Chapter Nine

Acorn and Tellon raced back to camp at a full run, Tellon cursing himself under his breath for not taking his swords when he went on his little "jaunt". Acorn puffed along next to him chittering to herself. He hoped she was going over spells since he had yet to see her display any form of weaponry besides a short temper. As they barreled through the brush, they could see the campsite glowing like a beacon in the night's darkness. Someone had kicked the fire into a full blaze. Good thought Tellon. That means everyone else heard the howls too... They burst into the camp clearing and skidded to a halt. Only Scarlet was left near the fire. As they watched, he swiveled his head towards them and blinked his large eyes once.

"Where..." Tellon started. Acorn lightly put her paw on his arm, not taking her eyes from Scarlet. After a moment, she turned slightly and met Tellon's eyes. Putting her finger to her muzzle she gestured to the surrounding trees and arched her eyebrow at him. He nodded briefly. Looking around, he spotted a familar white owl form half hidden in the trees and hooting softly. He knew Chesterton would be much harder to find, so long as there was a forest to hide in that bear could not be found unless he wanted to be.

Striding over to his travel roll, he pulled his two short swords from their tooled leather scabbards and pivoted back to the fire. The firelight danced along the worked steel and picked out the gilding of his family crest that wrapped around the hilt and pommel. His father had given these two swords to him when Tellon had finally come of age, his father never dreaming that Tellon would have to use them as much as he had these past few years. The transistion of a peaceful kingdom to one of war is always a shock, more to the children then the parents, many of whom had lived through such times before. He only hoped he could wield the weapons as honorably as his father had. He gave the swords a few brief swivels and swings and looked over to see what Acorn was doing.

Acorn was rummaging frantically through her belongings, tossing items aside as she desperately tore apart her bedding searching for something. The howlings were much closer now, and soon the wargs would be within smelling range as well as sight. He gave both his swords another lazy swing and looked over at her. "Dammit girl! Either find what you are looking for or else gather some flippin' stones. Company is almost here, and I don't think they are in the mood for your blasted herbs and plants."

"They will when I cram those blasted herbs and plants down their filthy throats!" She snarled and straightend abruptly. He could see that her waist pockets and pouches were bulging and she clutched small items in her paws. She looked over at him and gave a brief nod. "You'd better give me more space unless you want your pelt to match your eyebrows." Tellon blinked at her sharp tone, then his eyes widened as he comprehended what she meant. Backing off, he stood as far away as he could and still be within the bonfire's protective light. Muttering to herself, Acorn threw her handful of herbs and whatnot into the bonfire and started to mutter. An tor alla mech....ASTORA! Contracting briefly, the fire sizzled with gold and green sparks then shot into the air. Reaching her hands out, she took a double fistful of the crackling fire and stood ready; sparks showering down from both her paws. Shove it down their filthy throats indeed.... Tellon chuckled to himself and turned towards the first scent on the wind that was not of the party. The howling had stopped and a large disheveled wolf form padded out of the inky darkness. Tellon would normally have assumed it was just a wolfling noble out for a nighttime stroll if it wasn't for the blood red eyes. That and the stench of rotting flesh that hung around the foul creature's blood-spattered pelt.

Surveying the group languidly, the warg gave a short barking laugh. "What an interesting coincidence."

"Begone foul beast!" Acorn's voice carried over the clearing. "Or I will have your pelt as a winter blanket!"

"Strong words for such small prey." The warg gave a harsh gravelly laugh. "Squirrel meat was placed on the menu tonight by stronger creatures than you." It swiveled his head towards Tellon. "And foxling incidentally...and it would be a shame to waste all this extra raw meat...especially since it was good enough to hunt US down."

Tellon grasped his swords and shifted into a fighting stance. The warg gave a toothy grin at the movement then turned and trotted back into the woods. Tellon looked over at Acorn briefly. She appeared calm and ready, but turning his head further Tellon could not see Scarlet anywhere. Hoping the gryphon was just hiding, Tellon gripped his swords again and waited for the pack to fall on them. Silence had settled over the forest, but the stink of the wargs felt thick on the tongue it was so prevalant on the cool night air. He knew the beasts were out there waiting to see what the party would do. When the pack attacked, it would be fast and unexpected. Wargs were feared as much for their relentless hunting ability as their desire to cause death and mayhem.

Even knowing it was going to happen, Tellon was caught by suprise. The wargs seemed to explode from the forest's underbrush in every direction, snarling and barking. The moonlight glinted off their red eyes and their gaping teeth reflected the firelight. With a hiss, Tellon swung his first sword and caught a charging warg in the gut. It gave a small squeal of pain and tried to turn out of the way but Tellon followed though with his second sword and ran the blade through the warg's neck neatly skewering the monster to the ground. The creature gave a final weak gurgle and collapsed at Tellon's feet.

Pushing the bloody carcass away with his booted foot, he smoothly pulled out both blades and brought them to bear on the next warg. It grinned at him horribly and lunged...then feinted. Tellon had started to swing his first sword and had to spin slightly to keep from losing his balance. The warg watched Tellon try to correct his balance then lunged in to snap at the foxling's knees and feet so Tellon could not get his balance back. Dammit, he's working to drive me back to one behind me... Trying desperately to remove himself from the trap, he twisted around to try and jump clear. The warg followed his movement and kept snapping at Tellon's knees, keeping him off-balance and relentlessly driving Tellon backwards. Swinging his swords around, Tellon tried to force the warg away but the warg was too nimble and kept stepping back out of his sword's reach.

"Duck you idiot!"

Tellon dived for the ground and felt heat fly over his head and flare against his back. The warg in front of him was consumed in green and gold sparks, while behind him came thrashing and whining noises. Yelping horribly, the beast in front of him tried to roll on the ground to put out the flames, but the fire seemed to have a life of its own and roiled around its body cooking flesh and fur. Giving howls of pain, the warg ran off into the forest, its cries cut short by the "thwip" of an arrow. About time that damn bear joined in the fight...Tellon gave a brief grin and carefully rolled back to be closer to the fire. He had to move over the second warg to do so, it was practically at his feet, and the stench of burned fur and flesh filled his nostrils making him swallow thickly. He didn't know the warg had been that close. If she hadn't been there....

The wargs had scattered momentarily, they must have been shocked that their "small" prey would fight so hard, but Tellon could feel their thoughtful stares coming out from the woods. Normally fresh meat didn't throw streamers of crackling fire or shoot unseen arrows at the pack. The pack needed to regroup and rethink what to do next. Tellon hoped the damnable pack would just decide to leave, but shrugged off his wishful thinking as not being very realistic. It was highly unlikely that a warg pack would leave anything behind that was alive and able to hunt them down and extract revenge later. Whether he liked it or not, this was going to be a long fight. His shoulders already were starting to ache from swinging the swords and lack of rest, and where the warg had nipped at his knees and feet now began to feel like they had been crushed. Luckily the filthy beast's teeth didn't break through his leather pants and boots, otherwise he would have to worry about infection as well as cracked bones.

Giving his shoulders a brief shrug to try and loosen his tensed muscles, he looked over at Acorn. "Thanks"

"Think nothing of it." She was panting slightly, a few deep scratch marks on her face and shoulders oozed red onto her ripped shirt. Her sparkling green and gold fire was gone and while he didn't know what else she had used, the bulges in her pouches seemed smaller and lighter. Looking further around, he could see and smell the remains of other burnt wargs about the clearing. She might be small, but seemed to give as good as she got. Tellon was impressed, she didn't give the impression of being a wizard. A busy-body herbalist, yes...but a wizard? No. If they got out of this mess alive, he would have to persue this interesting development in her charactor. In the meantime...

"Better get Allora to clean those scratches fast." Tellon gestured, "You don't want them to fester."

Acorn nodded. "Later. Right now I am more concered that we survive the night. Besides, she is currently busy harassing those wargs that are still alive." She looked over at him and raised her eyebrow. "Unless you really want her to stop what she is doing...."

Tellon rolled his eyes. "Of course not. I was just saying...."

Acorn waved away Tellon's remark tiredly. "Sorry. I'm just exhausted and stressed, I don't normally cast this many spells in such rapid succession. I didn't mean to be so scarcastic." She wiped her face with her paw and looked at the blood on the palm of her paw. "I will have Allora look at this once she is able to." Looking around, she focused her eyes on the silent trees and shuddered slightly. "I can almost feel them out there. Filthy creatures. Why aren't they attacking again?"

He nodded in agreement. "My guess would be both Allora and Chesterton are giving the pack something to think about. I expect one final push from the beasts, but hopefully there won't be many to fight." He looked around the clearing again. "Speaking of pack, where's Scarlet?"

Acorn looked at Tellon with poorly hidden concern. "Invisible I should think. He doesn't really have the stamina for this kind of fight." Tellon arched his eyebrow questioningly at her. Shaking her head, she continued, "He will join us when needed, but I don't expect him to do much other then..." She left her sentence uncompleted as the warg pack attacked again.

This time they attacked without a sound, seeming to appear at the edge of the campsite as if by magic. Tellon barely got a swing in before the wargs converged on him and Acorn both in a vicious wave of teeth and claws. The sound of zinging arrows and small popping noises didn't begin to slow down the pack this time, the beasts fought with arrows imbedded in their pelts and from the ground if they fell. The wargs could not see Allora, Chesterton or Scarlet but they could see Tellon and Acorn and they fully intended to take out their frustrations on the pair of them. Teeth and claws came at them in a blur, rending flesh and trying to crush bone. Acorn tried to get a few spells off, but the sheer volumne of rage that confronted her soon left her with no components and even fewer options. Her final spell summoned a pair of short swords which she started to swing frantically. She knew she was outmatched, not standing a hope of being even half as good as Tellon's ability to swing a sword. She could feel the end coming, and even Chesterton's arrows couldn't stop it.

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