The Early Signs
Their back was turned, muscles relaxed, tail swishing idly.
Now was her chance.
The pitter of bare feet running was their only warning before a body slammed into them with the weight of a pillow and latched onto their shoulders. Little EA giggled wildly as Crooked Tooth stood from their seat on the ground before the fire pit and she held on tight as she could as the dirt fell away below her.
“Woah!” Crooked Tooth cried cartoonishly. “I wonder what that was!” They turned in circles, “looking” for the source of the weight, while EA did her best to stifle her laughter. “Could it have been… AHA!” With what seemed like no effort at all, Crooked Tooth hauled EA up over one shoulder, practically flipping the wulfen child over in the process. Gleeful shrieking dissolved into a torrent of laughter and what indignance a toddler can manage. The airborne tumbling ceased as Crooked Tooth righted her position, holding her under her arms in front of them.
“Papa said I should practice hunting.” EA explained between giggles.
“Did he now?” Crooked Tooth smiled proudly. “Starting young and so eager, that’s good! It’s the early sign of a deadly hunter.”
“I’m not that young!” EA’s feet kicked and dangled underneath her.
“No? How old are you now then?”
“I’m this many!” Her small hand shot out toward Crooked Tooth, and they extended their own arms a bit so the hand didn’t smash their nose in, before making a show of counting each finger spread out on the hand.
“One… two… three… four… FIVE? You’re five already?!” Again, they played up cartoonish surprise, gasping outrageously, gaining more laughter from the child. “You can’t be five already! You were four just ye—” Crooked Tooth broke off mid word, ears perking and swiveling. They sniffed hard at the air, and their face contorted slightly in a snarl. EA fell silent, knowing what this might mean, and within a few heart beats no one in the pack made a sound. Swiftly and gently, Crooked Tooth set down the child and sprinted off into the shadow laden trees beyond the fire light, footsteps barely audible.
The only sound in her ears was her own heart beat and the breeze. /Beat… Beat… Beat… Beat… Be–/
“Yo what the fuck?” a stranger’s voice yelled angrily. “…H-hey hold up a second.” The voice no longer yelled. They were afraid now.
The whole pack waited with bated breath. No one moved to help Crooked Tooth. This was their hunt.
The sound of a scuffle echoed through the trees before crescendoing into an agonized scream. The stranger was wounded. Pained profanity, strong footsteps, and the scraping of something heavy being dragged drew nearer to the pack.
“Please I’ll give you everything I have!” Crooked Tooth approached the light provided by the pack’s fire once more. The stranger, a human man, was being dragged by one ankle while he did his meager best to stop his entrails from spilling out of the gash in his stomach. “Come on! I’ll do anything, shit man, just let me live!”
Crooked Tooth dropped the man’s leg from their grasp, and for the briefest moment a look of relief crossed his face.
“Dinner,” Crooked Tooth snarled, and several adult wulfen descended with tooth, claw, and blade bared on the screaming, crying, writhing human. EA and the other wulfen not yet old enough to hunt waited at a respectful distance to see if there would be any left for them.