At Last - Part One, Chapter 3

~Chapter 3~

As a approached a small clearing- I could see how the trees seemed to grow in a more orderly, linear fashion; I thought it must have been a path at one time, now mostly overgrown- I could hear a fearsome growling. I peeked into the clearing from between the trees, and the site that greeted me chilled my blood.

Five wolves paced about a tree, growling and snapping. They were thin- I could see their frames through their mangy hides easily- and hungry. Whatever they were hunting was in the tree they now circled so eagerly. It almost seemed as though they were speaking to each other.

Without knowing it, I went for my bow. The night before I had taken it with on a whim, in case it was needed- in case the group ran into a situation such as this and I could be useful. Only now I was alone, and there would be no time to run back and get the others.

**You're getting ahead of yourself. There may only be a squirrel in that tree.** I turned my eyes upward to the top of the tree- in it was a small figure, clothes in tatters, clinging to the trunk. It was Vanyalosse. I could see a giant dark red stain on one arm- it hung limply at her side. With the other she held on tight to the tree, though I could see she tired fast. Her face had an expression of pure terror, and she started- nearly sending herself tumbling out of the tree- as one of the wolves jumped, trying to get at her.

I fitted an arrow to the string, praying to all the Valar that I would hit my mark. I sent it at the wolf nearest to the tree- hitting it just below the shoulder. Immediately the attention went to me, and I quickly took aim again and this time brought the injured animal down. My next arrow flew straight into the head of its target, killing it instantly, but the next flew wide to the right. I cursed- they were quickly drawing closer- and fumbled to find another arrow. The wolf at the head of the group lunged, hitting me squarely in the shoulder and knocking me over. The sheer force of the blow knocked the wind out of me, and I struggled to keep the starving animal from tearing out my throat. I did the only thing I could- fended it off with my bow until I could twist and reach the dagger strapped to the side of my quiver. I shuddered as the warm blood covered me- but had no time to dwell on it as I thought the others would rush me next- but they didn't. It took a moment to realize what had happened: when the wolves had jumped me, Vanyalosse had attempted to climb out of the tree and run. But in her weakened state she wasn't able to, and instead she fell. The other wolves had seen their chance, and were now dashing to the spot where she lay still as a stone on the forest floor. I whipped out an arrow and took aim; taking a moment to be sure I hit my target. It fell without a sound, and the next ended up with an arrow deep in his thigh. However, it ran off, whimpering. I was ready to give chase, but a choked sob from my sister drew me back.

"Vanyalosse!" I cried, taking the small girl in my arms. "Losse- can you hear me? It's Legolas... if you can hear me, say something, please!" I looked her over- the arm that was bloody had a large gash, the other was clearly broken from the fall out of the tree. She was cut and bruised all over as well. I hugged her tightly, careful of her wounds- this was the price she paid for my stupidity.

"Las?" she replied groggily. "I didn't think you were going to come back for me. I'm sorry I bothered you..." she mumbled.

"I'm going to take you back to mother and father. You'll be fine. Don't fall asleep though- keep talking to me." I knew if she fell asleep, there was a good chance she might not wake up. She had lost a lot of blood.

"Alright," she said, yawning as I picked her up. I left my bow- I could come back for it later. She snuggled her head against my chest and I went off through the forest as fast as I could without jarring her too badly, talking to her every few seconds to make sure she was still awake.

The path was no easier going back than it had been to find her- it was much harder, actually. The trees scratched at my body and I stumbled several times. One particularly rough tumble sent both of us rolling down a rocky embankment and into the icy waters of the stream that trickled down it. Twice we became lost, the second time I truly began to worry. Evening was coming on fast, the already limited light of the forest nearly gone. And in the growing shadow, I could see them- the dim glow of the eyes of hungry beasts. The wolves were back, their numbers strengthened, and they were tracking us. I began to run again, hoping I was somewhere near the path.

Eventually I came to it, and doubled my speed, for now I could easily make my way back. I could hear the voices of the searchers, not so far ahead- only now, they called my name as well.

"I'm coming!" I called, but my voice was hoarse and quiet for not drinking anything in the hours I had been running. From both sides now they appeared- the rest of the pack that I had met earlier- and they were all just as hungry and mad as those from before. Savage growls sprang from their throats- and as I turned I could see the new leader (the one whom had before run off, whimpering, with my arrow in its leg), foam dripping from its muzzle, nearly smiling with glee. As they drew closer, the lead wolf howled, which seemed to signal the attack. An animal leapt from either side to cut off my escape as others took advantage of the fact that I had stopped to avoid running straight into the gaping mouths ahead and surrounded us on all other sides. The only weapon I had was my dagger, but I wasn't about to put Vanyalosse down, so it was useless. They seemed to revel in their moment of glory- and indeed it seemed they would be victorious. The leader lunged forth, and I shrank away, trying to shield Vanyalosse's body with my own. But the blow I expected never came- and as I turned back and opened my eyes, I saw the wolf tottering, an arrow protruding from between the beast's eyes. For another moment it stood, weaving back and forth on its feet, before it finally fell with a small grunt. The others seemed just as confused as I- but crazy with hunger, they were not about to be denied their meal. At the same time they all went for us and one of them hit me from behind, knocking me forward onto the ground. I struck my head on a rock, and even as things began to grow fuzzy, I tried to cover my sister's body again with my own. The noise of their snarls took on a frenzied, confused pitch, and through it I could hear voices- elvish voices, calling to each other. The darkness around the edge of my vision closed in, and I knew no more.

((Thank you for all the great comments on the last two chapters and prologue. It may be a while till the next one, I've been slightly grounded... and I may possibly be moving to my dad's- which means no more internet. But I'll find a way!!! ))

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