Surprised by a Plan (Quest)
Part 71 of Quest
(Preceded by: Nameless)
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Seekers…that one word filled Henneth with dread. He refocused on the conversation. “How long until our paths cross?”
Chero gave that a moment’s thought, grimacing at the answer. “Two hours tops, maybe a little more if they stop for some reason.”
Henneth’s heart sank. Not long enough to do anything except pray.
“What do we do now? They hate us.” Anasril gestured to her and Chero; they hovered, their butterfly wings beating every so often to keep them aloft.
How could anyone hate such generous creatures? Yet the Seekers did. One member of their odd little party had remained silent throughout their discussions, other than the baby, who watched them with speculative eyes. That final member happened to be god-born, which should give them an advantage with clerics. To him Henneth now turned and kept turning when his gaze didn’t land on the starry cloaked form of the Watcher of the Moon. Where had he gone off to?
“What is it?” Anasril asked.
“Where’s the Watcher?”
Chero glanced around, his small face pinching with anger. “He left us. He told me he can’t harm a member of the cloth but I thought he’d stick around.”
Alright so no convenient god would help with this situation. Not the best news but not the worst either. At least they wouldn’t wrack up anymore favors with the capricious divine. Henneth blew out a breath; there was only one viable plan and with a little luck and a quiet baby, maybe they could pull it off. A glance at the baby made him rethink that. HIs pinched little face looked about seconds from bursting into tears again.
“Then it’s up to us. We can do this. We escaped the Undeem; we can get around a bunch of clerics.”
“We had Undreal’s help with the Undeem and she can’t manifest until sundown.” Chero crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head, eyes bleak.
At the mention of her name, the baby uttered a soft cry and reached towards Henneth’s shadow where Undreal rode safe from the sun. At least they hoped she was stowed there safe and sound. She’d given no sign of her presence since she’d melted into a shadow early that morning. They all studied Henneth’s shadow for signs of occupation; worry creased their faces when they saw none.
“We’ll just have to cope without her help.” Henneth met their gazes and then told them his plan.
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Anasril flew high, Chero at her side, higher than she’d ever flown before. High enough that the Seeker’s unaugmented eyes would see only a spec against the cloudless blue. They’d assumed that spec was a bird. Still her heart raced and it ached for Henneth and the baby who had to confront the Seekers on foot without any backup. she sent prayers winging down to them that they made it through unscathed. From this high up, the mountain range was a jagged brown line capped in places with white.
“They’ll be okay,” Chero said as a shadow fell over them. He looked up frowning, expecting to see a passing cloud. Instead, he saw a dark shape hurtling towards them. Instinct made him roll left out of its path.
He shouted a warning a second too late. A hawk’s claws snatched Anasril, catching her around the waist. She screamed and pounded on the claws holding her captive.
Plans seldom survive,
leave planners vulnerable
when seekers arrive.
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“I know you’re hungry but you have to be quiet,” Henneth told the baby. Not that it made much of a difference. The fractious child beat his little fists against Henneth’s shoulder as a thin wail issued from lips crusted by dry drool and snot. When that failed to produce the desired outcome, the babe added a few kicks for good measure. Gone was that spark of intelligence from his hungry eyes. Maybe his little store of healing magic was gone too. Maybe the Seekers had no relaible way of sensing magic and maybe the sky would fall down and crush the Seekers.
He sighed. None of those possibilities looked likely, so he put one foot in front of the other and tried not to scan for hints of orange ahead. As a regular non-magical human, he would have no wya of knowing who shared this mountain track. Best he act like the clueless traveler he pretended to be. It just might save his skin and the baby’s.
“To where dost thou travel?”
Henneth started at the voice and ceded ground as an orange robed woman stepped between him and the narrow trail he followed across a saddle between two mountains. She stood feet planted shoulder width apart, both hands on a quarterstaff held perpendicular to her body. Another orange robed woman flanked her; her cowl shaded her face as she repeated her question.
Not a question he wanted to answer. You should never tell Seekers your travel plans. He had to say somethingbut what destination was safe to mention? Not the truth because that would give away his small flighted companions hiding in the sky. So what destination would they find least suspicious?
“Jacora,” he replied and knew he’d said the wrong thing as the two women reacted with susprise. Henneth nodded to the way ahead. “Don’t all paths lead to Jacora?”
“Jacora is that way.” The first Seeker pointed with the end of her staff behind Henneth.
“The Magic Kind lay ahead. Do you have truck with their kind?” Both women’s gazes settled on the baby in his arms. “Or are you returning something to them?”
Henneth fought he urge to look down. If the baby’s eyes were the mud brown of the non-magical they’d live through this. If his eyes had the jewel-like faceted apperance of the Magic Kind, like Chero’s or Anasril’s eyes, then it was all over for them. It all came down to his eyes.
They seek magic out,
Survival rests on babe’s eyes
mud-brown saves them all.
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Find out what happens next week when the Quest continues…
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