The clearing in which the Oak tree stood was tiny. In fact the only reason Sarah would consider it a clearing was because there was grass poking up here and there when the rest of the woods was covered in brambles. There were three places where the bear cub had obviously either entered or exited the clearing. Two over lapped and Sarah could easily tell from the broken braches and the wolf prints that was the way the cub had left and then returned.
Just to be sure the third path was correct Sarah climbed the oak one last time. She lay on a branch just as she and Adam had done the day before to watch the cub. The third path was exactly right. Satisfied she jumped down. Moving to Adam to view the Splinter she groaned. The path would be leading away from base on the day they were supposed to go parallel to it.
“We have to be back at Base camp by the end of day five, right?” Sarah asked as Adam put the Splinter away. He nodded. “So we can only follow the trail until we have to turn back to make that?”
“Yes,” Adam sighed. “While it would be nice to be able to follow it until the end we must return to report it to Sergeant Deer, who will then decide whether or not we will pursue it further.”
Sarah nodded and began to follow trail of knocked over saplings, broken brush, bear tracks and, strangely enough, large wolf prints. Given that they had not gone directly straight from the base camp the first two days Sarah gave herself three-quarters of the day to follow the trail. Continually double checking they were on the trail of the bear cub and not the large wolf, Sarah lead them onward.
“These are wolf prints right?” Sarah asked as she examined the ground for the tenth time, the two trails having crossed yet again.
“Lake Wolf,” Adam nodded as he kneeled beside her. “We must be nearing where the hunting lake is.” He paused for a moment and peered through the trees. “Or was, I suppose, since the dam broke.”
“Oh,” Sarah peered through the trees as well. The wind shifted and she nearly choked on the scent it wafted to them. Adam too was caught by surprise. “I think we should follow that smell.”
He nodded and Sarah took bearing from the Splinter. Not that she needed to for the wind did not change again. The closer they got the worse the smell was. The sun was high over head when they stumbled into the clearing.
One moment they had been carefully moving through brambles and brush and the next they were in an open space; an open space that was clearly man made. Trees had been chopped to the stump. Brush had been cleared to the ground. Flat spaces, where the forest floor had been bared to the dirt marked off what could only have been tents.
“This wasn’t a Scout camp was it?” Sarah asked.
“Nor a camp of Vervellian Nobles,” Adam replied as they began to examine the area.
The stench of death was very prevalent. Dead mutilated squirrels lay here and there. There was something vaguely familiar about the set up to Sarah. She walked between the tent marks trying to figure it out.
“Here’s the lake line,” Adam remarked.
Sarah glanced his way. Sure enough the land sloped slightly down until it hit brown muck; muck that was probably causing half the smell. Stopping in front the largest patch of dead ground she turned to face away from it. Three tent spots, a right turn and three more tent spots and she found herself in front of a large fire pit. A spit was still set up over it, the bones of the last occupant picked clean.
The mutilated squirrels, the stench of death, the layout, and especially the walk from the main tent to the cook tent all told her one thing.
“Adam!” Sarah called, trying to calm her nerves.