Snow lay in mounds, grey and brown and filthy. Torak growled, smelling man scent everywhere. Smelling like whiskey and piss, they would frighten all the game away, leave mighty Torak hunting field mice. He growled low in his throat, snuffling at the ground. Maybe he would hunt man tonight instead. Pack elders said no, Torak too young, Torak too bold. Hunting men was dangerous. If they saw you, they would come with shining teeth and fire . . . The wolf let out a long, unhappy howl. Distant replies from his pack echoed down the icy mountains. Torak would hunt no mice. No, he could take the men, rip out their throats, taste their blood.
He bounded down the hill, following the smell of them. Soon, the sounds of cart and human voices hit his ears, like the cawing of startled birds. They were never silent. Fools. Torak tracked them, watching, waiting. Soon, darkness came. The blossom of fire burned low, shadows deep. The men lay in furs, most asleep. One drowsy guard sat near the dying fire, staring into it. Desperate hunger surged in the young wolf, and he nearly gave in to it, drooling over the thought of fresh meat. But he knew it would be bad to attack with so many of the men around. They had soft hides and were so slow, but their teeth were long and sharp.
The man finally stood, wandering away from camp. Torak followed, lips curving into a toothy grin. The man stopped near a tree, shivering. He unlaced his breeches and squatted down. The wolf waited, tension in every line of him. His elders always said you would know the right moment when it came. Not yet, not yet, he thought. The man cleaned himself with crunchy frozen leaves, making some strangled sound. Torak could not understand why humans preferred such things to their tongue. Odd creatures, and dirty too.
Grumbling, the human stood, struggling to pull his pants up. He stumbled forward a bit, losing his balance. The moment, Torak thought, leaping forward silently. White fur, teeth, and shining eyes beneath Selune's soft glow. The man had no chance to even scream as the wolf's teeth sunk into his throat. It would have been more fun to play, Torak thought, to wound and chase, but he was so hungry. The wolf tore at his prey, letting go of the neck to bite at the soft belly, getting at the rich, meaty parts.
He was so fixated on his meal, he didn't hear the man sneaking up behind him. Didn't see the steel spear as it flew toward him. One moment, Torak was in bliss, and the next, his world exploded in pain. He snapped at the spear jutting from his flank, fury replacing surprise. The weapon tore free, landing in the snow as Torak leapt toward this new enemy. "I will rend your flesh," he growled. Humans were too stupid to understand the speech of wolves, but he did not care. The man pulled a shining tooth and held it out, trying to ward off the beast. Torak shoved it aside with his shoulder, going for the fool's throat.
Pain blossomed in his side as the man cut at him, but Torak would not relent. His teeth found the meat of the human's shoulder, and he ripped into it. Bone crunched between his jaws. "I am mighty Torak," he growled, "And I will feast on you!" Though the man did not understand him, he did realize how stupid he was to take on a winter wolf alone. He stumbled back, and turned to run, shouting for help. Torak did not know human speech, but the shrill cry was easy to understand. Pride demanded he kill this weakling, but sense told him to run. With one parting snap at the man's legs, the wolf bolted into the dark forest.
The sounds of shouting men rose up behind him, and soon pursuit. Torak cursed the blood that flowed from his wounds, staining white snow to scarlet. He would never get away, leaving such a clear trail. The thought of letting those rabbit-hearted fools kill him turned his stomach. "Am I not mighty Torak?" he thought, leaping onto a low hanging branch. He jumped to another, claws scrabbling on frozen bark. From here, he could just make out the edge of the riverbank. He could get to it, he thought, ignoring the spray of bloody droplets he left behind. The water would leave no trail for the men.
Torak made it to the river but the men were getting closer. The dark icy water could be as deadly as any tooth or claw, but he would rather yield to it than any two-legs. He leapt in, letting the current pull him downstream. The cold sapped strength from his legs, seeping beneath his fur to suck the life from him. The wolf struggled to keep his nose in the air. when he judged himself far enough away from the human pack he'd hunted, Torak began to try to swim across the current to shore.
The rushing water tossed him against the rocks, pounding his body mercilessly. Darkness crept in at the edges of his mind, promising peace and an end to pain. "No!" Torak growled, refusing to give up. He pushed off one of the boulders, getting closer to shore. A little further, the wolf thought, eyeing the riverbank. Paws numb, legs trembling, he swam as hard as he could. After what felt like a frozen eternity, his claws caught on the icy stone shore, and he heaved himself up onto it. "Must find a burrow," he thought, mind fogged with exhaustion. A few more trembling steps, and might Torak fell, the darkness claiming him.
Warmth woke him, and a foul smell. "Man stench," he thought, eyes snapping open, lip raising in a snarl. Cold green eyes met his across a the flames of a low fire. The look was wary but not hostile. Torak struggled to stand, managing only to pull his legs beneath him. The man spoke, voice low. He held some raw venison out, meat cold but fresh. "I will kill you," Torak barked. The man just grinned and dropped the meat in front of him. The wolf stared at it, confused. It smelled alright, not like the poisoned traps near farms. He looked back at the man, watching him. There must be some trick here.
The human motioned to himself, "Kyle." He pointed at the wolf, raising an eyebrow. Torak growled in response and the man growled back. When the human stood, Torak saw that it was a man-cub. Not quite grown. He looked around, worried the rest of the man pack would be near, but he only heard and smelled the one. The human wandered away, leaving Torak to the fire and his meat. Trick or no, he was still hungry. The wolf tore into the haunch with abandon, deciding perhaps he would leave this man-cub alive. It seemed to know its place anyhow.
When the meat was gone, and the bones cracked and chewed, Torak settled again. He was still not strong enough to run. The man-cub Kyle was nowhere in sight, but he could hear him a little ways off. Torak didn't think it would feed him only to kill him, though humans never made much sense. He huffed, laying his head down. "Sleep," he thought, "And when I wake, I will go back to my pack." Torak drifted into dreams, one golden eye still open, watching and waiting.