An icy wind blew in from the north. It blew across the ice hills and picked up speed as it raced down the snow covered slopes. The wind kicked up loose snow and whipped it into the air like smoke rising from a fire. Three men crouched behind a rock that jutted out of the snow, and pulled their mammoth furs around them as the chilling wind beat at them.
Gunter, the older man who led their hunt, held a leather leash attached to the neck of a garg. He watched the six-legged beast as it sniffed the air and then the ground through the layers of snow and ice. The six nostrils in the garg's snout were so sensitive that it could track a week old scent through snow deep enough to cover a man to his head. The garg trembled with anticipation for the fight it's simple mind knew was coming.
"We're getting close," Gunter said to the two younger men crouching behind him.
"Are you sure, father," Kaden asked over the wind.
"Look at the garg," Gunter said. The animal quivered and whined in turns, then pulled at its leash before returning to Gunter's side "He feels the long tooth's presence, and I fear it knows we hunt it and is now hunting us as well."
"We have been close before, and the long tooth has alluded us," the other young man said. "I pray to Gawa that we get our vengeance at last."
"Patience, Aerik," Gunter said, "Vengeance for Ella and Greta is at hand. Go to the sled and bring up the rest of the gargs. We will need all of them to kill the long tooth."
Aerik lurched to his feet and made his way to the mouth of the shallow canyon where they had left the sled tied to a frea tree. The frea trees dotted the white covered landscape, they were the only tree that grew in the long winter, and their hardy fruit was a mainstay in the diet of the people that lived in the icy wastes.
An anger even colder than the biting wind burned in Aerik's heart. They had been hunting the long tooth for sixty days and had traveled far from their village in pursuit of the savage beast. His thirst for blood had not slackened since the day the long tooth had killed his intended wife.
The beast had come down from the ice hills looking for food and found the village women clearing the runoff trenches north of the village. Fueled by its hunger, it attacked without warning. It savaged Gunter's wife, Greta, killing her, and drug his daughter Ella away.
Aerik was twenty-one annum's old and had begun to despair of the elders ever picking a wife for him. When the elders had finally announced that Ella would be his wife he was overcome with joy. He knew of the girl, and her face seemed lovely beneath the furs that the people always wore to fight off the cold.
He had never seen a woman's body before, since outside their own homes they were always bundled with layers of Mammoth fur. He had no sisters and his mother had died when he was a baby, so he didn't even know what a woman looked like in her inside clothes.
He was overcome with excitement at the prospect of undressing Ella and discovering the delights of the marriage bed. He had listened to the older men in the sweat lodge talk of the pleasures that awaited him, and he was almost dizzy with anticipation.
Ella was taken by the long tooth just two days before they were to exchange their marriage necklaces. They had found her body eaten beyond recognition a few leagues from the village. Gunter and his son, Kaden, overcome with grief at the loss of their women folk had demanded a vengeance hunt. Aerik, as Ella's intended husband joined them.
They gathered supplies for a long hunt and set off with eight gargs. One of the village shamans also joined them. They would need his magic when they confronted the deadly beast.
Twenty days into the hunt, a large ice wolf had attacked them. The wolf had killed one of the gargs and the Shaman before their spears finally brought the monster down. They pressed on despite the loss of the garg and the Shaman's magic.
Aerik fumed as his fingers, clumsy from the cold, worked to free the garg's from their harnesses. If only Ella and Greta hadn't been in those stupid ditches. The village elders required every member of the village to spend time keeping the runoff trenches clear of debris in case summer came.
When summer came, it was always without warning, the heat would melt the ice in the hills causing great floods, and without the trenches to guide the water around the village, it would be swept away.
Aerik knew why the trenches needed to stay clear, but the loss of Ella made him unreasonable and he blamed the elders for their stupid adherence to old traditions. There hadn't been a summer since his great, great, great grandfather's time, and probably wouldn't be another until he was long dead, and now he had nothing.
Aerik sighed as he freed the last garg from its harness and holding the leashes, headed back up the canyon. He sent up a silent prayer to Gawa that this would be the last day of the hunt.
"Are you ready?" Gunter asked the younger men.
"I am father," Kaden said.
Aerik only nodded that he was ready.
They divided the gargs among them, and with spears in one hand and leashes in the other, crept deeper into the canyon. Their senses strained for any sign of their prey, and the gargs silently stalked as the scent of the long tooth filled their snouts.
Their only warning was the gargs, almost as one, raising their heads toward the top of the shallow canyon to their right. The long tooth screamed as it leapt down from the ice covered rocks above. Its long, dark striped, tawny body arched gracefully with deadly claws extended as it plummeted down toward Aerik.
Aerik flung the leashes holding the gargs away, and dived away from the leaping beast. He rolled gracefully and surged to his feet. He spun back toward the beast, spear at the ready.
The beast landed with a thud in the spot where Aerik had stood, and scrabbled its claws into the icy canyon floor to regain its footing. It screamed in rage at missing its intended prey.
Gunter and Kaden released their gargs and the six-legged animals howled and spread out flanking the long tooth. The men and gargs surrounded the large beast, and for a moment silence descended as though the world itself was taking a breath.
Though they had traveled far to kill the beast, they couldn't help but admire its natural beauty. It was as long as three grown men were and weighed as much as six. Muscles rippled beneath its dark striped golden fur as its muscled body moved slowly, stalking them. Its ears were laid back and it lashed its striped tail back and forth as it gazed at them with slitted green eyes. Its mouth was filled with sharp yellow teeth and two of its top fangs stretched out of its mouth and curved down as long as a man's forearm.
The silence seemed to stretch on forever but, in truth, was barely a few heartbeats. The beast screamed, breaking the unnatural quiet and Gunter yelled the command to attack. The gargs began darting in at the legs of the long tooth while the men jabbed at it with their spears.
The beast was unnaturally fast and pierced a garg's body clean through with its long fangs as several other gargs went for its back legs. It shook its head flinging the mortally wounded garg into the air and spun to face the gargs harassing its rear. It swiped a garg with its long claws and tore it nearly in half.
The men jumped forward and thrust their spears into the beast's exposed side as it turned. It screamed in pain and spun again, breaking off Kaden's spear where it stuck in the beast's side. For an instant Kaden stared at the splintered shaft in disbelief. It cost him his life. The long tooth swiped at him with its claws. The deadly sharp talons sliced through the layers of fur and ripped him open from his chest to his lower stomach. His insides spilled out onto the snow in grotesque coils as he collapsed into the snow.
Gunter screamed in anguish and tossing his spear aside fell to his son's side. He desperately began scooping up the entrails and trying to stuff them back into his dead son's body.
"No!" Aerik screamed as the long tooth shook off several gargs and leapt onto Gunter's back.
The beast screamed and then bit down onto Gunter's head. Its long teeth pierced his upper chest and sank deep into his body. Gunter's hands flailed around and then fell limply at his side.
Aerik leapt forward and thrust his spear into the beast's side, then leapt away as it screamed and turned to face him. The beast focused its malevolent gaze on Aerik and stalked toward him. It was bleeding from its wounds and from Kaden's broken spear where it protruded from its side. Gunter hung garishly from the beast's mouth, still impaled on its long teeth, his legs swinging loosely as the beast prowled toward Aerik.
The gargs darted in at the long tooth's legs and it turned on them in a fury. It spun so fast that Gunter's body was hurled into the wall of the canyon with a sickening crunch before falling to the ground. The beast's attack on the gargs was so furious that blood and bodies flew in all directions as it ripped its claws through them.
Aerik howled and jabbed his spear into the beast's back. It screamed and whirled so quickly that Aerik barely retained his grip on his spear. He lurched back and his heel caught on a rock. He fought for balance and lost. He sat down hard and watched his death approach.
.... There is more of this story ...