Against Warriors Cass may have been eventually overwhelmed, but against Sand and Stone peasants she tore through the mob without pause. Soon, instead of coming after her the crowd was attempting to flee from Cass as she carved her way out. Free of the press, Cass poured power into the glyphs on her legs and sprinted to catch up to the carriage. When she saw Rowig, the blood had drained from his face leaving him with a ghastly expression.
“Impossible…” His mouth was hanging open as he looked at the bloody woman running causally alongside the speeding carriage.
“I don’t know why you are so surprised Rowig,” Cass hardly even noticed the blood that drenched her. Her blonde hair was dyed red in many places and her arms were coated in the liquid, as well as her legs and much of her body. “They were only unarmored peasants after all.”
Even leather armor would have vastly weakened her attacks, the systems that she had placed on her hands were actually quite fragile. Just a little something that she had thought up after her fight with Odev to give her an advantage should she ever need it, but they wouldn’t withstand hitting anything harder than flesh. And her anklet was powerful, but even cheap armor would disperse the force of the blow. For that matter, against regular soldiers she could not have fought with such abandon. She had left openings all over that had only avoided being take advantage of because they were not trained soldiers. Going even further, they had no mage support, so she had not needed to devote any of her power to dealing with magical attacks or system interference. Even a regular soldier would kill many of them before being dragged down by sheer numbers, someone with glyphs would likely be able to escape, and someone with Cass’s power was an unstoppable killing force in such a crowd.
They hurried onward, dodging or pushing their way through crowds of people. Despite their rush, the sheer press of people fleeing the fighting slowed them down considerably and even Cass’s fearsome blood-soaked visage was unable to open a clear path. The people in their way couldn’t move, even though they desperately wanted to.
“At this rate,” Cass shouted angrily. “We might have to force our way through.”
“Does it matter?” Rowig retorted, “You didn’t get your border pass after all.”
“I will figure it out once we are out of this damn city!”
Rowig was right though, her carefully laid plans had fell apart and shattered to pieces. If Cass slowed down she might start to panic. She had felt so powerful, so cunning, until today, and now the city was showing her that not everything would go according to her will.
“Shit.” Cass cursed under her breath, “fucking shit!”
“Stop that carriage!” Cass heard a shout from behind, “It belongs to the bitch who attacked the Matron!”
“How the hell did they even catch up?”
“The carriage is slower than walking in a crowd,” Rowig gritted his teeth. “And if they had groups spaced throughout the city…”
All they would have to do is yell, Cass understood what Rowig was trying to say. Indeed, Rowig soon shouted down that there were people pushing towards the carriage from basically every direction. Cass was too short to see through the crowd, and was worried about protecting Natalie in a situation where she couldn’t even know where the next attack would come from.
Then she had an idea. “Natalie! Rowig!” She shouted, “Cover your ears!”
She put her own hands to to her head as she stomped down, pouring energy into her anklet. The roar was not nearly as effective in an open space as an enclosed one, but it did inspire terror in all the people near her and the carriage, and the crowd began to push away from them.
“Fucking bitch!” Rowig roared, and Cass realized she had not thought this through. The horses were panicking, and Rowig was struggling to get them under control. Still, they were moving quicker without having to deal with the crowd as much, and the pursuers would be fighting against the flow of people…
Rowig had the skill to get the horses back under control, but Cass reminded herself to think more about her actions in the future. On the bright side, Rowig told her that he could see the gate.
Cass jumped up onto the front of the carriage to take a look for herself, a small amount of Warriors were holding people away from the gate, but it shouldn’t pose any trouble. Except…
“Isn’t that Odal?” Cass squinted, trying to make see against the glare. She was fairly sure she was right.
“I think so,” Rowig agreed when she pointed him out. “But what is he doing here?”
Odal wouldn’t have known the plan after all, and Cass was suspicious of coincidence. Had Odal been more than she thought and had he been preparing to stab her in the back too? The Matron’s actions had somewhat unsettled Cass, and she didn’t know if she could trust anyone aside from Natalie and Rowig in this city at this point…
“Turn towards him, Rowig.” Cass would know what was going on now and not leave a loose end behind her. She would either be able to take Odal with her, or leave his body to cool in the street.
Rowig slowwed down as they approached, the crowd that the Warriors had been holding back dispersed at the sight of Cass, who looked like some kind of horrible demon at this point. All blood and fury.
“Cass.” Odal greeted her much to calmly, and Cass’s suspicions grew.
“Odal, I had wondered where you were.” Cass replied as she redid the systems on her hands. They used her own bones and nails as catalysts, effectively hardening and sharpening her nails while anchoring them more firmly to the bones in her hands. It sounded far more complicated than it actually was, but really she was simply copying many of the same systems that glyphs produce. After all, with her strength, her bones would have shattered by her own attacks if the glyphs had left her bones alone.
“I was doing some reading last night and was caught by surprise.” Odal replied, and upon closer examination, Cass could see the dark circles under his eyes. But this conversation was too stilted and awkward for her trust him at this point, and she did not have much time considering the Matron’s thugs were likely not far behind her.
“I learned some interesting things last night,” Odal’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at Rowig. “Not the least of which that Warden Rowig had been quietly gathering information on you Cass.”
Shit. Well it didn’t take a genius to understand where this was going. Cass felt she had been a fool not to expect something like this, even with his greed Rowig wouldn’t let himself be leashed as easily as Odal.
“Working with rebels, extortion, trespassing…” Odal focused again on Cass, “Only fragments of fragments of information due to your stealth and caution, but it seems that Wardens have a further reach. Especially a Warden that has contacts on the darker side of the city.”
“Odal,” Cass decided to drop the mask. “Do you really think I would accept what was told to me at face value? Did those investigations of yours uncover the death of your precious Voni caste? Or that Cushan Klein was running the city in their stead? When you gave me that tour did you not think I would check to see if there was more than what you were saying?”
Cass laughed, amused by the thought. “So I checked, and look what I found. Chaos stirring just beneath the surface, that brothel, the organized crime in the Sand, the drugs and abuse in the Stone- You were blind from the beginning, is it my fault for seeing further?”
“I- I don’t know.” Odal frowned, “This city isn’t what I thought it was, and you are not who I thought you were.”
“For better or for worse?”
“I hate to interupt,” Rowig interjected dryly. “But our pursuers are not far behind us.”
“I don’t know that either.” Odal ignored Rowig and answered Cass’s question, though admittedly Cass thought it a rather weak answer. Even at this point it seemed Odal was unable to take a stand.
“Then why don’t you come with us and see what I am like without the mask, Odal?” Cass offered her bloodsoaked hand to Odal. This was the final offer, he would agree or die. They could not waste any more time.
“I will go with you for now Cass,” Odal walked forward and took her hand, much to Cass’s surprise. “Because I don’t think what you showed me was entirely a mask.”
Well I guess an informed idiot is still an idiot, Cass thought even as she smiled and said. “Wonderful, then jump on the carriage and we will get the hell out of here!”
They were out the gate before the pursuers caught up, and they seemed unwilling to chase them once they left the city. They would travel as far as they could for now and put some distance between the city and themselves. Though they would need to stop and plan, and also to clean the blood off of Cass.
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