Baz moved stealthily, watching where he put his feet. He opened his mouth slightly to silence his breathing and quickly glanced behind him. Slipping behind a tree he stilled himself to listen for sounds of pursuit. He could hear night sounds of the wood around him; crickets chirping, flapping wings of bats and owls, hoots and bays of other animals. The incessant sound of leaves swaying in the gentle cadence of the woods at night was a constant murmur.
Closing his eyes, Baz tried to stretch his hearing, laying his hands on the rough bark behind him. Be one with the forest. The instruction came unbidden from deep within. And he tried.
The air was warm underneath the canopy of these fair trees and he felt the breeze tickling his skin and cooling him as he sweated. He was sure that there were at least 4 pursuers, but no more than 7. That number of stealthily moving people would be an impossibility. He must hear something – a loud voice, a footstep falling on a twig, unsettled birds – anything!
As a courier, Baz was used to dealing with occupational hazards like bandits and the occasional crooked dealer. However, over the years he’d filtered the shops, inns and brothels he visited and knew the proprietors and employees by sight at least, if not on a first-name basis. As a courier, he didn’t always know what knowledge or packages he carried. So, it was safest to know the lay of the ground when traveling to protect the interests of his employers.
When Baz caught sight of a trio following him around Pati, he went on guard. In Jala, seeing the same trio conferring with another bunch, he’d decided that trouble was brewing. Bringing up the issue with the militia would certainly bring only more unwelcome attention to himself. It was best to lose them. His destination was North, towards Alim. But Alim was on a plateau with hardly any cover and once headed North, they’d be able to catch him eventually. East was the river and the border with smaller villages. West was the only way out with Kaf, the regional horse market which he visited often.
Kaf was a bustling town famous for it’s horse market that attracted buyers from all over the region. The Kaf road was always busy no matter the time of the year. Amoy, the first city in that direction, lay close to the Vala forest. The Vala forest was big. It stretched from Amoy at it’s southern end to So he hatched a simple plan to hitch a ride to Amoy
This work by Kailash Kalyani is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.