I had only hunted with my father. He never let me hunt with my brothers. Too wild and unpredictable, he argued. Too dangerous.
We caught and shared a few rabbits but I wanted larger game.
Liam cocked his head to the side. “What do you sense Nara?”
My ears flicked back as I concentrated. I lowered my underbelly to the ground, similar to a crouch. I could hear a light rustling in the leaves that littered the forest floor. Every now and then a light snap of a twig could be heard, the crack breaking the silence, almost hesitant. Every few steps the animal paused, as if it sensed the danger so close. My bushy tail swished in the air, a nervous gesture in my excitement.
I loved to hunt.
A low growl erupted in my throat.
Liam laughed lightly and darted into the trees ahead. I followed, nearly overtaking him in seconds. My father had always told me I was fast. Maybe it was the fact that I was so much smaller, half the size of my brothers and my father. Liam was larger than my brother Michael, the oldest; massive in breadth of chest, his round paws almost a foot wide, his withers as tall as a human male’s chest.
I returned my focus to the hunt, my ears flicking again as the deer moved to my left. The chase was on. I was patient. Wolves were not usually opportunistic hunters, in the sense that we did not ambush our target or rely on the element of surprise to jump our prey in sudden bursts of energy. We stalked our prey, often for long distances, until their energy was depleted. The easiest prey, the most vulnerable, are usually the target.
This deer was no exception. It was injured. The coppery scent of blood wafted in the air, drawing my muzzle forward. Through the trees I glimpsed the five point antlers gracing his head. A large buck. Excitement coursed through my veins joined by a quick shot of adrenaline, and I laughed lightly.
Liam chuckled to my right, slightly behind me now. With my father I was usually the one who herded the prey. Smaller, more agile, and fast; I usually darted in and out in front of the injured animal, causing confusion and chaos, and preventing escape. I hated that he never let me move in for the final kill or at least inflict a fatal injury but he had been adamant.
My alpha’s eyes were honed in on both predator and prey, watching me, curious of my next move. I expected him to tell me to stay back, that it was too dangerous, but he did not send any orders or say anything. Not a word. Nothing to distract me, and nothing to prevent me from taking charge of this kill.
Excitement rippled through my frame and I shook out my short fur, crouching low again to the ground. Moving seamlessly along, my ears back, I listened for the signs of fatigue. Droplets of blood fell from his shoulder, a long, nearly six inch slash deep into the layers of fat and muscle. The wound was not fatal, but once I was finished, nothing much would remain.
Thump thump. Thump thump. The stag’s heart was fast and consistent when we first tracked him. Now, with the added fatigue of moving for miles without rest, it faltered and skipped beats occasionally. One of the signs I was waiting for. The buck was slowing down, giving chase, and then pausing again.
Time to move in.
I darted through the trees and startled the stag as he swerved off to the right toward Liam. Once he slowed down again, Liam crouched and sprang forward as the stag reared back and his hooves pawed at the air, crashing down inches from Liam’s head.
No animal was going to hurt my mate.
Done with the chase and concerned for Liam, I used the terrain of the forest against the buck. There was a downhill ledge another half mile ahead. We corralled the buck, darting in and out and snapping at his haunches, until it slid down the embankment, caught by surprise. Liam and I both gave chase.
The stag had fallen, head over tail, down the ravine and landed with a thud among the bristles, pine needles, leaves, and solid earth. A leg was broken, bent at an awkward angle. Instantly I felt badly for him and wanted to end his suffering.
As Lycan, we played our part in the hierarchy of the food chain. Both prey and predator had a specific order in the circle of life. This was no different. No part of the animal would be wasted. The hide, hooves, antlers, and leftover parts would be used once we reached our destination. I knew Liam would show me when we arrived home. His thoughts were already telling me all about how he planned to use the antlers.
With a quick snap of the jugular Liam had ended the stag’s majestic reign. We lowered our heads a moment in gratitude and appreciation for the fine creature before us. Life would move on, the circle unending, as it had always been, since creation, and would continue to be, until the end of time.
“We are close to home.”
I met his piercing gaze and I swear I saw him wink.