And off she went into the night. Her goal was the only thought. But would she be in time? Faster she rode, wishing she could go just a little bit faster. Speed and time were the key players now, but speed and time are never good teammates.
Upon arrival in the clearing, she knew she was too late. Everything was gone including a trail to follow. Being an expert in tracking she did not give up the pursuit easily, looking for any sign even a slight trace in the ground. But this was not to be her day and luck seemed to have turned its back on her. The ground was frozen solid, not even an imprint of where she walked and now the snow started.
If experience was to serve correctly, and much to her anger it would, the snow was going to be heavy and long. No longer was it an option to find her quarry. Now she had to find lodging, out here in the wilds. The closest town was over a day away and she now cursed herself for getting in the situation.
“Oh well, where now?” The first words muttered by her since leaving the town. The trees would keep back most of the snow, but sleeping out in the open would leave her vulnerable to other creature. A wolf had been following her for the last hour and she knew it. The wolf had mistaken her attempts to find anything resembling a trail as being lost or confused. All it had to do was wait for her to become tired and then make its move.
The wolf was sure she would make easy prey. After a failed attempt to steal food from those camping the night before, this made it four days without food and it would not become five. His ill fated assault of the prior night left him slightly hurt, a small cut on the back. A far better fate than if he had been caught, for those in the camp surely would have killed him.
Things had been much easier on the wolf a year ago when his human companion had still been alive. Now that was a human any wolf would have liked. Whatever his name was he was a true warden to the forest and kept out those that did not call it home. Even he himself would enter more than a couple of feet if it could be helped. It was a sad day when death came to collect him. But now food was scarce, more so now that winter set in. It was going to be a long winter, quiet and difficult.
She finally found a suitable place to rest, below an outcropping of rocks. The place had obviously been a resting spot for others human and non. For now it was hers. Her horse took some comfort from the fire she built. For the first time that day, luck smiled upon her. The pack of supplies she grabbed while leaving town would leave her in a comfortable situation for the next two or three days. Now she could focus on her current adversary. The wolf sat a ways off, watching her setup camp. “Perhaps this won’t be as easy as I thought,” he thought to himself. But then he saw her with what looked like food. It wouldn’t be a fresh kill, as he preferred, but food was food. She had to sleep some time and then that was when he would attack or at least sneak in and get something to eat.
At that moment she did something quite unexpected by the wolf. A portion of cured meat landed in front of him. It smelled ok…what was she up to? He licked it…tastes salty but otherwise it was food. He tore into it, ravished by hunger there was no way to appreciate the skill that had been put in to preserving the food. And at that point he realized perhaps there doesn’t need to be an attack. Though the hunger had been warded off, trust was not there, so instead of spending a night by a warm fire, he sat watching, wondering what she was up to.
Night passed without a sound, leaving behind a half foot of snow in its wake. Both of them woke tucked nicely beneath the blanket, only upon waking did it become disturbed. Both saw that the other was watching to see what came next. The silence of the morning was broken by the horse standing up. Like everyone there it was cold. It looked quizzically at her. As if to ask where’s the fire and what about the wolf. Though these were not the questions the other two saw in it. The horse had shaken them both back to reality and awareness of the snow falling, that it was indeed cold and perhaps all three of them just wanted to make it through the storm.