The wind reeks of rot and dried blood. Ignoring the ice crystals which cut through the air like spear shards, frostbitten fingers close around the hilt of a heavy broadsword. A winter’s worth of hardened snow crunches beneath thick leather boots as the hunter presses forward, shoulders hunched into the blizzard’s wrath. The gale howls as it whips across the slick rock face of the narrow mountain pass, snagging at fur cloak and matted black hair. Pale blue eyes squint against the driving ice, searching the wall of white which cuts visibility down to precious feet. Ears strain to discern the sounds of approach amid the disorienting keening of the storm. Muscles tense, alert with a warrior’s practiced patience.

Carefully, now. Slowly, now.
Listen. Watch. Wait.

Howling, but not the wind. Ice breaking, but not from the snow laden pine branches. The scent of blood, but not yet dried.

Carefully. Slowly.

The hunter moves forward through the knee high snowbanks with sword ready, every finely tuned sense focused on the path ahead. The sheer walls of the pass loom on either side but as the wind dies for an opportune moment, the jagged dead-end valley beyond becomes visible. Only a moment, and then all the world is swallowed once again by the storm. Yet a moment is enough. In a moment the hunter glimpses the dark cave nestled in the valley’s granite wall. In a moment the dance of the hunt settles to a familiar pattern. In a moment instinct burns in the blood and urges feet onwards, readies muscles, quickens eager heart.

Soon. Soon.

Bones nestled beneath the fallen snow snap like brittle twigs on contact. Black feathers of carrion birds flutter in the wind. The howling rises in pitch, hungry. Ravenous. Ready.

But the hunter is ready as well.

The attack comes from the left, utterly silent, the movements of a ghost one with the bones and the carrion birds and the storm. Sword arcs! and the ghost passes through one wall of white and into another. Silent. The howling is all around. Hungry. Taunting.

Listen. Watch. Wait.

Wait.

Instinct drives legs and sword forward with a cry as silence cuts through the white in a mass of muscle, fangs, and dark fur. Sword arcs! and momentum bears the beast down upon the blade, howling rage cut short to a strangled snarl. Death throes stain the snow red. The hunter raises her sword one last time and lowers it like an executioner, severing the monstrous wolf’s head from its twitching body. With a little polishing, blood-flaked fangs will make a wonderful trophy necklace.

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