A paw cuffed her across the face, its jagged claws lancing streaks of pain and fire along four parallel paths and causing her to wake with a start. Snarling, she tumbled over and launched herself at her assailant, fangs bared. Who dared treat her like this? Her opponent’s face showed surprise, but no fear. Instead of retreating, submitting or defending himself, the stupid beast moved only slightly, exposing his left flank. That mistake only required a quick twist in mid air to take advantage of it. Two rows of incisors moved in unison. However, instead of skin breaking and offering the desired sensation of blood gushing over tongue and down throat, her jaw unexpectedly lost its strength and her body spasmed of its own accord. An excruciating pain lanced up and down her own left flank. She turned to see the source of the pain, but there was nothing there.
“Runt, submit and look at me.”
Runt collapsed in a vulnerable heap. Her head snapped back to look into the cruel eyes of the monster she had been so sure of defeating moments before.
“Lesson number one. You can not attack or disobey your Liege.”
His muzzle flashed toward her and she cried out as she felt jagged teeth clamp around her ear and pull away, shredding it. She remained unable to move as he licked his bloody lips and looked back into her eyes.
“Lesson number two. I, Sharp Teeth, am your Liege.”
Sharp Teeth turned away from Runt and looked behind himself to an even larger stranger she hadn’t noticed before. In fact as she glanced around she noticed there were six of them spaced around the clearing.
“See, she did survive. Now, I need to train her. I don’t care what Gray One says, that’s much more important than a search party.”
The largest creature whirled on Sharp Teeth and stared him in the eye until he dropped his haunch and backed away half a step.
“Don’t forget your status just because you’ve made your first Thrall. The Pack Leader decides if and when a scouting party goes out.”
Sharp Teeth regained some of his spirit and snarled back.
“But she’s only just woken. She needs to hunt and feed or she’ll be of no use.”
“What do you think will happen if we give up this search and the two humans Gray One saw get away? What will happen when they speak of a pack forming in these mountains?”
It wasn’t difficult to identify Gray One from the three remaining strangers. He had to be the one covered in Gray hair and standing closest to where Sharp Teeth and Pack Leader were arguing.
“Surely you aren’t scared of warriors?”
“Of course not! We haven’t sniffed a single warrior the entire time we’ve been here. There are none left and even if there were, they are far from here.”
Runt found that, with Sharp Teeth’s focus now off of her, she was able to move again. She was incredibly hungry and it seemed that two other pack members were messily devouring something not far off. She scooted closer, low to the ground, and saw it was the remains of a dog they were picking clean.
“Then what’s the big deal? Worst case is the humans will be afraid to come up here and will leave us alone.”
“Is that what you want? For our stream of easy prey to be interrupted?”
“No but -”
“Perhaps you would prefer for rumours of us to get back to the Beast? For him to hunt us down before we have a force large enough to be respected?”
“No of course not but -”
“Then cease your complaining and order your Thrall to join mine in scouting for the humans.”
The scent of dried blood and sun baked, rancid meat was nearly driving her to distraction. However, when she tried to pry a bone away from the pile, she was met with two snapping jaws and a blow to the head sent her rolling twice before she regained her balance.
“At least order your Thralls to let her gnaw the bones before they have to leave.”
“If she can’t wrestle some of our leavings from the others, than she doesn’t deserve to eat. Now order her to scout for the humans or I’ll remove you from the burden of command.”
Sharp Teeth backed down at the threat and turned to Runt.
“Go with the others. Take up the trail.”
It took Runt less than six paces to figure out Pack Leader hadn’t noticed that Sharp Teeth hadn’t said which trail. She hated her Liege for humiliating her, shredding her ear and fixing her status at the bottom of the pack by making her his Thrall. However, at least he was sneaky enough to give her a chance to scheme a way to survive.