Running through the forest, Serene loosed an arrow at the bush to her right. A muffled cry responded, joining the scene of a five foot tall wolf tumbling out of the bush and down a ridge. As the wolf tumbled Serene heard numerous other growls from behind her, followed by rustling bushes and breaking winds. Without turning around, she leaped and grabbed the branch above her, quickly pulling herself up as the wolves bit at her heels.
Looking down, the rest of the ‘direwolf’ pack was crowded around her tree with some already trying to climb up the trunk in an attempt at killing her. Scoffing, she held her right hand out and let her mana take shape. With a sweeping gesture, the sigil in her hand shot out a gust of wind, blinding the direwolves and putting them off balance. She leapt from the tree and landed with a roll on the forest floor, using her dexterity to send a shot behind her and into the eye of the one direwolf that saw her, and sprinted away. It took a few moments for the pack to get their wits about them, but they soon gave chase to the fleeing elf.
Their pursuit continued through the forest, with members of the pack being occasionally picked off by Serene’s archery and the pack making gradual progress in catching up to her. Eventually, the pack reached a clearing in the forest and Serene slid to a stop. Notching an arrow, she aimed her bow at the leading wolf and loosed the arrow. The arrow flew through the wolf’s heart. She notched another arrow and let it fly, killing another wolf. By the third fallen wolf they had encircled her, cutting off any route of escape. Smiling, she hung her bow on her back and pulled out a long knife made of bone from its leather sheath. Mana flowed to her hand once more and formed into a dot of magic, which let loose a beam of concentrated wind into the encircling pack. The ones not blown away were hit with the force of a minivan on a highway, likely shattering bones and tearing organs. The closest wolf charged Serene with a snarl, its teeth ready to tear her throat out. She ducked down and brought the long knife above her, effectively gutting the wolf as she stepped forward. While the wolf landed dead on the ground, another wolf tried to rush her, baring its claws and fangs.
The wolf’s skull was cleaved down the middle as Serene brought down her blade. Hearing steps behind her, she tried to wrench the knife from the wolf’s skull but found it to be stuck. Swearing, she collected mana in her hand once more and shot it out, blasting the wolf across the clearing. They continued to harry her as she tried to pry the blade from the bloody skull, but she responded to each threat with a blast of wind.
Finally, the pack had gotten tired of waiting and charged her all at once. Before their strikes landed, however, a volley of arrows was shot from the treeline. Most wolves were able to dodge but some were struck hard by the arrows, being thrown to the ground with bloodied fur. Growling, the wolves watched as the party of elves emerged from the treeline. At the head was a man in heavy fur armor, wearing a fur helmet, and wielding a massive greatbow, Clamor. Silently, Clamor notched an arrow and fired without hesitation. It struck true, blowing through the entirety of the wolf’s skull and sending it rearing back and falling.
The death broke the hesitation of the wolves, as the rest of the pack, over 20 in all, charged. With calm expressions, the party drew their arrows and loosed them into the charging pack. After the first volley, over half of the wolves died. After the second, the pack was no more.
After the last wolf was killed, the tension that had unknowingly built up in the elves faded as they took stock of their haul. As they collected the corpses, Clamor walked over to Serene, “You okay, sis?” he asked, offering a hand.
She took it with a smile and stood, planting a foot on the neck of the wolf in front of her and finally pulled the bloody blade from the bloody skull, “Yeah, I’m good. Thanks for that, by the way. Why didn’t you guys step in earlier?” she asked in turn.
Clamor gave a sheepish smile as he looked at the other elves collecting the bodies, “Well… they were making bets on how many wolves you would take down before we needed to help you…”
“WHAT!” she yelled, drawing the attention of the others. She shot them a glare and they dutifully went back to their work. She turned and sulked for a moment, before turning back, “Who won?” she asked with embarrassment.
Clamor smiled, “I did. I bet that you would take down at least 10 wolves, and you killed 11.”
“Hmm… Fine, I’ll forgive you,” she said with a creeping smile, “What did everyone else guess?”
“Most of them guessed that you would take down 6, max,” he said, giving another sheepish smile.
Serene’s smile turned into a pout as she glared at the other elves, “Hmph. See if I’ll patch their clothes up when they get nicked by a wolf again,” she mumbled, “Anyway, what did you win?”
“We put the extra pelts into the prize pool. Now we have a whole five extra pelts to do what we want with,” he noted with happiness, “Now come on, we’ve got to get your extra kills out of the forest before they get taken.” Pulling her arm, he brought her into the trees and through the path of the pack’s pursuit. In the end, they had a total of 31 wolves to bring back to the tree.
As they gathered the corpses into sleds, Serene and Clamor walked up to another woman, Gina. She was a new arrival within the week since they created Johnny, attracted through some effect of Johnny that eluded the elves, and had become one of the main butchers and leatherworkers, “Gina,” Serene said, getting the woman’s attention, “Will we have enough pelts with this?”
Gina looked around at the wolves and shrugged, “Maybe, maybe not. Cold weather won’t be a problem with Mr. Johnny, but as for armor… I don’t know. Strengthening the pelts with mana will be easy enough with our link, but making armor for over 40 people will be difficult,” she replied.
Clamor looked confused for a moment, “40? I thought we had over 70,” he asked.
“We do,” Gina confirmed, nodding, “But only about 40 are in good enough shape to fight or hunt. The rest have opted into tending to Johnny’s tree home and the area around it. We don’t have to farm, hide, or look for shelter, so they are trying to help however they can. Come on, let’s get back home; we can serve this meat up to everyone else tonight.” Serene and Clamor nodded and helped in dragging the corpses of the wolves back to Johnny.
The trip back was mostly uneventful, with an incident with a giant squirrel attacking the group being the only highlight. After an hour of walking and dragging, the group reached the clearing where Johnny grew. Around the tree was a wooden barrier made of sharpened wooden stakes, bloodied from previous battles. They dragged the sleds into their home through a gap in the barrier. As they brought the sleds into the halls of Johnny’s tree, the dull glow from the bark guiding them, they navigated the maze of wide corridors until they came upon the butchery room.
The butchery room was a bloody place, with skinned animals hanging from wooden hooks in the ceiling, guts and other organs being slowly ‘eaten’ by Johnny’s roots, and pelts being washed and treated for use in the crafting room. The hunting party brought the sleds into the room and laid the corpses out in rows. Most of the hunters were finished with their jobs and went off to find friends or family, but Serene and Clamor stayed behind with Gina and two other elves as they prepared the corpses, “Hey, Gina,” Serene said, “can you do me a favour?”
Gina looked over to Serene as she gutted the wolf in front of her, “Yes, what do you need?”
“Well, I think some armor would do me good,” she said, smiling.
Gina laughed, “Of course it would. You’re one of the best scouts we have, so it would be a bad idea to not give you some armor. Besides, if you keep getting scratched during the hunts, your clothes will be more sewing thread than cloth,” she joked.
Smiling in exasperation, Serene kneeled next to Gina, “Yeah, but I need something light. I can’t run around if I wear what Clamor is wearing.”
Clamor raised an eyebrow, “You would be safe if you wore something like this. And you would hit harder if you used a bow like mine,” he countered.
“I can’t. I’m a scout, not a bow-wielding, fur-wearing knight,” Serene rebutted, “Anyway, Gina, can we have it like this?” Over the next few minutes, the two women planned out the fur for Serene’s armor. Eventually, the siblings parted from the butcher and made their way into the interior of the tree. Eventually they came upon the center of the tree, a large circular room dominated by a table and a 15 foot tall wooden figure, seemingly sleeping. With a minute jolt the figure seemed to wake, as it raised its head to the newcomers, “Ahh… you two… good… I have news… “ Johnny drawled.
The siblings entered the room without hesitation and took seats close to the wooden titan, “What happened, Johnny?” Clamor asked, intrigued.
Serene nodded in interest, prompting Johnny to continue, “I believe… that I will… how do you say… give birth? Yes… that is it… I believe that I will… give birth soon.” Johnny said, stunning the siblings.
After a moment, they screamed out in unison, ““WHAT!?””