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Winter's Tempest

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Months had past since Caliben had hunkered down in his hideaway house. It was unorthodox, but it started to grow on him. He joked with Velyn, asking for furniture. Since his departure doesn't seem to be coming anytime soon, in which the gang would not get the other half. Valyn laughed at first, but started to roll his eyes at the butchered joke. Caliben didn't find the joke funny anymore either, but just moving him the wrong way was a good way to start or finish any day. His daily routine by this point, was to walk the streets and find any daily work from a shop keep or farmer with his goods just arriving to town. He did not need a stable job, he had more money than he'd ever have use of. But he knew well that spending too much brought unwanted attention. So, Caliben just lived enough. But he loved it. 

Caliben finished making his rounds through the street, and decided to walk to the checkpoint the gang had told him to go to if he ever inquired about information. So, Caliben did. He walked to the alleyway that was between Mrs. Kliens Pottery and Mr. Gitel's home remedies. He waited in the middle of the alleyway, and made sure the coast was clear before knocking in a obscure sequence. Knocking three times from different areas of the door, and once on the top frame. A moment passed before a man opened a slit in the door, peering out and seeing Caliben. The man sighed and closed the slit, opening the door momentarily. 

"Moss, you still aren't safe. The Thundermaster keeps circling around the area, knowing full well that you are somewhere around here. You should just accept this and leave the city, or even consider picking up a new identity."

Caliben smiled, and crossed his arms. "Hughes, we both know that I am already so dedicated, that leaving now would only bring discredit to your gang and tarnish my trust in you all. I do believe it will be a matter of time before he leaves, and when he does. I promise to pay you the other half of the deal." He reached out and patted the man's shoulder. "But, it seems today is another day I can assist you. Do you need me to pull guard duty on myself once again?"

Hughes sighed, and signaled him inside. Stepping aside, to let Caliben walk in first and looked around to be sure no one was staring, than closed the door. 

The room was poorly lit, by just a candle on a table located in the center of the room, that was unoccupied except by the chair that Hughes was sitting on. I don't know how the man can just sit down and be able to battle sleep every day, the thought if alone brings weight upon my eyes. Caliben didn't wait to be guided by Hughes, and hurried to the door on the opposite side and swung it open. Behind it, was Velyn and Cerise. Both of them sitting down at a table, but was enjoying a morning's meal underneath the morning light shining in from the skylight. Caliben focused his energy looking at Cerise and enjoying each moment as she turned scared with a mouth full of food towards Caliben. Her hazel eyes shot wide open as the light reflected beautifully off of them. The outfit she was wearing was a traditional gang outfit. Leather vest, with belts in unnecessary places that she swore helped make the outfit easier to maneuver in. He gave a thoughtful glance to Velyn, to be sure he wasn't choking. His eyes started to strain, and let time catch up to him. 

"Moss! Did Hughes let you in AGAIN?!" Cerise said, attempting to swallow the food before she choked. 

"Didn't find a job today either, figured I could help in some way." Caliben said, walked up to the table on his side and pulled out the chair, swinging it around to sit in reverse. "It seems my presence is unwanted."

Velyn ignored Caliben, and continued eating his eggs and toast. Giving a look to Cerise, as to imply to not encourage Moss. But Cerise didn't catch his look, and continued to press for more.

"Oh, you think you are so important? We don't need any help, so please go and hide in that shell of yours some more. Before you make things bad for all of us." Cerise turned back to her food to continue eating. 

"Hey, I want to be there as much as you want me to be. But this gang wouldn't even last on it's own legs if it wasn't for my help." Caliben picked up the knife, and started to skillfully maneuver it in between his fingers and knuckles. This usually got their attention, but today was not one of those days. Caliben mid twirl, flipped the knife into his palm and threw it onto the table making it stick in place. "Or, I can thank you for your services up to this point and not pay the other half of what I owe. Which is worth much more than you all could make in a year." He burrowed his eyes, staring at Velyn as though awaiting for him to bend.

And he did.

Velyn stood up while grabbing his plate and walked with it towards the sink. He brushed off the extras into the mutt's bowl and proceeded to rinse the plate off of what debris was left. "Cerise is going into town to do some shopping, if you could be so kind to help her carry some of it back. It would lessen the load on the poor girl." Velyn finished, and left the plate on the side of the table, as he whistled for the mutt to come over. 

Cerise groaned hearing the news, and ignored the smile Caliben gave to her.

"It will be a trip around the city, so I hope you didn't have any plans this afternoon." She stood up with her plate, and proceeded with the same ritual as Velyn did, but the mutt dragged itself far enough to make it to the bowl as it inhaled what was left. 

"I'll have to cancel my therapy session with Hughes, but I can reschedule for another time." Caliben smiled and stood up, pushing the chair back into position and followed Cerise as she left towards the storage room.

"Make sure you make a list of everything we need, we don't need to make two runs this month." Velyn shouted as he headed towards Hughes to let him leave. Cerise didn't respond but started to count under her breath on the needed supplies.

Caliben followed Cerise, and moved in close to her. Putting his hands on her hips, kissing the nape of her neck as she struggled to keep count of what provisions they needed. 

"It seems we have a long day ahead of us." Caliben lifted her hair, and started to kiss behind her ears softly. Cerise snapped around holding Caliben's hands in hers, and moved in to kiss him deeply on his lips. 

"Did you really even try to find work today?" Cerise said, as she backed away from their kiss and posed with her hand on her hip. 

"You know me, I never leave a stone unturned." He went in for a kiss once again, but was stopped by her finger on his mouth.

"I highly doubt that, but I do need to concentrate on this. Or else I will need to go out once more, and Velyn will be sure to not let my distraction come with me." She smirked as she turned back to her work.

She just loves to be in control doesn't she? Caliben raised an eyebrow and trailed a finger up her spine in defiance, but immediately retreated to avoid the outcome towards the door....

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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. 

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It was already winter, and Caliben had given up trying to make any excuse to go see Cerise each day. As the gang knew by now they were an item, and could not stop them from each other as much as they could try. Also, Cerise mention that Velyn wanted to try to pry more money out of Caliben. He obliged with help supplying some income for food and supplies. But he kept a pretty close eye on his wallet to be sure that when the time came, they wouldn't have a loose end when the hiding is finally over. Caliben woke up in his new bed that Cerise begged for them to buy, as a change in the quality of life was something she always wanted since living in the pits. He couldn't say no to her, and so bought a new bed and other things to make her happy. She was incredibly happy, and her attitude each day was proof of it. The light in her step, and tone in her voice made any coin spent for her worth it's cost and much much more. As Caliben dragged himself, he shivered from the cold's bite and wrapped himself in his arms as he went to reignite the stove. He looked back at her laying in bed and smiled deeply. If there was anyone worth trying to save in this world, it would be her.. Caliben walked downstairs, grabbed his thick coat and walked out the door, doing his daily round on the street looking for work. By this time, everyone who frequented the morning ritual knew his face, as well nearly all the shop keeps there. Caliben eyed each one, and nodded as he passed. He wasn't looking for work today, but was just stretching his legs to rid of the anxiousness that stirred within. The usual kids running towards the chapel for their daily lecture and education, he made sure he kept his pockets covered, as he was fooled by one once. Caliben reached the end of the street, which was a fork in the road. He never had to make a turn here, nor did he ever feel like he needed to. Everything behind him was perfect. A place to finally call home, after all these years being a nomad. Fleeing from place to place, to be one step ahead of the Thundermaster. But no more, Caliben felt sure that the hunter had been outwitted finally. And now, all that was left to do was to finally relax and settle in for what the rest of his life may bring.

"Moss, where you heading?"

Caliben turned, to see Velyn. Who was by himself, but not wearing his usual drab of dark clothes. Was he not working? I would've though these people never stopped. Caliben smiled at him, and pointed across the street.

"I've been trying to withstand each day to walk across the street to that pastry store. I fear the day I finally do, I'll get lost in it's delights and you'll never hear of me again." Caliben smiled broadly, hoping to get a reaction out of Velyn.

Velyn frowned, and shook his head. "You know, if you want something. Just go get it. I don't think you ever had that problem before." He turned and spat on the floor, before walking away from Caliben.

Did I strike a nerve somewhere? Caliben shrugged and walked back towards home, the people he had missed waved at Caliben who waved back sharply. As he got closer to his house, he saw Cerise looking out the window. He was surprised to see her awake so early, as well with the door open. She normally hated morning and cold weather. So doing both, was well out of the ordinary. Caliben had a sinking feeling as he walked inside the house heading upstairs to greet her. As he approached he was surprised by a hug from behind. Caliben held her hands in his, as he tried to relish the moment as long as he could.

"So, what is the plan for you today?" Cerise asked as she made her way back to the bedroom, picking up a spare shirt to put on over hers. 

"Another Sunday, so lay around all day. Make food, sleep." Caliben walked towards the bed and fell back into the warm sheets.

"Yes, but let's do something else Moss. We should just walk around the city, that isn't such a bad idea. It's a good way to see the rest of Union City." Cerise said, laying back in the bed beside him, smiling at the idea of relaxing and getting out of the pits.

"Well, maybe just for today. I have been itching to look around a bit." Caliben said, looking up at the ceiling, trying to avoid the concerned look on his face. Is it safe? Maybe, I don't know how the Thundermaster works. He could've had eyes still looking around the City in case I should return. Caliben looked back at Cerise, and could not deny the wish she wanted. He nodded.

"Let's do it, give me the tour you kept promising for sometime." Caliben moved toward Cerise and kissed Cerise. 

 

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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."

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"Moss, you need to go." Velyn said as he walked beside Caliben heading back to the hideout from another night out scouting the area. Caliben had recently decided to pledge his loyalty to the gang at Cerise's request, whom decided she could not leave the only family she had to elope with Caliben. Which Caliben had asked her to leave with him when the time came, at first she had been willing. But over time, the idea had become more of a fantasy to them both. It had been a almost a year since Caliben had decided to live in that house, and there he was once again able to find a place to call home. Caliben reminisced of the memories he had here, but was pushed back into reality by Velyn who stepped in front of him.

"Moss, are you even listening?" Velyn crossed his arms, his sword swaying in it's sheath. Caliben frowned. Annoyed by the interruption that Velyn was so good at doing, but stifled a smile and shook his head.

"Velyn, I've made up my mind. I'll pay you when we get back, I promise you. The time you spent protecting me wasn't for nothing, you deserve every last coin I offered. And more so, seeing as you let me be a part of your group." Caliben patted Velyn's shoulder and tried to push past him but Velyn grabbed his hand. 

"This is not a request, I am telling you to leave. I've learned who you are, and what trouble you cause in your wake." Velyn spun him around, frowning with his dark brown eyes burrowed. Giving him a glare that could cut through armor, and not letting any sign of waiver show.

Caliben's heart skipped, and raised his hands to shrug. "I don't know what you speak of. I was merely chased after by a man whom I had a quarrel with, and could not possibly beat in a duel." He stared back into Velyn's eyes, standing his ground as they both stayed quiet for a time.

"Fine, but if you are who I think you are. You need to leave, there are whispers of someone looking for a Caliben. Who had stolen something of vast wealth, who will stop at nothing to retrieve." Velyn turned and lead the way back to the hideout as Caliben stood still, finding it hard to catch a breath.

He knows.. He knows I'm Caliben.. Does that mean that THEY are now here? I thought their Thundermasters were their dogs, why come find me? Caliben gritted his teeth, wanting to run. But knew that he wanted to save them. Caliben snapped out of his trance and followed the trail to the hideout. As he approached, he found Velyn awaiting at the door. 

"Hughes playing a joke?" Caliben said, looking to Velyn who stared at the door. "Did you try knocking? It is a simple gesture to notify a person of one's presence behind the do-." 

Velyn banged on the door, which was uncharacteristic of him to show extreme emotion.

"Velyn?" Caliben looked at Velyn who had a bead of sweat forming at his forehead, than looked at the door. Realizing that Hughes never has taken this long before whenever he was tasked to keep guard of the door. Caliben moved to the door to pry it open. It wouldn't budge. Velyn unsheathed his sword and tried to wedge it open. It had worked, increasing the anxiety of them both. The door was locked by multiple deadbolts, so no one could have picked their way in. 

As the door was pushed open, and the blood on the other side of the door was ineludible. the room had a eerie silence to it, as the rest of the room showed no signs of a struggle. Velyn raised his sword, preparing for the next shadow to leap at him as they continued towards the other side of the room. Caliben took the front, and snuck to the door. He looked at Velyn who stood ready, and nodded for Caliben to open it. Caliben opened the door quickly, and Velyn ran inside.

Caliben didn't hear the sounds of ringing metal, or the breath of a person being taken away. He looked inside, and saw Velyn beside the center table with paper in hand.

"Velyn, what's going on?"

Velyn looked to Caliben and crumpled the paper in his fist, tossed it aside, and pushed passed Caliben towards the exit. Caliben didn't say anything, but instead scrambled to read the paper. 

"Caliben.." It read, in what looks to be written in blood. Was this Hughes blood?..

Caliben chased after Velyn, Knowing his identity was no longer a secret, he wanted to know everything he knew. Caliben got outside the door, in just enough time to see Velyn turn a corner. He gave chase, following him through alleyways, streets, and fences. Finally stopping to a place too familiar.

Caliben's home.

"Velyn, talk to me!! What's going on!?" Caliben ran in front of Velyn who had a face of stone, muttering something to himself as he walked towards the entrance. Caliben looked around, to see if anyone was waiting for them to enter. But could not find any glances, just a feeling that something was not right. Caliben saw Velyn open the door, and made his way inside. Scared, Caliben made his way inside too. 

The scene before him was something of a nightmare. A man in a loose robe, holding Cerise by what looked like a collar and chain across her neck. Stripped of clothes and desperately trying to escape. Another man on the ground before them, who Caliben was able to recognize as Hughes. Bleeding from a wound that was covered by him laying on his abdomen. The man turned slowly, revealing a pale complexion and a sharp angular face that was accompanied by a toothy grin.

"Hughes! Cerise!" Velyn yelled, as he ran to Hughes side. His hands trembling, as he placed them on Hughes back. "What has he done to you?!" Velyn looked back up to the robed man, his hands white as he gripped the pommel of his sword. 

The robed man cackled softly, and looked to Caliben.

"Caliben I presume?" Said the man.

His name made Cerise turn around quickly, but the man reached and grabbed her by the hair. Refusing the woman to see who was there, and held her face against the wall. 

"Who are you?!" Screamed Velyn, who had not been given a single glance. As though he was just a piece of the background in a climax scene involving these two.

Caliben stood frozen, he had no way to save Cerise. He was unarmed, as his eyes never needed him to attack with an intention to kill. He stood there, waiting for the vile thing to make his move.

"Yes, it must be you. We've been looking for you. Do you know how hard it is to find someone in this city? Too much time wasted, when a better use of our life could be spent." The robed man gripped the chain, and hefted Cerise by the neck upwards. Cerise grunted from the pain, and coughed as she kept squirmed to free herself from his control.

"You found me, now leave them out of this." Caliben frowned, stepping closer towards him.

"Leave them?" The man smiled wider, his eyes broadened as he pointed to Velyn. "Why, it was him who had told me of your whereabouts." 

"YOU BASTARD! WE WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE INVOLVED!" Velyn inched forward his teeth clenching.

Caliben looked in disbelief, feeling betrayed by someone he thought he could trust. "W-Why Velyn?.."

"The price for you was whispered among us gang leaders, for any information regarding a man named Caliben who looked just like you.. I gave very little information to an Informant, and wanted to have you leave as soon as possible."

"So, it's always about money with you?!" Caliben sneered, cursing himself. Knowing too well that he should had left sooner with Cerise.

"No, I wanted to steer them away. I declined the money saying that the information I had was from word of mouth.." Velyn looked over at Caliben, not leaving his stance at the robed man. 

"No matter." Said the man. "Anyone who knows too much will be taken care of." The man grabbed Cerise by the hair again and slammed her face into the wall, making a wet crack. Silence filled the room, as the man lifted the chain. Letting Cerise slump downward, her head rolling to the side as the blood ran down from her nose to her chin, dripping on to the floor. 

Hughes coughed and wheezed, Velyn turned letting his sword drop. "Hughes! Stay with me!" Velyn knelt down, to try to life up Hughes, who kept coughing.  Than suddenly stopped, staring at the ground on his knees with his hand covering his mouth. Caliben saw blood drip to the floor from the cracks of Hughes fingers. He winced, knowing the man would be soon be dead. 

"Hughes, stand up!" Velyn got beside him, to help him back to his feet.

Than, Velyn knelt there frozen. His eyes wide from shock, as he looked down to see a blade entering into his abdomen. He looked to Hughes, who's eyes were glazed white. His mouth agape, as he twisted the knife slowly in Velyn's stomach. Velyn vomited bile and blood on Hughes, who did not flinch, but still showed that lifeless stare at Velyn.

"Hu-" Blood gurgled out of Velyn, who tried to understand with his final moments what had happened. But fell over, choking on his own blood.

Velyn had died.

Caliben stared in horror, as Hughes did not remove the blade. But instead stabbed relentlessly at his victim's back with both hands. Caliben had trouble focusing his eyes, as the scene before him had hold. Focus... Focussss...

Caliben channeled what energy he could, not taking his eye at Hughes who kept on stabbing at Velyn. Hitting through the bone, and jabbing at the floor beneath him. Than, it slowed. He looked away, back to the hooded man. Who still had a smile, not moving an inch closer to Caliben. 

I must save Cerise..

Caliben narrowed his gaze to Cerise, to see how she was doing. And a feeling of dread washed over him like a unforeseen wave. 

Cerise was.. Smiling? Her broken nose coated her teeth red, as she licked the blood off her lips relentlessly as it dribbled down. Caliben's stomach lurched, as he realized that Cerise was not trying to escape her captor, but was trying to make way too Caliben. 

Caliben lost his energy, and looked at the man. 

"W-What have you done to her?.." Caliben almost fell to his knees, but stumbled back into the wall where they had came.

"Oh her?" He pulled hard on the chain, making Cerise hack from suffocation, but seemed to not care. Her ferocity to leap at Caliben was overbearing. "It's amazing what research can do, I simply made her mind and body.. Mine.." The man spat on her, and placed his foot down on the nape of her neck, pushing her down to the floor. Cerise moved her hands and legs in a primal way, attempting to raise herself back up. "She really is a handful, I'm sure you can agree." 

Caliben shook, the events before him were too much. He wanted to run, but where to? Caliben knew he had no where to go. He slowly shifted towards the door, but was stopped by the shrieking of pain by Cerise.

"Oh, leaving so soon?" The man said, letting Cerise back up. "I'm afraid you will be coming with me Caliben." 

"No. I'll never!" Caliben leaped for Velyn's sword, taking it in his hands as he scrambled to his feet. Hughes stopped his asinine stabbing, and swept his knife in an arc at Caliben. Caliben dodged barely, biting his lip to take in energy once more. I need to calm down, or else I'll end up like them.. Caliben gripped the pommel in his hands, mimicking the stance Celyn had used before. Hughes numbly rose to his feet, and sluggishly attack Caliben. Caliben side stepped the attack, bringing down the blade across Hughes back. Hughes made no sign of pain, but instead took time to turn back around and attack again. Caliben raised the sword, side stepping the stab attempt and brought the sword back down into Hughes head. The man went limp, and fell to the floor. Hughes lifeless body seized, but Caliben looked at the man to be sure he didn't catch him unguarded. 

The robed man frowned, and dropped the chain to the floor. Letting Cerise free. She crawled on all fours, than jumped at Caliben who grimaced at the idea of hurting her, and dodged the attack. She landed, and leapt at him again letting out a banshee cry. Caliben closed his eyes, as he pierced the blade through her stomach. Her voice gurgled from her own blood, but was soon silenced as Caliben threw her off the blade into the ground beside him. He cried out in agony, as feelings flooded him. He dropped hiss word, and fell to his knees, looking at his hands as they shook.

"Oh, don't worry. She's not going anywhere" The robed man said, as he walked to Caliben. "She's just an empty husk now. The real girl died in agony as she screamed for you, she was at first strong. But, put the right tool into the right orifice, can produce some amazing results." The man walked past Caliben, leaving him staring at Cerise who stared with white glazed eyes back at Caliben. 

"This is enough, I am not here to kill you Caliben. I am here to give you an idea. An idea on how futile it is to think you can stay in one place. To ever consider having a home ever again." The robed man knelt beside Caliben, and whispered words he would never forget. 

"Now, Run.." 

 

Caliben closed the door behind him as he entered the upstairs for the first time in many years. He swallowed what felt like a rock, as he turned to the room before him. And saw, her. Cerise, in the bed they once shared, her eyes closed, as she looked at peace after what had transpired so long ago. Caliben did not understand why her body did not wither away over time. The man must have used, Necromancy, Devilry, Occultism. Whatever it was, had taken everything from her. Caliben sighed, as he got closer to the bed. Tears ran down his cheek, as he raised his hand up palm facing the ceiling. 

Caliben breathed in deeply, and imagined the memories of Cerise and him. He felt them tugging at him inside his head, as a never ending headache he had endured for so long. Caliben breathed out slowly, feeling the memories whirl into an abyss within himself. His emotions that he had before, melted away. Leaving what felt like a blank state, that Caliben could not rewrite upon.

And in his hands, glowed a flame. Caliben looked at the flame, and at Cerise. 

"Let go.." Said Caliben, as he turned and left his room in flames. The heat stroked his back as he descended down the stairs.

I will become stronger, I will no longer run..

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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.

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Caliben walked down the steps, hearing the crack of a whip from the room above. The smoke had started to emit through the cracks in the wood above, slowly swallowing the air around him, but a calmness washed over Caliben. Knowing he'll escape the grasp of the flames that grew bigger each passing second. As he turned into the foyer, the bed fell through the ceiling crashing into the ground. He didn't see Cerise in the bed, guessing she had turned to ash already. As he turned to the door, he took a long breath. And channeled the new magic into his eyes.

The Fire within spread like a hot liquid from his abdomen up his veins into his eyes. Caliben's eyes burned as he kept channeling the magic into them, blurring his vision into a white heat that caused Caliben to collapse to his knees and grasp his temples. He did not scream, but gritted his teeth as the intensity continued. He could feel blood trickle down from his eyes, and the smell of burning flesh around him. He touched his eyes, but did not feel the warm liquid upon his hands, nor felt a pain radiate from his eyes when he touched. After what felt like an eternity, Caliben screamed as the ceiling started collapsing around him. The pain suddenly ceased, and Caliben shut his eyes. He cursed himself, but the heat dissipated slowly. Caliben raised himself back up, slowly channeling some of The Fire into his eyes. Before him, was a whole new world. 

The Fire within him burnt away any darkness in front of him. As well, his ability to see time pass slowly was now completely gone. He could finally live a normal life, or a semblance to one. But one thing was very different. When he looked around, he saw embers glowing far away, some dancing, some staying still.  He looked to the side, and saw the embers moving left, than right. He could not tell if he was seeing something supernatural. He turned to look back at the fire he started, but could only see it from his peripheral. As the fire emitted light much too strong for him to handle, as though he stared at the sun. He breathed out The Fire, allowing the Aether to return once again. 

Caliben opened the door, and decided it was time to return to Aelyria's orphanage. He walked away from whatever was left of the house, not caring to look back upon it one more time. As Caliben turned into the alleyway, he felt an unnerving feeling he was being followed again. He looked behind him, to find no one was there. I guess we'll put this new power to use. Caliben surged The Fire into his eyes, seeing a glimpse of embers around him. But, he could not distinguish whether those lights were following him, as the remaining light from the sun was too much to bear. Caliben channeled Aether more than usual, looking around, expecting to see something out of the ordinary to come up soon. 

Edited by RentedRed

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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.

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Caliben kept walking towards the orphanage, still tensed from the feeling of someone or something following him. He has been looking around, but nothing has caught his eye or been out of the ordinary. Who or whatever it was, was very good at concealing their presence. Or it may just me becoming insane. Caliben smiled to himself as he turned a corner. To think I am still myself, after burning away my old memories. Caliben frowned, thinking upon what had happened just moments ago. But the memories that had been tethered to that house, Cerise, Hughes, Velyn. All have been sent to a inner void within his mind, even losing the emotional attachment to them. Caliben moved further, moving onto a street. He looked to find that the lamps have been put out. So early in the day?  Caliben hesitated moving into the darkness, but pushed himself to descend into the unknown darkness. The orange glow from the sun had faded away, the lights emitting from underneath the doorways showed the only signs of life. 

I should use that new power.. But, than I can't react fast enough.. Maybe if I surge magic, back and forth. No, the time in between is too great. Caliben breathed out hard from his nose, frustrated that he did not feel any stronger with his new found abilities. More so, he felt they were insignificant in comparison to his original Aether one. He clenched his fist as he stood still. Don't tell me I lost them for nothing.. Don't tell me, my quest for strength to defeat my enemies will be at the cost of everyone I know..

Caliben spun at the sound of a rock moving behind him, he turned and surged Aether. Awaiting his assailant to make it's move. But from the motions he saw in the shadows, it was a small 4 legged creature that seemed to have scared it's self across the street into an alleyway. Calm down, no need to be that on edge. He looked forward, and saw something else coming towards him. 

Must be bad news.. 

A woman stepped from the shadows, holding a someone by the hair as she dragged her towards him. As they got closer, Caliben could see that the someone was just a small girl with blonde hair who winced from the pain and discomfort. 

"Is this him?" The woman pulled her up more, causing the girl to whimper in pain more as she wriggled for freedom. 

"Y-Yes! That's him! I saw him leave earlier when I got back!" The girl was thrown to the ground by the woman who threw a coin at her head as she smirked.

"Good, this information was worth the pretty penny you said it'd be. Now, stay out of my way." The woman kicked the girl in the gut, and walked closer to Caliben who took notice of not only the woman, but a few other people on the sides with lanterns lighting up the streets. Caliben wanted to run, but was afraid of the consequence of his actions for the little girl. He cursed, but stayed where he stood.

"This little one says you're Moss, I do say you look awfully like this picture here." She brought up a piece of paper of his wanted poster. touching it with her pointer finger, and tossed it behind her. "She wanted to charge an incredible amount of money for your whereabouts, but bringing you to Mr. Lyles is more important than coin." She smiled wickedly and she finally stopped, pulling out two daggers from her side and held them in each hand in a combat stance.

"I'm afraid you have the wrong man, I am not this Moss. I do appreciate your compliment, as the man looks rather handsome." Caliben rested his hand atop of the pommel. Ready to strike if they suddenly attack from a flank. Caliben used this opportunity to surge Fire into his eyes. He could not see for very long, as the candle light blurred any embers. But, from what he could see in front of him. There were no more surprises that awaited him. Caliben smiled, and channeled Aether once again.

"It seems to meet you look uncanny to the man, but Mr. Lyles will be the judge of this." She motioned with her head for the other members to press forward, as she inched her with closer and closer to him.

Caliben frowned, he had hoped he could talk his way out of this situation. But it seemed there was nothing else he could do. He unsheathed the rapier and took the stance Aelyria had taught him, pointing decidedly at the woman. "Very true, but I have no desire to see a Mr. Lyles. you must move aside please, so no one gets killed."

A gleam shone from the darkness before Caliben, reflecting what light was available around and around till Caliben moved his head to the side to dodge the blade. The knife hit the floor, but the attackers made no move to follow up. 

Caliben smiled. "You leave me no choice, it's my turn.."

Edited by RentedRed

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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.

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