Cyrus battles to save his pack from destruction.


Cyrus sat alone atop the ridge which ran through the middle of his packs territory.  Fifty kilos of bone and raw muscle; he was old and weary. His coarse grey fur flecked with snow-white strands, kept him warm from the chill winter winds.  He had been the alpha male for ten years. In the last two months he had faced three challenges to his leadership. The result had been costly to the pack. Two rivals had been injured and for a moon they had been unable to hunt. The third had resulted in a death and injuries to him; a long cut along his flanks and a torn ear. He knew he did not have the strength to survive many more such encounters.

 

His one good ear pricked up with the sound of someone approaching. From his vantage point he could make out the distinctive colouring of his mate. Her coat was pure black and shimmered silver in the morning light. She manoeuvred through the twisted trees and climbed around the scattered granite boulders and settled next to him. They lay in silence. The sounds of the forest flowed over them, as the rays of the sun warmed them. It was Saskia who broke the stillness.

“You're not to blame Cyrus. It wasn't in Shen’s nature to admit defeat. Courage and obstinacy run in your line.”

She moved closer and began to lick the blood from his ear. He leaned into her and squirmed with both enjoyment and pain at her gentle ministrations.

Cyrus looked up at her.

“Shen had no choice. He recognized I am slowing and my decisions are becoming more cautious. He did right to challenge me. I will never relinquish leadership of the pack. A new leader should rise victorious over the old for the pack to have confidence in him.”

 

Cyrus tensed and pulled away from Saskia. Something was wrong. He had picked up sounds of movement below and the shadowy outline of something moving. It was a white wolf; battle-scarred and as large as he. It moved in a sinuous manner through the dappled light reflected through the trees.  Saskia also sighted the interloper. She raised her muzzle to the skies and let out a long sustained howl. Unseen others joined her chorus from scattered points of the compass. The white wolf froze. Surrounded, he assumed a relaxed position and waited.

 

Cyrus and Saskia negotiated the path to the forest floor to greet their “guest.” Cyrus drew close to the invader and their gazes locked. As alpha, it was his responsibility to speak for the pack. From the surrounding trees, ghostly shapes emerged and drifted in until the pack encircled them. Low growls emanated from the watchers. The white wolf showed little concern.

“Welcome. What brings you to our territory?”

Disregarding the others, the white wolf concentrated on Cyrus.

“My name is Tyree. I come from Baltazar”

The forest noises still suddenly and the sun loses its warmth. It is a name spoken only in whispers. A name used to terrify cubs and make all wary of shadows. It was the name of a conqueror; a destroyer.

“My Lord Baltazar has decided to honour you with his protection.”

Cyrus’s mind processed the words that the white wolf had spoken. There had been many rumours of late. Troubled words whispered on the winds as it whistled through the trees; stories of territories which had been overrun and control of the packs falling to Baltazar.  He was forging an empire of thousands of wolves and many hundreds of square kilometres of land. If this was true, his pack would become, but a memory. His peripheral vision showed the shocked expressions exhibited by the rest of the pack. They bared their fangs at this harbinger of threats and destruction to their way of life.

“Why has your master decided to turn his face in our direction?”

“Yours is the last free clan this side of the mountain. Ren to the north and Filip to the south have both capitulated. Otis to the east and his followers said no. They are no more.”

Tyree’s voice was flat and unemotional.

“So our choices are few. We either live under his command, or die!”

Tyree answered with a simple, “yes”. So much meaning packed into one word.

Cyrus sat on his haunches and thought; his gaze never left Tyree. He must not let this happen. His pack must survive, no matter what the cost. What alternatives did he have?

 

“How long do I have to think about your kind offer?”

“Till the sun rises high and casts no shadow.”

“What is to stop us from tearing you apart and scattering your body to the four corners of our territory as a warning?

Tyree did not flinch at this threat. The sides of his mouth turned up into a lazy grin. He drew himself up and let loose a howl that reverberated and echoed through the trees for kilometres. It reached a crescendo and stopped. There was silence. An answering howl gave voice in the distance. Then another…and another…and another, till the forest was alive with the sound – then there was silence once more.

He realized Tyree would make good his threat if they did not capitulate.

Cyrus closed his eyes. He was tired beyond belief.

“Is your master an honourable wolf? Does his word hold true?”

“Yes and yes.” Tyree looked hard at Cyrus. He put his head to one side, trying to work out where this conversation was going.

“Then, I challenge Baltazar for leadership of this pack.”

All eyes swung to Cyrus and then back once more to Tyree. Tyree looked amused.

“Baltazar will not fight you. I am his champion, so I will fight if we must. If I win, your clan will bow before Baltazar. If you win, your clan will be free wolves. Untouched and free to live life as you will within your territory. Do you accept these conditions?”

“I accept your terms. Go now and tell your companions on what has transpired here. When you lose, will they honour the terms we have agreed upon?”

A chuckle escaped Tyree's throat and he grinned.

“They will.”

“Then go now. On your return we will settle.”

Tyree stood up. With a salute of his tail, he headed back the way he had come. Cyrus watched until he disappeared. He turned to Saskia. From the drop of her tail and the down-turn of her ears, he could sense the sadness within her. The others from the pack closed around him pressing close; offering comfort and strength to their leader. They knew the odds did not favour Cyrus.

 

Time passed.

 

Cyrus sat at the front of his pack. He appeared relaxed. The others had taken station behind him; outwardly showing every confidence in their leader. Tyree walked into the clearing followed by two huge black wolves. He gave a rumble deep in his throat and his companions stopped. He moved confidently, to stand before Cyrus.

“It doesn't have to be this way. You can instruct your clan to surrender to Baltazar. They will not be ill-treated in any way.”

“No. It is their only chance of living free. Are you sure your master will honour of what we spoke?”

“Yes. I have brought two of my commanders to witness the outcome. Win or lose, what transpires here will be respected.”

 “So let us begin,” growls Cyrus.

 

With no other warning, he flings himself at the white wolf. Tyree avoids the first rush and counters with a quick snap of jaws on Cyrus’s leg. Spinning, Cyrus manages to rip it free, but first blood goes to Tyree. They face each other. Ferocity, clearly etched on their faces; neither giving ground to the other. Guttural rumbles and growls thunder from their throats, as they charge and meet in mid-air. Claws slash, and jaws clash. Cyrus stumbles and falls on his side. Tyree follows, trying to pin the struggling older wolf to the ground. A veteran of many fights, he manages to roll away from the younger, battle hardened wolf. They stand and face each other once more. Their hearts race as they struggle to draw breath. Again and again they launch themselves forward; each trying to achieve dominance and victory by clamping jaws about their opponent's throat. They separate. Tyree is bleeding from a rip across one eye. Cyrus has fared no better. Blood flows from multiple minor scratches and his damaged leg now has rivulets of blood coursing to the ground. He knows he cannot continue the fight much longer. He staggers and his leg collapses beneath him. Tyree sees his chance and rushes in to finish him; just as the old wolf had planned. With a sinuous contortion of his body and exquisite timing learned from many battles, over many years, Cyrus rolls under the others attack and comes up behind him. He catches hold of Tyree’s throat and squeezes with every ounce of energy he has left. Heaving and tossing, Tyree struggles to break the hold. Cyrus’ jaws clamp tighter. He will not let go. He will not let his pack be destroyed. The white wolfs strength slowly fades, until a low whimper of submission slips from his throat. Cyrus releases him and limps back to his pack who rush to surround him; nuzzling and licking his wounds.

 

The two black wolves stand over Tyree as he rises. His voice is low and strained, as he struggles to speak.

“Well fought old wolf. Your packs destiny is not tied to Baltazar. This territory is yours to control with no interference.”

Cyrus labours to get his own words out. “Are you sure Baltazar will honour the outcome?”

A wry grin spreads across the face of the white wolf.

“I know this for certain; for I am Baltazar.”

With that, he and his lieutenants turn and move off through the trees; never to be seen again.

 

Cyrus lived for a further two years and led his pack well. Baltazar continued to expand his domain, but he kept his word to Cyrus. Baltazar’s fate is another story.


Submitted: February 04, 2018

© Copyright 2022 Shawlyn. All rights reserved.

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Comments

hullabaloo22

I was a bit apprehensive about reading this as I love wolves but hate the fighting....anyway, you handled it brilliantly. Lots of description and loads of action, but you did not turn it into a total gore-fest. Good job!

Sun, February 4th, 2018 8:16pm

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Reply

Hi Hullabaloo,
Thanks for your comments. Always good to hear from you. Regards and best wishes.

Sun, February 4th, 2018 12:29pm

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