Breaking the siege

(Chapter one)

Vrelka uttered an oath, scrambled to her feet, and charged after her prey. People screamed at the sight of her scarred, muddy face, of the rusty iron dagger she carried in her right hand - and of the glowing ball of fire that blazed in her left. The noise spooked a herd of ornks (ornk – a cow-like creation that was shaped orignally, but now was largely bred by none-shapers. Ornk meat was most people's stable diet.) being taken to market, and they scattered into the crowd, bowling people over, and blocking Vrelka's line of sight to the agent she was tailing. Her eyes shone with anger as she raised her left hand, still struggling to get through the panic that was spreading fast the crowd. As always, the forbidden magic began to gently warp her features – her pallor became more sickly, her eyes wider, and less sane.
Balls of fire shot from her left hand. Ornks disintegrated into raw essence (essence – the basic ingredient of all shapers. It's source is a topic of much dispute by scholars, but all that is known for certain is that it is usable, with sufficient training, to create life. Shapers are the only ones with permission to shape, and rule with an iron fist over those less fortunate) at their touch, which faded in the brisk air. There was an increased surge of movement to the streets leading away from the market, and a new wave of fear spread. How on earth did a mere servile, a creation, a slave, get access to magic? They had heard tales of such things, but such was treated as rumor, and gossip. After all, Shaper Nawaz, designated leader of the province, had assured them that the rebels would not cross the border.

Vrelka smiled grimly at the sight of their shocked faces. If nothing else, her mission today would shake confidence in the Shapers, and stir unrest in the population. And now more than ever, the rebellion needed people to begin to doubt, to wonder if maybe the shapers were not actually as strong and infallible as they claimed. For the line was now in place, and it could not be breached from the western side. Without rebel agents to bring it down, the raw desperation, anger, and hope that had taken hundreds of years under shaper rule to amass, would be gone. Human soldiers would go home, creations would die, and the rebellion would collapse under it's own weight.
And so it was that Vrelka was here today, making a last, desperate attempt at slaying agent Ivy, a spy, and a critical part of fort vengeances' defense. This was the third time the rebellion had made a attempt on Ivy's life, and Vrelka was determined that there should never need to be a fourth.
She punched a frightened merchant out of her way, and now, up ahead, finally, her prey. The young agent had also got caught up in the stampede, and was traaped in a bottleneck at the end of the street, as civilians surged out of the market. Vrelka smiled in relief. Her failed ambush hadn't cost her everything. She raised her hand once more, and the air grew even colder as the magic curled inwards to the spell.
A huge, flat fist smashed into the back of Vrelka's head. Her training kicked in, and she rolled with the blow – but she tasted blood, spat out her broken teeth, then spun to face her assailant.

A battle beta, 8ft tall, and bearing the blackened, branded mark that proved its identity as a slave of the watch. It's dark blue skin looked almost black under the stormy sky, and its eyes glowed with menace. Its blank look said everything – it was a new beta, a creation made to be even more mindless than the usual variety. It also showed signs of the stress the shaper council were under, in its muddy feet, it's slightly misshapen head, and it's lopsided shoulders.

Once upon a time, a stunt like this would have been impossible. As little as two years ago, the instant Vrelka had drawn her knife, the guards would have been on top of her. She would probably had about thirty seconds to live before a kyshakk's lighting turned her to dust, or a wingbolts acid ate through her skull. Compared to that, an angry, deformed beta was almost a joke. But now, the drakons had unleashed their ultimate weapon. The insane, fearless, and above all, merciless Unbound had been released into the wilds, and nearly every soldier, creation, and above all, shapers, had been shipped of to the front line to die in vast numbers on the border between the east shaper controlled half of Terrestria, and the of the west, now ruled by Ghaldring, lord of Drakons, and Litalia, the first shaper to switch sides. Although from what Vrelka understood in the little scraps of information that trickled in from the other provinces, Litalia had been missing for several months now, and Ghaldrings rule over the rebellion was nearly uncontested – and he had never been the kind, along with all the drakons, to take prisoners. The shaper council was stretched to the bone trying to prevent the rebel army crossing the border.
All of this meant that the city watch was now little more than a joke, regardless of what the shapers claimed.

Not that any of this was much use as the beta roared in fury, and swung its sledgehammer of a fist for a second time.
Vrelka ducked, and threw her dagger wildly. Unfortunately, the knife missed all of its vital organs, and instead buried itself deeply into its gut. She uttered a curse, and fled. As she listened to the anguished roar behind her, she prayed that it would not come straight after her. Lots of the newer creations were now being given instructions to retreat when they were wounded. In times past, they would have been ordered to attack until death, regardless of whose it was. And such orders would have been followed, for the carefully shaped brain of any creation, especially those designed for war, would allow them no room to consider any option other than unquestioning obedience to their shaper. Now, however, shapers were scarce, and so were the creations they commanded. Higher priority was given to keeping the creations alive for as long as possible. Based on the lack of heavy footfalls behind her, Vrelka assumed that this one had been given such orders.

Her prey was long gone. Vrelka continued to sprint down the street. Most people had managed to get out by now, and while this let her move faster, it meant she was far more visible – an easy target for any guards armed with thorn batons. As she ran, she tried to get inside the agent's head. If she were an agent being hunted, what would she do? Vrelka looked around, realised where she was, and let out a quiet hiss of despair.

She looked up at the huge iron gate of Shaper Nawaz's tower, the seat of his power, the central location from which all of this provinces directives, orders, and enforcement. There was no way to enter that tower; at least, not with the resources she had available. Its walls, and entrance were lined with venom and acid turrets (turrets - a kind of green plant the shapers created and bred. While they did not have a brain as such, they still had a kind of base intelligence. They were incapable of speech, so they could not be bribed, or tricked. They were immovable, so they could not be lured away from their post. Their skin was enchanted to resist magic, and all they knew was to be loyal to their master. This combined to made them an assassins' nightmare.) Flecks of luminous green poison dripped from the open mouths, and their knobbed, chunky necks stretched and twisted to follow the guards patrolling past. One of them seemed to be gazing at her, daring her to come closer – although as they were eyeless, and operated on smell alone, this was not possible. Vrelka had no doubt they would kill her, and, short of a large army, she wasn't capable of destroying them them either. Now, her only option was to flee, and hope that her failure did not cost them too badly – and that no one managed to put together a coherent description of her.