Jana stuck her finger into the fresh dung. Definitely fresh by the smell and texture, so she knew it was near. Obviously a large animal without saying and definitely not the bear the villagers said had carried off the young child judging by the taste.
She spit the residue out of her mouth as she looked around and saw nothing but trees. She was truly worried for the first time in her life. Worried because she didn't know what it was she was tracking. She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck start to rise as the wind suddenly stopped and a silence pervaded the woods. A twig snapped directly behind her and she quickly pulled out her duel daggers, rolled to the left and came up crouched on her knees poised to strike. Nothing.
"Dam it, get a hold of yourself girl. No sense acting like a virgin on your wedding night when your field has already been plowed." Jana had always liked that saying even before her "field" was ever plowed and she still found it as amusing today after many plowings and a few harvestings. But it did it's trick and helped relax her. She considered going back to the village for help but she had her repudiation at stake. These were her woods and she would be dammed if some mutated bear would send her a running.
Standing, she brushed off her tunic and replaced her daggers. With a new confidence, she followed the trail further west into the wooded wilderness. Almost instantly she heard a child's cry coming from the northwest. "The Druid ruins, I should have known!" Like a cat after a mouse, Jana took off in that direction. The ruins were close, only about a mile ahead and she quickly covered the distance and slowed as she neared the clearing.
She was nearly invisible as she crawled the last few yards to the clearing. Her brown and green tunic blended almost perfectly into her surroundings and she knew that she was the only being within a hundred leagues that may have been able to detect her. And those people were the dam wood elves that had trained her then turned her out.
"Wood Elves, bah." She spat. "I hates em."
As she peered through the bushes, she saw fresh blood splatters all over the ground but no body. No way to tell if this was from the child she sought or even a human from here. She considered her options as she quietly kneeled behind the bush. She smelled trap. Every sense in her body told her it was a trap and she hadn't lived her forty two springs and bedded her equal number of men by ignoring her intuition.
"The hell with this," Jana whispered to herself. "No bounty is worth this." And she turned on her knees to retreat to wince she came.
As she turned, she heard a twig crack just to her left and in the corner of her eye, she saw a giant hairy arm flash down and swipe at her. Much to late she tried to roll out of the way from the the claws she briefly saw, then felt, rake across her face. As pain erupted in her face, Jana realized her days of plowing fields were now surly over.