My eyes were crossed to focus on a swordpoint inches from my face. This was starting to happen with disturbing frequency.
“Okay, if I’m going to find Corso, I’ll need some instructions,” I said. “And a description. I can’t search the entire Myriad with nothing but a name.”
“Corso is on Archora,” the Harbinger said. “In a forest. Elves live in this particular forest. Corso’s a human, so he shouldn’t be too hard to identify among the elves. Find them and you’ll find Corso.”
That was interesting. The Harbinger knew where my quarry was, and he was stronger than me, so why didn’t he just kill Corso himself? Maybe the Harbinger wanted to sacrifice me to Ghostfire, or something of the sort, but if that was the case, there were plenty of people who would be easier to sacrifice. Why me?
“All right. Fine.” I gathered my magic, and pushed off of the world. Flickering was the only magic I was good at. It would take a few minutes to get off the world. I felt a sense of detachment as I was thrust into the Shadow Realm, the gap between worlds. Shadow Realm was a horrible name, really. The entire thing was invisible, so it was impossible to see anything, including shadows. It was an impossible sensation, rushing through nothingness. It was cool, but not cold, it couldn’t be seen, but it wasn’t dark. In spite, or maybe because of the impossibility, the Shadow Realm encompassed all the worlds in the Myriad.
I directed myself towards Archora, and moved towards a forest dominating most of the north. I took my first breath of air on that world. It was a bit more humid than I was used to, but the forest air added leafy scents and aromas. There was an ever-present background noise of frogs chirping in trees, insects flying through the air, birds calling, and rodents foraging in the underbrush.
After a few hours of wandering through the forest, the woodsy charm had started to wear off. Several trees had attempted to eat me, along with a wurm, a spider the size of a house, and a trio of lynxes, each the size of me.
I had been following a trail for quite some time when I heard something big moving through the forest. I froze, listening to the approaching sound. Several somethings, I amended.
Seven savage-looking humans burst out of the trees. What were the odds that I’d be waylaid by bandits hundreds of miles from civilization? At a wild guess, not high. This new turn of events had put me in a foul mood.
Seven bandits had encircled me. They were armed with crossbows in need of bolts and a new string, swords showing a bit of rust, axes that looked like they’d seen more tree chopping than people chopping, and expressions that were probably supposed to be intimidating. It was hard to say.
“Look, I’ll give you one chance to surrender,” I growled. “Don’t embarrass yourselves.”
Several of the bandits broke into laughter, and then quickly stopped laughing. “Look, girlie, this doesn’t have to be messy,” a bandit with an eyepatch offered.
“Not unless you make it,” I said under my breath. “Catch.” A small, greyish ball arched through the air, landing in Eyepatch’s hand.
He stared at it, confused. “What’s thi-” Whatever Eyepatch might have said was cut off by a mid-sized explosion, engulfing him in a ball of fire.
“Well, as last words go, those were pretty uninspiring,” I said. “Anyone else?”
For a moment, no one moved. The bandits glanced at each other. They were trying to organize an attack where they all attacked at once without saying anything. I rolled my eyes. One bandit with a pike held up one finger, trying to keep his hand hidden from my view, but reveal it to his compatriots. Then he held up two fingers.
Before Pike could hold up a third finger, I extended my arm and he was encased in layers of ice. Pike was petrified, his pointer and middle finger still extended.
“I think that’s your queue to run,” I advised the five remaining bandits.
“Attack!” roared a bandit missing his pinky and ring finger. There was a moment of hesitation where all of the bandits waited to see if the rest were joining them in the charge.
How dumb can you be? I wondered as the bandits tentatively attacked. I caught the first attacker’s blade with my right hand, and placed a swift kick in his stomach. The second charged attempted to stab me with a repurposed pitchfork, but I sidestepped and used his momentum to throw him into bandit number three.
The fourth was Threefingers. He aimed a crossbow at me, but I rolled and the bolt sailed above my head and embedded itself in the leg of one of Threefingers’ stricken compatriots. In a panic, Threefingers struggled to load a new bolt, providing ample time for me to walk up to him and rip the crossbow from his grasp. I tossed it over my shoulder, inspiring a look of terror on Threefingers’ face. He threw a sloppy punch at my face, but I caught his fist and twisted his arm. Something snapped and he cried out, falling to the ground.
I was surprised the one remaining bandit hadn’t attacked me yet, until I saw a figure fleeing through the forest. That wasn’t surprising. I launched a fireball at him from the palm of my hand, and watched him fall to the ground.
I continued into the woods, not looking back at the groaning would-be attackers. I hadn’t spent much time on Alaran, but I was pretty sure the standard for raiders had fallen. I seemed to remember fleeing a small army of about four hundred berserkers last time I was on this world. With any luck, Corso would be just as pitiful as Eyepatch’s gang.
I made my way through the forest, avoiding anything that moved. Chances were it wanted to eat me. Almost everything in the forest did.
Corso isn’t my real enemy, though, I reminded myself. I’m still going to have to kill him, but I need to focus on the Harbinger. He’s the one I have to worry about. And after I learn more about him, I’ll avenge Corso Ghostfire.