Timmm thought about the poem. “So, what Leader said when he ‘Welcomed’ me was just a part of a bigger poem?” Timothy asked. “It's not a welcome at all, is it? It's more like a curse.” With that he turned his face away and watched the Point with her in silence.
“Being a wolf seems like it should always be fun, Timmm. We're all tough and cool. We really have it made up here on the Mountain. There isn't anyone to tell us what to do, or not to do, but we are our own worst enemies. Without someone to guide us, or a higher goal, we sink into trap made of our own weaknesses. We keep doing whatever pleases us the most right now. Being a wolf is all about self-pleasure and instant gratification.” Timothy recalled lectures he’d gotten in the Meadows about the same thing. It hadn’t seemed to apply to me then. So I'd seen no need to listen at the time.
“It never takes too long, with that kind of selfish self-interest, for greed and envy to set in. Then, we tear ourselves apart. I'm still a young wolf, but I’ve lost two previous Packs the same way. They self destructed. I suppose every wolf-gang eventually does, whether they last a long time or are just there for a short while. They all come to the same end.
“I'd hoped with Leader in charge of this Pack, it would last.” Honey sat in silence disconsolately. Timothy leaned against her and they both watched the moon and listened to the insects in the trees.
Timothy woke with as start. He fell over as Honey bolted up. It was morning and Wabbit was sounding a warning. At first he thought he’d woken in the Meadow and couldn't remember where he was. Then he recalled Leader's death and yesterday's violent events. They didn’t seem real.
“Heads up, someone’s coming down the trail. Wabbit heard them coming first. Be ready in case something happens.” Honey advised him.
Be ready? Timothy was at a loss as to what he was supposed to do if there was suddenly a wolf-fight. Never the less, he moved in beside Bullet and Howler. Here at this narrow point in the trail, the three of them could block the path completely and prevent any further entry into the Safe Spot. Timothy felt sick to his stomach with fright. I can't let that bother me now, he told himself. He looked over his shoulder. Honey, with Juan and Boar made up a second line of defense behind them. With them was the big form of young Demeter. He hoped Kachina had made it to join them too, but he hadn’t seen her. Movement caught his eye.
Into the open in front of them came Villain himself with a crowd of his bullies. Timothy saw Weasel and Fang behind Villain in the front line of wolves. So, I guess Brain is still absent, Timothy noted. The crowd stopped as they saw that their way into the Safe Spot was blocked. Villain stared straight at Timothy, clearly angry to find them in his path. “Out of the way,” Villain demanded. “I'm looking for a few of Leader's unfit wolves.”
He heard Honey answer from behind him. “Peace Villain. We have no quarrels here.”
“What is 'Peace'?” He snarled. “If you want peace, get out of my way. Leader is gone, Honey. I’m in charge of the Pack now. This gang is going back to our old ways. We got no room for unfit wolves.”
“In the old days, the unfit wolves left the Pack voluntarily. Why come to force them out, Villain?”
“These unfit ones are a disease in the Pack. I want them out now, before they infect us any more than they already have.”
“Leader didn't think so...”, Honey began.
“Leader is dead,” Villain snarled. “He was a false wolf anyway. Everyone knows he was just a ram. They’re a lesser species.” Timothy felt a pang. Johnny and I are included in that whether anyone here knew it or not. “It's clear to see why he wanted to let other unfit and false wolves in now. Everyone knows now how he lied to us and mislead us. Anyone who can't let Leader and his ways go, is going to get purged out of the Pack. I don't care who you are.” He looked at Timothy again as he said that.
“Peace, Villain,” Honey said again. “As you say, Leader is dead and gone. All of us here support the new order of things. There are none here who will die for a dead king.”
“Then let me and my wolves in,” Villain growled. “I'm looking for wolves that don't deserve to live,” saying that Villain and his wolves crowded forward with teeth bared. Howler and Bullet began to snarl in return as they advanced.
Courage, Timothy told himself. Just act tough and stay calm. He took two steps forward ahead of Howler and Bullet. “Hold Villain,” he called out. “We're not moving. Let all the excitement die down and we'll all be Pack-mates again.” I was friendly with most every wolf in the Pack before Villain pulled his coupe. At least, I think that’s true. I hope that counts for something now and I can talk them out of attacking.
“Well, if it isn't Timmm, the wonder wolf. I didn't see you there,” Villain grinned at his lie. “Come and join me, Timmm. You've proven to be a real wolf, not like these misfits with you here. Although you fought my wolves yesterday, you did well enough. We would welcome your strength.” No matter how much Villain's words may have been enticing, his evil sly look made them hollow to Timothy.
“I did well enough to kill one of your wolves, Villain.” ‘A kill is a kill’. Time to take credit for yesterday's misfortune. “It's going to cost you to get by us. Is it worth it? I'll break a few more bones at least. And, honestly, I'm pretty sure that we can hold this trail here all day long. Just us three. How many wolves do you want to throw at us?” Villain scowled while his bullies in front looked less sure.
Timothy purposefully took a long lingering look over the edge of the trail where the cliff fell away to a long drop to rocks below. “I can push your wolves over the edge here as long as you can send them. I think it’s more fun to watch them fall than bleed.” He shuddered to think that was himself talking.
“F-F-Fall?” Weasel repeated. Some of Villain's other bullies were looking at the edge now a little nervously. “It's a long ways down... Isn't it?” He asked.
Past Villain, Timothy could see that his cohorts were not pressing forward like earlier, and the two immediately beside Villain whined unhappily. “Look, Villain. All I want is to run free and to fear no other wolf. I have no quarrel with you or yours. I don't see why you would want me to join your bullies anyway.”
“Have you forgotten already, Timmm?” Villain quizzed him, “One of my wolves died yesterday. I heard it was you who killed him. I didn’t lose any other troops taking over yesterday. Just that one. You’re becoming a serious pain in my haunch,” he said with a false joviality. “And all the Pack’s heard of the wolf-who-crossed-the-Meadow. Just as Leader benefited from your mislead vote, I can use a wolf like you in my ranks, whether I like you or not.” He added and grinned, his white fangs showing.
Timothy blanched. Yesterday’s violence flashed back to him. He saw himself struggling to reach Leader all over again. Then he remembered what he had done that killed the wolf who tried to block him. He fell under my hooves, then laid there still and didn't rise again. I didn't mean to kill that wolf yesterday. I was just kicking to keep him from biting my legs anymore. But I did kill him, and I'm not sorry he died. He paused to let the echo of Villain’s words in his mind fade away.
“Why don't you take your friends and leave us be, Villain. Maybe I'll think about your offer later, when I can sit in peace and quiet. But right now, I'm ready to add a couple of more to your list of dead wolves if you insist.” Threats and counter threats. Trembling, Timothy hoped his were as good as Villain's to the ears on both sides.
Villain had been watching his allies out of the corners of his eyes. He could tell they were no longer eager for blood that wasn't easy. Conversationally he said, “You know, Timmm. That's not a bad idea. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll give you a couple of days to think about it. We have others to cull out anyway. So, I'll be back sometime... to discuss options with you.” With that, Villain whirled around and began shoving the wolves behind him out of the way. Timothy heard him curse and say, “Back to the Saddle.”
Even after they had all left and were completely out of sight, none of the Friends moved. A few looked askance at each other, but most just stared in the direction Villain and the departing wolves had taken. Everyone knows it’s not over.
“Good work, Timmm,” Honey said admiringly. “It looks like we called his bluff today.” I sure hope so, Timothy prayed.
The day seemed to pass as slow as the night, Timothy thought. They sat around all morning before Billy suggested that they tell some more stories to pass the time. Not everyone was wholeheartedly for it, but those who didn't agree became a captive audience to those who did. The area was too small to get out of earshot, and no one was willing to walk down the trail to see if the coast was clear.
Plus, it isn't like any of us have anything better to do, Timothy thought morosely.
Billy started out talking about his climbing all the way up to where the high ridge became just a few crags of rock. “That's just below the peak of the Mountain,” Billy told them all. “It's the Top of the World!” He described the route he took and a couple of rock slides that had shifted ominously as he crossed them. Another story followed, and then another. Most of it was just trivial news and events.
Then, Wabbit cleared his throat.
“Oh, not another story like last time”, Bullet begged.
“No. This one has a happy ending, I hope. A week or two back, some of Villain's wolves caught me alone.”
It was Timothy’s turn to groan to himself. Don’t tell them about this now, Wabbit.