The shimmering dome of magic, sparks and convulses in the mists behind the free people. Any time the mist attempts to caress it, another fizz and crackle as the magic repeals it. With books and papers on all topics, as well as the diary taken from the web of ley lines beneath the crumbling library, the Caravan steadily moves back along the ancient roads.
The Afacian scouts are few in number after the altercation with the New Dream creatures. They guide the travelling caravan the most direct path back towards civilisation. As they break through the wooded tree line, the province of Afacia rolls before them, fields upon fields of over grown, unharvested crops. In the distance black smoke rises like heavy clouds, the scent of fire clings to the air. As the Free People move over the next ridge, the source of the smoke is clear. Village huts still smolder, as does every farm house and out building they can lay their eyes on.
Those with keen eyes can clearly hundreds of footsteps, marking the earth, regimented, spanning the entire breath of the road. The trails of smoke lead off into the North West, in the direction of Afacia City.
"Hey!" An out of breath, but familiar voice calls out to the Free People. "Hey, you got out in time." The same Outrunner, that took the votes the gathering before, works her way up the hill towards them through the brush. Plants crunching as she steps.
"You've gotta come back towards the City. The Degan Bearth, are getting into place to start the siege. They still think you are in the City of Scholars. We have a plan for you to give the army, a good surprise kicking."
She points towards the City,
"We have to keep going following on the main path, but the moment it gets dark, we are going to veer off, we have a war camp prepared for you, hidden in the heart of Degan troops."
She would nodd to any scoffs or concerns.
"I understand you're worried. We've got a few tricks up our sleeve.You'll see. I can brief your leaders in full when you get there."
Pushing on, through the smoking villages, the Free People do not encounter another person, or live stock animal. There is blood to be found, but no bodies in any of the structures. No freshly turned dirt for graves.
The soft patter of rain begins to tink off of metal armour. The dark droplets scattering across the path, running down the travellers necks, bringing with it the cold. Dark clouds roll in as the sun begins to set and the Outrunner waves at the front of Caravan, motioning to veer off of the main path.
As the wagons turn, each one of the travellers experience an odd sensation as their feet turn them away from the main path. It feels as if their shadows have been peeled off of them, perfect copies continue on their journey, eyes unblinking and expressions frozen. Those with experience of ritual magic can feel a recognisable tingle as them become disconnected with their doppleganger's.
"Keep going down this route, into the valley, you will reach a woods. Another contact will find you there, you won't be able to miss him. I will reach the City with this lot and meet you at camp. Degan will think you've gone straight in. Keep low and quiet, we've cleared the path as much as we can. Good luck."
She jogs slightly to catch up with the tail end of the silent image and leaves them in the growing darkness.
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