The sun affects everything you do, if you are a smart creature in the Mwangi Expanse. Halima spent most of her living years in this region, and understood this concept very well. With the sun at its highest point in the sky, a smart creature would find what shelter it could – be that a simple canopy of leaves, an outcropping of rock, or even an underground tunnel, or a cave. The problem is that many predators are smart too, and though they will not spend the energy to hunt in the day, they know well enough to stake out such desired mid-day locations in hopes of prey coming to them. So it pays to also be wary. It was this wariness that compelled Halima to take her rest under a standalone tree, at the edge of the Screaming Jungle. Not the coolest of spots, but sized for her needs, and it gave an all-around view of her surroundings, so no prowling creature would come upon her unawares. Without company to watch your back, you took precaution over comfort every time; if you were smart, that is.
Not for the first time, did these thoughts draw Halima's attention to her pack, and the carefully wrapped bundle, therein. Her heart lay heavy in her chest, with the thought of the small creature that was that bundle. Regret and doubt gnawed at her, and the desire that lead to the decision to bring the young dinosaur with her on this exploration. Halima reached out to the bundle of cloth – her spare travel cloak – to feel the cold body of her little companion. "I am soo sorry, my little friend." She said again. "If I had left you where you were born, you might still be chasing the small, burrowing things over the ridges and through the hills. You were too young to know the danger of the world. I brought you on the chase for the snake-lady-witch, and it was too soon. I am soo sorry." That Pequeña was born in a hostile region was not lost on the Elf Ranger. The raptor would have led a dangerous life anywhere in the expanse; and even as a grown, top-level predator would likely have died from environmental conditions before old age claimed her. That was little comfort to Halima, and did nothing to lessen the pang of guilt she felt. Still, there was the matter at hand to attend to. Pragmatically, Halima knew she could not return Pequeña to the foot of the Bandu Hills, and more to the point the little raptor was beyond such concerns. Halima left the security of her travelling companions and friends days ago, but her destination was close at hand.
It was a gamble, but it appeared to have paid off. The area they had all passed through just days before was a convergence of the major features in this region. The Korir River was close at hand; the Screaming Jungle kept its western border on a narrow strip on the western side of the river; and the eastern edge of the Bandu Hills were close enough to provide an overlook to the water. If there were a more suitable location for top-level predators to claim, she would be hard pressed to find it. This morning she found a kill site. Days old and very scattered, it had been picked over by almost every creature that eats flesh in the area (which, Halima noted, was most of them!) She found what she was looking for on the bones of the kill: deep vertical gashes in parallel order. The wounds had the look of an adult raptor's bite pattern. Halima took this as a hopeful sign and returned to the area of the kill after the sun moved off its mid-day high. She began her search at the kill, moving in a corkscrew form in larger and larger sweeps. On the 5th sweep out she found her confirming clue: tracks. 2 adult raptors and 2 juveniles had moved down from the northwestern hills. Halima painted a mental picture from the offered clues, of a hunting and lesson party. The eldest raptor stayed with the juveniles, while the younger adult flushed the prey creature. The elder provided a debilitating bite, while the juveniles put on the death blows. Not a clean way for the creature to die, but important lessons for the young hunters to learn.
Deep in her thoughts about what she was about to face, Halima's mental guard did not alert her to the presence of a watcher from the wood. The sound of a branch moving against the normal flow from the wind finally did get her notice, and her reaction was one borne of surprise and memory-trained muscles. Halima dropped both the bone she had been examining, and her stance; coming around in a crouch that protected vital organs while allowing a wide response from arms and legs. With practiced ease her bow came off her torso while an arrow was pulled from her quiver, knocked, and pulled in a fluid motion. Her ears heard the disturbance, and her eyes and firing track zeroed in on the location to identify her would-be stalker.