She heard the thump of hooves behind her. She checked the glaive was strapped to her back and focussed on her breathing. She had sheathed her scimitar in order to focus on making as much distance as possible between her and the Sisters coming after her.
The branches and leaves crunched beneath her heels as she slowed down, moving to avoid tripping over the thicker roots that would grasp her ankle and break it if she failed to take care. Her silks were damp with perspiration, and each breath brought the tang of her scent to her.
She stopped, scanning ahead to find her bearings. She sought to listen over the roar of her blood and breath. The sound was faint, but she gauged the direction of it and picked up her pace again.
These places, that she visited, once were merely entries, recorded by diplomats and transcribed for the interest of the Caliphate. This forest was once the sight of a great battle between Ser Rosey, The Drunken Poet and a bear that stole his last flagon of ale from his hand. Such was the viciousness of their battle that the leaves on the trees would turn red once a year in tribute. Asra’s education had disabused her of that notion, but she enjoyed the myth. Her lust for travel had been nurtured by those stories and had those been her only lusts, she admitted, she might have avoided such situations as this.
The sound of her pursuers grew louder. Five of them, holy warriors, much like the fedayeen of home, women raised from birth to kill in their Father’s name, trained in tactics and weapons. Asra had seen them from the hedgerow when they had first set out, five of them to begin with, asking at the inn for her. When they had decided to stay the night, they awoke to find two of them dead in their beds, blankets stained black with their blood and faces carved into expressions of mute agony.
Asra always looked to take opportunities wherever she found them. The simple coincidence of two of them in the same room, a door left unlocked by a tired innkeeper, a maid with a candle, all of them woven into a single, shining moment. Sharp as the blade that she drew across their throats.
Three, she corrected herself, three of them now.
She ran onwards.
The waterfall announced itself through it’s perpetual industry, the noise of pouring water was overwhelming, a voice in nature’s chorus and she smiled with delight. The perpetual mist was cool against her perspiring skin.
Until she looked down.
Too wide to cross quickly, too long to go around without being caught and so she looked down. The water looked deep, and she gave a small prayer to the God that she figured was no longer talking to her. She looked for higher ground that she might defend herself, but remembered the longbows that each Sister carried and kept returning her attention to the river below.
It led to the east, far enough that she could find passage back to Petra’s Plait, get a ship from there back to the Caliphate, hide out for a while and count her blessings.
Or it would break her legs and back, rush into her lungs and leave her as meat for the animals, rotting into loam at the side of the water.
She shut her eyes, put her arms down by her sides and thought of the maid at the inn, her coppery hair and green, shining eyes. If it were her last memory, she wanted it to be a warm one.
With that, she stepped out.