Leader of the Pack

by Sevilodorf

The shifting wind brought the scent of hot blood, awakening the pack's hunger. Yellow eyes fastened upon the gaunt form of their leader. None would move without his signal.

Long, the old one stood, reading the air. Blood had been spilt aplenty: the thick black ichor of orcs, and the sweeter tasting blood of those who carried the long metal teeth. There would be enough for all to feed well.

Mixed with the enticing aroma of blood was the acrid odor of burning bone. Some of the Long Teeth yet lived. Nose curled to show his distaste of the fumes, the old one surveyed the pack. Winter thin, their loyalty depended upon his ability to keep them fed.

His jaws closed, and he leaped away with the pack at his heels. As smoke, they drifted amongst the boulders of the gorge. The Long Teeth were fearsome enemies and must be approached with care, no matter the possible reward.

Crouched amidst the stumps of mutilated trees, the pack watched as crows and other scavenging birds perched upon the bodies of the dead and feasted upon the choicest morsels. The banquet spread before them would provide enough to satisfy the hunger of hundreds; so for once, the feathered ones were not begrudged their small portions.

With such abundance, the old one could afford to be magnanimous. Signaling to the pack, he indicated they were to proceed to the feast before him. One by one, each made homage to the leader, then slipped out of the shadows to gorge.

Eyes ever upon those of the Long Teeth who moved heavily across the field gathering the bodies of their kind, the old one felt the ache of his ancient wounds. Between his folk and the Long Teeth, there could be no peace, though the orcs were now enemy to them both.

Many winters ago, so the cubs were told under the light of the full moon, orcs and Wild Wargs had fought side by side against the Long Teeth. But the orcs, always wanting to rule the will of others, had tried to command the loyalty of the pack and taken many of their folk captive to become slaves of their Goblin King: slaves that were bred in strange ways and had no power to think for themselves.

Sniffing at the carcass of one of these slaves, the old one stifled the urge to howl his sorrow at what had been done to his people. Reduced by their enemies to scattered groups that fed more often on carrion than on proper meat, his people were a pale shadow of what they had once been.

Nonetheless, slowly their numbers were growing. Cubs would fill many dens this spring. Cubs the pack would protect with tooth and claw from both the Long Teeth and the orcs. They would be mighty once again.

But that time had not yet come to pass, and caution was still necessary.

With a sharp yip, he gave the signal for the pack to reform. Silently, they passed through desolation wrought by the axes of the orcs and into the shadows of the forest. His jaws opened in a wide grin as he noted the scattered remains of orcs and their weapons. These strange new trees had no more love for the orcs than his people or the Long Teeth.