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Ayna frowned and sped her horse just enough to be out of earshot, this confused Tylius, he had been as nice as he could. He had at least responded to her. Did she not understand that, no matter how valuable he was, he would be put to death if the Duke had any idea what he was thinking, that he was already in considerable danger for allowing her to talk to him.
The mountains loomed considerably, there dark shadow seemed to put a deep state of despair into the heart. The party grew quiet as they entered the shadow of the mountain, it suddenly seemed much colder, the horses tried to maneuver off of the path jerking the reins, almost as if trying to steer their riders.
The guards had unsheathed their curved swords and watched the shadows as if they were an army, ready to die for their Duke.
The animals made no noise, they seemed to be watching the newcomers, waiting for the moment in which their lives would be ended. Waiting for the food that would come after the attack. The animals knew, they knew that there would be an attack, just as the knew the sun would rise, with the cold disinterest of someone living entirely on their instincts. The scorpions remained the only creatures unperturbed, their eyes searching the horizon heartlessly.
The fear in the eyes of the people in the party was evident, there was something about the cold shadow cast that seemed to shake the nerve from even the strongest willed men. All except the Duke. His eyes were as cold and emotionless as the scorpions that he held so dear.
The path ahead grew steadily steeper, leading apparently to the summit in a slow even slope that grew more severe the longer you traveled up it. The next hour passed uneventfully, there was nothing to keep the interest of even the most intense watcher. It was unnaturally quiet. Not a bird sang nor a wolf howled. This cheered Ayna a bit, she turned to a member of the Dragon Lancer’s that Tylius had brought along. He was also young and that was probably what drew her to him. “At least there’s no sign of wolves right?”
The Lancer grunted and looked away nervously, he looked like he had wanted to say something and then thought better of it. She hated when people acted this way because of her station. “What is it?” she asked somewhat demandingly.
“It’s just-My Lady” he added in quickly “It’s when I can’t see a predator that I worry.”
Jailtin looked at the wound on the back of Rem’s head. As long as they hadn’t injured his mind it seemed the wound would not be serious. Still it was unsettling that he had been unconscious for so long. After the sun had set he cover Rem up with an old skin. The man’s health did not seem to be at it’s peak.
Jailtin shook his head and turned to face the ledge. Standing her picked up his scythe. The Mourning Glory often gave him comfort. It was a strange connection he had with it. Despite the fact that it had helped him commit the terrible acts that had put him in this situation it seemed also to be the only thing that had been with him through everything. The only thing that he knew would be by his side as long as he lived.
The torches were lighting up in the village below. Night was approaching fast and what better to keep a shadow at bay than light. And lots of it. Still Jailtin felt no resentment toward them. After all he had done to them. . . .
The wolves were strangely silent that night, Jailtin sniffed the air. There was no soot so the Duke couldn’t have come close enough to spur this sudden silence. It had to be something else. He didn’t like it however.
The distant fall of footsteps made Jailtin turn quickly. It appeared that he had been wrong about the Duke. They moved quicker than he had given them credit for. Still something seemed wrong. The footsteps were inhuman, all except one set, and there was an odd silence about them. Like they were hiding and yet announcing their presence.
“You have good ears Shadow.” A feminine voice spoke to him from the small doorway he had set up to keep back rabbits and other such small creatures. It was weak enough that anything that was truly determined would make it through but that would make a certain amount of noise.
Jailtin turned and saw a woman wearing mostly black clothes. They seemed to be made of a fine material but very worn. She was not unlike himself, she had an air of solitude that was almost stifling, her fine yet worn clothes matched his almost perfectly. Then there was something odd about her. Something wild. “It’s strange I haven’t seen you around before.” Jailtin remarked. “Are you new to this desolate peak or just much better at hiding yourself from those bearing too much good will.” He gestured at Rem when he made his last statement. He really was baffled by her sudden appearance.
The girl smiled a bitter smile. Something about the question had upset her though it was beyond Jailtin what it could have been. He had never understood women.
Her silence began to wear at the thin patience that Jailtin had. He stifled his anger however and calmly asked another question. “I heard you brought others with you.” She seemed puzzled by this statement and despite what Jailtin’s years as a Reever had taught him he decided to explain. “There was more than one set of footsteps as you approached. I thought perhaps soldiers had finally come to destroy the Shadow once and for all. Instead I found you. The question I have is who else?”
“I brought only my brothers.” she responded in a knowing manner. Her dark manner didn’t seem hostile. Yet Jailtin could imagine no good reason for a stranger to come to see the Shadow except to try and make themselves a hero.
Jailtin assumed they were a family of hunters from the village, who thought their tracking skills would help them bring down the Shadow. As he thought back he was surprised by his folly at thinking it was the Duke’s men. There was too much guile in those footsteps.
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