Hunting the Hunters
Effraeti was more of a straightforward fighter since her rebirth as an undead – whet her blade first and ask questions second – but one of the first things she learned from Lord Eduard and his family was how to track the feral Worgen and avoid them unknowingly stalking her.
Duskwood was a dark and murky place, and to her previously untrained eyes, the forest had seemed to contain little of interest, but as she learned to see the trees and hidden paths differently, Effraeti learned the extent of the information that abounded to one who only took the time to seek it. Small tufts of hair trapped in bark, disrupted blades of grass, ripples in pools and rain puddles – all of them began to speak to her as if with words of their own.
The feral Worgen had regressed to barely a step above the common creatures of the dark wood, their animalistic descent making them wary of their two-legged brethren. They rarely ventured from where they made their dens, deep within Duskwood.
Mostly, it was only to hunt they came out.
But when they hunted, like the lupine creatures they resembled, it was usually in packs. Despite their caution around humans and their allies, it was not uncommon for their prey to be hapless travelers, careless Darkshire residents or the occasional wandering child.
These feral Worgen had developed a richer taste over their years of quiet dominance in Duskwood – a taste for humanoid flesh.
Carrying little pity or empathy for the savage beasts, the first Worgen Effraeti had tracked with the Wolfsbane family had nearly died swiftly to the razor-edge of her Runeblade. Lord Eduard had adamantly interceded and Lady Gaeladrial had quickly stepped in to tend the creature’s wounds.
Effraeti clearly recalled the look of unrestrained contempt that had come from young Amaeris. It was obvious the woman had just barely held herself in check, her eyes burning as she anxiously stroked the feathered head of her raven companion, Gwaehiir. A whispered word from her sister, Sifaol, seemed to drain some of the ire, but the woman’s gaze had remained firmly on Effraeti.
It was not until her second “hunt” with the self-proclaimed Children of Greymane that everything became more clear.
Out in front, both in defense of her companions and to test her quickly developing tracking skills, Effraeti caught sight of a disturbing trail sign. Eyes widening, she called out the family, “Be wary! It seems our friend has taken note of our presence and -“
Before she could finish the sentence, a furred-form leaped from behind a bush to their left side. Deftly landing in a crouch on all fours, the lupine creature howled its challenge and met the gaze of young Amaeris with a hungry, slavering snarl. Eyes of a fierce and primitive intelligence stared the young woman down as the creature crept with four pawed and clawed limbs. It seemed easily as comfortable on all four as the beasts did on just their hind legs, as Effraeti had encountered her last Worgen.
A silent groan escaped the Death Knight as Amaeris flinched and gasped in recognition of what that brief sign of weakness would bring from the Worgen.
The dark grey fur along its back and shoulders rippling with the anticipation and anxiety that tensed the muscles beneath, the Worgen gave a more ferocious snarl and leaped at the young woman.
Their bodies made heavy impact before any of the rest of the party could react.
Gwaehiir shrieked his anger and dove at the wolf-creature, seeking to protect his mistress. He clawed and pecked at the Worgen’s head and shoulders and received a backhanded slap for his efforts. Even the immense ebony bird could not withstand such strike from the muscular creature and was knocked into a clump of ground foliage, rolling out of view with a pained caw.
A fearful roar escaped the tangled mass that was the Worgen and the young Wolfsbane woman. Effraeti was frozen in place at the knowledge that the noise had not come from the feral beast that had jumped out of the dark forest into their midst.
Just as she had that thought, the feral Worgen flew back through the air, jarring leaves from high on the tree it collided with.
Now, without the fear of hitting her eldest daughter, Lady Gaeldrial was preparing a spell. Vines and branches reached both from the ground and the crown of the tree the worgen leaned temporarily stunned against, quickly looping around the creature’s clawed limbs. A roar pierced the air as the lupine creature slashed with one forepaw at the encroaching shrubbery. It succeeded for a moment, and Effraeti tensed herself to rush forward and further subdue the beast, but Gaeladrial continued to murmur and gesture and soon the worgen was nearly cocooned in green vines and woody branches.
The immediate threat stalled, Effraeti snapped her attention to Amaeris.
Where the young woman should have been standing, helped to her feet by her anxious mother, stood a panting, snarling lupine figure. It crouched on three of four limbs, the latter held tenderly in the seemingly tiny hands of the Lady. It was smaller and more lightly built then the hulking figure that had attacked, but Effraeti knew it to merely be a female of the same creature.
It was only the eyes that kept Effraeti standing where she was and not jumping to the Lady’s rescue, though her hands clenched so tightly around the handle of her Runeblade her knuckles began to turn white. The furred creature’s eyes were quickly draining of the ferocity that had come with the need for self-preservation and were clearly the same calm, intelligent emerald eyes of the young Amaeris.
Effraeti swallowed back an uncustomary lump forming in her throat, her eyes narrowing.
The Worgen rose to her full height, supported only by two wolf-like legs, and nodded a silent thank you to her mother. Then, she closed her eyes and took a calming breath as she winced back discomfort, her form shrinking. Fur receded and was replaced by smooth, peach-colored skin, the ears retracted, the face flattened and lost its lupine semblance, claws became curved, delicate fingers.
The shimmering green eyes once more met Effraeti’s and waited for her speak.
“Children of Greymane in more than just name it appears, eh? I think there is some more that I deserve explanation of.”
The Death Knight’s gaze flicked to Lord Eduard, who merely made the slightest nod.
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If you liked this story about Effraeti, perhaps you would also like my other stories starring her (in chronological order):