At first it looked like the Black Ends had meshed together into a fur-fused wall. The closer you looked at the wedge of panting wolves, the more you could sort out drooling teeth, steaming nostrils, and stamping paws. There were hundreds of them all working together. The pack was unified in the shadow of Ragnarok.
“Help me find the biggest and hungriest, it’s got to be the one that howled,” she said.
Vrendel’s mace was out and his shield was ready. They were still a ways out of Frigga. In a dead sprint towards the city, they’d assuredly get caught in the open. Vrendel’s eyes bounced along the line of snarling animals.
“Got it, no thanks to you,” Bow said, aiming the crossbow. At the center of the line, a step ahead of the wolves, a grey female stood like a growling mountain. Her eyes were a perfect red. She was charmed by the approaching apocalypse.
“Good, look at that, she’s a big one. Pretty soon we won’t be able to travel anywhere without watching for wolves,” Vrendel said.
Bow aimed skywards and released the arrow. It curled up, and then down on the air above the path and dropped into the trees. Vrendel squinted as it broke through the branches and into the feral throng. It hit the giant in its barrel-like chest, stabbing into the thick fur like a toy dart.
“Got it! They’ll need a moment. Let’s run,” Bow said. She was about to turn around, but the red eyes of the wolf still glowed. It kept standing, a beastly statue forged to the ground. Something dark, stretched, and shapeless pulled itself out of the wolf’s broad shoulders. It struggled for a second like trapped smoke. Then, it hit the air in a billowing stream. The red eyes left the creature as it collapsed to the ground. The shadow then wrenched backwards in a fluid spiral and jumped into the sea of animals.
Almost immediately, another wolf of the same color and marks parted from the ranks.
“I thought you hit it!” Vrendel said. He turned and chugged down the path towards the distant city and past the awestruck Bow.
“I did, it shouldn’t be alive. Something came out of it and jumped someplace else,” Bow said. She followed Vrendel in a heavy sprint. Vrendel was pained and limping, but he had to run full speed to survive.
Howls and snarls bit about the air as the two hunters dashed. If you were watching them from the sky, you’d be watching two burdened dots charging down a white line, with a sea of fur and bone washing towards them. Vrendel and Bow managed to close the gap between themselves and Frigga relatively quick. Both hunters could barely breathe. The bursts of vapor from their dried lips would trail behind their sprints. Neither of them could look back. Lungs felt inadequate. Legs weren’t really moving. The white path beneath their feet seemed to never end, along with the lines of broken black trees.
The Fimbul Wall grew in front of them like a halo of twisted brick, rock, mortar, and wood. Behind it the city reared up. The Iron Citadel looked closer than ever. To Bow’s surprise, on the edged roof of that tower a person was standing and actually staring down at them. Bow’s eyes could tell it was a man beneath a red cloak, but his back and chest looked oblong and peculiar, like something extra was stuffed there. Bow couldn’t see his face beneath the tattered hood, except for his teeth.
They looked stretched, like living icicles.
Something sharp nipped at the heels of Vrendel’s boots. He could tell it was the charging fangs of a wolf. He closed his eyes, and waited for the next snap to take him down.
The red figure above waved a hand into the air. His fingers were like a fan. The earth, which had been bouncing from the animals pursuit, went silent. The wolves froze completely, like a captured storm. Vrendel and bow collapsed to the ground to watch the eerie phenomenon. The entire legion of muzzles and teeth had stopped. Now, only their glowing eyes blinked between the snowflakes.
Something had stopped them. Something made them afraid to wrench apart the two hunters at the foot of the Fimbul Wall. Bow searched quickly for the figure again, but the crimson cloak was gone from the rooftop.
“What was that?” she said.