It mingled with the dirt and the hair and the rough prints left in the crunchy dry snow, and Tawyn crouched over them, bits of leftover slush clinging stubbornly to her fingers as she ran them softly over the ridges made by this… creature.
For that’s what it was, something in the canine family probably, judging by the prints and the smell and the texture of the fur.
The night elf closed her eyes and breathed in the scent one more time before flicking her fingers behind her; one sharp motion that simultaneously shook some of the snow off and also beckoned a brilliantly hued magenta raptor to pad silently up behind her, his glittering eyes scanning the area and his breath coming in puffs in the crisp northern air. Tawyn never lifted her gaze from the tracks and finally she arose and slowly walked along them, followed closely by her raptor, Wash.
A faint rustle of leaves. She paused; the quarry was near. The blood pooled a bit at the base of a nearby bush, and a smell was on the wind– it was still alive. Tawyn bristled and instinctively reached for her rifle, and was comforted by its familiar touch, as behind her Wash stared unblinkingly at the bush, awaiting one command…
…that came in the form of his master loosening ever so slightly and breathing “easy,” the word itself a mere whisper, but enough for the raptor to relax his stance– just a touch– and return to his previous behavior of scanning the surroundings. The thing in the bush was no longer a threat.
Tawyn crouched down next to the bush; The Thing was cornered now and began making nervous growling and spitting noises– it was still willing to put up a fight, wounded as it was. The hunter peered in and saw a wolf of some sort staring back at her: bruised, beaten, bleeding. Its eyes flashing with anger and pain. Tawyn stared back, and the staring contest went on for quite some time before the wolf buckled, shutting its eyes and letting out a quiet whine of anguish. This was followed by a low and near imperceptible rumble. The wolf’s stomach was growling.
With movements that were slow and precise, as not to startle the creature in the bush, Tawyn pulled her backpack from off her shoulders, reached inside, and pulled out a piece of dried venison. She pushed it under the bush, a few feet from the wolf’s nose, and set it there. The wolf recoiled at first in fear, snarling, but Tawyn pulled her hand back quickly and simply waited.
For several long minutes, the wolf feigned disinterest in the meat and didn’t move. His eyes gave himself away, however, and then his nose, and finally he inched forward and chomped the meat down eagerly before returning to his original position. Tawyn pushed another strip of meat into the same place. The wolf only waited about half as long before eating, now, and the hunter noticed that his tail made a few weak thumps against the snowy earth– this was interesting in and of itself, as normal wolves did not wag their tails past their youth. A hybrid animal, perhaps? Or a young wolf? It was hard to say; the creature was slightly smaller than the average wolf but this could have spoken for either theory. Regardless, it was heartening to see the animal improving, if only a little.
One more strip of meat. This time, though, Tawyn held it out with her fingers, not letting go of it.
The wolf didn’t move, but he eyed the meat and Tawyn could tell from his eyes that he was considering it. The elf remained perfectly still, arm outstretched. Finally the wolf tenderly plucked the meat from her hand with his teeth and pulled back again to eat it.
Tawyn smiled thinly. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless, and a step in the right direction.
She next reached into her pack in pursuit of frostweave, and hissed a sharp Darnassian curse under her breath upon finding out she didn’t have any. She would have to go into town…
…she glanced back under the bush at the wolf. He was looking at her with a somewhat expectant expression now.
“I’ll be back,” said Tawyn softly. She stood up and motioned something to Wash, and he picked up on her cue and remained standing guard as she disappeared into the wood.
“Whadaya need today, Tawyn?” the pixielike gnome winked. “Here, sit down, let’s chat.” She seated herself by the fireplace and gestured for the night elf to follow.
“Frostweave,” Tawyn replied tersely, and if it was almost anyone else she would have refused to sit, but Trixy had rather grown on her so she pulled up a chair and sat down.
“Frostweave, hmmmm,” replied the gnome as she rummaged through a large sack. “I don’t know, I mean, I’ve got threads, dyes, and ooooh what’s this?” she pulled out some sort of shiny contraption.
“Trixy, I don’t mean to rush you, but we’ve… ah… I’ve got a bit of an emergency situation. D’ya know anyone who would have any, if you don’t?”
The gnome’s eyes glittered as she inspected the shiny thing, but she set it aside and stuck her tongue out in concentration and plunged her arm back into the bag and finally pulled out… some frostweave. “There ya go!”
Tawyn snatched it from her, ripped it in two, and began to nimbly shape the them into bandages. The gnome watched intently. After a minute or two she asked gingerly, “What are they for?”
Before Tawyn could reply, she heard a familiar noise from outside, mingled with the calls of the soldiers of the 7th Legion. She leapt to her feet, dashed to the door of the inn, and pushed it open– to see the wolf limping painfully but determinedly into town, followed by an exasperated Wash who looked like he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to handle this. Some of the soldiers nearby were gaping and pointing their guns at the spectacle, although most of them looked like they weren’t about to waste any bullets on this, what with a greater threat outside the walls of Wintergarde. Besides which, Wash was a familiar sight to most of them by now.
Tawyn stood in the doorway, wondering at the unusualness of it all. Again, she was struck by that brief zap in her mind that there was something distinctly un-wolflike about the creature’s behavior…
The wolf buckled and Tawyn was out in a flash; bandaging his wounds with the Frostweave bandages she had just crafted and quickly mixing up some sort of salve with the myriad flasks and herbs she carried around in her pack and massaging the creature’s legs with it. The wolf stood steadfastly through it all, although it was clear that he was still in pain.
Tawyn heard someone approach from behind them– Zybarus, the stable master. “Zybarus thinks he likes you,” he said in his curious manner of speech, a slightly squeaky voice that for whatever odd reason spoke in nothing but the third person.
Tawyn shrugged and continued working. “People do strange things when they’re in pain. Animals do too.” Of course, she wasn’t telling the whole story. She didn’t tell the part about how she thought there was something unusual about this wolf. How he seemed to be acting like this wasn’t the first time he had extended trust to a person. She didn’t talk about his uncharacteristic tail wag.
No, she didn’t talk about how there was something unusual about this creature that she was determined to pin down. And perhaps it would explain the cause of his injuries as well– Tawyn leaned back and looked at him. A young and strikingly handsome creature possibly just hours before, he was now a wretched sight of blood and scabs and missing patches of fur. It would heal up eventually, but there would be scars, and he would never quite look the same. But his eyes were bright and Tawyn found that she thought the creature was, in his own broken way, still strikingly handsome.
“Your pet now?” Zybarus asked.
“No,” said Tawyn bluntly. Zybarus and Tawyn had a sort of odd love-hate relationship, one that the latter tended to form with others of similarly strong personalities, and this is what caused the stable master to grin and goad her on with “Ohh? But you’ve got a name picked out, dontcha? Zybarus thinks you do!”
Tawyn shot him a brief glower and then busied herself with adjusting the wolf’s new bandages. Finally, she muttered one word under her breath: “Perezvon.”