“Father! Father, come over to the range with me!” Roth ran up to Zolan excitedly. “I want to show you what I can do with the bow now,” he lifted his weapon. ‘The range,’ as he called it, was merely a few hay bales supporting scarecrows out in a small field in the valley. He had set it up himself, and he’d used it for target practice often. But Zolan had a much heavier thought weighing on his mind.
“I’m sorry, Roth, I’m busy. There’s been someone or something stealing the fish that people hang up outside their homes after curing, and I’ve got to decide what to do about it. I’m going to see Jarrah and ask his advice.” This much was true, but Zolan knew that the problem was much more significant than a few stolen fish. He’d glimpsed it out in the woods near the moor, but it was skilled at keeping itself hidden. What was it… or he, doing here?
“Ew. Have fun with that. I can’t stand the smell of that man’s house.” He plugged his nose before stating “that man’s house,” forcing a smile from Zolan.
“Hopefully I’ll have it all sorted out by tomorrow, and you can show me then. Perhaps your sister would like to watch your shooting. Run along,” he told his only son.
Upon entering Jarrah’s hut, he was ushered to his usual seat across the table from his wizened advisor.
“I’ve seen worry on your face before, Zolan, but it’s been quite a while since it was as blatant as it is today. What’s the matter?” Jarrah posed.
“Jarrah, I don’t understand why, but I think we might have a bear problem on our hands.”
“A bear problem? Well, I can understand why. This valley is a great place for fishing--”
“Jarrah. A bear problem?” He read an utter lack of comprehension on the old man’s face and heaved a long yet stifled breath of the strange air. “Really Jarrah, would it be so bad to use your mystic abilities just once every week, perhaps? I don’t think it would hurt, and it would certainly help your senses to be sharp again.”
“Certainly not. It would take more than a bear problem for me to break a vow of so many years.”
“But that’s just it!” Zolan had dealt with Jarrah’s cloudy-headedness far too many times, and the severity of the issue cut his patience short. “They’re not bears, Jarrah. I wasn’t talking about bears! I was trying to maintain a certain level of discretion.” He lowered his voice. “I’ve seen something in the woods. I only caught a glimpse, but Jarrah, there’s a greywolf out there.”
“It must’ve been Dechar,” Jarrah waved his hand.
A vein began protruding from Zolan’s forehead as his face reddened in frustration. “No, Jarrah, it was not Dechar. I would have known it. This one was brown, but definitely,” he softened his voice again, “definitely one of the Dechi.”
“What would one of them be doing out here?” Jarrah asked, finally comprehending the unusual nature of the encounter.
“Exactly. More importantly, how are we going to get rid of it? We’ve been fortunate all these years in that most of the clan doesn’t know much of anything about greywolves, but if they were to see it, to hear it--”
“No, we can’t have that. How long ago did you see it?”
“A few days. I was hoping it would leave, but Dechar has mentioned a strange smell in the moors. If he sees… it’s too dangerous to let this go any further.”
“I quite agree. You must kill that wolf. But unless you’re willing to tell someone about this, you’ll be getting no help. I would aid in the hunt, of course, but--”
“No, of course. You’re far too frail.” Zolan didn’t notice a slightly resentful look on Jarrah’s face after his comment. He was too lost in contemplation. “Eoghan’s battled greywolves before, so he’s always disliked and been suspicious of the 'anomaly' of Dechar. He may be the best hunter in the clan, but I can’t risk trying to explain all this to him. And if I took anyone else to help me hunt a bear, that in itself might mount suspicions against me.”
“Then there’s nothing for it. You must go alone and end this yourself. But you already knew this, Zolan.”
He sighed. “Sometimes I just have to talk it over with you to realize that there’s nothing else for it.”
“I know,” Jarrah said. “Be careful, Zolan. You’re not the young fighter you once were.”