Winter is Coming

The full moon shone down through the tangled branches of the forest. Its rays caught and twisted by the gnarled boughs, the few tattered scraps of silver that escaped the clutching limbs made a ragged patchwork of light and shadow on the crumpled ground. The brightness of the moon promised much, everything was illuminated and on display but the treacherous light concealed more than it revealed.

In the depths of the shadows, a movement, more felt than heard. The only audible sound, the wind brushing through the few dry leaves left in the tree tops. The forest tensed, ears pricked to catch the slightest sound, eyes straining to catch the smallest sign of movement.

The breeze came again, stronger this time; it ruffled a few of the dead leaves on the forest floor. Their rustling sounding like a half heard whisper, sinister in its softness. The breeze was cool, sharp a foretaste of the winter to come. Still the animals of the forest were frozen, for if they were trying to build up their reserves for the coming months so too were the predators.

Was that half sensed movement the wind? Another as yet, uncaught victim? Or a hunter waiting for the unwary? Nothing stirred in the shadows, still they waited, waited for one more foolhardy or more desperate than the rest to make that first danger filled move.

A shadow flowed over the moon, the brightness hidden; a young rabbit made bold by the concealing darkness risked a small hop. Then froze, aghast at his own daring, had he betrayed himself? Nothing, even the wind died away. The cloud was still, its journey halted; it too seemed to watch the scene below. Breathing stopped as the young rabbit moved again. He had decided there was nothing to fear, it had just been the wind.

Then a rush, twigs snapped, leaves disintegrated a scurry of frantic movement, swiftly stilled. Shocked silence, a grip readjusted and the breeze rose again, the cloud moved on, the shadows fell away from the moon. On the forest floor muscles relaxed and the hunt for nuts, berries, seeds and grasses was resumed. The unwary had been taken; the hunter unmasked and moved on, its appetite satisfied for the moment. Now the gathering of food must continue, winter is coming.

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