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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 38: Kondor 13
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 37, Hastings 13
He had lost the trail. He stood bewildered in the undergrowth, wondering how he could have lost them so completely so quickly. He would never find them, and never be part of them; they really did vanish like magic.
Kondor collected his thoughts. They didn't vanish, and they didn't use magic. They used superior woodcraft techniques, but they were not untraceable. He took another look around. Yes, there was a bit of a game trail, with a low arch above it. That must have been the path taken. Bending low to follow it, he walked carefully along it. There was a torn leaf, there a disturbance in the mulch, and here some shifted branches. He moved slowly, looking for each disruption of the natural undergrowth. It was a slow tedious process, but it brought him eventually to a path, and a few fresh footprints pointing the same direction.
Even on the path, he did not rush. Probably his quarry followed the path a fair distance, possibly several miles; but they would have left it again at some landmark, something they could easily recognize which would not seem significant to anyone else. He had to watch the sides of the trail for any suggestion that they had left it.
It was several hours and only as many miles, but he found it. There were several breaks in the edge of the path just opposite a large dark split tree trunk. It was again difficult to follow the disturbances in the ground, but he was beginning to understand what to seek and what it meant.
But he lost the light before he found the men, and in the fading dusk pitched camp in the barest hint of a clearing. By morning he suspected the trail would be cold, but hopefully he was either close enough that he would stumble on them or sharp enough that he could find another clue as to their direction.
He wasted no time the next day, breaking camp and searching the ground for the continuation of the trail. Striking out more in the direction he had been heading than by any particular clues, he soon found fainter yet still present bits of trail. And within an hour he had stumbled into a larger clearing. In the midst of it was a ring of stones around the ashes of a fire. But there was no one present. Someone had been here, but it was abandoned now.
Perhaps they would return. It was the best chance he could imagine at the moment, so he made camp, gathered wood, and settled in for the long wait.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #33: Novel Struggles. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: