Hunters’ Traps Part 2

As long as I was hidden in the tree, I’d be safe. I was camouflaged and it was dark. The three men had swords, and while I always had a blade nearby, my skill hardly matched one well-trained swordsman, let alone three.

You hear stories of forest wizards hurling acorn-sized fireballs at their foes from treetops, but my extensive studies had found such tales to be exactly that–tales, recounted from scared villagers’ encounters with mischievous urchin children chucking bottled candles at anyone who might be seeking to reclaim stolen goods. Besides that, my foes would likely fire arrows at the source of light before I could even throw a single fireball.

No. No fireballs. I began running through my repertoire of known magical techniques while observing the three silhouettes attempt to stomp out the tent fire I just made. I couldn’t siphon their life force without marking them, and that would involve getting close. Using song magic would require me to both listen closely to the Worldsong (impossible with the nearby screaming) as well as play music, which would also reveal my position. Illusory magic, perhaps? It wouldn’t eliminate my foes, but it might scare them away long enough for me to run.

To run. And be caught again, and again. How long could I live this life? Perhaps I should just let them have the book. Perhaps they’d leave me alone after that. I could always recreate it–the information is in my head, and I’ve read the book enough times to know it by heart. But then… the information would also be known to others. Dangerous information. Magical secrets hidden by dozens of cultures for good reasons. Am I selfish, in that I want this knowledge for myself? Or am I keeping the world safe? And if so, would it not have been wise for me to simply destroy the book, like so many seekers aim to do? Of course, I’d still be hunted, for the information would remain in my mind.

Yes. Book or no book, I’d be hunted to the end of my days. I would be caught. Captured, tortured, killed. Or simply made prisoner, in comfort or in chains. But not today.

I stood on the gnarled branches of the tree and spread my arms, shedding my cloak of leaves and twigs and sending it fluttering to the forest floor. The light from the tent fire, though low from the stomping of the seekers, illuminated me, a mad figure in the trees, ragged and bearded and furious as the great wizards of old. And I howled. I summoned the fears of the land, of wolves and storms and secret dreams. Disaster has come.

The seekers rose their eyes at my howl, seeing my figure in the treetops and pointing with their swords. They began unslinging bows from their shoulders and nocking arrows, now ignoring the fire growing at the underbrush beneath them. But before they could take proper aim, more howls joined me.

Elemental, language-less howls. Howls against your windows at night, howls from the darkness of the field, howls from the dying, howls from the damned.

And as they loosed their arrows, the wolves of wind pummeled them.

The arrows were swept by the gust silhouettes, crushed in the jaws of storms given canine shape. The seekers flew from their feet, landing atop the tent fire, only for the wind wolves to take up the flames, like burning hellhounds, and savage my enemies with wind and lightning and scorching doom.

Fires danced in the wolf shapes, which circled the seekers, howling like the manifest storms they were. The seekers cried out in terror and madness, and slashed at the wind wolves aimlessly. Their blades swished through the flames, but the howls only grew louder. Running around and around the seekers, getting progressively closer, the flames and the winds, until converging in a maelstrom of fire, twisting into the sky, gathering the screams into the howls and rising, rising, rising to the clouds.

And then, silence.

I ceased howling, my throat ragged. Exhausted, I climbed down the tree, found my forest cloak, slung it over my shoulders. Then I dug under the roots of the tree for my book. Behind me, the charred bones of the seekers grinned black. And I took my book and my unburnt supplies and carried on, wondering when I’d be discovered next.

Day 189’s three prompt categories were, “A scholar,” “Mage hunters,” and, “Paranoia.” (The same as yesterday.)

I have a lot of fun with this series. From the City of Leeches to the Pillar of the Sea to this. I’ll definitely keep on with this world in the future.

– H.

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