The hunter becomes the hunted

Deathwulf watched the shadowy figure as it made its way through the trees, heading towards the Great River, also called the Anduin.  All during the long walk, the shadowy figure would stop and check on its injured wing, all the while muttering to itself.  And all along the way, the warg watched and waited patiently, knowing his time would come as well.  When it did, Deathwulf knew he could easily kill the shadowy figure, but he also knew that one small step of over-confidence could be his downfall, as well.  Along the trek, he randomly checked to see if there was anything tracking him, but it always turned up empty.  He didn’t know if the shadowy figure knew that Deathwulf was tracking it, but it didn’t seem to care.  It continued in its general direction and occasionally checked its wing.

As they ventured further into the woods, Deathwulf’s senses alerted him to danger.  He stopped where he was as the shadowy figure stopped, too, and examined its wing again.  Something’s different… but I can’t quite seem to tell… wait… it’s grown silent! Deathwulf crouched down until he was nearly on the ground.  As he sensed around him, he could pick up on a half-dozen elves.  We must be in their forest. As he continued to sense the elves, the shadowy figure moved ahead, apparently unaware that it was being tracked… and not just by Deathwulf, either.  He didn’t feel as if he were being tracked, but he moved cautiously now… both keeping an eye on the shadowy figure and also on the elves.  Deathwulf didn’t like where he was, but he had no choice now but to cautiously proceed.

Deathwulf wasn’t sure how long he had followed the shadowy figure, but the elves were still tracking it, as well.  They were content to see what it did as they didn’t attack it when they were deeper in the forest.  They had traveled a ways as the sound of the river was getting louder.  Deathwulf was still cautious, as it knew the ears of an elf were not that far different than that of a warg… they could easily detect movement with other sounds seemingly overpowering weaker noises.  Deathwulf was so aware of the elves and the shadowy figure, that he didn’t realize he was near the edge of the forest.  The Anduin flowed before him… the surface of the river moving swiftly.  He could see the other side, but there didn’t look like there was any way to cross.

The shadowy figure seemed to sense this as it looked in Deathwulf’s direction, as if it could see the warg, plain as day.  It cackled evilly. You thought you could follow me to my master!  You are the foolish one! It spread its wings to show Deathwulf that it had healed!  Deathwulf looked at the shadowy figure in disbelief!  It healed its wing in a matter of days!  The way I ripped it should have taken a lot longer to heal, if it even could! The shadowy figure launched itself into the air as its wings caught the wind.  It took one last evil smile at Deathwulf and flew out over the river… moving much more mobile than one would have thought from looking at it.  Deathwulf started to curse to himself when the shadowy figure suddenly stopped flying and dropped like a rock into the river, vanishing from sight… the warg caught a glimpse of arrow shafts protruding from the shadowy figure before it sank below the surface.

The elves came into view, bows drawn, as they watched the shadowy figure sink below the surface.  Deathwulf watched as the elves slowly walked to the edge of the river, bows ready, should the shadowy figure emerge… but all was still. As the warg watched the elves, he realized there were only five of them in sight… where was the last?  He knew he sensed a full half-dozen.  He slowly looked around and saw the remaining elf.  It was trying to see if there were any besides the one they had shot.  They appeared to talk amongst themselves while throwing occasional looks around where he stood.  They took one last, quick look before they split and fluidly climbed the trees, easily blending into the background.  Deathwulf froze as his mind raced… he didn’t know where the elves went, but he didn’t dare get out of stealth.

———————

Chucaro led the team quickly along the Misty Mountains… nothing would make her slow down, let alone stop.  Not while she could ‘feel’ where Deathwulf was.  She didn’t think about why she could feel where he was or why this seemed to hit rather suddenly… she just knew now that she had this connection and she wasn’t going to stop until she found him.  She looked back to make sure the others were following… they were right behind her, and looked as determined as she was to find Deathwulf.

She led them quickly down the mountainside until they could no longer travel with the sled.  Chucaro took the short break as a moment to rest, as they would be on the move again when they were ready.  She looked towards the woods to the southeast… I can feel him very strongly… he must be close by!  It feels like he is on the other side of the woods! She also realized it didn’t seem like he had moved much, but he was there, as was the strong feeling for him.

Chucaro glanced back as Silentknife, Creami, Sophwen and Tregoan approached her, with packs attached to their backs. Silentknife looked at the others. “Are we ready to head out?”  The others simply nodded.  He turned to Chucaro.  “How close do you feel he is?”

Chucaro looked at the forest and then turned back to the burglar.  “I can feel him on the other side of those trees.”

Silentknife quickly scanned the forest, and though something sparked a twinge of memory about the forest, it wasn’t enough to keep his interest or cause him concern.

“Then let’s move out.” he said, leading the way for the group.  Chucaro jogged past the burglar easily as the group jogged downhill nearer to the front line of the forest.  They weren’t moving at a run, but they weren’t walking… the hope of meeting up with the warg they thought dead gave them all the adrenaline they needed.

—————————-

It took longer than the burglar thought it would to reach the forest as the group stopped for a quick rest before moving amongst the towering trees.  Silentknife looked back the way they had come and saw the Misty Mountains in the distance.  Silentknife looked at the sky.  Looks like we have at least a couple of hours of daylight to see by.

Silentknife heard Sophwen suddenly gasp and turned towards her.

“I know where we are… it’s along the northern edge of the Lorien forest.” she said as her hand went to her heart. She closed her eyes and bowed her head slightly and said a quiet prayer.

Remembrance sunk into the burglar. “The elven patrols…” he couldn’t finish the sentence fast enough as Chucaro heard him and bolted into the forest. “Deathwulf may need help!” Chucaro said as she quickly got out of sight.

Tregoan was quickly after her. “I’ve got Chucaro tracked… don’t worry,” the big hunter said as he gracefully moved through the trees after the warg.  The others quickly followed the hunter and the warg, hoping they wouldn’t get split up in the process.

As they moved swiftly through the forest, the burglar lost track of time and the shadows got longer.  He didn’t know how long they were in there, but it must have been a while as he could hear the Anduin as they got closer.  Silentknife slowed to a walk as he looked around. Something doesn’t feel right… I can hear the rush of the river, so we must be close! The others in the party had stopped where they were, as well.  Chucaro’s hackles rose up and she let out a low growl as if she sensed danger.  Then it dawned on the burglar.  All the other sounds in the forest are gone! It’s too quiet! Silentknife’s daggers were in his hands in a flash as he went stealth.  Tregoan drew his bow and both Creami and Sophwen had their swords and shields out.

Chucaro slowly moved around as she couldn’t pinpoint the enemy, but she knew they were out there.  Tregoan stayed near the warg, but tried to keep his back near a tree.  The two minstrels slowly moved forward together, nearly back-to-back, trying to minimize the areas they had exposed.  Out of the corner of his eye, Silentknife thought he saw a figure move towards them.  He suddenly turned his attention to Chucaro as she was suddenly whisked into the air, trapped in a netting that was hidden on the ground.  She tried to struggle against the net, but it was no use… it held her fast.

A half dozen elves dropped down from the trees, bows at the ready and aimed at the party.  “A group of elves and humans traveling with a warg?” said the leader of the elven patrol suspiciously.  “The Lord and Lady will want to hear about this.”  The group remained silent, mostly from stunned shock.

“What about the warg?”

“Kill it.”

“No! Wait!” Silentknife finally said. “She is with us, from the ‘Moors.  It’s too long of a story to try to explain, but Master Elrond of Rivendell knows who she is.”

“You are in Lothlorien territory, not Rivendell.  It matters not what he may or may not know.  Our laws rule here.” said the patrol leader.  He signaled to the others. “We’ll bring the warg along… if it shows any kind of resistance, kill it.”  He gave one last look at the burglar and walked to the front of the patrol.  Silentknife, Tregoan, Creami and Sophwen were grouped up, but no restraints were put on them.  After a few moments, a wagon with a steel cage appeared.  They lowered the trapped warg, netting and all, into the cage and locked it shut.  Creami broke from the main group and ran to the side of the cage.  The elf guarding Creami drew his bow, but the patrol leader put his hand on the bow to lower it and watched the minstrel as she approached Chucaro.

“Are you ok?” asked the minstrel, trying to hold back tears and anger.

Almost absently, Chucaro answered her, “I’m fine.  Deathwulf is near… I can feel it…”

The patrol leader gently, but firmly escorted the minstrel back to the group.

“Is the reunion done?” he asked sarcastically.  He didn’t wait for an answer.  “Move out!” he said as the wagon and the group started moving back the way they had come.  Again, Silentknife caught movement out of the corner of his eye.  He looked towards where the movement came and pretended to swat at insects that weren’t there.  Deathwulf?! He dropped his hands back down and hoped the warg was watching and saw the sign he quickly did with his hands… and hoped the elven patrol didn’t pick up on it.  Hoping against hope, he prayed that Deathwulf wouldn’t try to rescue the group… he wouldn’t make it far before the elves would down him with their bows… these patrols were among the best and not to be messed with.

———————

Deathwulf watched from stealth as his friends were taken away with the elven patrol… he never felt as helpless as he did now… but he knew if he tried to save them now, it would be no different than just throwing his life away.  No.. he would follow them and see where they were being taken to before he made his move.  He also saw the faint hand signal Silentknife had given him.  They had better not cause any harm to Chucaro… they will pay in blood, otherwise.

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