I. First Contact
The Trickster's Promise
In the infancy of mankind, he came to me.
His whisper rustled the leaves, swaying the winds through my fur. I felt his touch, so…wrong. Still, when his breeze came, I could not keep my nose from the air, tasting the sweet scent of his promise.
It was a dark time. Perhaps food would be plentiful for my pack, but destiny is so rarely kind. For in the shadow of The Mother’s neglect, I was born a runt of my breed, and abandoned to the cruel will of the wilds. Yet I survived, and there I lived – solitary, alone.
“You are her forgotten,” He told me one night, as I lay hungry and huddled in the tangled roots of a tree.
His words stirred me like the rare flesh of venison, fueling my discontent. I was her mutt, scrounging for scraps, hiding in holes. A hunter outmatched by all within these coniferous halls. A victim of her balance.
“But you can be more! The Time of Change nears.”
Yes, we all felt the Gods strumming the strings of our world. For what belonged to the Trickster would soon pass to his brother, Wetiko, in the coming age.
“Mankind…” I felt the Trickster’s words as they brushed my ears, speaking of what this creature could someday become. All the spirits knew of Man’s potential. Even our Mother, giver of life, feared what they could be in Wetiko’s grasp. She strove to dwindle their numbers. Yet, driven by the Trickster, they wandered; moving, adapting, surviving her plagues and pestilence.
“I am nothing like them,” I sighed.
“But you are,” came his voice. “They hunt as you do. Yet neither are they nimble as the leopard, nor strong as the lion. They bare no claws; they have no wings. They are weak in The Mother’s eyes, as are you.”
He knew my thoughts, my anger.
“I guide them from my sister’s touch, yet I will show you the way. Go now, and they shall take you as their own.”
His words resonated through me until I could deny them no longer.
Under The Trickster’s promise I ran, crossing lands well beyond the great wood. Two days I travelled, ‘till at last I found their tribe. Yet as I neared, they raged at my sight! Fear clogged my heart like sap as I fled the rain of their long weapons; as shafts headed by chiseled flint plunged into the earth at my paws.
When safely away, I cried out, “Trickster! You betrayed me!”
But my call fell only upon the apathy of the land, for he did not come.
I was alone again, even more so than before. I thought of The Mother’s rage for my betrayal. I had no home, nowhere to go! Nor had I food in these strange, pestilent lands. For the greater beasts would find what little there was, and the rest would turn their eyes upon the lesser like me.
Cold and tired, I laid at the heart of a dying tree that night. Resigned to join in its dour fate, I closed my eyes.
It was then that I heard it.
Something stirred inside of me. There came the sound again, and with it I found myself to paws. I sniffed and listened, waiting…
Tiny, so tiny. It spoke a language without language, yet its words so very clear.
“Help!” it cried.
I don’t know why I went. Perhaps hunger took its duty at the reins, and this would be my easy meal. Perhaps for rage, as I blamed mankind for the Trickster’s transgression. But closing upon the injured child, ensnared in a pit of Man’s own creation, I felt something else take over me.
Such a little thing, the Man pup trembled as I climbed into the hole. He screamed as I took both flesh and garment into my mouth. The taste of blood burned my mind, but still I wrenched and pulled, dragging him out. Afterward, I left him upon the ground, weeping.
A conflict raged inside of me – to eat, to run, to save.
But his sound had gained another’s attention...
Eyes alight in the darkness, it slunk close; its body the frail waste of a beaten and cast out rogue. It was a wolf, far from its home like myself, and it looked upon my prey with envy.
My hackles stood, a low growl rising from the depths of my chest. Snarling, it attacked and we fell, snapping and rolling down the hole. I yelped as its teeth dug eagerly into my fur. I thrashed and bit, but still it came! Finally, I caught its folly. Perhaps blinded by hunger, perhaps driven mad with my taste, the wolf exposed its throat.
It was soon over.
Limping, I returned to the child. But the hunger had left me. Exhaustion took hold. Exhaustion, and something else…
I curled beside the weeping youth. Oddly, he gave no struggle, and soon, together we slept.
I awoke to find myself surrounded by his kind; their weapons raised, ready for the kill. I bowed my head, too weary to stand. But then the child cried out, and they stayed their hands as he spoke of the wolf, of my protection. For this, they spared me.
They took me back and treated my wounds. In time, a trust grew between us. I lived with them, learned from them. They fashioned devices that I could pull, to help in the gathering of food.
Before my final days, I watched as my struggle brought them to embrace others of my kind. Through a terse alliance they would tame our fires, and through their compassion we would come to love them.
“You are but the beginning,” the Trickster whispered a final time, as the child, now a man, brushed the fur of my head.
And I knew the truth of his words.
Warm and full, I took heart in my new pack, as I watched Man and beast working as one.