to get to shore before he got so far from home that he wouldn't be able to find his way back. He noticed that nothing looked familiar in any direction, and being on the water wouldn't help things any.
As he got closer to the shore, he found quite a few branches that stuck out into the water. They had a funny smell, they had some strange growths on them, and they really hurt when they pricked. Jack grabbed onto one of them, and as he lifted himself out of the water, he made several small cuts on his right foreleg.
After walking a small distance away from the river, Jack laid down. He knew he should probably lick his wounds, but he was so exhausted from all that swimming in cold water that he just couldn’t stay awake any longer. And after a moment of trying to find a familiar scent in the air, he fell asleep.
(If I was making chapters, this would be a good spot for 2.)
It was night, and it wasn’t warm. Coupled with damp fur, and Jack had a problem. Jack pulled himself up, and started to shake himself off. He quickly stopped when his right foreleg started exploding with pain.
“What is this!? I’ve never… ow… had this kind of… ow… pain before! OW OW OW!”
Another wolf howled in the distance. (Sorry, I had to make a wolf joke… but it fits with the story, I swear…)
“Oh great, that sounds like (insert rival pack’s leader’s name here…what? I have to leave SOME room for Rick to get creative when he re-writes and uses this… I hope I hope I hope… but I think for simplicity I’ll call him ‘Air’)”
Before long, three other wolves showed up, and none of them looked to happy to see Jack. The leader spoke up.
“What are you doing here? You know this isn’t your turf.”
Jack didn’t like where this seemed to be going. “I better keep it calm, and not cause trouble, or at least try
to not cause trouble,” Jack thought.
“My apologies to you, Air. I fell in the stream and was only able to leave the river here, as my wet fur shows. Would someone be able to escort me back home? I promise I won’t cause any trouble beyond my presence.”
“I don’t like the idea of you catching our food or even being here. Since you’re still young I’ll have Preacher here take you back home. But if I catch you on our territory again I won’t be so forgiving.”
Air looks at Preacher. “Take this pup to the border on the Northern stream, and be back before sunrise, or you’ll have to catch your own breakfast in the morning.”
Preacher nods and starts walking away from the group. “Come along, pup. We have no time to waste.” (I was thinking of having him speak only in the classic King James style, but it seemed like an insult…)
Jack followed along as best as he could, even though his leg was really bothering him now. He wanted to stop and lick the wound clean, but he was too afraid that Preacher would attack him if he did. After a while, he became curious, though.
“So if you don’t mind me asking, why do they call you Preacher?”
Preacher laughed slightly and looked lightly annoyed. “It is because I found the light.”
Jack began to really wonder about the sanity of this wolf now…
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that there’s a road that just barely touches the tip of our border. It goes farther into your territory, but we cannot go across it. One day a couple decided to camp there, much to Air’s displeasure. Air had us howl at them from a safe distance, and they left without even packing up. We went through what they left behind, and I found a flashlight and a book. After finding that it was a Bible, the pack decided I should keep it. Not having had a book before I didn’t really want it at first, but the pack kept teasing me about it even after I hid it away. Eventually I started to read it, and I was surprised what I found. I started telling the pack about it, and they decided to start calling me Preacher. Now the name is just stuck, but I like it.”
Jack wasn’t sure what to think of this, so he decided to just accept it for the moment. As they walked on, Preacher continued to keep talking, but Jack mostly stopped listening. His leg just hurt too much to pay attention to much of anything else. It was probably why he didn’t even notice it when they reached the border.
“Okay, here’s where I stop. Just remember to stay on your side of this creek from now on, okay pup?”
By this time, Jack was hardly even conscious.
“Okay, I’ll stay here.”
Preacher was worried. The pup had asked about his name but never given his own. He seemed to walk slower and slower the whole way here, he looked like he was going to fall over right here in the creek bed, and that leg was starting to look really bad.
“I’ll give the cry for help howl, and then I’ll be on my way, okay pup?”
“Whatever you say, Mr. Bluetail!”
“I’m going to pretend that made sense. AWWOOO!”
Preacher turned tail and went back into his territory. A few minutes later, Miles and the rest of the pack arrived. Miles, being who he was, was the first to start asking questions.
“Where have you been, Jack? What happened? And why are you all the way over here? Your hunt was clear over on the North side of the territory. And are you okay? You don’t look so good. As a matter of fact…”
*FWHUMP* Jack fell down, out, right in front of everyone. Lucretia and Elaine were the pack members in charge of wounds, so they rushed in to see what they can do. As Jack drifted into dreamland, he could hear Lucretia giving orders and the rest of the pack doing what they could to help.
“These scratches don’t look good. We’d better get him back to the dens. Can somebody get a tree branch?”
“Here, get him up onto this…”
Jack woke up a couple of days later back in the den. His leg was covered in mud, and the pain didn’t seem to be much better. (Author’s Note: Mud is actually quite good at removing poisons and venoms. As it dries it tries to absorb moisture from where it can. As such it can draw out venom from bee stings. I have used it for this purpose on multiple occasions. Believe me, it works.)
Jack tried to get up, but Elaine quickly stopped him.
“No you don’t. The last time you tried that you passed out for three hours. Just lie there and keep healing.”
Jack knew it would be pointless to try to resist, especially in the condition he was in.
“Okay, I won’t try to get up. But can I at least sit up straight? Lying on my side like this is making my good side feel all prickly.”
“As long as you don’t try to stand, I don’t mind what you do, really. I was just told to keep you down until Lucretia gets back with some more mud.”
“More mud? I’m already soaking in it. How much more mud can I possibly need?”
“You know that’s not my job to decide, nor is it yours. It’s Lucretia’s duty to keep everyone as healthy as she possibly can. And besides, I don’t think she’s doing a bad job. Even though your wounds don’t seem to be better, they don’t seem to be worse, either.”
“I know Lucretia thinks she’s doing the best she can, but I don’t think simple mud is going to work on this. I don’t know why, but I get the feeling that this is a little out of our league. And you probably wouldn’t believe the dreams I’ve been having…”
“Look, pup, I realize I don’t know everything there is to know about healing, but I know that many wounds can heal themselves.” Lucretia is back, and she isn’t happy. “I really am doing the best I can with what I have available. If I had more I would do more, but we’re right at the beginning of the wet season, and my healing plants haven’t started growing yet. As soon as they do I’ll start making use of them, but for right now I need you to just lay still and wait for me.”
“Lucretia, again, I realize that what you’re doing is best in your mind, but what makes you sure that I’ll still be around when your plants are ready? From where the sun is in the sky I can tell that it’s been days since I was injured, and I haven’t had any food that I remember eating. Perhaps it would be better if I went out and let you worry about something besides me for a while.”
Elaine looked incredibly worried.
“Jack, you can’t possibly mean…”
“All I’m saying is that I think it would be best if I were on my own for a couple of days. You could all get a decent meal and not have to worry about me slowing you down. And don’t worry about me; I’ve still got three good legs. Besides, I don’t want to lay here and lose all my strength while waiting for your plants to grow.” Jack looks at Lucretia, who appears somewhat nervous, but at the same time seems to be thinking deeply.
“Okay Jack, I see your point and it is valid, although somewhat misguided, I believe. You can have a couple days to yourself. But just remember that you are a vital part of this pack, and neither Miles nor I will stand for you running off. Keep within earshot and make sure to be careful. Don’t underestimate your injuries. Wash the mud off once a day and replace it with fresh mud an hour later.”
Jack gave a look of satisfaction.
“Thank you, I will keep all of that in mind. See you in a couple of days…”
And with that, Jack methodically walked away, keeping careful not to step too heavily with his injured leg.
A few hours later he was in the part of the forest that Preacher had told him about. Occasionally he could hear a car pass by on the country road, but mostly it was quiet. Jack enjoyed the quiet. Back at the den there were always noises of cubs playing, the guards howling back and forth at each other every time they thought they heard some little sound, and various other noises of the day-to-day life of a wolf pack. But here in this part of the forest it was quiet. Most animals didn’t like being near the road where the humans could be seen and heard, so most of them only came near when necessary. That was probably why that part of the forest was so ill-maintained, and why so many dry twigs were all over the ground. Even the birds didn’t like it here. All was quiet, until-
Jack looked around at where the sound came from, and saw Poncho standing about fifty feet ahead of him.
“What are you doing here?” Jack knew what the answer would probably be, which is why he didn’t growl, and asked the question with a sigh.
“Mom told me to follow you to make sure you didn’t get hurt worse than you already are, and to make sure that if anything went wrong, I should run back immediately and tell her.”
Jack knew that telling Poncho to leave wouldn’t work, but maybe he could come up with something better.
“Pup, you know I don’t want you around, right?”
“But Mom said…”
“And you know that I like my quiet, right?”
“Well yeah, but…”
“Then I’ll make you a deal. I’ll let you stay as long as you don’t make any noise. But if you mess anything up, you’ll have to do whatever I tell you from that point on, so long as Miles doesn’t override what I tell you. Also you can’t go running to Miles to argue against what I tell you to do. Deal?”
“Well, I don’t see how I could mess that up, so I’ll say deal.”
“Alright then. Now just keep quiet and don’t bother me. I’m going to see if I can find some lunch.”
Jack limped away from Poncho and found a good hiding place. After about an hour, a familiar-looking possum came up to look for some food. Jack was pleased.“Well well well, if it isn’t my little friend,”
Jack thought. Jack crept out of his hiding place and started to limp up to the unsuspecting prey. Of course, trying to sneak up to something when you've got a limp is hard enough, let alone when there's plenty of dry sticks to step on; not to mention a clumsy relative.
The possum heard the sound, saw the wolf, laughed, and scampered away chuckling. Jack barely managed to hold his voice to a low growl.
“Pup, I thought I told you to keep… oh human.”
Poncho also sees the human (yes, I’ve changed tense… deal with it…) and silently runs away.”Oh human! Oh human! Oh human!” THE BEGINNING