|The following short story is a quick scene that was cut from the end of Chapter 16 of 'The UnWorlder' and follows Fenn and Shimm. It was cut because the chapter was already becoming much longer than intended. There isn't anything crucial here to the story, but it is recommended not to read this short story until after you have read through chapter 16 of 'The UnWorlder', since it does give away a couple minor character developments.
There is also a wizard technique introduced here that recurs toward the end of the book. It isn't critical to see this scene first, but it can make certain aspects of the story telling a bit more full-fleshed.
Fenn and Seek (Chapter 16 ½)
Shimm sure seemed to be enjoying himself. Fenn had never particularly cared for terra-tunnelling. For her, it had always been a way to get from point A to point B. Like running but for wizards only. Nothing more. She knew that not everybody felt that way, but nobody had ever really tried to change her mind before. Maybe it had something to do with her attitude.
But Shimm seemed determined to show her a different side to this otherwise utilitarian ability.
And, despite herself, Fenn was actually beginning to be swayed. His antics there in the hills by the Kennecott copper mine were impressive. However, she found herself being swayed more by his attention itself than what he was trying to show her. It had been so long.
She'd liked him almost as soon as they met, but she thought he was more interested in her sister, Kade, and had quickly shut off to him. She'd never been good at rejection and had long ago learned that prevention was better than damage control.
But now she had him. She should be happy. Well, happier. It's not that she didn't enjoy his attention. She just tended to be a relationship pessimist. But here in his arms, it was easier to push those thoughts to the side.
They didn't go away completely, however. They had become the old friend that she could never turn her back on entirely. A security blanket. Her emotional home. And it doesn't matter how tempting it may be to try new things. Everyone eventually returned home.
"Okay," Shimm finally said, letting go of her and taking a step back. "Now, if you're ready to use your powers for some good clean fun, there's another game I'd like to show you."
And with that, he vanished into the ground once again.
"Oh brother," Fenn said, rolling her eyes.
Then she dropped into the earth as well.
She took a quick bearing on his magic signature. It was heading away from her, but not that fast. He clearly wanted her to follow him. She re-oriented herself and headed out.
Almost instantly, she could sense him accelerating. Again, not too fast. But he had clearly noticed that she had started her pursuit.
What is he doing? She thought to herself. If this is just a game of tag …
Just then, Shimm seemed to split in two, each half heading in completely different directions.
"Wha...?" she grunted, startled.
In her wizard vision, she could definitely see two objects moving around, off in the distance. And each of them gave off Shimm's exact GreenThumb signature. Now, keeping in mind that a wizard like Shimm couldn't possibly have survived such a split, Fenn quickly realized that he must have imprinted an object and sent it off on its own. And at this distance, she couldn't make out enough detail to firmly distinguish which object was which.
Oh, game on, she thought, and she sped up her terra-tunnel. Just then, the two signatures drew together for a split second. When they separated once more, there were now three.
Shimm's determined to show off, she thought. At this rate, I should be able to just wait it out.
Maintaining two decoys at a distance would certainly be draining him of blood rather quickly. Not to mention running a terra-tunnel for each object. He wouldn't be able to go as fast as before or keep it up as long as she could, just maintaining one terra-tunnel.
But he seemed to be moving toward a patch of soil that had a higher organic content. That would definitely favor the GreenThumb over the ThickHead. But he had already used up more magic than she had in the last ten minutes alone, so if she played her cards right, she should be able to simply out last him.
The moment the three objects hit the organic soil, they shot rocketed off to the edge of her vision.
"Slippery little cuss," she muttered. But she quickly made a decision. She shot upward and popped out of the ground in the middle of a large parking lot with a movie theater and a library at the south end. If Shimm's game relies on her chasing him, she would simply have to change the rules to be more to her liking.
Giving no indication of following whatsoever, she turned and walked toward the nearest bus stop at the north end of the parking lot. In the distance, she could sense a slight stirring. Shimm would no doubt be attempting to determine what she was doing. As a GreenThumb, Shimm would be able to see not only forms, like she could, but also the essences around her. But at this great distance, she doubted that he could make out anything particularly detailed, despite a wider range of vision. She played out her role just in case.
She lucked out. There was a bus approaching just as she got to the bus stop. She didn't stop to look at where the bus was headed, since she didn't expect to ride it to its final destination. She did, however, have to make sure to keep her vision off. If she kept looking back over her proverbial shoulder, it would increase her magic signature and Shimm would still assume that she was playing some kind of feint. She needed him to assume she had given up and was going home.
And it appeared to have worked. She could sense one of the objects shooting toward her, keeping itself underground. With her vision off, it was hard to be particularly specific, but she could sense a remnant of Shimm's magic signature being left behind where he had apparently left his decoys waiting.
But this one would definitely be Shimm. She was already on the edge of his vision and going in the wrong direction. She would soon be out of range for him to sense at all.
Fenn took her seat at the back of the bus and took a quick glance around. She had to make sure she wouldn't be seen by anyone when the time came. The bus didn't appear to be that full. On the one hand, that was lucky for her since she had fewer eyes to avoid. On the other hand, with fewer people to keep track of, the mysterious disappearance of one woman at the back of the bus would be harder to conceal. Well, there wasn't anything she could do about that for now.
After about two blocks, she could sense Shimm following the bus and slowly edging closer. She could also sense a slight sensation as if being probed by static electricity. Shimm was likely trying to persuade her to get back into the game.
At this distance, he would definitely be able to see the expression on her face, so she made a small frown and leaned against the wall of the bus, propping her elbow in the window and her forehead in her hand.
Eventually, she could sense Shimm moving along only a few feet behind the bus. Again, with her vision off, she couldn't be exact, but she couldn't turn off her other senses. He was definitely giving off a magic pulse just a short distance behind her.
Fenn ran through her plan in her head, waiting for the right moment.
Then, suddenly, she sprang to the side and dropped through the metal flooring. She continued dropping through the black top of the road and nearly landed on top of Shimm. Thankfully, he was already going the same speed as the bus, so she merely had to maintain that speed and she would be …
Something was wrong.
The moment she turned on her magic, her vision came on automatically. That meant her senses were heightened and much more specific than before. As she broke through the lower edge of the pavement, she came in contact with what she had thought was Shimm.
At this distance, she could clearly make out a vaguely human shaped lump of dense dirt. But no Shimm. At least, not right here. Before she had time to react, she felt a hand grab her ankle in the darkness of the terra-tunnel.
Startled, she let out a short scream, but she knew exactly who it was.
With her vision off, it would appear that Shimm had decided to take advantage of her diminished magic senses. He'd left one of his decoys behind, sure. But he brought the other one along with him. And since they each gave off the same magic signature, as long as he was within a reasonable distance from it, she was completely unable to distinguish them until she turned on her vision. However, at that point, she had been certain that she'd had the upper hand and had jumped at the bait without looking.
Well played, she thought to herself.
At that point, however, she decided that she was done with games. She wasn't trying to be a sore loser, but it was about time she returned to the lab. She altered her course slightly and she and her hanger-on emerged from the grass behind a sandwich shop.
"Okay," she said, firmly, "I'll admit that you know more useless tricks than I do."
"Useless?" Shimm asked, incredulous. "That was impressive."
"Okay," Fenn admitted. "It was impressive. But useless things can be quite impressive."
"Well, I'll take it," Shimm said.
"But I have to get back to the lab," Fenn continued. "Let's call a truce and go replenish our blood, okay?"
Shimm stood up and held out his hand, offering to help her up. "Truce," he said.
Fenn took his hand and the two of them headed around to the front of the sandwich shop.
"You know," Shimm said, opening the door, "that was kinda cheating there, just walking away like that."
Fenn smiled faintly.
"I just like playing those games on my own terms," she said. "You may not know this about me, but I'm not known as a gracious loser some times."