Rosa, she thought, as steady footfalls churned up sand, then dirt, then water. Rosa.
Flumen Petram was overrun, she knew that, she did. But she also knew that she only had rations for another day or two, and going back to Lacus Lectulo through the desert wasn’t an option, so trying to expedite her journey by instead roaming south some toward a more hospitable region was her best bet.
It didn’t make it any less stupid, though.
Days of travel in a foreign land left her sunburnt and beyond exhaustion. Whatever she’d seen in that pod in the laboratory shook her to her core. There was little more she wanted than to get home, or at the very least find somewhere to rest, to think. Or not think, which she figured she had covered as her fatigued form entered the bounds of the tempestuous town.
The bridge that she crossed with her head low and black cloak across her desert-colored uniform was her only assurance. The town’s crumbled walls passed behind her with a short hop up, and the storm that raged around her was enough to compel her to take a short break within a nearby building. It was across the street, and down the road some hundred feet she could make out the slithering red forms of naga through the haze of heavy rainfall. She’d never seen them before, hardly knew enough about them to justify being anywhere close to this war, but the plan was set after what she pulled last time, per Talrigori.
So here she was, feet carrying her across the waterlogged path further into the city, where she could seek respite from the storm. As soon as she was within the sidestreet, she wasted no time in continuing on - if she was spotted, they’d search the closest buildings, giving her more time to search further in.
Another block or two down of the sidestreets, and she was a tad more comfortable in her positioning. The storm even seemed to calm some as she continued on into the center of the city. Still, she pressed on, as none of the buildings immediately around her were small enough to consider secure.
The buildings reminded her of home, mostly of Estro Boris. The buildings were just as spaced out, like visiting a neighbour was a five foot affair. It seemed that the windows were designed to be more for ventilation than taking in the sights, as they were all near the very top of the building, in long strips, no more than a foot and a half in height. Getting in would require a lot of climbing or a lot of precision. With a thought cropping into her mind, Micali changed her magazine out, instead opting for the specialty bullets she’d bought in Terminus on her way to Avelyn.
A guttural roar spared Micali from considering her options, as she instinctually ducked down and pulled her rifle up to check all around herself. It seemed that it was further out, though the rain made it hard to judge her sense of sound. She was lucky to not have been caught by any patrols. Even still, the sniper needed to know her enemies before they knew her, so she cautiously moved to exit the network of crossroads she was in, and approached what seemed to be the remnants of what was possibly a town square.
The monument that had once existed in the center was crumbled, some form of statue, though any figure was impossible to discern between the tempest that raged and the...form that seemed to swallow much of Micali’s view.
What it was exactly, she couldn’t tell. It was large, almost the size of the Arsenic. But this particular shipwreck moved and shuffled, with mandibles extended to the ground from a gruesome jaw and a bioluminescent glow that perforated from the monster’s innards, lighting up not only what appeared to be a hauntingly happy visage, but rows of scales that hung below its chest, the thick plating along its spine, and the tips of its half-dozen antennae that seemed to twitch every few moments. She willed herself to move back from the sight of the beast, and thanked that she managed to do so without it noticing her.
She had made a horrible mistake.
She should’ve just gone through the desert, toughed out the day or two with no food. With a spin on her heel, Micali made to leave the town. She passed back through the sidestreets until she noticed a patrol moving up the street. They didn’t seem to notice her at first, but there were no guarantees that it would continue to be so. Thinking quickly, Micali ducked back around the building’s other corner, and watched them pass from behind. The main street she’d crossed to initially get into the town was now before her, and the patrol there was nowhere to be seen immediately. She stood there for a second as she mustered the courage to cross, only to see the patrol come back again.
She really made a mistake.
The wayward assassin doubled back yet again, stuck within the crossroads of sidestreets. Moving back another couple of blocks, she sought to take a longer, more round approach. She took a look both ways, and thinking she saw nothing, almost ran into the street. Then she noticed the near-transparent shifting of the light and rain to her left, down the street. Taller than any of the buildings, another monster. Different than before, smaller than the crustaceous dragon she’d seen before. Cephalopodic in nature, its ten tentacles clung to the wall of the city, and it seemed to sense eyes on it, as the bioluminescent tentacles that hung shortly around its face and back swiveled to stare back at Micali.
With a short squeaking whistle, it moved forward, and Micali thanked the distance between them as she sprinted back down the sidestreets. Between huffs of breath, the pounding of blood rushing in her ears, the thunderous downpour of a never ending storm, and the turbulent journey to even meet this point, Micali felt her body beginning to give up on itself. These sidestreets likely had the patrol coming back, and turning around wasn’t an option if that thing was still pursuing on the rooftops. So she made a stupid split-second decision to cross another street further in, and sought the alleyways of what seemed to be a cramped residential district. Something she knew, finally.
Not without pause, the laicar felt her legs rocket her forward, and a nasty snarling came from toward the square where the beast had once been. A quick glance showed several red-scaled serpentine figures dash after her.
No, she really made a mistake.
With her options limited, Micali noticed the architecture was similar to before, and thanked herself for switching her bullets earlier. The naga were maybe five seconds behind her, and gaining fast. It seemed many of the residential buildings were intact, and she knew she needed to make her play fast. After circling the same block once, she noticed a window like before, and open, too.
So as she circled it the second time, she leapt up, her rifle aimed to the wet ground, and pulled the trigger.
The bullets she’d switched for were from a specialty store in Terminus, and were ones she’d used back in Lucrus. They were gravity-magic infused, meaning a single pull of a weapon’s trigger packed much more of a punch upon being fired, though with a rifle that recoil typically meant a boost to her own mobility. So as her rifle jumped silently in her hands, her body was propelled just that bit further needed to slink into the open window, her body prone as she slid up the glass window that leaned into the building. She landed on her feet on the other side, immediately pressing her body to the wall she’d just been on the other side of an instant before. Through the open window she heard the snarling, gnashing growls of the naga as they continued a pointless pursuit onward.
Her body far past any recognizable point of exhaustion, Micali collapsed, the blood rushing in her ears finally slowing to a proper pulse as she felt her breath slowly come back normally. With a look forward, she saw the rest of her new abode. A simple enough building, small, familiar in atmosphere to Rev and Volo’s place in Fere Divi back home. The walls were intact, and the front door was locked. There were two beds - one large, with two set pillows, the other on the opposite side of the room was small, a child’s. A dust-covered stuffed animal was lopsided on the child’s pillow. Drawings littered the wall, hung with delicate care. A toy trunk sat at the foot of the small bed. The parents’ side was much more barren, simply a bed and a dresser, no personalization, no fancy decorum.
There was one other door than the one that led outside; likely leading to a bathroom of sorts.
She rose, and moved to open a single door, likely to the only adjoining room in the house. It was open only a crack before she had to close it again, the foul stench that permeated from it one she knew all too well - death. The open window probably kept the other room vented enough for the smell to not hang around, but whatever was in that room - not that she got a good look - was likely a sight more tragic than she had the heart to observe. She recalled Foli Fluctus, the Optio Centuriae she’d made acquaintances with less than a week prior. She supposed he couldn’t have reasonably evacuated the entirety of Flumen Petram, but a part of her cursed herself for believing such a flimsy tale. She wondered if he truly believed it.
The locked door told her enough.
After a few minutes to process, the rain and distant rumbling of thunder still rampant outside, Micali switched from the desert-camouflage clothing that she’d been given by Trierarch Lidus and back into her darker attire, charcoal tunic much better suited to blending into the town. The part of her that longed to go home subsisted to the urgent realization that this war was very suddenly a real problem. People had died - people would continue to die. If the Pelagian army failed here, it would move past the Anguis Trigon. She had the ability to help, but at the cost of her own safety, her own comfort, possibly her life.
She looked at the toy chest.
Her grip on her rifle tightened, her mind made up. She simply needed to wait for this storm to pass.
Rosa, she thought, the faint roar of the monster she’d seen earlier a pitch in her ears. Rosa.