“We are almost there,” Orthonn said as we hurried to his cave. As we ran through the trees, all I could see were boulders in front of the rock wall. I jumped up on the boulders, looking for an opening.
“Well, how do we get in?” I asked as I could not see an opening.
“I have strong wards guarding the entrance. Come down by me. You will have to trust in what I say. Close your eyes and follow the sound of my voice. I will let you know when you can open them again. Do not open your eyes until I say!” he instructed.
With that, the hunter took a quick look around, looked at me and then closed his own eyes. “Close your eyes and follow my voice.”
I did as instructed and followed the sound of the hunter as he moved ahead of me. It wasn’t long until I could tell he had stopped. “You can open your eyes, now,” he said.
I opened my eyes to a well-lit and well-stocked cave. Bright crystals hung in sconces attached to the walls and many shelves had been built into the walls, holding numerous bottles and jars, all full of what looked like different substances. The hunter gently laid Chucaro on a stone slab that sat about waist-high to the human. “Watch over her. I need to get the salve and some clean bandages for her, quickly.”
As I looked at her, she appeared to be sleeping… her breathing was full and rhythmic. I glanced at the wound in her thigh and it had already started healing. I let out a heavy sigh… she was going to be just fine. The hunter returned, carrying a jar and some dressing for the wound. As he began to apply the salve to the wound, his eyebrows shot up.
“Amazing!” he remarked. “Her system has already neutralized the poison… and the wound is rapidly healing… truly remarkable! I would love to learn all I can about you two…”
“That won’t happen,” I interrupted, “once we have rescued Wargie, we will return home. There are spiders in the Moors that are much more lethal than anywhere else in Middle Earth… we have built up a natural immunity to lesser poisons as well as a resistance to the Moors spider poison.”
His shoulders slumped a bit as he applied the salve and dressing to the wound without word. After he was finished, he gently checked her over. “It may have been the fall from the rock or when she was stabbed with the dagger, but she may sleep for a while. We’ll let her rest before we decide what to do next.”
“The burglar asked us to wait for them if we found you first.”
“Ah, yes, Silentknife… that won’t be a problem. He knows how to find me here.”
“They went to the place called ‘Esteldin’. Is that far from here?”
“No, but if that was their destination, then they are probably preparing the people there to defend themselves from the Dourhand. I will head there to meet with them and see what I can assist them with. Stay here until we return,” he said, taking a glance at Chucaro. “We should be back before she wakes.” And with that, he gathered his weapons and left past the front barrier.
I watched Chucaro sleeping peacefully as I slowly drifted off to sleep…
The fields of Ost Galumar were littered with bodies… mostly the Dourhand, but we have sustained heavy losses, ourselves. The huntress and the runekeeper were savagely killed by whatever beast Wargie had been turned into… and both Chucaro and myself have sustained injuries. We became separated from Winterwulf and the other hunter, as well as the minstrels.
I glanced over at Chucaro… she was still out cold. I went stealth and looked around the wall where I had pulled her to safety. Sounds of battle could still be heard all around, but I was unable to detect where Wargie was… until I heard the scream…
I looked across the courtyard and saw the two minstrels, who had their backs up against the wall with Wargie slowly moving in for the kill. Before I could move to help them, a flash of light flew through the air, striking Wargie in the thigh. She howled from the pain as she turned on Tregoan, who came out of stealth after launching the attack. She turned on the hunter, ignoring the minstrels for the moment. In one bound, she was upon him, but was stopped as if she hit an invisible wall… no, it was the hunter’s trap that had momentarily stopped her!
“Now, Winterwulf!” he cried out. I waited but saw nobody else. It was then that I detected him in stealth, as well… taking careful aim at Wargie before letting the arrow fly. Wargie struggled against the trap, but it held tight. As I watched the hunter ready his arrow to launch, a flash of lightning blasted him from behind, sending him flying to the courtyard with a smash… his arrow flying harmlessly through the air. Balarbaz appeared on the rock wall where the hunter last stood.
“Finish them off, my pet!” he yelled as his runestones glowed brightly. The trap disappeared as Wargie attacked Tregoan. He was just barely able to draw his weapons and stop her massive swipe. He yelled out a shout, briefly stunning Wargie, but giving him a few precious seconds to reach Winterwulf . He stood over the dazed hunter in a defensive position and appeared to lay down another trap. Winterwulf slowly started to get to his feet.
During the fighting, the minstrels carefully made their way across the courtyard in my direction. While Wargie may have been preoccupied with the hunters, the runekeeper saw them. A flash of his runestones stopped the minstrels in their tracks… a look of horror on their faces as they realized they couldn’t move… a frosty mist surrounding their legs from the ice attack.
As the stun wore off Wargie, she sprinted after the two hunters. As Tregoan braced for her attack, she suddenly veered to the side, side-stepping the trap and catching the hunter from his blind side. Before he could react and counter, he was hit by her massive paw, sending his bow flying from his hands as well as him crashing into Winterwulf, who was still shaking the cobwebs off. He yelled out as Tregoan smashed into his legs, apparently breaking one and pinning him underneath the incapacitated hunter. Wargie slowly moved in for the kill…
A laugh broke the eerie silence as the runekeeper held his now orange-glowing stones towards the minstrels… we watched in horror as flames engulfed the trapped minstrels, their screams trapped by the walls of flame that surrounded them. It was all I could do to watch their charred bodies collapse to the ground… they were too far away from me to help them. Even the hunters were beyond my getting to them in time…
Wargie made her way to the hunters. Tregoan was still out cold as she picked his body up with her massive jaws. With a simple squeezed, she crushed the hunter’s body before throwing his lifeless form through the air behind her… his body hitting the ground with a dull thud. She turned her attention back to Winterwulf, who had drawn his weapons to defend himself. I could only stare as she feinted an attack, causing him to reach out with his weapons to avoid the attack. She pinned his weapons down to the ground as the hunter grimaced in agony, unable to move his crushed leg. As he looked up at Wargie, no fear in his eyes as he stared her down defiantly, she stood over him… she slowly licked his face from his chin to the top of his head before closing her maw around his head… with a quick bite, she tossed the hunter’s head from her mouth as his body slumped over. It took all I had to keep from losing my stomach to what I had just witnessed. I looked up at Wargie to see her looking back at me, a deadly smile on her face. Suddenly, she went stealth…
I awoke from the nightmare, shaking and in a cold sweat… it took a few moments before I realized where I was. I looked up at the table, but Chucaro wasn’t there. I stood up in a panic as I looked around.
“Relax, Death,” she said as she walked towards me. “I saw you were sleeping so I went in search of water and any food. I heard you cry out, so I came back to check on you. Another bad dream?”
“A nightmare would be more like it… we need to find them and get to Wargie. We don’t have time to waste. How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine… the wound is pretty much healed. While searching for some water, I saw a map of the area. It looks like we are not too far from Ost Galumar. If my sense of direction holds true, we should be southeast of the dwarven keep. We’ll need to head near the blast area, and head north from there.”
“Then let’s move out… the others will have to catch up with us once we get there.”