• There are noises behind him. Sudden but quiet, an deadly. Headily the pup runs, paws nearly on top of each other as powdered frost hisses in his wake - faster, he screams, I have to run faster. The thick blanket of snow only slows him; cradling him with treacherous lies of soft, softer still, and hush, darling pup, sweet pup. We will not harm you. Rest your weary paws, let us breathe them cold and numb. Let us kiss you to sleep. The trees thrive with energy, their roots warm deep beneath the ground, they shatter the otherwise still night with their shrieks as they urge him to run.

    Hurry now, babe. Run, quickly now, deep within our shadows / come, come. We will hide you, fur and tail, infant one / return to me, my child.

    Against his body, taut and streamline against the bite of wind, he can feel a mother's seething rage. There is a motionless calm inside him now, thick and heavy, and as he runs, powerful strides bearing him through brush and thicket, he hears the roar of fury volleying his enemy back.

    The hounds must be deafened, he thinks, but knows better than to stop. Dogs that stink of humans, that's what they are; they are not brethren. He hangs onto that scornful thought as he crashes into a bank of snow, body giving out in exhaustion, and lets the witch rest his weary paws.

    Outside, Mother's voice is but a whine.

    Outside, there is stillness. A god has arrived, and there is nothing but soft, sweet praises from Her. The multitude of voices coo against him, and he snorts, eyes trained upon the mangy tail underneath the drift of snow. This is what you call me for, he asks, paws gripping the snow beneath them. The wanton hiss retreats sulkily, and he closes his eyes to enjoy the caress of his mother.

    He only opens his eyes when he hears the unexpected halt of clumsy feet. Two fangs and three whelps. Bearing his teeth, he gives a sharp laugh. It startles the hounds, their flews touching the ground as they crouch defensively. Yes. Down, mongrels. If you know what's best for you, he thinks, emitting a low rumble when one dared to surface his head.

    Each step he takes is a deliberate threat. Steady and powerful he enters the semi-circle, eyes lidded with impatience. Soon there are howls resounding against the trees - he only replies once, never having the need to repeat himself, and the hounds are on him. They're too late, and they know it, but they collectively spring towards him, teeth towards his haunch. Ah, but he has fangs, and makes easy work of the whelps. The older, more experience ones nips at his fur, perhaps snapping off a tuff, before the others hurdle against them bodily. Moments later the family gathers for a short feast, each of his pack paying their respects first. He allows a few to bump against him, cold snouts against his collar in greeting.

    Moving away, he finds the mangy tail where he had left it. It takes little time to dig the pup out, and he places his nose against damp fur, sighing in relief when he can feel the ebb of warmth layers deep. The alpha male ignores jealous whispers as he takes the pup by the scruff, grunting out an order to move out as the snow begins to stir. It rages, first because of its lost, and then because of its sullied body. His pack laughs with bloody muzzles, glee on their roguish faces as a white storm falls upon them.

    They are alert when the scent of humans approach, a forest of glowing orbs regarding the meat sacks in disdain. They can smell the fear, and laugh again. This is what I think of you, he says, watching them coolly while holding the pup in his mouth. He only turns when one of the cowards start to back away, and they leave as one, a feral army disappearing into the night.