Nocturne of the Red Wolf

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Someone posted a piece on the voice of the Gray wolf. I’m a gamer, even at sixty-five.  Many years ago I was part of starting a guild in the game of World of Warcraft,(WOW). The name of our guild was/is Nocturne of the Red Wolf. I have great memories of mostly young men and women coming together for a few hours, once or twice a week, and sharing a great deal of camaraderie as we fought the mighty evil lords of the dungeons. The guild members were kind enough to carry my meager efforts.  So, I write this for them.

He arrives with intent, but first he howls upon the moon filled night, when most of men and beast might be bedded down against the darkness.

It is his time to hunt and prowl the shadows. None who wait with anxious heart for the sun would understand.

Nor does he care for the stories that have gone to myth and risen again, that he should strike some ancient fear into the souls of men. If he were to ponder such things, he would deduce that it’s not his presence that swipes them cold with sweat when the howls penetrate the night; it is their own sins which devour them.

He ignites in them their memories—how festering the taint of evil doings can become, especially when such memories are reclaimed in the mid of night, where, desperately deprived of humanity, a soul finds itself consumed by the darkness.

He howls to tell his pack where he roams, or as a precursor of what he searches for, or perhaps a knowing tell to others like himself who may have strayed into his home; another time they might be welcome, but not tonight; he has too many matters to attend to, and the moon will not wait for what he must do.

And so he howls again. The answering howls sail in repetitious echo on a nocturne sheet of midnight where such deep soulful songs have found the only place they might be written.

 Even the Gray would not challenge him here; he might be the smaller of the two, but ability increases with age and he has been the leader for some time. His penetratingly high-pitched wail tells more than what he is; it tells who he is. Hunt by the moon, rest as the yellow sun lights up where eyes can see beyond the sense of smell. Four cubs to feed and another winter chill has set in to fight against his need, and made the rabbits go to ground, not only to protect themselves but to keep warm. There are no berries to sustain him; even if there where it is not food enough for a family of five, and a pack behind that must eat to survive.

He has not met more of his own kind for a long time, ten seasons maybe. Yet the Gray wolf and the coyote have come upon his path a number of times. One fight he had to rest a full moon’s wane into darkness before he could hunt again. From that incident he has learned to move and then stay awhile to establish a new territory, hunt, grow strong, and only then move on to repeat the process.

 One of his new litter would most certainly be leader by the time they find where they need to be. He little understands why he knows that, perhaps a far off scent of something on a distant northern wind that made its way this far down, perhaps a long lost dream of wondrous lights in the night sky, perhaps a great connection to the earth mother, her energy a mark of where his pack might be best cared for.

 To him it is becoming more urgent, many scars upon his hide no longer hidden by his winter fur. There has to be another place where noise and searing light does not invade the walk of night upon the land, to where the rancid smell of burning decay does not sail upon the evening breeze, to where the spoils of all that had been disregarded does not block the mountains in their pile upon pile to tear at the very heavens in silent screams of distorted and unnecessary death and decay.

 Tonight’s sky holds no magic lights. They are still far from where he must take them. No matter, tonight his need is more immediate. All who hear him sound his intention into the night will do as required. Any movement will be his and what he seeks.

The light of the full moon dances on his fur as he slips from tree to tree, a touch of red in the yellow light, a glimpse for what is to come.

His brothers should be with him, but he is desperate; his pups and mother must eat first, and it is upon him to provide. The pack would have to wait. He will do this alone. One of his howls told them that. It might be the howl is used to tell the pack to lay hidden, in wait, as he explores the territory, or challenges a foe. It matters not. They will stay put until he tells them different.

 The tipping of the offshore wind ticks in a change. The scents of what came his way from the south now drift in from the north, and so he changes his direction. It is against his nature to hunt upwind, there he would be the prey. At first he smells the remnants of his own travels as he goes back along the way he came, and then new scents catch his interest. It is unlike him to be tricked by a change in the wind. Anxious is not a usual part of his hunting skill. Yes, his cubs must grow, and one must become leader if they are to survive. But tonight holds none of that as an immediate possibility.

 No howls now, the night is silent: specks of red gliding past trees and boulders, barely moving the water as he crosses the stream, up a small hill, full motion. He knows when he hits that he must forfeit something in return for his need.

 He strikes and moves back, legs protected, without them he is useless as a bird without wings. The first trust had been to the neck, and he smells the blood. It excites his need to kill, only because it serves his need to eat. A sharp claw flashes across his hind quarter, and he fights against the urge to retreat and find easier prey—his payment had been given.

 Sometimes, there is a defining point in what must be and what might be. He rolls away and looks for the light of the moon, circling until it appears; there it it, the beast who fights him reflecting the moon’s glow in his eyes. He knows where he has to strike. No hesitation, a mighty leap, jaws as wide as might devour the entire universe. All of creation bears down on his determination. There is no longer a separation of prey and predator, they are locked in combat, one to eat, the other to die. Screams and growls announce the progress of the winner and the loser, and then stillness.

 The red wolf staggers to his feet and licks the blood upon his maw. Perhaps that a rabbit would serve easier prey, next time, might be his through should urgency not be his master. He pulls the carcass along the ground, the moon recording every movement. He stops but once to howl, and she answers in return. The cubs raise their heads and do the same, if lacking in skill; doing the best they can to call him home. He quickens his pace even as another test of his survival flashes from the moonlight upon his hindquarter.

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