'While you are there, find them.'
The smoke was vanishing even as he ran. His black cloak hid him well enough in the shadows of the forest, so it was unlikely the mage who had caused the flames had noticed Gant. Or was he exceptionally perceptive? It surely was a possibility.
'They do exist. Never doubt that, Gantsu Bai.'
Gant leaped and grabbed onto a tree branch, then used the momentum to jump over a stream just ahead. Had he not heard it, the water may have slowed his pace. Luckily, Gant could hear better than most. It was a useful thing.
'It is said they are rogue magi of great power, capable of destroying towns by themselves.'
Tight leather met dirt as soon as Gant started rolling to a stop, making sure to wrap himself up in his thick cloak. This would help keep him hidden in the dense woods, should the mage just ahead look back and use some sort of spell to see further. To Gant's surprise, it was not a mage who came running, but a wolf. It smelled the air, clearly looking for Gant. Was this a familiar of the mage? It was said they sometimes tamed beasts with magic.
'Never let them spot you first, or you die.'
The wolf passed right by Gant, not noticing his presence in the black bundle covered by tossed leaves. Had the forest not been burnt, then the wolf might have sniffed through the scented cloak and bandanna upon Gant's body. The mage had unknowingly hid Gant from the wolf. Lucky lucky.
'Should you approach a mage, never let him sense killing intent. In the moment he does, you die.'
Gant waited for the wolf to run back to where the mage most likely was to unroll himself and continue his pursuit. This mage might be one of Faerista's, so Gant would have to test the grass before taking his kill spot. Ahead, Gant saw a lone figure with a wolf beside it. A green cloak and a broadsword were the two main things noticed about the figure.
'Should you find the mage to be traveling alone, it is better to charm them and gather information. This is dangerous, but easier than killing the lone mage.'
Charm was something Gant was good at. He pulled off the bandanna and shoved it in his satchel under his cloak. Golden hair spilled over his chest and back, framing his face perfectly. Gant's father had abused this look and used it to deceive enemies before killing them. How ironic to think that Gant would be using his appearance as a weapon even after he killed his bandit father and joined the Drothar military.
'And my last advice, Gantsu Bai, is to always be aware of your surroundings.'
Gant paused as a figure walked out of the forest to his side, a bow drawn and pointed at Gant's own head. In an instant, all thought of charming the mage ahead - or even of the mage being there - vanished. All that existed was the bow and the arrow pulled in it.
"We were curious to see who was following us," the bow said, "To think it was a girl, though." Gant being seen as a girl did not seem to ease the bow, like it usually did.
Rather forcefully, Gant made himself become aware of everything once more. "My apologies, good sir," Gant said in a voice that no one would guess to be a man's, "But I thought you men were bandits, so I tried to stay hidden." Gant pulled a pouting face and made himself on the verge of tears. "I didn't want to be hurt..."
The bow still did not ease, but the mage had turned around and made it back to where Gant stood with his watcher. "Those are the clothes of a Drothar soldier, Ed," the mage said, "Though not a typical one."
Gant swallowed hard. "These are the only ones I could find... I've been walking for so long." To display the picture I was painting, I swayed a little. "Are you one of the mages who kill innocent people?" A voice of shaking and fear made that seem real to even Gant. He was getting better at acting. Why did he feel good about that?
"You're lucky we aren't in the army," the bowman said. It was at that time that the wolf returned and started sniffing at Gant. It finished rather quickly and barked at the man with the bow. The bowman seemed to tense. "So, Kate tells me you're a guy. Anything else you want to confess?"
Gant grimaced at the same time the mage blinked in surprise. OK, how to get out of this? First, dodge backward and put a tree behind him and the bowman. That would give Gant an opening to throw the knife at his hip toward the mage as a distraction. He could then run, keeping the trees in between the enemies and himself. The only other problem was the wolf, but a well-placed slice with Gant's dagger would make it possible to run.
But first. A test.
"The truth?" Gant said, picking his words cartefully, "The truth is that I am after the Red Hand and I believed you two to be part of them." Gant looked at the mage hard. "I was planning on charming you into confessing or giving me a hint, then kill you should my suspicions prove true. How is that for truth?"
Gant waited, prepared to leap back and escape like he had planned. He needed a sign, though. A sign they truly were or weren't with the Red Hand. Something that proved it's existence. What would that sign be?