Authors: Joanna Wilson
I decided to stick with Connor. If nothing else, it would put me on the high ground, with a more commanding position over the area. I sprinted after him and splashed across the stream. I struggled to keep my footing on the large pebbles under the water, and was forced to slow to a trot about halfway across. A small splash of water flicked up over my snout, and I detected something. Standing still in a foot of icy water, I lapped at the fast flowing liquid.
It was a familiar taste. But at the same time, it was something I had never known before. I knew every scent and sensation of this land. I could identify every animal on the wind. This was something different. It had to be the White Stag of Lycanthus. It just had to be.
I crossed over to the opposite bank, coming up onto the snow. I sniffed at the air, but there was nothing. I lapped at the water again, and although it was faint, that same taste was there. My heart pounded with excitement, and I charged off upstream as fast as I could.
Where are you going?
Connor’s voice echoed in my head.
I stopped and looked back. Connor was on top of a rocky outcrop a couple hundred yards into the forest, looking down at me. His ears were up, and his blue eyes glowed with curiosity. I ignored him, spun around and continued upstream. I didn’t understand it. Again he had been able to communicate with me without eye contact or touch.
I put it out of my mind and ran along the stream. The White Princes and the four grays were about a mile ahead on the other side. I was slowly running them down, and it would only take me another few minutes to catch up. I lost sight of them for a moment as the stream curved around to the right. As I rounded the bend, I saw them disappear behind some steep boulders as the stream flicked back the other way half a mile farther on.
A small tributary came down from the mountain to my right before the main stream curled back around to the left. It was only about ten feet wide, and I could have easily jumped it. Instead, I stopped, and lapped at the cool water. There was nothing at first. I was breathing too heavily to really take it in. I calmed myself and lapped again.
Recognizing the foreign taste, I left the main stream and followed the tributary up into the mountain. The climb was steep in places, and I was forced to wade up through the water to get past obstacles and impassable gorges. At one point, I even had to transform back into my human form to climb up through a waterfall.
It was only about twenty-five feet tall, and the water wasn’t too strong. But it was freezing, and the rocks were incredibly slippery. The icy flow poured down over me, almost burning my skin with the cold. My nipples were so painfully hard, I thought they would burst. And as for the frigid water quelling my lust, it somehow made it worse.
I finally got over the rim and into the upper part of the stream. It was waist deep and flowed much slower than down below the waterfall. I started to shiver, and quickly transformed back into my wolf form. My thick double coat of black fur instantly protected me from the cold. I climbed out of the water onto the left bank and shook myself dry.
Immediately, I was overcome with my own scent. My climb up through the waterfall had washed away all traces of the versipelli.
, I thought. Now any animal downwind of me for miles could tell I was in heat. The only thing I had going for me was that the air was relatively still in under the thick cover of spruces.
I stalked forward under the trees, keeping the lightly gurgling stream twenty feet or so to my right. The snow hadn’t managed to settle on the ground up here either. I watched my footing, careful not to snap any twigs, my pace just fast enough to stay ahead of my own wafting aroma.
The odor caused my heart to quicken. I sniffed at the air and picked up the scent. The unmistakable smell of humans. But there was something else. That unusual scent was mixed amongst it. The White Stag was close.
I could make out the glow of snow on the ground past the edge of the tree line. There was a clearing up ahead, fifty feet farther on. More than just the scent of two humans, a male and a female, both in their forties, I could sense their excitement, their awe. Silently padding forward, I managed to see slivers of a yellow dome tent in the clearing on the far side of a small, crackling campfire. But it wasn’t until I got to the tree line that I saw the White Stag of Lycanthus.
I was awestruck myself. I actually stopped dead in my tracks. He was such a magnificent animal. Entirely white, and impressively lithe, his long, velvet antlers sprouted seven sharp tines from each curved beam. The White Stag stood in the stream at the far side of the clearing, the water gently lapping at his powerful legs just below his knees. He stood proud, scanning the opposite bank, occasionally flicking his ears. Then, satisfied there was no threat, he gracefully lowered his mighty neck and drank from the stream.
My wild heart pounded rhythmically throughout my body, booming menacingly slowly. I was fixated on the Stag. My scent eventually overtook me and broke me from my trance. I lowered my head, and in a crouch, I stalked forward into the clearing.
“Quick, Honey, get the camera,” the man whispered urgently to I guessed his wife. He had his back to me and was standing on the edge of the bank, staring at the White Stag.
She was to my half left, also mesmerized by the deer in the stream. She turned to retrieve their camera from the tent and caught sight of me. The terror took her breath away, and she froze. She was ten feet from a two hundred fifty pound wolf.
If I had any chance of catching the White Stag, I needed to keep her quiet, and perhaps more importantly, calm. Even though I could read her mind by looking into her eyes, I couldn’t control her thoughts. She was too far gone anyway, paralyzed with shock. But I could project my energy onto her, which might work.
, I willed, slowing my own excited heart in the process.
Her shoulders relaxed and I felt her energy shift. She knew I wasn’t a threat to her or her husband. She knew she was safe.
I turned my attention back to the White Stag. He still hadn’t noticed me approaching. I was only thirty feet away. The man though, was right between us. The Stag lifted its head suddenly, causing me to freeze mid-step, my front right paw hovering above the snow. The Stag surveyed the opposite bank carefully. The increased frequency of his ear flicks signaled his apprehension.
“Honey, what’s taking you so l…” the man whispered as he saw me out of the corner of his eye, turning back to his wife. He gasped loudly, stumbling back into the stream. The air in the clearing immediately filled with fear, and the White Stag’s head shot around to look at me.
The encounter lasted a lifetime. I couldn’t read its mind. I couldn’t feel its energy. And instinctively, I couldn’t rush it until it ran.
I willfully placed my right paw down in the snow and stalked forward. I bared my teeth and growled. But the White Stag held his ground, staring at me impassively. I passed the man, who had backed waist deep into the stream, and inched forward. My growl burst into a few short barks, but all I got for my trouble was an ear flick. The Stag didn’t fear me. Or at least didn’t show that he did.
Closing to within ten feet, I crouched down, ready to pounce. I was snarling, my ears back.
I saw myself from outside my body, coiled up like a spring and ready to strike. The White Stag of Lycanthus was rooted to the spot, staring me down. He was much bigger than I was, maybe eight hundred pounds. The heartbeat thundering in my mental image was faster than my own. Then I realized, I was seeing myself through Connor’s eyes.
Connor’s raging bark shattered the tense tranquility of the scene as he charged across the stream amidst a wall of foaming spray. The White Stag leapt from the water in a single bound and darted into the forest. The fleeing deer triggered my prey drive, and I shot off after him.
Connor and I actually barged into each other as we both reached the tree line at the same time, growling and barking in a wild frenzy. The White Stag bounded effortlessly ahead of us, changing direction suddenly in unpredictable erratic leaps. We crashed through the fur trees and undergrowth behind him, narrowly avoiding the heavy trunks and other hidden dangers. My lungs burned as I struggled to keep up.
Connor’s voice screamed in my head.
You stay on the right, and just run straight at it. I’ll go left
, I telepathically called back to Connor, keeping my eyes fixed on the bouncing deer ahead.
Connor and I drifted apart, flanking the White Stag. We both ran in a straight line through the trees, no longer trying to match every wild direction change of our prey. As the deer zigzagged between us, we began to run it down, coming up alongside it.
We closed in like a pincer, just as the White Stag darted left. Connor lunged, catching its hind leg in his jaws. The Stag bellowed as it came down in the brush. It bucked and kicked violently. Then I heard Connor’s deep snarl instantly break into a squealing yelp.
Connor disappeared in the undergrowth as the White Stag bounded awkwardly back to its feet. It shot right across my path in front of me, within striking distance. As my front paws came up off the ground to make way for my back paws to take their place and propel me at my prey, my front legs caught on a fallen branch. I crashed to the ground in a flailing heap, and the White Stag pranced off into the trees.
“Oh fuck!” Connor cried, now in human form, holding his hand to his bleeding nose and mouth.
I stumbled to my feet and shook myself. God, he looked good, standing there among the trees in all his naked glory. I couldn’t help but look down at his cock. I swore that it twitched when he realized I was looking.
“Come on,” Connor snapped me out of it. “Let’s get this fucking thing.” He dived down onto his arms and transformed back into that wonderfully speckled brown wolf.
We ran after the White Stag, following its scent through the trees. We burst out into another snow covered clearing that ran all the way down the mountain to a small lake at the base of the valley. Our prey was already halfway down the slope when we resumed our chase in earnest. Even though Connor and I were the same size in wolf form, he was still faster. As we ran down the Stag, Connor pulled out ahead of me, first ten feet, then twenty. I was no match for him.
, his voice telepathically called out.
Chase it into the Wendego Pass. I’ll cut it off at the other end
. With that, Connor shot off into the trees to the right while I continued to pursue the White Stag down toward the lake.
I had closed the distance by the time we reached the shoreline, but I was in no position to bring it down. It kept trying to go left, but I needed to force it into the narrow gorge to the right. I came left to cut it off. As I did, I saw the White Princes approaching from downstream of the lake. They were over a mile away, but their presence ratcheted up the tension.
Christ, where were the four grays?
There was no time to worry about that. My flanking maneuver worked, and the White Stag darted to the right, bounding along the shoreline toward the Wendego Pass. Although I was tiring, I was gaining. The Stag drifted away from the gorge, heading back uphill. But I shifted my trajectory, taking up a higher position, and at the last second, the White Stag of Lycanthus darted into the Wendego Pass.
I charged in after it. The close, rocky walls of the Pass towered above me, and shot past at a frightening speed as I sprinted with everything I had. Each jagged turn swung at me violently, trying to protect the fleeing deer ahead. Its scent and exhausted breath, concentrated in the close quarters of the Wendego Pass, filled my nostrils, spurring me on.
I was getting closer, catching longer and longer glimpses of the White Stag at each sharp turn. Before long, I held it in view completely, never losing sight of it. It feared me now, I knew. It’s terrified bleating overpowering its snorting gasps. I was so close, I could feel the wind from its hind legs, mere inches in front of my snout.
I would have it in seconds.
It burst free of the Wendego Pass, and instantly disappeared in a snarling flash of brown. I shot out into the open and turned back to see Connor rolling around in the snow with the White Stag. Its tortured bleats combined with Connor’s snarling was chilling. Connor had it around its thigh, and was tearing into its flesh. The magnificent animal’s white coat was drowning in crimson.