Night was upon me, or could it be the shade of the tree crowns that blackened the sky, I wasn’t sure. The Orbiters illuminated the road, the path so narrow that four horses couldn’t cross it without one moving out of the way. Soyuz 9 guards made it this way, so it is easily defensible.
There was no other way to run, but head back if under attack. On my right, there was a thick vegetation, old roots to trump your run, thin branches to poke your eyes, spiderweb stretched all over the ancient trunks. On my left, a lake, still water and monsters hiding underneath the glass like surface. That was it, the whole strategic analysis of the road I traveled on for days.
I tied my horse for the tree, took off my clothes and chopped the pieces of meat I smoked earlier. I came to the rocky shore and threw the bate in the water. Not long after that, the floating chunks moved so I had a clear entrance.
My birthmark started glowing. It always happened in the evening, but I used to cover it with robes. I also had the pentagrams on my body, memories of how I earned them. Two on the chest, two more on the shoulder blades and another two on my shoulders made a chain, a signal of a rank I had, all of them carved with the acid that powered my armor. Newcomers had one on the chest, the second must be earned with loyalty and blood. Only spies had theirs on a foot, a place rarely shown to anyone, a mark and its position known only by another Heretic.
I had dagger in my hand, just in case if bate fails. I scrubbed the dirt off and washed my hair. Bate was floating further and further, when I cut off my hair, shaved the sides and removed my beard. This will serve me good in the place I was headed.
The Orbiter looked at me, bits of it spinning around it, glancing in the lake. There were eyes watching me as I stood still. A ferocious creature on four legs, long fur tail, long muzzle where fangs like swords were hidden, claws unsheathed – ready for a clash. She was so big, her size could’ve devour a bear without a problem.
My horse became restless when she gnashed, walked on the other shore and stopped to drink water. Her radiant yellow eyes stared at my pentagrams like another creature its equal before she left into the dark.
Something took the bate, so I went backwards and stopped to dry out. Just in case, I tied my baggage for the tallest branch, climbed the tree to sleep and heard her howling in the distance. She was the last thing I wanted to encounter, not here, not now when I am close to Soyuz 9.
My horse disapproved being left on the ground, but if one of us had to be a supper for the she-wolf, the choice was clear. Maybe the Gods will spare us both, maybe she will climb the tree and eat me too if she is with cubs. Oh, I can’t worry about her right now, I crave for a sleep. I had the Orbiter sing me a lullaby with its lights piercing the rustling tree tops and maybe tomorrow I will continue my journey on the long road.