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The Hunter's Pack
"The quest for fame can be a treacherous path indeed, even with the help of a well-trained pack of companions at your side."

"I am a Huntress, and word of my deeds spreads daily amongst the common folk. As an adventurer, I have had quite the illustrious career. I've battled throngs of trolls and their kin, many types of elementals, hordes of undead, armies of swamp spawn, tribes of Ophidians, and even some of the lesser dragons! But still I have yet to earn the honorific 'Lady.' Is it wrong to be a glory hound?

"Well, perhaps today I will begin to rectify that little shortcoming of mine.

"A moderate sack full of reagents, a roll of bandages, my trusty dagger, and a few miscellaneous other implements fill out my accoutrement, and now I'm ready to go get my friends. It takes a moment to flip open my runebook to the appropriate location and then I'm whisked away by trusty old Kal Ort Por.

"The Delucia stables reek of mixed manure as usual. I do like Delucia, though. It lacks the frenetic hustle and bustle of Britain, but it's also not the forgotten backwater it used to be. With a simple request, my friends are delivered to me.

"As usual, they're delighted to be brought out of their stalls, and are more than ready to go on the hunt. I shan't disappoint them this morning, either. I understand their love of the kill -- I feel the same way! Leading my little pack away from the thoroughfare, I arrange them in a neat line, ordering each in turn to 'stay.' They obey, though it clearly pains them to do so. I'm sure they scent the raw steaks I have wrapped up in my pack. Wasting little time, I begin the daily feeding ritual, calling each by name and offering up a juicy hunk of bloody red meat. I haven't lost any digits yet, but I've come close a few times.

"Terki and Tikki, whom I also think of as 'The Terror Twins,' are my biggest prides. Both are the same somber amber hue, and both are extraordinarily fearsome. They get their offerings first, and of course they take that as license to begin wandering around at random. I allow them this little bit of liberty -- the time for us to form the disciplined pack of hunters will come soon!

"Next, I move on to maroon Redge. Usually, he is the calmest of the bunch, but his horns, ridges, claws and teeth are often the last thing our quarry sees. I feed him and pat his fearsome snout, and he happily wanders off to finish his meal. Vella, the blue, almost perfectly matches my armor! She is one of the newer members of my pack and normally I would have her out on the attack, to train her skills on our adventure outings. But I want to hunt big game today, so this one will be my steed today. Last, and right now least, is Norro. Norro the Nondescript I call him, for his dull brownish hide. I tamed him (or he accepted my friendship?) only in recent days. He is still learning pack hunting with us, but his instincts are amazing!

"With the feeding done, I gather my crew around me, and then we head off to the frozen rocky woods far to the north. Today, we are hunting the devilish and fearsome White Wyrm! One of my runes lands us all on the snowy wastes near the black and gaping entrance to the Ice Dungeon.

"I have scouted through there before and have good knowledge of what to expect. I lead us inside, and after invoking In Lor and quickly scanning for threats, I prepare and cast Flam Sanct. We make our way down the westward tunnel. As expected, we meet light resistance at first. I'm almost sorry to have to kill the frost oozes with their striking bright shade of blue! But, they are aggressive, and my Pack defensively kills them almost as soon as I recognize one is attacking. I send the crew after a frost spider, and they take it down with frightening speed.

"If you've never seen a well-trained and organized pack of frenzied ostards hunting under the direction of a skilled hunter, then you must! They attack so efficiently, each one individually seems twice as vicious as a single one alone!

"Soon, the narrow tunnel opens up into an immense cavern -- and I catch the scent of Dragon. There is indeed a White Wyrm making lair in this frozen wasteland. And just as soon as I get an idea of its presence, I am quite certain it knows I'm here as well.

"But it can't know about the ambush I have waiting for it.

"As quietly as possible, I urge my companions to stay close. They do so love to jump into a fray! The footsteps of the Wyrm approach, and it lets loose a roar that practically vibrates the entire cavern. I lead my pack back down the tunnel a ways, luring the beast on. Then, about midway back towards the cave entrance, I order the attack!

"The first few moments are chaotic and quite confusing. The Wyrm has marked me as its target and continues its advance with blood in its eyes. My crew, in a swarm, begins biting at its flanks. Reflexively, the White Wyrm kicks out in retaliation at Tikki, and his amber hide is marred with red. And while I'm distracted, concerned about my pet's health, that beast mauls me!

"My armor protects me somewhat, but that injury has left me half stunned. The pain snaps me back to reality. I am, of course, concerned for the health of my crew, but if I mess around and get myself killed by this beast they'll have no chance at all. What was I thinking - that this would be easy?

"I spur Vella and guide her around, putting some distance between me and the Wyrm. Once I'm sure I have enough breathing room, I begin to work an Invisibility spell, praying that I'm successful and that I don't lose my reagents in a stinking cloud of smoke. Thankfully, the spell goes off without a hitch. And, as I'd hoped, removing myself from the picture gave the Wyrm pause to think about its four other targets.

"The four fighters are still nipping at its heels. How huge! But I don't have time to think now. Redge is now the victim of the enraged beast's onslaught. Risking it, I creep forward, breaking the Invisibility. By moving slowly and not attacking, my plan is to keep from becoming the focus of that creature's rage, while being close enough to the fray to help protect my friends.

"The plan works and I begin doing everything I can, from liberally using bandages to casting Greater Heal spells, to keep Redge alive. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I realize I'm fighting a losing battle. I just can't heal him as fast as the Wyrm mauls him. My heart skips a beat when Redge falls, lifeless, to the icy cave floor.

"Now another of my crew is under attack. Numb, I begin working to save Tikki. Automatically, I avoid the dragon. I think the ostards are so enraged now that I couldn't stop them if I wanted to. I can see Tikki is very bad off now...

"...and suddenly I realize that victory is ours!

"I am saddened by the loss of Redge, as I spend time bandaging everyone up, including myself. In fact, the loss cut so deeply that I would have sworn I saw his ghost. His ghost?! I had heard about this phenomenon. Was it true? Could a tamer form a bond so close with her pet that she could see -- and resurrect -- the spirit of her animal companion?

"How does one resurrect a dead pet?

"Bandages and healing materials? I'd heard it could be done that way. I gathered my roll of bandages and approached the ghost. Then I just...let go, let my healing skills go on automatic. I'm still not sure what exactly I did. I know I worked at it for quite a long time. Various bits of lore and knowledge and veterinary healing skill found their way through my fingers...and suddenly, my Redge was back with me!

"I think I cried from joy. But not for too long, mind you. I now wanted to get out of there with great dispatch. Gathering my whole-again Pack around me, I cut the hides and some meat from that evil Wyrm's corpse, and lifted its valuables. The barbed leather would sell well, and I would get very personal satisfaction from feeding its flesh to my friends. I was also able to pry loose several white dragonscales, which I'd sell with the leather. The gold, more than a couple thousand pieces worth, would go into my coffers.

"I'm sure I increased my fame today. But at what cost! Redge is weaker now for having been dead, and I certainly won't take that risk again soon. Perhaps being known as a glorious Lady can wait a while longer...."

- Callisto

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Published: October 2002
Please Note: Some dates are estimates as exact dates were unavailable.
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