23. Following Our Quarry
Posted on August 9, 2011
Lord Jordan surveyed the scene, his brow so deeply furrowed he appeared to be scowling.
“What tale do these tracks tell?” He barked down at one the rangers who was picking carefully through the carnage.
“It’s difficult to make sense of it my Lord!” The ranger, a tall, fair-haired Poan from the western steppe called back. “The scavengers were clearly drawn to something, that much I’m certain of. What befell them is another matter. I have never seen anything like this before.”
He didn’t mention it, but he suspected witch-craft or some form of divine retribution. There was no other way to explain it. How else were the wounds so clean? Heads and limbs hacked clean off, body parts piled up everywhere. Yet there was no blood, at least, no-where near as much as would be expected.
He picked up a stray leg, part of a great jackal from the patterning of its hide, examined the wound and was surprised to find that the flesh was cauterised. He’d seen that sort of thing before when surgeons of the Poan Legion were severing the limb of some poor sap, but there was always some blood and it never looked as clean as this.
He spotted a trail of blood and moved closer to examine it. At last, here was a tale he could read. He scanned the scene and his trained rangers eye, quickly made sense of the tracks. He spotted the leather satchel as well as the remains of a human leg and shouted out, “My Lord, you should see this!”
“What is it?” Jordan asked as he trotted his horse over to the ranger.
“Grave news I’m afraid.” The ranger responded, looking up at Jordan. He held up the satchel and pointed at the leg.
Jordan nodded. His face betrayed no emotion.
“Which of my foolish sons does that leg belong to…” Jordan asked, “…and where is the rest of him?”
“My Lord, it is impossible to tell, but I can tell you that we should follow these horse tracks” The ranger was indicating at a very clear set of tracks. They were unmistakable amidst the turmoil, easily an inch deeper than any other track. The horse that made them was clearly far heavier than any other creature on the plain.
“Whatever manner of horse created these tracks must have borne the cause of this devastation.” He explained and then recounted as much of the tale as he could discern, indicating the various bodies to emphasize key points in the drama that had played out here.
“We must tread carefully though, Sire.” He warned, “Whatever took your sons was able to do this single-handedly and against cavers too. I fear there is dark sorcery at work here, my Lord.”
“Spare me your superstitious opinions ranger.” Jordan retorted. He turned to the other rangers who were picking through the corpses. “Men! Mount up!”
With that he spurred his horse and galloped on the trail of the mystery horse.