Murgoh: Part Six
Murgoh couldn't sleep that night. He was too excited. He
never thought he'd be overjoyed to see his family. In anticipation of the moment,
he stayed out all night on the lookout post outside the cove, looking out across
the plains expectantly. It wasn't until the eastern sky started to glow with the
coming dawn that he saw any Lupe at all.
The young Lupe was sitting down in the snow,
trying to contain his anticipation. Several times that night, he had paced around
that spot, which was clearly evident by the well-trodden snow around him. As
he sat there, Orthas came up quietly behind him and sat at his side. The shadow
Lupe was quiet for a moment, and Murgoh wondered if he was going to speak at
"I'm happy for you," he said finally. "Your
family is still alive, and they're coming here." When Murgoh gave him a questioning
look, Orthas smiled back. "Nomad told me."
"I can hardily believe it myself," Murgoh said,
turning back to the plains.
Orthas dipped his head. "I wish I was so lucky."
A feeling of awareness crept along Murgoh's
spine. "I-I'm sorry," he said finally.
"Don't be," Orthas said grimly. "It's not your
fault. You had nothing to do with it. Kelthar's Lupes caught us by surprise.
They were ruthless in their assault." He smiled sadly. "That funny thing is,
I only escaped because I was being punished."
"What for?" Murgoh asked.
"I and a couple of my friends snuck off to the
Haunted Woods. We were forbidden to go there. We didn't stay too long; got spooked.
We were caught on the way back. Since I led the party, I got the worst punishment
out of all of them. While they were given extra chores for the day, I was forced
to hunt the rest of the day without a bite for myself." He sighed. "I was on
my way back with a batch of prey when the attack occurred. The pack was well
outnumbered. Several of them tried to flee, but were quickly taken down. I only
escaped because I had a head start, and no one knew I was there." He looked
to the west, where the night sky was beginning to fade. "Sometimes, I wish I
had stayed to fight. But I don't think I would have made much of a difference
Murgoh was stunned. Orthas had run from battle
just like he had. He still felt bad for abandoning his father, but he knew now
that he wasn't the only one to make that mistake.
"My story isn't all that different," he said
finally. "Kelthar confronted us directly. It was just me, my father, and my
sister Ashley. I tried to run, but one of the attacking Lupes caught me. You
already know the result."
"You're still a very fortunate Lupe," Orthas
pointed out. Then he paused. "You saw Kelthar?"
"Yeah," Murgoh replied.
"What did he look like?"
"Well, he looked like a normal brown Lupe to
me with a scar across his face."
"A normal Lupe?" Orthas asked, almost disappointed.
"Are you sure?"
"He was right in front of me," Murgoh said.
"He was bigger than my father, and his companions. Why, what did you…?"
Orthas was interrupted by a green Lupe dashing
up the slope. The Lupe skidded to a halt as he reached them, driving a rut into
"Murgoh!" he gasped, trying to catch his breath.
"Nomad wants to see you, in his cave!"
"Now?" Murgoh asked. "But…but I…my family…Cant
this wait until later?"
"There might not be a later," the Lupe said,
shaking his head. "He's been so weak recently. I think…I think he's dying."
"Dying?" Murgoh asked, scrambling to his paws.
"I know Nomad's been sleeping a lot lately, but I didn't think that his life
"I'm not really surprised it's happening," the
Lupe replied. "But I'm a bit surprised that it's happening now. You haven't
been around long enough to see how his energy has been fading over the last
few months. Nomad might have been keeping it quiet, but many of us knew anyway."
He paused. "The sad thing is, no one really knows him well. No one knows where
he comes from. And yet, everyone here respects him like he was a member of their
Murgoh didn't know how to respond to this. He
cast an uneasy glance to Orthas. The shadow Lupe, though he looked worried,
"You'd better go," he said grimly. "You don't
want to disappoint a dying Lupe. I'll keep an eye out for your pack."
Hesitating a moment, Murgoh nodded gratefully
to Orthas, then followed the Lupe down to the cove, suddenly admiring how much
the Lupes in the cove seemed to respect the old Lupe. It was a marvel that a
kind old stranger could mean so much to so many, just by opening his home to
those in need.
It didn't take long for them to reach Nomad's
cave. At the end of the passage that led to the main cavern, the green Lupe
held back. "He wanted to talk to you alone," he said. "I'll leave you to it."
Murgoh watched a moment as the Lupe went back
down the passage, then he stepped into the cavern. He didn't get far. As soon
as he rounded the corner, he ran directly into Star, who was just leaving. Murgoh
backed off suddenly, shaking his head.
"Excuse me," he said. "I didn't know you were
"That's alright," Star replied, smiling. "I
was going to get some water for Nomad. I'll be back in a moment." She looked
back into the cavern. "Keep him company, will you?"
"Sure," Murgoh replied. "He called me down here
Star gave Murgoh a surprised look, then peered
back into the cavern. "That little sneak. I didn't even realize anyone else
had come in here." She shook her head. "It doesn't matter. I'll be right back."
Star moved past Murgoh down the passage, leaving
the young Lupe alone in the cavern. Once she was gone, the young Lupe rounded
the corner, and took a good look around. The fire was burning as it always had.
But, somehow, it seemed stranger. It was as if knowing the warmth it gave to
an old Lupe would not be needed for long. He didn't want to move further, but
he had been summoned. The respect he had for the old Lupe was enough to make
him walk around the fire to where Nomad kept his bed. The graying red Lupe was
there, lying very still, with a fur thrown over his back to keep him warm.
Murgoh hesitated. He didn't know what to do.
Did Nomad want to talk to him, or did he just want his company? As he pondered
this, the old Lupe's eyes opened, and he spotted Murgoh in his uneasy state.
Nomad smiled, raising his head.
"Murgoh," he said, his voice weaker than it
was before. "I'm glad you came. Come. I'm told that Savak and the rest of your
pack have been found." Murgoh nodded. Nomad coughed. "That is good. I would
like to see old Gerthen again."
The young Lupe hesitated. "Nomad, I don't know
how to say this," Murgoh muttered, unsure whether to continue. It seemed as
if the old Lupe knew Gerthen, but he didn't want to be the bearer of bad news.
Finally, he decided: Nomad had to know. "Well, see, several weeks ago…What I
mean to say is…Gerthen's died recently," he finally stated. Nomad looked surprised.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't know."
"I know you didn't," Murgoh replied. "And it's
alright. Only, it was a bad day for me."
"Oh?" Nomad asked, with a cough. "How so?"
Murgoh looked up at the old Lupe. "It's because,
well, I liked Gerthen. I…I liked him a lot. And, just like that, he passed away.
I kind of expected it, he being so slow and all, sleeping a lot. Then, when
it came, it was all so sudden. He passed away in the night, and none of us had
a chance to say goodbye. The rest of the day…I was feeling angry and irritable.
I fought with my sister while we were going home…"
Murgoh sighed briefly, then he continued. "My
sisters and I were caught in a storm that night, and the next day, we witnessed
some of Kelthar's Lupes driving a pack from their territory. Then, the next
day…they did the same to us, except I got separated from everyone else. For
the longest time, I thought they were dead too. For a while, I blamed myself
for not staying to help my father fight Kelthar. But, I thought it over many
times since I've been here. Now I realize, even if I had stayed, even with what
fighting skill I had, we wouldn't have lasted long against him."
"And yet," Nomad said, "your pack survives,
and they are coming here now."
"What does that prove?" Murgoh asked.
The old Lupe smiled. "It proves that Savak had
either luck, skill, or both on his side when he met Kelthar in battle. At least,
enough to allow him to escape alive."
Murgoh looked at his paws. "I…I never thought
of it that way."
"Being as excited as you were to find out they're
alive, I doubt you took the time to think that possibility over," Nomad stated,
Murgoh smiled in embarrassment at his own glee.
It seemed Nomad was right. But, thinking about it, Murgoh began to wonder how
his father had actually pulled off an escape. Another cough from Nomad brought
to mind the state of the old Lupe's health.
"Are you alright?" Murgoh asked.
"Well enough," Nomad said, shifting his weight
slightly. He sighed slightly. "When I heard your father was coming here, I had
hoped that I would see my old friend again." He turned to Murgoh. "We were good
friends, a long time ago, Gerthen and I."
Murgoh's ears perked up with interest. He knew
Gerthen as a friend? It must have been long before he was born that the two
knew each other.
Nomad coughed and smiled again. "I imagine you're
surprised that I could know someone in your pack personally. Come, have a seat,
and I'll tell you the story of how Gerthen affected two great trials in my life."
To be continued...