I know it's really quick after the second chapter, but it's summer, and I'm bored… and I couldn't resist. Here's the third chapter. I know, you guys are lamenting not having to wait for it. ;)
Maerad snarled, and snorted at that awful smell in her nose. then she turned to face Cadvan and Darsor. She had to warn them. She growled and Darsor stopped walking. Cadvan dismounted. That was a start.
"What is it, wolf?" he asked cautiously. He didn't draw his sword—perhaps he was beginning to trust her.
Maerad growled again and turned, pointing her nose in the direction the Jussack-smell was coming from. Darsor moved up next to her, smelling, and Cadvan's eyes widened, surprised at how much Darsor dared with this wolf. He knew Darsor would charge into a pack of wolves if it was required, but this was not required, and Cadvan wondered why his instincts didn't warn him off.
She is right, Darsor rumbled, There are men coming this way.
"She?" Cadvan inquired.
Yes, Darsor snorted impatiently.
"But why the alarm? It could be just a group of hunters, or travelers."
Her nose is more sensitive than mine. I do not know what she smells.
The Jussacks were getting closer now. Soon they would be in view. Maerad turned again and trotted toward Cadvan. He tensed up guardedly, but all she did was paw at his scabbard, willing him to draw his sword, and he relaxed a little.
It was strange to be so close to him, Maerad thought. If she was human, she would have just told him the danger, from a distance. Up close, he smelled like dust, and sweat, but also like faraway places, and she could smell the bard in him. He smelled good—that is, she could tell he was of the light. Maerad realized again how wrong her accusations were last time they parted, and ached at her helplessness to rectify the situation.
Maerad shook herself out of her reverie. Jussacks were coming. She pawed at Cadvan's scabbard again, frustrated at his obtuseness. He drew it hesitantly, and she, satisfied, trotted away to face the coming threat. They were just visible now, black specks in the distance, and moving closer quickly.
"I see them," Cadvan said softly. His sword was still in his hand, pointing at the ground. "Jussacks."
Darsor pawed the ground in anticipation, and they waited for the Jussacks to arrive. When the sleds had gotten about 40 meters from them, they stopped. The Jussacks conversed in their own tongue, seemingly confused about how to address this strange man, alone on the plains with a horse and—surely that was a dog, not a wolf.
Just when Maerad thought things might go peacefully, however, a hooded man stepped off his sled, speaking contemptuously to the others, and giving Cadvan a black look. The sight of him made Maerad's hackles rise.
Suddenly he gestured, and a dark power gathered in the air. A storm seemed to come out of nowhere, darkening the grey day. Black lightning stabbed at Cadvan, but her parried it with his sword, lit with a white light of its own.
The other Jussacks murmured at this display—they had never seen their sorcerer fail before—and the sorcerer bared his teeth and tried again. It was a cruel blow, and knocked Arnost away, but still did not yet touch Cadvan.
That was when one of the men released the dogs. These were dogs bred for hunting, tearing, killing, with blood lust in their eyes. They headed straight for Cadvan, now weaponless, as the sorcerer advanced and the storm rumbled.
Maerad stormed into their midst, snarling and biting, hoping that Cadvan could deal with the other threat on his own. The rest of the battle for her was chaos, snapping and growling and pain. She laid about with her teeth, tried to use her slightly larger size to her advantage, but there were twenty of them to her one, and soon she was yelping in pain. Darsor came to help then, kicking dogs away with his powerful hind legs.
The dogs were dismayed by the addition of another powerful foe, and after a few minutes, fled, most of them with either bite marks or cracked ribs. Maerad, bleeding from several places and relieved from the respite, staggered and fell, and Darsor stood guard over her.
Such strange behavior from a horse made the superstitious Jussacks very uncomfortable, and when Cadvan killed their sorcerer with white fire they were very quick to leave, the dogs yelping after them.
Cadvan wearily passed a hand over his face, looking pale. Friend, Darsor rumbled urgently to get his attention.
Cadvan turned, and quickly went to his pack to take out the healing kit before going to kneel beside Maerad the wolf. He hesitated as he saw the extent of her wounds: a badly torn ear, and a gash on her back, as well as numerous nips and scratches. Maerad took the opportunity to roll onto her belly, rather than her side. She hated feeling helpless.
"It would be better if you did not move, friend," Cadvan said gently. There was a brief silence as he reached for salve and bandage, needle and thread.
"It was a brave thing you did, wolf. I have never seen its like. And you have saved my life. That is something I cannot forget, even if I can't understand it." He began smearing salve into all her wounds, and Maerad made a low sound of discomfort but no other complaint. She laid her head on her paws and closed her eyes. She wished Cadvan would recognize her, and was so tired.
"Wolf!" Cadvan spoke sharply, jarring her, "You mustn't go to sleep! You've lost a lot of blood, and if you sleep now your body may give out simply out of shock. Stay awake."
Maerad dutifully pried her eyes open and raised her head, but it was hard, and her chin soon drooped. Cadvan started talking, to help her stay awake and to distract her from the stitches he was about to put in to sew up the wide gash on her back.
"You remind me of someone I know," he said, and started to push the needle through the skin. Maerad stiffened, it felt so odd, but the salve had numbed it so she didn't feel pain. "She was also brave—is very brave—and has saved my life numerous times. And loyal, and smart, and as proud as you… " he paused to pull the thread tight, before continuing more bitterly, "But I repaid her friendship with coldness, in the end. And, in the end, I lost her. I journey now to find her, perhaps even gain her forgiveness."
He knotted the string, cut it, and unraveled another length to stitch her ear. "You are most welcome to travel with us, wolf, as long as you please. Darsor and I are traveling to Murask, as you may have heard. It is true they would be surprised to see you, but I would bring you there if you wish. Darsor and I would be glad to count you our friend."
He was halfway down her ear now, and Maerad exhaled a huge sigh at his words. She had regained his friendship, and had the whole journey to Murask to figure out how to change back to human.
Cadvan spent the rest of the evening tending to her wounds, and she was even persuaded to drink some medhel before she fell into sleep. Cadvan nibbled some biscuit and drank some medhel himself before following her lead.
Soon, they would be heading over the Osidh Elanor mountains—unless Cadvan decided to go through the Gwalhain Pass again.
What will happen? What path will they take? Well, why don't you read and review! It's the least you can do after such a quick turnaround… right?