Sivir's throat felt like it was coated in a layer of broken glass. The cracked flesh of her lips burned. Her eyes refused to focus. I've given them more than enough time to move on.
She leaned around the edge of the boulder. The caravan was still at the spring and showing no signs of moving on.
Why did they have to be Kthaons? Of the many, many tribes that want her dead, the Kthaons stood out in their persistence.
Sivir scanned the tribesmen again, looking for any sign the caravan might climb out of the old riverbed and continue its journey. She rolled her shoulders trying to judge if her muscles were up to fighting a half-dozen men. She'd have to take them by surprise to stand a chance.
That prissy Noxian got the drop on me...
Sivir shook her head, trying to clear her mind. Now wasn't the time for those thoughts. I'm becoming scattered from the lack of water. Why didn't I bring more water?
The city had been bursting with it. Huge streams poured from statues, all at the command of an. He healed my wound and saved my life. Then he returned to rebuilding the temples around him, calling out strange words in an old dialect she could barely make sense of. Talking to himself in a dead city filled only with sand. I had to get out before that sorcerer decided to sink it all back beneath the dust - or that I owed him.
Swallowing brought fresh agony to Sivir's throat. She looked at the spring again, a simple puddle of brown water in the center of the caravan.
I've given them a day she reasoned. I will die, or they will die. For a few drops of water or a few slivers of gold. That is the way of the desert.
Sprinting toward the first guard, she readied her. Would there be enough time to reach him before he turned back around? She counted the distance. Fourteen strides. Twelve. Ten. He can't make a sound. Two strides. She jumped. Her blade sank completely through his neck, down into his shoulder.
Blood erupted as she crashed down on him. Her momentum drove them behind the line of rocks on which he'd been standing. Sivir grabbed his arms. He struggled against her, refusing to accept he was already dead. The guard's blood drenched Sivir as he took a final gurgling breath. This man didn't need to die.
Sivir thought again ofblade. That Noxian bitch sunk a blade in my back. I died. That should mean something.
A distant rumble sounded. Horses? A sandwall collapsing? There wasn't time to wonder what it meant. Sivir crawled across the hard stones. It won't take the rest of the caravan long to notice the guard's absence. The next target was moving high along the ridge line. She needed to hit him before he walked away from the ledge. The shot has to be perfect. She threw the crossblade.
It hit the second guard, cutting him in half. The flying blade arced upward, but as it reached its apex, it slowed before reversing its direction. As it flew back toward her, it clipped the neck of the third man. There wouldn't be time for another throw now - the blade completed its arc, flying down toward the center of the water. She only had to reach it in time. The maneuver was an old standby. She would catch the weapon and kill the three remaining men in a single, spinning somersault.
But as she ran, her feet became heavy, and it seemed impossible to draw enough air into her pained lungs. Thirty strides. She had to make the distance before the second man's body hit the ground. Twenty strides. The muscles in her legs cramped, refusing to obey her commands. Fifteen strides. She found herself sliding, stumbling. No. Not yet.
Then, sooner than she had expected, the second man's body completed its fall and impacted the rocks. The sound was impossible to miss.
One mistake was enough. The Kthaons were a desert people. The remaining guards had weapons drawn before she took another step.
Her crossblade hit the water between the men and her. Five strides in front of them. Ten strides from her.
I could make it. Every reflex in Sivir's body willed her forward. Instead, she slid to a halt, nearly falling forward.
Failing to bring enough water. Waiting too long to attack. Misjudging distances. I don't make these mistakes. Why? Some other part of Sivir's mind answered. She remembered the moment after Cassiopeia's dagger had pierced her back - she couldn't feel the blade itself. Instead, she felt a sudden, unexpected weight that seemed to steal her breath and crush her lungs.
"I killed three of you before you heard me" Sivir coughed.
"You don't have a weapon" the largest of the Kthaons said.
"Only because I didn't want your blood in the water" she lied.
The three remaining men exchanged glances. They've recognized me.
"A year ago, I killed your chieftain and two dozen of your finest for a bag of thin gold. It was a cheap price for their lives." She met the three men's eyes. They were spreading out from the water, attempting to flank her.
"The gold I earned from killing your chieftain and kinsmen?" she asked. "I gambled it away in a single evening."
"We will avenge them and your insult" the largest man responded.
"I shouldn't have killed them" she said, "not for that gold. Don't make me kill you for a few cups of water."
The Kthaons' leader nervously adjusted the grip on his weapon.
"I'm telling you I can make it to the blade before you can act" Sivir explained. "And if I run for my blade. You will die." She indicated the foul brown water. "Your lives are worth more than that."
"Then we will die with honor" the largest man decided, though his fellows seemed less certain.
"Did I need that weapon to kill the twenty men you want to avenge?" Sivir warned. "You are too few."
The three men hesitated. They knew Sivir's reputation. The other two pulled the largest man away, before backing to their mounts.
Sivir edged toward the water.
"We will return with our tribesmen for vengeance."
"Lots of people have tried that" she said. "Never worked out for them."
Sivir rolled her swollen tongue against the top of her mouth, desperate for relief. Every part of her wanted to kneel down to the water and drink. I have to wait until they cross the far dune.
As the men climbed into their saddles and rode away, the strange rumbling sounded again. It was loud and growing louder. It's not horses or shifting sands. Sivir turned to its source and watched as a three-foot wall of blue water rushed down the ancient riverbed. The water from the city.
The moment before the water hit Sivir, she felt the rush of cold, damp air in front of the flood. It shocked her like an unexpected kiss.
The first wave nearly took out her knees. The impact stung with cold, but as it enveloped her waist and legs, it became soothingly cool. Sivir laid in the water, letting it wash over her. She could feel the painful grit of the desert washing away as her hair floated weightless and free.
I was dead. I must make that mean something.