Tarron crouched behind the rock and surveyed the land in front of him with narrowed eyes. From his vantage point half way up the mountain he could see large swathes of land consisting of a sweeping flat plain stretching as far as the eye could see in front of him. To the side was the start of an immense forest that covered the area in a sea of changing shades of green and silver as the leaves moved restlessly in the wind. In places, he could see the tops of tall trees towering majestically above the others. It was really-awe inspiring.
His gaze swung back towards the plain as he saw the outline of a great bird of prey circling lazily above, drifting slowly on the currents of warm air on the look-out for prey. He saw the bird dive, plummeting rapidly towards the ground with its wings tucked tightly into its body. He wondered what the unfortunate victim was.
Shading his eyes, Tarron peered towards the margin of the plain and made out movement. It was a group of human hunters slowly making their way along the edge and intently studying the ground as they went. As if looking for something!
Probably him, he thought.
He had managed, so far, to avoid being captured. He had at first tried to approach the men. All this caused was suspicion and hostility. They had tried to attack him and he had barely managed to dodge their spears and escape. They were quite a primitive people in his reckoning. Their long wild, unkempt hair and skin clothing did not help with their image. They lived in small huts made from animal skins stretched tightly over frames of wooden poles. Each morning groups of hunters would go out looking for game and the women would go in search of fruits and nuts. A simple society. He had spent some time studying them, from a distance of course, while trying not to be seen and chased. He decided it was best to avoid them.
With his long pale hair and slender build, he supposed that he did look different from the native inhabitants that he had met. He was also quite a bit taller than even the tallest man that he had seen. They were suspicious of him, that was probably the reason they continued to hunt him. At times, it was annoying, other times like now it was amusing. They were so close yet had no idea that if they looked up they might see him silhouetted against the rock. Not wanting to be seen he hunkered down even more and continued to follow their movements until they had faded into the distance.
A barely discernible noise from above drew his attention, whipping his head around he stumbled slightly as a tawny coloured shape came towards him in a blur. It was only his lightning quick reflexes that allowed him to twist out of the way at the last minute and avoid the slashing razor-sharp claws that whistled past his cheek. Any slower and he would have had his face shredded.
The cat landed further down the rocky slope and slid on the loose rocks before coming to a snarling stop sitting on its haunches. Its long yellow canine teeth could be clearly seen in the daylight glistening as it showed its displeasure in losing its meal. Turning it started back up the slope towards its intended prey.
He watched the cat slide down the mountain and come to a halt. As it turned he rose from his half-crouched position and jumped lightly onto the rock in front of him before reaching up and grasping a handful of grass that was growing out of the cliff face. He tugged to make sure it would hold his weight and then carefully pulled himself up until he could find a finger hold in the rocks and pull himself up further. He climbed until he managed to find a ledge that was big enough to stretch out on without any fear of him falling off. Looking up he saw that he was still a long way from the top of the mountain, though far enough away from the cat to feel safe. He looked down at the snarling animal as it stared back at him with golden unblinking eyes. It stood up on its hind legs and gave a small leap as if it thought it could reach him, it slid back down the rock and sat ungainly on its haunches. With one last disgruntled glare, it settled down and stretched out laying its head on its paws and appeared to fall asleep.
He smiled as the cat settled down, well-aware that it was only dozing. He sat on the ledge and looked out towards the hazy horizon. The sun was shining and he could see many animals out on the plain grazing. Occasionally some would lift their heads to search for danger before lowering them again to graze.
He turned and lay down on his back on the ledge and stared up at the clear blue sky. The sun was a yellow orb in the sky, its warmth shone down on the rock absorbing the heat and keeping the cold at bay. It was quite comfortable and soon his eyes were closing. He was sure he was safe up here, yet still he slept lightly: occasionally opening an eye to glance around at his surroundings before closing it again and falling back to sleep.
Sometime later he opened his eyes again and saw that the sun was starting to go down, soon it would be dark. He would have to find somewhere to spend the night that was not in the open. It tended to get quite cold and besides he was starting to feel hungry, though he could go many days without eating.
A movement at the base of the mountain caused him to freeze; slowly he turned his head and caught sight of the hunters that had been trying to capture him. They made their way up the mountain to where he had been before the cat had attacked him and searched the ground. The cat was nowhere to be seen, it obviously had grown bored and moved away to find easier prey. He stayed perfectly still and followed their every move with his eyes as one of the men pointed towards the ground. They were speaking to each other, though he could not understand what was being said. The men appeared to be wary as they noticed that a cat had been in the area. They must have spotted its paw prints. He smiled to himself and tensed as one pointed up towards the ledge that he was lying on. They all glanced at it before turning and starting back down the mountain.
Tarron lay where he was and watched them leave before slowly sitting up and stretching. He realised with a wry smile that he was taking all this a bit too casually. If the hunters were to look back at the mountain they would most likely see him outlined against the rock. Or at least see his blond hair. It was like a beacon, saying here I am. With that thought he very quickly scrambled back down the rock face and crouched behind the same rock that he had used before his encounter with the cat. He was not worried about the cat. It was long gone.
With one last glance around the area he stood and made his way down the boulder strewn slope. A small noise had him stopping and crouching; slowly he made his way to the cover of a fallen log and glanced towards a group of tall trees. He made out the outline of the same men who had been looking for him earlier. What they were doing in that area was beyond him. Normally by now they would have been heading back to their camp for the night. It was a dangerous place to be, out in the open at night.
Carefully he made his way over the loose rocks without making a sound and entered the forest. Glancing behind him he could see that the men had not noticed him. He did not expect them to, he could be silent if he wanted to be and he knew how to move without leaving any trace. He was starting to think that the men were not that bright. Or perhaps, he thought, he was being slightly arrogant. He frowned at that revelation. He had been told often enough not to underestimate things, arrogance could get you hurt or killed. He smiled wryly: when would he learn?
A howl in the distance stopped him mid stride and he turned his head looking behind him, the howl came again. The wolves were on the hunt. He was not overly concerned about them; he could easily get away from them, just by climbing a tree or a ledge. They could jump and run but they could not climb. Setting off into a jog he ran through the darkening forest. The ground was littered with fallen logs and dropped leaves, though he barely made a sound as he passed. Any sound he made was enveloped by that of the forest.
His people were hunters and lived in the forest, they were taught from an early age how to move silently and listen to the sounds of the forest. A forest had a life of its own and you had to respect it. Only take what was needed. Though this forest was a little different from the forests that he was used to, he was starting to be able to read it, to understand it. At times he could feel the life force of the forest flowing through the trees and the ground. There was energy all around, available to those who knew how to tap into it.
The forest now was whispering to him to find shelter before the wolves caught up with him. It could only protect so far. He ran on lost in thought. He cursed as he stumbled and fell headlong into a deep hole in the ground that was thinly covered by leaves and grass. It was only his quick reflexes that allowed him to grab onto a hanging vine and stop himself from falling into it completely and plummeting to the bottom which he thought was a long way down and cursed himself again for not paying more attention to his surroundings. He stilled as he felt the vine start to pull away from the ground. His weight was causing the plant to come up by the roots.
He hung where he was for a few seconds before he gingerly reached for the side of the hole and found some footing in the loose soil. It started to crumble as he put weight on the wedged foot, he stilled and waited for the soil to settle. Slowly he walked his way up the unstable wall while continuing to use the vine to hang onto. The side crumbled even more as he moved though the vine was taking his weight. Looking down he concluded that the hole was quite deep. He could not see the bottom and realised that he had had a lucky escape. He frowned again as he decided his daydreaming and lack of observation were going to get him killed. He did not know what was happening to him. Normally he was aware of what was going on around him, this was not good.
And.....what was he doing thinking about this when he was still dangling above an abyss. Slowly he continued to pull himself to the top of the hole. He could see the grass growing at the edge; finally, he made it to the top only to stop mid push when he saw wolves moving towards him. He was not sure if they had seen or smelt him yet, so he froze.
As one they turned back towards the direction that they had come from and cocked their heads. Their ears twitching as if they had heard a sound that only they could hear, then they started bounding deeper into the forest back the way they had come.
He used this time to pull himself the rest of the way out of the hole and get to his feet. Quickly brushing off the loose soil from his clothing he broke into another jog and continued through the darkening forest. It was dawning on him that perhaps he was going to have to spend the night in a tree. It would not be the first time and it was not that bad, just a little uncomfortable at times.
Just then his stomach chose to growl reminding him that he had not eaten all day. Passing a low bush with purple berries he picked some and stood munching on them as he scanned the area for signs of danger. The berries would not completely deal with his hunger but they would take the edge off it. Now he had to find some shelter.
He studied the surrounding trees and found a large pine that would do for shelter for the night. It needed to be strong enough to hold his weight and tall enough so that he was far enough off the ground so that any predators would not be able to reach him. The first set of branches was about ten feet off the ground. With a running jump, he managed to catch hold of one of the lower branches and haul himself up until he was standing on the bough. Looking down at the leaf covered ground he decided that he was not high enough off the ground and climbed higher until he thought he was safe enough from any land based danger. He settled down with his back to the trunk and his long legs stretched out along a branch. A noise below him had him gazing down through the leaves, he could just make out the grey fur of the wolves as they sniffed around the base of the tree. He could hear them softly snarling and growling at each other
He settled in for the night and closed his eyes, he was aware of his surroundings, though for the moment everything was quiet, the wolves had given up trying to get to him and had trotted off in to the darkening forest. The sound of an owl caused him to crack open an eye and hunt for the perpetrator. There it was sitting close by on a branch. The little brown bird might have been small but it made a very loud noise. He considered frightening it away, a slight noise had both him and the bird freezing. Looking down he saw that the wolves from earlier had been replaced by the same men who had been hunting him. He wondered how they had been able to follow his tracks? Was he losing his ability to walk without leaving any trace now? He frowned, what was this place doing to him. No one used to be able to find him if he did not want to be found before he came to this place. His usual agility and grace had somehow left him as well, making him feel clumsy and cumbersome. Something that had him worried and hoping that it would not get worse but get better instead.
He felt like he was coming apart. Very melodramatic…. He snorted to himself.
He had tried to find his way back to his homeland, to no avail. He closed his eyes and centred himself. He was starting to lose himself. If he did not get control he would die and he did not want to die in this.... place. It was time to be what he was before-and he needed to stay alive for that.
He opened his eyes and surveyed the men standing at the bottom of the tree with a sort of clinical detachment. Again, he wondered at their tracking powers as they did not bother to look up into the branches of the tree that he was in. With that one did glance up into the tree before turning to his colleagues and walking away. Once out of ear shot he settled back into the crook of the trunk and closed his eyes.
All at once images of his homeland accosted him. Large forests with massive trees, vines that hung from the trees that they used, allowed them to move from one tree to another. The braver ones used this mode of transport. The young ones and the less inclined used the walkways that were secured between the trees and as means of getting to and from the ground. Most of his people lived in the trees, in houses built partly from the living trees themselves. Some lived on the ground. Though for the most part it was safe, only on rare occasions did enemies succeed in getting close to anyone. The warrior class was very good at eliminating any threats before they caused harm. Their security so far had not failed. He had been responsible for helping to keep his people safe.
He sighed and with a determined thought pushed his musings to the back of his mind. He would get out of here somehow. He had tried re-entering the area that had caused him to come to this place in the hope that it would return him to his own time. But to no avail, he had only passed through and remained in this place. He had tried again only for the outcome to be the same. Then he had been accosted by the group of men.
Shaking his head, he shook his musings away and closed his eyes determined to get some sleep; it was still some time until daybreak. He did not fancy traipsing through the forest in the dark. He was feeling quite comfortable where he was.
He sat bolt upright and bounded from his branch over to the next tree where he sat hunched behind a leafy branch and surveyed the scene below him in disbelief. Somehow the men had snuck up on him and nearly hit him with a spear. He was going to have to re-evaluate his opinion of them. Perhaps they were not as simple as he had thought. His arrogance was going to get him killed at this rate, he thought wryly. It did appear as if they were using the wolves to track him, that implied some sort of intelligence. He snorted. He was a snob.
Slowly he made his way over to another large tree and started climbing down the rough textured trunk, when he was ten feet from the ground he stopped and crouched motionless on a branch and surveyed the scene before him. He fingered his knives that were hidden in the sleeves of his coat making sure that they were easily removable when the time came to use them. He did not want to use them yet he would if he needed to.
He saw a man drop down from the tree that he had just been in holding the spear that had nearly impaled him. They started looking around trying to find where he had gone. He knew that it was just a matter of time before they found him and what the hell, he was up for a fight, or at least a good run. He could lead them on a long chase and wear them out. It was time to play.
Jumping down from the tree he waited for them to turn and spot him. They turned in surprise gesturing at him with their spears before the chase was on. He ran dodging the spears that were thrown at him. Some of them missed him by a breath. He stared in surprise when an arrow flew passed him landing on the ground in front of him. He did not realise that they used bows and arrows. He jumped over fallen logs and dodged trees. Off in the distance he heard the howl of wolves and idly wondered if they would come and investigate. He slowed down to a trot when he saw that they had fallen behind. He increased his speed and continued for some time wanting to lose them completely in the forest. He was a little concerned that they were able to track him so easily. Something was not right.
The ground started to slope upwards and he followed the incline. It was still dark and he decided that he should find some shelter for the rest of the night and get some sleep. Walking on he heard the sound of owls and bats filling the night with their cries. Off in the distance a piercing cry filled the air then suddenly stopped. Some poor creature had become another one’s dinner.
He came to another tall tree and decided to climb this one and spend the rest of the night in its branches. He did not feel that he would be tracked again and caught. He climbed as high as he could and settled down amongst the leaves. He stared up at the clear sky, its stars twinkling through the gaps in the leaves. The moon was full, its silver surface casting the sky in an eerie glow. They were not the stars that he remembered. All the constellations were wrong. He did not recognise any of them, sighing he shook his head and closed his eyes forcefully emptying his mind and slowing his breathing until he felt a calmness overcome him.
He allowed himself a small smile, he had enjoyed his run through the forest. It was most invigorating, just what he needed a good physical workout. Shaking his head again he concluded that perhaps he was really losing it. Leaning back against the trunk of the tree he closed his eyes and allowed sleep to claim him.
The sun was just starting to peep over the horizon when he awoke. The sky was a mixture of gold and red and pale pink as the rays cast their reach towards the still black night. The splattering of dust in the air caused the sky to almost sparkle. It truly was a wonderful sight. He stretched and almost lost his balance on the branch causing him to reach out and grab the next one to stop from falling out of the tree altogether.
A stomping and crackling sound had him turning his head. He could not see what was making the noise but he could make out the movement of branches and leaves. Whatever it was it was big. Carefully he made his way down the tree, dropping from branch to branch almost silently. He stopped and held his breath as a large grey shape came into view followed by several others. They were enormous. Elephants....large grey and moving quite silently for something of their size. The only sound they made was of their feeding. It was the only give away of their approach.
Silently he made his way to another tree and jumped down lightly to the ground. Standing to his full height he turned and watched the elephants as they continued to feed. One turned its enormous head in his direction and stared at him with large brown eyes. Its ears moving slowly backwards and forwards and its trunk raised and sniffed the air. Seeming to decide that he would not cause any harm it resumed its feeding. The rest of the herd had seemed oblivious to his presence.
Turning he walked away from the elephants and continued through the forest, where he was going he did not know. He just kept walking, this time he was well aware of his surroundings and where he was walking. He was following the well-worn path that had been used by many animals. He could make out the tracks of hoofed mammals as well as smaller ones, which as if on cue caused his stomach to rumble reminding him that he had not eaten properly for a while. Stopping he decided to set a snare and see what he could get.
Looking around he spied some pieces of vine and picked them up, testing out their strength he quickly made one into a loop and attached it to a broken sapling at the side of the path just in front of an obstruction. The loop was held suspended by a couple of twigs stuck into the ground. It was basic but hopefully effective. With any luck, the creature hopping over the small obstacle would not see it until it was too late. Making sure it was covered with grass and camouflaged; he gave the finished snare one last critical glance before veering off the path and moving towards the sound of a small stream in the distance.
He could see the light shimmering off the water as it flowed lazily along its path, a leaf and small branch bobbed by as they were carried by the current. He knelt at the edge of the stream and pulled a folded piece of material out of his coat. He unfolded it and dipped it into the water. It was a travel cup and served its purpose quite well.
Jerking back quickly he saw the outline of a fish on the other side just below the overhanging bank. Its silver and brown colouring making it blend in well with its environment. This cheered him up; at least if he did not catch anything with the snare he could try fishing.
He drank his water, and then got another cup of the clear liquid. It tasted sweet and pure and refreshing, he did not realise just how thirsty he was. He sat on the bank and watched the fish swim lazily by. He could have reached out a hand and plucked one out of the water, they did not know he was there. A colourful dragonfly flew by, its blue iridescent flashing in the sunlight as it landed on a piece of grass. The two colours contrasting magnificently. Another dragonfly flew by and this caused a chase to ensue. He stayed there watching the miniature dramas unfold over the water before reluctantly climbing to his feet and strolling back towards his snare.
Cautiously he approached his snare and was relieved and a little surprised that he had managed to catch anything. The creature was still twitching a little as he approached and removed it from the snare, he broke its neck and the creature lay still. He quickly wound up the vine to keep for another time in case he could not find anymore.
Walking back towards the stream he removed one of his knives and gutted and skinned the little animal, then he swung it back and forth in the stream to clean it before rewrapping it in its skin and walking further upstream to cross where some rocks were poking out of the water. He walked away from the stream going roughly in an uphill direction. He continued until the sun was high in the sky. Even though it was sunny there was a chill in the air, he had found that the temperatures in this place were quite cool and at times the weather was unpredictable. Though for now the sky remained clear and cloudless without even a hint of a breeze.
Finding a small clearing he gathered up some kindling and dry moss and managed to get a fire started, breathing on the spark he coaxed it to life before adding more kindling and eventually some bigger pieces of wood. As this was burning he put together a spit and attached this to the animal and put it over the fire or to the side so that any juices that dripped down did not put it out. He sat still watching the fire burn and occasionally turned the meat. The smoke was rising straight up into the air through the trees and dissipating as a small breeze blew it out over the forest. He hoped that no one saw the smoke or smelled it for that matter.
Once cooked he cut the meat into chunks and started to consume the whole lot. He was hungry and did not want to waste it or spend the time drying any. From what he had seen there was plenty of animals around to trap. Once finished he threw the bones into the fire and watched as the oils sputtered and spat. When everything had been burnt by the fire he kicked the fire out and started walking away towards the distant mountains. Their snow caps visible above the horizon as shining beacons in the midday sun broadcasting their strength to the world.
As the day wore on he was starting to feel lethargic and sleepy, the large meal that he had had was not helpful, he shrugged what did it matter he had nowhere to go and nowhere to be. He looked around and spied a ledge of rock that was jutting out about halfway up the rock face. Seeing some hand holds he started climbing and quickly made his way to the ledge. It was quite wide and once lying down, anyone looking up from below would not be able to see him. He lay down and was soon asleep. His sleep was soundless and uninterrupted.
It was not until the sun had started to go down that he awoke and stared up at the darkening sky. He had slept for hours he could not believe that, but he felt refreshed and ready to go. He frowned at this.... ready to go where.
Sighing he glanced at his surroundings from his lofty vantage point and instead of going back down he decided to go further up the mountain. Carefully he studied the wall of rock in front of him and then turned and squinted at the sun. It was shining directly onto the rock illuminating it quite dramatically. An easy climb, and easy for someone to see him. He shrugged and grabbed hold of a small indentation in the rock and began to climb. It was an easy climb until he neared the top where a lip of rock rose out blocking his upward ascent. Glancing at the rock he saw potential hand and foot holds, but this would mean that he was climbing away from the wall and would probably be dangling over a fatal drop.
Slowly he gripped the rocks and carefully made his way along the rock towards the curling lip. At one point he was dangling by one hand as he tried to find another finger hold. Slowly he reached over and fitted his fingers into a small indentation and pulled himself up to the next one. His legs were dangling in space and he tried not to look down. He frowned at that thought, why would dangling in space bother him, he was not worried about height, he used to run through the branches of the trees of his home. At last reaching the top of the rock he pulled himself over the lip using only his arms as there was no leverage for his feet.
He lay where he was for a moment staring up at the sky, he could see an eagle calmly circling in the cobalt sky before disappearing over the rim of the mountain. Slowly he climbed to his feet and stood admiring the vista before him. The forest stretched out for a vast distance below him and in the distance, he could just make out the plain. The sun was nearly set by now, the last rays of the day were fast disappearing and the stars were making an appearance. They were twinkling brightly.
He lay down on a flat rock and just stared at the stars, wondering if anything was up there. The moon was making an appearance, its silvery surface shining and casting the world in an eerie silver light. It was bright and mesmerising, Tarron felt as if he could just reach up and touch it, its energy dissipating into him and causing a silver light to fold around him and keep him warm and full of hope that he would not be alone for ever. He was starting to feel that way. He had lost track of how long he had been in this place. He had seen many moons and most of the time had been able to keep his spirits up. But on occasions he slipped, like now, but somehow the moon this time had helped his spirit to be lifted and once again be hopeful.
He sighed and just stared at the moon. He allowed his mind to unfocus and he went into a meditative state. He was still aware of the world around him and would know if any danger came close. At times like this he became more ultra aware. Many of his people were taught to meditate and empty the mind of negative energies so that they did not grow and poison the spirit; he used the moon to help him and closed his eyes
His breathing became slower and shallower and he felt himself relaxing. At one point he fell asleep.
He brushed his hand over his face feeling something wet on it. Sitting, he looked up at the sky and frowned at the sight of big black clouds rolling overhead, he knew at any minute that it was going to unleash its contents. Sitting out in the open was not a good idea. Getting to his feet he looked around for some shelter and spied a small cave further back in the mountain and higher up. Around it was a pile of smaller less stable rocks that would make climbing a little difficult. But with the rain now coming down harder he did not have any choice. Quickly he made his way over to the rocks and started to climb, it was quite easy to climb the now slippery rocks and get inside the small opening. He made it just in time; the rain was now coming down in lashing sheets. The wind was howling and blowing the rain sideways, he pitied anything that was caught in it. The storms could be vicious.
The temperature had plummeted and he shivered slightly as he watched the rain falling and turn to sleet. He retreated further back into the cave and peered around. The walls of the cave were quite smooth and made of a hard-brown rock, it did not go back that far, but it kept out the wind and rain that was now howling outside. Thunder could be heard overhead and the sound of lightning hitting a tree, the crackling and spitting sounded not far off. The area outside the cave lit up like a full sunny day before descending back into near darkness. The storm kept on, it was quite ferocious.
He walked around the cave, his footsteps leaving marks on the sandy floor. On one side of the cave he saw a pile of branches had been stacked up against one of the walls. Glancing around he quickly noted that they were covered with spider webs and dust. The cave had not been used for quite a while.
Quickly he gathered some of the branches and the spider webs and started to build a small fire. Once he had it going he sat against one of the walls and stared into the flames. The flames cast strange shadows that danced along the walls and ceiling of the cave. It was very mesmerising. There was little that he could do until the storm blew itself out. Until then he just had to sit and wait and listen to the raging noise that it made outside.
By the time the storm blew itself out the sun was starting to dip towards the horizon. He stood and stretched, feeling his muscles cramp, they protested from the enforced inactivity and he decided to leave the cave and see if he could find something to eat. Slowly he slid down the now slippery rocks and landed lightly at the bottom, where thankfully it was relatively dry. He stood and watched the sun disappear behind the top of the mountain; again the moon was out casting off enough light to be able to see clearly.
He started walking away from the cave and followed a path down to a plateau, where the moonlight illuminated it enough to clearly see anything that may try to sneak up on him. He saw a group of large rocks and boulders ahead of him, moving to slightly higher ground he slowly approached them with suspicion. He had a strange feeling about them, his instinct was on high alert, something was not right. He stopped and crouched down as he saw movement just to the front of a pile of large rocks....it was a human, and it very nearly had become food for a hungry lion, luckily the lion had moved away before it had made an appearance. Before he could think about it he was moving towards the stupid human.