Owena and the Wolves
The young girl slid slowly down the rock on her tummy. A bow nearly twice her size was strung across her back and in one of her little hands she gripped three arrows. She extended her foot in a tiptoe, searching for the ground. When she felt it, she let herself drop off the domed rocky outcropping. She brushed her long, wavy brunette hair from her face and readjusted the bow string across her chest. Her large hazel eyes darted this way and that, searching her surroundings, and glancing upwards towards the sky.
By the sun, she estimated she had only been away from home for an hour. “That’s okay.” she thought, it would be another hour or two before her father came looking for her. She was at the bottom of a mostly dried riverbed, save for a small creek that now found its way down the center between the large boulders that scattered the ground. The edges of the bed were lined with trees and foliage, mostly a dull greenish brown. The Summer months were ruthless on the plant life here, though not as bad as it had been before the Spellplague. Her father had told her the whole area used to be a desert, and only recently did plants begin to reappear in mass. She was glad for that, as it made their family farming business much easier.
It was also the reason she was where she was now, at the bottom of the riverbed. The reemergence of plant life had also returned various animals to the area. In particular, a wolf. A big wolf. At the thought of it, she tightened her hold on her arrows and cautiously pulled the oversized bow off her back. She had spooked herself. She stood as still as she could, trying to hear whatever her ears could pick up beyond the wind rustling the trees above her. After a moment, when she was sure there was no cause for alarm, she gathered her senses, and began walking along the creek.
The gravel crunched beneath her steps, and the sound of the water rippling over the rocks was comforting. This time, when thinking about the problems the wolf caused didn’t scare her so much. Her family had lost a dozen sheep to the hungry beast, and though her father had tried to stop it, he was mostly unsuccessful. The sheep were a large part of what helped put food on the table for the Bilger family, and losing them left and right was causing strain on their income. Seeing how distraught her father had become over the situation, had caused the young girl to venture into the woods alone to see if she could help. If she could stop the rampaging creature, then her family could be happy again.
As she rounded corner in the ravine, ducking beneath two large boulders that had long fallen in on each other, she spotted a cave. It was up a short incline from the floor of the bed and nestled in the dirt wall just below an overhanging tree. On the ground at her feet she could see the bones and remains of various animals, many of which appeared to be sheep. She gasped in shock and sucked in her breath. Looking around, she realized why her father could not discover the location of the lair. Save for the small entrance between the two rocks she had just crawled through, there was no other way in to where the mouth of the cave sat. It was surrounded by large boulders that would obscure it from prying eyes within the bed itself, and it could not be seen by standing above it from the bank. For the lair of a simple animal, it was quite well hidden.
She took one of the three arrows and held it with her bow hand. The other two she placed in her mouth. She quietly gathered a lump of dry weeds and stuffed them tightly into the end of a small torch handle. Using her flint she lit the torch and crept forward towards the mouth of the cave.
The roots of the tree above jutted out of the ground, wreathing the cave mouth in a gnarled wooden frame. Past the entrance, the dirt floor gradually thinned and turned to a rocky cave, ever so slightly climbing up into the earth. The smell of death and decay was in the air. Stepping over a few more animal carcasses, the girl decided that this was probably a home for some sort of water creature before the river dried up. She continued a dozen more steps, and the cave leveled to open into a larger area. Ahead, and against the far wall, through the flicker of her torch, she could see the dark form of a sleeping wolf. Shaking now, she cautiously lowered her torch to the rocky floor and nocked the arrow into the bow string.
She had never fired her father’s bow. She had never fired a real bow at all. The only thing she was ever allowed to use was the practice bow her father had made for her. This bow was almost completely unwieldy for her. Before she took it without her father knowing, she attempted to draw its string just to make sure it was possible. While unable to give it a full pull, she was able to make an arrow fly a good 30 feet on the strength she had, though drawing it now, within the wolf lair, her shaky body couldn’t muster that same strength. She was terrified. And now, the reality of her situation crept into her mind. She was alone, facing down a wolf in a cave that no one knew about but herself. She hadn’t told a soul where she was going and even if she had no one could get to her. She looked down at the clean-stripped ribcage of another long dead sheep and pictured herself as a little skeleton next to it.
A tear rolled down her cheek and she sniffed attempting to stifle the emotion. Just then, the wolf in front of her shifted, and rolled, its jaws snapped open in a yawn and in an instant turned into a howl of pain. The girl looked at the bow string still barely vibrating, the arrow was gone! She refocused her vision on the form of the wolf, and it twitched in a jerking manner then laid still, a single arrow lodged in its neck. The girl couldn’t believe what happened, she couldn’t even imagine how, but her right arm and fingers throbbed in pain. A gasp of relief crossed her lips and just before she could let out a nervous laugh, she could hear growls to her left and right. Just then she realized her error. She had never checked the whole room! She figured only one wolf to live in the lair! Though the torch at her feet still burned, her vision began to fade. Before going completely black, she glanced at the two pair of teeth bearing down on her from both sides. She closed her eyes tightly, dropped her father’s bow and the arrows fell from her mouth. She began to feel like she was falling.
She woke up, a bright light in her eyes. Maybe she was going to be with Selune. No, it was the sun, she was near the mouth of the cave, the back of her head was pained, and when she reached her hand to investigate, she pulled back with a trickle of blood on her fingers. Barking growls startled her and drew her attention to a small fire burning up the incline into the wolves’ lair. She could make out her father’s bow, now on fire, and beyond it the viscous snapping maws of the two wolves. She pushed herself to her feet and took a step back. The great dark form of one of the wolves came bursting through the flames. Two bounds and the beast was nearly upon the young girl. She turned to run but stumbled and slid face first through the opening between the large boulders. Gnashing fangs followed, and bit into her pant leg, ripping through the fabric and leaving two deep gashes on her calf. She pulled away and kicked the wolf in its nose, it yelped and fell back, only to be replaced with the second wolf, snapping it’s jaws as it came through the opening.
The girl again got to her feet and stumbled backwards doing anything she could to distance herself from the mangy animals. Her energy was leaving her, she began to feel dizzy. The second wolf had made its way through the overhang and moved around behind her. As she watched its movement to flank her, her eyes darted up and behind the creature to something much bigger. It was another wolf, but not like the others. This one was as big as a small carriage, wicked spikes protruded from its back and its fangs must have been as long as daggers. She had heard tales of such creatures, but never has she seen one…a Dire Wolf.
The girl dropped to her knees and the wolf in front of her charged in, she could hear the one behind her do the same. Resigned to her end, she watched as the wolf leapt towards her and was quickly blown aside in midair by a streaking shaft. She watched it crash and be pinned against the river bed wall about 15 feet from her. The wolf that had been behind her was also pinned by a single arrow on the same wall.
The Dire Wolf growled and crouched low, ready to spring. Its lips parted wide around its jagged teeth glistening in the sunlight. Just then, a sound to its right caught its attention. Twisting its head in that direction, it watched, as did the girl, as a large cougar flew through the air to land squarely on the beast’s back, clawing and biting in a whirlwind of golden brown . The girl turned to see a blond haired elven woman jump gracefully down from the left bank of the bed, without pause and with a grace of the wind, she was beside her in an instant.
“Are you okay?” the elf asked.
“I got bit on my leg, and my head hurts a little, but I think so.” replied the girl.
The elven woman gently leaned the girl’s head forward to take a look. Although the girl was cut, and would probably have a bruise on her head for a short time, she would heal just fine. She moved to her leg and emptied a wine skin of alcohol on the bleeding gashes, then used a water skin to wash it. Once she had it bound with a clean bandage, she wiped down the girl’s face with a cloth and smiled at her.
“You are going to be fine.” said the woman.
The girl was focused on the fight between the two animals, and the elven woman turned her attention to it as well.
They were rolling around on the ground now, the cougar’s fangs were gripped tightly on the dire wolf’s throat, and its claws still shredding at every other part that got in its way. The wolf made one last attempt to push the cat off and slumped to its side against the riverbed bank. The little creek was now filled with blood as it trickled past the elf and the girl. After a moment, when the wolf stopped breathing, the cat released its grip on the beast and let it fall to the ground in a heap. It sat back on its haunches and began licking its paws. The elf returned her attention to the girl who also looked back at her now.
“What’s your name little one?” she asked.
“Owena.” Said the girl, “Owena Bilger.”
“And how old are you?”
“We should probably get you home then Owena.”
She stood and helped the girl to her feet, brushing off her pants. The big cougar had come to join them now. Owena noticed that the cat’s spots were strangely detached from its fur and floating around its body.
“Can you walk okay?” asked the woman.
“Yes, I think so.” Said Owena. “Hey, what’s your name?”
“I’m Trysta Riversong, and this is Altaira.” She replied.
“What’s wrong with her spots? asked the girl.
Trysta smiled again and asked “How far away is home Owena?”
“Not far” she answered, “About a mile or so that way, Evereth.”
Trysta took Owena’s hand and they began to walk, Altaira fell in on the other side of the small girl, keeping watch.
“Well, I will tell you the story of Alta’s spots, if you tell me what you were doing this far from home…”