The woods were especially quiet this spring morning, the birds were chirping and there was a slight breeze coming in from the west smelling of the marshes in that direction. The flora was beginning to grow again after the chill months that had hit Arthripos recently. Buxtin shivered in the cool morning air but was still glad to be out and about after the past few weeks in bandages. He had slipped and fallen down a slope while hunting and managed to catch his foot in just the right way to snap the bone in his left ankle.
The injury had left him bedridden for weeks as his wife Shenna insisted he rest and heal. Buxtin was worried that their store of meat would not last through the winter but Shenna had seen that it had with her skill in cooking. She had mixed the meat with a variety of herbs and vegetables into pots of thick stews or savory soups. Although delicious and nutritious, Buxtin was looking forward to eating a thick steak once again.
Packing up his bedroll and blanket, Buxtin was anxious to get under way and see where the deer tracks would lead him that he had found yesterday as the last light of dusk was fading. He found the trail easily enough as he removed the stake he had used to mark the trail with. The trail continued off to the west towards the marsh. While Buxtin had spend his fair share of time in the marshes, he never particularly liked the smell and biting insects that were abundant there. The tracks turned south and he was glad for this. He was moving slowly and cautiously as he followed the trail of his prey, always having an arrow nocked and ready to fire as he moved. The trail was about to enter a clearing up ahead and Buxtin wanted to be sure that he didn’t spook anything in the clearing as he approached. During this time of year, there were plenty of small puddles and small creeks that carried the rains and melting snow off the mountains. These clearings were usually plentiful with game that would provide him with ample meat and hides to resupply his stores and provide valuable leather in which to practice his trade.
Even though he would be soaked most of the day from the dew on his clothes from crawling through the taller grass surrounding the clearing, the cover it provided him was worth the discomfort. As Buxtin peered through the last patches of tall grass, he spotted several deer drinking from a small brook that ran through the clearing. There was a nice buck and several does which were heavy with unborn young, two of the does had given birth and though he could not see them, Buxtin was sure that they were hiding in the tall grass nearby, probably on the edge of the clearing.
As Buxtin crawled slowly through the grass in order to position himself for a good shot on the buck, he suddenly heard what could only be described as a large ruckus passing close to the clearing. The deer bolted from the clearing away from the noise, the does that had given birth reluctantly loitering just inside the woods, not wanting to abandon their young. Cursing under his breath at the cause of the noise that had cost him his kill, Buxtin sought out the source.
Buxtin stood up and followed the tree line to the other side of the clearing, he cautiously ventured towards where the noise, now faded toward the north, had come from. He discovered several broken tree limbs and an obvious path of torn underbrush and bent grass. What had made such a wide path of destruction and why was it moving so fast toward the north? If his direction sense was accurate, his cabin was in that direction although some distance away.
He stopped to study the tracks and saw that there were several bipedal tracks. “Probably adventurers looking for ruins and riches”, he mused. What were these large tracks? He had never seen anything like these before.
His curiosity aroused, Buxtin began following the tracks. The pace of his quarry was fast and the strides were long. Then he came upon a fork in the tracks of the bipedal creatures, he noticed one particular print that confirmed the shape of a shod foot, a boot perhaps. There were 4 of them and they split up into pairs. One pair continued on in the northerly direction and was still being pursued by the large beast tracks he had never seen before; the others had looped around to the south-east. Being more curious about this new creature, he continued on after the pair it was hunting.
After about a half mile later he stopped rather suddenly as heard a blood-curdling scream of a man! He slowed his pursuit but kept a steady eye on the ground as he continued on ahead. Once again, the tracks of the presumed humans split one to the right and one to the left. He heard a rustling noise off to his right and pulled his bow as he followed it. It was then that he saw the human man shrugged down beneath a tree by the side of a thick bush. The man was visibly exhausted and breathing so heavily that Buxtin had no trouble sneaking up behind the man. He was going to approach him to ask him what he was doing in these parts and what was chasing him when the man looked sharply off to his left and bolted in the other direction suddenly.
Being taken completely by surprise, Buxtin was about to follow when his attention was drawn once again to his left by a large hideous beast with several tentacle arms and a huge mouth at the top of an enormously tall and thick trunk of a body. Whatever this abomination was, Buxtin wanted no part of it and practically melted into the tree he was hiding behind.
It wasn’t long before he heard the exhausted man’s screams and he cringed at his fate. Not wanting to be the next meal for that beast, Buxtin hastily but silently retreated towards the west, away from the nasty abomination. Not much later he ran across the first man and saw there was nothing left of value on what was left of the victim.
He decided right then and there that he was finished with his hunting trip and decided to make for home as quickly as he could. It would take Buxtin three days to reach his cabin in the woods and he spent several more days contemplating the dreadful experience he had witnessed, thankful that he had not actually witnessed the demise of either of those men and wondering at the same time the fate of the other two companions of the group.
Remembering the look of the exhausted man he had seen, he could only surmise that they were not hunters and that their fate may have somehow been justified.