Arun exhaled a plume of frozen air as he landed hard on one knee. He lifted his head and continued his sprint, jumping between the buildings, the dry frost adding an extra layer of grit to the shallow tin rooftops. His steps were quick, yet silent like the night. The only sounds he could hear were the breeze brushing past his ears and distant shouts of his pursuers.
He slid to a crouch behind a large brick chimney, it billowed thick black smoke into the night sky. Damn, he thought, glancing back over his shoulder. Two large silhouettes scrambled along the roofline, a glowing full moon looming behind them. Arun didn't fear the men, no, they were large and clumsy, outfitted in restricting chainmail vests and helmets. He just didn't like being inconvenienced, and much preferred when things went to plan. Being chased by armed guards in the night wasn't part of the plan, but he would survive, like he always did.
Arun raised an eyebrow as one of the men pulled a crossbow from his back and took aim. Time to move. Arun ducked as the bolt flew from an adjacent rooftop, clacking off of the chimney and spinning into the night. Chips of brick and dust settled in his hair. The guard lowered the crossbow, squinting to see if he’d hit anything. Arun cursed and slid down the sloped roof, breaking line of sight. Two more bolts whistled overhead, flying into the darkness. Arun stepped to the eaves, his toes overhanging the empty street below. There were no buildings close enough to jump to. Come on, you're smarter than this, he thought. Somehow he had lost track of where he was going and found himself cornered. He should have known better, should have had a plan.
“Over here!” One of the guards shouted, struggling to catch his breath.
A loud stomp indicated that he had jumped to the same rooftop as Arun. Arun looked down to the thick cobbles below, too far to land without breaking something, he thought. He desperately scanned the buildings before him, the distant rooftops mostly lost in the darkness. A large clock tower stood in the distance, its face glowed opposite the moon, like a reflection in the night sky. A second stomp meant the other guard had arrived. Arun's spine tingled, he could feel the guards behind him, their crossbows aimed for his neck. He reached into his pocket, fishing for something as the footsteps drew nearer.
"Alright, end of the line, boy. Hands up." The guard said. Arun did as commanded. With his right hand he pulled something from his pocket and slowly raised his arms. He didn't turn around, but continued looking over the city, searching. The clock tower ticked to midnight, its small side roof was illuminated by large sconces sending sparks twisting into the sky.
Arun sighed. "I really didn't want to have to do this." He said.
One of the guards approached. "You threatening me, boy?"
Arun smiled, then dropped his arms and turned to face the guard. "What? Oh. No, not at all. Although I see why you might be confused. That did come off as a little threatening, I admit."
The guard scratched his neck, squinting at Arun. He was a large man with sparse, untended facial hair. His balding egg-shaped head and drooping eyes gave the impression that he wasn't very smart. "Are you being funny or something?" He asked.
"No. Would you like me to be? How about a joke?" Arun smirked.
"Enough." The second guard stepped forward. A strong looking man with a short, well groomed beard.
"By the authority vested in me by the Vael Presidium and city of Vaelorn, you are hear by arrested for the crime of theft. Now, raise your hands and submit or we will be forced to-"
"Wait, wait, wait." Arun interrupted. "I'm very, very sorry. Here you can even have the ring back."
He extended his hand to the guard, holding a ring, a plain gold band housing an exceptionally large blue sapphire. Before the guard could grab it, Arun pulled it back and put it in his mouth. He turned back toward the clock tower and raised his arms. He clenched his teeth and forced his eyes closed tight. The guard walked forward, reaching for Arun's wrist. Time seemed to come to a crawl, the guards' footsteps echoed deeply. Arun just focused on the clock tower, picturing it in his mind.
The guard pulled his hand back as the world seemed to lurch backward. Arun's body faded into a ghostly shade, floating forward, leaving his clothes hanging perfectly in the air. It seemed to him though, that he was not moving at all, instead the clock tower approached and the rooftop drifted away.
He looked over his shoulder, the guards stood frozen in time. The bearded one was reaching for where Arun's arm had been moments before, now just empty space above a tattered shirt and pants. The empty market square was a blur beneath his bare feet, though he couldn’t feel the chill of the air, nor could he hear the whoosh of the wind. Soon his feet hovered above the side roof of the clock tower, and in an instant his body lost its transparency and became real again. He dropped the remaining inch to the metal roof, left as naked as the day he was born.
The guards shouted in the distance, cursing of ghosts and demons. Their cries echoed through the square, to them it had only been an instant. Arun leapt to a lower rooftop of the tower, shimmied along a stone ledge and into an open window. The small room was lit by a hanging lamp, and the floor was lined with dozens of heavy fur blankets.
Arun crawled to the corner of the room, reaching for a small metal bucket. He held it to his mouth and spit out the ring. That wasn’t worth the risk, he thought. And then it came, the pounding headache that followed moments after each time he did…Whatever it was exactly that he did.
He still wasn’t quite sure how it worked, or why. If there was one thing that was certain, it’s that it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. Arun was the only one he knew with such a talent, the only one in the world, he thought. Once he overcame the initial awe of the ability, he had determined it wasn’t as useful as he had thought. He lost anything he was carrying, including his clothes. For some reason though, things in his mouth were kept, as well as anything piercing his skin.
He couldn’t do it all the time, just on certain nights when it felt right. And it left him with a feeling similar to the morning after a night at the harbour tavern. He only Traversed, that’s what he called it, as a last resort.
Thank you for reading!
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