“Ironblooded fool!” I hear yelling out from behind me. I spin to see Katania, the village hunter, coming out of the brush. “What are you doing out here?” she asks me.
“I’m looking for my sister. Have you seen her?” I ask.
She shakes her heads and says, “You’re on your own. I have to start over.” She begins to head back into the thicker parts of the forest.
“What are you doing?” I call out behind her.
She pauses, shakes her head again, and says, “You wouldn’t understand. You just ruined my chances for tonight. That ought to be enough for you. I really hope you find your sister, but that’s not my job.”
“I’m very sorry. I would like to help you, Katania, really I would, but you must understand the danger my sister may be in right now. If you can’t accomplish your goal this night, perhaps you can help me with mine to better protect Redheather?”
“Better protect Owen’s interests, you mean.” She seems to ponder in her mind. (Compel: +heart: 5 vs. 8,4, weak) “I will help you this night, but after that, you must return the favor, and I don’t think you’ll like it.”
“I’m grateful for your help in finding Lona and happy to repay you. I’m just thankful I ran into you. Now, you’re a hunter and tracker and know way more than I do about tracking. My thought was that the beast would come this way for prey, but obviously that didn’t work out. Can you think of a better spot or perhaps you have seen evidence of the beast lately in your hunts?” (Oracle: Likely roll: 38, yes)
She breathes out nervously and says, “Yes, I’ve seen spoor. Whatever it is, it’s huge. If we have to face it head-on, I don’t like our chances. We just need to grab your sister and run.”
“Then you know where she is?”
“Not for sure, but I do know where I’ve seen the most tracks. Follow me.” We head deeper into the forest. (Milestone: Finally a real lead! 4 progress) Where are we going? (Strange and Hidden Mountain)
Katania leads me for the next hour or two to places I’ve dared not go before. Risking being this far away from a group of people is just inviting danger from the beasts, horrors, raiders, and whatever else may be out here. Our safety depends on numbers and the delicate equilibrium we have achieved between violence and seclusion. Because of this, I never knew there was a mountain out here. Sure, there are hills through every forest, but it would only be slightly exaggerating to call this place a mini-mountain, but it is strange. Not only is it mostly hidden by the tall trees of the Deep Wilds, but it’s a mound with only loose rock and stone going up its side. Nothing grows on it, and it looks like you would slide down two steps for every three steps up.
“Why would the beast be roaming here?” I ask her.
“I don’t know, but let’s look for your sister’s tracks and get out of here before the beast returns.”
Just as Katania said, I could clearly see the signs of an abnormally large creature moving about the base of this mound. A wide path had been worn, but it still looks to be a recent path. Do Katania and I find tracks of my sister? (Gather Info: 9 vs 5,2, strong)
“Rust and fire!” Katania calls out from the other side of the mound. I hurry to the other side to see her backing away from a patch of earth clearly stained with blood, but even more shocking is decayed corpse laying on the ground. It is nearly entirely skeletal with some of its bones scattered farther from the main part of its body.
“What monstrosity is this?” I ask as I move forward to investigate. (Endure stress: +spirit, 10 vs. 5,3, Embrace the Darkness, -1 spirit, +1 momentum) The sight shakes me to my core. Who was this person before their death? How did their body end up here, and in this shape? This thing clearly has no blood, so where did the blood come from? My sister!
“We need to leave,” Katania says nervously, pacing back and forth. “I didn’t sign up to deal with these!”
“Where are Lona’s tracks? Do they leave this place?”
“Yes, they go there. She has a wound and is dragging one foot. She should be easy to follow, but no…no…no…” she says trailing off and shaking her head in agitation.
“Pull yourself together!” I yell at her, grabbing her shoulders. “Focus,” I say more softly. “You are hunter. My sister needs us quickly, and you are trained for this.”
“For this? No! I’m trained to hunt deer, boar, and the like. This is well beyond what I know, and it’s too close.”
“What do you mean too close?”
“It doesn’t matter now. You’re right. Let’s go,” she says breaking free of my grasp and heading after the tracks. That blood is fresh, so my sister shouldn’t be too far now. (Milestone: Hot on the trail! 2 progress)