1: Prologue

Three newborn coyotes ran across the open field.  Their feet were quick and their eyes careful to examine all around them.  As they reached the camp, the odorous scent of sleeping travelers drifted into their nostrils.  

        But they weren’t interested in people.

        With hesitated movements they walked across the opening toward the dying flames.  Their paws were soft against the earth below and they made not a sound.  As if in a trance, the young creatures stared into the dying fire.  Beads of heat licked the coyotes' features and dim lights reflected off the solid glass of their wide black eyes.  There was something about the fire that attracted them, something about the way the flames flowed in and out of each other.  The smallest of the three reached the fire first.  

        A cool wind soared across the field.  In the dark, they could hear the grass moving.  Within seconds the remaining flames dissolved into thin air.  

        A stick broke behind them.

        The coyotes jumped, spinning around as if unsure of their whereabouts.  Something had made a noise.  Something had snapped.  A large shadow drifted over,, growing closer in the dim light of the moon.

        They ran.  Behind them, the voice of something unknown reached their ears.

        "Not again!  Ugh…"

        The coyotes ran faster, the voice fading off in the distance.  They stopped at the edge of a large forest – their home.  The trees stood like a wall, a massive fortress against the wind.  In seconds, the animals passed under the protection of the large branches as they made their way through the land they were more familiar with.

        The atmosphere around them was different here.  Thick woodland trees completely scattered the rugged landscape.  Fallen trunks, new and old, dirt, and sticks covered the earth.  Everything felt better here, better than the outside world, which was a world a world of mystery.  But something was different this time.  One of the coyotes, the largest of the three, stopped in his tracks.  He raised his head high and sniffed.  A horrid stench smothered his nostrils.  His head flew to the ground in attempt to block out the stench.

        The other coyotes followed suit, acting in the same way.  All three creatures fell to the forest floor, noses shocked with the surprising smell.  But nothing would stop the smell from coming.  The oldest looked around, straining to find the source of the intruder.  As he scanned the area, the smell grew stronger to the north.  

        He ran and the others followed until they came to an opening.  It was a large circle of grass, lightened by the rays of the moon.  In the middle of the circle were two beams standing close together.  Suspended high above, hanging by rope, all limbs spread apart between both poles, stood the source of the stench.

        White fur stained with blood dangled in the air.  The four legged creature, eyes solid black, looked down upon her three cubs.  They howled in fury, the sight of their dead mother reflecting in their eyes, the moon acting as a spotlight upon the macabre scene.  The youngest of the three fell to the ground exasperated.

        "What a shame."  The heads of the three creatures bolted upright.  They grew silent as a man-like creature stepped forward through the trees on the far side of the opening.  In his arms was a giant gray bowl.  "What a shame it is that these things happen."

        The cubs slowly got on all fours.

        "Don't worry.  I won't hurt you."  

        He placed the bowl on the ground before the three coyotes.  They cautiously looked inside.  

        Meat soaked in blood.

        "Come and eat," the newcomer cautioned forward, but the coyotes remained immobile.  He continued speaking, hands signaling the younglings closer.  "Come and eat.  No doubt it will seem familiar."

        The youngest of the three creatures stepped forward, tongue slightly inching its way out of its mouth, hunger imprinted on its face.  The others barked at the one, but it would not listen, and they were too scared to move.

        As the coyote reached the bowl, it sniffed and began eating.  The flavor was different, its scent too much the same as his dead mother, but the cub didn't care.  He was starving, and everything seemed to be infested with that scent.  He raised his head from the bowl and looked back at his two frozen brothers.  They returned his look.  Both creatures slowly stepped forward, closing the gap between them and the bowl of meat.  The oldest coyote ate last.

        "That's good.  Don’t stop eating."  The man began circling around the three coyotes, their mouths completely engorged with chunks of meat.  After three complete circles, the coyotes looked up, staring expectantly at him.

        The walking ceased.

        "Finished?"  The edges of his mouth began to curve upwards, a thin smile beginning to form.  "Only time is against us now."  He reached down and brushed the back of the smallest cub.  It shuddered under his touch.  "Now I have something to ask of you.  Well, more to give you."  He grabbed the cub, fingers extending, grasping the youngling as they wrapped completely around it.  

        The coyote barked, howling at the air while struggling to be free.  Teeth as sharp as razors flung at the man holding the cub.  Blood prayed in spurts, remains from he meal it had eaten just moments before.  The other cubs remained silent.  

        Then their eyes connected – the coyote and the man.  The animal calmed as he looked into two black eyes.  Slowly, the color of the young animal's eyes began to turn, changing from a deep black to a light crimson.  The man smiled.  

        "Here we go," he said, turning his attention towards the other two coyotes that were still frozen.  Their eyes too, were now crimson.  He nodded, placing the animal beside the other two.  "It's time."  The one standing before the coyotes reached into his robes.  His hand resurfaced with a single garment - a piece of blue silk cloth.  Kneeling down, he reached towards the three animals, material in hand.  The scent of the cloth drifted in through the tiny nostrils.  It was a new but familiar scent.  

        "Go," the one in black ordered, repeating the same word over.  "Go!"  With clenched jaws, the three animals crouched down in preparation for a run.  Snarls ruptured from within them.

        The three coyotes ran, sprinting in the same direction they had come.  As they disappeared through the trees, the one in black smiled.

        This is how we hunt.

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