The Two Leg Brother by Newton Webb
The shiny two-legs pursued him through the thick woods. They had murdered his pack’s two-leg master. Greyhair was the only survivor. He had barely escaped with his life, and now even that was dwindling. Pain blossomed through Greyhair’s thigh as he limped as fast as he could through the foliage. Head down, he crashed through the bushes. In the ambush earlier, one of the two-legs had bitten him with their hateful sticks.
Time was running out.
He could smell his own blood as it dripped across fallen leaves. Thorns tore at his fur, and branches snapped in a trail even a pup could follow.
Entering an oaken glade, he made a decision. Exhausted and getting weaker, Greyhair turned to face his pursuers. The sun was unusually bright as he made his last stand. Snarling and snapping at them, he prowled as they circled him. They reeked of confidence, the stench of anticipation filling the air. In their paws, they wielded long bright-fangs that jabbed towards him. Whenever he jumped away from one of the shiny two-legs, another would bite him from behind.
Greyhair’s legs were failing him now, weariness coating him like hoarfrost. It wouldn’t be long now until he joined his pack as corpse meat.
As they strode so assuredly into the circle he picked one of them: the alpha. Greyhair was sure he could get a good bite, taste his life ebbing away before they took him down.
Greyhair pawed the ground, ready for one final leap when the alpha’s chest suddenly bloomed with fresh, delicious blood. A two-leg stick had impaled his chest. Cocking his head he marvelled at this unexpected twist.
He barked happily as the alpha fell to his knees, then tumbled onto the ground, his throat exposed. Without hesitating, he leapt forward and buried his fangs into the tough cartilage around the throat. Hot, coppery blood flooded his mouth, filling him with new energy.
Turning in a circle he saw the shiny two-legs trying to hide behind the trees. Another one of them was down with a stick through its heart. Leaping forwards, his teeth bit into the hamstrings of the closest cowardly two-leg, causing him to crash into the churned earth. One of its pack tried to help him, only to receive a stick in the throat as reparation.
A rival pack of two-legs must have hunted down his pursuers. A crimson, toothy grin crossed his muzzle. This was good. All his attackers were dead now.
Out of the trees walked a hairy two-leg. Greyhair growled and stood his ground. He wouldn’t show weakness to this new threat.
The new two-leg stopped a healthy distance from him. He abased himself before Greyhair, threw some old dried out deer meat on the ground, then turned and left. Greyhair was left growling at the empty mist.
He took a moment to lick his lips at the scent of deer, then continued growling until the two-leg was far in the distance.
Left on his own, he knew he was dying. Death didn’t frighten him. It was a natural progression, but he had always expected to die alongside his pack. He ate the two-legs deer meat and then drank deep of the fallen hunter's blood, lapping it until drained. He didn’t have the energy to rend their flesh. Slumping to the forest floor with a whimper he felt his energy fading. He was cold, alone, hungry and without the supporting comfort of his pack.
I don’t want to die alone.
With a huge effort Greyhair lumbered to his paws, he swayed and then righted himself. This wasn’t how his story should end. The other two-leg had deer meat. He sniffed the air, picking up the scent of the mysterious two-leg and followed his trail one limping paw step at a time. His head was low to the ground. His breath came in great huffs of pain.
His energy was all but gone when he saw the two-leg ahead. He was sitting next to a crackling fire. Warm and inviting, it reminded Greyhair of winter's past with his old master. His pack would lie clustered on reeds around the hearth while their master hung dead prey from the roof. He could smell the iron-scent of the two-leg sticks and bright-fang. His master had carried them too, but it brought back memories of the massacre. From deep in his throat, he growled as deep and guttural as he could, warning the two-leg that Greyhair was no prey animal, then collapsed with a whimper in front of the fire. The two-leg seemed to ignore him, then two pieces of dried deer meat were tossed in front of him. Greyhair crawled forwards to snaffle them up then lay watching the two-leg as he played with his sticks.
Greyhair didn’t remember falling asleep but when he rose, the pain was less. He felt exhausted to the bone but his wounds no longer bled. His nose twitched. He turned to lick his wounded thigh. It had been interfered with. The wound was being held tight with some kind of plant stem. He licked it suspiciously. The blood tasted good.
The two-leg was still sleeping. Greyhair watched. His snoring reminded him of his lost pack. The sound was comforting. The two-leg broke wind as he slept. Greyhair sniffed approvingly, his diet was rich in deer meat.
When the two-leg woke, he rose to mark his territory. Greyhair appraised it critically, it was a strong scent, but he would cover that later. Mine is stronger.
The two-leg walked over to him. Ignoring the pain, Greyhair sat up and snarled at him. The two-leg remained indifferent and stood still in front of him and waited patiently.
Curious, Greyhair quietened down. Reaching into his fur, the two-leg produced some kind of hard food. It wasn’t meat, but he remembered it from his days with the pack. Gingerly he reached forward and took it from him, three crunches and he was through it. Hurt though he was, Greyhair was still powerful.
The two-leg held out his palm offering his scent. Greyhair accepted. His nose travelled the hairless paw, tracing the crevices and finally sealing their friendship with a lick. This was one of the good two-legs.
Good as he may be, Greyhair still had to go and fix the scent. Other predators needed to know the den was home to a powerful pack. With great effort, he stood and covered up the offending territorial mark with his own. At least the two-leg had the sense to only mark the same spot instead of spreading it about.
His work done, Greyhair settled down to snooze. The two-leg was busy attaching flappy-fur and sparkle-teeth to his sticks. Crawling forwards, he settled down beside him and grew drowsy by the fire
Is this my new pack?
The two-leg scratched behind Greyhair’s ear. He turned to snap at the offending hand and then was mortified to find himself licking it instead. He dropped his head to the ground with a suitably loud ‘Harumph’.
The next day, when walking stiffly with the two-leg he scented the musk of fear on his new pack brother. Looking down, he sniffed at the paw print of another two-leg. Another two-leg pack was in this area. He looked up at his pack brother. They would have to be vigilant.
A strange expression was on the face of his new ally. Two-legs were hard to understand at the best of times. He stood for a while, contemplating, while Greyhair sat on his haunches and watched. Then the two-leg gathered stones. Greyhair walked closer to investigate. The two-leg then barked at him. Barked.
He threw a stone at Greyhair. It stung. He yelped in pain and surprise.
Confused, he growled back.
Another stone hit him, then another. Greyhair didn’t understand, so he turned to head into the woods for sanctuary whilst his pack-brother came to his senses. Fresh pain flowed through him like venom. This time it wasn’t just from his injuries.
What did I do?
Finding a patch of sunlight, he sat and tried to make sense of the morning. Tried, and failed. His old pack was dead, his new pack was acting strangely. Greyhair gave up trying to figure out his place in this new world and snoozed instead.
When he woke, he sniffed the air. It was time to find his pack, to see if they had returned to normality. His nose to the ground, he first followed his own scent until it met the two-leg brother’s. He limped along gently, snuffling at the ground as his brother moved through the forest in a looping arc.
He stopped to raise his nose into the air. He could smell blood and hear the distant sound of two-legs dying. His powerful muscles propelled his legs forwards as he tore along the ground. The bindings on his thigh burst and he scented his own life spilling free once more. Greyhair didn’t care. The two-legs were trying to kill his pack. Again.
The first of the dead two-legs appeared in front of him, a stick standing tall, embedded in his chest. He vaulted the corpse, utterly focused on finding his brother. Greyhair soared through the air, his paws making contact with the ground as he pounded towards the sound and scent of violence. A distant voice from the back of his mind noted that he was growing tired, but he paid it no attention.
His brother was in front of him, his bright-fang snarling and snapping with another two-leg. He saw his brother take one cut, then two. He was losing this fight, the scent of fear roiled off him. Sweat plastered his body as he battled.
Greyhair bared his fangs, then, with the last of his energy, he leapt into the air and latched his teeth onto the enemy two-leg’s arm. Pulling down, he saw the two-leg drop his bright-fang and snatch it up in his other paw. That’s cheating. Greyhair thought as the blunt end of the fang cracked against his skull. He ignored it, then it cracked on his skull a second time.
It was only when he saw his brother's bright-fang embedded deep in his prey’s throat that he released his grip. Falling back, he lay on the floor, exhaustion catching up with him as his brother removed the prey’s head with one swing of his bright-fang.
The pack is safe.
He panted as the pain returned threefold. He was weak now. His thigh continued to bleed. His brother came over and kneeled beside him. With the last of his energy, Greyhair placed his head on his brother’s lap.
I’ve been forgiven. He loves me again.
His eyelids grew heavier and heavier, as he drifted into sleep.