The snow is firm, however, the slightest pressure and it will crunch underfoot, if we let it.
Stalking our prey requires absolute silence so our movements are slow and calculated. Any indication of our presence and the stag, now grazing not a few bounds from us, will bolt.
A few more paces and he will be ours.
In mere moments, my companions and I will have the beast surrounded.
The need for silence will no longer exist.
A twig snaps.
My group freezes, the stag looks up.
The dratted sound came not from one of my fellows, too far away from us it was.
Our target is spooked, it scouts the area, sniffing at the wind.
We will not be able to close the gap fast enough, he will head downwind before we would be able to get to him.
A cluster of leaves rustles.
The creature starts to move away, slowly, yet fully alert, ready to run at the first provocation.
We will lose him for sure.
I give the signal.
My brethren spring forward and the chase begins.
Of course, he would usually outpace us, however this woodland is too dense to allow him to gain any distance from us. Traversing this terrain is like second nature to us.
More noises arise from behind us now.
The indelicate oaf or oafs, who ruined our element of surprise, are also in pursuit.
I am able now, to smell them.
The undeniable stench of human beings, the hunt just became a lot more dangerous.
I emit a low howl, sending a warning of the new danger. The songs of my party start to echo around us.
We are twelve strong, it is likely that we outnumber them. With any luck, our calls will scare them into turning back.
Sharp, whining whistles pierce the air.
At least two of my family cry out as they are struck by sharp sticks.
Our prey is long gone.
We have only two options before us; to flee or fight. A choice that the two legged monsters have just made for us.
This we all know we’ll, our cries turn rumbling snarls in our throats as we turn to face our foes.
The clash, violent and bloody, is over in a matter of minutes, our claws and teeth, no match for their cold, shiny tools.
My pack are either dead or scattered.
Theirs is regrouping.
All save one.
The scent of cowardice splits off from the others when the fighting broke out. It has retreated to, what he believes to be, out of harm’s way.
His blood is rich and well fed, perhaps even human royalty.
This is no time to be licking wounds.
Shame, anger and an aching hunger drive me towards where he is hid.
He stands next to a high-bread pony, a mere boy barely breaching his adolescence, clutching the lines that bind his equestrian companion in one hand.
In the other, a grand tool, clearly forged for a human of far superior skill and age than this pup.
A short way off there is a person, the pre-pubescent prince’s guard perhaps.
It takes no effort at all, injured as I am to slip past him unnoticed.
Waiting until I am within attacking distance, I let out a low growl, to give my victim fair warning as well as a sense of fear.
He cries out in alarm.
The horse bolts, yanking the lines from his grip as I push him to the ground.
The shiny tool is knocked away, out of reach.
He throws his arms up to protect himself so I sink my teeth into the one closest to me.
A sharp stick whistles over my back, grazing my fur as it passes.
Releasing the limp arm, I turn my attention to the guardian, however there is no need as I see two of my siblings pounce, taking him down.
Movement behind me indicates the child’s attempts to flee.
Turning swiftly, I clamp my jaws around his leg before he has the chance to struggle to his feet.
Fear glazes his eyes as he attempts to kick me away.
To no avail.
Ensuring that he is sufficiently wounded enough to prevent any further escape attempt, I release him, ready to finish him off.
There is a new smell.
My blood freezes.
An apprehensive growl rises in my throats and my fur stands on end.
A figure approaches.
It’s scent is completely unrecognizable, yet so dense that it chokes my senses.
My vision starts to blur, however I can still make out that, whatever it is, it has the appearance of a human male.
It makes it’s way towards me, exuding an unseen pressure in my direction, so severe that I am forced down until my legs begin to buckle under me, pushing me backwards.
Within a few short moments, it stands between me and my long forgotten prey.
It speaks using a human voice and human words. I can hear a second voice from it at a level that no human will ever hear.
The first of these voices calms the young prince, whereas the second voice hisses and scratches, knitting together dark and unnatural spells of magic.
It draws me, unwilling, into submission, ebbing away at my very life force.
My world is going dark, all sounds fade and as I take my last breaths, I can see this creature’s true form.
I am afraid.