The Winds of Change
High over Middle Earth the sun was just starting its slow descent into
a wall of billowing clouds building on the far horizon. An
erratic breeze carried the lingering bite of winter through woods and
around hills. As it ruffled the fur of a pack of slinking beasts
it also carried, unknown and unbidden, the scent of a man it had
recently visited to the most massive and powerfully built of the
vermin. He lifted his snout, sniffed, and was pleased. The
hated prey was almost his.
Karg led the pack on, silent shadows among the tree trunks, until the
inferior snouts of the lesser beasts he commanded also finally started
to quiver with the first teasing whiffs of the man scent. First
the old, grey Ancient One, then his mate and the yellow, grey
Youngling. By the time Karg had stripped the breeze of every bit
of information about his prey, the entire pack was in its elusive
grasp. He would no longer need to harry them, his prey was now
His nose in the breeze, Karg lead the pack in long, loping
strides. Soon they would feast on meat that his master would
approve of. The common pack wolves had followed Karg north, far
from their familiar hunting grounds, greedy for the promised wealth of
prey. As they penetrated further and further north Karg had
permitted them fewer and fewer four legged prey. Until, since the
last full moon, they were completely denied their preferred prey and
were forced to hunt only the strange, almost hairless, two legged
creatures that often carried bright, biting, shafts and flung piercing
lengths of wood that brought pain and death. And their flesh was
far from the succulent, tasty meat of a wild boar or a young red deer.
However, their leader was not a common wolf and he had been commanded
north to kill as many two legged varmint; Men, Dwarves and Elves, as he
could in that far corner of his master’s realm. To that end he
ruthlessly kept his pack on the raw edge of hunger. The sixteen
common wolves remaining had learned their bitter lesson well. The
few unlucky ones Karg caught with any other manner of kill he tore to
shreds. The survivors learned; they would eat two legged varmint
or they would starve to death. It had been more sunsets then they
could count since their last meal but the teasing breeze had brought
them salvation; man flesh was almost theirs.
Their paws making no noise on the spongy forest floor, the wolves
tracked their prey at a ground eating lope. When the man scent
became so strong it filled his nose Karg brought them to a halt.
He knew his prey was just ahead, around the bend of a small hill and,
based on the water smells mingling with the man scent, probably across
the small stream that ran toward light birth. With a low growl he
sent Ancient One and Half Ear to circle the man. He kept the rest
of the pack at bay, slinking slowly around the hill so their attack
would coincide with that of his two scouts.
Suddenly he paused and thrust his snout into the air. What was
that? Was he mistaken? Did he actually smell – there it was
again! Elf! Somewhere toward light eater was an Elf!
He turned, giving a short bark that he knew would carry to Ancient One
and Half Ear, commanding them to attack. If they survived they
could join the pack later, well fed after riding his master of one more
of the enemy. If not, then they were worthless and he was well
rid of them.
Growled for the rest of the pack to follow him. They
hesitated. To a beast they understood not to obey was death, but
they were almost crazed with hunger. Two legged meat was there,
just for the taking, and now Karg would deny them. There was
sudden movement as a yellow, grey shape dashed toward the stream.
Youngling, desperate for something to fill the hollow in his middle,
could not turn his back on prey that was almost in sight. He
gathered his hind quarters to leap the stream bank. But Karg was
Youngling, teeth bared, whipped his head around to tear at his
attacker. Before his teeth could find their mark, blistering pain
erupted along his back and he heard a loud crack. As he and his
attacker slid and thrashed down the bank to the stream edge. Youngling,
through the blinding, searing pain, realized his body was not obeying
him. He thought stand, but was still laying sprawled on the rocks
by the stream. Before his brain could sort through the pain to
focus on this new mystery he felt his throat being ripped and knew he
had become Karg’s newest victim.
With the sound of whimpering fading into a faint gurgling in his ears, blackness descended and Youngling knew no more.
Blood dripping from his bared fangs, Karg bounded up the stream bank
and, with a low growl, started for the closest wolf. One by one
each pitiful animal cowered and bared throats to their ruthless
leader. Karg snapped his teeth, gave one last growl and lead the
now willing pack on their new hunt.
Elf! Master will be pleased!