8-9 Sydenstar (Yulisen-Da’lesen/Saturday-Sunday) 845 PD
It’s late at night, the house is quiet. So is the city, people tired from the work of cleaning and repairing. In his room, curled up on his bed with his back against the wall and dagger under his pillow, Rinn sleeps. And dreams.
“Did you piss off a god or something?” Victoire’s face looms large in Rinn’s vision. Behind her are others: Stubby, Tāmarai, the rest of the Vonns, Otel, Pansy, Yorrik, Lizzy, and others- people from the Take, others from around Snow Water in New Vasselheim- far more than would have actually fit in the Clocks and Cogs. All of them staring at him, expressions a mix of suspicion, amusement, triumph, and fear. There is whispering, pointing, and laughing, and Every Single eye on him. He steps back, until he is against the wall and can go no further. They all keep stepping in, pressing closer and closer-
And there is a door to the side. Rinn darts through it, already at a run.
Outside it is dark, and the alleyway cramped and narrow, though Rinn runs through the close confines of the Eastern Outersteads of Zadash with familiarity-
Zadash? Zadash. The Eastern Outersteads. He knows this area, and if he takes the next corner that should lead him to one of the little hideouts he claimed. Somewhere hidden, safe. He catches one corner of the wall to make the sharp turn, rough brick instead of the gray stone work it should have been-
And it is an alleyway in the Rat Docks. Rinn skids in the mud underfoot, trying to reorient himself, searching for familiar landmarks. Nothing is where it should be- wait. There. He dashes off down one side street to get out of the Rat Docks and head towards the Take. Behind a set of buildings and over a rough fence, knuckles catching on a splintered bit of wood. He manages to get over- and crashes into a familiar, but far from reassuring figure. Anselm catches Rinn, grinning his too-wide, manic smile, and holding up a knife already covered in blood. “Seems like witches still bleed, ja?”
Rinn swears, bringing a knife of his own up to block and counter-
But Anselm is better than he remembers, and his own movements are slow, too slow. He can barely block the slashes and stabs, constantly stepping back and nearly slipping in the muck. Anselm’s face twists. “C’mon! Finish what you started, Rinn!”
But Rinn Can. Hardly. Move-
Panicked, he brings his other hand up, and there is a blinding, glaring, FLASH of white and somewhere in the middle of that Anselm is caught and torn-
And Rinn is turning and running, not waiting to see what happened to Anselm. To see what remains of Anselm.
There is shouting, calling, voices raised in alarm, echoing from the buildings. Lights start appearing in windows, too many windows for here in the Outsteads. Or is it Snow Water? People peering from buildings, around corners. Shouting, pointing. Nothing clear but their eyes. Rinn keeps desperately searching for anything familiar, a sign, a wall, a rooftop, but just as soon as he thinks he knows this section of Zadash-
And keeps changing, and shifting. He knew something about this, something someone said-
She moved them like puzzle pieces. If on cue the moment Rinn remembers it, there she is at the end of the street. The Empress. Lydia. Vex the Forth. She smirks, walking towards him. “I knew you were a bad choice. But you can still be of use.” A nod of her head to someone behind him, and before Rinn can turn around or even move, he is shoved to the ground. He struggles, trying to get his arms up and his hands free but again he cannot. There is the sound and feel of cold metal being fastened around his wrists and hands before Rinn is painfully pulled to his feet, only to find him face to face with Vanya.
Vanya, standing side by side with the Empress, wearing a severe, dark uniform, and smiling grimly at Rinn. “The perfect murder machine. The Empire wants you, Mister Shrike.” He snarls at them both, but before he can even say anything the rough hands holding him reach around. Rinn’s head is jerked back and a gag tied across his mouth while the Empress and Vanya look pleased-
And so does the crowd gathering behind them. Laughing. Jeering. Pointing. “Freak! Witch!” Familiar faces from Vasselheim, Zadash, and even Reminderville. Whirling around him, watching and staring,
Staring and watching,
Around and around until it blurs into a dull roar, growing louder and louder-