Before leaving Kalsgard, Draugnir wanted to spend some time training Oro to experience the dream plain. While Oro was able to join him in the dream state, it was not without difficulty. So, as Oro fell asleep by the fire, Draugnir coaxed the wolf to join his dream and soon they were bounding through the forest on their way to the Resplendent Lodge.
As we approached the lodge, we were greeted by Cephor, softly playing his violin on the front steps.
“Ah, Draugnir, my friend. What brings you to the Lodge?” he said, subtly looking around clearly expecting to see the rest of the party approaching.
“Just getting Oro here more acquainted with life on the other side”, the ranger replied with a wink.
“Very good”, Cephor said with a smile, scratching Oro behind the ears, his expression changing curiously as he examine the wolf. “Forgive me for asking, but how is he eating? I had expected him to be a bit larger by now. You will both need to be at your best in order to face the challenges ahead.”
“I appreciate your concern, but eating is not a problem. In fact, it’s a full time job keeping him from eating everything in sight. But Oro was the runt of the litter, you see. It may take a bit more time for him to get full size.”
“Ah, that explains it”, Cephor remarked thoughtfully. “Go to your room and sleep. I think I may know someone who can help.”
Draugnir did as instructed and soon found himself transported to the land of his youth, standing in a clearing deep within the forest, a familiar site where he had spent many hours training with his uncle. Not long after, a figure appeared from among the trees. Though the man resembled his uncle in form, even wearing the same old ragged cloak, his face was obscured in shadow.
“There you are. I had thought you were not going to make it”, he remarked. “Follow me… if you can”, and with a leap, disappeared into the dense forest.
Draugnir started after him, Oro at his side. The chase began simple enough, following natural paths through the underbrush, but soon, following the mysterious figure became increasingly difficult, the landscape becoming less and less familiar. Through rocky streams, deep ravines, and dark caves, Draugnir and Oro had to depend on each other’s senses more and more in order keep up.
The sun went down, yet the hunt continued. All through the night and into the next day, the chase did not let up, becoming more a test of endurance than skill. The sun set and rose yet again, but the chase continued without rest. Entering a state of focused delirium, Draugnir and Oro pursued their prey.
Exhausted well past his mental and physical limits, Draugnir clung to Oro for support, fearing he would collapse without his support.
Oro. He had not noticed, but during the past few days, Oro was not the same as when they had begun. Not only had he appeared to have nearly doubled in size, his fur had turned almost pure white. He looked up and he was no longer in the dense forest, but back in the clearing in which he had started, now covered in a deep blanket of snow as white as his companion.
With a crunch of snow, he looked up to see the shadowy figure standing in front of him once again.
“There you are. I had thought you were not going to make it”, the man said, clearly enjoying himself.
Before he could reply, Draugnir collapsed, falling soundlessly into the soft snow.
He woke up to Oro liking his face. Opening his eyes, Draugnir found himself back in Kalsgard, next to the fire. Taking a look at his faithful companion, expecting to see a large white wolf, he was disappointed to find Oro exactly as he had left him before entering the dream state… a medium sized timber wolf. Hiding his disappointment, he gave Oro a scratch behind the ears and got along with the business of preparing to leave town.
But over the next few days of preparation and travel, Draugnir couldn’t help but notice Oro did appear to be growing. Was he just imagining it? But as the white patches of Oro’s coat began to take over the brown and grey, there was no doubt.
Oro would not be the runt for long.