“Rai, go to Adra and tell her to pack up, we’ll move throughout the night. I want to get as far away from the Centaurs as we can. The Traveller I just killed won’t be back for some two days, while his Avatar is reformed. That doesn’t mean he can’t get word out, so the centaurs might already know about us.” I told the others, trying to gather my thoughts, to make sure we would get away as smoothly as possible. Rai heard the urgency in my voice and quickly hurried off, leaving Sigmir and me behind.
“Sigmir, I’ll destroy the bodies, can you scatter what will be left of them? Their gear, their bones and all that?” I continued. I wasn’t happy that I had to leave such a disgusting task to Sigmir but sadly, I had forgotten that I couldn’t just cover them in snow, that would stand out like a sign on the muddy ground.
“Yes, I can do that.” she agreed, as I walked over to the final centaur, the one who had lost his arm in the beginning. Sadly, I couldn’t continue my experimentation, not with the possibility that time was of the essence. A quick cut to his throat and he slumped over, quickly bleeding out and dying. I had contemplated to keep him alive, if only to find out if he was a Traveller as well but at the end of the day, even if he was, I had no way to keep things from getting troublesome, so a quick death was the best choice. Luckily, he just died, his body remaining behind for me to dispose off.
The easiest way to handle the bodies was to combine Lenore’s Death Magic with my Blood Magic, decomposing them within moments, while using my Ice Magic to freeze the liquid within the remaining sludge and scattering it. That left mostly clean bones behind, looking as if they had been there for some time, long enough for the flesh to fully decompose. It wasn’t perfect, far from it, but it was the best we had. And it only took a few minutes to fully destroy the bodies, especially the marks left behind from my experiments.
“I’ll go back to the others before I have to leave for a moment, I need to take care of things in the other world.” I told Sigmir, who was busy wrapping the bones into their clothes to toss them into the woods. She acknowledged my words, asking me to hurry.
Walking away, I was taking a moment to look at the notifications I had ignored during my work, curious what they would tell me.
|You increased your skill: Stealth [42/100]|
|You increased your skill: Blood Magic [63/100]|
|You increased your skill: Darkness Rune-Mastery [64/100]|
|You increased your skill: Enchanting [12/100]|
While the total lack of experience was a little disappointing, even if not surprising, the skill-gains were a pleasant surprise. I had expected that Blood Magic would go up and Stealth was slowly increasing whenever I was sneaking up on people and ambushing them but Enchanting had been something I had only done a few times, quite some time ago, when I had used a strange herb to embroider some equipment for Sigmir and me. Now, it seemed that using Blood Magic to enhance the body of others was also considered enchanting, making me curious what I’d be able to do with the skill in the future.
When I got to the camp the others had prepared, Adra and Rai had been busy, the camp was mostly packed up, just a few things still lying around and a small fire burning, with a pot on it.
“What’s going on? Rai said something about a strange dead centaur who had vanished and that we’d have to move quickly?” Adra asked, her voice a little annoyed, as if wondering what mess my experiments had created this time.
“One of the silly ponies was a Traveller, so instead of taking the secret of what happened over there to his grave, as I had intended, he took it back to our world, where he might be spreading it at this moment. I told you before, there are a quite a few Travellers who know about me, even if they don’t know me, right?” I explained, considering how to word it best.
“Well, some of those who know about me don’t like me for a variety of reasons, most of them silly. But silly or not, they’d love to catch me unaware, just so they can say they caught me.” I continued and I could see that Adra wasn’t happy about the prospect of undying beings hunting us.
“At the same time, there are those who do like me, who would gladly reach out in support. But I can’t know which group will get here first, and, in all honesty, I’m not too fond of those who reach out in support either. They have their own motives, which I don’t share.” I finished and Adra seemed to understand, at least she was nodding.
“I do owe you my life and, no matter what, travelling with you will never be boring.” she explained and I noticed something she might not have. Rai, standing close behind her, had his blade out, making me wonder if he had been ready to cut down his close friend, if she had talked about betraying me. Pushing the thought from my head, I told the others I’d be back in a moment and triggered the log-out, waiting the requisite time until I was safely out of Mundus.
It took me a few minutes to take care of pressing business, mostly in the bathroom but while I was gnawing on a granola-bar and drinking some water, I idly checked the forum and, unsurprisingly, there was already a thread. It only had a short video, just until the Centaur had logged out, which I had taken as him losing consciousness, with a warning that he was restrained and his Avatar would remain until the restraint was gone for the requisite time to log out. He had confirmed the log-out anyway, making it obvious that he had been fleeing in horror, something his tread confirmed, calling me all kinds of nasty names. Sadly, the thread was only minutes old so there were few responses, none interesting. But I bookmarked if for later, before hopping back into the capsule, to return to Mundus.
Even with me hurrying in the real-world, the time-difference had given the others enough time to finish packing the camp and even to distribute the food they had been preparing. It was a stew that had been, well, stewing, waiting for me to finish my work with the centaurs and now it was time for dinner. Part of me wanted to get moving but a glance at Sigmir told me that she thought I needed to eat. She was most likely right so I thanked her when she handed me a bowl of stew and happily used some bread Adra had bought the day before to eat it.
“So, what is the plan?” Adra asked, mostly repeating the question I hadn’t quite answered earlier.
“We keep moving, obviously. The road will allow us to cover a long distance and the further away we get, the smaller the chance that they hunt us down. At some point, we head into the wild, maybe take a few days to find something worth fighting, just in case they send a force after us. I don’t think so, not unless they connect us to the trouble further north, with the wolves and even if they do, who knows. They might decide that hunting us is a waste of resources that won’t give them any advantage, as long as we are far away from their area of influence.” I answered. It wasn’t really a plan, certainly not one with any complexity, relying on the simple fact that there was a lot of ground to cover.
Sure, running down the ancient road was easy enough but once we left it, at some point during this day or the next? We’d pass hundreds, maybe thousands of small footpaths and trails, all leading away from the road, some made by animals, some by a traveller needing to hide behind a bush for personal reasons, some made by people looking for something, it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that they existed and if we took one of them, it would be very difficult to see which we took, especially if we took magical and mundane steps to avoid leaving tracks.
And once we were in the wilderness, we’d have hundreds of square-kilometers to hide in, even if we were slowly getting closer to the fertile plains of Aretia, where various tribes of Beastmen, Orcs and Centaurs were vying for resources. The Altin Urda, the clan or tribe or whatever the centaurs called their organisation, wasn’t quite one of them, their range was further south-east from us, with them pushing here just recently and if they were to push west, they’d face resistance. Hopefully.
But for now, we had to run.