His friend gave a barely perceptible growl, the hackles on it's back raising, as they walked down the path leading to the Gwethen Wood's Castle.
The sun drifted slowly toward the horizon, the chill in the air magnified by the slight breeze blowing across foot path. The wolf spoke a thought
into his head.
The companion looked back curiously, keeping pace, and spoke back.
“Who or what, my old friend?”
“A female. Alone.”
“Following us?” The druid chuckled slightly under his breath, knowing with the coming nightfall, there would be dozens of dangers in the thick
woods between their location and the castle, nearly two days journey away.
“What do you want to do?” The dire wolf looked over, it's eyes glowing slightly, ready to act upon command.
“Ambush. It's the only way to discern friend or foe, and we both know a solitary traveler is no match for us.”
Baultimus murmured a few archaic words, and they both melted into the forest around them. They waited.
The person following them soon came into view, bow drawn, a young female ranger. She was obviously tracking them, but he wondered the purpose. He'd
left on good account from the previous town, having averted a thunderstorm threatening to flood out their spring plantings. It was during his stay
that the courier had delivered the letter from Gwethen Wood, urging his presence for an emergency Council meeting. Something was a stir, that he
could feel, a flavor in the air that bode an ominous unbalance.
She didn't have time to see the vine whip forth from the ground, disarming her, and just as quickly she was entangled in a web of constricting vines.
Helpless, she swore, and struggled against her bonds. Baultimus re-appeared, and walked onto the path from his spot a few feet away. The dire wolf
stayed hidden, watching intently, waiting to attack.
When she saw the druid, her faced blushed, finally realizing he had trapped her. She quit struggling, and he recognized her as the girl from the
“Why are you following me?”
The girl stuttered a bit, her face fully red, then cast her face downwards to the ground. She mumbled.
With a flick of his wrist, the vines around her convulsed once, and she returned her gaze to his eyes, aghast at her predicament.
“I thought to help you, druid, sir.” She looked down shamefully once more.
“Well, it's that irony,” Baultimus said, a hint of humor in his tone, “it looks as if you need more help than I.” He took the time to look
her over carefully. Indeed, she was not as young as he initially perceived, his guess was middle twenties, and he noticed she was very lithe and fit.
“Sir?” The girl spoke questioningly, “are you seeing it fit to keep me bound as such?” Her eyes softened him a bit.
“Well, Samantha, it seems you mean no harm.” With a gesture, then vines fell away from her and shrank back into the forest.
He watched as she retrieved her bow, and settle her garb again. Satisfied that she was ready to travel, he told her to go back to her town.
“But sir, I wish to accompany you on your trip.”
“I didn't ask for a companion.”
She looked at him deeply, posturing with her arms folded across her chest. “Then, good sir, what is to prevent me from following you all the way to
“Nothing. Do as you will. Journey with us if you must. Your skills may become useful.”
“Us, kind sir? You stated you already have a companion?” Samantha looked around the woods, cautiously, as if expecting to spot his traveling
“Storm and I. My trusty familiar. He's a dire wolf, and prone to tempers, so are you sure you wish to join us? It's quicker back to your
Caution crept into her face, and she scrutinized the woods around her. Was that it there hiding? She could barely discern the wolf's presence.
“Storm, come!” The druid spoke firmly. As if materializing from the shadows, the wolf crept into view, it's head low, and a slight snarl
caressed it's lips. Samantha took a step backwards once it emerged into view, taken back by the size of the formidable creature. She shivered
involuntarily, chilled by it's presence.
“Storm, this is Samantha, Samantha, Storm. Sam, don't do anything to provoke him, or he may eat you.” At over eight hundred pounds, and a full
nine feet long, she could see the sneer in it's eyes.
“Careful.” The thought arrived in her head, and she knew the wolf was telepathic, having herself been trained in several arcane arts. “I
will,” she thought back, “and it's nice to meet you.” The wolf nodded in agreement, and meandered around the path, sniffing intensely.
“You may call me Bault, in private, and Baultimus or sir, in public. When traveling, I prefer to be on a first name basis. I think I shall call
you Sam. Agreed?”
“Yes, uhm, Bault.” She did a mocking little curtsy, smiling.
“Good then, let's move along.”
They set out once more upon the path in front of them, trekking closer to the woods ahead, and the dangers that lie before them.
A few more hours of travel brought them to the edge of the Gwethen Woods. Tall cedars and pines rose before them, and between the setting sun and the
canopy above, darkness soon settled in. Bault was more than aware of the dangers ahead, and he readied a few spells, his quarterstaff in hand. Sam
notched an arrow, and Storm walked ahead, scouting the path.
Storm suddenly stopped walking, his hackles bristling. The other two caught up to him.
Storm stood watching the path. “Kobolds,” he thought with a low grumble, “seventeen of them. Waiting for us, for any travelers.”
“Continue,” Bault said, “and Sam, take out as many as you can when they rush the path. Storm, you defend, and take out the bravest ones.
They'll scatter once they lose a few of their friends. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” Both Storm and Sam nodded in unison.
They continued walking, but soon the path started filling with ugly yipping creatures, slightly over four feet tall, brandishing swords and a few
Ten or so blocked the path, noisily complaining about the three travelers.
“Let us pass,” Bault yelled loudly in Draconic, “and it will bare well with you. We wish to pass, not fight.”
“Want your gold! Give to us! Then Pass!” The response came from one of the more elaborately adorned kobold.
“We can't do that.”
A squeal arose from the group blocking the path, and they surged forward. The leader went down with an arrow in the neck, followed quickly by four
others. Storm braced to leap forward, but the rest of the group turned and ran in fear. Storm looked at Bault.
The dire wolf leaped forward, and overtook the fearful creatures in just a few leaps, jaws crunching bone, flesh tearing, with bodies being hurled
lifeless through the air. Sam and Bault kept walking, listening to the occasional scream coming from the woods, and soon the wolf was walking beside
them again, it's jowls coated with blood. You could have seen it smile with satisfaction if you had looked closely enough. Samantha kept her eyes
on the path ahead.