Rafe sat back on trembling haunches, staring down into the valley from the top of the mesa. The air was thick with the acrid scent of burning things, human and otherwise. His flanks still heaved slowly. Fleeing fast uphill over broken country was hard work even under the best of circumstances. Being chased by ignorant monsters was far from the best.
Rafe was fast, no doubt. Speed and smarts, coupled with an innate desire for the taste of truth, had served him well in his many years on the planet. His muzzle was frosted with gray, but his mind was quicksilver on the wind. Rafe would never had said as much, but he was far smarter than the fools who claimed him for their totem.
The old wolf looked up into the sky. The sun was on its way down, the cerulean bowl deepening to light indigo at the far edges. He closed his eyes. Sky was always there, a truth he could not imagine would ever leave him. Truth and wisdom were his lodestars. They always had been even when the ignorant and the damaged had pursued him all over the land. It grieved him to discover that some of the creatures, who called themselves 'humans' (a term imparted to him by Raven and Coyote), thought Rafe himself to be a monster. They blamed him for the misfortunes that befell their kind, claiming all sorts of savagery on his part. Supposedly even the blood of infants stained his jaws.
His heart felt much pain over this cloud that obscured and distorted true sight on the part of the humans. The thought
that those who did not know him, those who did not care to know him,
feared him and wished him destroyed, filled him with such sorrow he
thought he might burst into howling.
The howl died behind his teeth. The moons he had witnessed had given him the hard-won knowledge that to howl would be to give himself away. They would find him again. Ignorance and cruelty were implacable, it seemed to Rafe. Even the tiny fraction of the humans that had sought him out in peace had themselves in turn been hunted down by their fellows. The grizzled wolf had seen his fair share of harsh things in the Universe, but the ferocity of violence the people exhibited towards those whom they should welcome into their circle astonished even him.
Rafe lowered his head. His eyes watered in the smoke drifting up from the conflagration below. The whole town seemed to be burning, a vicious riot of flames fierce enough he could hear a faint crackle, even at this distance. There were other sounds. Gunshots. Curses. Screams, human and animal. Rafe watched as a small group of humans ran out of the clouds of smoke roiling over the ground, headed west and uphill. Straight towards him.
His ear pricked up, eyes focusing sharp. The humans were not moving quickly, held back as they were by some who appeared to be hurt. Some clung to others, who carried their slumping pack-mates as best they could. Rafe relaxed slightly; he didn't think they were after him. But the smoke parted briefly, just enough for the wolf to make out what looked like another pack of humans. They were hurrying, and carrying tools.
And if the first group found Rafe, the second group would, too. His hackles raised a bit, rising to his sore paws in a burst of nervous energy. He wanted to help the humans out front, but he was already injured and weary. He had given as much as could. That they had not seen the glory of his gift was something he could not control.
Rafe stood, backing away from the edge and into the fading sunlight. He would put distance between himself and the tragedy. There was a place he could go, a secret cave behind the wind in the West, where he could heal himself and sleep. He would hide himself from the monsters, dreaming of the day when he could walk among them and they would understand what he had been trying to teach.
Rafe turned around. He loped uneasily into the setting of the sun. Behind him the screams faded away into the mountains, while the world continued to burn into the blackness of the night.