Reflections Wlvn-5 part 2 of 3

The two night creatures did not give their fallen comrade a second look, but they paused when Wlvn started walking to meet them. They were not accustomed to willing confrontation. They growled and then let out a roar, but still, Wlvn stepped forward. He tried to find Odin’s gift in his gut, and as soon as he had a clear shot, he let it loose. The night creatures also noted when the way became clear, and they leapt. They were incredibly fast, but nothing could withstand the awesome power that came from Wlvn’s hand. The whole area lit up like a battlefield, indeed, and two fried night creature carcasses fell straight to the ground, the blood that seeped out of them boiled.

“Ride!” Wlvn shouted with all the volume he could muster as he tried to keep to his feet. Thred had tugged free and backed up at the last, but the horse could not go far. “Ride!”

Badl did not hesitate, and Wlkn came right on his tail. They brushed past and turned off the safe path in a direction that took them away from the screams of the creatures, screams which were much closer than before. Wlvn clutched his stomach as he stumbled over to catch Thred’s reigns. He managed a comforting pat on Thred’s neck before he hauled himself up. Then he spoke to himself as he tried to guide Thred down the safe path, the horse trying very hard to stay as far away from the burning creatures as he could.

“I knew Odin was too young to be giving out such gifts. It’s a wonder I didn’t bake myself. Normal, human flesh and blood is not designed to hold such power.” Then he stopped talking to himself. He had to concentrate to keep from passing out.

Thred ran much too fast to be running through a swamp in the dark. Sadly, Wlvn, in no condition to guide the horse, needed all of his strength to keep from going unconscious. He hoped Thred would follow the other horses, but he guessed he got too far behind. After a time, Thred began to slow. Noises started up behind them, mostly normal swampy kind of noises which were spooky enough, but not necessarily life threatening. Wlvn lifted his head enough to check the sky. It would be light in another thirty minutes, he guessed.

Wlvn halted Thred and dismounted when the pain in his gut stopped feeling like he ripped every muscle. He could not see the river, but he figured it had to be safer to walk than ride. They had been lucky so far, racing through a swamp full of quick mud and sudden drops and deep pools, but there was no telling when that luck might change, and the cry of the night creatures could still be heard in the distance. They were still coming on and he could not imagine what he could do to stop them.

A loud crash and splash sounded off to his left. That prompted him to move to the right.  He started thinking of starving bears and wolf packs trailing him, and he thought they would have to get in line. He looked up again. No light yet, and the moon looked about to set. He felt a little surprised that it had not rained since he left the land of the abomination. It seemed cold enough, being early November, that maybe he should have said snow. “Talk about the weather,” he mumbled to himself. He laughed.

A second loud crash startled him, but this time it came from his right. Wlvn paused. He did not like the feeling that he was being herded toward something. All the same, he found his feet slowly taking him to the left. Bog creatures. He remembered. They were lesser spirits, spirits like ghosts of the swamps, but Badl said that they were hungry.

Something growled behind them and Thred almost bolted. Wlvn turned to see two yellow eyes, night creature eyes, staring right at him, not ten paces down the path. He might not be able to make out the creature exactly in the dark under the trees, but he knew full well what it was. He pulled the sword at his back, not that he knew what to do with it.

“You need lessons,” Diogenes spoke into his mind.

“I need to survive.” Wlvn responded out loud.

The night creature began to roar, but the roar got cut off suddenly and got followed by a brief whimpering squeal like the noise from the creature that fell into the quick mud. That squeal also quickly cut off, and the eyes of the creature disappeared into a kind of deep, shapeless blackness. Wlvn did not hesitate to return his sword, mount and ride. The night creatures were terrors. He had no interest in something that could swallow a night creature whole, maybe especially if it was a hungry boggy spirit.

This is stupid, he kept telling himself. This is dangerous. On the third telling, he ran into a low-lying branch and got scraped right off of Thred’s back. The horse kept on going. Thred was a good horse, but he was only a horse and could only take so much. Wlvn did not blame him. Instead, he thought that now the pain in his back and head matched the pain in his gut. He looked himself over when he could, and he thanked every god he knew for the armor of the Kairos. That fall would have killed many a person and torn up the rest, but his armor absorbed most of the impact while he was cushioned in his fall by his inner clothes, and while he felt the branch tear at his arms, he saw only one small blood spot near his elbow, where his fingerless gloves did not quite reach his suit’s short sleeves.

Wlvn stood, a little wobbly, but he managed to get to his feet. He began to stagger in the direction Thred had run, as near as he could tell. He honestly did not feel sure of anything at that point. “Sun! I could use some light about now!” He shouted out and as if in answer to his call, he thought he saw the first faint bits of light break through the trees. He felt sure he could see his hand clearer than before. He stopped to cry in relief, but a new crash from behind kept his feet moving, and he even tried to hurry up.

A second crash followed, and a branch almost as big as him just missed smashing him against a tree. Wlvn ran but paused when he saw something off to his side. It was the swan, and she sang to him. He went after her. Naturally, she took to wing, but she appeared again not far away. “Chase me, chase me.” Wlvn smiled, delirious. A boulder landed not far from where he stood and he ran again, following the swan, trying hard not to lose sight of her, and trying even harder not to look back because he could hear the pursuit.

Ten minutes that felt like hours passed when he burst out from beneath the trees and on to the bank of the river. He saw horses and four people across the water, but felt no way he had the strength to swim across.

“There he is!” Wlvn heard Wlkn shout as he fell face down on the riverbank and prepared himself to be eaten. He only paused long enough to say thank you in his heart to the swan, though he figured her help had been in vain. “Huh?” Wlvn breathed the word when he felt his face pull out of the muck. His whole body got lifted until he floated on air, and while he felt a presence behind him, at the edge of the trees, he knew this had to be something else. He found himself pulled then, skimming across the water of the river like a flat stone cast in just the right way. He skipped a couple of times on the water and landed on the far side where he immediately turned to lay on his back and take in the rising sun. He saw the swan circling overhead before it took off again for the southwest, but all he could do was smile at his lucky charm before he heard a voice that roared like the waves in a nor’easter.

“About time you got here!” The voice sounded perturbed, as if Wlvn could do anything about it. He imagined he did his best just to get to his knees. Fortunately, Badl and Wlkn came over and helped. “I have this one.” The man continued in a softer, more normal voice and pointed at a rather chubby young girl beside him. “She belongs to my counterpart in the southern sea, somewhere around the mouth of the great border river. I understand you are headed to the great river to get whatever you need against the Titan.”

“Yes?” Wlvn did not feel sure what was being asked of him.

“Good. You can take her along.” The man tried to smile before he appeared to remember himself. “Oh, and here.” He stepped up and laid his hands on Wlvn’s head which made Wlvn’s head spin and think, not again! Then the man vanished. No surprise there.

“Good to see you,” Wlkn said.

“Lord, I’m glad you’re safe. I am truly glad.” Badl spoke like this became some great revelation for him.

“Leave him alone, can’t you see he is hurt.” The girl seemed more practical than the others. Wlvn did admit that she had a pretty face. Not a bad view, really, to be the last thing he saw before he passed out.

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