Highrock Pack History Songs: Song for Three Voices - Part One
Steel That Glints, history keeper of the Highrock Pack, was in trouble.
He dashed through the forest, his red bandana lashing against his neck. His reflexes, heightened by living wild as his ancestors had, were worth nothing in this conflict. Nothing that Steel could do was any match for one so much younger and stronger. Adrenaline surged through his system, but it was of little use. His allies had already succumbed. Steel was on his own. Lungs burning, he sought for cover, any cover. His dense, iron grey pelt was bristling with agitation.
Suddenly, a flash of green shot from the tree above him. No! I'm cut off! he thought, motoring his forelegs in a futile effort to stop himself in time. Unable to cancel his momentum, the Lupe lost his balance and tumbled right into the waiting claws of his adversary. He yelped as the enemy’s weight crashed onto his back, sending him face first into a snowdrift. Struggling to regain his footing, he managed to roll over and spat out a mouthful of snow.
He scrabbled at his opponent, and with a grunt of effort, sent it flying with a kick from his rear paws. With a lurch, he got his paws under him and flung himself at the other, lips parted in a feral snarl. Seconds before impact, his adversary rolled clear, and leapt at him from the side. After a brief scuffle, Steel was pinned. His enemy howled in triumph.
"Ok already, you great lump! Get off of me!" Steel mumbled. His muzzle was mashed into the snow, and it came out sounding more like "Oh-ay aweadeh u gway wump! Gerrof meh!"
First New Leaf Of Spring, the young green Lupess who was one of Steel's closest friends, chortled. "You need to get out more, Uncle Steel," she teased, "You're getting rusty." She nonetheless complied, padding a short distance away. Her whiskers were crinkled in amusement, and her tongue lolled in a silent Lupe laugh.
“You need to respect your elders, young lady,” called a rich soprano voice from the brush. A red Lupe with a silver hourglass shaped mark on his right shoulder padded into the open. This stocky young fighter was Clay On River’s Edge. The snow in his pelt was a testament to his own scuffle with the green Lupess, and the fact that he had been no more successful than Steel.
Steel smiled, shaking his head. These Lupes were littermates, yet they could not be more different. Clay was built along the lines of a Tonu, all muscle and strength. Leaf, on the other hand, was slim and nimble, built like a dancer. Both were intelligent, and both seemed destined to bring great things to their pack. Clay in particular seemed to have an interesting road ahead of him. Few Lupes were born with the mark of Skysong Pack on their pelt...
Realizing that Leaf was talking to him, he pawed at his ear in a gesture of embarrassment and apology, “Sorry, my mind was elsewhere. What did you say, Leaf?”
The young Lupess grinned. “Perhaps we should head back. Dusk is fast approaching, and the pups will want their full moon story.”
Steel sighed, “I had forgotten. Would you believe that the youngsters asked for the chronicles of Strike and Shriek, of all things? That is a three part harmony, and I always get a sore throat doing it by myself.”
Clay smiled. “I could sing Kris’s part, if you like. I’m well versed in the story, as my mom used to sing it for me when I was still a pup.”
“I’ll do the female role,” Leaf offered. “I’ve always admired her part in the story.”
Steel smiled. If he was getting help, that would be a relief.
* * * * *
Steel glanced at the wide shining eyes of the pups. Upon learning that Clay and Leaf would be helping to tell the story, they had grown wildly excited. Harmonies were reserved for stories of epic proportion. Their excitement was well founded. The chronicles of Strike and Shriek were among the greatest of all the stories told by the Highrock pack. The Lupes in the story were legends in every sense of the word.
The iron grey Lupe gestured with his tail towards Leaf, indicating that she should begin the tale. Nodding, the young Lupess closed her eyes for a moment, and then tossed back her head, giving herself up to the music of the night...
The first memory she had was of fire. Flame, was roaring all around her. She and her twin brother were alone, separated from the pack.
Both of them still had their soft, pale blue puppy pelts. Neither of them was even remotely old enough to have left the safe confines of the den. However, in the infinitely trusting nature common to all pups, they had followed the stranger when he called them from the small patch of grass where they played. Their mother, distracted by the presence of her brother, had her back to them. When a voice had called to them from the bushes, they had come.
She had followed the stranger, a Lupe whose scent was different from those she was used to. His pelt was pure white, and one of his ears was flopped over in a way that was most endearing to the young Lupess. He led them farther then they had ever been into the forest, his eyes full of kindness and energy.
An acrid scent had filled the air, causing her to gag. She did not know this scent, so she had no reason to fear it. Yet, fear it she did. Some deep, powerful instinct screamed at her to flee for home. However, the adult did not seem bothered, and if the adult didn’t mind, it must be okay.
She and her brother had followed him until he stopped in a clearing. Suddenly, the scent sharpened as a fresh gust of wind blew it towards them. Her brother’s ears flattened, and he whined. The white Lupe ignored him, looking around as if waiting for something.
Then, he came. Her papa dashed into the clearing, his striped pelt bristling with fear and rage, his red bandana flapping in the wind. He said things to the stranger in an angry voice. The stranger replied in earnestly, but the words meant nothing to her at such a young age.
Papa was getting more and more angry. However, beneath the anger was something else. Fear. Suddenly, he launched himself at the stranger, snarling. The Lupess and her twin milled about, frightened and confused. Why was Papa being mean?
Then, one of the adults (she had never known which) cried out, making a sound that she would never forget. “FIRE! FIRE!”
Without knowing why, she and her brother ran. They ran and ran; fear giving them the strength to make a dash that should have been beyond their youthful legs. However, they were completely lost, and ran in the opposite direction from home. Then, they saw fire for the first time.
Now, they were trapped. A wall of flame was between them and home. At their backs was a huge gorge. They huddled together, hoping against hope that Papa or Mama would come and save them.
As if on cue, the white and pink striped pelt of their father appeared out of the blaze. Much of his fur was covered in soot, and his movements were unsteady, hesitant. Eyes glazed with pain from many burns, he lifted her brother in his jaws. Watching her brother swinging by his scruff, her father's pain-filled eyes bright with determination as he carried him, her heart soared. That was the moment she wanted to remember forever.
Not what happened next.
She followed her papa as he carried her brother along the cliff face. Suddenly, he stumbled. His weakened paws crumbled under him, and he fell sideways into the canyon, his teeth still clamped on her twin’s scruff.
She would have dashed after him, but strong fangs grabbed her scruff, yanking her up. Screeching and flailing like a wildcat, she tried to make her captor let go. Dimly she realized that it was the white furred stranger. The flood of soothing endorphins triggered by the scruff hold soon calmed her down, and she hung limp in his hold.
He took her home after the fire went out. Mama spoke to him, while covering her with licks. When he was done talking, Mama cried. The pup looked for her brother and her Papa for a while, but not for long. As young as she was, the knowledge that she even had a sibling or a father became dim, distant. She knew it subconsciously, but it wasn’t long before she almost entirely forgot. She grew into a strong young Lupess, shedding her baby pelt and growing thin, gossamer wings.
In this manner, eight years passed. The stranger became her pack’s leader in time, and she his most loyal subordinate.
To be continued...