Story about a wolf's survival in the wild
Winyd The Wolf
Winyd lay in a hole dug under a dead tree stump with just enough room to turn around. Ice crystals formed on his shaggy brown-grey fur. His breath steamed in the cold night air. Outside the world was coloured white and grey as snow fell in a howling blizzard. Winyd dreamed in the way that wolves do and in this dream; he stood on a trail leading south. A great white wolf sat on its haunches in front of him barring his path
“You are going the wrong way you know,” the white wolf said in the language of the wolves. Wolves tend to be pretty straightforward no-nonsense types when talking to one and other.
“Don’t be silly,” Winyd said. Sitting, he regarded the white wolf curiously. “Wolves from around here always go this way, to the lowlands in winter. It’s less cold, and better hunting,” his tongue lolling in what passed for laughter among wolves.
The white wolf spoke with an air most formal for a wolf. “That way lies death.”
“I’d most likely die of starvation if I went into the mountains.” Winyd, said not the least bit impressed by the white wolf’s tone.
“Suit yourself, but if you go south you will be dead before winters end,” the white wolf answered indifferently. Standing, he turned and ran northward his pace quickening as he blended in with the surroundings; until disappearing amongst the snow-clad trees.
As the sky lightened, to a grey and bleak dawn, Winyd awoke and scrambled from his make-shift lair; snow still fell but not as heavy as during the night. He shook himself to get the ice out of his fur and sniffed the air for any sign of danger, or possible prey. There was no scent of danger or prey — no sign of any life apart from the occasional bird. The forest in which Winyd stood, lay silent with only the wailing of the wind — blowing the snow into drifts which piled up against the trees and bushes.
Winyd bent his head and lapped up some snow, letting it melt in his mouth. Water wouldn’t be a problem, but finding food would be. Winyd could remember past winters as worse as this one. However, this was already as bad as any he could remember, and all the signs indicated it would get worse. Winyd threaded his way through the undergrowth which had concealed his lair; dislodging snow from bushes, in passing. Out in the open, he sniffed the air again, his keen eyes searched the tree-lined forest for movement, but nothing stirred.
He shook himself again and headed in a southerly direction though he remembered his dream from the night before habit and instinct said he should travel south to the lowlands. Now wolves measure time, unlike men in hours and days but by the rising of the moon and wolves could travel a long way in a day. In Winyd’s estimate it would typically take at least two or three risings of the moon to reach the lowlands but in present conditions. Winyd doubled his estimate and allowed himself four. He plodded along ever alert; ears pricked listening for the slightest sound. Hunger gnawed at him, but he had gone hungry before many times for long periods, he could endure it again. Around midday, after travelling none stop, he considered resting, for a while. The snow stopped; weak wintry sunlight shone through the trees all of a sudden, Winyd heard a cracking noise. Instinctively he turned on his fours and leapt just as a sizeable snow-laden branch came crashing to the ground barely missing him as it sprayed snow all around covering him, in a fine white powder. Winyd shook the snow from his fur and scrambled over the fallen branch. Deciding he had enough for one day, Winyd went in search of a place to spend the night.
The next day saw Winyd heading in the same direction, the forest thinned, and he would soon be in open country. The wind gusted through the trees blowing snow in eddies that occasionally rose to obscure the view ahead. It was afternoon when Winyd crested a low hill with stunted trees growing alongside mixed scrub bushes. He caught the scent of a familiar animal turning back he followed the scent keeping downwind as much as possible so that his prey couldn't detect him. He followed the smell, down a dip in the hillside, until he found the tell-tale tracks of a rabbit. He moved cautiously, as the scent grew stronger, stalking his prey with patience and cunning. Realising this may be his last chance for some time to have anything to eat. He did not let the hunger he felt drive him to make a mistake, and alert the prey to his presence.
Occasionally the wind turned to carry the scent away from him, and even the tracks would disappear blown by the wind. Then he stopped and waited until the scent came to him again in this way he followed until he finally glimpsed the rabbit close to its burrow. Winyd crouched low and stealthily crept up behind the rabbit. At the last moment just as the rabbit caught his scent, he pounced his teeth sinking into the rabbit’s neck. The rabbit struggled desperately to break free but, Winyd clenched his jaws tight, and soon the rabbit struggled no more.
The meat was lean but enough to stave back the hunger and replenish his strength. Winyd sat near the remains of his kill, cleaning himself when the scent of more wolves came to him. He stood ears pricked, watching as he saw three wolves ghosting out of the forest; they soon caught his scent and approached warily. Winyd recognised the pack leader, a she-wolf whom he had hunted with, in past seasons Storm was her name he remembered, she came with two males in tow and stood to face him. She was smaller and her fur a lighter colour than most wolves who dwelled in the mountains
“You got a kill I see Winyd,’ Storm said in a weary tone.
“You are welcome to what’s left Storm, though it could have been more if you had come sooner.” He knew there wasn’t much left worth having, and he didn’t have to give them anything he wasn’t of their pack. Winyd liked Storm they hunted well together in the past as she-wolves go, she was everything a male wolf could wish for.
“You are kind to offer even though there is little left Winyd,” Storm answered. The two male wolves didn’t look too pleased, but Storm ignored them as she nibbled at the rabbit remains before snagging it in her jaws and flinging it towards her pack mates. The two hungrily tore apart what remained of the rabbit
Winyd had been feeling uneasy since he dreamed of the white wolf and thought he could confide in Storm about his dream. When he finished telling her, she looked curiously at him before speaking. “I have heard tell of the great white wolf, it is said, he is the father and protector of all wolves,” Storm said after some thought. “If he came to you in a dream to warn you, I wouldn’t take it lightly. Though it is strange indeed for as you say to go back into the mountains would seem foolish,” she continued at length. “What shall you do Winyd?” She asked her two pack mates finished the remains of the rabbit and were waiting expectantly.
“I have never heard of the father of all wolves before,” Winyd began. “As to what I’ll do, If you permit I would like to travel with your pack a while and think on what you said,” Winyd said in conclusion.
“You are welcome Winyd,” She answered with what passed for a smile among wolves.
They spent the night under some bushes and moved on at daybreak. The sky turned a steel grey, and no sun shone through the clouds. It felt even colder than the day before, Winyd’s uneasiness remained. When they reached the river, he knew he needed to decide whether to go on or turn back. Strictly speaking, he didn’t have to go back yet; he could keep on this side of the river and follow it westerly before turning north if he decided to do what the white wolf told him. When he gave that idea some thought, it seemed to fit, and his uneasiness subsided.
The river had frozen over although there were places the ice appeared to be thin and cracked where a trickle of water flowed still; crossing would not be as easy as it seemed. Winyd left Storm, deciding not to cross with her and the other wolves. He saw them get safely across though not without some difficulty. Winyd followed the river westward as far as he could before turning north again. Snow fell once more, the air still as Winyd struggled through deep snowdrifts. Travelling upwards across a ridge lined with pine trees then down into a gulley, he detected no movement anywhere. Snow fell steadily becoming heavier as the day wore on. The moon rose in the sky again; as Winyd finally found a place to shelter in a hollow. Far away in the distance to the south, he heard a noise carried on the still air. Two, three times or more, he listened to the same sound. He wondered what it might be as he curled up and drifted into a deep sleep. He dreamt, and the white wolf appeared again in his dream this time on a mountaintop.
“I’ve done what you said. Now I’m sure to die before winter is over,” Winyd said resigned to his fate.
“You are not dead yet are you?” The white wolf stated succinctly. “There is a valley no further than two risings of the moon. Make it that far, and we will speak again,” said the white wolf. Winyd woke covered in snow, he dug himself out and shook the snow from his fur. The day was bright, clear and bitter cold. Winyd managed to dig out some grubs and one or two nuts from under the pine trees. Though meagre, they were enough to sustain him a while. He travelled onward climbing higher into an unknown mountainous landscape, with snow-covered fir and pine trees. He managed to find a hollowed tree trunk to sleep in as it grew dark. The moon rose, bright in the night sky. The next morning, colder still with icicles hanging from the trees. The snow crisp and hard underfoot. Winyd struggled to get himself moving, slipping and sliding, but he managed to keep going. At midday, the sky turned a dark, ominous grey, and it began to snow. First, a little then eventually in a howling wind swept blizzard. Winyd couldn’t see beyond his nose instinct and the sheer will to survive kept will going.
The White Wolf’ Speaks
As the moon rose once again, Winyd could go no further exhausted he lay in the snow. "You are giving up then I see,” said the white wolf. Winyd wondered if he was dreaming again, but this time he wasn't. The white wolf sat on his haunches nearby watching him.
“It's too late for me, I told you I would die if I went this way,” Winyd said philosophically.
“But you are not dead yet, time to get moving,” answered the white wolf. Winyd forced himself up to stand on all fours his legs shaking with the effort. The white wolf ran onward vanishing he called to Winyd, “Not much further now then you can rest.”
Winyd followed the white wolf; every time he got near to him, he would vanish and reappear further ahead. Finally, he stopped in front of what appeared to be a low overhanging rock face. When Winyd reached the overhang, he crouched down and scrambled under it. To his surprise, it opened up into a small cave not very high, but enough so he could stand upright. Inside it widened out a little and went deeper into the rock face. He could hear and smell rats scurrying about. He lay still and waiting patiently; eventually, several rats came. He pounced killing two before the rest ran off, disappearing into the darkness. The rats were lean but with enough meat to help regain his strength. The cave though still cold, was warmer than outside and gave shelter from the elements.
Winyd slept and dreamed; he stood in a broad valley. The white wolf sat next to him. “You must save the one that awaits in the valley below if you are to survive the winter.” The white wolf said cryptically.
“Who must I save, “ Winyd asked remembering, Storm and hoped it might be she that awaited him in the valley.
“It is not she,” the white wolf said. Reading his thoughts, “she yet lives, though.”
“Then who,” pressed Winyd
“You will see, but if you fail to save the one that awaits. You both will die and ultimately, Storm before winter’s end. It will be your hardest test yet,” said the white wolf enigmatically.
Winyd woke and caught another rat and a few insects that lived in the cave. He rested another day until finally feeling back to full strength before he ventured out. The day was bright and sunny, but there was no warmth in the sun. A biting wind blew across the frozen landscape. The wind lessened the air feeling a little less cold as he headed down into a valley. He came across tracks and caught the scent of a bear, although faint now a bear recently passed here. He continued his descent into the valley floor. Giant fir, pine, and spruce trees grew all around. The valley long and narrow with occasional rising slopes and dips. The sun low in the sky when he saw smoke rising above the trees just beyond a rise. Winyd knew what the smoke meant. He wanted to turn around and avoid the area the smoke came from, but something drove him towards it. He topped the rise, entering a clearing, ahead was a man lair; men called them by several names which were confusing to a wolf. He had seen many such places before in the lowlands. Winyd stopped crouching down he watched intently uncertain what he should do.
He caught the scent of a bear again; it came shambling out of the trees near to the man’s lair. Still crouched Winyd hurriedly crept nearer and nearer. He caught the scent of the man as he came out of his den carrying one of the long sticks that spurted fire and death. Instinctively Winyd knew this was the moment the white wolf told him off. However, he wasn’t sure whom he should try and save both were dangerous to him. The bear, driven by hunger and the need to survive saw the man as a rival predator and a source of food. The man could have many reasons, including those of the bear. As Winyd considered what to do; the man fired his long stick at the bear as it rushed towards him. The bear stumbled to one side momentary losing momentum but continued its charge.
Instinctively Winyd went for the bear attacking it’s hind legs while still charging the man. The bear stopped half turned it swung one massive paw at Winyd. He yelled in pain and went spinning in the snow. The man fired again still the bear kept on as the man stumbled. Winyd was up; blood oozed from his side. Once again, he attacked this time he lept on to the bear’s back as the man managed to get to his feet. He sank his teeth into the bear’s neck, locking his jaw tight and held on as the bear swung wildly trying to shake him off. The man backed away reloaded and fired again. The bear roared in pain and rage, Winyd finally released his grip on the bear spitting fur and skin from his mouth. A deep gouged wound streamed blood, where Winyd had sunk his teeth into the neck of the bear. He jumped as the bear took a stumbling step forward. Winyd backed away from the bear as it fell catching a glancing blow as the bear thrashed about in its death throes. Winyd rolled sideways yelling in pain unable to move his whole body ached; the pain from his wounded side unbearable. The man stood over him with the long stick pointed at him. Winyd considered he may have chosen wrong now he would die.
Then all was darkness!
Winyd awoke to find himself in the man’s lair. He lay close to a fire he had seen fire before but never been this close it warmed him and felt good. There were many smells, some new and strange, some familiar. The dominating scent was that of the man who sat nearby watching him. He could sense the man was wary of him, and he felt the same as the man. There was food next to him, so he ate and drank, the food was a new taste to him and strange at first, but he ate it all then slept.
He awakened, feeling a little stronger the man had tended his wounds while he slept. Winyd struggled to his feet; there was no sign of the man, and there seemed no way of getting out he felt trapped. He decided to investigate the man’s lair wandering around sniffing at different things. Suddenly the entrance opened, and the man entered seeing Winyd wasn’t by the fire he quickly scanned around until he spotted Winyd. Still wary of one and other, the man stepped away from the entrance. Letting Winyd out to relieve himself on returning he found the door closed. He scraped at it with his paws until the man came and let him in again. Winyd laid once more by the fire and dreamed. The white wolf sat next to him by the fire.
“Man’s fire is good is it not,” the white wolf said.
“Yes, it feels good as long as you don’t touch it,” replied Winyd. He was lost in thought a moment as the white wolf scrutinised him carefully expecting more. “Why did you bring me here?” Winyd finally asked.
“Why to save you for you are the last of the mountain wolves, and the first,” answered the white wolf in his usual enigmatic way.
“If I am the last, then my kind will be no more,” said Winyd, gloomily.
“You do not understand yet,” the white wolf began. “Heed my words, you can trust this man but no other for now,” said the white wolf. He vanished, and Winyd awakened in the comfort of the man’s lair.
Slowly the man and Winyd began to trust each other and develop a deep bond. They enjoyed each others company as the long winter days and nights drew out. Food was in short supply for both of them. They hunted together, catching whatever they could find to survive. It was a hard existence, but Winyd didn’t mind he was alive, and the man seemed to feel the same. Several times the weather was too bad to go out, and they stayed inside. Then one day the snow showed signs of melting the air fresh though still cold. The valley showed signs of life returning buds appeared on the trees and tufts of grass thrust upwards out of the snow.
It was on such a day that more men appeared. Winyd and the man were relaxing taking in the midday sun its warmth felt good after the long, harsh winter. Winyd caught their scent long before they arrived. With a low growl that surprised, the man he took off and hid amongst the trees where he could watch the men approach without being seen. Instinct told him these men were not like the man whom he considered a packmate; they were a danger to him at least. They would not understand a wolf living alongside a man and could even prove a danger to the man if they knew. He watched from his hiding place hackles raised ears pricked he wondered if the man would tell about him. They talked in the man tongue then went to the man’s lair and exchanged some goods before leaving again. The man looked around for him after they had gone from sight. Winyd came out of hiding still wary he could see and sense from the man he felt the same. The man bent down and ran his hand through Winyd’s fur in a way that seemed to please both of them.
Some days later Winyd while out hunting with the man he caught the scent of another wolf, but he also had a sense, that this wolf was in trouble He stopped in his tracks ears pricked he sniffed the air for any sound. Suddenly another wolf sprang out between the trees panting hard.
“Storm,” Winyd said.
Storm had been running hard to escape the men chasing her, and reckless in what may lay ahead though she caught the scent of another wolf close. Storm, came to a halt suddenly seeing the man, thinking herself trapped she was about to make a last desperate effort and attack the man.
“Stop!” Winyd began,” seeing Storm was about to attack. “He is my packmate we can help you escape,” Winyd said.
Storm hesitated in a state of confusion and panic the idea of a man being Winyd’s packmate was alien to her. But Winyd had survived here through the worst winter she could remember when she gave it some thought with the help of a man it would seem more likely.
“Fine Winyd, I trust you, but other men are chasing how do we get away from them?” asked Storm.
The man watched the two wolves intently and got the impression they knew each other. The other he surmised was a wolf was female; so he assumed she was friendly. He waved his hand about and pointed back towards his lair. Winyd having picked up many of the man’s hand movements though he didn't understand fully. He got the gist of what they meant; this one was run and hide so calling to Storm they both ran.
The man met the pursuers; they spoke awhile, giving the two wolves more time to getaway. He indicated pointing in a different direction to where the wolves had gone. The men nodded going in the direction he suggested. Walking back, he saw the two wolves together smiling; he shook his head, wondering what he was going to do with two wolves.
A New Beginning
Winyd slept with Storm at his side; the white wolf appeared to both of them. He guided both to this point, and now he would speak to them for one last time. It would be up to themselves from this point on.
“You are not dead either of you, I see,” said the white wolf.
“Thanks to you,” Storm said.
“I still don’t understand all of what you told me,” Winyd said, looking curiously at the white wolf.
“What part did you not understand,” the white wolf replied.
“You said I was the last of my kind, yet I am not for Storm is here,” said Winyd curiously.
“Oh, but Storm is truly not of the mountain wolf, so therefore you are the last of your kind for now,” answered the white wolf in an amused tone.
It was a warm summers day when the two wolves set off on their way running and jumping in the long grass — chasing one and other amid the trees until they disappeared from view. The man watched them go he would not see them again till winter returned then there would be more mouths to feed.