Cold gripped the ancient land. Vast, wind-driven snow banks clung to tree trunks and to the base of every rugged cliff. A silver moon shown through the winter-weary trees, transforming the ground into a blanket of glittering stones. Tracks of animals in search of food crisscrossed the barren landscape.
Alongside the trail used by his people to go from their winter camps to their summer homes, Wolffang leaned against a poplar trunk to catch his breath, his own stomach reminding him it needed fuel. He glanced around, seeking shelter. A tree lay to his right, its roots ripped from the ground with soil still clinging to the fibrous appendages.
He hurried forward. The dirt packed roots would keep the wind from his back and a fire would warm his front. He sighed. The journey had been long, but in distance, it had just begun.
He dropped to his knees in front of the uprooted tree and pawed at the snow until he’d cleared an area large enough for a fire and a spot to sleep. Some thin branches, he snapped from a nearby tree. Dried grass and moss, he found in the section he’d cleared. He arranged them is a small pile and above it, he struck two pieces of flint. Several times the flint slipped from between his numbed fingers but eventually, a few sparks danced above the pile, then one touched a blade of grass and a small flame sprang to life.
His hunger pangs soothed by the strips of dried moose meat he’d consumed, he leaned against the tree roots and gazed into the unapproachable sky, contemplating the whereabouts of his family. They would have though him dead when he didn’t return with the braves after the summer hunt, because the braves, too, had given him up as dead.
He felt the tender spot on his side where the yearling moose had gouged him with its sharp antler. Even he could not fathom why he still lived. His wife and children reappeared in his thoughts. He caressed each one, and counted the days separating him from them.
Without warning, the ground shifted, throwing Wolffang to his side. He lunged for a nearby sapling to prevent the earth from swallowing him. The spirits were angry again. Demanding the human’s attention.
As sudden as the ground shook, it settled, and he looked to the sky at the shifting dancing lights, and a new star appeared, dulling the radiance of all others.
Wolffang stared at it. His mind told him Mother Earth had reached a new plateau. Life as he knew it would soon disappear. His spirit, soothed beyond his enchantment the night he and his wife first coupled, sought the victorious deity.
A wolf claw, given to him by his father, hung around his neck by a rawhide lace, burned his chest. He ripped his clothing apart and yanked off the amulet, then looked down at his exposed flesh. A stinging, fire-red claw mark stared back at him, twisting his thoughts, provoking him to explore the meaning of his shifting world.
A cold gust of air arose, its icy fingers annihilating the throbbing. Wolffang closed his buckskin coat to preserve his body heat. He returned his attention to the new star that paled the changing, dancing lights. The Ancient One had done something new, something significant, on this cold, desolate night.
Unable to penetrate the land of the sleep spirit, Wolffang stood, threw his pack over his shoulders and continued down the trail. He must reach his family, let them know he still lived, and warn them to seek the ways of the new spirit, while time remained.