At long last… I write. I live. I start the next shifter story. Hardest part of this bit has been figuring out a title. Hope you enjoy Riddles on the Wind.
She ran. Snow crunched beneath her paws as the muscular legs drove her faster and faster. The whomping sounds over her head drove the pack towards the treeline. The scattered as they hit the shadows. Just a bit further, and she’d be safe too.
Pain seared her side. She tumbled and staggered as she regained her feet. Running hurt. Breathing hurt. She ran for her mate.
Andre heard the supply plane turn and bank. He smiled, and hoped that Marie would get back before the pilot and his buddy came with their supplies. It usually took them thirty or forty minutes to unload supplies. This trip had started after they’d dropped their daughter off at University. That had been nearly eight months ago. The locals all thought that they were wildlife researchers. Their real mission had been to help all of the shifters who had drifted north to hide from a world grown too loud.
He bent to add wood to the fire. The kettle on the tripod began to heat. Marie would want a cup of coffee when she returned. The sound of gunshots brought him to his feet, heart pounding. Andre turned towards the sound, searching the woods. “Oh let it just be a deer hunter!” He started towards the trees.
She could smell her mate. Hurt so much. She stumbled and got up. This time it was harder to move.
Andre saw the wolf stumble out of the undergrowth. He ran. When he reached her, he could see the blood in her fur. “Marie!” He dropped to his knees, inspecting the damage the rifle bullets had done. Three long gouges had opened her right flank. He stripped off his shirt, and wrapped the wolf. Then he lifted her and ran for their camp.
She smelled her mate. He carried her as she struggled to breathe.
Andre placed the wolf on the ground next to the fire. He grabbed for his first aid kit and began checking out the wounds. One was a scratch. Another had nicked her shoulder. The last one bled badly. The angle of it probably meant it had nicked her lung. For the hundreth time, he cursed himself for not taking more veterinarian classes. “Marie, shift back. I can’t tell where you’ve been hit.” He held a compress to the wound as he tried to check the rest of her.
The wolf growled, and then slowly, shifted. After a few minutes, Marie lay there naked and bloody. Andre took a good look and realized that the bullet had entered her shoulder and hit a lung and shattered ribs. He realized that without an operating room that there was no hope for his wife.
“You bury me here. You no die. Gotta care for Libellue.” Marie coughed and blood tinged her lips.
“No dammit! You can’t die!” Andre was frantic on the inside, and icy calm on the surface as years of medical training tried to stem the flow of blood and life from his wife.
“I go. See Mama. See all my family. You…” She coughed. “You take care…”
“Conserve your strength. Let me…”
“Non. I go. I love you so much. Don forget to tell Libillue I love her.” Marie’s voice began to fade. Her eyes fluttered.
“Nooo!” Andre cried as he clasped Marie to his chest. He held her as her breath slowed and then stopped. Tears slid down his face and mingled with her blood.
When the two men approached camp, they were surprised when the man didn’t acknowledge them as they hailed the camp.
“Hey! Andre! You shoulda seen the wolves we saw today! Killed three of them varmits!” said one as they put the boxes down on the ground.
“Yeah, that big one got away though. Hit it two-three times and it just kept running,” said the other one. He stepped around in front of the fire and saw Andre’s face for the first time. His eyes went wide in horror at the sight of blood covering the man. “What the hell happened?”
“You.” Andre stood up.
“What?” asked the first man.
“You killed my wife.” Andre pointed to Marie. She was laid out on the sleeping bag and covered with a blanket. Blood matted her hair and was spattered across her face.
“No man, we shot us some wolves.”
Andre moved towards them slowly. “No, you shot a shifter. A werewolf. My wife.”
“No man, you just gotta settle down. You musta be confused. We shot a wolf.” The man backed away as he spoke.
“Yeah, what Jack there said. Your… your wife died, and you just blamin’ us. We didn’t have nothin’ to do with her bein’ dead.”
“Three shots. Three wounds. One fatal.” Andre was almost whispering. He kept walking towards the two men. They turned to run.
The wolves heard the mate growling at the other two legs. The leader nodded to the gray wolf who slunk down on his belly in the tall grass and headed to the right. Then the remaining two wolves headed left. When the mate started forward, they raced forward. One leapt high, catching the first one in the throat. It squealed as the heavy teeth clamped down. The other wolves tackled the two leg that smelled of sulfur and shit high and low. The leader grabbed the squirming two leg and ripped it’s throat out. As the two legs lay dying, the wolves turned their backs on them and kicked dirt over them. Then they walked over to the mate, sat down and howled.
Andre was stunned. He hadn’t had any plan except to confront the men. His knife lay next to the fire, and his bare hands were still covered with Marie’s blood. One second he’d been walking towards the men. The next, he was witness to their slaughter. It had been so quick, he’d almost missed the first attack.
He looked at the wolves approaching him and wondered if he’d be next. He almost wished it. To his surprise, they sat and began to howl. That sad low keening he’d heard at Natalie’s death. Sobs burst from his chest as his legs gave out, and he fell to the ground. The wolves ran towards him, nuzzling him, patting him with their paws, leaning against him as he sobbed.
The sound of buzzing flies and the heat on his shoulders brought Andre back to the present. He took a deep breath, and realized that the wolves were still pressed up against him. He could smell blood and death. He turned towards where he’d put Marie down and saw that one wolf stood guard. “Must get up. Must move.” Andre tried to stand. “Come on guys, let me up. I’ll be… alright.”
The wolves moved, but not far. They followed him to Marie’s side. Dropping to his knees once more, he brushed the flies away from her face. Then he kissed her forehead. “Goodbye my love.” He stood as the tears ran down his face. Looking around, he found his shovel and headed towards the hill that the two of them had claimed as their picnic spot. He began to dig.
“Let me help,” said a rough voice.
Andre looked up to see a filthy naked man standing on the other side of the grave he’d been trying to dig. He nodded and handed over the shovel.
The man dug for a while and then another man who didn’t speak took a turn. A wolf jumped into the hole and dug. One of the men shoveled the loose dirt out of the grave. Between the four of them, they got the grave dug. Andre stood up and headed back to camp. The men helped him wash Marie. Then they wrapped her in her sleeping bag and carried her up the hill. Gently, they lowered her into the grave. Andre kissed her one last time and then stood there with his head bowed. One of the men had grabbed flowers from the meadow and scattered them in the grave. Andre reached into his pocket and pulled out the flask of whiskey.
“We gather under the Sun, in the woods and beneath open skies to honor Marie Davy Paquet. My wife, my mate, my love. May she run in the woods with family gone before.” He took a swig of the whiskey and passed it to the next man.
“To Marie. Damn good woman.” He took a drink and passed the flask.
“To one fine bitch.” The man took a drink and then passed the flask to Andre.
The wolf next to Andre turned his head to the sky and howled. The other shifters joined him. Andre poured the rest of the flask into the grave.
After they filled the grave and placed what stones they could find over it, the pack walked back to the camp. The two shifters hauled away the bodies of the pilot and his friend. The wolf, a shifter who could no longer shift back stayed with Andre. A little while later, he heard the ‘woosh’ as the plane burst into flames. Crashes were part of life in the Canadian forests. No one would think twice about it once the Mounties found the wreck.
The next morning, Andre had packed camp and headed south. He didnt’ want to stay in the camp that held so many raw memories, the scent of blood and death. He’d marked Marie’s grave on the map. The wolves followed in his wake. He was pack, and pack stayed together.