Will you not do something? demanded Natha.
Tonunda knew she didn’t mean for him to rescue the human; only that he should exert himself as leader of the pack.
Stranger! his thoughts bellowed.
Ceasing from growling, the large striped beast stopped and turned his head.
A man who speaks in our tongue? You must be Tonunda. I have heard of you, as have the packs… and laugh.
Tonunda fumed at being referred to as a man, but refrained from making a retort. During their exchange, the human noticed Tonunda standing on the path.
“Nusallean, help me!”
He understood the cries of the rider. Zarnog had spoken to him audibly on many an occasion. The striped dog made to move again.
You already have the horse Tonunda pointed out. We are not wasteful like men. Consider it privelege enough that I allow you here. Eat what you need of the horse and begone, but leave the man alive.
Tiger dog sneered. You only grow soft because the human is a female.
Female? Tonunda had no idea. He only had Zarnog to compare with. The helpless rider looked fuller and smoother of flesh with a flowing head of raven hair. Apparently, younger human females looked vastly different.
Do not take another step warned Tonunda.
Striped dog, came to a halt and slowly turned his head with flattened ears.
And who are you to make demands? He growled menacingly, slinking forward as he growled menacingly. Your namesake I can respect. He took an eye from my great grandfather, but you; you are merely a man who plays at being a dog.
I will take more from you than an eye, Tonunda growled with more conviction than he felt.
He dropped to all fours as both sped off to meet each other. Simultaneously, both leapt, colliding above the ground. Tonunda’s superior weight ensured he landed on top. Man and dog twisted furiously on the ground, each trying to bite the other. Striped dog inflicted a glancing bite on Tonunda’s shin near the knee. He twisted free of its jaws and circled swiftly with a kick to the ribs. The striped beast rolled beyond the reach of any retaliation and lunged back at Tonunda leaping at his throat.
Tonunda caught the animal in mid leap and tightened his arms about its rib cage. It attempted to curl its head enough to bite Tonunda’s throat. He tightened his grip, forcing a yelp from the beast as the headed for the mountain’s edge. Striped dog tried to open its jaws about Tonunda’s head, raking painful gashes through his scalp.
With a final growl, Tonunda hurled the beast over the edge. He followed its fall as it flailed its legs. It buffetted from the hazardously steep slope twice, going limp as it tumbled further to the ground.
“Nusallean,” urgently wailed the human female.
Natha softly growled at the rider two paces away from the horse.
Natha Tonunda gently berated.
I only told her that she should not be here she said.
Back away, little sister. I will deal with this.