Roughing the Runt

Lilpaw hated when this happened. Every few days, Arctos would go out of his way to belittle him. Lilpaw had been carrying his sparse books and writing supplies when from behind the big white wolf had tripped him. The hard-packed dirt bit into his face and jaw as he fell, his books scattering ahead of him. His ink jar flew from his pocket and shattered, bleeding its indigo contents onto the ground.

A full head taller than all of his pack brothers and even taller than most of the mature males, Arctos was a mountain of sinew and muscle. He was expected to challenge for alpha soon. Lilpaw knew that to look back at him now would be to issue a challenge of his own, and that would mean a great deal of pain.

A voice barked in the distance. "Why don't you leave him alone?" It was Adrina, a strong and beautiful young she-wolf who was herself coming of age. She was likely to become the next alpha- female, and both her bark and her figure quickly grabbed Arctos's attention from Lilpaw.

Lilpaw picked himself up, cheeks hot with embarrassment as the laughter of the other young wolves erupted around him. At the edge of his vision he saw Arctos wander over to give Adrina some lewd proposition. He saw her looking at him and whined. As accustomed as he had become to Arctos's torments, he could not bear to have Adrina witness his humiliation. Not looking back, his tail instinctively tucked between his legs, Lilpaw grabbed all of his books and scrambled away as fast as he could, leaving his precious ink jar behind, the rare flask broken into shiny ink-stained shards.

Lilpaw ran as fast as he could, finally ducking into his small hut and hiding. In the safety of the dark interior he wiped bitter tears from his eyes and brooded. Any proper wolf would have turned and faced Arctos with a snarl; but then, he was not really a proper wolf. For as long as he could remember, the other wolves had always picked on him. He was the runt of the runts, the smallest of several years and families of litters. A full 15 turns of the season had come and gone since his birth. Now as his pack-mates' bodies awakened and grew full and strong, the curse of his runthood grew ever more cruelly apparent. Urges arose that were never to be satisfied; he was too small to win the interest of any of the females, much less the one he coveted most. How he longed to take and love Adrina, but that was not the pack- runt's lot.

Too small. Too small to draw any attention except for the jeers lavished upon those who were small. In the span of a year, his pack-mates who had been only a few inches taller became a few feet taller. With their added size came strength and confidence, and with that confidence came the instinctive power trip of "roughing the runt."

To escape their abuses, Lilpaw had drawn further inward, pursuing the intellectual interests that his grandfather had taught him. It was a good way to disappear for hours at time. For Arctos, the huge leader of the young wolves, out of sight was thankfully out of mind. Now, though, as the other wolves grew more competitive and belligerent, they began to seek him out, leaving him nowhere to hide.

His isolation was now complete. His days were now filled with submission and avoiding the pain of the order. While his pack brothers readily fought out their rank and tested their newfound strength, he was a mature wolf locked in his cubling body, and utterly, profoundly alone.

Lilpaw bent his head forward and sobbed miserably. He could never hope for a mate, or even for anything more than a snarl from a pack-mate. Also, as broken as his dreams, was his ink jar. It had been a present from his late grandfather, a learned scholar, and it hurt him so to see it lost. His grandfather, the only wolf left in his family and the only benevolent person in his life other than Adrina, had passed on last winter. The ink jar was all Lilpaw had left. He had treasured it, and now it was gone forever.

All because of Arctos. Arctos, who had knocked him down, and laughed while Grandfather's precious gift was smashed. Arctos, who couldn't be content with destroying Lilpaw's pride, and had to destroy the only thing in his life that was dear to him. Arctos's laughter, mocking and scornful, would not stop echoing in his ears.

Lilpaw dried his tears and stared into the gathering gloom. He sat motionless for a long time, his hand resting on the empty pocket where Grandfather's ink jar had once rested. His hatred for the massive white wolf smoldered. A dark thought tickled his mind, absurd at first, but slowly gaining strength. It finally succeeded in bringing a smile to Lilpaw's face, as he turned and peeked from his window towards the Shaman's hut in the distance.

It was dusk when Lilpaw quietly slipped from the rear of his hut. Jaws clenched, paws stealing silently through the grass, he stalked around the edges of several huts to the one occupied by the Shaman. He had spent several abused years in service of the old trickster, who had taught him how to read and write, and who in return had expected unquestioning slavery.

Footsteps approached, along with the growl of rowdy voices. Lilpaw instantly fell to his belly and slithered under the hut. Wide-eyed, he watched as Arctos strode by, accompanied by a half-dozen other young wolves. He watched, breathless, as their feet tramped past him, and remained perfectly still, hoping not to catch their notice. Merci- fully they passed him by, their sound fading as they headed to the council hut. The sweet aroma of wine wafted after them.

Shivering with relief, Lilpaw dragged himself from under the hut. He knew that the Shaman would be in the council hut until very late. Quietly he slipped past the blanket that hung in the doorway. The hut was much as he remembered it, a wild display of shapes and colors, muted now by the gathering darkness. After a brief search, he found what he was looking for atop a dusty bookshelf.

Early on in his service, he realized that the Shaman was mostly hot air and flashy tricks, but beneath his theatrics lay a core of actual magic. Most of the knowledge was held in one very old and very important book, which during his servitude Lilpaw had been forbidden to touch. Now he gently lifted the cracked blue cover and peered for the first time at the mystic secrets within.

During his burdensome years with the Shaman, Lilpaw had seen him use a concoction on crops to make them grow in times of need or famine. It could also be applied to animals that were to be slaughtered for a great feast, so that there would be meat for all. One time, Lilpaw had timidly asked the Shaman if the magic might be used on him, to make him just a little bit bigger, and he had received a sound thrashing for it.

"It's not for wolves," the Shaman had snarled at him, "and especially not for you!"

"Especially not for me," Lilpaw said sourly. "We'll see about that." Using a piece of parchment and chalk, he began to copy the fading characters. It seemed to take an eternity, and several times he was certain he could hear the Shaman's paws nearing the hut. He scrawled hastily, copying only the recipe and the words to the mystic incantation. There were other sections, tedious warnings and background information, which he ignored for fear of being discovered before finishing. Finally, with the last words of the incantation copied, he replaced the book on the dusty shelf and stole from the hut, the rolled parchment tucked tightly under his arm and his heart pounding in his ears.

Arriving back in his hut, he quietly began the preparation of the potion. He started a fire and fashioned a thin soup using herbs and other ingredients from his stores. Then he slipped out once more to gather the mosses and mushrooms which the mystic text had named. As he searched, he passed the council hut, where his pack brothers were reveling around the council fire, drinking wine and growing steadily drunk. Soon enough, he would join them.

No. Not just join them. Dominate them. He smiled broadly to himself as for the first time he allowed himself to dream not merely of equality, but superiority. Perhaps this potion would make him larger than even the mighty Arctos. If only would that work, then he would enjoy a sweet, sweet vengeance.

Finally, all of the components were in place, and Lilpaw settled down to his work. The mosses and herbs simmered in a metal pot as he read the mystic words, chanting them softly, over and over. The contents of the pot darkened to a deep forest green, but a long time passed and nothing else happened. Lilpaw began to worry that he should have copied the entire text or at least read the warnings. Perhaps he had missed some crucial step. Hours passed, until at last the potion turned thin and black and began to bubble. Eagerly, Lilpaw took it from the fire and set it aside to cool.

"Where's the bloody runt?"

Arctos's voice boomed outside the hut and shattered the calm of Lilpaw's thoughts. Concentrated upon his work, Lilpaw hadn't noticed the drunken footsteps plodding closer. The white wolf's huge form suddenly lumbered past his window and then returned, his wine-fogged gaze pinning the terrified Lilpaw against the wall. With a feral grin, Arctos gripped the window frame and began to squeeze his broad shoulders through.

"Here he is!" Arctos roared triumphantly. He crammed the rest of his body through the window, lurched forward, and snatched Lilpaw off of his feet by the scruff of the neck. Lilpaw was petrified; he wanted to yelp or squirm away, but his body refused to obey him. Arctos's leering face loomed before him, and beyond it, through the window, he could see the candlelight reflecting off of many more eager eyes as they gleefully watched the action within.

Lilpaw could only whine in terror.

Arctos was noticeably aroused, drunk as much with power as with wine. Casting about the room he spotted the little metal pot cooling rack. "What's this?" he snarled. "The runt's cooking something?" Tightening his grip on Lilpaw's scruff, he seized the pot in his other hand and peered at it closely. "Well, runt? What is it?"

The small wolf's mind reeled. He could not look the big wolf in the face. Whimpering pitifully, Lilpaw stammered, "Ink ... I've been making ink."

"Oh, really?" Arctos sneered and looked over his shoulder at the glowing eyes clustered outside the window. "Did you hear that? The runt's making ink." He barked with laughter, the sound echoed by the voices outside, and then turned back to Lilpaw. "I see. A runt like you needs ink, doesn't he? That's because a runt can't speak for himself. He has to use writing, because he can't back his words up any other way."

The breath that washed over Lilpaw's face reeked of wine and debauchery, but Lilpaw could not turn away. Arctos flashed his fangs in a savage grin and jerked Lilpaw's head back. "Hard to challenge words that are written. Here, runt -- we'd better put those words back into your mouth where they belong!"

The gang of wolves outside snickered and pointed as Arctos poured the hot liquid into Lilpaw's gaping mouth. "Swallow it, runt!" he barked. "Swallow it now!" He flung the empty pot aside and gripped Lilpaw's muzzle in one huge hand, shaking it violently. "That's better! Now you have your words back in your mouth. Let's see you back them up!"

Lilpaw gagged and choked, clawing now at Arctos's arm. The hot liquid burned his throat, its bitter taste making his gorge rise. If Arctos had not been holding his muzzle he would likely have vomited. He began to kick frantically, until Arctos finally dropped him, and he sprawled, coughing, on the floor.

Arctos kicked at the pot and crouched in a brawling stance, his lips drawn back from his teeth. "I said back them up, runt," he growled, and his eyes flashed murderously.

Wheezing, Lilpaw struggled to his feet. Fire was raging in his gut. Dull pain weakened him, buzzing in his ears. At Arctos's challenge he sank slowly into a defensive crouch, blearily looking up his opponent, who towered over twice his size. He knew that he had no choice but to fight.

The big wolf lunged forward savagely. Lilpaw dodged clumsily to the side, Arctos's blow landing upon and shattering the little worktable where Lilpaw had prepared his potion. Lilpaw watched in slow motion as an enraged Arctos spun around to face him again.

The buzzing and pain seemed to drift away, replaced by a feeling of intense warmth in his gut. His limbs tingled, almost numb, and felt strangely heavy. Peering at his own arm, it seemed swollen, as though Arctos had landed a blow upon it that Lilpaw had not noticed.

Confused, Lilpaw did not see Arctos's next blow coming. It caught him on the side of his head, spinning him about and knocking him to all fours. His ears rang as Arctos's hand slammed down atop his head and drove his chin down to the floor. He heard the sound of breeches opening, and then the scornful voice growled in his ear, "You're worthless, runt. I should kill you. But you do have one use, and it's time I taught you what it was." He felt immense weight upon his back, and then an unbearable pressure beneath his tail.

"NO!" Lilpaw threw himself backward, launching Arctos off of his back. He dimly heard Arctos slam against the wall behind him. It astonished him -- where had he found the strength to do that? More astonishing, though, was the appearance of his arms, which he held out before him with incredulous eyes.

They were growing. His whole body was growing. He could feel his bones stretching and thickening, muscle swelling upon them and pressing out from beneath his fur. Dazedly he stood and turned to face Arctos, who had struggled to his own feet and was now gaping back at him.

Time seemed to be frozen. The room was quiet. Arctos and the young wolves outside were all staring, stunned at what they were witnessing. The first sound to break the silence was a muffled ripping as Lilpaw's breech-cloth could no longer contain it's load. It was soon followed by a louder pop as its waist string gave way and the fabric fluttered to the floor.

Lilpaw's astonished expression slowly gave way to a delighted grin. Slowly he stepped out of the ruins of his breeches and then kicked them forward. They flew through the air and were caught by Arctos, who stared at them, and then at Lilpaw, and let the shredded fabric fall from his grasp. For the first time Lilpaw stared eye-to-eye with Arctos, and slowly he bared his teeth. "I am ready to back up my words."

He spoke nearly in a whisper, afraid to shatter what he feared to be a strange and longed- for fantasy. For a long moment Lilpaw and Arctos merely stood, and then, for the first time in his life, Lilpaw seized the offensive. He thrust one hand forward, grabbed a very bewildered Arctos around the neck and slammed him back against the wall, pinning him by his shoulders.

Arctos suddenly awoke to the reality that the wolf holding him was no longer the feeble runt, and he struggled to break free of the grip. Lilpaw merely held him in place, amazed at how easily he had just pinned his tribe's most powerful member.

Arctos whimpered as he realized that Lilpaw now stood taller than himself; more alarmingly, the huge hand that was pressing so painfully upon his upper chest and shoulder seemed to be growing even larger. The wall behind Arctos began to crack in a fine web-like pattern.

Lilpaw was simply holding Arctos against the wall, or so he thought. Suddenly, the wall creaked and broke outward with a snap, and Arctos tumbled back into the darkness outside.

Ecstatic, Lilpaw stepped back from the hole, his head bumping against the ceiling beam of his hut. He peered down along his body, past heavy sinews and bulges that had never before been, down toward paws that still seemed to be inching along the floor. A wild realization struck him: he, Lilpaw, had become the largest wolf who had ever lived, a giant among a race where it is the biggest and strongest who dominate. His loins began to fill with the lustful excitement, the first taste of raw power that he had ever experienced. That was when he felt, even hunched over as he was, his shoulders starting to press into the ceiling.

Outside, Arctos shook himself off, dazed at what had just transpired. His drunken friends stumbled to his side, helping him up in an awkward, mystified silence. They stood there, looking at one another, wondering if this was some wine-soaked dream, when their attention was abruptly drawn to a loud cracking sound. Not the ordinary crack of wood, like a branch broken for the fire; but a deep, guttural shock, like the first snaps before a tree is felled.

Another sharp crack followed, then another, and finally a rolling roar of splitting timber. With disbelieving eyes, they watched as Lilpaw reared up straight, the roof of his hut bursting asunder, a portion of it sliding down his back and crashing to the ground behind him.

Spreading his arms wide and rearing back, Lilpaw howled to the night sky. The sound was gigantic, echoing across the valley like a roll of thunder. The roar of his own voice surprised him. Looking down, he saw the remnants of his shattered roof flared around his waist. Farther below he could see Arctos, who was staring up at him in bewilderment, and who looked surprisingly small.

Arctos? Small?? The realization nearly dazed him, and brought a snarly smile to his face. Arctos was small. Smaller than a runt. Enjoying the moment, Lilpaw leaned over the wall and plucked the white wolf up by his scruff. Arctos's cohorts broke and scurried away, yelping like puppies.

Arctos could not move, but as soon as the massive paw gripped him, Arctos awoke from his fright and tried to kick and squirm out of the grip. Lilpaw lifted him up where he was easy to see, at eye-level. Arctos's eyes were glazed with fear, his struggles blind. Lilpaw laughed softly, drunk with the power he held over his tormentor, whose feeble blows struck his arm like raindrops. How often had Arctos held him just so while Lilpaw kicked and pleaded? How often had Arctos stood over him, his dominance-born arousal jutting out just as Lilpaw's was now? How many times had Arctos sneered at him with the same ferocity that flashed now from Lilpaw's own bared teeth?

"What's wrong, O Arctos?" he taunted. "You aren't afraid of the little old runt, are you?" He rocked his hand, making his squirming captive's head bob up and down. "Oh, you are? Why, don't be silly! I haven't given you anything to be afraid of..." He pulled Arctos closer, their noses touching. Fire flashed in Lilpaw's eyes as, in a hateful growl, he added, "...yet!"

Lilpaw turned Arctos to face outward and threw an arm around him, yanking him back against his chest. Growling, he slid the smaller wolf down his belly until Arctos's legs were straddling his engorged member. Arctos continued to struggle, beating at the furry wall behind him. He let out a pitiful whimper as he found the massive phallus thrusting forth from between his legs, like some grotesque, gigantic mockery of his own.

Lilpaw growled lustfully and dragged Arctos back up, lifting his malehood with his other hand until it nestled against his captive's tiny rump. "You do have one use," he hissed.

Arctos felt the mammoth bulk pressing against his rear, and let out a terrified yelp. The arm that crossed his chest was as hard and unyielding as an oak log, and to his horror, seemed to be growing still. He looked up pleadingly at his captor, and lost all hope of mercy when he saw Lilpaw's eyes. They were ablaze with hatred and rage. The giant was maddened by his power, and there was no force that could halt his retribution.

With a sudden and savage thrust, Lilpaw jammed his monstrous shaft into Arctos's hind end, making the white wolf jerk and howl. Lilpaw was immediately overwhelmed by the intensity of the feeling. Long had he ached to release his seed, a desire that had been constantly denied him. The pressure, the tightness around him, the agonized whimpers of his helpless tormentor sweetened the glorious moment beyond belief. The mounting rush of his power drove him wild; his thoughts dissolved into fire. Wrapping both arms now around Arctos's writhing body, he bucked his hips aggressively, stuffing his impossible bulk harder and harder into his prey.

Arctos struggled fiercely, yelping in pain and panic, unable to break Lilpaw's iron grip. His rear felt like it was on fire, and with each thrust seemed ready to split open. His head swam; he felt bloated with Lilpaw's titanic member pounding into his depths, his body straining against the increasing pressure from the ever-growing wolf behind him. Then, deep inside, he felt something yield. Pain crashed through his guts, and a red haze fell over everything.

The din of Lilpaw's vengeance had roused the entire village, and in the dim glow of the torches a crowd of astonished onlookers had gathered. Dumbstruck, they could only stand helplessly and gape at the awesome spectacle. The white wolf's body had gone limp, and as Lilpaw's head inched closer and closer to the sky, the outline of his penis began to stand forth from Arctos's swelling abdomen. Alarmed, the crowd began to back away with stiff, shuffling steps. A wet snap echoed through the night as Arctos's pelvis gave way, his hips spreading and his body curving outward to match the shape of the incredible organ.

With his head thrown back and tongue dangling lustfully, Lilpaw shifted his hands down to grip the stretching body, and the ferocity of his thrusts increased. Arctos's head fell back, and with a terrible gurgle his innards burst from his mouth. They fell down against Lilpaw's fingers with a wet slap, the sound finally breaking the spell and sending many of the onlookers scrambling away. Lilpaw groaned, pumping with his hands now, Arctos's body tearing and shredding along his length, the warm pulp greasing his fingers, and then at long last, Lilpaw released his seed for the first time.

The flood of cream exploded from him with the force of a hurricane. Lightning shot through his body, paralyzing his lungs, as wave upon wave gushed forth in glorious arcs. Years of suppressed desire crashed down on the roofs of huts and onto the heads of the suppressers.

With a delighted groan, Lilpaw finally released his member and lowered his head to survey the damage. Arctos's mutilated body was stuck, like a stretched pelt, to his fingers. Bits of bone stuck out here and there from what had been powerful muscle, Arctos's primary weapon. Lilpaw snorted at that power now, then bent to wipe his hand on what was left of his roof. He was surprised to find it below his knees. Only one wall of his house remained; his feet had pushed the others outward as they grew. Shrugging, he shook some of the wreckage from one foot and stepped forward.

Something squirmed beneath his foot as it landed. He froze, alarmed, and peered downward to see the head and arms of a tiny wolf beside his foot. The arms were flailing madly, and the face was contorted in pain and terror, the eyes bulging comically. He recognized it as one of Arctos's cronies, a toadying beta who was always eager to kick Lilpaw after Arctos had knocked him down.

Something deep inside of Lilpaw whimpered in horror at the sight, but that tiny sound was drowned by the roar of power-lust, and the fleeting moment where mercy may have prevailed was lost. Growling scornfully, Lilpaw stepped down with his full weight, savoring the sight of the little arms writhing so desperately. He felt a soft crackle, wetness spreading outward from beneath his foot as it settled heavily into the earth. The little arms fell limp. The head fell back, mouth open in a silent scream, the eyes staring blindly.

Lilpaw began to laugh. The ease with which he could now dispatch his tormentors thrilled him, further fueling his madness. He realized that he could do more than simply dominate -- he could do more than any other wolf ever had. He was a supreme being, and if these pitiful creatures displeased him, he could merely dispose of them...

...and oh, how they displeased him!

Lilpaw peered eagerly at the ground below, and saw some wolves still running; they had been the last to shake off the mesmerizing spell of his presence. His eyes fixed on two that were close by, and which looked from his height to be young males. With a gleeful bark he started after them, anxious to trample them, just as they had trampled his spirit again and again. He overtook them after only a few strides.

The wolves never knew what killed them. One moment they were running for their lives; the next they were being borne to the ground beneath a wide black pad of flesh. Lilpaw felt them pop like grapes beneath his foot, and simply walked on, leaving the bodies pressed flat behind him.

He felt fur writhing satisfyingly beneath his next step, but the yelping continued behind him. Frowning, he stopped and looked back. A wolf lay sideways on its belly in a deep footprint. Its back was broken, but its hands continued to claw feebly at the dirt. With a grunt, Lilpaw bent and pressed his thumb down hard on the tiny creature's head. The yelping ceased.

Standing again, Lilpaw put his hands on his hips and drew in a deep breath, drinking in the scents of fear and panic. The sweet aroma filled his nostrils, feeding the predatory fury within him. With wildly burning eyes he scanned the ground before him, seeking new victims. Suddenly he felt a sting in his left ankle, and cold fire shot rapidly up through his leg and into his gut. It spread to every fingertip, paralyzing him, freezing him into a living statue.

He heard the Shaman's voice, crowing victoriously, rising below him. Wolves were beginning to gather once more. He could hear their astonished murmurs at his feet. Here and there were a few whimpers and quiet howls as the dead were attended. The Shaman began to make a speech, ordering that the council convene immediately to decide what to do with the giant. Already he heard calls to kill him, mixed with voices urging that he be enslaved, his power harnessed. One voice, small and thin, begged to reason with him, but that plea was all but lost among the din.

The ice in his limbs, though, was rapidly melting, and Lilpaw soon found that he could move once more. As usual, he thought scornfully, the Shaman's potions were more bluster than substance. He realized that the ground was no longer creeping beneath his feet. Whatever poison the Shaman had given him had halted his growth, though fortunately it had diminished neither his size, nor his strength.

Lilpaw lowered his gaze slowly. The Shaman stood before him, arms upraised, glorifying in his heroics. Lilpaw's hatred for him intensified as the old wolf tried to flaunt his weak and phony power. He shifted his weight and lifted one foot, and watched as the Shaman's form slowly disappeared beneath his toes.

The old wolf moved surprisingly fast. Lilpaw felt only cool earth against his pads as his foot slammed down. Growling, he cast about among the wildly fleeing wolves, and caught sight of the Shaman's robes flapping as he ran. He stooped, reaching, and snatched the Shaman up in mid-stride. Gripping him tightly, he brought the old wolf up close to his snout. The Shaman whimpered and cowered back from the huge fangs, and the burning eyes brimming with hate.

Lilpaw quivered as he peered at his little captive. Every blow, every nip, every humiliation flashed through his mind. He bared his teeth further, his eyes locked on the Shaman's, as he slowly began to squeeze. The struggles in his fist, wild at first, began to diminish as his grip grew tighter, until the Shaman couldn't move at all. Still Lilpaw squeezed, his rage channeling into his arm, lending even greater strength to the already powerful muscles there. His fist clenched harder still. The Shaman's bones began to snap from the pressure, one at a time, each crack echoing the smack of the Shaman's staff upon Lilpaw's back.

The Shaman's body grew soft. Flesh squeezed out between Lilpaw's fingers, followed by a red squirt that splashed onto the giant's muzzle. Lilpaw licked it away, and the taste spread across his tongue, the warm flavor of the ultimate domination driving all remaining reason from him. With a low growl he opened his hand and licked the flaccid body into his mouth. It came apart easily as he chewed it.

Once it reached his empty stomach, it felt as though Lilpaw were alive for the first time. His heartbeat picked up, his excitement rising. His senses grew crisp and exacting. He swiveled his ears, hearing wolves cowering and whimpering in their hiding places. Sniffing around and carefully listening, he guessed that several of the drunken wolf brothers who had accompanied Arctos had taken refuge in a nearby hut. With a simple sweep of his arm he tore the roof away, and smiled down at three cowering wolves.

Lilpaw squatted before the hut and reached down. The three wolves scurried about the interior like mice in a cage, and Lilpaw toyed with them, seizing them by the tails and dragging them away from the window whenever they tried to bolt through it. Eventually he grew weary of the game, and blocking the window with a piece of the roof, he cornered one wolf and closed his blood-soaked fingers around its body. For all of the sincerity in its flailing, the wolf still seemed weak and powerless in Lilpaw's fist.

The tiny captive squealed in terror as Lilpaw opened his mouth and flung the wolf inside, where it flopped and writhed upon his wet tongue. Lilpaw growled and bit down slowly, tasting the hot coppery blood wash through his mouth. He chewed until the frantic twitching ceased, and then swallowed.

Lilpaw reached down and trapped the other two together in one hand, and shoved them both into his mouth at the same time. He felt them wriggling, beating on his palette and teeth. With a cruel chuckle he swallowed them both, leaving them whole, a big lump squirming down his throat and nearly making him choke. The struggling inside his stomach, brief as it was, was maddeningly pleasant, such that he nearly staggered when he rose to his feet again and cast greedy eyes down upon the remainder of the village.

Hunger can be fed in many ways. The titan's stomach growled insistently, but another growl, louder than the need for food, spoke of a different hunger, one that dwarfed his physical needs as he did his own village. It was a hunger that had been fostered in hate, nurtured by fifteen years of pain, cradled in isolation. With a deep growl Lilpaw resolved to feed his hunger tonight -- to feed all of it.

Through the night, thus, he hunted them down, one by one, plucking them from their hiding places and swallowing them alive. Through the night, the air was alive with the sounds of smashing huts, each followed by frantic screams, all abruptly cut off by a terrible gulping and a satisfied growl. As the darkness faded and the sky grew pale, the crashing of trees joined the bitter cacophony as Lilpaw searched the woods, determined not to stop the relentless hunt until all of his tormentors were joined together in his belly.

At last, his gut swollen tight with squirming and dying food, Lilpaw pushed back through the trees and stepped into the devastated village to survey his handiwork. Nothing moved among the shattered huts. The council chamber was gone, torn to pieces and scattered in every direction. Here and there lay the flattened remains of some wolf Lilpaw had stepped on in his pursuit.

Suddenly his eye fell upon a single small hut, nestled between two ruined ones near the center of the village. Lilpaw bared his teeth, enraged that even a single structure had survived his retribution. His sharp ears caught the tiniest whimper from within, and he crashed forward, snarling. With a single swipe he ripped the roof from the hut and reached inside for the lone remaining prey, and at the moment the first rays of dawn fell upon the terrified face of Adrina framed between his fingers.

Lilpaw froze, a painful lump forming in his throat. His hand slowly retreated, and he leaned forward, as if in disbelief. The fire died within him. He began to shiver uncontrollably.

Adrina was huddled against the inside of the wall, her muzzle streaked with tears, her eyes wide. She, too, was shivering. Lilpaw's mind echoed with the voice he had heard in the crowd, the one calling for mercy and understanding, and he knew now that it had been hers. He knew as well that, maddened as he had been through the night, something deep within him had been strong enough to keep him from touching this lone little hut.

Lilpaw began to reach for her again, and then realized that his hand was still caked with blood. Swallowing, his ears tucked back flat, he wiped his hand as clean as he could on his leg, and then reached once more. He lay a single finger on her shoulder, as gently as his quivering with allow. "I won't hurt you," he whispered, his voice breaking.

Adrina whimpered at him and wiped her eyes, but did not move. Gingerly, Lilpaw gathered her into his hand and lifted her from the hut. "I won't," he said again. "I promise."

She did not move at first, and then laid an uncertain hand on Lilpaw's thumb. Then she turned to look toward the rest of the village, but Lilpaw's other hand rose and blocked her view. "Don't," he said softly. He lowered his eyes. "Don't look."

Adrina stared for a moment at the huge hand, and then turned back to Lilpaw, whose own eyes were brimming with tears. She nodded slowly, and then tucked herself in a tight ball in his hand and closed her eyes. Within seconds she had fallen into an exhausted sleep.

Lilpaw sighed and wiped at his eyes with the back of his other hand. "It's done," he whispered to no one in particular. Turning, he pawed through the nearby wreckage until he found the remains of the Shaman's hut. Picking through the shambles, he was relieved to find a familiar blue-bound book, which he clutched tightly between his fingers as he stood up.

"It will be all right, Adrina," he whispered as he tucked the sleeping figure protectively against his chest. "We'll be mated soon, once you're my size."

Lilpaw turned and stepped through the rubble and into the forest, toward the morning sun. He did not look back.

© 1997, Bennie and Rogue
Arctos is © 1997, Bennie
Lilpaw is © 1997, Bennie

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