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Two Trails - Title

Chapter 32

In spite of their circumstances, with a price on their head, heading toward a confrontation with a murderer in the middle of a hostile tribe, and fending off attacks along the way, Storm was happier than he’d been in a long time.

The closer they got to her homeland, the more ardent Lorelei’s passion became. She smiled all the time and constantly found little ways to touch him – to caress his face or stroke his hair. When they sat before their campfire at night she plastered herself to him, leaning her head on his shoulder. She doted on him, filling his plate and cup, fetching him anything he desired. He half expected her to start picking out window curtains.

If not for the nagging feeling they were being watched, life would have been perfect.

He stared at her as she burst out of the cold water of the creek they were camped beside. The icy water came from the distant slopes of Fangmount, 15 miles to the west, one of three notable peaks in the Cliff Mountains that encircled Carrzulm. The other two were toward the western end of the mighty range. Mount Northpoint, about 100 miles northwest of the Ingoldian city of North Gate was just as impressive as the other three but by tradition wasn’t considered part of the Cliff Mountains. Instead, it was considered the northern most mountain of Ingold and was only slightly smaller than Mount Wainsford.

All along the countless creeks and rivers that flowed off the mountains were stands of trees and undergrowth that flourished from the life-giving water. Against the backdrop of the untrammeled wilderness, Lorelei’s naked beauty made him wonder if this was what Eve looked like to Adam.

He shook his head to dispel the idea. As sad as it might be, he was going to have to shatter that illusion in order to do some digging into the identity of Crowsotarri’s killer. His task wasn’t made any easier by the fact his number one suspect was a person she obviously trusted.

He sighed. There was nothing like responsibility to ruin a good morning.

As they were getting dressed, he cautiously broached the subject.

“Back on Earth, one of my best friends was a police officer.” At her blank look, he hastened to add, “A constable, an officer of the law.” He pulled on his boots. “On Earth they were professionals who had to be trained and tested.”

She was puzzled. “Okay.” Her voice was tentative.

“My friend, Sam, was a special kind of police officer called a detective. It was his job to solve unsolved crimes, to figure out who did it and catch them.”

Her expression cleared. “Like you’re trying to do with my father’s killer.”

They started rolling up their blankets, brushing dirt and grass off them as they went. “Exactly, and one time Sam told me something about solving murders. He said the people closest to the victim were usually the culprits. And he said you should always be suspicious if one of those people was the one who found the body. Always.”

She stopped. “Klah?”

He nodded warily, bracing for her reaction.

She didn’t disappoint him. “He is not the killer! How dare you say that!” She sprang to her feet in anger.

He got up with her. “Lorelei, listen –”

“NO! How dare you insult my father’s memory by accusing his closest friend!”

“Lorelei –”

She slapped him.

He went stone cold.

“Klah was my father’s best friend when they were growing up,” she raged. “You don’t have any idea how hard it was for him to admit he was wrong and come over to the Lord of Light! It cost him his position, his family, everything! He gave up everything for my father! How dare you!”

He stood there like a statue, her words barely registering.

For ten minutes he stood unmoving as she screamed herself hoarse. For ten long minutes he didn’t flinch when she slapped him yet again, and then a third time. He didn’t say a word as she called him every vile name she could think of.

Finally she ran out of breath and noticed his condition.

“Oh, don’t stand there like some self-righteous judge,” she panted, still angry. “I put up with the silent treatment from my whole tribe for years with them looking down on me! I’m not taking it from you!” She stared at him, nose-to-nose. “Do you hear me!!?”

“Sure do,” a laughing voice behind her said. “You’re right where the spy said you’d be.”

She whirled around so fast she nearly fell.

The dozen or so warriors facing them laughed at her clumsiness. “Thanks for screaming though. It made it easier for us to find you,” the leader sneered, an ugly scar on his cheek twisting his face into a permanent scowl. He nodded left and right. “Get ‘em!”

Their weapons were on the ground behind them. If they turned to get them, the charging warriors would cut them down from behind.

Storm flung out a hand and spoke a single word. A flash of lightning lit up the camp, nearly blinding them all. The thunderclap accompanying it was deafening.

He saw some of them go down while the rest stumbled backwards from shock, frantically blinking their eyes to restore their sight. He turned and dove for his weapons, rolling across the ground with the hilts of his swords in hand. As he sprang to his feet he flung his arms out to either side, hurling the sheaths away from his blades.

Lorelei scrambled for her bow. She scooped it off the ground and pivoted on one knee, loosing an arrow at the closest man. He dropped and she grabbed her sword as the warriors sensed their danger and blindly rushed at them.

Storm slid sideways away from Lorelei. There was no time for finesse. He brought both swords across his chest in a whirling slash, cutting one man almost in half, then let his momentum carry him on out of the way of their charge.

Lorelei leapt the other direction, slashing out at a warrior’s leg as she sprang to her feet. Her blade cut deep and he crashed to the ground screaming in pain.

The warriors ground to a halt. For an instant they were confused about which way to attack, but Storm and Lorelei didn’t give them a chance to decide. The initiative was with them now and they tore into their hapless enemies with wild fury. Steel rang on steel. Within moments the prairie was red with blood. The only man left was the one whose leg Lorelei had cut.

She advanced to finish but Storm held up a restraining hand. “I need to question him.”

“Like you questioned me?” she snapped.

He clenched his jaw and just shook his head. He knelt down beside the man who was watching him fearfully. “If you answer my questions we’ll let you go,” he said in what he hoped was a friendly voice.

The man shook his head. “I’m a dead man anyway.” He was clutching his leg, blood dribbling out between his fingers. “That bitch cut me to the bone.”

Storm’s sward was instantly at his throat. “She’s my wife!” The man froze. Satisfied, Storm relaxed. “I can heal you,” he offered.

The man laughed bitterly. “You got potions?”

Storm shook his head. “I don’t need them.” He touched the man’s leg briefly, just enough to stop the worst of the bleeding. The man’s brown eyes shot wide.

“What? What did you do?” He propped himself up on one elbow, staring in shock at his partly healed leg. “I’m a Ghibbore from Elder Earth,” he told him, deriving grim amusement from the man’s stunned expression at the double whammy of facing one of the legendary Ghibbore in the person of a man from Elder Earth. “Answer my questions and I’ll heal you and let you go.”

Half-believing he might actually live, the man nodded slowly.

Storm sat back on his heels. “What’s your name?”


“Scar face over there said we were right where the spy said we’d be.” He gestured at the dead leader. “What spy?” He was on familiar ground now. Interrogating an enemy soldier was old hat to him.

The pain of Torvin’s injured leg was reasserting itself. “Some priest of Tartak,” he gasped. “I never got his name. He was working with some priest of Adrammelech, if you can believe that!” He laughed harshly.

Storm and Lorelei exchanged glances, their own differences set aside for the moment.

“Yeah, Adrammelech is mad at us,” Storm acknowledged ruefully, “but what’s a priest of Tartak got to do with anything?”

Torvin shrugged, hissing at the pain in his leg. “I don’t know. He’s got some way of following you without being seen though.”

Storm could tell they’d reached the limits of Torvin’s useful information. “Alright, a deal’s a deal. Here.” He reached out and pushed full healing power on Torvin’s leg. He got up and backed away as Torvin struggled to his feet, staring at his completely healed leg.

“It’s like it never happened,” he breathed in wonder. “But how?

“I’m a Ghibbore of the Lord of Light,” Storm reminded him. “He gave me healing power.”

Torvin shook his head. “But the priests all say that’s impossible.”

“You want me to take it back?” Storm stretched out his hand toward Torvin’s leg.

Torvin shied away from him. “No! I mean . . .” He looked embarrassed. “I mean . . .”

Storm saved him the trouble of having to explain himself. “I understand.” He backed away. “You go on home now. And remember what happened here.”

Torvin nodded. He started to pick up his sword then paused, looking at Storm. He nodded permission. He carefully sheathed it and began backing away, keeping a close eye on them. When he was thirty feet away he paused. “You’re a strange one, no doubt about it.”

Storm laughed shortly. “So I’ve heard.”

Torvin nodded. “Well then, I’m off.” He paused. “Sorry about, well, all this.” He waved a hand at the bloodstained ground. He turned and disappeared into the trees and brush.

Lorelei let her hand drop against her leg. “He tried to kill us and you just healed him and let him go. Klah tried to help my father and all you want to do is accuse him of murder! What’s wrong with you?”

Storm ground his teeth. “Being suspicious of someone isn’t the same as accusing him.”

“Of course it is!” she shot back. “You wouldn’t be suspicious of him if you weren’t accusing him.”

“Don’t you want to find out who killed your father?”

She threw down her sword. “Of course, I do!”

“And didn’t he say I was the only one who could do it?”

She clenched her fists. “Oh, so now you’re perfect?”

“What?” He shook his head. “Where did that come from?” And how did this blow up so fast, he wondered? She started to answer and he held up his hands. “Wait.” She tried to talk anyway. “WAIT!” She stopped, glaring angrily at him. “We have to find out about the spy. We’re not walking or riding horses, we’re flying. How can someone be following us in the air? Seen or unseen? Are they flying too?” He didn’t like Lorelei being mad at him, but this was too important to put off.

She stared at him, her anger warring with her common sense. She swallowed hard. “So, how do we find out who it is?”

“Torvin said the guy is a priest. Use a priest to catch a priest,” he argued.

“Thief,” she corrected with faint amusement. “It’s ‘use a thief to catch a thief.’”

“Yeah, I know,” he shrugged, “but it’s the same idea. And who do we know that’s a priest?”


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