The Yule Promise
The Wolf Pack
The echoing effect of the mountains made it difficult for Valdarr to determine exactly how far off the wolf pack was from his location. He was relieved to discover, however, that the howling was coming from out of the north, and not from the south. At least he would be able to continue for home while he tried to evade these top of the food chain predators who ruled these mountains.
Valdarr let his head drop down to his chest when he realized that he could not remain on the top ridge of these mountains as he originally planned. Here, where there were few obstacles to impede him, and he could move freely, he was exposed to an attack by the wolf pack. On this relatively flat plateau, that ran from southern Sogn into northern Hordaland, there was no place to hide, and little in the way of fortifiable locations to defend himself. Even the trees, the few there were growing at this altitude, were not tall enough to climb up into to escape the sharp teeth and crushing jaws of the wolves.
Valdarr peered over the side of the mountain to where rocks and small caverns below might give him enough cover to defend himself should he be attacked. Certainly he would not have to climb all the way to the bottom, for halfway down the cliff there was a second, albeit a much narrower, ridge that seemed to run south as well. Here the trees were much taller should he need to seek refuge in them, and he also hoped that the wolf pack that was hunting him would not be able to climb down to this level to follow him.
Though climbing down a rock face might seem like like an easier task than climbing up that same wall of stone, Valdarr quickly discovered that this was not the case for him. In his weakened condition, and with little or no sleep in days, he found that looking down from a great height was much more disorientating than looking up. Every time Valdarr peered below to set his foot onto a rock his head began to spin, and he experienced something that rarely if ever happened to him. He felt uncontrollable fear, which not only made him unsure of each hand hold and foot placement, but also made his body shake with a weakness he simply could not overcome.
Halfway down to the second ridge Valdarr found a narrow ledge large enough for him to rest upon. After taking in a series of long breaths he was able to calm his nerves slightly, and stop the jittery muscle spasms that were making the descent much more treacherous than it should be. No sooner had he relaxed when he heard noises above him which alarmed him greatly.
The sounds coming from up on top of the mountain were unmistakable ! If the frustrated growls were not enough to identify them as wolves, the scratching of their claws on the rocks above, and the occasional howl left no doubt in Valdarr's mind. The wolves had found him, and they were not happy that they could not get to their prey.
Valdarr shook his head in disgust. Did he really think that these wolves, who spend their entire lives in these mountains, would not be able to find a way down to this second ridge ? As he readied himself to attempt the final descent he consoled himself that he had no choice but to follow the lower ridge because of the protection it afforded him.
The short rest, and burst of adrenaline from the sudden appearance of the wolves, made Valdarr feel much stronger as he slowly made his way down the fifty or so feet to the ridge. Each handhold was firmly gripped by his strong left hand, as his feet were pressed tightly against the rock face with great steadiness. Halfway down this last section, however, this all began to change. His strength quickly faded again, and his muscles began to shake from sheer exhaustion.
With less than twenty feet to go Valdarr was forced with a dilemma. He could either shimmy across a large rounded rock to his right to reach his next handhold, or veer sideways to his left fifteen or twenty feet to reach another way down there. Unfortunately the second option led to a near vertical descent, which in his condition could prove deadly. Valdarr opted for the easier descent across the half- sphere shaped boulder.
Valdarr slowly pressed his body tightly up against the huge rock and began to slowly inch his way across the surprisingly smooth surface of the stone. Moments later, and well before he reached for the next rock, Valdarr felt himself sliding backward. With his last bit of strength he tried desperately to hang on to the boulder. Valdarr dug his fingers into its smooth surface as hard as he could, splintering the longer nails on the hand, and causing them to bleed. The attempt to hang on was too feeble, however, and he slowly slid over the rock like a sled over snow.
As he lost contact with the rock Valdarr had a horrible thought.
" I hope I am dead when the wolves begin to eat me ! " ran through his mind as he tumbled through the air.
Valdarr closed his eyes and tensed his body for the inevitable impact. Instead of a loud thud, which he expected, Valdarr heard the snapping of small branches and a strange swooshing sound as something much softer than a rock broke his fall. As he slowly opened his eyes, and looked around him, Valdarr quickly became aware of just how lucky he had been. On either side of the bush, he was now entangled in, were large sharp edged rocks, either of which could have broken his back, or split his head wide open, if he had struck them. With his emotions welling up inside of him Valdarr thanked Thor for protecting him.
Valdarr was still shaking from his harrowing fall when he heard a sound that absolutely terrified him. Not far off in the woodland he heard the growls and barks of wolves. But the noise that caused him the greatest concern was the sound of leaves being trampled by the running paws of four-legged animals. The wolves had climbed down the cliff almost as fast as he had fallen to its bottom !
With only one hand to help him, Valdarr quickly discovered that it was impossible to remove himself from the tangle of brush he was caught in. Realizing he had to try something different, he leaned over and rolled his body off of the small thorny branches that had him in their grip, landing on his injured arm with a painful thud !
Ignoring the near blinding pain Vadarr used his hand to get to his knees. He then grabbed hold of one of the boulders that had nearly killed him to help him up onto his feet. Valdarr hesitated only a moment to steady himself before he began to run as fast as his shaky legs would take him. Just as he left the area by the bush, one of the wolves jumped up on the rock he had used to help himself up. The wolf, however, did not hesitate as he had, but instead took out after him immediately with two of its companions.
Valdarr saw that the nearest tree was a tall old spruce. The tree's lower branches had lost all of its needles, but he hoped that they had not rotted and were still capable of supporting his weight. When he reached a point only a few feet from the tree, he jumped up and caught hold of the third branch with his left hand, while his feet landed firmly on the lowest branch. Despite his groin slamming violently into a limb midway between the two, he held on, and with a low groan quickly reacted and began to scramble up to higher branches.
A tug on his bear coat let Valdarr know that one of the wolves had sunk its teeth into it. And when a second wolf grabbed hold of the coat as well he needed to react quickly before they pulled him off of the tree. Valdarr steadied himself with his feet and lower body, and then turned his body slightly. Valdarr knew that he had to time the release of his left hand from the branch just right, or the wolves would pull the coat, along with him, off of the tree. When he felt the coat pull tight on his arm he let go of the branch and scrunched his shoulder forward. The weight of the wolves quickly pulled the bear coat off of his arm, and he was free to scramble up the tree to safety.
When he reached a branch that was high enough to protect him from the wolves, and one that could clearly hold his weight, Valdarr stopped and looked down at the wolves who were occupying themselves by attacking his coat. He was relieved at his good fortune to have reached safety, but he also knew that the wolves would soon grow tired of attacking his bear coat, and return their attention to him. As darkness began to fall over the mountains, all he could do was wait and see what the wolves would do next .
- End Chapter 7
- Next : Chapter 8 : Trapped !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.