I wake to the sound of the hounds as they howl at the starless night, the sound of the horses as they tramble through the snow. The forest is quiet, holding its breath, trembling with fear. I step from the shadows and stretch my wings, a smile gracing my lips. The hunt has begun.

They call me godsmarked. Say that the black mark on my shoulder makes me one of the one-eyed god’s servants. I laugh at their words. I serve no one, not even him.

They fear me, the people in the woods. It’s not my black wings, though it gives them pause. It’s when they look into my eyes, that I smell their fear. Even my eyes give pause to the one eyed god.

I take to the sky, letting the winter winds lift me high, soaring over the trees, looking for the riders. I find them, deep in my forest, hunting where they should not go. Their prey is a young female, barely a woman, and her terror is like a fine meal as the winds carry it to me, heeding my command.

They could have caught her before they entered my domain, but like me, they need the feel of her terror, before they kill. They like to play, to draw it out. The riders have slowed to an almost stop, the hounds circling their prey, snapping the air, their spittle hissing as it hit the snow.

The female is on the ground, trembling, her hands clasped in front of her, mumbling words she never understood, but have heard preached so many times they linger in her mind. I want to shake my head at her. Foolish girl. Her god have no power here in the shadows.

I land in the snow between riders and prey, clad in nothing but darkness. The horses rear, their eyes wide and their fire hooves sending sparks into the snow. A rider comes forth, his one eye watching me, his steed stamping the ground beneath, eager to kill. We watch each other, the one eyed god and me. This is my forest, they do not ride here, but they have been called, and the hunt never ends until death is paid.

I draw my shadow blade, and feel the riders tense, the hope of another hunt spurring the hounds closer, their hot breath warming my winter skin. My blade is a blur as it moves, the blood burning where it touch. The head rolls through the snow, accompanied by the howls of the hounds and the snorts of the horses. I look into the eyes of the one eyed god and he gives a nod before taking the hunt away. No one hunts here, but death has to be paid.

The girl’s warm blood calls to the shadows and her death will feed my forest well.

Gods marked they call me, but the one eyed knows my name.


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