Desperate Gambit

Terra Immortalis Story 004

Tashi ran like she had never run in her life. The streets and alleyways of Carpathia twisted and blurred past her. She had ceased to heed where her feet were taking her some time ago.

"Will you slow down," Mako growled, as close to a bellow as his whispering could allow. The Graathu looked like he was going to collapse. Tashi reluctantly slowed down and waited for her companion to catch up.

She didn’t know where they were. Somewhere in the Void Quarter. Somewhere she hoped the eyes that had seen her couldn’t follow. She performed a simple Manipulation to try to calm her down. Stepping into the shadows, she anxiously waited for Mako.

The Graathu stumbled up next to her and leaned against the building. He was gasping for breath. He had always been the muscles of their partnership. She was supposed to be light of foot. He wasn’t used to trying to keep up with her.

Mako and Tashi had been a team for the past five years. Few coffers had been safe from Tashi’s nimble fingers and daring plans. She maintained an air of innocence about her charm that helped beguile her way into anyone’s pockets. Mako made sure Tashi’s gains stayed with Tashi. They earned a sizable tithe for the guild.

But Tashi hoped her luck finally hadn’t run out on her.

"Who were those guys, Tashi?" Mako managed between gasps for air. He looked like he wanted to sit down, but knew he’d never be able to stand back up. He settled for leaning his back against the building.

"Kintahl is all I know. Powerful too. Mako, what are we going to do?"

"They saw us?" the Graathu asked. He’d take his chances against anyone wielding a blade, but Kintahl were Tashi’s business.

Tashi nodded. Her eyes traveled over all the shadows of the small lane. She jumped at any movement. But it appeared as if they eluded pursuit for the moment.

"Mako, they brushed aside my Aura Pockets like they were air. I don’t know how we got out of there!"
They had thought the merchant’s home an easy score. The security had been minimal. The man a loud braggart at the bar, boasting of Carpathia’s superiority in every conceivable aspect over that of any others. The pair had followed him home and planned to pick him clean.

They hadn’t been the only ones to single him out, evidently. Five figures cloaked in shadow had been waiting for the merchant. They had surrounded him immediately upon his returning home. The thieves hid in the darkness outside. They were afraid to move, to call attention to themselves. They stood and watched as the figures performed powerful Manipulations of the Aura, levitating the pleading merchant up into the air and then...

Tashi shivered. She had never seen a man killed in such a horrible manner.

"What they were doing, Mako. I could feel the power of their Manipulations! But it was different somehow... I can’t explain it."

With the merchant dead on the ground, the figures fell to conversing amongst themselves. The pair wanted nothing more than to just leave, to get away. Tashi was preparing to whisper to her partner when the five figures stopped and as one turned to regard the pair outside. The face of one fell in the light as he turned. She saw him, his face etched in memory. His eyes glowed a brilliant blue and Tashi felt all her Aura Pockets crumble under a blast of extreme power.

They had been running ever since.

"I think I heard them say something about the Ascension. Do you think they were part of it? You know, that group to overthrow Carpathia?"

Mako said nothing, he merely shook his head.

"I think we should just lay low for a while..."

A small whistling sound accompanied a blast from the Aura. It was a strong Manipulation, but precise. Only a master could have performed it. Tashi turned to see Mako stiffen, pause a moment, and then crumple to the ground. A small, clean hole was drilled through his forehead and his glazed eyes stared up at her, unseeing.

The shock lasted a mere moment before her reflexes took over. She ran, crying. Never in her life had she known fear until now. The death of her friend hurt worse than any other loss in her past. But she wasn’t ready to join him.

The streets took her where they willed, she had no goal other than to get away. She ran until her legs would no longer support her. Collapsing to the ground, she looked around distractedly, trying to discern her location.

She heard water. The sea. She was down by the docks. Panting, she had no plans of moving from her position in the gutter of the street.

Footsteps approached her. A bulky shadow made its way closer to her in the gloom. She drew her short sword and stood up, wobbling a bit in fatigue. The figure emerged from the shadows.

It was Mako. The hole still peered at her from his forehead, a trickle of blood leaking down his face. A large grin, looking out of place, bared large teeth. And tears streamed down from eyes that were completely foreign. Eyes a brilliant blue.

He swung his sword at her and she had to dive out of the way. It whistled past her, she felt it pass close to her neck. A clump of her hair fell to the street, sliced cleanly away from her head.

"Tashi... run..." Mako said, forcing the words out. But his body closed in relentless pursuit.

"Mako, I can’t." She knew it was folly to try to fight him. One attempt to parry would probably break her arm. Mako was an incredibly powerful foe. He brought the sword around at waist level, swinging hard enough to cleave her in two. Again, she had to throw herself to the ground and roll away.

He wasn’t letting her get away. His dead face betrayed his grief, but his body was possessed by the owner with blue eyes. She recognized the gleam of blue now, and the strangeness of the power of the Manipulations.

She felt the Corruption being Manipulated. The man with the blue eyes was a Death Kintahl.

Tashi tried to shuffle around the Graathu, but he blocked her. Tears escaped her eyes. She couldn’t bring herself to attack her best friend.

"Tashi... you must... I am... dead... attack me... or you... will... die..."

Mako’s next swing sliced through the flesh of her left shoulder. Tashi sobbed in pain as her arm hung limply beside her.

"Do... it... Tashi! Don’t let... my last... memory... be killing... you..."

Tashi glanced at the Aura Gem on her sword and energized it. The length of the blade erupted into a searing flame. Mako staggered back, the Kintahl controlling him taken by surprise. And though it tore her heart apart, she used the moment to attack.

She shoved the sword in Mako’s face. She heard flesh sizzle and smelt the stink in the air. Eerily there was no cry of pain. But her attack succeeded in its goal. Mako’s corpse was blinded.

Holding the sword to her side, she voiced her anguish. "I’m sorry, Mako."

"Do... it..."

Her sword arced out and separated the Graathu’s head from his shoulders. There was no blood from the wound. The body stood, still holding its weapon as the head rolled away.

A voice, alien and unfamiliar, issued from the disembodied head. "Run, little thief. Spend your days hiding and your nights in fear. We will find you."

The body fell once more to the ground in death. She backed away from it in disgust.

She remained where she was for several moments, then looked towards the docks.

"To Shishok’s Servitors with this city," she mumbled, crying. And she ran towards the ships.