This collection is, I hope, a long series that will be regrouped under a common banner, Uncle Silver Wolf's Forest Lore. For those who do not know Silver Wolf, he is a werewolf, and he is now babysitting the children of the Clan Short Compound, where he is busy telling them stories about the forest, nature, and supernatural things, mimicking every character as he spins his tale, to the enjoyment of the kids. I undertook the difficult (no, impossible) task of transcribing the stories as he tells them to the angels of the Compound. He seems to be able to change the endings endlessly, add and change the storyline on the fly and make each story unique as it gets told over and over. The problem with the written word is that it immobilizes a story, taking a snapshot of what any good storyteller is saying in time. It's Charlie Chaplin in still photos. All I hope is that the Compound Angels will be able to sleep after he's done! Please do tell me if the stories are of interest, and, remember, they are for kids.
Sri had been living a long time, and he knew his days were numbered. He had been born and well cared for by his mother, but now it was a memory he cherished because nothing was left of her. She had been prey to the great shadow whose cries made everyone shiver at night.
He was the only survivor of his brothers and sisters, a combination of luck, care, and wisdom gained from observing the bloody demise of his family, both near and extended. The last of his brothers had been captured and eaten alive by the silent slither, death caused by these huge fangs that swallowed him whole.
The last winter had been both a blessing and a nightmare. It had been a blessing because the depth of snow hindered the hunters; a nightmare because the grain had been hard to find and he had to feed himself and his family.
Sri had already lost many of his children and three of his wives to the hunters. They had been inattentive, careless, or they simply couldn't run fast enough to find shelter. And then there was the time he had to kill his own because the mother had died of sickness and there was no milk to feed the newborns. This had shamed him, but what else could he do? Let them starve?
He sat at the edge of his home, looking out, keeping his head moving constantly and peeking everywhere, afraid of being caught off guard by the numerous predators that had already feasted on his family. The night would be moonless, and only the stars would shine, giving him a better chance to forage for food for his new family. It had been two days since he had managed to go out to find food, because the rain had been intense and it was too dangerous to explore the area for food with all these sudden mudflows, water dams bursting and rivers suddenly overflowing; his last friend of old had lost his life to just one such flash flood and he remembered all too well his cries of despair as the water carried him away from his family and the safety of their cave, forever lost to his clan.
Sri watched the sun go down and, as soon as it disappeared behind the trees, he began his careful trek to find food for his newborns; his wife had given birth as he sat at the entrance, and the gentle cries of the babies had given him the incentive to once again risk his life to bring food to her so she could in turn feed his descendants.
He made sure to keep out of open fields, hiding and keeping to the shadows, moving as silently as possible, and keeping in mind the need to be within reach of a shelter, however flimsy it may be. He heard the slither crawl on the dead leaves and smelled the terror of the neighbors as it entered their home to feed on their young. The cries of frustration and rage were cut short as the male was the first victim of the night's bloody war for survival.
Sri resumed his careful exploration at the edge of the field, collecting grain, and hoping that his luck would hold tonight. The wind had died down with the sun, and the trees stood still, their leaves' ruffles no longer helping him disguise his minute noises. He hid beside the log as the stalker walked by, barely breathing; he knew it could hear him even in snow, even more so in the early spring! Once the stalker had gone off to hunt another area, he resumed his foray. Finally, he had enough and began the treacherous travel back to his hideout, where he knew his wife awaited his return with growing worry.
As he was running across an open area he had to cross to reach his mount, he heard the dreaded cry of death above. He didn't even think twice, he began running as fast as his old body would carry him, practicing evasive maneuvers that had saved his life in previous encounters. But alas, age had taken its toll, and he couldn't escape the talons of the flying hunter. His last thoughts as they pierced his body and broke his spine were for his wife and children that would have to fare for themselves from now on. Sri the mouse had lived, and now his lifeless body would feed the owl as it covered its eggs that were near hatching.