Thunder bellowed across the sky, echoing deep off of the surrounding mountainside. Lightning followed swiftly, scorching. A strong wind slipped violently through woodland, tossing branches about like dried leaves. Snow was falling, gently, and if not for the wind it might have been pleasant; instead it cut through the air like tiny blades carving a brutal path. The once dry earth had become a thick mud from the rain that had fallen earlier that day. This storm was a rough one, and it made it almost impossible to follow horse tracks.

An almost unseen figure moved swiftly down the shrouded path. The heavy horse happened to be leaving deep impressions in the mud, making it slightly less than impractical to track in the harsh weather. The shadowy silhouette moved along the trail, slipping from tree to tree without a noise; stopping only to bend to the ground and pick up the trail again. The wind pounded at her body, flinging a black wool cloak angrily in all directions. The night was far from peaceful, but still she snuck through the trees without making a sound.

Soon the light of a fire caught her eye and slowed her pace. A weak fire, barely staying lit in the frigid climate, but a sign of life nonetheless. She moved deeper into the trees and the storm died down. Voices could be heard over the low whistle of the wind, a man and a woman. As she moved like a ghost through the trees, the shadow of a horse emerged before her, tied to a tree near the fire. She made further care not to disturb the animal or to startle it; she didn't want to alert her company too soon. As she crept closer a smirk grew across her face, she listened to the two figures speak their last words.

"…what did you expect Moira, that the king was going to welcome you with open arms?" The man laughed heartily at what he appeared to think was a joke, "He would have killed us on the spot, if he had the chance."

The woman's back was facing their indistinct stalker, but the man's pudgy face could be seen in the full light of the fire. He was not a good-looking man; his cheeks looked like they were as red as the fire and his blonde hair was smothered in dirt. A pungent smell drifted with the wind and caught their stalker's nose, she had a feeling it came from the pudgy faced one. Definitely not a handsome man, the shadow thought, but a danger nonetheless, he must be dealt with first. The hunter crept closer to her prey; her light footsteps made the wind sound like a blaring horn; she stopped not ten paces from the woman's back, pulling something from a sling on her thigh.

"Of course I didn't expect open arms; I expected him to die! If that damned Royal Guard hadn't been there like a heeled dog, it might have worked."

The woman was frustrated and the man's smile quickly turned into a look of distaste. "What do you suppose we do now, your tricks didn't work this time. And we have the law nipping at our heels." The man stared at his companion for some time before she answered.

"We must leave this place; promptly. We'll head west toward the sea and stay off the main roads." She sighed quietly as the wind began to die down. The shadow moved closer and stepped even lighter as the wind settled to a breeze. She was steady.

"And then what? By the morning the Guard will be searching everywhere for us. And the King will warn his allies, we're as good as dead already. We must think of somethi—"

Before the man could react, the cold steel and wood of an arrow shaft slammed through the base of his neck. He looked behind his companion, eyes wide, choking up blood as he collapsed to the ground; his face frozen in perpetual shock. The woman, Moira, stood immediately only to barely glimpse that silhouette leap from the shadows and tackle her to the ground. Unsheathing a small knife from above her left breast the shadow placed it against Moira's throat. That grin was still on the shadow hunter's face as she lowered her head into view.

"Courtesy of the King."

The small ornately carved steel knife slid fiercely and swiftly across Moira's neck, forever staining the white snow beneath them.