Highland Wolf Pact:Blood ReignBy: Selena Kitt
Year of Our Lord 1525
Outside the Wulver Den - MacFalon Land
Griff could smell them, not far behind.
He couldn’t let that happen.
He signaled his men, using a low grunt and a soft growl. Rory MacFalon heard him and followed his hand signal, breaking right through the trees. The forest cover was thick and the horses didn’t always find their footing, but the path they’d tracked through the woods—their own shortcut—was perfect for this purpose. Griff grinned—to an outsider, it would have looked like a snarl, his snout long, teeth drawn back—as he watched Rory slow in the underbrush, awaiting his next command.
They were going to make it. He could feel it, something instinctual.
He barked an order to Garaith, who gave a nod with his big, shaggy black head, giving Griff a grin that also looked much like a snarl, and he, too, broke off and joined Rory on the side of the path. The rest of his pack of wulver warriors—half-men, half-wolves, wearing full Scots armor and riding horses through the MacFalon forest—followed Griff’s lead as he pulled his giant war horse aside, waving them past. They knew the shortcut as well as he did—they’d helped him create it.
“Cam!” Griff called to one of his teammates, who brought up the rear of the pack. Cam slowed his horse, surprised when Griff tossed him the giant rack of buck antlers he was carrying. “Take them to the safe area. Lead the team! Go!”
Horse hooves thundered through the forest. If the other two packs didn’t know where the shortcut was, they would now. But it didn’t matter, because Griff knew they were going to win.
He barked orders to Rory and Garaith to follow him. They needed more space than they had in the woods to end this thing properly. The two wulvers fell in behind him. Griff dug the heels of his boots into Uri’s side, leaning over his powerful neck as the horse tore up the path and broke through the trees. His team, he noted with satisfaction, was already corralled in the “safe” area. There were wulver women gathered at the mouth of their den, watching with bright eyes as the warriors burst into the field.
Griff gave a war whoop, turning his mount to face the other two oncoming teams. He directed Rory and Garaith toward the first—both had already drawn their swords. They were wooden, just training swords, a fact that bothered Griff a great deal, but his father had insisted. His mother had protested as well—and he could understand a woman’s protest, that someone might get hurt—but his father, Raife, was the pack’s leader, and some day, Griff would take his place. Wasn’t it about time they were allowed to use real swords? Even if it was just for this, the Great Hunt. It only happened once a year, after all.
Two dozen wulver warriors charged into the clearing, and Griff heard the women squeal and yelp as swords began to clash. Rory and Garaith were his best fighters by far, and they could hold their own against any of the rest. He saw them fighting off a dozen menacing pack members, while Griff himself took on the other dozen or so that had begun to circle.
Not that he let that stop him.
Griff swung his sword expertly. They all had wooden swords, so it was a fair fight. Not that twelve against one was fair, exactly, but it was what he’d planned. The antlers—their prize—and the rest of his men were safe. He had his two best fighters—who had already bested half the other pack—and he didn’t doubt his own ability for a moment.
Even when he was surrounded. And he was. He’d bested three of them already, but there were more, and they circled him. Griff’s horse pawed the ground, nervous, but he kept Uri under control, swinging his sword at all comers. And they came. Wulver after wulver, snarling and swinging, snapping their jaws and howling. Griff didn’t hesitate. Three more wulvers had to fall back because his sword had slipped through and, wooden or not, dented their breast-plates—a “kill” shot.
He could hear the other wulvers, spectators, howling their approval. The women especially. They were all excited to watch the men compete. He knew his mother was among them, watching—with breath held, wringing her hands, no doubt. Sibyl might be married to the pack leader, but she’d never gotten used to or really understood the wulver warrior’s constant training. She was human, and a woman. He could forgive her that.