Faye met the first wolf head-on, driving her fist into its jaw and feeling bone crack and splinter. It fell backwards, only to be immediately replaced by another. Faye snarled as she was driven to the ground, grasping the lower jaw. The wolf shrieked as Faye forced its jaws open to the breaking point, its teeth cutting into the palms of her hands. Forcing her knees up and tossing the wolf aside, she scrambled to her feet and turned to the children.
The children were screaming in terror as three wolves rounded on them. Faye unleashed another roar, and even in her ears it sounded like a blast of thunder. She didn’t know how far away the party of Elves was, and she was desperately hoping they would arrive soon. There was no way she could protect the children from all of the wolves.
To her luck, the sound caused the wolves to stop, growling uncertainly as they turned to her. The lead wolf roared at his pack, and Faye turned and lifted the burning branch she had taken from the fire, throwing it at the creature. The branch struck the wolf in the chest, and it snarled as the fur caught fire. Faye then turned and lunged at the three wolves, tackling the middle beast and driving it to the ground.
Its brethren immediately turned and attacked, crushing the third wolf to death as they pounced. One sank its heavy jaws deep into her shoulder. The other forced its weight onto her back, attempting to crack her spine. Faye howled in pain, forcing herself onto her knees despite the monstrous weight. The wolf growled loudly, digging its claws into her back, attempting to rip her apart. Blood flowed in rivers from all of her wounds.
In a desperate attempt to save herself, Faye unleashed her power into the bodies of the wolves, centering it and kindling the rancid blood. The wolf attempting to tear her arm off immediately released her, bucking and shrieking as its heart pumped the flaming blood throughout its body. A moment later, the other wolf released her, its body going into spasms as a flow of flaming blood erupted from its throat. Soon, both wolves were dead, their bodies smoldering.
The remaining members of the pack backed away, fear thick in the air. Faye heaved herself to her feet and snarled, daring them to attack. Behind her, Arwen and Maida were gripping one another, crying in terror. Faye was deeply exhausted, her limbs trembling, but she mustered enough strength to turn to the children, offering them a reassuring smile.
Turning her back on the wolves was a mistake she would live to regret.
* * * * *
Garunthor stared at the destruction that lay before him. Five members of his pack were down, losses not even he was expecting. The survivors were desperate to retreat, but he forced them to hold their ground.
“The Man is too strong!” Mur cried. “The Elf-cubs are not worth this. We must retreat!”
“No!” Garunthor growled. “Stand your ground! Think of sweet meats, my brothers and sisters!”
But the fear of his pack had become too strong. Not even the thought of meat could persuade them. Garunthor snarled at them.
“Whelps, the lot of you!” he growled. “Cowards!”
Garunthor turned to the death-bringer, watching as it stood unsteadily on shaking legs. It was grievously wounded, blood pooling at its feet. Garunthor saw its weakness, and knew it would not be able to attack with fire again. His burned chest stung, but one bite of flesh would relieve the pain.
“Drive it to the ridge, my brothers and sisters,” he said. “If you cannot kill the Man, send it over the cliff!”
Suddenly, to Garunthor’s surprise, the death-bringer turned away, looking back at the frightened Elf-cubs. Garunthor snarled in victory.
“Watch me, my brothers and sisters,” he growled. “Watch me destroy what you whelps are so fearful of.”
Garunthor lunged at the death-bringer, slamming into it with all of his rage and strength, sending it to the ground with a crunch of bone. The death-bringer howled and tried to gouge out his eyes, but Garunthor was too fast. He cemented his jaws around its soft throat and reared up on his hind legs, lifting the death-bringer into the air. The Elf-cubs screamed in terror, and with a triumphant roar Garunthor threw the death-bringer aside. It hit the ground and rolled, stopping in a sprawl of bloody, tangled limbs. For a moment, it attempted feebly to get up, but then collapsed and ceased to move.
“I offered you sweet meats,” Garunthor growled back to the rest of his pack. “You refused to fight. Now you will have to pick at whatever scraps I leave behind.”
Garunthor turned to the Elf-cubs, seeing their terror and grief on their young, innocent faces. He was quite pleased with how well his plan worked out. Now he had the Elf-cubs to himself. As he approached, they scrambled to their feet and tried to run, but one was clearly injured, and limped badly.
“Scurry, Elf-cubs,” Garunthor growled. “A good chase only serves to fuel my hunger.”
The Elf-cubs attempted to reach the death-bringer’s body, but the injured one slowed both of them down. Garunthor easily caught up with them, striking the injured Elf-cub and sending it sprawling head-over-heels. When it stopped, it was bleeding from several places. The other had reached the death-bringer’s body, and cried out in sorrow for the other, shaking the death-bringer in a futile effort to wake it up. The injured Elf-cub was crying, but Garunthor had ensured that it could not attempt to run away. It would lie there until he was finished with its companion.
The other Elf-cub shook the death-bringer again, but Garunthor leapt forward, snapping his jaws and forcing the Elf-cub to stumble backwards. It was getting closer and closer to the ridge, and even though it was not impossible to climb down the rocky slope, an unwanted fall could be fatal. Garunthor snapped his jaws again, stepping over the death-bringer’s body and kicking it away with a hind foot. The Elf-cub screamed.
Suddenly, the sound of pounding hooves echoed. Garunthor looked up, baring his teeth when he spotted a party of adult Elves approaching. However, this did not worry him. They were too far away. By the time they arrived, both Elf-cubs would be stripped to their bones. The Elf-cub heard and saw them, too, and screamed again, calling for them. Garunthor lifted his head and howled, matching the volume to that of the death-bringer’s roar.
“What will your dam say, Elf-cub, when the rest of the pack finds your bones?” he sneered, knowing his prey couldn’t understand him, but relishing the irony of the words anyway.
Garunthor reared up on his hind legs, extending his claws and lifting his right front paw. With a roar of victory, he brought the death swipe down.
* * * * *
Arwen had lost all hope when the werewolf had clamped its jaws around Faye’s neck and thrown her aside like a rag doll. She and Maida were scared beyond their wits, and Arwen felt like she was going to be sick. As the werewolf approached, Arwen grasped Maida’s arms and lifted her to her feet.
“Come on, Maida!” she cried. “We have to run!”
Maida stumbled immediately, crying out in pain, but Arwen dragged her along, her fear lending her more strength than she normally possessed. Suddenly, she felt Maida’s hand being wrenched from her grip, and turned to see her flying through the air, struck by a powerful swipe from the pursuing werewolf. She hit the ground hard, bleeding from claw wounds in her side and a gash on her head. Arwen screamed for her, reaching Faye and grasping her shoulder.
“Faye, wake up!” she cried, tears flowing down her face. “Faye! Maida’s been hurt! Wake up!”
But Faye was unresponsive. Blood flowed thickly from her torn throat, and her dull eyes stared lifelessly.
“Faye, wake up!” Arwen screamed, shaking Faye desperately as the werewolf approached. “Faye, please!!”
Then, the werewolf was there, snapping at her. Arwen stumbled backwards, desperately trying to avoid the beast’s deadly bite. The werewolf snapped at her again, stepping over Faye and kicking her away. When Faye stopped again, her lifeless gaze was centered in Arwen’s direction. Arwen scrambled back more, squeaking in terror when she felt one of her hands meet empty air. The werewolf had driven her to the edge of a steep, rocky ridge. She was trapped.
Suddenly, she heard the distinct pounding of horses, louder than before, and she turned to see, in the far distance, a party of Elves rapidly approaching.
“Ada!!” Arwen screamed, for she knew it was Elrond. “Ada, help me!!”
The werewolf suddenly threw back its head and howled, the sound hurting Arwen’s ears. Malicious triumph sparkled in its eyes as it finished the howl and glared at her, and with a snarl it reared up on its hind legs. The rising sun had turned the sky to fire above it, and as the wolf lifted its heavy paw to deliver the final blow, Arwen uttered a prayer. The first prayer she had ever truly meant with her whole heart.
“Valar, protect me.”
Arda could have split in half from the sound that suddenly echoed at that moment, a roar worse than the loudest thunder clap. Even the werewolf paused, still poised on its hind legs. Arwen looked around it, and cried out when she saw Faye.
Faye was sitting up, her skin marble-white, her wounds now bloodless. Her eyes were glowing in fury, her mouth open with fangs fully bared. It was she that had uttered the terrible sound. The werewolf noticed and turned, still balanced on its hind legs, and growled dangerously. It seemed to be amazed that Faye was still alive. Faye leapt to her feet and reached out her hand towards the werewolf.
Arwen remembered seeing Faye light the fire, and seeing the two wolves that had attacked her also burst into flame, but she had never seen what caused it. Now, as she watched, she saw a tendril of translucent energy erupt from Faye’s fingertips, jumping with a crack like that of the loudest whip into the body of the werewolf. Almost instantly, the werewolf was immolated in flames. It shrieked and thrashed about violently, crashing down on its side a mere foot from where Arwen lay. She cried out, and the flaming creature turned to her, snarling brutally as it reared up again, seemingly ready to bring down its entire weight upon her.
It never had a chance. Crying out Arwen’s name, Faye charged the werewolf, hitting it full force and using her momentum to send them both flying off the ridge. For a moment, Arwen felt unbearable heat as the werewolf missed her by mere inches.
Then, both were gone, and Arwen was alone.