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The Hanging Star

Balto and His Friends continue the search.....

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Hyaku-Legger’s

                                                                    Balto

                          A wolf-dog and his friends

 

                                                CHAPTER THREE

                                                  “The Hanging Star”

 

One hour before the sun was fully up, Balto woke up in the dim light of the cave. Jenna, Boris and their new friend Kendall were all sleeping lightly near the entrance of the cave. Balto knew it was best to keep moving. They would surely pass a lot of obstacles in the ten miles that Kendall had told them to get to their destiny.

Some birds chanted overhead, and this slowly woke up the others.

Jenna was the first to stir. She opened her eyes and let out a yawn.

She got up and stretched herself to get the morning sleepiness out of her joints.

“Good morning,”said Balto, smiling near the entrance.

Jenna looked in his direction and saw him, smiling broadly as she admired him against the now brighter light.

“Good morning, Balto,”said Jenna walking up to him,”Sleep well?”

“Oh yes,”said Balto.

Jenna looked out at the woods and felt the fresh air of the morning.

“It seems that there’s enough light to see our way nicely, Balto,”said Jenna gladly.

“Yes indeed,”said Balto,”From now it should be easier to navigate thanks to Kendall.”

Boris and Kendall got up after a while and saw that there was enough light to go on too.

After a quick snack of jerky, the four went out into the chill of the morning and set off, Kendall leading them along the path he had came by.

“Fortunately there was no snowfall last night,”said Kendall, “We can follow my tracks all the way back to where I found your friend.”

“Ve’rre lucky indeed, arrren’t ve?,”said Boris.

The tracks led them among pine trees and old stumps, over fallen trees and some small snowy knolls. After about an hour, they came to a clearing where there was a large moose bull and a cow with her calf.

As cautiously as possible, they walked around the cervines and went on.

“This rrreminds me of the times vhen I vas a young goose and trrraveled to and fro, between Caucasus and Siberrria,”said Boris, “I’ve neverrr known a colderrr land in my life.”

“I met many Russian furs and feathers,”said Kendall, “They say that there’s a strait called Bering where they can cross when the tide goes down.”

“Aye, that’s trrrue, lad,”said Boris, “I’ve flown overrr the Berrring countless times…until I finally came to a stop herrre vith Balto.”

They walked into a shadowy woodland, in which the sun was scarce because of the density of the branches overhead.

Jenna didn’t know why, but she had a strange feeling that they were being followed.

“Stop being silly,”she thought to herself, “Who would possibly follow us out here to the middle of a wasteland?”

She was still uneasy, though, because she was sure that she wouldn’t feel it just because. Female intuition, you may call it.

Jenna walked a little closer to Balto and pressed gently against him, seeking his security. Balto perceived a certain uneasiness in her, and responded by rubbing her fur comfortingly. It was a nice feeling indeed for Jenna, and it made her feel better instantly.

Kendall suddenly stopped in front of them and cocked his ears. He listened intently.

After several seconds, he turned to the others and whispered.

“Nobody make a sound,”he said in a barely audible voice, “We’re being followed.”

Jenna almost yelped.

It was a tense moment.

Jenna and Balto’s ears also perked up and they strained their sense to hear the slightest sound. Boris did the same, even though his hearing wasn’t as keen as the canine’s. They soon heard what Kendall had.

It sounded like breathing. Like a creature breathing just a few paces away in the underbrush. Balto and Jenna nodded at Kendall, and he nodded back. He took a step forward.

“Who’s there?!,”Kendall called out.

No response.

“Don’t make any sudden moves,”Jenna called, “We just want to know who you are.”

No response.

“Show yourself,”called Balto.

“DON’T YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO!,”said a gruff voice in the underbrush.

“We mean no harm,”said Balto.

“BUT I DO!,”said the voice.

Before anyone could react, a shadowy figure leapt before them. It was a canine figure, with fur that went from pure black to pure white, topped with a pair of cold eyes, eyes that traveled from one surprised face to the other.

Balto couldn’t believe his eyes.

“Steele!,”he yelled.

 

It was Steele. But he looked different. His fur was all torn in parts, his legs had marks presumably made by brambles and thorny bushes, and a chunk of lip on one side of his muzzle was missing, exposing his teeth and gums. Quite clearly he was too dainty and inexperienced to last two days in the wild. He looked horrible.

Jenna, Balto and Boris could not say a word. After a long silence, Balto spoke up.

“What…what’re you doing here?,”he said.

“That’s what I should ask you, wolf-dog,”said Steele in his usual coarse speech, “You’ve got no business here on my land!”

“Your land?,”Jenna retorted.

“That’s right, this is my property, my hunting land,”said Steele, “Ever since that idiot half-bred there made me have to run from town.”

“Don’t you drrrag Balto into this, you sleaze ball! You rrran avay because you couldn’t stand the shame of being a liarrr, you filthy flea bucket!,”said Boris crossly.

Balto lifted his paw, indicating that he wanted a word.

“Okay, we’ve just made a mistake and stepped into your land,”said Balto.

“You betcha you make a mistake, you flea-bitten moon howler,”said Steele.

“Right, I know,”said Balto, “We just landed here by mistake. So just forget we were here and get back to your things, and we’ll go our way.”

“Oh, no you won’t,”said Steele, grinning evilly, “I’ve got you here in the middle of the wild, along with your prissy little girlfriend and your yappin’ feather duster too.”

“You’d betterrr that back, you overrrgrrrown putrrrid svine! You should be rrrotting with the rrrest of the garrrbage at the bottom of the hell! Vhy, you’rrre not even worrrthy of licking the dust off the floorrrs of Lenin’s Mausoleum!,”said Boris.

“Shut yer beak!,”snapped Steele, “Now, I’ve got the three people I most hate here alone in the wild with no one to come to their rescue within miles, and now I’m going to take pleasure in flaying you and hanging your corpses to dry, starting with you, wolf-dog. You’ve messed with me for the last…AH!”

He suddenly let out a cry of pain and fell to the ground, twisting and twitching in agony. After a few seconds, he passed out due to the intensity of the pain. Balto, Jenna and Boris looked all over to see who or what had caused him to suddenly react like that. They never expected what they heard next.

“There,”said a voice from beside the twitching Steele, “That’s the way to put out his lights. And if you ever have trouble with this guy in the future, you just give him a good bite in the ribs. A moose kicked him there a few days ago and I bet he must have broken some bones and maybe even ruptured some internal organs.”

It was Kendall.

“Like my good old papa used to say: ‘To reach a warrior, you must first reach his wound’,”said Kendall in a jolly tone.

Balto, Boris and Jenna just gaped in disbelief. Steele, who was at least three times bigger than Kendall, fell unconscious at a simple bite from the young coyote’s jaws.

“Shall we go on?,”he suggested.

The others just nodded, and stepping past the wretched Steele, followed him.

“A hard hit under the belt for Steele’s pride, eh?,”said Jenna.

“Aye. Rrrendered unconscious by a coyote pup,”said Boris.

Finally they got out of the woods and there was more light. Jenna felt a lot safer where they could see better and there were no trees for fiends to hide behind.

For a long time, nobody said anything. Then, when the silence was getting a little old, Kendall decided to break the tension.

“Do you know that guy?,”asked Kendall when they were about a mile away from the scene.

“Who, Steele?,”Jenna blurted, “Yeah, we know him…I guess.”

“He was a sled dog,”said Balto, “He was the leader of the sled team and the most popular dog in town.”

“But he was a complete airhead,”said Jenna, “He was such a self-devoted idiot.”

“He vas a bully as vell, picking on the otherrr dogs,”said Boris.

“Hmmm, I get the idea,”said Kendall.

They walked in silence for a while. Kendall stopped suddenly and pointed at the bottom of the hill they were on.

“It’s just another half mile away,”said Kendall, “I suggest we stop for a moment, because the rest of the way is between dense woods and there are lots of hard paths.”

“Okay, everrryone!,”said Boris, “Let’s take a brrreak!”

He unfastened their food basket from his shoulders and passed everyone some dried meat.

They were all glad to take a break, and Jenna took the chance to start a conversation.

“So, Kendall,”said Jenna, “Are there any more coyotes where you come from?”

“Oh, tons,”said Kendall happily, “I am supposed to return to them when I am old and strong enough to be chief, then my father can rest from his leadership with my mother and I can take care of them when they’re too old to hunt.”

“Wow! You’re the son of a chief!?,”Balto asked.

“Yes. My papa is the alpha male of the tribe,”said Kendall, “The son of the chief must take a long journey when he’s one year old, and in this journey he must find knowledge and strength in the mountains, as well as learn of the law of nature and if possible make allegiance with other tribes so that our brotherhood can continue for all time. At the return of the great journey, I will be named chief and I have the right to choose a mate and to either migrate or stay on the lands our tribe lives on.”

“Say, that’s a verrry interrresting custom,”said Boris, “Vhat else? Do you have any idea who your brrride vill be?”

Kendall nodded happily.

“Oh, yes,”said the coyote, “She’s the loveliest female in the tribe, the daughter of my mother’s sister. Her name is Amber, because of the color of her eyes. We were sweethearts since we were pups, and I promised that when I returned I would make her the alpha female of the tribe.”

“Aww, isn’t that cute?,”said Jenna.

Kendall smiled contentedly.

“But I almost perished last night, and if it wasn’t for you, Balto, I would have never been able to see the light of another day,”said Kendall, “Once more I must thank you for saving my fur.”

“Hehe, don’t mention it,”said Balto grinning, “That’s what friends are for.”

Kendall suddenly looked a bit serious.

“I have a question to ask you, though,”said Kendall, “But there’s no need to answer if you don’t want to.”

“Sure, what is it?,”asked Balto.

“That Steele character who stopped us in our tracks earlier was saying a lot of nonsense,”said Kendall, “But he did say something that I couldn’t help overhearing. Something about ‘wolf-dog’ or something like that. Did he mean you, Balto?”

Balto was a bit taken aback, bit he wasn’t ashamed of his heritage anymore.

“Yes, Kendall,”said Balto, “I am a hybrid, part wolf and part husky.”

“Wow! That’s neat!,”said Kendall.

This was the least they would expect.

“Are you serious?,”asked Jenna.

“Of course! Do you know what many canines would give to be hybrids? You get to be two wonderful creatures with all their abilities merged into one. Gee, that would be so cool!,”said Kendall.

Jenna grinned. Balto did too. They knew that it was quite true. Boris himself had once told Balto that sometimes he would like to be half eagle.

“And I thought you were a wolf last night,”said Kendall, “That’s why I was a bit baffled when I saw you three together. I figured that wolves also lived in groups, like us.”

“Vell, ve’rrre a bit like Balto’s pack sometimes,”said Boris, patting Balto on the back.

Jenna snuggled beside Balto.

“More like his family, I’d say,”said Jenna, flicking a kiss at Balto’s cheek.

Kendall smiled.

“That’s really nice. Family,”said Kendall, “There was never a better way to be related.”

The little group rested a while longer; then got ready to return to their quest.

The path of the forest was indeed rough, but they were able to navigate it without major problems.

Twice, Boris had to scout from above to see if they were going in the right direction, for the paw prints Kendall had left have been stepped on by moose and birds, and it was difficult to know if they were on the right path.

After about an hour, they came to a clearing in which there stood a lone pine tree, as tall as a seven storey building.

“Are we close?,”asked Jenna, heaving a little.

“In fact, we’re there already,”said Kendall.

From the very top of the tree, a lone figure could be seen. It looked like an animal hanging from its leg at the very tip of the tree. It seemed to be stuck. Balto strained his eyes and saw what it was.

“Star!,”said Balto, “It’s Star!”

It was Star. He seemed to be unconscious at the top of the tree. His leg was indeed stuck in between a fork of one of the branches at the very top of the huge tree.

“A Starrr at the top of the tree! How symbolic! Now all ve need is the jingle bells and ve can all sing ‘Merrry Chrrristmas’,”said Boris.

The others couldn’t help chuckling, even if the situation wasn’t very appropriate for doing so.

“How’re we going to get him down?,”Jenna inquired, “We can’t climb that tree.”

“Boris will do the job,”said Balto, “Listen: Jenna, Kendall, you help me make a large mound of snow at the bottom of the tree, and Boris, you fly up and try to free him. You let him fall into the mound of snow where he’ll land safely, and we’ll accomplish our mission and then we can all go home together.”

“Brrriliant plan, Balto,”said Boris, “Rrright! Now, let’s get to it!”

The canines piled the snow into a large mound at the foot of the tree while Boris flew up to see what he could do.

Star was not only stuck there, he was asleep. Boris snorted.

“Vell, vhat else vould ve expect this flea bag to do all day, hanging up herrre like an orrrnament,”he said.

With a sharp tap on the head, Boris woke the dog up.

“Errr….mommy, is it time to get up already?,”mussed the wretched dog, “I don’t wanna go to the sled training. Kaltag always hits me on the head…”

“Vake up!,”said Boris.

Star was instantly awake.

“Huh?,”he woke up so suddenly that he was a touch disoriented.

He looked at Boris and squinted his eyes.

“Who’re you…wait a second, I know you. You’re that bird…Balto’s bird…that means…uh, uh, it means…,”he stuttered.

Boris rolled his eyes.

“All these days hanging upside down must have dislocated yourrr brrrains, comrrrade,”said Boris.

Star immediately pulled himself together.

“You’re here to rescue me?! I thought no one would ever come! But is Balto here to save me?! Where is he?,”stammered Star.

“Vhy don’t you find out yourrrself?,”said Boris with a sly grin.

And with that he unlocked Star’s legs from the branch and lifted him away from it.

“Now, close yourrr eyes and count to ten,”said Boris.

Star did, always accustomed to doing as he was told.

“One, two, three, four…,”counted Star.

“BOMBS AVAY!,”yelled Boris and he let got of Star’s leg.

Down he went, still counting.

At the bottom of the tree, Balto, Jenna and Kendall were all waiting anxiously to see how Boris was doing.

They didn’t have to wait long to see that Balto’s plan had worked splendidly. Star came plummeting down and landed right in the middle of the mound of snow.

“Good,”said Jenna, “He had a soft landing.”

“Are you sure? He landed on his head,”said Kendall.

“Yeah, well, he’s hard-headed anyway,”said Jenna impishly.

Balto tugged Star out of the snow with his jaws and set him up straight.

“Star, are you okay?,”Balto asked.

Star opened his eyes and looked around him.

“Ten,”he said finally.

Suddenly he realized who was before him.

“BALTO!,”said Star, “It’s…IT’S YOU! I can’t…I can’t believe it!”
Star suddenly flung himself against Balto and hugged him, which startled the poor wolf-dog a lot.

“Balto! It was horrible! I went outside after the storm was over, and when I was about to go back home, the wind started to blow hard and it carried me away, and I landed on that stupid tree and I’ve been there for…I don’t remember how long!”

“Easy, don’t get overexcited,”said Jenna, “We’re here to help you. We’re going to take you back home.”

Star let go of Balto and looked at them.

“Oh, I can’t believe it!,”said Star, “I’m gonna live! I’m gonna live!”

Boris came back down from the treetop and landed beside the group.

“He should have something to eat beforrre ve starrrt valking again,”said Boris.

“Right,”said Balto, “But we must get him back home before it gets too dark. Things could happen, like another storm or something.”

They took ten minutes for Star to stuff himself with dried meat. He ate so ravenously that they were almost sure he’d choke. But he didn’t, and he finished promptly.

After that, they started back home.

The path was easier to navigate because their paw prints were very evident in the deserted wasteland. Balto soon found a landmark that indicated that they were about a mile away from the cave they spent the night in.

“If we hurry, we can be at Nome by dusk,”said Balto.

“Rrright! Step lively, comrrrades, let’s valk like the vind!,”said Boris excitedly.

Jenna was so happy that they had accomplished their task that she took more time to look at the wonderful scenery that lay before them. She noticed the small to tiny details of the pine trees, like woodpecker holes and owl nests, as well as the tracks left by small animals in the snowy woodland. Balto seemed to enjoy these details as well, for every now and they he’d catch her looking at him and flash a warm smile that made Jenna feel a delightful tingling in her tummy. His big yellow eyes traveled from ground to sky as they navigated the cold land.

About an hour before noon, they all decided to stop and take a break. They were at the entrance of the cave which had served as a keep for Balto and his friends during the previous night. They walked in and sat beside the warm pool that the hot spring had formed.

Balto looked into the steamy water and smiled as he saw his reflection stare back at him, proud and victorious, yet humble and cheerful. Jenna’s reflection appeared beside his own, and it nudged him playfully on the cheek.

Star stood at the entrance, not knowing what to say or do. He was going to live, and all thanks to Balto and his friends. The other dogs had not come to look for him. He wondered if they didn’t come because they were scared of the wild or because they assumed he was dead. Perhaps it was a combination of both. He would know soon.

Boris told everyone to gather around and they ate what was left of the jerky. After their scanty but tasty meal, they lied down to rest for a while. If they hurried, they’d be at Nome before the sun went down completely, so they needed all their strength.

After an hour, Balto told the group that they must move on. They were glad to, for the wait had made them a bit weary.

Everything went smoothly, until they were about a mile from the river which Jenna and Balto had crossed by hopping across icebergs.

Balto was at the head of the group, Jenna was behind him, Boris and Star were in the middle, and Kendall brought up the rear. They were relatively calm, knowing that they’d be where they were meant to be soon, until Kendall heard something.

“Balto, Jenna, did you hear that?,”Kendall called out.

Everyone stopped dead.

The group moved into a tighter formation. Jenna pressed herself against Balto, seeking the security of his warm fur. Boris perched himself on Balto’s shoulder like a big white-and-gray parrot. Star cowered behind Balto, and Kendall stood tall in his spot, showing the dignity that a chief-to-be should show at timed like this.

What Kendall had heard sounded like a twig breaking, and then successive sounds like paws crunching the snow. The paws sounded big, belonging undoubtfully to a very strong animal.

Balto decided to speak.

“Come out, wherever you are,”said Balto.

No answer.

‘As long as it’s not Steele again’, Balto thought, hoping that with all his might.

“Show yourself,”said Kendall, “You’re outnumbered.”

Then, the sound started again. But it was not only one…there sounded like there were more paws, crunching the snow and rapidly moving around the group.

“Stay close,”whispered Balto.

“Heh…No problem there,”said Jenna nervously, pressing herself against him even more.

Suddenly, the paws stopped. They seemed to have paused and were getting ready to pounce. Balto knew that they’d see who there attackers were now, and he hoped with all his might that they would be able to defend themselves.

“Brace yourselves,”said Balto.

And out of the underbrush, two figures leaped. Before anyone could react, one pinned down Balto, thus taking Jenna and Boris down with him, and the other stood where they had been, eyeing Kendall and the now devoid-of-protection Star.

After about two seconds, Jenna recovered from the shock of being pinned down by their attacker and looked up to see who it was. But instead of yelling out in fear…

She laughed!

“Oh, you two! You scared us!,”she laughed.

Balto, Boris and Jenna realized who it was and laughed loudly. Kendall was confused, and Star looked irritated.

It was just Muk and Luk.

“Hiya, Uncle Boris,”said Muk, “We were chasing a snow bunny that ran into the forest when we saw you and though we’d give you a surprise!”

“Dah, and you did, laddies,”said Boris, “I nearrrly lost my tail featherrrs vith frrright! You two surrre surprrrised us.”

Balto, Jenna and Boris got up and rejoined their friends. Kendall still looked confused.

Kendall, I want you to meet our friends, Muk and Luk,”said Balto, “They live with Boris and me.”

“Oh, pleased to meet you,”said Kendall, “A friend of yours is a friend of mine.”

“Ooh, hello, Mr. Fox,”said Muk, “Your fur looks neat.”

“Hehehe, he’s a coyote, Muk,”said Jenna, “Foxes have gray or russet colored fur.”

“Oh, right! And who’s the puppy?,”asked Muk, turning to Star.

“Hey! I’m not a puppy! I’m a full grown sled dog of proud pedigree, thank you very much,”said Star.

Balto, Jenna and Boris were glad to see Muk and Luk, because they knew that they were close to the town and they’d be able to get Star back home safe and sound.

With the two polar bears added to the group, they got through the woodland more easily. When they came to the river, Jenna remembered that she was thinking about another safer way of crossing it, but she didn’t come up with anything. But they had no trouble after all. Muk and Luk carried them all across the river, since they could swim now.

The voyage home was becoming a cinch from here on. Balto could just smell the warm fire back at home and the warm covers just waiting for him and his friends.

                                                           *          *          *

Back in the old barn, where the dogs were all gathered, a small and not very happy meeting was taking place.

“I’m afraid we must admit the worst, folks,”said Kaltag, “Our buddy is probably frozen solid out there. No one could survive more than three of four days there in that wasteland.”

Everyone nodded full of gloom.

“Oh, I just knew he’s end up like this,”said Nikki, “He was such a blunder-head.”

“We’ll have to find a new team member for the sleds,”said another dog.

“Now, now. We mustn’t jump into conclusions,”said the Elder, “There’s as much chance that he’s alive than there is otherwise.”

“What makes you say that, old timer,”asked Nikki from a corner.

“I have faith in Balto’s keen instinct,”said the Elder, “We mustn’t forget that he had already saved the townsfolk once and he can surely do it again.”

“Humpf, Balto. Yeah right,”said someone.

“Mind your respect, young man,”said the Elder, “Balto is our hero, you know.”

“Look, not that I have anything against him being a half-wolf,”said Sylvie, “But can we really trust that guy? I mean, he’s…different. Different in just about anything I can think of.”

“You just said it yourself, Sylvie, he’s different from all of us. That’s why he went out there in the first place,”said the Elder, “And if I’m not mistaken, wolves are much better in navigating sterile lands than we are, and they never get lost. They just follow their instincts, no matter the situation.”

“Well, now that we’re talking about that matter, he didn’t go alone,”piped up Dixie, “Jenna went with him.”

“Jenna, that redhead husky with a piece on cloth on her back all the time?,”asked another female in the back.

“Yeah, that Jenna,”said Dixie, “She’s always been an oddball, always acted kinda weird, especially around Balto.”

“Yeah, I always suspicioned she had a crush on him,”said Sylvie with a mischievous smile.

“Now, that will be quite enough of that,”said the Elder, “Leave the lass alone. She has the right to fancy whoever she wants.”

There was a silence, broken only by an occasional gust of wind.

“Well, at any rate, we must wait before we jump into conclusions,”said the Elder.

It was then that they all heard a scratching on the barn door.

“What the-,”someone said.

Before anyone knew anything more, the doors swung open and before them stood our heroes. Balto, beside him Jenna, between them and Boris, Star, and at the far end, Kendall.

At first no one could make a sound, just too impressed at the sight. But then…

“STAR!,”they all cried, “YOU’RE ALIVE!!!”

There was a very peculiar scene in which all the sled dogs greeted their buddy they thought dead. The Elder walked up to Balto and his friends and smiled.

“Well done, lad,”he said, “You saved the day once again.”

“Hey, ve had something to do in this rrrescue too, you know,”said Boris.

“Oh, of course,”said the Elder, “Congratulations to all of you.”

Jenna, Boris and Kendall stood tall and proud beside their lupine friend.

When everyone settled down, Star began to tell everyone about how horrible it was to be blown away by the wind and all the gory details of being swirled around and landing on a treetop.

Balto smiled. He was happy with his friends and with himself.

It was only after a while that the Elder noticed the newcomer, Kendall.

“And who might you be, lad?,”he asked.

“I am Kendall, a friend,”said Kendall, “Balto and his pals rescued me from the snow last night, and I am here thanks to them.”

“Well, it seems that you’ve saved more than one life, lad,”said the Elder, “And if I recall correctly, we all have something to say to them all, don’t we, folks?”

Everyone nodded, most of them reluctantly.

“Thank you for saving our friend,”the Elder said to the little group.

“THANK YOU!,”chorused everyone else.

“Even if you are a bunch of nutters,”Sylvie whispered.

The Elder glared at her.

“I heard that,”he said, “Come up here, you two, and apologize for talking badly about our hero.”

Sylvie and Dixie walked up to the front, heads hung, and muttered an apology.

Balto just grinned.

“It’s alright,”he said, “I know I might be a bit strange to all of you. And I don’t expect you to like me.”

“Well, not us maybe,”said Dixie mischievously, “But her, yes!”

Jenna frowned, and blushed at the same time.

“Well, thanks a lot, Dixie. Why don’t you just publish a magazine on my relationship with Balto,”said Jenna.

“Don’t worry, I promise not to put pictures in it,”said Dixie, “After all, I could never get a good one of you two kissing or something worse.”

Sylvie giggled. So did several others.

“Well, you won’t need a picture,”said Jenna, “I think a live footage will do better.”

Without warning, Jenna pressed herself as close as she could to Balto and kissed him with all the passion in her heart. Sylvie’s mouth dropped as if she were out of air. Dixie’s eyes went wide. The whole barn went silent. Only Boris and Kendall smiled and cheered gleefully.

As Jenna finished her kiss, she flicked her tongue out and gave Balto two more playful kisses on his muzzle. She then turned to the crowd.

“Any objections?,”she said defiantly.

No one made a sound.

“Good,”said Jenna, “We excuse ourselves, but we’re kind of weary from the traveling and we have to stretch our legs a bit. Come on, guys.”

Jenna stalked off in direction of the outskirts. Balto, Boris and Kendall said goodbye to everyone and followed Jenna to wherever she was going.

It turned out that she was headed towards Balto’s ship.

As they caught up with her, Boris and Kendall burst into peals of laughter.

“HAHAHAHAHA! Did you see the look on theirrr faces?,”Boris hooted.

“That was some surprise!,”laughed Kendall.

Jenna smiled. She turned shyly to Balto.

“How was I?,”she asked timidly.

Balto smiled even broader.

“Fantastic,”he said, and without warning he flicked her a kiss on her cheek.

Jenna couldn’t hold herself any longer. She burst into laughter also, and they ran the rest of the way to the ship. Muk and Luk were already there, preparing the fish so that it would be nice and hot to eat when the heroes got home.

Yes, it was a happy evening for our friends. They ate, laughed, sang, and celebrated their victory in the jolliest way possible. Jenna was so glad she was part of this wonderful family. She knew that life with Balto was like a piece of Heaven itself on Earth, and she knew she was going to live the happiest life she could ever dream of.

                                                           * * *

But not everyone was happy.

When at last the town was asleep, someone was still awake, watching from the top of the hill, eyes glowing with hatred.

“I’ll get even with you, wolf-dog,”said that someone with hatred in every word,”I’ll get even with you and all your little friends. Your days are counted.”

What did this sinister being mean? What did he intend to do with Balto, Jenna and their friends?

It was only a matter of time before they found out.

 

                                                           THE END


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