It was late afternoon; the heat of the midday sun had been chased away by a fresh breeze coming off the ocean. The temperature was mild, which made their flight easier, but it was an equal advantage to anyone pursuing them as well. Ganzario, with his short stride was fast out of breath. He almost had to sprint just to keep up with the long-legged hunter who had curtly introduced himself as ‘Tragnach'.
After less than an hour of crossing the rolling plains that skirted the city of Damoth, Ganzario's legs felt like lead. He couldn't take another step. With a moan he let himself drop into the long grass and tore up chunks of the cool fronds to wipe his brow.
Tragnach carried on jogging for a good forty feet before he realised that Ganzario was down.
Angry, he stalked back and looked at him questioningly.
"I can't go that fast," Ganzario said panting.
"Too much food, too much beer and no exercise," Tragnach sneered.
"You can see for yourself that your legs are twice as long as mine, so shut your face!"
Tragnach's foot drove deep into Ganzario's stomach. "Keep your tongue in check my little friend. You do still want to live, yes?"
Ganzario saw stars, lots of stars. His head swam and he nearly vomited. The impact took the last air from his lungs and he sat there dry heaving into his lap.
He had expected Tragnach to be more a man of actions than words, but he was still shocked by his abrupt response.
"By... all... means," Ganzario choked out between gasps.
"See, that's better now isn't it? Civility is wind in the sails of a good relationship, don't you agree?" Tragnach smiled warmly.
After a little while, still dizzy, Ganzario stood up coughing. His legs still felt weak and now his stomach ached as well but he managed to walk. Tragnach ranged ahead while Ganzario followed, plotting his next move. The speed was slower than before and he managed to keep up, if just barely.
Many hours later, long after the sun had fled, they took a much needed breather on an open rise near the southern edge of the Highlands of Damoth. Tragnach scanned the darkness for any signs of pursuit and then suddenly hissed in vexation, pointing back the way they had come.
"We're not alone..."
Ganzario struggled back to his feet to look where Tragnach was pointing. He could see tiny lights bobbing in the distance. He watched for a moment wondering what they could be when he realised they were getting closer.
"Four, maybe five miles back, but moving quickly." Tragnach said quietly, "They tracked us over rough ground in bad light, so they're good. And if they've come this far it's safe to say they're persistent. We have to move soon."
"Ungrh," Ganzario grunted, too tired for speech. He couldn't take much more of this.
Tragnach took a deep breath, showing few signs of fatigue. Sitting down he composed himself and focused on the little man.
"Why don't you tell me what happened when the cylinder glowed? Did you see anything? What did you feel?" Tragnach's voice suddenly sounded as sweet as honey and seemed to echo in his head.