I met back up with the burglar, who was sitting on top of a rock, polishing his deadly-looking dagger. “Ah, there you are, Deathwulf!” he said cheerfully. I could only glare at him as I recounted what information I had gleaned from the spiders.
“I see,” he said after taking some time to digest the information, “so we are on the path of the real transport… Winterwulf and the others are trailing the fake.. ah, but they’ll find that out soon enough.” he continued with a hearty laugh.
“Apparently you didn’t hear the part about Chucaro and Silwyth being in grave danger…” I started before the human cut me off.
“Relax, Deathwulf… those two are in no immediate danger… as a matter of fact, those two are sleeping quite peacefully,” he said with a grin, “the poison from these spiders is not deadly… it just causes the victim to fall into a very relaxed ‘sleep’. The queen, on the other hand, we do need to worry about, but she only comes out to feed at night, and we have plenty of time!” He beamed brightly as if he had just figured the cure to all the world’s ills.
I turned away without another word and went back to the column, the burglar yapping along behind me… “Aw, come on… lighten up Deathwulf! Have a little fun…” he started to say before I turned on him.
“You’ve made light of everything since you ‘found’ me and seem to have no inclination of taking anything that has been going on as being serious. You won’t even tell me your name or how you came to be here! If all you are going to do is crack jokes and not help, then stay the hell out of my way and leave us alone!”
“Fine…” sighed the burglar, “do you want me to get them down now, then? I was really hoping to get to meet the queen!” he said, his smile disappearing as quickly as it appeared after seeing the glare I gave him. “Ok, wait right here… I’ll be back with them in a jiffy!” he said, and then leaped over the column towards the tree.
“This idiot is just going to get himself killed,” I sighed to myself as I watched him approach the tree. “Well, once he is out of the way, I’ll get the two of them down… maybe he will provide a nice distraction after all.”
Before the burglar could get close to the tree, several spiders appeared from their hiding places and attacked… but the webs meant to pin down their prey flew harmlessly through the air as the burglar disappeared from sight! As the spiders closed in on the spot where he once stood, I saw the blades flashing through the air before I saw the burglar appear again… the blades looked like silver slivers dancing in the sunlight, leaving a trail of death as the pack of spiders were quickly disposed of. Before any other spiders could come to the aid of their fallen, the burglar deftly cut Chucaro’s cocoon down and once again, disappeared from sight.
It wasn’t long before he appeared next to me, nearly startling me. He gently laid Chucaro down. “Get her out of there,” he said with a wink, “and careful, it’s sticky!” he said as he disappeared from sight with a laugh.
I carefully cut through the tough, sticky webbing with my claws, trying not to cut Chucaro. It was as the burglar had said… she was sleeping like a pup. As I was nearly done removing Chucaro’s webbing, the burglar reappeared with the huntress. The burglar went to hand me a vial of liquid. “Give this to her… it’ll counter the effects of the poison… oh, yeah, right… no hands,” he chuckled. He quickly leaned over and carefully poured the liquid into her mouth. Within seconds, her eyelids fluttered and she started waking up.
“Wh… what happened?” she asked, still groggy from the remnants of the poison.
“I’ll explain later… you’re safe now,” I replied resting my nose on her head.
The burglar nearly had the elf unwrapped, grinning the entire time. He produced another vial and carefully poured it into her mouth. She sputtered from the liquid as she woke up.
“Good morning, sunshine!” greeted the burglar.
“YOU?!?!” she nearly screamed before the burglar could clamp her mouth closed. The burglar peeked above the column for a minute before turning his attention back to the huntress, confident that she hadn’t been heard.
“Shhh…” he said, “we’re not out of the woods yet.” he finished, still wearing his cocky smirk.
“What are you doing here, Silentknife?” she whispered in a voice that dripped venom that would’ve done more than make someone sleep. “And where is Creami?!?!?”
“Creami, the minstrel?” I thought to myself. “Sighs, why can’t these free people stay out of trouble?? It’s because of them we are even in this situation to begin with!”
Ah, the adorable minstrel who has a crush on ol’ Deathwulf here?” he teased as I shot him a scathing glare. “Why, she is just fine… I was able to get her before you got her lost in the morning haze out here and have her tucked safely in a cave to the north of here.”
Sylwith turned her burning gaze towards me… “And you… what were you thinking? Trying to go after the dwarves on your own. We were following the trail to where they headed off to…” she began.
“Actually, beautiful” Silentknife interrupted, giving Silwyth a sly look, “Deathwulf is on the right trail… you all are following the decoy.”
“And you know this how?!?!” she demanded, her face now flushed… a stark contrast to her ivory skin.
“As much as I’d like to get ‘re-acquainted’ with you, we still have an issue to deal with… here is the location of the cave where Creami is waiting,” he said, handing her a roughly drawn map. “I have a little business to finish with some eight-legged royalty,” he finished, smiling broadly as he gave an elaborate bow. “On your way now,” he scooted her off, “I’ll meet up with you all soon enough.” And with that, he disappeared.
“Silentknife!” she hissed, knowing he was already gone. She threw her hands up in the air, exasperated. “Are you two ok?” she asked, turning her attention back to us.
“A little groggy, but fine otherwise,” Chucaro replied. I simply nodded. After glancing at the map, she looked to the north, north-east. “I know where this cave is… let’s go before the spiders find us again.”
It helped having an elf with us as we all went stealth, making travel much easier. We found the cave without incident before it was even late-afternoon. Carefully moving into the cave, I caught the scent of our minstrel. I led the others further in, seeing the warm glow of a campfire… it wasn’t long before we found Creami sitting with her back to the wall, sword drawn in a protective stance… her eyes lit up and she smiled brightly when she saw it was us.
“Deathwulf! Chucaro! Silwyth!” she cried out happily, before realizing there was only three of us. “But, where is Silentknife?” she asked as tears started to well up in her eyes.
“Hmphf!” Silwyth said with a scowl as she crossed her arms. “We couldn’t be so lucky to have the spiders rid us of that baggage… he’ll be with us soon enough…” she said as Creami brightened up once more.
“I.. I followed after you when you went after the wargs, but I soon became lost in the haze of the marsh… my sense of direction isn’t the greatest,” she said, blushing. “But Silentknife found me soon enough and led me to this cave before going back out to find all of you. He had been following us since we left Ost Guruth.”
“So he was the cause of that feeling of being watched.” I surmised. “He is another we will have to be weary of… he is another extremely skilled adversary… one thing is known, however… Winterwulf has surrounded himself with very skilled, capable friends. It would be a very worthy challenge should we ever cross paths in the Moors,” I thought, smiling to myself. “Very worthwhile, indeed!”
While we waited for the burglar to join us, Silwyth returned to admonishing us for leaving on our own to pursue the dwarves… we laid down to get some rest from the encounter with the spiders as she lectured us… her voice becoming an after-thought as I looked at Chucaro… other than the grogginess from the remnants of the poison earlier, there were no after-effects that I could see… she seemed as alert and ready to go as ever. I turned back to the huntress as her lecture appeared to come to a close… she stood up and raised her hands to the cave ceiling, stretching to get the start of lethargy out of her system when a sudden look of shock came over her face. Chucaro and I instantly went stealth and moved to either side of her, ready to attack when her assailant came into sight… it was then that Silentknife appeared, his arms around Silwyth’s waist and his lips pressed against the back of her neck… “I’m home, honey,” he said softly in her ear as he squeezed her against him.”
The look of shock turned into a sly grin as she correctly judged when he moved his head behind her. “Welcome home, luv..” she replied as she snapped her head back, catching the burglar square in the nose, sending him reeling backwards into the wall… as he hit the wall, she pinned him against it, a sharp, glistening dagger pressed against his throat as she leaned in close to his face. “Let this be a warning to you should you ever decide to lay your hands on me again…” she whispered just loud enough for the room to hear.
We came out of stealth as she slowly released her grip on him. “Well, this group is anything but boring,” I thought as I slowly shook my head at them and laid back down.
It was about then that the smell hit the group in the cave. “What did you get into?!?!” the huntress demanded of the burglar. He let out a huge laugh as he slid down the wall to the seat of his pants, holding his nose to squelch the flow of blood. “I hab a dabt wib royalty, bud dare queen wasn’t a bery gracious host…” he started as Creami gave the burglar a clean cloth to help with his nose-bleed. “Tank you, Creami,” he said, smiling his biggest smile. “Things got a little messy after that and I didn’t have a chance to clean up before I hurried home to the love of my life,” he added, grinning wildly.
Silwyth clenched her fist and took a step towards the burglar, who help his free hand in mock surrender… “I give, I give!” he said, laughing harder.
Once things were calmed down a bit and everyone cleaned up as best as some could, Silentknife explained what he had reasoned out. “As I said earlier, Deathwulf chose the correct path that the dwarves took with their warg. They have a powerful magic user… a runekeeper, I would guess, that helped them cross the marshes. He created an ice road that allowed them to bring the cage through here… the melting ice with the heat of the dawning day is what created the vast chilled haze that you encountered earlier today. It was also that runekeeper’s magic that killed anything that got caught under the road, which drew the ire of the spiders… they, however, will no longer be a problem.”
“So we need to get word to the others and have them meet us in Combe… that town is not more than a half day’s walk from here,” Silwyth stated, ready to lead us back to the main group.
“We don’t have time,” Silentknife stated, “Besides,” he said, a glint in his eye and his signature grin on his lips, “we have some dwarves to catch up with!”
Silwyth threw her hands up in the air. “You’re going to end up getting us killed!” she said in a defeated tone.
“Back to the hunt!” I thought to myself, licking my chops as I looked forward to teaching those dwarves a nice, hard lesson.