It felt good to be on the hunt again. The goat’s remains had been easy enough to find, despite the carcass having been dragged away and shallowly buried. The local birds and scavengers had uncovered it for them and picked it nearly clean. It was after they found the goat that Franklin figured out Earl was testing him. Clearly, while the necklace and Ladin’s praises about him had earned Franklin the benefit of the doubt, Earl wasn’t planning to fully trust him until he had proved himself. He just sort of hung back, glancing at Franklin every once in a while, waiting for him to pick up the trail. It hadn’t taken long, the predator had been a large creature who wasn’t too concerned about smashing any vegetation in its way. Franklin pointed it out and Earl nodded.
“Pretty large beastie. Might even be a weir. Ya wanna pull Bart and Arny out of the mines for backup?”
Franklin gave a brief smile and then backed up a step before turning to face the foreman. He deliberately obliterated the bear print out of Earl’s line of sight with his left foot as he did so.
“Na, I can handle it even if it is a weir. Still you may want to prep your crossbow, just in case it gets the jump on us or has friends.”
Earl unslung the weapon, put his foot through the stirrup, and pulled back the string with both hands. Once it was locked in place he loaded a silver tipped bolt and then motioned for Franklin to take the lead. Franklin moved his sabre to his left hand, withdrew the short throwing spear from the sling on his back and started following the trail. Franklin loved to hunt. Falcon, hound, bow or spear it had always been one of his favourite pastimes. The thrill of the chase and the prize at the end.
Franklin moved quickly so he could stay far enough ahead to wipe out any clear paw prints in advance of Earl being able to see them. Then, after enough time had gone by that Franklin was pretty sure he had passed any bravery test that Earl was posing, he bent low over a print and called back to Earl.
“Huh, looks like it’s not a weir after all, just a black bear.”
Earl huffed up beside him in a sort of jog and looked down,
“Yer right. How’d ya know what it was?”
“I love to hunt and my Father loves displaying my hunting trophies. He’d import exotic animals and then release them for me in the bush on our landholding. I brought down a black bear that left larger tracks than this less than a year ago.”
Earl carefully replaced the silver bolt in the crossbow with a larger one with a barbed metal tip.
“Well don’t be getting cocky. This one’s on its home turf and might be mad or sick if it’s out of hibernation so early.”
Sick or not it was still just a regular creature and Franklin wasn’t too concerned. He slowed down enough that Earl could keep up, though keeping the pace uncomfortable for his companion’s shorter legs.
So far so good.