My universe has become nothing but white noise. The wind tosses up blinding sheets of snow, and I cannot hear my own heart beat over its scream. My partner, Star Colonel Steinn Devon, is walking not even two meters away, and yet I can barely see him; the dogs are only slightly more visible. The chilly metal of my spear is biting, even through the thick gloves I am wearing. The rest of my outfit is not much better at keeping the cold at bay.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Steinn Devon suddenly stop. He points, and I look. Both canines have paused, their heads tilted into the air. They bound forward, barking and baying, and I turn to Steinn to see him looking back at me. We both know what that means; with wordless agreement we charge after them.
The racket the dogs are making is whipped away by the gales. The only warnings we get that something is wrong is a spray of snow that doesn't quite follow the current pattern and a high-pitched howl of pain that somehow reaches our ears.
Even in the clearest weather, its completely white body would have made it practically invisible. The only thing we can clearly see now is its maw, covered in fresh blood. And even with the month of preparation we had gone through beforehand, even though I am a warrior, bred and trained all of my life for combat, my heart stops as I look into its pale eyes.
We are merely two humans, with two primitive spears and now one hunting dog, against a ghost bear, the apex predator of the deadliest region on Strana Mechty.
It lifts itself onto its hind legs, a towering five meters, and lets out a roar that seems to jostle our organs before throwing itself at Steinn. He leaps out of the way with centimeters to spare, and the bear turns on me, throwing out dagger-like claws to eviscerate me. I backpedal, avoid the claws, and whip my spear around, aiming for the space right above the crimson splotch, where the eyes would be.
I hit, just enough for it to reel back and give Steinn a chance to counterattack. He aims his spear for its heart and charges forward, but the beast starts rising to its hind legs again, causing him to go low. The spear sticks and gets wrenched out of his hands. It flails and knocks him down with swipe of its paw, but before it can bring its fangs down on him the dog bites into its heel. As it is distracted again, I move, digging my spear into its side as Stein grabs his spear, shifts it, and pushes it further.
The bear collapses, and after a few minutes, becomes still.
We catch our breath, and settle next to the body. When the storm abates, we will drag the bear back to where we began our trek.
And we will celebrate.