Dire Moments

Written in response to: Start your story in the middle of the action.... view prompt

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Adventure Fantasy

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

“Wolves!”

An arrow with a barbed crescent head zipped into a bush along the edge of the wide clearing that now had a shaggy, dark furred creature sprinting from it. Howls of pain following the beast.

A second arrow caught the first wolf in the flank, and it stumbled and rolled only to be lost from sight as a large pack charged at the group to overtake the wounded animal and close the already frighteningly short distance. 

Horris, possibly panicked, hurriedly released another and struck only dirt. Fergus readied an axe and shield, trying to put himself in between his comrades and the pack. The sheer number flooding into the small clearing made this typical tactic one of desperation. The young girl had run behind Millie who was beginning to trace patterns in the air. 

Fergus stopped counting wolves when he saw the big one. Standing there at the edge of the forest, as large as a horse.

A dire wolf. 

From bad to worse. There was no running now. 

Horris continued his steady shooting. His accuracy improved as he got hold of his nerves. It seemed to keep a good portion at bay for now, but it was only a matter of time before the four were overwhelmed. 

Finally, the first two beasts came at the warrior. With a practiced move honed over a decade of fighting, Furgus batted one with his shield back into the other, both stumbling in their momentum, delivered two swift chops apiece. One wolf lay where it fell but the other sprang away with one leg missing. Immediately more charged at the warrior. 

Fergus’s skin on his neck and right cheek prickled as a bolt of fire flew past him and into a wolf’s open maw only inches from his neck. As the wolf spasmed yet another jumped over and directly towards Fergus. He braced and angled his shield, using it to redirect the animal over to land on its back, then bringing his axe down on its exposed stomach. 

The wolf yelped once and stilled as Fergus yanked the axe back, a gout of blood splashing along his armor. He stepped back, pulling his right leg free from the jaws of another wolf and swung his weapon at a third, missing, but forcing it to abandon its attack for

the moment. 

His armor had prevented the wolf’s teeth from piercing flesh, but it slowed him enough to be dangerous. As it was coiling for another attack the earth split below it, swallowing the animal whole, and closing shut with a rumbling thud. 

“Keep them away from your ankles!” he warned, bringing his axe down in a vicious arc to sever a forelimb. 

“We need to run!” Millie called from the back. She sent a fire bolt into the attackers after swallowing another foe with more earth, but the results were lost in the fray. The exertion of rapidly casting magic showing in her gasped shout and drained face. 

“Too many,” yelled Horris, slicing at an attacker with his short sword, his bow on the ground, “we wouldn’t make ten steps!” 

Fergus swiped away another clawing attack. “Stay close, don’t get separated!” Fergus growled.

It was getting desperate. For every wolf killed, another would jump in. He turned to block a lunging wolf as it careened into his chest, knocking him back, and snapping at his face as he crouched to regain his footing. With all his might, he hurled the creature away, long enough to see the archer dragged down by three wolves.  

“Millie, to Horris!” he called, wading forward through the snapping enemy, desperately trying to get to his friend. He swung at another wolf, his breath coming fast and shallow, bashing another with his shield but unable to raise his weapon again as a wolf clamped down hard on his forearm, nearly dragging him to the ground.

Fergus pulled against the biting wolf, trying to catch it with the edge of his shield, but failing to connect a powerful enough strike. Twisting his arm in every way possible to free it until a powerful force hit him square in the back, driving him into the mud, blood, and spilled guts. 

He rolled to his back finding his arm free but his shield knocked away and out of reach. Attempting to stand from his prone position he was halfway through sitting up before being knocked on his back again, a paw the size of his chest pushing him back down, and a maw from hell snarling at him. 

Fergus recoiled off the muddy path, dazed and struggling for breath, but managing to shove the haft of his axe into the dire wolf’s drooling mouth and push away just before closing on his face. 

He pushed with every ounce of strength that remained, hearing the screams of his friend over the gathering howls. Millie, at the edge of his vision, had both arms up projecting a wall of force against several attackers. She was beginning to buckle under the onslaught, sinking to her knees as the effort strained her. 

The world grew quiet, and time slowed. The only sound left to Fergus was that of his hammering heart. He strained against the foe as he realized this would be the end. So much left undone, unsaid. His arms sank back as his muscles tired. Teeth the length of a man's hand drawing nearer. 

A flash, and Fergus was watching a stream of blood and gore rain down on him as a javelin hit the dire wolf in the shoulder near the neck.

The beast recoiled, snarling and howling in surprised rage. Fergus gasped. Blinked. Swung wildly. 

He felt the axe cleave into flesh and bone. 

Again and again and again. He swung more than aimed, using the momentum to get to his knees. The larger wolf shrank back, stumbling under the assault and surprise attack. Another smaller wolf flew through the air, a javelin spitting it as if a pig dressed for a roast. Fergus barely gave it a glance as he chased the dire wolf, crawling on his knees, striking as fast and hard as he could. 

Screaming a savage war cry from the depths of his soul he watched as the dying animal buckled under the blow of a heavy hammer-like weapon, and not caring if it was already dead, he hacked at the monster's neck, decapitating it in three swift strikes. 

Fergus sank back away from the headless wolf looking over the meadow turned slaughter yard. He watched Millie cradle Horris’s bloodied head, speaking softly to him. The young girl crawled out from under a fallen tree, smeared with muck. A large, bluish-grey hand thrust itself into his vision. 

“Sorry I didn’t make it sooner friend, tried to catch up with you.” Said a deep, almost cheery voice. 

Fergus looked up to find a towering, broad, smiling halforc man looking back at him with stark red-brown eyes under short, shaggy coal black hair. Too numb with shock from battle to think much of it he took the offered hand, which promptly pulled him to his feet in one deft heave. 

“Name’s Pound Cake! Earned name mind ya, not my given. Let’s see if we can tend to our archer,” he said, handing Fergus his shield and nodding crisply as he slung an iron maul over his shoulder and picked up the unconscious man.

June 23, 2023 19:35

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