Skanodonwah: Chapter 1
Standing at the edge of a clearing having just crested over a tall mountain ridge, a lone wolf pauses to take in the sights around him. A valley lay before him, a cauldron of tall dark green pine trees mixed with patches of golden brown deciduous trees. A turquoise lake lay in the center of the valley, some patches of fog collecting near its center and floating upwards ever so slightly. The highest peaks of the mountains white with snow, against a gray sky. A cool wind chills the wolf, causing him to shiver as it disturbs his fur, and he lower his gaze a little. He steps out from the treeline, and begins to venture down the hill side. His tail relaxed, but his ears alert in this unfamiliar territory. His rustic brown pelt, with silver highlights, and a light gray under belly, providing good camouflage for him in this terrain.
He hurries down from the ridgeline, seeking the cover of trees and brush. He heads down the mountain side, towards the turquoise lake. The strong scent of pine now filling his nose, as he tries to sniff out any game. The ancient pine trees he passes are all twisted and wind battered. High up on the hill there is not much protection from the elements for these trees. Many have fallen down over the years and have created log dams between denser patches of trees. He navigates carefully around the overturned pines, and winds his way downwards, always sniffing for any new scents and trying to be stealthy and slick in his movements, as if he was moving with a purpose.
He is hungry and hasn't eaten in a few days. He had hoped to find some easy game in this valley, but so far hasn't seen or caught any scents other then a fresh Moose trail. He had considered following the Moose’s scent, but he knew that most likely, he alone could not have any chance against a Moose. Even if it was injured or weak. It was a hopeless temptation and he had known it. So he continued on wards, searching for something smaller.
As Skanodonwah descended the mountainside, the underbrush grew thicker, prompting him to slow down for safe passage through small pine trees and wide thorny bushes, their red leaves mostly absent. A pleasant aroma caught his attention, leading to a pause for investigation. His nose worked the ground, tracking back and forth until the source of the scent became clear. A cluster of bright red berries clung to a nearby thorny branch. Memories of a past berry-related mishap crossed his mind, but he quickly marked his scent on a nearby rock and resumed his downhill journey.
The denser underbrush noticeably impeded his progress, as various scents vied for his attention. Among the mix of underbrush fragrances, he detected traces of stale animal scents. Notably, he encountered signs of a regular Red Fox trail, marked by territorial scents. Although the scent was potent, it bore the marks of time – several hours had passed since its last application. Identifying it as a male fox's scent, he surmised the presence of a nearby den housing a female and some kits. Opting not to trail the fox, he continued towards the lake. The late afternoon's overcast sky cast dimmer light, signaling the approach of dusk. Having journeyed for over 24 hours, he was growing tired. He was unable to rest after climbing the last mountain, and the mountain top he had conquered earlier offered no shelter for rest.
Further along the descent, he encountered a steep incline leading to a narrow road. He paused, perched at the embankment's peak, scanning the road both ways, his tail held high in caution. Assured of its vacancy, he gingerly descended a narrow wedge of earth that erosion had sculpted alongside the road cut. Stepping onto the road's dirt surface, he noticed faint tire tracks embedded in the soft silt deposited by the erosion. As he leaned down to investigate, leaving marks of his own paw prints visible in the silt alongside the tire tracks. The weathered tracks indicated the passage of time, and the faint scent of rubber lingered subtly. The fainter scent of diesel exhaust and human presence barely registered. Relaxation replaced initial tension, causing his tail to lower into a more casual position. Like most wolves, he maintained a cautious distance from humans, a behavior shaped by the collective memory of past encounters.
He walked to the far edge of the roadway and looked down as the hill descended further. It wasn't that steep, in fact the hill was easing as it neared the valley floor. But it was thick with undergrowth. The trees had become mixed and deciduous trees were now dominant, with a few tall pines mixed in between them. But it seemed that around the road, there were few older trees. Most of it was younger growth, with large stumps dotted around the forest floor, smoothly cut, and rotting away. The wood dark and damp, covered with moss in the shaded light of the dense young forest. He turned and looked down the roadway. A black cable stretched between old poles, precariously placed along the road. The old telephone poles, rotting and unsteady were reminders to the wolf that it was hard to escape the reach of the humans. He looked back at the tire tracks in the soft silt, and how aged they were, then back down the road.
Opting for the easier route, he decided to travel along this road. He tried to keep alert, as darkness began to descend, but he found himself becoming weary and tired. He knew he was more likely to surprise prey at night, but he had been traveling all day. Alas, his hunger kept him awake and pushing forward as he walked down the sandy edge of the road, headed down the hill deeper into the woodlands.
As he walked he occasionally lifted his head to take in the scents carried by the breeze. His keen sense of smell detected more and more scents as he followed the road down into the valley. Scents of toads and snakes were not appealing to him, but every now and then a chipmunk or mouse scent would distract him from his journey and he would pounce around in the underbrush beside the road, sometimes being successful in catching a small snack.
Continuing to venture forth, the wolf continues down towards the lake down in the valley. He had traveled far in the last several moons, and he was a little scared and unsure of this new environment. His head hangs low, as he ventures into the forest, finally breaking away from the human made road which made his path down the hill easier for a while. He was still wishing he was back with his family, but also knew it was his time to venture forth and find a family of his own.
The terrain is new and unfamiliar. This is the first time he has been away from familiar ground. His family had always patrolled their territory, and those forests and foot hills were familiar to him. But out here, he is unsure what is around the next corner.
He ventured on, going over the last days events in his memory. As a new scent catches his attention, he realizes that he has to put that behind him and pay attention. He is hungry and needs to find some food. But he also needs to pay attention.
A sweet smell arouses the wolfs attention. Following his nose, he finds a grape vine with some ripe grapes. He begins to excitedly harvest grapes with his teeth, pulling at the grape vines, and breaking clusters of grapes free, as he savors the sweet juices of the fruit. Unaware of just how much noise he is making, he continues to pillage the wild grape vine until he hears some movement from nearby. Freezing in place, grapes hanging from his jaw, he quietly looks around.
The darkness and shadows play tricks on him from every direction. Hearing nothing he drops the grapes and turns around, away from the grape vine, to face the sound he had heard. Sniffing the air for animal scents is not working too well, as his nose is overwhelmed with the smell and taste of sweet grapes. He knows he heard something, but can't see anything. He listens carefully for movement, or breathing.
He begins to prowl around the area, circling out from the grape vine. He hears a twig snap behind him. Growling, he swings around, but again sees nothing. He huffs slightly, then proceeds to investigate towards where he had heard the sound. He begins to smell an unfamiliar scent. The scent, bitter-sweet smelling, gets stronger the closer he gets to an old dead log. He sniffs at the log, but finds it only smells like damp rotting wood. Confused he looks around.
A shadow moves in the corner of his eye, and he growls and decides to pounce into the unknown darkness. Landing in the midst of a thorn bush, he yelps, as the shadow quickly scurries off. He spends the next several minutes picking thorns from his body, as the bitter-sweet smell fades away, leaving him with the smell of rotting wood on one side, and the sweet smell of grapes from the grape vine.
He feels ashamed and vulnerable, as he cleans up and composes himself. He attempts to sniff for a scent to get a hint of what creature had been playing games with him, but could not specifically find a trail.
It has been a rough night for the wolf. Slightly paranoid, and being startled at every strange noise, he realizes that it is tough going it alone in unfamiliar territory. Without the safety of his family, he is uneasy. But he carries on, knowing that he must carry on. For there is no turning back in nature.
Having taken a nap at the edge of a meadow, he awakes to the sun rising through the morning fog. Getting up he shakes off the dew which has settled on his fur, and looks around. Dew shines from the blades of grass in the meadow, looking like a million small stars blanketing the field before him. He stretches his legs, and wanders into the meadow.
He finds a stream which is flowing downhill towards the lake, and follows on its bank. The fall colors on the trees reflecting in the streams churning water, so as to look like a flowing river of lava. The sun has burnt off most of the fog now, and is shining bright on the leaves of the trees.
The earthy scent of the leaves and moist ground on this damp morning is however interrupted by a musky scent. He slows and takes to the brush for cover. Approaching the edge of the lake, He stops as he hears a great deal of snapping. A tree topples over nearby, then comes to rest on the ground. Silence falls yet again. The wolf is just about to continue on, when he hears a rustling over by the toppled tree.
From his vantage point all he can see is the fallen tree shake and begin to move across the ground, as if it were alive, and crawling away. The branches of the tree, now mostly void of leaves due to the trauma the tree has just been through, move horizontally towards the water. Curious, he adventures forward. Emerging from the brush he sees a brown ball of fur, about a quarter of his size, with a big flat leathery tail. The creature sees the wolf and hurries into the water with a splash.
Curious at this new creature, the wolf calls out "Hey there, I am sorry, didn't mean to scare you."
Puzzled, the creature replies "Yeah, but you are a wolf!."
"Hardly feel like one these days" The wolf replies, "I have no pack, and have no idea where I am. Can you tell me a bit about this place?"
Wading closer to the shore, the creature replies "Oh, so you aren't from the Scajaquada Pack then?"
"Sca-jack-wa-da, it’s what we call the local wolf pack. They will usually try to kill me, if they see me out of the water."
"Oh... No, I am alone. I have no pack. I won't kill ya, You don’t smell too tasty. My name is Skanodonwah. Can you tell me more about the valley?"
"Well I am not inclined to trust you right away Mr. Wolf." Says the Beaver, "If you are looking for a new home however, this valley might not be the best place."
"It seems like you are doing well here?" Skanodonwah says.
“I could use a few less wolves around.” The beaver yells out, as he turns and splashes off into the water, leaving his newly felled tree, and Skanodonwah behind.
Skanodonwah thinks about what the Beaver said about the other wolf pack. Shaking his head he just can't believe that a pack would really be a serious concern. After all, he never felt threatened by his own pack, and felt that they had managed their territory respectfully. Weren’t all packs like that? he wondered.
The musky scent of the beaver fading as he wanders further away, his senses return to normal. The earthy smells of a damp mixed forest taking over, as a chilling gust of wind blows through the trees, blowing leaves down all around him. Wiggling his nose, he picks up a scent. Stopping to sniff the air, he tracks the scent deeper into the forest. The scent, sweet but earthy, gets stronger, and overpowering as he nears a clearing from which he can clearly see smoke rising. Listening he hears some movement, and the soft crackling of a fire.