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Lumpyseven

Call of the Wild

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Diana had never seen so many of... them in one location. She had been informed by the big one, the chosen of the Winter Queen, that she was safe now. Somehow, Hearne had stolen her away in the depths of twilight, materialising out of the inky darkness like the full moon emerging from behind an overcast sky. In a rumbling tone, he announced that she had been chosen; whether by this manifestation of the Moon Goddess or the Pale Light herself, she didn’t know.

A horrified scream tore through the air, ripping her musings back to the present. One like her, one of Diana’s pack had received the ball and was now hurtling towards the post, only for a whistling pair of bolas to wrap around his ankles, bringing him crashing to the floor. The pale, gangly youth was panicking, desperately trying to throw the cords off – they all knew what would happen next.

Diana could sense the storm building, the lithe girl’s shadowy companion bearing down on the helpless boy, as unstoppable as the onset of darkness. Diana didn’t need to see this apex predator with her eyes; she had always had the affinity to sense the wild beasts around her, and this was no tame pet.

In the centre of the pitch, like an immovable statue, he was there. Hearne watched all, a silent observer, judging their trial on behalf of the Winter Queen; right now, his eyes were cold, staring unflinchingly into hers. With a horrifying gurgle and a sharp crack, the screaming stopped. Diana could only stare back, as his eyes closed for the first time since he had led her away.

 

 

There were only a few of them left now. The others had been… unable to carry on. They were now playing with the true Hunters, as a final test of their worthiness. Yet for Diana, she couldn’t understand why she was still here. She didn’t belong; she didn’t have the strength of Hearne, the speed of Egret. She lacked the murderous instinct of Jaecar, whose flashing grin and soulless eyes terrified her more than anything she had encountered in the darkest wilds.

She could already sense it. The tautly wound tension in the air, the wariness that had driven Jaecar from his usual predatorial stance; the Avatar of the Old Gods had been unleashed. This was to be their final test.

Skatha kicked off, a perfectly placed drive that sent the ball hurtling down the wing, almost halway into the opposition’s side. Ulfr loped after the ball, unsupported and alone. She tried to keep up with his effortless pace, but was left far behind with the rest of the team. Somehow, Diana could sense that he was a lone predator, but how? Perhaps her empathic sense extended to some Humans? Or could there be something different about this one, something darker…

The ball rolled to a stop at Egrets feet; she loosed a flurry of arrows at the onrushing Ulfr. At his blistering pace, not all found their mark, but those that did seemed to have little effect; his sight had narrowed on his prey. The two clashed, Egret trying to fend off his flashing knives with artful parries of her bow, but the speed and ferocity of his charge had thrown her by surprise. Before she could do much more than defend herself, Egret was alone, the ball gone, left with only a sense of bewilderment.

The Huntsman was bearing down on the goal; Diana could feel the rush, the emotion, the singled minded savagery that pulled him into this depraved excuse of a sport again and again. Something was wrong.

That savagery, it wasn’t coming from Ulfr. It was her.

With an earth shaking roar that rippled across the pitch as though the Sun Father himself had arrived, Seenah careened into Ulfr, a mountainous mass of muscle and rage that seemed unstoppable. This wasn’t right, this test wasn’t for them.

Diana could see him, Hearne, once again his gaze fixed on hers. She could sense the titanic struggle, Bear against Wolf, rage against cunning. She had to help. Desperately, Diana started moving, calling out to her team, to anyone. Skatha started to move, but at a gesture from Hearne, stopped. Diana was on her own.

As Diana desperately moved, she reached into the primal heart that beat inside her, the core of her essence that has kept her alive, alone in the wilds all these years.

20 yards away, Seenah roared, throwing wild swipes at Ulfr as he dodged and moved, desperately looking for an opening. He ducked the first thunderous swipe and answered with a roar of his own, slashing with his knives unleashing an arterial spray from one of Seenah’s paws. If Seenah even noticed, it didn’t show. In return, the Bear barrelled forward, the entirety of her crushing weight pinning Ulfr down.

Time slowed. The world faded to grey, Seenah’s outline a murderous red, Ulfr’s a fading black. Whereas the red spirit was in bear form, the form it was pinning down wasn’t Ulfr’s, at least not entirely. It was almost Lupine in appearance…. Diana could feel the wrathful fury of Seenah’s presence, and fought to merge the Bear’s spirit with her own. She began to panic; like an unrelenting tide, she could perceive her own essence disappearing entirely, becoming one with this force of nature. Diana fought back as best as she could, but she had never experienced this choking sensation. The world faded…

To Hearne’s complete amazement, just before savagely tearing out Ulfr’s throat, Seenah froze. Without a sound, she turned and padded way into the forest, leaving her helpless prey sprawled on the floor.

Mid shout, Diana had collapsed to the floor, as though the life had left her body entirely. She now lay immobile, pale and lifeless, one arm stretched out the now unconscious Ulfr.

Unheard by all, as though speaking to himself, Hearne softly whispered ‘You chose well…’

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