I’m writing this while taking first watch at the end of a long day. Even though I’m physically exhausted, I’m too jittery to actually sleep. I’ve allowed myself a candle for light, since I’m crouched behind some brush. Thankfully, a comforting quiet has ruled the night. Here, I relate the many happenings of our day.
The terror of the howls and the hunt chased us into unknown territory throughout the previous night. We paused at the top of a hill to breathe and get our bearings. None of the features of the land looked familiar. There was no sign of The Lake of the Clouds. Worse, the hunters were gaining on us.
Aimon pointed out that if our only tactic was to run, eventually we would succumb to the stamina and speed of the worgs. He proposed a plan to send Gledrick, Alexey and me down the hill toward a rushing stream while he created a false path continuing on for some distance. We all agreed and gave him some articles of clothing that contained our scents. I started climbing down before the others. The hill wasn’t overly steep, but footing was uncertain. With a half-bell head start, I was still the last one down. While I stepped cautiously, Alexey danced down, and Gledrick rolled. Upon reaching the bottom, we started to slowly move downstream. Ultimately, the water must take us to the lake. Right?
After Ilirithil and Gledrick plopped into the cold water of a small pool, I heard the sound we’d all been dreading. A long, deep howl, not from the top of the hill as we’d expected, but coming from downstream. It stirred us to immediate action. Alexey identified a rocky promontory as the most defensible place. We scurried breathlessly up the slope and looked back down into the river valley. I choked back The Cough and pulled some rose petals out of a pocket to prepare a Dormireus spell to take out the rider and hopefully confuse his mount.
I could see nothing in the brush and fog of the valley. Gledrick stood perfectly still next to me, another formidable stone in this rocky place. Only Alexey’s sharp eyes could pierce the blanket. The strained whisper of his bow foretold the snap that sent an arrow out of view. A roar followed. The next seconds were a blur. I picked the approximate target of the arrow and started my Dormireus spell. A worg burst from the underbrush and raced up the hill right at me. It was the fastest thing I’ve ever seen and I was dismayed to see there was no rider. Gledrick had barely enough time to step in front of it and swing his hammer for a glancing blow. Ilirithil flew in and dove wide of the worg.
Master Vontaze would have been proud. Somehow, with all those worg teeth and growls just two strides away, I maintained focus on my spell. “Spell first,” he used to pound into our heads. I picked out where the arrow disappeared, tore the petals, and reached my left hand toward the target – a perfect cast. If the rider had dismounted there, perhaps I’d laid a heavy sleep on him. I later learned there was no one there.
The worg flashed teeth in all directions. A snap at Gledrick. A bite for Ilirithil. A thrashing of claws. Finally, his fangs found purchase on the back of Ilirithil’s neck. The worg flung Ilirithil around like a child’s strawbaby, casting the big dog to the side with a gushing wound in his neck. Ilirithil didn’t get up, and I suspected he was done.
For the second time, I earned Vontaze’s smile today. He always stressed preparedness. He attempted to surprise his students at any turn, just to see how they prepared. I pulled out the scroll I wrote before this trek, read it aloud, and summoned a large viper next to the worg. Although I knew I could not hold it in the material plane for long, the snake might provide a needed distraction. Each second was critical.
My intended distraction was overly successful. Yes, I successfully summoned the viper from the celestial plane and, yes, it completely distracted the worg. However, I seem to have interrupted the dwarf’s plans as well. He threw aside his hammer, pulled his sword, jumped on his shield, and slid down the slope swinging wildly at the worg. His last second swerve away from the snake threw him off his expected path. His swinging sword missed the worg and found purchase on the slope below his streaking shield. This catapulted Gledrick several yards and sent him tumbling head-over-heels down the slope…(wait for it)…like a rolling stone. Even over the ferocious worg, I could hear the sputtered words, “Damn wizard!”
With the dwarf’s sudden disappearance, I completely panicked. There was nothing between me and the worg except my suddenly damp robes and the strong scent of ammonia. (Master Vontaze would not be pleased.) As soon as the viper dissolved back to it’s home plane, I would be fully exposed. I gripped Master Vontaze’s staff of Illusion, prepared to try a different distraction.
A silvery glow whisped over the viper and it began to mist away. It had lasted only seconds, and maybe did more harm than good. The worg looked at me, a wicked, unnatural knowing in it’s eye. My mind flashed wild, consumed only with the urge to live. I raised the staff. As it took a step forward, out of nowhere Ilirithil was suddenly at it’s neck. A vicious dance ensued. Ilirithil led, twisting and curling. The huge worg resisted, but followed the dog’s movements. Ultimately, the massive beast pulled one direction while Ilirithil put all his weight in the other. With a loud crack, the worg fell limp, the last few pathetic breaths leaking from its snout. Its wide yellow eyes menaced me even in death.
I collapsed in a pile of shaking fear and urine. I think I actually cried. Ilirithil fell as well. Gledrick began the climb back up the slope to retrieve his hammer and pride. Alexey scoured the river area for more signs of movement. We survived.
Then came the scream.