It was late morning, we had been travelling for maybe two hours after breakfast and according to our plans, we should reach Kolyug some time in the late afternoon, unless something unexpected happened. Over the few days it had been since we fought the infernal bear, my hair had grown quite a bit, about eight centimeters. I had noticed that it was growing faster during the night, when Lenore was staying in her Hallow, but that was to be expected- After all, one part of our bond increased the amount of Astral Power I regenerated while she was there, in effect funnelling roughly half her regeneration to me, when she was at full power.
Sigmir and I were in the middle of our formation, with Ylva and Rai in the rear and, once again, Adra and Kelgorn out front, scouting ahead. Thanks to our position and the fact that Lenore was circling high above, keeping an eye on things, Sigmir and I were relaxed, mostly treating it like a hike through snowy forest, without being overly vigilant. It was enjoyable, walking hand in hand, simply being with the other. Sigmir’s presence always calmed me, she was my rock, the solid influence that I knew would keep me grounded.
Suddenly, I felt Lenore getting agitated and, when I looked up, saw her rapidly descending, coming in from the front, far faster than normal. Holding my arm out, I helped her land and absorb some of the momentum she still had, while her mind was flooding mine with images of what she had seen.
In front of us, about half a kilometer away, was a camp, not particularly large, but right in our way. The images Lenore was showing me, were showing a mixed back of trolls and orcs, all armed and armoured. Two were carrying spears, like Kelgorn, another had a bow, there was an axe and I thought one had a sword or saber, some bladed instrument, anyway. With my magic, I would have welcomed the challenge, but without it, I didn’t like the odds, not at all.
Internally, alarm bells were ringing up a storm, I had been waiting for an ambush ever since we started out and now, it seemed that the ambush was in front of us. A small group, to take our attention while other groups encircled us? That was plausible. Another possibility flashed into my mind, as I thought about it. What if the bandits out here had no long-distance communication? If Kelgorn was a plant for them, I thought I would have noticed him using some sort of magical radio. The easiest way around that would be to have him guide us into a semi-permanent encampment where we could be dealt with.
I quickly relayed what Lenore had seen to Sigmir, who looked rather grim. We had talked about such a scenario, so it wasn’t too big of a surprise to her.
“I’ll call Rai.” she said, likely using her connection with Ylva to bring him to us.
As we watied, Lenore hopped over to my shoulder and went into her Hallow, just in case she needed to give me access to her magic.
Moments later, Rai and Ylva walked up, Rai looking confused, Ylva grim.
“There’s a camp directly in front of us. I suspected that Kelgorn might work for the bandits we are hunting out here, making sure that we wouldn’t find them, unless they wanted us to find them.” I curtly explained, drawing a sharp gasp from Rai. It seemed as if he instantly understood the problem.
“I will strike at him with magic but I can’t be sure that it will kill him. It will stun him, of that I’m sure. I need you to make sure that he’s dead afterwards. He can’t see you approach or he might guess that something is up and call his allies.” I told Rai, who nodded. He looked a little conflicted but I was quite sure that he wouldn’t disappoint me.
We sped up, closing the distance between us and our scouts, until I thought that I would be able to strike at Kolyug. Nodding to Rai, I sent him on his way, watching him use his own, physical stealth-skill with the cloak of shadows I had taught him. He wasn’t quite invisible but as good as, unless one saw him vanish or he was in direct sunlight, I wouldn’t be able to see him. But his cloaking, at least what he was using right now, was unable to help him against Lenore’s sight, so I was easily able to follow his progress.
Kelgorn was up front, leading us into the trap, with Adra covering him, unaware of his duplicity. There was a cold hatred within me, the bastard was betraying us and he would pay for it. Just as Rai had almost caught up to Adra, my mind joined with Lenore, using my skill as a guiding force but her Astral Power as fuel. It felt incredibly intimate, our minds mingling but without my own power, it was the only way to use my mind magic.
The backdoor into his mind was still there and I used it to surge into his mind, delivering a punishing blow. I wasn’t quite sure how the magic worked, due to the fact that it was a combined casting but I think that we froze his mind for some time. Maybe forever. Not that it mattered, once he stumbled from the mental blow, Rai was attacking, using his momentum to drive one blade into his kidney, the other hand free only to shove a load of snow into his mouth. That way, there was no sound, just in case he tried to scream as most beings do when in sudden pain.
Sigmir and I started to run, while Adra was stunned in surprise, caught flat-footed by the sudden, vicious attack by a party-member on another party-member. Before we managed to cross the distance, Rai had stabbed Kelgorn again, this time in the heart-area and, for good measure, cut his throat, using the movements I had shown him. Despite the situation, I was proud of my disciple, he had acted exactly as ordered, not asked pointless questions in a crisis and solved the problem in a terminal fashion.
|Winter Troll died|
|You gain 7000 EXP.|
|For killing an opponent without a Traveller in your party, you gain Bonus EXP|
|You increased your skill: Mind Magic [16/60]|
Adra was just about to pierce the situation together, overcoming her surprise, when Sigmir and I reached her.
“Quiet!” I hissed, the moment I was close enough. She must have heard our approach and frowned.
“There’s an ambush, right ahead. And he,” I pointed to the cooling corpse of Kelgorn, “was leading us right towards it.” I explained, keeping my voice silent.
“Lenore, can you take flight again? We need to get away from here, without being seen.” I mentally told her and she instantly left her Hallow, feeling my agitation.
Adra frowned, apparently not sure what to say, but a moment later, she nodded.
“Where to? Lenore warned you, right?” she asked, her voice slightly shaky but composed.
I waited for a moment, while Lenore was flying higher. Once she was high enough to give her a good overview, she warned me that the camp was starting to move and that there was more movement, hidden by the bushes, roughly to our right. Gritting my teeth, I told Adra that and she quickly chanted a spell to hide our tracks before we started to move, to the left of our original route. We hadn’t even the time to search Kelgorn’s body, maybe get more hints to the bandits operation but I doubted that a competent spy would have any incriminating information on him.
We didn’t bother with stretching out the group into scout, middle-group and rearguard, we simply relied on Lenore’s airborne scouting and moved as fast as we could, away from the ambush and Kelgorn’s cooling corpse. Adra’s spell prevented easily followed footsteps, but it was no perfect solution, a competent tracker could follow the traces left behind but it might slow down pursuit. I internally cursed the fact that my magic was currently unavailable, but cursing reality wouldn’t solve our problem. Running might, so I did just that.
We headed into the direction Lenore told me, running for maybe twenty minutes, until she was sure that there was no pursuit. I told the others to slow down and asked Adra to lead us back towards Kolyug. She nodded but demanded an explanation, which I was happy to give.
“I told you that I suspected Kelgorn. What better way to prevent trouble than to have a few people in the city, sounding out those who might go after them, inserting himself into such groups and making sure that they vanished. As long as there was no record of him going with us, he could do that again and again, with no one the wiser.” I started and Rai gave off a disgusted sound.
“Just now, he was leading us right towards a group, waiting for us with weapons ready. The group Lenore saw could have killed us. We might have been able to take down a few of them, but not all. Not in my current condition.” I continued, grumbling the last bit.
That caused Adra and Rai to frown, I had not told them about my little problem and was not too hot to do so, it had just slipped out.
But it had, so I pulled back my hood, showing them my short, untidy hair.
“When we fought the stupid bear, I had an accident. You noticed that my hair is not quite normal, right? I store part of my Astral Power in it, so right now, I’m weakened.” I explained, when they were both looking confused why short hair was such a disadvantage.
They both nodded and it seemed that for now, Adra was accepting my actions. Maybe that would change once she had time to think but hopefully not.
But no matter what, we continued on our way to Kolyug.