To users I know on fp: you may have seen this story before, but I removed it a while ago and it needed adjustments. I've got nothing else to do so I'm posting it.

To users I don't know: enjoy it!

The moon was at its pinnacle, radiant white illuminating the clouds that hurried across the sky in front of it. It looked down onto a mass of rugged hills carpeted in a forest of old.

Pines dominated the gentle slopes, a bare deciduous tree punctuating them here and there. It was winter, and a thin layer of delicate snow lay on the ground. The wind howled in and out of the trees, its cold teeth biting any creature it found.

Nature teemed within the forest, for it never rested.

The tired, day animals had withdrawn to their burrows, holts and nests. The nocturnal ones awoke when darkness was creeping into the evening, and began their daily doings with eyesight sharp and perceiving.

But there are some animals that may not rest once the day or night is over. A solitary wolf wound through the trees, her pant heavy and her shoulders sagging with fatigue. Her silvery grey-brown back was mottled with dark winter fur on her neck, shoulders and rump. Occasionally it might glimmer slightly with the moonlight, but when she re-entered darkness she merged with the shadows.

A possum foraging with a quivering nose heard the wolf approach. Alarmed, it scurried up the nearest tree and into a high branch. Its predator glided on below unaware of how close it had been to a meal. She was not hunting, but to chance upon a small creature would be welcome respite to her persistent hunger.

She continued on her way, though it would be a while until the shaking possum returned to its forage.

The wolf lifted her muzzle to the air and assessed the scents. Satisfied that she was no longer being followed, her attention focused on the need to find a resting place. Only now, as she changed her gait to conserve energy, did it become apparent that her belly was swollen with the next generation.

With the need of shelter came the need of food. She crept quieter and more slowly, her attentive nostrils seeking out the strong scents of prey.

It was not long before she smelt hare. She slavered, the thought of tender flesh torn by her teeth almost making her burst into a run. But skill and knowledge of hunting kept her under control and she edged ahead, where an unwary snowshoe hare pawed at the snow to reach the meagre grass below.

Before long, with utmost patience and self-containment, the wolf was close enough for a short bolt. Every paw she lifted and replaced on the snowy ground was tense and silent. Her yellow eyes were narrowed with concentration, and her fur rippled with the excitement of the hunt.

Summoning precious energy, she launched her ambush and leaped towards the startled hare. Her accuracy and patience paid off; the rabbit had been left with little chance of escaping even when its ambusher was hindered with pregnancy.

It was so wonderful to feel warm meat on her tongue again, to feel it tear under her fangs and slide down her throat to satisfy her cavernous belly. How she loved to crunch the bones and taste the marrow as well. She ate almost all of the hare, discarding the glassy eyed head and spitting out the paws.

Droplets of blood stained the muddy-white ground as the wolf finished her meal. Licking her lips to taste flesh a few more times, she began her walk again. Now her belly felt even heavier though the hare had not weighed much.

It was nearly midnight when the wolf sought a suitable shelter in which to serve a great purpose: to harbour a mother in her time when she was bringing new life into the world.

The place she had found was sheltered by a tall, outreaching pine. At the bottom of its trunk lay a disused burrow, wide and dry. The wolf sampled the air around it; though she smelt a faint, familiar smell, it was clear that no other creature had used the burrow for a while.

Pleased with her discovery, the wolf crawled into and along the tunnel, entered the chamber, and began to settle down for a turbulent night of pain before the birthing.

It was clear that another animal had made use of the chamber already; bones of small creatures were littered around the floor, and bark and moss scattered amongst them gave a notion that it was another wolf that had inhabited the place before.

At peace for the night at last, the wolf rested her weary head and attempted a light sleep. But it was not long before the labour pains started, and the life she had been carrying in her belly for many days began to make their slow journey into the world.