by Traci Smiley
The ground beneath seemed to vibrate with energy. Today's rainfall had left a fresh smell of
moss in the air and sheen on the stone beneath her feet. She watches as the last light of day slips away,
turning the sky crimson, then dark, as the moon starts to crest the distant mountains in the east.
She sits and waits. The moon slowly rises over the hillside, sending out a soft light on the valley below.
The valley shines bright as if in the middle of the day, yet in shadows. She can make out the deer
and elk grazing lazily as she goes undetected. The deer have nothing to worry about, as she is not hunting on this night, just observing.
From her mountain perch she can see the river just past the clearing. Beyond that the forest becomes denser.
She lets her thoughts drift to a better time. They had always planned to make that their home;
a safe place to raise their young and grow old. She will fulfill that dream, only now it will be on her own.
That dream will have to wait until the little ones are able to make the trip on their own. Slowly she turns
to make her way back to the den as the moon creeps higher in the sky.
What was that? A familiar and frightening sound off in the distance? Her mind starts whirling,
going back, back into a time she would just as soon forget. No, it can't be! Dogs, the dogs are back!
Her mind starts racing, what direction is it coming from? The fear is building; she can feel it crawling
up from her loins until her hackles were standing straight up. She begins to run as fast and hard as she can.
She has to let them catch her scent before they reach the den. It has to be her they come after, not the little ones.
No she can not lose them also. She grows closer to the baying of the hounds. Not much more distance until... She comes
to a halt. She had misjudged the distance and has left very little space between herself and the dogs! Now she must
exert more energy to move quickly and quietly through the brush. They have caught it! They know she is close.
The baying is now headed in her direction.
Time to run! She must remain sure footed as she leads them through rugged terrain. She must take a path that is hard,
for the ones who walk on two legs have trouble following.
Her muscles ache as she takes the next slope of the ridge. She glances back for a moment; she doesn't have time to lose.
She must be fast, silent and relentless. She takes a new path, unfamiliar ground, not safe, but a risk that must be taken.
Her whole body glistens with perspiration as she glides silently through the under brush of the forest, with only the moon
Have they detected her? Did her scent lead the dogs away? Are her little ones still safe? Why have they returned?
She has stayed away, and only hunted what was there in the forest. These thoughts she must push aside as the baying of the
hounds begins again. They have found her scent and are now in heavy pursuit.
She keeps thinking of the tasks yet to perform, winter draws near and there is much hunting to do. First, though,
the danger must be led away, and then the den must be moved.
Ahead she sees the clearing just over the ridge. She knows that she will reach the safety of the river on the other side,
but cannot risk being seen running through the clearing. So she must make her way through the tall shrubs and hope that she
can lose them before she reaches the water.
The dogs grow closer, she must move faster. Even so her mind flashes back to six months past. She was heavy with the
pregnancy, and he sent her away. He promised everything would be fine; he would meet her back at the lair. She waited a
full two moons for him. The cubs came and still he did not come, and now the dogs have returned and threatened what their
last creation made from the love they shared.
She gains strength from the memory and continues her frantic pace. The river! She has reached the river. Now to walk in the
water down stream and turn back up, she will let them think she continued downstream. That will work, it must work. Now to
get back to the den and the little ones as quickly as she can, she must move them tonight, they must make the trip earlier
She reaches the summit of her hillside and is greeted by her little ones, they are still safe. She quickly explains that
they must move, and gathers her family. They begin their journey in the direction opposite to that in which she took the
hounds. Their pace is much slower and the terrain less troublesome. All she can hope for at this point is that she has
bought them enough time.
As they near the clearing she hears the hounds in the distance. She decides to keep the little ones in the thick underbrush
for their safety. It will make moving that much longer but in the long run it will be safer.
The deer are still in the clearing as they round the bend. That means the hounds are up wind from them, and they are
still undetected. She can hear the river ahead, it is close. As she approaches the riverside she must keep her little ones
under cover while she searches for a shallow to make it easier for them to cross. The water is running rapidly though,
which will make crossing harder for the cubs. She must carry them each across the river herself.
She takes the first cub by the nap of its neck and begins the crossing of the river, once on the other side she places
him in a covered area safe from sight. She then proceeds to do the same with his remaining brothers and sisters. As she is
carrying the last of her young across the river, she catches wind of the dogs and can hear their baying nearby. This is no
time to panic, most of the little ones are on the other side, she must make it across with this last one and they are safe!
She keeps repeating this in her mind as she struggles to keep going. Her muscles are weakened, but she knows she must finish
her task before she can rest. Their safety depends on her.
She has made it! Her muscles are screaming and feel as if they are on fire, but she must move the cubs from the edge of
the river to a safer hiding spot. As she does so, she notices that the moon is starting to set and the sun is cresting in
the east. As she had watched the moon rise hours ago, the sun now begins its ascent into the sky.
The little band travels until the sun is almost at its highest point in the sky, then she spies it.
A den, one she has only dreamed of before. On a ledge where it would keep her young ones safe, but still allow them to
explore. Is it vacant or is there still another dwelling inside? She tucks her little ones aside, and then goes to check
Once inside she sees that it has been empty for a very long time. They have found their new home, and they will
now be safe.