A few of the pack were cracking open bones in their jaws to get at the sweet marrow inside. Most were sitting quietly in the last of the fading sun, satisfied after eating so much, while others were watching the young ones slowly romp around before night fell. Growl and Fangs were leaving for the last patrol of the evening.

Something bothered Hunter. A sense of unease that kept him pacing around the area when the pack was digging in for the night.

“Problems?” asked Leader quietly as Hunter came pacing near.

Hunter sat down and exhaled. “Something not right,” he said, looking around with his ears standing straight up.

Leader pricked up his ears and listened as well. There, in the distance….

Suddenly, Fangs’ roar and Growl’s warning howl sounded from a short distance away. Their warning told of a band of green ones coming this way.

Leader ran toward his mates to help them gather up the cubs. They were already settling in together near a low stone outcropping, so it was easy to get into a defensive position. Leader gave a quick growl of warning as he ran by. He went to move all the mothers and young ones together and quickly organize the defense.

The hard part was the waiting. Leader frantically searched the distance for any movement. The low light of the setting sun was perfect for his eyes. Long moments passed as everyone sniffed the air and scanned the distance for the inevitable arrival. Leader looked to both sides at the line of eight other defenders of the pack, ready to meet the onslaught.

It happened all in a jumble. Two familiar figures crashed through the underbrush and ran toward the pack. Behind Growl and Fangs, a great surge of bodies burst into view. The screeching and screaming that accompanied the green ones on their hunts were unmistakable at this distance. About two dozen of them were running at full speed, digging and clawing at the ground with frenzied speed.

Leader had a shameful feeling of elation as he finally saw the enemies; the waiting was over. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the seething mass running toward him. Giving his packmates and the horde a few seconds to close the distance, Leader then stood up and gave a roar. Towering over the small green ones by almost twice their height, he felt powerful. He then crouched down and leapt forward into the surging mass of bodies.

Claws extended from his paws and slashed at the mass. He felt his one hand connect, the sharp weapons digging into vulnerable skin and ripping deep gashes. Bits of green skin clung to his claws as he used his forward momentum to crash into two other enemies. He tumbled forward and used hind claws to disembowel one of the enemies.

He twisted to get up when he felt a pain in his leg. The other green one had bit him deep, and he felt blood splattering on the fur of his thigh. He reached down to beat the head of the green one to make it let go. Sharp teeth dug in, threatening to rip off a chunk of flesh, but eventually the grip went slack with enough vicious blows.

Leader was in a wild frenzy and his vision filled with the red haze of fury; he attacked without hesitation. He lashed out at the nearest target and ripped the small green head from the body. He was fighting for his life, for the life of his children, for the life of his whole pack.

It was his favored mate’s scream that brought his focus away from the scattering enemies. Wiping the blood from the fur around his eyes, he saw one of the green ones had broken through the line of defense, dodged around the mother’s occupied with another green creature, and snatched one of the young ones from the group. Leader realized in dismay that the young one in the green one’s claws was his own Young Cub. He moved to leap toward the thief, but his legs were tangled by corpses and he fell hard on the ground. A yell of fury directed at the green one was all he could do.

A savage growl from the far side of the battle gave notice that another of the fighters had seen the green one’s attack. A streak of pale gray fur moved toward the offender; Leader was shocked to see the Old One moving faster than he thought possible. Her bloodied jaws snapped shut on the arm of the green one, yanking it savagely. Young Cub dropped to the ground, dazed, as the Old One whipped her body around and yanked the green monster off his feet and away from the cub.

But, a grasping green hand had found her fur and dug in as it swung back around. It pulled its own sharp teeth toward the exposed flank of the Old One and bit in deep. A yelp of pain came forth as she opened her mouth and flailed around to try to dislodge the attacker. Leader found his feet and ran toward the Old One. With a powerful leap, he closed his jaws around the neck of the green one and bit hard. The body went limp and the Old One’s thrashings finally dislodged teeth from her flesh.

It took Leader a moment to collect his wits. Looking around, he saw bloodied bodies everywhere. The green ones had been killed or driven off, and other pack members were catching their breath. As some started licking wounds, Leader went over to where the Old One had finally collapsed in fatigue.

Leader gave a low, calming purr as he inspected her wounds. She had a few scrapes, but the last green one had opened a large wound on her flank. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow, punctuated by an occasional whine.

“Calm,” Leader said as he started licking her wound clean. “Rest.”

“Young one safe?” the Old One asked after a moment.

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Young ones more important than old ones,” she muttered, laying her head back down and closing her eyes.

“Old one important to me tonight,” Leader said as he saw his mate carrying Young Cub back to a safe location. The pack moved back into a defensive position and tended to the wounded as night fell.


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