TCOD

“Corra?! What the hell are you doing over here?”

Corra ignored the shout as she rushed past the guard. The stunned man just stared after the tiny girl as she hurried down the hallway and turned the corner. “Well…get back to your building as soon as you can!” he called after her, realizing that she probably couldn’t hear him anymore. “You know you’re not supposed to be here right now.”

Corra, however, couldn’t care less where she should or shouldn’t have been. True, she was meant to be back in the kitchen in her own building, helping the older women cook the Concordia feast, but how could she be, knowing what was going on in the main structure of the complex? How could she just stand the kitchen handing utensils to people when such a spectacle was going on just a few hundred feet away?

It wasn’t as if the guards would do anything, really, for catching her out of her proper place. It was Concordia. They were always especially nice on Concordia. And especially scarce. Besides, they liked her. Practically all of them knew the name of the young preteen ally who was almost always underfoot and, more often than not, causing trouble but as much trouble as she caused, they all seemed to find her endearing. She’d been around for so long, it was perhaps hard not to. Most allies showed up older and were gone within a few years, but Corra had spent her whole life in the compound of Solon Goddora. She was basically family by now. How could they not love her?

And even if she did run into one of the few that didn’t? It would be so worth the risk.

So it was excitedly and without a care that Corra continued on through the expansive halls of Goddora’s domain, out the back doors, into the next buildings and around the major guest hotspots (well she wasn’t outright looking to get in trouble). Concordia was always busy here. It felt as though the entirety of Kadolyne came to the old Benning Hotel to celebrate the holiday and really, Corra couldn’t blame them. Goddora certainly knew how to throw a good party.

Fortunately, she thought, as she hurried into the main drawing room through the back entrance and slowed to a stop, no one here would even recognize her. She’d worn some of her finer clothes for the occasion so anyone could assume she was just some local’s daughter here for the festivities. As long as they didn’t notice the crop of her ear. Protectively, she smoothed her hair down over it. Nope, still covered. Relieved, she pressed on through the crowds.

Most of these people were just milling around, chatting sociably or enjoying the hors d’oeuvres, but Corra wasn’t interested in any of that. Well, maybe those little sausage things, but no! Didn’t they know what was about to start in the other room? How could they still be in here, uncaring? She just didn’t understand.

Carefully, she shuffled around them, easily slipping her tiny, slender form in between the uninterested guests. Strangely, she felt more invisible now than she ever did when her company actually knew she was an ally. Also strangely, she couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Finally, she was in sight of the great golden doors of the hotel’s theater. Her heart jumped. She was so very close.  Unfortunately, just as her eyes scanned over the intricate carvings of the doors, open wide, inviting, they fell upon Goddora’s man standing before it: Saviano. The lift in her heart fell. Of all the people to be standing between her and what lay beyond, it just had to be him.

There were indeed only a few people who weren’t fond of Corra. Saviano was chief among them. As one of Goddora’s most right-hand men, his dislike didn’t go unnoticed either. Corra herself would admit that she wasn’t the most obedient of the allies. She couldn’t help it. She didn’t like cooking or cleaning or doing stupid chores so, more often than not, she didn’t. What was so wrong with that?

According to Saviano, there was something very wrong with that. Goddora was often content to punish her with simply more work that she couldn’t avoid and he’d blame her rebelliousness on her youth (and Corra didn’t argue). Saviano, however, was not of the same opinion. He had often made the case that she was useless as an ally, she’d never be trained enough to be sold and they should send her off to someone else that might ‘properly instruct her on how to behave’. He had said this, most of the time, in front of her face, oblivious or uncaring that she wasn’t stupid enough not to know what that meant.

Thankfully, Goddora had never listened. Why, she couldn’t say. Her antics and her laziness clearly got on his nerves as well, but he seemed to believe there was still some worth in her left. At least, worth enough to not listen to his jerk of a friend. Corra was not really one to look a gift horse in the mouth, however. She’d take his mercy as a blessing.

In the meantime, however, she still had to keep a watchful eye on Saviano when he was near. Without the defensive hand of her actual owner nearby, the man gave her the creeps. She didn’t like him just as much as he didn’t like her and she certainly didn’t trust him worth a damn. If he caught her not only out of her building, not working on her assigned task, but lurking about a public event like this? With Godorra’s guests? Well, she really didn’t want to find out what would happen.

But luck smiled upon her.

Just as she was hovering a few rows of people back from the door, she felt something bump into her and heard a loud voice to her rear. “Excuse me down there, young miss.” Looking up (and up and up), Corra found that the voice belonged to a very tall, very large man looming over her. Worried she’d been found out, Corra stared up at him with wide eyes and slowly backed out of his way. But instead of shouting out and alerting the guards, the man gave her a nod of thanks and stepped around her towards the door.

As she watched his back leaving through the crowd, her heart still calming down from her brief moment of panic, she was suddenly struck by an idea. She was missing her chance.

Her spirits uplifted once more, Corra hurried forward after the man until she was right on his heels. No one seemed to notice that she was there, least of all not him. Very carefully, she leaned to the left to peek around him. There was Saviano, right by the door. The door they were approaching. She sucked in her breath and straightened out again, walking rigidly behind her unknowing human shield, determined to stay out of his eyesight.

The door got ever closer. Gradually, Corra began to move to the man’s right until she was almost right up against his arm. He was so tall that she, barely four feet, didn’t even show up on his radar. And if this went as planned, she wouldn’t show up on Saviano’s either. She daren’t look again, as close as they were, but she knew he was there. She could feel his presence and her breath caught in her throat. The door. It was right in front of her. The door into that dark theater where no one would even spare her a passing glance. She was so close. Just about to pass the threshold and—

Oh god. Her blockade was turning around. He was heading back into the crowd, calling some woman’s name and leaving her there, so very exposed. She could go with him, she could sink back into the audience and wait for another shot, but she’d already made it this far. The door was right there, just a few more feet, if he could just–

Before she was able to make up her mind, he was gone. And there she was. Standing a few feet from the door, out in the open with nowhere to hide. Petrified, she didn’t know what to do but stand there, her heart racing and her gut dropping. It was all over. Saviano was right there, barely feet from her. She’d been found out. She’d get dragged out of here, kicking and screaming and probably sentenced to muck out the stables and labor in the garden for a month. Or worse. And she’d never get what she came here for. She’d return back to her building empty-handed. Oh spirits of Concordia, spare her.

Whether it was spirits or just dumb luck, she’d never know, but she certainly didn’t care which when she realized, much to her surprise, that Saviano was not, in fact, looking at her. He was occupied elsewhere, speaking to a middle-aged woman who looked lost and confused. He hadn’t even noticed she was there. Her breath came back to her and her heart raced faster. Before the situation could change, she forced herself to unfreeze and rushed the last few steps into the theater where the dim house lights enveloped her and she effectively disappeared.

Unable to hold back the nervous laughter (she really thought she wouldn’t make it right there), Corra shook off the fear and cautiously navigated through the darkened theater towards the side where she’d be out of the way. Finally deciding on a seat close to the front near the wall, Corra settled in and waited impatiently for the performance to begin, not entirely believing she’d managed to make it here. Well no, of course she had. She was the most clever ally in the compound. Certainly much cleverer than the guards. It shouldn’t have been a surprise she’d made it at all.

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