Meadhbh huddled over a makeshift fire, her back facing the wind that howled through the forest around her.  The small flame had already been extinguished by the wind and lack of dry wood more than once, and this one threatened to die as well with every frigid gust.  She shivered as the cold had begun settling in her bones, and she knew that she needed to find better shelter, or even better, the rest of her hunting party, or she would not make it home.  The winter had been especially hard on her clan, and a desperate need for food had forced their hunting parties farther and farther away from Bryn Euryn in an effort to hunt game.  Just that morning, they had all given chase to a scrawny looking deer, but in the unfamiliar territory, Meadhbh had lost her way.

A long, low howl sounded through the forest, and Meadhbh’s head snapped up, the lull of the cold temporarily forgotten.  Shortly thereafter, another howl followed, and then another.  Wolves.  She stood slowly and hefted her spear with her stiffened fingers.  Her fire gave one last pitiful flicker, and died at her feet.  Her breath puffed out from grayed, chapped lips in the twilight darkness.  Another howl, this one much closer, echoed across the small clearing.

In the fog of exhaustion, Meadhbh did not realize that she was running for several moments.  A thought drifted upwards, what am I doing?  I don’t even know where I’m going.  But she didn’t stop.

Her panicked flight through the forest was cut short by an errant root that caught her foot, sending her sprawled face down on the ground.  She briefly tested her ankle and found that miraculously, she had not injured herself in the fall.  She started to stand to hunt for her spear, then froze.  Not ten yards away, a pair of glowing, golden eyes shone out from the darkness.  The eyes blinked slowly, then were joined by two more pairs of similarly golden eyes.  The eyes loped closer until the shapes of large gray wolves formed around them.  The largest of the three shadows snarled.

I am dead, Meadhbh thought.  Better to go out in battle, but my spear…I am so tired.  Where are the other nine?  I only see three?

She could not see her lost weapon in the darkness.  Deep in the fog of her thoughts, she wondered how she knew that there were twelve wolves nearby, but instead of dwelling on it, her thoughts turned inward, and images of family came unbidden to her mind.  Father…Bradan….Marcus…

Pack.  ?.

Meadhbh blinked.  The largest wolf had ceased snarling and was regarding her quizzically.

Pack.  ?.

Am I going mad?  She thought, and nearly laughed out loud when the large wolf whuffed impatiently, and once again, her family came to mind.  “Pack,” she creaked out hoarsely.  “Den.”

Meadhbh held her breath as the beast sniffed the air and began circling her slowly.

Den.  !.

The wolf turned, his tail wagging ever so slightly.  He stopped as he nodded once towards a small footpath.

Den.  ..

Meadhbh stood and took several tottering steps down the path.  The wolves left her then; she didn’t even need to see them go.  She knew.  She could feel it.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

A low howl was the only response.