Wolves at the Door (part 79)

As the nights grew darker, the days grew more successful. Gil’s small wins became more frequent, but big game still eluded him. He would spend most of the day searching out and stalking his prey, but could never get close enough for a good shot. And at night he would hunker down by the fire, weapons within easy reach, alert to any sound of someone or something approaching.

One evening, on the long trek back to his camp after the hunt had taken him far afield, he heard the howl of a wolf in the middle distance. Several answering howls followed. Gil picked up his pace. He did not know if it was the same pack he had encountered before, and he preferred not to find out. Whoever they were, he would be badly outnumbered if they caught him out in the near-moonless night.

A little later, still far from home base, he heard them again. Closer together this time, and not far behind him, they sounded more excited. They were stalking prey, and Gil could only hope it was not him. If he was their target, there was no chance he could get back to his camp before they caught up to him.

Options: run, hide or fight. Running would not keep him safe in the long term, but it might get him to a safer location to hide or fight before the pack found him. Hiding might work, but his options were limited. He was still too far out to be very familiar with the area. He could climb a tree, but then what? Wait them out until they grew bored and moved on? Then he would be up a tree, in the pitch dark, and still far from home. The wolves would not be the only danger he would face if he tried to get home in the dark. Attempting to spend the whole night in the tree without dozing off and crashing to the ground could be just as risky.

Much as he hated to admit it, the only chance he had of getting back was to face down the wolves and chase them off while there was still enough light to travel. Putting his back against the biggest tree he could see, he prepared himself. It would be the first time in his life that he had actually chosen to fight. He hoped it would not be the last.

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