He can't help but smirk a bit as he slips backwards into the shadows, then turning and moving quickly back towards town. There must have been a bit more willow than he thought in the paste he had given Janella to help the cut lip. It was only meant to soothe the pain as the plantain helped stop the bleeding and speed the healing. But, she'd gotten it all over her tongue and it had numbed it, making it difficult for her to speak.
It may have been for the best, she was trying to keep him form leaving, going back to the scene of the crime. She wanted him to wait for her to finish the tourney, but had finally, if not reluctantly agreed that he should go and try to pick up the scents of her attackers while there was still scent to find.
There was three of them ... and they jumped her in the alley behind the Marketplace ... in mid-stride he shifts, four paws hitting the ground as he comes into full panther form. It will be easier to track this way, harder to keep a nose to the ground when yer standing six foot tall. He easily picks her scent up as he hits the Marketplace. Even though it's faint, it's one he knows nearly as well as his own, having spent so much time, so close to it... to her.
Siera had once asked him what she smelled like to him, and was amused when he answered "salty leather." There was much more to it than that, but it was the simplest way to relate it to her. He's not sure if he could pinpoint for someone else what Janella's scent was. At times, it was almost a feeling as much as a scent... like that moment in time, just before a storm, when the air is full of the impending rain and lightening and thunder. Everything feels alive, charged, about to burst, yet there's a sense of calm at the same time.
He slows down a bit as he approaches the alleyway. It's just past dusk, there are no shoppers in the Market, just some shop keepers cleaning up, a few stragglers wandering through the street on the way to the Dragon or some other local pub. The alleyway is, thankfully, pretty absent of any sort of activity. Nonetheless, he keeps to the shadows, which is easy since her scent seems to hug the walls.
He winces to himself as he realizes it wasn't probably from any plan that this happened, it was most likely a result of the beating she took, she may have needed to hug the wall to keep from falling over. Her wounds weren't overly grave, but the hits she took to the face would have been enough to daze her, at least for a short while.
Towards the far end of the alley the scent does move to the center of the path and becomes stronger, as if she had lingered here for a few moments. He stands in the middle of where her scent is strongest, facing the direction she would have been traveling. Lowering his nose right to the ground he inhales deeply, drinking in the various scents. Three, four, turning his head about to the left, then the right, seven... eight... at least eight distinct scents that he can pick out. Probably more.
He curses himself slightly, he should have gotten more details from Janella, where did the approach her from, how did they take her down? Her face... Most of the damage was from her face ... think... OK, they would have to be in front of her to do so. Did they come from behind, get her to turn, then strike? No...just tapping her on the shoulder would have been nearly impossible without alerting her. At the least she would have had a hand on Vendetta, as she calls her dagger, before she even turned. There were three of them, he pauses to think, two could restrain her as the third strikes? They wouldn't have needed to get her to turn... There! Just behind him and to the left, that back entry of that shop, the perfect place to hide as someone passed. To the right... the wagon... the one sitting on broken wheels. That could have provided cover. If she were rushing to make it to the tourney, and distracted wondering why he hadn't met up with her as promised...
That last thought tugs at his gut. If he had been along, she wouldn't have been jumped. It was daylight, they had to make it quick, smash her down and grab it. With two of them it would have easily become a brawl that would have attracted unwanted attention from the Market shoppers. He sighed as he resigned to the fact he couldn't do anything about that now and had to concentrate on the duty at hand.
Three scents, more than likely coming in from different directions to this spot, and by all reasoning leaving together. He started with the few scents he could pick up "in front" of where she was. Then circling slightly, he found it... this one split off two different directions. It wasn't someone just walking by. A bit of moving out, back tracking, moving out again, wait... here... it came from the doorway, the one on the left, just as he had supposed. It came from there, moved up to where he believed was where Janella was attacked, then moved out again, between these two shops.
More importantly, there was a second scent in the doorway, that also moved out, stopped short of the first one, but it moved off down the alleyway. Argh. It couldn't be that easy, could it? Of course, they probably didn't both go rushing off the same direction at once, he knew from his younger days it was always best to split up when you made your get away. 'OK, let's see if we can find the third and make the dots connect,' he thinks to himself.
Concentrating on the scents to 'her' right now, three, maybe four distinct ones come right through here. Two are strong... either from being fresh, or from having lingered. They both seem to have come from along the same general path Janella had taken. Hmm... maybe one of them was following her into the trap? But which one? Wait... a few paces out, the first one is noticeably fainter than the second. That means the second was fresh, so the first one of the attackers, it had to be. Following it back to the attack point, it follow along the main alley a bit longer, also getting fainter again, then turns between two shops. Wait, number two, he went this way as well. OK, gamble time, these trails won't last much longer, he'll follow them and hope it's the right ones.
There's a few shouts as he moves from between the shops out into the main road of the Market, but he ignores them. Most have seen much worse than a large feline dashing through anyways. The trail leads him down the market place a bit, then between some shops on the opposite side of the road. They follow the small path here up to the end of the market before turning towards one of the cross roads, then turning down another back alleyway. It's easier to follow the trail here, even as it's fading, and the sun has long since set, there are fewer scents to dilute the ones he's locked to. They run along this trail for a ways, deeper into an area of town he doesn't get too much. Definitely not the high-rent side of town.
The scents lead up to the back door of a building, a tavern, or inn from the sounds, and smells of it. Cheap ales, smoke, sweat and blood all seem to be exuding from the building. This must be the door to the store room, or kitchen in the back of the inn. Then he notices it... the third scent... darting about a bit to pinpoint it, yes! It's here too. The third scent, also leading up to the back door. Shifting back to were form has he climbs the stairs, he reaches for the door and then stops.
No. He said he wouldn't do anything without Janella, so he won't. It's going to take some convincing, but they're going to have to resist just barging in here. They need to find out who these guys are, why they took the ring, and most importantly, who they took it for. He moves around to the front of the building, his black fur keeping him hidden in the shadows.
He comes to the front of the buildings, taking a look around the corner, 'Well, well, well. I think that's answered one question.', he nearly speaks aloud. The sign above the front door, the one that read "Jack Pot Inn", creaks slightly in the breeze as he turns and moves quickly back to the alley, heading back to get Janella.