The quartermaster gave Almonihah’s new armor on odd look, but other than that just gave him the equipment he asked for. More arrows, a leather shirt to go over his armor, a new pack, waterskin, a few other little necessities. He also picked up a new sword, a plain, serviceable blade, to replace the one he’d left with the Griffon Tribe. Then, once he felt ready, he set off to his post.
It took three days to reach the general area he was supposed to watch. It was a pass in the mountains that edged this part of the Madlands, high enough to be only warm instead of hot, even this far south. An important post, where many of the Javni’Tolkhrah who were wandering north would go. That was probably how Lonan had died… if the Javni’Tolkhrah were more active than usual this year, this area would have been hit hard. Of course, it was quiet right now…
Almonihah narrowed his eyes. It was too quiet. There weren’t even the normal animal noises he’d expect in a wooded area like this.
Slowly, he pulled out his bow and knocked an arrow. Then the half-dragon cautiously advanced, his senses alert for the slightest hint of trouble. His first hint was the softest hint of a sound, so quiet it was barely there. Almonihah gave no sign he heard it save for a slow rotation of his head.
There it was. A flash of movement seen out of the corner of his eye. The thing was stalking him. Almonihah held still, and so did it. He slowly pulled back on his bow. Then suddenly he snapped erect and fired off an arrow at the same moment the creature jumped at him.
He didn’t quite get out of its way in time, and grunted a bit as he felt the impact on his shoulder. He was able to twist away instead of getting knocked over, however, and drew Zithrandrak as he turned to face the beast. He soon saw there was no need. The Javni’Tolkhrah, which he now saw was some sort of giant wolf-thing with a scorpion tail and huge claws on its feet, was twitching on the ground, an arrow buried in its eye. Faint wisps of steam rose from the socket, a testament to the powerful magic the bow had bestowed on the arrow. Just to be sure, Almonihah stabbed Zithrandrak through the thing’s head. It stopped twitching.
That done, Almonihah slowly searched around the area in case there were other Javni’Tolkhrah around. He doubted it, but it was better to be cautious than dead. He didn’t see any signs of other monsters, but he did stumble across an old campsite. Following some tracks from the camp led him to Lonan… or what was left of him.
One glance was enough to tell him it wasn’t the wolf-thing that had gotten to him. The kill was old, but no scavengers had dared touch him with the taint of Jivenesh about. Even decay seemed slow to set in. The tracks gave away the time, however—more than a week, if Zrathanzon had taught him anything about reading such things. What was clear, however, was that it was a much larger beast that had killed the other Ranger. From the tracks, Almonihah could tell it had gone north… of course.
The half-dragon frowned. He was faced with a dilemma here. There was an obviously powerful Javni’Tolkhrah headed north. It had at least a week’s head start on him. He had little doubt he could catch up in time, but it would take him away from the Line…
Almonihah sighed. He had to stay here. Whatever that creature did, it would be worse if this pass was open for another three weeks or however long it would take him to hunt it down and then get back. All kinds of Javni’Tolkhrah could slip through in that time. He’d just have to hope another Ranger got to it before it managed to find its way into populated lands. At least it was loose in the Lost Sea area instead of Khinet.
The half-dragon growled a bit in frustration as he turned back south. He couldn’t worry about that now. His job was to make sure nothing else got through.
Well, I finally posted again! Sorry it’s been so long. I plan on posting a fair amount over Christmas break, here. Maybe not enough to make up for lost time, but at least enough to finish up this (long) chapter.