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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 15. A Fight Under The Stars
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Kazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 15. A Fight Under The Stars Post by :andrewteg Category :Long Stories Author :James Oliver Curwood Date :May 2012 Read :3654

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Kazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 15. A Fight Under The Stars

CHAPTER XV. A FIGHT UNDER THE STARS

On their haunches Kazan and Gray Wolf waited. Five minutes passed, ten--fifteen--and Gray Wolf became uneasy. No response had followed her call. Again she howled, with Kazan quivering and listening beside her, and again there followed that dead stillness of the night. This was not the way of the pack. She knew that it had not gone beyond the reach of her voice and its silence puzzled her. And then in a flash it came to them both that the pack, or the single wolf whose cry they had heard, was very near them. The scent was warm. A few moments later Kazan saw a moving object in the moonlight. It was followed by another, and still another, until there were five slouching in a half-circle about them, seventy yards away. Then they laid themselves flat in the snow and were motionless.

A snarl turned Kazan's eyes to Gray Wolf. His blind mate had drawn back. Her white fangs gleamed menacingly in the starlight. Her ears were flat. Kazan was puzzled. Why was she signaling danger to him when it was the wolf, and not the lynx, out there in the snow? And why did the wolves not come in and feast? Slowly he moved toward them, and Gray Wolf called to him with her whine. He paid no attention to her, but went on, stepping lightly, his head high in the air, his spine bristling.

In the scent of the strangers, Kazan was catching something now that was strangely familiar. It drew him toward them more swiftly and when at last he stopped twenty yards from where the little group lay flattened in the snow, his thick brush waved slightly. One of the animals sprang up and approached. The others followed and in another moment Kazan was in the midst of them, smelling and smelled, and wagging his tail. They were dogs, and not wolves.

In some lonely cabin in the wilderness their master had died, and they had taken to the forests. They still bore signs of the sledge-traces. About their necks were moose-hide collars. The hair was worn short at their flanks, and one still dragged after him three feet of corded babiche trace. Their eyes gleamed red and hungry in the glow of the moon and the stars. They were thin, and gaunt and starved, and Kazan suddenly turned and trotted ahead of them to the side of the dead bull. Then he fell back and sat proudly on his haunches beside Gray Wolf, listening to the snapping of jaws and the rending of flesh as the starved pack feasted.

Gray Wolf slunk closer to Kazan. She muzzled his neck and Kazan gave her a swift dog-like caress of his tongue, assuring her that all was well. She flattened herself in the snow when the dogs had finished and came up in their dog way to sniff at her, and make closer acquaintance with Kazan. Kazan towered over her, guarding her. One huge red-eyed dog who still dragged the bit of babiche trace muzzled Gray Wolf's soft neck for a fraction of a second too long, and Kazan uttered a savage snarl of warning. The dog drew back, and for a moment their fangs gleamed over Gray Wolf's blind face. It was the Challenge of the Breed.

The big husky was the leader of the pack, and if one of the other dogs had snarled at him, as Kazan snarled he would have leaped at his throat. But in Kazan, standing fierce and half wild over Gray Wolf, he recognized none of the serfdom of the sledge-dogs. It was master facing master; in Kazan it was more than that for he was Gray Wolf's mate. In an instant more he would have leaped over her body to have fought for her, more than for the right of leadership. But the big husky turned away sullenly, growling, still snarling, and vented his rage by nipping fiercely at the flank of one of his sledge-mates.

Gray Wolf understood what had happened, though she could not see. She shrank closer to Kazan. She knew that the moon and the stars had looked down on that thing that always meant death--the challenge to the right of mate. With her luring coyness, whining and softly muzzling his shoulder and neck, she tried to draw Kazan away from the pad-beaten circle in which the bull lay. Kazan's answer was an ominous rolling of smothered thunder deep down in his throat. He lay down beside her, licked her blind face swiftly, and faced the stranger dogs.

The moon sank lower and lower and at last dropped behind the western forests. The stars grew paler. One by one they faded from the sky and after a time there followed the cold gray dawn of the North. In that dawn the big husky leader rose from the hole he had made in the snow and returned to the bull. Kazan, alert, was on his feet in an instant and stood also close to the bull. The two circled ominously, their heads lowered, their crests bristling. The husky drew away, and Kazan crouched at the bull's neck and began tearing at the frozen flesh. He was not hungry. But in this way he showed his right to the flesh, his defiance of the right of the big husky.

For a few seconds he forgot Gray Wolf. The husky had slipped back like a shadow and now he stood again over Gray Wolf, sniffing her neck and body. Then he whined. In that whine were the passion, the invitation, the demand of the Wild. So quickly that the eye could scarcely follow her movement faithful Gray Wolf sank her gleaming fangs in the husky's shoulder.

A gray streak--nothing more tangible than a streak of gray, silent and terrible, shot through the dawn-gloom. It was Kazan. He came without a snarl, without a cry, and in a moment he and the husky were in the throes of terrific battle.

The four other huskies ran in quickly and stood waiting a dozen paces from the combatants. Gray Wolf lay crouched on her belly. The giant husky and the quarter-strain wolf-dog were not fighting like sledge-dog or wolf. For a few moments rage and hatred made them fight like mongrels. Both had holds. Now one was down, and now the other, and so swiftly did they change their positions that the four waiting sledge-dogs were puzzled and stood motionless. Under other conditions they would have leaped upon the first of the fighters to be thrown upon his back and torn him to pieces. That was the way of the wolf and the wolf-dog. But now they stood back, hesitating and fearful.

The big husky had never been beaten in battle. Great Dane ancestors had given him a huge bulk and a jaw that could crush an ordinary dog's head. But in Kazan he was meeting not only the dog and the wolf, but all that was best in the two. And Kazan had the advantage of a few hours of rest and a full stomach. More than that, he was fighting for Gray Wolf. His fangs had sunk deep in the husky's shoulder, and the husky's long teeth met through the hide and flesh of his neck. An inch deeper, and they would have pierced his jugular. Kazan knew this, as he crunched his enemy's shoulder-bone, and every instant--even in their fiercest struggling--he was guarding against a second and more successful lunge of those powerful jaws.

At last the lunge came, and quicker than the wolf itself Kazan freed himself and leaped back. His chest dripped blood, but he did not feel the hurt. They began slowly to circle, and now the watching sledge-dogs drew a step or two nearer, and their jaws drooled nervously and their red eyes glared as they waited for the fatal moment. Their eyes were on the big husky. He became the pivot of Kazan's wider circle now, and he limped as he turned. His shoulder was broken. His ears were flattened as he watched Kazan.

Kazan's ears were erect, and his feet touched the snow lightly. All his fighting cleverness and all his caution had returned to him. The blind rage of a few moments was gone and he fought now as he had fought his deadliest enemy, the long-clawed lynx. Five times he circled around the husky, and then like a shot he was in, sending his whole weight against the husky's shoulder, with the momentum of a ten-foot leap behind it. This time he did not try for a hold, but slashed at the husky's jaws. It was the deadliest of all attacks when that merciless tribunal of death stood waiting for the first fall of the vanquished. The huge dog was thrown from his feet. For a fatal moment he rolled upon his side and in the moment his four sledge-mates were upon him. All of their hatred of the weeks and months in which the long-fanged leader had bullied them in the traces was concentrated upon him now and he was literally torn into pieces.

Kazan pranced to Gray Wolf's side and with a joyful whine she laid her head over his neck. Twice he had fought the Fight of Death for her. Twice he had won. And in her blindness Gray Wolf's soul--if soul she had--rose in exultation to the cold gray sky, and her breast panted against Kazan's shoulder as she listened to the crunching of fangs in the flesh and bone of the foe her lord and master had overthrown.

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