The darkness was spread out softly around him, and the urge to rest was like a weight in his head pushing him down. He wanted to pause, if only to empty stones from his mud-soaked boots, but wardens would soon come searching. Words along the grapevine said that they and the Watchmen were growing more adept at sensing aremaeţa, and if so, magi troubles would soon increase threefold. It would be difficult to obscure himself enough by appearance, his coat’s liver-red lining and his decorated lapels of golden owls and swallows shimmering brightly.
Concentrating, he suppressed his aremaeţa, visualising all the heat in his body flowing towards his heart, pulled back so tightly that his muscles trembled with an energy desperate to uncoil. As he made his way to the bottom, he noticed the road that extended from Villain’s Run split in several directions, slowly spiralling down into Vincula, over the hills to the coasts of both the Ashen Sea and the Silkyn. At this intersection was a carved platform raising up a cluster of signs, naming the other colonies and their directions: Hovhesa, Eirnat, Bantaren and Geldir, all towards the south. Smaller arrows identified the main streets that opened in front of him, and with the address he had discovered in the archives bright in his memory, he saw it marked: ILLICIT STREET. He stared down the thoroughfare, lit only by the weak light emitted from the open windows. He took a step forward, but was seized by a sudden pain in his chest, that caused him to stagger back against the platform. Spots danced at the corners of his eyes as he drew in deep breaths and pushed the pain deep into another compartment of his body until it lessened and went away; just another heart attack.
As he recovered, striking his breast violently, he caught a flash of colour from his periphery. He stilled, sending his energy out like grappling fingers to identify it. The essence he gathered made the pads of his fingers sizzle warmly, followed by an identity. As he looked up, it was already racing towards him, slipping on the loose mud on the decline, staining its coat, surging helplessly to the bottom: a fox.