The moon was particularly big tonight.

The hills reflected the light of the starry sky, casting long, solid shadows and turning the mid-autumn grass into a thin, milky blue sheet, glistening and perfect. With one exception, however; the tracks in the still-soft earth leading upwards into the rocky pass ahead. Kneeling down, the grey equine creature inspected the odd-shaped, treaded track and then turned to the congregation of steel-armored horse-warriors.

"These tracks are fresh," he concluded, his breath misting on the cold air. "Ten, maybe twenty minutes old."

"It's an ambush," one of the soldiers grumbled.

"Oh, I'm counting on it," his superior replied, stepping to the front of the group to stand beside him. "Three weeks of nonstop tracking would give plenty of time to prepare. It won't matter; we're close now."

The pass loomed overhead, spires of slick black rock stretching into the speckled skies. Somewhere up there…

"He… is close."

The company knew the drill. Split up into two squads of five; one team goes through the pass as bait, to draw his eye. The second scatters and takes to the air, giving coverage from the sky and making certain that the slightest movement in the harsh shadows of the jagged boulders did not go unnoticed. A few would stay behind in order to keep him from sneaking past them out the way they came in. All was eerily quiet in the pass, however, no movement, no sounds. Quiet as the grave.

The tracks led the team straight through the pass, almost right through to the other side, until a sharp bend in the tracks turned upwards into the rocky outcroppings. From there, they led to bare stone and stopped. After a quick meet up with the rest of the company, it was decided that they would go up together, staying in a tight-knit formation and keeping their eyes open for any sign of him. Muddy footprints and a discarded apple core by a protruding rock made a trail to follow, and follow they did, up to a cave that had been sealed with a sizeable boulder.

Examining the boulder, the unit's commander trotted up and took a moment to size up the entrance. "Hey, Stormhammer?" he called back to the unicorn behind him.

Stormhammer made his way through the group and stood at attention. He was huge, even for a horse, and a heavy riding cloak had been draped over his massive shoulders.

"Perhaps you could move this obstacle?" the commander asked him.

Stormhammer nodded. "Stand back."

The unit did as the unicorn asked, getting into position at either side of the makeshift door. Stormhammer concentrated, funneling his mental ability into an orb of destructive force, and then lobbed it at the boulder, which exploded with an ear-shattering crack. Through the dust cloud the force breached, but found that there was little to fan out into.

The small den had been crudely furnished, in the loosest form of the word. At the corner of the 'room' was a large pile of loose straw with a heavy linen sheet covering it to serve as a bed. A grouping of large stones had been stacked together to form a bench and table, upon which were a few loose nails, scraps of wood and metal, gnawed bones from the creature's last meal, a mallet, and an oil lamp, which had been knocked off the table and lay smashed on the ground. Wood planks, a wagon wheel, a barrel, and a plumed Equestrian Guard helmet were placed against the wall nearby. A piece of cork-board and an empty quiver had been tacked to the walls with what looked like railroad spikes; scorch marks and flecks of burnt parchment indicated that the cork-board and whatever was posted on it had been burned away. Most intriguingly, a part of the floor had been boarded up, and one of the boards had been torn up, leaving a hole from which a dim light emanated.

"Search the area," the commander ordered. "If there's anything of use, I want it found and brought to me. Start with that hole in the floor. And… keep your eyes open, all of you."

The team split up, most of them moving outside to look for any sign of the creature. Meanwhile, a few stayed behind to search the premises. Very little was found; there was a dagger fashioned from a spear-tip hidden in the straw of the bed, and a book about Equestrian history had been stuffed under the blanket. He'd cleaned up well, it seemed. Finally, their attention was turned to the light from the pit below. Cautiously, the group gathered around the floorboards and, in one quick motion, ripped them up. Beneath them was another barrel, this time connected by some kind of wire to the melted candle that was giving off light.

The commander realized what the powder-keg was too late; the dying candle's flame suddenly lit the fuse, which quickly traced its way to the barrel.

"OUT!" was all he could manage before the group scattered. The group just barely got out of the den's opening when the trap exploded with a thunderous boom and the rumble of collapsing rock on the hastily-built shelter. A cascade of dust blasted out of the rubble as it crumbled, flowing down into the valley. Amidst the coughing and sputtering and calls from those nearby for a headcount, the commander shakily got back up to his hooves.

"Stupid," he growled. "I should've known."

Slowly, the hunting-party regrouped and spread out, but found no other evidence. The moon had begun to slip down to the horizon, which meant they'd have to set up camp soon. Frustrated, the soldiers began to pitch tents; they'd return empty-hoofed once again.

And from afar, in the trees of the edge of the forest surrounding the pass, their quarry watched as his shelter was destroyed properly.

Then he tightened the sheath on the sword he had recovered from that place, turned on his boot-heel, and strode off quietly into the darkness.