Canto X: The Burning Tree
As nightfall showed its early signs above,
we rose and went about our sabotage.
Taking Kerosene which we had kept
for use when wits had failed to kindle flame
and sneaking past the beasts which lightly slept,
we doused the tree, and emptied the supply.
Then, setting fuse at length, we stepped aside,
and waited for disorder to ensue.
Just as the sun will purge the murk of night
and spread infection through the flesh of night,
so our device reversed the course of night
and rotted, fast, its flesh, the tree alight
in moments, fire spreading through its limbs.
The heat gave light and so the wolves awoke
to find their crooked home as none could grok--
some evil god descended to play out its wrath
perhaps they thought-- but howled their ignorance.
The flames and smoke reached monstrous plume,
and soon the wolves abandoned each their post--
our hunt had now begun, we marked the path
and followed close behind a male who went
astray from all the rest, lost in the din.
We followed close at hand and cornered him,
in thicket dense, his panic plaguing wits.
I lunged, the stab spilled easily its gore
and from its throat flowed forth its feral life.
Both pausing there to look upon our work,
Hul suddenly perked up his head to hear,
and so did I-- the slightest sound beside
this grave, denoting further prize to claim.
I paused, my ears atuned to something else--
the slightest multiplicity of feet
upon the forest ground, Hul did not hear.
He spoke excitedly in whispered tones:
There is another near-- imagine what
reward we might recieve. We need to move.
I halted for the moment, listening.
I did not speak what my sharp ears had learned--
the trickling of paws which patted earth;
the breathe of beasts in concert on the wind.
My mind was full of noise, the most of which
was crackling-- the flame which spitted through
my seed, the nightmare vision visiting
in that most fleeting beat. My great regret.
Hul darted past, no doubt assumed that I
was close at hand. In truth I stayed behind,
and, caution teaching me the patient skill
held back until I felt it safe to go.
Then, following as I could tell he went,
I witnessed all the work of my locked tongue:
Hul stood above a second beast, its blood
Had turned his trunk a brilliant red. He laughed.
He saw me, opened up his mouth to speak,
but speech was all prevented, boasts unsaid.
His hubris was rewarded with attack
which flanked him suddenly at either side.
The wolves which I detected pounced and tore
his throat from in him as I watched in stealth.
The smile barely had the time to fade
as his familiar eyes turned grey and cold,
the wolves continuing their vengeance-feast,
the teeth, a penetration I condoned
in things unsaid, the silent tongue’s assent.
I watched it all unfold before me there.
The wolves left little to the scavengers,
Hul’s final fruit sown forcefully in earth.