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The Song of Steel

Book One - Chapter 8

By W.R. Logan


Copyright 2004 W.R. Logan

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Mystic Chapter 8


Mistic ran back the way she had just come.  She sniffed the air in all directions.  Garflin’s scent was growing stronger.  The wolf blamed herself for the ranger’s capture but soon she would carry him to safety righting her wrong.  A rabbit had stolen her attention from the brownie.  Her animal instincts took over.


After she had finished her meal, the brownie was nowhere to be found.  She had picked up his scent and made her way to the river.  The wolf felt his danger and pain.  He sent her mental commands to resist the urge to rush to his side.  She had reluctantly obeyed his request.  The wolf had found salvation from her compulsions hunting the men of the camp.


The ranger was her kindred spirit.  She felt whole with him by her side and empty when he was missing.  The two had not been apart since she her mother had weaned her.  Garflin had protected her as a pup and as and adult, she would protect him.  He was her pack.


The wolf froze in her tracks.  Something was wrong.  A fear entered her body from an outside source.  She knew it to be from Garflin.  Her kindred was in grave danger.  A strength filled her body pushing it far beyond its normal limits.  She did not need to search for a scent anymore; the wolf could feel the ranger.


A chipmunk scurried to get out of the way as she bounded by.  Under normal circumstances, the animal would have become a midnight snack, but instincts would not deter her from her duty.  She leaped over the chipmunk without a second thought.


Two scents filled her nose. One was the ranger and the other a more pungent odor.  This was a smell she had become all too familiar with over the past few weeks.  A pelage that had cursed the wood of her birth.  This one was missing the smell of metal that usually accompanied the scent but no doubt, it was the same.  It was a human smell.  Humans meant danger for wolves and brownies alike.


The wolf aimed herself at the human smell.  She could not yet see the person it belonged to but her sensitive nose told her he stood just outside the cover of the trees.  An energy filled the air as she drew closer.  Her white fur stood on end.  She again pushed her animal instincts away as they yelled at her to run away.  Instead, the brave animal leaped with all her might.


The white lump flew through the brush and into the clearing.  Her nose had done her true and placed her jump dead centered of the human that faced Garflin.  The mass of her body hit the staff in the man’s hand as her sharp teeth found the softness of his neck.  They sank deep into the flesh.  His blood stained her white fur around the mouth and dribbled down to her neck.


The dying man choked out a few last words on the way to the ground.  Mistic rode the man down still ripping chunks of meat from his throat.  Life left the man’s eyes. As it did, a jolt of energy burst from the staff the man had been holding and surged into the wolfs hindquarters.


She yelped with pain as the force hit her body.  It ran from her tail to her head and then back again.  A heat started from the inside of her stomach and soon spread to her whole body.  The heat did not seem painful, in fact, it was quite pleasant.

Somewhere in the distance, Garflin called to her.  She wanted to answer his call but could not tell from where it came.  Lights flashed before her eyes.  When they passed, a darkness she had never known enclosed on her.  Her heart began to race and she wanted nothing more than to run.  She didn’t care where.  Just to feel the ground sliding beneath her feet would be enough.


A gentle touch clamed her.  Her eyes began to focus on the face before her.  Garflin stared into her eyes lovingly.  His lips moved but the thumping in her ears prevented her from hearing his voice.  The wolf felt better knowing he was alive and well.  She licked his face like she always did, to let him know she was well too.


The first sounds to return to her ears, were that of the brownies child-like giggles.  She felt her old strength returning to her.  The strange darkness still existed and she had come to realize that she could no longer pick up any scents.  Even Garflin’s familiar scent evaded her nose.


The brownie examined her hind legs.  The magic had left a bare spot on her back right leg.  Garflin checked it for sensitivity.  He seemed satisfied when Mistic showed no signs of pain in the area. Still, he forced her to sit while he looked over the rest of her.


The ranger checked the pockets of the human she had killed and seemed happy when he found a small container of liquid in one of them.  He rubbed the sticky stuff on her bare area.  It was cool to the touch making the light burning feel much better.


Then it was time to go.  Garflin mounted up.  It felt good to have him back with her.  She would be more careful from now on with the little ranger.  He needed her protection more than ever with the humans in the woods.  She hated the humans, with their metal cloths and weapons.  It was another thing that bonded her and Garflin.


She bounded off with her rider holding on to her neck.  Mistic ran a ways along the riverside until Garflin directed her back to the wood.  The pace slowed as she entered the dark woods.  Something felt different to her.


There was no pain.  Just something was out of place.  The feeling that she relied on to direct her way was off.  It was like a fire that had burned out.  She ignored the feeling, sure that it would pass just like the other effects had by the river.


The wolf picked up speed waiting for her animal instincts to take control.  Twice she felt the ruff scratch of a low branch her eyes had missed.  Also, there was the constant crunching of the fallen leaves that announced their travels.  Her run had always been smooth and quiet.  She thought the humans of the Steel Tide would make less noise than her.


Garflin seemed to notice the changes too.  She wasn’t sure if it were the noise that he noticed or the constant slap of the brush hitting him as she ran.  Which ever it was, the brownie slowed her pace and then brought her to a stop near the small stream they had passed on the way down.


After Garflin dismounted, Mistic went to the steam for a drink.  Her usually nibble tongue had problems quenching her thirst.  Finally, she was forced to scoop the water up with her mouth and tilt her head letting it run down her throat.


The ranger looked over her bare spot again.  More of her fur had come out and the spot had doubled in size.  Garflin washed the area with fresh water and reapplied the sticky liquid.  He scratched her head behind her ears.  That was her favorite spot.  It soothed her tensions.


“We will sleep here for the night,” he told her, “The humans won’t travel this far in the dark.”


She had understood his words.  Not the tone of his voice as had been the norm for her.  She had heard the sounds that left his lips and had understood what they had meant.  Mistic tried to reply in kind but it came out as a doggish whine.


They curled up under a large Oak tree.  The ranger took shelter from the cool night air entwined in the warmth of Mistic’s long white fur.  She arced her body around his in a protective manner, hiding him from sight.  The two were together again and all was right in the world.


The wolf fell into a deep but restless sleep.  The face of the mage she had killed drifted in and out of her dreams.  The man’s last words blasted their way into her mind.  Her new understanding of the human tongue did nothing to decipher the chant.  She relived the fight many times before morning found them.  Every time, she could taste the mage’s blood in her mouth as he twitched in her grasp.


Morning found them as the night had left them.  They lay balled up in a small knot, shielded by the warm of their bodies from the cold of the Great Wood.  The first sunlight embraced their bodies stirring them from slumber.


Garflin was the first to wake, something that had never happened in Mistic’s lifetime.  He laid his hand upon Mistic’s chest.  Her breathing was a short pant and her body had lost its natural warmth.  She shivered uncontrollably beneath his hand.  The bald spot on her hindquarters now engulfed most of her rear right hip.  Her skin, that shown so brightly in the morning rays, was a pale white color.  The wolf’s paws were terribly swollen.  All four were more than twice their normal size.


Panicked, Garflin shook the wolf’s head calling her name.  Mistic opened her eyelids slowly and then let them sink back closed.  The little ranger’s shouts seemed to be so far away.  Just distant noises carried on the soft breeze that had coasted to her ears from some other world.  They meant nothing to her.  Her mind slipped away to a place where the little voices could not follow.  A place where rabbits where fat and slow. A world of never ending forest that man and his axes could not find.  Where the wolf was king of the forest once again. 





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