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Two Trails - Title

Chapter 34

Storm spun around searching for more enemies, his swords dripping blood but all of them were dead or dying. Good! He limped over to a rock and sat down to examine his leg where the archer had gotten him. The point had gone all the way through his calf. He was relieved he didn’t have to push it through himself or try to pull it back, tearing his muscles in the process.

He clutched his leg tightly. “Lorelei, get the clamp out of my right saddlebag.”

She took one look at his wound and nodded quickly. She got the clamp and knelt before him, ready to pull when he told her. Despite the low-level sniping they’d exchanged about Klah and Storm’s suspicions of him, he was still her husband and a wound like this was serious.

He reached behind his leg and took a deep breath. Not giving himself a chance to think, he grabbed the shaft and broke it in half. “Unh!” he grunted around clenched teeth. He took a couple of deep breaths then nodded at Lorelei. “Pull it out hard and fast,” he told her unnecessarily. She was a Biqah. She understood about removing arrows from flesh.

She grabbed the arrow head with the clamps. Without ceremony she yanked it out with one swift pull. A strangled gasp escaped his throat.

With the arrow gone, he forced healing power into the wound. The relief was nearly instantaneous. “Whew!” He slumped against the rock as the pain eased then disappeared entirely. His leg still trembled in reaction to the trauma though. He sat for a moment to rest.

Lorelei tossed the broken arrow aside and slumped down on the ground beside him in disgust. “That’s twice today.” She ran her eyes across the sky but, of course, saw nothing. Whoever the spy was, Pünon or someone else, he obviously hadn’t lost track of them. “We can’t keep doing this.”

He nodded absently, still feeling tingles of phantom pain in his leg. “Yeah. Sooner or later, one of them is going to get us. We can’t outrun them. We’re going to have to try something new.”

“Like what?”

It was a good question. They’d tried flying close to the ground, ducking in and out of low ravines and behind hills. The spy followed them. They’d tried soaring up to ridiculous heights where the whole Biqah seemed spread out before them. The spy followed them anyway. They’d given every town along the Cliff Road a wide berth. It hadn’t mattered. No matter what they did or how they tried to hide, the spy managed to find them and send armed men out to kill them. It was wearing them down.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, rubbing his face wearily. “I’m coming up blank.”

“You’ll think of something,” she encouraged him. “You always do.”

“Thanks, babe.” He smiled briefly. “But honestly, there aren’t many options out here.” He waved at the open prairie around them. “How do you avoid an aerial pursuit in this kind of terrain? Especially one you can’t see? They don’t cover this kind of stuff in OCS.” He paused. “Well, maybe they do now, but they didn’t when I went through it.”

“Uh, OCS?” she ventured.

“Officers Candidate School,” Storm answered absently. “Military officers go to a special school to learn how to be officers, how to command, how to delegate, how to do the million and one things an officer needs to know how to do without getting himself and his men killed.”

“Really?” She sat up. “All this time I thought you just knew this stuff, but you actually went to a school to learn it?”

Her puzzlement puzzled him. “Yeah. Why?”

“There’s nothing like that on Gaia,” she replied, “at least nothing the Biqah have ever heard of. Did the caravans have a school for officers?”

He snorted disparagingly. “You know better than that. All they do is promote the survivors.”

She nodded. “But can you imagine the difference it would make if someone really had a school like that on Gaia? These Marines you were in on Eld . . . on Earth, were they any good?”

“The best of the best,” he said proudly. “We were true professionals.”

“Can you imagine what would happen if Carrzulm had a professional army?” she quizzed him, warming to her subject.

“I’d rather not,” he answered grimly. “The only thing keeping them bottled up is Ingold and that’s because both their armies are equally bad. The terrain is Ingold’s only advantage. If it wasn’t for that . . .” He let his voice trail off but the implication was clear.

“Captain Belker’s defenses were pretty good when we fought him,” she argued. On their way to recovering Krista’s soul they’d had to battle their way past a mountaintop stronghold commanded by a former Captain in the Ingoldian Army named Belker. He’d been enslaved by Niran’s bloodstone gem and compelled to fight to the very best of his ability, which was considerable.

“He was the exception, not the rule,” Storm countered. “Most officers just throw their men at each other and hope for the best like those idiots did the day we got married.” He shook his head sadly. “I wish there had been some way we could have saved Belker though; he’d have been a good man to have around.”

She stood up. “So this OCS of yours didn’t have any training on how to avoid an aerial pursuit?”

He got up with her, stomping around to test his leg. “Sure, get under something for cover where they can’t see you.” He waved at the prairie again. “There’s not a lot of that around here.”

She drew his attention to distant mountain poking its head above the rest of the surrounding mountains about 10 leagues away. “What about there?”

‘There’ was Serpenthead Peak, Nakash, it was called in the Old Tongue. It was one of three notable mountains that stood out from the rest of the mountain chain surrounding Carrzulm. Fangmount, which they’d passed a few days ago was the first, Serpenthead was the second, and about a hundred miles further was the third, Mount Jesmun, or Jeshimon in the Old Tongue.

Jesmun was an oddly desolate wasteland. Nothing grew on the mountain, nothing at all. The villagers nearby had a local legend that during the Chaos Wars two gods died on its slopes. According to the story, their blood poisoned the soil for all time. Storm wasn’t sure if the story was true or not, but both times he’d been past it, it was as bare as a banker’s promise. There wasn’t so much as a blade of grass anywhere on the mountain.

Serpenthead was a different matter. There was a wild profusion of trees, shrubs, and undergrowth on its slopes, watered by the many streams and creeks that were fed year ‘round from the snow covered peak. There were plenty of places to hide in there.

“Sure, that’d work.” He wiped his swords off and sheathed them. “But the spy could be watching us the whole time and we’d never know it.” He stared angrily at the ground. “I’m starting to think Torvin lied to us about the spy anyway. I don’t know why Adrammelech would need help from a spy, especially from a priest of Tartak. The more I think about it, the less sense it makes.”

“Call Aram,” she suggested. “See if he’s found out anything.”

“He said he’d call us if he found anything,” Storm reminded her.

The magic mirror buzzed suddenly.

They both started at the unexpected noise. “I wonder who that is,” she smiled crookedly. “You don’t suppose . . . ?”

He shook his head. “Not a chance. That’s a little too much deus ex machina for my taste.”


“I’ll tell you later.” He dug the mirror out of his saddlebag and flipped the cover open.


The priest waved at him through the tiny mirror.

Lorelei squeezed in beside Storm. “Were your ears burning?”

“No. Should they have been?”

She grinned. “We were wondering whether or not to call you.”

He laughed. “Good timing then, huh?”

“A little too good,” Storm grumbled. He hated it when stuff like this happened. It was a reminder Someone was watching over their shoulders and he didn’t like it. “So, are you calling because you found something?”

Aram nodded decisively. “I sure did.” He held up a hand to stop their questions. “I didn’t out find anything about the spy, but the Lord of Light answered my prayer about why Adrammelech needs a spy in the first place.”

Storm tensed.

Aram saw it but ignored it and continued. “The Lord of Light has put a protection on you that prevents anyone from finding you by magic – anyone.”

Lorelei felt the tension in Storm’s body. “Even another god?”

“Even another god.” Aram’s tone left no doubt. “He didn’t tell me why Adrammelech would be using a priest of Tartak to do his dirty work, but there’s definitely no chance of anyone using magic to follow Storm. The only way to follow him is to keep an eye on him.”

Lorelei glanced sideways at Storm. “I guess Torvin was telling the truth after all.”

It was the right thing to say. Some of the tension drained out of him as it gave him an excuse to focus on something other than the gods.

“Yeah,” he muttered. “It looks like it.”

He kicked at the ground. “But if he has to follow me by eyesight, how come we haven’t seen him? It’s not like there’s anything around here he can hide behind.”

Aram snorted. “Have you ever heard of invisibility spells?”

Storm nodded. “Of course.” He’d first met Lorelei at a destroyed farmhouse on the road to Ingold. Ralt had given the two of them invisibility so they could track the bandits responsible for it to their lair. He told Aram about it. “Ralt is a wizard though. According to Torvin, this guy is a priest.”

Aram laughed this time. “We have invisibility spells too,” he informed Storm, then laughed at his shocked expression. “You’ve really been sheltered from magic before now, haven’t you?”

Storm grimaced. “Okay, okay. Kick me and let me up.”

Aram had to go anyway. They said goodbye then put the mirror away.

The sun was dipping toward the horizon and they didn’t want to pitch camp next to a bunch of dead warriors. They mounted up and launched themselves into the sky. Lorelei set to work scanning the ground for another suitable campsite, leaving Storm to ponder their situation in light of this new information.

First, he had to force himself to acknowledge that God had taken an interest in him and his life. For some reason, it was a battle he had to constantly fight and re-fight with himself. In his heart he knew he was still mad about the way Lydia, his wife on Earth, had died so slowly and painfully from cancer. Accepting that God was helping him when He wouldn’t help her was hard to swallow.

He shoved it all aside and focused on the results.

Okay, no one could track him by magic, only by sight. So that meant – what exactly?

Wait a minute!

If the spy – whether it was Pünon or someone else – had to follow him by sight, that meant they could see the spy too! Or they could if he wasn’t invisible. He couldn’t see what was invisible, but maybe his Sight could see the magic surrounding the spy to make him invisible.

He activated his Sight and scanned the horizon behind them.

He saw it after only a few moments. It was far behind them, so small it was barely visible; a smear of magic that was little more than a faint haze in the air. Yes!

He narrowed his eyes, trying to estimate the distance. If he assumed a man-sized shape, no flying steeds like their pegasi or anything, then it was about a mile or so behind them.

He turned forward again. A mile, he mused thoughtfully.

A mile wasn’t much, but if they were diving into a heavily wooded area like the slopes at Serpenthead, that would give them enough time to loose themselves in the heavy overgrowth before the spy caught up with them. Once the spy lost sight of them, the advantage automatically shifted to Storm. He’d retired from the Marines long before the Vietnam War started but island hopping through the Pacific during World War II had taught him a lot of jungle skills, and his years with the Bear Clan and after, had honed those skills to a razor’s edge. That meant the hunter was about to become the hunted.

Oh yeah, he thought to himself, that spy is gonna find out he’s following the wrong guy.

A savage grin creased his face.

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