Ky’s breath was ragged.
He could hear the loud thumping of his heart racing as he stood pressed against the wall in a dark alley, his gaze darting all over in search of his pursuers.
What were they up to?
Everything had gone wrong. It always did, and that was the fun part. He was supposed to be drawing his victim into an ambush. Instead, they were chasing him.
Was that a flash of white, shining like silver in the night?
Ky grinned as he bolted from his hiding place, sprinting down the alley in search of an escape. It had been so long since he last felt this excited. He could barely remember. The Sewer King, maybe?
Was he finally one step ahead of them?
He didn’t even know where he was. The city had changed too much in the years since he left it. How long had it been? Over a decade now?
A bolt whizzed past, lodging itself in the wooden wall with a soft ‘thud’.
No time to get lost in the past. Ky skidded to a halt and threw himself into a sideways roll, coming up in a headlong rush out of the alley and into an empty street. He threw a glance down the alley behind him, then up at the rooftops.
One, two… maybe three? Possibly as many as four?
Most paths were cut off, either blockaded by assorted debris or simply by leaving him thoroughly exposed to their crossbows. They were herding him, he realized. But that meant he had time to look around more closely.
That fence was new.
Ky knew where he was now. He kept moving, pushing himself to not slow down. They had left him one path, thinking him too smart to try anything else.
They were wrong.
He ran toward the only open alley they had left him, then suddenly veered off short. A pile of poorly stacked crates served as stairs and he sprang from the top, intent to catch a protruding beam and use it to swing onto the roof.
Instead, he flipped himself back and turned the jump into a rather ungraceful somersault.
Hands narrowly saved from being severed by the Cloak above, he landed in a roll then pushed off as soon as he had his footing secure to leap across a rickety old well.
Not because he had to, he just wanted to get a feel for what he could still do.
The exit across the tiny yard led him right where he wanted to be. He could see Aziz’ hulking silhouette cramped in the doorframe and beyond the alley where his own ambush had been planned.
Ky bounded lightly onto some barrels, then launched himself off the wall onto the overhang above.
The wood broke apart beneath his feet, its rotten planks unable to bear his weight, and he crashed down amidst a cloud of dirt into- not Aziz, but sacks of… dust? Ky struggled to his feet as quickly as he could, coughing and trying to figure out what it was.
The smell was familiar.
Wooden, dry… sawdust! He threw himself forward, out of the cloud and into the alley, where he crashed hard, shoulder first, in the dirt. Looking up, he saw her standing there, the tip of her blade resting softly on the ground while she watched him with disdain as he got back on his feet.
“Do not fear, your friends are still here. They are merely… indisposed.”
Ky rolled his shoulder and grimaced, but offered no reply.
“Of course, none of you will leave this place alive. Conspiracy to murder a member of the Silver Cloaks is a very serious crime.”
Ky flashed her a grin. “Technically, we were only planning a kidnapping.”
Her scowl deepened. “Either way, you will all die here tonight. Just as soon as we have our answers.”
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t tell you anything if I want to live?”
Ky didn’t pay much attention to the attempted interrogation that followed, throwing out random ideas in reply to her questions about why he had planned the ambush, what his motives were, who he served, where he came from, and so on.
Instead, he turned his attention to figuring out how to salvage the situation. He really only had one helpful card left to play, but even magic as weak as his made for a pretty good wild card. He merely needed to buy some time to channel it, and then find an opening to use it.
Then the conversation took a turn which drew his attention back to the woman before him.
“You bear a striking resemblance to a man I killed.” She sneered at him, raising her blade and slowly stalking closer.
“Perhaps I am he, returned from the dead to seek vengeance?” Ky slowly began backing away from her, trying to maintain the distance.
“Forty years later? I think not.”
“Perhaps I am his grandson, out to avenge his murder?” The dead end of the alley loomed closer behind him.
“His death was justified, boy.”
“Why’d you kill my grampa, then?” Ky fidgeted with his ring, pulling loose a sliver trapped by it.
“He was a traitor to his guild and you are no relation of his.”
“How can you be so sure? Did you watch him so closely?”
“He was Laerinn.” The hate with which she spat the word revealed something Ky had never realized before.
“You’re one of those star people, aren’t you?”
She snarled, whipping out a small, one-handed crossbow from behind her back and firing it at the same time as Ky flicked the splinter he’d so stealthily retrieved and carefully imbued with magic.
He cursed under his breath.
She staggered back a half-step, clutching her abdomen. He grabbed at his thigh, trying to stem the bleeding. The two stood there, hunched over and staring at each other in silent animosity as the moments passed.
“You’re still alive!?”
Her shock was too great; she had figured him out. The “how?” written all over her face had nothing to do with the here and now. Then she straightened out and glanced at her fallen crossbow before lifting her blade once more. Ky sighed heavily, his expression softening as he looked pleadingly at her.
“Don’t do this, Adrie. That talblade of yours didn’t kill me when I didn’t see you coming, it’s not going to fare better when I do.” Ky didn’t really know what weapon she had used to cut his throat those years ago, but he did recognize the blade as her favoured trophy during their time in the Guild.
She strode silently forward, scraping her talonne along the stone doorstep of the building beside them. A stupid thing to do but it got the point across; the blade had been enchanted in the years since their last meeting.
Adrie was too wounded to fight properly, but she was not about to die from her injury. Ky had wanted to capture her, not kill her. There were so many questions to ask, answers he needed. Why had she thought him a traitor? What had driven her to murder him? Did she know what happened to the Guild? Did she know why? Or who?
He screamed internally, the pain in his leg causing him to stumble as he moved to the side of the alley to keep Adrie from getting too close. To buy himself some time to- to do what? Knock her out? No, that wasn’t an option any more.
Kyrion’s features hardened. He might die here today, but he would not, could not, be the only one. If Adrie reported back what she had learned, it would ruin everything. It would mean the end of Wyrm’s Edge, a village that had welcomed him and been his home for so many years now. It would mean they would all be lost, even sweet little Anna with her horrible cookies.
That was a price he could not afford to pay.
So Kyrion did the only thing he could think of and began focusing what magic he had left. He would need to catch her by surprise, or she might impale him on the sword even as he killed her. The question was how. His only options were pebbles, rotted wood, rusted nails, and sacks of sawdust.
That was most decidedly an idea.
Kyrion staggered to the side, pushing himself through the pain and hobbling toward the ruined overhang. Adrie paused, watching him, aware of where he was going, and then suddenly lunged when he was forced within her reach.
He had been prepared for that move.
Practically tripping himself and twisting as he fell, he managed to dodge her blade. Yet she had been fast despite her wound; faster than Kyrion had expected and, the pain along his arm and back told him, quick enough to cut him. He landed sprawled on his back amidst the debris of the broken overhang, the sawdust making his new wound burn.
It began as one fluid motion aimed to close the gap and plunge her slender sword through his chest, but halfway through she was forced to pull up her cloak to block a fistful of dirt and sawdust from blinding her.
A quick movement, but enough to break the attack.
Kyrion seized the opening and kicked her in the shin.
Adrie nimbly dodged his sluggish foot, buying him a heartbeat at most.
He used that moment to put the last bit of his energy into the spell.
She pulled back her blade to strike, her expression one of triumph.
Kyrion thrust his hand out toward her and uncoiled the magic.
Her arm had just begun the fatal thrust when her body went limp and she toppled over him.
Ky rolled her corpse to the side with some effort, then tore off a piece of her cloak to bandage his leg. If he was lucky, it’d buy him enough time for Aziz or Gethak to find him when they got away from their captors. If they got away…
The sky above was brightening as night began to give way to dawn. It seemed a bit early, but it was hard to tell the passing of time when struggling to stay conscious.
Shouts echoed all around him, both near and far, and he realized his eyes were closed. Forcing them open, he saw a silhouette towering above him. “Aziz…?” he mumbled, though he was doubtful the man heard him.
“I told ye he’d blame me.” The voice came from closer to his feet, but there was no mistaking the deep rumble of the nephaim.
“Oh, let us not argue over who threw the oil lamp at whom and hit the carpenter’s stockpile instead. We need to get him out before this conflagration consumes us all and back to the inn where we can tend his wounds.” For once, Ky genuinely agreed with Aziz about Gethak speaking too fast.
Ky relaxed, feeling relieved they were both okay. Perhaps, he dared hope, he might yet survive this.