Just as he gained his footing, Thor raised an open hand. With a keen sound of whistling metal, Mjolnir jumped the short distance from belt into his waiting fist. Thor instantly crouched in a defensive position, struggling to assess the danger he knew was out there. But he saw only snow and darkness.
Then the first blow came, from behind.
It blasted him off his feet and he flew forward. Impressive, he thought as the wind was knocked out of him. He landed deftly, his boots sliding across snow, and he turned, Mjolnir already swinging.
The hammer connected with a dull thud. He pulled back again and swung, deflecting more sharp bony points larger than his hammer, curved like scimitars. Each one razor-sharp.
Billowing hot breath came from his attacker’s mouth, mixing with the wild drifts of snow. More scimitars: the jaws of a vicious and gargantuan animal. The teeth snapped at him in lunging, impossibly rapid bites. Scalding saliva dripped onto his skin. One bite came too close. As the mouth surged in again, Thor swung upwards, a blunt hammer uppercut.
Mjolnir slammed the fanged mouth shut. The beast retorted with a wild snarl and retreated into the murky depths of the blizzard.
A burst of red flame erupted. All the snowflakes in the air vaporized in a dome around them. Thor could see perfectly now. The creature was a tiger three times his size. It was growling and hissing, and a tempest of supernatural fire the color of rose petals in summer, or blood, engulfed its body.