I came to my senses within the frozen, dark forest. Grotesque shadows revolved around me, echoing the shattered light of the moon. I knew not from where I came, but only that I should move on. The snow was heavy, pounding the earth as an animal (A bird?) flew from its perch on the branches. Looking above, I saw its silhouette disappear into the night, darkness absorbing darkness.
My body shivered as white breath escaped my lips. I wrapped my arms beneath the flaps of my cloak, seeking any warmth. Bangles hung from my wrists, and a lone ring embraced my finger. My thoughts could not return to it. I rubbed my thumb against the warm ring, pushing it up and down, rotating it. The bangles clashed beneath my robes, and not wanting to draw attention, I pressed my arms against my body.
I ached for companionship.
The depth of snow made it difficult to walk, as my feet sank deeper with each step. Portions of the snow melted, soaking my clothing, then freezing again. If I were to collapse here, I would surely die. Cold bit my skin, and darkness consumed my soul. A shadow among shadows, I dared not disturb the creatures that crept around me. I was not prepared, though I thought I could have defended myself, if I were in a different situation.
A wolf pack stared at me from the distance, watching my weakness. Their hungry eyes pierced the landscape, following my body alone. I turned my head to see behind myself, watching them as they watched me. Born hunters, and I was in their domain. A trespasser; a dinner. Winter nights quickened hunger, and I, too, found my belly aching. I continued walking, hoping they would not see my weakness.
The night, for all of its dangers, was beautiful; I remember, thinking to myself at the time. The moon hid among the trees, revealing its face only to hide once again. The stars shimmered like quiet lights. I reached out to these fire folk; my naivety thinking if I could then something–
I noticed one of the bangles that hung from my wrist. It was like a ring of thorns, decorated with, though I could not see but assumed, a rose. Wheeling it around my wrist, I felt the ornamental thorns scrape along my fingers. It comforted me. Perhaps I had done this before; I did not know. My thoughts refused to return to me.
I looked once more into the night sky. The celestial heavens above me wheeled in their infancy. Their youth was the oldest thing man could see. The fire folk hung there, playing in the sea of the dark abyss. A comet swam through them, leaving ripples. The ancient abyss above grasped my sight, as I felt weakness overtake my body.
Darkness overcame me. My body felt numb and cold. Snow fell onto my robes as I tried to lift myself.
I wanted to sleep. If I slept now, I could recover some strength. I could continue in the morning, when there was daylight. It was not too long away, surely, only a moment’s respite. That was all I needed. A small slumber, I told myself.
My eyes did not close, but the darkness loomed over me, waiting; waiting to see what I would do or not do. A patch of snow fell from the trees, splattering on my face. I sat upright from the cold shock. My senses had dulled. Sight returned slowly. The shattered light rose from a chaotic darkness as I peered around, with formless things in distance. The world was quiet for a time, until those creatures drew closer, bearing the growl of the wolves.
The largest wolf preyed on me. His jaws bared thirsting fangs, snarling his lips. Unable to flee, I searched for a switch among the snow. The wolves circled me as the larger wolf came closer. I would die here, torn limb from limb. It would be a disgrace for someone like me.
A disgrace? The thoughts of anger seared through my mind, though I did not know why.
The bangle of thorns grew around my wrist, wrapping around my arm. It intersected among itself, like a wild plant that grows among decayed buildings. My arm grew stiff, pointing itself towards the large wolf. My voice bellowed, though it was not mine:
Nestling Shadow of Old
Through the King’s sign told
Ten fold, thousand fold
Weave the thorn’s hold
Thorn branches surged from the snow, encircling me. The wolves would not be able to lunge at my back or sides, though there was an opening in the wall–A deliberate showcasing of the large wolf that intended to pounce me. The wolf panicked and yelped as thorn branches encircled the beast, snaring its feet then its ribs. The thorns must have pierced flesh, for I saw blood dripping down the branches.
“It’s the magician! It’s the magician! Please, please, let us go! We didn’t know. We didn’t know!”
The wolves in the pack began to yelp, crying out to let him go. Taken aback, I retracted my hand, though it had moved on its own before. The thorn branches around me fell to the snow, decomposing like leaves. The large wolf before me stumbled, as another wolf came to it, licking its sides.
“Forgive us, forgive us. We saw you in the distance, and thought you were the death. We did not know you were the magician.”
I was unsure of what to say. Wolves were speaking to me.
“Me, a magician?”
“We’ll say it again. We’ll let all the forest folk know. Yes, yes! Beware. Beware the death, magician. That we hunted. Yes, magician! We didn’t know. We didn’t know. Mercy, mercy!”
Its body trembled as the other wolves looked to each other, unsure of what to do. Their ears were folded down, and their tails tucked between their legs. I reached for the wolf to comfort it, but it pulled back in fear.
“Please, mercy mercy! We didn’t know, we didn’t know!”
It darted off behind the trees, leaving a small trail of its blood. The other wolves yelped as they, too, ran off.
“Wait, come back!”
They were gone. Everything had become complicated as the fire folk danced in their infancy above me.