His Dark Tomb: IV

He hid in the shelter of a rocky outcropping for awhile, savoring the noise of the wind whipping over his head and thankfully not through the fabric of his parka. He tracked the sun passing over head with his hand as it hugged the southern horizon far too much for his liking. Placing his hand beneath it he estimated he had little more than 2 or 3 hours of sunlight at best.

So before long he was forced to get up and orient himself toward town. The trek wasn't especially hard, but he had to be vigilant about his tracks. He solved this by creating false starts, walking backwards in his tracks and purposefully going in circles. He knew that his pursuers weren't especially bright (no one in the dismal little township seemed to be), but they had tracked enough game in their lives to find him easily enough if he didn't at least try.

When he began to see the first curls of smoke beyond the trees he slowed his pace and tried to be as quiet as possible. Slipping into town in the dead of winter was easy enough. The cold saw to that. He played hide and seek with windows while working his way toward the center of town.

He located the pub and upon seeing his snowshoes missing, abandoned the thought of returning inside for his pack. There was a great deal of noise inside, shouts and the sound of breaking things. But that was immaterial.

There was a close call when a local, Weyland-Something came stumbling around the corner of the building and nearly saw him. But whiskey had dimmed his eyes. Maxwell knew that he was tempting fate just by being present. So he abandoned his plans and returned to his tent with the full intent of gathering up what little he could and escaping into the night.

It took the remainder of the day, largely due to him being extra vigilant about where he stepped and whether or not it'd aid Finnis' gang. By the time he reached his campsite the last little sliver of light had evaporated and a whipping wind drove icy nails into his face.

He found it under siege, his camp stove lit and a thin curl of smoke stretching from its stack.

Producing his pistol he creeped closer, the butt of the gun was cold and heavy. Too heavy after his day of misadventure. He found the creeping too easy and he wondered as he pulled up to the canvas fabric how many times he had been watched in just this manner.

"This isn't his campsite," a man remarked from the inside, startlingly close. His shadow moved against the canvas. He was searching through Maxwell's personal items. "He wouldn't have set up so close to town."

"You so sure?" Another person, a woman spoke with a hint of annoyance.

"Yes, I'm sure. He's not a local, but he might as well be. They need his brains. If he didn't set their broken arms and put band-aids on their little scrapes they'd all die of dysentery in a week. They need Samuel. He'd be staying at the Inn if he was this close to town.

Also, the guy doesn't have Sam's handwriting."

They had short clipped accents. Southerners like himself, but there was something strange about the man's voice. He had a ramrod way of talking, intelligent but disciplined. Definitely military, Maxwell thought to himself as his gun suddenly didn't feel so heavy.

"Think he'll be back before we leave? It's dark out already. We should have made camp hours ago," The woman asked, her silhouette playing against the canvas. "Maybe we should leave a note and some money. For the wood."

Maxwell still squatted in the snow, breathing heavy. They didn't seem unfriendly, but he wasn't exactly in the mood to take chances. Especially with military types. He had met enough of those on his journey up north to last a life time. With the collapse of the empire after the emperor's untimely demise, military folk weren't exactly his first choice as allies. He thought the lot of them to be gun nuts and a touch too brutal.

"Think he'd miss one of these books?"

He could hear the flipping of pages. He was being looted.

"Yes, Aeolus. I'm sure he'd miss them."

The woman said, her voice getting further away. Maxwell could hear her sigh outside the tent opposite to him. She walked some distance away.

"I'm taking one anyway," the man known as Aeolus said in a mumble before rejoining her. Maxwell carefully readjusted himself and looked around the the edge of his tent and saw the two armor clad figures. They were talking, but he couldn't quite make out all of what they were saying.

But he could make at least one word out, carried by the wind to his ears by sheer chance.

She said the word that had plagued his dreams and nightmares for years. She said the name of the mythical beast which he sought. She said it clearly. Nidhoggr.


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