Rue crept as quietly as she could, hiding behind boxes and pillars

AN- Ok, this is the next part, I know it is very different from the first but all will reveal! I'd like to thank my wonderful reviewers – Fern (you were my first ever!!! Thanks!!!), Steph (Yes I know you don't like my summery!), LongLongHair (OK, you can nitpick this!) and LongLongLegz (I know you didn't review, but I know you tried!)

Thanks to all these people and anyone who is reading it PLEASE REVIEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rue crept as quietly as she could, hiding behind boxes and pillars. She reached the pillar that the boy was tied up at. Two other boys were jeering at him calling him a girl and a bookworm.

'Why did you even think about becoming a knight?' a tall black haired boy said. Rue took this opportunity to get right behind the pillar where the boy was held captive.

'I'm going to let you free, pretend you are still tied, if you have to run come back later' she whispered into his ear, 'wiggle your fingers if you understand and agree'. He did as she asked; she bent down and with a sharp dagger, sliced through the ropes that were holding his legs to the pole, she freed his hands in the same manner. She crept around the other side of the warehouse, careful as ever.

'Binding you was probably a waste of good rope, you couldn't fight to save your self!' the red haired boy jeered.

'But I can!' Rue said from the behind the boys, 'may I ask why you are on my area, Joccan and Grunder? Yours is the palace and the grounds, nowhere near here!' she said, as calm and collected as anything, her dark eyes burned with a hidden fire, dressed in ragged boy's breeches and shirt, with her dark hair pulled back and up in a hat, she looked like a youth, not many people knew what she really was. The two other boys swung around to stare at her.

'Rue, err… we didn't expect to see you here!' the boy called Grunder said alarmed.

'Well, in that case will you please return to the places where you belong!' she said with her hands on her hips.

'No, we wont, and you can't a thing about it, you're just a boy, we are knights!' Joccan said with a sarcastic grin on his face.

'Oh can't I?' she said drawing her dagger, it looked sharp, it's hilt and scabbard were wrapped in cloth but no doubt it was deadly, Grunder turned white.

'Maybe you should just leave him alone, Joccan, I have heard the stories.'

'I will decide to do what I want, I don't need you to mother me!' Joccan said with a sneer.

'Well then, I'm going!' Grunder called as he fled.

'What am I going to do about this stuff up tied to the pillar?' he called after his friend.

'I suggest letting him go!' Rue said with a small smile.

'No, first I'm going to give him what we brought him here for!' he said walking towards the boy on the pillar, drawing his sword. As quick as lightning Rue covered the distance and grabbed his sword arm, swinging him around, the boy tied up on the pillar ran for his life.

'Hey! You come back here,' he said after the running youth, 'I'll kill you later!' he said to Rue, she let him go as he ran after the other boy.

'I'd like to see you try,' she said to herself and went back inside the warehouse…

Saph walked into the building, he thought this was the same place he had been brought to earlier, but since then he had run through the market and down as many alley ways as there were hairs on his head. It had taken him a good hour to shake off Joccan and then another one to find this place again, after all this he hoped the boy that helped him was still here, he might of given up.

'Hello!' said a voice from up high in the rafters, the dirty youth climbed down from somewhere up above.

'Oh! It's you!' Saph said, 'I mean, thank you for saving me.'

'It's fine,' Rue said, 'no trouble, what's your name anyway, I'm Rue.'

'I'm Saph, so, is this where you live?' he said looking around, 'I live up at the palace, err… over the stables I mean…' he looked at the ground, she felt he had let something slip, but she wasn't sure.

'You've got a nasty cut on your head, do you want me to fix it?' she asked. She didn't want to get mixed up in people from the palace, but she felt connected to this boy, so she wanted to help him, but when she looked at him she was surprised to find he looked about her age. She had thought him younger, he had blond hair and deep blue eyes; he was as fair as she was dark.

'Oh, no, I'll be fine,' he said, he put his hand up to his head, he had felt the throbbing of the pain but had taken no notice of it when he had been running, it was hurting now.

'Come on, you can have a cup of tea anyway, it's up here,' she said walking over to a post, 'hang on, I'll have to go up first and get my ladder, back in a minute!' she said and climbed up the post to a ledge that was just sticking out up there and then she disappeared. Saph was surprised; the post had no handholds or footholds that he could see. Suddenly there was a rustling sound.

'Look out below!' she called, as she lowered a rope ladder down, 'here, climb up!' Saph gave a tug on the ladder to make sure is was safe and then he climbed up on to the ledge when he got to the top he was amazed to find that when he stepped on to it there was a gap in the wall that he couldn't see from below.

'In here,' came Rue's voice from inside, 'just slide through, there's some steps as soon as you come through.'

Saph carefully looked into the dark passage to see if he could see the steps, he moved a little way in and felt them he climbed up them, using his hands as well as his feet, he then cam to the top, he put his head out of a hole into a light room. He came fully out and was surprised to find himself in a large room.

'There used to be a secret club that met here, that's where the stairs came from, the roof on the outside is deceptive isn't it?' she said from over in one of the corners, she had put crates around a small area like a room, 'here's where I live, do you wants something to eat?'

'Oh, are sure?' he asked walking over to where she was tending to the fire, 'I will if you have some to spare.'

'Yeah, sit down here, I've got some bread and venison,' Rue said getting some things out of a container that was next to the fire, 'the meat's dried for storage, but it's still good.' Saph sat down next to her.

'Thanks,' he said as she passed him some bread and meat, 'so, do you live here by yourself? Don't you get lonely?'

'No, I'm used to it.'

'When you were talking to Joccan and Grunder, you said some thing about your area, what's that?'

'Oh, that's old fashioned mainly, you see the thing is, I belong to a 'thieves court', it's the only way I can get food,' she said when she saw his startled face at the mention of her 'profession', 'my area is around here, any operation big around here, I get a cut. Joccan and Grunder belong to the court too, their area is the palace and the grounds, along with others.'

'I didn't know they were as dishonest as that, they aren't poor, they are nobles!' Saph said wide-eyed.

'You'd be surprised, the area thing isn't used much nowadays, it was mainly when the last leader of the court was in power. My friend Vern, who is the leader now, doesn't approve of it, so it has gone out but sometimes you have to make use of these sorts of things,' She explained as she finished her meal, 'do you want me to fix your cut now?'

'Ok,' he said, 'it's a strange thing for a lad to learn, healing' he said as she cleaned his wound, 'no offence.'

'None taken, I pick up most things as I go along, this I learnt from a lady I lived with when I was about six'.

'You must get around a lot,' he said wincing as she put the bandages on his head.

'Yeah, I go from place to place,' she said, 'there, all done, now do you have some where to go tonight or do you need some where to stay? Because if you're going somewhere I'd better escort you.'

'Oh, I'll be fine…actually do you mind if I stay here tonight, I mean, I may not be accepted well at home, please?

'No, it's fine, I don't care, I've got plenty of space,' she said sweeping her arms wide, 'you can sleep over here,' she said, getting some blankets from a pile on the other side of the fire and putting them on the floor across from what was obviously her bed. They both undid their sword belts and got into the blankets.

'Goodnight, and thanks for all the help you gave me.' Saph said suddenly feeling tired.

'Night,' Rue said.

***

Saph woke up in a strange place, he sat up carefully and reached for his sword, not that it was much use, since he was hopeless with it, but it provided security. He then, after looking around, realised where he was and what had happened yesterday. He saw Rue over in a corner looking through some boxes.

'Hello, good morning,' he said sleepily.

'Good morning, you slept late, I was about to wake you,' she said waling over, 'I'm running low on food and I need to go down to the market to get some.'

'Oh, if you need to go out, I'll go then,' he said getting up and buckling on his belt and putting on his boots, 'thanks for letting me stay, if you want I can go home and get some coin to pay you back for dinner.'

'Oh no, it's OK, you can come with me if you want, you can help me get some cash while we're there.'

'No, I can't do that, I've never stolen anything in my life,' Saph said looking worried.

'Well it's a good time to start then, you have to know these things if things go bad.'

'All right then,' he said.

They left the warehouse and walked down to the market, they stoped on a hill and Rue looked out to the hills beyond.

'One day,' she said to herself.

'What?'

'Oh, I was just thinking, one day I'm going to travel there, as far as the eye can see… and travel up the highest mountain, the mountain of the Guardian Gods, and conquer them for the Jewel Of Power… one day…'

'I thought that was just a child's tale.'

'I don't care, I'm going to try anyway…' she looked wistfully at the distant mountains, she hoped with all her heart that one-day would come soon.

They were standing in an alleyway near the marketplace.

'So, I think I'll go out and get the essentials, and then I'll start to teach you, back soon,' Rue said and within a second she was gone. Saph glanced around, he was wary because Joccan and Grunder were most likely to be in the city today. They certainly wanted to make sure he didn't get away with escaping them; they would want to pay him back. He sat down he might as well be comfortable while he waited for Rue.

'I'm back!'

'That was quick! Did you get anything?'

' 'Course, I got some coin and some food, you want lunch?' she said obviously pleased with her efforts.

'Ok, what food did you get?' Saph asked trying to look in to a small sack that she hadn't had when they had started out that morning.

'Come on we'll sit over here,' she said laughing, 'I take it your hungry, haven't you ever gone without breakfast before?'

'No, do you do it frequently?' he said

'Yeah, I hardly ever have lunch as it is, I don't exactly have unlimited means!' she passed him a bread roll with cheese on top.

'Rue! I believe you owe something to me?' said a hard voice from the other end on the alley. Rue stood up with Saph strait after her.

'Pardon, Hammen?' she said her voice icy.

'You know what I want, I won fair and square!' the tall man said striding closer, 'so, who are you?' he said to Saph as and after thought.

'Leave him, he's not dumb enough to fall into one of your stupid tricks, I did once, but I wont again!' she said walking straight up to him. 'You were drunk, I won as I'm sure your little friends will tell you, they were there, unless they want to answer to me.' She said, looking straight into the eyes of the other men standing around the man called Hammen, they all looked at the ground, and mumbled some thing that couldn't be heard.

'Well, do you wish to fight then?' Hammen said shrewdly, 'settle it once and for all? Or are you scared?'

Rue drew her dagger, 'I am not afraid!'

'Rue, are you sure you should be doing this?' Saph asked, Hammen looked like he meant business and his friends certainly weren't 'little'.

'You just stay out of it at all costs, I'll be fine,' she said her jaw set.

'Oh look the little boy's scared!' Hammen jeered, 'well, are you going to fight me or not?' he said drawing a dagger a shade longer than Rue's.

'Let's get to it then!' she said with a strange smile. Both fighters circled, Saph was, in spite of him self, scared, he hadn't seen many blood fights before, he wasn't sure he wanted to find out how this one turned out. Hammen struck out at Rue's side, she blocked with her dagger and caught him on the upswing, giving him a shallow cut on his arm, she didn't wait for him to strike next she whipped her blade up to the bridge of his nose.

'Alright, alright, I yield.' He said, 'you won this time and I'll clear the debt, but I won't forget it!' he said and stalked off.

'Well that was interesting,' Rue said as she wiped he dagger on her breeches. Saph was looking at her wide-eyed.

'He was so much bigger than you, he could have flattened you!' Saph was amazed.

'No he couldn't, I know a lot more than he does, he was easy, come on, we might as well go back to my loft, I'll teach you to pickpocket another day.'

Saph shook his head and followed Rue out of the alley. Rue looked down at the ground, there were shadows of the people passing, it was afternoon and they were getting longer she judged it to be 3 o'clock, she suddenly noticed something, neither her nor Saph were casting shadows, she was used to herself but Saph? She quickly glanced at him, he was staring up at the palace, deep in thought, she wouldn't mention it; it could be a mistake…

They came outside a large house.

'Do you mind if we go for a drink in here I want to see someone,' Rue asked turning towards the doorway of the house.

'Oh, yeah fine, who do you want to visit in here?'

'Oh, just a friend, his name's Vern,' she said as they walked in the door.

'Isn't he the Leader of the Thieves Court?' he asked.

'Yeah, you've got a good memory,' she said, 'this is the Thieves Court.' They had walked into a room that was full of people; there was a bar at one side of the room, and Saph noticed mirrors put at strategic points around the room.

'What are they for?' he asked pointing to them.

'Oh, they are so that Vern can see anyone in the room from just his chair over there, without turning his head,' she said waving her hand at a large wing backed chair in front of the fire. 'I'm the only one that can walk around undetected, here I'll introduce you to the barman, Jeffers, he'll give you a drink while I go and talk to Vern, Ok?'

'Yeah, that's fine' Saph said as Rue led him over to a kindly man.

'Hello Rue, do you want anything?' Jeffers asked.

'No, I'm going to go and talk to Vern, would you mind giving my friend Saph one though?'

' 'Course, what would you like?'

Rue left them to it and walked as quiet as a cat to the chair,

'Good afternoon, Vern,' Rue said sliding into one of the chairs next to his.

'Ye Gods! Ruby girl, when will you stop surprising me like that!' Vern was a strong man of about forty-five; he had flaming red hair and the sort of charm that made him very likeable among his 'subjects', but as a likeable man as he was, he could make enemies quickly and anyone who didn't obey his 'laws of his empire' payed dearly. The only person who could get through to him was Rue herself. Vern had taken her in and had taught her how to fight and her 'trade', she was his closed friend and despite the age difference, he loved her.

'Well I've got to keep you on your toes!' she said laughing, 'I've come to talk to you about Joccan and Grunder, I know it's outdated, but they were in breach of the territory pledge made by Braan, I know you don't like it but I had to use it to stop them hurting my friend.'

'What friend?' Vern said twisting around in his seat to look out into the room, this was something he rarely had to do, Rue wondered why, then she thought of the shadows today… no it couldn't be, could it?

'Saph, the blond haired boy at the bar talking to Jeffers,' she said, her mind ticking over, 'I had to help him, Joccan had him tied up in my warehouse, his usual bulling.'

'I must do something about him, Grunder is Ok, though a bit gullible, but Joccan is downright sneaky.' Vern said staring into the fire, 'so is your friend staying with you? How much do you know about him?'

'Yes, I don't know that much about him, but then, I don't give much away myself.'

'You are always so cautious!' he said laughing.

'Yeah, but I've learned from the master of safeguards!'

'So have you decided when to make your 'journey'?' he asked, he always thought her idea of her journey was a bit of a joke, but he couldn't say too much for fear of offending her and also because it was her father who had told her about the Jewel Of Power. It was one of the only memories she had of him.

'No, I haven't yet but one day I will, and you never know one day I might just go without saying goodbye!' she said, 'and I'll come back and you'll ask whether I've decided to go, and I'll have already been!'

'No, you wouldn't do that! I know you!'

'Do you?' she said with a strange smile.

'All right, you win, I'll never know you, and I like it that way!' he said looking into her eyes, and grabbing her hand. She broke his eye contact and pulled her hand away.

'Here, do you want me to get Saph, I bet he'd like to say hello?' she said hurriedly, she didn't like the way their conversation was turning, 'we could play cards or something if you want?'

'Ok, you go get the boy,' Vern said as she went to get Saph, he was unhappy that Ruby would never realise his intentions, but then he was much older than her she probably would never want someone like him, though he could still dream…

'Hello,' Saph said, he looked Vern over, he looked as if he owned the place, and coming from what Jeffers had said, he probably did.

'Well, hello Saph, Rue has told me about the little predicament that,' he glanced to Rue and she mouthed 'he'. Vern knew she liked to keep her gender a secret because men usually preyed on defenceless women (thought Rue was hardly defenceless) but he wasn't sure why with this boy, he seemed harmless, 'he had to help you with, and I will 'speak' with the people in question.'

'Thanks, I'd really appreciate it, they haven't been too nice lately.'

'Well, do you guys want to play cards or something?' Rue asked, 'we don't have to play for money if you want,' she knew Saph had no money and she didn't have much herself, sometimes she gambled but not very often because she only ever had money to spare when she took part in a big operation.

'I could get some chips if you want,' Vern said.

'Yeah we could do that,' Rue said drawing up a chair to sit in a circle around a small table.

'I'm sorry but I don't think I know how to play your kind of cards,' Saph said apologetically.

'What do you mean 'your kind of cards'? Are you implying something?' Vern said shrewdly.

'Oh no no, I just was just meaning, the only type of card games I've learnt are the ones that the nobles play, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that you would play those type of games,' Saph said quickly. He knew he had almost made a blunder and, surrounded by Vern's friends and comrades, he doubted if it came to a fight, that Rue and himself would be able to get away, he even doubted that Rue would help him. He realised, this was just like home, he'd have to play it carefully…

'Oh, you two just shut up!' Rue said standing up with her hands on her hips, 'Ok, square, I'll teach you to play Saph, and Vern stop trying to pick fights with all my friends!'

'Right, I'll get the cards,' Vern said getting up and going into another room adjoining the main one.

'Just watch it with Vern, I don't think things are going his way today,' Rue said quietly to Saph, though she knew the real reason that Vern wasn't happy.

'Ok, I'll be careful,' Saph said but stoped quickly as Vern returned. He set the cards and the chips down on the table and dealt them out, and then Rue proceeded to teach Saph the rules of the game. Once he had got the hang of it the game he did quite well. Vern ordered ales for himself and Saph, Rue never drank she always just had lemonade. She told everyone that she didn't like the taste, but really she felt that it dulled her senses and more than once had she had to rely on he wits to get home, she could not afford to get drunk and risk her life. Gradually the game got louder and noisier and with Saph and Vern slowly taking more risks Rue began to win, it was a good thing that they weren't playing for money. Saph and Rue ended up having dinner with Vern; it was overall a very good night.

'We had better go, thanks for the drinks and dinner, Vern,' Rue said getting up at the end of their last game, 'come on Saph,' she said laughing.

'Thanks for coming to see me, Rue, I'll see you out,' Vern said staggering a little as he stood up. Rue shook her head. The walked towards the door, Rue waving to friends who she saw as they passed. The night was slightly chilly it was getting into winter.

'Bye Vern, I'll see you sometime!' Rue said as they walked away.

'Yeah, Bye!' Called Saph, he was walking in zigzags; Rue shook her head he definitely wasn't used to drinking. They got to the warehouse relatively easily, but it took a while for Rue to get Saph up to the loft. When she eventually got him up there he straightaway collapsed on the bed that he had slept in the night before. Rue stayed up and straightened her things before going to bed herself.

Rue woke up the next morning, she went through her usual practice with her dagger, as the loft was big, she was able to practice in it. She stretched and went through many drills and passes before Saph woke up.

'Oh, hello, I'm sorry that I wasn't very …err… helpful last night.' Saph said sitting up.

'It's fine,' Rue replied sheathing her dagger and walking over, 'do you mind if we go to the market again today? I realised I forgot to get myself some more rope for my ladder, it's getting thin.'

'Yeah, that's good.'

'I'll be able to give you a couple of lessons in pick pocketing if you want,' she said, 'we'll go in a minute so if you want to get organised.'

'Oh, yeah,' Saph said getting up and putting on his boots, 'Umm… Rue, would you be able to make me look a bit different, because…umm…well, the people I live with might be down in the market place, and well they wouldn't be too happy if they found me?'

'Oh, Ok, the most noticeable part, would be your hair, wait a minute…' she jumped up and grabbed two bowls and went down to the warehouse. She came back with one of the bowls filled with mud and the other filled with dry dirt, 'here, this will help, come and sit by the fire and I'll see what I can do.' Saph did as she asked, 'now, if you rub this mud in you hair it will darken the colour and make it stick at different angles, and if you rub the dirt on your face, hands and clothes it will make you unnoticeable,' she said as he rubbed the mud in his hair.

'What do you mean 'unnoticeable'?' he asked.

'Well, from experience, I have found that people pay less attention to people who are dirty or the ones who hide in shadows,' she said walking over to a box in the corner, 'anyone who knows you would be less likely to recognise you.'

'Oh, do you do that often?'

'Sometimes, for when I've been doing a big theft I blacken myself with soot from the fire, but that sometimes stains you clothes and makes your skin a bit grey for a while.' She said bringing over a piece of mirror, 'have a look and see what you look like.'

'Err, um, yes very good,' he said looking into the mirror; he didn't see a reflection…he never did.

'I knew it!' Rue had been standing behind him, he hadn't seen her in the mirror, 'so that means I'm not the only one…' she said thinking aloud.

'What are you saying?' Saph said confused.

'We are the only two then, I thought so when you had no shadow, and then Vern didn't notice you…' she said pacing, 'Didn't you know, Saph? I have no shadow either, or reflection…' she said looking strait at him.

'I only have a reflection in running water,' he said, 'Do you?'

'Yes, but also in our blades, look,' she said drawing her dagger, she brought it over to him, she put it in front of his face, he saw his face, he looked up at her.

'So we are the only two?'

'As far as I know, I only thought it was me, that's why I'm the only person who can get past Vern's mirrors,' she said sheathing her dagger.

'Does he know?'

'Yes, so we are two of a kind, who would of thought?'

'Well, what happens now? How many people have you told? I once showed a guy who I thought was my friend, he thought I was a freak…'

'Don't worry, the only person who knows about the shadow-reflection thing is Vern and the healer I once lived with,' she said putting the fragment of mirror away, 'I think you're disguised enough, come on, we'll go down to the market and I'll give you a lesson.'

'Ok,' he said as they climbed out of the loft.

Saph went with Rue while she 'acquired' her rope; he was amazed at her skill. They went into another alleyway to talk, the market was always very noisy, Rye made sure this alleyway was a dead-end before they sat down.

'Now, that business is done, time for your lesson.'

'You were amazing, the way you got that rope!'

'Thanks, it wasn't much, come on, get up!' She said getting ten coins out of her pockets, and handing them to him, 'right, put these in your pockets, now the easiest way of searching someone is to brush or knock someone, watch carefully, I'll brush past you, pretend that your in a crowd, people are jostling you from every direction, ready?'

'Ok.' Rue walked strait towards him and made and seemingly accidental knock against him and he just saw her hands reach into his pockets. She held up all ten coins.

'Now, you'd be broke!'

'Wow! How'd you do that!'

'Easy, now you try it doesn't matter if you can't, its only practice,' she said transferring the coins to her pockets. They had a good morning practicing, by the end of it Saph had managed to go out into the market and get some money, with the 'victim' only noticing at the end when Saph called out to Rue…

'Look! I did it!' Rue put her head in her hands, he was hopeless, she could tell he had lead a sheltered life, he hid it, but she thought that he was more than a boy who lived above the stables, he could be a noble – he could be anything. . As a rule she didn't give much information about herself so in exchange she didn't ask much of anyone. They walked back to the alley, Saph was in a happy mood – he felt he had finally done something, before this his whole life had been full of failure – hopeless at sword fighting, wrestling, talking to girls and life in general. This was his chance to do something with his life, dishonest as it may be.

'Well done, though we could have done without the shout,' Rue said.

'Sorry about that, I just got excited,' Rue laughed.

'How old are you?' she asked suddenly curious in spite of herself.

'What? Oh, I'm turning seventeen in a couple of months,' he said, 'you?'

'I've just turned sixteen, come on let's go back to the warehouse, I've got to repair my rope.'

'Oh, right,' Saph said as they walked through the market place.

When they got to the warehouse Rue felt something was wrong, they went in and she saw a wooden ladder propped up against the wall she usually climbed up on, she drew her dagger.

'Someone's been here,' Saph said, he drew his sword.

'Yes, I'll go up, if anyone comes call out,' she went up the wall without waiting for an answer. Rue came out in to her loft, her ladder was cut up into many pieces, the ashes from her fire strewn about, there were no blankets left, most of her meagre possessions were gone or broken, her mirror smashed, there was nothing left.

'Saph you can come up now, there's no one here now,' she called.

'Ye Gods! What happened?' he said looking around in horror, 'I thought that nobody but you knew the way up.'

'This hasn't always been my home, people have lived here before me they probably knew the way up,' she said walking around picking her broken things up, she walked over to the window and looked over at the distant mountains, 'there's nothing left for me here now…'

'So what are you going to do?'

Rue looked strait at him,

'I think it's time I make my journey…'