Hunted

October 1, 2007

Ceyvin ran as though his life depended on it – and it did. He cursed and threw himself into a trash-filled alley, narrowly avoiding a pair of silver-tipped arrows that flew on past him. He was back on his feet in an instant, sprinting down the alley and preparing to hurl himself over the fence at the end of it. He was a skilled jumper – not from his special ‘gifts’, but from years of honing his natural athletic talents.

The jump got him to the top of the fence, if not over it, and he was able to flip himself over to the other side even as he heard more shouts from the hunters behind him. But for them, the fence would be more of a hurdle, and by the time they got past, he had faded into the streets of the city, long gone from sight, and safe… for the moment.

The passage of an hour found him in The Grim Groat, his favorite drinking establishment and hidey-hole when he needed to go to ground. Usually, though, he was merely avoiding gentlemen angry over liberties taken with their coin (or their wives) – not trained killers specifically out for his blood. Thus it was that, despite being in a carefully guarded private room at the back of the tavern, he kept glancing at the door, perhaps expecting his hunters to burst in at any moment.

“You seem nervous, Cey. That means trouble, and that means I have to charge extra.”

Ceyvin’s eyes snapped back to Gerald, the tavern’s owner – who also happened to ferry fugitives out of the city, for the right price. But Ceyvin was worried, and so he simply sighed at the extra cost, and said, “Sure, whatever. Just book me passage for tonight, and you’ll have your coins and I’ll be out of your hair.”

Gerald smiled. There was no illusion of friendship in the smile, but merely the satisfied grin of a shark digging into a meal. “Desperate, too. I’m gonna have to add another fee, for that.”

He was expected at least some form of half-hearted disagreement over this, but Ceyvin simply nodded – and went back to looking at the door. Gerald’s smile faded.

“Damn. This is serious. Who’s after you?”

“Hunters.”

“Bounty hunters? Someone finally put a price on you, eh? Maybe I should see if I-”

“Not bounty hunters.”

Ceyvin’s laconic responses were beginning to bother Gerald, so he simply raised an eyebrow and waited for the thief to say more. Finally, Ceyvin frowned, and said in a soft voice, “Were hunters.”

“That a joke? Hopefully far from here-”

“No! Were as in lycanthropy, you dope!”

Gerald laughed in disbelief. “Wait, wait, wait – are you telling me you’re a werewolf?”

Ceyvin shook his head. He knew the laughter would only grow when he told the full story, but nothing but to go ahead and do it. “Werecat actually. And no – you don’t have to worry about me turning into a tiger-man and biting your head off. Whoever came up with this particular brand of the curse must have had a wicked sense of humor, because all I can turn into is a common household cat. Not especially stronger, tougher or more dangerous in any way – but these guys want me dead for it anyway.”

“Wow. Man, your luck continues to hold true. But hey, look at the bright side – I’ve booked your passage on a fishing boat!”

Sighing, Ceyvin rested his head in his hands and closed his eyes. Even assuming he was able to loose the hunters, it was a done deal – by tomorrow, every friend, enemy, rival and acquiantance in town would have heard the story.

And he knew the jokes would never end.

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