And so the hunt begins...
Peeling paint and chipped wooden fencing spoke volumes to just how destitute this village had become under the rule of the Hierarchy. Everything seemed to be forlorn, lagging in the gentle breeze that came down from the hills on the other side of the lake. Moss and grass had wormed through the asphalt of the roads and people seemed to walk everywhere, making the asphalt itself redundant as it was. The stench of fishing clung to the air and gave everything a salty texture. The air, the people, and even the buildings seemed built to suit a single purpose and that purpose was fast fading. Yet they had the sun, and the fresh air! Marcus knew of people living in some of the new Common-Plexes who would never see or feel either ever again. Did these folk not realise just how lucky they were? Perhaps, he mused, it was hard to when for many of them they had probably known a better time.
Even so, the lack of homelessness was a delightful break from the poverty that clung to larger cities and Marcus made sure to offer a toothy grin to the inhabitants he passed. Most starred with unabashed intrigue, clearly strangers did not venture out here often, and he did not want to alert any of them to the quite serious reason for his arrival. There was nothing he could do about them taking a guess given the equipment he had thrown over his person and he spent far more of his attention scouring dark windows and creaking doors for anybody staring too hard. He was here to hunt a Wytch. The ones he had brought in before had all been manipulative, devious, and sly creatures; he knew to be on his guard in places like this. Turning down a lane that wound around a fairly large squarish house Marcus passed a grand public garden and whistled at its beauty. Winding creepers adorned old stonework that structured a maze of multicoloured flowers and the scent was overpowering, even with the wind blowing down and forcing folk into the collars of their coats.
She was here then.
It was entirely natural and absolutely not. There wasn’t a chance something was doing that to the place and Marcus knew it had to be whatever kind of powers the Wytch possessed. He had never been privy to such things or how they worked, he trusted in the reliability of science and technology, but he couldn’t deny these magics had some strength. It was why he subtly shifted and clicked the protective cover off of the holster where his gun remained stowed. Arounds the side of the garden he could see down a winding path to the lake. It sat quite still, a perfectly serene pool of glittering light that reflected from the sun. Boats had been pulled up onto the bank on one side and even from here Marcus could spy some figures going about the business of making them watertight again. His eyes shifted on quickly and he spied the blackened house. Perhaps an old fisherman’s house? Odd they hadn’t demolished it yet, but then Marcus was all too aware of official inertia and the time it took any government controlled place to do anything. Whistling a jaunty tune he made off down the track and kicked little piles of mud that had been pushed up by moles.
He was enjoying himself, he had no doubt, and Marcus was looking forward to a chance to clean his face and sit quietly for a brief moment. He felt freed from the prison of the RamRails. He could afford five minutes to himself. Moving the opposite way up the path a young boy came trotting back, big eyes watching Marcus as he passed. The older hunter gave the lad a nod and smiled but the boy remained totally stony, even stopping and moving out of the way. It was odd, as if the boy was accusing him of some crime but Marcus didn’t know which one. Nothing to do but press on and so Marcus just carried on his way and meandered down to the water before leaning down to cup the cool refreshing liquid and drink greedily from his hand. It wasn’t the cleanest water and the gritty bits of dirt reminded him not to have too much, but compared to the hydration pills it was better than ambrosia. Gulping a few more mouthfuls he then used another to wipe down the back of his neck before standing and looking around.
He came to look at the blackened building and he was overcome by intrigue. He was an adventurer at heart and a quick nose wouldn’t do any harm. Moving closer, Marcus got a better idea of just how decrepit this place was. It seemed to groan and almost shift in the breeze as if it might collapse at any moment. He would have to be careful. Climbing the stars to a landing and pushing at the cracked door he peered inside and froze. The door had fallen inwards and sitting in the middle of the soot coated communal space were all the signs of a squatter. Patches of dirt cleaned by the presence of a blanket or something, the remains of a dinner tucked into a basket, and the stench of someone living without indoor plumbing over the top of something far more… arcane. Marcus ran back from the house in a start. She had been here! She had to have been, and recently. His memory recalled the boy and he cursed. Clearly he’d missed someone running away from him.
But where had she gone? Back into the village was unlikely, but there were still many directions to go. She could have headed towards the fishermen, or up towards the hills, down into the forests… or even just out across the plains! Marcus cursed again, more loudly this time, and then drew four plate sized discs from the back of his belt. With a click he activated them and watched as the smaller drones whirred into life then lifted into the air. A dancing of fingers on his wrist companion sent them shooting into the sky and veering about to begin searching the area. It would be slower than he liked but the best he could manage. Even so, Marcus didn’t want to stand still and he weighed up the options. He didn’t know much about his quarry… except the garden! Plants. She must have done something to the plants. Breaking into a trot down towards the forest he hoped he was making the right call.