Home is no longer home?

Deathwulf could only stare at Winterwulf.  If what the hunter says is true, then it doesn’t matter where we would go… it is just a matter of time. A thought occurred to the warg.  Wait… if Grimsniper has already told the Tyrant about Chucaro and I, we cannot even return here… we would be targets!  I pretty much cemented that fact when I told him the hunter was under my protection.  How can he not think we are working with the enemy?  If he only knew the scope of things… but I doubt he’d even care.  His hatred of the human was pretty evident. Deathwulf looked at Chucaro.  She had her attention elsewhere.  Is she aware of the situation?

“Did you hear what I said?” asked Winterwulf.

“Hmm?  Sorry… there’s a lot that needs to be chewed on in a short amount of time,” the warg answered. Even if I say I won’t help, what would we do now? Deathwulf looked at Chucaro once more.  If this only affected me, I wouldn’t do it… but it doesn’t.  I really don’t have a choice in the matter.“  So what’s the plan?” Deathwulf finally asked.

“The group will go with you to Mirkwood, so there shouldn’t be any problems.  Once in Mirkwood, you will be on your own.  I’ve asked Tregoan and Sophwen to remain in Emyn Lum and Silentknife and Creami to stay in Thangulhad, should you need any assistance.”

“And you will be?” the warg asked, though he already knew the answer.

“I wish I could join on this mission, but I have other pressing matters I must deal with.  I hope to join up at some point, but I can’t promise anything.”  Before Deathwulf could say anything in response, Winterwulf held up his hand.  “You know as well as anyone here that this group is more than capable of doing this mission.  I am not needed, nor have I ever really been needed… I just do what I can to help.”  Deathwulf knew he would get no argument from the hunter.  “One last thing,” said Winterwulf, “I cannot stress enough that this mission is just to collect information on the gem.  We don’t know anything about it, nor do we know what we are up against.  If things get too deep, pull out and abort, understand?”  Deathwulf gave the hunter a long look.  “We’re collecting information… understood,” he said without any body language.  Winterwulf regarded the warg for a minute, then turned to the others.  “It’s around mid-afternoon, so we’ll leave at nightfall.  Be ready to go then.  Any questions?”  The hunter was met with silence.  “Good, let’s rest up and get ready to head out when the sun goes down.”

As the group dispersed, the others were in discussion among themselves when Chucaro stood beside Deathwulf.  “I was rather surprised you agreed to do it… you know you don’t owe the free people anything.”  Deathwulf looked at Chucaro with a haunted look in his eyes.  I’m doing this for you… for Wargie… for home… “I have my reasons.”  Those were the only words Deathwulf said as he walked away to think alone.  Chucaro could only look at him questioningly as he walked away.

—————————-

As the sun was setting, the camp was clean and showed no signs of anyone even being there.   “There should be enough shadows in Glan Vraig to make it easy enough to pass through, but if we need a diversion, that won’t be a problem, either.”

With a nod from everyone, the group moved out… the wargs went stealth with the others on horses.

Going through Glan Vraig was easier than the hunter thought… almost too easy.  He kept his senses high, but brushed aside how easy things seemed as they appeared attributable to timing.  It didn’t hurt having the attention of the provisioner, either.  There were enough distractions that the wargs made it through unnoticed.  As Winterwulf paid for the items he bought, he briefly stopped.  There was that feeling again! To make it look like he was just counting his change and didn’t want to give away they were being watched, he moved off towards the entrance of the citadel.  He could feel eyes boring into his back, but wanted to see if he could pull his follower into the open.   As he approached the others, the feeling lessened until it was no longer there… whoever or whatever was watching him didn’t follow.

—————————

The shadowy figure hid high in the trees and watched the hunter intently.   Its red eyes were locked onto the hunter… it didn’t worry about the possibility of the wind blowing it out of the tree as its claws had a trap-like grip on the branches holding it up.  Curiosity came over the figure as the hunter suddenly stopped… he was simply counting his change before he rode off to meet the others.  The figure grinned… saliva dripping from its fangs as the hunter rode out of site.  There would be an opening soon enough, it told itself as it smiled evilly… then it’s master would have one less enemy to worry about.

—————————

“Anything wrong?” Silentknife asked as Winterwulf came riding up to meet them.

“No, just making sure I was given the right amount.” Winterwulf answered in reply.  The burglar didn’t say another word… he simply arched an eyebrow and gave a slight smile as the group rode off.

As they left Glan Vraig, the group headed east towards the Misty Mountains.  It wasn’t long before patches of snow began to overtake the land.

Winterwulf reigned in his horse.  “This is where I must part company and head south to Rivendell.  The group will see that you are escorted safely to Mirkwood.  I wish you the Lady’s blessing on your journey and hope that I will meet up again before this is all over.”

The group said their goodbyes and well-wishes.  Before Winterwulf headed off, he rode over to Silentknife.

“There is something dark following us.  I don’t know if it’s me that they are after or the group,” Winterwulf said so only his brother could hear, “so I picked this place to break to see if it is me or the group being followed.”

“Do what you must and meet up with us.  Don’t worry… we’ll make sure the wargs get to Mirkwood safely.  And I hope this dark presence is following us… it’ll get a rude awakening, that’s for sure.”

Winterwulf smiled at the burglar.  “The wargs are in very capable hands!  I wish I were going with the group, but there are matters of great importance I must see to, first.  My the Lady guide you safely.” said the hunter as he and Silentknife clasped forearms.

With a last look at the group, Winterwulf turned and headed towards Rivendell.

Silentknife watched as Winterwulf rode out of sight. Be safe, brother. He turned to the group waiting for him.

“Well, if we’re rested, let’s keep moving… it won’t be long before the snow from the Mistys completely covers the ground.”

————————————

They made good time through the western side of the Misty Mountains.  The weather was nice and, though they had traveled along crusty snow for a while now, there was no wind, so the journey was made that much easier.  They stopped briefly and Silentknife rode ahead to see how much further they could go.  The burglar shielded his eyes and looked to the east.  Even though the sun was behind them, it was blinding to look in any direction as the snow reflected the light.  The burglar rode back to the others.

“I’d like to make it to the High Pass before we make camp… if the weather cooperates, we shouldn’t have any issues.  We’ll have to skirt north of the goblin camps, but with the trees covering us, we shouldn’t have any trouble.”

Tregoan rode up to the burglar.  “As we get closer, I’ll move on ahead and
scout to make sure there are no problems.”

The burglar nodded.  “With you at the front and me taking up the rear, we should have plenty of time to react should anything happen.”  The burly hunter nodded and rode back to the others.

What Silentknife didn’t say was that the dark, shadowy figure following the group continued to follow them.  It’s behind us, so I can at least have an idea on where it is.  The pass is the best place to defend against, as there are only two options.

————————————

The figure watched from another tree as the hunter broke from the group and headed to Rivendell.  It licked it’s small mouth, fighting the urge to go after the hunter, knowing that he had to eliminate the entire group.  The hunter would meet his doom, but that would simply have to wait.  Its red eyes turned back towards the group and watched them.  As the group rode out of sight, the shadowy figure spread it’s arms out… a thin membrane fanned out as the figure caught the wind and flew from tree to tree… keeping the group in its sight, but keeping back so as not to attract attention.  It knew that it wouldn’t be noticed with the direction of the sun in the sky.  Soon… very soon… a feint, high-pitched cackle escaped its lips.  This group will be no more… soon master will be happy! it screeched to itself.  It flew in the treetops as the group made its way towards the High Pass.

————————————

When they could see the smoke from the goblin camps, the group headed north behind the small forest that led to the pass.  The sun was beginning to go down and the shadows cast from the group were beginning to grow long.  They hadn’t been noticed, but it was better to be safe than sorry… even hordes of goblins, as small as they were, were dangerous when there a large group of them.

The burglar looked behind him, briefly.  Judging by where the sun was, they should have enough time to make it past the High Pass bridge and set up camp.  It was then that the feeling of dread crept over him.  Where are the sounds of the local wildlife?  And where are the goblins?  Even though we are well north of the camps, we should have seen the patrols.  They’ve been there recently as the smoke can still be seen coming out of the huts… but where are they? The burglar didn’t want to alert the others and invite a sense of panic.  He could also feel they were being watched, as well.  We need to make it to the pass, soon!

As if reading his mind, Tregoan urged his mount forward.  “Move!” was all he said as the rest of the group followed him at a dead run.  Chucaro and Deathwulf went stealth as we were nearing the foot of the pass.  It was then that the burglar saw what the hunter did… a group of about twenty goblins were trying to intercept them on their way to the pass.

“We’ll make the pass well before them!” thought the burglar.  That was before three wargs appeared at the foot of the pass, blocking the group’s way.  The group pulled up as the wargs slowly approached the group, growling.

Silentknife glanced at the wargs and then the rapidly approaching goblins.  He could feel that the figure behind them was getting closer, too.  It won’t be long before we are trapped on all sides!

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