He had started by taking the main road out of the city heading south, moving along the edge of the reserve. Every walking path, horse trail or anything that resembled a road that branched off the main road was checked. A few times he had slipped in to the undergrowth to wait as various travelers wandered by, but they were few and far between this time of night.
A few times he thought he would pick up her scent, or that of her kidnappers, and that kept him pressing forward. It was still a few hours before dawn when he found what he thought was it. A fork off the road, nothing much more than a pair of ruts breaking through the brush to indicate one of the many encampments some of the wandering gypsy like folk would use. Some were more hidden than others, this one was not well hidden, but neither was it often used it seemed, and that made the fresh scents stand out all the more.
He moved along side the path, eyes and ears searching for any sign of ... anything. He was deep in to the woods, well hidden from the main road when the scent of burning wood caught his attention. He turned further off the trail, skirting about the upwind direction of where he now felt the camp would be. Slowly, but steadily he crept onward. Each placement of his foot was with the instinct of a hunter stalking his prey. It was another half hour before he was close enough to start picking up individual scents. Half-dozen or more. The remains of the previous nights dinner. Horses.
Sounds were drifting to him as well. Light snoring. Stamping of hooves. Labored breathing. S'jira!? No! He had to focus. Foot steps. At least one man was up and about. A guard, watching over things. A fair ways off yet, but he could make out the silhouettes of a group of tents in the breaks between trees. Twisting his head about, he took in as much as he could about the spot he was currently in. He reached in to the pouch at his hip and pulled out a smaller pouch, it weighed a few pounds and was full of gold coin. Tightly bound to keep the coins from making noise as he moved. Curling the pointer finger on the hand that held the coin pouch he extended a claw from the tip and pressed into the base of his thumb on the other hand. As a small trickle of blood darkened the fur he pressed the thumb against the sack. The sack was then placed into a small crevice at the base of the tree he was crouched behind. Even if he could not find this location by sight later, his own scent would easily lead him back.
Closer, even closer he dared to move. The horses were tied off to one side. And there was a wagon. Empty, off to the side of the encampment. Embers from a low fire was caushing odd shadows to be thrown about the trees. By now he could tell there was one man at the fire, and another paced about between and around the tents. His ears were turned in his direction, his eyes watched as he sliped closer to the wagon. The horses were far enough away and he was upwind that even they did not sense his approach, but he had to move faster. The morning birds were starting to stir, in less than an hour the sun would be breaking the horizon.
An idea had come to him as he moved in on the camp, one that would hopefully not be needed but may help him find this group should they move later. As he crouched there near one of the wagon wheels his hand dipped to that pouch at his hip again, drawing forth the moonstar pendant on it's light chain. The color was too bright, it was too shiny. The ground beneath his feet was bare, but dry. As his eyes continued to glide from horses towards the tents, keeping watch, his free hand skimmed the ground, gathering a bit of loose soil. Half a handful was scraped together and he lifted his hand to shove it in his mouth. Using his own saliva he worked the soil around his mouth until it was mud before spitting it back in to his hand. The pendant and chain were ground into the mud, caking them, covering them. Then, reaching between the spokes of the wagon wheel he wound the chain about the axle a few times before securing the clasp again. The pendant would hang there, undiscovered from any casual inspection he hoped. If things did not go as he hoped they would, or for some other reason this group decided to move their camp he hoped the connection Eless had to this pendant would lead him back to them again.
Slowly, silently, he slipped back deeper in to the wood, away from the chance of being spotted before sunrise. The camp was just barely out of sight, but he still knew where it was by scent and sound. He made his way around towards where the pathway leading to this clearing would be. When he found it, he kept from stepping out on to it just yet. Now he would wait for the sun, then he would return to the camp in full view, walking up the middle of the path for them all to see. He crouched there, leaning against a tree, and fought off the urge to shut his eyes. It has been more than a day since he last slept, and he was tired. But sleep could wait a bit longer. It would have to.
((this takes place about the same time as this posting
in Of Swords and Silks))