The ashes in the fireplace settle, the remains of last nights fire.
Snow flies around in the howling wind of the blizzard that started almost a week ago and kept on going, although now it's calmer than it was those last few nights in which I curled up on the floor with my five dogs.
Laria, the oldest of my huskies, looks at me and nudges my hand. She gets out from under the covers and pads over to the others. Pandis, the youngest, whines and moves closer to the fire that is now producing almost no warmth.
I get up and shiver.
'Morning, girls!' they all raise their heads, hearing my voice and slowly stretch, waking up fully.
Salae blinks her bright blues eyes, gets up and spins a few circles before lying down again in the empty wood box.
Sighing, I pull on my boots, hat, coat and gloves. When I open the door, snow blows in, making the dogs bark before they follow me out to the winter wonderland.
Riam and Shasta, the twins, run out the door, followed by Pandis who pauses and wrinkles her nose as the cold air blasts in her face. Salae walks to me after shaking the wood shavings off of her light grey coat. I glance at the dogs that are running all over the snow covered field and than at Laria who, after making sure that everyone is out, lopes out the door.
I slam the door shut and whistle, the high pitched notes ringing in the cold, clear air. The girls all turn to look at me before they come running.
Turning to the barn, I hear quiet singing. Uncle Tobin, who owns the farm that I live on, is an early riser. Looking at the sky, I guess that it must be around seven a.m.
I run to the barn and, saying quick good mornings to Tobin, I leap up the stairs to the roof. Sitting in the snow drifts, I watch as the sun rises above the snow covered evergreen trees. The mountains slowly turn from a darkened color to the one that they get their daytime identity from: the Shining Mountains.
I often sit here and wonder what my parents were like. According to Tobin, they were mountain folk, tough, or tougher, than the rocks on which they made their home. My mother, Luin, was a healer who was know all around for her kindness and generosity, healing all, even if they had no way to repay her.
My father was a miner, along with all of the other men in the mountain towns. You see, the Shining Mountains were not only named for the way they shine in the sun when they are covered in snow, but also for the diamonds that come out of it. His name was Narid, and he was killed in a livestock raid.
Luin sunk into a deep depression that was only broken by my birth. I lived with her and my aunt until they were both killed by the fever. I got it to, but for some miracle, I recovered.
I was then sent to live with my only living relative. Uncle Tobin. He was alone also. His wife, my aunt, was unable to have children, so when she died, he was happy to take me in.
I shake myself out of my fantasies when I hear low growls coming from the direction of the woods.
I run down the stairs two at a time, and fly into the tack room. My bow and arrows hang from a peg. I grab them and exchange my snow boots with the buckskin ones that I use for hunting.
'What's going on?' Uncle Tobin asks, seeing me in my hunting gear.
'Shasta got one,' I explain.
I bounded out the door, my boots pounding out the rhythm of my heartbeat.
I head in the direction of the growls. As I get deeper into the woods, the growls turn into barks. What is it? I wonder to myself. Shasta's a better tracker than the rest so I can expect something good from her.
I speed up my pace and get to the tree in record time.
As I look up, I don't see a raccoon, a squirrel, or anything of that sort.
A pair of eyes gaze down at me.