The road through Rivendell…

I awoke from a restless slumber to a bustle of activity.  Looking over my shoulder, I saw Chucaro sleeping soundly.   I walked over to where the free people were gathered and noticed the others that the hunter had mentioned… two new hunters and a second minstrel.   The new minstrel saw me and dropped down to one knee, extending her hand towards me.  “What a big puppy!” she exclaimed.

“Tread carefully, human,”  I heard Chucaro warn from behind me.  I looked over my shoulder to see her glaring at the minstrel… I shot her a quick smile.

“Careful, Creami… their bite is much worse than their bark,” Winterwulf added, chuckling as Creami quickly stood up, blushing deeply.”

“I…I…I’m sorry…” she stammered.

Winterwulf let out a full laugh.  “It’s all good,” he said, smiling.  “Creami, this is Deathwulf and the protective one behind him is Chucaro.”

“Well met,” Creami replied meekly, feeling a bit uncomfortable.

Winterwulf broke the awkwardness.  “Since we are all up now, can you repeat the plan, Tregoan?”

“Of course,” Tregoan replied in a deep, gruff voice. “My sources have told me the dwarven contingent have already made their way around Rivendell and are passing through the Trollshaws as we speak.  The distance they have put between us can be made up quickly by traveling through Rivendell, ourselves.  Our goal for now is to make our way over to Gloin’s camp.  There we have a covered wagon that we can use to transport our warg friends safely through the elven lands.  We’ll also have fresh mounts to exchange the ones we have nearly exhausted ready for us there.”

“We’ll pass on the wagon.  Just tell us how to make it through Rivendell and let us be off.”

Tracer chuckled at my comment.  “You would be shot dead before you even set one foot in Rivendell, Deathwulf.  They already know of you two and your mission, but that doesn’t mean they won’t protect their homeland.  If they so much as see you, they will shoot to kill.”

“We will not be caged!” I threatened.

“Nobody said you were going to be caged, Deathwulf,” Winterwulf interjected, ”The wagon is for your protection, as Tracer stated.  But it is simply a covered wagon, nothing more.  There are no bars around it and can be entered and exited with perfect ease.  You are not prisoners in this alliance… however, you cannot just freely walk through Rivendell.  Trust us on this.”

“Fine, we’ll do it your way,” I relinquished.

“Once we have travelled through Rivendell, we’ll continue our way through the Trollshaws towards Thorenhad.  We’ll get an update on the dwarven progress from the scouts there,” Tregoan continued, “And we’ll leave the wagon there and continue as we are now.”

“Very good,” Winterwulf said, “Are there any questions before we head out?  None?  Good!   Let’s move out.”

Sylwith moved out ahead to scout for any deterrents on our path.  Tracer and Tregoan lagged at the back to cover our trails and ensure we were not attacked from the rear.  The remainder of the company quickly made their way across the frozen peaks and occasional open expanses.  Chucaro and I ran slightly ahead of the main group, enjoying finally being on the move again and being able to stretch our legs.  I could feel Winterwulf’s watchful eyes on us the entire time, but I was simply happy to be on the move again.

Traveling was rather uneventful for the most part as the sun moved across the sky until it was nearly early evening… then a single, shrill whistle brought the group to a halt.  An uneasy feeling settled among the group as Sylwith rode quickly into view.  She came to a halt in front of Winterwulf.

“The path through the trees narrows down about 100 meters ahead.  It appears a small pack of snow beasts have set up camp there.  There are 3 of them, as well as an Angmarin corpse and the gutted remains of a snow wurm.  We can’t skirt around them, so we will have to take them out,”  she reported.

“Leave it to me,” Ellenroh responded, “I’ll make quick work of them.”

“Wait,” Winterwulf said, holding up his hand.  “Watch…” he said, motioning his head towards Chucaro and myself.   We went stealth and were halfway to our prey before Ellenroh finished his sentence.

We could sense the group slowly following us at a distance as we approached the camp.  There were three of them, as the elven huntress had stated.  One to the left, cleaning off what looked like a wurm leg bone, one to the right, trying to avoid falling asleep, but losing that battle, and one standing guard at the end of the camp, his back to us.  Chucaro looked at me and I nodded.  We slowly stalked forward to begin our attack.

It went swift, like a well-choreographed dance of death… Chucaro pouncing the left one as I pounced the right… our jaws hitting killing blows before the two snow beasts knew what hit them.   Before the remaining snow beast finished turning around, we were on him, Chucaro leaping for his throat as I hit him low… his body dead before it even hit the snow.   The party approached out of the trees and surveyed the scene… pure carnage as the pristine, white fur of the snow beasts quickly turned red from the blood bubbling from the gaping wounds where their throats used to be.

“Deadly efficient and precise,” Ellenroh said under his breath.  “We need to be careful with them, Winter.”

“We are not their target, Ellenroh,” Winterwulf replied, “I trust they will be the much-needed and helpful allies that they are.  I will stake my life on it.”

“I hope it doesn’t come down to that,” Ellenroh retorted as we continued on our travels.

We arrived outside Gloin’s camp and, as was told, saw the waiting covered wagon and fresh steeds for the others in the group.  As the others switched out their mounts, Chucaro and I walked to the wagon.  “Stay here while I check it out,” I said.  Chucaro nodded.

I leaped into the wagon and looked it over.  It was as Tregoan had said… just a wagon.  There was a bed of straw and blankets covering the straw to offer some sort of padding during the ride.  There was also a bench on either side.  I could see through a slit in the tied-down front… easy to see out without giving notice that we were inside.

I made my way to the back.  “It’s ok to come in,” I told Chucaro.  She was up in a heartbeat, surveying the situation as I had.  She made her way to the center of the wagon and laid down.   I laid down next to her.   “We’re ready,” I said towards the driver of the wagon.

“Wait!” a female voice sounded.  We both looked to the back to see the two minstrels climb into the wagon.

“We’re a bit sore from horseback riding and would like to take advantage of the ride,”  Sophwen explained, smiling brightly at us.  Creami climbed in behind her, quiet and a bit shy after her earlier rebuke.  They sat on opposite benches as the wagon lurched forward on its journey.  Creami tried to cram into the corner as much as she could.

“They aren’t going to bite you,” Sophwen chided her, laughing richly.

Creami blushed slightly as her tension eased a bit.  I watched her intently… she was a curious one.  “We won’t harm you,” I told her to help ease her fears, “Unless the situation warrents…” I muttered, loud enough for her to hear.  Her face went white as I laid my head back down.

“Deathwulf!” Sophwen admonished before breaking out into another round of laughter.  Creami let out a sigh and laid down on the bench.  “That was so not fair,”  she said softly.

We could tell we were getting close to Rivendell as the path we were travelling down smoothed out and became narrower.  “Remember, keep yourselves inside and silent until we say otherwise,” Tregoan said from the front.  Chucaro and I just laid where we were, content to watch the scenery of Rivendell as we made our way through.  I suddenly tensed when I felt a pair of arms wrap around my neck as Creami sat next to me, hugging me close.  Chucaro let out a soft warning growl, voicing her disapproval.

“Isn’t Rivendell beautiful,” she asked to nobody in particular, it seemed.

“If you’re into hunting of elves,” I replied without thought.

“That isn’t very nice,” she said, slightly tightening her grip momentarily.  “It truly is a beautiful city… so tranquil and serene…” her voice trailed off as she fell asleep against me.

I let out a deep sigh as I laid my head down, wishing we would soon be out of the city… “We’re coming, Wargie,” I thought to myself as I soon fell asleep.

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