With fewer torches burning, navigating the roads without detection was much easier than the shadow had anticipated. He melted from one pool of shade to the next, expanding and breathing with the light as the flames flickered and sputtered.
He could think only of two places the girl was likely to be. Given his familiarity with the villagers, he knew that the stoic man bound in leather, the man designated leader, whose wisdom and strength the village relied so heavily upon, was not keen on newcomers. He was slow to trust and quick to act, planning and strategizing everything - always two steps ahead of everyone else. It was likely he would hold the girl and her companion for questioning in his home, where he could watch them closely.
That was the first place he looked for her. Unlike many of the homes he had passed, the man called Jax kept his windows carefully blacked out so that the light flooding his home could not leak out into the night. A cursory slide from shadow to shadow in the cracks of the walls, for he dared not linger, told him quickly enough that the girl was not there.
It was as he had feared, then. His brethren had been successful. The boy would surely be with the healer, and the girl would be by his side. Pride and frustration mingled and battled one another in whatever shadowy depths housed his emotions.
Silently, he made his way for the healer's home. He had been there before, he knew the way. There was no one to see him, to feel his presence slip from one shadow to the next - no prying eyes anywhere. And yet, if he had had a heart, it would have been racing. Was it fear? Excitement? What would a shadow have to fear? How could a shadow be excited for anything other than the approaching night, for the wicked thrill of the kill? Or was it something else entirely?
The healer's home was the largest in the village, specifically designed to be an infirmary for the sick or injured, as well as her home. Tonight, she had fewer candles lit. Only the corridors between rooms were illuminated, the darkness left to breed freely in the three unoccupied rooms, the doors tightly shut. She had always been a practical woman, never using anything more than she needed, and no less. It worked out well for him.
The darkness called out to him, a siren song he couldn't afford to listen to. There were only two rooms that concerned him right now, and neither were likely to be left in a festering black void like the others. The first was the old woman's room, which he knew from his prior invasions. He listened for a moment in the crack between the door and the frame to verify she was indeed inside before moving on. He could hear from within the quiet shuffling and muffled breathing that surely meant she was readying for bed.
There was no point in wasting any more time. He melted into the shadow under the door of the second room, steeling himself to finally face the girl.