Farewell to a friend

                                        By Scott  (c) 2002



Mistwalker sneezed to clear his nose; the smells of the holt were becoming overbearing.  The burnt flesh smell of the Plainsrunners’ cooking mingled with the sweetly rotten scent of the sickness that had overtaken so many.  He shuddered at the thought that the wind would shift again and carry with it the aroma of the no-hump pens.

“I need some fresher air,” he said to the large grey wolf beside him.  Darkcloud looked up and whuffed – he always enjoyed going outside the holt.  Gathering his spear and a fur cloak, Mistwalker made his way from his den to where Fernglade was. 

“I’m going for a quick ride, beloved.  I’ll be back before the sun rises.”  He gave his lifemate a kiss and held her in his arms a moment before mounting his wolf.

**Be careful, Trae.  The snows could return.**  Fernglade lock-sent as he started to ride away.  The concern in her mind voice made him stop and turn to look back at her and he felt his breath catch in his chest; he would never get over how truly beautiful she was.

**I’ll return , Tyr.  I’m just going over the rise.**  He smiled at her and continued on. 

Clouds gathered overhead, obscuring the moons as Mistwalker and Darkcloud drifted silently through the trees.  The hunter huddled into his cloak as the snow started to gently fall.  Suddenly there was a creak from above as a branch, overloaded with snow, turned downwards depositing all the snow on it down onto them both.  Mistwalker was knocked from Darkcloud’s back and rose, sputtering, from under the heavy snow.  Darkcloud was shaking ice crystals from his back and looked at Mistwalker, laughter in his eyes.  Mistwalker threw a handful of snow at the wolf, prompting Darkcloud the lunge and pin Mistwalker under his paws. 

“Get off me, you overgrown cub!” Mistwalker laughed, pushing at the grey snout and lolling tongue that licked at his face.  Suddenly the wolf stopped and lifted its head, testing the breeze before bounding off.  Mistwalker sat up, puzzled, then he caught the faint scent of a fresh kill.  Brushing the snow from him, he picked up his spear and followed after his bond.  He hadn’t gotten very far when a howling scream froze his blood.  He knew that sound – it was the sound of a wolf when something was broken.  He ran through the snow, following the gouges where darkcloud had gone through the knee-high whiteness, and stopped as he came to a clearing.  Sounds of whimpering came from a hole in the ground and instantly he knew what had happened.

Human hunters had been here and had laid a trap, most likely using a dead ravvit as bait.  But he hadn’t known there were humans here.  Was their hunting that bad that they came this deep into the woods?  Cautiously he headed for the pit, knowing the humans were probably near and also heard Darkcloud’s agonizing cry.  He looked down into the pit and saw his wolf curled at the bottom, his left hind leg twisted at an unnatural angle.  The wolf looked up at him, pain in his eyes. 

Mistwalker could feel tears in his own eyes as he quickly pulled off his shirt to shred it and create a harness.  He had to get Darkcloud out before the humans came; Mistwalker knew what happened to wolves caught in human traps.

Shivering as snow landed and melted on his shoulders and back, Mistwalker jumped down into the pit and tried to tie the improvised leather rope around hid bond’s shoulders when his ears caught a sound he’d hoped he wouldn’t hear for a while.  Heavy footfalls coming through the snow announcing the humans were coming.  He looked up and saw the edges of the pit were beginning to lighten as the sun rose.  There was no time.

Kneeling down in front of the wolf, Mistwalker threw his arms around Darkcloud’s neck.  One hand continued to stroke the spot between the wolf’s ears as the other reached for the bone knife on Mistwalker’s belt.  Slowly he drew the knife and felt for the soft spot at the base of his wolf’s skull.  Tears welled up and left frozen tracks on his cheeks.  Closing his eyes, he placed his head against Darkcloud’s.  He could hear the light whine and the thump of his friend’s tail.  *How do I tell Sunrise?* he thought as he drove the knife home.  Blood spurted hot and sticky over his hand as Darkcloud gave a convulsive yelp, the grey wolf’s jaws snapping in pain tearing a ragged patch from Mistwalker’s chest.  The blood from both mingled and pooled on Mistwalker’s legs.  Silently he said goodbye.

A shadow tore through the meager light that came down into the pit, followed by sounds of surprise in the gutteral language of the humans.  Snarling, covered in blood, Mistwalker pulled himself out from under his dead friend and made to jump from the pit, slashing about him with the knife as he tried to reach where he’d left his spear. 

The humans were only momentarily surprised but recovered quickly.  It didn’t take long before they overpowered the lone elf and ceased his struggling with a hard crack to the back of Mistwalker’s head.  Just before the darkness overtook him, Mistwalker sent out as loud as he could.