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The Wolf and the Oriole

"The Wolf and the Oriole"
By Hope Dunlap

His fur was matted and soaked in sweat. His heart was pounding his ribs with great force. Yellow eyes searched the trees for shelter. The wolf, greatest hunter of the Wood, was fleeing.

But for good reason, for it was not simply any hunter after him. Not a bear, nor a wildcat, no it was Man and his magic stick that was the threat. The wolf, Arcial, had seen its power before. His own mother had fled Man, leaving him alone with his brother, Rakar. Rakar had been taken away, and Arcial knew the greed of Man and how Man would come for him too.

Arcial stopped to catch his breath. His tongue lolled out of his jaws as he panted, his eyes wide in horror. A black-and–gold oriole chattered to him. "Shree! Shree! Why does the hunter of hunters run so fast? Shree!" Arcial felt his wolf's blood boil within, but he was tired, he could not move. So, without lifting his head, or giving any sign of noticing the noisy bird, Arcial ran on, away form the dogs, away from Man, away from that stupid oriole.

Miles away the russet-colored wolf heard the high-pitched barks and yaps of Man's domestic dog. His eyes scanned the bracken, searching, watching, waiting for something to lunge out of the bushes to devour him. For that was the way of Nature. She would give you life, only to have that sweet life passed on to another. He continued on, running, dodging trees, jumping logs and fleeing.

The next time he stopped, it was strangely still. Maybe, just maybe, he had out run Man. That would be a story to tell the pack. What pack do I have? He asked himself silently. He had never truly been part of a pack. His mother and father had been loners, but they still referred to each other as a pack. Suddenly Arcial's sight was taken by a flurry of orange-and-black feathers. The oriole was back.

"Shree! Shree! Why did you leave o'mighty predator? Do you flee from one small bird?" The oriole's squawking speech had ended and the bird stopped for a preen. This time, the wolf's temper got to him and he thrust his head up to see the annoyance that was the oriole. "No you fool, it is Man I fear. And you should too." To Arcial's surprise, the oriole laughed a loud, screeching laugh. "Me? Fear Man? Good Orious no! Man has no quarrel with the orioles. We are too small to be of much use to them." Arcial's ears pricked with surprise. He felt anger at the bird's immunity to Man, fascination that there was something Man didn't want, and interest that he might be able to use this bird. "Perhaps we can help each other, you and I." The oriole stopped preening and looked at the wolf with a beady eye. "Oh, and what would the hunter give in return of my service? Shree! Shree!" Arcial grinned, for he knew the thing the oriole would never say no to. "Life; I shall never again hunt oriole if you help me." The oriole looked at him with interest. "Hmm, very well then. Shree! What do you ask?" The wolf snorted as if it were obvious. "Life; as you know, I'm being hunted by Man. I want a safe abode where I can rear pups in safety." The oriole nodded, he knew the feeling. "I cannot believe this. Shree! I'm dealing with the hunter of hunters! Come, follow me! Shree! Shree!"

The oriole's golden-orange feathers were not easy to follow in the midst of Autumn; the leaves were red, orange, and golden brown. Arcial panted, already tired from escaping Man's wrath. The bird led him up and down the hills of what Man called The New World and Canada. After much running, the oriole landed on the ground in front of a deep den large enough for two wolves. "Shree! Shree! I've seen no-one call this burrow home." Panting, the russet wolf looked up at the small bird. It is perfect, how did this bird know where it was? And Man? Is Man here? Other wolves? Taking a deep breath to refresh himself, Arcial started. "But is it safe from Man and his terrible greed?" For the first time, the oriole showed some pity for the wolf. "Nowhere is safe from Man, hunter. One day, his shadowy cloak of power and greed shall cover the land and no-one can prevent it." The little bird tensed when he saw the wolf's angry snarl. "But, but for now, and for many moons, Man has not touched this ground." The wolf sighed, releasing his anger. "Very well, thank you, as promised, I shall not touch oriole meat."

Further south, a tall man with his gun and three hounds at his side stalked home, weary of the hunt. "Come home hounds, that's enough for today. That darn wolf can't be gone forever, they always come back."

Many months later, a large, healthy russet-colored male wolf wagged his tail as he looked down at two pups. One black, and one gray. Their mother padded out of the den and licked her mate's muzzle. High above, a small family of orioles looked down on the wolves and gave each other a beaky smile.

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