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RiktheRed21

A Wolf, A Horse, and A Rider

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She woke from an unrestful sleep beneath a tree that seemed doubled-over in pain. Dry leaves fell about her and rain pattered on the moist ground. Brinnea wiped damp hair from her eyes and stood to greet the new day. Dreary and grey, the day seemed unwilling to return her hello.

She gathered her meager supplies – a sword belt and a satchel with some money and first-aid kit – and hopped on the back of her last loyal companion. The deathcharger stood still, its eyes vacant as a corpse’s. When she gave it a kick, it moved, but there was little evidence otherwise that it was even conscious. On they went, kicking up moisture from the summer rain and crossing long, desolate miles of the Wetlands in silence.

Brinnea slowed as they approached a small farm. She gazed at it longingly, catching sight of a family at work. The eldest man appeared to be complaining bitterly about the rain while the youngest children frolicked about without a care in the world. By instinct, she began riding towards it. Once she realized what she was doing, she quickly yanked the reins and spurred the charger into a gallop northward. The farm shrank into a dot behind her, though she never looked back to see it.

The rainclouds gave way to thunderstorms. Winds shrieked across the wavy hills and sent droplets scraping across Brinnea’s bare flesh. Drops tinned against her armor. She wondered if the soldiers back at Greenwarden’s Grove would be able to keep the rain out of their tents tonight. She wondered if somewhere on the passage into the mountains far to the south Charlotte and August were dressed in their warm clothes for the journey to Ironforge. Would they like it there? Would they make new friends? Would they ever forget about her?

The wind picked up further until even the undead charger balked at carrying on at full gallop. The death knight eased her mount towards the dense hills where they might find some cover from the storm. Lighting crashed somewhere nearby. She couldn’t see where it had struck home. She imagined a fire trying to survive in a storm like this, but her imagination failed her.

The horse and rider strode through clefts populated with fleeing deer and rodents, squirrels and birds of every sort. Plantlife was abundant here, ranging from flowers to fungi, small shrubs to huge trees spreading wide canopies. Thinking of the tree she had slept at the night prior, Brinnea decided to continue searching for better cover.

A wolf’s lonely howl took to the air. Brinnea waited, but heard no response. She counted it a blessing without thinking. A pack of wolves is dangerous, after all. But then she got to thinking of the lone beast out all alone. What had happened to its pack? Was it cast out, as she had been? Perhaps it had hoped too greatly, and tried too hard to further itself and its pups. The alpha could only tolerate so much before he had to act.

At last, Brinnea found a cave gashed into the rocks and hurried toward it. She dismounted, for the ceiling was too low to fit on horseback. The deathcharger squeezed into the cave and stood resolute at the back, facing a wall. Charlotte had named the horse Spaklehoof for its bright hooves, but the beast was far from intelligent.

Brinnea guessed it was evening. The sky seemed a little less bright than it had when she first entered the hilly area. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight. Last night’s dreams had confirmed it. Brinnea had never been able to sleep well as a death knight, but after a while living in Greenwarden’s Grove, she found she was able to have more restful nights than she used to. Despite being an overgrown, swampy backwater, the Grove had started to feel a little like a home.

The wolf’s howl shook her back to her senses. Again, it sounded lonely and sad, and again it garnered no reply save for the roaring wind, the screeching rain, and the thundering storm. Brinnea had removed her armor and began polishing it, but every time she started to lose herself in the monotony of work, the howl returned. Somehow, it seemed to be growing both louder and weaker.

She tossed her pauldron into a pile of armor and yanked her sword belt about her waist. After tying her cloak and lifting her hood, she stalked out into the storm.

Brinnea was by no means an expert tracker, but she figured in this case it would be easy to find what she was looking for. The wolf howled every few minutes, so she used it as a guide. It became more difficult every time the thunder and wind deafened her, and for many hours, she felt as though she were wandering in circles about the hills.

Then she spotted it – the wolf huddled under a tree with its leg caught in a trap. A kill was decomposing nearby, swamped by rain and eaten through by all manner of bugs. Odd that the wolf would remain trapped for so long without the hunter whose trap was laid coming to check on it. Brinnea thought as much, until she found whom she presumed to be the hunter in question lodged under a fallen tree stump. The char pattern was rippled like tree roots, but more jagged like hands with too many fingers and fingers with too many joints. Brinnea searched the man for weapons and found a knife, a bow, a length of rope, and arrows. She left the bow, but added the knife to her belt beside her own, and pulled the rope over her shoulder.

The wolf had awoken while Brinnea was investigating. It sniffed and growled at her weakly, but made no attempts to move. Brin approached carefully, and eased herself to a crouch beside the beast. She reached out to touch the trap, but the wolf barked at her warningly. She pulled her hand back. Taking the rope from her shoulder, she measured a section of it and cut it with the hunter’s knife. Then she deftly clamped the wolf’s snout shut and forced the rope around and tied it tight. The wolf tried to paw it off, but otherwise acted with meek acceptance.

Brin grabbed hold of the clamped trap, the leather of her handwraps thick enough to keep her hands from getting shredded by the sharp metal. She pulled with all her strength. The metal creaked, and the wolf whimpered. Blood spurted from the reopened wound, but the wolf pulled itself loose. Brin yanked her hands free and left the trap clamped and bloody where it was.

The wolf tried to nuzzle the wounded hind leg, but was impeded by the ropes. Brinnea retrieved bandages from her medical kit and carefully grappled the wolf, then applied the cloth to the bleeding leg. After, she drew her knife and carefully cut the rope muzzle free, then pulled back. The wolf growled at her bitterly before madly licking its newly bandaged leg.

“There, mangy mutt,” Brinnea said, “I saved you. Now scamper off and don’t do anything stupid.” The wolf watched her and continued to nibble at the bandages. In time, they would rot away, but that would be long after the wound healed. “You should be more worried about predators than a little cloth, idiot.” The wolf ignored her advice. Shaking her head, she turned to head back to her cave. It wasn’t until she was halfway back that she realized the beast was following her.

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