The Chronicles of the Dark Ones
Chapter 1 – Their First Mission for the Crown
(AKA A Fair Maiden’s Triple Experience with the same Abductors...)
Port City of Kauurt, the fifth day of the month of Utros, four hours before dawn
They never had a chance. As much as both women of the Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan were trained and ready for any situation that they could face while doing their jobs, especially those of illegal nature as of the one they were doing, they weren’t ready for them.
All they could do when the weird breeze suddenly blew the fire from all torches and candles, and even the braziers were suddenly cold as if they had never been lit, was realize that both the breeze and the darkness that it brought to the room were of unnatural origin, possibly magic. They immediately stopped the job of ‘creatively’ binding the girl they had abducted less than one hour earlier and went for their weapons…
But two pairs of very strong hands started to work on each one of them before they could grab the handle of their swords and daggers.
The woman on the left raised her right leg with speed and precision and struck a kick on where should be the face of the one grabbing her from behind… and nearly broke her feet. The jolt of pain broke her concentration, and feeble resistance, for a moment and it was all that the duo working on her body needed to reduce her even faster to a state of helplessness she had never imposed in any of her previous victims.
And she had been quite mean with some of those nazrayan cows!
The one on the right, taller and much stronger than her companion, tried to use all that she had to avoid her arms to be pulled behind her back, but it was her turn to feel the impotence of trying to best a stronger person, way stronger!, whose aim was to bind her.
And the first thing that both women tried to do was scream the alarm and now both had weird and cold gags filling their mouths. It was like trying to bite cold stones, but they kept trying to dislodge or even crush them with absolutely no success at all.
As if it wasn’t enough, both women felt their weapons and clothes being ripped from their bodies as they were being tied up harshly and quite brutally.
Soon, with both arms and legs restricted by ropes that they knew well (they were the same ones they had used previously in all the dozens of women they had taken from the streets by order of their ‘master’), both women were forced into the same position of their still sobbing, but now somewhat surprised by all the action she could hear happening less than a yard from her ears, prisoner which was staying still on the plate over the table.
Ropes and more ropes around their arms and then around their arm and torsos, legs with the ankles crossed roped and folded and then roped again, and then ankles and wrists were linked by a rope and the weird ‘cold gag’ was removed (more like dissolved in thin air) from inside their mouths and around their heads and replaced by the two ones that they had to agree (when they had talked about it once many months before) that were the most ‘unnecessarily evil’ ones of their master’s collection. Leather and more leather to be wrapped all around someone’s head and some metal and those hard wood balls wrapped in more leather… If anyone ever dared to try to use any of the two on them he/she/they would be dead in the next instant! But now both women were sporting them…
Their oaths of vengeance were quite obvious under the gags but it was of no matter for the two couples that had imprisoned them, all that it mattered was that they had managed to fulfill the order of their human leader (and perhaps friend).
Juxall flew to where he was hidden and brought him to the room moments later, the room now had light and fire back as if it had never been deprived of both (much to the original captive’s relief since she was also stark naked on top of a cold metallic surface), through the only other way possible besides the door at the top of a staircase – through which three soldiers and the personal bodyguard of their target were due to pass through in a matter of minutes if they were that lucky – and the partially flooded tunnel that lead to the Elven Love Song River – through which their captives had brought their captive moments before –, the barred window more than forty feet above the ground.
But the bars hadn’t been able to stand Hajlak’s strength, though if any of the others had managed to get there first the results would have been the same, and it was through a now barless window that the early fifties man entered, and to his credit this time he did not gasped or tensed when he was flying with him in his arms (was he getting used to it?).
He quickly accessed the situation: they were in a large room with three captives and this room was filled with all sorts of devices made to inflict pain on a sentient being, human or not, plus a small pier (where the canoe two of the captives had just used to bring the third one to this hellish place was docked) and the table over which the…?
Was that a dome? Yes it was, made of some alloy with silver in it, shiny and all that, large and big enough to completely cover the girl... so the report that all those unfortunate ones that had preceded this one had been ‘delivered’ to his chambers as part of a ‘late night cold meal’ were true! *********!!!! He was SO going to pay for it!
The shiny dome even had holes to avoid the suffocation and death of the girl it would cover! Which meant that, in the recent past, all those who had access to the tray were she was going to deposited in, or where within earshot of it, could hear their muffled whimpers... They would ALL pay dearly for it!
Snapping from his rage-filled reverie he took a look at the girl whom he and his newest subordinates were about to rescue (sort of)...
Hmm, she was not of this land or any neighboring lands but from across the huge lake improperly called sea by some scholar centuries before (his personal opinion that few did agree with), (...) yes definitely a foreigner. Human, but foreigner nonetheless.
The hair was red and it was a natural color, the women of this side of the lake/sea only got this color when they used weirdly smelling potions on their hair, her height was not all that uncommon (she was smaller than him and most of the men he knew) but the legs…, oh what legs she had (his late wife had great legs but those were more than superb!)!!! And the breasts… so round and big and firm… It was easy to see why she had been kidnapped by order of such a depraved bastard like the owner of this place! How else he could ever had the chance of having a woman like this one for himself?
In spite of all of his powers, he couldn’t simply pay for one like her, or a dozen of girls so well ‘made’ by the Goddess of Love, since it was always a door for blackmail and worst (as it had happened in the past so many times!). So the obvious solution was to have a few ‘nieces’ living with him, and he had such ones... Fedura was most likely the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life, and the other six were not far behind her!, and yet...
Then the second part of the reports was true as well...
Before he gave the order he looked around and saw the bag on the floor next to the table, he recognized it, checked its contents and nodded to the inhuman woman in front of him.
The blindfold was removed right away.
She first blinked then looked at her ordeal and then at her captors. Two big men and two big women (that weirdly seemed to be exhaling some sort of ‘black smoke’ from their bodies) standing behind the man sitting on the stool in front of… her… body…?
She was naked! And… and lying on a large silver... tray (?!!!) on a table! She despaired and got agitated and… one of the masked ‘smoking women’ was now besides her and holding her head with two big and cold hands, and she spoke in a very weird voice:
‘We mean you no harm’
Of what was made her hood? It seemed that darkness itself was covering her features!
‘Girl… can I call you ‘girl’?’
The seated masked man, his hood was made of something tick but at least it was a fabric of sorts imbued in black, was holding a medium sized bag in his left hand. There was something metallic in it, no… more than one thing… Coins?
A triffar of silver was placed on the plate in front of her face, inches away of her nose. Another followed, and another, and another and soon a column of ten coins was on the plate. Besides being relatively small, if compared with the other coins of the kingdom used nowadays, the triffars were the second most valuable ones on the local market.
That column was worth a month of work at the alehouse!
And there were so many more inside that bag… she could hear them very well.
‘Do you understand me? Can I call you ‘girl’?’
And as she nodded he started to form another column of silver coins…
‘Who we are is none of your business…’ – another coin – ‘…but what you will do tomorrow morning is of our business…’ – another one – ‘…after all the man who owns this place and is our target and had you placed in your current ordeal…’ – she looked at his eyes instead of his left hand - ‘…is none other than the portreeve!’
Say what? That greasy hog?
‘Ah… so you know him, obviously in a most professional…’ – his hand moved but she could not care less about the coins – ‘…way or he would not have you brought to this place in such a horrible fashion, would he?’
This time the cold grip against her head had to be more accentuated. What kind of… of being did this masked ********* thought that she was?
He made two more columns of coins right beside the ones he had already built, completely ignoring her well muffled insults, before he spoke again.
‘By morning he will find himself alive and in such a humiliating fashion that the quick and somewhat mysterious replacement this town’s major Crown appointed official role will suffer will be considered normal. I can guarantee you that if, besides the obvious rage against me and these coins, the space between your ears is starting to feel any fear about what he can do against you or your loved ones to have you, again, served on a silver plate to him on some fancy furniture by his bed… well this fear is a waste of time…’
When he said ‘loved ones’ she thought about her little brother and immediately stopped looking at the coins as if they were made of goblin’s feces, and now was looking at him with such pleading eyes… the portreeve had done so many things to those that he felt had wronged him one way or another… the ONLY thing that had prevented him to order her arrest by his bodyguards when she refused to ‘visit his office’ was that the magistrates of the town did deserve their clean reputations… they were paladins of Galerr after all!
‘Hush girl… we don’t want him dead but rest assured that when you wake up, on your bed and in your room, it would be as if he was!!!’
And he started to make another column!
‘But… if we can deal with him, unfortunately these two are of another matter…’
The two men stepped aside and from behind them she could hear a noise (why couldn’t she hear it before?), they bent over and grabbed something on the floor behind them…
The two all clad (as much as they were that is) in black women that had attacked her and bound her and put inside a sack, had they put her then inside a canoe or the likes?, and then had brought her there and stripped her of her clothes and then proceeded to tie her naked over that cold silver plate! And they were shivering?
It wasn’t of fear, but of cold. Alright, it had gotten suddenly cold moments before those two were overpowered, but once the heat was back it wasn’t all that bad, even with only those straps of… silk(?) holding her body and wrapped around her head half a dozen times as covering. But it did look like they had been left in the Valley of the Wild Winds at night and during winter!!! And the stuff they were restrained with…
What were those… things (huge black balls? But made of what she wondered) around their heads and coming out of their mouths?
The cold hand of the woman turned her face towards the masked man’s one.
‘I asked you if you ever heard of the Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan?’
Of course she had!!! Kauurt, being the most important port city of the kingdom of Nazray (the kingdom that monopolized the sea trade with the kingdoms and free lands of what was once her side of the Imprisoned Sea), had dozens and dozens of filthy rich houses! And of course it attracted the most talented thieves, kidnappers and such of all criminals of this side of the Sea! Thus, of course, the number of well-trained bodyguards in the place was very big, and to succeed in such a competitive market you had to be really good!
The Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan was a band of women, and only women, which had nothing to prove to all the other top five clans/association of bodyguards in town!
But only when it came to how skilled were its members in the business…
It was rumored that besides countless ways of killing, torturing and hurting people they were also very well trained in the matters of pleasuring their masters… or mistresses (rumors that were never repeated in their presence of course).
‘Alas… these two are actual members of that clan, so we can’t simply kill them or make them disappear… others tried to get rid of them in the past with these procedures and only attracted more of their rage. And while I believe I can deal with that, with no delusion from my part, I also know that it will cost me time that I don’t have. So, girl, in four or five days they will come to your house or room or snatch you out of the streets through some dark alley… probably not those two but others from their clan… and you will find yourself being questioned about what happened with you and them and all that you can remember about me and my friends… and my suggestion to you is…’
Both women stopped to tremble for a moment and focused their attention on their ears, and she was looking at them instead of him.
‘…Tell them everything! Spare no detail at all! They are MY and MY comrades’ problem, not yours, so let me deal with them when they follow my trail and meet me somewhere far away from here and not as soon as they might want it to happen… I can handle what they have in store.’ - And in the next second they were forced to lie on the floor again, and their angry and unintelligible screams and curses soon disappeared.
‘But of course…’ – and this time he added a whole new column of coins! – ‘…I will give you all these coins for your cooperation. Tell them, or their comrades in arms, everything that you can about us… but only to THEM. The paladin magistrates, the other paladins and law enforcers, your family and whoever else… you won’t tell a thing. This incident we’re both now in simply did not happened. They already know that YOU, and not any other girl that the portreeve could have wished to share his bed with... and everywhere else in his very large private chambers for-the-rest-of-the-duration-of-the-night-and-early-hours-of-the-day-until-noon…’ – to each word he said in that tone he added two or three coins! – ‘…well, they already know that you are the one who is here with us at this moment and at this place, but for their own reasons they will not tell anyone about you…’
And then he noticed her interest in the bag dangling from his left fingers…
‘Oh, this? This is a magical trinket that is forbidden by all known kingdoms and empires above and under the grounds and rocks and sands and water under the stars, the mere posse of a ‘Bag of Tallassiz’ (even an empty one) is punished with twenty years of hard labor in this kingdom. These bags are blessed by the high priests of Ycellel, the God of Crime, and can carry anything (from coins and gems to other magical trinkets or even statues!) up to a limit of two or three tons, but to any onlooker they’re just small or medium sized bags… extremely useful for smugglers and thieves alike… but not kidnappers since they don’t ‘work’ with living flesh... fortunately they are very rare and very expensive… but those two are not the first girl snatchers I have to displeasure of meeting. They are all the same you know… they usually carry one of this because who knows who they can meet while following their orders or bringing a (or in your case ‘this specific one’) girl for their master or mistress? These coins could have been used to bribe ANYone, save for the paladins of Galerr and few others, to look at the other way or pretend to have become blind and deaf for a moment… less messy than killing any and all witnesses of their actions… right?’
And then she understood the twinkle in the eyes of Assorto, the bouncer of the alehouse she worked at, one moment before the hood was pulled over her head. And she hadn’t heard any fight or reaction from his part as her kidnapping was in full motion! Not only he had been bribed to not call for alarm or even attempt to rescue her, but that ‘shortcut’ (that supposedly made them both get lost in one of the least illuminated parts of the town) he had proposed was actually part of the trap set against her by the portreeve!
‘Well, well, so they did bribe somebody to snatch you in a more… quieter way?’
She nodded vehemently.
‘I am not surprised. If you could only see how many coins I have in my power now…’ – he leaned forward and almost whispered to her – ‘…Once, many miles up north but alas for me on this side of the sea, there was this small fishermen village. In the village lived these four young maidens, each one prettier than the one before but not as the next one… one night four men came into the village with orders to grab all four of them. They managed to grab the first one but she made such a fuss that all fishermen and their families came to her rescue, and what the leader of the apparently unsuccessful and cornered kidnappers did then? He grabbed one of these bags… The other three were tied up and offered to him by their own neighbors and families! It’s quite a famous story around these parts since the fishermen dared to call paladins of Galerr and Crown officials to help them find the missing girls and, much to their chagrin, they were found and rescued…’
She had heard that story! The village and all its boats were set on fire as punishment for trying to fool the Crown, all male inhabitants above 15 years of age was sent to hard labor at the mines of the Harackat Valley for the crime they had perpetrated and as for the four women all valuables that could be found in the village were given to them…
Wait a moment…
‘I am sorry but that’s too much wealth for only one person, I can only give you a part of it and not now…’ – WHAAAAT??? – ‘…since if they or their comrades…’ – and with his right thumb he pretended to point at the bodyguards that were supposedly writhing on the floor somewhere behind him, she still could not see or hear them – ‘…see but ONE of these coins with you or in your room or bed when they do a search in it, before or after they interrogate you, and believe me that they will interrogate you and will search your… stuff? Room?’ – She nodded, all she could afford with the pay at the alehouse was a room at a dump place near the North Wall – ‘And then it’s a room. Well, they will search it and tear it upside down and won’t gonna find any valuable silver coin anywhere, and your credibility will stay unaffected. But if they find one, and only one… look around us, the devices you see are for torture and they have many of these at their headquarter, and many others much more frightening to just look at... and then picture yourself, or any member of your family being subjected to one of them… during endless hours...’
She did, for a brief moment, and shook her head with gusto until the cold grip, this time much gentler yet as firm as the previous ones, was back in place.
‘So why am I tempting you with all these… one… five… seven… twelve columns of coins? Because in ten days or less you will see us once again, and this time we will give you and your family two things. The coins… and a way out of this town to wherever you wish to go and with no chance to have them on your trail… ever. Deal?’
She nodded, and the thick blindfold was back in place and she couldn’t see a thing.
‘My friend will take out of here. In the case you haven’t realized it yet she is not human and, among many other things, she can fly. She will put you back to that sack inside which those two brought you in here, and she will fly carrying it to some place twenty blocks away from here, most likely a roof. There she will take your head out of the sack and for a brief moment you will be ungagged, she will ask you where do you live and you will answer, and she will ask the name of the person or persons bribed by those two and you will answer and describe he/she/them, lastly she will ask where you want to live after you are forced to move away and you will answer… and all answers will be whispered as quietly as possible by you. By morning you will wake up in your bed, and you will hear about the fate she will bring to those who wronged you moments after she drops you in your room when you arrive at wherever your work at, or even before that. And you will keep your lips and tongue as they are now… unable to move and talk comprehensibly.’
Was it some sort of joke from his part? But the cold hands were now undoing the ropes connecting her ankles and her wrists, turning her to her right side and grabbing her (That woman did have a… warm grip? The temperature of her arms and hands was rising to a gentler level, almost human!), making her slide back to the inside of that sack. Then she was lifted and suddenly realized that the woman was indeed airborne!
The flight lasted less than she have imagined it would, but much more that she liked.
Suddenly she was being deposited on something hard and stable, the knot over her head was undone, her head, and only it, was carefully removed from inside the sack and the multi-knotted gag (at the base of her skull) soon was around her neck and…
‘Would you prefer that I ran and jump instead of fly?’
‘Yes… please... yes…’
‘That’s a bit loud I am afraid…’ – she pursed her lips with such cold fingers! – ‘...You will speak in a quieter tone, please, Now, where do I have to take you?’
‘Dame Nannalay Akeott Street. The fifth building in the direction of the North Wall, at the left, in the third block after the statue of King Konnto III. Third floor, fourth window from the right. I live alone with my six years old little brother.’
‘Who betrayed you?’
‘Assorto, six feet tall and full of muscles…’
She gave a complete description of the man, and where he was most likely to be found at the moment, and gave the most obvious answer to the last question: ‘Back home’.
After regagging the maiden and sacking her once more she started to run and jump, faster than her captive could believe it was possible and (again) actually liked. After a quick run she removed the head of the girl from the sack one last time, to make sure they were in the room she lived and that the sleeping kid in the single bed was her little brother, and removed the gag to ask her. Then she held her head with a firm yet not painful grip, and kissed the stunned girl with obvious passion… and her captive quickly fell asleep.
Of all the powers the drows had given to her and her ancestors this one, in her personal opinion, was the weirdest: kiss a girl (it didn’t worked with little ones or old ones, just with those between 16 and 40 years of age, she did not knew why and had long stopped wondering about it) and make her sleep in a dreamless state just because of it (but only if the kiss was like the ones lovers would share and she wished that it happened).
She would awake only when the sun arose… Dressed with the dirty rags she had as nightgown and unrestrained and hugging her little brother and being hugged by him. She stood there, towering them, for a moment. How was it like, to simply love and be loved in such a common and powerful way? Another mystery for her to solve one day.
She flew to the brothels’ area of the port and found him in one of the places mentioned by the captive, already throwing triffars away up and down as if he had an endless supply of them… But brothels are not the place you want to be seen in, so there were lots of shadowy corners in the large ‘common areas’ of the brothel for her to hide in.
She saw him picking two women, one half-elf and another of the same race and ‘bodily attributes’ of the girl he had betrayed (curious, had he any plans for the real girl herself?) and heading to the best room of the place with his hands around their waist.
Moments later one of them, the half-elf with a ponytail in her long white hair, went down the staircase and went back up with three goblets in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other… and heard someone calling her just a moment before she returned to the room.
She turned around… and was kissed on her lips by a taller woman...
Soon the poor excuse of cheaply perfumed clothes she wore, plus half of the silk-like strips that had been used on… (oh no… she had forgotten to ask her name!), were restraining, blindfolding and gagging her. And the now folded package she had been reduced was put inside an empty vase. She would only be found many hours later…
But it was the ‘half-elf’ that opened the door of the room, and was greeted by the now naked redhead and immediately tied her up, gagged her and blindfolded her (with the girl’s cooperation after she was asked, and the answer was ‘yes’, if Assorto wanted them to play ‘punish the bad slave’ for him before anything) and left her right over (and unbelievably tied to) the small table by the door. She removed the illusion she was wearing and greeted the half-drunk man before she removed all light from the room.
The beating lasted less than she had wanted, weirdly she couldn’t keep the image of the brother and sister hugging each other and lying on a bare mattress out of her mind, but she was not allowed to kill him. A pity… and why she felt like that?
Then she opened the door and flew back to the portreeve’s manor.
She found them in the southern garden, wearing capes and cowls that hid their armors from any possible onlooker (thought she doubted that her sister and brothers hadn’t taken care of all people that could become one by now) while doing the ‘job’ that they had come to do...
Three in the front, four on each side on the line of tethered to each other captives and one in the back. All with their swords and spears in their hands, firm grip and ready for action!
And in between all of these men? Fedura (of course they would put her leading the line!), Hann of the Jurkal, Syndra the half-drow, Oulla & Vyella, Peorud and last but not least Zeni... the portreeve’s ‘nieces’... being lead quite harshly through the garden by the same men that would most likely investigate their ‘kidnapping’!
Of course none of the girls knew that right now...
If all had went well according to the plan (as it seemed that it had), her family had repeated the trick of a while back... they had ‘killed’ the lights and heat of wherever those girls’ quarters where located and had put them in their current situation. They were all wearing what little garments (or none in Hann’s case) these hot nights demanded to have a good sleep for women like them, an almost see-through silky fiber in different colors and with all the right cuts and seams to enhance their natural attributes, which meant that none of them was going to take part of what the portreeve had planned for that night...
Still, was that much rope necessary? She almost couldn’t see the skin of their arms!
Just a few moments before, most likely, one by one had been lowered from the windows of their quarters to the grounds outside the portreeve manor (since they would not fly them down she wondered how her family had done that) where the ‘other part’ of the kidnappers would put them in line, march them through the garden and place them in their rides to...
She took a look at the girls, they were obviously scared and the twins were not the only ones crying under their blindfolds, but whatever was packing their mouths and being held by a thick strip of cloth (had they ripped of towels to have those?) tied tight (very tight... Hajlak really did not knew how to control his strength!) was being effective...
She showed up in front of them, the twelve ‘kidnappers’ stopped dead on their tracks and three of them helped the half naked captives to not trip or bump on the ones in front of them with the sudden stop, and she could see that they really had a problem with working with her (or anyone of her family)... dumb nazrayans! Dumb humans!!!
‘Are you all idiots?’ – she asked in the best male tone she could whisper – ‘Don’t you see that the idiots who bound them overdid their jobs?’ – all the men looked at each other and the blindfolded captives took the chance to protest and whimper as best as they could, and were all grabbed and had firm hands pressuring their well covered lips – ‘Not so fiercely you fools! You!!! Yes, YOU!!! Handle me Fedura... come on, do it!’
One by one each captive was released from the rope leashing her (the only one that wasn’t actually hurting any of them!) and had all those accursed ropes removed from her body, but they all knew better than to try anything stupid like removing her gag or blindfold so all obeyed the orders of the ‘gruffy old man’s voice’ and just massaged their wrists, then their wrists were firmly yet far more gently bound behind their back and tied to a rope that was wrapped around their waist. Another rope was wrapped above and below their breasts (and thus their arms were lashed to their backs), and finally it was time for the accursed knots tied at the base of their skulls to be undone. But the knot was merely redone, far more bearably this time, and they were handed to a pair of awaiting arms...
After the petite Zeni was now being firmly held by one of the kidnappers she spoke again: ‘In the case you haven’t realized it yet, my sweet ladies, we are kidnappers and you are our mission for tonight. The idiots whom actually captured you are very skilled to bypass all the portreeve’s manor ‘magic alarms’ (or whatever they are) but I apologize for the way you were restrained. Make no mistake, you are valuable to us and because of that we will treat you well and fair, as much as it possible. But you are but a mission, and tools to be used in our plans. You, you two, you, you and you two, carry them, now!’
All seven girls were thrown over someone’ shoulder and carried, in a fast pace, as if they were sacks of potatoes through the enormous garden. A large wagon (it was covered and big and there were horses pushing it, so what else could it be?) was awaiting them and one by one they were place in the mattress (or something like that) in the middle of it. Their legs were tied right above the knees and their ankles were crossed before being tied as well, then their ankles and wrists were connected by a long piece of rope.
Only four men stayed with them inside the wagon, then it was moving... to where? Who could be so fool and stupid to believe that the portreeve, even him being the ****** that he was, would be even allowed to pay whatever ransom was demanded for their safe return?
The paladins of Galerr and Crown officials would strip him of any real power he might still have as soon as their kidnappings was noticed! And that included the keys to his personal vault (or whatever it was needed to have access to it)!
The answer to all their fears and questions was, simply put, dumbfounding...
The Palace of the Guard?
Port City of Kauurt, the ninth day of the month of Utros, sometime after midnight
‘Remove the gag.’
It was a woman ‘s voice, albeit a very cold one. Their leader, standing in front of her.
‘Do you know who we are?’
‘Yes, all of you are of the Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan… right?’
She could not see, but could hear at least four women behind her and three behind the one in front of her, and there were more at her sides. A bunch of angry killers/bodyguards… and she was alone in the middle of them. If only, if only that weird flying woman-thing or any of her companions were around… she tried to hide her fear.
With little success.
This time she had been ambushed by them as soon as her shift at the alehouse ended at midnight. Two women came from somewhere behind her and she felt their blades against her back and obeyed all orders they gave her, and soon was lying inside a crate being moved by something pulled by oxen or (tamed) wild bulls of the hills to some place by the sea (she could recognize the scent, the moisture and everything else anytime).
But the, now closed by order of the Crown, headquarter of the Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan was located right next to the Western entrance of the town…
She was kept inside the crate, sitting cross-legged with ropes all over her body digging deep into her flesh, but no longer forced to touch her crossed ankles with her chin, as the long interrogation went on for about an hour. She gave them everything she could remember about the masked human man and his four inhuman subordinates with all the details she had, the leader kept asking for more and more and more, sometimes asking if the beings could do this or that (as if she was comparing their abilities with the known inhuman races’ ones) and threatened to have her brother kidnapped and taken there if she didn’t answered her questions as she demanded… until the real leader of the women showed up and told her ‘sister’ to stop. It was more than obvious that she was telling the truth and had nothing else to give to them, those who had wronged the clan had indeed showed her very little about themselves, so it was up to them to find out who they were.
All the ropes were cut and removed from her body, along with her clothes.
‘Count to one hundred and remove the blindfold, your clothes will be outside…’
As she slowly counted to one hundred she remembered how humiliating it was for the clan to have their number one client, the portreeve, found hanging upside down and bound into a mockery of a dance position under the right ‘wrist’ of the giant statue of the Good King Wenecus II right in front of the piers. Not only he had been kidnapped from one of the supposedly best protected manors of the town, but he had also been beaten and traumatized into a poor state were all he could say was ‘I am sorry’ over and over again.
And the place where he was found was where at any given hour of the day hundreds of people, human or not, could be seen and see. How he had ended up there was a mystery as big as why and how no one had noticed anything until sunset.
The Guard had removed him from the statue and he had been taken to somewhere out of town, probably the temple of Ussakos (the ‘god’ of Health and of the Physicians) at the Mante Hill. As for his bodyguards, of the famous Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan (the women) or from a myriad of minor companies (the men), they were found all over town, also beaten (mostly the men) and bound in humiliating positions.
But none of his ‘nieces’ was found anywhere... so it was a kidnapping, right? But almost every time a portreeve had had someone he cared for (or at least was supposed to do so) kidnapped, no matter who he was or who was the kidnapped victim(s), the first thing the kidnappers always said was ‘Do not make it public’.
Why hadn’t they done that this time? As expected the suspicions fell on Syndra the half-drow. It was true that the drows had (in general) stopped being a treat over a century ago, but all those that still stuck to the ‘old ways’ managed to keep the bad fame alive...
But Evian of the North and Carladel of the South, and eight other elven heroes of very solid reputations, appeared in town and were making their own investigations (with a signed permission of the Crown of course) and so far had not found any proof whatsoever that a ‘banished drow’ was involved in the case.
As the laws required in such an exceptional case, the powers he had were transferred to the two vice-portreeves (the administrational ones) and the Captain of the Guard (all others related to the safety of the town), and for some reason he had ordered a complete search in the clan’s headquarter. What was found there was a mystery to everybody in town save a few high ranked members of the Guard, but the local leaders of the clan were arrested, the others had been expelled from the town and were not supposed to be inside its walls, the clan itself was now outlawed and the headquarter was closed.
She stood up on shaky legs, almost fell... and felt her cold hands holding her.
‘Wait a moment, your legs aren’t strong enough yet…’
‘You? But… I thought…’
‘We’ve been keeping an eye on the Clan, specially the members who managed to avoid the expulsion. If they had been more than just harsh with you I’d have had to interfere...’
But she had been slapped a few times, bound in a cruel way and... and... they could have just killed her after the interrogation and dump her body into the sea...
She couldn’t stop shivering!
‘It’s okay, it’s not the Clan’s usual way to act like they did during daylight, and the night belongs to us. I was told to protect you until the time of your voyage comes...’
‘You could have warned me...’ – she tried to protest. She felt something incredibly warm being placed over her shoulder and then falling over her body, engulfing her and giving her some heat. Then those weirdly cold and strong and firm (as rocks!) arms were hugging her.
‘I was not sure if your capacity to tell lies was good enough... Do you forgive me?’
The woman-thing made the question as if she was even younger than her brother!!!
‘Of... of course. (...) So, what now?’
‘As soon as your legs are able to keep you standing and walking you will walk to the front door, open it and take a peek outside, they placed the clothes a bit far away so you will have to walk outside as naked as you are, return here and put them on and then walk back to your building. They will be watching, hoping to see you running to some place inside the Walls, and meeting me and the others there, before you return to your brother...’
‘But what if... besides you and them... somebody sees me getting outside stark naked and then returning to this place. Somebody like Aprecatossus or Kirt of Boton?’
‘Who are those?’
‘Two... very infamous... rapists... and killers that once preyed on the women of Kauurt.’
‘Nothing will happen to you, even if I have to reveal myself to the Clan after I deal with whoever sees you! Rest assured my dear... (...) ehr... what is your name, my dear?’
‘Tallany, daughter of Brettof, son of Vranof, once of the Red Horses Clan of the Thunder Hills Nation... (...)? Sorry, it seems to be a while since I’ve last said it all...’
‘Nice to meet you Tallany... I am not supposed to tell you my name... but you can call me ‘Shiwa’... it’s ‘honest friend’ in my language... Count to ten before removing the blindfold.’
And whatever was used to keep her warm was pulled away and she felt she was alone. And a cold breeze remembered her that she was naked right away...
Still with her legs shaking, she decided to go to the door.
Like ‘Shiwa’ had told her, the Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan wasn’t used to perform daring acts, like the third kidnapping in less than ten days she suffered!, during daylight, but they could do it. And in her case, they had did it with impeccable precision.
At some point afternoon she was told by the owner of the alehouse – a greedy little being with some goblin blood in his veins (obviously), who was still sure that the triffars his former employee Assorto had used (at the brothel he had been found so miserably mowed down) were actually his, but was still trying to find the proofs demanded by the paladin magistrates in order to have them ‘back’ – ordered her to check what was keeping Ebra and Hazzia in the back of the building, they were supposed to just throw the garbage in the river but were taking too long... and walked into their trap.
Ebra and Hazzia, to give them some credit, had not been bribed to take part of it.
They had just been bound, blindfolded and gagged (with ropes and thick strips of clothes for the gag and blindfolds) and left as bait in the alley behind the alehouse, at about twenty feet from the back door, and she did acted as she was supposed to... she ran to the pair lying back-to-back on their side on the dirty ground to free them, and three or more members of the Clan jumped on her before she could take more than three steps...
All she knew was that she was engulfed by strong and uncaring arms and hands, pressing and pushing and twisting all her bones and flesh, who quickly and thoroughly made her an human spool, and it was hurting all over under the rope! She did not knew that she could place her hands between her shoulder blades, for instance, but she knew the strain it was putting on her shoulders! Two of them grabbed her and unceremoniously took her to an awaiting carriage... wait a moment, this one was an ‘official’ one!
It belonged to the portreeve!
Right in front of the horses stood this masked woman, otherwise dressed as an elegant maid but with the posture of a military official, who made them stop with a gesture. She pointed out to the two girls left behind, and five masked women (also ‘dressed’ for a workday) went there and cut the ropes that kept the girls together and added new ones, to further enhance their helplessness, before carrying them to where the ‘masked maid’ and Tallany awaited them. But Tallany wasn’t paying attention to that, nor to the long and thin blade pressed against the base of her neck nor to the threats that the ‘masked maid’ was making.
She saw her boss, the owner of the alehouse, standing in the backdoor of his home, holding a small bag of coins in his left hand. And as her four companions carried the scared pair of waitresses to the carriage, one masked woman (also dressed as a waitress) picked a bag that was dangling from her waist belt, and threw him a few coins (that he had to pick from the ground) and turned around running to the other masked women. She saw him, he saw her, their eyes met... and what he did then? He waved her goodbye with his free hand!
That caused her a rage that was only contained when two women, properly dressed as... carriage drivers (female ones, there was such a thing as a female driver)?, pressed her body against a wall and the ‘masked maid’ face was inches away from her own.
‘Don’t make us kill you too soon...’ – then she heard a gurgling sound.
Her (former) boss’ expression was now of incredulity, he was on his knees next to the coins that had been just thrown at him with an arrow (shot by one of the women with a crossbow) piercing what could pass as a heart in his case. And then his face hit the ground.
And then, since Ebra and Hazzia were already inside the carriage, she was thrown inside it. And to her surprise, and relief, she didn’t saw any of the former portreeve’s special officials (or himself) aboard with the frightened girls. But a fourth bound and gagged girl.
This one was elegantly dressed in a white and pink...? It looked like some sort of uniform with a skirt, a blouse and a... waistcoat? On a woman’s body? It was all disheveled now, but the quality of each garment was more than obvious, Tallany was sure that even if she managed to not spent a brazzar (the cheapest currency in the kingdom) for a whole year she wasn’t going to be able to save enough money to buy the... waistcoat (it was one).
Aside her clothes the earrings and the tiara were another proof of the girl’s noble origin, she probably still had her rings with her, but like all other captive girls inside that carriage her hands had been bound behind her back and she was sitting opposite Tallany, the only one among the captives to have not been blindfolded. Otherwise they shared the same type of rope and cloths used to restrain them.
The ‘masked maid’ entered the carriage and closed the small curtains on both sides of the carriage, standing in between the two pairs of seated captives.
‘Now pay attention, either I keep you all alive until tomorrow or I kill you right now... it’s the same for me. My job is to deliver all four of you to my boss, dead or alive. So don’t make a fuss, don’t try anything stupid and you may all leave this ‘chariot’ when we reach our destiny’ – All four captives stayed completely mute and immobile (as best as possible) as the carriage passed through a myriad of streets and alleys (did Kauurt had to be that big?) until they reached their destination wherever it was.
The unknown captive ‘noblewoman’ was taken to a room upstairs by a door, and a spiral staircase that was right in front of it, while Tallany and the other two were forced to sit on small stools in a corner of the large deposit area and kept on guard by an increasing number of women. They all came wearing some sort of uniform (waitress and maid being the most common ones), then they undressed and put on the Clan’s black and red uniform, received their weapons (swords and daggers mostly, albeit one was now carrying a battle hammer!) and either went to their ‘posts’ or, as did the majority of them, stayed in the room.
As the hours slowly passed she saw the irritation growing in the ‘masked maid’ features (she was now properly dressed in a Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan’s Division Commander uniform and without the blonde wig she was wearing previously). Every new woman that passed through the large wooden (and reinforced) doors was greeted by her eyes with expectation, then frustration and then some undefined animosity...
Finally one woman, looking back over her shoulder one last time, crossed the opening offered to her and rushed to the lady in charge of the situation, all other women got close to hear what she had to say and one of them, not liking one bit what she had heard, drew her sword and cursing Tallany in fronnin (one of the three languages most used in the Empire of Litto) walked towards her branding the sword with obvious intentions...
She was tackled by two of her comrades, who them held her as she was slapped twice by their commander, but the fire in her eyes was still burning...
‘<Can’t you see that she is an agent of the Crown?>’
‘<What I can see is that you are years away from any post of command thanks to your stupid antics! And be lucky that we can’t afford to lose any other member of our mission, or I’d have gutted you by now! She...’ – and the commander pointed her index finger straight at her – ‘...is the key that will allow us to leave this town!>’
‘<But what about the new portreeve’s daughter?>’
‘<Fool!>’ – and again she slapped the woman in front of her – ‘<What good can that girl bring to us but as a diversion? By now, despite the warning of not doing so that we left in our ‘ransom’ note, the Captain of the Guard and the paladin magistrates must known about her abduction and must have realized who are her abductors! The only reason why we have her is to lure the paladins and the Guard to some point of the town while we evade it through another! Ooooh... take her and make her do some company for a few hours for the girl upstairs if she’s so interested in her... But take her out of my sights, NOW!>’
The once threatening Clan warrior was already gagged (with a long black scarf) before her arms were freed from the other girls’ grasps, and she allowed herself to be tied up (just her arms and torso) very tightly before one of the women that had tackled her grabbed her right shoulder and, under the mockery of her comrades, she was escorted to the spiral stairway.
‘<You heard and understood everything that I said, right?>’
‘<Very well, in the case you didn’t managed to hear it, this woman...>’ – and she pointed to the newcomer, who took a step forward, with her left thumb – ‘<...is the only one, among the four that I sent to your block to bring me your brother, that will manage to return. You are not understanding what I am telling you?>’
She shook her head without taking her eyes from the other woman’s ones.
‘<What I am saying is that he wasn’t in your room, they spread out to look for him and she did not saw him anywhere, but she did see two of her comrades being restrained by some sort of ‘magical lights restraining spell’ by a Crown Mage before being handed over to awaiting members of the Guard. Hadn’t the mage’s attention be diverted by some meddling fat man and she would have been next. She spent the past three hours walking around town to avoid being followed or being captured before she returned to here... and you don’t know what a Crown Mage or a bunch of Guard members were doing in your neighborhood?>’
Again, Tallany shook her head (a bit faster this time) without breaking eye contact with the other woman. For her part, the commander simply ordered everybody to be on alert and ready for action as she turned around and moved away from the three captives.
For a moment she almost despaired at the uncertainty of not knowing where her brother was, but then she felt very cold fingers grabbing her left earlobe making her head turn to one side. It was the smoking woman-thing... Shiwa.
‘Don’t worry about your brother, he is safe and actually he enjoyed the flight I gave him...’
Then her head was pushed back to its former side and she was admonished by one of the women directly guarding her to stop wasting her time, those were ‘Clan’ secret knots’ so in no way she would be able to free herself...
The hours passed very slowly and, while no food or water was given to them, the captives had right to a break (only because their captors didn’t wanted to be in the same room with them if they hadn’t one) when night had already fell. By then over thirty women had arrived, changed their clothes and armed themselves for the inevitable combat.
The warning came from one of the lookouts in the roof, the streets around the building were being cleaned of all people, the nearby buildings were also undergoing the same cleansing and the other lookouts soon spotted lookouts (and archers) on their roofs.
They were being sieged...
He was spotted about the same time that somebody remembered about the one among them that was ‘sharing a pole’(?) with their ‘bogus’ captive. He walked to the building alone and almost naked, save for his trousers and mask, and boring no blade with him.
Their leader told them to get ready and that ‘the nuisance’ was to be set free.
She still wore her gag (with rope still tied to one of her arms) as she run down the stairs and grabbed her bow, turned around and ran up heading to the roof. When she was almost there she found odd that neither Lupan nor Tere were guarding the roof’s entrance. But she was way too fast to better think about it and react accordingly... And ran into their (actually just his) awaiting arms. And it felt like running to a wall face first!!!
The paladin magistrates, led by the ‘Vulture’ himself!, were guarding her comrades Lupan and Tere and all those that were supposed to be watching the movement (or lack of it) on the street and buildings around them (armed with their bows and arrows), all bound with their hands behind their back and ankles crossed and with abnormally big mouths (which meant that they were filled to the fullest) under their tight and thick gags and forced to lie on their belly as, one by one, simply disappeared while struggling on the floor in front of her eyes. The first disappearance she witnessed made her renew her efforts, but this... man (?) holding her seemed to be made of stone, it was actually hurting her to fight back!
And he was so strong!
One, two, six loops of rope around her arms above the elbows. ‘Cross your wrists’ he said in an inhuman voice, she didn’t and he bound them crossed as he had told without her to do in the next moment. Then one, five, eight turns of rope around her bosom and arms and she had any few movement left in the arms even more restricted (and it was a bit hard to breathe now!). Next her waist, six turns of rope to held her hands at that point of her back and it was as if she wasn’t fighting back!
But the worst part was what he had put inside her mouth before he started to rope her up. It was cold, hard and had inflated itself to a point were she couldn’t close her mouth!
‘Kneel’ he/it said. She tried not to, and he grabbed her ankles together with one hand (how big was his other arm?) and put her on the floor with surprising care and swiftness, and again all her efforts to avoid being tied up were pointless and quite pathetic actually.
‘Close your eyes’ she heard a voice says coming from the roof under her body.
She was more surprised than frightened when a large cold iron-like hand emerged from beneath her and grabbed her face, right over her eyes thus effectively blindfolding her, and an arm (which came from the same place) encircled her waist, and she was pulled into...?
One of the most dreaded experiences of her training was the month of ‘exercises’ on the fjords near Stajmaller’s Pass. If the (three years’) training in itself was hard that month was particularly extreme, since one in three returned from it straight to the cemetery. And one of the tests she had to endure, and had obviously passed, was being thrown bound hand and foot into the icy waters of the fjords (both at daylight and at nighttime) and having to go way down there, to the bottom, to grab the dagger that could (and did) set her free so she could return to the surface. The sensation she felt now was almost the same of that night...
Save for the fact that it wasn’t water! It’s all around her and she was being pulled (by the arm around her waist) through it at a surprising speed, and it wasn’t ‘wet’ or ‘humid’ but it was even colder than the waters of that fjord!!! Very cold indeed...
She didn’t felt being pulled out of ‘it’, and barely registered the fact that she was seeing something until she felt herself being lifted of... the... ground... ?
A Crown Mage! No..., three of them!
She was feeling warm now, all the goosebumps were gone and she was much, much, better than she felt a moment before. But now those accursed shining bands (that had been used in her sisters by probably this very same Mage hours before) were now covering all her bonds.
She was having a little trouble with the focus of her vision because even her (tight and quite wide) gag was emitting a pale white light now! And where was he taking her?
He actually wasn’t moving, he was standing still all along as the only moved his right arm and hand (which was glowing with the same white light) as she floated at about four feet off the ground, they were in a poorly lit alley, from the wall she had emerged from to...
To an awaiting large wagon. The one used to carry prisoners to and from the House of the Guards. There she found all of her sisters, apparently restrained by the same bands of light, like hers their ‘original’ ones must have been just covered by the bands, and sitting side by side against the reinforced walls of the wagon, and chained to it by the neck and ankles.
Before she realized she was occupying the last vacant seat, and then the disgruntled Crown Mage responsible for keeping the bands existing and two Crown Guards (used outside the Capitol only in very special – and usually secret – missions, which meant that it was true, their cover had been blown!) climbed inside and were locked in it with their prisoners.
The Mage couldn’t help but spend the whole time complaining about how his companions (the Mages left behind), his superiors and even the Mage of the Kingdom were wrong and that they should get rid, immediately, of those who were helping them (all the Nazrayans?) that night. And it did not matter that the Guards didn’t wanted to hear his babbling, all inside the wagon had to endure it for most of the duration of the trip... He only stopped (in mid-sentence) when he realized that his rage had made him talk too much...
The Dancing Shadows? The drows’ greatest killing creation... those Dancing Shadows?
‘How things are going, downstairs?’
‘My brother and my sisters are doing what they are supposed to do according to the plans.’
‘The young lady of the House of Gallpos?’
‘Go down one floor and turn left, she’s locked inside the room behind the third door on the right. Don’t worry about the guards, they are being dealt with... right now.’
‘Will you recover enough to not be here when we return with her?’
‘Of course, by the time you break down the door I’ll be long gone...’
He turned to his subordinates and they all passed through the door in the next moments, they moved fast and with the maximum stealthiness possible given their armors and were soon standing in front of the door indicated by ‘Hajlak’. Then they heard the sound of a duel, one single sword against another single one, coming from downstairs.
So things had underwent as smoothly as planned...
Stealth and care were no longer required, so he made the two fools that had bothered his patience up in the roof be responsible to open the door. It was heavily locked from the inside, obviously with a large piece of wood blocking their efforts, mortell probably (too heavy to be used to built boats, but very good for doors and the likes), but when they finally broke it they only found the captive, the daughter of one of the new portreeves, and no sign of the guard that was supposed to kill her if she suspected that rescuers had arrived...
‘Lymtalla’ (one of the two women among the Dancing Shadows) stood besides the girl tied to one of the three poles in the room, she nodded at the men and disappeared diving into their own shadows. The girl was blindfolded and could only knew that the woman who had mocked her for hours had suddenly disappeared, and that there was someone there to rescue her. It did not stopped her from shrieking under the gag when the blindfold was removed.
Oh well, they had reasons to call him ‘The Vulture’ after all... He was indeed ugly and thin as one, and tall too. But everybody in town knew him and she recognized him as the last ropes tying her to the pole were cut by Kottyos (or his twin brother Yllopus), then she looked around and saw herself surrounded by six paladins of Galerr.
‘We are terribly sorry but the gag and ropes holding your body will have to remain in place as for now...’ – she mewled in disbelief and despair – ‘...we don’t know as of now what you saw and heard for the past hours that could compromise the Kingdom and the Crown, rest assured that by this time tomorrow you will be sleeping in your bed in your room and with the absurd protection your mother swore to give you all around you... but for now...’
Yllopus, as his brother one of the most handsome and charming paladins he had under his orders, was already giving the bound girl his own cape, and as he cradled her in his arms he was already soothing and comforting her. They rushed back to the roof as fast as possible, the sounds of the fight downstairs only accentuated the ideas he had about how much the duelists hated each other and were the only other sounds in the whole building.
The ‘airpath’ was one of the magic he knew of that he less liked. The idea of rushing at top speed to the verge of a roof confidently that he would not fall was idiotic, and suicidal, but was one of the requisites for the magic work properly.
And they called him ‘The Vulture’!!!
But they all run as if they were being chased and, for a brief moment, they did manage to feel their feet hitting something solid where only thin air was supposed to be, just enough for them to cross the distance between the roof of the now deserted building (the ‘survivor’ of the duel was leaving through the front door) and the one where a Crown Mage, plus ten of the finest warriors under his orders, was waiting for the last one of them to arrive in order to cease the existence of the ‘path’. And there was someone with them...
It was hard to believe that the woman being held by the big and strong barbarian Thu’aan had once been a beauty like her daughter. Years of no control and discipline at the table had made terrible things for Nillia’s frame, but right now she was using all her heavy body mass and muscles to avoid the grasp of the taller and younger man holding her.
Everybody froze in place, besides being tall and thin and having a nose that was three times bigger than it should be, the ‘Vulture’ owed his nickname to his ability to instill fear with his voice. The coldest, harshest and frightening tones possible (and some impossible as well) were used much more efficiently by him than by anyone else in the kingdom!
‘Stop making a fuss my dear cousin, you were supposed to be downstairs!’
‘I don’t follow your orders! She is...’ – started to say the fat woman.
‘You will follow my orders like anybody else! And you know why?’
Freed from the clutches of the Southerner man the only other woman in the roof made five steps, looked at her daughter and stood in front of Kellpkos in a defiant pose.
‘No my-dear-cousin... why?’
He only snapped his fingers, without breaking eye contact, and his secretary was now next to her left, holding an official document wide open with his hands, the secretary’s assistant held a torch so she could read it... and she gasped very audibly.
It was signed by the king!
‘See these men...?’ – and he pointed the barbarian who had managed to prevent her from removing all those ugly ropes from her daughter’s body, and who was now surrounded by his colleagues, two warriors and a wizard – ‘...By the will of His Majesty these men agreed to be identified as the ones responsible for the debacle of the Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan in our kingdom. It’s actually truth but they were not alone in their job. But they will get the fame and recognition for it, and the rescue of Nilliarina is among ‘it’, and thus attract the fury of the rest of the members of the Clan, and their master the Emperor of Litto!’
‘Yes! Another war against the littoi is coming, and thanks to this document I have powers to do everything that is necessary to further the defenses of Kauurt, including having you locked in the deepest cell of the dungeons of Davenn if I snap my fingers...’ – and he held his fingers right in front of her face quite menacingly – ‘...or you can stay here while I take her to where she is supposed to be in the next hours, and no... YOU are not supposed to be there with her, but rest assured that once we hear everything that is valuable for the safety of the kingdom that might, and will, come from her lips she will be returned to your house.'
He nodded to someone behind her and in the next instant Nillia felt something cold being pressed against her lips. She turned around and saw the wizard standing not five feet away from her, and his eyes were shining a pale green light...
‘It is called the ‘convenient green gag’, you are still able to eat and drink and speak about everything you want... minus about what you saw and heard in the past hour...’
‘Nilliarina?’ – she asked in a much less demanding tone than the usual still with her back to him, watching her daughter (still bound and gagged?) being carried away from there.
‘She will be alright, we are not littoi or bloodthirsty subjects of the Emperor of Hakandistan or farfidanz of the Farthest East... she will drink something that will put her into a calmer state and she won’t be able to lie, and we will make questions and that is all... Then I will personally take her back home. I promise you...’
By now only the men that had agreed to falsely become heroes and the Crown Mage were with them on the roof. He slightly bowed to her, and in the next moment the ‘Vulture’ was running on air to another roof! She turned at the barbarian who was the closest one to her.
‘Why did you agree to became the prime target of the littoi? Don’t you fear their revenge?’
Someone tipped her right shoulder, she turned around to see who it was and saw only a pair of shinning purple eyes, and started to lose consciousness almost immediately, but before she succumbed she managed to hear at a distance a female voice answering her question.
‘We have scores to settle with them, and now we won’t need to go after them in their land! They will come to ours!!! And we will be ready and waiting!’
She never knew how did she returned to her home, all that she knew was that she was on her own bed when she was awakened by her husband the morning after. Right on time to greet their daughter as she safely returned (under heavy guard) to their home.
‘Take off your mask.’
He did it. The two women in front of him took a step back each and his face was now seen by the other women inside the building, and she recognized him.
‘Is he carrying any weapons?’
‘No, just his pants. No blade or baton or the likes tied to his legs.’
‘Let him in and close the door, for good.’
They barricaded the entrance with a cart carrying barrels with something heavy in them, a large stone cut in the shape of a ball was rolled to under the cart and pieces of wood stuck it in place as he walked inside. They were more than he had anticipated... twenty-two...
‘Say my name out loud will only get them killed faster than you would like.’
The three captives, alive and just a bit roughed up, were (as he had been told by Oplin) in the right corner of the place. Each one tied to a chair and with a big woman standing behind them and holding a mean looking blade against their throats...
‘Ah...Arodya, I may not believe in your word anymore, and you may have fooled me and the Crown in the past but I know that you are not a fool. You need them alive...’
‘But not in one piece...’
Their despair was only increasing, he knew that he had to stall as much as he could but this course of the conversation was no longer necessary. Then he saw it, the shadow of the littoi at his right now had a pair of eyes, and one had just blinked at him!
They were in position...
‘Do you honestly need to be so unnecessarily cruel? And here I was thinking that you might want some answers from my part... (...) Not make me, again, watch your idea of ‘fun with a captive’... or will you let them at the mercy of...’
He turned around and looked at each and every one of the Clanswomen, they returned his gaze with scorn and unfriendly stares, and for some reason he simply could not think of any of them as human anymore, they were littoi, and then he simply sat on the floor.
‘What do you think that you are doing?’
‘Please, your plan is quite obvious to me...’
Save for the two that were still watching the front door and the four that had went inside that door, but not upstairs through the spiral stairway he could see, all the women were looking at him right now. None of them saw the index and thumb emerging from his shadow and grabbing his trousers under his right leg and giving a push, then another and another. It had started, wherever they where and whatever those four had been assigned to do with whomever was already there, he now knew that all of them were being dealt with by the ‘Dancers’ (as they preferred to be called)...
‘‘Please’ yourself... even an apprentice of the Clan, in her very first week in Stajmaller’s Pass Fort, would know by now that YOU are supposed to tell us everything you know about the ‘smoking’ people if you don’t want these cows to be killed right-about-now!’
The captives’ faces were pulled to one side, the blades were being pressed hard, two of the girls were already bleeding!, and the look of satisfaction in their captors was disgusting!, but he kept his stance and looked at the left. Let’s see, about 6 pachs of height, a scar in the right arm and blonde. Not this one, nor this another.... this one.
The tallest woman on his left flank looked surprised for moment.
‘You know the ‘diversion’ your sister and her two comrades were supposed to provide so you could all attempt to escape this building, and then this town, and flee with the knowledge I am about to provide to you? The burning buildings? Not going to happen...’
The tall woman took a step forward but a mere look from her superior made her take another step backward, the woman he once knew as ‘Reminya’ placed her hands behind her back and took a couple of steps forward.
‘So you found out about out first strategy of leaving this building? Big deal, I have others.’
‘Then you must also know that I will not take anymore of your attitude!’
‘The ‘Dancing Shadows’ of the drows, although they prefer being called ‘Dancers’.’
Now he had their full attention! Even the ones threatening the three barmaid’s lives were looking at the others with bewilderment...
‘Don’t take me for a fool, they were extinct by their masters the moment the drows stopped worshipping those devils and demons they used to! Extinct! Chased to the last one!’
‘Not true... There were survivors...’
By now he had felt nine tugs, and when he felt the tenth he saw (as best as he could with the corner of one eye) a littoi disappear in her own shadow in a movement too fast to be comprehended, and then his training kicked in and did not let him spoil everything with a proper (and prolonged) look at the now vacant space.
‘About half a year ago those very young survivors tried to restart the animosity between human and drows but, fortunately, their very clumsy attempts did not caused any death among their few victims. And the whole ordeal showed me that I could have new pupils to train in the noble job of protecting this land from the likes of you... so...’
About half a year ago? She remembered hearing about an incident in the province were the few remaining members of his family lived that had happened about that time, something about cultists of Vypryantu (or a necromancer) and his nieces... a cover up story obviously.
‘I knew..., I’ve been knowing for years that this charade of yours, ‘Lezertos the outlaw’, is but a way for you to have access to the criminal world of your kingdom... I know how much your services are valued by that dog you call king... but that much?’
‘Oh, it was a hard sell I admit... but then... His Majesty knew how valuable they could be to us, and we only knew back then about a quarter of all their abilities and powers!, the Mage of the Kingdom put them under some spells so they would have died if they had tried to lie when His Majesty, The Duke of Tymmoa and the Royal Savant, and Betsabi of course, made a harsh questioning to which they had no choice but answer with the truth...’
‘So you know...?’
‘Everything that they know about themselves...’
It was much bigger than she could have anticipated! The Dancing Shadows, created in the apex of the last war the drows had had with the elves and thus barely used, but what little it had been was enough for all human, dwarf and other sentient races’ kingdoms demand that they were destroyed if the drows were to be left in peace.
They had become legends, and still were used by mothers to frighten and discipline their children when necessary. And they were now working for the nazrayans?
The Emperor had to be warned!
‘You are going to tell us everything you know about them...!!!’
He had just raised his right hand right in front of his face, and was shaking his index finger as if saying ‘no’ while almost smiling at her! Had he gone mad?
Then she heard the three blades falling on the floor behind her. She turned around, and immediately found out that over half her subordinates were missing! But then she saw the three captives and behind them... two of her subordinates were struggling against their own shadows who had handgagged them and were pulling them to same place were the third one (whose frantic legs were the only thing visible) was right now... inside them!
In a moment all three were gone, and the three wide-eyed gagged faces were now looking at the woman, whose body seemed to had been set on fire and exhaled a thick smoke, emerging from the floor in front of them with both hands holding mean looking blades.
‘My name is Oplin, and is my duty and pleasure to kill anyone who tries to do anything with the women behind me, is that clear you ************ littoi?’
Before she could completely recover she heard a sound on her right, Tepull and Jakyn were now fighting the shadows who were trying to pull them to, or through, the wall behind them. All the others moved away from the walls but it did not matter, as soon as Tepull’s big right foot disappeared one shadow emerged from the floor right in front of Necana and jumped on her, grabbing her by the waist and making her fall through her own shadow!
With Kliyvaa and Poluma their own shadows emerged from the floor and, as if they were now waves, fell down on them and engulfed them completely, leaving nothing behind but
Poluma’s dagger, stuck at the wall after being thrown in a desperate plea of defense.
Then it was Kyret’s turn, then another one and another... soon she was alone with the man she had made to fall in love with herself so many years before, the captives (that weren’t being freed but only had their wounds treated?), the Dancing Shadows and...
Who was that masked man? He had about the same physical constitution than Lezertos, was dressed only with the same model of trousers but had two swords with him. One was unknown to her. The other wasn’t, it had once belonged to Lezertos’ brother...
‘Are you going to execute me with that late fool’s blade?’
‘Execute you? Well, I suppose that it could be called an execution, after all we both know that I am the best fencer among us two... but no... it will not be an execution in the classical style they are performed... somehow I feel like I need to do it that way...’
The unknown man threw ‘Lezertos’ the late paladin’s blade, and she did regret not having taken it with her after she had killed him... it was a very good sword!
‘Aren’t you going to try to propose me some leniency?’
‘Anything you could offer in exchange for the Crown’s mercy upon your life would be a lie, a treat or a fabrication. Cease and desist Arodya, we both know how it has to happen.’
‘Yes, I think that we do...’ – and holding her sword with a firm grip, so firm it would have caused her to be admonished and punished for if she was back at her days as a novice at Stajmaller’s Pass Fort, she charged at him.
While the lethal dance was about to start...
By now the ropes that held them seated to those chairs were gone. But they were fearing them more than they had feared their captors! Had their ancestors been that monstrous?
‘Talllany my dear, could you please reassure your friends that they have nothing to fear from me and my family? Please?’
Again with the childish tone... she looked at Ebra first and then Hazzia and, through her eyes since the gags had actually been reinforced(!), she did her best to reassure and answer their mute questions. Hazzia, and then Ebra, took a step to her direction and put her head against her shoulder... and then she felt the knots holding her gag in place being undone.
‘They need to hear it from you, and I trust you not to scream or the likes...’
‘Shiwa’, or... Opelin(?), was holding her from behind with a gentle grip on her shoulders, and she corresponded to her trust. She whispered some words to both frightened and still shaking girls, and then she heard an harrumphing...
‘You are not supposed to be here anymore.’ – one of the male shadows, from that moment on she really disliked him. And the feeling was mutual...
‘Do you mean that you are going to... fly us out of here?’
The first strikes between the old enemies were heard when came the answer.
‘No, somebody could see you fly out there as if you were being held in a bridal grasp style. It has to be... through me, and if you don’t want to become blind for a couple of hours we will have to blindfold you... and them as well...’
She shushed her friends who had become a bit too rigid for her likes, then she spoke.
‘Untie my arms and hands so I can be the one holding them as you pull us through you...’
First she was blindfolded with something very thick, then her arms were freed of the ropes and she raised them in front of herself as if she was searching for the pair of local girls, who apparently were ungently shoved into her arms.
‘Trust her, please...’
A moment later she had her hands tied to each girls’ crossed and bound wrists, giving the impression that she was actually holding the pair of still bound and gagged captives by their waist, but then Oplin apologized as she was regagged (in no way she was supposed to open her mouth while inside the Land of the Shadows), something soft and quite stretching was used to keep the gag in place and all three took a step frontward...
It felt like falling into icing water at first, then suddenly it was warmer up to the point it actually wasn’t bad, but then someone’s arm wrapped itself around her own waist and the trio was pulled through that weird thing (it did not felt like water or fog or smoke)...
It was a new and quite unpleasant sensation for all three girls.
And then it was over. They were now somewhere where there was cold and wind and... A rooftop, still within Kauurt’s walls, and not a deserted one. Four paladins of Galerr were now holding her and Ebra and Hazzia (and who had undone the knots holding them to her hands?), and giving them their own capes as Oplin lied on the roof next to them, panting quite audibly in a whistling fashion. She did look exhausted.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Provide a warm temperature for you three was a bigger challenge than she had anticipated. She’ll be fine if you give her a few moments...’ – it was the other... ‘Dancing Shadow’ girl (or was it woman? She was almost sure that Opelin/Oplin was younger than herself but as of her family...) – ‘But it seems that it will be me that will give you your next ride...’
Oplin tried to argue at that and thus started the weirdest discussion she had ever witnessed. Although it wasn’t the first nor it would be the last time she saw two sisters arguing, it was the first she saw it happening with whistle-like sounds, and by the way it looked the more high pitched the whistle was the more angrier the remark/phrase was too, and the ‘older sister’ was quite acute in her hisses! And Oplin slowly fell unto a panting silence...
‘As I was saying, I’ll be reuniting you with your brother in quite a while...’
‘But... where are... those women that you...?’
The shadow merely grabbed her by the waist and effortlessly leaped from where they all stood, right in the middle of the rooftop, to one of the borders of the roof. She pointed down with her left index and, quite carefully, Tallany peeked at the activity five stories below.
It was a dead-end alley, with a large group of people in the middle of it, a small group at the wall that end the alley and another small group next to two large wagons and their horses. The Clanswomen, all of them (?), were either restrained or being restrained in the middle of a bunch of Guards. Two/three of them (kneeling on the ground) to tie up just one woman, specially one that wasn’t fighting back (?), wasn’t her definition of fair play, but those ******* had made quite clear that if they had their way she would be dead by now...
The absence of movement from the littoi was explained by the shadow as being the result of being forced to ‘pass through the shadows’ without any protection, and then she pointed at some men at the left of the bigger group.
‘Those are Crown Mages that, most likely, are the responsible for them all not being encased in ice as they were when we delivered them to this alley, they are still feeling and fighting the cold embrace of the Land of the Shadows, and thus they have no chance at all.’
‘We hadn’t time or will to bother to give them an appropriate environmental temperature as we brought them from where they were holding you and your friends to there, and the Land of Shadows can either be extremely cold or extremely hot, but I don’t know if there’s a third option, neither does my family and the Crown wants them alive for a while more...’
By now all the Clanswomen were starting to write on their bonds, as feeble as possible after the superlative job it had been done on each of them, and being unceremoniously grabbed and thrown into the wagons, which she had now recognized as being those dreaded ones...
She stayed a while appreciating the spectacle of seeing her tormentors getting what was due for them, but before the third to last of them was carried as a sack of potatoes to the inside of the second wagon (the first was long gone) she decided that she had enough...
As Lymtalla leaped back to the middle of the roof she saw how they had arrived there. A pair of paladins had walked to a point a few feet away from Ebra and Hazzia and their comrades who were more like guarding them than holding them, and they were holding a large black... tablecloth (?) firmly but not exactly taut in between them, and the man who had distracted the Clanswomen while they were being grabbed one by one by the shadows simply emerged through the tablecloth right before one of the male dancing shadows followed him, and then the tablecloth turned itself to an elaborated silver and red elfish pattern. The man seemed calm, but it was terrorizing to just look at him...
And his sword was dripping blood.
‘Sir, are you alright?’
‘No he’s not, it’s fairly obvious to see it don’t you think?’
All of them turned to the voice of the newcomer, the Vulture Paladin (!), but from where had he came? Wherever it had been, his presence was not unexpected by the paladins, they simply (and gently) moved their three wards out of the way to give him passage as he walked to the point where one of the most wanted men of the Kingdom stood.
‘Snap out of it!’ – he half ordered/half barked at ‘Lezertos’ – ‘It is over, after twenty five long years that forsaken dance between you and her is over, but we still have some work to do tonight! So snap out of it! Now... Cremantios!’
He looked at the Vulture with uncertain eyes, then they started to get their focus back and it was a much more human stare that he addressed to the paladin behind.
‘Please Kottyos, bind and gag the girl in front of you while I speak to her friends...’
‘But...’ – she tried to say but was blandly handgagged by the handsome man behind her.
‘Standard procedure my sweet lady... While you are not a prisoner of the Crown you have a much too dangerous knowledge within your head, so we aren’t allowed to let you to have any chance of willing or unwillingly divulge it... Rest assured that it won’t be for long...’
Sigh... at least it wasn’t abrasive rope but something more softer, and Ebra and Hazzia were having their bonds changed to be done with that silk-like fabric too, it was actually a good feeling... could it be possible that she was being tied up with white rope made of shilliak that wonderful (and pricey! – beyond exorbitant!) fabric from beyond the Great Barrier of Untuzzul?, and it was but a very simple tie crisscrossing her crossed wrists and connecting them to her tied (but not exactly together) elbows.
The thick cleave-gag now parting her lips was made of the same material.
‘Now... Ebra (?)... and you are... Hazzia (?)’ – both girls nodded and he bowed to them – ‘I am truly sorry but your past and present ordeal has but one cause, me. Many years ago, in order to set a trap for me, that dead littoi had three barmaids kidnapped after she made an agreement with the owner of the establishment they worked at...’ – the way the girls’ eyes bulged indicated that they did not knew that part of their plight – ‘...but for whatever reason she could have to do that, she killed the half-ogre and took the girls without bothering to recover the coins now drenched in the half-ogre’s blood. So, when I was told that Tallany here had not been kidnapped alone, and that the scumbag who sold you two along with the one I knew was going to be one way or another taken by them...’ – Come again? – ‘...was lying in a pool of his own blood still holding a few of the coins that they ‘paid’ for you three... well, I knew that she knew that I was behind it... since there’s no other explanation as to why she had you both taken along with Tallany. For that, and all the terror and discomfort that ensued for you both I, in my name and in the name of the Crown of Ughartios and in the name of the Guard of Kauurt, humbly apologize.’
And all the paladins in the rooftop followed him, kneeling with one foot touching the floor and bowing to the two bound and gagged barmaids, but then he was back to business.
‘Now you may be asking yourselves, ‘What now?’, am I correct?’
The two girls looked first at her and then at him.
‘Do you know that Korazzia of the House of Theus wanted really badly to know how the fruit of the lumanirz’s lands tastes?’ – None of them understood his question – ‘The former portreeve had them imported at a hefty sum to be served only to his ‘nieces’, but when they disappeared and he was actually arrested for treason against the crown, he sold himself to the littoi!, her husband became one of the provisory portreeves and she turned that manor upside down to find the fruit, and didn’t found none. She also did not found any of the ‘nieces’’ clothes, jewelry, perfumery..., and then we had to intervene because she started to ask too loud (...)’ – and he made an imitation of the famous nasalized voice – ‘...‘What kind of kidnappers steal that stuff along with their victims?’, which is why the rumors about that night now include a few opportunistic thieves..., but in the end all that we had to do was promise her was that she, alone, would be delighting herself with the next shipment of those... maypops (?)... Which is due to arrive in less than a week now. Now my dears Ebra and Hazzia, do you know what kind of ‘kidnappers’ would act that way?’
It took a while for Ebra to realize what he meant with the question, and the shove/hit she received from Hazzia’s right shoulder must had helped her somehow, but when she did it she shared the amazed look in her eyes with her fellow captive friends.
Then the Vulture took a step ahead and spoke to them:
‘Yes, I understand perfectly your disbelief, they are after all Paladins of the God of Justice and have committed a crime, a kidnapping. But, while it is not known by many, paladins of Galerr are allowed to commit ‘crimes’, phony ones, in order to prevent that real deal crimes happens. And what crime could be greater than allow the portreeve to sell all the military secrets and defenses of this town to the littoi Emperor in exchange of… well, you will all learn about it in the proper time. We had enough information to assure us that the *******, ******* and ****(!) (please pardon me such language...) was in league with the littoi, so a ‘kidnapping’ of his beautiful ‘nieces’ was the ruse we used to get access to his safes and the secrets kept in them... suffice to say is that the king is tempted to have him resurrected thirty times, so he can be properly executed in thirty one different and horrible ways!’
After her bonds were finally completed, why did he have to crisscross that rope between her breasts? (as if the answer wasn’t obvious!), the obviously womanizer (and pervert, big time!) Kottyos gently took her by her elbows and placed her in between her friends, and now all three girls were looking at each other trying to fully understand what they had just learned. The Vulture had to harrumph quite loudly to get their attention.
‘For our part, all those who took part in the ruse will have to ‘explain’ his actions to our lord Galerr, in my case with a semester of penitence and extra duties… As for the ‘nieces’ themselves, they are for the time being what you three shall become very soon, guests of the Palace of the Guard. We have a dungeon big enough to put all those littoi in it and still have space for the usual and common criminals we have to deal in a more regular base, but we also have many quarters good, big and comfortable enough for them and for you. If, for any moral reason you can come up with you don’t want to stay in the same aisle than them you won’t have to be afraid to be sent ‘downstairs’, there’s more than enough rooms for you to chose... but... it will come with a price.’
And Lezertos/Cremantios now stood besides him and spoke.
‘Namely, your recent memories. They are the reason as to why we are talking to three bound and gagged barmaids instead of simply be talking with three barmaids, aren’t they?’ – All three girls nodded in unison – ‘So we will have to take them away from your minds.’
Before the girls could react, either panicking or shrieking, the Vulture spoke in his best reassuring tone, and he was good enough to calm them even before he completed a phrase.
‘This is a world of magic and wonders my ladies, and spells to remove and erase unwanted memories are not exactly unknown to the human kingdoms. You will awake tomorrow in your new (provisory) rooms and guarded by some of my most trustworthy subordinates, and you will remember that you were kidnapped by the Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan and that you spent hours under their power, but everything that happened between you seeing this ‘dangerous criminal’ here removing his mask and the moment you wake up will be gone, forever. Honestly, I am not sure for how long you will be my guests, we will have to make you disappear probably...’ – he realized how bad it had sounded as soon as he finished saying it so he had to explain himself – ‘...not in the way that you are thinking! You, ‘Ebra’, this is not your real name is it?’ – Ebra shook her head intrigued on how could he know that – ‘I promise that we will try our best to place you somewhere safe and under the circumstances that are most pleasant for your tastes, but you will no longer answer to that name anymore. And the same goes for you ‘Hazzia’ and you ‘Tallany’, a not-so-simple change of identity, true, but that’s it. I promise.’
Before they could do anything both Hazzia and Ebra were carried bridal style out of the roof by two of the handsome paladins... handsome?
Wait a moment, while it was true that not all paladins were gorgeous looking men (or women in the orders/faiths that admitted them), save for the Vulture... one after another all the paladins that were still in the roof with her, and the two that were carrying her friends downstairs, were simply put gorgeous men!
‘Well, well, she seems to have realized it...’
‘A bit too obvious if you ask me...’
The two men in front of her, that should be enemies and not the big friends they obviously were, were looking at her with curiosity and concern.
‘You know... before they reach the first floor below us both girls will be receiving all the gallantry possible in such a situation, one more down they actually will be being courted by the paladins holding them, another floor and they will be under a spell that will put them to sleep in a dreamless state, in which they shall be evaluated by a Crown Mage as soon as they reach the back door of this building. If by ANY chance one or both of them isn’t what she seems to be and has some spell or magic on her mind and body, we will know and deal with it accordingly, but it’s more likely than in about one hour and a half they will be placed under the covers of the bed in which they will awake tomorrow...’
‘Of course, for it to work as smoothly as he is telling you, the girls must be very receptive to the spell that must be being cast right now, and like most tricksters that call themselves mages and show themselves in fairs and theaters for a silver coin or two, we decided to use beauty as the way to distract our audience (those two girls) before and while the trick was being done. Only this time instead of a sultry woman showing too much of her flesh, a pair of men showing their pretty faces and strong muscles... Imagine if I tried to do that!’
The self-depreciating tirade of the Vulture made her nod awkwardly, and now both men were flanking her and she was really feeling uneasy. The ‘thief’ on her left spoke.
‘Unfortunately, all spells that the Mage of the Kingdom, and any other Crown Mage knows, and that could be used to remove your knowledge about the recent events in this town would not be so effective as the one chose for your friends will be. For them it is a matter of erasing what, one hour? One and a half? Two, at most. But you... it’s been nine days since Oplin removed your blindfold and you found yourself naked, bound as if you were some fine delicacy and over a silver plate to boost!’
‘Fine delicacy’? She had been bound like a hog to be put in the oven! And he knew that!!!
‘We can’t simply see your memory of the events of the past days and pick which ones we want and leave the ones we want behind. The human mind don’t work that way, it does seems that this could be possible on a dwarf’s mind, and even in an elfish one, but not in the ‘mindkin’ shared by us humans. Leave a bunch of ‘holes’ in your memory could make you insane, erase the whole nine days might have the same effect (in the long run at least) and kill you for what you know is not an option either! And it is NOT because a good necromancer or spirit-talker, or whatever occupation that makes deal with dead souls a daily affair, could easily find you ‘still angry for having being killed because of that ****** secret!’ and be all ears to your undead rant... it’s because it’s wrong! And I may not be a paladin of Galerr, but I have my honor and pride! So what should we do with you?’
‘So the boy is now an apprentice at the Guard?’
‘Yes, usually they don’t take any that young, but she was adamant that he was to be granted shelter and training, and food of course, so Kellpkos came up with the idea, the two parted ways in the usual teary fashion and she left Kauurt while he was being introduced to his new room, since he’s supposed to have no relatives there wasn’t any reason at all for him to be at the port. His training will only start in a couple of years as its the usual way, but until then he will be under the guard of the whole Guard of Kauurt.’
‘She returned to her clan in the Thunder Hills, apparently running for her life and fearing her own shadows... and extremely rich, she used all the coins we gave her to buy horses, very good ones as it seems that she has a good eye for that, and wagons of food for her clan. From what I’ve been told they are treating her as if she was a divine messenger, she’ll be fine. And the ruse that she stole that money from ‘Lezertos’ is already well spread among all the coastal towns, ours and of the other kingdoms, including Litto.’
‘Not a chance that they know that she is the one that they are looking for?’
‘None, they know that all their plans for Kauurt started to fall down after their agents snatched another girl from the streets for the late portreeve’s abhorrent fantasies, but they still don’t know who this girl was, they have some suspicions but nothing pointing in her direction. Their agents have so far reported that the intended victim of that night was indeed a very beautiful full-human female, but nothing else, not even the color of her hair or her profession. We succeeded in blocking all magical contacts between the Deadly Scarlet Flower Clan and their base in Litto, as well as the more mundane ones, during those last days of their operations in that town. So they don’t know who she was, and for what we know they are still there looking for her...’
‘And with those horses and food she actually bought all protection available in her own clan... smart girl (...) can I... can we see her again please?’
The Mage of the Kingdom looked at his 17 years old king and sighed, again?
But what could he do about it? Tallany was that beautiful... so he extended his left arm, his clenched fist glowed for a moment and he opened his left hand. There, in the palm of the hand, stood a mirage image of the only person in the world, besides anyone under the authority of the boy in front of him, which knew about the Dancers.
‘A pity that she didn’t accept my... our... offer...’
‘I am sure that she did consider all the luxuries she could have had if she had, but alas...’ – she had ripped the letter with the ‘proposition’ in tiny little bits! And grabbed all the scattered pieces of parchment and thrown them into the nearest fire! – ‘...Besides I am sure that those jimenian twins and Fedura can easily make you forget her...’
‘Oh... they are trying...’
Not wanting to have the boy bragging, for the third time just today!, about how the ladies at his growing harem were dealing with the threat of an unknown beauty that most likely would never ever join them, they all looked at each other and the Duke of Tymmoa (his uncle) interceded with more practical matters.
‘And what can you tell us about the littoi plans for the upcoming war?’
‘Well, they are being reviewed and remade (if necessary), but nothing indicates that they will be put in action in this year as it was predicted that they would be...’
‘So we still have at least another half a year to get ready and learn as much as we can about their goals?’ – All four men and the woman, his older sister, in front of him nodded – ‘Ah... dear sister, we can’t thank you enough for convincing us to accept ‘Lezertos’’ idea...!!!’
‘There might be a problem with the Elven Nations...’ – said his uncle.
‘They know about the ‘Dancers’(?)...?’
‘They are starting to get wise about it...’
And so for the next half an hour they discussed what could and should do to keep Kauurt’s greatest military secret still a secret, especially for the Elven Nations! Then all parted ways and Betsabi, the royal princess (four years older than her brother the King, but Kauurt only had kings...), returned to her quarters escorted by two Crown Guards and her own personal bodyguard (and usually more according to some gossips) Aynla.
As soon as the heavy doors of the princess’ quarters were closed, by a couple of scantily clad (human) servants, all high elves removed their ‘glamour’ disguises.
The one impersonating Betsabi was as furious (with the – human! – naiveté of the king and his ‘most trusted’ servants) as terrified (with the fact that those accursed things still existed!) so she went straight to where the real Betsabi, the real Aynla and all the (only females) servants of this quarters were being held by the other agents.
She had a lot to answer!
(not) The End!