“Zeke!” cried Simon, skidding to a halt. “He’s fainted!” He dodged back, grabbed the possum’s limp form, then caught up to Thane again.
“Poor chap, must have thought we were out to eat him.” Thane sniffed the air. “They’re just ahead—and hey presto, they’re almost at the tunnel. Fellows, it’s us!” he called.
“It’s the wolf!” said the hoglet, who’d been running ahead of Zeke. Thane passed him by.
“Thane!” said Rusty, as the wolf pulled up alongside her and the raccoon cub, whom she held by the paw. “What, bird not big enough for you to hit? It’s only the size of a barn!”
“I hit it, Rus, but it hit me right back. Good thing we had Wyld weed on us! Head for the tunnel where we met Brun!”
The wolf put on more speed.
“Well met, pup,” said Brun, as the wolf caught up to him in the lead. “That’s just where I was taking them.”
“Oh,” said Thane. “Well, then!”
Simon’s labored gasps grew loud enough for them to hear over their footsteps. The possum bounced in his arms. The bane screeched behind them.
“What happened to Zeke?” said Rusty. “He faint?”
“Yeah…think we…scared him.”
The forest thinned; they were in another clearing.
Brun stopped, looking around. The clearing was split into two paths by a thick copse of trees.
Thane pelted around the bear towards a copse of trees. “Follow me!” he said, and ran to one side of the stand.
Rusty, the raccoon cub, and the hoglet bounded after him without missing a beat. But Simon, seeing Brun at a dead stop, hesitated and waited next to the bear. His arms were shaking from holding Zeke’s weight. He shifted the possum around, hoping for some relief.
“We didn’t come from that way,” said the bear. “I think he’s scented the rat’s old trail, and now he’s gone haring off. Come, the tunnel’s this way.” Brun lurched towards the stand of trees, taking the pathThane hadn’t picked.
“I can’t leave Thane!”
“Squire, don’t you hear the bane’s wings? It will be upon us, and I have no way to defend you or your friend—or this cub. The pup’s probably on the other end of the forest by now, he’ll be safe. We’ll never reach him in time. Come!” The bear was lumbering away.
Simon had no doubt the bear knew his way around these woods better than Thane did. But the bane was out for the cubs, and Thane had two of them. He couldn’t face it alone! How could Simon call himself a squire if he didn’t aid his master?
“Wait!” said Simon. “I can bring him back!”
The bear turned around, eyes searching the sky. “Hurry.”
Simon swallowed through a thick throat. His kind weren’t known for this—the times he’d tried in the past, Thane had laughed at him—but he knew no other way to get Thane back to them.
He lifted his head and howled.
The sound was not the clear song of a true wolf. Zeke always said he sounded like he was gargling and falling off a cliff at the same time. Once, on Rusty’s advice, he’d tried adding some yips—“for color”—, but that had only made Thane fall over from laughing too hard.
But he was louder now than months ago when he’d started practicing. Hopefully he was loud enough for them to hear over their footsteps and the bane, which had started up screeching again. It sounded eager, ready to devour its victims.
He could hear the giant wingbeats now. He ended with a few desperate roar-barks and then dashed to Brun. The bear took off.
We’re nearing the end! No chapter tomorrow, but fear not! It will be posted MONDAY at noon. The game Armello and its characters are property League of Geeks. Buy it today!
For previous chapters, click the tag “Heroes of Houndsmouth“; older chapters are towards the bottom.
You might also like to watch this video of a maned wolf roar-barking, because it is awesome.