I crept through the forest, following the trail of blood that was sure to lead me to my prey. I stepped lightly over brush and branches making only muffled crunches in the pine-needles under my feet. The further I walked the more anxious I became; if I couldn't find this deer, we may not have enough time to hunt again before winter. I winced as I felt the claws of a lifeless branch grab ahold of my long braid of chestnut hair. Sighing, I put my search on hold for a moment to untangle it.
As I struggled to free my intricately entangled hair, my trained ears caught the sound of brush being disturbed. Quickly, I painfully ripped my braid free and got my bow ready. I went towards the sound, hoping it was my deer. A part of me doubted it, for surely it was dead by now; my arrow made its mark quite unquestionably. A wave of relief washed over me and warmed my cold cheeks as I reached the edge of a steep slope littered with huge, ridged boulders and half-way fallen trees. At the bottom of the slop lay my deer, feathered arrow still there. With joy in my heart, I began to carefully climb down.
I was about half way down and had just dropped onto a large flat boulder when the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my spine tingled horribly. Echoing through the foothills, and quite close, rang the haunting song of wolves. My heart began to pound loudly in my ears and I broke into a cold sweat. Stories as horrible as I have heard are not told without good reason, and I had heard many horrid tales about wolves and those who survived them. Some believe that once bitten by a wolf, a person would be cursed forever into the form of one. These cursed people roam in the form of a wolf day and night, foaming at the mouth and attacking anything in their paths. The only help for them is death, and death they shall have.
I crouched down and hid behind a large semi-vertical boulder that had a small tree's roots clinging between it and the bank. The base of the tree and the roots were covered with years worth of fallen leaves and debris, forming a sort of natural thatch roof over the hiding spot. I backed into it and huddled down, shivering from either the cold or fear. It was deathly quiet for what seemed like hours. Then, the howls started again. They were very close now. Presently, strange tearing, gulping, growling and snarling sounds began to emanate from the base of the slope. My heart sank as I realized that they were eating my deer. Gingerly, I peered around the side of hiding place and saw the carnage. The deer was already successfully ripped apart limb from limb and strung all around the leaf littered floor. There were nearly a dozen wolves feeding, all huge and terrible. One lightly colored wolf looked up, muzzle, neck and chest dripping with blood. I held my breath and froze as her pale yellow eyes pierced me. Another wolf moved in on her section of the deer and she bared her teeth and fought him off, then went back to eating, seeming to have forgotten me. I darted back behind my boulder and out of sight, heart beating even harder to make up for my breath being held. Praying that the wolf had really forgotten me, I began to think of how to escape. I couldn't run because I was practically on a cliff and would either need to climb up or down...and that would be slow going. I could feel tears starting the well up as I realized that escape was nearly impossible, and that really my only option was to wait for them to finish eating and go away... I hugged my knees and tucked my head in, holding back silent tears.
The light turned from bright white, to and dim, orangish hue as the sun set. The wolves continued to eat and linger and I began to worry that I would be trapped in the dark. This, was almost more frightening to me than the wolves, for there was tell of strange and magical happenings in the forests at night. Many people have been said to have been driven insane by spending a single night alone in the darkness. Already I could hear the strange cries of creatures heard, but never seen. The wolves didn't seem to be going anywhere, and I worried that they were going to bed down there until dawn, bellies full.
Suddenly, a large, dull shadow swept quickly across the slope. It was so quick and the light was so dim that for a moment I wasn't sure if I had seen anything at all, then the wolves began to growl and snarl at what I assumed was the maker of the shadow. I tried to look up to see what they could see, but my vision was obscured by branches and low light. The growling increased dramatically and was followed by the sound of large flapping wings, snapping twigs, and rustling leaves. Overcome by curiosity, I summoned up my courage and peeked out behind my rock. All of the wolves were looking up, snarling aggressively at something large and dark ungracefully hovering just above the tree-line. It seemed to be getting gradually lower...Suddenly, the wings folded and down dropped the animal, crashing through the branches, startling the wolves. The creature did not fall straight to the ground though, instead it caught hold of a tree with its claws and slowed its assent by sliding down, leaving deep claw marks in the bark.
Finally, it dropped onto the ground and I could see the creature in it's entirety. It wasn't until then that my mind said 'dragon'. It was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen, rivaling the savage, wild beauty of the wolves. It was no bigger than a wolf, but appeared so with it wings unfurled. It was as black as the night, with scales that shone like water. It had a long, lean, muscular neck that made it taller than the wolves, but not by much. Its tail was about the length of its body and it was slender yet strong. The face had a wildly intelligent look, a long pointed muzzle, triangular ears which curled slightly at the tips, two slightly curved sharp horns and large, striking slanted grey eyes. The sight of such a creature was so riveting, I forgot to be afraid. The stories of dragons were not good ones; they always ended in someone getting killed. But, as I watched the animal, I wondered if the stories could really be true?
The dragon moved in on the wolves, and they attacked. They jumped all over it, biting and clawing, I almost felt sorry for it. The dragon unfurled its winds and bared its teeth trying to shake off the wolves. It was moving slowly towards the remains of the deer, but the wolves were not making it easy. Finally, and after much fighting, it reached the deer and grasped its antlers with its fore claws and began to flap its wings, stirring up the leaf litter and sending it flying every which way, leaving a bare spot on the ground.
To my horror, the dragon lifted off the ground, shaking off the last wolf and began to climb with the help of its wings towards my hiding place! I backed into my little cave, praying it wouldn't see me. But it was too late. The dragon stopped on my rock slab and placed the deer there. The wolves had given up and I could hear them moving away, yipping defeatedly. The dragon positioned the the deer and laid down next to it, then began to eat what was left of it right in front of me. I sat as still as a statue, frozen with fear. There was no way out of this one, for the dragon was blocking my only exit. Silent tears began to fall from my cheeks, leaving cold paths behind them. I shut my eyes tightly, waiting for the end. Some time went by before I opened them again, and regretted it. Staring right at me, were the grey eyes of the dragon. It was crouching perfectly still, and staring at me with an incomprehensible expression. I stared back, terror in my pounding heart. I kept expecting it to lunge and kill me, or blast a plume of fire at me, but it simply stared at me hauntingly. At first the dragon's body had been stiff and ridged, but soon it seemed to relax a little. It blinked and licked its blood covered nose with a pink, flat, rounded tongue that was split on the tip. It extended it's neck and inhaled deeply, smelling me. I felt as if I would faint. It took its head away and brought it back down to the deer's corpse. It began licking the blood off of it, never taking its' baleful eyes off of me. I couldn't help but feel that the dragon was curious of me, though that thought was no comfort. Wolves were also curious, playful even, but still terrifyingly dangerous. After what seemed like hours, the dragon finally took its eyes away and began to tear into the rest of the deer carcass. I watched it helplessly, feeling very detached. I was at its' mercy. Nothing could save me from it, aside from a miracle. Several wild thoughts of trying to shoot an arrow at it, rush at it and yell, or throw something towards it ran through my mind, but I knew how they would all end. The creature was not skittish or shy, so it would surely retaliate violently to any of my attempts.
Suddenly, the dragon's curved ears stood straight up, listening. It raised its head, not unlike a deer when it listens, and widened its eyes. It stood perfectly still, a bit of deer parts still hanging from its mouth, and seemed to vibrate with nervous energy. My ears could not hear whatever it was listening to, sharp as they were. The dragon glanced over at me blankly one last time, then, jerked into motion. It snatched the deer's antler up in its mouth, lifted its huge wings, and in a flurry of loud flapping that sent leaves and twigs flying into my face, was gone. The only trace left of it was the blood stained rock that the deer had been on, and a bare patch on the ground where it had blown the leaves away as it landed.