Quickly she moved through the dark forest, a black form amongst
moonshadows. The chill winter night yielded everything to her extraordinary
senses as she flowed amongst the trees, moonlight quilting the
snow-covered forest floor. Eyes the color of blue ice glowed unnaturally
in the silvered darkness, seeing the forest as if by mid-day in
hues of blue and violet, scents of earth, snow, and forest mapping
the dark world before her.
She was Huntress, Balancer, and this she understood as simply
as she understood that she was alive. She was the Keeper of the
Cycle, as were all of her kind, her brothers and sisters. Blood
was their religion, the moon their god, and nightly they danced
the age-old cycle of death and rebirth. Thus it had always been
since time unremembered.
Suddenly she stopped, ears pricked forward as her sensitive hearing
caught the faint sound of men talking deeper in the trees. Humans.
She scented the air but they were down wind of her and all she
could find of them was their voices. Slowly she began to circle
around, finding the direction of the wind, ears always tuned to
the sound of human speech.
Scents began to drift across her path as she moved, scents of
wood-smoke and fire (which raised her hackles), human food, man-scent
(two of them), and, most strongly, blood. Animal blood. The scent
sent pains through her jaws and stomach, her mouth watering. She
had not eaten in two days, and the smell caused her to whine with
anticipation. Eagerly she followed the scent, wary of the humans
as she moved in their direction.
The scent was hours old but still strong, and she kept her attention
on the men as she tracked the tantalizing odor, drawing closer
to their camp. She guessed correctly even before she came across
the viscera that they were hunters, like her. But human hunters
almost always danced out of balance, disrupted nature's Cycle,
and that's where her kind came in.
The entrails had been discarded just a ways off from the human's
camp in a small circle of trees, their fire just visible across
a moonlit expanse of snow. Two men were sitting across from each
other at the fire, oblivious to her presence, making enough noise
for the entire forest to hear. She watched them carefully as she
began to examine the leftovers of their kill.
The meat was cold now, drying in the chill winter air. All of the best parts
were there, the pile having been only picked at by the other animals, which
was odd for the cold season. How wasteful humans were! They hunted only for
the tough meats and the head, of all things, and left the best parts behind
to rot. The scent of the viscera made her tremble with hunger, but she did
not eat. There was something wrong here.
Carefully she used a paw to sort through the stiff pile, examining
each part until she came upon something odd. There was an irregular
bundle here, one she did not recognize. It was large and bulbous,
dark with blood in the moonlight and, gripping it in her teeth,
she pulled it away from the mass. The bundle broke as she pulled,
spilling fragrant liquid out onto the blood-stained snow, a small,
limp hove tearing out of the membrane.
She jerked away at the sudden, unmistakable
scent, backing away in horror at the sight of the small leg.
It was abominable, against nature! It was acceptable to take
young, even those just born, but never from the womb. Young who
had tasted air had a chance, they were already part of the Cycle
and danced in that circle the moment they drew breath, but the
unborn ...only fate took the unborn. Even her kind obeyed this
oldest of laws. Life needed to be re-made after it was taken
to join the Cycle again. It was the only way the balance was
kept. This was wrong! Unholy!
Rage stood every hair of her thick, black pelt on end as she looked
up at the Un-Balancers, at the monsters who had committed this
crime. The humans did not care what atrocities they committed.
They thought that they were above the Cycle, above the very laws
of nature. They only cared to take what they would without restraint
or reprimand, wiping out entire herds, taking down entire forests
and even mountains. They were a crime against nature in and of
themselves, and that was why there were the Balancers. That was
why she was what she was. This crime would not go unpunished.
Claws lengthened into razor talons, digging into the earth and
snow as toes lengthened into fingers, muscles as solid as stone
rippling under her skin. She grew, became more as she assumed the
sacred form of the Balancer, her massive chest and throat trembling
as she growled her hate at the two figures by the fire. They had
stopped their noise at her growls and now looked in her direction,
apprehension in their scents.
She was as big as a grizzly as she stood upright on powerful legs,
screaming her rage at the moon. Fear bloomed around the two men
like heat from a fire as she dropped to all fours, charging across
the meadow with a spray of snow, huge fangs bared and ready for
Abram took a certain amount of pride in
what he called his "profession".
Poaching was like an art to him, a challenge to see if he could
out do himself, see what prizes he could take while the panty-waists
cooled their heels by the fireplace after the season was over and
patted themselves on the backs for the two-point mulie they scored.
Amateurs. He had already claimed three prize white-tails, a pair
of big horn in Nevada, and a mountain goat two weeks ago. Not a
bad haul for two months of work, but now he was looking for the
prize, a bull moose in the peak of mating season. The head would
look good in the rafters of his cabin above the fireplace.
Like an idiot, though, he had allowed his sister, Barb, to talk
him into taking her husband, Norm, with him. Abram figured Norm
was a pretty upstanding guy that could be trusted, and Norm was
a reasonably good hunter, but, boy, had Abram been wrong. The moron
had shot the first thing he had seen.
Abram sighed, looking up from the fire at the carcass of the doe
that hung from a tree a hundred yards away. A doe, and a pregnant
one at that! Abram could only shake his head in irritation as he
took another swallow of beer. All the game had fled the area by
now, alerted by the blood and gunshots. This hunt was over.
Suddenly Abram got a sense of something out there, out in the
night, watching them. Abram looked up at a little copse of trees
just outside of camp, certain of everything and nothing at all,
reaching for his rifle. Norm continued to prattle on about the
Packers and what a good season they had had, oblivious to what
was going on. Now there came an overpowering sense of hatred from
the trees, of malevolence so strong that Norm stopped in mid-sentence
and turned to the trees, eyes wide. Abram calmly rose, chambering
a round into the .7 mm Winchester, watching the moon-silvered landscape
and the black stand of trees ahead of them.
He had encountered this type of uneasiness
before, the "forest
jitters" as he called them. It was usually a mixture of lack of
sleep, too much coffee, and a case of the nerves. Still, better
safe than sorry when you got this type of feeling. Just then a
growl the liked of which Abram had never heard before emanated
from that copse, humming over his bones. Norm rose, alarm plain
on his face.
"Abram...?" Norm began, and then came an ear-splitting roar that
nearly loosened Abram's bowels, and did Norm's. A black shape rushed
at them, then, tearing from the dark trees so fast Abram only had
time to level his rifle and get off a shot before it was on him,
bowling him over and into the trunk of a tree with a sick "crack!".
White pain enveloped Abram, then the world went numb. He found
himself lying at the base of the tree, and Norm was screaming like
a woman in time with the creature's savage roars. Abram could feel
nothing below his waist, but his arms still worked and slowly he
began to drag himself to his weapon, his only hope as Norm's screams
stopped and a wet feeding sound began.
She tore into the man's body with a hunger that only the shift
could bring on, gorging herself on the meat of the human. For a
moment there was nothing other than the hunger, even though the
body still twitched with the suddenness of it's death. She did
not care that the other crawled for his gun, though she was aware
that he was far from dead, only paralyzed. His first shot had struck
her in the shoulder, and the wound burned now as her body healed.
A minor irritation. Guns were of no concern to her. They only made
her angry, and the user always wound up dead.
Thunder filled the world and fire lanced through her back just
as she swallowed the blood-heavy heart and she roared, turning.
The crippled human lay on his side, panting as he scrambled to
re-load his rifle, but she was quicker. The man screamed as she
pounced on him, lifting him by his throat and holding him in front
of her, his eyes white with terror now. This one was a predator,
one who lived for the kill. But a true predator lived for the rewards
of a hunt, something this hunter would learn.
Abram tried to struggle, his hands wrapped around the creatures
furred wrist, trying to take the weight of his limp body off of
his throat so he could breath. Oh Lord, how he wanted to live!
The creature regarded him with glowing blue eyes as cold as the
moon, bloody fangs revealed in a snarl. It opened it's maw, red
streamers of saliva between it's teeth, and Abram wept, closing
his eyes, sure of his end as his face was bathed in it's rank and
bloody breath. But instead of taking a chunk out of his face, it
dropped him to the ground and Abram screamed as his spine reverberated
with the grinding of broken vertebrae.
Think, man, think! Abram screamed in his mind behind a haze of
white. There had to be a way out of this! Oh thank God, it's leaving!
he thought as the creature apparently moved off. Perhaps it was
full? Perhaps it had compassion? Abram wasn't going to wait around
to find out. Opening his eyes, he searched frantically for his
rifle. It lay 30 ft away near the dying fire, near Norm's savaged
body, his brother's face a rictus of horror, one eye slightly ajar.
Abram could not think about that. He would not die that way!
The creature was returning now. He could hear it's huge hind feet
thud-thudding against the snow, the weight of the creature trembling
the ground. His terrified mind also notice d that it was dragging
something behind it. Nononononononono!!!!! he screamed in his head
and crawled for all he was worth, dragging his useless legs behind
him and whimpering in panic.
Abram screamed as he was grabbed by the hair just as his fingers
brushed the rifle. Unceremoniously he was dragged back to the tree,
the one that had broken his back, screaming all the while. The
creature propped him against the trunk, batting away his wildly
flailing fists with a snarl of annoyance, and jerked his head to
look at it square in the face. Abram could only whimper, his world
filled with those wild, cold eyes, and he was struck with a definite
sense of female, though he didn't know how he knew or if he cared.
She examined him for a long moment, an ancient, cruel intelligence
burning in her eyes, and, finally, pure hatred. She threw back
her head and roared, striking the tree just above his head with
her free claws and Abram thrashed wildly, shrieking as debris rained
down on him. Angrily she pinned him by the throat again, cutting
of his cries, and with a growl she reached behind her and pulled
forward the doe's carcass.
She shoved him hard in the windpipe, stunning him as she let him
go for a moment, then turned to him again, this time with a bloody
gob of meat in her hand. In all of Abram's life he had never understood
anything so clearly as he did at that moment, and a wail of pure
insanity escaped from the core of his very being.
"Hunter," she managed to say around her wolf mouth, filling the
human's mouth with meat and cutting off his pitiful shrieks, "must
At the very last, after decades of hunting, of taking all he wanted
and never giving in return, Abram finally understood that to everything
there was a balance, and no creature, not even a human, was without