263 A Slip from a Shadow
*Eldovian Era 1713, 14th day of the 11th month*
Devina hadn't been able to believe her eyes. Had she done it? Had she found the path of Chaos that she'd been destined to? The man that she'd seen had moved so quickly. She'd glimpsed a long braid down his back and squinting eyes that were unmistakably tinted red before he'd moved so swiftly away from her and Aina that he appeared to have just vanished from where he'd stood.
It she was being entirely honest, the encounter had seemed more like a pure coincidence than anything else. Still, now that she'd found the source of the wrongness, the supposed path of Chaos, she needed to decide what she'd do about it. Surprisingly, this turned out to be not nearly as difficult as she'd thought.
Her training as a Priestess of the Holy Order guided her instincts. They guided her in healing the man whose neck wound did not clot no matter what pressure nor cloth was held against it. She had to draw some sort of wrongness from his body before it would clot, but by that stage he'd lost enough blood that he needed to be watched over. The fuss he'd kicked up by shouting to the roof tops in the middle of the night had caused quite the stir, but it also meant that whenever Devina or her Paladins went out, everyone was even more accommodating to them than they had been before. Their cooperation was unbelievable, even without those of higher authority in the city stepping in.
From what she and Aina had observed the night before, Devina suspected that this man, whatever and whoever he was, was not only insanely fast, but also agile. The image he painted was that of a perfect hunter, which no doubt meant that he was capable of fighting back should he desire to. Yet he hadn't. Why, Devina wasn't entirely sure, but it made her more readily assume certain things. Such as the fact that he would only hunt those that were out of their homes. That he preferred no witnesses. And finally, that he was intelligent enough to assume that Devina and Aina would try to find him again.
Hence, Devina knew that she could not limit her search to just the dock yards when the new night came about. As reluctant as Aina was to leave Devina be, there were only seven of them, and they needed to cover as much ground as possible. After a few hours of rest, they divided into different sections of the city and went about waiting for the feeling of wrongness to return.
But they waited long into the night until the sun began to rise, and Chaos Monster made no appearance.
"Nothing," Lukas groaned, "Not even a whisper of that wrongness you spoke of".
"Me neither," Aina agreed. The other four Paladins all nodded. Devina sighed.
"Is he lying low to throw us off or has he moved on?" she wondered aloud.
"He didn't seem like the type who would run so easily," Aina stated.
Devina looked up at her, "What do you mean?"
"I mean, sure he ran, but I think he was more concerned about witnesses, not a threat to his safety," Aina replied, "He dodged my attack with such accuracy it looked barely negligible to him".
"That doesn't exactly instill hope," Lukas added, "How are we meant to carry out our mission if he is far more skilled than us?"
"His apparent speed alone would be a problem in that regard," Kelly continued.
"It occurred to me as well last night, if he does have that kind of speed, could he not venture to nearby villages and cities to hunt anyway?" asked Jack.
Devina nodded in agreement, "We'll need to send messengers to see if there have been disturbances there. How many are within a day's ride?"
"I'd have to look at a map to be sure, but perhaps twenty," said Lukas.
"That's a lot of potential hunting grounds," Jill sighed.
The group lapsed into silence at the apparent daunting task ahead of them. Besides the fact that they were still running on the assumption that he was still present somewhere close to the city. Perhaps that was the problem.
"We've only been assuming things so far," Devina stated, "What do we actually know?"
"You think we've perhaps missed something?" asked Aina.
"It can't hurt to go over the facts again," Devina replied.
Aina nodded, "Well, we know he's incredibly fast and agile".
"That any mention of the 'wrongness' that indicates his presence occurs at night," added Jack.
"He has red eyes," said Lucas, "And brown hair braided down his back".
"A common enough hair style among the sailors for it not to be overly distinctive," Devina sighed.
"He drinks blood," Isaac provided, having been silent up until then.
Devina paused, "Human blood".
"Well, we don't know for sure if that's his only diet, a lot of creatures besides humans have blood as well," Kelly stated.
Devina looked up, "Did anyone think to check the farms outside the city? The barns within it?"
The group looked at one another before sighing in frustration.
"I was too busy watching the taverns, apartments and inns," Lukas admitted.
"If he's going after animals instead, surely we'd be able to find evidence," Jill stated, "A dead animal drained of blood is pretty strange".
"We'll need to inquire around about it," Devina nodded.
"We need to rest, Priestess," Lukas stated, "Especially if we're going to be up all night again, should we delegate these inquires to-"
"The Priests based here," Devina stated, "Tell them to spread out to cover more ground, that we want reports by dinner time".
"Yes, Priestess," Jack bowed his head respectfully before the group filed out. Devina sighed heavily as she leaned back into her chair, turning to look out of the window. Her mind was a mess. She hadn't thought it would be this difficult. She should have expected it would be.
This was her duty now. She was a Spark of the Holy Order. The one that would uncover a strand of Chaos. Now, she needed to combine those two fates into one and do what she'd always been trained to do. She needed to let her light fill the shadows.