The Grizzly lifted her head.
There was the tiniest hint of a smell on the breeze that immediately got her attention, filling her veins with adrenaline ready for flight.
Both cubs behind her froze, alerted by her body posture to the danger.
Breathing deep, she drew in a thousand scents to her sensitive nose, but each one she dismissed as normal… an assortment of grasses, leaves, insects, animals that had passed recently… the usual orchestra that marked high summer.
Although she could not pick up that tiny hint of danger that had frozen her ambling route through the high mountains she remained cautious. She sensed she was being stalked… or at least her cubs were.
What would dare hunt a Grizzly’s cubs?
Only another Grizzly… a hungry male perhaps. But the smell had not been familiar to her experienced nose.
Rising to her hind legs she tasted the air in every direction but there was no further hint of a threat. Behind her the cubs grew bored and started play-fighting.
After a while, although still on edge, she lowered herself back down and continued her way up the mountainside.
The big female Grizzly knew these high mountains well, travelling through most years with at least one cub in tow. Her wanderings took her downslope into a meadow between massive boulders that was lush with soft, flowering grasses and groundcover. She lowered her head and began grazing, her cubs just behind copying her.
It was not warm milk though so soon they grew bored and began playing again, chasing each other around and flattening the grass where they rolled.
She let them play. There was more than enough grass to fill her belly as she wandered through the meadow. She soon became lost in the pleasure of the sun on her back and a filling belly, forgetting her rambunctious cubs for a time.
Then, under the sweet smell of the flowers and green, that smell tingled at her consciousness again.
Instantly she rose to her hind legs and looked around. Where were the cubs?
She called and thankfully both called back. She turned to see them charging towards her across the meadow. A movement caught her eye off to the side and she saw the source of that smell for the first time.
It was an almost full-grown Sasquatch! And it was running directly towards her trailing cub!
With a furious roar she dropped onto all fours and began charging towards them, trying to reach her cubs before the Sasquatch did.
But she was too late. The Sasquatch reached one long, hairy arm towards her cub. She roared again, trying to interrupt its focus. Thankfully, at the last moment her cub swerved and just managed to avoid the grasping fingers.
She chomped her jaws towards its reaching arm but the Sasquatch leapt aside, narrowly missing her powerful teeth. Skidding to a halt she turned and faced the beast, her cubs huddling protectively behind her massive bulk.
The Sasquatch had likewise stopped, unwilling to give up its meal. It shifted from one foot to the other, trying to see the cubs behind her. The Grizzly could see it was young and hungry looking. Its ribs stood out beneath powerful, youthful muscles, giving it a desperate, lean look. It must have lost its pack… or been driven out.
She rose to her hind feet again, trying to dominate it with her sheer size. But despite her weight advantage it was as tall and seemed unperturbed by her power… still trying to spot the cubs behind her.
She roared, a sound which made it flinch but it still did not back away. It truly must be desperate. Its eyes glanced at her again then with astonishing speed it tried to run around her.
But it underestimated her reach. She swiped and caught it a glancing blow across its chest, which was enough to slow the beast and prevent it from grabbing any of her cubs. Grimacing it held a hand to its wounds, the blood spreading into and dripping between its fingers.
It looked at her again and snarled its rage at being hurt. A deep growl reached her ears and the Grizzly recognised this would be a fight to the death now. All bears, even Grizzlies as large as herself fled from Sasquatch, but her cubs were at stake and this one was not a fully grown male. It circled and she turned to stay facing it, her cubs at her flank.
She roared again, spittle from her protective anger hitting the beast in the face. Before she finished it roared its reply, almost drowning her own out with its power. Then it launched itself towards her. She met it with claws and teeth.