Deline hadn’t had time or the right environment to make her protective shield very big; she had spent the energy she had on making it strong instead. The line of force, a wobbling red-orange from inside, gave them just enough room to lie down, if they lay very close to each other. Standing up wouldn’t work, except in the one spot where the half-wall went all the way up to the ceiling joists; she had used the walls as two of her delimiters.
“What….” Carrone ducked as the first hail hit the outside of the half-house and bounced off of their shelter. “What?” he repeated. “What is this devil-begotten place that you call home, woman? The sky is throwing ice at us! And we – we are in-” He looked around. “It’s a magical tent, isn’t it? That’s all it is.” Continue reading
That night, they camped under the dubious shelter of a quick lean-to in the middle of a dense stand of pine trees. The weather cooperated in precipitation, if not in temperature, and Deline woke to find herself pressed against Carrone for warmth.
They were quiet as they walked, working out all of the kinks and sore spots from sleeping on the ground, and when a trader passed them, he left them well alone. Deline imagined they must look like they were in a horribly foul mood, dangerous people you didn’t want to get too close to.
The gendarme who came upon them several hours later clearly wasn’t worried about that. He glowered at them and asked them questions about a recent robbery nearby and several other issues – thankfully, none of which they’d been involved in. Continue reading
“This is why Halor hates the Empire. You know that, don’t you? It’s probably why Dekleg hates the Empire, too.” Carrone wasn’t looking at Deline. She didn’t blame him.
“Probably,” she agreed. She walked alongside him, pacing him. As long as she kept walking, he would probably keep walking too. “It’s also why the Empire has issues with Halor and Dekleg – and a few others I could name. It’s mutual.” She smirked tiredly. She’d heard those arguments more times than she cared to remember.
“You used… what’s the difference, anyway?”
“Sorcery uses spirits and, ah, spirit-like beings to get done what it must. Magery uses a combination of the natural forces of the world and scholarly understanding. Sorcery requires moving around living things – souls, spirits, sometimes creatures. Magery usually only requires natural elements – usually stones and sands, sometimes plants.” Continue reading
“Shhh,” he murmured, and sat down next to her. He moved his hands for a moment in military sign she didn’t recognize, and then, with a frustrated expression, drew in the dust on the ground.
She could read Deklegi script just fine: one man, hunter or farmer.
Not a threat – but right now they wanted nobody to know they had been there, much less to be able to give a reasonable description of their appearance. She nodded and lay flat on the ground, concentrating on being as quiet as she could be. Next to her, Carrone did the same.
In the silence, she could hear the occasional twig snap as the man below them moved along. He had the quiet step of someone used to the terrain, but she had the ears of someone who was being hunted and had been many times before. From Carrone’s expression, his ears were nearly as good.
The man was tracking something – she hadn’t left tracks, had she? It was too late to fix that, if she had. If he came up here… Continue reading
Deline woke to find herself pressed up against Carrone and his arm draped over her in turn. She moved slowly, trying not to wake him. She needed to get her thoughts together and form a plan. “Head off into nowhere” was more like a flight in terror than an actual battle plan, and it would take her longer and longer to get home.
That would, of course, probably make Carrone happy. Out here, he could still pretend everything was more or less the same – except the part where he was bound to her and they were being hunted by bounty hunters that had been his associates.
Come to think of it, that wasn’t much the same at all, was it? She glanced over at him. She knew nothing about him, except that he had tried to kill her – twice – and failed – twice and then saved her life from another bounty hunter. Continue reading
They left the wagon near the front of a farmhouse, making sure the horses were comfortable and had plenty of grass to munch on, and set off on foot, each of them carrying a bag. As soon as they reached an intersection, they turned off the wagon-road, heading towards the foothills.
Dusk came on them sooner than they’d have liked, the air turning cool as the sun ducked behind the mountains. Deline began looking for a reasonable place to stop for the night. Continue reading
“You might thank me for saving your life along with my own.”
Carrone snorted and bowed in his seat. “Thank you kindly. but what makes you so important that the Deklegion would want to risk the wrath of the bounty guild?”
She smiled enigmatically. “You’ll see eventually. The thing is… as far as they know, right now, I’m an agent of the Empire. And that much is true.” Continue reading
Carrone was unsurprisingly quiet as they left Teshone’s. Deline let it go as they strode down the avenue, but when they got to the carriage house, where the next outbound carriage would soon be heading towards the Imperial Seat, she broke the silence.
“Do you know what happens if someone bound with a Bear-stone bracelet kills the holder of the bracelet – or if the holder dies through other means?”
She noticed the way his shoulders tensed. She couldn’t bring herself to feel bad about that. Continue reading
“…a bodyguard who is happy with his work is more effective.”
Carrone snorted at that answer, but took the moment to open a door in the wall that was so effectively sandwiched between two other buildings she’d almost missed it. “I should go first, in case Teshone is in.”
“As you wish.” She gestured up the stairs. Was he leading her into a trap? She had one hand on her knife-hilt as they navigated the narrow stairs, her senses on high alert. There was nobody moving upstairs. Something like a mouse scratched in the wall to her left. To the right, the sickly smell of a hatter’s seemed to leech through the wall.
“Here.” The staircase terminated in a narrow landing with three doors; he unlocked the one to the right. Over the hatter’s, then. From there there were three more doors.
“This is beginning to look like a puzzle box,” she muttered. Continue reading