This chapter hints to an event in Chapter 17 - Mourning, of WTWFTD. It doesn't really spoil anything, though one name might be unfamiliar if you haven't read that chapter. :)
Characters appearing in this chapter: Nadiko (elf) & Sai (wolf Guardian) ~ Wolfheart
Kill the giant wolf that seemed intent upon terrorising the town. The orders - straight from Vixen Saan, newly appointed champion of a dwarven camp - had been simple.
Until, of course, she realised that the wolf was a little more difficult to kill than anticipated; until the slaver had turned up with too many of his men to kill while fighting the damned wolf; until the slaver had captured them both to fight in his arenas.
"Well," she muttered, glaring at the wolf. "I'm going to blame you for this. You should have died earlier."
The wolf simply stared back at her, its huge, intelligent eyes gleaming with what might have been amusement. Or, depending on how the stupid thing felt about their current predicament, it could have been anger. But to be fair, the wolf should have just died sooner. It would have made things a whole lot easier for both of them. The wolf would be too dead to care, and the slaver's little minions would all be dead because she could have dealt with them effortlessly without the wolf there to get in her way. Also, she wouldn't have a bite mark on her shoulder, but scars and pain, she could live with.
Nadiko twisted her foot again, writhing within the chains, ignoring the stare of the wolf. She was getting out of here, and she didn't care how long it took her.
Somehow, she managed to twist her leg up behind her, painfully stretching out her fingers to grasp the lockpick within her boot. Gritting her teeth, Nadiko inserted the lockpick into the keyhole, turning it carefully, slowly.
Nadiko fell from the chains that had bound her wrists, landing awkwardly on the cold stone floor beneath her. She stood. Stretched out her stiff limbs.
"Told you I'd get out first," she grinned to the wolf, her ears twitching slightly as it whined pleadingly. "Of course, I should probably kill you now, but that would be a waste. You help me get out, and then I'll keep fighting you and kill you when we escape. Deal?"
It stuck her as slightly stupid that she was talking to a wolf, considering it wouldn't reply or even probably understand human, but there were more worrying things to concern herself with. Eventually, the wolf nodded.
"Smart dog," she whistled beneath her breath, stepping towards it. Pricks of tension raced along her arms as she freed the wolf, feeling its steely gaze resting upon her.
"You try to kill me, and I'll cut your throat open," she warned. Why was she trusting an animal? She could probably escape on her own, so why take the chance?
Nadiko paused, and the wolf whined again. She met its eyes. Imploring. Desperate. Pleading.
"Fine," she growled, finally unlocking the chain around its neck. The moment the lock clicked, Nadiko threw herself back, already grasping the hilts of her two blades.
For a moment, the two simply glared. Untrusting. Cautious.
It was the wolf who moved first, heading towards the door that contained them within the cell. Slowly, ever so cautiously, Nadiko lowered the blades, following the wolf to the door. Watching the animal from the corner of her eyes, Nadiko tugged at the handle. Locked. She kicked at it, wincing as the pain from her shoulder wound spiked through her body. Still, the door held firm.
The wolf looked at her questioningly.
"Well, you open it, then," she told the creature, standing back as it paced a few steps backwards. Muscles rippling, the wolf charged at the door, a snarl reverberating through the cell as it slammed against the obstacle, splintering the wood with a display of sheer power.
Without waiting for her, it picked itself up, trotting from the room and holding its head proud and tall. Nadiko followed.
"Where's the exit?" she asked it. "Sniff it out or something. You're meant to have a good nose, aren't you?" She still had trouble believing that the wolf could actually understand her words, but she didn't have a choice. Even if her only ally was a monster that had done nothing but terrorize the dwarves.
A shadow flickered to her left, and she was instantly upon it, blade plunging through the neck of the dwarf. They were stupid, loud, and clumsy - easy to hear as they tried an ambush. Nadiko stood, kicking the body aside, realising the wolf's green eyes were on her, one still swollen and tinged with red. The wound she had inflicted ran along its face, over its eye.
"What are you looking at?" she grinned, as exhilaration began to creep into her limbs. "We've got a slaver to kill."
Nadiko sunk the sword through the chest of yet another dwarf, turning to see the wolf tear as the head of another. It might only be a bloodthirsty animal, intent upon terrorisation, but even Nadiko had to admit that it was smart, and strong. It didn't pause before charging at the next enemy, fangs gleaming with blood as it slammed into the final dwarf, crushing him beneath legs of pure power.
"Done yet, wolf?" she asked. The animal snorted, tossing its head with what looked suspiciously like disdain.
She followed it through another door, and was greeted instantly by the odour of death. Darkness swallowed the room, encasing the prisoners within a cloud of murky despair. They looked towards the faint spill of light from the doorway, and Nadiko could see everything sketched within their scarred, bloodied faces: they needed liberation.
"I'm going free them, wolf," she stated. "With or without you."
Nadiko slipped outside again, searching the corpses of the guards for keys. She found them quickly, and ran back into the room. The wolf's eyes burned into her as she moved, quickly freeing an elf from her cell, then shifting to release a human. They each mumbled a grateful thanks to her as they hurried from the cages.
She stopped when she reached the animals.
Behind her, the wolf emitted a low growl, like it was urging her to set them free, but Nadiko knew that to liberate feral creatures such as these would be to risk her life, even more so than she already was.
"Can you guarantee they won't tear us apart, wolf?" she asked. It snorted, and Nadiko rolled her eyes. She supposed they did deserve to be free. Besides, they were weakened from the arena battles the slaver had forced them through. She pushed the key into the lock, and it clicked open. Inside, a panther watched her with caution. Swinging the door open, Nadiko swept her arm outwards, gesturing for it to leave.
Slowly. Carefully. It edged forwards, eyes never leaving her face, finally springing past her and charging away. Nadiko hurried to help the rest, noticing how the wolf padded beside her. She wasn't sure whether it was preparing to help her if one of the animals attacked, or help the animal, but it couldn't be helped. If it so much as moved towards her in a threatening way, Nadiko wouldn't hesitate to slice open its throat.
Finally, she reached the last cell. From within the bars, a griffin looked out at her, its eyes wide and terrified. Once-burgundy feathers had been dirtied and bloodied; the once-golden beak was rendered scratched and scarred.
She freed it.
The griffin pushed itself forwards with such ferocity that Nadiko had to throw herself backwards to evade being struck by its wings, and it fled the room, pushing its way through the doors with barely enough room to spare.
"Happy now?" she asked the wolf. Smugly, the creature tossed its head, already padding towards the door.
It was then that the wolf turned suddenly, a snarl ripping through the air with relentless fury.
Nadiko grabbed her swords.