The Purple Sun
Summary: The quiet hours before dawn. For a pack of wolves, the rising of the sun is far from being a hopeful sign.
The night receded slowly and some lonely fair streaks of purple in the sky announced the nearing dawn. Woods and plains still bore the colourless gloom of an unripe young morning.
Nightgrey hurried past the trees and down a narrow valley where a river flowed in its bed. The harsh panting behind him reminded him of the others and he slowed down a little. Impatiently he waited until they were at his side then they trotted down to the banks together.
The water was cool and only now Nightgrey noticed how thirsty he was. He drank in hasty gulps before he lay down at the riverside, tongue lolling from his mouth and trying to get his breath back. They needed to move on, the Longshanks were still following them closely. But the pack was weary.
Nightgrey glanced to his pack mates who mostly were still drinking. The cubs were only a few weeks old and not yet strong enough to run such a distance without rest or food. Nevertheless, there was no other choice at the moment.
Nightgrey shivered as he remembered the last few days. On a hunt, a sudden thunder rang out deafening the surprised pack. Darkmuzzle, their former leader, dropped to the ground like a stone and moved no more. The pack was in an uproar until Nightgrey began howling. They calmed down and followed him since then. Many of the thunders erupted behind them and the Barkers, strange creatures of the Longshanks, were hunting them down. They were good trackers, always sniffing around and finding their trails anew, but they were loud. For a moment, Nightgrey thought he could still hear them barking in the distance. But the forest was silent and only the sound of rushing water met his ears.
Wearily he let his head drop on his paws. They should move on for in the bright sunlight the enemies would be faster. But the pack was on the brink of exhaustion and they would be caught anyway if they moved on and collapsed.
A soft whimper drew his attention back to his pack and he saw that Silkfur lay unmoving in the water. A stream of red was taken away by the river underneath her body. Concerned, Nightgrey stood up and trotted to her side. She looked up at him and whined softly. A deep hole was in her side and she bled heavily from it. Carefully Nightgrey licked the wound and gained again a painful whimper. The cubs noticed that something was wrong and came to their mother's side, but Nightgrey chased them away with a deep growl.
Silkfur had been Darkmuzzle's mate and now that he was dead she belonged to him. Together they led the pack. Her cubs were his as well although everyone helped raise them.
In the distant, a flock of crows flapped off the trees and flew over their heads, croaking alarmingly. Nightgrey looked up sharply and then nudged Silkfur to her feet. The Longshanks were coming, there was no doubt about that. With some help, Silkfur staggered to the banks and weakly sank down on the sand. Nightgrey gathered his pack and prepared them to leave soon. Some were already standing but many were too weary to go on. The cubs were in their middle and it was clear that they soon would be pressed to carry them. There were four cubs so four of the elders had to carry the extra… Wait! Four cubs? In their middle, there were only three, sitting on their haunches and hanging their heads tiredly. Where was the fourth?
Alert, Nightgrey looked around, using his nose as well to find the small cub. He instantly knew who the lost one was: Tinypaw. If there was trouble around, Tinypaw was not far away. The cub always seemed to feel how to make an uproar in the pack.
Nightgrey growled a short command for the others to stay in the woods before he ran off through bushes to find the little troublemaker. Sniffing the ground he soon found a trail.
A loud yelp behind the trees in front of him let Nightgrey's head shoot up. He took off at a run and crashed through brushwood until he saw the lost cub. A big brown Barker had Tinypaw backed against the trunk of a tree and although the cub made valiant efforts to defend himself, the other was just too strong for him.
With a big jump Nightgrey hurled the Barker to the ground and sank his teeth in the soft flesh of the other's side. The creature howled in agony but snapped at Nightgrey in turn. Nightgrey pulled back and the sharp teeth of his opponent only grazed his shoulder. Getting really enraged now, he managed to bite the Barker in the back of the neck and he shook him quite a few times. When he let go, his opponent lay unmoving on the ground.
Tinypaw stood by his side, gnawing on the leg of the Barker and giving small snarls of his own in an imitation of Nightgrey's. The older companion let his tongue lolling from his mouth in a sort of smile before he grabbed the cub gently with his teeth and carried him back to the pack.
The others stood up as they saw their leader coming back and they moved on at once. Nightgrey was still carrying Tinypaw but he also helped Silkfur walk beside him. The she-wolf leaned heavily on him for support and he was gladly willing to grant it for he wished to go on at a steady pace.
As they trotted along, the sky at their backs turned slowly from purple to red. The first uncertain rays of sunlight crept over the hills and Nightgrey turned his head to them with concern. The night was losing the battle and darkness made way to daylight. Cover was being taken away by the sun and the red of the sky promised no good. Dawn reached out and left everything in its wake tinged with red. Red like blood.