Commander Redbeard wrote:Suddenly, a rope noose yanked taut on the ground, Bjarn's leg caught in it. The old Forestman pulled out his dagger and hewed at the rope, the cords finally bursting apart. There was a crash as somewhere in the woods nearby a counterweight crashed into the snow, freed from it's rope by Bjarn's keen knife.
"That was a close one, mate. Best we stay nearby;" said Anardan.
"I only hope Dractor and Gib are alright." replied Bjarn.
"Aye." replied Anardan.
Dractor was now on the incapacitated list beside Reno and Gib, for while gathering wood he had inadvertently triggered another pitfall. Luckily his battered but strong armor had deflected most of the pikes at the bottom of the shaft, but one had entered his armpit where the maille was thin and his left leg had twisted horribly when he had landed at an awkward angle. After ten minutes of shouting, Bjarn had at last stumbled upon Sir Dractor and had managed to get him out with Aros' help.
Now Bjarn and Anardan were returning from gathering wood while the wizard-turned-medic Voolmark worked frantically on Reno. Gib and Sir Dractor wounds' were no where near as life-threatening as Reno's. Though Shainya was probably a better healer than Voolmark, she was too emotionally strained to help.
"I am convinced the fates are against us..." sighed Bjarn.
"I don't believe in fate..." muttered Anardan, gritting his teeth at he pain that lanced up his leg, "But I do believe in luck, and we certainly have had a nasty streak of late..."
They reentered the camp and Aros greeted them with a tart nod. Besides a pounding headache, he, Bjarn and Voolmark were the only ones not hurt in some way, and he had taken up the duty of guarding against anything that dared approach the camp.
Bjarn and Anardan dumped the wood on the snow, and then Bjarn sank to his knees the build a fire. First he laid several medium branches on the ground to serve as a platform to cover the snow, then he carefully laid more branches and sticks in a rough tent pattern. Lighting the pile was the hardest part. There was very little dry and papery bits that could be used as starting, and Bjarn's flint seemed loath to spit out a spark.
Gib tossed Bjarn a small pouch that had been tied around his waist and said, "Try this. I always keep some handy."
Bjarn opened the pouch to find a single coal smoldering away in a nest of damp straw. He tipped the coal into the mass of sticks and soon a fire was crackling warmly.
Bjarn tossed the pouch back and smiled at the old hermit.
"Thanks, I'll have to remember that trick."
"Just don't forget to get a new coal from this fire before it dies." reminded Gib.
Everyone either moved or was dragged closer to the fire and stayed around it for warmth, only leaving to get more fuel.
At last Voolmark sat back with a sigh and wiped his forehead.
"Reno'll live..." he groan, "I've done all I can do..."
Drained from performing so much magic, Voolmark promptly fell asleep. Shainya, her face white for sorrow and chilled, shifted over to Reno's still body and hugged him tight.
Bjarn studied a wicked claw that Voolmark had withdraw from Reno's flesh.
"Curse those beasts, what ever they are!" he swore, and threw the claw into the trees.
"They were bloodwolves."
It had been Luxus who had spoke. Everyone who was conscious stared.
"How'd you know that?" demanded Sir Dractor.
Luxus shrugged and pressed up against Aros.
"I dunno, I dunno at all. I think this thing told me!"
Luxus drew out the amulet. It had at last stopped glowing and had unstuck from the boy's hand, but his palm would forever bare the mark of the wolf like a crude tattoo.
"Why, why did that Swift give this to you?" snapped Aros, "This is his fault!"
Bjarn shrugged. "We can't know that for sure...I somehow had the feeling Swift didn't know why he himself was doing it..."
There was silence for a long time, then Anardan said, "Gib, how far away are we from those ruins?"
Gib glanced about, then muttered something to his bird, Griffin. It took off, and disappeared into the trees. After three minutes, it was back. It landed on Gib's shoulder and screeched and cocked it's head.
"Less than a mile, walking." informed Gib.
"We should get there as soon as possible." said Bjarn.
"But how?" countered Sir Dractor, "nearly all of us are unfit for walking. The sled's been destroyed, and even if it hadn't, it couldn't have gotten much further in this thick forest!"