The Story in the Snow - (Day 4- Early Afternoon)

During moments when the wind was right, she could hear the shouts from Lyen and Dorian. Though in theory the two flanking rescue teams were only two hundred meters in either direction, the sound deadening effect of trees under a blanket of snow served to muffle anything more than a stone’s throw away. The whir of a rising wind completed their isolation, only to serve up some little bit of sound if it’s shifting direction was just so.

Lyen’s voice seemed interesting. There were times when Kate swore that the nun and her medic partner must have added a member to their party. A trick of the wind, she finally shook it off, to focus her attention upon Roose, the hunter who’d shown up at a very opportune moment.

The team rode single file. Kate, as Yeva, brought up the rear, with Lieutenant Thorne riding just a horse’s length ahead of her. But Roose had moved ahead, a good ten meters, to do his work. And witnessing the man’s technique had been nothing short of fascinating.

Tracking quarry through the snow proved far less simple than she had once thought. The footprints that lead Dorian and Lyen up into the woods last night had been obliterated after a mile, by a number of natural conditions. Yet this didn’t seem to disturb the tracker. Aside from obvious tells like broken twigs and disturbed deadfall on the forest floor, Roose seemed to spend a lot of time looking skyward, judging the grade of a slope, or even testing the ground’s effect upon wind direction changes.

And then, tracks began to reappear. Lots of them. All of them bearing the four toed claw of wolves. It was a pack. They’d turned in their meandering course, and all bore a common direction. Roose picked up the pace. After a quick exchange of glances with Riley, Kate checked her pistol and spurred the mare…her namesake…to greater speed.

A few hundred meters’ ride offered up the inspiration for the pack’s sudden change of direction. The bootprints were partially obscured under a fresh dusting of snow, but the tracker’s discerning eye was able to note the scene for his companions. As Kate watched, Roose pointed to where the children must’ve seen the approaching wolves, as told by lengthening of their strides.

Four toed tracks swirled around them. The larger bootprints occasionally turned toward advancing tracks…obviously Gill’s attempts to frighten them away.

Roose was off of his horse now, searching the snowy remnant with a seasoned eye, until he found it. The larger bootprints revealed a full out run, until their owner collapsed into the snow. The wolf had come from behind. Just ahead, the rounded impression of a knee, with four animal prints dug in hard, all framing in their center a brown spatter of frozen…

“Blood,” Kate said, forgetting her accent for an instant. “That is blood,” Yeva corrected. “Gill…we must hurry.” With Roose at the head, the search team now raced through the trees at a full gallop.

The trail was now significantly easier to follow, etched in the frozen blood of the older brother. How terrifying, Kate thought of the children, stumbling, exhausted and weakening through the night, while an emboldened pack circled in to taste further blood. Soon, even the thundering of their hooves was almost obscured by the blood roaring in her ears.

The shambling, blood checked tracks pointed toward a clearing...and a simple wooden shack. They made it...thay made it...please, Kate held firmly to the wish as they leapt from their horses. "HADDIE! GILL!"

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