Aden was running for his life. The howls and snarls from the pack reverberated off the trees. Lungs bursting, heart pumping, and legs shaking he careered on desperately, losing count of the number of times he fell and pushed to his feet. The gammas who were chasing him were getting nearer. His skin crawled with trails of blood from where the branches had cut his body, and he cried out in pain as his bare foot caught on some creepers and catapulted him headlong to the ground. Exhaustion shook his arms as he tried to push himself up, but a bolt of agony through his ankle kept him on the floor. Dizziness, pain, and hopelessness swirled around him.

He hung his tired head. He was done, he couldn’t fight anymore. Months of imprisonment, starvation, and torture for the Alpha’s amusement had all led to this moment—the Ceremonial Hunt to mark the acceptance of a new alpha was to the death—his death. His thin, bare shoulders shook as he heard the wolves surround him, but it was the overpowering hatred that assaulted him. Hatred—in every look, in every word, and finally in every punch.

He lifted his eyes heavenwards, half searching, but it was futile. He didn’t believe in any super beings—the enchanted that had been whispered about by his grandparents—Sirius’ magical wolves that would bring about the order that mankind needed, the balance. There was no mythical being to save Aden. He would be dead before Sirius ascended, and as he peered to the east, he knew it wouldn’t be long until the earth’s brightest star shone.

As the wolves circled, and brought with them their familiar stench, Aden’s head echoed with his mother’s entreaties to run and his father’s pleas to the alpha to spare him. It had done no good, and if he’d known their blood would have been sacrificed to mark the start of the hunt, he would have done his best to stop them saying anything. At least he would have been spared the sight of the alpha and his gammas ripping their flesh as they were butchered.

“That’s right,” the booming voice of the old Alpha sounded. “Cower like the filth that you are. You’re completely useless, boy. We’ve had no sport at all.” He’d clearly shifted back, and by the sniggers and taunts so had some of the pack. Aden hung his head; he knew better than to attempt to reason.

“I think that would depend on your definition of sport.” The forest suddenly went silent at the new voice. Aden gazed upwards towards the speaker, a man, his voice practically vibrating with anger. The hair on Aden’s arms prickled with the fury that swept around the clearing, and while Aden had cowered at the sound of the Alpha’s voice, this one sent chills through his body as each word resonated through the forest.

Aden zeroed in on the huge man leaning casually on a tree. His jet black hair fell over his smooth, tanned face, and he was huge, at least six foot five—hell the man’s body was nearly the width of the tree trunk he leaned against, his shirt material straining against his biceps as he casually crossed his arms. He was clothed, that in itself a crushing disappointment as his clothing marked him as obviously human—and the man didn’t smell like a shifter. All Aden’s pack smelt like the Alpha—musty, like something was decaying. Their humanity, Aden thought, feeling helpless.

All the shifters including himself were naked. Whatever clothes they were wearing either discarded or destroyed as the hunt started and they shifted. Aden was naked because that’s how he had been imprisoned. He hadn’t been allowed clothes for such a long time. For one second…Aden shook his head, angrier that the man had given him a tiny kernel of hope, only to be crushed. He was clearly a powerful man, but no man was a match for any wolf shifter, never mind a whole pack. He would be ripped apart, and Aden had had enough of people being slaughtered because of him that day. He had to try distracting the wolves. He had to let the human go.

Aden tried not to wince as he managed to get up. He focused away from the constant pain that made him feel sick—as if he had any food in his stomach to make him so. He didn’t think he had been fed for at least two days, and the ever present hunger made it very hard to mark the passing of time.

“Alpha Richard,” he said, “ignore the man, he doesn’t understand. I will try again and will be better sport this time.”

Aden ignored howls of laughter that surrounded him. Wolves were supposed to be better than humans, he’d been taught their superior strength and speed was a gift of the gods, and just because the others chose to ignore the old teachings didn’t mean he had to. No one else was going to die today because of him. The human pushed himself away from the tree.

“Sport?” The stranger spat the word with contempt.

Aden almost shook his head. The stupid man was digging his own grave. Humans had known about wolf shifters for years, had even tried to contain the packs in smaller designated areas, ignoring traditional pack land boundaries, and when that hadn’t worked humans and wolves had chosen to ignore each other, their existence buried with each passing century, but just because Aden had been taught to mistrust humans for years didn’t mean he wanted to see one of them die.