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The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we headed out again, into the drab, grey town, covered by a dreary grey sky. Again, I was wondering how anyone could stay in this grey hell - even after just two days, I was starting to feel depressed. At the gate, I experienced a bit of a surprise when Kelgorn, the hunter who had taken quite a bit of time to explain the terrain around Kolyug to Adra, was already waiting. He greeted Adra in a happy and friendly manner and I learned that he had offered to join us as native guide and Adra had accepted. Apparently, Adra had even asked me, but I had been too lost in thought - or rather, conversation with Lenore - to notice and she had taken a half-conscious grunt as assent.

I made a mental note to keep an eye on Kelgorn; we were on a bandit subjugation-quest after all, and slipping a spy into adventurer-teams as they left town would be a good way to make sure that nobody got the drop on you. But I didn’t know whether he was a spy and even if I knew, in Mundus the old adage, better the devil you know, held true, so I kept quiet.

 

After stepping outside, I noticed that a strange feeling of oppression faded away, I hadn’t even noticed it before but at some point, the walls and buildings of Kolyug had started to take a true psychological toll on me, dampening my mood and spirit. But now that I was outside again, seeing the endless, snowy forests in the distance, I felt myself able to breathe freely, without artificial boundaries imposed upon me by outside forces.

Seeing that Adra had taken over the guidance of the group, together with Kelgorn, I kept back with Sigmir, playing rearguard. Moving back into her shadow, I informed her of my suspicions regarding Kelgorn, asking her to be vigilant without giving anything away. She was clearly not happy but agreed that until we knew if he was a spy, we couldn’t take any truly offensive action.

 

Our way led us around the city, towards the frozen river, which allowed us an easy passing to its other side, the region where the various hunting quests led us. As we walked onto the ice, I stretched my senses downward, noticing that while the ice was thick, there was flowing water below. It was quite brave of those without the abilities to gauge the thickness of the ice below them - and thus their safety - to walk onto it. But to me, it was even better than any road; it gave me an endless amount of material to work my powers on, and even another measure to attack enemies by breaking the ice below them. If only there were any enemies on the ice, it would be glorious.

Maybe we could find the equivalent to a Hunn-army, using a frozen river as a an invasion route, allowing me to destroy them with ease. But it was just a flight of fancy, about which Lenore had a good chuckle, an army would undoubtedly have some way to avoid such a fate. Even if it would have made for an awesome video, I had, at some point, read about an old soviet propaganda-piece with a great cavalry battle on a frozen lake as their finale with the opposing forces breaking through the ice and drowning in the icy depths.

 

I was almost sad when nothing had tried to attack us as we left the ice on the other side, but I was certain that I would get the chance to commit some murderous magical mayhem soon enough. The shore we were climbing up was snow-covered, like everything else, but below it, I could feel gravel and rocks, making me wonder how the area would look without the white blanket that had covered the world ever since I got here.

 

Following Kelgorn and Adra, we walked into the woods, Ylva coming out to look for senses and prey. Both of them had their weapons out, Kelgorn a spear and Adra her bow. In addition and with a little prodding, Lenore left her Hallow as well, with me concealing her from Kelgorn, just in case he was keeping track of us. Her job was to scout from the air and keep an eye out for the ambush I was expecting. Not that I expected it this early, I doubted that the bandits had their camp anywhere in a one-days walk from the city, if it was me, I would want to be at least four days march away from the city, with scouts between it and my camp. Or I’d eschew the idea of a fixed camp and move from place to place, raiding and plundering as I went. Either would work quite well, if I ever wanted to go that route.

 

And it was not only bandits that kept away from the city; for the first hour or so, we didn’t spot anything bigger than a hare that Ylva ran down out of boredom, making it into a two-bite snack for her. I would have to remember to feed her a fresh kill, if we ever needed to intimidate someone, the sight of a huge wolf, blood and saliva dripping from her smiling maw made one hell of an image if you didn’t know her. Even if you did know her, it looked like she wanted to be called Grandmother and asked why she had so big eyes.

Later in the day, we found a few game-trails, but nothing that hinted at the game we were interested in, so we continued our way, until one deer-like animal was unlucky enough to run into us. The fight, if one wanted to call it that, was over before it had really begun, Adra made an arrow with her innate magic and shot it before I was able to consider whether I wanted to use instant magic. For once, I didn’t use Blood Magic to drain the carcass, not wanting to give away even more of my capabilities than I already had when I had told my story. In the story, I had never quite explained that I was able to use Blood Magic, nevermind my capabilities with it. If my hunch was right and Kelgorn was a spy, I wanted to have more than one ace up my sleeve.

 

At camp, I, once again, took care of cooking the food, using the fresh meat and some of the supplies we had bought in Kolyug before we decided on night watches. There was no way I would trust Kelgorn with one, but I was hesitant to come straight out and say so, so he was assigned the first watch and I took the second, knowing that I would have less sleep by staying up but unless I made a habit of that, I wouldn’t run into trouble. After dinner, I made an excuse and collected Lenore who was slightly annoyed about the futility of scouting the whole day and agreeing with me that it was a good idea.

 

When it way my turn to stand watch, Kelgorn gently shook me awake, at least I pretended to wake up and it was time to take another precaution. After he laid down across the fire, Lenore and I watched the woods for about an hour, before we started my plan. Gently and softly, I stretched my magic senses out, using mind magic, to start probing Kelgorn and looking for a back door into his head. He was asleep and Lenore and I were very cautious to let him sleep, trying to make like a leaf on the breeze, gently floating into his dreaming mind. It was not something we had done before but I doubted that even if he was awake he would fully understand what was happening.

It took almost the entire time we had at watch but the soft and flowing approach, instead of the brute force approach we normally used allowed us to find a path into the inner domain of his mind, not that either of us was able to get more than the vaguest understanding of what and where we were. What we were seeing was not the normal interplay between body, mind and (the for me invisible) soul, but we were in the area that I perceived as mind, colours streaming and flowing around us, reminding me of what I thought an LSD-trip would look like.

But it didn’t matter, unless the theory I had posed and Lenore agreed with was wrong, we would be able to leave a trail out to follow the next time, allowing us to instantly bypass his mental defenses and strike with impunity. It was almost funny: what I was doing with Mind Magic was so much like hacking in movies that I wondered if there was a correlation, that one of the devs had watched too many hacker movies and went wild.

 

When we woke Adra for her watch, I noticed that Mind Magic had risen, making me smile happily. The night had been more successful that I had anticipated.

 

Skill increased
You increased your skill: Mind Magic [15/60]

 

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Tsaimath

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