Argentum’s Source – Chapter 14

  • 14a (Argentum’s Song – PG)

    Chapter Fourteen

    Runt’s rear leg was cramping from being frozen in place for so long but she refused to move. If the past day had taught her anything it was that stalking was the most important part of hunting. If you messed up your stalking you never even got the chance to strike. So, she continued to lay motionless behind the fungus covered log, hoping its rotting odour would mask her own. The freezing air forced her eyes to narrow into slits but they stayed glued to the hollow she had seen the rodent disappear into when she had startled it while ‘scouting’. Her thick hair could keep the temperature at bay well enough if she was moving or found shelter from a windbreak but, exposed as she was, she had to clench her fangs to keep them from chattering. Her prey had been waiting a long time, and if it wasn’t for the intensity of her hunger she would have already given up.

    Runt saw a nose twitching out from the shadows and started to salivate. However, the same anticipation of ripping the life out of the rodent that triggered that reflex, also caused her stomach to release a low quiet grumble.

    The nose ducked back into safety in a flash. Runt managed to stifle back a roar or rage and glanced at the sky to estimate how much longer she had left. Pack Leader would be expecting them back with their scout reports soon but she just needed a little longer. Her hunger just kept growing in intensity, breaking the limits of endurance over and over again.

    Finally the nose made its way out again. Runt held her attack until the whole brown and white striped body was visible and far enough away from safety that it wouldn’t make it back before her teeth had crushed its skull. Then she pounced.

    She slid on the frost covered ground and missed by a hair’s breadth. Recovering quickly she blocked it from returning to safety. The chase was on. It scurried across the frozen ground … and right into the maw of Foul Breath. He tossed it in the air and swallowed it in two bites. He turned a bloody grin toward Runt’s pained cry.

    “So that’s what’s been keeping you so long. You’re lucky it was so tasty, I’m less angry about being sent away to track you down. You’re also lucky that Gray One found the trail, Pack Leader is less likely to have you slaughtered for disobeying his orders.”

    Runt was so furious she almost threw herself at Foul Breath in vengeance despite being outweighed two to one. Then the implications of the second part of his message registered.

    “You mean -”

    “Yes, a hunt is on. There may even be enough for everyone to feast.”

    By the time Runt and Foul Breath had caught up with the others, she had seen enough of the trail they were following for disappointment and despair to return. The prey had clearly thought it was far enough away from danger to stop slinking and start running. This allowed even Runt to read it was the trail of a single human with no sign of livestock. The prospect of satisfying her hunger was falling quickly.

    Still she had no choice but to fall into place behind Sharp Teeth as the pack silently raced toward their quarry, eating up the lead it had gained. The trail was fresher than she had expected and soon she could scent him just ahead. Sharp Teeth nudged her further to the right of the trail while Foul Breath and Flee Bag disappeared into the brush on the other side. As Pack Leader and Gray One hung back slightly she realized they were creating a trap to encircle their prey once it came into view.

    Before that happened however, they heard the high pitched squeaking of a human conversing with another. Perhaps their quarry had met up with the other escapee after all? The pack slowed and spread out even more, Runt found herself on the outer side of the circle as the trap closed. By the time she had swung in to close off the rear, the rest must have already been in place and ready to strike.

    Runt could hardly believe her eyes. The human they had been chasing had met up with a small caravan of some type. Two new humans, a horse, a goat and a whole flock of birds were either on or leashed to a small open wagon. So much life just waiting to be destroyed!

     

  • 14b (Argentum’s Song – PG)

    Flea Bag let out a howl and one of the two humans on the cart stood up and drew a claw. It threw the other human onto the horse’s back and slashed the tether attaching it to the cart. Their cover blown, the rest of the hunters joined in the chorus as well. Before he leapt into the fray himself Sharp Teeth snarled at Runt.

    “Stay hidden and guard the path, take down any runaways.”

    The blood lust rose in her to the point that it all but drowned out her status lessons. However, she winced and checked her charge. So close to being able to partake in the death and destruction she yearned for, only to be shut down again.

    Pack Leader’s jaws grabbed the human they had been tracking by the head and threw him to the ground. Half his face was shredded and he lay unmoving in a growing pool of blood. Gray One charged the horse and caused it to rear, its rider clinging desperately to its harness. Flea Bag and Foul Breath were the first to the cart. Flea Bag bounded up, ripped through the wooden poles on the side of a cage and was lost from sight amid a flurry of feathers. Foul Breath on the other hand hamstrung the goat tied to the back and ripped out its throat.

    Then the armed human charged. Running the length of the cart, he swung his claw through the remnants of the chicken cage and along Flea Bag’s neck. Flea Bag’s scream of rage drowned in a gurgle as the human sawed his claw deep enough to sever the windpipe. This unexpected development caused the pack to falter and stare but only for a second. Then Foul Breath leaped and the human launched itself at him claw first. They collided in the air with such force that the human’s claw pushed through Foul Breath’s hide and deep into his chest, emerging from the other side red and sticky.

    “Unbelievable!”

    Pack Leader roared and leapt, his rear legs landing on the horses shoulder and then leaving tearing gashed as he launched himself again. He soared over the cart and directly onto the human who was struggling to remove his claw from Foul Breath’s bulk. Pack Leader flung his prey into the bushes, far away from its deadly claw, and bounded after it.

    Gray One barely managed to keep the spooked horse at bay, nipping at it every time it tried to take a step. Sharp Teeth stalked the rider from behind. It was total chaos, and Runt wasn’t allowed to participate, wasn’t even able to voice her frustration due to Sharp Teeth’s orders. It was almost worse than the hunger.

    Something moved in the chicken cage and Runt refocused her attention. A rooster pushed its way through the wreckage and leapt from the rear of the cart. Wings fluttering, it landed on the goat’s carcass and limped away from the ruckus behind it. Towards Runt. She was going to get to ambush a run away after all. She waited until it had covered half the distance, all of her attention on the helpless foul, then sprinted the remaining distance and took it’s head off with a snap. She swung her claws at the feathered body still attempting it’s escape and pinned the bloody mess to the ground. Grabbing it in her jaws, she shook it, breaking it’s spine.

    The next thing she knew she was rolling in the dirt and watching a cloud of dust disappearing down the trail. Sharp Teeth’s voice roared in her shredded ear.

    “You stupid Runt! You had to charge the bird and let the real feast get away!”

    Pack Leader emerged from the trees.

    “One got away?”

    “Just the horse that matters, I got a good piece of the rider first. He’ll come back once he’s turned. Runt just cost us a feast on horse flesh is all.”

    Pack Leader sniffed in disgust and turned toward the corpses of Foul Breath and Flee Bag.

    “Count yourself lucky Runt. If I didn’t have two other failures to satiate me, I’d be taking my feast out of your hide.”

    Pack Leader eyes wandered to the bushes he had just exited.

    “I’d be more angry if I didn’t expect my new Thrall to more then make up for their loss.”

    Runt felt her pulse quicken as Pack Leader ripped up pieces of Foul Breath and swallowed them. Gray One and Sharp Teeth cackled and joined him at the feast. Runt didn’t dare approach but she did slink to the side of the road and bolt down the remains of her rooster. Bottom of the pack was at least better then dead.

    She kept to the outskirts until their gorging had ended, her belly making it clear the rooster had not nearly been enough.

    “Runt, stay here. Bring the new pack members to the hibernating grounds after they wake.”

    Runt yipped an affirmative and dashed in to gnaw whatever she could off of the carcasses the others had left behind.

Argentum’s Source – Chapter 15