Lighting flashes, as if often does, lighting up the depths of the forest below. Rain which has threatened all day groans in the sky and opens up, pouring down into the forest. Even the ancient trees offer little protection from the torrent which beats down upon the holdless. Scant shelter has been found, the best by those highest in the pecking order, the worst by those lower down. And Hazelon? It is harder to get much lower than were the teenager sits on the foodchain. At least it’ll finally wash some of the blood from my clothing. The bitterness of the thought isn’t lost on Hazelon as he sits, attempting to keep the string on his bow and meager rations as dry as possible.

For all the chill the winter rains bring inside the narrow waisted, broad shouldered body, a small furnace burns. Feverish. He is not so far gone just yet as to not realize the effect the wet is having on his starving and exhausted body.

For the past day the feeling of detachment has grown. He had kept up with the brutal pace that Ustrr had put them through for the fifth day since the ill-fated attack on Rayathess. But when the band stoped, right near dawn, Hazelon had collapsed by a tree, the world spinning dizzily around him as the fever grew and began to block out rational thought. Only by effort of will is he able to pull it back, to focus on the few facts which were still relevant to his shattered life.

If I fall behind, I die.
If I try to escape, I die.
If Ustrr ever finds out I’m not on his side, I die.

Not comforting, those thoughts. But a stubbornness within him keeps him from the brink of despair. Self aware enough he realizes this same stubbornness was what had kept him from falling behind in the Laris’ family camps, and then allowed him to hide at the Weyr. Even as his vision swirls before his eyes and he closes them firmly, keeping ears tuned to the approach of… anyone else, his mind fights the haze which attempts to overtake it. His caution is hard learned. Under his stained clothing a veritable map of bruises dot his tanned skin. Some, larger than other, speak of being kicked awake. Smaller ones harken from tree branches and casual elbowings.

Escape. Today. It was the thought which occupied every second of his time. The adaptable Hazelon had made that decision within moments of joining the band. This was no Laris. This band did not work on the musings of a man completely out of his mind. Ustrr was a cold man, and utterly calculating. No move was made that was not fully processed. Brains which would have been the rival of any Starcrafter or harper cling behind his dark brown eyes, with a quickness that bespoke a level of genius unheard of among the typical holdless. There was no level of violence which he would not rise to… if the benefit severely outweighed the cost. The cost being detection and full scale hunting.

Hazelon manages a small savage smile at the thought his reflection upon Ustrr brings to bare. The pair of men who had returned with him and Lyreh. They had gotten their just deserts. Not death, no, killing someone in cold blood wasn’t Ustrr’s style. Instead, they’d been cut off from food for two days, and had to scrounge on the run, and they had lost everything that they had taken from Hazelon. That booty had gone straight to those at the top of the chain, and Ustrr’s favorites.

He pulls his mind back from the tangent to focus again. Escape. The past days had allowed him to evaluate the camp structure. For all of Ustrr’s iron fist, his men were no different from many who chose the holdless life rather than one attached to land. Shiftless, lazy, cruel. Once Ustrr’s attention was away they cut corners, and only snapped back into place when his dark eyes had fixed upon them again.

This observation had led to Hazelon throwing out various plans for escape. When the camp first awoke to move would be too difficult. Too many eyes watching with too much energy to chase him down. During the movement also was impractical. Someone was always by his side, and no one ever left the main group without a second body coming with. Ustrr’s cunning at play again. Two could gather more food, and each would wait to stab the other in the back if they should attempt to escape. No, there was only one time of day which an escape would be possible.

The rain, for all of its cursed chill was a blessing. For this almost-dawn time was when the camp slept. Even those hardened by living rough were exhausted by the long days of movement. Watchers posted were at their weakest, thinking of when they would be relieved and replaced by equally weary folk roused from their dreams. This was the time when escape might be possible.

Thoughts wandering through because of the haze of fever force him off topic till Hazelon pushes them narrow onto that thought. Now. Escape would have to be now if he was to escape and have a chance to get away. The rain would help wash away the leavings of his passing, and would mask any noise he might make.

One step at a time, each step cautious and ready to turn back around the second someone calls out to challenge his progress towards the perimeter. For now, it looks simply like the teen is heading towards the rough latrine at the far edge of the camp. But there is little enough to worry about. Those who have found shelter are asleep. Those who have little are curled up attempting to stay as dry as possible. Steps take him swiftly to the latrine.

Fear holds him in place for a long moment. This would be when it went too far. Everyone in the camp knew he was not allowed beyond the closest perimeter. There was no trust among any of them for the teen, no matter how hard he had worked to look like one of them. At least they let me live the lie at the weyr without bother… for the most part. That small ray of hope, perhaps he would be accepted back at the weyr, even drudge work was appealing after the last half score of days spent in the forest, pushes him forward and past the latrines.

Farnath be thanked for the rain. Hazelon pushes forward, allowing the rain to help cover his movements and trusting it to help deceive the eye. One step. Another. He breaks into a stumbling run, determined to not look back even once. These camps were his past, not his future. But duplicities as the rain can be for those who might seek to find the teen among the fronds, it works against the fevered Hazelon also. He doesn’t see the sentry step out from behind the tree till he is almost on top of him.

“HEY!” The voice breaks out and HAzelon stops abruptly his gaze moving upwards to fix on the very familiar and heavyset man before him. One of the goons which came with Lyreh- of course it would be. Who else would recognize Hazelon instantly in the rain then those most apt to hold a grudge against him?

For a moment terror- he had been caught. This would be the end. Whatever lay on the other side of death would shortly be his the moment this man reported to Ustrr. Only for a moment though, as an animalistic need to survive bursts upon Hazelon. This is not how it will end! This man, he would not stand in his way out. If he had to become a murder twice over, so be it.

“I’ll not be goin’ back.” There is steel in the teen’s voice as he squares his shoulders and faces the man before him. No masks now. No need to lie or hide. One way or another, either this man would die or Hazelon would right now. What was the use of further facade? “You are a band of murderers and thieves, ain’t worthy to be even’ talkin’ to the likes of the Stonehavens. If you’re lookin’ to be dragin’ me back, you’ll have to be takin’ back my corpse.” Brave words, and just the speaking of them solidifies Hazelon’s resolve.

A cruel smile breaks out upon the other renegade’s voice. “Ustrr won’t be minding me killing a brat like you, especially after hearing your opinions.” He doesn’t wait for Hazelon to draw that bow of his, already very familiar with how deadly he can be, but pulls out his knife and darts towards the teen, intent on stabbing him in the chest.

Dropping that ineffective bow, Hazelon dodges, but just barely. The knife sticks deeply into his upper arm, as the larger man pushes pressure on it. Even among the blaze of pain which joins the confusion of fever Hazelon keeps his composure. His own knife, still holding some of the blood of the runner at the hilt where he had been unable to clean it properly, flicks outwards and then upwards. At this close of range the hit is almost inevitable, as the knifeblade buries itself deeply into the stomach of the man before him. So close are the pair that Hazelon watches the renegade’s eyes turn from a bright green to dull and pale. The renegade, still alive, but injured, yanks the knife out of Hazelon’s arm and stumbles a step backwards, pulling himself off of the blade which Hazelon continues to grip in his now blood soaked hands.

“I’ll not be goin’ back. And you’ll not be rasin’ an alarm.” Pain and fever create clarity, and Hazelon pushes himself forwards as the renegade opens his mouth to call out to the camp. A single jagged swipe silences the renegade forever, as once more Hazelon bathes in a shower of blood.

Perhaps later, when it has sunk in, Hazelon will regret the necessity of the murder. For now there is only one focus. The knife drops from numb hands as he puts thought into action, and stumbling forward- Runs.