Thick clouds covered the sky from horizon to horizon like a grey blanket. Leafless trees stretched their naked branches upward, rattling against each other in the cold wind blowing down from the Guardian Mountains. The last wan light of day gave the world a strange appearance, as if all the color and warmth had been leached away. That storm that had been threatening for the past few nights promised to lay down hand-spans of snow very soon. Even now, a few solitary flakes fluttered to the ground here and there. It would be falling in earnest by sunrise.
Hidden in a thicket of scratchy underbrush, Windsong crouched with her bow ready, patiently watching the small open area ahead of her. A few scruffy tufts of grass grew there and, with ample cover nearby, she knew rabbits would be close. But these would be cautious, wily rabbits who had survived a whole turn of the seasons. It would require vigilance and careful planning to catch a tasty, fresh meal. But she was not going back lacking one. Her plans for tonight wouldn’t be complete without it.
Her wolf-friend, Half-tail, was in position to her right, waiting for her signal to flush the prey out of hiding. The wolf’s ears were pricked forward and her muscles fairly twitched with eagerness contained. Her breath came in tiny puffs of fog. With a soft bird call, Windsong released her bond. Half-tail bounded enthusiastically through the tangled underbrush making a lot of noise. A pair of rabbits darted from their hiding places and into the open area in front of Windsong. She rose with an arrow nocked and let it fly before she had even finished standing. The arrow went clean through the animal’s chest and the stone head buried itself into the dirt on the other side, pinning the rabbit down. Half-tail was hot on the heels of the second rabbit. It dashed this way and that, nearly escaping, then disappeared with a squeal under the wolf’s paws and jaw.
Windsong smiled, green eyes twinkling with excitement. The hunt was over so fast after all the time it took to plan it and get stealthily into position. Her heart was still beating quickly. She moved to claim her catch. The rabbit had twitched its last by the time she got to it. Windsong yanked her arrow out of the earth and examined it. Since the fletching and head were still in good condition, gave it a quick wipe with a small leather scrap and tucked it away for potential reuse later. Lifting the rabbit by its ears she started back for the Den Trees, leaving Half-tail to enjoy her own meal.
The wind whipped up and sent a tendril of hair to tickle her nose. She wiped at it absently, eyes on the Den Trees that had just come into view. With a grin she jogged forward.
**Dhay!** She lock-sent to her Recognized. **I have something for our evening together!**
Suddendusk came around the far side of Mother Tree just then with one hand behind his back. **So do I, Mytan.**
They thrust their offerings at each other simultaneously. Her beloved clutched an already plucked grouse by the feet. They laughed and embraced.
“Looks like we had the same idea, my love,” Suddendusk said. “A hearty meal before the snows fall. With Crackle off with her friends until bed time and Rill in his mother's care, we have plenty of time to ourselves.”
Windsong smiled up at him and nodded. “That’s a fine, fat bird you have there.”
“I traded with Rainpace for those oak beads I had been smoothing. He wanted to make a gift for Chicory with them. I can see you brought this down yourself.” Suddendusk wiped a bloody smudge off the end of her nose.
Windsong hugged him close and nodded. “Now let’s go enjoy this meal and get snowed in together. I can think of several ways we can keep each other warm.” She squirmed away from him and darted toward the den laughing with Suddendusk hot on her heels.