Chapter Twenty-Three - Between Witch and Wyrm

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DANIELLE STUDIED THE VAST EXPANSE OF FOREST  that lay in the valley just below them. She and her companions were concealed in some thick undergrowth on the side of a low hill. Beneath a slate grey early morning sky, the Wildlands spread out before them. She searched the valley hoping for some sign of George and the Elves but could see nothing.

Not that she could actually see that much. The curtain of rain that swept across the valley reduced her vision to half seen flashes of a distant lake and some tall stone pillars.

Holt had used the amulet to transport them this far but he was reluctant to use it to travel any further. The interference of other magic had made its use unpredictable and furthermore, it also appeared that Mallt Rhakan, the Dark Witch, was able to track its power.

'So what do we do now?' Danielle asked.

'We proceed on foot,' Holt answered looking towards Eldon for confirmation.

The Giant was scanning the distant horizon for any sign of the Witch and her Wild Hunt.

'It would seem we have escaped her clutches for the moment. But to use the amulet again would risk revealing ourselves once more.'

'Agreed,' puffed Holt. 'It is no use giving ourselves away. But I doubt very much it will delay her for long. Her Wild Hunt will track us down soon enough.'

'How do we know we are even heading in the right direction?' Danielle queried.

Holt slowly shook his head. 'We cannot be too far wrong girl. your brother and the Elves entered the Wildlands through the same pass that we did. I doubt they know the exact location of the stones they seek. Now if I were in a similar position I would head for a landmark like yonder lake and towering spires. Hope to pick up some clues along the way.'

Danielle looked at him sceptically. 'But you don't know that for sure. They could be anywhere out there, miles away. And if we can't use the amulet how are we going to catch up with them?'

'I am afraid it is all we have,' Holt replied. 'Now we can stand here and wait for the witch to catch up with us. Or we can go ahead and try to track down your brother.'

Danielle nodded and looked at Jessica.

Her sister shrugged. 'Well, we aren't going to find him hiding here are we.'

'Let's go then,' Danielle sighed.

They skirted the edge of the forest, walking for what seemed an age before Holt found the first sign that they were on the right track. The Gnome pulled up sharply and knelt searching the ground ahead of him. He pointed to a patch of damp earth in which the imprint of a large animal paw could clearly be seen.

'Wolf spoor!' he exclaimed. 'They passed this way some time ago.'

'Are you certain?' Danielle queried. 'How can you be sure?'

Holt gave her a dismissive look. 'Are you questioning my skills girl?'

'No! But I'm sure there are plenty of wild animals that could have made those tracks,' Danielle countered.

Holt pointed at the large pad print. 'I know what I am looking at. And I am telling you, that... is a wolf paw print.'

With that, he huffed and stamped off into the forest.

'Okay!' Danielle said, raising an eyebrow. She looked across at Jessica and Eldon who were shaking their heads and smiling.

'Don't rile him Danielle,' her sister mumbled. 'Or he might just pack up and go home.'

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