Paradox Metaphor
Chapter 11 -- Scouting Party
by Steve Donohue

Ugrek slipped quietly out of the cave with a party of seven warriors. Since this mission was of utmost importance, he'd been assigned some of the finest scouts in the tribe. They might not be the best warriors, but they were damn good in the woods. Not elves or anything, but better than average.

They started out with a spoked pattern for the first three hundred feet. Each of them checked one section for tracks. Falgon, a big ork with only one good eye spotted the tracks. They were uphill from the tunnel in a little clearing. There was some sort of fence here too, as well as some grave markers.

"Must be humans," thought Ugrek, "no one else would be stupid enough to bury their dead and just leave them." He noticed a couple of shovels laying nearby and some signs of fresh digging, although not near the graves. He decided it was worth a look for some human treasure, and he and Gark started digging. The rest took up careful positions around the hill, alert for any signs of danger.

After about fifteen minutes, Ugrek decided it was a waste of time. "Someone else must've been here first," he growled.

"Yeah, and they stole our treasure" said Falgon. "There tracks head this way, through the woods. Looks like there were maybe fifteen of them, mostly human males with a few young by the size of the tracks"

Ugrek and the lads started to follow the tracks. They hadn't gone far when they discovered a more obvious footpath. Their quarry had gone right so they decided to do the same. They traveled up and down some steep and snowy hills until finally they made a long descent towards a lake. There was a clearing before the lake and in that clearing there were many prints of the same group. Some of the prints continued straight ahead and others headed right and skirted the lake.

Concerned about being flanked, Ugrek led his men to the right. He was pretty sure the tracks there would prove older, but he wanted to check first. He would not have been happy to return to his leaders with any of his band missing or dead.

Following the tracks along the frozen lake, they discovered another clearing as well as a small dock leading out to the lake. Dahj tested the ice and determined it wasn't safe. There were some human prints there, but they were smaller, perhaps those of a child. Heading up a slight incline, they found the remains of a cooking fire and what looked like one wall of a human building.

Gark approached the wall and checked it on both sides. "It's some sort of decoy or something," he pronounced, and eight well-trained orks faded into the woods, wary of an ambush.

After a few minutes of stealthy searching, they determined that no one was there at the moment and began to check things over more carefully. In the ground they found the marks of some large benches. The benches were found a few hundred feet away, stacked under a wooden shed. They also found some food that had been carelessly tossed away. Ugrek sniffed it and pronounced it edible. The hungry orks fell upon it and polished it off in seconds.

Dahj was the first to notice the markings on the tree. There had been a fight here. It looked like at least one of the combatants had used an ax. The battle looked to have been fairly ferocious, but it was hard to tell who had won. Ugrek was made more nervous, since only Dwarves were commonly known to use the ax, and he had no desire to fight an army of Dwarves -- crafty as the elves might be, they'd be a lot easier to beat than the stubborn, rock hard dwarves.

Careful examination of the area revealed signs of only one dwarf, and everyone breathed a little easier. They fanned out again and couldn't find any other signs of the humans. They moved back to the clearing just as dawn began to light up the sky. Not wanting to be out by daylight, but afraid to return to the cave with so little information, Ugrek decided to make camp nearby and stand watches. He didn't want the humans to come up on them unawares.

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