Three Irons

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5. Prowler

The Stranger’s ethereal gray eyes met hers. The Cleric crouched closer to the snow-blown tree trunk.

“Why can’t we just---?”

He leaned closer. “The creatures’ trail leads to one of them in town.” His tone was cold, distant.

The Stranger rose and walked back to the rotund twitching body in the snow. She watched him long enough to see his face dive in for another feast on the Miller’s gory throat. The Cleric buried her nose in the crook of her elbow.

“It certainly wasn’t the Miller.”

Her captor wiped the blood from his maw and returned to the tree. A small party had left the inn down below and moved along the buried street in their direction.

“We need to move.” A breeze ruffled the mohawk of hair atop the Stranger’s bare scalp.

The Cleric hung tight to the trunk. “We should go tell someone.”

He looked over a shoulder. “No telling which one’s the traitor.” The dark-skinned stranger drew his long coat closer to his muscular frame, concealing the sparkling gem embedded in his breastbone. “Can’t risk it.”

The Cleric’s eyes narrowed. “That jewel you cover--- what’s it for?”

Her captor tightened the strap of his broadsword hanging across his chest. “It’s best if you don’t ask.”

“Too late for that.”

His keen eyes followed the search party as it fanned out around the woman’s store and cottage. “The creatures want it. It’s timeless, powerful.”

He strode around a far trunk, watching their every move. The Stranger leaned closer. “It’s her.”

The Cleric tromped through the drifts to join him. “The girl? She’s lucky she didn’t freeze to death.”

“Wretched mercenary scum.”

The healer cupped her hands to her mouth and blew into them. “Then, what bounty’s on your head?”

He gave her an angry sidelong glare.

“That’s why you don’t want to go down there.” The Cleric shook the fresh flakes off her cloak. “You don’t want to deal with her.”

The Stranger’s gaze never faltered from the movement far below. The blond man went back inside the cottage. His captor followed. “I have no bounty.”

The Cleric huddled close to a larger tree not far away. “Why did she have you chained to a sled?”

His head shook. “A personal matter.”

Her body language suggested she wasn’t buying it.

“Unrelated to our current predicament,” he added.

The blond man emerged from her cottage and pulled his hat tighter to his head.

The Cleric watched on in mild amusement. “Looks like the Constable’s on your tail.”

An audible yelp from the girl. Her arm motioned for the Constable to join her. He stooped closer to a spot in the snow, picking some up between his gloved fingers.

“Time to move.” The Stranger backed away from the tree line.

The Cleric shrugged. “They’re after you, not me.”

“And when either the law or a mercenary find us and their friend dead?”

She saw his point. Just as guilty.

He started over the far side of the hummock. “Where do we go?”

She watched a moment longer as the duo made their way up the trail on the hill. “The chapel would be our best bet.”

The Stranger’s head shook. “No good.”

She trotted several paces ahead of him, pulling her hood over her. “I realize that much. The catacombs near the grounds will give us a place to regroup.”

He tightened the strings on his coat and followed his guide into the howling void.

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