Birds chirping woke me up, my sight blinded from the bright light once again. I took a deep breath and opened them again, only to lay them upon a beautiful snow scenery. I took it all in, feeling peaceful. The forest looked almost like a dream with the snow. It was relaxing. That thought didn't last long as memories of the previous events came rushing back to me. I raised my head and looked at my paws, they looked the same. Small, long, still fragile and cold. I stretched them and then looked behind me. Pain shot through my back and I whined. Was I not dead? Or did my soul still lie within my body? Was this what happens after death? It was a topic I never discussed with my parents. It never really occurred to me to ask them. It wasn't something I thought about, as a pup.
I took a deep breath and lied my head down, taking it all in again. Trying to recall memories from that event seemed impossible at this time. I wished it was a dream but my wounds proved otherwise. The sun was still out, standing proud and keeping my fur warm. I loved the sun. Meanwhile, some clouds scattered on the sky were slowly placing their snowflakes on top of me. This was nice, comfortable. And as long as I remained still, the pain wasn't there.
A voice echoed behind me and my whole body flinched. A yelp escaped my mouth from the pain caused by my sudden movement. Wrong move.
“Woah, woah. Easy there... Sorry for scaring you little fellow”
The owner of the voice walked in front of me and leaned down, looking over my small, compared to his, body. He was a wolf which reassured me but then I remembered not all wolves are good news. Never talk to a random stranger, pup rule number 1. I decided to keep my mouth closed. I blinked and lied down comfortably, head on my paws, looking up at his face. Being around another wolf did give me hope. Even if it was a tiny bit of hope. So I quietly stared at this new hope.
He lied down in front of me, leaving enough space for me to not feel threatened. Personal space is important for a wolf. He was respecting mine.
“Cold weather, huh?”
I tilted my head a bit, confused. That's quite a normal topic to talk about. Could it be he was trying to be friendly? Carefully and slowly, I nodded in agreement.
“I remember I used to eat snow when I was your age... I mean, I still eat snow but...yeah.”
He seemed flustered himself and a small giggle escaped my mouth. I didn't manage to stop myself. This situation was simply straight-out awkward. I thought I would never get the chance to have another awkward situation with someone. An awkward conversation, that is. He seemed to like my response judging by the grin he had placed on his face.
“But, I hope you know about the golden rule... don't you?”
I shook my head as a no. Small movements. I didn't feel ready to speak just yet.
“Well, just, don't eat golden snow... Just listen to me, alright? You'll remember me in the future.”
He said in a dead serious tone. I blinked and remained silent. I would have giggled but me and my siblings would always make that joke as the silly and childish pups we were. It had been used so many times that I no longer found it funny.
“Ahem, how are you feeling?”
I looked at him and realized he was asking about my wounds. I couldn't reply to that with a simple head gesture. It was high time I spoke.
“I-I've been better...”
My words escaped my mouth in the form of a whisper and I felt embarrassed of myself. Now he must think I don't know how to speak. Way to go, me.
“You tell me”
He laughed with my response. I felt relaxed, he didn't seem to pose any threat at all. So far, at least. Actually, he seemed like a laid-back kind of wolf. Wolves like him would rarely be serious and they would rather laugh with a joke they made than be productive and assist their pack. Those wolves would get banned from my pack. Unless, they had connections and good relationships with powerful members inside the pack. I've heard my parents talk about this kind of issues. But while he did look like a laid-back wolf he seemed like a caring wolf, as well. Maybe I could trust him? I needed someone to trust. Someone to hold on to and feel safe. Maybe that someone was him?
I asked carefully, wanting to redeem the memory. I had the right to know.
“What? Oh... Well, I was marking my territory, enjoying this lovely peaceful winter day. Suddenly, a wild howl got my attention. I had to find out what that fuss was about, I couldn't let this opportunity go to waste. Adventures are rare these days because of the cold weather and all. What my eyes witnessed there was incredible. There was a small yet extremely heroic pup who decided to fight a big, scary golden eagle in order to prove its bravery. War cries were filling the air around them and as they moved and I followed, this battle was too intense to miss.”
He spoke with passion, believing every word he said, his eyes were glowing with happiness and I could swear there was a hint of pride in them. Was this really what happened back then? Did adrenaline make me want to attack a golden eagle? Had I become that reckless?
I flinched of the sudden change of his tone.
“The eagle got stronger! It attacked the small pup with all its might, he had the upper hand. But what that eagle didn't know is that he had just made the biggest mistake of his life that he would always, always regret. Because this was no ordinary pup, this one had spirit. This one had determination to live. It would not give up just yet, not that simply.”
He proclaimed with excitement, as if the story was getting to the good part now.
“The golden eagle could not take it anymore, the pup was too strong. And as I watched and encouraged the pup from afar, the pup ended up being victorious. Unfortunately, the battle had tired the small pup and you fainted, exhausted. Thus, proving your worth and bravery to that eagle and the rest of the forest creatures that happened to be there, like me.”
He grinned and nodded his head towards the carcass of the golden eagle. It was indeed dead. My eyes widened. Could that really be what happened? No, its impossible. I am just a small pup, that thing was at least ten times bigger. Ten times stronger, ten times more experienced. I shook my head in disbelief and waited for him to say something different. The truth.
“Heh, its an honor to be talking to you. I am Kai.”
Kai. He bowed his head to pretend show respect and that allowed me to notice some fresh scratches on his head. Too fresh. I connected the puzzle in my head and realized that it was actually him who killed the eagle, not me. That made a whole lot more sense than his story. My words scattered around me, wondering why he had just lied to me. What was the motive? If he couldn't be honest for such an important thing, could he really be trusted? Maybe this is not my new hope. Its just a false one. I slowly pushed myself off the ground, a yelp escaping my lips. I had forgotten about my wounds.
“Hey, careful there, little one.”
He said as he got up and helped me keep my balance. This was the first time he touched me and it felt uneasy, uneasy yet nice. I missed that feeling of affection from my parents. Oh how I missed them.
“We should get those treated...”
Kai seemed to be deep in thought. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the cold breeze, relaxing. It made me wake up, it made me feel almost at home.
“I am no healer...But I happen to know someone... May I take you to see my friend?”
He asked me, eyes filled with wonder. They were searching for a positive answer from me. My mind run wild. This was the moment of truth. Do I trust him and his friend with my own life? How can I be sure this isn't a trap... Or worse? Is this really the best solution? But... Then again... I can't even move a muscle without feeling pain. I didn't really have any other choice at that time. I guess I had to take that leap of faith.
“Yes.” The word came out almost silent. He must have managed to hear it because his face lighted up immediately.
“Yes? Really? Oh that's grand! Alright, no time to waste, let's go! I'll carry you.”
He exclaimed and as carefully as he could grabbed me by my scruff. Thankfully, it didn't hurt as much as I had anticipated. I guess I didn't get hurt there. The ground underneath me started moving. I wondered whether I was heavy or not. It had been quite some time since my parents carried me this way. I wasn't sure if it was because they didn't need to or because they were not able.