The expanse leading from the foot of the Ettenmoor mountains to the Misty Mountains was mostly flat and open, save for a river leading to the Mistys that split the area in half. To the north of the river, we could see tracks that were made by a slow-moving vehicle… no doubt the cage holding Wargie… and the stench of the dwarves who had taken her… a smell that not even a cleansing fire could hope to remove. To the south was a sparse forest… far enough from the river, but still able to conceal a trap or a troop meant to remove any who may follow the caravan. With my senses on high alert, I turned my attention to Chucaro as she drank from the ice-cold river water. As she drank, her eyes were focused on the path ahead of us… I could tell that, no matter what may lie ahead, she was in it to the end… there was no quit in her, and I would not want to be the one who made the mistake of standing in her way. Without a word, she began trotting along the river, eastward. I followed her, keeping slightly behind and moving at an angle towards the forest… I didn’t know what to expect being outside the ‘Moors, but I kept myself between the forest and Chucaro to make sure nothing would catch us off guard.
Halfway towards the Mistys, Chucaro stopped and looked across the river… the remnants of a hastily abandoned campsite verifying our prey was not too far away… depending on how they were outfitted, maybe a day or two at the most. I suddenly felt the presense of someone nearby! Chucaro must have felt it, too, as she instantly went stealth. Whoever was watching us was in the forest… I carefully approached a few meters closer to the border of trees, but could still see nothing. The scent I picked up was not that of the hunter, Winterwulf, we had encountered earlier… this was different… it was elven.
“Come out and show yourself, elf,” I said in a threatening voice. Chucaro moved into a flank position, still in stealth.
“Your tracking abilities are uncanny,” came a female voice from a tall tree near the edge of the forest, directly in front of me. An elven hunter stepped out of the shadows and stood on a branch overlooking the flatlands. “Tell your friend to show herself, as I mean you no harm.”
“Why should we trust you, or any free person, for that matter?” I replied, growing impatient at losing precious time.
“I am a friend of someone you know… I believe you’ve already met Winterwulf,” she said, noting the brief glimmer of recognition in my eyes. “My name is Silwyth of Rivendell.”
“So the human is having us followed… how many more of you are there to watch our every move?”
A slight smile appeared on her lips. “Sorry to say, you are not who I am watching for… however, the dwarves you are on the trail of are my concern.”
“What do you know of the dwarves, elf?” Chucaro said in a snarl.
“Control yourself, warg,” she replied with an icy gaze towards my companion.
“Do not toy with us, elf,” I threatened. “We will kill you without hesitation and continue after the dwarves… nothing will stand in our way.”
She sighed as she sat on the branch, seemingly enjoying herself at this point. “I really didn’t have to make myself noticeable to you to give you this information…” She stared at me for some time after that. Chucaro stood next to me. “Let’s just leave her and continue after the dwarves and find Wargie. Then we can be done with this hell-hole and return home,” she said.
Silwyth let out a throaty laugh. “Winterwulf was right in his assessment of you wargs.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” I demanded.
A twinkle appeared in her eyes before she became deadly serious. “There is a trap lying in wait for you by the base of the Misty Mountains. The dwarves know they are being followed, but I don’t think they quite know by whom. They tried to set up an ambush a few hundred meters to the east of here, as well. That won’t slow you as I’ve already dispatched those who were waiting for you. You’ll sense the bodies of 3 dwarven archers as you continue, but avoid the pass up to the Mistys on the north side of the river… they have an avalanche ready to collapse on any who make it past the archers. There is another path along the southern slope, but it is much more treacherous and will slow you down some.”
“Why are you telling this to us, or even helping, for that matter?” I asked, not trusting her words.
“Winterwulf only gave me instructions to not interfere with your mission… he didn’t say I couldn’t help, though,” she said, her smile returning.
“Be wary of these dwarves, wargs… they are very cunning and will not easily give up their prize catch,” she said as she stepped back into the shadows. Like that, she was gone…
Chucaro looked at me with concern… “Why should we trust what she says? How do we know she is a friend of the human and that what she said is true?”
“If the bodies of the dwarves are there, then she will be telling the truth. I don’t know why they are helping us… we are more than capable of handling this ourselves. It is unwise of them to think that wasn’t the case, should we meet them again.”
Chucaro let out a sigh, and began heading east again. I followed in a slow trot, intent on finding the archers the elf mentioned, before we got to the foot of the Misty Mountains. It wasn’t long before we came upon the 3 bodies the elf had mentioned. Judging by the kills, this was one elf who knew how to hunt… a single arrow stuck out of each neck, piercing the jugular… quick, precise and deadly… the dwarves did not know what hit them and had no chance to call for help. We weren’t very far from the Misty Mountains, so we went stealth as we moved forward to minimize the chance of being detected.
As we neared the foot of the mountains, noise was not going to cause a problem as the roar of a waterfall drowned all other noise in the area. We could see the north path the dwarves had taken… the wheel ruts easily seen going up the path. I glanced at Chucaro and nodded. We headed along the mountain wall to the south, looking for the path the elf had mentioned. It wasn’t long before we found it… it was steeper than the path going up the Ettenmoor mountains, but was wide enough for both of us to climb side-by-side.
I asked Chucaro if she wanted to rest before we began. She looked at me with a wide grin and took off up the path! I let out a sigh as I followed after her… she is one determined warg, I thought as we began our ascent into the Misty Mountains…