Published: December 15, 2015
Archer rolled out of bed, somewhat tired, but still eager to start the day. Once again, the weather was abnormally warm for this time of year, and as he popped his head out the front door to check the temperature, the air smelled of melting snow. Archer was extremely pleased by the past few days of warm weather, though he wondered how the wild animals were handling the uncharacteristic warm weather. His plans to track down Esmerelda and Moira in the morning were per usual, though he wondered how their hunting would be affected by the abundance of mud and melting snow, giving the landscape the appearance of late spring rather than halfway through December. Despite receiving a few new tokotas that probably should be taken out today, Archer wanted to bring Balan and Foxtrot out with him to go after Esmerelda and Moira for the sake of keeping familiar faces around.
Archer hummed as he tossed together a quick breakfast of eggs and leftover meat, putting the mixture into a pan that was placed over his cast iron stove to cook. While that was warming up, Archer tossed together a couple of sandwiches for himself for lunch, as well as a chunk of seal meat for Esmerelda and a set of the molasses cookies he had purchased for her in town. He was hoping to tempt the wild tokota to come back with him, and he had made great progress in gaining her trust, but he had a sinking feeling that there were other folks interested in bringing her back home with them. He brushed aside his concerns as his breakfast finished cooking, and decided to focus on what was going on now- his breakfast, and taking Foxtrot and Balan out to find Esmerelda and Moira later that morning.
After Archer finished eating, he packed away his sandwiches, the chunk of seal meat, and the molasses cookies into Foxtrot's saddle bags and slung them over his shoulder and walked out to the barn. As usual, the tokotas inside were eager to see him, barking, yipping, and howling their greetings as he walked past their stalls, giving pats and scratches to those who stuck their heads out. He stopped outside of Balan's stall, greeting his friend's sphinx with an ear rub before checking his halter to make sure it was secure, and then let him out of the stall. Balan padded out of the barn and into the front yard, no doubt looking for the familiar scents of Esmerelda and Moira. In the meantime, Archer walked over to Foxtrot's stall, and patted the large red brown tokota and scratched one of his ears, before leading him into the center of the barn where he would be able to brush out his fur and tack him up for their ride this morning. He went into the tack room and retrieved the brushes, saddle, saddle blanket, and reins before walking back out with them, brushing down Foxtrot's fur, and then tacking him up. Finally, he tossed the saddle bags over Foxtrot's back, clipped them in place, and then climbed up onto his back. Archer settled himself in the saddle before riding out of the barn and over to Balan. Surprisingly, he hadn't found any of Esmerelda's and Moira's tracks from the previous evening or this morning, which was unusual, and Archer feared that someone had taken one of the wild tokotas home with them. He sighed, determined to at least make an effort to see what had happened to them before giving up. Archer directed Foxtrot towards the marshlands and bay where he had seen Esmerelda and Moira the previous day, and with Balan following, they took off at a quick pace.
After a half hour, the sky had lightened considerably as Archer, Balan, and Foxtrot moved out of the trees into the marshlands. There were a few stray caribou browsing around in the muddy mess of the marsh grasses, but he didn't see the white and tan pelt of Esmerelda or the grey pelt of Moira. Archer decided to direct Foxtrot and Balan further towards the rocky beach, hoping that Foxtrot or Balan would be able to pick up the scent of the two wild tokotas on the rocks. Their group continued further along the beach in the direction where he had seen Esmerelda and Moira walking last, with Balan and Foxtrot padding down the beach with their noses low to the ground. Balan picked up their scents first, and his tail went up, pausing as Foxtrot caught up to him. Both tokotas paused, sniffing a patch of grass before taking off, heads low to the ground as they traveled down the bay towards the ocean. Foxtrot and Balan followed their trail up to a shallow scoop in the sandy side of the beach, and judging by the paw prints around the area, it looked like Esmerelda and Moira had spent the night there. The sandy paw prints continued up the beach, down to the water where there was a spattering of blood on the rocks. Archer summarized that the two tokotas had caught a seagull, fish, or small seal, as there didn't seem to be anything left. Balan padded up ahead, keeping to the scent trail.
Ahead, a rocky bend obscured Archer's view. Balan padded around the corner, and Foxtrot followed, and Archer was pleasantly surprised to see Esmerelda and Moira hunting a few seals that were resting on a series of rocks. As Archer watched, Esmerelda sprang at one of the seals, who let out a bark of alarm, and the seals on the rocks rolled into the water and swam away. Archer chuckled at her disgruntled expression, and the noise reached the two wild tokotas, who swung their heads around to look up at Archer, Foxtrot, and Balan. Archer whistled, and Esmerelda leaped from rock to rock, padding up to Archer, Foxtrot, and Balan, wagging her tail slightly. Moira hung back, uncertain, but ultimately followed her companion up to where Archer and his tokotas were. Esmerelda hesitated for a few moments before padding up to Archer and Foxtrot, where Archer patted her muzzle before reaching around to scratch one of her ears. She half closed her eyes, enjoying Archer's scratching, before catching the scent of the seal meat and molasses treats that Archer has brought with him. She nosed the saddle bags, whining and looking up at Archer, who reached around and pulled out the seal meat first. He offered it to Esmerelda, who took it dainty out of Archer's hand, and dipped her head, eating quickly before raising her head and nosing at his hands. Archer reached back into the saddle bags and produced the molasses cookies, which he fed to Esmerelda one by one. Balan and Moira had padded over, interested by the scent of food, but was warned off by Esmerelda's growl. Foxtrot whined, half turning his head towards where Esmerelda was eating. Once she had finished, she raised her head again, nosing at Archer's hands and saddle bags, but there was no other food short of his sandwiches. He gently pushed her head away, instead rubbing the top of her head and scratching her ears again. Realizing that she wasn't going to get any more food, Esmerelda gradually lost interest in Archer's petting, and separated herself from his hand, and padded away towards the rocks, in search of more seals with Moira trailing behind her. Archer remained on the beach with Foxtrot and Balan, watching the two wild tokotas pad away and wondered if this would be the last time he saw the two together.