Out-riding the enemy

Deathwulf paused for a minute and looked at the hunter.  “Why would you need my help?” the warg asked.

Winterwulf was unblinking.  “I can’t go into specifics… not here… but it has to deal with the armies of Gathburz and a strange, new crystal.  That is all I can tell you now… though I fear I’ve said too much already.”

“The reason we left the Moors the first time was to bring Wargie back, which was done, thanks to you and your friends.  I don’t see how the has any bearing on us here in the…”

“You can hear me out and decide then.  We are wasting precious time as it is.”

Without even asking, he knew why he was asked to help… he would easily be able to infiltrate the armies and find out information of the crystal.  “Fine, I will hear you out, but that is all I will promise.  Where do I meet you at?”

Chucaro stood close beside Deathwulf.  “What are you doing?” he asked.

Chucaro let out a soft laugh, as if it was obvious why.  “Like I am going to let you do this alone.”

Deathwulf looked at Chucaro and let out a low sigh.  “Fine… where do we meet to listen?”

Winterwulf let out a little smile as he told them where to meet.  “I can get you out of the moors to listen to what the plan is and you can decide then.  If you choose to come back to the Moors, you can do so safely.”

“Then we will wait for you there.  Chucaro and I can guide you close to Lugazag, but from there, you are on your own to get back.”

Winterwulf nodded. “My horse is ready and waiting for me back at the keep.  Let’s go.”

With that, the three of them moved out.

—————————

The small group stopped in the trees.  “This is as far as we will go. We wish you good travels and will see you at the rendezvous point.”  Winterwulf nodded and left the trees to go into the keep.  The two wargs vanished as if never there.  As the hunter approached the keep he noticed the keep was flooded with light.  There was an abnormal amount of activity this early, as the hunter made his way in.

Winterwulf stopped a soldier rushing past him.  “Whoa there.  Why all the activity and commotion?”

The soldier looked at him as if he weren’t all there.  “Didn’t you hear?  There is a contingent of Angmar’s soldiers coming down from the north, towards the keep.  We’re being mobilized to defend the keep!”  With that, the soldier hurried on his way.

Winterwulf hurried to the stables and found his horse, ready to go.  The stable-master had the reigns ready for the hunter to take.  “I have a strange feeling they aren’t looking to take the keep… that’s why I got your horse ready for when you arrived.”

This caught Winterwulf off guard.  “Why wouldn’t they go after the keep?”  he asked.  Then it dawned on him… Grimsniper! “Thank you, friend… this means more to me than you know.  I’ll try to lead them away from the keep.”

Winterwulf took the reigns and in one motion, was on his horse, heading towards the front of the keep.

“There is food in the saddle!” yelled the stable-master, but he didn’t ever know if the hunter had heard him.

Winterwulf kept his head down and shot out of the front of the keep at full speed.   A few arrows flew over his head and to his side, missing him completely.  As his horse galloped ahead, he turned his head slightly and could see the black arrow yelling in rage.  Wargs flew past the black arrow to try to chase him down, but he knew it was a hopeless effort… his horse was fresh and one of the fastest in the land… they weren’t going to catch him.  He could hear the wargs falling further behind as he led his horse down the hill and to the crossroads.  He avoided the orc camp and rode as fast as he could over the west bridge of Tol Ascarnen and across the front lawn.  The free people had control of both bridges, which made travel a lot easier, though he would put his horse against any agent of Sauron that they might come up against.

Winterwulf came up to a guard at the elf camp and reigned his horse in.  “How does the path between Tol Ascarnen and Tirith Rawh look?”

“It’s been quiet this early.  We’ve taken that keep, as well, so any army of Sauron would be hard pressed to attack you on your way there.”

Winterwulf nodded.  “Thank you for the information!” he said as he spurred his horse sharply to the north, along the path to Tirith Rawh.  He avoided the roads and kept to the trees, in hopes that it was still too dark to see him clearly.  As he made his way up the hill, he sensed he was being tracked.  Without warning, the horse changed direction, heading towards the keep.  He looked back to see a warg chasing after him… it barely missing its attack as the horse felt him and changed direction.  He patted the horses neck as he rode into the safety of the keep.  He could hear the sounds of the archers arrows as the warg turned back in defeat.  A group of soldiers ran past, after the warg in hopes of diminishing the army by one, but the warg had too big of a lead.

As the hunter watched the soldiers disappear from view, he felt nothing but calm… there was no sense that he was being tracked, so after a brief rest, he road at a steady pace north, to the meeting point.

—————–

As expected, Chucaro and Deathwulf were waiting for the hunter to arrive.   After tying off his horse, Winterwulf did a quick check of the area to make sure he wasn’t being tracked.  When he was satisfied, he walked over to the two wargs.

“You arrived quicker than we thought.  Were there any problems?”  Deathwulf asked.

“There were two attempts at me… one, the approaching army, I easily out-rode, and the second, bless the instincts of my horse, I was able to avoid and rode fast into Tirith Rawh.  The soldiers there scared the warg off.”  Winterwulf replied.

Deathwulf glanced over at Chucaro before speaking to the hunter again.  “Let me guess… Grimsniper led the first attack on you?”  A slight smirk was all the hunter gave as any indication.   The big warg sighed.  “Where are we meeting to discuss the events you briefly talked about?”

“I have a camp set up along the hidden path.  We can talk there and you can make your decision.”

Deathwulf nodded and the hunter whistled a code that was repeated down the line.  “The hunters won’t fire for the time being, but keep in stealth until we are on the hidden path.”  The two wargs nodded and went stealth.  Winterwulf went back and got his horse, then rode up to the gate.  He could feel the wargs as they traveled along the hunter.  His horse wasn’t spooked in the least.  As the hunter approached the entrance to the hidden path, he was stopped by the rangers on guard. They had their bows pointed towards the stealth wargs.

“Well met traveler.  There are two wargs in stealth near you.  Get you and your horse out of the line of fire and we can take care of them for you.”

Winterwulf threw back his hood.  “The wargs are with me and are not to be harmed.”  The nearest ranger went white when he saw who was riding the horse.  “My apologies, Winterwulf… I didn’t know it was you.”

The other ranger didn’t seem to notice and kept his sights on the warg.

“Stand down!” the older ranger tried to whisper to the other.

“Huh? What? Aren’t we supposed to keep the enemy out?”  the young ranger questioned.  He had dropped his bow, but the tension on the string was still there.

“My apologies, Winterwulf.  They gave me a young ranger to train and he is taking his post rather seriously.”

The hunter laughed.  “It is good that he takes things as serious as he does.  One can’t be too sure, now-a-days.”  He looked at the young ranger.  “But, rest assured, if any harm comes to these wargs under my protection, you will have me to answer to, and nothing will save you from that encounter.”

The veiled threat did not go unnoticed by the young ranger.  He released the tension of the bow and gulped as understanding and realization crept in.   Deathwulf and Chucaro came out of stealth, sitting by the horse, watching the event unfold.

“We’ll make sure nothing disturbs you, Winterwulf.” said the older ranger.

Again, Winterwulf smiled.  “It is good to see you, old friend, and, thank you.”  He rode through the gate with the wargs trotting beside the horse.  They could hear the older ranger admonishing the younger one as the moved further away.

As they turned a corner, Deathwulf saw a campfire ahead… as well as familiar faces around it.  Silentknife, Sophwen, Creami and Tregoan looked at the approaching group with warm smiles on their faces.

Winterwulf hopped off his horse and tied the horse to a tree as the wargs went to the group to greet them.

Deathwulf nodded as he shook with all but Creami… she gave him a big hug when her turn came.  Chucaro couldn’t suppress her grin as Deathwulf just rolled his eyes.  After what seemed like an eternity to the warg, Creami let go of her hug and stood back, beaming at Deathwulf.  “I’m so happy to see you!” she said happily.  Deathwulf saw Chucaro sit near him with a grin on her face.  All he could do was sigh and shake his head.  “I left the ‘Moors for this?” he said quietly.  Chucaro heard him and couldn’t keep the laughter in.  Deathwulf gave Chucaro an annoyed look and turned to the group.  “It is nice to see all of you again, and, while I hate to disrupt the festivities, I’d really like to know why we were asked to help in the first place.”

Winterwulf joined the group and sat down.  “Blunt as ever,” he said with a smile, “but that is a quality much desired and hard to find.  To be honest, a lot of what I am telling you is just that, here-say.  We have received word of a powerful gem that is in possession of a powerful orc… White hand, if I remember right.  We would need you to look into it and report back if it is real or not.”

“Why me?  Why not one of the group?” Deathwulf asked.

“Well, simply put, they are not wargs,” Winterwulf smiled, “they cannot infiltrate the ranks without detection nor get closer to those who may have information we are looking for.”

“And this affects me and my tribe how?”

“If what I’ve heard is true about this gem, then you and your tribe will become nothing but mindless followers to whoever has possession of the gem.  I don’t know if the gem works on the free people, but I’ve heard that it does on the enemy.  If the gem doesn’t care who it enslaves, then we are all in very real danger.”

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