What is a path? Nothing but a choice made to go in one direction or the other. What happens if you choose the wrong direction?
(Last Sentence challenge, Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson)


2. Chapter 1- Caged Beast

“Come on Bazta,” I muttered, gripping the cage bars with a white-knuckled fist. That was the problem with relying on others too much as part of my plans. They were never on schedule. Bazta was supposed to have made his move nearly an hour ago. 

No doubt he didn’t understand how serious this was. That made sense. He wasn’t the one in a cage. 

That was another reason I hated working with others. Because of my ‘talents’, I always was the one to take unnecessary risks. But this one… this was one of my dumbest. And if Bazta didn’t act soon, we’d be too close to the city, and they would send a garrison. Then it would be over for both of us.

But what if Bazta chose to betray me? 

That was a possibility. But then again, I had been prepared for that eventuality. That’s why I’d allied with Bazta, of all people. He was the least likely to betray me in a situation like this. And besides… I trusted him. Eternity take my eyes, I did. Trust was dangerous, and scarce in times like this, but Bazta was a different breed from the rest.

Abruptly, the wagon stopped, and I let out a soft breath of relief. Finally. Time to break me out of this miserable little prison.

As we had expected, the caravan’s guards instantly hurried towards my cage, to make sure I was still there. I smiled, then prepared myself to give them a show. As they neared me, I slammed myself against the cage bars, face screwed in concentration. Pain began to materialize around my head. That was good. Besides, Pain would mask other emotions that might give me away. I began to let Anticipation build as well, in the form of green winds. 

“Hey!” One of the guards snapped. “Stop that!” There was tension in their voice. There should be. Empaths have a strong reputation. But I doubt even they know the amount of skill I have. 

I’m actually impressed at how dangerous they must think I am. There are seven guards here. Seven on one person! I have to admit, I was kind of flattered.

I rammed the bars harder, wincing as the Pain around my head grew brighter. This wasn’t enough. I needed to get all of them looking at me. So I started screaming, flailing around and hitting the cage harder, shaking the entire thing. I had to make them worried.

I let my anger at being caged grow. I hated being imprisoned! I would show them they couldn’t contain me. Anger began to grow stronger around my head, along with Desperation. If I didn’t get out soon, we’d be in trouble. 

The bars began to crack.

The guards around the cage began to yell for backup, readying their weapons. I hit the bars harder. They had to realize that I was going to break free. That’s when one of them made a mistake. They lunged forwards, using the point of their spear to point me back. I smiled darkly, then drew the point across my own arm. Pain flared in me, and I lashed out.

Here’s the thing about the strange powers of Empaths. They were nearly impossible to control. And they only worked when we were feeling that specific emotion. When I was younger, my strengths only worked when my emotions reached a crescendo. But now, the older I got, the easier it was to get more out of less. 

I lashed out, shooting Pain at the guards. The one who had stabbed at me cried out, a slash wound opening across their hand. They dropped their spear, and I grabbed for it, ignoring the pain as it cut my hand. I just used that to lash out and hit more guards. Once I’d pulled the spear through the bars, I began to use it to cut them. I was lucky- the people out here couldn’t afford metal cages. The bars were good, solid wood, but they had been weakened by my Determination-fueled attacks. The spear quickly sawed through them.

The guards were really frantic now. They didn’t want an Empath loosed in the caravan. Their numbers had almost doubled around me, but none of them dared attack me. Harm an Empath, and they would harm you right back. They could try to bind me, but none of them wanted to risk getting close. I slammed myself against the bars a final time, and they broke. I rolled out of the cage, spear in my hands. Then I let the Anticipation I’d been building up crescendo. 

Anticipation was a strange one. It didn’t do much in the short term, but when you let it build, you could loose it with explosive power. I did so now, letting that and Excitement increase my speed to nearly ten times my normal speed. The guards, who’d been expecting me to attack, were caught off guard when I turned and bolted in the opposite direction instead. There were curses, and they gave chase, but not fast enough. I was at the start of the caravan in minutes. 

My little fit had drawn most of the guards to me, but there were still a couple left. Moving with inhuman speed, I drove the spear through one of them, then spun away from the second’s attack. To his credit, he was brave. He knew I was an Empath- the emotions flickering around my head were a bit of a giveaway- and yet he stood his ground, spear out, ready to fight me. But how can you fight the wind? I was simply too fast. I swirled between his blows, even as Anticipation faded. But now adrenaline was keeping me going, and Determination strengthened the power of my blows. The guard wend down under the flurry of attacks. I let out a triumphant cry, before bolting towards the front.

A scraggly haired boy was waiting for me at the front. He was already riding a horse, and he held the bridle of a beautiful bay. Relief flooded me as I saw him, and I found myself smiling.

“You’re late,” I scolded him as I swung up into the saddle.

“Sorry. Kade cut and run on me.”

I nodded, and nudged my horse into a gallop, Bazta following quickly.

“You’re not surprised,” he remarked as we rode away.

“I expected this,” I admitted. “That’s why I didn’t have Kade doing anything too important. I don’t trust him.”

“What does that say about me?” Bazta grinned. “If I failed, the plan went down.”

“Actually I had the most important job,” I smiled back. “But it’s cute that you think that.”

“But seriously!” he insisted. “Are you saying that you trust me?!”

“We’ll see how much I trust you once you tell me if you did your job or not,” I replied. “You brought horses for us to ride back? I thought you were going to pick us up some Ollyarchs.”

“That was Kade’s job, remember?”

“I thought we already had Ollyarchs!”

“Kade stole them.”

I rolled my eyes, Irritation appearing around my head. “He really was trying to betray us.”

Bazta shrugged, his hair blowing in the wind as we rode. It was too long- I’d remind him to hack it short with my knife later. Long hair was more than an inconvenience in our line of work- it could be fatal. Believe me, I know how disastrous it can be to have hair falling on your face in the middle of a fight. 

We rode hard in silence. I’d never gotten accustomed to the feel of a horse beneath me. The strange creatures were fast, yes, but Ollyarchs could leave them far behind. I had owned a horse back when-

I blocked the memories out, like I always did. I needed to avoid pain. I had to. There are some memories that are too hard to bring back.

That was when a spear took me in the shoulder. 

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