The Gauntlet Thrown Chapter Ten

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

PURSUIT

 

Toryn completed his cursing fit as he ran back to camp and threw his gear and Redwing’s together.  He bellowed orders at the other two and they were all chasing Redwing within minutes.  Toryn ignored Verana’s questions while he scanned the ground for Redwing’s trail.  It was not difficult to follow in the light of the moon through the clouds, especially on the wet ground where hoofprints showed clearly.

    Even so, they were forced to move slowly to keep the path in sight and Toryn chafed at the delay.  They rode for an hour and the rain began to pour.  Toryn nearly howled in frustration as the falling rain slowly obliterated the tracks.  Soon the trail was completely gone.

    Toryn halted and ground his teeth.  He shook the water out of his eyes.

    “Why did Brydon leave, Toryn?” Verana asked for the second time.

    “He went to find Alyn.”

    “Alone?  Why?  Did you two fight again?”  She exchanged a glance with Davin, who had thankfully asked no questions at all.

    “No!” he snapped.  “He may know where she is.”

    “How?”

    “I don’t know and I can’t explain it,” he said in frustration, wishing she would just be silent.  Before she could ask anything more, Toryn used all of his mental facilities to fling out a silent cry.

    Falaran, if you can hear my thoughts, listen now!  Where are you?

    He waited and felt... something.  It was not a thought or a feeling, merely a slight sensation and then there was a sense of presence and a definite direction.  It was Redwing calling him—in his mind?  Awe overwhelmed Toryn’s surprise.

    He turned his mount instantly and charged off.

    “Toryn!” Verana cried.

    “This way!”


    Shortly after dawn, Toryn led them at last to Redwing.  The Falaran was encamped in a small, dry, hollow and had prepared food for them.  Toryn dismounted from his horse and went to confront Redwing.  He flung the Falaran's boots at him and Redwing caught them with a sheepish grin as he wiggled his bare toes.

    “I won’t ask how you did that,” Toryn said flatly.  “Not now, anyway.  But whatever you did, it worked.  Did you find Alyn?”

    Redwing shook his head.  He looked tired, but none the worse for wear.  “No, but I have a strong sense of Darkling.  He’s less than a league away.  Alyn could be unconscious.”

    “Or somewhere else entirely.  Or dead,” Toryn offered bluntly with a trace of bitterness.

    “If either is the case, then those who took the horses will know her fate.  We’ll find her, Toryn.  Trust me.”

    Toryn nodded wearily and sighed.  He refused food and went to lie down.  He was too tired to eat and the Falaran was a wretched cook, anyway.  He had most likely prepared some horrific swamp creature as a meal, since he had bolted without supplies.

    “How did Toryn find you?” he heard Verana ask.

    “I was calling him,” Redwing replied.

    “But how?” Verana protested.  “I heard nothing.”

    “You may not have been listening the right way,” Redwing said cryptically and yawned.  Davin chuckled and Toryn cracked open an eye to look at him.  Redwing and Verana looked at the silver-haired man, but Davin ignored them as he ate.

    Verana, seeming irritated, stalked over and stretched out by Toryn.  She was asleep in moments.  Toryn envied her.  Now that he was prone, he found that sleep eluded him.

    “What now, Brydon?” Davin asked.  “Do we just stay here and rest?”

    “No.” Redwing yawned again.  “We have to go scout their camp.  They haven’t moved for an hour, but that’s not to say they won’t.”  Redwing dropped his head down on his chest.  “I plan to find out how many there are.”  His eyes closed.  “In a moment”

    Redwing’s breathing became slow and regular and Davin stood.  He kicked some dirt on the small fire and walked into the jungle.  Toryn watched Redwing sleep for a moment longer and then thankfully drifted off himself.

~~ O ~~
 
   The spotted cat moved silently through the undergrowth and fastidiously avoided pools of water and mud.  It walked, nose twitching, until it caught a scent that it recognized.  It froze, tail moving slightly in agitation.  Its sharp ears caught the sound of human voices.

    “...is she going to learn how to cook?  She’s female, isn’t she?”

    “I’m not sure, sometimes.”

    “Stuff it, Snip.”

    “Anytime, girly.  Just beckon and I’ll come running.”

    “Prepare for a long wait.”

    “Leave Sellaris alone,” a different man said. “She fights better than all of you put together.”

    “She warms your bed better than all of us together, too.”  The one called Snip guffawed.

    There were sounds indicating a brief scuffle, an exclamation of pain, and then someone else growled, “Say one more word about my sister and I’ll cut your throat out!”

    “Back off, Lavan,” the female said.  “I can take care of myself.”

     The scents had separated themselves.  There were four men and one woman at the fire.  The cat padded away and walked slowly around the encampment until it discovered two more man-scents.  Two people on the outskirts, one male and one female.

    The cat stalked closer and then took to the trees.  It was a simple matter for it to walk along a branch and gaze down at the scene below.  A dark-haired man finished tying up an unconscious woman as one of the other men came into view.

    “Still asleep, eh?  Sure she isn’t faking it?”

    “I don’t think so, Reed.  I’m getting worried.  She’s been out an awfully long time.”

    “Don’t be spineless, Garyn.  If she dies we will have that much less baggage.  And she is Akarskan, remember?”

    The brown-haired one sighed.  “I remember.”

    The callous one had black hair and icy blue eyes.  The cat lay down silently on the branch and its violet-grey eyes watched the men.  It considered jumping down on one of them for sport but decided against it.

    The people all clustered around the fire and roasted some kind of meat.  Content that there were only six of them and the unconscious girl, the spotted cat melted back into the jungle and disappeared.


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CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

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