Partners

It was a full moon, the stars peaked out from behind thick clouds, and the streets of the city were all but quiet. The usual hustle and bustle of Merchants and various vendors had died down due to the late hour. A solitary figure strode down the middle of dirt streets, a long black cloak shrouded the majority of his form, though his movement was quiet as though he wore leather or something lighter beneath. His features were concealed by a mask and hood, only piercing blue eyes peered out from beneath the shadow it cast.

The figure turned and took the few steps up to the door of a tavern. Smoke from the hearth billowed out to greet him as he eased the door open. Sounds of rowdy drinkers and multiple conversations filled the air, though he ignored it all as he moved to take a seat at the bar. He made eye contact with no one present, and simply waved the bartend off when she asked if he wanted a drink. Instead, he was simply content with subtly watching, listening to those around him as if he had something specific he searched for.

Keribdis snapped her knuckles as she leaned her left elbow on the table. Her right hand lingered near her face, a deck of cards within gloved fingers, which she kept a very close eye on. Her hair was long and black, pinned tightly to her head, likely to prevent it from getting in the way. Her eyes were a soft blue color, which kept traveling around the room despite the fact that she was mid-game. Though, it was obvious from how annoyed the rest of her table was that she was winning.

Her armor was an odd assortment. A varying collection of a cloth robe around her body, colored a deep deep blue that was almost black. However, her shoulders and arms were clad in a heavy armor. From the dents in the black steel it was very obvious that this part of her tended to take a good hit, and rather often. Light blue eyes continued to flick around the room, then back to her cards. She was waiting for something.

The masked figure’s piercing blue eyes continued to scan the seedy crowd in the musty tavern as leather-clad fingers drummed along the bar. In his sitting position, it was evident the man wore black leather beneath the cloak, strapped tightly to his form. Something stuck out near his right hip and left shoulder, the curve of which suggested a longbow that was concealed beneath the dark fabric. His eyes settled briefly on the card game taking place, as if he had considered something about the group. Coin was splayed out across the table and the disgruntled looks of all but the girl gave him the impression she had been on a winning streak, and as the dealer… more than likely cheating to achieve it.

Slowly, he rose and moved over to stand behind one particular man who was balding and almost completely gray. His brow was wrinkled with concentration as he stared to the cards in his hand as if he could will them to change into what he needed. The masked man simply shook his head as he watched the game continue.

Her eyes shot up from her cards at the masked man who stood behind the balding man. She cleared her throat and sighed as she set her cards down. “Going to have to ask you to move to the side a little handsome.” She told him though since she could not see his face it was either a judgement on his eyes or just something she would say to anyone. She leaned back and smiled suddenly her hands sparked up. “You're standing too close to my mark, I would hate for you to get burned.” She muttered as suddenly a shock of lightning seemed to surge from her and struck a man at the table. Sending people in the bar running, and the others at the table drew their weapons and she cursed.

“I was really hoping there would be less guards, or I could at least get them to bet their weapons but sometimes you have to make due with what you have.” She said before she snapped her knuckles and pulled a shield from her back with a grin, her free hand lighting into a ball of lightning again. “Try me boys.” She said despite being cornered.

An amused look dawned the masked man’s eyes as he did indeed step to the side. However, one of those drawing their weapons bumped into him and immediately turned on him with a snarl, assuming he was with her. He sighed as he sidestepped the blade and propelled a knee into the man’s gut, which knocked the wind out of him as he stumbled forward. The cloaked figure’s leather fingers grasped the back of his tunic and tossed him into another of those that had taken up arms.

Keri let out a huff of annoyance as she swung her shield around and bashed it into a mans head before she turned her flashing shock of lightning right behind the masked man at someone who had been behind him with a dagger drawn. “Sorry dollface.” She muttered as she inched around the group. “But it seems you got pulled in to my little party.” The woman told him as she moved closer to him. She peered up at him. “You do not happen to work with them do you?” She asked the masked man with an arched brow. Another spell very quickly charging in her grasp.

“I work for myself,” He uttered a growl, his voice was low and gravelly as he reached behind him to pull the now fried attacker over his head and brought him crashing down on the table where he fell limp. Coins of all sorts scattered and flew about the area as he brought a balled fist up to another man’s chin and knocked him clear of the ground. The man landed sprawled across the floor, unconscious.

She opened her mouth to speak but suddenly got the hilt of a blade to the back of her head. She rocked on her heels a bit before she finally crashed down on to the floor in a pile of cloth and plate clashing. Keri would groan lightly but she was completely out of it now. As her helm was still over by the turned over table. Having not exactly had the time to put it on that she had originally planned. A man walked up behind her and gripped her hair and yanked her head up and held the knife to her neck. “Alright girly..who paid you.” She muttered softly under her breath, mostly nonsense because the hit had truly knocked her senseless. But it could have been in insult.

“What was that girly?”
“I said you smell funny..” She slurred out before elbowing him in the groin and falling forward on her hands with a wince as he was forced to let go.

An arrow sank into the man’s shoulder and lodged into the wall behind him, pinning him to it as he was forced to drop the blade to bring his hand up to his shoulder in pain. A few feet away, the masked man stood with bow drawn and fingers still in the position from loosing the arrow. The rest of his entourage lay either unconscious or groaning from broken limbs, leaving him the only one able to talk.

He remained standing ready as he reached to knock another arrow to his bow. There would be no more surprises for him tonight, he had had his share and was fairly certain he would not be speaking with his contact after all.

She lifted her head as she heard him ready another arrow. Her blue eyes glanced up at the masked man and she climbed to wobbly feet. She looked around at the burnt and bruised bodies before she glanced up at him. “I know a safe place near by if you follow..before the guards arrive.” She said as she rubbed the back of her head, yanking her helm off the floor and pulling it over her head.

She headed for the door then paused and glanced back at him. “Come on, someone is bound to have alerted them by now..”

The shrouded man nodded to her and placed his bow back into the depths of his cloak before he moved to follow. He was light on his feet, despite the cloak billowing in his wake. Though why he would follow her was beyond him… he could have just as easily escaped on his own. Perhaps it was the thought that this could lead to some easy coin to make up for his own plans for a job being disrupted.

When they stepped outside the back door of the tavern. She lead him down several allies, a zig zag, likely took longer to get there this way, and that was likely done on purpose. If only to lose any guards who may have tried to follow them. Soon they exited the city and made their walk down a path to a house. When she reached the house she unlocked the door and waved to a little old lady cooking at a fire before she walked to the back wall and pushed the wall open.

Sliding inside she walked over to a desk and opened a box. “Here..since I managed to kill the guy anyway..You should have half of this..I got paid ahead of time to take that guy out.” She said tossing him a pouch. “Thats for getting you involved. Sorry.”

He shrugged as he inspected the coin closely, “I fight for two reasons. Either someone throws the first punch, or I’m being paid…” A grim chuckle escaped concealed lips as stark blue eyes peered at her from beneath his hood. The pouch disappeared into the depths of his cloak, “It’s rare that both happen at once.”

Satisfied with the unexpected payment, he turned to leave the way they’d come. “I like your style. Flashy.” He muttered in his gruff tone as a foot stepped through the hidden doorway.

“Flashy?” She asked as she followed after him. “If you do then why not stick around. Who knows, if we worked together maybe we could avoid issues like that from happening again.” She said as she folded her hands behind her back as she peered up at him. “Huh? What you think there handsome?” She asked as she slipped in front of him.

“I’m pretty good at taking a hit, and you're damned good with a bow.” She reached out and poked his arm with a grin. “Come on. A partner never hurts. Back up is always good right?” She asked grinning up at him.

His hand twitched as he resisted the urge to reach for his weapon, a reflex to her blocking his path. He peered down at her with narrowed eyes. “A partner?” He growled, “I work alone.” The masked man practically spat the words as his brow furrowed beneath the hood at the unintended insult.

Beneath the mask, he scowled, and it was evident in his eyes as he regarded her carefully. She blocked his path… and there was no way he could force past her without some sort of retaliation of a -shocking- sort. So he settled for simply staring her down.

She sighed up at him. “Come on man.” She said as she waved a hand. “At least give it a try. Who knows you may like it.” She said as she crossed her arms and peered up at him.” She then shrugged. “But if you want a take a business proposition as an insult. Then so be it.” Keri said as she stepped to the side and gave him a slight bow. “And here I was thinking we could double our work and profit.” She shrugged and moved on to talk to the old lady whose house she used as a cover.

She however did watch him out of the corner of her eye wondering if any of that processed with him. “You know where to find me if you decide you want to work with me.” She told him with a grin. “Hope to see you soon handsome.”

A sigh escaped him as he folded his arms across his chest and remained in place. Cold eyes stared her down as he caught the glance in his direction. “I was at that tavern to meet a contact… You help me track him down and finish the job… and I’ll consider it.” The proposal was rather begrudgingly, and it showed in his tone.

It was not an idea he enjoyed, having to split profits with another, but there was a possibility she could be of use. He would not deny her that, or the chance to prove herself. Just how well she would fair, however, was a totally different matter.

She grinned and clapped her hands together. “Wonderful! We can do that.” She said as she crossed her arms and stepped back up to him. “So come in to the back room and tell me everything you know about this guy and we can start looking.” She said as she moved in to the room again. The old lady went about cooking while they spoke. “If you have some basics on him he will be easier to find then if do not know anything, as there are a lot, of shady folks looking for contacts around here.” She said as she leaned on her table.

“Most merchants and the like.” She said with a small shrug. “Also..do you have a name I can call you? My name is Keribdis.” Keri said with a chuckle, having forgotten to introduce herself while they were fighting. Though that, she thought anyway, was entirely reasonable, people did not often introduce each other mid battle.

“I don’t have a name.” He said as he followed her and leaned back against the wall with his arms still folded across his chest. “Dark haired fat little man, squeals like a pig and runs away at the first sight of danger… but he has the job details. I was supposed to meet him at that tavern… now… I have no way of contacting him.”

He sighed and rolled his neck as a few cracks and pops sounded from the movement, “No doubt he couldn’t have gone far…”

Keri raised a brow. “Bullshit, everyone has something they go by.”

She looked up in thought at that and seemed to consider a bit. “I think I know a few people who could help..” She said with a small frown. “We may have to pay them but one of the barkeeps. In a different tavern then the one we crashed, tends to keep tabs on the shady squealing pig types.” She said as she pursed her lips slightly in annoyance. “I like to avoid those types...they tend to try and get to graby..” She said clearly having had experience with that sort before.

“But yeah, ask my barkeep friend, thats the best start I can come up with, since you got caught up in my issues, I will bet the guy went off to try and find someone else.”

“You’re coming with me to search.” He said as he motioned to the door with a nod of his head and stood up straight. “I’m not letting you off that easy, if you want me to consider partnering up with you.” Bright blue eyes narrowed on her as he looked her over.

“Take the roads. I’ll take the roofs… if you see anything, whistle.”

She rolled her eyes as she headed for the door. As she opened it she let out a small “Mmm, love a guy who can take charge.” She said as she stepped outside entirely. Once outside the house she stretched out her arms. “Hope you can keep up handsome.” Keri chided him as she suddenly took off. From the sparks that came off her feet it was clearly some sort of spell that helped move more quickly as she made her way back up to the city.

When she arrived however she slowed down, taking a much more calm approach as she entered the gates. Her eyes always scanning the area around her as she walked. She may have been a silly smart ass, but she was definitely not an idiot and she knew after the mess they caused in the bar earlier, someone was bound to be ready to try something.

Upon reaching the tavern in question, she opened the door slowly and stepped inside, making her way up to the bar she sat down and and ordered something quietly. Her eyes moved around the bar , hopefully her nameless friend had not bailed on her on the way here.

As she walked through the city, a figure above jumped from rooftop to rooftop, following her and scanning the crowds and alleys below for the description he was given. He crouched atop the nearest building and watched her enter the tavern. After a few moments he slipped from his perch, landed neatly on the ground, and walked normally for the door she had just entered.

Once inside, he kept to the periphery of her vision at the bar as he scanned the patrons. None of them seemed to fit the description accurately enough. He grumbled as he moved over to sit himself on the stool next to Keri, waving the bartend off when offered a drink.

When he joined her she gave him a slight nod before she waved the tend back. “Just mead.” She told him soon taking her mug before sipping it. “So. You have any new faces in here?” She asked the barkeep who tilted his head to the side. “You know I am going to need more than that Keri, we get people in here from all over.”

She sighed a bit. She looked at the man before her before she looked back at the keep. “He has been described as short, fat, dark haired and easily frightened.” She told him and the bartender nodded his head over toward the stairs. Keri nodded her head to not attract more attention and glanced at the masked man beside her. “Told you.”

“Lucky guess…” He said as he slid off the stool and headed for the stairs. Two flights up, as he rounded the corner he saw it. A short fat man with dark hair fumbling nervously with a key trying to unlock the door to the room he’d rented. Without a moments hesitation, the hooded man approached, yanked him up by the collar, and slammed him back against the door.

“I’ve been looking for you.” He growled, and as he spoke, the little piglet’s eyes opened from their frightened shut position, wide with recognition as he saw the man’s garb. This was the right man, he’d been given his description as well.

Keri followed him up curiously. When he found the guy she leaned on a near by wall and crossed her arms. Mostly making sure the little pig man was alone. She however was also curious as to why he felt the need to man handle the little squealer. Her blue eyes would scan around the area as she listened before she finally spoke up.

“Don’t scare him to much he looks about ready to soil his small clothes.”

“I- I swear I didn’t give it to anyone else!” The fat man managed as sweat began to trickle down his forehead. He clearly didn’t handle stress well. “H-here!” He dug out a small parcel from his pocket and lowered his voice to a hoarse whisper. “It was stolen… I’m sick of carrying it around, don’t open it, deliver it to a woman in scarlet down on the beach head.”

The way the man’s eyes shifted and avoided either of the pair’s caused the masked man to shake him harshly, “You’re not telling me something.” He said in a threatening tone as stark blue eyes narrowed on him.

He just squealed and flinched, “They say it’s cursed! Whoever has it, bad luck follows them until their dying days!” The little man squirmed and wriggled, “That’s all I know! Please! Please let me go!” He begged.

“Come on,” The masked man said to Keri as he took the parcel and dropped the man. He fell to his knees and scrambled to get up and fumble with the door key again before he rushed inside and slammed it shut behind him. Loud clicking could be heard as he locked and bolted the door.

She followed after him. “Cursed trinket..seriously?” She asked with a brow as she folded her hands behind her head. “To a woman in scarlet on the beach.” Her head tilted to the side as she seemed to ponder. “You can’t tell me that whole story does not sound made up in some kinda way..” She said as she pursed her lips in thought.

“Do you often get jobs like that?” She asked as they stepped outside before she motioned half heartedly in the direction of the beach. “That way.” She told him. Though she eyed the package curiously..wondering if there were such things as curses..I mean she learned how to shoot lightning out of her hands for fucks sake.

As they began to descend the stairs he growled, “Only when it’s a trap…” His eyes scanned the crowd at the base of the stairs for a moment before he began to cross to the door they had entered from. “There should be a hill near the meeting spot… wait there, and if something goes wrong don’t hesitate to kill. If you hesitate… it could be both of our lives.”

She eyed him closely before she nodded her head. “I do not hesitate, if I did I’d have a whole lot less headaches in life.” She said as she pushed the door open. “One thing you should learn about me quickly.” Keri told him in a shockingly serious tone before she motioned on. “I’m going to head for the hill, I’ll be waiting, and watching.” The young woman told him as she headed down toward the meeting spot.

When she reached the hill she crouched down. Looking around her to make sure no one else had the idea to use the same vantage point. Before she moved her eyes to look for the woman who was supposed to be there.

In the distance, a woman with golden locks draped around her shoulders, wearing a tight scarlet dress stood facing the ocean with her arms clasped in front of her. She waited patiently until the masked man approached and stood a few feet away. They exchanged some words, judging by body movement, that Keri wouldn’t be able to catch from her vantage point, until he moved to place a hand on her shoulder with the package in his other hand.

It was then that she whirled on him, a dagger was concealed by her back being turned to him, and she lunged forward. Blood spattered across the sandy shore and she took off just as arrows began to fly from the cliff just to the side of the hill and darkly garbed thugs ran out from their cover just below it and headed toward him.

Despite his wound, he turned, seamlessly drawing his bow with one fluid movement and loosing two arrows into the brush at the top of the cliff. The arrows halted, though the three men still ran toward him with blades drawn.

Keri did not hesitate. As she had to him she would not. The moment she saw the woman lunge and shot a suddenly bolt of lightning that would go crashing down toward the scarlet woman. The mage dover after that, right off the hill on to the beach, tucking and rolling as she hit the sand she then turned on the men charging at her masked companion and flung a fireball. Hitting one, clearly fatally and knocking a second back.

Her eyes narrowed as she turned to look the masked man over a bit. She was wondering how badly injured he was. She wasn't going to run after the scarlet woman if she missed her, it was likely another trap would just be waiting where ever she ran off to.

“Still with me?” Her tone was calm and level, her eyes everywhere around them as she waited.

He nodded, though a hand clutched his side and blood seeped from between his fingers. “Just a scratch…” He glanced back to where the woman had been, she had been grazed by the bolt of lightning, but had not taken enough of a hit to slow her down and was now nowhere to be found.

The masked man looked over the bodies in the distance and muttered, “Nice work…”

She simply nodded before she noticed the blood. “Let me see that..” She said with slight concern now that she’d come down off her adrenaline high. “Your bleeding fairly badly..if we go someplace safer I can fix it for you..” Keri told him as she eyed the bleeding wound beneath his hand.

“Did you know that woman? Or why these folks would want to set you up like this so badly?” She questioned curiously.

A hand dipped within his cloak, a thick, brown paste on his fingers as he withdrew it and coated the wound with it. “I did… at one time. I will not make that mistake twice…” He sighed and stood up straight, the paste had sealed the wound temporarily. It would be proof that he was always prepared and no stranger to dangerous situations.
“Let’s go back,” He nodded, “I can stitch this up myself and we can find out what’s really in that package… maybe it’s worth something.”

Keri let out a small sigh but nodded her head and lead the way she’d come. She shoved her thumbs in to her belt loops as they walked. Her eyes watched around them quietly as they headed back outside the city toward the cabin. She opened her mouth to speak but then snapped it should again, shaking her head, she was nosy but she knew better than to try and push answers for questions she figured he’d just try to work around anyway.

But Keri was not exactly known for her ability to keep to herself. So she had to ask anyway. “So could you at least tell me a bit about what just happened, since, She saw me come to your aide..fair to say I’m rather involved in all this now.” The dark haired woman said as she watched him carefully.

“When you get good at what you do… you tend to make enemies.” He said as they walked, a dark chuckle escaped him, but he stopped short and winced. The wound in his side prevented him from moving too much, though he managed to walk just fine.

“Or you could be worse than you think if people who know you well enough to gang up on you like what just happened.” It wasn't an intended insult, it was simply Keri and her way of speaking. “And you said you did not need anyone to work with.” She pointed at the door of the cabin when they got there. “Get in there and fix yourself up so we can be ready if they try something else.” The young woman told him before her eyes scanned the area behind them to make sure they had not been followed.

When she stepped inside she looked at the little old lady. “If someone you do not know comes by, set off the alarm and set the building on fire.” The old lady nodded her head and went back to cooking. “Of course.” She said as if they had this conversation before before she slipped into the back room.

He followed behind her cautiously. Once inside, he found a chair set in the corner to set himself down in and reached into a pouch at his waist, producing a needle and thread. “They call me The Black Dog…” Came his gruff tone as he weaved the needle and thread in and out of the wound. Most of the paste had either sunk into it or been cleared away by clutching it with his hand, and the bleeding had almost ceased. Steady hands worked as stark blue eyes watched his own movements intently.

She watched him closely. “You know I’m no master at it..but I am capable of basic restorative magic..might do you better than running around with stitches. “ She said as she watched him working quietly, she took a seat and crossed her legs, her forearms resting on her legs as she watched him. She then tilted her head to the side.

“Ohh you're that guy…” She said before she snicked a bit. “Fairly happy I did not take that job a few months ago then.” She said with a happy chuckle. “I would think you’d have been very annoying to fight against.” She said in an amused tone before she leaned back in the chair again. “So tell me..Black. What made you get into this kind of profession?” Keri asked in her normal curious and troublesome manner.

“I mean, I know from personal experience you can sort of just, fall in to it, but most do not..”

“I’ve been killing for money since I was a child.” He grumbled in mild annoyance, more to the question than to the pain he was experiencing. “The ointment I placed over the wound should heal it fully by a few days…” Black pulled the string taught and bound the flesh together before looping it through again and cutting it with a knife he’d withdrawn from within his cloak.

“You would have been only one of many to try. I don’t die easily.”

Keri nodded her head as she watched him over. “Alright..so anything in that parcel you were supposed to deliver?” She asked as she climbed to her feet again and wandered over to him. Leaning over to take a look as she watched curiously. “I want to see if they actually put something valuable in it or if they just packed it with something lame to make it weigh something.”

Her arms folded across her chest again. She eyed his side with mild concern before she locked her blue eyes on his again.

Black bent down to retrieve the parcel and ripped it open with one quick movement. It was a small box, about the width of his forearm and the length of half. He popped the top off of it and peered inside to see a golden necklace with large rubies cresting along the base of a flat surface that hung off of an intricately formed chain.

“Looks like we’re not walking away empty handed…” He said with what sounded like a smirk in his tone beneath the mask.

Keri peered over his shoulder and whistled. “I can have the old lady sell it. She tends to fence stuff for me when things have gotten rough in the city.” She said as she leaned down. “Gold..Never saw the appeal in it..its so gaudy, and so easy to spot in the light..” She shook her head.

“I had a partner once, had a thing for shiny junk..got him shot in the back.” She said with a nod before she patted Black on the back. “So tell me then my shady and poorly named friend. You going to stick around? At least try a couple jobs with me?” The mage asked with a wide grin.

“You helped me out of a rough spot…” He said with a nod, “You’ve earned it…” Though he placed the cover back over the necklace and placed it somewhere within the contents of his cloak. “I’ll stick to my own contacts… you’ll get half.” Blue eyes narrowed over her, still not completely trusting her or her methods yet, though his former suspicions had been confirmed. She would indeed be useful.

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Fine then.” She said as she rolled her eyes and moved away to take a seat again. “I look forward to working with you. You uptight ass.” The mage said though she smiled, picking up a book from a shelf and opening it as she crossed her legs again.

“Just let me know if you get a job before I do then. Will be fun to have someone to watch my back when things get rough.”