Right on time. Eliza watched as the four guards crossed paths during their patrol for the night. As usual, the guards had grown bored with their nightly rounds and had unconsciously wandered into each other’s territory, hungry for the welcome diversion of conversation. The guards stopped, seemingly surprised at having congregated despite the fact they had done so every night since departing from Rudelle.
One leaned casually against the nearby wagon. Another pulled a knife and whetstone from his belt, the distinct clink of stone on metal was audible from Eliza’s position even if their words were not. The other two guards made a show of looking around, keeping an eye on their surroundings just in case the ambassador would wake and happen upon them.
In truth, their eyes might scan the horizon, but their focus was on their compatriots. Eliza wondered for a moment what they might be talking about. She harkened back to her time, long ago, working with the soldiers of King Laryan’s army. Soldiers have the uncanny ability to talk for hours without saying much of anything. They might be discussing the weather, the night’s meal, or griping about the brass and their unfair expectations. Whatever tonight’s topic of conversation might be; Eliza hoped it brought them joy. For it was likely one of their number, if not more, would not survive the night.
Thirteen days. That’s how long she’d been tailing this caravan. Watching, waiting, and planning. Human beings are creatures of habit. They develop routines and patterns that one such as Eliza can exploit for her own gain. This is why Eliza waited precisely three minutes before moving. Every night, without fail, the guards crossed paths approximately three hours into their nightly patrol. Two minutes after they began talking, the two guards feigning at keeping watch dropped all pretense and lent their full attention to the conversation at hand. At that point, a drunken bull could have strolled right up to the ambassador’s wagon and taken whatever they wanted without a soul noticing.
Yet Eliza was as far from a drunken bull as possible while she crept towards her quarry. Garbed from head to toe in a deep, midnight-blue cloak and a scarf of the same color wrapped around her face, Eliza blended perfectly into her surroundings; matching the hue of the fabled azure barked trees that grew here in the Azol.
She moved in a quick and calculated manner. Every step landed in a deliberate location, ensuring that no rustling leaves or cracking sticks risked giving away her approach. Despite her caution, Eliza’s movements were fluid and graceful, a +.lmost like those of a dancer. She never paused to consider her next move, trusting her finely honed instincts to lead her to success.
In no time at all Eliza reached the back of the ambassador’s wagon. She stopped for a moment, frozen in place. If one of the guards were to look her direction, they might be hard pressed to distinguish her silhouette from the shadowy backdrop, but it still paid to be cautious. As Eliza listened intently, assuring herself that the guards remained distracted and that the ambassador was snoring soundly inside his wagon, she stood alert but not tense. One might even compare her stance to that of a cat preparing to pounce on a small rodent. An apt comparison, considering these guards posed just as much threat to her as a field mouse did to a feline.
Content that all was continuing according to plan, Eliza reached up and gingerly parted the canvas curtains on the back of the wagon. Not even taking a moment to peer inside, Eliza hopped up expertly, closing the curtains behind her and returning the back of the wagon to the pitch blackness of an enclosed space at night.
She looked around, taking in the crumpled form of the ambassador fast asleep to the side. She noted the five massive chests occupying much of the space inside the wagon. Eliza reached out, feeling along the back of the closest chest. Nothing. She repeated the process on two more chests before finding the minuscule dart protruding from the back of the fourth chest. A few days prior, the wagon was emptied so that it could be cleaned and the contents accounted for. One chest of gold, three containing the rich dyes made from the flowers grown in the fields outside Rudelle, and the final chest filled to the brim with bottles, jars, and bags of rare alchemical ingredients. The final chest was her target for the night.
Eliza lifted the chest with ease despite the fact that it had taken two guards a great deal of effort to heave it off the wagon. She positioned herself at the wagon’s opening, her ears straining to hear the distant, garbled chatter informing her the guards remained distracted. Eliza then hopped from the wagon, the added weight of the chest not appearing to hinder her ability to sneak in the slightest. She immediately dashed to the nearby tree line, finding the boulder she had identified earlier in the day when the caravan decided to make camp. Eliza placed the chest into the hole she had dug, covering it with the leafy branches that had been set aside for precisely this purpose. Satisfied that the chest was hidden, Eliza stalked back to the caravan. The first part of her plan was a resounding success, now for part two.
The guards abruptly stopped their conversation as the shadowed figure strode right up to them. Only one had the wherewithal to draw his blade before Eliza was upon them. She cast aside her scarf and cloak, revealing a pale blue glow, emanating from her skin, that now dominated the darkness. The guard who had drawn his blade dropped it, while one of his companions simply turned and ran. The two remaining guards, the ones who had at least feigned keeping watch, seemed to be made of sterner stuff.
One drew a short-sword from its sheath while the other pulled a hand-axe from a loop on his belt. Eliza nodded to them in respect for their valor and commitment to the job. She then drew her own blade, adding to the glow coming from her person. Before the guards could even comprehend that, yes, they are in fact being attacked by one of the Shattered bearing a fabled Broken Blade, Eliza had disarmed them both.
In one fluid motion Eliza drew her blade then sliced downwards, clean through the elbow of the guard with the sword, before continuing up through the forearm of the one with an axe. Their yells awakened the camp and four more guards, dressed for battle and rubbing the sleep from their eyes, hopped out of a nearby wagon. They immediately noticed Eliza, glowing brightly in all her Shattered glory, holding a Broken Blade that dripped blood over the screaming and contorted forms of their allies. To their credit, not a one of them hesitated before rushing her, battle cries filling the air.
Eliza didn’t miss a beat. She moved with a speed the guards could never hope to match, a grace they could only envy, and with a strength they would learn to fear. In a matter of moments all four guards had been incapacitated or killed. She pushed their moans and cries for mercy from her mind as she made her way back to the ambassador’s wagon. He was standing outside, pale fear visible even on this moonless night. Eliza shoved him to the ground and placed her Blade a mere inch from his throat.
“The King sends his regards.” She said, coldly.
Eliza then grabbed a torch, dropped carelessly by the one guard who chose to run rather than fight. She tossed it into the back of the wagon and watched as the hay lining the floor burst into flames. She stood, basking in the scents and sounds of the crackling flames until she could be certain that the wagon and its contents would inevitably burn to a crisp, leaving nothing but ashes, save for the chest of coin. She turned to leave but paused as she heard a deep, shaking voice behind her.
“W-wait. Which King?”
Eliza turned to the ambassador, fallen to his knees in despair. He wasn’t even looking in Eliza’s direction. Instead, he stared straight into the flames, as if contemplating diving inside the burning wagon to try to save his wealth. She simply shrugged before walking away, making sure to bend down and grab her cloak and scarf as she strode past where they had been discarded. If anyone were to watch her leave, though there were none in a fit state to do so, the last they would see of Eliza is the disappearance of her pale, blue glow as she donned her cloak once more and disappeared into the night.