(This story is part of the ”Return of the Fierce Ones” storyline – see listing for related stories.)
“All’s quiet at the Holt and the other parties. I believe Dreamflight’s as bored as we are.” Fadestar sighed and looked down at Newt, who had been patiently waiting for any news to come in. Dreamflight had sounded a tiny bit impatient, but that was perhaps because Fadestar asked her if she had news so many times today already.
“In this case I do prefer to be bored,” Newt offered with a weary smile.
Fadestar nodded thoughtfully and settled back down next to Newt, huddling close to her friend. It was her third time at Windy Ridge, and both of them had learned during their first time here that it wasn’t called that without a reason. The cold wind kept blowing around them, and the shelter they had built under an overhanging cliff at their first stay here, only protected them against the strongest wind that pulled on Windy Ridge. Some sneaky gusts always found a way under their furs and leathers, made worse by the snow that had been falling for hours.
On Fadestar’s first watch with Newt , the constant nervous and restless energy buzzing from both Bluestone Cave and Crow’s Ridge had kept them on their toes. At least Fadestar could say that her body had rushed with adrenalin.
The second time with Crackle, it had lessened to a simple wait, in which she constantly checked in with either site she was in contact with. From the Holt came the reports that the Fierce Ones were starting to move south again and that the elves that followed them hadn’t been spotted, which was good for the nerves but not so good for the spirit at the Windy Ridge shelter. Crackle had been bored out of her skull and tested Fadestar’s nerves, as well. She actually preferred to be here with Newt. The silence and tension was much easier to bear with him and much more comfortable.
"For days it’s only been the news that the Fierce Ones are still heading south, and not coming in the direction of the Holt",” Fadestar said, lost in her own thoughts. “I hope that means we can go back to the Holt soon. I long for my cozy den,” she admitted and rubbed her cold hands together.
Newt wrapped an arm around her and rubbed her shoulder, as if this could really warm her up; still she appreciated the gesture. “I’m all with you there,” he said. “I miss my own warm bedbowl.”
Silence fell over them again while both waited, their minds open to any glimpse of a sending from Crow Ridge or Bluestone Cave, both hoping for it and dreading bad news. Neither of them trusted the good news just yet. It was a glimpse of hope, but they still both didn’t dare to hope.
“We’re running low on supplies.” Newt called to Fadestar while he checked through the bags. “Only a few bites of dried meat and a handful of nuts.” He looked up and over to his friend and asked: “Should we send that we are coming back to restock?”
“Not yet,” she answered. “The snow has stopped so far. At least it’s not that much anymore. Let’s just see if we can hunt something. We could use the exercise.”
“And the distraction,” Newt added, already on his feet. He passed Fadestar her bow and a quiver with arrows. They were running low on arrows as well, Fadestar noticed. She’d ask Evervale and Starskimmer if they could provide new ones if they hadn’t already done so while they had been away. But for now it would just have to do, and they would have to be extra careful not to lose them.
Newt grabbed his dagger and attached it to his belt. Even if he was not primarily a hunter, he could hunt if he really had to. He was way behind her skills or the ones of his agemates but it would do for the two of them.
“Let’s check on those ground squirrel holes we found yesterday. Maybe one was daring enough and got stuck in your trap,” she suggested.
“We can only hope so,” Newt agreed while he pulled up the hood of his poncho, pulling it deep over his face and tying it close to his neck.
Fadestar could sense Autumnleaf and Browncoat getting closer. They were probably hoping for more activity as well. Both wolves had made it a habit to roam while their elves were waiting for something to happen. They came back and left again but never strayed too far. Right now they were near and waiting for them, almost urging them with wolf-sendings to join them.
It took both Fadestar and Newt a moment before they left the shelter, as if they had to muster up some courage to get caught by the cold and merciless winds of Windy Ridge. Their winter clothes were thick and comfortable, but it seemed the piercing gusts went right through the leathers. The place hadn’t been called Windy Ridge for nothing, Fadestar thought when a shiver ran down her spine. The wind seemed to come from everywhere sometimes.
"Let’s hurry,“ Newt said, and Fadestar nodded in agreement.
“Any luck?” Fadestar asked, while she climbed up some rocks to get a better view of the area. Behind them the mountain rose high up and it didn’t help them that it had snowed all day. Now there were only a few flakes but the ground was covered in a powdery white blanket of snow.
On their way here they had often sunk deep into the freshly fallen snow. The ground squirrels' hole and the trap were now hard to find, but Newt hoped it was still possible for him to find an unfortunate animal which had been caught in the snare.
Fadestar’s eyes searched the ground but she quickly lost faith that they would ever find traces in the snow. A slight dust of fine snow crystals moved like dawn mist over the ground. Newt was kneeling in the snow and dug with a stick, so his hand would be spared from the cold.
“The snow came down heavier than we thought,” he called back at Fadestar.
The black-haired elf sighed and looked around her for a second time, climbing up an overhanging rock to get a better view. Maybe they should give this up and look for fresh prey. Focusing on movement and sound, she pushed herself up to full length and noticed that it was quiet. A little too quiet. She narrowed her eyes and then looked up. A few eagles were circling high up in the air, but she saw no sign of other animals nearby.
An uneasy feeling settled upon her. She was not the only one. Her grey eyes flew down to Newt again, who was still trying to find the trap. Then she looked at the wolves. Browncoat and Autumnleaf had started to whine softly and both seemed to have become more and more restless, pacing up and down. They seemed eager to get away but did not want to leave Fadestar and Newt behind.
Browncoat started to nip on Newt’s hood and tried to drag him away. He looked up, a little surprised. And at that moment the realization of what was about to happen hit Fadestar with full force, as if she had gotten a punch in the stomach. The words came rushing back to her and it seemed that she could hear Farscout voice in her head, instructing.
After a long snowfall you have to be careful around the mountains. New powdery snow is more dangerous than it seems, especially when the wind is blowing or the temperature is changing. Always try to avoid abrupt cliffs and move carefully. And make sure you never make loud noises. There’s always a chance the mass of snow will shift.
Fadestar gasped. She jerked her head to the other side again, up the cliff. Particles of snow shifted. The rumble of the huge chunks of snow breaking off made her shiver. Like a cloud that had fallen from the sky and crashed on the mountainside, the snow cover started to roll in a ridiculous speed down to them.
**NEWT! AVALANCHE!!** she all but screamed in her sending, for a moment not able to tear her gaze from the thundering snow.
But Newt had already realized what was going on as well. He stumbled to his feet and tried to jump onto Browncoat on the run. However, the poor wolf was in a panicked rush and didn’t make it easier for his rider.
Fadestar jumped off the rock she had been standing on, and her body was filled with adrenalin. She landed steadier and softer than she would have guessed by her hasty jump, but that didn’t matter. Fadestar only could think of fleeing. She ran straight downhill until she realized that this was not the way to survive -- she could never outrun an avalanche.
Her breath caught and she shifted her path, trying to get to the side of the white mass, following Newt who was doing the same further away. The world around her became a blur of white much faster as she thought it would. And then, she lost sight of Newt. Her heartbeat went up even more and she was on the verge of panicking.
Newt, Newt! Her friend had been right in front of her, and she couldn’t see anything right now! **NEWT!**
Keep a steady head, Fadestar! she scolded herself. Remember what you learned. Panic won’t help you! It was almost impossible to hear herself think with the noise all around her.
Fadestar forgot everything except how to run. Her feet seemed to hardly touch the ground. She felt as if the adrenaline and restlessness she had felt before now exploded inside her, making her quicker than ever before. It was as if she saw everything through a reddish haze. Blood was pounding in her head and rushing through her entire body. She felt light in her head, lighter than ever. With the whiteness around her, it was impossible to know where she was or how fast she was going.
And then – suddenly there, there he was! Newt was right in front her, closer than she thought he could be. She was closing in with high speed and stretched her arms to drag him along.
The impact was harder than she thought and she yelped, but the cry got lost in the rumble of the snow. Gritting her teeth, she moved her legs as if she wanted to run, but her feet didn’t touch anything – it made her fear that the snow had already swept them away. And in what seemed like a final desperate gesture, she curved her back and went straight up, heartbeats before the avalanche hit the ground where they just had been standing. The violent mass of snow raged on just below them, but Fadestar didn’t see. With her eyes firmly closed she held on to Newt as if she never wanted to let go again. But she had to, she felt it. He was too heavy to drag along and she swiftly lost her strength.
**Fadestar, Fadestar!** Newt’s emotions made her open her eyes and she saw.. purple. Purple? Gasping, she tried to hold on to Newt even more, squeezing his chest. They were flying. No, not they, she was flying!
And she felt as if her body would burst into tiny little pieces when she couldn't get down to the ground soon. Praying for strength to hold on a little longer, Fadestar bit her lip until she tasted blood and jerked them to the side, until the avalanche had passed below them and rumbled on further down the hill.
Blood was dripping down on Newt. Fadestar’s arms trembled violently, before she lost all her strength and both of them crashed down into the soft snow. Still shivering and full of adrenalin himself, Newt picked himself up and crawled over to Fadestar who lay not far from him, on her back and huffing and groaning. She couldn’t stop shaking and rolled on her side to gasp for more air.
It was a sweet sound right now. It meant they both were still alive. Once at her side, Newt sat up on his knees and tilted her head carefully towards him. Blood streamed out of her nose and she looked pale. Her eyes were bloodshot; it seemed as if her white face had two glowing coals staring at him. But they were alive.
“Are we safe?” she asked in a thin voice.
A relieved and at the same time helpless laugh escaped Newt. “Yes we are. Thanks to you,” he said. The sound of the rumbling avalanche behind them came to his ears again as if it had stopped for a moment. It just had drifted into the back of his attention when he had noticed his feet had left the ground and he had been carried away from the deadly snow masses towards the safe ground just a few feet away from the point he had stood just a few moment before. It seemed unreal now, as if it all had been a bad dream.
He saw her wiping the blood from her nose and staring to her bloodied fingers. The red fluid colored the pure white snow. “My head feels like it wants to split in two,” Fadestar whispered. “Dizzy... And my muscles are on fire...” It seemed she couldn’t keep her body from trembling and shivering.
“Hush.” Newt gently said and steadied her head, then pulled off his coat and rolled it up to put it under her legs to lifted them up. “You’ll be fine,” he added, stroking her cheek.
A few moments later Autumnleaf showed up. And for a moment, Newt feared Browncoat hadn’t made it. He was relieved to hear the howl of his wolf bond on the other side of the snow stream, that had finally come to a halt. The echoes of the rumbling snow faded away, and the quiet peace returned to Windy Ridge.
Fadestar’s wolf bond sniffed at her, then licked her cheek as if she approved her actions and curled up next to her to warm the exhausted and shivering elf-girl. Newt gave the she-wolf a grateful smile.
“I’ll try to reach the others so they can come towards us,” Newt said. His sending was not that good but at least he was able to reach True Edge and Cloudfern at Bluestone Cave. He informed them about the avalanche and said they were alive, but needed a little help. True Edge affirmed they would come to get them as soon as they could.
Fadestar closed her eyes to try and prevent her headache from increasing. Despite everything, she smirked. "Crackle would’ve loved to see this," she muttered. “I wonder what she will say.”
Newt looked at her in confusion, stopping in his efforts to check on her, then grinned right back. “She’ll have an awesome story to tell when we see the rest of the tribe.”