Shredder VII

Gerard was the one best suited for that task.  Few knew these lands better than he, although he would send word for Rillian to join him.  She was one of the few Elven Rangers that had signed on for these grim patrols, and her keen insights into the region and the ambient magics could prove invaluable.  Still, it might take her weeks to finally reach Gerard, depending on the speed of the messengers, and he had little time to lose.  The trail of the Shredder would already have grown quite stale, but he was the only one who knew of the location of the attack, and if he were to uncover what was happening in the dark lands to the south, he would have to move quickly, and quietly.

Gerard’s news to the local representatives in Tribalta was received with the appropriate amount of consternation and concern, and a message was forwarded along the outpost chain both for information and to summon Rillian with all haste.  Reinforcements were rallied, but Gerard did not wait for their arrival.  Each hour that passed further reduced his chances of picking up the trail of the lethal machine.  Thus without any undo delay and only a few hours of solid rest, Gerard found himself headed back into the comfort of the wilderness and the nightmarish memories of his last passage south.

Time was a factor in any tracking venture, more so than even the weather some would argue.  Scents and signs had a way of changing in such a way that they would sometimes leave a false trail or give unclear signals.  That fact was even more prevalent in the shattered hills through which Gerard now traversed.

The Halfling Ranger made good time, foraging off the land and taking only what rest he absolutely needed as he picked his way back across the winding paths of the northern reaches.  At the same time though, he was exercising extreme degrees of caution, backtracking, circling, false leading and using staged reconnoitering in an attempt to gather as much information on the area as he was able, while maintaining the highest degree of safety possible.  There would be little forward progression for anyone, even Rillian, should he fall to a predator before any indications could be uncovered as to the whereabouts of the Shredder or any other potential threat that may have emerged from within the heart of the fog.

Along one of his circuitous routes still several hours from the location of the Shredder attack, he happened upon the decaying remains of a sizable black bear.  Taking a few minutes to investigate the scene, the story began to unfold in disturbing clarity.  Tracks indicated that the great bear had charged into its death, which came brutally and swiftly.  No signs gave credence to the fact that the bear had been consumed by its killer, as scavenger marks were the only telltale signs of feeding.  No tracks lead away from the sight.  That bothered Gerard more than anything.  While conceivable that a flying beast of some sort brought this bear to its untimely demise, it seemed a much more likely case that the Shredder had been responsible for this particular flaying of flesh.  The attack strokes were too precise and the damage too severe to have been made by any normal wild predator, and the fact that there was no feasting after the bear had perished suggested strongly that the victor was operating on an agenda other than survival.

The clues were not iron clad by any means, but Gerard had a sinking suspicion that the Shredder had been here, and the bear had unfortunately tried to defend its territory, or perhaps its young, and paid for it with its life.  All of this information accumulated in Gerard’s mind in a matter of minutes, the years on the trail subconsciously filling in many of the unseen details, and the Halfling was off just as quickly, working his way deeper into the darkness that lay ahead.


Shredder VIII

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