Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Final Thoughts

So, having finished Shadowrun: Hong Kong, I feel as though I should shed some new observations on the game. Now that I have completed the game once, though I will be doing another play through straight away, I must say that my opinions are not as high as they were walking into it for the first time. Please note: there will probably be minor spoilers, though I will stay away from specifics where I can! I’ll start with the good.

The music throughout was very good. Is it better than the Dragonfall or Returns soundtrack? That’s down to individual preference and it fitted the theme and locale very well. That being said, I loved the soundtrack of both the original Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall, so it’s hard to say which is better, if any. In my opinion, the music in this game is very, very good, but the previous games set a rather high bar to meet. It has at least done that.

Animations and effects also stayed better across the board. Full-auto and burst fire now feel like they really are spraying bullets everywhere with the occasional hit, as it should be. Magic effects are greatly improved from the previous games too, spells like powerbolt and manabolt feel far more magical and less… sparky. The bouncing spell mechanic is good fun as well and makes standing on dragon lines far, far more useful. I had instances where I cast aim on a character and it bounced to the whole crew.

Cybernetics have been greatly improved. Now, you need to take the cybernetics skill in order to take a lot of the more powerful cybernetic options rather than everyone being able to take whatever they want. I like this as it means that you actually need to invest in body and the cybernetics skill if you want to build a chromed up cyber-warrior rather than just every non-mage character taking all the best options. Added to that is the much larger selection of both cyberware and positions to put them, as well as extra essence given from the skill in cybernetics and you can really chrome up to the max!

There are... a lot of extra cybernetic options...

There are… a lot of extra cybernetic options…

Last but most certainly not least, possibly the best change in fact: decking. I just want to scream to the high heavens about how awesome this is. Before it was very simple, you jacked in, did some combat, activated some nodes and then jacked out. Now, when you jack in you are not automatically in combat. Combat-based IC aren’t always present, though there are usually trackers that patrol specific routes that you need to avoid.

Matrix combat is still unavoidable in the later parts of the game and trace can build quickly!

Matrix combat is still unavoidable in the latter parts of the game and trace can build quickly!

There’s a new trace mechanic which will start to increase if any IC detect your presence; while in combat with IC your trace will generally increase by 5 each turn (per IC that sees you), though if a tracker IC sees you it will increase by 20 each turn.

Avoiding tracker IC patrols is the new way to glide through the matrix without any issues

Avoiding tracker IC patrols is the new way to glide through the matrix without any issues

You get to most nodes by hacking blocker IC, which you can either force through at the cost of a large amount of trace, usually around 50+, or you can do a small minigame where you have to remember number patterns to increase your hacking time, then deduce a symbolic password as characters are periodically and very briefly revealed to you.

Sometimes there's a password option too, though most of the time it's either hack or force!

Sometimes there’s a password option too, though most of the time it’s either hack or force!

Because of this, you can largely get by in the matrix on the starting cyberdeck, though I will say now that later in the game the decking parts have actual IC and some brutally difficult tracker IC patrol webs, so don’t expect to be able to hack systems late game with a shoddy cyberdeck. I really, really love what they’ve done with the matrix portions myself; also, the music track for when you’re in the matrix is much better than the previous one. Definitely part of the soundtrack that improves upon the previous.

2015-08-25_00005

You don’t have to do all of the number sequence memorisations. Each successful one gives you more time to work out the password in the next part though.

However, this game definitely has some drawbacks that I would like to visit. Firstly, I’ll go with the temporary one: bugs! As the game is a new release, there are a decent number of bugs which can be really frustrating on a play through of an RPG. There were some that were merely conversational, with NPCs saying silly things, but there were others that hampered my progress through the game. Also, there are typos aplenty. I think I counted at least a dozen on my first play through.

Where's my cyberdeck? Uh... It's right on my back. Are we both blind here?

Where’s my cyberdeck? Uh… It’s right on my back. Are we both blind here?

I also did not like the crew quite as much as the crew from Dragonfall. I got a really good idea of where Dietrich, Eiger and Glory came from and really enjoyed their story arcs and Blitz was comical enough that his otherwise insufferable bravado turned into a bit of comic relief for me. However, I don’t get that same feeling with the current crew. Duncan is your non-blood related brother and comes across fairly hollow. He’s an Ork who grew up with you and had anger management problems, eventually joining Lone Star with your foster-father’s help keeping him on task and under control. I don’t feel that there is a huge amount of depth to his character. Gobbet is one of the more interesting characters, a rat shaman with a special connection to Rat, or so she says, who grew up on a cobbled together raft with a bunch of friends. She’s probably the deepest character and her character arc is certainly the most enjoyable and simultaneously dark one to play through, her voice lines are generally the most enjoyable to read and post-run conversations with her were among my favourite. Is she on par with the Dragonfall crew? Debatable, but at least it’s up there! Is0bel is insufferable for me. It’s fortunate that I often play a decker and didn’t need her that much in this play through because I do not like her character. Anti-social deckers who claim to be the best just aren’t my cup of tea, especially when their background is sort of hollow and you have to ask a different crew member to fill in the details. During her mission you find out what an over-sensitive little brat she really is, though I won’t go into the details as it would most certainly be a spoiler. I do not like Is0bel and I dread my next playthrough when I’ll be running a mage character and will need her on my team. Racter is the other interesting member of the crew, though he falls short when compared to Gobbet and the Dragonfall characters as his personal run is just an optional objective to a run you do anyway. His conversations are interesting and he definitely has mental issues, but that’s part of what makes him interesting. His dialogue is well-written, portraying what he is quite well and he manages to narrowly avoid crossing the line where he becomes insufferable. Finally, there’s Gaichu. He’s interesting to a point and his character is good, but I feel that he might just infringe upon special-snowflake territory. His character mission is short and also brings up some fairly dark themes, but I didn’t find myself as emotionally invested as I did in Gobbet’s. Definitely not the best, but certainly not the worst.

I would also like to highlight the player character and the conversational choices that you are given throughout the game, as this drawback is related to the previous one about your crew. The character you play in this one felt as if I was being shoehorned into a type of character that I do not necessarily wish to be. In Dragonfall any lines of dialogue related to your character’s background were left wide open and there were definitely some varied inferences drawn from the various lines of dialogue, allowing you to role-play as a wide range of characters. In Hong Kong, it’s very black and white; you were a street kid who got taken in by a guy and then left for a job that, three days later, put you in a corporate prison for the rest of your life up until the present. From that point onwards, it always tries to push you into that role of a shady, either gang, thug or shadowrunner criminal type, shunning the megacorporations and the type of life working for one would entail. For example, my character was a very corporate, very businesslike decker who I played through Dragonfall with no issues, however in Hong Kong the same character feels contradictory; there are so many instances where I don’t feel like that type of character is even considered. To me, this was a real disappointment, especially given that there was a very corporate looking elf portrait in the character creator, and was only reinforced throughout the game.

Mega spoilers for Dragonfall and Hong Kong in the paragraph below, as I will now be talking about the ending. Highlight the paragraph to reveal the text and do so knowing that there will be major, major spoilers here. You have been warned!

Suffice to say, I am disappointed. In Dragonfall, you find Vauclair and he talks about his plans and why he’s doing what he’s doing; he sees the dragons as manipulative and controlling and wishes to get rid of them through a biological weapon that only hurts dragons. You can, through dialogue options, talk him out of it, fight against him or even join up with him! It was a really well done sequence of dialogue and Vauclair was a great antagonist for the game; he honestly believed that what he was doing was right and for the good of the planet. Siding with him doesn’t seem like an utterly moronic idea and I did do a game where I ended up siding with him, bringing about the near extinction of metahumanity due to the dragons being responsible for keeping some eldritch horrors at bay. All through the game, however, there are hints as to this consequence, especially if you play a mage or shaman and frequently speak to Absynthe and Aljernon, and you can use this as ammunition to talk Vauclair out of it, where he realises what a blind fool he has been. In Hong Kong, however, the choice felt really stupid. You track down Qian Ya and fight her twice before she offers you a deal where you can leave and let her have the Walled City in exchange for fourteen years of good fortune, or you keep fighting and eventually shut her out. There was no real reason to accept her deal, there was no feeling of “this is a good idea” when contemplating it, unlike Vauclair who put up a very good argument for his cause. If I missed something, it must have been due to a bug because I frequently spoke to Crafty and had enough points in conjuring to cast simple buffs and perceive things on the astral plane. I read through all of her notes and made sure to pay attention to everything about the Yama Kings, but nothing seemed that relevant. I’ve heard that you can avoid some fights through conversation options, but I did not see them. However, that is not the point I wish to make. The point is that the end of the game falls flat. There is no real reason to make a deal with the demon-goddess unless your character has large amounts of selfishness and stupidity and this disappointed me after the build up was very good and Dragonfall’s ending being so solid.

Overall, would I recommend Shadowrun: Hong Kong? Yes. It’s still a solid game with a good story and decent enough characters. However, I am a little disappointed overall. I enjoy the game and have already started playing through it a second time, though looking at it as a whole I would say that it simultaneously took steps forwards and backwards.

Character Genning Mood

So, I’m in a Cyberpunk 2020 game every week and, whilst the slightly over-the-top 80s style of it isn’t my exact cup of tea, I’m enjoying it thoroughly and I love my flirty Italian Netrunner so much (she got her first kill -ever- last session. It was a learning experience).

But in case she is hospitalised or killed (hopefully not!), I will need a back up character. So I thought to myself, what sort of character am I going to play…

Inspired from one of my own characters in my own cyberpunk setting, though with modifications to fit the Cyberpunk 2020 setting and rules, I decided that a possibility is that I may go for a burned corporate operative.

Note: I haven’t proof read this. It’s coming up 3am. I need to go to bed. Badly. It’s going to get light soon and I’m a light sleeper. This is bad on so many levels, but I had to at least finish!


Nobody is safe. A message comes through to my mobile phone, a contract. Corporate worker, supposedly leaked company secrets to a rival. I don’t fucking care, they tell me to ice this guy, I ice this guy. There are no questions, no arguments; this is just how the corporate world works.

Nobody is safe.

I pocket my phone inside my jacket pocket, I wear business attire, though my clothing is threaded with kevlar. My line of work is dangerous, though I must also keep a professional appearance in the office. Corporate security is no different in that regard. We all abide by the same dress code. Inside my jacket I feel the grooves of my heavy pistol. Colt. AMT Model 2000 with armour piercing bullets. There’s enough firepower tucked under my arm to dent even the heaviest personal armour; whoever this guy is, I could probably ice this guy through a solid wall.

I trawl through our databases and find this poor bastard’s address. He lives in an apartment in the corporate zone, the building is owned by us so getting into the block shouldn’t be a problem. There will be a maglock on his door, though it’s nothing I can’t crack. This is all routine by now; if all fails, I can probably blast my way in with this hand cannon I’m sporting.

I grab my motorcycle keys and make my way to the parking garage. It’s night by now, but my work often comes in after hours, so I am no stranger to it. I put on my helmet, start her up and drive towards the block where the target lives. I park up, take off my helmet and walk through the front door. The building security are expecting me and let me in. If this keeps up, I should get home in time to see my fiancé. With a grin on my face I make my way up to the target’s apartment and get to work on the keypad.

It doesn’t take long for me to crack it and I’m in. I open the door…

WHAM!

Something hits me in the face. Felt like a rifle butt. My training kicks in and I pull my pistol, firing two shots directly in front of me. Apparently whoever ambushed me wasn’t expecting that. I see the figure, heavily armoured, stagger backwards, one hole in his stomach and one in the middle of his chest. He looks at me through his helmet’s visor and collapses to the floor, blood staining the carpet. There’s a rather effeminate scream that emanates from the target, a wiry man in a business suit. He runs into the bathroom and a second armoured figure raises a sub-machine gun and fires on full auto. I manage to avoid most of the bullets, but a sharp pain digs into my side as one wings me. Fuckers are using armour piercing ammo too.

I place a hand over the wound, blood seeping into my suit and staining my white shirt. I swing around the corner as his shooting ceases; full auto fire isn’t sustainable and I catch him reloading. I raise my pistol and fire. One bullet, straight through the visor and out the back of his head, the contents of his skull spraying against the far wall. I’m about to finish the job when I hear footsteps behind me.

“Security! Drop your weapon!” I hear from behind me. I calmly turn, hold my hands out with a friendly smile.

“I’m with the corp. They want this guy iced.”

The bastards don’t ask again. I see fingers moving for the triggers so I dart to the side, running down the corridor.

“Don’t let her escape!” I hear from behind me, a hail of gunshots forcing me to turn another corner. Fortunately, the stairs are not far and I start a rapid descent. Fortunately, these security are a different wing to our own. These guys are the amateur league by comparison.

I shoot my way through the lobby and get back to my bike. It doesn’t take long to start her up and get out of there. Someone’s after my position, or doesn’t want me taking theirs. The whole thing stinks of set-up. I need to get home. I need to tell my fiancé. We need to get the fuck out of here.

I get home and bust through the door, gun out and ready. I walk into the living room to a scene of horror. My fiancé. His corpse lies face down in a pool of blood, a gaping whole in the side of his head. I am transfixed by the scene, horror etched into my features. I notice a hand in the corner of my eye. I swing around, gun towards this new threat. Too late. My gun flies from my grip and a powerful blow connects with my arm as I block the attack. Crude. Clubs. I grab my attacker’s leading arm and pull him in closer, my knee slamming into his nose with a squelching sound. I flip him over and turn to the next threat. This one has a sword, a freakin’ monokatana. I dodge out of the way of the woman’s swings. She’s fast, but not fast enough. I am about to counter attack when my left arm is grabbed. I swing my fist into the man’s face, sending him reeling backwards, but it’s too late.

The monokatana slices clean through my left arm, severing it just below the shoulder. I scream in pain and stagger backwards. A signal goes out over the net. Trauma Team. Like it will make a difference. I feel another sharp pain as the woman shoves the monokatana through my abdomen. Everything seems to fade. The pain of the solid impacts from the clubs fade to nothing. The woman removes her monokatana from my stomach and I fall to the floor.

Nobody is safe.

I wake up to a faint beeping. My vision is blurry, but I’m in a white room. There is no pain. Am I dead? No. Hospital. The smell of medical drugs is thick in the air. I try to move. I feel groggy. A nurse walks in.

“What happened?” I manage to ask her.

“We pulled you from your house. The left arm is a replacement job; woman around your size came in for cybernetics about a week ago and sold us her original arm to help cover the costs. You’ll have to train it a little, but we think your body should adapt and accept it within a few days.

She pauses. “We managed to save you, but we couldn’t save the other.”

“My fiancé?”

She shook her head. “He was dead long before we got there. No, I mean…”

She looks me in the eyes. The situation doesn’t need words. Not any more. I had a feeling, but… Fuck it. Fuck it all…

I need to get out of here.

I wait for the nurse to leave before I stumble from my hospital bed and manage to sneak my way to the elevator. I almost fall on top of an older man in the elevator as I slam the garage button. He looks at me, though his features are all a blur to me. He gets out at the ground floor. I descend further. The parking garage is largely empty, but I look around for a cheap looking car. With my current condition I don’t think I could break into or hotwire a more expensive model. I settle on a slightly rusting sedan. I get in. I start to drive as the blurriness subsides, albeit only partially. I drive back to my house to find it taped off. Corporate investigation. I avoid driving too close. My bike is parked around the corner. I crack the locking mechanism, a subtle trick I installed for situations like this. I grab my belongings, my phone, a couple thousand in cash, some basic cosmetics, a small holdout pistol. An emergency stash I kept under my bike seat.

I hop back in the car and make my way towards a small medical clinic on the outskirts of the city. Outside of major corporate influence. I walk in and go to the receptionist.

“I need you to set me up with some cyberware and I want it off the record. I’ve got the money. Cash.”

“Please, take a seat and someone will be with you,” the receptionist replies. I nod and take a seat.

A few days of living in the shadows, surviving in the streets of the outskirts of Paris later and I’m on a smuggler ship. I’m headed to America. My former employers do not have as much pull over there as they do in Europe. Then again…

Nobody is safe.

A Few Hours of Shadowrun: Hong Kong and What I Think So Far

I’ve been waiting for this to launch for months now. I’ve replayed Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall. I’ve brushed up on my cyberpunk style. Now it has finally come out. Shadowrun: Hong Kong released a few hours ago and I’ve only just managed to hop on, being in a Cyberpunk 2020 pen and paper session for most of the evening. I will not be giving any spoilers and I will not have an in-depth knowledge of the game just yet, only having played a few hours into it. What I can offer though are my first thoughts.

So, what is Shadowrun: Hong Kong? It’s the third game in a series by Harebrained Schemes, though it is not directly linked to the previous two, just as Dragonfall was not a sequel to the Dead Man’s Switch story in Shadowrun Returns. It is a totally stand-alone cRPG set in Hong Kong. It’s top down and set in the Shadowrun universe, cyberpunk with traditional fantasy elements, such as magic, elves, dragons etc. For a combination that does not sound as if it would work, it’s a pretty solid formula. So, I hopped into the character creator and had a bit of a play.

First thing I noticed was a small, personal thing: there’s a very corporate looking elf portrait which made me cheer and instantly know which one I was going with. My first playthrough is going to be a port of my own character, Renée Laurent, into the Shadowrun universe, so having a corporate looking elf portrait is just something that I really like. Give her a pair of pointy ears, change a few details in her background and she’s basically ported. Done.

Second thing I noticed was the general quality of the new portraits. The older portraits from Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall are still there, but the new portraits up the ante yet again. The portraits in Shadowrun Returns were decent enough, then Dragonfall stepped it up and gave us some cleaner, nicer looking portraits. Now that Hong Kong is here, we’ve been given another set of excellent portraits that just raise the bar once again. Personally, I really love a lot of the new portraits (trolls and orc dudes / dudettes don’t look particularly ugly either) and will certainly be using the new pictures in my playthroughs of Hong Kong.

Corp Elf in Character Creator!

Just look at how much business that portrait means. You don’t mess with -this- corporate elf!

Third: the music. The music in the Shadowrun games by Harebrained Schemes has always been solid and so far, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is keeping the standards as high as I would expect. The music is definitely solid in this and, combined with the art book, makes me very, very pleased that I pre-ordered the deluxe version. I have not heard a large number of tracks so far, as I am not far into the game at all, but so far I am not disappointed.

The combat is definitely solid, though if I were to be picky there is not that much that is new. Dragon lines have replaced ley lines, though I am still unsure of exactly what differences there are. There most certainly are differences as one gave my shaman health regen after casting some spells, which was nice, but I have no idea why. Also, it appears that losing control of elementals isn’t a massive pain in the backside any more, meaning I may actually play a player-character shaman, as it seemed like my water elemental just disappeared after a few turns; it should also be mentioned that I did not have to choose how many AP to give it, having a constant 4 AP until it vanished. Whether or not this is a good thing I will leave up to the veteran shaman players as I never gave it much thought in the previous games myself. Gun play, melee and spells all seem to work the same, cover is still super-important, flanking is a good way to put your enemies in the ground and armour is incredibly useful, though this was all true in Dragonfall as well. The animations in combat are smoother and seem more real than before, where the animations used to be a little clunky and robotic the new animations seem to flow quite naturally.

My main criticism is tiny and easily fixable. Starting armour is horrible. I will be buying new clothes as soon as I can because I hate the starting armour. If you’re playing a Lone Star rent-a-cop or some kind of contractor who would wear such armour, then it’s great. However, I’m playing a very corporate, private investigator style of character who I’d much rather be in at least a long leather coat like the previous games’ starting armour. Small, easily dealt with gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.

I will write more once I have gotten further into the game. There are a few things that I really want to try out, for example the supposedly revamped matrix experience as I always seem to play a decker, as well as the new cyberware options. Body is no longer just an arbitrary health statistic, there’s a cyberware skill tied to it now! Super excited to dive further in, but it’s 2:40am in the UK and I definitely need to sleep. At least being a teacher gives me stupid amounts of holiday!

All Roads Lead – Prologue

I said to myself that I’d write more now that I have more free time, and reading through my current projects I decided that this one is one that grabbed my attention, possibly due to the fact that I’m also a member of a Pathfinder group, so traditional fantasy is more prevalent in my brain than it usually is (come on, I’m totally a sci-fi nut. Swords and sorcery isn’t my usual style). I’m going to work on this story and try to actually finish it, though it will take a while as I believe it will be the length of a full novel. If you read it and see things that just don’t sound right or have any suggestions, let me know as I will be compiling it all at the end and it’ll help on the editing if things are nipped in the bud now.


The human city of Cymeria was the jewel of Cymer. The Adalen family had ruled over the lands of Cymer from their keep in the northern section of the city, adjacent to the knights quarter and the cathedral. Cymer’s climate was temperate, far more agreeable than the majority of human lands, but nowhere near as pleasant as the Elven Empire to the east, a land imbued with pure magic energy that allowed the elven wizards and sorceresses to manipulate the very weather. Relations between the Imperial elves and the rest of the world had drastically worsened since the elves ceased trade with the rest of the world and abandoned any of their race who still dwelt on the other continent, and all out war was only prevented by the great ocean that lay between the elves and the rest of the world.

A gentle breeze sailed through the marketplace in Cymeria’s trade district, the mid morning sun casting a warm glow over the stalls and merchants peddling their wares. The trade district was full of life, commoners and nobility perusing what the market had to offer, a mix of simple clothing, gaudy and outlandish outfits worn by the nobility, tabards of the knights and the armoured forms of guards, sellswords and adventurers all roaming about the same roads. The most recent ruler of Cymer, Lord Rein Adalen, was more liberal than most other human lords and it rubbed off on his people. Over the past two decades, the Cymerian nobility had become far more accepting of the commoners, the Cymerian culture taking a more co-operative approach to the traditional human class system. There were still limitations by class, but at least the nobility did not step on the people below them.

“Oh, that’s wonderful. Is that… Dwarven craftsmanship?” a woman in leather armour asked one of the vendors as she pointed to an emerald pendant on his stall, her voice well-spoken and almost elegant, rolling off the tongue with ease; she had to be nobility, or at least have taken speaking lessons. The vendor was foreign, that much was apparent in the way he dressed, favouring the heavier clothing from the northern settlements, but also his skin tone was paler than most in the city. He looked like he was about to keel over in the heat, his clothing too thick for the Cymerian climate.

“That it is, m’lady. Made by my buddy, Rolan Ironhammer. Real quality Dwarven smithing went into that beauty.” The merchant smiled, picking up the pendant and extending it to the woman. “Would the lady like to try it on?”

The woman raised her hand with a smile. “No, thank you. I am not seeking purchase today, though I wish to commend your friend’s workmanship. It is a true work of art.” The woman was not joking; the pendant outshone most of the wares in the entire marketplace, gold surrounding a modest emerald. It was simple, but it held a simplistic beauty that escaped the more common, gaudy items.

The merchant’s expression dropped momentarily, but he persevered. “Are you sure. It would look beautiful on one such as yourself, m’lady. For you, because the most beautiful jewel in the market belongs with the most beautiful jewel, I will give you a special price. Only seventy gold mers.”

The woman shook her head. “You haven’t even seen my face, so how can you make such a claim, merchant?” she replied as her lips curled into a grin, though her lips were all that was visible underneath her hood. Her features were well hidden, though this style of attire was not too uncommon amongst travellers and mercenaries. It was strange, but not so out of place that it would raise suspicions. “Your words are most kind, but necklaces such as this would put me at a disadvantage in combat. I am a sellsword, after all, and would have no real reason to wear such a thing.”

The merchant seemed surprised, but ultimately admitted defeat; the woman raised a valid point. “Very well m’lady. If you ever change your mind,” he answered before turning his attention to another potential customer, eager to make his day’s profits. The woman turned and continued on her way through the marketplace, casually observing the bustle as she kept watch for the items she needed to buy. Food, mostly, but also various medicinal herbs not native to the Cymerian climate. What she stumbled upon, however, was not what she wished.

“Genuine leather armour. Boots, bags, coinpurses; we’ve got everything.”

The woman’s eyes darted to the leather stand, examining the goods for a moment before her eyes widened with realisation. There was a stark difference between elf leather goods and elven leather goods. The elves that lived in the human lands were viewed as nothing more than animals, perhaps the only point where Imperial elves and humans agreed. The elven clans on the great western continent were viewed as savage beasts, often hunted for sport by the humans that inhabited the lands, both civilised and hill clans, or the savage orcish tribes. If any elf managed to get to the eastern Elven Empire, across the sea that separated the two continents and to one of the many merchant ports, they would be executed or enslaved on sight; their fates were often not pleasant. That being said, creating leather goods from an elf’s skin was not commonly practised, the similarities between the races prevalent enough to largely prevent it.

The woman covered her mouth, holding back the desire to vomit and turning away from the stall, colliding with a fruit stand and drawing the attention of everyone around as she stabilised herself against a wall and acquiesced to her body’s wishes, bringing up the contents of her stomach into the gutter.

“Hey! What’s the problem here?” came the voice of one of the guards as two barged their way through the crowd that surrounded the hooded woman. Her eyes darted to the guards, vibrant violet eyes quickly moving, assessing as she wiped her mouth.

“That woman barged into my stall and then threw up in the gutter,” the fruit merchant called out, pointing a finger at the hooded woman.

“Look, I’m sorry…” she started, though the leather merchant cut her off, pointing his finger at her.

“She’s a spy! An elf come to take our secrets back to the Empire!” he yelled in an accusatory way, “I got a glimpse under that hood, she’s got ears pointy as daggers!”

“You don’t honestly believe that the Imperial elves care about a market, right?” the woman replied, venom dripping from her words but the words had already been spoken. Now the guards were suspicious.

“Lady. Hood down. Show us your face,” the first asserted, putting one hand on his sword. The other already had his crossbow trained on her.

A silence filled the marketplace for the first time since the early morning.

“Lady. I will not ask again. Show us your face,” he ordered for the second time, drawing his sword and walking towards her. The woman’s eyes were darting all around now, panicking, searching for a way out like a trapped animal.

The only thing that kept her resolve strong was the knowledge that this was how these humans would view her; a trapped, savage, wild animal. She intended to prove them wrong. If she was an animal, she would prove that she was a superior animal to them. She looked up, her eyes locking with theirs. “That’s not a good idea.”

She darted to the side, narrowly avoiding a crossbow bolt that flew past her head. Had she stayed where she was standing, she would not have been standing any longer. She darted through the crowd with unmatched speed as hands grabbed where she had been a split second before. She heard the guards calling after her, but she didn’t listen, her focus on her escape plan. She leapt upon a weapon stall, dodging the swing of the merchant as he brought his axe arcing around. She could hear more people getting riled up now, this was nothing more than a mid morning hunt to them. They were either hunting a wild animal or a spy, either was reason enough for everyone who owned a weapon to grab them. She sprung from the market stall, grabbing onto the wall that separated the trade district from the knight’s quarter. Knights and their squires were typically not suited to pursue a quarry such as her, and it was a better bet than making her way around to the keep and the town guard barracks.

“Stop that elf! She’s a spy for the Empire!” one guard yelled, loosing another crossbow bolt at her. His aim was off by a few degrees, but the woman did not stick around to risk any more shots, dropping off the wall and into the streets below. The guards had not mobilised completely yet, she still had time to follow her escape plan. She darted through back alleys, pulling her sword from its sheathe and ducking beneath another sword swing. The man wore a chain vest, cloth trousers and, most noticeably, a tabard of one of the Cymerian knights.

“If you come peacefully, you won’t be harmed,” he said as she passed by, though she wasn’t listening, darting past with a speed that she knew he wouldn’t be able to match. She broke out into the street and made her way for the guard tower at the opposite corner of the knight’s quarter, a risky move, but if the whole city was up in arms she would never make it to the sewers from where she currently was. She could hear them behind her, a mix of regular, armoured, and even hoofed steps. She burst into the guard tower, blocking a pre-emptive strike that was aimed for her neck.

“Going to make a trophy of your ears, elf,” the guard said, his face close enough to hers that his words were somewhat less threatening than his breath, the stench of last night’s ale still lingering stale in his mouth. The elf didn’t say anything, opting to artfully spin his sword from his hand and barging past. He ran after her, grabbing his sword from the floor but she was already putting distance between them. Most of the guards had already left the tower to look for her, so she met almost no resistance on her way up, breaking out onto the balcony that overlooked this particular area of town and overlooking the plains beyond Cymeria’s walls. She leapt over the edge, dropping down outside the city limits. She landed lightly, rolling as she made impact with the ground and breaking back into run. The humans wouldn’t let her go, fearing that she may be a spy for the Empire. Foolish, she thought to herself, harbouring no love for the Elven Empire in the east. As she reached the forests, she climbed upwards into the tree canopy, the familiar branches offering her cover and concealment from her trackers, as well as eliminating any footprints she might leave.

She dashed through the treetops, leaping from branch to branch as she put the city of Cymeria behind her.

The sickness spreads. We cannot hold it back.

The words played through her mind, weak, as if spoken by a dying man. She did not have time to ponder on their implications before the branch she landed on snapped and gave way, sending her tumbling through the canopy and landing with a thump on the dirt below.

“I heard something that way,” she heard someone announce in the distance. The ground rumbled lightly as her hunters closed on her position, the humans able to cover far more ground on horseback than she was able to leaping from tree to tree. Head spinning, she clambered to her feet.

Run, child!

A sharp pain shot up from her leg and she crumpled back to the ground, a crossbow bolt finally finding its mark, tearing through muscle and rendering her leg completely useless. She heard the clip-clop of horses draw closer, rolling on the ground as blood started to pool beneath her leg. Four individuals on horseback approached, wearing a mix of chain shirts and regular tunics; they all, however, wore tabards of the Cymerian knights.

A silent chuckle escaped her lips as consciousness slipped from her. At least it took the human ‘elite’ to finish me off.