Murgoh: Part Four
The first things Murgoh heard when he woke up were strange
snapping and popping noises. There were hushed voices somewhere nearby, but he
couldn't tell what they were saying. The smell of salt filled his nostrils along
with the scent of burnt wood and Lupe scent. He didn't know where he was, but
it was warm. He was resting on something soft and warm, as well. Then he realized
that he hurt all over.
Finally, he opened his eyes. The image was an
orange blur at first, but it cleared quickly, and he saw a small fire, burning
happily with a fresh pile of sticks. Looking around he realized that he was
in a cavern of some sort. The granite walls were illuminated clearly by the
fire, which was built in the center of the floor. From where he lay on his bed
of furs, he could see two Lupes at the bend of a dark passage. One looked very
old. He was hunched over, and his red pelt was peppered with gray fur from nose
to tail. The other was a considerably younger brown Lupess, although her muzzle
was starting to turn gray.
After a moment, Murgoh tried to sit up. When
he tried to move, sores that he had no knowledge of flared up and he immediately
decided he would lie where he was for a while longer. Whatever that Lupe had
done to him on the plains, though it hadn't killed him, it certainly would cause
him a lot of pain for some time. Realizing that moving was not one of his options,
Murgoh just watched the two Lupes on the other side of the cavern.
Whatever they were discussing, it wasn't a casual
conversation. From the way the Lupess was talking, and gesturing heavily with
one of her forepaws, it was a heated debate of some sort. For the first time
since he woke up, Murgoh wondered who they were and what they wanted with him.
Were they with Kelthar? Unlikely. With the way he was pummeled on the plains,
he was probably left for dead. Maybe they were refugees. Nomads? Members of
a neighboring pack? No, it couldn't be a neighboring pack. The salt in the air
told him that he was near the sea, and his territory was far inland.
As he thought on this, the Lupess turned in
his direction. The way her ears perked up, it was clear that she knew he was
awake. With a final word to the old Lupe, she padded around the fire to Murgoh.
As she drew closer, Murgoh noticed that her left side had been terribly injured,
sometime in her distant past. Most of her fur had grown back, but where it hadn't,
there were burn scars, and scars from gashes in her flank. Half her left ear
was missing as well. From the pattern of the scars in general, it didn't seem
that she got those scars from a fight.
"Hello there," the Lupess said when she reached
the young Lupe. "You're awake, finally. You've been unconscious for two days,
ever since we found out outside our cave."
Murgoh looked at the brown Lupess for a moment
in disbelief. "I've been out for two days?"
"Yes, and I'm surprised it wasn't for longer.
You were terribly injured, and you lost a lot of blood. Personally, I wasn't
sure if you would survive. Although, someone had a lot of faith in you," she
added with a meaningful glance at the old Lupe, who was moving across the cave
to him. The way he walked, it was more of a hobble, as if he were limping on
three of his four legs. Finally, he sat down stiffly next to the Lupess, and
then smiled at Murgoh before he spoke.
"Good evening, young one," he said. "How do
For a moment, Murgoh didn't reply as he tried
to figure out exactly how he felt. "I hurt all over," he said finally.
The old Lupe nodded. "When we found you, it
looked as if you were tackled by the Turmaculus." He shook his head. "Well,
no matter what happened, you're in a lot better shape now than when we first
found you. But it may still be a while before you'll be able to move again,
let alone go home."
The word home brought about memories from the
fight. Murgoh remembered that Ashley and his father were fighting off three
Lupes by themselves. "Dad! Ashley! I need to…Arg!" Murgoh, having tried to get
to his paws, collapsed again onto his bedding, breathing heavily due to the
pain. The Lupess placed a paw on his side in an attempt to calm him down.
"You're not well enough to move," she reminded
him. Then a grave expression crossed her face. "When you were injured, you weren't
"No," Murgoh replied. "My sister, Ashley, was
there. And so was my father, Savak."
"Savak?" the Lupess asked, clearly surprised.
A chuckle came from the old Lupe.
"I told you, didn't I?" he asked the Lupess.
"His family line is very strong." Then, turning to Murgoh, he asked, "Do you
know what happened to them?"
When the question was asked, many thoughts swam
through his head. Savak and Ashley were outnumbered and outmatched. If they
survived the fight, it wouldn't have been for long. Grief gripped the young
Lupe, and he couldn't respond at all.
"I see, then," the old Lupe said, moving away
from Murgoh. "My companion and I will leave you alone for the time being. Someone
will be by later to give you something to eat." With that, the old Lupe turned
away. He looked to the Lupess and nodded to the exit. The Lupess glanced briefly
at Murgoh before she followed the old Lupe out of the cavern. Even when they
were out of sight, Murgoh could still hear them. They spoke urgently about something
for a moment, but then stopped, and the moved down the passage that was beyond
the Lupe's view.
It wasn't that he really cared what these strange,
nameless Lupes were doing, anyway. All his thoughts were centered around his
family. Kelthar had probably driven them all out by now, or had them killed.
And when it came to a fight with this enemy, what did he do? He ran. He abandoned
his own father, and the rest of his family to the vicious will of a vengeful,
Many thoughts like this swirled around his head,
filling him with grief. Tears formed themselves around his eyes, even as he
drifted to sleep once more.
* * *
He didn't know how long he slept before he woke
up again. Opening his eyes, he saw that the fire had been kindled while he was
sleeping, and it was still going strong. No one now remained in the cave except
him. Feeling a bit stronger than he did when he woke up the first time, Murgoh
tried to shift his torso into an upright position. It was painful, yes, but
he managed to do it, and thus had a better perspective of his current abode.
There wasn't much to see. There was the fire,
yes. This was surrounded by a neatly positioned circle of stones, which by their
darkened appearance, had evidently been used time and time again for many years.
Just inside the passage leading from the cave, Murgoh noticed tendrils of sand,
trailed in from outside by passing winds and the Lupes coming and going from
the cave. In another part of the cave, Murgoh noticed two other beds of furs,
much like his, but larger, and well used. He guessed that these were used by
the two Lupes who were in the cave earlier, but he couldn't tell for sure without
a closer examination, which he was in no condition to perform at the moment.
The sound of pawsteps down the unseen passage distracted him, however, and he
turned his attention to this, instead.
A shadow Lupe, a little older than Murgoh, appeared
at the cavern exit, pausing suddenly when he saw Murgoh was awake. The Lupe
carried a chunk of meat in his jaws, obviously meant for him. Murgoh, however,
was not hungry, and he was in no mood for visitors. When he saw the Lupe, all
he could do was snap at him.
"What do you want?" he demanded.
The shadow Lupe didn't respond. But, with a
slight hesitation, he moved into the cave, padded around the fire, and placed
the meat next to Murgoh.
"I don't want that," Murgoh said.
"Nomad said you needed to eat," the shadow Lupe
"Who?" Murgoh asked. Before his visitor could
respond, he shook his head. "Nevermind, just go. I want to be alone."
A hurt expression crossed the shadow Lupe's
face briefly, but then he nodded and padded to the exit. Before he turned the
corner, he turned back to Murgoh and, hesitating again, he said, "You're not
the only one who's lost family to Kelthar."
Surprised, Murgoh was about to say something
to the shadow Lupe when he disappeared down the passage once more. For a few
moments, Murgoh only stared at the cavern exit. Then he turned to the meat the
shadow Lupe had left him. He still wasn't hungry, but he knew he hadn't eaten
in two days. If he wanted to recover, he needed his strength. Shifting the food
closer to himself, he dug in.
* * *
Another long nap later, Murgoh woke again to
find himself looking at the old red Lupe again. He was seated by Murgoh's bed,
and his soft gaze seemed to calm his troubles for a moment. As he looked into
those deep, ancient eyes, it struck him that those eyes seemed awfully familiar.
"You're getting plenty of rest," the old Lupe
muttered. "This is good. You will heal faster that way."
Murgoh didn't reply, but he didn't have to.
The old Lupe went on, "Young Orthas feels for you. He lost his pack to Kelthar.
His was one of the first. But unlike many of the packs attacked on the plains,
yours seemed to have disappeared without a trace."
Talking about his pack made Murgoh's spirits
drop down again. But the way this Lupe spoke, it was as if he were somewhat
optimistic. Feeling a glimmer of hope, he asked, "How do you know?"
"Your father has a reputation on the plains.
I already knew where his territory was, and I sent scouts out to find him. Your
old den has been abandoned, and there wasn't a Lupe anywhere within a mile of
the cave. I don't know where he or your pack is, but I doubt he has fallen to
Kelthar's wrath. At least, not yet," he added grimly.
The old Lupe got to his paws and limped slowly
over to one of the fur beds on the other side of the cave. "If any of my scouts
find him, they'll bring him here. He's already proven himself a capable leader.
He'll be alright." As he said this, the Lupe carefully lay down among the furs.
Then, with a yawn, he was about to lay his head down when his brown companion
entered the cave. She paused when she saw Murgoh was up, but she moved past
the fire to the old Lupe. She spoke in a hushed, nervous tone. Murgoh strained
to listen, but he could barely hear them over the fire.
"You sent your scouts to find Savak?" she asked.
"I did," the old Lupe replied. "Is there a problem
"Yes, there's a problem!" she growled. "Unlike
the other refugees who come in here, if he shows up, he'll…"
"Are you really worried about that little scrap
you two had so long ago?"
"It was more than a little scrap," the Lupess
said. "And it was more than once." She scratched her ear nervously, then looked
to the old Lupe again. "Aren't you worried he'd recognize you?"
"I know he'll recognize me," the old Lupe said.
"And why should I be worried? I'm not trying to hide, and you shouldn't either.
Not from him, or from anyone else in his pack. What happened between you is
in the past. Now get some sleep. We have a lot to do tomorrow settling in that
last batch of refugees that showed up today."
As the old Lupe set his head down again, Murgoh
noticed that the Lupess wanted to continue the argument. She stood open-mouthed
over the old Lupe for a moment before she sighed deeply and glanced in Murgoh's
direction. She seemed surprised, and Murgoh imagined she didn't intend for him
to hear anything. He expected her to cross the cavern, but instead, she turned
away, settling down into her own bed.
After a few moments, Murgoh laid his head down
too, but he didn't try to go to sleep. Too many thoughts were swimming around
his head. These Lupes didn't just know about Savak, they knew
him, and he knew them as well, it seemed. The only question the young Lupe had
on his mind now was one he was far from answering.
Who were they?
To be continued...