Doran too had been worried about the footprints they were leaving in the snow and how easy it would be to follow them. As Yana suggested that they backtrack and separate for a brief period, he nodded – it seemed like an acceptable idea to him - and remarked, “If they are only using their eyes, that might confuse them sufficiently and increase our chances.”
He left the rest of his thoughts unspoken. She likely knew as well as he did that there might be worse things than a group of men and women with functioning eyes behind them, mages, creatures with supernatural senses, Immortals even if they were unlucky.
He did the same thing that she did. He carefully placed his right foot in the last print that he had made and then his left foot in the one that came before that. It was a comparatively slow process, but if only a few of those that might be following them moved in the wrong direction because of it, it would be worth it. He still didn’t know what was the matter with the light they had seen in the distance, but he had the feeling that it was the thing they would have to watch out for the most, that it was much more dangerous than whatever people were trying to hunt him down for what he had dared to do.
After a while he jumped to the side. Acrobatics, he realized as he landed a few feet away from where he had previously been, were not exactly his forte. He was a scholar and a swordsman, and he tried to defeat his opponents with strength as well as intellect and not by jumping around in front of them like some sort of fool. As he followed the rest of her plan, it occurred to him that separating, albeit briefly, would work in her favour in more than one way.
If those that were following them found him while they were still apart, Yana might be able to claim that she didn’t have anything to do with him, that she was just another wannabe hero trying to fight those that she thought were the evil ones, just another fool blinded by Xiur’s power. It was quite clever, he had to admit that much. He was just about to rejoin her as they had discussed when he felt it. Somebody was coming, racing towards him with sheer impossible speed. No, not somebody – something, a beast that was unlike anything that he had ever encountered in the four centuries that he had walked the world of Idalos.
He spun around and prepared himself for the upcoming fight for he knew that he would not be able to run this time. But even as he tensed, and his heart began to beat faster and faster, even as he prepared himself for what might very well be his final moments, the magnificent creature fell, bound by ties made of shadow. It gave him a much needed chance to catch his breath.
He looked at the fallen Brux and took a moment to admire its strength and beauty that would likely have left him speechless had this been any other trial before he turned to face the one that had bound it. He realized that she might very well have saved his life as well as Yana’s, but that didn’t necessarily mean that she was an ally. There were probably more than two sides in that battle.
“I suspected as much”,
he replied as Gremielle called the magnificent creature an avenging beast of Xiur. Unlike the chosen of Audrae the Mortalborn did not sneer, he did not taunt, and he did not growl. He simply stood completely straight, with the sword in his hands so that he could strike at a moment’s notice should the Brux manage to free herself or Gremielle decide that she’d rather see the man who had attacked Xiur dead.
He knew that Syroa and Audrae had been allies at one point, but he was unfortunately unaware as to what kind of relationship they had now. Immortals, he had found, were just as bad as mortals and sometimes even worse. They could change allegiances within the blink of an eye.
“It is my sword that I wounded the Lord of Hope with”,
he spoke calmly, as if he were not disappointed at all that Xiur was still breathing, and met her gaze. Even a wounded Immortal would serve his purpose. “You call it failure, but how many people managed to hurt an Immortal and lived to tell the tale? Xiur is weakened, and it is likely that he would have died if it had taken his allies only a little longer to reach him. Can you say with absolute certainty that you would have been able to do the same?”
She was angry, he observed, she had a tendency to use swearwords – perhaps it was an attempt to appear stronger and more dangerous - and was driven by her emotions. That kind of behaviour was somewhat foreign to the son of Ziell. She seemed to be rather skilled though, and she did have a point. He should have realized that somebody or something would use the blood on his blade to track him.
He know little of the city of Augiery apart from the fact that it was Audrae’s domain, and he was not sure how much he could trust a woman that worshipped the Immortal of Deception, but it didn’t seem as if he had any other options. If the three of them worked together then, perhaps there would be a way out for them. He cast a glance at Yana to find out what she thought of Gremielle’s proposal before he turned to face the swordmistress again.
he spoke and inclined his head a fraction. “In return for your aid I will serve Augiery.”
Having said that, he gripped his sword with both hands and assumed his stance, with his legs spread and slightly bent for better balance and flexibility. He could see that the Brux was about to come free. They needed to act now, before it had fully recovered. But a mere sword, even in the hands of somebody who had mastered it, it occurred to him, might not be enough to defeat the celestial creature in front of them. There was only one way in his opinion, risky as it was.
He made a step back, away from the Brux so that he was slightly behind the others and reached for Xiur's creature with his mind. He reached towards the golden light that seemed to surround her. The darkness was his domain, just like hope and the stars and their light belonged to Xiur. He would try to steal her light, to absorb it, which would hopefully weaken her enough to make it possible for Gremielle and Yana to defeat her. Gremielle had been wrong in more than one way. He was not an idiot, and he was no mere human. The blood of an Immortal flowed through his veins, and he had abilities that no ordinary man had.