The setting sun cast bloody light across the rooftops and chimneys, and left the narrow lanes and alleys far below in darkness. Somber crouched, shielding his eyes against the sunset as he muttered the litany that let him see into the shadows.
They were just passing below: nine of the Pale Ones, half again as tall as the dozen prisoners they herded between them. Somber dropped the litany, and nodded to the half-dozen children gathered beside him along the edge of the roof. They met his eyes and nodded back. Squeezing his eyes shut, he stepped off the rooftop into the empty air, and began a new litany as he fell.
He'd learned this one back in the mountains, almost before he was old enough to understand what the words meant and how they fit together. It was a protection against falling, preventing him from building up too much speed without leaving him light enough to be blown about by the winds. There were winds here sometimes, funneled into the narrow spaces between the buildings; but they were not like the mountain winds, and they were not here now. The air was still as drifted to the dark cobbles of the narrow lane.
The Pale Ones and their prisoners had kept walking and were some distance ahead of him now. Somber gave his eyes another moment to adjust, then started after them. He was still several paces behind them when he raised his arm and his voice, and called for the burning dart.
He'd learned that phrase not long after he'd learned the litany against falling. It was old and familiar, and he could have spoken it silently -- especially now, with the unseen forces so attentive after the litanies he'd used already. Speaking it aloud added emphasis, and told the children on the rooftop that the time had come.
The emphasis served him well. Two of the Pale Ones jerked in surprise. The rearmost of them jerked and collapsed, but that was the dart burning halfway through its chest. More darts fell from the rooftop, and more of the Pale Ones staggered back; three of them fell. Then one of the prisoners kicked out, sweeping the legs from under a fourth and springing to come down hard on top it. This was one of the Foresters, and while she wasn't the full size of the Pale Ones, she was taller and stronger than any of the human prisoners -- and better trained. She pinned the Pale One and ripped its throat out. Another prisoner twisted, the light from her lantern shield flickering between the prisoners as she coiled herself and then rammed the spiked leading edge of the shield into the side of another pale one.
Three left. Somber moved his arm and spoke again, and another burning dart smashed into the forehead of one of the remaining Pale Ones. They were larger than their prisoners and far stronger, but that also made them easy targets.
The last two tried to flee, but the children cut them down with another batch of darts from the rooftop.
Somebody screamed, then cut it off abruptly as he realized that the violence was already over. The Forester straightened, glanced across the prisoners to where the Warden had shoved her Pale One face-down against the cobbles and was ramming the pointed edge of her shield into its back.
Somber gestured. "This way."
The Warden stood up, glanced at him, and exchanged a nod with the Forester. Murmuring soft encouragements, they started to nudge the other captives back in his direction.