Dawn brought Kaitlyn no respite. Her drinking water was long gone and the skies promised only poisoned rain. Her leg wound had begun to fester, and the ruins on the far horizon – which she had only started for due to a lack of alternatives – seemed no closer than they had when the Scalds attacked three nights ago.
When she could limp no more she crawled; and when her strength gave out she drifted in and out of consciousness. She was only dimly aware of the crows that circled through the leaden air, but knew what they were waiting for. In her brief moments of clarity she wished she had saved her last round for herself.
Her mind barely registered the approach of a gigantic beast, forged from tarnished metals and swathed in worn tarpaulins that cloaked it like a beggar’s shroud. It no longer seemed logical to question tales of nameless monsters or guardians of the gates between worlds. Yet the massive hand that reached for her with unexpected tenderness was cold and solid to her touch. It was no hallucination. She had resigned herself to death, but fate had other things in mind.
Kaitlyn had a vague sensation of being gently raised and cradled by her unlikely saviour – an incalculably old, immensely strong, and apparently intelligent being that had understood her plight. The tainted skies unleashed their wrath but it kept her sheltered from the worst. Where had it come from, why had it cared, and who, if any, did it serve? It did not answer, assuming it could. Yet Kaitlyn could not care as it carried her from the memory of her past and deeper into the unknown.