Camp was set up on the outskirts of Ost Guruth… near enough to keep an eye on the keep and the patrols, but far enough to keep Chucaro and myself from being detected. The last battle we had did take a toll… not only did the free people with us lose a horse, but the elven runekeeper sustained a head-wound… apparently from being thrown when his horse was hit by numerous arrows. His head hit a rock, instantly knocking him out, but he was lucky to narrowly avoid his horse falling on top of him. Creami did a masterful job on his wounds and the elf insisted that he was fine to continue on and that a mere scratch would not keep him out of it.
“An interesting, yet very competent group,” I thought to myself, “Yet can we really stop the possibility of my dreams becoming reality?” I let out a sigh, got up and shook the earth from my body. This was enough to stop all conversation in the camp. I saw Winterwulf looking at me, but staying silent, as were the others.
“I’m going out to stretch my legs and scout around. Judging by these ‘posh’ lands we are traveling through, I have little doubt that we will come across many other free peoples outside of this keep. I can handle the orcs and other wildlife, if needed,” I gave what I felt to be a simple reason.
“Be safe,” was all Winterwulf said… a hint of a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
I glanced over at the runekeeper. “Am I the one you should be telling that to?” I retorted as I turned on my heals.
Judging from the sudden laughter from the remainder of the group, I can only imagine the look on the elf’s face. Chucaro walked by my side as we left the perimeter of the camp.
We walked in silence for a bit as our senses scoured the landscape around us… taking in every detail of both stationary objects and the local habitat. We could sense many creatures nearby… the common coneys, crebain, spiders and other wargs, to name a few. “This feels a lot like home, in a way,” I thought to myself as a sudden pang of longing for the moors washed over me… “How much longer will we be out here… away from our home?”
Chucaro suddenly stopped, a slight growl of warning snapping my thoughts back to reality. We had traveled some distance from our camp and were face-to-face with a pack of wargs… 6 of them, that I could see. The largest of the pack (the pack-leader, I would assume) approached us and sniffed the air.
“Outsiders,” he said condescendingly in somewhat broken warg speak. This drew a slight chuckle from the rest of his pack. “This is our territory and we don’t take kindly to visitors,” he continued as his tone changed to a threatening warning.
In as neutral of a voice as I could force myself to speak in, I replied, “Yes, we’re outsiders. We’re looking for another of our kind who was captured by dwarves and was moved through this area. If you have any information on their location or whereabouts, we would be much appreciative and will be out of your hair as quickly as we came.”
What I assume could only be a laugh came out of the pack-leader’s mouth… but it sounded more like a sickening cackle… his eyes widened as a crazed look appeared on his face. “You smell of man and elves,” he accused us. “They are our enemies, therefore, you are our enemies!” he continued, as he worked his way into a lather… froth and spittle flying from his maw as he ranted.
Chucaro stepped between the pack-leader and myself. “Stand down and answer my friend’s question.” she replied, her voice nearly a deathly whisper.
This caught the warg-leader’s attention and he broke out into maniacal laughter. “Look at this, boys… his little bitch is going to stick up for him!” he stated, which brought out howls of laughter from his pack. All I could do was sigh at the mistake this pack-leader made… Chucaro tilted her head slightly, and let out a little laugh. “Bitch, eh? You have no idea…” was all she said as she swung at the warg-leader with her massive paw, catching him squarely in the jaw… the sound of breaking bone interrupting the silence of the night surrounding us. The warg-leader staggered back, his bottom jaw hanging loosely from his mouth. He couldn’t recover from her attack fast enough as in a heartbeat she pounced, knocking him onto his back and pinning him to the ground. His pack-mates readied themselves to leap at Chucaro. I slowly moved towards them as doubt set in their eyes… they were green, alright and had no chance though they outnumbered us three to one.
“Get off me you BITCH!” the pack-leader cried out. “Help me, you cowards! Get her off of me!” he flailed feebly. Without moving a muscle, Chucaro stared each of the other wargs in the eye… challenging them to do something about their leader’s dire situation. When none made so much as a movement towards her, she turned her attention back to the pack-leader and in one motion, savagely ripped his throat out… his body convulsing under her weight before going still.
She took a few steps forward, “Anyone else want to put this bitch in her place?”
The remainder took a few steps back, and without skipping a beat, scurried away with their tails between their legs… save one. The lone warg backed up defensively, but stood his ground. “Ah, so one of you has a backbone,” I said, “pity you won’t last as long as your friends.”
“Wait!” he said, shaking ever-so-slightly. We both stopped to hear him out.
“I know of the dwarves you asked us about… I can take you to their camp.” he said, cowering slightly.
Chucaro and I looked at each other, then at the lone warg. “Take us, warg, but know that if you are lying and cross us, your death will be long and painful!”
His face lost all color as the weight of my words sank in. “I understand,” was his reply.
He turned and lead us across the barren landscape… the blackness of the night was more than enough to keep us from being seen that we didn’t bother going stealth. It wasn’t much more than 10 minutes travel before the stench of the dwarves began to fill my nostrils. We slowed to a trot as we approached what looked like another outpost that was left to the surroundings… untouched for decades and crumbling away back to the earth from where it was erected.
Our guide stopped near a part of crumbled wall. “They have made camp on the other side of this wall. There are numerous patrols between here and their main keep. The keep is heavily guarded, but that is where the group you are looking for came with the cage… they arrived about a day or so ago.”
“Are they still in there? Did they leave? If so, which way did they go?” Chucaro pummeled our guide with questions.
“I’m sorry,” he said simply, “I’ve told you all I know. The only reason I paid any attention to them was that I could smell what they had in the cage was no ordinary animal… I knew it was another warg, but from where, I couldn’t place.”
Again, Chucaro and I looked at each other. “Wargie!” she said, hope and elation returning to her voice.”
I turned back to our guide. “Thank you, you’ve been more help than you know. You are free to go.”
He meekly took a step forward. “What are you doing? I told you that you were free to go,” I said in a low voice, my tone more of a warning.
He turned to Chucaro. “But… you killed our pack-leader. By our laws, when a pack-leader is defeated in combat, the winner takes control of the pack… I am yours to serve you as you wish.” he replied, bowing deeply to her.
I smiled to myself as I watched Chucaro… their ways are a bit archaic out here, but I had heard stories of other wargs outside of the moors. “You are no one’s slave, warg,” she began, her tone gentle. Our guide looked at her, his head cocked to the side, questioningly. “You showed more courage and leadership when you stayed while your mates fled. You helped us when all we asked for was information. You, yourself have shown that you are more than capable of leading your pack,” she continued. “As you have stated, we are not from around here… we are looking for one of our own who was stolen from us and simply wish to bring her back home. For the help you have given us, I am eternally grateful… but you will be the true leader of your pack, though I would seriously consider picking your friends more wisely… they need to have a spine to stand with you,” she said before he could give any rebuttal.”
“But, I don’t know how to be a pack leader…” he started.
“None of us do when we start out,” I interrupted. “Follow what’s in your heart and what you feel is right. The rest will fall into place.”
He seemed to chew on this for a bit before responding. “Very well, I will do as you say,” he said. “But I will show you another entrance to the keep that isn’t patrolled as well… you should be able to get in and find out what you need to before you continue your journey.”
I simply nodded and followed as he led us to the path he mentioned. As we approached the path, my hope rose considerably… “Wargie’s scent is very strong here! We are getting close!” I looked at Chucaro and smiled… she could sense it as well.
“I cannot tell you how much help you have been. As my partner has said, we are forever grateful to you. We need to get back to our camp and report our findings…” I said starting to turn around.
“I understand… but, before you go, can I ask one last question?”
Chucaro and I stopped to look at him. “Go on.” I said.
“Why are you working with the free people?” he asked with deep sincerity and much puzzlement.
“There is great evil going on here… more than we can explain. Even though we are enemies, it will take our combined efforts to stop this. That is all I can say. Be well and good luck with your pack!” I said as Chucaro and I went stealth and headed back to the others. As we were leaving, I couldn’t help but grin when I saw the look of shock and awe on our guide’s face when we disappeared from view.
“It won’t be long now…” I promised myself.