Post Tue Dec 13, 2005 7:34 pm

Savant's Blood: Hecate's Bounty -- Chapter 9

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A game where twelve people beat each other
senseless for fun and profit...Delightful.<BR>
<DIV ALIGN="RIGHT"><font style="font-size:12pt">—Aarlen Frielos</DIV>
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<div align="center"><font style="font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: 18pt;">Chapter 9<BR>
<font style="font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: 16pt;">Personal Foul</div>
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Confronted by the Sindra, Wren searched frantically for escape options. Small shops and residences lined the narrow avenue, a few carts and water barrels sat at the streetside. She had plenty of directions to go, but the only objects capable of withstanding the least of the woman’s attacks was close to fifty paces away. A breeze gusted down the street, fluttering the big D’klace’s dark hair.

Sindra’s voice sounded heavy and dark. “Any last words before I thrash you?”

Wren took a step back. “How about, ‘Please don’t, I apologize’.”

The woman’s silver eyes narrowed. “Nice, but I simply must shove you through at least one wall before I call it even.”

Wren took another step back holding up her hands. “Bricks make me break out in a rash. I’m a lot more fragile than you. Not to mention—smaller.”

Sindra stepped forward. “Should have considered that before hitting me.”

“You attacked us first!”

“Paybacks aren’t fair, Wren, they just feel good.”

Wren glanced around and took a fighting stance. There simply wasn’t anywhere to run. She’d already seen how fast the twins could move when they wanted to. She wouldn’t get twenty paces. “I don’t want you more angry with me. You swing on me. I’ll fight back.” She summoned Vectra to her fingers, and gripped it for throwing. “A few days ago we were friends.”

Sindra laced her fingers and bent them with a crack. “I’m still friendly. I’m not going to kill you—just hurt you a lot.”

“Sindra,” Wren growled, backing up. “You don’t have all those fancy protections right now. Don’t make me put a dagger in your eye. You think what I did hurt before.”

The D’klace woman paused. “That would smart.”

Wren clung to the hope she might talk her way out of this. This was bad, while she was confronting Sindra, other players could be sneaking up on her. Where was Drucilla? Those two were never apart. The back of her neck prickled. The other woman could be anywhere—invisible, flying, or disguised.

“Your eyes are too beautiful for me to be sticking sharp objects in them. Which I can do, ten times out of ten. You’re fast, but not that fast.”

Sindra raised an eyebrow. “You think my eyes are beautiful?”

“I think all of you is beautiful, I’ve said so before.”

“That’s right, you have—you were even sincere. Okay, I promise not break any bones or leave any permanent scars.”

“Sindra, you have some serious revenge issues.”

It was only her savant talent that allowed her to evade. She sensed and felt a body moving behind her. Vera’s G’yaki training came to the rescue again as she dropped into the splits, grabbed the hurtling body, yanked and shoved in the same motion.

The dust on the cobbles plumed upward as a heavy body struck the ground between her and Sindra. Wren rolled sideways and launched to her feet and let fly with her dagger.

Sindra shielded her eyes with her arm. The dagger didn’t go remotely near the elder’s face, but thunked solidly into the target Wren aimed for.

She sprinted for cover.

The D’klace growled and then yelped in surprise as she stumbled forward running out of her left boot that Wren had pinned to the cobblestone with Vectra’s amazingly sharp blade.

**Team Idundaughter, ten point award for highlight worthy play. Scores updated.**

Well, at least Aarlen thought it was funny. From the curses hurled at her back, Sindra didn’t think so. What happened to Cassandra? From Desiray’s last message, she thought the guildmistress might be coming to the rescue.

Running around another turn, she called Vectra’s name and concentrated on the weapon. In buzz of magic and a puff of air, the dagger’s hilt reappeared in her hand. Damn, this thing was nice. She hoped Dorian didn’t want it back, she’d have a hard time giving it up.

Pushing through and around clusters of people, dodging carts and wagons, she slid to a stop at another corner. She allowed herself to lean back and catch her breath. She wondered what might be going on with Damay. Was she conscious yet? What might be going through the woman’s mind, waking up after millennia in a renewed body? Wren doubted that she’d be frightened. She might be miffed though for being left alone in a strange place with Wren no-where in evidence.

<Still alive?> Desiray asked in her mind.

Wren let out a breath and looked around. <Barely. Sindra almost got me.>

<Sorry, I got waylaid before I could find you. I know you can’t give out your location. I guess I’ll just have to follow the sounds of a fight.>

At least Desiray was coming to help her. Where was Cassandra? Damn it, if she teamed with Desiray now, she’d have to give the gem points to her. The only way the guild mistress could help her against Mishaka was by them merging again. That just wasn’t a dependable solution. Gaea told them they could only do it three times; they’d already used up the first time. Odds were they’d need to merge once more to fight off the Sen’Gen and Aarlen.

This whole thing was such a mess. She was running around playing games when she should be rescuing her family. Likely, her most powerful ally lay in Ziedra’s flat, probably wondering what was going on.

A resonant female voice rang in her head. <Wren, where in Hades are you?> The sound and timbre of the voice made her certain it was Cassandra.

She looked around. The area still looked clear. She drew a breath and concentrated. <Running from Sindra, about eight streets from where you disappeared.>

<I heard you score on her. Sorry I left you, I needed to rescue Arabella. She had our points. Head east, the one bell warning will be announced in just a little bit.>

<Then I can run for the post, right?>

<Correct, just don’t get caught.>

<Right, I needed you to tell me that.>

<Move. You want to be on the far side of town when Aarlen calls the warning. Snag a horse, and hit the northeast road for all you’re worth. Hopefully, I’ll catch you before then.>

<Okay, heading out.>

<Take care. I’ll be looking for you.>

Behind her, she heard yells in the crowd and caught a glimpse of someone big thrusting people out of the way. The twins? They could fly though; or could they? Maybe Aarlen had stripped them of that too. All she could do was hope as she charged out of the alley.

It had been a mistake to stay in communication with Cassandra so long. To some of these telepaths she might as well be screaming across a courtyard. As she ran, she heard the ruckus getting louder, and the yells of protest became shouts of pain.

**Team Frielos, bystander injury foul. Ten point penalty. Scores updated. Further deliberate injury of bystanders will be punished harshly.**

The answering loud invective would have made the staunchest sailor cringe. The twins certainly hated not getting their way.

Wren watched where she was going, and focused on picking the fastest path through the ever denser maze of shoppers, vendors, and passerby. She grabbed a post and swung hard left onto Poseidon avenue, the north-south spine of the city that led to the gates of Tradeholme citadel.

A score of carts could easily trundle side-by-side up the huge broadway which also lead south to the bay and the trade docks. Colorful market pavilions lined the cobbled fairway and trains of wagons and horses streamed into and out of the citadel district.

Breathing hard, she pushed into the throngs of people, hiding herself amongst the dense press of shoppers and travelers moving toward citadel square. She glanced around, heart still pounding. Men and women chattered, discussing the weather, politics, and the latest royal infidelity. It struck Wren then just how much normal people stank. After more than two seasons of being in Loric’s well-groomed spotless household, she’d become spoiled. The everyday smells of the unwashed masses had become an unwelcome irritation.

She found herself trapped between a long-faced basket-lugging fruitseller, and a pair of shrill-voiced spindly-looking women toting babies. Between the rancid body odor of the man and staggeringly powerful essence of stone-flower that both women appeared to have bathed in, she felt ready to suffocate.

After only a hundred steps up the street she was already wondering which fate would be worse; being tortured by Mishaka or being trapped in a room with these three.

Glancing around revealed no pursuers. She needed a big jump on her flying adversaries. Requesting a teleport could take her to the north side of the city in a heartbeat and put distance between herself and the hopefully ground-bound Sindra and Drucilla.

It was worth the chance. Anything was worth not stifling betwixt these three for another fraction of a bell.

“Moderator,” she called and thought. She braced and added. “G-1 please.”

**Acknowledged,** Aarlen Frielos’ deep thoughts resonated in her mind and ears. Wren had just enough time to see the surprised and horrified faces of the people around her as the magic sparkled around her. Her heart stuttered and she caught her breath, as icy fingers seemed to play over her skin. The world went black, then splintered into a millions shards of light. She felt the now familiar ‘falling’ sensation of transition, then the sickening twist as reality bent and snapped back into place leaving her in a new location. As teleport magic evaporated into the air around her the moderator’s voice boomed the announcement. **Team Idundaughter, teleport request G-1. Move logged.**

The gut twisting disorientation hit hard, making her stagger and catch her balance against a wall. Taking a quick breaths, she forced herself to focus through the discomfort. Because she’d scored so many points, she still had several teleports left. Now while everyone started scrambling for this grid.

Calming herself she drew herself up. “Moderator, K-1 please.”

**Acknowledged.** The icy feeling swelled around her again, and lights flashed in her vision. In another few instants, she was dropped in the middle of of the north-east tenement district. Heart and lungs aching she lunged a few steps to lean against a stone fence. Ivaneth’s perimeter wall loomed high and large only a hundred paces away. Here among the houses of the city nobility the traffic was only a fraction of that in the trade’s districts. **Team Idundaughter, teleport request K-1. Move logged.**

<You shouldn’t have done that,> Desiray’s thought rang in her head. <Now, they all know you’re going for the post with the gem. I hope you have your running boots on. Watch out for silent moves, for sure they’ll be called in now.>

Silent moves! Nobody said anything about that! Everybody probably got one unannounced move per game. She tried to will back her wind. Damn, teleporting was so much more endurable when she had Gabriella’s bloodsong.

She forced her legs to move. Balancing against the fence, she staggered along to the end where the street split. She needed cover now. Awnings, anything, that would conceal her from flying observers. This area was about the worst possible location to do that very thing. Most of the angle-roofed houses had fenced in enclosures around them. She didn’t want to jump any fences and give herself away by causing a ruckus. About fifty paces away she saw a hedge growing between two large brick buildings and lumbered toward it, gasping like a fish out of water. She had taken those two teleports too close together. She felt half dead. Wobbling around a couple of people and a fancy carriage, she dove in where the foliage looked thinnest.

Lying in the dirt, taking breaths with wooden lungs, she lay still and just ached. She was beaten, bruised, tired, and out of breath. If she had to fight anybody now, she couldn’t even lift her arm to throw a dagger.

Wren saw how the game was exciting for the players. However, they’d all been training for seasons to play. She needed about a year of Vera’s grueling workouts to be in the kind of condition required to endure the battering pace of the clashes. T’Gor had shown her how far her skills had come and how far she still had to go. Mishaka would not underestimate her a second time. She would have allies, and strong ones—especially if she caught wind that Wren had recruited help to fight her.

Of course, that recruitment hinged on her surviving this game and getting an ally. Damay was only part of the solution. She couldn’t depend on the powerful savant being able to teleport around in the same way that mages and immorts did. She would need cooperation first to locate the avatar, and then transportation to get to the location.

She focused on calming herself and drawing on her reserves of energy. This hiding spot would only serve long enough to recover a little. Lords only knew what kind of magic the players might have for locating her.

Lying still felt good. She drew careful breaths and let them out long and slow. The pain and disorientation of the teleports wore off by stages. She could tell that she was getting more resistant to the effects. The first time she went through the magical transport, she feared death. Now, two jumps in rapid succession and she was even able to move and act coherently.

Toward the north she heard a crash, and the crack of shattering wood. Steel clanged and people let out cries of surprise and fear. Something whistled then there was the sound of more wood shattering.

**Team Falor, level 1 bystander and property damage penalty. Team Ariok retains all carries. Ten count to clear. Scores updated.**

“Hate those frelling cheap tricks!” Came the sound of Tal’s unmistakable baritone raised in frustration.

“Run—just run!” An unfamiliar female voice yelled.

Damn, they sounded close. She still wasn’t recovered enough to break for it now, she would bog down and get caught.

More shrieks sounded off to the west, then metal ringing together so loud it made her cringe. The banging continued for a few heartbeats.

**K-1, Targallae defeats Falor. Tal neutralized. Scores updated. Move logged.**

There was a short pause.

**Targallae declines changeover. Transcript updated.**

It was as Desiray warned; everyone had come for her. Her only chance now was that they were so busy fighting each other that she could escape in the confusion.

Wren’s heart lurched as more banging erupted right near the end of the buildings where she lay. Male laughter, grunts and the rapid swish and clang of weapons moving at hurricane speed. A thud sounded on the roof of the building overlooking her position and more clashes. Timbers creaked, blades shrieked, interspersed with the loud smack of flesh-on-flesh. Two people were fighting hard and going full force with enhanced strength.

Air whistled as someone thudded to the ground within a few paces of where she lay, and sprinted away. People nearby let out startled cries. Instants later another pair of boots came down with a thump and gave chase.

Eyes squeezed shut and hands clutching her chest Wren steeled herself. She needed to move. A pace more and they’d have come down on top of her.

Nearby, something small shuffled through the bushes. She flinched as tiny feet scrambled over her leg. The little creature stopped, rose up on its hind legs and squeaked at her, beady black eyes and pink nose orienting on her. A rat. That’s all she needed, pests trying to hide in the bushes with her!

She wasn’t afraid of the little creatures, but she didn’t want them crawling on her. She waved her hand at it, trying to shoo it away. Apparently unafraid, the rat began preening itself.

Wonderful.

More squeaks came from near her head. She jerked as she felt something in her hair. That was it. Ready or not, she was moving.

Wren started to sit up when something flashed through the leaves around her. An arm shot around her neck and dragged her against a soft and feverishly warm body. At the same time a hand clamped over her mouth, stifling her cry of surprise.

Hot breath that smelled of mint spice breathed against the back of her neck. She struggled but stopped when she felt something metallic and sharp press against the back of her neck.

<Call ‘no contest’,> a smokey resonant voice said into her mind. <I’d hate to have to cut you.> Wren heard sniffing. <Mother is right. You do smell good.>