I ran through the woods, the sunlight warm on my face.
The sounds of the forest blended into the wind that tore at my fur. The ground gave way beneath my paws as I launched myself through the trees. Never had I felt so free, so exhilarated. I owned these woods. Branches tugged, trying to slow me down as I bounded through the maze of trunks and undergrowth. The cold autumn air smelled of dying leaves—their moldy, decaying odor signaling the birth of fall.
I was home.
I slowed, catching the scent of a deer and wove between the trees until I saw it. A doe stood before me drinking from the stream that wound its way down through the mountains. I admired the beauty of the animal. I found the deer's gentle eyes rather expressive. They glowed with a shy innocence.
I inched closer, testing the wind. It blew towards me. My scent wouldn't reach her and I wanted a chase, a more challenging kill. As I eased forward, I made no attempt to hide the sound of the leaves crunching beneath me. I wanted her to hear me.
Turning toward the noise, she saw me and went completely still for a heartbeat. Her eyes reflected her fear, her sudden panic.
Her tail twitched and she bolted.
Growling, I barreled after her, letting her think she could be fast enough to get away. Silly creature. As if she could ever be faster than me. I lived to run.
She streaked through the trees and I let her have her way for a bit. I enjoyed the chase. The sound of her deep, labored breathing drove me on, the smell of her fear driving me a little crazy. The thrill of the hunt wormed through me, building the sense of anticipation of the kill. I could almost taste all that hot blood gushing into my mouth. Her fear smelled sweet to my senses and made my hunger increase. I howled a challenge at her. She turned to start up the mountainside. I snarled and jumped, taking her down in one leap.
My teeth bit into her neck even as she bucked beneath me, trying to free herself. Adrenaline surged through me—the exhilaration of the hunt flooded my senses with her futile struggles. I had taken her down. She was mine. Victory made my snarl all the more fierce in the face of her soft whimpers. Mine. All mine.
As I had no wish to make her suffer I killed her quickly. Then I set to enjoying my kill. Her warm blood filled my mouth, coated my muzzle. I ripped and tore at the flesh until my stomach became full and sated. I left the carcass for the smaller animals. I was done and there were others that were hungry.
Running softly, I splashed into the creek to enjoy the feel of the cold water as I rinsed the blood from my coat. The water always soothed me. I blinked my eyes, more than a little sleepy now and thought I might find a quiet place to rest. I stepped out of the water and the unfamiliar scent hit me.
I tasted the air around me. A sweetly bitter scent, not one I recognized teased my senses. It did not belong in these woods. I started to track the smell, listening for sounds. I heard nothing, but the smell became stronger the farther out I searched.
He jumped in front of me and shook his head, warning me to go no further. Rage filled me. Who was he to tell me what I could or could not do in my own forest? I growled a warning low in my throat.
He snarled at me in reply.
His head whipped around as he too caught the scent I’d been tracking. I stared past him.
A new hunter had arrived.
He stood silently watching us, an indulgent smile on his lips. I felt fear gazing into that smiling face.
The hunter started forward.