It started out as a slow, dull ache in his hips, then moved down to the heels of his sore feet. From the bottom, it spread back up and through his arms until every breath was a labor of will. He was pain in motion but no matter how badly he hurt, he couldn't stop. There were people counting on him, people depending on him. He had to keep moving, to keep running away from his pursuers. There was no knowing how many still followed him, not unless he stopped to take count. He couldn't stop. He had to keep going.

Twinges of pain shot up his sides and he gasped, involuntarily sucking in a lung full of frigid morning air. The cold burned through his lungs and he faltered, stumbling on the cobbled stones of the Glinden City Bridge. Not much father until his goal. He could keep going. He would make it.

He clutched the sealed letter tight in his fist, wary of the stray wind strafing across the river. Icy fingers of air cut through him, scratching at his skin as if trying to tear the rolled parchment from his fingers. The wind was laughing, he was certain, mocking his frail human body as he slowly succumbed to fatigue. He'd gone too long without food or rest. His body was starting to shut down, will he or no.

His foot stuck on a rough stone and he stumbled again, almost falling but he managed to catch himself on the stone railing and heave himself back onto his feet. The wind roared around him, pushing him towards the ground. He ignored it, setting an unsteady foot on the stones, and kept moving. The wind lowered to a murmur, as if unsettled by his determination. Below him, past the railing, the river churned in sharp blue waves. Like the wind, it was waiting for him to fail, but it would welcome him in its deathly embrace.

He was almost there, halfway across the bridge. Once across, it would be a simple matter of passing through the gates, past guards that wouldn't dare stop him when he flashed his seal, and a long trek uphill to the manor, though that trip was but a step in the road compared to his journey thus far.

The wind died completely. If he were less exhausted and more aware of his surroundings, he might have seen that for the warning it should have been. Instead, he glanced down in surprise as an arrowhead blossomed through his chest, red blood fanning out like petals around the silver metal. The pain of the wound was nothing compared to the dull ache of his body but it was enough to send him over the edge, quite literally. The wind lent a helping hand, roaring up in a mighty gale to push him over the railing.

A black-garbed figure turned back towards the woods as he fell.

Muddy waves caught him.