Chapter Three: Nootau
Not if he didn't want to end up in one of the walker camps like Ahanu.
His stupid attack on the camp nearly undid everything. He couldn't let that happen. All the sacrifices Ahanu made for him would've been all in vain then. Nootau wouldn't be able to redeem Ahanu if he got caught.
Anger and fear had driven his transformation. His wolf brother had been brave, allowing him to borrow from his hide to call on the spirit. Nootau's intention had been to poke around the camp, but when his body changed the feelings inside him let the animal take over. In his rage he attacked.
Mistake. A huge mistake.
Once Nootau had woken in his hiding spot, his mind was clear and memories flooded him. The rush of the endorphins. The satisfying crunch of bone. All of it came back with a vengeance, as did remembering getting shot multiple times.
Now the exhaustion from the transformation rode him hard, not to mention the bullets inside him. Each step tore the muscles, made fresh blood seep from the wounds. More than anything Nootau wanted to lie down and close his eyes.
That would be giving up, though, and he couldn't do that. Not yet. There was no doubt in his mind Ahanu had been murdered at the camp. The men would pay. Nootau just had to be smarter about how he was going to do it.
Nootau stumbled, collapsing on the ground. He nearly dropped his bundle of clothes and box. Gods it hurt. He hurt. Everywhere. But he didn't have time. He scrambled to get back on his paws.
Move. Must keep moving.
On the reservation Nootau could move more freely, but he still worried. No one had followed him after his escape from the camp, not that he knew of. Didn't mean they weren't searching for some rabid wolf. Hopefully the sleet would let up, or at the very least turn to snow. All the wet meant his tracks had gotten buried--maybe. That much gave him hope the camp hadn't pieced together his attack into something more than a random wolf.
A tall totem loomed in the distance signaling the reservation lands. It also meant Nootau hadn't much farther to go to get to their medicine man. He picked up speed, concentrating on the totem.
Once in front of Waban's door he scratched at the bottom. No one answered. Nootau dropped his bundle, scratched again, and whined. Please let the medicine man be home. It was late, or early, depending how one looked at it. Unless some emergency came up, Waban should be in bed.
Nootau tried again, howling low. He bumped the door with his head. It shuddered underneath each bang.
Answer. Please answer. Need answer.
The door suddenly gave way. He stumbled a few steps before stopping. Nootau looked up. Waban held the door. Bleary eyed and grey hair back in a braid he stared down, a befuddled expression on his leathery face.
Nootau leaned against Waban's legs. He let go in that moment. All the agony. All the heartache. The anger. A growl escaped. Those men. Stupid bad men. Prey. Death. Nootau gnashed his teeth together. His fur ruffled. Blood.
A hand came down on his head. Fingers scratched behind his ears. A low hum caressed Nootau, calling to him, soothing the restless spirit within. Hands moved down his neck to his back. Little tugs on his fur made him arch. Yes. Oooh. Good man. The growling eased back into a whimper.
The man fix.
A hand swept over the wounds on his hindquarters. Nootau yelped and pulled away. He backed up, puffing himself bigger and snarled.
The hum came back, louder than before. The man knelt down. Held out his wrinkled hand.
Nootau backed up farther, his foot hitting something. A loud clacker surprised him. The noise hurt his ears. They both looked down. A bundle was underneath him. Something soft had wood sticking out. He dipped down to smell it. Me. The scent was Nootau, but not. The man shuffled closer. Something about him felt familiar too. Warmth came off him in waves, calling to Nootau. He wanted to go to the man.
Fear kept him back.
He's not the one hunting us.
Nootau wanted to believe that.
The scents from the home were good ones. Food. Wood. Home. But not Nootau's. Somewhere home could be.
The man opened his arms wide, and Nootau pushed into them. Warmth. Sleep. Smells familiar and good. The man gathered him up, his sing-song hum comforting Nootau as fire burned through him. A whimper escaped. He hurt so much.
The hum got louder. The man put Nootau down on hard, flat wood. His hands didn't leave Nootau's fur. They anchored him to the spot. When they touched his bites Nootau yelped, but didn't pull away.
A huff of air came from the man. He frowned then looked behind him. Good man retrieved the package and closed the room from the world. He came back to Nootau, putting the bundle next to his snout.
Nootau licked the man's hands.
Good man stared down at Nootau before walking away again, this time leaving Nootau's sight. He whimpered, tried to get up, but his legs wouldn't listen. Nootau cried out. His claws clacked against the wood. Still, he could not stand.
Then the man appeared again, this time carrying things, many things, placing them all around Nootau. He stopped in front of Nootau's muzzled and leaned in.
The hums changed. They sounded soft and melodic, cresting and falling.
Nootau licked good man's face.
Warm water poured over him. Hands rubbed him all over. The motions lulled Nootau into relaxing. He put his head down.
Rest. He could finally rest.
Nootau closed his eyes.