It had been raining for many days and nights since the attack. It was wearing on everyone; wounds festered in the cold, wet weather instead of healing with sun and healthy activity.

Most huddled in the lee side of boulders and rock outcroppings. Some huddled in small burrows dug out to avoid the downpour. Shadow had been flooded out of her den and was staying with Leader and his mates and cubs. The mud and the rain had turned her normally bright red fur into a depressing brown color. All her tricks to make the weather clear up were ineffective.

It was the Old One who suffered the most. Her wounds refused to heal and angry, oozing wounds matted her fur where she had been hurt. Even in better times the occasional night of rain made her legs hurt bad enough, but she was in continuous pain in the current weather. She hadn’t eaten in several days, and even Help bringing her some of the meager hunt didn’t encourage her to eat. Huddled against the boulder that blocked some of the rain, she slept or whined quietly in pain.

The only time she even looked at anyone was when Leader came by to see how she was doing on his evening visit of the pack. She would open one eye as he approached and ask how the young ones were doing. Leader would share an amusing story about one of his cubs. Sometimes she would smile at the story, but she often dozed off while he was telling it. This continued for many nights, the same routine in the same chilly dampness.

Growl came along one evening to visit Leader. “The Old One…,” he started, voice trailing off.

“I worry,” Leader said. “Keeps to herself, but still part of pack.”

Growl sat and looked at the cubs playing at his feet. “She is dying.”

Leader sighed heavily. The two sat together silently, watching the rain fade from sight in the oncoming gloom of night. Leader got up to go on his rounds, and Growl went along with him. When they came to the Old One, she barely stirred. The two looked at each other quietly.

“You good?” Growl asked quietly.

The Old One opened an eye and exhaled. “Not dead yet, Growl,” she said, quietly.

Growl got up and sniffed at the Old One. “Soon,” he said.

“Very soon. Soon for you, too,” the Old One shot back at Growl.

Growl gave a snort and walked off into the rain toward his sleeping area.

Leader approached the Old One and sniffed carefully. He wasn’t as adept at smelling the differences in the wolfen ones, but he detected a scent he had rarely caught before. He sat down next to the Old One and put his head down next to hers.

“All good,” the Old One finally said. “I am old, time to leave.”

“Will miss you,” Leader said, not looking at her.

“Perhaps,” she said as she gave a small laugh that turned into a cough.

Leader was at a loss. He sat by her for a little while longer as the light of day finally faded completely. The rhythmic wheezing let him know when the Old One was fast asleep. He got up, stretched, and left to get his mates while the Old One slept. He ate, played with the cubs, checked on everyone one last time, and went to sleep for the night worrying about the Old One.

During the night the rains had finally stopped. The morning was bright as the sun was able to shine across the lands for the first time in a long while.

Leader woke up and looked over to where he had left the Old One last night, except she wasn’t there. He got up and went to find Growl.

“The Old One?” Leader asked when he found the grizzled wolfen one chewing on the morning’s breakfast.

“Gone?”

“Yes.”

“Found strength for the final hunt,” Growl said. He looked at where the Old One had been the previous night.

Leader sat down and looked over at the empty space as well. He fell silent as he remembered the one who had saved his cub’s life. Now she was gone.



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