The Diffident Hero - Chapter 14, pt. 5

It's been too long since I worked on this, I've been buried in other projects, including the audiobook. Had to put something together to actually post here, if only to let you all know that no, I haven't given up!

Minutes passed them by one after another, and Brandon lost count of them before he realized it had been a great many of them since the last time that Rich had found any sign. “Rich, could he have … turned?”

“Turned?” The other man’s voice was distracted, but carried a hint of temporary defeat that confirmed his suspicions. The necromancer was gone, blended into the city now, inseparable from it.

“You know, turned a corner, traveled to another part of the world?”

His brow furrowed in thought. “Possible, of course, but with a tempting and ready source of … materials, I don’t see why he’d go to the trouble. He sure didn’t make much of an effort to throw us off his trail, just came straight here.”

The Diffident Hero - Chapter 14, pt. 4

They passed the road in silence, all intently searching for any clue, Rich’s muttered directions their only indication that they were still on the right trail at all. Before long they found the buildings sitting closer together around them, and of lesser quality.

The streets were dirty, and the buildings dirtier, made of cheaper materials. Shadows lurked around many of the streets, mostly the smaller, darker ones. Most of the buildings were dark, too, but a raucous din and firelight marked several inns and taverns. Weariness urged Brandon to seek one of these out. The lurking shadows and a subtle sourness to his stomach warned him against it.

The Diffident Hero - Chapter 14, pt. 3

Rich doggedly resumed his search of the ground for tracks. “Are you going to keep at that all night?” Lena asked, a hint of impatience tinging her words.

“We need to know where he went,” Rich said, in the absent tone of preoccupation.

“We’re never going to catch him if we don’t keep moving!”

“We’ll never catch him if we rush off the wrong way, too,” he said, clearly annoyed.

Brandon broke in. “We do have to know where he’s going, but if we keep moving, you can search on the way. If you don’t see any sign, we can try one of the other paths.” He started down the branch that lead to the part of the city they’d seen the graveyard in; it seemed the most logical route. The other two followed behind him without comment. Rich moved quickly to the front so he could see any trace before the others disturbed it.

The Diffident Hero - Chapter 14, pt. 2

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“Hold up,” Rich said, a puzzled note in his voice calling Brandon and Lena up short. “Something’s wrong with this trail.”

That was nothing new to Brandon, but he inspected the area anyway. There were tracks all over the place this close to the city.

“What’s the problem?”

The other man stared at the ground with a faint frown creasing his features. “He’s hiding his trail. I can’t tell which way he’s gone anymore.”

“This is a city, it was bound to get harder with the population this place has,” Lena said.

“I expected that, yes.”

They were just inside the city proper. There was no wall to mark the boundary of “city” versus “non-city,” but the road improved from barely more than hard-packed dirt to cobblestone that looked like it actually saw some cleaning now and then. The number of buildings was fast increasing, too. They stood at a crossroads with three directions to choose from before them.

The Diffident Hero - Chapter 14, pt. 1

Sorcha moved like the wind, freed of the constraints of a more human walking speed when she left the others behind. She danced with the breeze as she went, but it was a dance with direction and deadly purpose.

For all that she could move more naturally, she still couldn’t move as fast as she’d have liked; she had to track carefully if she wanted any hope of catching signs of Myra’s passing. Those signs were few and far between, and she spent the first several hours after the separation locating the first of them. It took her so long, she’d started to fear she would find no sign at all.

Her senses were sharp though, and her intuition strong. She quickly decided Myra had not gone the same way as the Necromancer, and so she returned to the site of the ex-guide’s resurrection.

The area was as still and dead as it had been when they’d left hours before, and remained so while she searched for yet more hours to find any sign of where she’d gone. As the time passed, she had to focus her concentration against a rising tide of impatience and anxiety; Myra was as fast as she was. The longer she spent searching, the more impossibly far ahead she got.

The Diffident Hero - Chapter 13, pt. 7

“Alright, it’s settled then,” Brandon said. A sense of calm settled over him at the words. “Rich, you’ll track him and lead us to where he’s holed up and resting. What do we do with him once we have him?”

“Don’t try to kill him,” Sorcha said, which eliminated a faint anxiety he hadn’t been aware he’d felt. “It might not work. It certainly didn’t when Myra attempted it, and we don’t know what other tricks he has up his sleeve.”

“And just because he’s exhausted doesn’t mean he hasn’t set up contingency spells like that resurrection trap.”

He must have paled a bit because Sorcha smiled reassuringly. “I wouldn’t send you on this task if I didn’t think the three of you could handle it. He’s powerful and extremely dangerous, but nobody is infallible. With Rich along, you’ll be fine.”

“Then why not put Rich in charge?”

“Me? Oh no, not on your life. I make a terrible leader, believe me,” Rich protested. “I’m far too headstrong.”

Sorcha broke out in a grin. “Yes, you sure are! Maybe you’ll learn something from Brandon here while he’s learning from you.”