Ulak grunted as he leapt across the gap between the buildings, the moonlight illuminating his chosen point of landing. As the young Naran's boot hit the rooftop, the tile beneath it slid away without effort, skidding off into the dark of night. Only the young sorcerer's fast reflexes saved a plunge off the rooftop and into the undulating sea of fog below and the waiting predators gliding through it, as his hand grabbed hold of the chimney stack's edge, halting his potential slide to doom.
The stone work groaned in response. "Don't you even think about it," growled Ulak quietly, carefully easing himself to the ridge of the rooftop. Below dark figures gathered expectantly, hungry for their elusive prey.
He was playing a dangerous game, Ulak knew, but much was in the balance, and this new arrival could tip that balance against them. Inwardly, Ulak prayed Arlyn, Ifirel and Deacon were still safe and alive. He also thanked whatever force had guided him to the rooftops when the first fog manifested in Port Town several nights ago. He'd witnessed many fall victim to the dark figures over the course of that period, feeling weak and powerless to help, anger rising within him as a result.
But now he watched as a hooded figure climbed out from an upper floor window and on to the building's roof. That in itself was not what drew the Naran's attention, but the method by which they had climbed, and Ulak could not shake the comparison to that of an insect.
Inwardly he shivered. The rooftops offered an excellent perspective on movement around the Port Town, especially during the day light hours, though now Ulak used it to avoid certain death during the fog-shrouded hours of night.
The figure Ulak was watching now perched itself in a sick parody of a rooftop bird, observing the world around it.
From his vantage point within the shadow of the chimney stack, Ulak could see the glow emanating from the talisman around its neck. This figure had control over the dark figures within the fog. It had to be that talisman, Ulak thought to himself. He wanted that talisman, and knew getting it would present a huge risk, but the reward would be even greater.
He'd heard the terrible screams emitted from within the building the figure had just exited. Knowing this made Ulak's choice far less complicated, and to his mind, far more justified. It would be vengeance for those the figure had murdered.
A chuckle rose within him as he recalled Deacon's words, "One day you're going to grow a sense of duty to others." His friend's grinning face briefly came to mind, then those of Ifriel and the beautiful Arlyn.
Friends indeed. Not many had taken to the young Naran, but they had, and it was something he was grateful for. Movement from his target pulled him from his reverie and back to the task at hand.
Ulak now employed all his stealth and tracking skills to follow his objective. Above him the fullness of the moon bathed everything around him in a cold, silvery half-light, the night dampness glistening on the roof tops. He had to focus on his footing as a result more than ever. Observing the figure slinking over the rooves of Port Town with apparent ease, caused Ulak's heart to sink slightly. But still he pressed on, knowing speed needed to be tempered with stealth. He focused on his breathing, slowing it down, trying, in turn, to slow his pulse. Calm and focus; Ulak recalled the mantra taught to him by his father, "Be the breath, be the air, flow and move with silence, be as light as a breeze caressing the candle flame."
Keeping a steady distance, Ulak match the traversing progress of the hooded figure, dropping into shadow when the figure stopped and turned, scanning the surrounding roof tops before moving on.
The sudden feeling the figure was staring at his location, Ulak slowly eased himself down the pitch of the roof he occupied, deeper into the shadows and laying on his back in order to create a lesser profile, whilst holding on to the spine of the building by one hand. His free hand gripped a dagger. The pounding in his chest threatened to drown out all aspect of hearing. Fighting the sudden fight or flight response of his body and the rise of adrenalin and increased breathing, Ulak calmed his mind as best he could.
Silence. No padding of footsteps approaching his location. Sliding the dagger home, Ulak rolled to his front and used both hands to ease himself up to see what the figure was doing.
An urgent feeling flooded his senses. Cursing himself, but still trying to be as quiet as possible, Ulak rose up further. Scanning the rooftops he could see no sign for the hooded figure, but his senses told him they were not far ahead. Carefully, half-crouched, Ulak moved to where he last saw the figure. Pausing to examine the fog at ground level, nothing could be seen. Coming to the roof edge, he launched himself across the gap between buildings, landing perfectly in a crouch. Satisfied his landing drew no attention, he continued forward and paused. Yes, his target wasn't far away. Ulak never knew how he was able to determine this with those he tracked, be they animal or person, but the ability had never misled or failed him.
Moving to the end of the roof, he now looked down at a terrace, half-bathed in moonlight. Scanning the roof tops ahead no movement could be detected. And still his instinct told him they were close, but this time there was a fuzziness to his mind, preventing him from pin pointing where this figure was?
Slowly and carefully Ulak lowered himself to the terrace, crouching in darkness before moving into the moonlight. Deep shadow protected him. He almost felt loathed to leave its protection, but the urge to find his target was greater. Feeling secure, Ulak rose and silently stepped forward into moonlight and the edge of the terrace.
It was only then he became aware of another presence behind him.
Spinning round, Ulak watched in horror as the hooded figure stepped out from the opposite end of the shadows within which he, himself had just left. His hand went immediately to his belt and the dagger there.
Briefly two red orbs flashed within the depths of the hood. A slight wave of dizziness washed over the Naran, passing as swiftly as it had touched him.
The figure pulled down its hood and stepped closer.
"Arlyn!" gasped Ulak.
Her facial features were unmistakeable, even in moonlight. He'd always harboured affection for her. But this? The time it took him to realise something was amiss, she was upon him, taking both his shoulders in a powerful, painful grip.
A smile, wider than humanly possible, split Arlyn's face, revealing a terrifying array of serrated teeth. She lunged at Ulak's throat, biting deep, multiple times in rapid succession.
The two staggered closer to the terrace edge. Ulak felt hot, searing pain, and the sensation of drowning as he inhaled his own blood instead of air in a desperate reflexive attempt to breathe.
Arlyn shook her head fiercely, teeth sawing deeper into the young sorcerer's neck and throat.
Ulak's limbs were starting to get heavy. His head fell backwards. He felt like a rabbit being shaken to death in the jaws of a fox. Fading images of happier times with his friends filled his mind; Deacon, Ifriel and Arlyn.
With his last dying strength, Ulak hugged the thing tearing into his being.
Hands placed in the centre of the attacker's back, Ulak summoned the words of the spell, Dragon Breath, to his mind and into a last, bloody whisper.
The resulting burst of flame punched through both figures, evaporating heart, lungs and other internal organs, sending them tumbling like ragdolls over the terrace edge.
Swallowed by the sea of fog below, both would be lost under its waves until the arrival of daylight and the turning of its tide.
END OF PART 2.
Copyright ©. 2021 Mark Kelly.
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