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Phaedara

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About Phaedara

  • Rank
    Fanatic
  • Birthday August 20

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    matrixfirefly

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  • Gender
    Female
  • Location
    Somewhere Dry and Dusty (Save me)
  • Interests
    Kicking arse and chewing bubblegum. And none of that spearmint crap--one whiff of that near me and I'll throw a fit!

    On a more serious note...
    I like drawing, Writing, playing video games & board games, hiking, and Airsoft--I can wreck you.

    No, not really. I'm more likely to be the one getting wrecked. Dem BBs hurt.
  • Occupation
    Veterinarian Technician

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  1. Winter's Tempest

    Aelyria pressed herself tight against the broken barrel beside the building after kicking the rock a few feet over, seeing her attempts to incite paranoia in Caliben's senses were successful. He had moved to the street now, which was a mild improvement, but he was still headed in the direction of the orphanage. She listened to his movements and the subtle shifts of his clothing as he looked around for his pursuer. For a moment, she worried she had pressed too hard and realized that he might not quite be the flight-type like herself... He may actually seek her out to fight and that was bad news. Aelyria stiffened and listened intently to him, prepping to run if he moved forward. In her intense focus, she didn't hear the cat approach her until it was too late, the feline already brushing up against her legs with a loud rumbling purr. She nearly squeaked and kicked at it defensively, but she caught herself in time and scowled. "Gods damn it, cat," she hissed under her breath. "Now is not the time." Lightly, she kicked it away with her boot, but it tried to rub against her again, taking the action as a sign of affection. So, she thwacked it hard on its rear like a misbehaving child and it skittered away, leaping across the street into an opposing alleyway. As inopportune the cat's needs for attention were, it also proved to be a good deviation for Caliben's searching eyes. At the very least, he could put some of his suspicion on the cat, but it meant she would have to start over. She nearly groaned with frustration, but with the situation so dire, she could only keep trying. So, she peeked over the barrel and saw Caliben turned away as she suspected, but he wasn't moving. Curious, she strained her eyes in the dark and search beyond him, seeing the emerging figures. Aelyria recognized the woman immediately and she growled. Petunia, that wench. There were not very many women in the underground crews, so it was fairly easy to learn who worked for which crew and what they did. Aelyria hadn't quite realized how deep the rivalries ran between the women and any time they were in the same room, you could practically hear them hissing at each other, tails flicking tauntingly like territorial cats. She had avoided is as long as she could until that one fateful day where Petunia attacked first, and ever since then it had been nothing but bad blood between them. But now was not the time for petty rivalry. She watched, anger building, as Petunia tossed the orphan child down, the girl's cheeks wet with tears. Aelyria couldn't blame the girl, who she recognized as Elsie, but as much as she wanted to reprimand the child, she currently feared more for her life. They might use the girl as hostage to keep Caliben to stay, but thankfully he didn't seem to have any plans to move, perhaps thinking the same thing. She clenched her fists closed with frustration. This is not good. Caliben can't run and--oh shit, don't tell me he's going to fight. She watched him unsheathe the rapier she had gifted him back in Valjer, and though a twinge of happiness tugged on her heart, she knew it was not the time. Right now, she had to somehow get him out of there--or somehow she had to help even though her hands were tied. Damned if I do, damned if I don't! In the tension, the orphan girl was slinking away, disappearing as all eyes focused on Caliben. At least that would be one less problem to deal with. In the dim light provided by the crew's lanterns, she saw Caliben dodge and a metal twang resonated into the night as the knife's blade struck into the ground across from her. She hadn't even seen the attack and was always marveled by his ability to see those things in time. "You leave me no choice, it's my turn," she heard him say, challenging them. Aelyria gritted her teeth and readied to leap out from the shadows to help fight when her eyes caught sight of something emerging from the alleyways across the street. Her eyes widened and she hunkered down further to avoid being spotted. "Looks like you're mistaken there, Moss. It's our turn." A tall and heavy-bellied man, followed by a sizable group of thugs behind him became visible in the orange glow of the lanterns. The woman sneered at them, her stance shifting in their direction. "What are you doing here, Kelset? You must have bathed recently for once--I didn't catch your stench from way over there." The man bared his teeth at her, waving the heavy iron mace in her direction. "What does it look like I'm here for? I'm here for my prize," he said, pointing his chin at Moss. "What are you doing here, Petunia? Let me guess, you've resorted to violence to bring men to your bed now? What, is your cavern of a vagina no longer appealing enough on its own anymore?" "You shut that foul-mouth of yours! Ugh! That rancid breath of yours is enough to make me gag from all the way over here!" The rival crews began to turn their attention more and more to each other as the tensions between them rose. Aelyria peeked up curiously, looking for an opportunity for Caliben to maybe run, but there were still too many eyes on him. Then, as if her prayers had been answered, she heard shuffling behind, coming from the opposite side of the street as the first crew. She repositioned herself to avoid being spotted by them, but that hardly required much work at this point. "What in the world are you two fuck-faces arguing about now?" The third crew leader led his group at the apex of a near triangular formation, his short sword already drawn and ready. "I hope it's not over our bounty. This is our turf after all and you're all standing in it." "The hell you talking about, Risc," the woman said. "No one has turf in the Pits or are you too shit-faced as usual to realize where you're even standing?" "It borders our turf! It's close enough!" As the crews squabbled back and forth, Aelyria spotted an opportunity. The confusion and tension had everyone pointing their weapons at each other rather than their prime target, Caliben. Not seeing a better chance, she pried out two vials filled with gray-murky fluid and tossed them near Caliben's feet. They shattered on the stone and instantaneously, a plume of thick, noxious smoke enveloped him and spread quickly over the crews in their surprised dismay. She quickly covered her mouth with the hood's mask and leapt over the barrels into the smoke. If she hadn't kept her eyes peeled on Caliben, she might have lost him in the screening smoke and wouldn't have been able to pinpoint him among all the other coughing and gagging bodies. But, she found him, pulling him to her to confirm it was indeed his face she saw. "Cal, it's me! Cover your mouth and come on, let's go!" She grasped his hand and tugged him to follow, knowing he might be too disoriented to do it on his own. They ran into an open alleyway away from the street, breaking free from the smoke that continued to stun everyone else. Much to her pleasure, she heard the crews yelling at each other and begin to blindly fight in the smoke, chaos fully unleashed. She couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to escape both the crews and Tye's eyes as well. Now, they had to get somewhere safe and the only place she could think was the last place she wanted to go.
  2. Winter's Tempest

    Reflexively, Aelyria hunkered down slightly at Caliben's emergence from the burning building. She cursed herself for the reflex, having wanted to keep herself slightly exposed for his observance and it would be too out of character now to stand back up in front of Tye. So, she remained where she was, scanning him over from the distance. There were traces of ash on his skin from the smoldering structure, but overall he looked to be in good health with no visible traces of burns. There did, however, seem to be something different about him. Maybe his face? His stance? She couldn't determine exactly what it was that bothered her. What in the world were you doing in there, Caliben? Her eyes shifted back over to the flames, the house licking the darkening sky with its orange tongue and upon closer inspection, she could see the soft halo surrounding it like an invisible barrier, where the falling snow melted instantaneously in the warm air. Not wanting to lose track of him, she looked back after him and saw him slipping towards an alleyway. Without signaling her leave to Tye, she took off across the street when all eyes--if any--were plastered on the burning building spectacle. She chased after Caliben, sliding into the alleyway soundlessly, the darkness in between the buildings embracing her like a welcomed friend. She caught trace of him up ahead and kept her distance as well as she could, noting he moved with purpose... And in the direction of the orphanage. No no, don't go there damn it. The last thing she needed was to put the orphans on the radar of the crew, but she couldn't blame him for going there. After all, she did tell him to return and a part of her was glad he was holding onto his promise. Go somewhere else! Anywhere else! Panic rising, she realized she had to do something to give herself away. No, she couldn't expose herself yet--the crew knew she wasn't that sloppy--but she could make a small mistake. A noise or anything to make him paranoid, look around him and think about shifting directions. She let her footsteps fall heavier with more traction than usual and occasionally let her elbows scrap against the wall, a light scratching sound that she normally wouldn't ever dare to make. She didn't need him to hear everything--she just needed to get the collective sounds and feel uneasy. Thankfully, it seemed to be working as he turned his head and look over his shoulder suspiciously. Good. Now go somewhere else. Go to the tavern! Somewhere where there's lots of people. Gods, if only she were a damned telepath. If she could just tell him what to do, it would make things so much easier. Instead, it was only getting more and more complicated. She had to somehow get Caliben to safely leave the city while also trying to 'capture' him for the crew's mission. On top of that, she had to keep her double life at the orphanage a secret from both the crew and the orphans, of which was getting more difficult with Marshall's recruitment into the crew. And, icing on the cake, she also had to keep her dark, insidious magic with the delicate balancing act of keeping the inner demon fed and happy with stolen souls a fucking secret from everyone. The stress of it all was enough to make her want to just throw up her hands and run. Instead, she gritted her teeth and focused on the task at hand: saving Caliben's life.
  3. Winter's Tempest

    Perched against the wall behind an empty, decayed water barrel, Aelyria honed her eyes on the building across the street where Caliben was suspected to be inside. She narrowed her eyes, wishing somehow she could penetrate those walls with her vision and see if he truly was in there and if there was any way she could help him escape without being seen. Unfortunately, the house looked pretty plain and singular from the outside and even then there was no chance of him escaping Junai's eyes, not at least without her help. Idly her fingers played with the flap of one of her pouches, knowing she didn't have enough of the concoction to be useful. She had to get back to the orphanage and retrieve more. "So, tell me, honestly, what do you think?" As if a lasso had suddenly jerked her back from the hurricane of her turbulent thoughts and onto steady ground, Aelyria reeled her eyes towards Tye, his expression questioning her but with the usual lines of humor traced on his cheeks. Had he been talking this whole time? She looked around her, realizing where they were. When in the world did they get to this dark alleyway? Did they get here discreetly? Or had they just blindly clamored down the stairs and decided to stand here? Tension drew her shoulders tight and she sighed, palming her forehead and rubbing the sides with irritation. "I don't know Tye," she grumbled, slapping her hand back down to her side. "What did you say?" The laugh lines on his face smoothed, his disappointment showing more earnestly these days. "I said... I said I was thinking that maybe we should just turn this guy in. We should just collect the bounty and maybe we...together...could leave town. Start somewhere new. I know how you said you always wanted to go to Aelindra. So let's go there, Lil. Just you and I. Let's get away from all of this." He spread his arms, his eyes sweeping the shambling walls around them before returning back to her with a hopeful smile. At first, Aelyria wanted to be appalled by the idea. How dare he insinuate they were even on such terms. Run away together? Elope like some care-free pair of lovers so devoted to each other that they'd sacrifice everything just to be together? Her thoughts must have showed at least a little on her face for his smile began to sink and the hurt in his eyes tugged on her heartstrings harder than she had thought possible. Why did she find the idea of actually being together with him so repulsive? He had been nothing but good to her the time they've been together, and he honored her demands for secrecy without sedition. Could they be together? If, for just a moment, she took the time to stop pitying herself, could what they have actually turn out good for her? Could she... be happy? Without realizing it, Aelyria had crossed her arms defensively. This was Kaede all over again. He takes one step forward and she takes two steps back, and yet he'll keep pushing forward, trying vainly to close the ever growing distance between them. How could she be so cruel? She turned her head away, seeing his arms drop to the side from the corner of her eyes, defeated. "I can't. I just can't. This is my home now, Tye. What you're saying could get you killed, you know that?" She shook her head, mumbling under her breath, "And I'm not worth it." The confusion on his face expressed his inability to hear her trailing voice, and the stretching silence between them put him on edge. He didn't want her to see how much he was hurt, so he did what he did best. He resorted to humor. "Yeeaaah, you're probably right," he said with a forced chuckle. "It's good thing Gareth isn't here, huh? It's so damned creepy how crazy good that elf's ears are--excuse me--half-elf." He paused for a moment and then shivered. "Shit, I feel like just saying his name is enough to catch his attention. He could be miles away and I bet you he can hear me now, making that disapproving scowl of his." He made what Aelyria guessed was supposed to be some semblance of Gareth's angry scowl. Admittedly, she found it funny and the twinge of a smirk escaped her control. It was enough. Tye caught it and smiled, confidence returning. There is just no tearing this guy down for long, is there? The thought made her heart ache more. "Anyway," he continued, rubbing the back of his neck as his eyes turned to the street, looking out towards the building. "As much as the bounty is, I hear Aelindra is expensive as hell. We'd be penniless by the end of the month, especially since I hear the underground gambling houses are pretty brutal. And you know how fond I am on losing my money on cards." He winked at her with that goofy smile plastered on his face, and she snickered this time. "Wouldn't expect any less of you," she said teasingly. "But, seriously... how much is the bounty now anyway? I'd expect it to spike after word got out about Moss' return. Lyles really loves pitting all the crews at each others throats." Tye snapped his eyebrows up in surprise. "Did you not get to look at the flyer Auron had?" Aelyria paused before answering, thinking back to the room. She shook her head. "No. I think Marshall left with it." "Hmm, I think I have one on hand from earlier," he said, snapping open a pouch on his bandolier. He pulled out a folded sheet of paper from inside and handed to her. "There ya go." Curiously she unfolded the leaflet. However, what her eyes found first was not the massive bounty at the top of the page, bold and kerned tightly to fit the string of numbers. No, what her eyes feasted on was the image just below the price. Caliben's face, sketched with surprising accuracy. Her heart skipped a beat, panic gripping it tight with realization. Marshall saw this. He's bound to see Caliben anyway, but... he saw him first at the orphanage. She bit her lip, cringing slightly at the pain. Marshall will likely be as desperate to please the crew as she was when she first joined. Is...is he capable of betraying her? Of course he is. There is no one you can trust. The Urge, like a slithering snake slowly coiled its body around her mind, gripping onto it and whispering somber ambivalence. She grit her teeth, keeping her head turned from Tye so he couldn't see the distress on her face. Stop. Marshall wouldn't. He'd have to explain how he'd seen Caliben with me. That would mean exposing the orphanage, and he would never do that. If you are so sure, then why do I taste such, mhmm, delicious fear flooding our soul? Ooo, how it makes me shiver. Aelyria pressed her eyes closed tight, willing the Urge to disappear. Leave me alone. It is my soul, not yours. Just leave... me... alone! Before the Urge could retaliate, a voice snapped her back into reality. She turned to Tye, who looked perplexed with her strange shift in attitude, and he shook his head. No, he was no the source of the voice. He pointed up and she traced his finger to the edge of the rooftop of the building she had been leaning on. "Something is happening," Junai said, his slanted amber eyes narrowed further with consternation as he looked down at them. He pointed his head in the direction of the house across the street, and she looked. Nothing seem out of place, but then again she didn't have Junai's unique eyesight. She looked back up at him and shrugged. "He did something in there. It's all lit up in here and I can't discern his body from whatever it is he did." "Uh... Do you think maybe he set fire to something?" Tye said, pointing at the building's roof. Aelyria followed his finger and saw it now, shock alight on her face. Smoke, thick black and heavy trailing from the rooftop, burning from the inside out. Aelyria spun her head up at Junai, growling. "You don't see him? At all?!" It was difficult keeping the panic from her voice, and the sharpness of it surprised both the men. Junai turned his eyes back to the smoking building, mouth skewing with concentration. "No, I don--wait. There. He's going down. He's going to leave." Tye knelt down behind the barrels, peeking out. They were well hidden enough in the alleyway, but habit to hide was hard to break sometimes. "What do we do?" Aelyria wanted to step out from behind the barrels, to expose herself. I need him to see me. I need him to use his eyes to catch a glimpse of me. He needs to know he's in danger. "We wait. We can't do anything about a burning building, and as long as he walks out alive, we don't interfere." He will leave the building alive... right? She wished she had pried for more information from him. She realized she didn't know him at all. Why...why would he set fire to a building? And why this building? "Then, we trail him. Wait for an opportunity. I go first. Tye, you follow from further behind. Junai... Is Marshall up there with you?" Slowly, Junai shook his head. "I went over the details and sent them back to hideout. We'll need more people for this, I think." She couldn't decide yet if that was a good or bad thing, so she dropped it. "Fine. Stay here. Explain what has happened when they get here." Aelyria didn't bother to look up to see if he would comply. She knew he would, considering how little he cared to argue back. So, with anticipation heavy in the air, they waited for their target to emerge, the flames growing wildly with each passing second.
  4. Winter's Tempest

    Aelyria stalked the trio in frigid silence, her eyes unable to peel themselves off of Marshall's head. She went over their brief spat, brooding over what she could've said differently to convince him. There were a million different things she could've said or done, but would it have even mattered? It was too late. Marshall had joined the crew and once you did that, there was no backing out of it. The only way to leave the crew was to mess up so bad that you had to be removed... forcibly. Either you got very lucky and left with a few broken bones, cuts, and severe concussion, or you 'vanished'. Most often, it was the latter. After all, it was impossible to erase all the confidential information about the crew from someone's memory without bashing their heads in, so it was either you left as a potato or you died trying to become one. She thought back on the months she had spent with this group, on all the trials and tribulations it took her to finally be accepted. Sure, she joined easily enough, since she had proven to be adept enough to be enlisted as a sleuth until they bumped up her status to assassin once they learned her rapport for killing. But to actually be considered a 'comrade' among their ranks had taken a lot of tiptoeing and careful manipulation to gain their favor. However, thinking on it now, she knew it wouldn't take much for any of them to turn on her. All Auron, the leader of the crew, had to do was merely eye roll the insinuation that he wanted it done and she would find any of the other members with a knife pressed against her throat. 'Friendship' didn't exist in this world and somehow she had duped herself into believing it might just be possible. The disturbing truth Aelyria found herself face to face with was that even if Marshall knew what she had learned, it wouldn't have mattered. He cared more for the orphans than she could ever hope to, even if he couldn't bring himself to openly admit it. There was not a doubt in her mind that he'd sacrifice everything for them. And that thought scared her. In her lamenting rumination, she hadn't caught on initially to what their destination was. However, as the terrain became uncomfortably familiar, she peered up at the walls closing in around them and easily recognized their decrepit, crumbling state. "The Pit?" she asked, without realizing she had done it aloud. "Yeah, isn't it beautiful?" Tye said, sneering. "Don't know why the city council would ever consider tearing this place down." Aelyria felt her eye twitch, a pang of animosity at his comment towards the district. She bit down her anger--a thing she found herself doing often these days--and asked in a cool tone, "The council is going to tear the pit down? Why?" "Why?" He spun his head to look over his shoulder at her, incredulous. "You're not serious are you? Look at this place! Do you see this pile of dog--" But before he could finish, Tye came to an abrupt stop, a body blocking his way. He turned to see a stony-faced man, with dark hair and amber slanted eyes staring at him from beneath a black hooded cape. "Shit! Junai! Say something next time will you man?! I'd like to die old, fat, happy man, and not from a premature heartattack!" Russ nearby chuckled, having stopped as soon as he had recognized the ominous figure step from the dark alcove nearby. Junai looked over them carefully, noting the new member but showing little acknowledgement. "You should learn to be more quiet. I may not have Gareth's ears, but any fool with an ear drum could hear your blathering miles away." Junai, one of their best scouts, was generally a reserved sort of small fellow, but he often didn't refrain from showing his disdain for Tye. At the moment, Aelyria couldn't blame him. He moved to the side, gesturing to a door barely holding onto the frame by its hinges. "Inside, second floor." Without further instructions, he turned and scaled up the wall with such finesse that she could only hope to one day master. Tye, looking a bit perturbed, shrugged off what he could and led the group inside the abandoned building. It looked much the same as the orphanage had before she started putting money into repairs to save the crumbling floors and decaying walls. As much as she couldn't blame the city for wanting to tear down the district, it had become her home and if it went, where would the children go when no one wanted them? On the second floor, they found an open door. Tye and Russ stepped inside without hesitation, but Marshall paused, sparing Aelyria a glance. The Pit was a home to both of them and a crew being here never meant good news. The district was so battered and seedy that even all the gangs avoided the area. That's what made it safe for Aelyria and for the children. Why were they here? Aelyria shook her head in silent response. She couldn't give him an answer since she was just as clueless. But having Auron here personally? It made her even more apprehensive. So, anxiously they walked into the room to find two other men aside from Tye and Russ, standing by an open window. One man, with a hawk-like face and a large, bumpy wart on his brow, looked up at Aelyria and scowled as he always did in her presence. Initially she had suspected he did this with everyone--since in some degree he did--but she learned that he had a special kind of scowl for her to accentuate his dislike for her 'womanly whims', though his eyes often told a different, vile story. He was leaning against the window frame and scarcely budged at their arrival. There was no pretending to be 'comrades' with him. Facing towards the open window to stare out into the street was a tall man, his thick bare arms crossed over his wide chest, clothed in an sleeveless vest. He waited until the footsteps had echoed into silences, before turning his oiled bald head in a sidelong glance at the group. His strong jaw and cold, discriminating eyes matched the intensity of his muscular form, and it was hard not to feel intimidated by him. Aelyria to this day still had chills any time she had to confront him about a mission, even a successful one. Auron turned his eyes back to the street, contemplating in the unnerving silence when to speak. Apparently, he decided not for long for he turned from the window and stepped away, letting the other man peer out in his stead. "I see you've brought the new recruit," Auron mused, his voice as thunderous as a lightning storm, yet as soft as the flap of a dove's wings. Aelyria could see Marshall recoil slightly under his penetrating gaze, but that was a fairly common reaction to first meeting the crew leader. "I'm glad you're here too, Lillian. We might need your hand in this one." She nodded briefly in response, but it's not like she could ever have said no to him. To do otherwise might mean her throat. "By now, you've probably heard the news. If not, then I'll update you." He paused as if to gather his thoughts on what to say, keeping his arms crossed. "Moss is back in town." Aelyria's jaw clenched and her eyes hardened. She knew they would find out soon enough, it was only a matter of time. "For those who don't know him," he continued, "He was involved with another crew back in the day. The details are a bit messy and not really important right now. If you consider it, he was a nobody in the grand scheme of things... until recently." Auron reached for something in his back pocket and handed it to Tye, who took one fleeting glance at it and handed off to Russ. "Lyles is looking for him. We don't know why, but the bounty on his head is staggeringly high for a 'nobody'. That means this man is important to him in some shape or form. With him back in town means every crew out there is on the hunt for that reward money. We need to get him first." Russ, who continued to turn the paper from side to side as if to inspect every angle of it, chimed in. "Git 'im first and wha'? Turn 'im in?" Before Auron could reply, a cackling laugh drew their attention to the window. The man standing there curled his lip at them, skewing his features into a whole new level of unattractive. "Ha! Turn him in? To Lyles? Our enemy? You might as well just give him the directions and pass code to the safe house if you really want to fuck us over. We should kill Moss." Reflexively, Aelyria started as if to retort, but a different voice spoke for her, much to her surprise. "That's stupid." All eyes on the room turned to the unfamiliar voice, with the man at the window scowling at him. Marshall, looking suddenly bug-eyed and nervous, nearly looked ready to stand down. But, to his credit, he cleared his throat and broadened his shoulders as if to give him stability despite his uncertainty. "Killing him wouldn't be any better. If Mr. Lyles wants this Moss guy so bad that he's putting a big bounty on his head, then we should capture him and find out why. The whole point of this crew is to undermine Mr. Lyles as the King of the Underground, right?" "That and get filthy rich," said Russ with a grin. "Well, yeah, but that won't happen if Mr. Lyles keeps stealing it all from the underground crews. Killing this guy might not be what hurts Mr. Lyles the most. Maybe this guys knows something about Mr. Lyles or some other connection. Shouldn't we, like, find out what?" Marshall nervously bounced his eyes around the room, looking for support. He looked last at Aelyria, who looked away, not able to give him the back up he wanted. Moss was Caliben after all. Last thing she needed was him dead. A rumbling chuckle drew everyone's attention back to Auron, who took a giant step forward and heartily thumped Marshall on the shoulder. "I like you, kid. See, Crespin, you should get off your perch every now and then and work on the streets. It gives you a way of thinking you don't get up there, glowering over everyone." The man by the window scoffed and turned his head away, back towards the street. Marshall, feeling a bit more confident now smiled. "And then maybe we can turn him in still? Anonymously of course. We'd get the money still and reap the rewards double fold. How much was it anyway?" "Oh," Russ looked up and handed over the leaflet he forgotten he had still. "Info is on there, yeah?" "I like the idea," Auron conceded with the nod of his head. "The option may not be available to us, however. Depending on what this Moss character says--and how much trust we feel we can put in his words--we may not have the choice to turn him in. We may have to right out kill him." The pit of her stomach dropped and Aelyria swallowed hard in response. This is not good. "Whatever the case, we have to act fast," he continued. "Other crews are out there, I'm sure, looking for him. Lucky for us, we know where he is." What?! "Russ. Take our young recruit, Marshall, and head up to the rooftops with Junai. He'll clue you in to the details up there." "C'mon Recruity," Russ said, tugging lightly on Marshall's shoulder when he didn't budge, eyes plastered on the leaflet. "Oh," he said, shaking himself free from the reverie, sparing a final glance at Aelyria. "Okay." The two left the room, their footsteps creaking down the stairs. Auron turned to Tye briefly before turning back to the window. "Good. And I want you on the ground floor with Lillian, guarding her back." Aelyria, perplexed by the request stepped up beside him and peered out as well into the street below. The snow was falling lighter now--it was doomed to never really gain any momentum--and the street below was mostly bare of anyone except for a few desperate beggars. "Guarding my back? For what?" He didn't reply right away, but instead jutted his chin to where he wanted her eyes to follow across the street. "See there? That shabby little house there by the pastry shop?" "I see it. What of it?" "That is where our wanted man is. Right as of this moment." Auron turned his head to her, reading her aloof reaction, one she feigned as much as she possibly could. For a moment, she thought he saw through her, but he looked away again without mention. "I want you to get him somewhere quiet, away from prying eyes. Seduce him, drug him, whatever it is you do, do it. You have until the end of the night to get him to me, or we force our hand and kill him outright. It's better we get to him before any of the other crews capture him and turn him over, got it?" In the back of her mind, the Urge tittered incessantly, relishing in the dilemma. "Got it."
  5. Winter's Tempest

    If it hadn't been for Russ' insistent yammering, the cold sting of Aelyria's silence might have brought unwanted attention to her. It was difficult processing what she had just discovered, her eyes drilling holes into the back of Marshall's dark hair. Was there really nothing left for her to do to save him? Was he forever lost to her? Thankfully, he was smart enough to pretend he didn't know her, which she feigned in turn. That meant he at least understood the importance of keeping their involvement in the orphanage a secret from the crew. Yet here they were, walking down the cold damp alleyways, Russ and Tye in the front bickering back and forth over some trivial topic like usual as they led them towards the rallying point to meet Junai. Their debate carried loud enough over their heads that when they turned a corner, they didn't hear the scuffle of feet and the light, brief gasp that escaped Marshall before Aelyria clamped his mouth shut, hand pressed against it as she pinned him to the wall. Marshall struggled at first, eyes burning with a mixture of fear and rage. He certainly did not expect the small woman to be so damned strong. "You fucking idiot!" she hissed, keeping her voice as muted as possible despite the waves of anger threatening to break free from deep within. "Do you realize what you've done? What joining this crew means will happen?!" She let go of his mouth and back away, but not without a petty, forceful push back into the wall--not enough to hurt him, but enough to get her point of frustration across. Scowling, Marshall pushed himself of the wall and took a step towards her. "Yeah, I know. I means we'll have more money. More money for the orphans, more money to buy food." "Money?" Aelyria looked incredulous, her nose scrunched. "Money?! We have money. We'd have more of it if you took that job at the warehouse like I told you to. It was a good job, a great one. Do you realize how much convincing it took the loadmaster to give you a chance after you fucked it up the first time?" "Really? You want me to spend my life hauling crates back and forth like some pack mule?" Marshall scoffed, shaking his head in disbelief. "No, Marshall. But some opportunities can lead to other opportunities, you know? That is, of course, assuming you even take the time to put some goddamn effort into it." He scoffed again, crossing his arms this time. "Yeah, well your opportunity sucked. This one is much better. And higher paying too. And don't give me that bullshit about making a better life for myself speech you give the other orphans," he said, pointing at her intently, stopping her in the tracks of making such a speech. "You're such a fucking hypocrite! Look at you! Did you really think you could hide what you are from us forever? You don't think Kitty, who fucking adores you, hasn't seen the blood under your nails and boots?" "I'm a healer too, Marshall," she said through clenched teeth. "Blood is to be expected." "Yeah, well, so are the cuts and bruises on your face right? The wounds you wince at any time you move the wrong way? You forget that the more you teach Kitty how to treat wounds, the more she's going to become aware of them. Did you ever think about that?" No, she hadn't. Why hadn't she? Truth was, she really didn't plan for any of this to happen. The orphanage was only supposed to be a temporary solution, yet she had stayed. Union City was only supposed to be temporary too... Yet she stayed. Why? Was she really here to get revenge on Mr. Lyles? Or was that only to pass the time? Aelyria sighed, keeping her arms down and clenching her fists as if to relieve the tension in them. "Look, you're right. Maybe I shouldn't have tried to hide what I've been doing from all of you. Trust works both ways and I've been denying you that. But you can have a better life than this. You're smart and determined when you set yourself to something. I've seen it in you, many times. You don't have to do...this." She gestured down at herself, the knives, blades, poisons... the tools involved in the trade of death. Marshall shook his head, pivoting away from her towards the direction of the others. "You're wrong. You chose this life, Aelyria. I don't have a choice. My life had been decided a long time ago when my mother abandoned me. The things I did to just fucking survive in the pit will always haunt me... This is good as it gets for me. Maybe the other orphans have a chance. But I don't." Without waiting for a response, he ventured down the alleyway after the oblivious duo who hadn't even notice them gone. Just as well, Aelyria thought. She didn't even have a response to give.
  6. Winter's Tempest

    Darkness greeted Aelyria. Softly, she cursed in that strange language of hers and thrust her hands forward, searching. They must have forgotten to keep the door open again. No matter how many times I remind them, they won't remember will they? Men! Her foot hit something hard enough to incite a reaction out of her, hissing through bared teeth. Probably the potato sack, she thought. It felt lumpy enough. Eventually, her hands found the flat hard surface of the door and after a bit more blind scavenging, she found the wooden knob and turned it. Light blinded her, flooding the tiny food pantry where she had come from. She stepped into a modest-sized kitchen where the iron stove burned hotly nearby. A skinny--almost fragile looking--man turned his head up at her entrance, his attention diverted away from the cutting of green onions on the center island where he worked. He had a thin, patchy blond mustache and a nose too large and crooked for his gaunt face. Despite his outward appearance, the man no thicker than a stick was the best cook she had ever had the pleasure to eat food made by and he was perhaps the biggest fan of his own fare. Where all the calories went, she never could figure out. "Afternoon Eldris," she said, shedding the mask and hood. "Smells good, but I won't be staying for dinner as much as I'd wish to. Are the others in?" Eldris shrugged, pointing his chef's knife in the direction of the closed door that led out from the kitchen on the opposite side of the pantry. As if to answer her question for him, a man shouted something unintelligible which was followed by a series of laughs from others. "You tell me." "Right," she droned and walked across the room to the door to exit, but not before turning around and pointing at him intently. "You still owe me that pastry puff. We wagered, I won. You owe me!" But before he could refute her demand, she left the kitchen and into a small but empty dining hall, large enough to fit ten people comfortably, fifteen if they pushed it which they often did for celebrations like the one they had just the other day. Essentially, the hideout was more than just a safe haven for the crew to get together and discuss operations. It was a place for those to stay and live, which most of them did. After all, room and board taken from their income was cheaper than having to pay for a place out in town. She passed through the dining hall through an open archway that led into a hallway that split off in either direction. Right to the quarters, left to the 'war room'--a term Russ so fondly called the meeting hall until it stuck with the rest of the crew, according to Tye. Aelyria turned left, towards the boisterous clamor of men talking in that unreserved kind of way that came with friendly familiarity. The war room, well-lit by lantern light, cast out a warm glow from its archway and spilled into the hallway, inviting her further. She paused, listening to the men and grabbing at hints of their conversation. But before she could get the gist of it, a voice called out to her from the room. "It's rude to eavesdrop, Lillian." Aelyria cursed, almost sure this time she was able to avoid Gareth's sharp elven hearing. Technically, he was a half-elf, but that didn't make his hearing any less extensive in this case. She stepped into the light and saw the men standing in a circle beside the rickety wood table that housed various maps of the city on different levels, but only Gareth and Tye were looking up at her arrival. Gareth had that typical stone-faced look on his lean face, but she could swear there were traces of a smug grin beneath that stoic exterior. It was a sort of cat-mouse game they shared without ever vocalizing it and it was the only bonding activity they really shared. Tye, however, had that look on his face again. She avoided his gaze and walked towards the group, stopping a few feet away, partly because she didn't like getting so close, and partly because a few of them hardly had a good washing in a few days. "Lilly!" A man, his skin nearly as dark as night, turned from the group of five men, not to include Gareth or Tye, and wrapped his stunningly long arm around her shoulders, hugging her towards him. He towered over her so much that her eyes barely met him just below his apex, and he was the tallest of all the other crew members. He gave her a toothy grin, the ivory white a stark contrast to his ebony skin. "You are here! I had begun to think that perhaps you would not be here today. You drank so much!" He let go of her shoulders, gesturing wildly with large hands. He brought them to his head and mimicked an explosion, twittering his fingers. "My head felt like it would explode this morning when I awoke. I am surprised a tiny girl like you would be even standing." Aelyria's lips skewed. Why did she pick the damned name Lillian? She should've known the nickname would've been Lilly, an immensely feminine name that didn't fit the persona she wanted to portray. Unfortunately, it stuck and there was no repairing the damage it created. "I didn't drink that much. Le'oshi, I think your memory is warped from you drinking too much. In fact, I specifically remember you strewn across the floor before I left and something about the others trying to figure out how many coins you were tall." "We never did figure that out," said another man, gruff-looking with dark hair and a thick beard, but earnest eyes. "Russ kept stealing them all." A younger, auburn-haired man on the other side of the group perked up at his name mentioned and grinned. "You're just in time, Lil," the gruff man continued. "We were just about the show the new recruit the ropes. Maybe you could take him on his first scouting mission, see how he holds up." She quirked her eyebrow at Anthar, peering over his shoulder to get a closer look at the new member that they circled around. "New recruit?" Then, as if the question were a command, the group parted. In the middle stood a young man, but still a boy in her eyes. He met her gaze with his hardened hazel-green eyes, the contrast to his jet black hair making them even more intense as they locked onto her. The color from her face drained and suddenly she felt colder in the warmth of the room than she did exposed outside in the chilled wind. He had the decency to look sheepish at first, but it was quickly followed by a firmness in his expression--a defiance. She knew then, she had indeed lost him. She lost Marshall.
  7. Winter's Tempest

    The path Aelyria took from the Pit Orphanage to her crew's hideout tended to vary often. It was a practice she had to pound into her head to get used to and a critical one at that. Every now and then, she would pause and pretend to be distracted by something in the alleyways, or adjust her leather outfit while she searched for anyone tailing close by from her peripheral vision. She was committed to keeping her peaceful life at the orphanage separate from the dirty business of her chosen career as an assassin-slash-thug, so she took extra precautions to see it was kept that way. Sometimes the path took her to the streets or through the alleyways. Some times, they took her to the rooftops where she bounded across the shingles as light as a bird fluttering from perch to perch. Other times, she slunk through various shops, taverns or even a few houses (though mostly abandoned ones), stealthily maneuvering through doors to cut down on time and shake off any followers. She didn't have many of them these days, but in the beginning the children were persistent in finding out more about her secrets and it took even months to finally bore the bravest children who didn't know how to give up yet. Aelyria ducked under a clothesline strung low across the alley in a district a few divisions away from the Pit district. The buildings here were less detriment than the Pit, but it was obvious that its occupants were no where near being as well off as the wealthier districts, where the walls were pristine and roads well maintained. At least this district had functioning oil street lamps for the night, even if they were not the magi-tech lamps that lined the streets of the rich, all of who took it for granted. Just after the clothesline, she turned a sharp corner and found herself at a dead end with no doors or windows in sight. Aelyria took one last look over her shoulder to make sure no one had followed, but only the puff of warm breath stirring from her lips indicated any hint of life. She turned back to the wall, eyes habitually falling onto the cracked brick. With ritualistic motion, she lifted her hand and pressed her fingertips onto the rough surface, it stark cold of it nearly causing to her retract with surprise. "Let your demons run loose." The words came barely louder than a whisper, but it was enough to vitalize the enchantment with the pass code accepted. There were no theatrics to this enchantment, no shimmering lights or shifting, noisy changes to architecture to make way for her entrance. Those things would defeat the purpose of being covert. Instead, there was only a slight flicker in the way the natural light reflected off the brick to indicate something had indeed change. If she hadn't been attentive to the detail, she might have never known the enchantment had been activated. Without hesitation, she stepped into the brick wall, her leg slipping through the illusion with no feedback. Aelyria quickly passed through it onto the other side, the enchantment pausing for a moment before activating again, this time solidifying the entrance and leaving no trace of her behind.
  8. Winter's Tempest

    Skeptically, Aelyria narrowed her eyes at him, scanning him for the trace of a lie. As much as she has improved at reading people, she found it difficult to assess him so she had no choice but to trust his word on the matter. Cautiously, she nodded and showed no signs she would pursue him. Perhaps there were some things he'd rather keep private and who was she to argue against it? It would also give her some time to take care of other matters, in particular with the crew. She needed to know how much information they knew about Caliben's arrival, if at all. Hopefully everything had been swept under the rug and only those two now deceased thugs were the only ones to have been enlightened. "Alright," she said taking another step back. "But don't do anything I wouldn't. The first patch up on that wound was on the house, but the second time you've got to cough up a decent sum for." She grinned lightly but couldn't gauge his reaction before the door creaked closed behind him. The silence of his departure struck her suddenly, the cold intensifying even though the door was no closed. A moment passed as she let the quiet envelope her thoughts, the stillness wrapping its arms gently around her comfortingly. She might have lost herself in it if not for the sudden laughter of children behind her, young toddlers running up the stairs as quickly and deftly as they could manage with their clumsy limbs. She shook her head and drew away from the reverie of the deep trance. There were things yet to do. Bracing against the cold, Aelyria pulled open the door and charged into the unfolding winter scene. The snow was indeed falling, but it was a weak, pitiful snowfall that did not even catch on the ground long enough to stick before melting away. It was nothing compared to the thick blanket of snow in Valjer. Events had transpired so fast she hadn't even the opportunity to take off her cloak when inside, so she pulled up the hood and the accompanying mask to keep the chilled wind from biting at her ears and cheeks. A thought crossed her mind to look for Caliben and she caught herself look for any sign of him. However, he had taken off relatively quickly and not wanting to push the matter, she drew her attention away and towards the alleyways that would take her to the crew's underground hideout.
  9. Winter's Tempest

    Aelyria nodded hesitantly in agreement. He was right, again. He posed a risk to the children with the high price over his head and thinking back on it now, it was stupid to even bring him here. She should've known better than to risk the children's lives, so why did she bring him here? She watched him leave, mulling over the thought and too afraid to stop him. But why? Why was she afraid? Because it means you've admitted to being selfish. She bit her lip, threw down her arms, and chased after him. Although she didn't know the reasons behind her selfishness, she had wanted him to stay. Aelyria had to figure out what this connection was between them and why destiny had pulled them together that fateful, cold night in Valjer, tethering her to him by this unyielding ghostly thread. Flying down the stairs, she caught the sound of what had to be his 'farewell' to Mikya. The ass! It made her angry he was just leaving like this, but she knew she had little weight on his decision to stay. There was no denying his reasoning to leave as it should have been her same conclusion as well. Grasping the railing, she swung herself down the final steps and slingshot down the hallway. She found him at the door, hand reaching for the knob to leave. Without thinking, she grasped his sleeve at the elbow and tugged it harder than she intended, relaying her desperation to stopping him. "Wait," she said breathlessly, masking back the panic in her voice. "Just wait a moment." Conscious of how tight her grip was on his sleeve, she let go and took a step back, taking the pause to gather her thoughts. What the hell was she going to say anyway? Aelyria reached for her braided hair, drew it down over her shoulder and toyed with the end nervously, a new tick of hers ever since she kept the style from Valjer. "Let me at least help you with what you came here for. Or at the very least help you until you find a place to stay. You could use an extra pair of eyes on the streets. If word hasn't already gotten out about your arrival, it's bound to soon and then you'll need someone covering your back." She wanted to turn her eyes away, frightened to see his face if he rejected her. Instead, she held his gaze, let go of her braid, and clenched her jaw with firm resolution. She would help him no matter what.
  10. Winter's Tempest

    Caliben's voice drew her away from the tunneling darkness of her thoughts and she turned to him apprehensively. He looked at her, not with disgust, but something else. He knew the ordeal she was undergoing, of course. It would seem these days the people she associated herself with all understood this dark side of this world and its harsh demands. So, as he spoke she half-expected some sort of attempt at consolation on his part. She did not expect the bite of his words and it had taken her back, as if hit by a invisible fist straight to the chest. There was a need to bite back, to retaliate against his words and snap at him for his callousness. Valjer had been a beacon of light to her, a place to start anew. How could he not care for it? How could he not see the purity of that place that shone nearly as bright as the sunlit snow that blanketed it? They will never understand. You will always be alone in all of this. Everyone is the enemy, even him. The Urge never spoke, but she understood its wicked intent, wrapping its venomous tendrils around her thoughts. Shame gripped her, realizing almost too late how great its power was over her in that moment. It had made her angry and nearly blind to the purpose of Caliben's words. She clenched her jaw, turning her head away and bracing herself against the Urge. Willing it to retreat, it did, conscious of its mistake for pushing too hard and giving its hand away. Clarity returning to her, Aelyria sighed, the relieved pressure of its needs allowing her to breath. She closed her eyes, pondering. The words Caliben shared sat heavy on her shoulders. He was right. Even if she gotten leverage on Mr. Lyles, what could she possibly do to alter things? The cogs of change were already turning and the world around them was rapidly moving on without. She was, after all, merely a singular brushstroke on the canvas of a masterpiece. They were insignificant in the grand scheme of things and all they could hope to do was survive. She wanted to cry then, even turn and embrace him to cry in his arms. She had a feeling he might've let her, but shame kept her locked up and instead she hugged herself tighter with crossed arms. All this time spent and all this hard work for what? Why was she even doing this, all of this? Mr. Lyles, the crew, the orphans. Why? To live? To live this half-life existence as some shell for a terrible darkness that held her hostage and threatened her with the blood of innocents should she not comply? She could end it at anytime, yet she kept moving on. She kept living. "You're right," Aelyria whispered, eyes drawing open and turning to him. "I can't deny it. All I can do is face the consequences of my choices and perhaps try to make up for the mistakes I've made and will continue to make. But..." She turned to face the room, eyes skipping from empty bed to empty bed. She imagined the little bodies curled up, some housing two to three of them in the same space, sharing whatever heat they could muster to keep each other warm. She smiled. "If you throw enough rocks, you turn a river into a stream. Slap some mud and clay in between the gaps, and you make a dam," she said with the smile shifting into a beguiling smirk. "I might not be the one to finish it, but I'll start it. Or at least I'll try. At the very least I'll have kept these little ones alive to live another day and that's better than having none left at all. Every day we get more of them arriving at our door, instead of sitting out in the streets waiting to die. They're learning they can have a chance. A chance to live better. Right now, that's worth whatever price I must pay." It won't always be successful, she thought. Marshall was slowly becoming an example of just that. He was among the oldest of the children, nearly a young adult at that, and he had a morbid curiosity of what the underground had to offer. She had staved him off for now, but it was obvious he had suspicions about her own work. It was only a matter of time before she lost him. She waved the thought away. There was nothing she could do about it right now. Aelyria shifted from the room and looked outside. Her eyebrows rose at the sight of the change in weather for the first time. "It's snowing." And just when she thought she would never lay eyes on it again, it followed her.
  11. Winter's Tempest

    Sight of the coin was enough to make the young children at the table scramble for it as soon as it hit the tattered linen cover. The young girl holding the infant shrieked in dismay as one of the boys snatched up the coin and sprang from his chair. Mikya shouted at him, ladle at the ready to strike him, but Aelyria was faster and caught the boy by his collar. She reeled him back gently despite his animated attempt to escape and deftly pried the coin from his hand to transfer into Mikya's open palm. Then, she let go of the boy who huffed with frustration and ran way, down the hallway from where some other children had come from. Aelyria shook her head as Mikya pocketed the coin and returned to her duties. The children were used to being so desperate they'd risk it all to even steal a small scrap of food from the waste bins of taverns and shops. The younger ones tended to act instinctively and waving around a shiny coin was more than enough to set them off. It wasn't greed as much as need that motivated them. Aelyria cocked her head to the side at Caliben's explanation. He wasn't born with his abilities? They hadn't talked a lot in depth about what he could do, but now knowing that alone had piqued her interest. Granted, she wasn't born with her newfound abilities either--or rather the augmentation of her natural abilities was foreign to her. And if experience had taught her anything, gaining new magical abilities always came with a heavy price. She lightly puckered her lips, skewing them to the side as she pondered for a moment what to tell him. He was likely to discover some of it anyway, and like he said, business around here was rarely ethical. She glimpsed around the room spotting some of the children and even Mikya stealing a glance at her. They were curious too about her. They knew she brought in income, lived with them, cared for them, fed them, but they didn't know what she did outside of the orphanage. And she wasn't about to let them find out. Turning from the table, she beckoned Caliben to follow her with wave. "First, come with me. Let me show you the rest of the place." She led him away from the kitchen and turned a corner where a set of rickety stairs went up to the next floor. She climbed them with Caliben in tow, avoiding a pair of older children that were late to whatever duties were assigned to them today. "So, you might remember when we left Valjer that I was headed to Union City to look for work," Aelyria began, sneaking a peek at him from over her shoulder as they approached the second floor. "Well, I did just that. I took a few odd jobs here and there, but all honest hardworking ones that paid next to nothing. I had run dangerously low on my funds..." Funds given to me by 'him'. She bit the inside of her lip at the thought. She dared not think his name but it was hard not to. She was afraid if she did, he might hear it as if somehow even thinking about him was enough to call out to the assassin through the wind. "That's when I stumbled across these little ones. One of them had pickpocketted me and I was able to track them down and get it back, but before I could find out more about them, they had disappeared." They reached the top of the stairs where a small opening led to a few doors. Two of the doors were wide open, and she led him through one of them. The room might have seemed large at some point, but it would be hard to tell with all the beds crammed into the space. There was just enough walking space to get to a shuttered window, the curtains drawn closed. The room was empty of children, the last of them having just passed them down the stairs. She approached the window, drew the curtains open. A dull light flooded the room and with it the chill of winter, the curtains no longer providing insulation. "Anyway, I eventually found them but not without a lot of tailing. They way they moved around the city... How they maneuvered themselves through the crowd without anyone spotting them. They were little ghosts, invisible to the eye and mind. I realized that if I were to survive here, I needed to be like them. I needed to learn what they knew," Aelyria said, with a smile as she peered out into the city street below. There wasn't nearly as many people out in the cold these days, but she could spot a few of the pit kids scurrying around. "But I had nothing to offer. I was quickly becoming poor even with some diligent saving. It didn't help I was spending a good fortune digging up dirt on Mr. Lyles." She sent him a glance then, trying to gauge his reaction before turning it back to the window, leaning back out of the way so he could look out if he wanted. "I wasn't about to let him get away with what you told me, Caliben. Valjer might not be my home, but in the short time I was there, I began to care for the people there. We saved that town. I... I can't forgive what Valerie did, but they don't deserve what Mr. Lyles is going to do to that town. He's going to destroy it with his greed." Aelyria shook her head, crossing her arms with a sigh. "But I had nothing on him. I needed more money. I needed to learn the in and outs of the city quick. So, I needed the orphans, but I needed a job too." She bit her lip lightly, keeping her eyes turned from Caliben and on the road outside. "I found one... I found an underground crew to join. The children don't know about it and they cannot." She turned to him then, eyes fierce to reinforce her words. "I don't want them thinking it's okay to do what I do. They think I'm a healer who offers my trade for money to the crews. But they cannot know that, in fact, I kill for a crew." She peeled her eyes away from him, too nervous to see the rest of his reaction. The sad truth was she didn't even kill for the crew. She killed for her.
  12. Winter's Tempest

    Aelyria quirked an eyebrow at him. "Memory Lane?" But before she could stop him to ask more, Caliben had left the room and was going off to who knew where. "Wait, where are you going?" She chased after him and caught a glimpse of one of the younger orphan children skittering away at the sight of him. The hallways were unforgiving with space so she walked behind him as they neared the kitchen where she could hear Mikya rummaging about, prepping for dinner even though it was still only mid afternoon. There were quite a few of them to feed and it helped to have everything ready before the onslaught of hungry little critters, bellies starved from a hard day of pickpocketting and skirting guards. The kitchen itself was tiny and shared its space with a collage of tables, each different in size and height but pressed together to make some semblance of a large dining table. Chairs of all shapes and stages of wear were pushed in against the tables, empty save for a few children no older than four who sat waiting patiently for Mikya to finish preparations. One of the toddlers held a young infant in her arms, her legs swinging idly from the edge of the chair, carefree despite the responsibility of caring for such a fragile bundle. As if on cue, the bundle whimpered, sputtering before revving up into a fitful cry. The toddler looked apprehensive and the teen girl, Mikya, with her red curly hair, turned from her vegetables to take the infant but spotted the two adults enter the room. Aelyria held up her hand, signalling the teen to stop and squeezed past Caliben to take the crying child. Carefully, she cradled the swaddled infant in her arms and adjusted the muslin blanket, trying to stave off the cold as much as possible. As she began to slowly rock the fussing bundle, she turned to Mikya. "Is there anything left over from lunch for our guest?" The girl took a sidelong glance at Caliben, her eyes skimming him with distrust before turning them back to the woman. She was a pretty thing with the subtle hints of blossoming curves under her patched baby blue dress, and it had cost Aelyria nearly a whole month's wages to 'purchase' her from the whore house. But saving the girl had been worth the heavy price as she proved invaluable to the children. "Sorry, no. We ain't even got much left for dinner. I'll be using scraps by the end of the week, even if the youngins bring in a decent haul." Aelyria nodded, handing back the infant to the toddler now that it had been soothed. "I'll see what I can do," she said and turned her attention back to Caliben. "Looks like you'll have to wait until dinner unless you plan to head out into town. I'd advise against it... But I have a feeling I'm not going to be able to stop you. Dare I ask what sort of business is important enough to come back to Union City and risk your head?"
  13. Winter's Tempest

    Aelyria did little to restrain the scoff that escaped her lips. She didn't want to believe he was telling the truth about his name. She wanted to be irritated with him for lying to her in the first place about who he was. Unfortunately, she couldn't. It made sense to use an alias, she herself began to use them for work much like he did. Even knowing this, however, did little to fully wash the bad taste from her mouth. As if to mask it, she picked up the apple and took another bite, but found it bitter. Any misgivings she had were swept under the rug for now, curiosity piqued at his purpose for traveling through town. So he didn't intend to stay here? A tinge of disappointment bubbled to the surface of her forethought and she turned her eyes elsewhere, fearing they might give her away. Why should she care where he goes and stays? But the vagueness of his answer sparked her interest, her eyes keen on him when he moved about the room and looked to the door, lost in some sort of thought. Knowledge? What sort of knowledge did he need? "Speak with you?" She mumbled under her breath. "With his goon's fists maybe." He turned back to her and she feigned a similar smile doubting he heard her. Then the question she knew he'd ask came. She had been thinking all night what to say to him on the matter, but even now she didn't have an answer. Why the hell was she here? He came to stand by her and the close proximity kept her on edge as it did with anyone who initiated it. She casually pushed off the desk and walked around to toss away the half-eaten apple in a wastebasket by her desk that was already almost full to the brim with scrapped paper. She chuckled softly and looked up at him, crinkling in her brows with an amused smile. "What type of atmosphere did you assume I would be in? It's not like Valjer was any more grandeur than this," she mused with a shrug. "But I understand what you mean. It's... It's just that it's a long story. I found the orphans and I needed them as much as they needed me. No one cares about some motherless children so prying eyes never swing this way. It's safe and anonymous." She didn't want to go into much detail about why she needed to remain anonymous. He'd probably catch on to her skirting the details, but after last night, it might not be to difficult to piece some things together. "So, you're here now. What will you do? Once the crews know you're here, it'll be hard to get out of the city." That was even a bit of an understatement. She had lied to her crew mates why the bodies had to be cleaned up, said they had ambushed her and she had no choice but to defend herself. It raised some eyebrows, but she had a habit of doing some strange things. If they knew about 'Moss' being back AND she had ties to him? There would be little she could do to convince them to let him go. "And why west?"
  14. Winter's Tempest

    Aelyria crossed her arms as Caliben looked around the room, suddenly acutely aware of her not so glamorous surroundings and his eyes spotting her. She remembered his ability and now all the dusty corners and the untidiness of her room became glaringly obvious. After all, he could catch all those fine details with a quick scan, catching all the things everyone else might overlook, and she couldn't help but feel embarrassed by it. To keep the anxiousness of her expression hidden from him, she turned away and plucked an apple from her desk among all the clutter. "You're in the Pit of Union City," she said with a wry smile and tossed the apple for him to catch. "Eat that. You'll need your strength. Anyway." She found another apple, red unlike his green, and took a crisp bite as she propped herself against the edge of the table. "We're at the orphanage of Pit city to be exact. Or, well, it wasn't recognized as an orphanage up until a couple of months ago. Before then it was just an abandoned building where orphans met and slept, seeking refuge from the streets. But don't worry, we're safe if that's what you're wondering." After stealing another bite, she set the apple down and wiped her hand on the leathers of her breeches. "Let's see... I got you here around midnight and it's early afternoon now. You've been out for a good half day for sure. You seem to be looking pretty good right now, so you recovered fast." She took the opportunity to shift her gaze to him, taking in the sight of him now that he was awake. She came to same conclusion about him as she had last night looking him over in the firelight. Whatever journey he had been on was no simple one, looking fairly worn from more than just a rough poisoning. A thought crossed her mind and she couldn't help but chuckle at it. "You seem to have an unusual affinity for bad and good luck. Bad enough to get shot by a poison arrow, but good enough to have an apothecarian such as myself to treat you," she mused with a grin which then quickly faded. She crossed her arms again, her eyebrows furrowing with concern. "But it makes sense now, Caliben...or Forest. Or Moss. Whatever you actually call yourself. I had been trying to find out why Mr. Lyles had placed such a high bounty on this 'Moss' character everyone was chasing. I kind of feel stupid now not putting it together earlier that it was you. All the clues were there." She shook her head and then waved her hand dismissively. "Either way, it was a huge risk coming back here. Luckily I got some friends of mine to clean up the mess we left behind in the alley, but people are going to start asking questions and will eventually find out you're back. So tell me... Why exactly are you back?"
  15. Winter's Tempest

    Kitty hadn't known what to really think of Caliben at first. She had spent the majority of the night listening at Aelyria's door and poking her head in periodically, much to the woman's vexation. She'd be reprimanded sternly for prying and told to go to bed, though there was always a twinkle of amusement in those turquoise eyes which softened the blow. It was difficult to argue against the strange foreign woman who had suddenly become the caretaker of these Pit orphans, largely because they just didn't want disappoint the person who cared, perhaps even loved, them so unconditionally. So, Kitty eventually returned upstairs to bed and slept, but was among the first of the thirty-odd children to wake and rush downstairs to greet Aelyria. The woman always ran errands this time of morning--assuming she stayed the entire night as sometimes she did not--and Kitty wanted to be the first person she saw in case she needed someone to watch over the man. After all, who better to ask than her 'star pupil'? Granted, all that she had learned from Aelyria so far was how to grind medicinal herbs into boring paste, but she took her healer apprenticeship seriously even if they never formally announced such an arrangement. Sure enough, Aelyria had been ready to leave and was in fact looking for someone to watch over Caliben. She had already asked Marshall--who had finally returned that morning doing who knows what, but obligingly agreed despite tired eyes--but she wouldn't dare crush the young girl's enthusiasm. Marshall only had to peep in from time to time and if Caliben did awake while she was gone, Kitty was less likely to spook him than the brooding teenager who sported himself with leathers and not-so-hidden knives, as if he had aspirations to become an underground crew member despite Aelyria's disapproval. Nearly tripping over with eagerness, Kitty pranced into Aelyria's room only to face the disappointment of a man still visibly unconscious from whatever ordeal he was suffering from. Still, she was determined to follow through her task however boring and plastered herself in a chair by the fire, watching him intently. Hours passed and Kitty had made her circuit around the room, looking for anything to entertain herself with. She looked through books but she was still only learning to read--Aelyria had sparse any time left over from her other duties to teach her, though she made the effort when asked--so they quickly lost their luster. Marshall invited her to eat with the others when breakfast came, but after refusing out of stubborn determination, he brought a plate to her instead. Time continued to roll on, the morning slipping towards noon as made evident by the sound of the children outside the room, running about to tackle the day and pickpocket unsuspecting victims. Jealously piqued her and she became convinced she was sure to die of boredom. She eventually decided that Caliben was just some boring, ordinary grown-up man that somehow she ended up babysitting. Just as she began to consider what excuses to play should Aelyria ask about her disappearance, movement caught her eye. The man stirred. Kitty panicked. She didn't know what to do! It suddenly occurred to her that she didn't know if the man was dangerous or not. Sure, it was Aelyria's 'friend', but what if he didn't like little orphan girls? What if he was just like everyone else in Union City who spat and kicked them about like the street rats they claimed them to be? 'Worthless little shits that plague the city and sully its good name'. She would never forget the disgust raging in their eyes. So, she did what any typical Pit orphan would do when in suspected danger. She ran, bursting from the room without a care to close the door. Marshall was no where in sight and most of the other children were gone to pickpocket except for the few really young ones and Mikya, a girl probably in her early teens, who stayed behind to care for them. She had to alert them of the danger! The man in that room! He could hurt the young ones! They had to leave, had to run, had to survive when all everyone else wanted was to exterminate them. In her blinded fright, Kitty ran into someone within the hallway and toppled back. Instinctively, she cringed, tucking herself into make herself a smaller target to hit. But when the blow did not come, she looked up to find Aelyria looking concerned. Relief washed over her and she nearly cried, feeling suddenly safe, loved, and immensely stupid all at the same time. "Kitty? Are you alright?" Aelyria asked, kneeling down to help the girl up with one hand while the other arm was occupied by a wrapped bundle and stack of papers. "What happened?" Kitty hadn't realized she was crying, but now feeling the wet warm streaming down her cheeks, she hastily wiped them away and let herself be guided to stand. "N-n-nothing! I just had to go potty really bad and couldn't hold it any longer!" One of her brilliant little excuses she had thought of earlier. Not quite convinced but not pressing the matter, Aelyria nodded and stood. "Well, I'm back. Sorry it took so long," she said with an apologetic smile, gently patting the girl on the shoulder. "But you were a great help. Did our patient wake up yet?" Kitty shook her head. She couldn't be sure the man had seen her run out, but she didn't want Aelyria to think she had run out because he had in fact woken up and frightened her, albeit, to no fault of his own. Aelyria shrugged and patted her once more on the head before walking around her. "Not totally unexpected I suppose. Well off you go, Kit. If you see Marshall, let him know our business is done for today." Relieved and only mildly ashamed for it, Kitty ran off to join the others outside in the streets. Aelyria shifted the bundle in her arms and moved the small stack of envelopes to her hands. As she made for her room, she glanced at the seals and marks to see where the correspondences might have come from. A couple came from some merchants she was in touch with for information of dealings outside of Union City, specifically, with Valjer City. She looked forward to reading those. Another came from an informant she knew in the underground. Its seal was unmarked, but there was a distinct fold to the corner of the envelope that she recognized as his handiwork. The last one had a seal completely unfamiliar to her, that is, if you wanted to call it a seal. The envelope itself looked like it had been through its own mess of an ordeal, the ink of her name--which was important to remark as it was her true name and not a call sign--runny from water exposure and that of what she could make a semblance of a 'smiley face' looked rather sad now. She frowned at it, pausing briefly at the open door, and was so perturbed by it that she was completely unaware that the door should in fact not be open. Nevertheless, she stepped in, flipping the envelope back and forth in her hand and approaching the desk all the while assuming Caliben was still fast asleep. Unable to discern the origin of the envelope, she shrugged and restored enough situational awareness to realize Caliben was in fact very much not asleep. Playing off her surprise and the resulting embarrassment as smoothly as possible, she set the bundle and letters down on the desk before approaching him on the bed. "I see you're awake," she said with a hint of mirth in her tone. "Easy now, Cal. Don't get up too fast lest you pop a stitch. Your wound wasn't bad, but it's in a tricky spot that gets moved around a lot. How are you feeling? If you're nauseous, there's a bucket right here." A metal clang indicated where she tapped the bucket beside the bed. "That's my bed you're in and I'd rather not have it smelling of vomit. I only have so many clean sheets."
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