Remnant: Book of Sing Chapter 9
The markings of the rushed movement away from the empty campsite dissipated quickly into the desolation of the Xiandolan lowlands. Kensley had examined the mountainside, where the obvious signs of mining and the transportation of rubble still remained. He returned back down to the lowlands to report.
Carlyle was at a section of the riverbed which bore signs of activity. “It’s quite the disturbance, up there.” Kensley detailed, pointing up to the strangely eroded section of mountain face. “They moved and tore apart a wide chunk of that offshoot. The camp didn’t seem like it had that much manpower to pull of something like that.”
Carlyle stood up from the mud of the riverbed. His and Kensley’s horses were nearby, their reins hanging at the front of their chests while they nibbled at the dry grass. “It’s hard to tell how long they were here, especially only seeing the few bits of iron we recaptured from the men back at Rallig.”
“You don’t think they had a mage of some sort with them?”
Carlyle glanced to Kensley with a pondering look. “You think so? Interesting conclusion.” He began, steadying his horse before preparing himself to mount it. “I think they went to the south. We’ll have to cross the river, and it’s best not to tempt getting your boots stuck.”
Kensley mounted the animal and guided it through the sticky mud and cold trickle of the river a little ways behind the captain. The horse examined its hoofs and the bits of old foliage upon the ground as it arrived at the opposite bank. “Maybe they have been here a while, just digging away with chisels and picks.”
“Don’t second guess yourself on my account,” Carlyle spoke back, his eyes trained to the uneven crags of the mountainside. “The Sanctum in the capital is where most of the magi of this land call home. We and the other magi keep track of their numbers fairly well, but… there are always others of mage blood who don’t practice their arts, at least out in the open.”
“They don’t like other magi?”
Carlyle hummed. “Well, it’s more likely they are afraid of being forced to live by the ways of the other magi. The King speaks of having respect for their kind, for both their knowledge and their great power, but many agree that it is better to have them within arm’s reach.”
“We would be of no match to their powers if they were to go against us.”
The captain shrugged. “Perhaps. But you must remember, just the same as we are held to a system of honor, so are they. Threats and the pushing around of one’s weight are not always the best means to an end.”
Kensley sighed and adjusted his grip on the horse’s reins. He carefully shifted his hands about, shielding them one at a time under the opposite arm. The wind began to blow harder, drying the skin upon his face with a stinging cold. He took up the water bladder from the back at his horse’s hip and unplugged it to take a sip. The liquid inside was icy and tasted of the waxy material of the container.
The low light of the evening approached quicker than expected, and the wind had barely given up its beating against their sides as they continued their careful path along the rocky flatlands just at the base of the foothills. Kensley blinked the tiredness from his eyes, only to realize that the haziness about him was the beginnings of a light snowfall.
“Hoo, I thought it was getting colder.” Carlyle hummed, tugging at his vestments and tucking them in around his neckline. Kensley stared up to the sky, where waves of thick clouds were beginning to creep up from the heights of the mountains. Out to the west, the sky was still relatively clear, leaving the streaks of the remaining sunlight to creep back toward them. “How unfortunate. We’d best find a nice sheltered spot to huddle down for the night and light a fire.”
Kensley sighed and looked about. His tired gaze traveled up and down the side of the mountain. A ways back in the direction they had come, there was a distinct orange glow against one of the vertical rock faces. “Carlyle, it seems someone had the same idea if my eyes aren’t tricking me.”
The captain followed Kensley’s pointed finger to the location. “Hmm, good eye.”
“That could be the group we’re looking for.” The long-haired man stressed. “Who else would be all the way out here so close to winter?”
“Obviously not many, but let’s not get hasty.” Carlyle pursed his lips and cupped his hands to his mouth for warmth. His eyes trained to the light while he conjured a plan.
Kensley’s horse shifted back and forth, following the rider’s uneasiness. “Captain?”
“They may be expecting us, but again, likely not.”
“I’m prepared,” Kensley said, patting the sword at his side.
“We’re not likely to need any force, Mr. Kensley,” the captain returned sternly. “If we come upon them unsuspecting, they’ll hopefully remain peaceful. We’ll have to search their belongings for anything we might need to confiscate, and then take note of their identities for future reference. If there are many as their seemed, we’d be helpless to capture any.”