It was a bear, a great brown bear, the biggest male she had ever seen, a mountain of furious muscle, a maw gaping red and flashing stinking yellow and white teeth. The crashing of undergrowth, brittle branches and dead leaves and heaving ground under the monstrous paws, the terrified whine of a wolf, and a roar of rage that slammed against her head, drowning out all else, the sound of the swift, unexpected death closing in on prey.
And then it is only her cub, screaming.
A while ago, but not so long at all, when this precious being slid out easy and beautiful from her womb, all she could hear was Sweetvine's screaming, her loud and healthy screaming, bawling a newborn's protest. She waved tiny fists in the air, a strong cub, and the new mother had ears for nothing, nothing else. Not even her lifemate's voice. Not at that moment, when it was only her and her cub.
Then she is charging in like a winter wind, all with a roar of her own, flying off her bond's back as Halftail retreats before the flurry of claws and snapping fangs, baring her own white teeth, brandishing the claw of her spear. Then she is stabbing outwards and in, twisting her spear even as it slides out, the bear's roar now one of pained outrage, and she is howling at him, hissing at him. Her cub, on the ground, stunned, between her and that brown death, she snarls, she spits, she demands.
Her cub, on the ground. Like a while, but not so long ago, the new life just emerging, red with blood and effort, and though it's her first she knows immediately to lift her and clean her and hold her close to make her safe.
Her and the bear smell the blood, and neither of them will retreat, and he makes a move, takes a step of giants, towards her cub, and she is leaping like a cat, screaming like a rabid wolf. The spear meets and slides against bone and claws meet her head, she is casually flung aside, blood in her hair, then she flies back in, stabbing and slashing, she wins a handspan and another. Then she is whirling upwards and her spear is in the bear's chest, and she hangs on it, not for her own life. She flies over her cub as trusty hands drag Sweetvine to safety, and the bear roars his disappointment. And her mother's rage knows no bounds.
Then she is striking like a line of skyfire, slipping in and out of the bear's shadow, slicing with her claw of stone. And something becomes terribly solid against her gut, she heaves, drags downwards, rolls back, leaps in, and her claw snaps , and the bear shudders and thunders. She stands, she pants, she sweats, she coughs and brings up blood and foam, death before her, her cub behind. The hulking brown crashes forward, a great living boulder, to smash her to dust. She hurts.
But then bringing this cub into the world hurt too.
And then she is up, she is flying, and the remains of her claw are vicious-sharp, through the beady, threatening eye, through flesh and brains. Brown death gives a feeble groan, and topples all its stunning length.
Then she hears the voices.
"High Ones, huntress – "
But she is on her knees, and her ribs in agony, her face slick, all her body one great scream for attention, still, as she takes the living body, that precious, wonderful, one and only body in her arms to see the faint, but living smile, she only has ears for the one.