Astra 4's seven children are in three carry-cots, three of them in one cot
two in each of the others. At roughly six months old, the three in the cot
warg has picked up weigh some forty pounds in total, but the creature's
are up to the task. Astra slides her arms through the handle-loops of the
other two cots,
leaps onto the back of Elf Death, and grabs the reins. She would have
slipped her feet
into the stirrups, but they are intended for a creature with longer legs
and the best she can do is to press her thighs into the warg's flanks.
As soon as she has done so, Elf Death bounds out of the wagon, the leap
causing even such a skilled
horsewoman as Astra to struggle frantically to remain in the saddle -
which like the
stirrups is meant for a creature of very different dimensions than herself.
Once the warg is back on the ground, things are a little easier, though Astra wishes for once that she was a little less buxom, as her bra cannot altogether damp out the bouncing that its bounding run creates. Fortunately she can rest the cots that are on her arms on the warg's broad back; strong woman though she is, she couldn't long have endured a weight of thirty pounds on each arm. Her only real problem is her inability to steer, since the creature seems oblivious to her pulling on the reins.
She has no idea where she and her brood are being taken. The wagon had been traversing the edge of a plain, and the warg has headed into the forest that borders it on one side. Astra keeps her head low to the warg's neck, and hopes that it has enough woodcraft that they won't collide with a low branch. And she hopes above all else that the warg's jaws won't tire and that it will keep tight hold of its precious cargo.
She doesn't know why the warg has come to her aid in this unexpected fashion. She knows her infants seem to have an empathy with most domestic animals, but it doesn't occur to her that they could influence the actions of an almost-wild creature such as this. She doesn't realise how fortunate it was that the screams of horror of the dwarves as they transformed had woken her children from their slumbers, so they could take a hand.
The ex-dwarves might have been able to overhaul the heavily burdened warg (taking Astra's own weight into account, it is carrying close to 240 pounds in all - substantially more than the weight of its usual rider), but they have no idea in which direction it has gone. Ironically, they are hampered by the shaman's spell of untraceability cast on Astra and her children.
After an hour or so, Elf Death slows down to a brisk trot, but the first light of dawn is in the sky before it comes to a halt. Astra estimates that the dwarves had taken her almost twenty miles, and the warg probably about the same distance. Her children fell asleep again some hours before, but she knows they will be awake again before long and demanding to be fed. Wherever the warg might have brought them, she knows that they have no option but to remain in the immediate vicinity. The children can crawl, but none of them have taken their first steps yet, and there is no way that she could carry more than one or two of them for any distance.
Astra slips down from Elf Death's back, and then coaxes it to release its grip on the cot it has been carrying. She places the three cots on the ground, and then massages the stiffness out of her arms and legs. The warg bounds off. Probably looking for its breakfast, she thinks. Which reminds her that, whilst she can feed the children, her biggest problem may lie in feeding herself. Whilst she knows Fred 4 will come looking for her, it will be like looking for a needle in a haystack, especially as she suspects that the spell that the shaman cast was an anti-tracking spell, and it could be days or even weeks before she is found. The forest canopy above means that even if the Military can be persuaded to mount a search from the air, they may not find her. Unless she can manage to light a fire and keep it burning, so its smoke will reveal her position? But that might reveal where she is to her erstwhile captors as well.
2/5/2000 11:41:56 AM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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