124 - legs
wigs snapped and leaves crunched as Jarrod climbed the trail. Hardly much of a trail left, he thought. With the coming of autumn, the dying of the trees, and its increasingly infrequent use, it was hard for him to even pick out the edge of the path. Still, he had been this way enough times in his life that it scarcely mattered. He knew where he was going.
His age worried him more than the state of the trail. As a lad, this was an easy morning romp. Now, his walking stick dug in heavily with each step. Jarrod felt fatigued already, and though he knew the summit he needed to reach was not that high, he found himself constantly counting off the distance. "A bit more, a bit more," he occasionally muttered to himself, with his eyes focused on the incline ahead.
Golden sunlight poured through the canopy above him, reflecting off his pale blue eyes and even imbuing his scraggly silver hair with a tinge of yellow. The sun was nearing its spot now, he knew, and he would have to make some haste if he were to arrive at the most opportune time.
Moving quickly, though, did not come easily to Jarrod now, and his body moved in awkward jolts and stutters. His pack rattled around with him. For the most part, he had packed a light load. Some food and water, light emergency provisions. This was to be a half-day trip, but nature had a funny way of presenting the unexpected, so he never travelled wholly unprepared.
His load would not have mattered much, then, if it had not been for the box which he carried in his left hand. It was wooden, and measured about a meter long by a half-meter wide, and was about a hand's length deep. Jarrod held the box by a handle on the top and in the center, and the entire thing was draped by a blanket.
With his uneven movement, the box too swung unsteadily, awkwardly jerking around from one edge of the handle's hinge to another. The box made sounds, something inside it was moving, but not quite in rhythm with the box. "Easy, easy," he said to the box, and half to himself as well.
Another twenty minutes elapsed before he made it. Out of breath, Jarrod was just happy that he had been able to keep his footing the entire way. At the top of this hill, the forest gave way to a nice little clearing with an outcrop of white rocks that shone brightly in the morning sun.
Time was still of the essence, but Jarrod was winded. He found an appropriate spot, laid his box, walking stick, and pack down, and exhaled a great breath of relief. He sat himself down, next to the box, and began carefully pulling the light blanket off the top.
Jarrod checked. All twelve of them were all right. Some of them even cooed slightly at the sudden reveal of sunlight. Through the little mesh wires, he stared in at them, full of nervous hope. The right conditions would be everything. His pigeons were exceptionally well-trained, something he was proud of. But their destination would take them to their limits, so he hoped nature would aide them, or at the least, not impede.
The wind and sun felt about right. Only one of them would need to make it. They all carried the same message. Still, Jarrod felt nervous as he swung the gate on the top open, and pulled the first pigeon out.
He checked the bird once over, especially ensuring its message was secured nice and tight. Then, without a word or further ceremony, he released it, and into the sky it flew. He watched it for a moment, but there was more to do.