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Mardichi wandered outside later in the day and glimpsed Rhyers’ tall frame crossing the lawns and heading into the trees.

“Are you going to make sure he’s okay?” Acharius boomed from behind him.

Mardichi turned and faced the only man nearly as large as he. “Nay. ’Es tough enough.”

“But slight.”

“Yet wiry.”

Acharius’ blonde brows drew together. “I’ll go then.”

“Fine.” Mardichi shrugged and headed back in.

Acharius wandered into the trees. Spotting Rhyers crouched down. “What are you doing, lad?”

“Can you see this?” Rhyers had his head turned sideways. Staring at where the tracks veered into the woods.

“The tracks?”

“No, how they move.”

“They’re not moving.” Acharius eyed him askance. “Their tracks. Quite stationary.”

“Not if you look at them right…Or I do.”

Acharius waited for him to elaborate.

He did. In time. “Their depth shows the weight and approximate height.” Rhyers’ gaze slid up as he saw a shadow forming over the track. Nearly six foot. Black and blurred. “As the weight disperses when the track is left you can see how fleet of foot the creature is.” The black blur before him became more slender and athletic. Clearer. “The slide of the toes here,” Rhyers pointed. “Tells you how fast he’s moving.”

Acharius knelt. Trying to see what Rhyers was. “How fast is he moving?”

“Fast. Look at the distance between the tracks as he lunges.”


“Has to be.” Rhyers envisioned the shadow take a long stride then veer sideways as it put two feet against the tree, visible through the slight clumps of mud, and the sudden absence of tracks in the dirt, to jump off sideways and clear the bush. Shoulders and head vanishing further into the trees. “He’s moving quickly and agilely.”

“That’s incredible. Where did he go?”

Rhyers pointed.

“Can you follow it?”


And they did. Flawlessly. Rounding a few trunks.

There was the faintest movement of a gray skinned creature in the distance. Clearly, no longer human.

Before Rhyers could react, the creature collapsed with an arrow jutting from its chest. Rhyers turned stunned green eyes to his companion. “Did you see-” He stopped, frozen.

Acharius stood there, bow drawn with the string still quivering.

“How could you possibly have made that shot? And how did you do it so fast?”

“I’m incredibly fast lately.” But Acharius too, stared from bow to the fallen creature and back, in shock.

“You were never like that before…”

“No, I was not.”

“Where there’s one there will be more.” Lucien stepped next to them. “They’ll come from that direction and that one.”

“Why?” Acharius lowered his bow to ask.

“Trees are denser and this area where the trees separate gives them the perfect place to lure our kind into an ambush. There will be more…Especially now that they know we’ll fall for it.” He gave Rhyers a chiding look.

“I merely followed the track.”

“There’s always more than a track.” Lucien said patiently.

“Clearly.” Acharius noted.

“A few from the sky could break the tree coverage over there.” Lucien pointed to a gap in the canopy.

“How are you seeing all of that?” Acharius queried.

“I don’t know. I’m hyper-attuned to anywhere that a predator would spot.”

“As though you are one?”

“Likely…” Lucien gave a grudging head tilt.

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