The Trail of the Beast

Chapter 1

In a forest that lies at the end of a pass everything is quiet. As if the world is holding its breath, steeling itself for a blow that is to come. The silence seems to last an eternity, but it is really mere seconds before the screams of terror and pain echo off the trees. Suddenly all is silent again.

An elf walks a path in a forest, scouting the area. Off the path, but near him travels a wolf. So quietly moves the elf, carefully placing his light steps that not a sound is heard. Of the noise the elf makes as he moves, the wolf is a whisper. Suddenly with a silent bound the wolf leaps at the elf. Hearing a rustle of leaves the elf turns, only to see the wolf flying towards him. Unable to react fast enough the elf is knocked flat on his back with the wolf standing on top of him. The wolf and the elf regard each other for a moment. The wolf is not gray as one might expect. She is blonde. She not a true wolf either, for her mother was Newfoundland pure breed. They look into each other's eyes. Brown round eyes look deep into the elf's almond shaped eyes. The elf's eyes light up and a smile appears on his face and the wolf licks him across the face in return. The elf reaches up and runs his hand down her neck and then gently pushes her off.

Then the companions continue together down the path and they come to a glade. Both stops short of entering the glade, sensing something is wrong. The wolf softly growls and the fur on the back of her neck stands on end. Before them is a terrible sight. The grass is red with blood, and shreds of clothes litter the ground. There seems to be no body, but the elf steps into the glade for close inspection. The wolf disdains and chooses to wait for her master with in the trees.

Upon leaving the covering of the trees the elf is instantly cautious, as he does the sharp tang of death reaches his nose. Warily he searches the glade trying to read the signs of what has happened here. He sees large footprints in the grass, and where the feet had rested the grass is brown and dead. The elf feels the imprint. It is cold to his touch. As he covers the glade he sees pieces of something and a feeling of absolute horror comes over him as he realizes they are pieces of someone.

Though he does not know who this person was he resolves to find this foul creature and put an end to it. For if it has attacked once it will attack again. With this resolved he calls to the wolf and begins to follow the footprints though the forest.

The path quickly turns to the south toward the forbidding mountains. The elf knows he will not be able to face the bitter cold of the mountains without extra equipment. With a heavy heart at the delay of his journey, the elf heads for his guild. There he will gather equipment and supplies. The wolf not truly understanding watches as her master leaves the trail and turns towards home. She sniffs at the trail and whines after her master. The elf pauses and turns. The wolf, thinking he has changed his mind, leaps off down the trail but before she gets very far the whistle of her master checks her stride. Sad and confused the wolf returns to her master's side and together they head home.




Chapter 2

Glad to find the guild empty, the elf hurries to pack what he will need. This is a menace he feels he must take on alone, and is unwilling to risk the lives of his fellow guild members. Soon he has everything packed. His equipment, besides what he usually carries includes a warm fur coat and hood, fur-lined gloves, and lined boots. The elf's supplies consist of 2 full water skins and several packages of lembas. He packs his supplies and extra equipment in a simple but sturdy backpack. Hefting the heavy pack to his shoulders he calls to the wolf, who is waiting in the corner on her mat, and heads for the door.

Relieved at being back on the trail, the elf ignores the weight of his pack and strides quickly down the path. Soon they are back to where he had turned back before and though he wants to continue the sun is failing fast and night is coming. Deciding he does not want to risk losing the trail in the dark he determines to camp here tonight.

He chooses a tree near the trail and climbs into it. The branches are wide and he is soon comfortably positioned to sleep. His wolf, after watching him climb the tree, curls up in a bush under tree and goes to sleep.

Before the sun rises the next morning the elf is up and preparing for his trip. Thirsty, the elf digs a water skin out of the pack and takes a sip. Then he munches on a lembas while he plans what he is going to do, though at this point he has only one plan. To find out where this creature is and destroy it, for any creature with the power to shred a person like that has to be stopped. With that in mind he puts his pack on and jumps out of the tree, in front of the waiting wolf. The wolf looks at her master, half expecting him to turn home again. To her joy the elf heads down the path, they are once more on the hunt. To the wolf it seems that it has been to long since she and the elf have been on the trail together.

The path wanders in and out of the trees, but always steadily south. Hour after hour the elf and wolf walk, and the mountains draw nearer. After a long while they reach the pass between the mountains. The terrain loses all signs of plant growth and becomes very rocky. Here the elf can not see the trail left by the beast, but there is only one path though the mountains. The path looks as if a god had taken his finger and sliced the mountain in two. The sides of the path are steep and rocky with no living thing on them and the mountains seem to frown down upon him and the wolf.

As he enters the pass the steep walls of the mountains block the sun, plunging him into twilight shadows. Carefully he picks his trail through the loose, rough stones on the path, with the wolf following. Soon the trail turns to the west. At the turn he takes a break and shares a piece of lembas with the wolf. Though the wolf does not like lembas much, she knows from experience it may be all she gets in this barren territory, for many of their past hunts had led into such lands. Also the elf gets the second water skin and holds it so the wolf may drink. This tricky feat was mastered after long practice, but has come in handy while the couple wanders barren lands where water is often scarce. After taking a drink from his own skin he determines that they will travel all night tonight, the trail must not get too cold.

So off they set, to the west now and into unknown dangers.
Chapter 3

Knowing the rocky terrain is rough on his wolf's paws he hopes that this pass will become more friendly soon. The rocky terrain continues though and is unchanging as they tread onward. The sun has set, but both of the seekers have night vision and are unimpaired by this fact. The elf is rested from his sleep the night before and is quite ready to walk all night.

Hours of hum drum marching pass and the terrain never changes. He almost loses hope that it ever will. The towering mountains on either side are oppressive and the elf does not know how much more he and the wolf can take. The wolf is already showing signs of depression, and the elf decides there is magic in this valley, a despairing magic. As he almost gives up hope there is a sharp cold breeze blowing from his left, there is an intersecting pass to the south.

In spite of his diligence, he had missed it in the dark for there is a slide further down that makes it look like a simple jog in the path. Looking closer the elf decides that the passage to the south is not completely blocked, but he is unsure if the beast had continued to the west or he had gone south.

Undecided the elf sits on a near by rock and calls the wolf to him. The tired wolf happily comes and sits in front of him. The trail had been obvious before, but now he needs some way of finding it. The elf looks the wolf over and decides that it is her turn to take the lead. For if he can not see the trail, she can smell it out. Overcome with gladness of having her with him, he hugs the slightly confused wolf. The bewildered wolf soon recovers and nuzzles against him. With that he commands the wolf to trail. The wolf starts to sniff around and soon hits upon the track, and with a low growl deep in her throat she lets her master know.

She leads him to the beginning of the southern path. Feeling the cold wind warns the elf of what he feared to begin with is true. He unpacks his equipment. Unrolling the cloak and hood, he carefully dons them, making sure they are strapped on so the wind can not tear his protection away. Then he takes off his light shoes and slides the soft fur lined boots over his feet. Finally he pulls the gloves on, and makes sure they will not hamper getting at his weapons. Now fully outfitted he is ready for the cold. As for the furry wolf, her warm coat is even warmer than his outfit. While he prepares he tries not to think of what may lay ahead. From the size of the footprint and what the creature did to the poor person in the glade, the elf knows he was in for a big fight, provided he can find it.

Chapter 4

The elf heads down the southern pass unknowing of what lies ahead. Reluctantly the wolf follows.

Suddenly the wind tears at the elf, trying to steal his cloak. The elf takes a step back at the cruel onslaught. Ice particles in the wind stab at him but are defeated by his careful dress. When he recovers, the elf sees that he must go down a slope to enter the snow filled valley. Carefully he makes his way down the slope, slipping and sliding where his feet find ice under the snow. Once at the bottom, he looks up the slope only to be knocked over by the wolf sliding into him. The elf pushes the wolf off and slowly climbs to his feet, while brushing the snow off. Before he finishes though, he is struck from behind and is plunged headfirst into the snow. He tries to get up but there is a heavy weight on him. He is about to call out for his wolf to get off when he feels sharp fangs cut through his hood and into his neck as claws rip into his cloak and back. What is on top of him? He hears a low growl from his wolf and suddenly the weight and the fangs are gone.

Injured by the attack, the elf rolls over trying to understand what is happening. As he brushes the cold snow out of his face a fearsome battle is revealed to him. His wolf is fighting a large dark timber wolf with a hungry look in his eye. He is lean from hunger and wants the traveling pair for supper.

The wolf leaps at the dark colored timber wolf. She snarls most terribly before snapping at thin air as the timber wolf barely dodges her attack. The timber wolf's sharp white fangs rake along her side as she goes past him. With a yelp of hurt, the elf's wolf bounds away, but slips on a patch of ice and falls heavily on her side. Quickly he is on top of her. The elf quickly pulls out a dagger and throws it at the timber wolf. The dagger is buried deep into the side of the beast. By the force of the impact the wolf is knocked off his feet and moves no more. The elf slowly gets to his feet and feels the blood on his neck start to freeze. He stumbles over to the still pale yellow and white form in the snow. The elf kneels and reaches to pet her soft head, and hears a low growl. Turning at the sound, the elf watches in amazement as the timber wolf drags itself to its feet, blood dripping from around the blade in its side. He tries to prepare for the attack, but there is no time. He reflexively shuts his eyes as he braces for the impact, but it never hit. A mix of growls and snaps reaches his ears and then there is silence except for a quiet gurgling sound. Surprised he looks to see his wolf standing triumphant over the timber wolf as the red life of the wolf spreads over the white snow and soon freezes there.

The elf stands and walks over to his wolf, and searches her for injuries. Other than a couple of gouges on one side and some tenderness on the other side she seems to be ok. With that done he then goes over the corpse of the timber wolf and removes his gory dagger. Disgusted the elf quickly cleans the blade in some clean snow.

Still resolute in his task the elf starts to search for tracks in the snow. Soon they are found and the elf and the wolf start again to follow the creature. The air is still and silent, then the snow starts to softly fall. The snow falls lightly at first then the storm grows worse and the elf soon loses the tracks. Knowing he can not stop in this blinding storm he calls to the wolf to follow the trail. He watches the pale yellow and white form search for the trail. Her white undersides and paws blend with the white snow giving the form a ghostly look. She finds the trail and they continue their search.

The snow starts to drift around them, but they seem to be on a path that is magically kept clear of deep snow. The cold stabs at the elf's face and though the holes in his cloak, from where the timber wolf had rent it. The elf shivers and wonders how long he can keep this up, but before him is the wolf and he must follow.

Chapter 5

Slowly the terrain slopes upward and the elf is surprised to find he is treading on rock rather than snow. The storm starts to relent and the elf can see that he is heading into a narrow ravine with steep rocky sides. The wolf continues up the ravine, carefully following the trail.

Not long after entering the ravine, the elf sees a cave ahead. The black opening is large and foreboding and the wolf stops short of entering it with a low whine. The elf steps to her side and peers into the cave. Even with his natural night sight the elf can only see vague shadows within the cave. Scared also, the elf pets the wolf and quietly encourages the wolf to lead on.

Carefully the wolf continues. She listens carefully and is tense with wariness. Into the cave they creep, slowly and silently. The only thing the elf can hear is his footsteps and the soft padding of the wolf echoing off the walls. Deeper in the cave they go and light from outside starts to fade away. The elf draws his daggers and prepares for what ever may lie ahead.

As they round a bend and go out of the light from outside, the elf jumps as he hears a roar. The elf is slammed from the side by a force and thrown into the wall. Stunned the elf can do nothing but stare at the creature. It is a terrible ice troll. Its eyes are glowing red and its hair and beard are icy blue, in its huge hand rests a giant club made of ice.
The elf cries out as he sees the club smash into the wolf, knocking her to the ground mid leap. Recovering the elf springs at the troll. Dodging the swing of the club the elf slashes the troll's arms and chest with his daggers. The magic of the dagger steals strength from the troll and gives it to the elf. Strengthened, the elf attacks again, ducking the swing of the club. He scores deeply in the troll's chest. The troll reels back at the onslaught, but prepares to strike again. Failing to count on the cunning of the troll, the elf misjudges the swing and is hit in the side by a glancing blow and knocked off his feet. He sees the club coming down on him and rolls off to the side. The floor shakes as the blow strikes and the club is jarred out of the troll's hands. Quick to take the advantage the elf rises and jumps at the troll. Both the daggers bury deep into the troll's chest, but the troll still reaches to grab the elf. Catching him, the troll slowly starts to squeeze the elf in a deadly bear hug, ignoring the pain of driving the daggers deeper into his own chest. The Elf struggles futilely to escape the troll's hold, but the air is being crushed out of him and soon he can struggle no more.

The elf awakens to the low cry of his wolf and wonders how he is still alive. Near him is the ice troll, dead, a river of frozen blood flowing from the still form. The sore elf, stiff with pain, crawls over to the wolf. He looks at the wolf in despair. As she lies, he can tell that she has several broken ribs and at least one broken leg. Her breathing is labored and he decides that at least one of the ribs has pierced her lungs. Sadly he acknowledges that she is slowly dying.

Knowing the great pain she must be in, he crawls to the still form of the troll and desperately tries to pull one of the daggers out, but it is frozen in to the body. In anguish the elf cries out, his voice echoing throughout the cave. But there is no answer to his call. The elf pulls himself over to the wolf. Once by her side he gently rests a hand on her head. He listens to her labored breathing, wishing there was something he could do to ease her pain, until all is silent. Then the soft sounds of his sobbing are all that are heard.