A Chance Encounter Prose in Indomitable Will | World Anvil
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A Chance Encounter

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A young hunter crouched behind a bush, peering through the leaves at his quarry. The hatchling drake was playing in the freshly falling snow, thoroughly enjoying his first winter.   Leander is more than a ‘simple farmer’. Wait ’til they see this. He drew a harpoon from his quiver, attaching a length of rope to it. Come a little closer…   The little drake was too busy frolicking to heed his mother’s warning not to stray too far, and was unaware of the danger lurking nearby.   The danger raised his arm and threw his harpoon. It hit its mark, lodging itself in the wyrm’s shoulder.   He gave an anguished bellow and darted for his mother, trailing the harpoon line, and Leander with it.   Leander fell forward and out of his hiding place, the rope wrenched out of his hands. He looked up into the roaring face of the baby’s father. Terrified, he scrambled to his feet and twisted away to run.   The drake’s claws swiped past where Leander’s chest had been a moment before, catching on his satchel. The pack was ripped from him and his back left with a shallow gash.   At the moment that Leander cried out in pain, he was blinded by a flash coming from behind him.   Run. Northeast.   Leander didn’t know where it was coming from, but he was sure he’d heard a woman’s voice calling to him. Northeast? That’s upwind!   The Sparkbead will cover your scent. Run northeast.   Sparkbead? Glancing over his shoulder, Leander saw the drake retreating toward his family. He decided to trust the unknown voice and veered around the drakes. He came to a cluster of trees, where he was met by a hooded figure.   The figure glared at him. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?” She hissed. “Only an idiot hunts drakes on their own."   “No one would go with me.” Leander shrugged, feeling rather foolish giving such a weak response. And now they never will.   The mysterious woman rummaged in a nearby bush, returning with a handful of berries. “These will keep your wound from getting infected.” She crushed them in her fist and offered the paste to him.   Leander looked at the woman’s hand, unsure what she intended for him to do. “Am I supposed to eat it?” He cast a dubious glance at the unappetizing looking paste.   “Put it on your cut. I’m not going to do it for you.”   He attempted to reach over his shoulder, the skin burning as it stretched. “Do you have an extra cloak I can borrow? I’ve lost my satchel, and this wind is freezing.” He winced at the touch of his cold fingers on the torn skin.   “The cold will help you not to bleed so much,” the woman replied.   Leander got the impression that she wasn’t helping him out of an excess of compassion. “Thanks, I feel better already.”   “It’s no more than you deserve for disturbing the peace.” The woman examined the lengthening shadows. “We can get to Anwyl’s Mantle by moonrise if we leave now. Sooner if we run.”   “Isn’t there a better place? I’m not excited about the idea of crossing the Permafrost Flats without a cloak.” Leander tentatively reversed his overshirt so the holes wouldn’t overlap, and tied his belt around his chest.   “Not unless a new village has popped up in the last month. Come quickly; the road is long.”   Leander followed the woman. “No road is long with good company.” He attempted a smile, but tripped on a root in the evening dark and made a sharp intake of breath.   The woman sighed. “This road will be long.” Her stride was steady, and yet cautious. She reminded Leander of a shadow fleeting between the trees. Her fingers brushed the bark and receding fern fronds as she passed, as though in greeting.   The two ran in silence until they emerged from the forest, at which point Leander gave voice to a thought that had been bothering him. “How did you know I was concerned about the drakes following my scent?” He leaned on his knees to catch his breath.   “You aren’t the only one who knows the winds.”   “How long were you watching? I didn’t even know you were there.”   “I didn’t intend for you to know. If you weren’t aware of your surroundings before deciding to engage your quarry, you aren’t a very good hunter.”   “I’m a much better hunter with a team. Besides, I was downwind from them; I just fell out of my bush. Otherwise it would’ve gone just fine. What were you doing in the forest at night?”   “You ask a lot of questions.” The woman knelt down and placed a small object in a bag.   “I want to know a lot of things,” Leander replied, unfazed.   “I was watching the drakes. I’d been watching them for a week.”   “Why?” The woman gave Leander an irritated glance, and he shrugged. “I’m Leander, by the way. Iorwerth.”   “From the farm by Saunders?”   “That’s the one. Though I’d rather be known for something more impressive.” Leander paused. “I’m also a member of the Coursers’ Guild in Advarsel,” he amended, more proudly.   “Hm.” The woman peered around the field before heading in a direction toward Mantel. “There aren't many safe paths. Step where I do.”   “You know, since Bryn died they've renamed it to just Mantel.”   “Have they, then? It’s been a while since I was here last.”   “Why were you here last time?”   “Are you uncomfortable being quiet?” The woman snapped, clearly impatient with him.   “I like to talk to interesting people.”   “I’m not interesting. Mind your own affairs.”   “If you’d minded your own affairs I would be drake food.”   “Preventing people from interfering with my objects is my affair, not to mention it being in my best interest to keep said objects from becoming aggravated.”   A moment passed, and Leander thought of yet another question. “What’s a Sparkbead?”   “A parcel that explodes on impact without causing any damage.”   “Then what’s the point?”   “Drakes will always opt to protect their young from a potential threat over pursuing a fleeing target. If I make them think the hatchling is still in danger, they’ll abandon their chase an immediately return to guard it. That’s why you should never target the young ones.”   “Well, the idea was to separate it from the others and make off with it. If I’d had backup it would’ve been a clean operation.”   “The baby still might die with an injury like you gave it.”   There was another span of silence, both travelers taking care for their footing in the dark.   If I can just get to the top of this hill... Leander dragged his limbs up the slope step by step, forcing his exhausted body onward. Every part protested, not least of which the widening gash across his back.   Cresting the slope, the woman stopped. “This is where I leave you. Find the house with the carving of a caribou bust over the threshold. That’s Arthwr’s inn. If you don’t have money he’ll let you work off the debt.”   “Can I see you again sometime?”   “I see people; people don’t see me.”   “Can a charming young man change that?”   “No, a charming young man is not going to change that. Especially one with poor judgement. Be more careful in the future, and consider a change of occupation.” The mysterious woman turned away from Leander and departed without a backward glance.   He watched her disappear into the shadows of night, like a drop of water into a pool; surely a creature in her native element. Goodbye, wild forest sprite.

Perspective character:
Leander Iorwerth   Other characters involved: