Hunted (K.F. Breene) - K.F. Breene


FROM HIGH ON the hillside Shanti surveyed what lay below. The sun had started to sink toward the horizon. The cool, soft breeze brushed her face as she lingered within the leafy trees. A valley bathed in soft, yellow sunshine stretched out below her. Shimmering grasses surrounded an encampment densely populated with tents and dotted with people.

The organization of the camp suggested this was one of the many planning headquarters cropping up all over the land. Information came and went, allowing the best and brightest to soak it up, consider it, plan the next steps, and then send out orders to the many smaller satellite camps. Seeing one of these camps this far east meant the Graygual were moving at alarming speeds. Xandre had an agenda, and Shanti bet his focus was on the man proclaiming himself the Chosen, a title her people had tried to give to her.

The only true Chosen would come out of the trials in the Shadow Lands, so it was possible neither of them had the right to the title that would command allegiance of the Shadow people, but Shanti had to admit that the scriptures had always said the Chosen would be a man, and this man would have a huge army. If she was honest with herself, he was better qualified for the role than she was.

So what did a girl do when things started unraveling around her? Track down rumors, of course.

After listening to a few drunken gossips in taverns, she’d tracked down the elusive Ghost; the man with light hair and eyes who haunted the Graygual’s steps and picked off any stragglers. He was a phantom, a terror in the night, instilling fear in the lower tier of the Graygual army, and boosting hope in the oppressed townspeople. Often the word Ghost was uttered in the same sentence as the violet-eyed girl. They were both light of feature, both dangerous, and both unwilling to bow to the Being Supreme, Master Tyrant himself.

Shanti was almost positive the Ghost was actually her brother Rohnan, even though she had thought he died during the battle of her people to allow her to flee. There could be no one else, with a similar agenda to her own; not with features that came mostly from the northwest coastal area.

And only a fool would follow around after the Graygual. A fool, or someone with nothing left to lose.

Now that fool had been caught and imprisoned within the camp below.

“How does he get himself into these things? He evades for months only to finally get caught out in the open?” she whispered to herself.

The rumor was that the Ghost had wandered out into the open one day, hands out in front of him, asking to be captured.

“Why allow them to take you, Rohnan? What did you have planned?”

It was disconcerting when she asked questions that no one answered. That way lay madness. And yet, still she talked to the air. Things weren’t looking good.

She glanced at the sun already halfway between midday and the horizon. She had some time before nightfall, when she would venture down into the camp and scout things out.

* * *

AS DAY BLED INTO DUSK, Shanti found herself on the edge of the Graygual camp crouched between a dirty wooden barrel and a canvas tent. The smell of horse wafted from a line of the tethered animals a few paces to her right. Murmured voices rumbled out of a tent across a walkway in front of her. The walls flickered with light, illuminating the shapes of three men bent over a table.

Shanti let her Gift cover the encampment like a light fog. Rohnan was being held no more than a little ways in front of her. He hadn’t moved much all day and was exuding unconcerned patience. Six guards waited around his tent, all vigilant even though he was probably restrained.

Two more shapes ambled along the path in Shanti’s direction. As they came into view, Shanti saw a man with his black uniform opened at the neck, exposing his hairy chest. His heavy arm draped across the shoulders of a woman with a pronounced bust. Her cleavage popped out of her gaping dress, with the sway of her hips and the unmistakable swagger of a whore who had found her mark.

Judging by the stagger of the man, and the lean on his ladylove, he’d had his fair share of alcohol. He would most likely be lowered into bed, fondled until he passed out, and