Sylvie slinked from shadow to shadow tailing two men walking along like they owned the place. She'd had to use a spell to see them, what with being blind, but it was worth it. Both on the slender side. The taller man looked like he'd been to war and wasn't quite back yet. His short blond hair only served to emphasize the edge in his blue eyes. He had a slight limp that did not take away from the richness of his gear. He'd actually worn Hymerine Armor into Brushtown. That gear was so expensive that one piece could feed a family of five for two years with leftovers for festival days. Sylvie's hand twitched atavistically. She firmly told herself that trying to steal that gear was suicide.
She sized up the second man. He had longer black hair, pale green eyes, and walked more as if he were an assassin. His gear was much simpler in design an execution, but it was just as outrageous as the Hymerine armor. It was pure dragon scale, nearly impossible to penetrate with anything. The only way to get such gear would be to either kill or befriend a dragon. Neither one was a safe option.
She stilled the small voice in her head that told her she was the one being stupid to follow along just because she wanted to watch them a little longer. It had been a long time since she'd seen anyone dressed like that. It had been a long time since she'd fought with such as they as well. They reminded her of...Sylvie fiercely shook off the memory. That had been nearly 5 years ago. She was someone else, now. A 30 year old woman had no business meddling in the past.
Even though she was supposed to be smarter than she'd been at 25, she still followed them, and quirked an eyebrow when some of the rougher folk of Brushtown started to box the two men in. The two men were very dangerous. She'd not missed the muscles on the two, nor the fact that their swords were very functional. She slipped into a shadowed nook almost directly across from them and settled in to watch the show. She'd bet real money that the brutes surrounding them were about to get a surprise.
One of the thugs stepped forward, and Sylvie shook her head. Ben Owens was an idiot who thought calling himself Rock was fearsome and brave. He usually went through a lot of posturing and posing. She doubted tonight would be very different.
There was a slight rasp and the left-hand man already had his sword at Ben's throat. Her eyes widened. She'd have won the money if there had been another person to bet with. She'd not seen the sword leave the scabbard at all. The last time she'd seen swordplay even near that level was five years ago. Sudden fear seized her throat as the faces of the two lined up in her memory.
She had been following Quinton Nanze and Harken Truebow of the Golden Guard. The court had sent their best to kill one Sylvie Goldenbough, one time Great Mage, declared traitor by the King. She swallowed hard, and had to force herself not to move. They'd spot her, and she was in no shape to defend herself at the moment. She was ill, and it made her weak and tired all the time. Now that she'd cured that plague that had been sweeping the country, she was even weaker than she had been. She knew that the fever she had was a bad sign.
With a mental curse for her fatigue, she used her mage sight to check out the area. She relaxed slightly when there were no signs of spells anywhere above, below, behind, or beside her. She shut it off before she looked at Quinton and Harken. They'd sense her the second she looked at them with mage sight, considering that she'd taught them the trick of it.
Only an attraction spell made sense for the way she'd been following them, though. She'd been on her way to see High Priest Loren of the Timeos order, and she was sick enough that only a spell would have brought her this far after the two warriors. She owed Rock for distracting her enough that the subtle spell no longer entangled her, but now she was stuck waiting for the confrontation in front of her to end.
Harken was the one holding the sword at Rock's nose, and she knew darn well that Quinton knew she was here somewhere. His nickname when she'd been in the unit was Owl because he saw and knew everything. She was pretty sure he didn't know where she was, but that was a small comfort. She could tell by the way he moved his head slightly from side to side that he was searching for her.
Harken smiled at Rock, and she felt a tremor go down her spine. It was a twisted parody of what it had been five years ago. She silently cursed Firkin Oathson. She knew that Firkin was responsible for Harken's change. The Harken she'd known would have grinned at Rock to show there were no hard feelings. Then Rock would have woken up hours later minus a purse and with pink ribbons tied in his hair.
"You weren't going to impede our way, were you?" Harken's voice was like crushed velvet. It held no menace, but it didn't need to. Rock quailed before the blade. He'd been depending on his size and his crew to intimidate the two men. He'd thought he was going to attack a dandified fop, not a real fighter. "Uh...no your honor. You can just be on your way. I was just walking. Yeah, um, walking, um, walking home."
In the shadows, Sylvie had to bite back an amused snort. Harken may have changed, but he still enjoyed tweaking people. This incident would be over so quickly that those two would probably just put one sentence in their report consisting of "Encountered armed company, nothing of concern." After all, when she'd been part of the Golden Guard herself, they'd taken down a Hydra. Their report had stated "Encountered and drove a Hydra back to its lair. Team collapsed the lair. Hydra butchered and proportioned according to law." Her report, in comparison, had been 5 pages.
"Good, enjoy your walk home. I'll even let you leave first." Harken put his sword away, and stepped to the side. Rock and his company walked slowly past Harken and Quinton, and then ran like scalded cats into the night.
Quinton chuckled. "They don't know how lucky they are you're in a good mood."
"Good or not, this day is wasted. If we'd caught her completely, she'd be out in the open already."
Sylvie's amusement dried up. That attraction spell could have been more trouble than she could handle right now. She was sick, and a sick mage, while not defenseless, was definitely weaker. She'd barely been able to keep up with them five years ago. If she tried to match them today, she'd lose.
"But she's watching and listening at this moment, you know. So are others."
"Exactly. Which pair of eyes watching us are hers? We've plenty that followed us from Phantom lane to here." Harken pointed out.
Sylvie blanched. If she hadn't already turned her place over to Delinda the Dancer this morning, she'd have been captured and sent to Traitor Hill to die before she'd even realized these two were on her trail.
"It was a stroke of genius on her part to turn it over to a whore, though."
"I don't need you praising a traitor, Quin. You're right, it saved her from us for now. It muddled whatever personal signature there ever might have been in that place. However, she's still a traitor, and a stupid one at that."
"Was it stupid? She figured out a cure and sent it to Lord Healer Durand disguised as a regular drug research package with the requisite paperwork. If he hadn't been curious and had look at the magical signature, no one would have known who cured the plague. No, I figure it was a gamble. One she lost."
There was a short silence, then Harken spoke again. "You're sure she's listening?"
Quinton's eyes floated across the entrance to the alley Sylvie was hiding in, then around the other hiding places in the area. "Quite sure." Sylvie froze. There was no way Quinton didn't know where she was now. She desperately began running through options in her head.
"I'm speaking to you, Sylvie. You betrayed us. You betrayed your oaths as a mage. Firkin Oathson found the evidence. You couldn't hide your mage sign from his Sight, no matter how muddled."
Sylvie's face twisted. The traitor had been Firkin. He was the oath breaker, not her. He'd destroyed her life, and killed so many others. She had dedicated herself to making sure he got brought to justice. She hadn't succeeded yet, and she wondered if Firkin knew that she was the one behind many of his schemes failing these past five years.
"He took your place in the Guard, you know. He's solid, and works with us, but he doesn't have your flair and creativity. There's so many times we could have used the person we thought you were. Was the Darkening curse worth it, Sylvie? Was it worth being hunted to the ends of the earth? Too bad Firkin's whispers about you were right."
Sylvie nearly spat. What was Harken up to? She didn't trust whatever it was, and silently stepped further back into the alley, releasing the vision spell and ebbing her magic back into the normal flows. Using magic was making her feel worse anyway. She could feel her fever sapping her strength further.
"But Sylvie, making up cures for plagues will not redeem you from being a traitor. We will find you, if it takes 100 years or more. Mages live a long time."
There was silence in the square.
"She's gone now, Harken. What were you up to?"
"Laying a trap. If she's determined to live, and wants us to believe in a different traitor, she'll lead us straight to Firkin. All we'll have to do is wait for her move against Firkin."
"Firkin will not appreciate being set up as bait.”
"He'll get over it once Sylvie dies on Traitor's Hill. Come, she won't be in this area again. It's a waiting game now. One we'll win."
The two men turned and left. Long minutes after they were gone, Sylvie stepped out of the alley and mused. Quinton had known exactly where she was and had made sure she knew Harken's plans. If Harken figured that out, Quinton would die next to her on Traitor's Hill. With a sudden shiver, she twitched her ragged cloak more over her shoulders. Reading the mage flows, she turned her steps back to High Priest Loren. The Timeos order was her ally, and really the only place she could do what she needed to do next. She only hoped that she wouldn't die before Firkin did. Besides, she still needed a cure for Nettle Fever.