They passed the firepit. Ursoth quickened his pace, finding scant morsels not rendered tasteless by a covering of wood shavings, and was making a beeline for the large western doors that sat opposite the kitchen. He well remembered the larder and the many treats hand fed to him by his master. His paws were ringed with sawdust, as was his muzzle, and he gave a great sneeze, then stopped and sat. With both forepaws he wiped away the shavings from around his ticklish nose then gave a wide yawn. His jaws closed with a snap and he dropped back to all fours. As he did so an errant breeze trailed a beckoning finger of a scent before him. He rose, then stood high on his hind legs, his front paws dangling half-bent at his chest, his nose twitching as it sought the elusive spoor carried by the current of air. At first it played a game of there-then-not. Ursoth's head weaved a pattern back and forth as he tried to catch it, only to lose it many times.
The wind, flowing across the hill and over the roof and down through the hall shifted and the scent came once again. This time Ursoth caught it true and followed its course back toward the dimly lit entrance of the Great Hall. He breathed it in, drawing a deep lungful, and it set his fur to rise. A growl began, sonorous and low, then erupted in a harsh plangent roar. He smelled the scent of man and he voiced his displeasure.
* * *
Nosnra started at the sound. He had been lost in a fragment of his past, distracted once again. Ursoth cried out afresh and began a stiff-legged march toward the long entranceway.
"Ursoth!" Nosnra called out in command. His voice stopped the bear in its tracks but its eyes still sought out the origin of the scent and its nose pointed compass-like down the hall. "What is it boy?" Nosnra called to his pet, "What do you see?"
Ursoth replied with a growl, but he obeyed and moved no further.
Nosnra, his wandering thoughts recalled and his memories shut back into the past, stepped forward, pushing aside a long bench that, lying askew, blocked his way. It screeched with the sound of wood on wood leaving a fresh gouge among the old, a crisscross pattern etched into the floor. Down the hall some form in motion disengaged itself from the shadows. A hill giant or so it appeared. Nosnra squinted but could not clearly discern its features; the dark still hid the giant partially from view.
"Who's there!" he demanded.
The figure raised a spectral arm and waved a greeting then turned and slowly began to walk back the way it had come.
"Hold!" Nosnra shouted at the retreating figure. It heeded him not, only quickened its pace, though it did not yet run. The feeling of unease assailed him in a wave. This was no kindred, but an apparition of some sort. As the thought entered his mind, the figure wavered in form, became translucent with a small shadowy outline as its base, the larger shape projected outward. Then it solidified and was once again the retiring back belonging to one of his own kind. Nosnra raced in pursuit, upending a long table whose edge punched painfully into his hip and then the bench splintered beneath him as the stunning blow knocked him from his feet.
Ursoth galloped behind, torn momentarily between his master's command and the desire to be at his side. His desire was greater than his obedience. The bear harkened to the call of loyalty within him, no command would hold him, he would set tooth and claw against his master's foe.