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Hard Priorities

Chapter Text

Helmond shuddered. The rain would not let up and seemed to get colder, still. Autumn was coming into the world with all its might. It was mid-morning, but the day was dreary and gray.


Miserably, he unfolded his map and scanned the landscape for any points of reference.


To the east lay a small village, Larwein.

Westward were the remains of both Ithral Ortis’ camp and the fugitives’ last place of rest.

Other than the garrison to the north where he had come from, there was nothing remarkable.


“A shot at the sky”, he grumbled.


He adjusted his pack and began walking again.


Suddenly, he heard singing approach from a distance. He hid in a nearby bush.

Moments later, two figures appeared further below, engaged in quiet conversation. They were holding hands.


From where he sat in the rain, he could not quite make them out, but at least one of the shapes was clearly not elven.


“What luck”, Helmond thought, setting an arrow on his bow, “distance kill for the Abuser so I may not dirty my hand.”


The arrow flew silently off the string.


A feminine scream split the rain’s white noise.


Then came a booming shout. “Bruise-skins!”


The massive shape left his companion’s side, barrelling through the underbrush toward Helmond’s position.

He sprang up, Firing another arrow at Ithral Ortis. It impacted the massive human’s helmet and stuck there.


The female was coming up behind him, pulling the first arrow from his shoulder.


Helmond decided that he was not going to stay to see what the Predators would do to him and quickly turned to the trees behind him. He made a mental note to reprimand his scouts. They had reported that Ithral’s band was on their way to leave Xadia. A bolt from Ithral’s crossbow passed close by him as he hastily scaled into the Mallorn tree’s dense canopy.


“Ye better get!”, the woman yelled, firing her own.


It grazed Helmonds’ leg painfully just as he was finally vanishing from view.


Ithral turned to his wife. “You alright?”, he asked tenderly.


She shrugged.


“Good. Let’s keep movin’. He’ll be back, I wager.”


“You really think ‘e’s after them midgets, too? Not us?”


“Bett’n on it. Was the same bruiser that shanked Astor, I think. Plus, if he was comin’ fer us, he’d’ve stayed to try and finish the job, they always do. Bit too much co-ink-ee-dink for him to poke his ‘orns out here.”


“Fair”, she acknowledged, “Looks like we’re on the right track.”