Feral Northern Shifters 2
Ethan swerved, just missing the river’s edge, and leaped uphill. If he pushed, he could reach the mountain, and if he reached the mountain, he could get to the cliff. It was better that he jump into forever than be captured, because these wolves wouldn’t simply kill him, they would tear him apart, over and over again. He couldn’t live through that hell a second time. Once—years ago—had almost destroyed him and had certainly destroyed what was human in him.
So he ran as cougar and ignored his body’s rapidly draining reserves—it was the end of winter and he was racing towards oblivion.
The werewolves’ sudden appearance had initially confounded him. He’d been alone for so long that when he came upon the pack, or more accurately they came upon him, he froze. Only for a moment, but that time of pure astonishment had been crucial in terms of the hunt—and that’s what this was. They were attempting to bring him down. By his count, six wolves were chasing him, and they were close, too close.
Unlike hounds that bayed the few times they’d tried unsuccessfully to tree him, the wolves were silent, steady and very, very large. Why these shifters were after him, Ethan couldn’t fathom. He’d been careful not to attract their interest. Though he knew, at least at an intellectual level, that not all wolf packs were sadistic, he’d been wolf-shy forever. His past had taught him to avoid them at all costs.
The winter had been long and harsh, and he wasn’t as strong as he needed to be. For one thing, he’d lost too much weight and his skin hung loose around him. Nevertheless, his paws were large, larger than a wolf’s, and he should have been able to outrun them on this snow. But he was one and they were many, enough they could switch off on the hunt, take turns being fresh.
They had planned this.
His muscles bunched, straining, propelling him forward despite his fatigue. The snow’s crust sometimes broke beneath him, making him stumble before he pushed on. The key was not to panic, to remain determined. He reminded himself that this snow would break under his pursuers’ paws too, and with greater frequency. And yet, the wolves were gaining.
Ten more minutes max. He could make it to the cliff. Despite his body’s protest, he ran, and ran hard, barely slowing down. As long as he didn’t collapse, he would get clear.
The wolf shot out of nowhere, dark against the white snow, racing towards Ethan at an angle. As if he knew of Ethan’s plan and was determined to cut off his escape route. Ethan’s confidence took a hit and it was hard not to falter.
He forced himself to aim straight for the predator. The large werewolf was male and as Ethan approached, the wolf eased up his pace and turned, apparently bracing himself for Ethan. Foolish thing, or was this one a sacrifice? For, one on one, a cougar, even a malnourished cougar, would best a wolf and kill it easily. Didn’t matter. Ethan refused to go down that road. If he stopped to harm one wolf, the pack would be on him, attacking, and would forever claim their right to do it again and again.
At the last possible moment, Ethan leaped and he caught an expression of surprise on the wolf’s face before he was past it, flying through the air.
As he landed, the snow’s hard crust cut the pads of his front paws, but he welcomed the pain, let it spur him onwards as his hind legs pushed off the snow and moved him forward.
Unlike Ethan, the wolf was fresh. Ethan didn’t think he could keep up this new, faster pace. Though he tried, he tried , marshaling the last of his energy. Yet he heard the wolf panting, the snow breaking as the wolf closed in.
He could turn, Ethan thought. He could turn and slice the wolf open, gut him with his claws. A pack of wolves he couldn’t outfight, but this one he could kill.
No. Instead he ran harder, fighting to race ahead. The cliff. It was not that far.
Pain speared his right flank. It wasn’t the jagged tear of teeth, but a sharp, clean puncture. No wolf was on him, so he ignored the sensation of having been shot and bunched his hind legs to push harder.
The effort failed and he stumbled, his right leg going numb and not responding to his body’s commands. Up, get up. Ethan summoned all his will to push forward, and fell.
The wolf approached and Ethan, snarling, lunged to keep the predator at bay. The lunge was pathetic, with his hind legs giving out, and Ethan collapsed onto the snow. His body had betrayed
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