Wolf stalked through the cold forest. The sky aboves was as grey as his coat. The trees were bare of leaves and reached up into the sky like cold, dead claws. They wanted to cut through the clouds to the warm sun that would bring spring. That season was far off though. It was cold and the nights long. It was the season of the wolf.
Frosted leaves crunched under his paws. Each breath turned into a curling ghost. His gleaming yellow eyes peered between the trees in search of his prey. The scent was growing stronger. He sniffed again, and the world came alive. It was like being able to see into the past, the faded image of a memory. He knew every step his prey had taken and its twisting trail through his wood.
He continued along the host trail. The baren oaks formed a line ahead. He could see beyond the sentinel wall that a small glade was open to the dim sun. In warmer weather it would be a lush meadow. There were no birds to sing the songs of summer though. Instead dead grass whipped about in the frigid breeze.
Standing in the glade was his query. The great stag was a massive specimen. He had seen many summers. Even as the season grew late, he still bore his antlers. A massive rack of points that marked him as a successful buck. Now, though, his head was bent with the weight of years. His steps were weak and his breathing ragged. He gave a cough that sent a cloud spiraling through the air.
Wolf stepped into the glade and padded towards his query. This was an elder of the forest, not some yearling to be ran down. Hart raised his head as he saw Wolf approach. He scrapped at the ground with his hoof.
“You have come for me, Wolf,” said Hart.
“Yes, Old One, I have,” Wolf replied, “You have seen many turns of the season.”
“Many, perhaps too many,” Hart said, “I am old. I am tired and feel my strength slipping away.”
“Are you in pain?” asked Wolf.
“Yes. My body is sore and my injuries are many. In my youth I ran often from your kind. I outran them all. Now though, I cannot run. My legs will not carry me. I have grown sick and weak. There is something in me that is taking away my strength,” said Hart.
“Blight has come to you, I can smell it. If you continue on it will spread to trouble more of your kind,” Wolf told him.
“I have sired many fawns. I would not wish this to spread on to them. Now is my time. I wish to pass with my pride and dignity,” said Stag.
“That is why I am here. I have come to see your passing. I will end your pain,” said Wolf.
“I understand. It is my time now and I shall go back to the earth from which I came,” said Hart.
“You will nurture the grass and your kind, as you and your kin shall nurture me,” said Wolf.
“Then let us finish this!” said Hart as he reared up, his front hooves raking the air in a final burst of energy. His antlers gleamed as a thing ray of sun broke the clouds to glint off of the frost that covered them.
Wolf bared his fangs as he growled. His fur bristled in predatory furry. Iron muscles tightened and he leapt through the air. His bone crushing jaws opened wide as they sped towards the stag’s throat, his alabaster fangs shining in the cold light. Tonight he would sing the Old One’s praise to the moon.
The cold dead ground was nurtured then by hot, red life.