A/N: We've got time travel! Yay! So as I've already written the entirety of this book, I'm going to try to make sure I publish a chapter a week on wednesdays. If I forget . . . feel free to complain.
There was something about her that was decidedly off. From the clothes to her stance to the carriage of her head. To an observer of a different time, nothing would have seemed wrong at first glance. To the man she stood before, there was definitely something wrong.
The air was hazy and heavy from smoke. Burning herbs tickled the noses of all present. Even without the smell and dim lighting, the atmosphere would have been tense. The grizzled man who sat on the raised chair faced her-who-did-not-fit.
She stared up at him with big eyes, hoping beyond hope for the wide-eyed innocence she had been pretending. Her skin felt damp, and her heart was pounding like a drum. She knew she stuck out like a sore thumb. But she still kept her composure. If there was one thing she could do without a doubt, it was keep a calm face.
She could remember hundreds of instances where a calm face had been necessary. Far more than any other person should have been able to remember. All her memories could feed half a dozen lives. That was who she was; that was why she was what she was. And she loved it; knew it meant that despite the danger and her fear she could keep up the façade and walk away.
As she held her breathe and her risky gaze, the man she faced gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. It was something one could barely notice, unless they were paying attention for the slightest change or were a watcher in the shadows.
She let out her air, immediately gasping as she tried to recover and not to cry out, and inadvertently she took a small step back. Her heart rate seemed to double, panic clutching at her.
No, no, no! She thought, shaking her head vigorously, as if that would dispel what was happening. Her mind whirled, refusing to accept that this had happened. She had never messed up. Her words had never failed her.
She tarried a moment longer, trapped by the man's cold gaze and too shocked to move. Then she turned and fled, sprinting away as fast as her legs could move. Whispers ran through the watchers in the shadows, chasing her.
Out through the rickety door, down the dusty, humid streets that stunk of rain water and animal musk, in and around the people flocking the streets. She heard voices rise to yell behind her and feet began to pound the ground in hot pursuit; they'd catch up in no time – she wasn't that fast when it came to sprinting.
Eyes roving the network of narrow streets, she saw nothing to aid her in an escape. Just ways to get trapped as the townspeople fled. I can't, she thought desperately, as the only option hit her. It was too risky, and she was already at risk. She didn't want to do the only option and mess up even more.
She risked a glance over her shoulder. Her chasers were easy to pick out, with their capped heads, their bared dirks and spears, their leather and bronze armour, and the way they tossed commoners aside like dirt to reach her. They were closing in.
"No!" she gasped in a strangled voice, as one suddenly materialized behind her from a side street. There were more behind him. Soldiers in barracks had found out before she could find the exit. Well, the exit all could use. The other should not be seen by nearly all who lived throughout the course of history.
Quick in close quarters she twisted past a spearhead and around a corner. She had to run sideways, but run she did. Leather and bronze scrapped along plastered walls behind her. She didn't dare look back.
The narrow way let out to another street. A hasty glance around and she was running again. The soldiers filed out and gave chase. There were almost no people left on the streets.
The hairs on the back of her neck rose. Turning to look over her shoulder she saw a snarling face to close for comfort. Ducking under his lunge with the spear and dodging his grasp she found herself tumbling forward.
Colours and white light flashed across her vision, noises and sounds boomed and faded, all of it ringing in her ears – everything mixing together in an incomprehensible jumble. Her skin tingled and burned. Her chest felt constricted and no air reached her lungs. She couldn't tell a thing about her surroundings as her senses blurred and everything danced around her in a calamity of colours and sound.
The turmoil about her was suddenly replaced by blinding sunlight and the thick smell of smog. Skidding and tumbling blind, her limbs slapped and scraped against a hard, unforgiving surface before she was back to blurred senses and no air.
Then she was in warm air and soft sunlight, several feet above the ground. Head over heels spinning, she summer-saulted through the air to land square on her feet.
Her eyesight danced, her head swam, and she teetered forward . . . Straight onto a teenage boy.
As the world fell into place, she didn't move, to concerned with trying to straighten out her thoughts. Until she realized had happened. There were too many complications with what she had done, especially now that it was the present. Eyes flying open she jerked herself away.
A sidewalk. An empty, well-maintained road. A suburban neighbourhood. Dates and location immediately came to her, but all her attention was fixed on the teenage boy in front of her. He had seen what no one outside of a few should see.
What the – Who are you? There had been no speech, but she heard the words and the distinctive voice which had spoken them clear as day. She looked up into the stranger's blue eyes and stared him down. He was frozen, looking at her, wide-eyed.
"My name," she said in a quiet voice, "is Pia."
Fate caught up with all, in the end.