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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Raymond L. Step... on 10 March 2007 - 5:50pm. | | |

Howl came around in front of them, interrupting their fixation on the scene below. “You have already been in one dangerous situation down there, and I saw others that you narrowly missed, and, luckily were unaware of. You can see from here, some of the obstacles you face. There are many more you can’t see. But, I must warn you; up here, although we can only see from one ridge to the next, and things look quite safe, this can be very misleading. One danger in particular; we might run into the domeheads. Those guys are mean and nasty, and with their ugly round heads, they look just like the rocks, almost invisible until they open their
big toothy mouths to scream. It’s so loud, most animals freeze in their tracks until the domeheads catch them.”

All the others looked to Slayer for advice. “Are they fast?” He asked.

“No, not very, they rely on their scream. Other animals can’t tell which direction it comes from, because it seems to bounce around off the rocks.”

Slayer thought for a minute or two, then, almost like he was struck by lightning, he straightened, his head came up, and he turned to face the members of the patrol. “O.K., this is what we’ll do. At the first sound of a domie’s scream, Howl will answer with one of his loudest howls. Buzzy, you and Swoop have the best eyesight, so get as high as you can. Swoop, if you can, get in the air. They should poke their heads up to see what’s making the noise. If you let us know where they are, I think we can get them on the run. Dragon, if you can get your fire going, it will really throw a scare into them; in any case, make all the noise you can, and run towards them. They’re not expecting that.”

“Hey, Slayer,” said Howl, “That’s a good plan. I’ve never heard of anyone standing up to the domies.”

“O.K.,” said Slayer, “Let’s get moving. Howl, I don’t like to ask anyone to go in the front, but you know the area
best, and can find the trails easier, can you take the lead?”

“Sure, no problem; besides, I’ve heard the domies never come at you head-on; but wait to catch you off-guard, either from the side or behind. We all need to beware all the time.”

As the journey progressed, all were amazed at how well Howl could find really good trails where none were apparent to them.

Swoop could see Buzzy’s flight feathers beginning to grow, so he coached him on the aspects and techniques of flying. It was really comical to watch Buzzy hopping down the trail, trying to imitate Swoop’s long powerful wingbeats with his stubby little wings; but it was definitely strengthening his flight muscles. His legs seemed longer and stronger too. He could now jump over some of the smaller boulders.

Howl knew lots of little springs and rivulets that he led them to so they could quench their thirst. He also found a small pond, where they dined on fish, newts and
large insects of all kinds, including dragonflies. Howl and Dragon even managed to catch a few small rodents.

They continued their journey, but hadn’t been going long, when the thing they had been dreading happened. A shrill, ear-piercing scream seeming to come from all directions at once, put their nerves to the test. Practice and planning really paid off now.

Immediately, Howl let out with one of his loudest and longest cries. Dragon started whuffing and snorting, Slayer was on his hind legs, collar flaring and mouth wide; Buzzy and Swoop were high amid some boulders, and Swoop was quickly airborne.

The domies must have been surprised, for their screaming stopped. They poked their heads up to see what they had missed in their scouting. Buzzy’s sharp eyes immediately caught the movement. “Over there,” he pointed, “there’s only three of them.”

Howl kept up his fearsome serenade, which must have disoriented the domies, for as they charged out from behind the boulders, two of them ran into each other. One fell to the ground stunned; he recovered, and the two kept coming. Dragon got so excited his fire started, and burst from his wide open jaws in a searing tongue of flame, catching one of the attackers straight on. It turned the front of him black, and must have temporarily blinded him. As he

staggered around, black-grey-black-grey, he managed to trip his partner in crime. Swoop had managed to grasp a large rock that Buzzy was lifting up with all his strength; and flying over the scene, dropped it squarely on the head of the domie that was just gathering his senses from the first rush. That would be one less domie to worry about in the land.

The only whole domie left began to get to his feet to resume the charge. As he raised his eyes, the first thing he spied was Slayer, splendid and tall, powerful hind legs pumping, collar flared to the max, and the biggest mouth the domehead had ever seen coming straight at him. He just couldn’t help himself. With a scream, this one of pure fright, he turned, and as fast as his stubby legs could move, began to flee. Black and grey was just getting his vision back, and when he saw his partner in head-long flight, quickly followed. They spread the word fast. This was one patrol you better leave alone.
“They’ll hurt ya.”

As the fighters regrouped, congratulating each other with nudges, grins and cuffs. They noticed Howl was not among them. Immediately they were back on their guard. They heard some gurgling noises close by, and went to
investigate. As they rounded a large boulder, they saw Howl rolling on the ground. At first they were fearful that another domie had gotten by their defense, but soon realized that Howl was laughing. “Boy,” he said, “that was great. I’ve never heard of domies being beaten so soundly. Hehehe, did you see old Blackface (and thus he would be known forever)? He didn’t know what happened. And Slayer, you almost scared my tail off. What a bombing mission Buzzy and Swoop pulled off! Boy, I don’t think domies will mess with this patrol again. But there are other fearsome things we have to watch for. I think we better get moving on.”

Off they went, Howl once again taking the point.

After some time, they noticed the boulder-strewn landscape began to give way to a different makeup; one of more solid rock cliffs breaking up a cleaner surface of grass and soil. The trail was readily visible ahead, so they took turns in the lead. They could see that the trail disappeared over a large ridge way up ahead in the distance, but still had no real concern over their direction of travel.

They became so relaxed, and joyful, they were almost complacent, as they journeyed happily along.

Suddenly Howl’s ears perked up, he stopped dead in his tracks, and looked in all directions. “I’ve never been in this part of the land before, and I don’t recognize the sound, but it seems to be coming from everywhere.”

“Is that it?” Dragon had looked behind them. There was a huge mass inching, it seemed, along the trail in their direction.

“A cave wole.” Announced Howl.

“Shall I try to get my fire going, and fry it?” said Dragon, as he started to whuff and snort.

“Don’t bother,” said Howl. “It looks a lot closer because of its size, but we can easily keep ahead of it. Besides it’s scales are like armor, I don’t think your fire could touch it, but we must stay out of its reach or we’re goners.”

“Well lets get going then,” said Slayer.

Before long they all heard the sound that had Howl upset. A deep muted roar, it didn’t let up at all, it hardly even changed pitch. None of the group could give a name to it but they all unknowingly began to slow down. So much so, in fact, that the wole had gained a good deal of ground on them. As Dragon looked back, he was surprised, and called the groups attention to it. Now they could make
out the huge, scaly body, shaped like a common slug. It was of such immense size that it was unbelievable. Then Buzzy, with his sharp eyes, pointed out the dark, comparatively small eyes that seemed to stare at the little group.

Finally the thing that really got them on the move again, was when the monster opened its gaping maw. It was big enough to swallow all of them and a half dozen domeheads at the same time. Most of its food came from the huge fungi growth, deep in the damp caves that it inhabited.

Occasionally it ventured forth to try for succulent sheep or goats on the slopes. Spotting the patrol with its unusually sharp eyes, the wole set out in pursuit. Slow and determined, its goal was to trap the group, who unknowingly was being herded in that direction.

The going was quite easy across the wide mountain valley, the trail was level and smooth. Occasionally they walked (or hopped) two or three abreast. It could have been quiet pleasant, and they would have liked to stop and roll in the cool grass and fragrant flowers, but the constant threat form behind, and the increasing dreadful roar apparently from all around them, prevented any relaxation of mind or body.

On they went, increasing the distance between themselves and the wole. As they drew closer to the ridge, the roaring sound became louder and louder. It almost seemed to shake the ground. The air was getting damp too. Small droplets of moisture, ran down beaks and noses. They noticed spots of moss growing everywhere, and the trail was getting slippery. Still the sound grew louder, the wole kept following.

The mountain was so steep now and the slope so slick, they didn’t dare to leave the trail. It seemed the trail had really been climbing, it would be a long way down if one of them were to slip. On they went, fearing what came behind and not knowing what came ahead.

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