Among it all, there was a lone tree stump, where an elven woman stood. The elven woman, Adra, was the leader of these elves- of this entire section of the forest. She had light brown bark that hugged her skin-tight around the torso and formed a sort of tight fitting dress. Adra had tanned skin while violet flowers hung off her shoulders and fell around her waste. A violet veil distorted her facial features, with the only thing noticeable under it being her startling emerald green eyes. In her right hand she held a wooden staff, seemingly grown and interwoven naturally before it would be utilized in such a manner. At the heart of the staff was a violet crystal, matching the flowers and leaves that hung off her bark armor.
Before her was the stump. A remnant of a once mighty tree, felled by nature. That is the only way a tree will come to it's end in their forest, as the wood elves and the other natural denizens do not harm the trees, even when using wood. Anything wooden was naturally grown and given to them with the blessing of the forest lord.
Engraved into the stump was a detailed map of her clan's lands. On the other side of the stump stood four young elves. Soldiers in training. Phasvi, Azkaet, Branwyn and Myrdin. All unique and qualified, but they had their flaws to be worked out.
She examined each of the new recruits before she finally pushed away her veil. "You all know you I am and why I am here. I have watched you since the start of your trainings, and will continue to watch you today, tomorrow and the so on." She stated, her view going from one recruit to another.
"As always, the leader of the clan sends you off on your first mission." Adra continued as she lifted her staff and leaned it towards the stump. The violet crystal started to glow brighter and brighter as a single, delicate flower rose out of the wooden stump. It was where the recruits would be headed.
There was Azkaet. The stout, reluctant battlemaster. He was covered head to toe in white bark armor, hugging him so tight he could barely move. The elf, while shorter than the others, had quite the strength in him. His major flaw was that he is reluctant to fight and kill when neccesary. Azkaet wants to defend his home, but hesitates as he engages enemy combatants, therefore making him a reliability on the battlefield. His go-to weapons are dual wielding swords. The blade itself made out of the clan's signature green stone.
Then there was Phasvi, the overconfident, lithe, and quick show off. She had pastier skin than the others and wore much less armor than Azkaet, or at least less restricting armor. The bulkiest pieces of bark hugged her chest, shoulders, forearms, and feet. Strips of bark hugged her legs, but noticeable gaps were there in order to give her extra mobility. Those not covered by thick bark were simple disguised under a little bit of vines and green leaves. Her emerald eyes were a little brighter than Adra's, and she had shoulder-length, midnight black hair. Phasvi carried a polearm made of the same wood as her armor, while the blade was crafted from the same material as Azkaet's.
The myserious Branwyn stood next in line. Adra knew little of her, surprisingly. From what she was told, Branwyn was excellent with archery and her fondness with animals was extreme. Most of their people shared that in common, but not everyone pursued such interests.
Adra's eyes landed on the last person. Myrdin. A male elf with a tact for the small hilted, thin swords called "rapiers" by others. Personality wise she knew nothing of this man, but nonetheless she already made her decision.
Adra took a deep breath before she continued talking, "A pack of direwolves had ventured out of their hills and into our forests. This is unprecedented and puts our people in grave danger...and you four will be tasked with dealing with the situation."
She looked to the forest floor for a moment before continuing, "You are authorized to use whatever means neccesary. Direwolves are very dangerous, and unlike the native wildlife of these woodlands, care nothing for us or anyone in them. If you must put them down, remember to be swift and merciful."
"Branwyn will be Mission Commander" Adra said moving closer, looking to Phasvi specifically, "Follow her orders until it is completed."
Glad someone else is calling the shots here, he thought, chewing on a stalk of grass as he looked around the rest of the group. Let’s me focus on killing what needs killing. Hopefully everyone else can take care of themselves in a fight. I'm sure Adra wouldn't pick weaklings for this mission. Guess we'll see either way soon enough.
At the moment she wore light armor with a mossy cloak. She had a bow slung over one shoulder and a quiver of arrows on her back. At her right hip hung a scabbard holding her longsword and a small knife beside it. A few pouches containing various herbs and vials of liquids were hanging from her belt as well. She looked from one scout to the other and then back at Adra hesitantly. Even though she knew she could do it, the responsibility of being the leader felt overwhelming.
She wanted to protest but that would be like an insult to Adra. Questioning the leader's decision would only make things difficult for herself. Branwyn looked at everyone's faces again and nodded. "I'll take the lead. When we find signs of the wolves, Phasvi can scout the area. We need to know how many and how big they are. Once we have that information, Phasvi and I will lure them to a position where Myrdin and Azkaet will be waiting. Then we spring the trap. I have arrows coated with a herb that should put even a dire wolf to sleep." She said. "Now. Let's move out."
With the plan revealed, Branwyn started off towards the target area at a jog. Once she was sure they were with her she picked up speed, running along the well-hidden elf paths they had all been taught to traverse.
“Since you mentioned getting the dire wolves to sleep, I’m assuming that you want to keep at least some of them alive?” he asked Branwyn aloud, making sure to look at the back of her head. “How much force can we use to subdue the wolves?”
A few minutes later she called back again. "We're getting close. Silence or they'll hear us coming. Use your bird signs if needed."
As the four up and coming soldiers traversed the thick forests, random branches, flowers and vines would start to move. Adra’s breaths were quickening. Fools, she thought to herself. She stood frozen near the downed tree where the squad was only moments before. Her eyes were clouded over, an indication that she had been watching every step that the group made.
In the case of an emergency, there was a squadron of guards ready to go and help the fledglings. Adra, even though she technically was not suppose to, wanted Branwyn to succeed. After everything she has gone through, it would set her on a good path forward. and perhaps wipe away some of the bad reception that comes with her name.
DEEP INTO THE FOREST
Phasvi was disgusted by the choice that Adra made. To Phasvi, Branwyn was just some exiled lady from a traitorous clan. Someone who should have been executed like the others, even if she had not been directly in the rebellion.
But for her career, she obeyed the choice. She shall obey Branwyn’s choices, despite how much it may hurt her. The polearm was held in her right hand, dragging behind her. Phasvi’s eyes darted from side to side.
“Direwolves are huge and furry, they can’t be that hard to find,” She muttered to the others.
“Hey, guys wait!” Azkaet yelled, getting down on his knees to examine something on the ground. Two giant footprints were in the muddy underbrush of the forest, right next to a tree.
“It’s huge...it has to be from a Direwolf.” He added as Phasvi approached.
“Why are there only two prints though?” Phasvi questioned, putting her polearm up against the tree as she bent down to examine the very large footprint- easily double, even triple the size of her head. Suddenly there was something wet that dripped onto her exposed shoulder. Phasvi reached to her shoulder and wiped it away out of instinct. In the corner of her, she noticed a red tint to the liquid. Blood, she thought.
Phasvi jumped up and grabbed her weapon. She got into a defensive position to protect herself and Azkaet, who was still on the ground.
As this all occurred, Adra investigated by herself through the eyes of the trees. Above the ground, a vine grew closer to a leaf that was blood-red and had soft, brown fur surrounding it on branches. "They are in the trees," Adra gasped as she forced herself out of her nature-vision.
"Everyone, the dire wolves are in the trees. We can still make this work. Form up on Phasvi and watch her back." Branwyn called to the other three novices. "Try to keep their attention off of me. If we don't work together they have the advantage!"
She narrowed her eyes and focused her vision, recalling the meditation techniques she had learned. "Spirits of the forest, grant me your senses. Guide my arrows to their targets. I ask this in service of the Great Tree." Branwyn whispered. She focused on the sounds, smells, and movements of the forest, eliminating irrelevant stimuli. The dire wolves weren't part of this forest. They would be relatively easy to locate, she hoped.
“Great, just what we needed,” Myrdin mumbled, pulling out his rapier and parrying dagger and putting his back to Phasvi as he looked up to the tree canopy above them. “Hill dire wolves being totally fine at climbing trees.”
Here’s to hoping Branwyn can pull off something useful, the elven warrior thought, frowning as he looked around the group. I didn’t want to end my life as a dire wolf snack.
“But...how?! They do not even have forests in their native habitat!” Azkaet hastily said, obviously in a bit of a panic.
They moved closer to Branwyn so they could protect her as she used her powers over nature to aid them.
"The trees are large...sturdy. It is not surprising they were able to do such a thing," Phasvi responded as she held her weapon aloft, ready to strike anything to approach her. She was not fast enough though as something jumped from the trees and tackled her to the muddy forest floor. Phasvi let out a gasp as she hit her head so hard it knocked her out.
Azkaet charged the wolf from behind, but its large tail slammed into the heavily armored elf. Even though he was well protected, Azkaet was flung back into a tree and incapacitated.
The auburn-furred dire wolf barred its teeth at the unconscious Phasvi that he stood above. There were cuts found all across the beast's body. It was like it was attacked by swords, daggers and more.
A Few Miles Deeper Into the Forest
Branwyn’s eyes would gloss over as they became clouded with some sort of green mist. It indicated she had called upon the powers of the Great Tree. She would find herself seeing through the eyes of a small native rodent scurrying through the forest as it moved ever faster towards something...or away from something. All the sounds it heard, all the feelings it had. Even it’s smell was given to Branwyn. She could sense everything.
The rodent burst into a small opening, where at least a dozen dire wolves stood, where they surrounded a Cervitaur in the center. The beasts were various colors and sizes, but even the smallest of them stood as tall as the Cervitaur.
The pack of Direwolves continued to circle around the Cervitaur as they growled and snarled at the trapped being. Upon closer inspection, Branwyn would see that many of the dire wolves were bleeding and wounded, though what from is anyone’s guess. They would have no natural predators in this area of the forest.
Branwyn would suddenly feel a sharp pain in her torso as her vision went black and she came back into her own mind and body. Something must have bit into the rodent.
Clad in a simple, supple bark halter top and traveling cloak and a saddlebag full of reagents and plants, the herbalist Fahna had only a few moments before been out with her large herd in the forest gathering materials for the druid elders as they always did. When suddenly they were surprised by the sound of howls, and scattered to the winds by shadowy black wolves. She had tried to flee, but was eventually cornered by the pack in this small field.
Now, the barely of age centaur-cousin was no warrior buck, and it was all she could do to stifle her abject fear and keep her pounding heart from beating out of her chest enough to keep a clear head. "Come on Fahna... w-what would elder Nikorahn do in this situation??", the doe thought to herself, as she brandished an unimpressive gnarled wooden staff shakily at the nearest wolf, "He would p-probably say to be strong, like the oak tree! Y-yeah... I can do this!"
These direwolves were strange, unknown predators to her, and didn't seem phased by the glorified stick and her pawing at the ground, but they did suddenly yelp in pain when she finally gritted her teeth and gave one a swift kick in the muzzle with her two rear hooves, sending it reeling backwards as it just happened to strike one of its nasty wounds from whomever hurt it before. Fight or flight had kicked in, as the cervitaur reached into her saddlebag and threw some stinging nettles right into the eyes of the littlest dire wolf directly in front of her, and then as it howled she bludgeoned its skull with a strength she didn't know she had in her...
Fahna gracefully leaped over its temporarily stunned form and back into the protection of the sacred trees, running as fast as her four deer legs could carry her screaming at the top of her lungs in an echo throughout the glade that couldn't be missed: "HHHEEEEEELLLLLPPP!"
She didn't want to shoot the dire wolf, considering the wounds she realized were causing the behavior. Reluctantly she sighted on the dire wolf hovering over Phasvi and drew back the bowstring. She took a deep breath to steady her aim and as she exhaled slowly she released the arrow. It whistled slightly as it sailed towards the dire wolf's torso.
The sound of the arrow flying was suddenly drowned out by screams that were quickly growing louder. She remembered the cervitaur and cursed under her breath. "Myrdin, the rest of the pack will be on us soon! Use these smelling salts and try to get Azkaet back onto his feet!" Branwyn ordered, pulling a pouch off of her belt and throwing it to him.
Thankfully, Branwyn’s arrow flew true and took care of the monster for the time being. A nearby scream ruined any satisfaction Myrdin might have felt in being one of the few front-line fighters still standing. Oh, joy. We’re not the only one’s out here.
“Alright,” he said, catching the thrown pouch and running over to Azkaet. After a moment, he pulled out a small vial of white crystals, popped the cork off, and waved the horrible smelling substance under the other elf’s nose. “Come on, this is no time for taking a nap.”
"Guess it's back to the original plan now!" Branwyn called out. She pulled out a handful of caltrops devised from giant flower thorns and covered the ground in the direction the other wolves would be coming from. The cervitaur might also get hurt but that's a risk she was willing to take. They could patch her up later if they all survived.