A LEADER'S LIFE
Nikita Lynn Forbes
Nikita Lynn Forbes
Small snow flakes fell as a young timber wolf pushed his black nose through the broken branches of a fallen tree. His ears twitched as he heard something stir and then scurry away. His head shot up and with a small yelp he took off after it, his powerful leg muscles rippling as he ran. Through the snow he ran until the small animal slid into a hidden den. The young wolf was about to start digging but a shadow fell upon him and made him spin around. He found himself staring into the golden eyes of his father, a wolf far larger then himself.
"Everyone else is out searching for food and I find you goofing off?" Michael asked in a low voice.
This winter had been a harsh one and food had been scarce since most of the big game animals had moved on. Joseph knew this father was stressed. There were several pregnant females and they grew weaker with the lack of food. His father had been trying to teach him how to be a leader while trying to take care of the pack. But Joseph was a young and carefree wolf and he knew that his father would be around for a long time. He didn't understand why he had to learn to become a leader when there were more pressing matters.
Bowing his head once more Joseph said, "I'm sorry father."
His father said nothing more as he turned and headed back towards the den. Joseph knew that his father wasn't done with him yet but his father had to check on the pack. Then den was located in a clearing in the west of the forest; several trees had fallen to form a large triangle. After a few years, dirt had built up and it was from that that Joseph's grandfather had made the pack's den. The only ones there were the pregnant females and a few of the males to watch over them. He stayed out of the way as his father made the rounds and then went into the den.
When Joseph went inside he was surprised to see that his father was laying down with his head resting on his paws. It made Joseph pause since his father rarely rested. His concern grew as his father remained silent when he moved to sit next to the older wolf.
Michael raised his head and Joseph could see the weariness and worry his father had been holding back.
"When the others return I'm giving the order. We're abandoning the den."
"Wha...what?" Joseph wasn't sure he had heard his father right.
"We have no choice, all the animals have moved further south. Without a supply of constant food we not only risk the females that are with child but the entire pack," Michael finally stood and looked down at his son and nuzzled him gently with his snout. "It's for the good of the pack."
Joseph was stunned to hear the news but his father gave no room for argument. He was their leader and they had to trust that he knew what was best for the pack. By that afternoon when the sun was high above the treetops the pack was moving, falling into line behind Joseph and his father. Joseph had never been allowed to travel far from the den on his own and now he had the chance to explore a little. But as the day wore on he started to get nervous; they were approaching another pack's territory. The moment they crossed the invisible line every strand of fur stood on Joseph's neck. Going into another pack's land was always dangerous since you never knew if they were friendly or not.
It was the howl that made everyone stop and glance around; Joseph's father tensed as his ears twitched. The other pack knew that they were there. They had been more than likely been watching them for a while. Joseph squirmed as a wolf appeared in front of them. The wolf stopped short and simply sat. Joseph watched as his father approached the wolf and sat as well while bowing his head.
"Greetings, I am Michael, Leader of the Frost Pack."
For a moment the only sound that could be heard was the swirl of the snow as the wind moved it. Then:
"I am Teller, Leader of the Sun Pack. Why do you come into my territory?"
"I seek prey to keep my pack alive; several of my females are with child," Michael answered. "I humbly ask you to share your land until the storm passes and the animals return north."
Once more a silence fell until Teller stood and bowed his own head while speaking, "The game here is for my pack only. I cannot allow outsiders to take food from them."
Michael stepped forward and said, "Then I challenge you for rights to this land. Do you accept?"
Joseph hopped Teller would not but when he did Joseph begged his father not to do it. But just like the decision to leave the den, Michael was doing what he felt best.
Sadly the fight did not end well for Michael, when it was over his pack surrounded him. He was badly injured with bite marks along his neck and legs. He wouldn't be able to walk for a while.
"If you know what's good for you, you'll turn back," Teller hissed.
Joseph helped his father onto the beta wolf's back and left. It wasn't until they were safely out of the pack's territory that he allowed them to stop and rest. Joseph knew that the pack was hungry and he had no idea what to do. Joseph wasn't a leader, he had no idea where to even begin without his father's help. With a sigh he fell into the snow and stared up at the darkening sky. They were half way back to the den but what was the point of going back? Laying with his head in the snow he dozed until he was nudged awake.
"What's wrong?" he asked with a yawn.
Without answering the male brought him to the females and Joseph's eyes widened. One of the females was in the process of giving birth; this was not good since they still had no where to go. They had to go back into Teller's territory. Joseph needed a place where the female could rest and the pups would need protection. but if his father couldn't convince Teller, how would he?
He left the beta wolf in charge and sprinted off into the night. He slowed when he entered Teller's territory and sat that the wolf had not left his spot. He stopped in front of Teller and bowed his head just as his father had done but instead of returning the bow, Teller stood.
"Why have you come back?" he snarled.
"One of the females in my pack is giving birth. We need a place where she can be sheltered and care for her pups," Joseph answered. "Your pack is strong while mine is weak from lack of food. Please allow her to stay the night."
"As I told your father; the answer is no," Teller replied.
"Then I challenge you," Joseph said standing.
Teller didn't reply as he stared at the young determined wolf. Teller wasn't a fool; the young one's father was old as was Teller himself. To fight this young wolf would end in his loss and it was something he could not risk. He had to think about his pack. Desperate wolves had been known to attack and kill other packs. With a sigh Teller bowed his head.
"Very well, bring your pack here. We will set up a den and you will be allowed to hunt but once the snow has left you must leave," Teller said.
Joseph didn't need to be told twice; with a joyful whelp he ran back to his pack to tell them. Once they were settled he laid by his father and had nearly fallen asleep when his father looked at him and smiled.
"I'm proud of you Joseph, you are the leader I always believed you could be."
Joseph smiled back and nuzzled his father gently before he replied, "Rest and get well. I still have much to learn and no one can teach like you can."
Finally Joseph could rest beside his father not as a son but as an equal and future leader of the pack. Joseph knew he had a long way to go but someday he wanted to be the best leader he could be. He waited until his father had fallen asleep and then checked on the pack once more. All was well, they all slept soundly with tight bellies. Even the litter of new born pups slept soundly, snuggled closely to their mother. Smiling he went back and slept next to his father.