As the only survivor, fear drove me to make the long journey to safety.
Settled in the new place I had lost that fear of attack. It was peaceful here. The cubs wrestled safely in the small clearing by the den. August had returned with breakfast. He’d left early. His space outside was empty when I’d checked before the dawn. They licked around his mouth encouraging regurgitation. There was a furore of feeding as they attempted to conquer too large lumps of fur and fresh meat. My heart warmed at the determined but not savage swing of his snout to separate them when it was becoming more ferocious than necessary.
Shards of the morning sunlight struck between the trees warming the cool earth of the late spring. I wandered down to the pool. The soft warm soil was a comfort to my front paw. The injury from the long trek here was slow to heal. Refreshed I sauntered back enjoying the space and sounds of the woods.
I had barely returned to the den when they, having finished their food, scrambled back in after me, pestering to suckle. Habit, but suckling days were over. I was dry now. They bunched and bumped behind and around me as I returned to the pool with them. Fed and watered they rolled and tumbled back bursting with energy before flaking into a sleepy bundle in the back of den.
August lay resting in his usual position, out of the shadow of the trees, gaining the optimum benefit from the sun. Disturbing him, I nuzzled him, tasted him, licking the remnants of breakfast that his tongue had been unable to reach. I stretched and his head moved under me his nose snuffling my belly. He settled back down and closed his eyes again. I left him to his sleep.
A spear of heat pierced my neck as I reached the entrance to the den. A taste of iron flooded my mouth as my throat burned. My head was swimming. I crumpled gaining stability from being on the ground. The cubs flustered around me. The warmth was draining from my body. I could feel the innocents taking advantage of my weakness tugging at my withered teats.
Drawn up, a bloodied image lay below, a wreath of red around my neck, seeping further down my body staining my grey fur. The cubs oblivious continued to shuffle around. The desire to care pulled me back down. In those moments I looked across the clearing.
Yes, a movement in the nearest trees, a silent signal, just enough to let me know he was still there. I saw his head, his pained eyes glistened gazing into mine. Turning away, he stretched his head back a silhouette against the sun. The piercing sound of his howling pain at this injustice brought an unendurable tearing in my heart. I fought to stay awake as I watched August’s final backward glance before he disappeared forever into the deeper wood.
Motivated by the story of Naja the first wolf to be sighted in Belguim for over one hundred years.