More from Hard Time this week!
Every Worm beneath the earth used to howl in rage and fear at the sound of his name, but he moved shadow-soft and shadow-swift, and on the Mother’s face he left no mark of his passing. Where he stopped for a while, sometimes a bit of what he was would linger: colors brighter, shade deeper, as if he made the world more real.
It never lasted long. He passed through Wealaia to Muscoda in three nights. The closing of the border didn’t bother him; he spent some time watching the guards pass back and forth in front of the stockade, and when he was confident of a gap, he scaled the boards and let himself down on the other side. He disappeared into the mountains, with no more sound than a cat on stalking feet.
The Muscodites, or at least their government, looked badly on his race. That was all right. One or two might have seen him, by chance or by skill, but he was gone before it made a difference, gone like the demon of the forest they’d have him. In the wooded depths, sly whispering ghosts tried to rise and catch at his ankles, but there wasn’t quite enough of him, no, not quite. No dark Power remained in the Rothganar he hadn’t come to know as well as he ought. Wound or illness could drag him down into death, but no Power would, now.
He flowed through the desert by chilly, sunless hours, night after night, sleeping in the heat of the day except when he roused to catch lizards in his bare hands and eat them raw when they’d just finished kicking. He needed food endlessly. The eternal rumble and growl of his stomach grew so loud he worried he wouldn’t be able to hide.
He came into Windish thinner than ever and in agony, a shadow and no more.