Slowly pulling myself from my physical body, I awoke in my den which was nothing more than a large horizontal crack in the side of the mountain. I pried my eyes open to see the entrance of my den, almost completely sealed with ice and snow. Outside the snow fell down in globs rather than flakes, making it almost impossible to see further than twenty feet from the entrance.
With great effort, I hauled myself to my paws and shook myself awake, sending small ice crystals flying from my fur. My hot breath billowed out in clouds of steam. I gave a wide yawn and watched the cloud quickly disappear.
I drew in a breath through my nose, taking in the crisp scents of the Mountain Winter and the strange but familiar scent of illness and blood. As I pulled in this scent, a hollow growl sounded behind me and I turned with my ears pinned back and the fur along my scruff raised.
A mangy looking old wolf stood shakily behind me. His coat reddish brown and missing in a few places. Judging by the color alone, I could tell he was from the southern forest, a good day’s trek from the mountains. His muzzle was streaked with grey hairs and one of his ears was torn, revealing his age. Each of his bones stood out with clarity and I could tell that a few were broken. Blood, both fresh and dried, streaked and clotted his fur. Blood also dripped from his mouth and nose.
He growled at me (this is just a rough translation), “What’re you doing here?”
“This is my den. What’re you doing here old timer?” I growled back.
“Your den? You’re of the living! What use do you have of a den?”
“Although I haven’t been here in a while, I come here quite often and I need a place to return to when I travel.”
“Well, get out! This is my den now!” he barked and he took one threatening step closer but instantly collapsed.
“Look, I understand you’re injured,” I said, noticing to opacity to his body. It was clear that he was dying. “If you’d like, you can stay until you’re well again but I will not allow such hostility in my own home!”
My attention was suddenly drawn away from the old wolf as a faint howl filled the air. I didn’t quite understand its message the first time so I moved closer to the entrance while still keeping an eye on the old wolf, hoping the message was repeated.
I had to wait a long moment before the same howl split the air, “Where are you?”
It seemed to be coming from the moors in the east and its sender seemed quite young (maybe my age or a little older). I stepped outside, into the snow and raised my head. “Who are you searching for?” I howled.
There was no reply. I waited for several minutes but no answer came.
Waves of fatigue crashed into me as I shivered in the snow and darkness as the sun set. Giving up, I retreated to my den to find the elder wolf collapsed on his side.
Too tired to fight, I curled back up on the ground and closed my eyes.