THE PATHFINDER AND THE ICE TUNNELS
A NIGHT IN THE MOUNTAIN
Under the cover of darkness and the gaze of the dominant white moon that fills the sky, a blue mountain-wolf is fleeing fast with infant boy in his jaws. His paws pad into the soft snow at a fast pace producing a gentle drum-roll resonating down the mountainside into the swirling shrouding icy-blue winds, like a sea of sparkling iridescent mist, in the vast and dark gloomy valley below.
You would see them as a blue dot whisping down the white slopes darting and leaping and changing direction but always descending into the shroud of glittering blue air in the gloomy valley. You blink and it’s gone. But it didn’t have the chance to slowly fade into the mists; it was visible, then vanished. As if a white blanket had been thrown over it before it could fade away. Where'd it go?
Night was ruling outside; but inside the ice cave Tyson felt a kind of safety; the kind of uneasy half-safety where danger was still inches close but can't quite reach you. The danger was the freezing winds clawing at the opening of the cave, throwing an echoing rumble into the tunnel, because it was a tunnel technically- not a cave. It went deeper. Coza told him it went very deep right to the heart of the mountain and out the other side! Looking out of the tunnel onto the starry night sky was like looking out from behind a waterfall, for the shifting sheets of snow which swept down the mountainsides like a constant tumbling curtain of white, shielded them from sight and scent of anything outside. Comfortable in his uncomfortable safety Tyson recollected events; the incident at the Cabin, the freezing winds outside, the high speed leaps and bounds down the mountain, the warm cuddle of Coza's mouth securing him on the descent, and what they were fleeing from... What were they fleeing from?
Tyson was too young to understand at only 6 years old what happened back at the Cabin. All he knew was that he returned home with Coza, the arctic wolf, whom he first met one year ago in the sweet sleepy sweeping of the snow amongst the fantastical presence of the great Pine trees. But on this day when they arrived at the Cabin other wolves were prowling around his families Home. Not nice friendly wolves like Coza, with his softly snow-frosted misty-blue warming fur. Coza didn't mind the infant tugging on his manes carved angular quiffs and waves that the whippy wind had styled from his dense layers of shapely fur. But Tyson would never dare even touch these other wolves. They looked nasty. They were grey and black and had red painted mouths below snarling sharp black noses below glaring amber eyes and their bodies were twisted, dark and hungry. At that moment, with Tyson gazing in awe at the uninvited wolves, Coza had taken him up in his jaw and sprinted quick and covert into the cover of the forest. Coza new the forest and stayed low and quiet and unseen, but the speed! It was like riding a bullet! Ricocheting off Pine trees and gliding across icy floors!
This old kind-hearted wolf could really ignite a flame in his heart when he needed to move!
But why did he need to move? Why did we flee from the red mouthed wolves back at home? That should be clear after I’ve had some sleep.
Coza laid down to provide a bed for Tyson whom therein studied the wolfs placidly curved head. Two calm and cloudy blue eyes settled above the snowball nose. His coat was soft and light and emanated from a thick cushioning mane about his head and neck. The coat was soft and warm to touch as smoke born from a glowing, beating ember that was Coza's old heart; an ember glowing less fierce in its old age but one that glowed nonetheless. “The last thing a wolf loses is his bite!" his father used to warn, and Tyson thought this true of Coza. As they lay together surrounded by shadows and ice, they were pinned between the beating wind warning them from the outside and the echoing shrieks rising up from deep inside the tunnel.
"It's Just wind" Rumbled Coza peacefully "Sleep"
As Tyson drifted off he was sure he could see one of Coza's foggy vigilant eyes, still open, watching over the gloomy tunnel diligently.
The last thoughts of Tyson that night were, as you probably figured, concerning the red mouthed wolves. It’s not that his young mind couldn’t calculate what happened, no, it was that he couldn’t handle the prospect of what may have happened to his family. So his own mind was compressing his imagination and entertaining him with other thoughts to distract him from thinking about his family. Then his mind pulled him away from such thoughts and into the slow transition of falling asleep.
The line between reality and the dreaming world was a vague one that night. Tyson was never sure which world he was in but he was sure what he saw had scared him. He had dreamt a savage, skinny starving and ill-looking wolf with bleached white hair, thinning hair, and underneath this was his shivering frostbitten red-pink skin, his eyes were twitchy and unhealthy and bloodshot and his pale claws were thin and sharp and they were shaking and clattering at the floor as he walked towards Coza. Coza was sleeping, dreaming and not waking up. This Albino wolf lurched over Coza and snarled licking his needle like teeth. Tyson tried to move. His body was frozen still. Tyson tried to call out. Words froze in his throat. Tyson tried to look away. His eyes froze open staring. The worst part was that this wasn't the cold freezing him. It was himself. It was his own fear. His own fear had rendered him redundant. Then something hit him in the eye. It was a drip of water from the tunnel ceiling. He realized his eyes were open and that must mean those last few thoughts were a nothing but a shallow dream. He blinked the water out of his eye and the image of the suns rays reaching into the tunnel illuminating the slippery pure blinding bright white floor was made clear to his eye. It was a new day and he had no idea where they were going to go next.
As Tyson, shivering, went to put an arm over Coza, his arm dropped onto hard flat ice. Coza was not there. Tyson was alone and had no idea where he was.
“Coza?” Tyson stood up and looked around “Coza! Hullo?! Hullo!” he called.
Upon venturing outside Tyson heard a bone chilling howl of pain coming from up the mountain behind him. He turned but the sun was setting over it and it glared Tyson’s eyes impairing his vision. Out of the sun leapt a shadow which swept inches above Tyson’s head, hit the ground past him and then tumbled down the mountainside. It wasn’t Coza. That he knew. Coza didn’t look like that. Coza didn’t look scrappy and unkempt. That looked like one of the red mouthed wolves.
Tyson edged closer to where the wolf had landed and was shocked at what he saw. Where the wolf had landed there was a big red smear in the snow. From its red mouth? The red smear trailed off down the snowy slope in drips and smudges of red staining against the perfect white snow. Tyson followed the red line down the slope and stopped in his tracks. Before him lay the body of a red mouthed wolf with red all over its sides and neck - and he knew this was blood and it was dead.
At that moment a few connections sparked inside Tyson’s childlike brain; Red, blood, death, cabin, wolves, family. Suddenly, before he realised what this haunting observation meant, his mind protected his fragile self by changing his focus. Coza! Where is he? Tyson turned to search back up the mountain but didn’t need to, because Coza was sitting there behind him with a little red on his lip.
“I went to the Cabin Home. Getting food, supplies, clothes. Came back here. He followed. He attacked. He failed. I’m sorry. Your safe now. Lets go inside”.
These words should have left Tyson in bewilderment and shock but although Coza had spoken small blunt words about a terrifying act, he spoke clear sense and the simple honest delivery of events was better than a confusing complex account to Tyson’s young mind. Coza lead Tyson into the ice tunnel.
Tyson would always remember that moment; it was the moment that Coza told him what they had to do next. And it was the moment that Tyson last saw sunlight for a very long time. “They found your Cabin Home. They have your scent. They hunt for you. Packs of them on the mountainsides. They don’t know of Coza’s Ice Tunnel. Coza is of the old-kind. Coza is a pathfinder. Very few of us left. We must go in, go deep, go through. Ice Tunnel is only way to safety.”
“But.. But how long will it take us? Is it safe in there? What’s on the other side? Where is Daddy?”
“Ten Moon’s until we see Sun again. It is safer than outside. We will come to the human-city.”
And Coza had answered all of Tyson’s questions except the last one. That he had to avoid to keep the boys mind strong. It was a challenging path ahead that had been untouched for many hundreds of moons. And of course there were always the other pathfinders...
INTO THE ABYSS
Outside the Ice Tunnel a bleachy white wolf creeps about sniffing and blinking and shivering. He finds a scent and follows it with his thin wire-like tail trailing behind him. He finds his path. He is a pathfinder. He enters an icy tunnel and sneaks over to the sleeping bundles. Slowly he places his shaking jaws around the smaller one and prepares to bite down hard… warm blood…