She is saved

       Pushing past the pain, Akila continued to force her way through the sand. Even in her haste, she had a mild awareness of where she was headed, but the night was disorienting. Holding her breath, she ignored the sounds of the search party rallying behind her and strained to hear other noises in the blackness. 
       In the distance, she heard the nuzzing of a camel. A wave of relieve washed over her and she threw herself forward, scrambling through the sinking sand towards the sound that already stopped. The cold air did nothing to relieve her burning chest and she started to feel like her heavy panting wasn't enough. There wasn't enough air, enough room in her lungs, she was being suffocated with her own exertion, but she fought onward.
       She was nearing where she heard the sound, but knew there was no camel. Her strides shortened as she came towards several large boulders resting in a semi circle. But before she knew what happened, she pitched forward into the sand. Struggling to roll over, she realized she was being dragged and suddenly felt herself falling.
       Her landing was controlled, both from her training and from the unseen force helping her. Brushing the sand from her face, she looked up into the face of her ally, Azai. Silently, he watched her, his expression stern. His look silenced her complaints on his rough methods.
       They had set up camp in a cave that was hidden under the grouping of boulders. From what the scouters had reported, even the Sovereign's patrol guards were unaware of it. Resting her hands on her knees, Akila desperately tried to catch her breath.
      "Well?" Azai pressed her, not waiting for her to report. "Is he dead?"
       Akila gave a sharp shake of her head. She replied through her heavy breaths. "No. He...was not there. It was Chione."
       Azai put his hand on Akila's shoulder, and she looked up at him. His eyebrows were furrowed. "His wife? Was he not at the tent?"
       "No. He...was not at the camp. Chione was in a bed for one. It was the Sovereign's tent." 
       Letting go of her shoulder, he brought his hand to his chin and stroked his short beard. "Are the rumours true then? Is the Sovereign dead?"
       Standing straight, Akila continued to breath heavily as she shrugged. "If he is dead, then they are taking great lengths to conceal it and having his wife stand in."
       "And I'm assuming by the commotion that you failed to kill her."
       Her eyes darted away from his intense gaze.
       "Very well. The King must be informed. If the Sovereign is dead, now is the time to strike, while our enemy is weak."
       "Agreed. I..." Akila paused and again broke eye contact with Azai. As the ill thought-out plan started to form in her mind, there was a sinking feeling her her stomach. With a sigh, she pushed away her hint of emotion, steeling against the dread."I will go back out and draw them off so you can report back."
       Azai's glare softened slightly and a frown tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Will they not just kill you outright?"
       Akila hesitated. It was a possibility, but even that would afford him the chance to escape. "Maybe not. Chione and I grew up in court together and I noticed she delayed raising the alarm. She may have given orders to apprehend..."
       For a long moment, Azai was quiet. She could tell by his pursed lips that he wasn't happy. "I suppose if you're a prisoner, you may get another chance to kill her..."
       "Then it's settled."
       Turning away, she didn't give him a chance to reply as she reached up towards the cave opening. She felt his hands rest on her shoulders. They lingered, and gently squeezed. His soft sigh grazed the back of her neck, but he said nothing. He didn't have to. Without another word, he grabbed her around he waist and hoisted her.
Not looking back, Akila jogged away from the rocks and waited for the Sovereign's men.

The End

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