Howls ignited the wilderness. “Look who’s here! Thor and Eagle McZen!” Twirls, hugs and other welcoming embraces ensued, leading to a full-blown celebration.
“Hey! Howya doin,” Thor woofed, as he shuffled through pats and friendly bumps. “Been a while… Away from my baby brother too long,” he yowled, then glanced over at Omar, chuckling, as the term “baby brother” caused the reaction he expected.
What did he say! Omar flicked his eyes at Thor. He moved in slow motion towards his brother, with narrowed eyes and quivering tight lips. I’m gonna get you for that.
Uh-huh! Comin after me! Didn’t expect that. Thor turned away as Omar approached, fixed his eyes on an escape route, and ran for it. “See ya later, he yowled, dashing away at full speed.
Omar glowered, as Thor scampered away. If he wasn’t startin trouble, he’d get sick. He’ll be back. Loves the females’ attention too much to stay away.
“Hi! Good to see you.” McZen tried, but… “Watch out, can’t regrow these —Ow! A paw thumped a claw—That’s it! Without second thought, or a “see ya later,” the eagle sidled away from the pack, shot into the air and disappeared above the trees.
He circled the area. Ah! The puppies. Always amusing. Wonder what they’re up to? A few elders peered at the frolicking tykes thru a thin patch of bushes. They nodded with toothy grins, when he landed. McZen returned the nods and headed towards the puppies, flapping his enormous wings.
The puppies spotted him and closed in. Wiggling and waggling, leaping and growling, nipping and getting nipped. “Ow! Who bit me… Dumplin! I’ll get you… Joe did it!
McZen let out a high-pitched whistle. The puppies froze in place. “I’m here for some of that attention you’re giving each other. Do I need to leave, and find some other puppies? If so…”
No! We need you here! Little heads jerked around, searching the surroundings for prying foes… elders.
“Oh! Sounds important. What’s goin on? This should be good.
A tiny chihuahua scampered forward. “It’s a secret, he hissed. Some bad wolves are comin! We’re going out and catch ‘em before they get here! They won’t think we can fight, just ‘cause we’re little. We’ll beat ‘em up and send ‘em home!”
Bending forward, feigning an intense glare, that matched his onlooker’s stares, he muttered, “I’m in! What can I do?
“You have to come with us. If there’s too many, you can fight the rest of ‘em,” Cocker Joe yowled.
“A perfect plan!” McZen fibbed. He dropped his head and glared at the group. “But…” We gotta be careful! We can’t let the other animals hear that we did all the fighting. They’ll tell the elders why the wolves didn’t come. Your Ma’s and Pa’s won’t be happy when they hear how we ‘ran off,’ then did all that fightin ourselves.” The puppies froze. Little eyes flickered as tails curled between their legs.
Caught between laughter and empathy, McZen clenched his quivering beak. “Tell you what! I hear leader Omar has a plan. He’s smart. I’ll see what he’s talkin about before we handle those no-good wolves ourselves… Should I tell him our secret plan?” he added impishly, to prolong the chitchat.
“Huh! No.” Twinkling eyes stared, and tails went back to wagging. “He’ll think of something. He always thinks of something. We’ll wait! Let us know if he needs us! See you later, McZen!” They scurried away.
The warrior eagle soared. He gazed down on the scampering mischief makers as the cool air refreshed his lungs. Several large dogs trotted a short distance behind them.
Major Diggs laid, eyes half closed, relaxed, in the shade of Big Oak, ruler of the mystifying tree monsters. He sighed, “Anything special you need from us, before the timber wolves get here, Omar?”
Omar stretched his long, muscled body, then responded to his second-in-charge. “Nope. Been thinking though… Thor plans to run with Bennie Ba. Somethings bound to go wrong with that. We’d better keep an eye on ‘em both. They like a good fight, better than a good meal.”
Diggs stood. He nodded forcefully, “I knew you’d be thinking that way! That’s why I tracked them down a while ago. Got ‘em both to agree to keep their eyes on the Seers—Great Dane Granny and Komondor Rasta Mama. They’re digging up roots from that ‘special’ garden of theirs again. Bet they’re planning to get rid of them timber wolves without our help. I reckoned if we put the four of ‘em together, there’ll be less to watch.”
Omar tilted his head to meet Diggs’ stare, then stood up and eagerly nudged his friend. “You’ve got something there, Diggs! Thor and Bennie will be in over their heads, but they’ll stick to it! Watch those old mystics find a way to avoid their meddling. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.”
“Arooo! You expect me to believe that, Thor?!”
“Nope! But it sounded good, didn’t it? Aoowl!”
Eyebrows raised and concern mounting, Thor observed Bennie after the tales and laughter subsided. What’s wrong with him? Looks like he wants to say something, but it won’t come. Come on Bennie!
Bennie finally heaved a sigh, then growled, “Did Omar mention, besides both of us being ornery and mean, what caused the hate between Shocka Din and me? That’s part of the reason they’re comin, you know.
“Omar supposes you’ll get to it—if you don’t—that’s fine too.” Thor circled a spot, then flopped down, chortling. “I’m thinking differently, though. Let’s hear it Bennie! Now. And you better not leave nothin out!” He tilted his head sideways and crossed his front legs. “Well!”
“Okay, okay!” Bennie yelped, softly… too softly… out of character…
Suspicious, Thor narrowed his eyes and waited for what came next. Payback! Bennie inhaled a chest full of air, then let out the loudest howl he’d ever heard, barring none. The wolf snickered a toothy grin and began, “As a puppy, I was sickly. Ma and Pa didn’t want to be burdened, so one day they up and left me—just like that—left me, to fend for myself. I foraged. Ate everything I could get my paws on. That’s what pups do anyway.
Rubbing a throbbing ear, while taking in every word, Thor woofed, “That must have been hard for a little pup.”
“Don’t interrupt, Thor!… I came across three timber wolves one day—about my age—Shocka and his two brothers. Never knew what happened to their folks. Shocka and me got along fine. The other two always gawked and whispered when they thought I couldn’t hear. They was mean and sneaky.
“They got up the nerve one day, though, when Shocka wasn’t around. They jumped me! Thought they knew me, but they didn’t. I lit into them like a raging bull. They were slow. I bit, pawed, kicked, and stomped. Before long, I had killed one, and the other was in a bad way.”
Thor stood and began to pace, breathing heavily. He walked a short distance, then peered over his shoulder at Bennie. The glance calmed him. He’s okay now. No need getting riled at something that happened long time ago. Satisfied he’d overcome his unsettling conduct, he barked, “Keep going, Bennie! I’m listening!”
Didn’t mean to get Thor all worked up. Ain’t but one way to tell what happened. I’ll finish up quick. “Sit back down… and stop distracting me!” Bennie snapped back. “I was leavin, when Shocka came back. He attacked me. He was more fighter than both his brothers put together. We were vicious—biting, gouging, and pounding. When we got too tired, and too hurt to continue, we threw out some dirty words, and went our separate ways. Our paths have crossed since then, and each time ended in bloodshed. The last time, worst of all—or, best of all. That’s when Omar and my friends here found me.”
“Wish I was at your side, when all that happened.” Thor growled.
“Wish you were!”
“There must be something we can do! What if we…”
Both dogs froze, ears up, hackles raising.
Major Diggs sprang out of the brush. “Got a minute? I wanna run something by you two…”