They found themselves near the entrance of a forested area, an open field at their backs. It was a dark night with no clouds or stars in the sky. Janus had reverted to the form that Tepic had first found him in, which made the man shake his head in wonder.
Tepic was just glad that they hadn’t had to deal with any more birds getting inside. It was odd that they had been waiting for Mr. Arnold and not Tenderpaws, but Tepic thought it best not to ask until they really were in the clear.
Another howl occurred in the distance, still faint, almost infantlike in inflection. Janus responded making the connection firmer for Tepic. With a wolfish grin the man turned back to the fox, who grinned back as they raced forward.
It wasn’t long before the two came to a simple cave, there was no illumination inside but they could both see clearly. It was a small cave with only one slight turn. What they found at the end was a gray wolf moreau, which couldn’t have been more than a pup.
“Tenderpaws?” Tepic asked, looking down at his friend who was on the ground and looked back up at him for a moment. It bared its teeth and began to grow rapidly, as its growl became deeper and more menacing.
“Errrrr…don’t yer remember me Tenderpaws?” Tepic said, backing away slowly. “I tried ter call yer by yer true name. And reminded yer that us foxes don’t taste good!” Rasend didn’t seem to understand as it snarled one last warning.
The wolf pounced, jaws snapping, and Janus intercepted him. The two wolves fell to the ground snarling, scratching, and snapping as fur and blood flew about the cave.
“Oh bug…. bother!” Tepic exclaimed, from where he had fallen to the ground, “This weren’t supposed ter happen!”
The wolves fought each other, snarling and whining in pain as they ripped into the other. Rasend was more ferocious, tearing into Janus relentlessly. It took only a few moments for him to realize he couldn’t fight Rasend ferally and emerge victorious. Janus fell back to the floor and kicked at Rasend, who pounced without thought and managed to throw him back. The wolf landed on its feet, charging again, but Janus side stepped and scratched at the wolf before leaping back again and being chased down.
Rasend tackled into his opponent, crushing him against the wall. Janus grunted in pain, and then whinned as Rasend tore a claw through his chest.
“Tenderpaws stop! We’re trying ter help ya!”
Rasend snarled at Tepic’s cries, but the black wolf spotted a small opportunity. Janus lunged for Rasend’s tail with both hands while snapping. The grey wolf cringed slightly as he pulled his tail back, but Janus didn’t stop there as he went to the ground and tackled Rasend by bounding directly into the wolves knees.
Rasend fumbled over and barreled into the floor. He tried to get back up, but now Janus was on the offensive beating down the older wolf. The fight continued, blood and fur flying everywhere, until Janus howled, “Yield, pup!”
Being addressed in wolf, and as a child, caught Rasend by surprise and he was pinned against the floor in the next moment. In a matter of seconds Rasend had shrunk to the size of a child again, and was whining apologetically.
Janus stood up, wavering a bit, but then steadying himself he turned to Tepic, “What just happened?”
“Errrr….. dunno, this don’t happen that often…”
“Well…that’s good then.” Janus replied as he looked back down at Tenderpaws who was still whinning apologetically, tail between its legs and ears back and down while its paws covered its face. “I thought for a moment only I was confused.”
“Recon yer won, an Tenderpaws is yer pal now.. an ‘cording ter pack law, yer the boss, same with wolves as it is with us foxes.”
Janus seemed to be surprised for only a moment, but then nodded, “Well, we’ve found him. But how do we wake him up?”
“I don’t know, once yer find someone, they have ter find a reason ter come back, then it’s up ter themselves… like Mr Arnold, once he sorted out he were better as one person, he sort of woke up…”
Janus nodded, taking this in stride, “In that case…you might need to leave now. In case his mind crumbles like the cats did…”
Tepic nodded to himself, then looked at Janus, “An what about you?”
“I’m going to talk to him and help him find his way back, protect him from crows, whatever I need to do,” Janus paused and then added personally, “I don’t know how this will lead me to a life after death…but I don’t think I have better options lad. I did some soul searching of my own after I died, and even just before…I was rather miserable as a man.”
“Well, yer the leader of his pack, an it’s a good leader as shows the pack the right way ter be, recon yer got the right of it.”
“I don’t know what will happen next, but if we do not see one another again lad,” Janus grinned, showing his wolf teeth. “Thank you for the adventure.”
“Well, hope it all works out, yer been a decent sort, Janus,” the boy said before looking at the small wolf, “An you listen ter Janus, alright, Tenderpaws, an yer’ll be fine, hear?” A small whine answered that could have been a yes.
He looked up at the larger wolf, smiled and said “See ya,” before turning on his heel and running into the distance.
Tepic awoke, lifting his head from Rasend’s chest, to find himself alone in the small cell. He stood, looked down at his friend and thought he saw a more peaceful look in the face. Stepping out the door, he saw Lisa standing nearby. “How did it go?” she asked.
He replied with a smile and a quick wink before sauntering towards the stairs.