Bekan clutched her cloak closer, trying to ward off the frost. Silently, she cursed Snoz, Rezzah, and Josom; all of them laying nearby, all of them possessing the foresight to buy gear suitable to the cold weather. But mostly, she cursed at the goat tethered to a stake in the snow-covered field before her.
The bait chewed at some oats placidly, seemingly unbothered by the chilly night. And as Bekan bit down hard to keep her teeth from chattering, the fact that the creature appeared to be so warm and comfortable just pissed her off. Most likely, the beast was probably too stupid to be bothered snow. Still, better to be here, in the blind with a nice, open field of fire rather than down there with it and whatever had been preying on the village’s livestock. From the remains they’d seen, whatever was out there in the blackness was big… maybe a bear that wasn’t hibernating for some reason.
Maybe something worse.
On nights like these, when the cold seeped into her, Bekan felt her scars and the places where her broken bones had stitched back together. Every pang, the pained tickle of pins and needles, reminded her of a mistake made: when she’d tried to go toe to toe with that Orc war leader instead of tripping it and running away, that Kobold siege where she hadn’t inspected the rookie’s trench digging and they’d lost the left flank. Good to feel these pains, good to remember. Helped her to not repeat her mistakes.
Then the monster came out from the tree line—paws twice as big as her hands—padding completely silent.
She almost didn’t see it; the wolf. The creature was the size of a horse but white as the snowy ground, and between its camouflage perfect coat and the dim light it was more or less invisible. Snoz—laying near her and the others, his small crossbow held at the ready—gasped, and she cut him a look; any noise at this point might give them away. Might ruin the whole ambush.
Out of the corner of her eye, Rezzah adjusted his aim, anxious as ever to get his shot off.
The Winter Wolf stalked towards the goat, it’s head held low. The goat continued to chew, oblivious. Then the snow white beast stopped in its tracks; sniffing at the air. And then, Gods help her, it drew back its lips into a smile made of far too many, far too large teeth. In a voice like a black blizzard’s it said, “I smell you,” and charged their position, ignoring the goat that bleated and kicked to get loose.
In a gasp, Snoz fired his crossbow bolt; the shot went wide left. Bekan’s own struck true, but the wolf seemed unaffected. “Warg’s Bung," she whispered, drawing the small vial from her belt. Inside the delicate glass, the glowing fungus illuminated her and her friends; the others struggling to reload their weapons before the monster reached them.
Bekan readied a throw for when the Winter Wolf came within range.
Time to see if she’d be adding another scar to her collection.