Light falls onto the Void Plains and all that was once dark is made clear by the golden luminance of dawn. Long shadows recede by the hour and dawn soon gives way to morning as the sun’s rosy fingers spread over the sky. Gradual warmth cast onto dew laden stalks of foxtails and autumn herbs draws plumes of mist towards the sky and leaves the horizon ambiguous behind the hazy curtain. The air is nature’s veil, all moth wings and cobweb lace adorned with dewdrop jewels. It is crisp and clear and it carries all the scents of the world, salted and cleaned by the westerly wind coming in off the ocean.
A wolf sits at the treeline and thinks to himself, ‘It is going to be a beautiful day.’ The leafy canopy above him is aflame with colors ranging from peridot to crimson and the scent of autumn is caught in the open space beneath the boughs. Shadows take shelter there at his side and although he is brighter than the pale bark of the aspen trees around him, he is glad to share the company of the gentle shades. They dull the intensity of his ghostly coat, cloak him from the view of the hares he hunts.
From his vantage point, he can spy a few squatting individuals. Two does graze at a patch of herbs still laden with pearls of dew. There is a buck some yards away from them in a northerly direction and a welp is browsing not so far from his nest which is situated just at the base of an old fruit tree which seems to be clinging to life only by the stem of its last leaf. The poor thing is already browning. Another idle thought comes to the wolf’s mind: he wonders if it will last the winter. Some trees are like that, after all. One might pass them off as little more than rotting trunks only good for the woodpeckers to make use of, but come spring the great gnarled mass is flushed with vibrant leaves and aromatic blossoms. Kviir hopes this particular tree in his view is among the latter sort. He’ll miss it when it’s gone.
Back to the matter at hand: he’s hunting. For now, the tree isn’t his concern and his stomach reminds him of the fact by twisting painfully within his body cavity. He isn’t starving by any means; he’d only just had a meal the previous afternoon which consisted of bird and a variety of vegetation. There’d also been a helping of some excess honey, of course. What’s dinner without dessert? So, by all accounts, he’s perfectly well fed and his life on this island nowadays is quite pampered, but stomachs are greedy things and will want for more even mere hours after being gorged. And really, who is Kviir to deny it? Taking care in how he moves with every stretch of his tendons and every curl of his muscles, he rises to his feet and begins to stalk forward into the cover of tall fescue.
He barely makes a handful of yards before it happens- the separation of his shadow from his form. It’s an explosive movement, a shattered shape against the tangled stalks of yellowing grass rushes forward from the pool of its own kind with frightening speed and eerie silence. One might expect to hear the sod tear away from the soil under the force of gripping claws and propelled weight, the huff of breath as lungs kick into overdrive to provide frenzied blood with enough oxygen for the tensed muscles coiling and reaching throughout the body. But there’s nothing, no rhythm of pounding feet to match the tempo of a racing heart. No hush of grass as it’s parted by a heaving chest, no caress of displaced air as it’s forced out of the way by a rushing body.
The dark figure is a ghost in every sense of the word and Kviir is left in smiling amazement as he watches the shade peel forward to loop around the pair of doe hares he’d been eyeing before. By intuition alone, he is alerted of the shadow’s intentions and bolts into action. For all the shadow lacked, the Oleander makes up for it with his tangible body. Adrenaline is already coursing through his veins as a thrill overtakes him. He is hunting with a ghost.
Later, when the excitement has dimmed from a luminous blaze to the soft glow of lingering wonder, he’ll question just who he was hunting with. The what is already clear; he’s seen this before, these dancing shadows with wills all their own. But the who is a far more complex question. Are they lives fresh and new or are they really souls of the dead. And if they are of the dead, what was their name? Could it be that this shade is his sister, come to visit him after so long? She always was his shadow, as he had always been hers. Such thoughts will pull him into a deeper love with the arcane and mystical. For now, he is lost to the rapture of the moment.
His shadow does not go unnoticed by the prey. Without sound, the shade is upon them before they realize its existence and while it can do the lepus no harm, ethereal as it is, its visible movements are enough to set the hares into panicked motion. In their fear, they flee directly away from the shade. In their To their end, they flee directly into the snapping jaws of the pale wolf lunges from the golden tinted mist of the morning.
The first dies suddenly. A swift, spine-snapping bite provides a merciful exit from life before its body is dropped in carelessly to the reddening ground. Her companion is next and while she had the quick-thinking necessary to alter her course with the appearance of the Kol wolf, it doesn’t save her. Within two lopes, canine teeth have pinioned her hind leg and a harsh thrashing snuffs her life within the following instant.
Kviir’s hunt is over. His sides swell and and fall in quick succession as he gulps in breath that’d run short during his sprint. His mind is still buzzing with the exhilaration of it all and the pride of such a successful pursuit and his shadow seems to feel the same. Back as his feet, it holds its tail up and lets its tongue loll in a fashion no different than its owner. And it may be that the magic has simply passed now, that his shadow is merely the shadow it has always been and its joy is his joy, an earth-bound reflection, but still… There is no doubt the shade had been of lupine nature and no wolf would deny the beauty of this success.
As he brings the second hare to the body of the first, he sees the cause of this event, picturesque in its morbid beauty. There, at the base of a stump not far from where he admired the break of day, the stalks of an absinthe bush reach toward the fiery leaves above. And there, in the tangle of their base, the old and weathered skeleton of a hare long passed finds its peace.
It shan’t rest alone for long.