"I can smell him," growled Saito. "I know the scent of the human who killed our child."
Bahli stopped poking her runny snout into thistles and looked at her mate. The fur around her eyes was crusted from hours of crying. "Do you sense our son?"
Saito loped over to his heartbroken wife. He had found a large tree branch earlier, and it was coated with wolf blood. He couldn't bring himself to tell Bahli their son was almost certainly dead and skinned.
"We need to move now." Saito rubbed his face against hers, trying to comfort his grieving mate. He licked some of the crust off of her swollen eyes. "Come on, the scent will be taken by the Winds."
Saito kept his nose down and his ears flattened. Bahli followed close behind, her ears pivoting at the slightest sound. A rabbit poked her head through the snow covering her hole, and froze when she spotted the two wolves. Bahli growled at the petrified prey.
"Go about your business, Hare. We are not hunting for you today."
The rabbit stayed still several minutes after the wolves passed through. She knew never to trust wolves, as they were tricksters and vicious hunters.
"Come, Bahli, there's a path through this thicket. There are many humans around, and cattle and horses came through recently." Saito took his bearings while sniffing the air. "The killer also traveled this path, towards the wooden caves the humans build. Be wary, wife."
Bahli whimpered in understanding, and began looking for humans with bang-sticks. They would be easy to spot with the world covered in a soft blanket of fresh snow. The wolves knew the humans would kill them on sight, but their thick white and grey fur would blend them into the environment better than the dead skins of deer and buffalo the humans wore.
The trail glowed with the reflection of the full moon. Several smaller paths peeled off the main trail, each one going to the front of a large square log cave the humans preferred to nest in.
Both wolves stopped. They looked around quickly, expecting to see a party of murderers with bang-sticks bearing down on them. A large dog trotted towards them from the rear of the log structure they had just passed.
The wolves stayed perfectly still, waiting for the dog to come close. He was an older dog, and his accent was difficult for the couple to understand at first.
"Why are ya doin' aroun' me Master's house?" The dog was smart, and kept his distance from the predators. "Thar nay be young fer ya ta steal. Git back ta ya forest."
Saito bared his teeth. "Our son was taken. We claim right of revenge."
The dog took three steps back. "Are ya daft? T'aint no fur stealin' Masters here. They hunt like us, an' eat what they kill."
"I am tracking one child killer through this trail. If your Masters are not involved, we will not trespass," said Saito. "You have our word."
They turned their backs to the old dog, and began tracking the scents again. The dog wagged his tail goodbye, but followed at a distance until they had cleared his Master's land.
The trail continued for another mile, and the scent split off on a minor path towards a huge wooden structure. The smell of horses and cattle almost overwhelmed Saito. He whispered a quick "Shhh" to Bahli, and entered the wooden cave.
The horses were laughing about the stupid antics of the cows. The cows eyed the brash horses moodily, slowly chewing the cud they burped up. The wolves crept past the stalls.
A smaller den made of stacked straw bundles filled the back of the cavern. The scent was very strong, and it was mingled with the stench of blood – wolf's blood.
His hackles up, Saito readied himself to pounce on the murderer. He rounded a corner, and before him sat a human child, its back towards the angry wolves. Wrath enveloped Saito, and his whole body tensed for the kill.
A little fuzzy face peered around the leg of the human. "Hi, Dad!" it yelped.
Bahli howled, and Saito barely checked his attack. The human spun around quickly, and her eyes widened in fear. She scooted back from the advancing wolves, until her back was against the straw-bale wall.
"My son! Oh, my son!" moaned Bahli.
Saito composed himself. "Did the human hurt you, son?"
"No, Father," said the pup, and he limped to his parents. His head was slick from a foul-smelling ointment, and his leg was still bleeding slightly. "A branch fell on me while I was practicing hunting Hares, and I was rescued by this female human child. Her father told her to kill me, but she brought me to her den to heal my wounds."
Bahli began licking at her son's injuries. His wounds were serious, but he would survive. She picked him up by the scruff of the neck. She looked towards Saito, and then glanced purposely at the human child.
Saito grumbled low in his throat and advanced on the little girl. She was too scared to scream. Her head shaking, she tried to push herself further into the straw bale. He put his nose on hers, sniffed once, and then licked her face in thanks.
He turned, leaving the shocked child trembling in fear. They sprinted past the surprised horses and cows, heading back up the trail towards the forest. As they ran past the next house, the old dog barked in glee when he saw the pup dangling in Bahli's mouth.
The human child and the wolf pup slept peacefully in the arms of their parents that night.