Buck padded through and over the withered brown foliage, mindful of where he placed his large paws so not to leave prominent tracks by stamping down the shrivelled vegetation.
Brushing up against one of the many oak trees in this timber he was passing through, he paused to mark the tree bark with his scent then proceeded on trotting. The wood he was in seemed lifeless and arid, the only sign of movement was the slight breeze stirring the wilting leaves of the trees and his broad presence travelling freely among the forest. This was the what the drought had induced upon his domain and thus he and his pack were compelled to oblige to the Wilderness' wicked system and depart from the area.
They would trek over the valley's eastern ridge and back to the land abundant in streams and flourishing greenery to flee from the famine that had seized Buck's valley. But before he could leave and lead his pack to that utopia he had to pay his respects to his former and final master, John Thornton, like he did each summer after that fateful morning.
The Yeehats would forevermore be punished for putting to death his benevolent bygone owner, the two other dogs Thornton had owned and his partners that accompanied him. Every single winter he and pack would ravage their hunting traps, taking their only means of survival. They would mercilessly execute the sled dogs the huntsmen took along with them as they searched for game on the limits of Buck's valley. His pack would massacre any party of Yeehat hunters the could track down, but they never devoured the bodies, only left them for another band of hunters to stumble across and grieve over.
It was kill or be killed, eat or be eaten in the wild and the Yeehats comprehended that notion terribly well for they dealt with the brunt of it. Buck could frankly care less about what they had to deal with since he had a pack of wolves to sustain and lead as well as succumb to that reality, the lone law the Wild had crafted to make all weaker beings bow to it.
At the crest of the ridge on the east side of the valley Buck had left his mate to guard the pack along with some other wolves of higher importance, he had left them milling around in a sandy clearing. The wolves of his pack lacked in names because they didn't require them, they distinguished one from another by their scent. So his mate would be referred to as his mate and other wolves would be specified by their characteristic smell or unique appearance. Buck could not rid himself of his name for a man had designated it to him and a man was the only species that demanded that there be a name for everything. Hence Buck maintained his name, because a man had assigned it to him and the other reason was that John Thornton had used it to address him, and that man still held a place in his heart that was exclusively there just for him.
Eventually Buck reached the edge of the timber, his destination very close. The long blades of grass that coated the lowermost point of the valley were brittle, stiff and had a light brown hue, a great disparity from the jade colour they once retained and the ductile anatomy they were supposed to have. They still stood tall, hiding from Buck's view the tainted yellow stream that meandered through the centre of the valley.
Buck began to head into the long stalks, navigating through them and in the direction of the filthy stream. They grazed his pelt as pushed through them, the dehydrated stems and leaves scratching his up against his fur roughly.
Leaving the fringe of the tall, thin grass Buck tread over the round stones that were littered the shore of the stream. Yellowish crust coated parts of the stones exteriors, plausibly from the rising tide of the stream sometime during the spring, causing the stones to be stained with the same substance that contaminated the water.
Sitting down on his haunches, Buck stared at the evaporated stream. It had left an impression in the parched earth, a shallow dip that ran on as far as Buck could see from left to right. The soil that was once at the bottom of the watercourse but now exposed to the sun's scorching rays was dyed a dingy white tone from the rotted moose hide that was thrown into the stream to decay by the Yeehats.
This is the area that Buck came to once ever summer to mourn over the loss of Thornton. The last tie may have snapped between him and man physically yet it had never really fractured mentally considering that he was a dog. If he had been a wolf then the circumstances could possibly have been different seeing that wolves have not been domesticated by man. Though dogs have and he was a dog, a feral one albeit, but still a dog. Furthermore, a dog's eternal loyalty to man can at no time be snuffed out, especially if the dog loved a certain man. Like John Thornton.
Unbeknownst to Buck, He was being shadowed. Several of the marsh wolves that had been performing the duty of scouts had tailed him from a distance and tracked his movements all the way up to the glade, going undetected by staying upwind of the burly feral dog.
Pricking her ears, one of the wolves with a warped tail monitored the distance between her and Buck. It was crucial that Buck be afar from the small gang of wolves before they slipped away into the timber line and hie over to the region where their leader and the rest of the pack were lingering.
Sometime later, the wolf with the crooked tail determined that Buck far enough away to not harbor any suspicion that he was being spied upon. Spinning around to her followers she emitted a terse growl and bounded off, making a beeline for the forest. The wolves swiftly pursued her lithe smoky form into the woods.
A bulky male wolf coated in ashen grey fur kept his head low as he advanced into the parched stalks of grass. His pack, consisting of about thirty or so, fanned out behind him.
They were encroaching Buck's territory for one sole reason, to eliminate the feral dog and abduct his land. Valley, land of streams and thriving vegetation along with whatever else that was under his far-reaching supremacy.
The marshes downstream of the yellow stream which they appertained to were experiencing a drought more severe than the one here. Thus, the male wolf was dedicated to overtaking any land that he could. He wasn't going to relinquish his superior position as leader of the pack by starving his underlings and impelling them to desert the pack and go off on their own.
Raising his snout to the bright sky above, the male wolf inhaled and distinguished Buck's scent from the redundant smells that he caught. Buck wasn't far now and the male wolf would not let up this precious chance to murder his rival while he was isolated from his pack. Once Buck perished, annihilating his pack would not demand as much effort seeing that they would be swayed by bereavement, causing them to be confused and assailable.
Uttering two pithy yips, the male wolf instructed his pack to besiege the lone feral alpha dog. It was time to commence the assault.
Jerking his large head up, Buck let out an extended melancholy howl. A howl that would pierce anyone's heart if they heeded it. That howl was part of the routine in his mourning. He would mill around the river for sometime and think about Thornton and when he was nearing the end of his grieving he would express his sorrow by howling once.
It was abruptly cut short when he heard two yips. Getting up into a standing position Buck let out an intimidating low growl that would make any wolf's fur stand up in fear. Glaring into the grass on the opposite side of the river where the noise came from he stood rigid.
Rustling grass blades was all Buck's eyes could see but when he drew in the air he could smell the heavy stench of marsh and wolf. There were many wolves in the dry stalks on the other side of the drained stream.
Without any sort of warning beforehand, a massive wolf leaped out of the rattling stalks and landed on the stream bed. It's grey eyes glittered with hatred and blood lust as it progressed towards Buck, it's head was low and it's muscles rippled under it's thick ashen grey fur. Sensing promptly that the large wolf was looking for a fight Buck pulled his lips back into a monstrous snarl and let his hackles stand on end.
Marsh wolves emerged from the same long grass that the enormous wolf had sprung out of, they formed an irregular circle around the two and fenced both animals in. To Buck it was like his brawl with Spitz all over again, aside from the fact that instead of Spitz it was a savage wolf he was pitting against and the circle of hungry eyes that surrounded them belonged to minatory wolves rather than ravenous huskies.
Buck's baleful gaze was locked onto his adversary, studying every move he made as he closed the distance between Buck and him. The male wolf just gave him the evil eye in response and halted about four feet away, he made no further movements towards Buck. The wolves that boxed them in shifted and fidgeted in anticipation for what was inevitably coming.
Both the massive wetland wolf and the brawny feral dog were trapped in a stand still. The cessation of motion bothered Buck to no end but it was tolerable to the entire pack of wolves for patience was the key to receiving what one desired.
Minutes passed and finally Buck couldn't endure the stagnate situation any further. His logic was corrupted by the mounting exasperation he was undergoing from the current position he was in. He gave way to his impulse to just brazenly attack the wolf in front of him and bolted for him. That was what the ashen grey wolf was tarrying for and he nimbly dodged to the side, avoiding the glinting white fangs that snapped in the empty space his body previously occupied.
Pure fury was raging through Buck as he whipped around to face his opponent once more. He rushed for the wolf that was continually taunting him repeatedly, each time failing to sink his frothy jaws into the thick pelt. That just angered Buck more and bad judgment was consuming his insides all the while.
After many of the male wolf's sidestepping attempts he could recognize Buck's depleting energy through his more sluggish dashes at him. He evaded the feral dog darting towards him one more time before he detected his opportunity.
Buck's right flank was completely exposed as he dashed for the area the wolf was formally situated, taking his chance the large wolf plowed right into Buck's side. At that unforeseen move Buck toppled over onto his side and the male wolf was on him in an instant. The wolf latched his jaws onto Buck's matted neck and sunk his yellow fangs in, deep enough to go past the layer of fur and into the skin and muscle.
Buck thrashed vehemently and released a noise that was like a snarl and a pained yelp combined. When the alpha wolf had clamped onto the feral dog's neck his pack went berserk and surged upon the knocked down beast.
Buck's body was being bitten, slashed open, scratched and trampled all at once. Blood was spurting from the wounds inflicted on him as he was ripped apart by the many livid wolves. One wolf caught his left ear in it's mouth and started shaking it's head to and fro, causing his ear to have a large chunk torn from it and gush out a considerable amount of crimson liquid.
Another wolf chomped into his soft underbelly, and with the aid of one of his allies split it open to let some of Buck's innards slip out and of course the wolves bit down on those and pulled.
Fur was being cleaved from his body as he writhed under the mass of wolves. His fluffy tail had clumps torn from it and blood sprayed on his and the barbaric wolf's pelt. His shoulder was chewed and bleeding profusely, and his both his hind legs were broken. The splintered bones were jutting out of his skin at agonizing angles and the tendons were ruptured from recurring bites.
All Buck could do is squirm in distress and utter distorted yelps as he was being mangled. It was hopeless for his pack to hear his calls of anguish over the clamour of growls, snarls and barks coming from the marsh wolves.
The wolves had peeled back chunks of shredded flesh on his right flank to unveil the narrow white bones his of ribs, and like all his other numerous injuries blood spilled out of the huge gash and onto the rocky ground.
During the whole onslaught, the male wolf kept his teeth locked onto Buck's neck. Buck had struggled multiple times to crane his head up and take a hold of the wolf's scruff but was unsuccessful because the male wolf's grip prevented that.
Buck, to the wolf's great irritation, was refusing to relinquish his life despite being shredded to pieces by his pack at the moment. The feral dog's violent thrashing had subsided to wriggling and his wide brown eyes now expressed an intense pain. Still Buck tried to bite his neck, yet no matter when he did it the male wolf clenched his jaws tighter and Buck's head flopped back down onto the rocks and he gave strangled bawls.
Soon Buck's breathe became short and fast, and his struggling ended. He laid on the stones and made no further attempts to resist the wolves barrage.
The male wolf slackened his grip on Buck's neck and withdrew his fangs, retreating back a couple steps to admire his victim. The rest of his pack noted his suspension and hesitantly clambered off of the dying beast.
Feebly adjusting the position of his head so he could fix his bleary gaze onto the triumphant male wolf, Buck drew his lips back into a faint snarl and growled. Though the growl came out as a rumbling gurgle in his throat, producing a red liquid that leaked out of his jowls and trickled down his cheeks to the bloodied fur of his neck.
Buck still had it in him to fight even in his frail state. His dull brown eyes still conveyed their ferocity although it was blended with a high degree of pain.
The male wolf was outraged. This dog, of all things, would not die! It's persistence to survive was extremely bothersome. Lunging forward, the wolf honed in to Buck's jugular and sunk his teeth right into an imperative vein. Buck's mouth bubbled with a mixture of blood and saliva and he grunted at the fatal strike.
His eyes rapidly turned opaque as his front legs jerked and his mauled body tautened, he gulped in some air hastily and his ebony nose twitched. Wheezing, Buck's form went limp as his body was liberated from life.
Appeased, the massive wolf released his hold on the deceased dog and glanced at his pack. They would evacuate the area and let the carcass be discovered by a search party from the pack that Buck was once the alpha of. When the remorse hit them full force, the male wolf's pack would close in on them and there would be a bloodbath. They most likely wouldn't wipe out the whole lot but they would assassinate enough to terrify the rest away from what was formally Buck's territory.
Thus, that is how the great devil named Buck died. His carcass now lay in the same valley that he and John Thornton had camped at. It was also the very same place where Thornton, Skeet, Nig, Pete and Hans now lay. Their final resting place.
He however, was not murdered by the Yeehats for they believed that valley to be sacred. It belonged to the revered Ghost Dog who was the leader of the wily pack that made their lives more difficult than needed be. Now that Ghost Dog had perished, finally surrendered to the almighty Wilderness like every living being eventually does.
Buck had passed away from an attack made by the species he had once lead a pack of, just because he wanted to pay his respects to the man he admired and loved oh so much. But that is how the game of life operates, fairness is not an option and you must do everything in your power to resist death.
Survival of the fittest, as the saying goes.