He leaves in the morning, wading through the water towards the wooden path the denizens have built to navigate around the deeper waters.
There’s an outpost further south he does not dare venture towards, he’s seen the Seraph making rounds, and there’s a Fort not far from here. South is a bad idea, but Kryta in general was a bad idea from the start. Truth be told there would have been more use is packing up and dropping him in Lions’ Arch, where at least his ilk was tolerated, but the wound is fresh and his reputation soiled. It’s best if he remains missing or dead. West, he’s seen nothing but hills and sheer cliffs. Another outpost but also centaurs, a group he’s none too eager to meet, but that’s how it is here. Centaurs everywhere. North, however, is a monastery. A monastery that he’s seen beer being carted from. There’s little shame in how he rifles through the Norn’s things for a few copper and some silver.
A relatively short walk later he’s standing at the gates, a lump in his throat and his hook left at home. Perhaps, a moment’s comfort from the hell he’s been through. He’s passed as human all these years on sea, on land should be no different, right? He should have no problem with this.
They look like priests, he puts on his most humble of faces (which for even him was a struggle) and walks inside. There are a few looks, maybe — the brothers and sisters of Eldvin wear blindfolds like their deity, he thinks — thats… Kormir, right? Or Dwayna– he can’t keep them straight in his head. It’s all a bunch of mystic rambling anyways. His transaction is successful, even if the whispers follow him out of the main gate with a keg under his arm, his destination, the roof of the shack and the hills above it. He’s already thinking about dinner and skelks again.
A soldier rounds the corner.
He freezes in his tracks.
The soldier does too, just for a moment, staring at him like he’s… trying to place his face. He knows what that means, and his heart leaps into his throat and beats against his ribcage like a frantic drummer.
A moment of silence, a finger raises, Jesse answers in turn.
The keg is thrown at the Seraph as hard as he can and without hesitation, and he’ll mourn for his brew later but there are more pressing matters to attend to at this very moment. The hills are crawling with Seraph and there’s no real safe place to run unless he can break through the outpost, and… all of Kessex, and somehow he might make it to the coast without becoming dinner–
One soldier should have tipped him off. There’s never just one, and as he starts speeding back towards the swamp, he’s cursing himself, and rounding into the rest of the troop.
“ — pirate!” the call is breathless, pained, “He’s that pirate!”
Whatever image of that pirate summons for them all, it’s not a good one. Enough for there to be swords. And bows, and the wary, fearful stares of people who have watched him distantly, who know what he’s capable of, or rather, people who think they know the stories.
He backs up.
And he pulls on something he thought he’d left behind in the ship. So close to noon there’s not much he can do but he backs away ever so slightly — a foot in the shadow and
Not very far, he’s too tired, too hungry for that, but the head-start is all he needs. Their shouts follow at a distance, but he’s reemerging behind one of the more shaded trees, closer to his destination than he was but — still. Stupid, you’re stupid and you should have waited, you got impatient, you know how that ends up for you–
His beratement dies for the moment, he peers out and heaves a breath. They’re going into the monastery, they’re splitting up — if it comes down to it he can pick them off one by one but what — what good would that do?
His life is over.
His legacy, destroyed.
There is nothing left for him, and the realization anchors him, hits him like a wave and bashes him against the rocks. He drowns in it. A captain without a ship, a captain without a crew, the culmination of his success sitting at the bottom of the sea. And here, Grenth watches him like a hawk, whatever being stalks death for faithless, ugly things waits for him just beyond the swamp fog. Broken, ugly thing, broken, useless —
His chest feels tight. His breath comes fast. He’s sinking, and the ring feels tight as the pain rallies against the magic that keeps him sane.
No, no keep it together. He kneels low and keeps his head in his hand for a moment. Get a plan together. You can’t go up, it’s too steep.
He slides along the edge, desperate for the cradle of shadows as he ducks behidn the next tree, and the next– If he stays in the trees he should be okay, and then the shack would take care of the rest, there’s enough magic soaking the ground to make the illusion undetectable for weeks…
Two sloshing footsteps are his warning. His panic has cost him.
The ground practically rises to meet him with how quickly he’s thrown, held down with spectral ties until the rest of the troop arrives. The culprit? A small woman, no bigger around than his entire hand, and she watches him with fear and…. Almost pity. Perhaps it’s the wild panic that makes it so. Maybe she fears for her life.
She’d be correct.
“Get a — a portal together” someone says. He’s staring at the dirt, shaking, flexing his hand in place because he can’t do anything else, can he? His heart is thundering out of his chest and into his throat and his head, the panic overwhelms him, a shaking mess. “Send word ahead– just. Get something ready”