Post by Katipo on Apr 6, 2014 2:16:23 GMT
(( Disclaimers! Contains a bit of gore. Sorry about the length. I am looking for feedback, so fire away! If you find grammar or spelling errors, point 'em out and I'll fix them. If you come across a section where the phrasing makes it unclear or just difficult to read, point it out and I'll try to rewrite it, and give you credit for the assist. If you have a subjective, stylistic problem with some or all of the story, feel free to voice your opinion, but don't expect me to rewrite it unless a lot of people have the same issue. If you actually manage to get through this thing and enjoy it, say so! I haven't shown anyone my work in years, and I'm desperate for honest, straightforward feedback, good and bad. If you can take the time to read through this thing, give me just a little bit more of your time and tell me what you think. I can't get better without your help. ))
It seemed so simple on paper. All Katipo had to do was steal one little book. How hard could that be? Sure, it was an obscure tax record that potentially included important names, and would probably be well-protected, and it was probably in Stormwind, being guarded by some of the toughest soldiers and mercenaries in the Alliance, and Katipo had no idea where to start looking... but those were problems for later on. Kat could solve those problems when she got to them.
Katipo smiled and picked herself up, ready to set out on the last leg of her covert, solo trek through Alliance territory. The sun burned down brightly as it set over the golden plains of Westfall. How anyone managed to farm on the dry grass was a mystery to Kat, but one of the perks of being Undead was not worrying about food. In fact, Katipo had found a lot of little perks to being a deader since being risen just a few weeks ago. Sneaking north through miles of wilderness and avoiding Alliance patrols and camps would have been made that much more difficult if she needed to stop to eat and sleep regularly. She didn't want to pick any fights anyway; the Allies were just doing their jobs, after all.
Kat was looking forward to her mission with a cheerful vigor. She was eager to prove her worth to her newfound family, and if nothing else, the new sights and smells of exotic lands was worth the trip. It seemed like every few miles was a different world, with new creatures to watch and new flowers to pick along the way. She had started from a Horde camp in Stranglethorn, the fastest route she could manage by foot, and yet had already found wildly diverse climates and ecosystems.
Katipo crawled to the top of a rocky hill, slowly unpacking the spyglass she had bought just for the trip. To the north, she could barely make out the thick wall of trees that hid the gates of Stormwind. But between Kat and her goal lay Sentinel Hill.
Calling it a Hill of any kind seemed a bit misleading. It was a tower and a massive stone wall, the only fortified position in Westfall. It was probably built there for show, to calm the local farmers and make them feel safe, but symbolic or not, there would be guards, and there would be patrols. If Kat tipped anyone off even this far from Stormwind, she would be lucky to get away alive, let alone successful. Kat could sneak with the best of them, but there's no way she could outrun gryphons and horses on foot.
She briefly considered giving the tower a wide berth, moving along the shoreline to the west or the river to the east, but quickly changed her mind; countless people, civilian and military, would likely be using both bodies of water for fish or fresh drinking water, but they would be doing it irregularly and unpredictably. Packing her spyglass again, she crept straight at the tower. Keeping the beaten dirt path just within sight, she alternately crawled, tiptoed, and sprinted through the thorny bushes, keeping a low profile. Sentinel Hill was so big and so distant that it took longer than Kat had expected to make any noticeable progress.
When she heard a rustling behind her in the bushes, Kat spun and dropped to a low crouch as quietly as she could. She felt a panic building in her as she visualized all manner of armored soldier charging her before a the head of a wild boar poked through the weeds, blinking at her.
Kat sighed and dropped her guard, rolling her eyes at her own paranoia. The boar seemed curious about her, but wasn't hostile toward her as it trotted closer. Kat giggled quietly as it started poking it's snout at one of her herb pouches. If it were a bit smaller, she'd have seriously considered adopting it as a pet. She tried to pet it, but it snorted loudly and started biting at her bag.
"Alright, fun time is over," she said warningly, trying to push it away. It seemed to get enraged by the effort, chewing on the leather bag and beginning to snort and squeal loudly. It was beginning to be a problem. She was only a little more than a stone's throw from the outer wall of Sentinel Hill, and didn't need the attention. She considered putting the angry boar down with a quick slice across the neck from her dagger, but couldn't bring herself to kill a creature that was probably just hungry. With a regretful sigh, she unclipped the bag from her belt and let the boar have it. The boar could probably use the grasses and flowers more than she could anyway.
She quickly put some distance between herself and the boar, ducking into the shadow of The Hill's outer wall. The silence she heard when she stopped to listen was as good a sign as any, and she began to creep along the base of the wall. When she found a gate, she also found a problem; vagrants.
They looked, and smelled, as though they had been camping around that gate for months, living off of scraps and handouts from passerby. Kat had heard there were a lot of refugees from Stormwind after the Cataclysm, but thought that surely they would have found homes by now! There were only a dozen or so camping around the gate, a few of them still arguing with the posted guards.
Curses! Kat had hoped she could slip by between patrols, or make some kind of simple distraction, but there were too many eyes around that gate. She couldn't expect to get past all of them unnoticed, and she didn't want to go back the way she came... but she could go over them.
Flexing her hands a few times, she stepped toward the wall and dug her fingers into the gap between the heavy stones. It was a narrow fit, but she had enough of a grip to haul herself up and climb up the wall. It was slow, but just barely viable, and Kat thanked her reduced body weight for making it possible. What's a few pounds of bodily fluids to an Undead after all? She climbed slowly, methodically, one step at a time. It got easier as she went, with less dirt packed between the stones, and before long, she was almost in reach of the top of the wall. But something stopped her.
Call it intuition, or luck, or clairvoyance, but Kat didn't grab for the top of the wall when it was in reach. She slowly turned, looking down the shadow she was hiding in. She could see the shape of the wall outlined in darkness... and she could see a figure patrolling the top of the wall. Kat swore silently under her breath, and tried moving sideways along the wall.
It was even harder then climbing straight up! She could barely see where her footholds were, and every time she moved her hands, she ended up pushing herself awkwardly from the wall, dangerously close to falling off. She gritted her teeth, steeling herself for the effort of clambering sideways over the gate. As she had feared, the masonry was different there, smaller stones at odd angles to give the gate an elegant but inconvenient arch. She could barely get her fingertips between the stones now, and the effort of holding herself up was starting to take it's toll on her.
It felt like she was on fire from her fingertips to her elbows, unaccustomed to holding herself up like that. The seemingly impossibly small gaps weren't making it any easier. As she moved her toe to another foothold and started to shift her weight to it, the stone slipped, and she felt that peculiar sinking sensation that only seems to accompany falling and being in a great deal of trouble, and for a moment, it seemed like both were accurate depictions of her situation. She gripped the stones tighter with her hands, though when her full weight settled on her already strained arms, the pain was so sudden and severe, she felt like she'd have been better off falling. She grimaced and closed her eyes for a moment, summoning up will she had to start shimmying along the rest of the way.
Below her, there was angry shouting and yelling, but not directed at Kat; apparently, the lose stone had fallen onto one of the guard's helmets, and he thought one of the vagrants had finally gotten the nerve to start throwing rocks. Kat spared a brief glance down to watch the homeless, starving people get chased off by shining silver swords. If she had known it was that easy to get them to abandon their post, she would have tried that well before trying to climb a sheer wall, but she didn't waste time kicking herself. As she cleared the far side of the gate, she let herself fall the rest of the way, rolling into the nearby bushes as she hit the ground. Relieved of their burden, her arms screamed their agony, but she was just glad she had gotten past the gate. She scrambled through the bushes and weeds until she got to the north side of the wall. She couldn't tell if there was a guard on the wall above her, but she didn't want to stick around longer than she had to either, and throwing caution to the wind, she dashed through the shrubs and across the open field.
She couldn't bring herself to look back to see if she had been spotted, but the lack of arrows zipping through the air and horses charging after her was all the confirmation she needed to keep running. The sun was getting quite low on the horizon, and she wanted to use every available second of the night trying to get through Stormwind. Sentinel Hill had cost her more time than she wanted, so at the cost of subtlety and certainty, Katipo kept running as fast as she could, hurdling fences and wild coyote alike as she made her way north.
After studying a few maps to confirm her suspicions and making good use of her spyglass, Katipo had managed to confirm that Stormwind was, in fact, a very big and well-guarded city. The fading light of the setting sun was being replaced by torches and lanterns, and the city was beginning to flicker with a hundred dancing flames. The front gate was a no-go for anything less than a siege engine and an army, guarded and fortified as it was. Climbing or flying over into the city wasn't much better, patrolled as it was by Dwarven gryphon riders and guarded by Night Elf archers alike. The only real option Kat could see was by water.
The docks were guarded, of course, but while the front gate was built to fend off an invasion, the docks seemed only designed to sink incoming ships. Cannons lined the shore, and warships looked ready to set sail at any moment, but there were relatively few guards. Kat could faintly see just a few swinging lanterns being carried by patrols. She took one last look at the positions of piers and ramps before diving back underwater. Swimming the last hundred yards underwater was hardly an effort, being that she didn't need to breathe. In the darkness, though, it was difficult to be sure she was going in the right direction, and the wind was beginning to kick up bigger waves that made her dizzy as she was sloshed around. She was almost ready to stick her head up again when she bumped headfirst into the dock.
She reached up, grabbing at the stone ledge above her, slowly pulling herself out of the water, but not pulling herself up onto the wall yet. With her free hand, she raised one of her daggers, tilting it until she could see over the wall with the reflection. Her arm was still aching from climbing before, but she kept herself hanging in that awkward position until she could see a regular pattern in the guard's movement. She waited as patiently as she could until a pair of soldiers passed by her, scrambling up onto the dock and running through their wake, diving between stacked supply crates and waiting. She wasn't worried about making too much noise maneuvering through the boxes as the waves crashed into the docks.
Kat managed to slip between crates and crawl under a steam tank before she ran out of cover at last. She saw the ramp she'd take up to the city proper, but wasn't eager to expose herself in the open like that. Lying under a steam tank didn't give her much in the way of visibility, and she had already lost her rhythm with the patrols. She needed a distraction, and the increasing winds gave her an idea.
About a dozen yards away, there was a wooden post with a lantern hanging from it, swinging in the wind. Slowly drawing a knife from her belt, she twisted herself awkwardly to line up one good throw. The little knife sailed through the wind, neatly connecting with the thin chain holding the lantern up. The glass shattered on the cobblestone path, the oil spreading and igniting in a small fire. There were a few shouts, and in just a few seconds, a handful of guards were gathering buckets and throwing fistfuls of dirt at the flame, but Katipo didn't waste time watching them, dashing from her cover to the ramp. It was getting easier to move around as the night spread through the city.
Dark clouds were forming overhead, blocking out the moonlight, giving Kat a surprisingly easy time moving up into the city proper. The lanterns carried by most of the guards only served to highlight their location, and the convenient layout of the city made it pretty clear which paths she should follow to get to the royal libraries.
The city guards didn't give her much trouble. The repetitive routine of their task made it easy to hide from them, ducking into side alleys or behind crates. Slipping past them was easier than Kat had expected, and though she nearly bumped into a few drunks staggering out of a bar, she managed to move through the sleepy city to the keep. The Royal guard, however, were going to be a problem. The heavy plate armor they wore gave them an imposing bulk, and the narrow eye-slits did nothing to hide their resolve, focused in spite of the monotony of their post. Still, Katipo had a plan, even if it was a bit of a long shot. All she had to do was make some kind of distraction to the side, and when they turned to investigate, she could get into the doorway and duck into the library before anyone would notice. She didn't have to get anywhere near the throne room, so it shouldn't be too tough to get what she needed and get out again.
She crept silently through the shadows, just a little closer, clutching a small rock she'd picked up. She judged the distance, raised her arm, and lobbed the stone a few feet from the guards. They immediately turned and raised their weapons, and Katipo made her move. Just as they cleared the doorway, Katipo dove past them, into the dimly lit interior of the keep. Without any knowledge of guard position or patrols inside, it was sheer luck that she managed to avoid any extra attention. She dove recklessly into the library, squeezing behind a bookshelf and listening for any pursuers. The resounding silence was the best thing she had heard all day, and she worked up the courage to peek into the room.
It was empty, for now, but given that candles were still lit suggested it may not stay that way for long, and the open doorway didn't give it much privacy. Chewing her lip in thought for a moment, Kat suddenly grinned as she came up with a wild idea, pulling out both her spyglass and one of her daggers. It was incredibly difficult holding the two steady in any useful position, and the blade of her dagger was smudged and a little greasy, but with a bit of patience, Katipo managed to slowly scan the shelves of the library from behind on of it's shelves. She couldn't see everything from her position, and it was next to impossible to get an image clear enough to read, but for once, she was able to take her time. She occasionally heard the sound of heavy metal footsteps from the nearby hall, reminding her of the consequences of haste. Finally, she spotted it; "Official Stormwind Tax Census". It was a big, heavy book with a thick leather binding, which was going to make sneaking around harder, but getting out of the city should be easier than getting in, right?
Kat waited until it was quiet before stepping out from her hiding space, tiptoeing as quickly as she could across the room and pulling the book from the shelf, stuffing it into her bag and moving back toward the doorway. She briefly considered looking for other potentially valuable texts while she had the rare opportunity, but the tax census alone was inconveniently bulky, and she doubted she could find anything good in a hurry. Besides, she was getting the feeling that sticking around any longer was a bad idea.
She peeked out into the hall to make sure the coast was clear before making her way back down to the exit. The guards were gone. Kat stopped in her tracks. She would have been happy- thrilled- to see those two intimidating death-machines standing there, watching the entrance. She was fine with them guarding the keep, but seeing them missing meant the situation was out of her control. Could they still be looking for the source of that distraction Katipo had made earlier? Surely not. Maybe they went to report it, but why would they have sent both of them? If there was some other unrelated problem nearby, they would only have dispatched one, at the most.
Katipo's nerves were yelling at her to get out. She had no idea where those two guards were, or why they had left. She forced herself to walk to the exit, teeth grinding in her skull. Something was wrong. Her imagination was running wild with a thousand ways she would be killed by those two guards she couldn't find, couldn't control. She looked out over Stormwind, watching as the heavy clouds began to pour a soft rain onto the sleeping city. Taking a deep breath, she stepped out of the keep at last. The guards were nowhere to be seen. The brief exhilaration she felt was quickly stamped out when she saw a bright light suddenly shoot up into the sky, arcing slowly toward her. The flare was almost painfully bright, and it felt like everything was reduced to slow motion as Katipo turned and began to run back into the relative safety of the keep.
Her normally quick actions felt like she was barely moving, certainly not fast enough to escape the approaching light of the flare. She hadn't gotten more than a step into the keep before she felt an arrow pierce her thigh. She could feel the sharp edge of the arrowhead slicing through muscle and tendon, searing pain making her leg buckle under her. Again, there was that odd feeling of sinking, shrinking, drowning as she fell to a knee. This time, though, she was in an appropriate amount of trouble. The act of standing, turning, and arming herself felt like it took much too long, and the arrow still lodged through her leg did nothing to make focusing easier. Finally, she turned and saw the two guards standing outside, sword and shield raised, but the real threat was the Night Elf Sentinel standing between them, already lining up another shot.
Katipo felt as though she had already lost the fight, several yards separating her from a better-equipped, better-trained force that outnumbered her. Still, she had to try. She took one step forward, immediately regretting it as a spike of pain shot through her leg. She stumbled briefly as she began to advance on the trio, feeling a sudden sting in her fingertips as another arrow shot the dagger cleanly out of her hand. The Sentinel nocked another arrow, smirking a little. Katipo felt less like a threat and more like a mouse being toyed with by a sadistic cat. She was still much too far away to take a swing at anyone, but in a last-ditch effort, she raised her right arm to throw her remaining dagger. She didn't even see the arrow fly.
A splitting pain erupted in the shoulder of her raised arm, making her tumble and fall to the ground as her vision was clouded with sparks of pain. A howling sound filled the air, and it took a moment for Katipo to realize it was coming from her, screaming out her injury in a primitive, pitiful fashion. Reaching for the arrow in her shoulder, she winced and cried out after merely touching it. Before she could so much as consider using one of the potions she keeps in a belt pouch to dull the pain, a big boot stepped heavily on her neck.
Katipo looked pleadingly up into the eyes of the Sentinel standing on her, not sure whether she'd rather be spared or put out of her misery quickly. The Sentinel had an arrow aimed right at Kat's face, and while Kat could have surely gotten one cheap shot in before she died, she couldn't muster the will to fight. The rain falling on her face felt like the tears she wanted to cry.
Katipo barely fought as she was shackled and dragged shamefully through the streets of Stormwind to the stockades. Her leg and shoulder were tingling and aching with pain, the broken shafts of the arrows still stuck through her and occasionally catching on the cobblestones as she was dragged along by her ankles. She had long since gone limp, given up, but she was well past backing out and walking away. The Stormwind soldiers didn't even bother lifting her up to haul her dead weight down the stairs into the prison, her head thumping against the wooden steps.
They finally reached an empty cell, she was stripped of her gear, left with nothing but her tattered underclothes. The secondhand armor and gear she had worked so hard to earn was carried off out of sight as she was manhandled into position, shackled to a wall. She slumped into a limp, hanging position, numbed by the pain and the shame as the guards walked away. They were talking about something, but Katipo wasn't paying attention. Until they said the words "...a visit from the Holy Light in the morning."
It took a few seconds for the dread to really settle in. The physical and mental strain of coming this far, the pain of injury and defeat, would be nothing next to the interrogation and likely execution by the clergy. But they would probably experiment on her first. Surely they didn't often get a live capture of a hostile Forsaken. They would burn every little truth right out of her until she was a delirious wreck, and then publicly execute her as a show of power. And she'd spill every secret she had; how she got into Stormwind, how she got past Sentinel Hill, and even who sent her.
No. Not that. Kat opened her eyes at last. The Nexus, the Undercity, was the only place that felt like home since she was pulled from the dirt. The Forsaken- her family- was the only group that treated her like a person, who didn't shy away or attack on sight. Katipo wasn't evil or cruel, but the living still treated her like the scum of the earth. Even her supposed "allies" would turn up their noses or wear those thin-lipped, contemptuous little smiles. The Forsaken cared about her. The Nexus was her home. She wouldn't betray them. She couldn't let them down. She had to get out before dawn.
She slowly looked around her cell, trying to assess her situation. The cell was damp from the rainwater, forming a few puddles as it leaked in. There were thick iron bars around her cell, but the door itself was open, twisted around it's hinges, forced open by recent rioting. A guard sat in the hall, reading a newspaper. He wore plate armor and had a sword and thick shield at his side, but he was distracted. Maybe, just maybe, if Katipo could get free from her shackles, she could get out.
Thick manacles held her wrists out to the sides, but even hanging limply, she was too short for her legs to reach the floor. She glanced at the guard without moving her head, slowly pulling on her chains. Pain seared through the injury in her shoulder, the arrow shaft still embedded in her. The chains didn't budge at all. It seemed like she was stuck there, but Kat only thought briefly of the consequences of failure before trying again. The chains were much too firmly secured in the wall to be torn loose, and her shoulder was starting to ache with pain. She gritted her teeth, fighting the pain, when she finally relaxed a little. She didn't need to fight the pain. Fighting it just gave it more attention. She pulled harder, pain spearing through her upper body, but she didn't fight or tense or resist it's advance; she let the warm glow spread through her and pulled even harder.
As the sensation spread, she began to feel a loosening feeling; not in the chains or shackles, but her shoulder. The broad arrowhead had pierced muscle and flesh around her shoulder joint, weakening it a little. It was her only way out, her only way of protecting her family. She summoned up what little strength and leverage she had, tensing every muscle and nerve in her body to twist and wrench herself loose. The first thing she felt was a cool relief as her right arm separated from her body. Bone slipped lose, skin and muscle tore, and she swung to the side, her feet touching solid ground. It should have been agonizing, but she felt nothing but triumphant.
The guard, hearing the chains swinging and scraping against stone, shouted out an alarm immediately, running down the hall for backup. Kat knew she only had a few seconds to act. Twisting her remaining arm around the chain holding her to the wall, she hauled herself up, bracing her knees against the wall and shimmying up to where the chain connected to the wall, kneeling horizontally over the metal bolts. Her meager strength was bolstered by leverage, but the metal was far too thick to simply tear free. She strained with all her might, but felt a now-familiar stretching in her remaining shoulder before she had to stop herself; she needed at least one arm to get out alive. She tried twisting and bending the chains as a set of footsteps approached. A quick glance revealed the only reinforcements the guard found was the Sentinel who put her down before. She looked pissed.
Kat watched out of the corner of her eye as the Night Elf nocked an arrow, taking careful aim. Kat was still clinging sideways to the wall over the chain. Instantly, instinctively, she knew how to get out. She'd have to time it perfectly. Just when the string started to move- No, the arrow would fly faster than Kat could avoid it. She just had to guess right, down to a fraction of a second. She glared right back at the Night Elf in a moment of defiance that seemed to stretch for minutes. Kat fell. The arrow flew.
A loud metal clink echoed through the Stockades as the heavy arrow split through the chain. Katipo hit the ground rolling, most of the chain still wrapped around her arm. In a fluid motion, she rolled to her feet, charging the surprised Elf. Another arrow slid neatly into place, but Katipo wasn't yet used to running without both arms to counterbalance her motions, and stumbled unpredictably to the side as the arrow sailed by. The Sentinel's finger barely touched feathers when Kat slammed into her, checking her with the grotesque mess of her right shoulder. They tumbled to the cold stone ground in a chaotic pile. The Sentinel tried to crawl away, to get some distance from Katipo, but Kat pressed her advantage, wrapping her legs around the Elf's slim waist and swinging barbarically with her chain-wrapped arm.
The Elf managed to block and twist her face clear of most of Katipo's inelegant strikes, rolling with Kat through the puddles and mud of the damp prison. The Sentinel managed to pull a dagger from her hip and roll on top of Katipo, but even freshly armed for the grapple, Kat's fury gave her the upper hand. As the Night Elf raised her hand for the killing blow, Kat lunged forward, grabbing her raised wrist and leaning up, biting into the exposed skin of the Sentinel's neck. She cried out and dropped her knife, pushing Kat away from her, but losing a mouthful of flesh in the process. As the Sentinel crawled away in a panic, Kat leapt after her, landing on her back and grabbing a handful of the Sentinel's hair as she forced her to the ground.
Katipo could feel all the zealous Scarlet Crusaders, all of the prejudiced humans, all of the contemptuous Kor'Kron hating her for being a monster when she was just trying to get by. They treated her like a monster. She had finally chosen to become one. She forced the Night Elf Sentinel's face into the ground, burying her mouth and nose in the shallow, dirty puddle. Panic overcame the Sentinel as she tried to squirm and twist out of the Forsaken's grip, but she couldn't fight the righteous fury Katipo had built within herself. The Elf sputtered and thrashed and shook with the panic of drowning for a few moments before slowly going limp. For a few blessed seconds, there was silence at last in the Stockades.
Kat rolled off the Night Elf, turning the Sentinel over and going through her pouches and satchels for useful supplies, looking for any useful weapons or equipment in the brief moments she had before more guards arrived. She was surprised to find a familiar pouch.
The small leather bag had a few holes and tears through it where the boar had chewed it's way in, and the only thing inside Kat's old herb bag, neatly wrapped in a preserving cloth, was one of Katipo's throwing daggers from the docks, and the stone she had used to distract the Royal Guard. Had the Sentinel really been tracking her all that time? Katipo felt cheated, violated by her own estimations of her skill. She had been a fool to think she was able to infiltrate the Stormwind Keep with so little experience. She had only gotten as far as she did by the grace of the Sentinel's curiosity and patience. Furious, Katipo punched the dead Elf square in the chest. She coughed up half a lungful of water and gasped and sputtered. Almost dead. Shit.
Katipo grabbed her herb bag and stole one of the Elf's flares before the Sentinel could get her bearings. Kat barely remembered the path out of the prison, sprinting half-naked and essentially unarmed down the damp, dark halls. Just as she started to worry she was lost, she saw the stairs out of the prison. But she also heard the clamor of steel and orders being shouted. She did have one of her throwing daggers, but with only one arm, and against superior numbers, it wouldn't do much good. She had a different plan.
As a half-dozen armed guards stomped down the stairs, swords and shields at the ready, they slowed, eyes adjusting to the poorly-lit prison. Kat pressed herself against the wall, staying perfectly still as they got closer. Just a few more steps...
Katipo barely had time to shield her eyes after throwing the flare. Blindingly bright light filled the dungeon, surprising and stunning the guards, affording Kat just enough of a window to leap over their vision-limiting helmets. Angry shouting sounded out behind her as she blitzed up the stairs. They might have seen her, but she had to assume they didn't. She ran up the stairs as quietly as she could, so excited by the sight of the open doorway, she almost didn't notice her satchel sitting on a nearby table. It's usually slim profile was still stuffed with the bulky book she had taken from the library. Katipo was shocked, before she remembered the first time she was really spotted; the Sentinel's flare had lit her up when she was running back into the keep. They never suspected she had already been inside! She thanked whatever patrons were listening and grabbed her bag as she sprinted out into the night of the city. The rain was bucketing down, but the grim weather felt like victory. She could hear distant bells being tolled from the city's barracks, and saw the faint light of lanterns getting closer. News of her outbreak had spread fast. Kat had no chance of fighting with her only arm carrying her bag, and little chance of hiding or sneaking around without her dark armor to blend into the shadows.
Kat prayed the thick canvas of her bag was enough to protect the book as she threw herself into the city's canal, the sound of her crashing into the water being conveniently covered by a low rumble of thunder. She held her bag tightly to her body, letting the currents gently carry her along the canal to the edge of the city. She balled herself up as the water dumped her out into the sea, and as the cold, turbulent water washed over her, Katipo suddenly felt desperately tired. Her shoulder ached terribly in a dull sort of way, and the arrow shaft still stuck in her thigh started to sting all over again, but she mostly felt sleepy, exhausted by the struggle.
She had a long way to go to get back home, but while she didn't have her usual equipment, she carried with her a new resolve. It was a tougher world than she had hoped. She had been treating everything like a game, but people were playing for keeps, and now, so was she. For the first time, she could see the path ahead of her clearly, and there would be no distractions or diversions keeping her from protecting her new home. Well, maybe one diversion...
The sun slowly rose over the cool fields of Westfall. The storm from the previous night had miraculously missed the dry fields, but that was normal for the area. A wild boar sniffed through the underbrush, foraging for anything remotely edible. It had gotten lucky the night before, but it knew luck was a fickle friend, and it was a kill-or-be-killed world. There was a nearby rustling as a slim knife flew through the air, neatly lodging itself in the boar's neck, severing an artery and sending the boar limply to the dirt in the span of a second. Kill or be killed. Katipo retrieved her throwing knife and stepped over the dead boar without a word, making her way south.