Good doggy? (Dread pt. 3)

“Throw the staff Arlo,” Xander whispered a second time sounding more desperate. “Dogs like sticks, and maybe this large, scary one will be less inclined to chew on us if it had a nice stick instead.”

Arlo shot his brother a concerned look and quickly turned his attention back to the wolf that was staring them down. Marine slowly pulled the staff down and out from under Arlo's bag. She took it in both hands and tried to plead with whatever magic flowed through the wood to aid her in protecting the trio.

“Marine, I don't think now is the optimal time to play sorcerer,” Arlo quietly said while trying to reach for the staff so they could make a run for it. “Even if there is magic in that staff, I hardly see how it would be able to help us in this situation.”

Tears began to fill Marine's eyes as she took a fighting stance between the boys and the wolf. She could feel something stirring inside of the staff, but she couldn't get it to do anything. All the stories she had heard of strong magic users inspired her to try and do something, but she quickly came to realize that the only thing she would be able to do with this staff is make herself bait so the boys would be able to get a running start and hopefully escape with minimal injury. The wolf's attention suddenly turned to something in the tree line where it had just emerged from.

“Now is our chance to run,” Xander yelled and he grabbed Marine by her bag and turned to run. Arlo saw what Xander was doing and joined him in dragging Marine along with them as they fled back in the direction they had been coming from. Marine was petrified from fear and could only watch as the wolf set it's sight back on them and began bounding after them.

Maybe it was the adrenaline pounding through Marine's body that caused her to see a large arrow come flying through the trees and miss it's mark. The arrow stuck halfway up the shaft into the ground near where the wolf was stopped with an impressive thud.

“Stop running,” Marine screamed as she thrashed against the boys pulling on her pack. She dropped the staff and slipped out of the strap that secured her to the bag and fell to the ground. She scrambled to pick up the staff and let out what could only be described as a battle shout in the direction of the oncoming predator. The wolf slid to a stop on the loose dirt confused by the aggressive sound that had just erupted from her tiny, non threatening body.

The boys also slid to a stop and turned in horror to witness a vicious standoff between what could be their death and a dwarf they thought they knew.

“What are you doing,” Arlo yelled, “quit messing around or you will get us all killed!”

The wolf took another glance at the tree line and Marine let loose another shout to distract it. The boys had not seen the first arrow buried in the ground and Marine was determined that the mystery hunter would take another shot. The wolf growled at Marine and leapt towards her with its fangs out and ready to tear her to shreds. Marine and the boys closed their eyes not wanting to watch the gruesome scene that was about to unfold, but before Marine could let out a scream of pain, a second arrow zipped through the air and hit its mark.

The wolf let out a final yelp and it's body crashed down on top of Marine.

“MARINE,” the boys screamed in unison not seeing the arrow and only seeing a wolf on top of their friend. Arlo and Xander sprinted to their friend forgetting about their fear and pulled the massive beast of their friend. They began yelling obscenities at the now dead wolf and only after beginning to kick the dead creature did they see the massive arrow that had dealt the killing blow.

“Wh-Who shot that bolt,” Xander asked with a shaky voice. “It's huge.”

Arlo ignored Xander's inquiry and helped Marine to a sitting position. The wolf's teeth had grazed her face leaving some cuts on her cheek that streaked down to her jaw. Arlo threw open his bag and was tearing through it looking for some bandages. Once Xander finally looked over at Marine and saw the injury to her face, he really started freaking out.

“Oh no no no, we are not prepared for this type of injury. I have to run ahead and get help. You guys stay here and I will bring back someone who can help!”

Xander got three big strides down the road when a hooded figure appeared from out of the tree line carrying a huge longbow.

“Quit making all that noise kid or you're going to attract the rest of the pack,” the figure spat in an angry tone. The figure ran over to where Arlo was trying to bandage Marine's face with torn scraps of his cloak, kneeled down and pushed him aside. The figure threw off its hood revealing the face of a half-orc woman. She scowled at Marine and started digging in a bag she had strapped to her leg.

“Is she going to be okay?” Arlo asked holding back tears. The half-orc hunter pulled out a small jar and smeared its contents on the cuts. Marine winced in pain.

“She will be fine,” the half-orc said rising back to her intimidating full height. “Her wounds aren't bad, the face just bleeds a lot so it looks worse than it actually is. Let the paste dry and then wash her face off with water.”

Xander couldn't take his eyes off the bow strapped to the hunter's back. It was just about at tall as she was and looked to be made out of vertebrae. The quiver dangling from her right leg had three more of the massive arrows laying in wait to be shot. The half-orc quickly covered her quiver with her dark green cloak and placed one of her large boots on the wolf. She took hold of the arrow and pulled it out of the beast in one swift motion. She grabbed the wolf by the scruff and yanked it up over her shoulder with impressive strength.

“Thank you, hunter,” Marine said slowly getting back on her feet. Arlo picked up the staff and stood next to Marine incase she were to fall. “We could have..”

“Been eaten alive,” the hunter interrupted in a condescending tone. “What kind of flimsy university student in their right mind would be traveling the roads this far north with only a weak druid's staff to protect them?”

“Druid's staff,” Marine questioned.

“Flimsy?!” Xander exclaimed sounding offended. He began marching towards the hunter ready to demand an apology, but before he could wag a finger in the hunter's general direction the hunter hoisted Xander up by his shirt collar with her free arm.

“How did you know we were students?” Arlo asked.

“You two boys wreak of unearned confidence that only academics have,” the hunter growled, “this one especially.” The hunter released her grip on Xander and he fell to the ground.

“I'll have you know Miss Hunter Lady that I have won enough pub brawls to boast such a confidence,” Xander replied trying to hide his new found fear for females over six feet tall. The hunter looked over at Marine.

“I am going to assume you, dwarf, are the leader of this unfortunate trio since you were the only one with sense to stand your ground against this beast,” the hunter said to Marine.

“On paper, yeah, I guess you could say I am in charge, but reality would show otherwise,” Marine replied timidly.

Shadows of tree tops began creeping across the road signaling the approach of night.

“Sun will be gone soon and the roads aren't safe,” Arlo said looking up at the hunter, “we obviously aren't fit to be traveling on our own so could you please accompany us to the nearest inn. I know you have already saved us once today, and we have no right to ask, but we have a job to do in Autumn Hill and would like to get there alive.”

The hunter was startled by the mention of Autumn Hill and took another look at the trio. She seemed confused as to why these three were headed there.

“Do you have an official summons?” She ask skeptically.

Xander handed her the flyer and she took a hard look at it. The hunter folded it back up and handed it to Marine.

“Keep this safe and follow close,” the hunter said coolly and she whistled calling a horse from out of the tree line. She draped the wolf over the horse behind the saddle. “We will move faster if the dwarf sits on the horse.”

Marine didn't argue with their new protector and let the hunter lift her onto the saddle. The four of them started walking along the darkening road and only paused so the hunter could pull the other arrow out of the ground. Xander didn't like the look of the hunter's weapon choice. A bow made of bones wasn't exactly the look a good person would go for. The other two didn't seem to be bothered by their guardians macabre aesthetic. A strange silence fell over the trio until Marine broke it.

“My name is Marine Hammersfall and the half-elf is Arlo Sol. The human is Arlo's half brother Xander Tompkins.”

The hunter sighed.

“I'm Nox, just Nox.”