[Story] Sideways – On the Hunt

The room coalesced into being around them, first the walls taking shape, then the jagged angles of the broken furniture. Zaradormi narrowed her eyes, searching the dim room for any sign of their prey.

“Damn,” she growled. They had only narrowly missed the mage Sanimir, as evidenced from the motes of magic that still hung in the dusty air. The portal’s outline was only just visible as well, too weak to be used again. Lena slid down from the saddle on the dragon’s back, searching hastily in the packs for a jar. They would have to work more quickly this time, but Zarah knew they were closing in. Sanimir would make a mistake eventually, and they would be ready when he did.

The human set to work collecting the residue of the portal, scraping the faintly glowing specks into a jar. “We’ve been to this one before, haven’t we?” she asked, as she copied the visible remaining runes into her notebook. “At least, I think so.”

Zaradormi paused to scent the air, her tongue flicking out quickly. “Yes,” she nodded. “But we’re further forward now. It was easier for him to come here, as he already knows the portal.” Her eyes searched the dark room for clues. She recognized it as the building that had become the school, though in this timeline it remained unowned and untended. Vines climbed the cracked and dirty walls, and the furniture remained splintered and broken from the Scourge attacks. But despite its run-down appearance, it was not abandoned: the mage Sanimir had stayed here with the small boy. She couldn’t understand what reason he’d have to bring a child to a place like this — to save his life, but what sort of life did he have now?

The air crackled, and another portal opened into the building — fortunately, Renner was not in his dragon shape, or it would have been quite crowded. The elf, Hethurin, followed Renner out of the portal, staring at Zarah in surprise.

“Oh,” said Renner, frowning. “It seems we’re too late.”

Lena came to stand beside Zarah, clutching the jar tightly. Zarah wasn’t sure just who was protecting whom.

“You don’t have to do this,” Renner said quietly. “It’s my fault. I should correct it.”

While she was all too happy to let him believe that, it wasn’t really the truth. And catching a rogue mage was more important than her pride. “That’s not entirely true,” Zarah explained. “You didn’t teach Sanimir. Someone else did.”

Hethurin looked confused, but Renner’s expression fell. “That changes things,” he said finally.

“That it does. It means he knows spells that we don’t. It’s probably how he’s eluded us for so long. It seems we only just missed him though.” Zarah nodded to the faintly glowing jar. “He’s getting careless. He can’t run forever.”

“We’ve another complication,” said Renner, steepling his fingers. “More elves.”

“I don’t want more elves. More elves means more potential for danger, and something going wrong.”

“They aren’t Timewalkers,” Renner explained. “Well — not yet. Hethurin believes they can help us in capturing Sanimir.”

Zarah eyed the elf. More people crowding up the timeway was the last thing she wanted, most of all because of the potential for something going wrong. But neither did she want any of them to get lost or killed. Sanimir had already proven that he was very dangerous, and if he had knowledge of Infinite magic… that gave even Zarah pause. “If you bring them, they’re your responsibility. They could very easily die.”

Hethurin nodded. “I know.”

Zarah didn’t know how a couple of elves would turn the tide in their favor — especially if they weren’t even mages. But she had no better idea. She only hoped that Renner was right.

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