That night, Toclulluth did not go back to his dorm room. Instead, he spent the night praying, wandering around campus. Early in the morning, just before the sun began its upward trek, he heard footsteps beside him. He looked up to see a tall man smiling at him. He knew instantly who this man was - the power that radiated from his being testified to his closeness with the Lord. This was a divine messenger, an angel sent by God. "Toclulluth. You need rest. There will be a great conflict tomorrow." Toc nodded. "I thought so. Who is this person? What are his strengths, and weaknesses?" The messenger answered gravely, "The Hunters' strength is but one - the demon that rules over them. Their weakness is their lust for power, their thirst for revenge - and their hatred of the Lord God. Do not go into battle wanting to destroy, or you will be destroyed." The messenger placed his hands on Toc's shoulders and prayed silently; as he did, Toc could feel warmth seeping into his soul, and strength made him stand taller. In a moment, he opened his eyes - the messenger was gone.
Though the campus was still covered by dark, foreboding clouds, and the threat from the Hunter was still very real, Toc felt lighter, ready for whatever may come his way. Battle did not worry him; it rarely did. The worst that could happen would be that he would die - and then wake up in heaven. If that was the worst, there was very little that could be bad! He knew that, of course, worse could happen, but it didn't really matter. He was ready.
In the dark times of Christianity, the Wanderers were hunted and hated by both sides. The Hunters lived to humiliate and tear them down, and the Christians called them witches, burning or hanging them. Few churches would let them enter their doors, saying that "such dark acts as perverting even the elements" would not be tolerated. Jesus Himself calmed the waves, walked on water, and made blind men see by rubbing mud in their eyes. What then made the Wanderers any different? Becoming outcasts, even by their own brothers in Christ, would defeat even the strongest of hearts - and it did. Many Wanderers left, either renouncing Christ entirely, or abandoning the practices of the druids, content to live a half-faith, void of miracles. The ones that remained, though, vowed to serve and protect, even those who hated them. It was hard, and many still fell away, but still they grew.
Noon came; Toclulluth could feel tension in the air. Even the ravens had stopped moving. As he walked through the campus, he caught sight of a shadowy form across a wide field. This time, there was no stealthy approach, no quiet appearances. It was time.
Toclulluth stood at the end of the grassy field, watching as the dark figure walked towards him, a huge grey wolf close behind. Thunder growled, then all was silent. Nearby students stopped, turning to face the two druids. The wolf bared its teeth, growling. The wind suddenly gusted, lowering the temperature by ten degrees. Who are you, to dare stand against me? I am not some puny Ovate, as you may be - I am a Hunter, a High Hunter!
Toc crossed his arms. You do not know? I thought a High Hunter would know another High Druid - trained by the Highest Druid himself!
The other glanced around, unsettled for a moment - but only for a moment. High Druid or no, you will die! The clouds above his head roiled and twisted, and the wind grew stronger. Toclulluth forgot about the students on the sidewalk; he ignored the freezing wind, even the snarling wolf. The Hunter held out a hand, stiffening the grass at Toc's into knife hardness, but Toc swept out his arm, forcing it to the earth. The ground at his feet glimmered, but before he could fall into the liquid, he turned the air to stone, standing above the danger. The dark one shook back its cloak, revealing a face, twisted with hatred. Hostility clouded its eyes, and its lips were set rage. Only one thing startled Toc, the one thing he did not expect - this dark Druid was a woman. She crossed her arms, hatred burning the air between them - and the battle began in earnest.
The earth shook as the Hunter raised her arms, knocking several students to the ground. Hail fell, but Toc raised a shield to protect himself. Rocks, branches, and dirt picked themselves up from the ground, missing Toc by inches. Toc was already getting tired - he was not accustomed to using so much power at once. Some hail was getting through his shield, and a few branches tore across his arms. Even so, though the attacks were strong, they were not the attacks of a High Druid; high level, maybe, but not the highest. Lightning flashed, rain began to pound downward, and the wolf, snarling, leapt to attack. The grass reached out, tearing at his feet, as five dogs ran into the battleground. They overtook the wolf, running towards Toc, fangs bared. Quickly, he shape-shifted into a bear, white fur shimmering in the drab light. His huge claws slammed into the wolf, throwing it twenty feet to the side. He grabbed one of the dogs, swinging it into the others and sending them limping away, tails between their legs. The dark druid stepped back, abandoning her other attacks to shape-shift into a snow leopard, beautiful but deadly. Her coat rippled, showing the smooth muscles underneath. For a moment, the Hunter paced back and forth, taunting him, then with a scream she charged into Toc, slashing and biting. He fought back fiercely - to wound, not to kill. For a moment Toc was in his natural element; like all druids, he had a favorite skill. What the Hunter did not know was that shape-shifting was his favorite.
The bear was noted for its strength and stamina, hard to provoke, but hard to stop. It was believed to give you balance in life, and the strength to do what is necessary.
The leopard was also a druidic animal - a ferocious, evil creature, intent on nothing good. It seemed only fitting that the Hunter had chosen that shape.
Toc was skilled, but the Hunter was also; more than one reaching claw tore through his thick fur. Finally, she leapt back, shifting back to her true form. Toclulluth shifted back as well, waiting for what would come next. She narrowed her eyes and spoke, using her inner voice. You are good - but not good enough. You think you can best me? I have only shown you a fraction of the horror I have in store for you. She held her hands to the side, then shoved them forward, as if throwing her entire body into the attack. Small trees were torn from the ground, hurled at him with force so great, he had difficulty stopping them. Repeatedly she summoned rocks, trees, wind and hail. Rocks and hail pelted down as the grass reached up to tear him limb from limb. She seemed to gain strength from the attacks, growing ever fiercer. Though he was rapidly weakening, Toc marveled at his strength. He had never been able to withstand attacks like this before - how mighty his God was!
Suddenly, the attacks dimmed as the Hunter turned her attention elsewhere. Her shrill voice, so small compared to her inner voice, barely carried over the storm. "Shut up! Shut up! You're not part of this! Don't involve Him!" Toc suddenly noticed the students, still watching - and praying! Their prayers lent energy to his defense! He offered his own prayer of thanks, straightening his hunched shoulders. His voice boomed out, almost startling him. "Wrong, Hunter. You are on His ground! This is His campus - and I hold His wrath! You know what happens if they stop praying - even the holiest of your trees would cry out to my God, the Lord of Hosts!" She turned to him in surprise - the tired, weakened young man she had just faced was now standing strong, radiant in the dim light. His face was changed - no longer was he defensive. He was a High Wanderer.
Toclulluth held out his arm stiffly, freezing the clouds in their place. The Hunter began her attack again, hurling rocks towards him, but he brushed them aside with ease, moving towards her. Her attacks increased - she was not playing with him now. This was deadly earnest.
The two druids circled, ground shuddering, the air tearing and rolling from their attacks and defenses. Fog swirled in, only to solidify, stopping a hail of stones from the Hunter. The elements screamed from the battle - flames scorched the air, met by water, which was soaked up by the earth, which in turn parched and frozen by the blasting wind. Toc was too busy to notice the ravens circling above his head, nor the huge owl hiding in a nearby tree. All he could see was the stark white face of the Hunter. Now, even in with his renewed strength, her attacks forced him back, each attack coming a little closer to hitting him. Her voice screamed above the wind, calling on the spirits of the trees and the earth. Again, the grass twisted up to snare him. Again, the earth opened to swallow him alive. Again, the fog threatened to crush him to dust. As before, he flattened the ground, filled the gaping hole with solid air, or twisted the fog in upon itself. Still the attacks came, still the Hunter screamed to her dark gods. Toc's voice rose as well, praising the One True Lord.
For a moment, Toc felt the deluge lessen. The Hunter held her arms to the sky, screaming the name of her evil master. Bats poured from the sky, diving at Toc. A pack of wolves streaked into the clearing, rushing to devour him. Trees reached out to impale him, and the earth at his feet opened into a huge chasm. Who are you, that you can defy me? Who is your god, that he can defeat my master? The Hunter leaned back, summoning every dark force she knew. You will die for your stupidity, as will the rest of this place! Die! The last words were no longer a raspy whisper, but a malicious scream. For a moment, everything slowed to a crawl - Toc could see the slavering fangs of the wolves, the blood red eyes of the huge bats, the stiffened branches, the solid stones - each one part of his destruction.
On the sidewalk, the students watched, dumbstruck, as the terror seemed to draw back, then hurl itself at the lone young man. All eyes were upon him - all but those of one student. That young man watched the dark druid, knowing that the woman could not fight much longer. He was a Seeker, the higher of the two on the campus. He was nowhere as high as Toc or the woman, but he knew many of the Seeker mysteries, things that the small group of Wanderers and the vindictive Hunters never learned. The Hunters were too caught up in their own battles, too solitary. The Wanderers cared naught for power. Either way, the two had no idea what was about to happen.
The Hunter gathered her power one last time, then slammed it into the young man. Why would he not retreat? Never before had she used such force. Never before had she been so drunk with power. As she channeled every last ounce of strength, power, and evil will into the single most powerful, destructive attack she had ever known, something happened - something terribly, terribly wrong.
Toc was calm; he was not afraid to die. The only thing he really feared was the pain, and even that would be short. As the fangs, claws, beaks, branches, stones and every other piece of his total annihilation, he felt in his heart that this campus would yet stand. As the leading edge of the attack reached him, he dropped his shield. The first wolf leapt - then froze in midair! For a moment, it was if the whole world had stopped moving, then suddenly reversed. Faster than Toc could comprehend, the power that had been about to wipe him out pulled back into itself, then shot out in a supernova of light.
The Seeker nodded as the light rushed past him. Her power had been her death. She was powerful, that much was true - but she was not strong enough to hold that power. The very force that would have given her victory had destroyed her. There was nothing left of the Hunter but a patch of earth, bare of all life. Carefully he made a note of the incident, reminding himself to tell a superior, then moved slowly away.
Toc shook his head, trying to clear it. The sun began to shine through the clouds, a ray of light illuminating him. What had happened? Only a moment before, the whole world had started to close in, ready to crush the life out of him - and now, there was nothing, no one but a few students, awestruck at what they had just seen. Toc stumbled, then felt many hands helping him to his feet. Regaining a little strength, he faced the few people. "Praise be to God! Praise God!" He raised his hands in the air; tired, hurt, but full of joy.
It was over.
The campus was safe.