She Goes

He who hesitates is lost – and most likely buried out in the desert, and Akila dared not tarry any longer. Against the shock which slowed her bloodstream in addition to her overwhelming desire to stay, she nonetheless forced herself to move, ducking behind a cherry wardrobe. The sharp THUNK of Chione's dagger piercing the wood just behind Akila's ear was not lost on her as she wriggled under the gaudy tent fabric and into the night beyond. She left her cloak where she had deposited it just a short time ago; there would be no subterfuge on her way out of the sovereign's encampment as there had been on the way in. Now it was time to haul ass. Chione was undoubtedly already summoning the guards and it would behoove Akila to put as much sand between her and them as quickly as possible. She darted past two silent tents which she believed housed the main contingent of armed men and kept going. Why wasn't there any commotion? Surely Chione's guards were highly trained and at the ready to leap into action at the slightest beckoning. Shouldn't they be assembling and arming themselves against the unknown assailant which threatened them and their leader?

It was difficult running in the sand, for every step Akila took seemed to suck her a half-step backwards. She put as much distance as she could before she felt the fire in her legs began spreading to her lungs. She wished for a mount of some kind – any kind; a steed, a camel, a pull cart harnessed to a three-legged goat would also be an acceptable alternative to the agony of her trembling sprint through the soft sand of the dunes.

There no stars above her head, and darkness encroached all around her, making every gasp for breath echo far over the terrain. Akila cursed her weak female form. This wasn't the first time she wished for a man's body to aid her in the physical burdens she was sometimes forced to endure due to her choice of profession. She slowed her escape for a moment to allow her to listen for the pursuit, but all remained quiet. She scowled, why hadn't Chione alerted the guards? Had she let Akila live out of respect of the past? No, that didn't ring true. She picked up her pace.

Suddenly, behind her, a sharp and authoritative voice pierced the blackness behind her, “GUARDS!”

And there it was. The alert. Akila ignored the exhaustion and pushed her legs beyond their pain threshold, then darted into the night. Behind her, at the encampment, she heard the sounds of the well-trained assemblage of men preparing for the hunt and her heart sank. They would easily be able to track her footprints in the sand, even without the aid of the moon, from their lofty perches atop their steeds. Maybe Akila had made the wrong decision after all, maybe she should have hid rather than run.

The End

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