The air was becoming thick with moisture as the earth cooled with the coming of the night. The moon, climbing in the sky slowly, steadily.
The stoic situation Eight found himself in currently had quite a tension in it. These wolves didn't seem to want him here, and who could blame them, a trespasser is a trespasser, didn't matter the reason.
Eight's muscles tensed, his fur stood just a bit, his ears layed down just slightly and his eyes darted back and forth between the two as they took their starting positions on either side. He thought to try to explain himself but decided against it, remembering that his previous statement, accompanied with apology was shot down abruptly and spit upon.
All he could safely do now was just wait.
"Well, mutt? Got nothing to say?" The stout, dark furred wolf barked.
Apparently he couldn't even safely wait. It seemed that every time he turned his attention to the world around him today he found himself in some situation or another. Quite the eventful day, to say the least, although by this point, Eight was longing for a little dullness in his routine.
Since Eight couldn't think of a way to word his sentences in a way as to do without a verbal lashback, he remained silent, opting for this verbose, short stack of a wolf to spout off again.
"Alright then." The dark furred bully stated, almost in approval of Eight's silence, his stance took a gentler lean, but his partner remained stark.
"Lets start at the beginning with a little game I like to call, 'what are you doing here?'." He stated, demanding and snide to say the least. This wolf was younger than Eight, just smaller and he had a complex, anyone could see that. Eight would have to dance very lightly to stay out of trouble here.
He mulled his answer for long enough to start speaking and let it form as he tried to talk his way out of this,
"I'm only wandering through is all. I hadn't intended on trespassing. For that, I apologize."
"We're aware that you're just wandering through." The short wolf stated, "Shade here's been tracking you since you hit our territory. And, now that I've seen you for myself... Well, you can't be from anywhere around here."
The dark grey wolf sauntered over to him, imposingly to get a better look. He was cocky, even in his body language you could see it. He leaned this way and that, tilting his head as he talked, looking into Eight's eyes. And Eight stared right back.
"You don't look like any wolf I've seen. And you wreak of cedar and... dirt."
His observation made clear, he casually strolled to his position and allowed an answer.
"I'm from the southern territories." Eight informed the wolf before him, keeping a watch on his partner from time to time.
"Southern Territories?" The wolf asked him, "What, like, New Mexico? Oklahoma?"
"Further than that." Eight replied, his stance growing lighter now, as he was being interrogated. There didn't seem to be any reason to stay tense, but he kept his mind on the situation, just in case.
"Further? No, no way, I don't buy it. Wolf like you, making it this far north? You're yanking my tail." The statement was forward, but Eight could understand the reluctance of his belief.
"True enough." Eight let his drawl out a little to accentuate his point further.
"Well I don't believe you, mutt." His interrogator swelled up a bit and took a step forward, almost in challenge. Unfortunately, it was getting harder and harder for Eight to contain each of his thoughts as this game grew tiresome.
"Well," Eight began, "Its true whether you like or don't, partner. And telling me that you don't believe me is practically calling me a liar."
"Yeah and what if I am?" The wolf scowled with a low growl, both he and his partner took a step forward and bowed their chests.
Eight took a moment to consider this, he was heading the very direction he hadn't wanted to. It may not be too late though, he'd try to explain himself. Maybe a very mild joke to break the tension. A smile, something.
"I've been walking for more than 3 weeks now." Eight began, "I've seen bears, boar, bobcats, highways, freeways, hunters, campers, cougars and one other wolf pack... hmmmm...." He thought for a moment before continuing, "... Yeah, about a week and a half ago. Pretty savage too, they were... well... lets just say, this lot weren't as cuddly as y'all fellas." He smiled and chuckled, this last joke was sure to do the job.
The small wolf looked to his counterpart and then back to Eight.
"Cuddly?" he demanded, apparently taken back. He was a touchy sort.
Only one thought filtered through Eight's mind as his smile faded, his heart sank and his stance tightened again. The phrase leaked straight out of his brain with no restriction to the source of words with a sigh,
"... Damn it."
The two wolves inched to either side of him, one to keep his attention and one to flank him, each growling, snarling and barking at him. The one called 'Shade' nipped at his front quarters, causing Eight to growl and take a step back.
He knew this had to be it. His luck was bound to run out at some point, right? Thats what he thought for a moment, then he heard a voice boom out from over them, somewhere behind the trees.
"Thats enough, boys." It was deep, loud, demanding. The kind of voice that commands the winds themselves.
All three of them stopped immediately. Eight remained half between his stance, and a dumbfounded look plastered on his face as he scanned the trees. The other two stood back to either side of eight, facing each other and looking to the source of the voice.
It took only a moment for him to materialize from the trees and shadows.
And what a beast he was. A stout, tall, thick, statuesque figure. He had an aged look about him, but not old - wise, seasoned, learned. His dark, ash gray coat shimmered in the moonlight as he stepped forward, and eight noticed a few light silver markings across his face to accompany the rest of the silver that peppered his fur.
He walked between the two and they looked to him only, he clearly commanded their respect.
He looked to Eight, sizing him up.
Eight felt like his body was being pierced, this wolf's dark yellow eyes seemed to rip past the fur, the flesh and bone and see straight into him. He could kill him with a stare, Eight knew it, he thought it, thats exactly what he was feeling at that moment.
When the large wolf was finished, he abruptly turned to Shade and the lead wolf, nodding to them both,
"Good find, boys."
"Thank you, sir." Their voices came in unison. Not out of fear, out of discipline and respect.
"What do we do with him, sir?" The lead wolf asked.
The old wolf looked to him and shook out his neck a bit,
"Tell you what, Stern," He started, standing tall above the other, "Why don't you two head back up and enjoy yourselves?"
"Sir?" the one called 'Stern' inquired.
The big wolf looked back over Eight for a moment, feigning observation,
"It seems that this is only a mistake, he's just one wolf and he seems genuinely lost to me. You two head back up to the Howl. There's no danger here tonight, no sense in having you patrol any further."
The two younger wolves thanked him. Before turning to leave Stern eyed Eight one last time and began his walk.
"You should stop and speak with Trinity, she's been asking around for you." The old wolf suggested over his shoulder to Stern, who turned back for a moment, his sour expression seeming to melt from his face.
With that, the only two inhabitants of that area were Eight, and this towering wolf before him.
Eight began to apologize, stepping forward, but was cut off abruptly, being reassured that there was no need for an apology.
"What's your name, Lad?" The large wolf asked, somehow far less intimidating now, after he had dismissed the others. He sat and scratched the scruff of his neck casually with his hind claws.
The old wolf stopped, caught off guard, but by which part of his response, Eight couldn't tell.
"Such manners!" His voice boomed and a smile took over his face. "Well, Eight, was it? Thats a peculiar title for a pup..."
At last, Eight had the opportunity to do what he was best at. Talk. His demeanor changed immediately, he limbered up, moved and swayed this way and that as he explained his name,
"Thats a funny story, actually, y'see... I have seven brothers and sisters ahead of me, I was the last of the litter. My parents have told me that they simply ran out of names, and thought that it sounded good." He laughed lightly as relieved as he'd been all day. It seemed he was in friendly company now.
The older wolf laughed loudly. His voice even sounding old, but deep ant tough, his face wrinkled around his eyes as he expressed himself.
"Thats quite a story, but you know, I can relate to that... Mhmm You see- my parents, many, many years ago blessed me with the name Deogee." He sat in waiting as Eight processed how that was in relation of a strange name. Eight shook his head lightly with a smile and inquired further,
"I-I'm afraid I don't-"
"My name, its Deogee. De-O-Gee. Dog. Hmm?"
Eight almost immediately laughed aloud, unintentionaly, he caught himself, trying not to offend his host. He didn't mean offense so he stifled his laugh the best he could, spitting and spewing with chuckles no matter how tight he pursed his lips.
"Oh, its fine, fine. Most wolves don't pick up on that, you know. So you're in a select group who knows that little secret, ah, lets keep that between us, shall we?"
Eight nodded and gave a "Yes, sir."
"Oh there it is again! 'Sir.'" Deogee reiterated. "You're parents must be quite proud of you, son. I'll tell you what, its getting quite late, the Howl will be over in an hour, or... whenever those hooligans decide to turn in, why don't you and I take a quick walk, hmm? Maybe you can tell me your story."
They walked and Eight talked, his heart as happy as it had been way back, what seemed like ages ago. He explained his situation, he explained why he left home, that he had no real plan or destination. He even regaled the old wolf with some of his favorite stories. Eight was certainly in his element. They stopped off for a moment and Deogee pondered for a moment, very seriously.
"Thats quite a story, son. And so well told." Again, his voice sounded wise with age. This wolf may be a hulking brute to look at, but he was as gentle and quiet as a downy feather floating on the breeze. He spoke with command, confidence. He spoke with truth in his voice when he articulated.
"Well, if its a place to lay that you need, we can certainly accommodated you. There's a kind of hitch though. I can't just invite you into the den."
He looked down to Eight. Eight nodded in understanding.
"But," Deogee continued, "I have a little place set aside, a sort of bachelor's den. I head there whenever I need time apart from the missus." He chuckled and snorted to himself, "I tell her I'm going hunting. That, That is also between us only.
But on a serious note," His voice carried his intent perfectly, this is what serious sounded like, "I will discuss this issue with the pack tomorrow. WE will put it to a vote and, depending on what they decide, and what you decide, you can rest here for as long as you need, until you decide to pick up on your travels, hmm?"
It sounded like a fantastic plan to Eight, sleeping in a real shelter had a hell of an appeal to it after all this time away from anything that resembled structure in his life. Eight nodded.
"That sounds like a fine idea, sir, and I greatly appreciate it."
"Think nothing of it, young one, I know what its like to be off across the country, though my travels only took me a few counties." He chuckled.
"Now, if you head east about 200 yards you'll come to a clearing with a pile of rocks facing you. Just the other side of that pile of stone, you'll see where its been dug under. You can sleep there for the evening and I will retrieve you in the morning."
"Yes sir, you got it." Eight said and stood.
"Well, I best be on my way. From the sound of things, those yahoos are still at it... I better go see what sort of trouble I can get into." Deogee smiled and nodded before turning and heading on his way.
Eight stood for a moment and watched his dark fur disappear in and out of the shadows as he walked. It was no wonder how he was able to come upon them earlier so easily undetected.
With that, Eight headed back the way he was instructed and found the dugout with relative ease. There was plenty of room, since it was dug out for a wolf twice his size. Chewed bones were strewn about here or there. Oh yeah. Definitely a bachelor's pad.
He sat and pondered for much of the night before turning in as he stared at the moon, listening to the howls from the other wolves. He swore he heard Deogee's distinct howl among them. The later it got, the more they thinned out until there was only the sound of the wind passing cool air through his fur.
The silence of the world was peaceful unlike any night he'd felt the entire time he was traveling. His body felt weary and sore, his head throbbed and his eyes stung as the breeze passed over them. He couldn't remember feeling this tired. He took one last gaze at the moon as it hung huge in the sky and gave a brief howl of his own, it sounded somber and alone, but it was filled also with happiness and a very real relief as it echoed though the dense night air. Then, smiling, he turned to lay down, the shadow of the small den creeping into his eyes and into his body.
He fell fast asleep.