That was the way of it, always, and Gull - who had seen more than a hundred and fifty winters - knew this quiet was because the young ones were terrified that any noise they made might jinx them, might make them the unlucky member of the Folk this year.
Gull had been the same, all those winters ago, when he had still been slight and pretty enough that he might have made a good prize.
Now he was old and gnarled, and the two-legs barely seemed to see him.
Down the track a little way from him, Gull could feel Lil swaying and trembling, her small, delicate branches restless and terrified.
Well, better her than me, Gull thought. After all, Gull had borne his own years of fear, the winters when he had been sure the two-legs would choose him, bringing out their sharp silver teeth, then dragging him off to whatever lonely and mysterious destination awaited those unlucky members of the Folk every winter.
The two-legs were milling around now, pointing out first one of Gull’s siblings, then another. Occasionally, another two-legs would stroll past, and they would exchange that odd incantation of theirs, the one they recited every winter. Gull did not know what the incantation meant, any more than any of the Folk did. It was simply understood to mean something stark and terrifying, a symbol of the bloodshed the Folk bore witness to each year...