What do you mean, father?
Look at you and Zarnog; you have tended to me in my dotage. It is not the way of the packs.
It is my way! Tonunda’s thoughts resounded.
Corbran ignored the outburst. The day will come when you will have to return to the man pack.
No whimpered Tonunda. You are my father. The dogs are my family. Men left me to die for no reason; you told me so yourself.
That is true Corbran said regretfully. I have always hated men, but even more so for what they did to you. As much as I am loathe to admit it, the man pack is where you truly belong. You are a man, Tonunda.
I am not a man! He barked sharply. I am a dog! A dog!!
In Tonunda’s anger his words reverberated within the walls of his mind, articulated with a menacing growl. Corbran as a younger dog, would have nipped him for his insolence. Instead, he panted softly, too old and tired to care.
Tonunda immediately regretted his words.
I am sorry, father.
Corbran didn’t even raise his voice.
The time will come when you will need something that only the man pack can provide. He coughed feebly. It is time to go on the hunt now…
Tonunda patted the ground where his father was buried. That was the last time he saw him. He returned late in the afternoon only for Zarnog to say she had “buried him.”
Making his way over to the house, he stood to one side as Zarnog and Kerm carried on with another philosophical discussion. Kerm may have had many faults, but he was at least a deep thinker.
… ah but men plant gardens, and salt meat so that there will always be food. They also dig wells so that they do not have to go on long walks for water said Zarnog.
True said Kerm, but they do not grow fur. Unless they skin other beasts and warm their oversized dens, they would have frozen in the first winter.
What do you think, Tonunda? Asked Zarnog. Is man or dog better off?
His thoughts still remained on Corbran.
There is much to be said for both.
Ever the maker of peace said Zarnog proudly. I told your father when you were a babe, that you would be.
Tonunda inwardly agreed. He often had to settle disputes among the pack, and managed to make peace with rival packs. Added to that, he learned the tongues of other animals. As to her question, if Corbran spoke the truth, he could enjoy the best of both worlds.
We have to leave now, Zarnog.
He had hoped his words might prompt Kerm to move. Instead, the shiftless dog remained where he lay.
Tonunda leaned closer, curling his lips as he gave a low growl. Move.
Kerm curled his lip, but backed away with his tail between his legs. Saying no more, Tonunda tore off with Kerm in tow. As he threaded his way between the trees down the less steeper side of the mountain, Kerm struggled to keep a pace behind.
Hunters, with me! Tonunda’s thoughts boomed as he ran.