Lycaon poured a cup of tea. It was late evening and the stars were out, twinkling in the dark sky. The moonlight filtered through the gap in the roots and Lycaon stared up through it at the silver moon like a beacon in the sky. He was sure Caddie was looking at the same moon that night, foxes being how they were.

It had been four nights since Caddie had shown up on Lycaon’s root-step. Since then he was preparing for winter; gathering local medicinal herbs for colds and flu, packing dirt tightly into any loose gaps to keep out the cold, and, of course, stocking up on tea.

He took a sip of the warm tea, savoring the taste he so loved. I wonder how Caddie’s getting along.

His ears detected a slight shift on the ground above him. “Probably a deer brushing a fallen leaf,” he said aloud, setting his cup down. It was now empty.

“No deer,” came a snarl from above.

Lycaon didn’t turn around, but his paw strayed to the teacup. “Who are you?” he asked gruffly.

“You don’t need to know that.” A second voice. Female.

“I think I do, if you want to gain entry to my home.”

“Fine.” Lycaon heard someone drop to the dusty ground of the hole, followed by another. “We’re the Hunters.”

Lycaon tried not to show his fear. Wolves don’t show fear, he remembered his mother telling him. Wolves are proud. We don’t let our enemies know we are afraid.

“And what are you looking for?” Lycaon retorted, pushing the quaver out of his voice.

“I think that’s enough questions from you,” the male Hunter barked coldly. Two more sets of paws dropped through the hole.

Lycaon still didn’t turn around. “What do you want?” he growled.

He heard a groan from the lead Hunter. “Looks like we’ve got a Smart One who disobeys orders.” The others snickered, and Lycaon could barely hold back from tearing them to shreds.

“I’ll tell you what we want.” The Hunter was right behind him now. “We want the shifter. And you’re going to tell us where the shifter is.”

“Or what?”

“I’m glad you asked.” He could tell a distinctly menacing grin had spread over the Hunter’s face. “We don’t have a hybrid wolf yet. If you don’t help us find her for our experiments, we’ll take you instead.”