Ja’al, Warden of Ocean’s Watch, snaps to and heads out of his workshop above The Wall to inspect the squads. Two Guardians can be seen below in the courtyard. Ja’al stands above and observes them for a moment.
“Good, the new Guardians are working hard eh Ja’al?” the Quartermaster says as he walks beside his commander.
“Aye, that they are. A good thing for what we are to face soon.”
Today was meant to be a celebration. Two of Ocean’s Watch Guardians had been recognized by Ja’al and earned a shot at their first trials. Jaguar, capable in all aspects, had proven to be one of the most promising recruits. He was travelling to face his final trial.
Jaguar was sent to complete two trials. He did not know why he was asked to face these trials but, a bit reluctantly, headed out to face them anyways. He was not lacking in skill and had no fear of what he was asked to do… he was just a bit stubborn at times. In his own mind these trials were wasted time. He could be preparing arms for the encounters that would surely be in the near future. There was little time to be wasted with these events, but it was his duty as a Guardian to follow his commander’s will. Little did he know, Ja’al saw his stubbornness as a sign of a strong will.
So, with sword and pistol in hand Jaguar travels to the icy frontier north of The Wall. A powerful tribe of Vikings waited for him. Like most, he knew little of the two warriors he was sent to meet, and he did not understand the relationship his Warden had with them.
“What can they teach me?” Jaguar thinks to himself. “Has to be better than hunting those damned raptors!” he grouches.
As the cold wind begins to hit his skin, Jaguar slips a fur coat on to stay warm. The northern frontier was a bit eerie. The sounds of insects and frogs had begun to fall silent behind him, and replacing the ambiance was the howling wind with faintly piercing howls from the mountain ahead.
“Wolves? No… that one was a Yuty. I could do without that today to be sure.”
Moving forward Jaguar recounts his first trial. “Damned raptors! Why did it have to be raptors? Not just any raptors, but damned Alpha Raptors.” Mocking Packmaster Voradus: “You shall collect three Alpha Raptor claws and bring them back to me.” “Of course,” Jaguar thinks in a robotic tone. Packmaster Voradus was notorious for his unique way of life, but not for his social skills. Jaguar had found him abrasive and still carried a bit of scorn on his back from encountering the leader of The Pack.
Another howl snaps him out of his thoughts. “Better pay attention from here I suppose.”
Whitesky Peak was just ahead. Ocean’s Watch was based just south along the coast from Whitesky Peak. In the evenings some of the Guardians would spin tales of dragon hunters that reside near the top of the peak. Jaguar scoffs at the thought of hunting dragons. Wyverns are one thing, but dragons? No, you’d have to be a damned fool. No man alive today would hunt a dragon. At least not without an army behind him. Besides, a dragon hasn’t been seen in ages.
Jaguar stops his pace suddenly. His grip tightens around his pistol. “Guess I wasn’t paying attention after all.”
A Dire Wolf steps promptly out of the pine trees and sends a sharp stare at the Guardian. For just a moment, the two warriors stare one another down. Making the first move will certainly show weakness, but may also be the key to staying alive. Jaguar’s free hand slips slowly to his hip towards a sword resting in its hilt. The wolf cocks a look towards the sword and back as they lock eyes again.
“Great, this one’s smart.”
The wolf howls and three more wolves rush out from the trees. They fly past the pack leader and rush Jaguar. A bullet flies from the barrel of Jaguar’s pistol and sends the first wolf tumbling across the snow. As the body flips down the small snow covered hill; the second wolf jumps over and sinks its teeth into Jaguar’s firing arm. His sword not quite free from the hilt, Jaguar must wrestle the beast barehanded. With a drop of the knee and twist of the hips, Jaguar used the wolf’s momentum to send its face directly into a rock just behind. The wolf releases its grip and Jaguar’s sword comes free, but now he has two wolves behind him and one agitated wolf ready to turn back towards him.
“How do I get myself into these things?”
Jaguar twists back forward as the third wolf opens its massive jaw roughly three inches from his face. Switching from firmly planted feet to his toes Jaguar flips back and sticks his head into the snow executing a backbend. As the third wolf flies over a sword comes into its gut and slices it open from ribs to tail. Grabbing the second wolf and flipping to his right shoulder he must now recover faster than his opponent… but he fails. The pack leader had moved out of Jaguar’s vision and was now latching on to his left shoulder and pushing him face down.
Jaguar hears the second wolf recover and isn’t sure if the first was completely dispatched yet. With his face buried in the snow up to his ears he feels disoriented. The adrenaline stops the pain of the butcher’s knives currently digging into his flesh, but the pressure of the wolf pushing him down begins to send fear through his chest.
“This might be it,” he thinks as he tries to free his right arm from under him.He is too late, the second wolf latches to his calf. Jaguar is completely immobilized now. A sharp pain hits his ribs as the first wolf, apparently not dispatched just yet, grabs hold and starts yanking and pulling at the fur coat. “So, that bullet didn’t make it through your thick skull after all.” The wolves are showing their experience as hunters and Jaguar has fallen prey.
Pain sets in as defeat lingers in his mind. He feels the teeth pushing into his muscles. Some even scrape against the bones in his shoulder. Not all of the pain is from the wolves though. “What is that digging into my pelvis? Oh, right!” A flashbang is pushed into his hips, but he can’t reach it with the pressure of the wolves pushing and pulling him in every direction. Just maybe he can use that to his advantage though.
With the first two wolves locking him down he couldn’t move an inch. This third one, perhaps a bit angry from the gunshot to the head, wasn’t attacking in unison with the others though. It was furious, and in this ferocity it was pulling against the direction of the pack leader. Jaguar feels out the timing of the wild animal. There is no rhythm, but instincts tell him to turn now! A quick push from the base of his only free limb, Jaguar let’s the wolf pull him. The wolf pulls so hard Jaguar’s body flips around, and with a quick grab at his belt, he snaps the flashbang out and activates it.“Five seconds, I have to stay alive for five more seconds.”
The pack leader quickly pins Jaguar down again. The flashbang rests beside him. As he was rolled back he had caught a glimpse of the blood soaked snow all around him. Even if he gets away from these wolves, more are sure to be here soon.
A flash fills Jaguar’s vision even behind his closed eyes. The wolves release him. He may have heard their wimpers if not for the ringing in his ears. Jaguar scrambles to his feet and tries to balance himself as quickly as possibly. After two deep breaths to calm his heart, he takes off in full sprint. His vision not fully returned, Jaguar’s memory will hopefully serve his retreat. He had passed some rocks recently with dead wood near them. If he can make it there before the wolves recover, perhaps he can dig himself in.
The bright reflection off the snow doesn’t help Jaguar’s vision recover. He can barely make out some lumps a short distance to the front. Stumbling and dropping to his knees, he feels around for the dead limbs.“There!”Jaguar grabs a fallen pine. He cradles the wood in his arms and deadlifts to test the weight.“Damn, too heavy.” Feeling around again he finds a large branch knocked off of the main trunk. Using the same technique Jaguar lifts the smaller end of the branch up. The branch is too heavy to carry, but maybe he can drag it. Holding the light end to his chest he walks against the branch to pivot it until it faces the rocks. Turning to align himself with the branch he grabs hold and drops his center of gravity to pull the branch. His muscles tighten as he squats and the branch slides back.
“Again.” Jaguar continues to squat and pull the branch towards the rocks. He has no idea if this plan will work, but he is running out of options. As he continues backwards up the rocks he balances himself and pulls the branch to a crevice. “Almost there.”
The wolves start to recover and the leader howls to signal the second attack. Their senses certainly still affected, but their hunger not. Jaguar knows he has run out of time.With a strong grunt he pushes his body into the crevice and drags the branch behind him. He hears the wolves charging towards his hideout. The branch is too large to wedge between the rocks as he had planned. His sword must be… dropped during the struggle it seems. Wait, the hatchet! Jaguar was seldom found doing manual labor with his fellow Guardians. However, he was issued basic tools after his enlistment, and Warden Ja’al had promptly explained that losing them meant “his ass.” Jaguar slips his small pack off and digs for the hatchet. Had to be at the bottom he guessed, since he hadn’t pulled it out in days.
The wolves have found the makeshift hideout. Jaguar might as well be known as Rabbit at this point. A defenseless creature hiding in a small hole hoping to evade the jaws of death. He pulls the hatchet out and begins to shape the branch to fit in the crevice. The wolves aren’t privy to leave him to his work. As the hatchet hits the branch the wolves snap and snarl at Jaguar’s arm. With perfect timing he makes quick swings to shape the branch. With each swing, he risks sealing his fate. If even one of the wolves manages to clamp his arm, they’ll drag him out of the hole and finish ripping him apart.
Draining the last of his energy, Jaguar snaps the extra bits off the branch and fits it tightly between him and the wolves. A wooden branch is a small adversary for a dire wolf, but maybe it will deter them towards an easier dinner. The pack leader bites into the branch and pulls. Jaguar slaps the end of the branch and lodges it between the rocks. Unable to dislodge the branch the wolf twists his head left and right attempting to break it. The branch creaks and pops but holds.
Sleepiness fills Jaguar’s mind as his wounds continue to bleed. He closes his eyes for a moment as dreams creep up. The wolves snap again at the branch and the loud cracks bring him back to consciousness. Jaguar has run out of tricks. He knew there would be dangers on this journey, but he was anxious to complete these trials and failed to properly prepare. Perhaps there were lessons to be learned after all.