Intrepid Heroes : 7

The Original 'Intrepid Heroes'

by Edeyn Hannah Blackeney
parte the seventh

More Than a Random Encounter

 
There were the various and sundry beasties of the woods that gave them little or no trouble as they continued the next three days. They stopped to make camp for the night, and while Lily was fussing over the cookpot, Tana had just returned with a stag and was convincing WE to help her hang it from a branch by the hind legs so she could field dress the thing. Agnar just finished the nightly inventory of the cart and muttered to himself.

"We're less than a half-day from the next town, we'll take noonmeal in an inn tomorrow. Don't feel the need to save the extra helpings tonight, Lily," he informed them as he settled onto the split-log they were using as a seat by the fire.

"Gotcha, Agnar," she answered with a grin. She looked over to the now-hanging carcass and asked, "So when're you gonna have some chunks of that venison for the stewpot, anyway?"

Tana stiffened, then relaxed, "As soon as I do. We won't starve before I get them to you. Besides, isn't there --" she cut off as an intimidating sounding howl emerged from the forest around them... and it seemed to come from every direction.

WE snapped upright and paled while the echo of the howl was still on the wind. "Lily, leave the pot -- Tana forget the deer. Both of you in the cart NOW. Agnar... you too, I'll draw them away."

"Draw what away, boy? That's just some wolves, they won't come near the fire," Agnar said as he looked at WE oddly. Lily and Tana were both making noises of protestation, too.

"Just... listen to me. This is what I was hired for, right? All of you get in the --" he was frantically saying when the first of the horse-sized monsters broke through the brush. It was large and vaguely wolfish in appearance, but looked... well, evil and matted.

Tana panicked. An elf, panicking and running? Maybe she was younger than they had thought. She sprinted the other way into the forest, moving like a gazelle being pursued by a hungry lions' pride and the beast charged after her, along with the sounds of several in the underbrush.

"The rest of you freeze!" said WE through clenched teeth. "They follow movement," he warned as another came into the camp with a bound. It walked around, smelled the cookpot, then moved over to WE and smelled him -- thoroughly. Starting at his boots and moving up. WE was frozen with panic, as well as it being wise. When the thing's head was even with his, it started a low growl deep in it's throat and from across the clearing from him, the other two saw a wet spot begin and grow across the front of his breeches. It suddenly raised its head and perked its ears, before letting loose one of those eerie howls and running off in the direction Tana had gone.

"What in the world WAS that thing?" asked an extremely frightened Lily, her eyes as wide as they could get.

WE, still stiffened in his boots, began to force himself to relax, "Warwolves," he said as he took inventory of his fingers.

"Werewolves?" shouted an alarmed Agnar, "Why d'yeh know about werewolves?"

"Not werewolves, WARwolves. Much worse. If we're gonna try to rescue the elf girl, I need to change... into my 'save the maiden' outfit. Yes. That's why I have to change," WE explained, before mumbling and heading toward the cart.

Lily and Agnar pointedly ignored the 'reason' for WE to change. "But how will we find her?" asked Lily, "... and are we sure we want fresh meat that much? Those things were freaking HUGE!"

WE clambered into the cart, so Lily looked to Agnar to answer her question. He shrugged and went to get his axe from Yoke's back. As he finished unstrapping the double-headed monstrosity, a piercing scream reached them and he ran the direction it came from.

"I guess that's a 'yes,' then?" asked Lily as she followed behind him as fast as her little legs would carry her.

It wasn't long before the two of them heard the growling and crunching ahead of them and slowed to peep through the undergrowth at what was going on. Tana had been treed. She was screaming for all she was worth, tears streaming from her eyes, up a stout elm as the Warwolves leaped and snapped from below, coming just short of her feet on the branch. Lily drew her daggers and took a step... then stopped, shook her head, and re-sheathed the two weapons.

"What can we do, Agnar?" she whispered. "D'you think those things can climb up after her? Agnar?" She turned and looked and he was... praying. Over his axe. She didn't know what he was saying, so turned back to the scene before them and thought about what she could do. She backed back out, turned, and scampered back to the campsite. She quickly packed everything up and made ready to depart. She opened the back of the cart to throw in the bag of stuff and WE shouted a surprised oath.

"Oh! You're still here? Look, longlegs, I've got a plan. I'll give you some smokebombs, and you two can get her out of the tree. I'll get the cart ready to take off and take it along the road toward you. I'll watch for the smoke and you three can jump on -- we'll be outta there in no time!" she rattled off at a rapid pace.

WE got a thoughtful look on his face as he was tying the fasteners up both legs of his spare breeches. "Alright," he said, "get the smokebombs, then."

She ran to the still smoking firepit and stared shoving ash into some of the little bags from her pack with the premixed stuff in them. She finished as WE strode from the cart and she pushed the two bags into his hands. "Okay, no fuse, just throw them at the feet of the Warwolves and I'll be waiting on the road nearby ready to go."

He nodded and she threw the dropped bag into the back of the cart and climbed to the driver's seat. He started off at a jog toward the screaming (which still hadn't ceased) and she pulled out onto the road. He got to the area where the elf was treed and nodded to Agnar, who was standing with his axe ready.

"Head to the road," he whispered, "Lily's coming with the cart."

Agnar nodded and moved toward the road. WE gave him a 12-count four times before waving at the elf to catch her eye. When he knew she'd seen him he motioned for her to jump in the direction of the road, then threw both smokebombs at the feet of the pack of Warwolves and sprinted that way himself. She beat him there and the two of them swung up onto the already moving cart and away down the road.

The Warwolves came after them a few moments later and the horses were running as fast as they could, spurred on more by fear and the smell of the Warwolves than by Lily's whip.

Then the Warwolves just... stopped. They stopped and cocked their heads at the fleeing cart -- those on top that were watching them behind breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Our brave little band then saw a light not far ahead and headed toward it without really stopping to take a vote -- even if it was a brigand camp, it was better than the Warwolves.

They were just able to make out the less-than-an-acre farm with a light in the window when Lily asked, "Why'd they stop, anyway?"

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