Arethu, the weirwoman, knew the forest lay under an accursed power, and when she touched the soil she felt the tremble beneath, like a beast hunted to earth awaiting the knife. She smelled blood in the haze of the summer heat, and she heard the wolves howl in the night, cries from the deep places at the edge of the world.
She hunted birds, as she always had, and she dwelled in her small hovel made from logs and roofed over with roots and moss, as she always had. But the woods were not the same. A thing had come with the winter, and now it remained and marked the ways of the forest with the track of printless foot and the sear of hunger. Something walked among the trees, and hunted, and hated, and fed.
So she sought wisdom in the moonlight. She poured clean water into the hollowed stone bowl where she ground berries and herbs, and she held it under the light of the moon so that the bone-white crescent shimmered there in reflection. She rattled bones and burned dried leaves and breathed in the smoke, and she sought the knowledge that had always come to her. Men called her a witch, and perhaps she was.
She saw the moon made into a skull, and the trees draped with bones. She saw wolf eyes glowing in the dark, and she saw the beasts of glade and glen slaughtered and hung to rot. She saw a shape like a man, but towering over any tree or hall, and his head was crowned with antlers sharp as knives. He bore a great spear and he limped on a crippled foot. Things like wolves haunted his trail, went forth to harry his prey, and Arethu knew that her home had been taken beneath the shadow of the Huntsman. The shadow out of old times come again.