There was nothing left to follow. The trail of footprints and black blood ended abruptly at a copse of pines. Bohren trudged around, searching for a broken branch or misplaced rock, but the snowfall lay undisturbed. The rest of the convoy confirmed his observations.
Sorian’s mechanized horse sensed its master’s impatience and pawed the ground, releasing a smoky snort. “He could not have gone far,” the prince hissed and tightened his grip on the reins. “He is injured.”
Bohren knew he was right: Rivek had an arrow in his shoulder. The bird-mage would not risk shifting and tearing himself a bigger wound. He looked up. The pine needles above his head wove a blanket thick enough to cover the sun. He turned to Sorian. The sun glinted off the prince’s lion-shaped breastplate and into his eyes. “I can find him.”
“You are a soldier.” Sorian fondled the hilt of his sword. “You lack the hunting expertise required to locate an escaped convict.”
“Right. Most convicts, yeah, but I grew up with this guy. I know where he’d go.”
Sorian raised his eyebrow but nodded his permission. Bohren took a few steps into the wood, but he turned around when he heard the clank of equine machinery following him. “I have to go alone.”
Sorian drew his weapon. “This is my quarry.”
“You’re wearing plate armor and riding a metal horse. He’s going to hear you a mile away and run. And he runs fast.” He thought of what his friend would say. Rivek always had the quicker tongue. “Think of me like a much quieter, less threatening, hunting dog. And I’m here to ferret out your pheasant.”
Sorian pondered the logic in this response, and backed his horse out of the trees. “You have one hour.”
Bohren bowed. “Thank you, sir.”
“I think you mean, ‘your majesty.’”
The further Bohren walked from Sorian’s mechanical beasts, the colder and quieter the air became. He wasn’t good at tracking, so he was glad this wouldn’t be actual tracking. He picked up a stick and tapped twice on each tree he strolled past. As he went, he hummed a tune, a song from their homeland about roasting partridges. It wasn’t particularly complex or meaningful, but his father used to sing it before calling the boys to dinner.
The snowfall got deeper as he walked. The wet now rose over his boots and sank into the wool pants at his knees. He hadn’t done a good job of keeping track of time. But Rivek was nowhere to be found. Bohren growled and threw the stick against the nearest tree, causing a shrew to scurry out from its roots to a quieter nest.
The branches above his head rustled loudly, twice. And a gallon of snow splashed on his head. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve heard that song.”
He glanced up. Rivek, pale but still smirking, sat cradled in the branches of this pine. He clutched his shoulder which oozed black blood down his good hand. The broken shaft of an arrow peeked out between his thumb and index finger. Bohren smiled, “You’ve been following me. I’m flattered you made the effort in your condition.”
“I had to make sure you were alone.”
“Yeah, it’s just me.”
“I know. You wouldn’t sing that silly song in front of Mr. Your Majesty. I don’t think he’d approve of our childish games.” Rivek laughed, but his teeth chattered.
Bohren frowned. “That wound - you can’t make it back to Will on time.”
Damned liar. Even Bohren, with his minimal medical experience, knew it wouldn’t. The acid blood would eat Rivek’s flesh a lot faster than it would eat the arrowhead. He bit his lip and offered the only alternative he could think of. “Give up. Stop running, and come back with me.”
“Into the waiting mouth of the Lion? I’m not that stupid.”
“I know you’re not. You’ve always been smarter than me.” His voice cracked. “But you trust me.”
“Trust isn’t a reason to do stupid things.” His words trailed off with a ragged breath.
“I won’t let him hurt you.” Bohren wrung his hands. Moisture dotted Rivek’s brow despite the cold winds. “Please.”
He held Rivek’s eyes. Their natural blue-grey had shifted to avian gold, a visual manifestation of physical stress.
“I promise.” Bohren held his arm up, palm open. “You know I keep my promises.”
“Swear on your life. That’s a promise you’ll keep.”
Rivek winced but extended his arm. Bohren grasped his hand. “On mine and Sorian’s. Even if it means killing him myself.”
.” Give Up
. - 093/100 Themes.
Bohren has to convince Rivek to get down from a goddamn tree. Just like when they were kids. Can I just spend the rest of my life writing bromance, please?More Art/Writing Featuring These Characters:
Bohren Tabirian, Rivek Ailinar, and Sorian Aljannsen belong to Grace Fong,