It is rare.  Very rare for the hunters to actually corner their quarry.  Even rarer for them to actually wound it, much less drag it down to its death.  And now I can only laugh as I think of this, this scorn we heap upon the hunters.  They bring their sharp iron and steel, long poles of stout wood and hooks, thinking themselves prepared.  Then the fire engulfs them and they realize in their few fleeting seconds that they could never have been prepared. 

            I guess I wasn't prepared either.

            Sometimes I think fate is laughing at me.  There are days, days like these, when I feel as if my heart is being dissected and examined for all the nuances of pain that exist.  I mourn, I grieve, I cry, and I do not know why.  I keen a death-cry to the sky and ponder who it is that has died.  Perhaps it is my faith, my hope.  My joy in a new day that will dawn too late, ever too late for the light to reflect in my eyes.

            It is so cold here, up north.  I cannot remember why I flew here, why my delicate wings ever bore me so far from my home.  My scales blended in with the ground, bleached coral on bleached coral snow.  Dark spires of the trees betraying my softly shifting grace, three-toed tracks marking my lament.  Marking my path for the hunters.

            I was lost in the ice crystal of sorrow, pondering why I sorrowed and if it was for someone.  They struck hard, struck fast.  Iron barbs seizing the wing joint, ripping the scales open and spilling hot blood onto the snow.  It steamed and where it fell the snow collapsed under its heat, shying away from my lifeblood.  Both wings gone, muscles torn in two, bones cracking, red streaming across snow and scales.  Bright blotches of pain up my spine, a roar to the skies shattering the ice crystals.  Fire then, always fire, billowing out into the massed hunters, obscuring them from my pain-glazed eyes.  Another rip, another tear, a sword under the belly.  Through the scales, through the muscle, into the soft flesh of the lung.  It was in my mouth then, choking off my fire.  Those bright ruby drops, the deepest crimson dancing in the snow.  I cannot tell how many of them I had killed.  Their blood mingled with mine.  There was more bright flashes of pain, more barbs latching in skin, tearing away scales.  My right hind leg went down, spilling more blood onto the already jeweled snow.  I think I killed him with my tail.  I am not sure of anything anymore.  I sank onto the liquid snow and rested my head in a puddle of blood, the deep red streaming from my lungs reaching out to even further lengths.  There are no more hunters.  I can hear horns in the distance and know a second group is coming to finish, to sorrow, and avenge.

            I struggle to my feet, my hind leg dragging and refusing to cooperate.  There is so much blood around me.  The snow is gone now, melted by the heat of the crimson.  It has mixed with the mud, a slush of dirt, water, and life.  I leave it behind, limping across the snow, gasping for breath, feeling the liquid tickle my throat.  I fall to the ground, coughing, my mouth gaping open for air.  I cannot breath, the blood is choking me, my own blood.  I cough again and a pool of red streams from my ivory teeth, spilling out onto my chin and the snow below.  I again stand, hearing the hunters closing.  My wings drag along the snow, leaving lines of imprint and the occasional drop of a petal that seeps its way down the bone structure. 

            I can go no further.  I drop to my side and rest my head in the snow, feeling the cold seep into my skin.  It is the first time I have ever felt cold.  I lift my head so I can see the gray sky, a heavy blanket of dismal mourning.  I open my mouth and keen, a pitying cry to the heavens, begging them to spare me.  And they answer with a cry of pure hate, a cry of fire still fresh, and a rush of wings.

            He lands beside me, a shining creature of gold scales and white patterning, shimmering veins tracing out from the base of his skin.  His eyes are starry voids as they meet mine, a silent understanding between us.  He heard my cry, he heard my grief, and he came to ensure that the light in my eyes would not be dimmed by a human blade.  The hunters are closer now, and I lay back, concentrating on keeping my good lung working.  He will take care of them.  They would call him a knight, if they knew.  A knight riding forth to protect the fair lady he knows nothing about.  A knight riding on a steed of silk wings, armor of flashing diamonds, and a sword of ivory curves wreathed in flame.  Avenging angel of God.

            Now I understand.  Even as my blood seeps out and I wait for the dream-weaves to heal me deep within I understand. 

            It is for the hunters I sorrowed.