The sturdy ukatar was being held desperately in between them, its wooden body was the only thing preventing the wolf from ripping into his neck.

Rohl’s arms pushed from one side and the wolf from the other. A desperate struggle for life and death.

He fought with all his might to keep the wolf from getting any closer, his arms pushed and strained to keep the snarling jaws away.

“Shit, shit, shit,” he muttered as he was forced to tilt his face to avoid getting bitten.

With every second, the gnarling and snapping jaws got ever closer unprotected neck. He could feel its warm breath as it snapped at him. Anticipation was evident on the wolf’s face as saliva dripped from its mouth in expectation of a fresh meal, it was hungry and Rohl looked tasty.

Each drop of saliva was followed by a burst of foul breath. If the threat of having his throat ripped out wasn’t enough motivation, the smell of its breath would have given him all the motivation he needed.

With a strained cry, he gathered his strength and pushed back against the wolf. To no avail.

The wolf was too strong and had too good of a position to budge so easily.

What do I do? Rohl thought in a panic as he searched for any possible solution to his current predicament.

In desperation, he tried to shuffle out from under its weight. Rohl soon regretted that idea. The beast's powerful legs and sharp tearing claws kept him from struggling out of its grasp. With each movement, its claws penetrated deeper into Rohl’s vulnerable skin and small trickles of blood had already begun to stain where the wolf’s claws had torn into him

Every second that Rohl continued to resist was another second’s worth of strain on arms that had already begun to tire and ache. It wouldn’t be long until his arms finally gave out and once that happened it would be over. He had to end this before that happened and there was only one way Rohl could think to do that. But reaching the dagger on his hip without giving the wolf enough leeway to finally tear into his throat would not be an easy task.

It was his only option and once he reached the dagger it would only take a quick thrust to the neck to kill the wolf, Rohl just hoped it would be a quick death, he did not want the beast to suffer needlessly.

As the wolf’s canines got ever closer, Rohl finally decided to take the risk. In a flurry of movement, he took one hand away from his ukatar and began to hastily reach for his dagger.

Before he even got the chance to unsheathe his dagger, the wolf gave a quick yelp of pain before slumping over dead, the shaft of the arrow that killed it protruded out of what had once been its left eye. As much as a relief as this was, Rohl couldn’t relax just yet, for all he knew this was a much bigger threat.

With the wolf dead, Rohl wasted no time in getting to his feet, unsheathing his dagger, and turning to face the forest where the arrow had come from. But all he saw was thick forest and no trace of whoever had shot the arrow.

“Didn’t want to try using that on the wolf, no?” a voice laden with humour laughed out.

Rohl didn’t reply, he was too focused on trying to find the voice's owner to come up with a smart reply of his own.

“Oh settle down will you, if we wanted you dead, there’d be an arrow in your chest already,” said the voice once again, a voice belonging to one of the four figures which soon appeared out of the forest and its thick undergrowth. Only the one that had spoken earlier approached Rohl, sheathing his bow as he did so.

Rohl lowered his dagger in return but despite the outward friendliness of the man. Rohl remained suspicious and his heart still raced with adrenaline.

“That was a close one for you, if we hadn’t heard your singing and girly yelp, you’d be dead right now I reckon,” spoke the man, a smug grin plastered on his face, it matched the tone of his voice perfectly.

A man who Rohl could now see clearly, he appeared just a few years older than Rohl was, but had short spiky hair and a rather long face. A thick cloak and leather amour covered his tall body. A ranger most likely, Rohl reckoned. A subclass of adventurer that typically spent their time patrolling the main roads in search of monsters.

“Thank you, I appreciate the help,” Rohl breathed out as he began to calm down and settle his rapid breaths.

“Ah don’t mention, people need to take care of each other besides, I don’t really enjoy seeing people get eaten, kind of puts you off your dinner,” spoke the ranger in a rather laid-back manner, completely at ease with the whole situation. Rohl was not so, this was the second time now that he’d almost been killed in one week.

Death was hardly a rare occurrence, disease, monsters and men claimed many lives each year and Rohl was hardly a stranger to the sight, but nearly dying himself was a lot to process. His heartbeats were erratic, and his breathing remained quick and shallow despite his attempts to calm them. The only thing keeping him from breaking was the knowledge that his family were alive and were relying on him. Such thoughts kept his will and spirit in check, no matter what happened, he would keep going, he would bounce back. I can hold it together for them, Rohl thought in an attempt to reassure himself.

The man didn't seem to notice all this and instead continued speaking.

“Where are my manners, I’m Quinn Terriney but you can just call me Quinn, and these are my companions,” Quinn said jovially before turning around and pointing at the three individuals who stood behind him.

“This strong fellow is Thaddeus Welman,” spoke Quinn as he gestured to a rather bulky man, he was twice the size of Rohl with defined muscles and a hard-looking face. Rohl estimated that Thaddeus was probably a few years older than Quinn but the man's baldness and distinguished-looking beard really threw off Rohl’s estimates. A large iron claymore was hung over his back, easily capable of cutting a man in two.

Rohl doubted he could even lift it, never mind swing it. At his introduction Thaddeus only gave a slight nod, choosing to remain silent.

“Next is Terrance Filmen, our main magic-user.”

Terrance gave a brief “How do you do,” at his introduction. Terrance did indeed look like your stereotypical wizard with long untamed dark green hair to match his flowing green robes marked with magical runes that Rohl could not even begin to decipher. A beautiful wooden staff was clutched in his hand with wooden branches that shot off towards the top as if mimicking a real tree.

“And finally we have Mimi Arteal.”

Who gave a friendly smile and wave during her introduction. She was around the same height as Rohl, maybe an inch or two smaller and seemed to be around his age.

But what really caught Rohl’s attention was her appearance, she had a fairly angular face with shining silver eyes and long flowing black hair that was neatly braided behind her right shoulder. They were the mesmerising eyes of the fae, a feature shared by every one of their species. Some had wings, some glowed, but all had unique eyes. Rohl couldn’t see any of these other qualities but he wasn’t going to make any assumptions based on that, for all he knew she could glow in the dark.

Her standard green and black tunic with leather armour was completely overshadowed by the almost pure silver cloak that Mimi wore. The longer Rohl watched the more it seemed to glimmer as if it was enchanted. It was quite the striking appearance, one that Rohl found rather attractive and given the smirk plastered on Quinn’s face he could tell what he was thinking.

Not that Rohl had the spare time to pursue anyone, there was hardly any time to meet someone when you had to save your family, fund their care, find a cure, and take vengeance on a sacrilegious beast.

“It’s nice to meet you all and thank you for helping me,” Rohl said earnestly, it could just have well-been bandits who saved him only to rob him of everything he had right after.

“Don’t mention it, so Rohl my man, where you headed?” Quinn said as he laid his arm over Rohl’s shoulder, it seemed Quinn was quite a friendly and cheerful person. Someone who Rohl felt like he would get along with even if he was not so happy about the physical contact.

“Elmon,” Rohl answered as he attempted to untangle himself from Quinn’s arm, who acted like he couldn’t tell what Rohl was attempting. The rangers companions just watched with a resigned gaze as if this were something they constantly had to deal with.

“Well lucky you Rohl buddy, so are we,” Quinn spoke jovially as he clutched Rohl even tighter “tag along with us, it will be a laugh, besides, it looks like you could use the help,” Quinn smiled as he finally released Rohl.

“Please, are you sure you wouldn’t mind?” Rohl had been searching for companions for his journey and he was not about to turn them down. Still, manners came first.

“Don’t worry about it, if you want to pay us back why not sing us a few tales,” here he got up close and whispered in Rohl’s ear, a shit-eating grin on his face “besides Mimi loves a man who can sing.”

Rohl blushed slightly before he gave a gentle sigh at Quinn’s behaviour “Alright I’m in.”

A few songs in exchange for armed companions seemed like a more than good enough deal to Rohl.

A few songs and as it turned out be the one to harvest the wolf for its valuable parts; the teeth and fur. An unpleasant job but not one Rohl was unfamiliar to. With that grim business over Rohl’s journey continued, a journey now filled with polite greetings and small talk between Rohl and Quinn’s group.

A pleasant change for Rohl that lasted for only about 10 minutes or so.


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