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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 14. The Right Of Fang
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Kazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 14. The Right Of Fang Post by :sbeard Category :Long Stories Author :James Oliver Curwood Date :May 2012 Read :891

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Kazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 14. The Right Of Fang


After the fight Kazan lay down exhausted in the blood-stained snow, while faithful Gray Wolf, still filled with the endurance of her wild wolf breed, tore fiercely at the thick skin on the bull's neck to lay open the red flesh. When she had done this she did not eat, but ran to Kazan's side and whined softly as she muzzled him with her nose. After that they feasted, crouching side by side at the bull's neck and tearing at the warm sweet flesh.

The last pale light of the northern day was fading swiftly into night when they drew back, gorged until there were no longer hollows in their sides. The faint wind died away. The clouds that had hung in the sky during the day drifted eastward, and the moon shone brilliant and clear. For an hour the night continued to grow lighter. To the brilliance of the moon and the stars there was added now the pale fires of the aurora borealis, shivering and flashing over the Pole.

Its hissing crackling monotone, like the creaking of steel sledge-runners on frost-filled snow, came faintly to the ears of Kazan and Gray Wolf.

As yet they had not gone a hundred yards from the dead bull, and at the first sound of that strange mystery in the northern skies they stopped and listened to it, alert and suspicious. Then they laid their ears aslant and trotted slowly back to the meat they had killed. Instinct told them that it was theirs only by right of fang. They had fought to kill it. And it was in the law of the wild that they would have to fight to keep it. In good hunting days they would have gone on and wandered under the moon and the stars. But long days and nights of starvation had taught them something different now.

On that clear and stormless night following the days of plague and famine, a hundred thousand hungry creatures came out from their retreats to hunt for food. For eighteen hundred miles east and west and a thousand miles north and south, slim gaunt-bellied creatures hunted under the moon and the stars. Something told Kazan and Gray Wolf that this hunt was on, and never for an instant did they cease their vigilance. At last they lay down at the edge of the spruce thicket, and waited. Gray Wolf muzzled Kazan gently with her blind face. The uneasy whine in her throat was a warning to him. Then she sniffed the air, and listened--sniffed and listened.

Suddenly every muscle in their bodies grew rigid. Something living had passed near them, something that they could not see or hear, and scarcely scent. It came again, as mysterious as a shadow, and then out of the air there floated down as silently as a huge snowflake a great white owl. Kazan saw the hungry winged creature settle on the bull's shoulder. Like a flash he was out from his cover, Gray Wolf a yard behind him. With an angry snarl he lunged at the white robber, and his jaws snapped on empty air. His leap carried him clean over the bull. He turned, but the owl was gone.

Nearly all of his old strength had returned to him now. He trotted about the bull, the hair along his spine bristling like a brush, his eyes wide and menacing. He snarled at the still air. His jaws clicked, and he sat back on his haunches and faced the blood-stained trail that the moose had left before he died. Again that instinct as infallible as reason told him that danger would come from there.

Like a red ribbon the trail ran back through the wilderness. The little swift-moving ermine were everywhere this night, looking like white rats as they dodged about in the moonlight. They were first to find the trail, and with all the ferocity of their blood-eating nature followed it with quick exciting leaps. A fox caught the scent of it a quarter of a mile to windward, and came nearer. From out of a deep windfall a beady-eyed, thin-bellied fisher-cat came forth, and stopped with his feet in the crimson ribbon.

It was the fisher-cat that brought Kazan out; from under his cover of spruce again. In the moonlight there was a sharp quick fight, a snarling and scratching, a cat-like yowl of pain, and the fisher forgot his hunger in flight. Kazan returned to Gray Wolf with a lacerated and bleeding nose. Gray Wolf licked it sympathetically, while Kazan stood rigid and listening.

The fox swung swiftly away with the wind, warned by the sounds of conflict. He was not a fighter, but a murderer who killed from behind, and a little later he leaped upon an owl and tore it into bits for the half-pound of flesh within the mass of feathers.

But nothing could drive back those little white outlaws of the wilderness--the ermine. They would have stolen between the feet of man to get at the warm flesh and blood of the freshly killed bull. Kazan hunted them savagely. They were too quick for him, more like elusive flashes in the moonlight than things of life. They burrowed under the old bull's body and fed while he raved and filled his mouth with snow. Gray Wolf sat placidly on her haunches. The little ermine did not trouble her, and after a time Kazan realized this, and flung himself down beside her, panting and exhausted.

For a long time after that the night was almost unbroken by sound. Once in the far distance there came the cry of a wolf, and now and then, to punctuate the deathly silence, the snow owl hooted in blood-curdling protest from his home in the spruce-tops. The moon was straight above the old bull when Gray Wolf scented the first real danger. Instantly she gave the warning to Kazan and faced the bloody trail, her lithe body quivering, her fangs gleaming in the starlight, a snarling whine in her throat. Only in the face of their deadliest enemy, the lynx--the terrible fighter who had blinded her long ago in that battle on the Sun Rock!--did she give such warning as this to Kazan. He sprang ahead of her, ready for battle even before he caught the scent of the gray beautiful creature of death stealing over the trail.

Then came the interruption. From a mile away there burst forth a single fierce long-drawn howl.

After all, that was the cry of the true master of the wilderness--the wolf. It was the cry of hunger. It was the cry that sent men's blood running more swiftly through their veins, that brought the moose and the deer to their feet shivering in every limb--the cry that wailed like a note of death through swamp and forest and over the snow-smothered ridges until its faintest echoes reached for miles into the starlit night.

There was silence, and in that awesome stillness Kazan and Gray Wolf stood shoulder to shoulder facing the cry, and in response to that cry there worked within them a strange and mystic change, for what they had heard was not a warning or a menace but the call of Brotherhood. Away off there--beyond the lynx and the fox and the fisher-cat, were the creatures of their kind, the wild-wolf pack, to which the right to all flesh and blood was common--in which existed that savage socialism of the wilderness, the Brotherhood of the Wolf. And Gray Wolf, setting back on her haunches, sent forth the response to that cry--a wailing triumphant note that told her hungry brethren there was feasting at the end of the trail.

And the lynx, between those two cries, sneaked off into the wide and moonlit spaces of the forest.

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