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Caribou Tales #6: The Fight

Catch up on previous episodes: Episode 1  |  Episode 2 |  Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5

Check back on the 25th of every month to read the next episode.

A small light coloured female caribou lifts her lip and calls. Carl watches; he has been following her for the past few days, and keeping an eye on an older herd mate who has done the same.
There have been several days of fighting over the females in the group. The males have locked horns, pushing back and forth across the now hard ground. With each breath and grunt, a curl of steam slipped into the cool air, curling around and above the great antlers of the fighters. The end of a match is marked by one caribou running away, and the winner running to the female. Carl has only participated in a few such matches. Testing his strength. Waiting.

Now  Carl lifts up his antlers and knocks them against a tree, reveling in the solid feel of them against his head, not noticing the chips of tree that have come flying off and hit him in the side. The older males look on indulgently. They are tired and not interested in getting up to challenge him. This is his time.

The female looks at him and he walks in her direction. He suddenly feels very large and broad. Out of the corner of his eye he can see his shoulders, broader and more muscled than before. His heart lifts as they power him across the ground. He waves his head, feeling the swing of his antlers, now reaching high above him, now arcing around as though sweeping a clearing through competitors. He grunts, daring his competitors to meet him as he trots out boldly towards her.

His fellow male herd mate meets him half-way. He calls out a challenge, his head arched back, neck outstretched like a strung bow, antlers reaching far behind him; then he swings his antlers forward. Carl tenses his muscles just before they crash together, locking antlers. Immediately Carl pushes his herd mate back, using the momentum of his movement to increase the strength of his resistance.

They move back and forth, but suddenly Carl feels that something is not right. The older, bigger caribou in front of him twists to one side and slides out of their headlock falling down on one knee while doing so. The ground shakes. Carl can see a long gash and a line of red in his grey brown coat where in a previous fight, his herd mate had been raked by the antlers. Now the loss of blood or pain has caught up with the bigger caribou. Confused, Carl backs away, looking briefly at his herd mate in front of him;  he can see the surprise in his eyes and his resignation as he stands up and turns away from Carl and the female.

Stunned, Carl stands still a split second, but the female calls to him. She starts to run. Carl can’t hold still any longer, feeling the surge of joy of having won his first confrontation, and he springs after her

Special thanks to Jean Polfus for the incredible artwork.

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