Darkhound trotted through the forest and enjoyed the young night. He had changed to his canine shape. Thus none of the forest's almost intoxicating scents escaped him. Short before dawn, a mild, warm rain came down. It ended soon enough for a glorious sunset, but intensified all scents to remarkable clearness. Darkhound believed that he could smell every tree and bush, every animal in this vast forest. Over there a small herd of deers grazed. Darkhound toyed with the thought of a little hunt for fun, but let it gone. This night was too peaceful.
A low, melodious sound of a horn far away. He pricked up his ears. It seemed someone other was going to a hunt. He glanced to the starry sky and continued his way. The thought occured to him that he didn't know where he was or how he came to this place, but he dismissed it as unimportant. 'This is a magic night', this thought filled him with great comfort. And how to answer the horn sang again.
The leaves rustled in a breeze and stroke his fur. He strolled over the soft forest ground. It was a sensual pleasure he never thought possible. The breeze became stronger. Darkhound glanced over his shoulder. Silvery flashes in the moonlight. One, two... several silent shades, followed by a few greater ones. Riders? Abruptly the horn sounded anew, this time shrill and full of triumph. The Hunt found its quarry.
Sudden terror froze him, then instinct took over. He leapt over a fallen tree and ran. And while he ran, his senses were sharper than ever before. He knew that the deers fled, a fox hid in the earth and less than a mile behind them - the Wild Hunt. His paws did't seem to touch the forest ground. They must not catch him. This knowledge burnt in his mind. Other half-conscious thoughts touched him. Should he not run with the pack instead to be its prey? He ignored that. The hounds behind him were not his kind. He must flee from them.
Racing through brambles and leaping over obstacles, ignoring thorns and scrapes, already panting he tried desperately to shake off his pursuer. To no avail, the hunting howls stayed close, too close. Then the breeze brought him the smell of water, finally his keen ears catched the sound of a stream in a stony bed. He heeded this way. Maybe he got a chance to hide his trail.
Now all remaining strenght laid in the effort to extend the lead on the baying pack. Blood thundered in his ears, his lungs labored and he raced through the night incredible fast. Clouds veiled the moon and the growing shadows made the path treacherous. Stumbling over stones he sprinted over some hills, barely avoiding a fall.Suddenly he lost the ground under his feet. A cliff, he thought before he plunged in the stream.
This stream came from the mountains and his water was icy. He was swept away. The waters whirled his body around and hurled him against rocks. He fought to stay on the surface, but gulped a lot of water. Worse, the ice cold chilled his muscles and their strenght drained away. A bend brought him nearer to a shore. Gaining ground under his feet, he dragged himself exhausted ashore. There he lied long moments, still half in the water.
He was hardly able to rise, however he must, else the cold would kill him. Stumbling along the shore he stayed in the water. The sharp rocks and stones cut his paws, but he didn't want to leave a scent. He found a brook ending in the stream and followed it upwards. After an eternity, or so it seemed to him, he reached a lake and here he could leave the water finally. He scanned the night sky. Midnight must be over. By now he would be save from the hunters. They couldn't have followed him trough the stream. Finding a comfortable place under a great oak root, he dropped down and sleep came fast.
A soft, melodious sound washed over him, a almost dreamy call of a horn. A horn! The sudden realization let him jump. They were all here. The pack has circled him, the riders in some distance. Now he had a good look at them. Glowing red eyes, silver-white fur, lean frame and they seemed very hungry. "You gave us a good chase, black one. Now the prize is our." The hornplayer signaled the hounds. "He belongs to you, girls." The pack leader came as first, calmly and purposefully. Darkhound shuddered as her scent reached him. He crouched down and tried to defend himself. It helped him nothing at all.
She glanced back over the lake to their last victim. It has been a wonderful hunt with a most satisfactory end. Then she looked up to her friend, the hornplayer. His smile mirrored her thoughts. A pity that he hadn't four pawns. But she and her sisters had made the best of this night. She sent a last thought back: "A pleasure to have met you, black one." Finally they all vanished and became the morning mist in the valleys.
The sunrise brought his golden light over the forest. It banished the mist and tickled a black hound's nose. Groaning he opened his eyes and blinked in the light. A terrible night was over, a dream turned in a nightmare. Only it was not a dream. He felt stiff and aching, the paws hurt like hell and his neck and ears were studded with dozends of bites. The white... ladies... had subdued him thoroughly. He wondered if this night's result would be white, black, gray or more dalmatian-like. And with this thought he awoke really...