The chase renewed…

The stench of death permeated the air.  The battle was getting more intense by the minute.  I quickly scanned my surroundings to locate the others… Wargie was nowhere to be seen, but Chucaro was off to my left, engaged in battle with a nasty-looking dwarf… as I moved to help her, she avoided his two-handed attack and countered with a swift move to appear behind him and a massive swipe to the back of his leg… blood flying through the air as the dwarf crumpled in a heap… his Achilles severed just above his ankle.  She quickly finished him off with a slash to the throat.

Another dwarf appeared behind her, but the sounds of battle were too loud for her to hear my warning… she didn’t see him in time and couldn’t avoid the heavy blow of his hammer crashing into her side… she was sent tumbling and lay still… with deep fury, I launched myself at the dwarf, catching him off guard and off balance.  He went down heavily… the force of the landing sending his hammer flying.   The look of surprise was the last look on his face as my jaws sunk deep into his neck, nearly separating his head from his torso.

I jumped off the dwarf’s carcass and hurried to Chucaro… she was badly hurt, but still alive.  I dragged her limp body to a corner of a rubble wall and located a nearby tent.  I ripped the canvas from the posts and covered her to try to avoid her being found.  Now to find Wargie… across the courtyard, I could see her stealth form making her way to a nearby hunter… as I made my way towards her, I heard a loud ‘Snap!’ and felt a searing pain in my leg.. a hunter trap!   I looked up to see the hunter Wargie was approaching looking at me with an evil grin… his bow aiming for the killing shot….

——————————-

I open my eyes to see Chucaro nosing me awake… a look of distress on her face.

“You’re awake!” she said, relief showing in her eyes.  ”You were shaking and crying out in your sleep…”

“It was just a bad dream,” I interrupted her to alleviate her fears… “more like a nightmare,”I thought to myself… yet it felt so real… I stood up and shook myself off, glad to be on my feet again.  I looked around, searching for the hunter who had drugged me… as if reading my thoughts, Chucaro filled me in, “The hunter is gone.  When I saw you go down and lay motionless, I feared he had poisoned you.  I was about to move in when he looked up in my direction and smiled at me gently… as if he knew exactly where I was and was letting me know he did you no harm.   He quickly packed up his camp site and removed all evidence of his ever being here… but before he left, he placed several freshly-skinned rabbits nearby.. then he was gone.  I slowly approached the meat and could not detect any of the substance he used to knock you out… honestly, how you couldn’t smell the taint is beyond me,” she finished with a somewhat sarcastic look.

“My stomach over-road my senses… a mistake I won’t make again,” I vowed.

“Relax,” she replied, a hint of laughter in her voice.  “Turn around, so I can take the dressing off your wound.”

I turned slightly and realized I had no soreness or stiffness… the hunter was surprisingly good at field dressings.   “This may sting a little,” she said as she grabbed hold of the bandages.  Before I could brace myself, she tore them off in one quick motion.  I stifled a yelp and glared at her… “You did that on purpose!” I growled.  “That was for making me worry so much… losing Wargie is bad enough…” she stopped.

“I know,” I said.  An awkward silence ensued as I was at a loss for words.  “I’m sorry,” was all I could muster as I looked at her worried expression.  “I’m fine now… are you ok?  Were you injured from what had happened?” I asked, as reality finally set in.  We need to find where the dwarves went and get moving after them…

Chucaro stopped me before I could finish my thought.  “The hunter also left us a crude map of where he saw their caravan heading towards,” she said as she led me to a piece of parchment with some hastily drawn markings.   “It looks like the made their way east, through Ost Ringdyr,” I said, discouraged at the thought of having to make our way through that outpost to follow after.  “That means the work we went through to get to this point was all in vain…”

“Not necessarily,” Chucaro said, a sudden burst of hope in her voice.  “Look here!”  She pointed to what looked like a narrow path heading up the rock wall slope near the campsite the hunter had set up.  “This may be a path the hunter used to leave by, as well.”

“Let’s check it out,” I said with a renewed vigor.

We quickly searched the rock wall and found the path the hunter had drawn not far south from the campsite.  We carefully made our way along the steep, narrow path… it was barely wide enough for a single human to make their way up, let alone a single warg… looking back to make sure Chucaro was alright.  “I’m fine,” she retorted, “but can you possibly move any slower?”  I chuckled to myself as I turned my attention to the path and picked the pace up a bit.  After what seemed like hours, we made it to the top of the mountain… looking to the east, we could see the snow-covered peaks of the Misty Mountains.  There was a wider path heading back down to the east, and the slope was not as steep… we should be able to make up some time now!  Before I could say a word, Chucaro leaped past me and ran down the path… I followed after her, hoping it wouldn’t be long before we would have Wargie back!

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