I was woken up from a light nap to find Chucaro’s head laying on my chest with a haunted look in her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I had these horrible dreams that I attacked you savagely…” she started to say, but then paused when she saw from the look on my face that they were true. “I’m sorry… I don’t know what came over me… when I saw the cage go over the edge, I just lost it… something inside me snapped and I lost control of who I was… who you were… everything was a blur…”
“It’s ok,” I interrupted. “It’s over and you are alright… that’s all that matters. Those dwarves lured us into a trap and tricked us. What they did, they will pay for, in blood… and I will not stop until every last one of them has gasped their last breath. I can’t imagine the anguish they have caused you, many times over, but mark my words, we will have vengeance.” I couldn’t bear to tell her how close I came to losing her.
“But I’m afraid that it’ll happen again and I won’t be able to stop myself… what kind of monster have I become?” she cried.
“Not a monster… a mother looking for her pup who was led to believe the worst possible scenario… those dwarves paid for that cruel trap with their lives… you made sure of that.” I said, trying to ease her worries, but not mentioning the piece of Wargie’s hide I had found… those foul little bastards!
“The others are ready to question us about what happened,” she said, breaking me out of my thoughts of dwarves being rendered limb from limb. “I told them I wanted to talk to you alone, first, to see if any of the nightmare really happened.”
“Don’t worry about that anymore,” I said, smiling. “Let’s get this over with and be on our way to find them.”
We walked over to the campfire, where Winterwulf and Sylwith were talking to Ellenroh and another elf… a minstrel, judging by the instrument strung across her back.
“Ah, there you two are,” Winterwulf started. “You already know Sylwith and Ellenroh, and this is Sophwen, our elven friend from Lothlorien. She is a minstrel and did some nice work on the both of you.”
I simply nodded my thanks to her. She smiled suddenly, “And here I thought that Winterwulf was telling the truth that you could talk!” Her light laugh eased the tension of the moment, and caught me by surprise.
“The hunter was correct,” I stated simply.
“Well met, warg,” she replied gently… sparkles dancing in her eyes.
“The rest of the group is out scouting and we will meet with them shortly. Creami, our other minstrel and two other hunters, Tracer and Tregoan,” Winterwulf continued. “now that you know our names, who do we have the pleasure of joining forces with?”
I slowly looked at each free person, in turn and returned my gaze to Winterwulf. “I am Deathwulf and this is Chucaro, mother of Wargie… the warg who was captured.”
The smile faded from Sophwen’s lips upon hearing that news. “You never filled us in on that news, Winter,” she said, glaring at the hunter.
“That information wasn’t relevant at the time and we needed to keep emotions out of the picture,” he replied in his even-tempered, light-hearted way. “I knew it would come out in due time and here we are.” He smiled back at her.
“Hmpf!” she said, giving him a cold shoulder, and turning back to the me. “Please, continue with what happened before we found you.”
I sat back and recounted all that had occurred when we found the dwarven encampment. The expressions on the two hunter’s and the runekeeper’s faces never flinched throughout the re-telling… even after the rather descriptive depiction of Chucaro’s reign of destruction to the remainder of the camp. Sophwen, however, became teary-eyed when she heard of what means they went to in order to have us believe Wargie was dead.
“That is horrible what they did to you! And they deserved your wrath!” she said without hesitation. Even Winterwulf arched an eyebrow and flashed a quick grin at her reaction.
I then told them about the encounter with the dwarven runekeeper. That got the attention of Winterwulf and Ellenroh. “That description matches Balarbaz,” Ellenroh spoke.
“That’s what I was afraid of,” Winterwulf said, rubbing his chin. “I’m sorry we couldn’t get to you sooner… the sudden storm that popped up before we could reach you gave us quite the delay. I thought I sensed that it was an un-natural storm.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The dwarf runekeeper you encountered goes by the name of Balarbaz. He’s well-versed in the skills of the runekeeper and has twisted those skills with the dark arts… he is a very dangerous dwarf and was the cause of the storms you encountered since you entered the Misty Mountains. We have been on his trail since I left you in the Moors, but up until now, was unaware that he was a part of this. I’m not sure what plans he has for Wargie, but we have to stop them before he can set his plan in motion.”
“And what do you propose, human?” I asked.
“An alliance. We’re going to need each other’s help and skills if we are going to succeed in this. I am well aware of the war going on between our sides… we need to put that behind us, though, in order to do what must be done,” he replied.
I looked at Chucaro and by the hopeful look on her face agreed to the alliance. “Alright, hunter, but if I see this Balarbaz, do not get in my way,” I threatened.
“Please, the name is Winterwulf,” he said with a laugh as he held out his hand. I lifted my paw and we shook on the pact. “We’ll leave at first light, so get as much sleep as you can.”
As I turned with Chucaro to head back to our spot, Winterwulf stopped me and asked, “Is there anything else you can remember or want to share about anything that has happened since all this started?”
I thought back on the dreams I have been having… no, they are just dreams… besides, I don’t need to put Chucaro through anything else after what she had just gone through. “No, Winter,” I replied… the name sounding foreign coming off my tongue. “There is nothing else.”
He seemed to think for a moment, then simply said, “Sleep well, Deathwulf, Chucaro,” before heading into the darkness to start his turn at watch.
As we lay down, it wasn’t long before Chucaro was sleeping soundly. I just watched her as the dreams replayed themselves in my mind. Please just be bad dreams… I thought as I slowly drifted off to sleep.