Original post to Darkwind’s Garou Board as "Wolf Tales (6a) (6b)" Wed 25 June 2003 10:27

Last Update: 09.10.2021

The Test

>>>TINK!<<<

The sound of the crossbow bolt hitting the stone wall elicits a loud curse from the guard who fired it. The point of impact was exactly three centimeters to the left of the intruder’s right ear. Said intruder recoils instinctively from the shot, but recovers a split second later and now advances -- damned fast. The guard reaches for a new bolt, but realizes he’ll never make it. He drops his crossbow and has just enough time to draw his sword before the intruder’s quarterstaff slices the air with a loud >whoosh!< and connects with the guard’s head. Or rather, with the guard’s helmet, which momentarily saves him from death, but leaves him with a horrible ringing in his ears, a distraction which the intruder now exploits. He pulls the lead end of the staff towards him with his right hand whilst simultaneously pushing the back end of the staff forward with his left -- lightning fast. The result: the new end of the staff rudely introduces itself to the guard’s nose. The impact flattens the cartilage, shatters the bone underneath and sends fragments into the brain. The onset of death is so fast that the guard’s face preserves its look of surprise even as the corpse crashes to the floor.

The next guard already waits, the shot already lined up and, as his colleague falls, he fires. The intruder dodges, his long blond hair flying, exposing pointed ears. The bolt skims across the front of his leather body armor and wickedly tears the fabric, but not the skin it protects. The Elf surges forward, swings the staff as he comes. But this guard's sword is already drawn and swinging in the Elf's direction. Staff and sword connect with each other with a loud >>>THUNK!<<< The sword bites into the oak -- and gets hung up. The Elf jerks the staff back, yanking the sword out of the astonished guard’s grasp. The sudden movement loosens the sword’s bite and it clatters to the floor. Before the guard can react, the Elf swings the staff again, connects with the guard’s face, reverses the staff and buries the other end in the solar plexus. The guard doubles over, suddenly bereft of oxygen and the Elf finishes him with a mighty downward stroke to the back of the neck, breaking it.

But now more guards race toward him from down the hall as the alarm spreads. The Elf turns and runs back to the room where he despatched the first crossbowman. There he finds the opposite doorway -- his escape route -- blocked by another guard, newly arrived. Without hesitation, the Elf pounces and attacks. Exactly three seconds later, the man is down. But now the guards from the hallway -- four of them -- have gained the room, so the Elf flees through the doorway just before they can surround him and just as another crossbow bolt strikes the archway above his head.

Down the hall, a right turn and >>>SMACK!<<< into a guard who is just around the corner. Elf and guard both go down on their respective arses, but the Elf regains his feet faster and, one jab to the gut later, the Elf races down the hallway, leaving the guard doubled over, alive only because the Elf’s time has grown short -- "escape" is now the prime directive.

At the next intersection, a left -- but no! The hallway's full of guards, so the Elf doubles back as a crossbow bolt zips past his ear. But now the hallway from which he came is also swarming with guards, which leaves him one choice: the door to his right, which leads to the courtyard, the one place where he knows he must not go -- but the only place he can go.

The door is locked.

>>>BASH! SPLINTER!<<<

Correction -- the door is UN-locked.

The delay allows the guards to close up and, as the Elf bursts into the courtyard, something sharp sticks him in the lower back. The pain comes a moment later, and he smells blood -- his own. Despite the pain, the Elf whirls about and >>>KLANG!<<< a guard falls to his knees, holding his head, sudden victim of a particularly wicked migraine. Now more guards boil out of doorways around the courtyard. In the dim light of late evening, the Elf senses eight of them, surrounding him on three sides and quickly closing the noose all the way. Again the Elf whirls, swings the staff in a wide arc toward the guards in front and on the sides. The exertion further aggravates the wound and he gasps in pain. The staff fails to connect, but it's enough to make the guards back off, buying the Elf one precious second to keep his back free and take in his surroundings -- no exit, no place to climb and now more guards appearing in the upper windows, bolting their crossbows.

The guards know they have him. They advance as if they have all the time in the world, grin evilly and taunt him.

"Little men with pointed ears!" a guard sneers.

"We will trim them for you!" promises another and they laugh.

"Out of the way, let me through!" bellows another. A large man pushes his way to the front -- the Captain, judging by the insignia on his shoulders. He smirks at the Elf.

"Great warrior you may be, but against so many swords--" he waves his hand around to indicate his men --"I fear the battle would be short-lived."

The Elf simply crouches, holds his staff at the ready, eyes bore into the Captain, blood trickles down his leg from the wound in his back.

"Last chance, Elf -- put the staff down! It’s over!"

Eight armed men stand before him with drawn swords. Another five in the windows around the courtyard, crossbows ready. The Elf makes a decision.

He sighs, relaxes and lowers the staff. The Captain grins. Suddenly the Elf tenses again and throws the staff toward the guards. As they instinctively recoil in surprise, all eyes on the flying staff, the Elf turns and dives >>>KERPLOOSH!<<< into the nearby water trough.

The Captain catches the staff, looks at it briefly and throws it away. His men stare at him. "Well?!" he shouts. The guards snap out of it and quickly move to the trough and surround it. The night is silent now, save for the random splashing and rippling of the water into which the Elf dove.

"Cain’t ‘old ‘is breath ferever, can ‘e?" says one and they all chuckle.

"And he ain’t got his nasty little stick anymore, does he now?" offers the guard with the migraine, still clutching his head.

And so the guards stand around the water trough, drawn swords at the ready. And wait.

What happens next is so sudden and violent, that no two men -- those that survive, that is -- will later give the same account of it.

Something explodes out of the water, knocks one guard on his back, leaps to another guard, knocks him down too and then attacks the Captain. The two guards on the ground involuntarily jerk and twitch. Closer inspection later will reveal that each of has a bloody, pulpy mess where their throats had been.

The Captain screams and thrashes wildly. The Thing from the Water Trough is attached to his right wrist, above the hand that holds the sword. One sickening, fleshy, ripping sound later and the sword clatters to the ground as the hand separates from the arm.

Now for the first time, the thing stands still. It's a wolf. A big, grey one. In its mouth is the Captain’s right hand. The Wolf bites down once and swallows, licks its bloody muzzle, opens its mouth and grins. The guards just stand there, jaws hanging open, perfect reaction to the shock of confronting something from a nightmare. The Captain clutches at his right arm, groans and tries to staunch the flow of blood.

Then, instinct overcomes good sense and the Wolf involuntarily does what all animals do when they’re soaking wet -- he shakes himself. Wet. Get dry.

The delay is enough for the guards to recover from their shock, assess the situation and react accordingly -- by bravely running away. The Wolf doesn't pursue. After leaping from the pool, lunging at two guards and maiming the Captain -- all of it while wounded -- it's spent. Pain. Its hind legs suddenly buckle. Hunger! The scent of fresh blood on the two corpses beckons irresistibly. The Wolf hops over to the nearest corpse, opens its jaw to reveal the razor-sharp teeth and plunges its snout into the chest. Flesh and bone give way easily and, in no time, the Wolf has the heart in its jaws, chews and swallows. Next, the liver. And some meat from the ribs.

The Wolf feels strength return. It's about to feast on the 2nd corpse, but something thuds into its left shoulder. The pain comes a second later. Hurt. From a second story window, a guard waves his crossbow high in the air and whoops, "I got ‘im! I got ‘im! Damned, blasted mutt! How ya’ like that, ya damned furball? Hahahahahaha!" Other crossbowmen have also recovered and take up positions.

Danger! A sudden instinctive urge causes the wolf to jump to its left, right out of the path of a swinging sword -- the Captain, now fighting left-handed. Revenge! The Wolf closes his jaw on the Captain's throat and shakes.

>>>TINK!<<<

A bolt bounces harmlessly off the stone floor to the wolf’s right. >>>THWOK!<<< Another one hits the captain, as if the wolf needs the help. A crossbowman curses from above.

Dead. The Wolf releases the neck, digs with its teeth for the heart, rips it out of the chest, bites down twice and swallows. Good! The wolf knows it doesn’t really have time for this, but also that it will never escape from this Bad Situation while wounded without some extra energy.

>>>TINK! TINK! TINK!<<< The wolf’s luck holds as three more bolts miss, striking the floor around him. Flee! The wolf moves, covers the distance to the door in one fourth of the time the Elf needs, speeds along the hallway to the exit, flattens another guard along the way. Freedom. The Wolf flies away from the keep to the safety of the deep woods.

----------

...and finally comes to the rendezvous point. The Wolf collapses, breathing hard from exertion and wounds. Pain. Fatigue.

Something_approaches. The wolf senses the humanoid’s approach even before the scent reaches its nose. Then he smells it. Leader.

A kind of singing in his head ... you need food. Eat. The man drops part of a deer carcass down on the ground next to the Wolf. And the Wolf feasts. The man waits patiently while the wolf breaks the carcass down, consumes all the meat it can find and licks the bones.

Sated.

The man nods, reaches over and yanks out the bolt. The wolf gives a short yelp and sighs.

How do you feel?

Feel. Fine.

Homid now. Thenrest.

The Wolf closes its eyes. Its fur begins to thin and disappear. With a tired whine, it passes out.

----------

The Elf awakens and senses that it's just before dawn. He opens his eyes and sees the man, sitting cross-legged on the grass, watching him with a little smile.

The Elf sits up slowly, gives the muscles time to adjust. Then he makes eye contact, bows his head and says, "Pack Leader."

The man inclines his head forward. "Pup," he replies, smile still in place.

The Elf drops his gaze and sighs. "I failed."

Leader smiles benignly. "What was your task?"

"To retrieve the topaz from the treasure room and bring it here. But I -- could not reach it."

"Tell me."

The Elf relates the events from his penetration of the Keep up until his dive into the water trough. And then he falls silent.

Leader simply waits. The Elf looks ashamed.

"Continue," Leader says.

The Elf cannot meet his gaze.

Leader sighs. "What restriction did I place upon you for this task?"

The Elf swallows and finds his voice. "I was to ... fight only on two legs."

Leader waits.

"I -- I entered the water. But it was the Wolf that came out."

Leader nods. "And why did you violate my restriction?"

The Elf bites his lip. Breathes deeply. Then finds the courage to look the man in the eye. "Forgive me, My Leader. The alternative ... was death."

Leader just stares at him. Summoning all his courage, the Elf holds the gaze. Finally, after what seems an eternity, his Leader nods and smiles. "You did fine, Pup. You did fine."

The Elf blinks. This is the last thing he expected to hear.

"I owe you an apology," continues Leader. "There was no topaz in the treasure room. And at your current level of skill, fighting on only two legs, it would have taken nothing short of Gaea's divine intervention for you to even reach the treasure chamber, let alone escape alive."

The Elf’s jaw falls open. He gives a little shake of his head. "Then ... why?"

Leader smiles. "Your true task this night was to face an impossible situation -- and master it. Even if it meant disobeying your Pack Leader."

Leader stands. The Elf does likewise. Leader smiles and lays both hands on the Elf’s shoulders. "You did fine, Pup. You did _real_ fine!"

Leader removes his hands and drops to one knee, staring into the Elf’s eyes. He raises his right arm, slowly forms a fist and bows his head before the Elf.

The honor stuns him. Then he remembers himself and repeats the rite to his Leader.

Leader smiles and claps the Elf on the back. "Come on, Pup -- let’s go home. Been a long night!"

And as dawn lights up the world, the two figures fade into the deep woods.