Thunder growled low in the distance, getting further away as the minutes passed by. Even from inside, she could hear the steady flow of water down gutters and pipes, the steady drip of water leaking through the roof of this warehouse somewhere in the back, in a moldy corner that was perhaps even more forgotten than the rest of this place was. Lyssia lay on her back, staring into the cobweb infested darkness above. It was late in the day, though the sun still had hours yet to settle behind the distant hills out on the Reach. She couldn't have slept if she wanted too; her mind was completely wired, and the topic of that intense interest lay on the piled, threadbare clothes and sheets she had stolen - a twinge of guilt at having done so - that made up her bed. The air was still chill enough at night to require all of these things, and the day only slightly warmer. The object was a simple slip of paper. The words were tiny and cramped, scrawled across the thing that had itself been stuffed into a tiny tube and shoved between the planks of her little hole. It was written in the only cipher she knew, making it something from the retainers or others within her House, though the cryptic words were infuriating to her. The cowbird has settled its new nest. Under the Eagles eye in the pale, seek me. It had been a day or two since she received it, and she wondered if it was even worth the effort to go and check up on it. She was almost certain it referred to a business in front of the Parliament building, nearest to the palace. There, an upscale Inn called The Headless Crown did business, mostly with the few dignitaries that came in from other parts of the world, and scions of the great and mightiest of Houses in Mericet. She sat up, rubbing her eyes with the palms of her hands. The sparse place she called home - for now anyway - was quiet and dimly lit from above by fly-haunted windows near the roof. There wasn't much to see here. Maybe if she'd been born a boy, she'd have had the strength to move things around a bit more, to make the space more comfortable. As it was, she had managed to make a space between some boxes, piled with the clothes and things she could find to soften the floor enough for her to sleep on it, and stay relatively warm. A cracked basin to wash in, though she had not used that in days. A pitcher with water, collected from a rain barrel outside. She looked at her humble setting, and for a moment she felt the tears, always lurking somewhere, threaten to spill over again. She deserved to sleep in a real bed. She deserved to be able to be warm, and to not starve. She didn't look as though she were missing any meals, but hunger was a constant companion to her. What her people gained out of the world around them was one thing, but it was not enough to sustain them by itself, anymore. She looked at the slip of paper, frowning. What would Father have done? A single tear did cut a track through the grime on her face, then, at the memory of what was lost. Likely, he would have sent someone to investigate it, probably Azure. But she had no one. Azure was off doing what he needed to, and might never return. He's a traitor anyway. Better of doing it herself than relying on the hand that had already stabbed her once. She scrubbed the tear from her face angrily, stood and walked around a stack of boxes that shielded her sleeping area from the entrance to the warehouse. She pushed the board that was, more or less, the door to her foyer to one side. She laughed bitterly at the thought of this being her manor. Heedless of getting the rags she wore any dirtier, she got on hands and knees and crawled outside. It was still early enough in the afternoon that the streets would be thronged, but here at the riverfront docks it was all men working the warehouses, bringing supplies and goods up from the river traders moored down below. None of them even looked twice at the dirty young woman as she scurried out from between the warehouses, sticking to the side of the streets and trying as hard as she could to go unnoticed. The attention she got was sometimes less than pleasant, and she had had enough unpleasantness to last a lifetime already. - She crouched behind a barrel, uneasy at her presence in this place. Once, she had walked the halls of the building across the way - as daughter to the Duke, she'd had free rein of the Parliament. Now, that august building stood dark despite the white stone it was built from. She could almost feel the malevolence radiating off of it, as the people insdie went about the duty of ruling the city. It was here, right here in front of this place, that her father had been killed. Beheaded by the sword, as was customary for the nobility, although there had been some talk from others that he should be hanged like some kind of commoner. She shook her head, dispelled the memory of that day before she could weep again, as she had many times since. The Headless Crown was to her left, and appeared as quiet as it ever was. The streets here were clean, kept clean of horse manure, the paving stones well fitted and smooth. She could see Royal Armsmen standing at rigid attention at the gates to the Parliament building, and a few others nearby, walking the streets, keeping the peace. The House of Lords was not in session now, as evidenced by the face that the activity around that white stone building was minimal. She turned away, and went back into the alley, deeper. There was a way, if she squeezed through a fence, to get to the back yard of the Crown, which was the only place she figured the message could mean. Why anyone would send her a message was anyone's guess, except maybe... Hope surged in her, and she took hold of it like a drowning woman would a piece of flotsam in rough seas. With a mighty surge of effort, she managed to push through- -and felt rough hands grab at her. Startled, she let out a startled squeal, and back-peddaled, squeezing back the way she had come so fast and hard she left some of her skin on the wooden boards. She didn't feel the pain, nor notice the blood begin to flow. "Don't run, you goddamned waif," someone yelled from the other side of the fence, and then a pair of heads poked up over, glaring at her from under steel caps. Royal Guards, perhaps? Didn't matter to her, she didn't want to deal with them any more than she did with the House Armsmen that had come in the night, a year before. Bare feet slapping on stones, she took of running, leaving a trail of blood behind her, a drip here, and there. Behind her, the curse of men. "What are you looking at, you goddamned idiots? After her! Keep your eye out for anyone else!" She barely heard them. She had never expected a trap, someone preying on her willingness to reach for any possible branch that she could pull herself from this mire with. She felt betrayed anew, and felt stupid besides. Such a fool, but there was no time to berate herself as she fled, hoping she could outdistance those men. She didn't know what they would do if they caught her, but her memories of the last time were not very pleasant. Of course, there was no escape when she left a trail for them, either. She didn't even consider that.