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By Sarah Schwister
The moonlight dripped over the mountain like silver paint lining the icicles. Stretching shadows from crippled plants and outspoken rocks were only intensified by the bath of light. Prodding in the rich, harsh cold a white fox marked the slope for wafts of slumbering prey buried in the snow.
Whipping its head against the wind, poignant as royalty, the fox trotted to a bush. Away from the open speckled black canvas, the fox huffed. Clockwork brought the brash steps of two men, one rushing ahead and halting repeatedly while the other moved deliberately while aching. Their pointed, elongated shadows reached against the snagging bush like devious puppets.
A change of air rippled through the freezing ocean of night, and the fox dropped ears. A harsh moan rolled through the sky, and a flick of darkness gleamed in the dark backdrop. The pines in the valley of the mountains creaked and cracked in a rush of hot, dry wind. The hunters cried out, frozen in their snowy holes. Calls went back and forth, and the fox sneezed as ash and ember shimmered down from the heavens.
Another faint roar prodded the men, their behavior sporadic, one high and one low. A shink of metal shivered the coarse fur of the fox as it skirted out of the bush and bound to a farther base of rocks. Free flakes of snow whirred in front of the fox from the beat of wings from behind, and a shot of red heat came across the corner of her vision. Digging paws into the crumpling snow, the fox whirled around. White haloed an ebony dragon, its head arching as the wings released it to the earth. The mountain trembled to the dragon’s great height, the tail arching around the temple of scales and magic.
The older hunter bellowed to the charging younger, who ignored his calls. Raising a gray line against the moon, he bolted to the beast. Fire curled around the teeth of the dragon, his head high and tense. As he released a muffled fleenk brushed past the fox. The elder was hit by a fire stream when the arrow to the eye made the dragon’s shot awry. Jumping, the fox turned to find another person, black clad and hooded, behind the rock she was heading towards. A bow sighed down at the female hunter’s side as she leapt silently over the rock towards the ailing dragon. Wings high, it rose back to the sky, blind. Standing high, the archer’s hood fell back as the bow framed strong skyward. Another shot fired, and the cry ripped open the sky with a pillar of fire as the dragon crashed, waves of white pooling around the impact. Jogging to the corpse, the flesh burning off the dragon as the imbalance of chemicals started to take place; the un-hooded woman pulled out a sword and decapitated the dragon. Bone against snow, she went about her way, back to the enveloping darkness of the woods, her hair dancing in the wind.
Howling of pain still held the mountain, as one hunter held the other. Cradling the one they did not listen to, he was punished by fate as the world spun and melted around him. Watching the pair for only a moment longer, the fox turned and departed the mountain, continuing its own matters.
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