Lenti tried to raise the children as best she could. When she would leave to go hunting, Krull was left in charge of his sisters. He learned at an early age to take on large responsibilities, something that would come into play when he became Roh’mach. He didn’t know it, but very soon he would have all the responsibility he could handle.

The pups were upset. “Muti is never this late!” Tela squealed. “I want my Muti!”

“She’ll be home soon,” Krull said. It’s way past mid-moon now.”

“How do you know she’s coming back?” En’geer said quietly. “How do you know?”

“Because she loves us. She would find some way to come back, no matter what.” He closed his eyes and quietly whispered, “Please God, let her come back!”

Time seemed to drag by. Krull did not want to admit it, but he was on the verge of tears himself. But he could not cry–he had to be strong. Still, he closed his eyes tightly and silently murmured, “Roh’kash ne nabu! Koh’pim ket ra mispa ojkhim! Muti ne gris….”

As if in answer to his prayer, he heard a stirring in the grass. But there was also a low moan. Running out of the den, he saw his okash limping, holding up one of her front paws. There was a large kick wound on her shoulder, and a trickle of blood stained the length of her forearm.

“Muti! What’s wrong??”

“Everything’s going to be fine. It’s nothing.”

The pups piled out of the den and began to mob her. She had no lack of help cleaning her wound, and three different offers for support in case she could not make it to the den.

“I’ve come half a mile like this. I think I can make it.”

Despite her confidence, she was stiff and ambled very slowly and painfully into the comfort of the burrow, where she collapsed exhausted.

She did her best to keep the wound clean, but it became infected and before long she could barely put weight on it.

Three nights in a row she went out hunting. Each time, she came back late and exhausted. And she never caught anything. Finally, she stopped trying to hunt and gave in to her growing weakness after she collapsed on the trail and had to be helped home.

Ber tried hard to gather enough food for her and the growing children. He began to grow a little gaunt, for he would eat very little and save most of his kills for them. Lenti could not afford false pride. She accepted the food gratefully, kissing Ber and gradually going from calling him Okhim to calling him Maleh.

A week passed. The rest had done her no good at all. In fact, she was getting steadily worse. When Ber brought her the leg from a gazelle, she was almost too weak to take a bite. She pawed his face and said, “You’re so good to me. I love you, Maleh.”

“I love you too. You must get well, you must!” He nuzzled her gently. “Lenti, pray about it. Pray as you’ve never prayed before. And you’ll know that somewhere I’m praying with you.”

After Ber left, Krull began pulling strips of meat from the carcass, mincing them in his teeth, and bringing them to his okash. He’d been doing that for a while now, for she was too weak to feed herself. Lenti pawed him and in a faint whisper said, “My special little boy!”

Unable to contain himself any longer, Krull burst into tears. “Muti! Muti!” he sobbed. “You got to get well again! You just GOT to!”

“Honey, I’ll try my best.” She shivered violently. “So cold! I’m so cold!”

It was very hot, actually, but her children knew the routine, and came and piled on her, their warm bodies giving her comfort. She began to relax. “Such good children. Someday I’ll make this up to you, I promise!”

She fell into a deep sleep, snoring loudly. Then shortly after mid-sun, she fell silent. Completely silent. Krull noticed he could not feel her chest rise and fall, and he tried to wake her.

“Muti! Wake up, Muti! Wake up!” He began to sob. “Muti, wake up!! Please!! Mutiii!!”

She was dead, and through the long afternoon and into the quiet evening they huddled in the darkness of the den next to her slowly cooling body.

Finally Ber came by with a rabbit. “Food! Come on out, you little rascals!”

Rather than pouncing on the food, they all came and huddled around him, sobbing. He kissed them, then went into the den where he found her body. “Oh, Lenti!” He bent down and kissed her cheek. “Find my son. Find peace. Find Roh’kash. Your suffering is over, and now mine can’t get any worse.”

Ber and Sildresh opened their hearts to the children, digging a new den for them. The old den was filled in around Lenti. Ber could not bear for her beauty to be disfigured by scavengers.

“I hope this is the end of the tragedy,” Ber said, smoothing the dirt evenly where the entrance used to be.

But it was only the end of the beginning….


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