I should have known I’d be hunted. Knowledge is coveted–when it’s not condemned.
If I sleep, I perform a ritual of warding enchantments on my camp and surrounding environment. I avoid rivers and other running water so that I will not lose power if I need to run. I set up conventional hunters’ traps, and ensure to sleep far from the logical sleeping location. Most importantly, I bury the book. I randomize my methods to prevent spies from learning a pattern.
Tonight was no different, except that the seekers finally found me.
It had been three nights since I’d slept. Too many–I had to balance my energy and alertness with my nightly vigilance. So I chose a long-overgrown forest as my bedroom, and set to work on my wards. The magic would obscure my presence, and should an intruder penetrate the defenses (and survive), I’d be aware. I masked my footprints and set up my crude traps and found some moist earth beneath the roots of a half-felled tree where I could bury my book, sealed in a leather sheath and a layer of cloth strips wrapped all around it. My decoy book I kept close to me. Lastly, I set up a small shelter of tanned hide stretched over spikes in the earth, left my bag if flammables buried under a blanket within, and climbed a nearby tree where finally I could sleep.
And sleep I did, exhausted by the ritual and the fatigue and the sleepless nights. I drifted into the winds and the moon and the ethereal lands beyond consciousness, there asleep in the brambled branches of the half-felled tree with my blanket of leaves around me.
I don’t know how they found me. I hadn’t been in contact with another person since escaping the glacier prison and reclaiming my buried book. But, waking suddenly from the subconscious snapping sound that came when my wards were penetrated, I looked down to find four silhouettes, moonlight glinting off their steel blades, stalking the forest floor near my tent. They were efficient–stepping carefully around my traps, disarming them quickly and silently, while one figure poked its head into the tent. Then entered it completely.
Who were these hunters? Did they come from the prison? Did they want me, or my book? Of course they wanted my book. To destroy it or to use it for themselves. I was a fool to set out on my quest to record the magical practices of every culture. But I couldn’t stop. I shouldn’t have to stop.
Which was why I held the charm hanging from my chest, whispered words of heat and rage, and watched as the flammables pack in my tent burst into flame, the tent soon following. The screams of the hunter who went inside caused dark birds to rise from the forest top and darken the moon.
Three silhouettes remaining. They would not find my book.
Day 188’s three prompt categories were, “A scholar,” “Mage hunters,” and, “Paranoia.”
More magic scholar stories! I think I’ll do a part 2. Get some more action in here.