50 - 0 YEARS BEFORE ELFQUEST # 1
Parts 1 - 11
Wolfrider! Part 1 (EQ2 # 19 / Readers Collection 9a)
Far away from the Holt, in a land of draught a human tribe argues over their gods Gotara and Manach. Some accuse Gotara of not bringing rain. The shaman says Gotara will lead them to a green land with fresh water. An orphan boy respects the shaman and loves Gotara. He and some others will follow. They travel for about two years. The boy is always at the shaman's side. They finally come to this green land. From the forest they hear wolves howling. They'll rest at the edge of the forest and Gotara will give them a sign. At the Holt nearby Bearclaw rips one of his furs. It's time to hunt a bear. Strongbow asks to join him. Joyleaf says he must train another. They find an older bear, but just as dangerous. They plunge their spears into it. Bearclaw is knocked away. The bear runs and collapses nearby, in front of the humans. They take it as a sign that Gotara has led them here.
Wolfrider! Part 2 (EQ2 # 21 / Readers Collection 9a)
The humans pray to Gotara around a bonfire. The boy dances, thanking him for food. Strongbow and Bearclaw watch. They're more advanced than the last time the chief saw them. They return to the holt and tell the others. His father, Mantricker, played pranks on them. That's what they'll do. Shale and Joyleaf are unsure. The next day humans are puzzled when prey escape their traps. Dreamberry bushes are stripped. Two humans catch a boar. They turn and see eyes in the bushes. Foxfur and Treestump steal the boar. They eat around the fire that night. The human camp: The Shaman says it's all the work of demons, creatures of the dark, enemies from the long-ago time. Soon Pike calls the others to come see what the humans are up to. The shaman is wearing the bearskin, dancing, and casting out demons. Bearclaw laughs out loud. The shaman calls him forth. Bearclaw rides Snapper up to the human. All humans run except the boy. He throws his spear but misses. Joyleaf is not happy. The shaman says only the boy showed courage. The demons must be destroyed. He'll tell them stories of Demontricker.
Wolfrider! Part 3 (EQ2 # 23 / Readers Collection 9a)
Three years later (42 years before EQ#1): The shaman gives the boy his spirit bag. It contains a bone from his first kill, a stone from the pillar of sacrifice, and a lock of his own hair. He must never cut his hair again. If he loses the bag his spirit may wander and never return. Hunters return with a wolf cub. It's a sign that Gotara favors the chosen one. The holt: Strongbow trains his daughter Crescent in using a bow. Snapper runs up to Bearclaw. He smells like death. He brings them to Farsong and two of her cubs, all dead. One was to be Crescent's first wolf-friend. The humans have Windchaser. Bearclaw is going alone. Night at the human camp: Women go to their tents, they can't watch the initiation. At the bonfire the apprentice walks the Shaman's Path. He has Windcatcher. When grown the cub will be sacrificed to Gotara. The boy sacrifices a boar and the humans dance. They drink till they're passed out. Bearclaw comes out wearing the bearskin. He yells to the boy, "Get out of my forest!" and throws the fur over him. He frees Windcatcher and runs. Longbranch asks what good the warning was if he didn't speak their language. Bearclaw isn't worried but thinks they should learn it. Joyleaf thinks Bearclaw's carefree ways can't continue. The boy tells the shaman what happened. He says the demons mock us. We cannot rest until they're all destroyed.
Wolfrider! Part 4 (EQ2 # 25 / Readers Collection 9a)
About eight years have passed (34 years before EQ#1). Bearclaw passes the human language on to his tribe. He steals a human cub. She is able to understand certain things. Woodhue was attacked by humans. He is brought back but his eye can't be saved. He will now be called One-Eye. Joyleaf tries to convince her lifemate attacking the humans makes it worse. They forget by making love. A week later the human shaman tells his people to kill next time. Two find Crescent in the stream. Moonshade screams. She and Strongbow felt her mindscream, then nothing. They find her leathers and blood. Strongbow starts running and Bearclaw knocks him out. Bearclaw sees Crescent's bones on a pillar of sacrifice. He soon finds the shaman alone and cuts his head off. He brings it to Strongbow. Joyleaf is angry. He drinks himself asleep with the trolls. The humans plan revenge.
Wolfrider! Part 5 (EQ2 # 27 / Readers Collection 9a)
Three years have passed since the shaman was killed and the young human took over (31 years before EQ#1). More demons must be slain for Gotara. Bakta has left poisoned meat for the demons' beasts. They'll be slow without them. Bearclaw finds Snapper sick. Rain comes too late to save him. Bearclaw is going off for revenge but Joyleaf has her Shadowsheen pin him down. She ties Bearclaw up, outraging Strongbow and others. She sends them away. Timmain joined with wolves to make them strong. But they are also elves. She talks to him until night comes. She returns to the tribe, who are angry about it. She left New Moon in his reach. Days later Bearclaw howls at the moons, asking Timmain what to do. A wolf, black as jet, comes to him. His name, Blackfell, fills Bearclaw's head. He returns to the Holt. Joyleaf wonders if more fighting is the High Ones' answer. Bearclaw becomes bolder and makes raid after raid. The humans are driven further back. The young ones are told tales of Demon-Tricker. Shale and Eyes High are killed by two boys emulating Demon-Tricker (Hidden Years # 5). No one will leave the Holt. Bearclaw drinks with the trolls, filled with guilt. Joyleaf asks for leadership and he strikes her. He walks off, not showing weakness. She tells the others he won't be forgiven this time.
Wolfrider! Part 6 (EQ2 # 29 / Readers Collection 9a)
Nine years later (22 years before EQ#1) a harsh white-cold has passed. It's a time of newgreen and life. Joyleaf is still not speaking to Bearclaw. Both are stubborn. At the nearby human camp, hunters return with meat. They didn't look for spirits. They need new hunting grounds, but the shaman says Gotara led them here. A boy, Tabak, says he's not afraid. The shaman sees his own childhood in the boy and takes him under his wing. Bearclaw and Redmark return with a kill and hide for Moonshade. They'll all get thick leathers. Bearclaw asks Joyleaf to come to the river with him. She refuses. He saw the bear, Old Toothless. He commands her to hunt with him. They see the bear and climb into the trees. When it runs past, they jump on it with a net. Bearclaw ducks the bear's claws. Joyleaf stabs with her spear but misses the heart. It knocks her away. Bearclaw throws his spear to her and runs. He lets the bear grab him, making it look like an accident. Joyleaf stabs deep, piercing the heart. They embrace each other. Suddenly they Recognize. Their joining will change the Wolfriders and the way for all time. When they've answered Recognition's call, they've made a cub who is all they are and more.
Wolfrider! Part 7 (EQ2 # 31 / Readers Collection 9a)
Two years pass (20 years before EQ#1). In one of the worst whitecolds Bearclaw catches a rabbit. He heads for the holt and Joyleaf, three moons away from bearing a cub. Brownberry's pregnancy has just begun. The humans are laying low. Bearclaw has the idea to attack them when they're at their weakest. Treestump wonders if it's wise. Strongbow feels the sooner they destroy them the better. They ride out to the human camp and find it abandoned. They tear down what remains but can't tip the "Pillar of Sacrifice." They return to find Joyleaf giving birth. Skywise will finally have a companion. As Cutter is born, Skywise saves him from a deadly spider. The wolves agree he's one of theirs. Cutter grows up to be carefree and often too fearless. As Skywise gets older other delights lure him toward adulthood, like Foxfur. Nightfall, born shortly after, becomes Cutter's tagalong companion and life friend. They wander far and discover the human camp and their pillar. There's an old smell, like elves. Skywise arrives and says they'll learn about that one day. Elsewhere, the human shaman feels Gotara did not lead them to their current camp. He spreads his anger to the young ones. Soon a boy, Tabak, seems fit to be his heir. The boy feels that all demons must be destroyed.
Wolfrider! Part 8 (EQ2 # 33 / Readers Collection 9a)
Twelve years pass (8 years before EQ#1). Cutter moves through the forest, following his father. But Bearclaw disappears. He grabs him from behind. Cutter wants to see the trolls but he's told to go back to the holt. He won't listen, so his sire slaps him. Joyleaf finds him sobbing. She's not sure where Bearclaw learned it. He doesn't question his own acts, it's the way. Cutter must know when it's the time to give in or take a stand. Elsewhere humans are dancing at night. Tabak, captain of the young men, is prepared to cleanse the land of demons. He carries a staff topped with elf skulls. Life goes on as normal at the holt. Cutter gets a strange scent. He runs into a human girl. Cutter runs as her mother comes. He tells the others. Peace is gone. Bearclaw is told. Treestump, Strongbow, One-Eye, and Pike go with him. Cutter is told to stay and protect the others. They soon return. The humans have set up their camp. No one is to go out in daylight, no one hunts alone. Months later a long-tooth wounds Bearclaw. Redmark saves him and earns the name Redlance. They return to the holt where Bearclaw rests. Rain does as much as he can. Cutter keeps him occupied, listening to stories about Mantricker. When Bearclaw gets up, Cutter stops him by asking him to teach the human tongue. The shaman prepares Tabak's spirit bag. The dead longtooth and demon weapons are found. Demons are here. Let the war begin.
Wolfrider! Part 9 (Readers Collection 9a)
Two years pass (6 years before EQ#1). Bearclaw's anger remains fresh. He's been drinking and gambling with the trolls. Greymung wins back Bearclaw's wolf medallion. The elf chief isn't leaving until he wins it back. Above, Brownberry and Foxfur are gathering dreamberries when they hear heavy footsteps. The memory of the deaths of Shale, Eyes-High, and Crescent still burn. Human warriors led by Tabak attack. Brownberry deflects a spear thrust while Foxfur sends to the wolves. They throw berries at the humans and run to the wolves, riding to the Holt. They must be hunting something other than their usual game. Joyleaf tells them all to remain near the Holt. Cutter wants to try peace with the humans. His mother takes he and Nightfall away to watch for Bearclaw. Nightfall believes in him. He Cutter leaves her to watch. She soon fears for him and calls Joyleaf. Bearclaw is roaring drunk but won back his medallion. Magotty gives him a taste of her latest brew and he passes out. Tabak returns to his shaman. A demon voice calls the shaman. It's Cutter. One human hits him in the head with a rock. Others join in beating him. Strongbow, Joyleaf, Treestump, and One-Eye ride past and grab Cutter. The shaman will destroy them all. At the Holt, Rain tries to heal as never before. Joyleaf sends to Bearclaw but he does not wake.
Wolfrider! Part 10 (Readers Collection 9a)
Bearclaw wakes up and stumbles back to the Holt with half-remembered nightmares. He hears about Cutter and runs to the tree. Rain is finished. Cutter will live. Bearclaw comes out and Treestump fills him in. They all look at him with accusation. "Where were you when we needed you?" He will never fail them again. They perform the ritual of ancestors. He cuts himself and with each drop of blood they recite a name: Timmorn Yellow-Eyes, Rahnee She-Wolf, Prey-Pacer, Two-Spear, Huntress Skyfire, Freefoot, Tanner, Goodtree, Mantricker. They include Bearclaw. He will fulfill what his son began. Blackfell leads the humans away so Bearclaw can be alone with the Shaman. He wants peace. The human says it's their forest by the blessing of Gotara, who sent the sacred bear. Bearclaw killed it. He says the shaman killed friends and children. Bearclaw killed his elder. The elf-chief ignores Blackfell's whines and can't see what their emotions have awakened. A pool of elfin magic has lain stagnant for eons, magic gone bad. Invisible tendrils are reaching out. Before the two strike, it explodes. Blackfell drags Bearclaw away. The shaman also escapes. The tendrils reach out, finding rage and hatred, a cat and a snake, ancient enemies. The magic entwines them in their death-struggle, feeding on pain and rage, merging their bodies. Madcoil is born.
Wolfrider! Part 11 (Readers Collection 9a)
They run into the woods and Bearclaw veers off the obvious trail. He enters Madcoil's empty den and finds Joyleaf's skull. Cutter, the most precious part of her, is left behind. He must save that. After Cutter falls asleep, Madcoil sends. It wants only Bearclaw. He hopes when Cutter has cubs he'll do better. He goes to Madcoil and finds it familiar. His hate awoke the magic and gave it life. All the death was his fault. Bearclaw stabs it in the jaw. He's lived 1200 years and gained cunning, skill, and experience. He gets a few stabs in but is caught in its mouth. Razor-sharp teeth bite into his body. He hurt it bad. Cutter finds him on the ground. Bearclaw gives him New Moon and says, "When you strike, I will too." They'll finish it together. Bearclaw dies. He and Joyleaf watch over Cutter, helping him. Blackfell takes his body away. Cutter summons the tribe and the chief's knot is tied in his hair. They give Bearclaw a good howl. Cutter has them build a net and drop it on Madcoil from the trees. Cutter stabs it in the eye. They leave the head with the humans as a message of peace. They burn it. The demons will be destroyed. A few years later Redlance is captured. Bearclaw, watching over Cutter, says there's no choice. Cutter kills Tabak. The shaman burns the trees to cleanse the forest. Strongbow, one who's suffered for Bearclaw's foolishness, brings it full circle by killing the shaman. The Wolfriders escape the burning forest. Bearclaw and Joyleaf will be there always.
At first Madcoil hunts small game but they're soon gone. Its quarry grows larger. It kills three human hunters. The shaman heals in his lodge. There has been peace. Why did Gotara spare the demon? He asks for a sign. Tabak brings the dead hunters. It was demon magic, proof their chief lied about the peace. They'll wipe them from the face of the world. Bearclaw now has a greater devotion to the tribe. No more excursions or nights with the trolls. They hear the human drums. Over the next few weeks the humans are searching. They'll go search for a new Holt. Strongbow stays behind to watch the Holt and his new cub Dart. They set out with a sense of adventure. One night they notice a stench, not of man. They come upon a cub, killed for pleasure. Rain is struck down by Madcoil. It sends, a burst of pure hatred. They all run and hide in the trees. Joyleaf, Foxfur, and Brownberry don't answer sendings. Joyleaf would've answered even if she was unconscious. Cutter tells Bearclaw he's going with them. Bearclaw thinks they made a cub who is all they are and more.