Of Mortals: Chapter Thirteen

Mishonrayel sat patiently awaiting the return of his accomplice as the twilight began to press on into the morning. The coyote figured it was better left to the quick and nimble cougar to track and catch their dinner or breakfast. Mishonrayel wasn’t quite sure what to call it at that point. It was not too dissimilar from his time, cycles ago, under the blood god’s control. Days and nights merged into one, he was lucky to eat once a day if at all, and most importantly, he was being herded towards a goal he wasn’t too keen on achieving. Despite all that was happening, the constant infringements on his self by Pai’gen, and the likelihood this would all result in his death, Mishonrayel had to at least appreciate having a partner in it all.

A lean looking shren, it’s back sporting rows of stout rocky spikes, impacted the ground just before the hollow tree Mishonrayel sat beside. The dull orange eyes fixed on him, an intense stare that would have been threatening had Mishon not known Kovarlin so well. He hadn’t the ability to look soft or even affect a proper smile despite what could be otherwise jovial tones. Still, the stern-looking cougar was friendly enough with his new associate. It was not often that Kovarlin could say he had a partner in his affairs; he was accustomed to working alone. To have to fetch prey enough for two to devour alone was not the worst part of the deal to uphold. After all, he couldn’t very well expect such a careless and clumsy brute to handle the finer points of stalking and catching any of the beasts in the north that were built for speed almost exclusively. Thinking on the hasty moving creatures of the north brought Kovarlin around to the others that were roaming the land.

They had been given a hint of what was coming and just how far ahead of their pursuers they were. Initially, the two were prone to traveling west as fast as they could manage to avoid any coming snow that was long overdue for the Winter. However, now they were to contend with the rate of ground covered by two who hunted them. The Lord of Shadows had seen them, listened from the dark as the two women discussed their plans and course, and reported their movements to his two associates. When the figure, composed of pure shadow, had flitted to life within the hollow of the tree, they nestled down by in the twilight between night and day, neither man knew what to do. This creature was different from those composed of cursed blood. Those were corporeal for the most part. What stood in the hollow was almost a ghost, a living shadow that had no flesh and blood counterpart to rely upon.

The giant stepped just beyond the tree, minding the light that was become ever more robust as the night stretched into dawn. His features were less distinct, as one would be when swathed wholly in the darkness of night, yet those great horns atop his head were apparent enough. Kovarlin knew this figure, be it their accomplice or a servant of his, was one of the westerners, a caribou if his eyes could be trusted. For his own part, Mishonrayel had sat, staring, and confused, wondering what exactly this creature was in truth. Not only was the shadow about him bizarre beyond explanation, but the coyote had never known any of those western races who sported antlers. All the time, Mishonrayel had to look over the thing was concluded in seconds as an orotund voice vibrated the space about them.

As the specter’s voice boomed, both men fell fully hushed, “You have come far, further than I believed you would carry on for. Yet, my strange friends, you seek my dominion with unexpected followers close at tail. Both Goredrinker and Spiritcatcher have pitted their might and underlings against these two and come up short. We can not allow for these two intruders to catch wind of where it is you intend to go. This plan has nearly come together perfectly, now is not the time for unnecessary complications. You will have to remove these threats from our path or hide yourselves away as they come nearer. Should these two reach me, the whole of what myself and Pai’gen have been working for will be jeopardized, and believe me when I say, the three of us will be rightly punished. There can be no failures, on either your part or my own, see to these threats and find your way here, immediately.”

Kovarlin found himself staring blankly at that space in the tree upon his return, unsure exactly what to think. Part of him expected the shadow figure to return, to step back out and give a far more foreboding warning. Yet, another part of Kovarlin was glad that whoever the person was seemingly had an aversion to light. That would be trouble, he assumed, seeing as Mishonrayel had insisted that one of their two pursuers had to be the fox that had control over light. It was an effective tool, that much was apparent, but Kovarlin was able to work around it. Mishonrayel would be useless against it, why the coyote hadn’t the slightest clue, but the explanation behind it all wasn’t what mattered most to the cougar. He need only know that the man would not be reliable in a confrontation with the pursuers and could serve better as a distraction rather than a combatant. That, of course, was if they came in contact with the two women. Kovarlin had high hopes their travels would be impossible to track, their hiding spots almost perfect, and the snow soon in coming. Traversing foreign terrain with inclement weather was not ideal, yet Kovarlin would take it over the potential battle that sat on the horizon.

As sudden as Kovarlin’s awareness had been piqued to the shadow man the night prior, he became acutely aware of another unexpected presence. Sweeping his paw into the other man’s, attempting to gently silence him, Kovarlin forced Mishonrayel to cease in readying their meal. His ears twitched, focusing all he could on the almost imperceivably quiet sounds of movement somewhere beyond the thicket they were going to bed down in. With steady, silent motions, Kovarlin moved over to the hollow of the tree and kicked the pile of dirt before it into the newly budding flames there. If even the faintest bit of smoke escaped the trees, the cougar could be confident that whoever was traveling not far from the copse would find them.

Mishon quirked an eyebrow, still deaf to whatever it was that caused his accomplice such distress. Atop of that, the coyote was nearly hungry enough to tear into the shren, raw or not. For his part, however, Mishonrayel sat patiently watching the cougar frantically move about the clearing in the woods. Kovarlin drew his ebony dagger and slashed apart the strap that held his satchel together, unconcerned about the contents that spilt from the bag. He moved among the trees with it, quietly tapping at limbs with the tip of his blade until finally finding one that made the sound he desired. In one quick motion, Kovarlin snapped the branch from its place and set the hefty, gnarled piece of tree in the dirt. Taking an assortment of fist-sized stones from the earth, Kovarlin hastily fitted them into breaks in the wood and fastened them with the piece from his satchel. It was a crude tool, only made slightly more functional as Kovarlin dug into a burrow made in one of the juniper trees. The dense, sticky resin ran out and down the branch, pouring over and under the stones. In time the limb would harden and be devastating to be struck with; however, Kovarlin wasn’t sure they would have that time. As movements became audible even to Mishonrayel’s dulled senses, the cougar passed the makeshift club over. Whatever was coming their way, Kovarlin wanted the other man to be of some use, even if it meant using an excessively primitive weapon.

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