One life for another

I went down through the Delving almost mechanically from memory.  I knew I was getting close to the point where I would normally go into stealth.. where I would start to meet resistance.  The thought never crossed into my mind as I made my way down.  I somehow felt like I would be allowed to pass through, unharmed.  There was a palpable evil present, but there was something else… something that stood just on the edges of my mind, but I could not see it.  I slowed down as I didn’t want to walk into a trap, though it was too late for that… they could sense my presence as I walked into the cave.

I saw the first spirit up ahead of me.  As I got closer, it turned at my approach and stopped.  It watched as I went past it, but that was all it did.  The same happened to other spirits as I passed by them.  Some got out of my way and others moved so I could only go in one direction… the direction where I could find Gaergoth. As I continued my path, the walls grew further apart until I was in a wide room with stairs going to various places and rope bridges in the background.  “This was looking strangely like it did in my dream,” I thought to myself as I looked around me.  The spirits in the room stopped what they were doing and watched me.  The spirits formed a path to a set of stairs that went up and then led to the right.  I walked about halfway down the path and then stopped… I could hear what sounded like metal and bone getting louder as it approached.

Two skeletal guards came down the stairs leading to the right, faced me and stopped.  Like in my dream, the weapons they carried were wicked looking.  If the skeletons could, I think they would be grinning at me, despite the look of their skulls.  I felt my fur raise as I heard another figure approach… this time it was Gaergoth!  Instinctively, I crouched down and growled as he approached his guards.  The guards saw me and pointed their weapons at me, goading me into attacking them.  Almost as fast as they went into defense mode, they went back into guard mode with a simple gesture by Gaergoth.  Without a word, he turned towards me.

“So, you have come,” he said, “I had my doubts that your dreams would be enough.”

“So they were real… they weren’t my dreams?”

“Oh, they were your dreams, to a point… I twisted them enough for my own purposes.”

The fangs on his face gave him a hideous grin… it felt like he was doing that on his own, despite his look.  “Enough of the chatter.  I am here in exchange for Wargie.  Let your hold on her go!”

“I already have you trapped…  Why should I make an exchange?” he laughed as he said it.  “Ah, I can see you don’t find the humor in it.  But seeing as how you did come here alone, I will keep my end of the bargain.”

I didn’t see or feel anything.  “How do I even know you did anything?”

“Oh, it’s done.  You will just have to trust me on that… but it’s not like you have any choice!” he said as he slowly approached me.

I tried to back while I was crouched to give me more room, but my legs were frozen.  A sense of panic and dread welled up in me.  I have nowhere to run!

“You belong to me, now… or rather, your soul does…” he laughed as he approached me.  “This will hurt you much, much more than it does me.”

He pointed his hands at me and lightning shot out and laced through my body.  I shuddered at the impact and would have howled at the agony and intense pain surging through my body had I been able to.  The feeling that kept my legs from moving made its way though my body, so I couldn’t move a muscle.  I was starting to feel weak and noticed my strength beginning to wane.  Whatever had me rooted let go and I collapsed.  I watched as my life essence was taken from me slowly…

——————

Chucaro appeared by the wargs, just as Deathwulf had.  She took a quick sniff then bolted for the entrance to the Delving.  She used the motivation of getting to Deathwulf before he did something stupid to spur her on.

“I hope it’s not too late!” she said as she passes through the entrance.  She stopped momentarily to let her eyes adjust to the darkness.  When she could see clearly, she deftly went down the sides of of the rocks til she got to the bottom.  She too, knew these halls well and made her way down the halls as fast as she could.  She skidded to a stop when she saw a bright flash of light up ahead.

“Deathwulf!!!” she screamed as the bright light didn’t stop.

——————-

Winterwulf and Creami raced into Rivendell.  The hunter stopped only to ask the guard where his friends were being kept.  The guard, not having any idea, suggested they see Master Elrond at the Last Homely House.   They headed instead towards the stables… his gut told him that was the only place to keep a wagon out of sight of the general public.  He stopped and dismounted, ignoring the orders of the approaching elves and in one motion, hopped on the wagon and through the flaps.  Creami took the reigns of his horse and tied the two of them to a nearby post.  She climbed up on the bench as the elven guard stopped near the wagon.  Creami stopped and turned towards the elves.

“Tell Winterwulf to come out here at once!” the lead elf nearly spat.

Creami raised an eyebrow at the elf and was about to say something when Winterwulf emerged through the flap.  He looked at the minstrel, “Go inside with the others, Creami.”  As she went by the hunter and through the flap, he turned to the elf.  “As for you, you’ll just have to wait until I am done.”  With that, he vanished under the flap.  The elf was seething outside as Winterwulf looked at Wargie, then at the others.

“Deathwulf and Chucaro have both entered the ‘Moors’.  I don’t know what Deathwulf hopes to accomplish, but it seems that Chucaro went to try to stop him before he did something foolish.”

“Why didn’t you go after the warg?” asked Sophwen.

That brought a smile to the hunter’s stern look.  “I know very little of the ‘Moors, except that it exists.  I would be of so little use there, that Deathwulf is better off without me.  I would probably just end up dead.”  He turned serious.  “I’m not sure what the warg intends to accomplish, but I think it has something to do with Wargie.  Watch her condition like a hawk.  I will be outside dealing with the elves… let me know as soon as you see a change.”  With that, he went through the front flaps to confront the elves.

Winterwulf went through the flaps and jumped down off the wagon.  He approached the elven guard who had his back to the hunter.  Silentknife, who was not in the wagon when Winterwulf talked to the others, stopped and was about to hail the hunter.  In one motion, the elven guard turned on the hunter, his sword drawn.  He had the point against the hunter’s throat, a small quiver in his arm.  “How dare you treat me as if I am trash.” the elf screamed.  Silentknife stopped and his hands instantly went to his daggers.  He knew, though, that he would not get to the hunter in time.

Winterwulf replied calmly, almost nonchalantly “If you are going to use the sword, you only have one chance.”  The hunter quickly surveyed his surroundings… four archers in the trees and the two elves behind their leader… their hands on their swords, but the swords still sheathed.  “You dare to question the one who holds a sword to your throat?” the elf nearly laughed.  “Give me a reason to end your life now!”

The clang of a sword meeting ground could be heard as the hunter deftly grabbed the sword arm of the elf and in one motion, had the elf’s arm pinned against his back and his body pressed tightly to the hunters.  “Call off your archers, and you may live to see another day.” Winterwulf whispered into the elf’s ear.  “If you kill me, you will be dead before you draw your next breath.” the elf promised between clenched teeth.  In answer, Winterwulf gripped the elf’s arm higher, causing the elf to grunt in pain.

“Enough! Both of you!” Elrond said angrily as his private guard surrounded the wagon.  Ellenroh was with Elrond.  Winterwulf smiled at the sight of Ellenroh and pushed the elf he had pinned into his contingent.  The elves caught their comrade and he turned on the hunter, hatred in his eyes.  “I’ll kill you where you stand!” he roared as he launched himself at the hunter.  Two of Elrond’s guards crossed their spears in front of the elf as he barely stopped in time. “I said ‘Enough’!” Elrond stated.  “Guards, ‘escort’ the Captain and his men back to their barracks… I will talk to them later.”  The elf picked up and sheathed his sword as he stood in place in front of his soldiers.  His archers soon joined him and he snapped off a quick salute to Elrond before he was escorted to his barracks.  He gave Winterwulf an icy glare before he left.

“It looks like I came just in time.” Elrond sighed. “You know, I won’t be around one of these times to stop this fight between you two.  When will this bickering stop?”  Winterwulf could only smile at Elrond, which made him sigh deeper and shake his head.  “The life-span of elves is greater than that of man… but I somehow doubt that one will make it.”

Before Winterwulf could say anything, Sophwen came out the front flap.  “The collar disappeared. Wargie is waking up!”

Winterwulf took a brief look at Elrond then jumped up the wagon and through the flap.

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