In a way it was a blessing to be banished from the estates main building. For the most part Kri was outside, working hard, but she didn’t mind it. The fact that she wasn’t working by choice was a source of irritation, but having to endure Kisday’s presence and being held in a rather elaborate cage was more unbearable. She missed Shinkir, although a bit too compliant at times for Kri's liking, she missed the moments they shared. They were in this together and Kri was still determined they'd get out of it together as well.
Being allowed outside, Kri was able to gather even more information than she ever could have on her short, sporadic test-runs. However she had to be careful in her observations as she was constantly flanked by at least three Kierr guards. It soon became obvious that she would have to make a break for it quickly and quietly when the time came rather than slipping out for a test or two before going with the final plan.
Kri was kept with the other servants in a low and long building nestled between the outer, southern wall and the arena. The other workers under Kisday were visibly uncomfortable the first few weeks that Kri was among them. They would watch her nervously as she passed, eyes skipping from the plainly marked eye on her left hand to the scars that traced the right side of her face and then occasionally to her right arm as well, where her third mark wrapped around the bicep. Kri grew used to the looks; being as everyone within Kistau already knew what she was there was no need to waste the energy trying to hide it.
Meals were provided, but nowhere near the elaborate feasts that she had enjoyed with Shinkir. Life consisted of work, eating, and sleep.
It was early fall, the nights were lengthening and the evening air was chilled with the promise of winter.
Kri slipped the trio of darts from under her pillow. She shifted easily into her Kierr form and the darkness came into sharp focus, blurred, dark forms became clothed in delicate shadow. She slid carefully out of bed towards the lightly dozing forms of her guards. A twitch and Kri's ears flicked back, a snore followed. She readied the three darts, each one meeting a mark. The forms slumped further into their chairs, no longer half-listening, but in deep slumber. Confident that they were out she lifted the pack of darts that rested at the guards' belts and tied them to her waist.
She crept carefully across the room and slipped the door open, just enough to allow one of her smallest form through. Delicate whiskers twitched at the end of her tapered nose, brushing the door and frame. All that could be heard was the breathing, and occasional snores, of the servants. Carefully crawling towards the other door, rodent body flattened along the floor, she tested the air and made her way to a part-open window. She crawled up the creases within the wood paneling of the wall to the window ledge and slipped out. Jumping off the ledge she made her way to the first watchtower. Ears listening and whiskers twitching she stayed close to the wall and hidden in the shadows.
Upon reaching the top of the stair Kri paused and assessed the situation: two guards, both Frineir,. One dozed in a chair and the other was pacing around the tower's covered platform. He would take a few steps, pause, and swing his gaze around the outside, take a few more, pause, and repeat. Kri retreated a short distance down the stair and shifted into her Kierr form. Carefully pulling a dart from its case she approached the opening again, crouched low, sharp eyes watching the vigilant guard's every move. When he pause for his visual sweep furthest from his dozing relief Kri jumped forward, clamping her hand over his muzzle as she drove the fine-tipped dart into the flesh between the shoulder and collarbone. The Frineir pushed back, sending both off-balance, but the guard was limp before they hit the ground. The second guard jolted awake, but was scarcely out of his chair before Kri managed to twist away from the first and strike the other guard with a dart. His eyes rolled and he fell, body dangling over the edge of the trap door.
It was a race against the clock now. Kri moved quickly to remove the darts and took one of the dart blowers from the guards. She raced down the stair before pausing to assume her rat form and scurried quickly to the next tower. At the base she shape-shifted again into her Kierr form and loaded the blowgun. At the top of the stair she found a similar situation, one scanning, the other asleep. With the aid of the gun she dealt with them quickly and silently, once again divesting them of their darts. The process repeated at the other six towers. The last one was near the barn, which was precisely where she wanted to go next.
The barn was dark, only the soft noises of the Tasa could be heard within its walls. Kri proceeded cautiously. She slipped over to the hay pile just beyond the stalls and changed back into her Kierr form. Grabbing a lump of hay she walked over and tossed it into the tasa's stall. The animal lifted its head sharply, but murmured appreciatively before lowering its head to contently chew the hay. The process was repeated until the tasa'tei were all eating happily.
Finally Kri slipped noiselessly behind the door to the underground passage. There was a dim light at the end; two figures were leaned casually against the walls. Shrouded in shadow Kri readied two darts. The first went down silently, the second managed a muffled hiss as he reached for his weapon.
Tempting as it was, Kri did not go through the door, she still had another task to accomplish. All of the exterior guards now taken care of Kri ran swiftly and silently to the main building. As well guarded as the estate was, Kisday never took thought to locking the front door.
Once inside Kri cut to the right and jogged up the elaborate stairway to the second floor. At the landing she paused to listen before proceeding forward. It had taken her a while to find it, but once she did, she never forgot the place. It was a left from the stair, down the central hall, second to the last right, and then the first right. That's where her sword was. Carefully displayed on a dark wood stand.
Calm and reverence flooded through Kri as she lifted the sword for the first time in over two years. Her hand easily wrapped around the grip and she ran a finger down the etched blade. A satisfied grin crept across her face before she turned and retreated the way she came.
"Kri! How did you get in here?"
"Don't ask, follow me, we're getting out of here." Shinkir kicked her legs over the edge of the bed and stood. Kri slipped over to the handle less door. She had a large sword strapped to her back. Kri carefully popped the lock and opened the door as she did more than a year ago. Two Kierr were waiting on the other side, both unconscious. Kri stepped carefully over their limp forms and waved Shinkir forward. She opened the door to the barn carefully and peered out. The tasa'tei were munching happily in their stalls, one lifted its head to see who had entered, but returned to contently chewing on the hay.
It was shortly before sunrise, the sky was starting to warm with color as light began to slowly flood the ground. Kri lead Shinkir to the backside of the barn. The pair started out when the door they entered through burst open.
"Fastest form you have, run!" Kri shoved Shinkir forward.
"What about the other guards?" Shinkir asked.
"They're taken care of, now go!"
Shinkir stalled a moment. "Go, Shinkir!" Kri drew her sword, swinging it in a wide arc to discourage their pursuer’s approach before backing quickly through the barn's heavy doors. Shinkir still hesitated, not wanting to leave Kri behind. "Go, I'll catch up!"
The guards were crowded in the doorway, not daring to get in range of Kri's sword. Kri tried keeping them busy, she may have lifted the darts from the guards she drugged, but these might have them still and given the chance to access them, would use them.
"What can I do?" Shinkir asked, just behind Kri's shoulder.
"Skibb, Shinkir, go before I chase you out myself!"
Backing off, Shinkir suddenly noticed a group coming from behind the main house. "Kri!"
Kri glared at Shinkir before noticing the approaching threat. "Run and don't stop until you can't run anymore. I'll take care of this."
"Go!" They were loosing time, if Shinkir would just go, Kri could deal with the guards and be gone herself. The second group was fast approaching and it would be impossible to keep all of them at bay long enough to ensure Shinkir’s escape.
Shinkir ignored Kri’s commands and slipped into her Shamien form. Empowered by its familiarity and strength she charged towards the new threat. She was suddenly throw off balance by a weight hammering into her side, nearly throwing her off her feet.
Kri hissed out angry, broken Maylehin. “I say go away, not to!” Kri snorted and Shinkir blinked in profound shock. Kri emphasized her point by charging again, forcing Shinkir to scramble back. “Go!” Shinkir finally turned, confused and dazed. The young shape-shifter looked back just before the wall to see Kri, again in her Kierr form, sword in hand winging it in wide arcs as she pushed back the guards. She did enough to keep them occupied, but didn’t push beyond that. Shinkir scaled the wall and dropped to the other side.
Once Kri saw Shinkir disappear beyond the wall she did a final surge forward before sheathing her sword, turning, and ‘shifting mid-stride. Three strides in with the short but powerful legs of her mitchel form there was a buzz past her ear. Two more darts whizzed past as she twisted erratically, slowing her progress, but making a harder target. She prepared to ‘shift, haunches bunching underneath her to launch her into the air when a dart finally hit the mark. Her right hind leg spasmed and burned. No escape now.
She came down heavy on her forehand and spun to face her attackers. They appeared quite surprised she was still standing. Head low she growled and charged, leaping into her Shamien form. The group scattered and regrouped around her. She kept them busy, swinging her pronged tail and snapping at anyone who got within range. It was a while before they managed a second dart. Logic started to slide; her vision was badly blurred before she felt a surprising, but reassuring flood of warmth. A new Mark, and with it renewed energy. The form was unfamiliar, but she was beyond the point of consciously acting. After a short time in focus her vision blurred again. A third dart and she was fighting blind. Staggering as she growled and snapped she finally collapsed.
Kri struggled and spat, clawing and biting as the guards jumped back to avoid her wrath and others jumped forward. Her adrenaline was so high that the first Kona dart hardly fazed her. The second slowed her down, she stopped shifting after that and the third dropped her.
Tsumajh Kisday was cursing soundly, a rare moment of discomposure.
"Get me Iren. NOW! I want him on Shinkir's trail immediately!"
"Yes, sir!" The Kierr ran off to complete the request.
"Pick her up and follow me." Kisday was scowling fiercely as he lead the tight band of guards that carried Kri's limp body.
Critique is greatly appreciated. I'm actually into the editing stage right now, but with writing I find it infinitely more flexible than drawing and can tweak to my heart's content.