This month’s second update brings us back to Scars and this time, we’re returning to Allona. The bandits have a new ally in Kevac, who’s already been giving them useful information and letting them stay forewarned of the efforts to bring them in. Below is an excerpt from the chapter, showing just how the game of cat and mouse is going. For the full story, check out the link above and enjoy!
The Tellians dumped the scarecrow at Justir’s feet, a pair of arrows sticking out of its torso. It was dressed in old clothes, its arms positioned to make it look like it was holding a bow and, he realized, placed specifically so it could be seen from the road and make the viewer think it was a man laying in ambush.
They found three scarecrows, each set up in a similar manner. The adventurer pinched the bridge of his nose. “Gods below the ice.” That was a very old curse. Taking any of the Pantheon’s name in vain was frowned upon, but calling upon the heathen gods of old was even worse. Nonetheless, the situation called for it.
“They knew we were here?” Letha asked, the witch tapping her callused fingers against the shaft of her staff.
“They didn’t know,” Justir corrected as he knelt by the scarecrow. “But they suspected. Drop a tree, position some of these,” he rapped the straw figure on the head with his knuckles, “just far enough back that you can’t really see what they are, but close enough that you’ll think they’re men.” Smarter than I’d expect from run of the mill thieves. He remembered his examination of the bodies, the inexperienced violence on some and the precision inflicted upon others. Someone with a brain is leading them, or trying to. “Then you sit back and wait for a reaction.” He raised his head and scanned the treeline and the hills beyond. “They’re probably still watching us.”
Letha tightened her grip on the staff. Khy-kala might have been able to spot anyone out there. She certainly would have been able to tell the difference between a scarecrow and a human lurking in the brush, and pick up the scent of whomever had dressed the dopplegangers, but the elf wasn’t here. “How could they have known?” she asked. “It was only us, Lomot, Reyem and this squad of guard that knew the plan – and they were only told this morning.” She glanced over at the Allona peacekeepers as they fruitlessly swept the area, several others dragging the tree off the road.
“It wasn’t any of them,” Justir replied. He hadn’t risen from where he was squatting. “It was Kevac.”
The woman blinked. “He wouldn’t. You even said he didn’t know the plan.”
“If there’s any man on this Earth that can find out something he shouldn’t, it’s him,” Justir reminded her. He stood. “We fed information to the traders to draw out the bandits, but now they know we’re baiting traps for them. They’ll either duck their heads down or move on.” He massaged his forehead as if a headache was brewing. “Kevac was supposed to sniff out their men in the city. Well, he did that and decided to join up with them instead.”
Letha bit her lip. “Then what’s next?”
“We’re on a job, so we keep at it. I’ve tracked men before, and I’ll pay a visit to the pubs Kevac was visiting, see who he was talking to. He’s a slippery cunt, so he’ll have covered his tracks and told his new friends how to do the same, but he’s not infallible. He got caught before and if we move quick enough, we can do it again.”
Looking at the silent forest for several moments, Letha turned back to Justir. The Jherlander was right. Kevac was slippery. She thought she’d known him. Maybe she hadn’t. Maybe she never had. “You think we will?”
“No,” Justir admitted in frustration. Kevac had been with him almost as long as Khy-kala. The little man knew how the former paladin thought, fought and hunted. If he was going to betray them, then he’d be doing it fully aware of how to evade retribution. “No, but it’s our best chance right now. The sand in the hourglass is running low and now these scum have everything they need to stay ahead of us. But if we do catch up to him, though…” he gritted his teeth. “That lying little bastard is going to get everything that he’s owed.”
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