The next morning, while eating breakfast on the ridge, Skadhi watched as two Dwarves emerged from a cave, and headed out into the valley. Skadhi quickly grabbed her bow and quiver, and headed down the hillside after them. Swift - Runner, sensing something was wrong, quickly ran after her. Little Growler woke up a few minutes later and ran after them to try and catch up. Skadhi slowly tracked the Dwarves the way she would track any prey. She moved in and out of the trees in complete silence, never taking her eyes off of her targets. Swift - Runner, a practiced hunter himself, mimicked her every move.
The Dwarves were unaware of the presence of the Goddess, and her wolf friend. They had sighted a large hare, and were slowly working their way around their prey to get a clear shot. Just as the first Dwarve lined up his arrow on the hare, Skadhi was preparing to release her deadly dart as well. Then suddenly Little Growler slid down a small embankment making an awful noise and spooking the hare. The Dwarves sensing danger fled right behind the startled hare. Skadhi, who rarely lost her concentration, aimed and shot the closest Dwarve in the leg just above the knee. Swift Runner started to chase the other Dwarve, but Skadhi quickly yelled to him : " Stop Swift Runner ! I do not want to pull any more arrows out of you old friend ! " Swift Runner heard her command, stopped, and slowly returned to Skadhi. Hobbled the Dwarve could not get away from Skadhi and stopped. He turned and faced his attacker with axe in hand, and asked in a foul voice tainted with pain : " Why is a Jotun Goddess attacking a Rock Dwarve ?! " Skadhi looked him in the eyes, with bow drawn, and shouted back : " I will ask the questions here little man ! " The Dwarve looked at her with disdain, and shouted back : " I will answer none of your questions mountain witch ! " Skadhi then shot her next arrow into the Dwarves other knee, as both Swift Runner, and Little Growler flinched in horror. " Oh I think you will my little friend ! " she shouted confidently back at the Dwarve. "Why are your people killing my wolves ?! " she demanded. In extreme pain the Dwarve answered : " Is that why you have come to the valley of the Dwarves ? " he asked, but was not answered. " We are killing them because they are too numerous, and are killing all of our game ! We will kill all of them if we have to, to protect our territory ! " Having heard enough Skadhi put an arrow through his heart. Before leaving she said with hatred in her voice : " That one was for Snow Ball, wolf killer ! "
Hugstari ran as fast as his stubby little legs would carry him back to the caverns. Panting he made his way through the labyrinth of tunnels to the king' s hall. Hugstari pushed through the king's guard, and ran up to the high - seat of King Haur, and kneeled before him. While gasping for air he said in halting speech : " Forgive me my king....., but Heptifili and I were attacked by the Mountain Goddess Skadhi ! Heptifili was captured......., and I fear that he might be dead my king ! " Hugstari then looked up at his king and awaited his reaction and orders.
King Haur sat regally upon his throne, and listened to every word that Hugstari said. When he was finished King Haur looked over at his Chief Warrior, Sviar, and told him in a venemous voice : " Chief Warrior Sviar, I wish you to prepare a plan to capture or kill the Goddess Skadhi. We cannot let this transgression go unanswered ! " Chief Sviar stepped foward and replied : " If the Gods want war, then it is war they shall have ! " Then Sviar looked at his guards, and said in a commanding voice : " Duf ! Dori ! Go out to the valley, and report back what you find. "
Duf and Dori criss - crossed the area near the entrance to the valley until they discovered the body of Heptifili. They winced when they saw that his body had an arrow in each leg, and one in the chest. They quickly gathered up some branches and tied them together to make a bed to carry his body back to the king's hall. Standing on a rock ledge Skadhi watched as they took the Dwarves body away, she knew they would soon be searching for her. Just over her head, in the branches of an evergreen, two ravens also watch as these events unfolded.
As Duf and Dori carried Heptifili's body into the king's hall they passed many warriors who yelled out : " All Hail Heptifili hero of the Rock Dwarves ! " The Dwarves lifeless body was laid before King Haur, and a short ritual was held in his honor. Afterwards, King Haur stood over his fallen comrade, and pledged to his people that this horrific act would be avenged. " We will kill two of them for every one of our own that we lose ! " he boasted loudly. His subjects erupted into rousing cheers when they heard their king speak such bold words.
Skadhi's rock ledge camp gave her a full view of the entire entrance to the valley, and a good portion beyond. They would be safe here, and could see any danger well before it reached them. After dinner Swift Runner howled most of the night until finally all of his pack, which had become scattered throughout the area after they were attacked, came back to camp. The other wolves were happy and surprised to see Swift Runner, but were dismayed by the absence of Snowball. Swift Runner greeted them one by one and re - asserted his dominance over the pack.
From out of the darkness other eyes peered into their camp, and waited for the pack to calm down. Then a low howl was heard close by ! Swift Runner, and his pack jumped up, and growled as they stared intently in the direction of the howling. Slowly out of the darkness came another pack of wolves. They were a rival wolfpack led by a large male with one white foot, which is how he got his name. Swift Runner and White Paw slowly walked over to each other in an agressive manner while both packs looked on anxiously. Then White Paw, as the visitor, went down on his stomach in a submissive gesture to let Swift Runner know that he had not come for a fight. After a playful round of gesturing, White Paw let it be known why he had come. Using a series of howls, and growls, he communicated to Swift Runner that he had lost several of his pack as well to the Dwarves, and wanted to join, at least temporarily, with Swift Runner's pack for protection ! Although there was no love lost between these great canine beasts, Swift Runner, who was as wise as he was strong, decided that for the sake of his pack, and his species, it was better to band together with White Paw.
Out in the darkness another pair of eyes watched their camp closely. Few knew these mountains as well as this great warrior, or could navigate them with more skill. In the darkness he strung his bow, placed an arrow on the string, and took aim . He laughed at how easy it would be to kill the Jotun Goddess. He then shook his head, took the arrow off of the string, put it back in his quiver, and set the bow down. He sat down on a log, and enjoyed a meal of dried fish, and reindeer meat, as he closely watched Skadhi's every move.
- Glenn Bergen, Copyright, 2012.
Next : Part 3 : Skadhi walks into a trap !