[Vfw-times] Mk Winter assault part 22

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Thu Aug 30 20:34:24 CDT 2001

How you are enjoying this. Comments and suggestions are welcome.



The building that Jacob led them to was once a shop for outfitting travellers 
for their journeys. Such could be clearly seen by the scattering of debris 
from the smashed front. Jacob almost tripped over a frozen body in the street 
that was half covered by the drifting snows. That had clinched it and he 
demanded Rickkter provide some light. The raccoon mage nodded absently as he 
hugged himself, teeth chattering. But he did summon a dim feather of 
witchlight above their heads. Now they were standing in a room at the top of 
the house in what was an observation tower. From it they could see the whole 
town. Or would, were it not for the snow. Now all they could see was 
blackness, snow blowing against the windows, and the odd blotch of orange 
from various fires. The greatest number of those was to the north, towards 
the Keep itself, and in the same direction the raccoon mage was looking 

"It's a swarm," Rickkter finally pronounced. "We're screwed."

"It can't be that bad."

"It is that bad. We can't reach the main gates: we're stuck out here."

"But we've been lucky so far--"

"We've been on the outskirts of their forces. Their main objective was 
Metamor itself."

"You have your magic--"

"Which will be picked up by any other magic user in the vicinity. I don't 
have the resources to properly work the cloaks."

"But if we can just get to the gates--"

Rickkter's paw latched onto Jacob's collar and pulled the fox close. The 
raccoon's lips were drawn up in a snarl as he yelled into the fox's ear. 
"Listen to what I'm trying to tell you! Will you do that?! They will not let 
us in. At all!" He shook the fox. "That army that I saw now controls the 
gates -  something I'm not half surprised about after seeing this. They're 
not about to let us through. We'd be lucky to be killed on sight. They own 
everything between here and the Keep itself! Do you understand that!?" He 
felt the faint tug on the collar as the fox nodded. "Good! Now, assuming they 
haven't completely overwhelmed the gates, that means our side is fighting a 
losing battle. Do you understand that? They will not open the gates for us. 
Under ANY circumstances! Not for just the two of us, it would be too great a 
risk of letting the enemy in. We are therefore expendable! Do you understand 

"I do," Jacob whispered meekly, just loud enough to be heard over the howling 

"Good!" Rickkter hunched his shoulders, thrusting the cowed fox away as he 
wrapped his arms around himself in an effort to stay warm. Damn it, he was so 
cold! Even his teeth were starting to chatter.  He swore inwardly at the 
entire situation, and the caution that made it risk for him to risk something 
as simple as a spell to keep himself warm. "We need to get ourselves some 
real shelter, someplace relatively safe for the night and wait until morning 
or until this snow lessens. When that comes I have no idea what we'll do. Try 
and escape to someplace they haven't taken over yet, perhaps."

"Yes, you're right, we do need shelter," Jacob agreed. He was looking over 
the shivering raccoon, mostly unaffected himself by the harsh cold. "If we 
don't get you someplace warm soon, you're going to freeze to death."

"And what happens if we run into another group of Lutins?" Rick asked as he 
hugged himself for warmth.

"We haven't so far. Besides, if what you said is right about them taking the 
gates, they'll need all the men they can to do that. They won't have the 
resources to worry about the town."  The fox shook his head slowly and 
grinned from one corner of his muzzle, "And if we do I think you would not 
need magic to slaughter them." He said, nodding toward the raccoon's sword.  
A rime of ice had formed on the hilt, making it gleam in the muted light.

Rickkter growled through his clenched muzzle. Damn it, the fox was making too 
much sense. Besides, his fingers were so cold they were hurting him.  He 
doubted that, had lutins come upon them at that moment, he even hold his 
sword, much less fight with it. "Alright, fine. Let's do this."

They descended the stairs once more into the wrecked shop, Rick bringing up 
the rear. He was concentrating so hard on keeping his jaw locked shut that he 
missed a step, stumbling and almost hitting the fox in front of him. When 
they reached the bottom level, Jacob took one look through the ruined front 
then turned and placed a hand on Rick's chest as the coon started to head 
out. "Look, I've lived here my whole life, and I've learned some things about 
certain morphs in this kind of weather. If we go out now, with the wind and 
snow that's being tossed around, I don't think you'll make it. I can stand 
the cold better, so it should be me that goes out."

"No way," Rick said with an emphatic shake of his head. "We're not 

"You'll freeze if you go out there."

Looking up into the placid face by the weak and flickering glow of his 
witchlight, Rickkter could only snarl. He also knew the fox was right. "Okay, 
you win. Though I'm still coming with you."

Jacob's ears tilted back in a frown. "How?"

Rickkter appeared to ignore him, throwing debris from behind a series of 
shelves. He eventually came up holding a large canvas backpack. "I think this 
should do," he muttered as he tossed it on the counter. Jacob did a double 
take as the raccoon started to remove his weapons.

"What are you doing?"

"Like I said, I'm coming with you," Rickkter told him as he pulled off his 
chainmail shirt and tossed it on the table. He tapped the pack beside it. 
"I'm going in this. And since I don't want to lose any of my weapons, get 
over here and put them on."

Jacob had Rick's swords and two knives on and was adjusting the oversized 
mail shirt by the time he figured out what the mage was intending. Rick left 
Jacob to do the buckles on the rest of it, as his paws were shaking too badly 
to do anything but start stuffing his removed clothing into the bag. A gust 
of wind ruffled the fur on his chest and he had to snap his jaws shut to stop 
their chattering.

"Okay, Jacob," he said, his voice shivering just as much as the rest of him. 
"From now on, you're on your own. No light to guide you, and I don't know if 
I'll be able to concentrate enough to use my magic to keep a look out. Just 
find us someplace warm for the night, preferably on the edge of town as there 
shouldn't be to many of them out that way. We can decide on course of action 
in the morning, okay?"

"Yes, okay. Now get in the bag." Rickkter spared a moment to consider how 
ridiculous the near black fox looked in the ill-fitting armor and weapons. He 
just hoped he would get a chance to get them back. If that fox were killed 
and some slimy Lutin got them for a trophy, Rickkter would be most upset! The 
whole situation brought a snarl to his lips as he grew smaller, more hunched 
over, shifting into his animal form.

Jacob picked up the fully transformed raccoon around the middle, feeling the 
thick tail automatically tuck under Rick and against his own paw. "Damn, you 
are cold," he observed, vigorously rubbing the raccoon's fur. Rickkter 
grumbled and chittered as he squirmed in the fox's arms. "Okay, okay. In you 
go." He opened the pack a little wider, carefully laying the raccoon in on 
his back so that Rick could have his nose close to the opening to breathe. 
"Well, I hope you're warm enough now," he said, tucking in Rick's tattered 
dress shirt around the raccoon, "because I don't intend to stop again until 
we're safe. I'll try and keep the trip as free from bumps as I can, but I 
can't promise anything if the Lutins show up. Any problems with that?" 
Rickkter gurred, but shook his head. "Alright then. See you when we're 
warmer." He closed and secured the lid of the pack, carefully hoisting it 
onto his shoulders as the small sphere of magic ceased to exist. Even though 
the illumination had been weak, it took the fox's eyes some minutes to adjust 
to the dark. Fingering the wrap on the unfamiliar sword at his hip, Jacob Fox 
set out into the cold unknown.


The patrol moved slowly down the corridor. In the lead was Arla, the dog 
morph. Dressed in only a leather jerkin covered with metal studs, she was not 
wearing a helmet. She never wore one when she was patrolling. No matter how 
well made, they always seemed to block her ears and cut out her hearing. 
Knowing the enemy was coming was more important then being better protected.

Arla's first warning of the wolves was in one of the Keeps many kitchens. 
There in the doorway was a large paw print barely visible in the dust. She 
motioned for the five scouts behind her to stop and then she crouched down 
and examined the print. It was as huge, almost as big as her head.

The woman who knelt next to Arla was tall, almost six foot, and was solidly 
built. There was no mistaking the powerful muscles under her chain mail 
armor. Her long brown hair was bundled up underneath her helmet. She  
examined the print with piercing brown eyes. The dog pointed to the print in 
the dust and then placed her hands next to her ears in imitation of the 
wolves' larger ears. Her message was clear, "Wolf prints."

The woman, who was Laura, Arla's team leader. Quickly the remaining scouts 
joined them.

Laura examined the prints for a moment. She spread both hands apart then 
placed them by her own ears. "giant wolf," she corrected silently.

Arla held up both hands, all ten fingers spread wide, then clenched her fist 
and opened them again. "twenty," was the count.

All six scouts shifted nervously. The idea of fighting that many of those 
pony sized monsters wasn't a happy one. Trying to kill twenty of them was 
hopeless for such a small group. 

A slim teenage girl dressed in leather crouched next to Arla. Her leather 
armor and short sword looked out of place on such a young looking person, but 
Arla knew better. Lisa Ringe was married with two children, and a hardened, 
veteran scout of many years. Arla was glad to have the tough little scout 
with them.

"Now what?" Arla asked with silent hand signals.

"We keep going," Laura said. "If a dire wolf pack is loose in the Keep we 
have to find them before they can cause any havoc."

"Agreed," Lisa answered with her hands.
Arla nodded and motioned the group forward. The kitchen was a shambles; pots, 
pans, knives, forks, and bits of unidentifiable debris were scattered 
everywhere. The sound of tearing flesh, and bones crunching came to the 
collie's ears and the faint but unmistakable scent of the giant canines came 
to her sensitive nose.

Moving carefully, they followed the sounds, past shattered crockery and 
battered furniture. The sharp tang of the dire wolves' scents became stronger 
with each step. As she came to the counter Arla could make out the scents 
individual dire wolves. The sounds and smells led through the kitchen, past 
the large stoves and ovens, past shattered cabinets and over turned tables 
and to a closed door. Pressing her ear to the door the sounds of the wolves 
feasting came through clearly and their scents were overpowering.

Quickly the scouts spread out in a semicircle around the door. Weapons were 
drawn and readied for a use. Silent hand signals were passed back and forth 
until everyone understood their job.

 Ralls held a warhammer in his left hand and reached for the door handle with 
the other. Arla briefly wondered if his chainmail armor was strong enough to 
withstand the dagger sized teeth of a dire wolf. She looked at the brown bear 
standing next to her left. Meredith had a large crossbow in his big hands. 
That bow was too large for the dog to even pick up, yet the bear wielded it 
like it was a toy. The axe that was strapped to Meredith's back had a head as 
big as Arla's but he could wield it with a frightening speed and dexterity.

A glance to her right showed her the small, slim form of Allart. Even some 
many years after the curse had taken effect she still found it hard to 
remember that the fourteen year old boy there was actually twenty five, with 
a wife and child. Still the boy could wield his short sword with skill. 

Arlas attention was drawn back to Ralls. The man was looking at her. She 
nodded that she was ready. He yanked the door open and jumped back, bringing 
his hammer up to strike.

After several long moments a solitary dire wolf poked its head out of the 
door, a large beef bone in the wolf's powerful jaws. It stared at the scouts, 
and then withdrew back inside.

Confused by the less then hostile greeting Arla carefully peered into the 
room and saw strange sight. The room had been a pantry. Shelves lined the 
walls from the floor all the way to the ceiling. But the shelves were empty, 
only bits and pieces were scattered around. Also scattered around the large 
room were twenty dire wolves. Some of the huge lupines were eating, some were 
sleeping and in the corner two were playing together with a large bone. All 
activity stopped and the score of dire wolves turned to look at the intruder 
in the doorway.

"Hello!" a voice said from the panty. Following the voice she saw, there, 
perched on a shelf that was at least ten feet off the floor, was a black 
haired boy of around ten years old. "I'm Terrance." Arla noted that the shelf 
was out of the reach of the wolves, most likely the only reason he was still 
As Arla and Laura watched twenty pairs of eyes turned in their direction and 
one of the wolves uttered a deep, guttural growl as he slowly stood up. The 
remainder of his pack mates got up onto their paws and also moved toward the 

Quickly the six scouts readied themselves for when the dire wolves would come 
boiling out of the door. Arla stepped back, raised her sword and awaited the 
first rush of the monsters. The rush never came.

For a long moment the scouts waited anxiously but the dire wolves never came 
out. Finally the border collie stepped back to the door and quickly peered 
in. Arla let out a yip of humor and her tail wagged.

"What's wrong?" Meredith asked.

"We're waiting for them to attack us, and they're waiting for us to attack 
them," came her answer in an amused tone of voice.

The bear lowered his axe to the floor, "Now what? Why don't they attack?"

"Why should they?" Terrance asked. "All the food is in here."

"You have to admit he has point," Ralls commented moving forward to stand 
next to Meredith. The woman smiled. "Why would they want to leave a nice, 
warm room full of food and get killed fighting us?"

"Now what happens?" Terrance asked. "You two groups going to stand there 
staring at each other or what?" All eyes, both keeper and dire wolf turned 
and looked up at the boy.

End part 22
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