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Mark of the Wild

~1~

Tabor turned at a sound from the trees and felt a slash across his cheek followed by something his ears told him he'd heard before. His hand moved slowly, reaching up to feel his cheek, slick now with blood. Puzzled, he looked at the tree and saw an arrow stuck snugly in the wood, the shaft and fletchings still vibrating from the impact.

Eyes wide, he dove for the bushes as another arrow whizzed through where he'd just stood and came to rest in the tree slightly below the first arrow.

"THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!" he roared at no one in particular.

~How is it my fault, Tabor?~

"You bloody well know how!" he shouted, pulling his sword free from it's scabbard across his back and scanning the trees. Another arrow whizzed through the bush and he had to duck again. He couldn't make out where the arrows were coming from aside from a general direction - there was too much cover.

Moving in the underbrush was troublesome, his fur over coat and bushy hair and beard kept getting snagged, but he managed to make some progress towards the thicker trees to his left. He would still have to make a dash across a clearing though, and his knees were already aching from the cold, damp ground.

"You woke me up! You told me I had things to do! Bloody rotten voice is what you are!"

~I cannot be held responsible for destiny, Tabor. I merely pointed out yours to you.~

"...bloody rotten voice. Bowman shooting at me..."

Arrows continued to whiz and streak into the bushes but they were missing their mark quite a bit now. Still, their intervals told him that he was dealing with a single archer and not a squad, which was good. That meant he hadn't been discovered just yet.

~Only one way to make it across that clearing alive, Tabor...~

"You shaddup! I know what I'm about."

Grumbling, Tabor replaced his sword in its scabbard and eyes the clearing thoughtfully. Blasted voice was probably right. The archer might not even realize what was going on until it was too late to do anything about it.

Grasping the leather pouch around his neck and closing his eyes, Tabor whispered the prayer that let him become one with the Great Spirit, and the change came over him.

~~~

In the trees, the Hunter waited. He knew that his prey had gone to ground, but it was only a matter of time before he showed himself again. he continued to shoot the odd arrow into the underbrush - there was always the chance he might get a lucky shot in. For 30 crowns, he could lose a few arrows.

When the Bear darted out and into the clearing, he had to pause. What in all that is Holy....?

The Bear was nearly to the trees when it dawned on the Hunter he was dealing with something decidedly unholy here, and so he slid his finest arrow from the quiver at his side, drew his bow back to his ear, and drew down on the creature...

~2~

The pain was so intense, Tabor snapped the wood between his teeth in two as he pushed the the remaining shaft of the arrow through his leg and out the other side. The wound bled like a keg with it's spigot broken so he ripped his shirt and started tying off the leg. Holding the arrowhead up to his nose, he sniffed it, then touched it to his tongue.

~He is an excellent shot, Tabor.~

"Shaddup you. If I want your opinion I'll choke it outta you. ...at least there's no poison," he added, tossing the arrowhead away.

~You cannot choke me, Tabor. I have no corporeal form for you to grasp.~

Tabor paused, a puzzled look on his face. "No whatnow?"

~I am not solid.~

Tabor snorted. "You use too many words."

~You don't have much time. He will be coming.~

"I know that! ...fel blasted bloody voice..."

Tabor finished binding his wound and then picked the largest, longest limb he could find on the ground, and using it as a walking stick to make up for his weak leg, he started off deeper into the forest.

"I was content, you know."

~I know.~

"I had a good den."

~I know.~

"Fish!"

~I know.~

"And then you had to come along and start talking! All the time with the talking!"

Tabor huffed and puffed as he limped along. The terrain was starting to slope down and he had to pick his path more carefully. The bandage on his leg was soaked with blood and he knew he was leaving a trail that even the youngest of Hunter's could follow, so there was no chance in Fel of losing the one tracking him without a miracle.

~I had no choice.~

*puffing* "...there.." *huffing* "...is..." *puffing* "...always..." *huffing* "...a...choice..."

~You didn't have to listen...~

Tabor laughed, then winced. The leg was throbbing as he exerted himself. "...nawww"

The terrain sloped dramatically and he ended up running the last few feet down into a little valley where his feet sloshed in the mud and he nearly slipped and fell. Leaning over to breathe, he stared at the pool of water.

"Where there be a little water..." he said after a bit. Nodding to himself, he followed what looked like a creek or outlet until it became deeper and he could hear the sound of water moving. A few bushes and water trees and he finds himself at the edge of a rather large, swift moving river.

"We may escape after all you bloody voice."

~Be careful. The water looks swift.~

Tabor scanned the shoreline until his eyes alighted upon a mess of logs and branches all twisted up together. Throwing away his walking stick, he waded out to it and started pushing and pulling until a good chunk of it came free, large enough for him to hold onto, then he pushed out into the stream and let the current take him.

~-~

The Hunter paused at the shorline, crouched. His fingers dipped into the muddy boot print so much deeper than the other. The creature was definitely favoring one leg and given the trail leading here, losing a lot of blood. He squinted his eyes as he scanned the river and the sunlight glistened brightly on the surface.

He couldn't cross here. But then, neither could the creature.

He would have to move down river until he found a crossing, and then backtrack and find wherever it leaves the water and thinks itself safe again. Gripping his bow tightly he smiled, knowing he would catch this thing again, and use it's skin for a rug.

~3~

"I don't like swords," Tabor said while wringing out his clothing. He had his winter layers on but nothing oiled, and that meant lots of wool and fur and it just seemed to soak up the water. The sword in question was leaning against the root he was sitting on while the rest of his things hung from various branches of the tree he'd chosen to shelter him for a bit.

~I know. You said as much when you picked it up.~

"No good ever came from a sword," he grumbled as he twisted the water out of his small clothes. His bare butt didn't much care for the root but he didn't want his clothing turning sour and catching mold either, nor the rest of him for that matter.

~The world is a dangerous place, you needed a sword.~

"Nawp. Gonna find me one of them people and get fixed up proper."

~'People'? I thought you hated people.~

"As a rule.... Yes. Ain't no good ever come from people neither. 'Specially people wit' swords."

*laughter, light and merry* ~Then what kind of people are you looking for?~

Tabor paused, looking at nowhere in particular, as he often did when speaking to the Voice. "Don't rightly know," he said after a bit. "Know em if I see em. Bigguns, usually. Not as big as me, but who is?!" Tabor laughed and laughed at his own pun.

In truth, there were few men stood as tall or as wide as he, and he knew it well.

~To find people, you'll have to take a road....~

Tabor wringed his shirt out a little tighter than he probably needed to, grumbling. "...I know."

~...and roads mean villages~

"I know!" he said, throwing his shirt at the tree. Staring at it with utter hatred for a few minutes, he finally blew a big breath of air out between his bushy mustache and let out a hearty laugh.

"Bah! I won't bother people if people don't bother me."

~When you find the people you seek, how will they 'fix you up'?~

Tabor eyed the sword slyly. "Get rid of -that- and get somethin' proper!"

Again Tabor laughed, and the sound of it bellowed through the trees.

~-~

The Hunter chewed his jerky thoughtfully, staring at the ground telling him no tales. He refused to admit that he'd lost the trail. As the sun was drooping in the western sky, he told himself that he would camp for the night, and redouble his efforts come the first rays of the morning.

He would hunt down this Unholy creature or he would die trying.

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