The trees loomed over head, their naked branches scraping at the cloudy laden sky. Snow crunched under foot as he stumbled between the tree trunks. The cold may have been seeping through the thin shoes he wore, he didn't know. He couldn't feel his feet anymore.
He should never have come into the woods. He knew that now. The decision had been made in haste; it was the woods in perpetual winter, or the blades that had chased him across the warm, sun-kissed fields that were once his home. It had been hours since he had stepped across that stark boundary between summer and winter, and though adrenaline had kept him warm at first, he was now shivering so hard his teeth clattered against each other. If only he could get warm. A fire, a blanket. Anything.
His legs were heavy now, worn out from constantly plowing through the snow, and he paused for a moment to look for a place to sit. He knew he shouldn't stop moving, that he should keep going, keep his blood going, it was the only way to stay warm. To stay alive. After a few moments of debate, his exhausted body took over and his knees folded below him. He fell, first to his knees, then on his face. He managed to summon the strength to turn his head so that he wouldn't drown or suffocate in the snow, but after that he just lay there, dimly registering the last of the heat leaving his body.
After a while he stopped shivering, and a new kind of warmth spread through him, from his belly, up into his chest and out into his limbs. He sighed, perfectly comfortable. He knew that he was dying, but it seemed to be a much more pleasant death than being beheaded. He closed his eyes one last time, feeling the ice crystals that had built up on his eyelashes brush his cheeks.
There were sounds: crunching, heavy breathing, a muttering. He felt himself being lifted, smelled the odor of a body that hadn't been washed in a very long time. He tried to struggle, but all that came of it was a groan and a few twitches of his frozen fingers.
“Storm o'fury,” a deep, gravelly voice grumbled. “Quit yer mewlin'. We'll get you set straight soon enough.” He managed to open one eye for a second, catching a glimpse of fur and then he felt himself being hefted with a strength that even in his perfectly happy to die state impressed him.
“Get you warmed up," the stranger said. “And then we'll see what we can do with you.”