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Since the beginning of time, wolves have ruled the forests with grace and fairness.

Eventually, we shared this power with all the other woodland creatures and instead,
turned to see to our own needs. We hunted together, cared for our young, taught the
younger ones, and helped each other survive. And we weren’t just the normal wolves –
we were at least two times larger than the others and we don’t know why. Legends hint
that our ancestors may have come from a far away land where animals could talk and
were larger than the voiceless ones.
And for as long as I could remember, we traded with Man. Man came into the forests
one dark night, in search of help protection. He was frightening, glistening with the
shining water that was his armor and the rough textures of his patched fur. The woodland
creatures shied away from this horrible sight of a creature. But we, the wolves, found
him, and took him in. We hunted his food for him and we cared for him, defending him
from the other larger creatures that would have him dead, just because they feared him.
When he recovered, he left.
But every once in a while in our history, he would return. Once again, we
traditionally hunted food for him. He took the skins and the furs of the creatures we had
slain for his food and explained that the fur was more valuable than the meat. He
encouraged us to eat our own hard-earned meal and in return for the fur, he healed our
young with his strange medicines and made them stronger so that they may live to see
their own young.
And then he would leave again, to come back another time.
And here is where my story begins. We shall start, at the very, very beginning.
“Man! Man! Man in the woods!” a young nameless pup yelled excitedly, scampering up
the rocks and leaping without hesitation over fallen logs and treacherous branches. He
fell once but then scrambled back onto his feet again without hesitation and scrambled on
again. He leaped over another log and stumbled, crashing headfirst into the back of his
father who had been napping in the relentless heat of the sun that shone through the
branches of the trees above.
The wolf, named Luka, turned a lazy eye to his pup who panted excitedly into his
face, his tail swinging and swishing back and forth quickly in excitement. The pup was
almost a yearling now, though his fur was a little shorter still than an adult wolf’s, but it
just meant that he was growing quickly. “What is it?” he rumbled at the pup, putting his
head back down and closing his eye to sleep again.
The pup pounced on his father’s head and the older wolf instinctively lunged up with
a snarl to attack. The pup bounced away quickly with a happy grin as he saw that he had
gotten his father’s attention. “Man in the woods!” he cried, barely able to stand still.
Almost as if to put him out of his misery, his father swiped a huge paw at him,
knocking the pup head over tail. The pup rolled onto his back after he stopped tumbling
around and looked at his father who was a few feet away. The older wolf wasn’t looking
at him; instead, he was waking up the other members of their pack.
The other pups scampered over to the first one and curled up around him. The pup
looked around at his brothers and sisters, reaching out and licking the ear of his twin
sister who had been named Little Red for the reddish gleam in her fur but was just called
Red for short. She smiled at him. The pup himself was still unnamed because
traditionally, names were chosen for when a pup did something to make him- or herself
more obvious to the rest of the pack. Red had beautiful fur and therefore had been named
for it. Even though the Name Day, the day when that year’s pups would be given their
names, hadn’t come yet, there was no doubt that Red would be called Red so they just
called her that.
“Maybe they should call you Scout,” she told her brother, reaching over with a paw to
smack at his ear. He tackled his sister and with a giggle, the two pups wrestled with each
other until their other siblings joined in with the tussle. The thing about twins in packs of
wolves like this was that they could know what the other was thinking at the time. It was
a special and magical bond, probably the only magic left over from their ancestors of
long ago.
Then they were separated by a cross-looking Luka. “This is no time for play, little
ones,” he told them gently as the youngest pup began to cry. Luka gave the crying pup a
little lick and the pup stopped crying. He picked the pup up by the scruff of his neck and
walked off, calling over his shoulder, “Come, we must be gone by the time they come.”
“Why?” the young pup called at his father. He sped on ahead, Red at his heels.
“Be quiet, and I will explain later,” his father told him quietly. The rest of the pack
surrounded the pups in a protective circle as they began to move through the forest.
Parents nudged their pups to join the jostle of pups already at the center. “Come, we must
hurry.”
After a long moment of silence, the young pup squeezed out of the circle and fell in
step with his father, often having to run to keep up with his father’s long strides. “What’s
going on, father? Why aren’t we greeting the Man like we do every year?” he asked him.
Luka turned to look at his son for a moment. The pup was old enough to know and
understand. Besides, Luka himself was becoming old. He would soon have to give up his
position to a younger and more agile wolf who could lead the pack again with the
strength that he had when he was young. This pup could be it – the one who would be the
one to take his place. He was strong, that was sure, and he had enough energy that could
be put to better use taking care of the pack and other matters than running around the
forest all day.
“There was a rumor, from a crow that saw with his own eyes that man had changed
since the last time we have seen them,” he said hesitantly. Looking down into the pup’s
attentive blue gaze, he pushed on. “The crow saw the Men taking animals, hunting for
them on their own, and taking their fur for themselves. Some of these men made clothes
out of the hides that they had stripped off of the animals.”
“But the wolves are safe,” the pup insisted, his tail slowing down to a slow swinging
motion. “The Man visits us every year and helps the pups in return for us giving him the
fur when we eat instead of the meat.”
Luka gently shook his head, the pup in his mouth swinging a little. He set the pup
down as he slowed and then stopped and the pup joined the others in the center of the
group. The rest of the pack flowed around them and soon, disappeared into the darkness
and safety of the forest. Luka and his son were left alone. Even Red had followed the
pack – knowing that this business was not hers to listen to.
“Times are changing, little one,” his father said softly, looking up at the trees that
swayed gently with the wind. “Man wasn’t what he once was. It’s time that we realize
that Man cannot be our friend – he was only our ally for as long as it lasted.”
The pup wasn’t sure he had heard his father right. It took him a moment to digest
what his father had just said. “Father, what do you mean by that?” he asked him.
Luka sighed. “Son, what the crow had seen was that Men were killing all types of
animals, not just the grass-eaters but the hunters as well. Bears, wolves, fox, and the
others all were killed and slaughtered – all for their fur,” he said, his eyes closed with
pain. Luka, in his old age, could feel more pain in his heart as he was able to see with
experienced eyes how everything was changing around them. This was one pain that he
wished to end. “They have brought with them beasts of great power with the body of the
dear, the strength of a bear, and hooves of deer. They ride these creatures across the land,
hunting down every woodland creature they see. All the wolves have gone – we must be
the last to remain. Do you understand, Conell?”
The pup blinked at the last word. “‘Conell’?” he asked.
His father smiled. “It means strength. I name you this in hopes that you will be a
strong leader for our pack,” he explained. The pup nodded his head once in reply to his
father’s question. “Good, now we must catch up before –”
There was a sound like rolling thunder and the two wolves looked back to see the
creatures that Luka had just described – the demon creatures with hooves like rocks. With
a yip of fear, Conell ran, followed closely by Luka. “It’s too late now,” Luka panted. “We
can’t lead them to the pack. Come.”
Luka led his son through the woods, followed by the demon animals and the Men
riding them. They ran as fast as they could through the forest, zigzagging behind trees,
even trying to lose them but the creatures kept up.
Suddenly, Conell skidded to a stop at the edge of a large and deep ravine that cut the
forest in half. Luka stopped just in time and the two wolves whirled around to face the
Men and their creatures. They were trapped.
Luka stood up straight and proudly as the men dismounted from their creatures.
Conell attempted to imitate his father’s stance, though he didn’t feel the same kind of
courage that his father did. “Why have you invaded our woods when we have given you
what you want every time you visit?” Luka demanded. Conell was too frozen with fear to
speak.
“It’s one of them larger breeds – the magical ones,” one of the Men said to another.
“Answer me!” Luka demanded.
“What’s he yapping about?” another Man said.
“Father, I don’t think that he understands you any more,” Conell whispered, turning
to look at his father.
Luka snarled, a large rumbling sound bursting out of his chest. His ears were flat
against his skull and he bared his teeth at the men. “If they have lost the ability to
understand animals, it means only one thing – they are murderers,” he snarled.
The demon creatures, to Conell’s surprise, and even Luka’s, grew a little restless at
the sound of Luka’s snarl. Father and son looked at one another and without even talking,
they had the same plan in their minds. Together, they advanced on the Men and their
creatures, snarling and barking at them. The creatures’ eyes rolled in fear and some of
them even reared up.
“Down,” the Men cried desperately, trying to calm down their mounts.
Then the two wolves lunged at the nearest creature.
It was too much for the creature to handle and it broke out of one of the Men’s hold
and ran away, quickly followed by the others. Without their creatures to help them,
Conell thought that the Men looked weak and cowardly as they began to back away from
the two wolves. “Murderers,” Luka snarled. “You shall pay for the murder of our kin!”
“Stop!” a voice cried. Both sides looked up to see a young Man appearing off to the
side from the woods. Luka’s pack surrounded the young Man.
“He’s here to help,” Conell’s mother assured her mate and her son.
“They won’t listen to reason,” Luka snarled.
The young Man stepped forward, a staff in his hand. “Yes they will, if they listen to
me,” he told Luka.
“You still understand us?” Luka said with surprise.
The young Man nodded. “Not too long ago, we discovered some of the Old Magic
and how it works. Part of the Old Magic was being able to understand the creatures
around us and being able to communicate with them. It turns out that everyone has the
Old Magic, but depending on their actions, they can lose their ability to understand, just
like these Men have,” the young Man explained. He nodded at the other Men who was
watching the exchange with some curiosity. “There is a law in our kingdom to protect the
wolves of his forest, because one of the packs here saved our king a long time ago and
any who violates this law will be severely punished. I have been sent by a descendant of
this king who still wishes to keep these laws of his forefathers intact.”
Luka hesitated a little, but then he stepped back as the young Man turned to the
humans. There was some exchange of words and a few voices were raised but eventually,
the hunters left. “Thank you, but this still doesn’t bring back our kin from the dead,”
Luka said with a sigh.
The young Man grinned. “I know, but soon, you will have new kin to care for and to
love again,” he told the old wolf, indicating with a nod of his head the puppies belonging
to the pack. “Now, the king couldn’t make his visit this year so he sent me in his place. I
don’t want any skins or furs because I have no use for them myself but I have brought
medicines from the king to help heal your young and prevent any illness from taking
place.”

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