Episode 3: Hunter Becomes the Hunted
Noshee survived his first attack.
When he committed to his passion of studying wolf packs, he’d never imagined he’d actually go out into the field. Studying them from afar was just fine. But the senior researcher at Noshee’s home province, Destiny, ordered him to go.
Graywolf’s territory was the largest of all wolf packs in the northern province of Genai, a five-day flight over the Black Gulf from Destiny. When Noshee arrived, several of Genai’s scholars assisted him in his research, to find out why Graywolf had been hunting Hartons. Wolves had plenty of prey on the forest floor. Hartons, with their ability to fly, naturally lived in the forest canopy.
But Graywolf’s appetite for Harton flesh became known when several herb cultivators had come down for fresh soil. It was then when the first attacks on Hartons were reported.
The grim details were brought to life when Noshee and half a dozen scholars descended to the floor. Immediately, they were surrounded. The air became thick with wolf breath. A couple of Harton scholars fell prone to it, a sort of drunken stupor. A wolf came out and captured their attention. A scholar disappeared. Another wolf, female, came out. Another scholar vanished. In the end some were eaten. Others were killed for its own purpose.
But Noshee didn’t understand something. There was a sense of anger or rage within the pack’s attacks. Why? Wolves were familial animals. They hunted only for food, never for sport. And they didn’t mind Hartons taking some soil up to the canopy because they’ve been doing it for thousands of generations. What turned them, specifically Graywolf?
Noshee ruffled his wings. Any lingering pain seemed to have left. He’d get the holes in his wings’ membrane stitched later. The shallow holes in Noshee’s chest left by Graywolf himself still bled. Noshee kneed down, sunk his claws into the ground, and dug up a handful of cold, moist soil. He packed the soil into each of the holes, a temporary fix. Finding out what the howl was that saved Noshee’s life was imperative.
He bent his legs, lifted his wings, and felt his webbing bound down then upward. Noshee flapped hard, tearing through the calm air, and made his way up. Picking up the scent of Graywolf’s pack, Noshee beat his wings faster. He tied his long, dirty blonde hair into a plait. Giant trees flew passed.
Through the air blaring passed his ears, Noshee heard some commotion. Deciding to fly above the reach of the wolves’ jumping range, Noshee saw, in the distance, a group of them huddled around a small spot.
“What’s going on?” Noshee said.
As he got closer, Noshee stiffened his wings and glided past a few more of the massive trees. He lowered his feet, and hooked his talons on the hard bark. He secured himself and folded his wings tight. He climbed around the trunk, onto a branch that overlooked the pack.
Graywolf’s eyes dashed from wolf to wolf. He sniffed and growled and stalked around a small spot on the ground. Fresh red splotches of blood resulting from a struggle marked the dead foliage on the ground. Tuffs of light brown fur floated in the sunlight, a cub. Small wads of it littered ground.
Noshee’s chest felt warm. He looked down and saw that his wounds began to bleed again.
Behind him, a few branches seemed to rustle. Noshee peered behind and saw a few Hartons in purple silks flying, clambering their way through the canopy above. He couldn’t tell, but they seemed to be carrying something wrapped in black silks.
Choose your poison: Should Noshee tend to his bleeding wounds or go after those flying in the forest canopy?
100% of the readers chose to chase after those flying into the canopy.