Northdowns: Wayward Ranger Pt.1 The Hunt

A pair of dark grey eyes peered through the hood and mask, muffled steam rising with each breath as he broke a trail through the snow that gathered on the banks of the half frozen creek. It was quiet, the world crisp and white though he spotted a set of deer tracks that lead to and from the water’s edge. After refilling his waterskin, he made his way back up to higher ground, where the snow thinned, blown by the howling winds that brought the breath of ice down from Forochel.

Torchanar pulled the heavy fur pelt over his shoulders, it was made from the distant ice bears of that land, something he had traded dearly for many years ago but it was invaluable camouflage on winter days as this. He had trailed the tracks of the Enemy for a few days, heading towards the north from near Fornost. It was a single orc, likely traveling at night as the tracks were always snowdusted in the morning.

He lost the trail near the steep hills to the west of Kingsfell but was determined to find it again. The ranger had many a dogged pursuit before and over meaner terrain but this was too close for comfort, the sanctuary of Esteldin being hidden nearby.

As he crested the hill he spotted tracks once more, larger than any deer and on closer inspection, larger than an orc. There was only one or two, the rest vanishing on the hard bare ground near the cluster of shivering pine trees. Torchanar approached, welcoming the shelter from the brisk wind and his eyes quickly caught a familiar marking. The resin had risen to the surface of the cuts and as he took his glove off to touch the crude pair of wings, he felt it was still tacky. It was recent one of his kin  had been through, wanting to be found. He put his glove back on and began to scour the trees and ground, finding a small cache undisturbed.

The stone cairn was flat, easily missed with inexperience or distraction. Or someone unfamiliar with the lands around the Northdowns. He lifted the stone to be sure and noted the leather wrapped dried beef and travel bread still in place. The ranger paused, his duty was to hunt the enemy but the thought of another ranger in such need that he would miss the cairn markings made up his mind. His brothers would come first, perhaps he would pick up the orc trail on the way. 

After putting the stone back in place, Torchanar began to hunt for the lost kinsman, leaving the pines to go farther into the sandstone hills. These were pock marked with small caves and a good place for shelter. Any ranger would know to look for the landmarks and leave no trace but what he wished. His keen eyes picked up another marking, the same wing shaped curves marked an exposed bank near a frozen trickle of a creek. 

He picked up his pace, sensing the closeness from the smell of fresh clay dug with a knife and a new, cleaner print in the snow. Torchanar hunched his shoulders, the white heavy fur flapping as he jogged forward, his gaze scanning over the ground.