Flowers were still green buds when the first bloody
carcass was found. It was only a chicken and the hunters the old man called
told him this was the work of a wolf. He scowled and extolled the rotten-egg
odor he encountered but the odors had quickly blown away and this recluse
was known for story telling. When the chickens were all eaten, it was a torn-up
horse with a half-eaten head that brought his excited warning again. A bear
the hunters concluded this time. He contorted and wheezed in imitation of
the raspy breathing he had heard but the actual sound had fled like a breeze.
Now the white hand of winter gripped the land and isolated the old man’s
shack. Awake after midnight, he could only press his blanket around his ears
to shield them from the hungry groaning in the woods and later a slathering
and creaking of planks at his flimsy door.
The shock of freezing air provided a hint of the pain that was to come as
he was dragged outside. But Winter would also provide the means for victory.
As the monster carried him back across a bridge into the woods with red iridescent
scales flashing in the moonlight, the old man knew the hunters would recognize
the danger, follow it and put an end to the slaughter. For his tormentor
left an irrefutable argument—a trail in the snow only a young dragon