Chapter 5 (part 1)

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Chapter 5 (part 1)

Everynne raced through the forest, following Gallen and Veriasse while Maggie and Orick brought up the rear. Everynne found it hard to toil through the thick under-growth of Coille Sidhe. Everywhere, trees grew in a riot: dark pine brooded over the wrinkled hills and valleys. Tangled vine maple and ironwood climbed high to capture the dappled sunlight, their limbs twisted like snakes. Dense undergrowth covered the forest floor. Everywhere, ancient fallen pine trees lay molding.

Everynne wished she could hear the vanquishers' calls in the woods, but the pine needles and leaves of lesser trees muffled all sound. If the vanquishers fell upon them, there would be no advance notice.

Veriasse and Gallen ran side by side, Veriasse carrying his incendiary gun in both hands. Gallen kept glancing at it, but did not immediately ask what it was.

Veriasse hung his shoulders as he ran, weary. Everynne herself felt weary to the core of her soul, and she knew she needed more help. She needed a man like Gallen, and she considered taking him for a servant. She studied him as she ran.

After thirty minutes, Gallen reached a hill where a trio of tall stones hid them. Inside this natural fortress, he called a halt. He stood panting and asked Veriasse, "Those vanquishers, will they try to follow our tracks or are there enough of them so that they can beat the brush and force us out of cover?"

Veriasse heaved for air, said, "They will hunt us both by scent and by track. Gallen, we must take great care. If they have already found the gate, they will be guarding it. We will need to sneak up to it. Yet with vanquishers at our heels, we cannot afford to be timid."

Gallen considered. "You said that the vanquishers can kill from a distance, and they carried rods like the one you have. Is this the weapon they use?"

"It's called an incendiary rifle," Veriasse said. "When you discharge the weapon, it fires chemicals that burn very hot."

"So it's something like a flaming arrow?" Gallen asked.

"Yes, only far hotter. Where we come from, some creatures can only be killed with such a weapon. It has become our weapon of choice."

"How does it work?" Gallen asked. Everynne was surprised at how casually he asked it. She imagined that the young man, being a Backward from such a low-tech world, would find such weapons to be somehow shocking. But Gallen asked in a brusque, businesslike manner.

Veriasse held the weapon up for Gallen to examine. "Down here under the guard is a trigger. When I pull it once, the weapon becomes active and a red beam of light shoots from this lens above the barrel." He pointed the rifle at a stone, and the red dot of a laser shone on the rock. "You will also feel a vibration in the weapon when it's active. Whatever the red dot shines on, that is what you will hit if you pull the trigger a second time."

Veriasse flipped the weapon on its side, pointed to a little indicator light. "These lights show how many more shots you can take with the weapon." His indicator showed ten shots.

"How far can it shoot?" Gallen asked.

"Officially, it can fire about a hundred and fifty yards," Veriasse answered. "But the flames can carry farther if you aim high. You must never fire at an opponent who is too close-

unless you want to burn with him. Once the weapon sits without firing for three minutes, it deactivates."

Gallen touched the rifle's stock. "This can kill an ogre?"

"Yes," Veriasse said.

"How tough are they?" Gallen asked.

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