AN: Hey I have been hanging around Fiction-press for some time now reading and reviewing people's stories, but never planning on putting my stuff up here. Then after losing a bet, rather spectacularly I might add, I was con into putting this up here. Its not that I have a problem with Fiction press but rather my family views my writing as a phase. One they rather hope I will grow out of, so I have never been really confident about my writing. Anyway here is the Hall of Kings I hope you enjoy it. I have most of it already done and if you would like to see more let me know, if I don't hear anything or if you all thing it sucks (which it might) I most likely will not put anymore up! Sorry for rambling and I hope you enjoy!
Jo pulled her cloak closer to herself. Someone or something was following her. She wasn't really that worried, there were enough young punks training to be thieves that it was probably one of them but she loosen her dagger in its sheath just in case. She glanced around checking the shadows for suspicious objects or movements. She continued on, whoever was following her was keeping pace with her. Suddenly the footsteps behind her changed rhythm, they were moving faster not much faster but distinctly faster.
Jo paused briefly she had a problem she could cut through the alleys and get to the tavern much faster but if the person following her decided to attack she would be completely on her own. There were guards in the area but the King didn't pay them enough to patrol anything more than the main streets of the Western district. However if she stuck to the main roads she would be late to work and whoever was following her would have time to signal for reinforcements. She sighed even with guards patrolling the main streets offered no guaranteed safety. She made a quick right turn and then broke into a run changing direction many times trying to lose her follower. She knew these streets well she had grown up in the Western district so she had little worry of getting lost. Now she could smell the stink of the docks and the slave markets she was getting close. Putting on a last burst of speed she ran into the tavern.
"Whoa! Are the Prince's Pups after ya?" Sal's thick dock brogue greeted her as she entered the tavern.
" I dunno Sal someone was following me and they seemed to know the streets around here pretty good." Jo hung up her heavily patched cloak and pulled on her apron. " I don't think it was one of the Prince's guys because he wanted me to know he was there." Sal looked thoughtful, his thick accent and slow speech concealed a sharp mind. Jo knew that in his younger days he had been a feared river rat, but after a lengthy stay as the King's guest in Carmine's Folly he had given up his pirate life and had become the cook of one of the most nefarious taverns in the whole city.
"How vera strange, but this be the Western district strange things are always 'ccurrin'. Best get to get to work before Hank catches you coolin' yous heels in here." Jo nodded and went into the main room of the tavern.
She scanned the room for a familiar face among the crowd but she didn't see one. That wasn't that surprising she thought as she moved to stand behind the bar. This tavern catered to patrons who were passing through and wished to go unnoticed by the local authorities. The guards used to raid every six months or so but with the lower wages and increase in violence on the docks the Hall of Kings had been left to its own devices for quite some time.
Jo hated her job here, but jobs were scarce in the Western District and many places wouldn't take on a girl when there were so many men that needed jobs. Sal was the only reason she hadn't been fired. Sal made have traded in his cutlass for a spoon but he was still a terrifying figure, and had threaten Hank when Hank had tried to fire her. Jo thanked the gods every day that Sal had decided to take her under his wing he kept the patrons from bothering her too much, and he had convinced Hank that she need not be on the list of offered goods. The other girls resented that fact greatly, and spent their time making snide comments about her and Sal's relationship. She didn't care what they thought because they were wrong, Sal was kind to her and in return she ate Sunday dinner with him every week, listened to his stories, and helped keep his house clean. He treated her like a favorite niece and she like he was her uncle.
Jo sighed at the directions of her thoughts and began to wipe down the bar occasionally pausing in her work to pour drinks. It was unusually quiet tonight. The Hall of Kings was not normally exceedingly jovial or boisterous since her patrons often times preferred their anonymity, but it usually had two or three groups that were loud or they always had a few of the Prince's strong-arms looking to prove themselves in fights. However, tonight all of the lowlifes were subdued. Jo once again examined the room, looking for the person or thing that was causing this unusual stillness.
Her eyes scanned the room once, twice, and for a third time but could not find the culprit. Shaking her head she turned her thoughts back to the walk to work. That was puzzling not to mention worrisome. They had wanted her to know that they were following her. Even the newest, most greenhorn of the Prince's Pups, as the young thieves were known as in the Western District, would have been able to conceal their footfalls better than that. So who was following her and more importantly why?
Jo's thoughts were interrupted by her boss Hank's nasal voice. "Jo! Go up to room five and take care of the new girl, she's blubbering about something. And be snappy about it."
Jo was stunned, new girl? There was a new girl? Why hadn't Sal mentioned something about it? While she had a thousand questions running through her mind she knew better than to vocalize them. Hank was just looking for a reason to fire her and questioning an order would be the perfect opportunity. Even Sal wouldn't be able to protect her then, women especially women in the Western District of Port Cur, did not question men. With a curt nod Jo started toward the back stairs. "No don't use the main stairs use the servant's stairs in the back." Hank's voice made Jo clench her teeth, that man's voice could drive someone to murder. With another curt nod, Jo headed to the back.
Once she was in the kitchen she was assaulted by the acrid smell of burning sod and by the tangy smell of tonight's menu. She immediately began to look for Sal, but a quick look around revealed that he was not in the kitchen. How odd, where else would the cook be if not in the kitchen. She sighed, as much as she wanted to talk to him there was no way she could wait on him. She needed to go see to the new girl. None of the kitchen staff looked up from their tasks as she made her way across the kitchen to the servant's stairs. Even if Sal was not here his staff lived in fear of him. He was used to his orders being followed swiftly and accurately. Harsh words, the crack of a spoon against the head and usually a prompt dismissal faced anyone who slacked off or made a mistake. Those who managed to survive Sal's temper learned valuable cooking skills and had a decent paying job. Quickly ascending the stairs to the second floor. Jo walked down the dirty, foul smelling hall to room five.
Rael Shadowalker paced along the roof. He was not a patient demon. He wanted his prey and he wanted her now. He had been shocked when Althahier had called on him for this mission. Hunting down a member of the Darkshade Clan was his first real mission since his fall from grace. As of late he normally dealt with less challenging tasks such as collecting money owed to the clan, punishing those who failed to pay, and reminding people where their loyalties lay with a few broken bones, destroyed property, or missing prized object. A few years ago when he had been a rising star within the Shadowalker Clan he would've taken on this task and completed it with ease, but now things were different.
Rael continued his pacing. He didn't want to think about his past. No, now was not the time because for some reason it seemed that Althahier was giving him a chance to prove himself again and he was NOT going to screw this one up. He mentally ran over everything that Althahier had told him about the Darkshade girl. Althahier had said that she was a courier for the Darkshade clan and while she was only a half-member she was a very serious threat because of the information she was privy to. Althahier wanted Rael to 'convince' the girl to change clans; however if that proved impossible Rael had instructions to eliminate the threat through any means.
When Althahier had told him that the girl worked in one of the Western District's taverns, he hadn't believed it. Everyone knew that the serving girls of the taverns were expected to be part of the bar's services. Rael was familiar enough with the leader of the Darkshade Clan, Thaldri, a demon from one of the northern provinces, to know that he would never allow one of his members to be a play thing to what he considered the "lower races". So Rael had asked around for a tavern that had a serving girl that could not be bought. After nights of going from tavern to tavern he had finally found someone who knew of such a wench. The person had also been willing to part with which tavern for a small price.
So here Rael was on the roof waiting, waiting for the girl to finish up and head home.
Jo knocked softly on the door to room five, and when she heard no reply she let herself in. The room was dark with only a few embers in the fireplace. She was blinking several times trying to get her eyes to adjust to the dark, when she felt an arm wrap around her and a hand cover her mouth before she could scream. Jo tried to reach for her dagger but she couldn't. So she slammed her booted foot down on her attacker's foot. The man's grip loosened, giving Jo the opportunity to slip out of his grip. As she ran forward into the room she knocked over the table sending the food tray that was on it into the air, the harsh clatter of it hitting the floor seemed deafening in the small, dark room.
Rael frowned as he heard the muffled sounds of a struggle. He sighed as he felt surge of energy through his tattoo indicating he should help. He growled as he swung down on to the window ledge, he hated having to answer to some damn ink on his skin but he knew what would happen if he ignored it. More and more energy would surge through it and he would get sicker and sicker until his body acted on its own volition. He silently opened the window and slipped into the room.
Jo whorled around to face her attacker and drew her dagger. Her eyes scanning the room for the assailant; however, she could not see him in the shadows. She tried to listen for any sounds, but only heard the sounds of her own labored breathing. And then suddenly she heard a soft rustle over by the window as if someone had brushed by the curtains. Quickly and without thought or hesitation Jo launched toward the sound and made several slashing motions with dagger. She felt her blade connect with something, though she did not know what.
Rael growled as he felt the blade slice his forearm he quickly grabbed the girl's wrist and forced her to drop her dagger and then held to keep her of attacked yet again. He looked around the room his eyes well adjusted to seeing in the near pitch blackness, if it weren't for the total lack of light in the room the situation would not be too hard to grasp. What with the man standing in front of the door and the terrified girl in his arms, but a human would need a least a candle to be able to see what he was doing. So that meant the man by the door had to at least be partially demon to see in the dark yet he had still not made a move from his post by the door. The struggling girl in his arms interrupted Rael's thoughts. Rael hissed in pain as her fingernails found the cut along his arm. Jo, sensing she had weakened the man's grip on her threw back her head vainly trying to break his nose. The man quickly dodged her assault and gave her a good hard shake. Once Jo seemed to have stopped squirming Rael leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Girl, you are fighting the wrong person here calm yourself."
Jo snorted, the bastard trying to convince her that he was not the bad guy, sure there were two crazy fiends in the room and one was trying to help her, yeah right. Rael once again ignored the girl in his arms and looked at the demon by the door. He had yet to move only the smirk on his face showed that he had observed the struggle. Noticing Rael's examination of him the man's smirk changed into a malicious smile, in the low guttural language of his race he called out, "So Rael long time no see, sunk so low that now you are rescuing little girls from the big nasty demons?"
Rael gritted his teeth, he knew that voice, "Zakhas, I should have known it was you. Who else would sink so low as to force themselves on a Human of all things?"
Zakhas snarled at the insult and with lightening quick speed charged Rael and Jo. Anticipating the attack Rael shoved Jo out of the way and met Zakhas head on. They met in a flurry of fists and snarls. Jo lay where the demon had shoved her and listened to the battle in stunned silence. She knew she should be trying to escape but she had gotten turned around in the blinding darkness and did not know in which direction the door lay. So she lay there and listened to the growls of the demons, wincing when she heard a particularly loud crash or snarl. Jo had been taught to fear demons her whole life, it wasn't that they were the most evil or dangerous species. No, it was that they of all the other races and species they had the lowest opinion of humans. They viewed them as the lowest of the "lower races", and therefore to be used however the saw fit. Having two fighting over her was not good. She didn't know how long she sat there, but she had been sitting there like a foolish ninny for far too long. She needed to get away while she had a chance. She quickly got to her hands and knees and moved away from the fighting. With in a few inches she found crawling in her dress to be almost impossible. She inwardly cursed, and began tugging and bunching up her dress and under garments until they were about her waist. She once again began crawling, the threadbare rugs and cold wood floor digging into her hands and knees.
Behind her, the fight still raged on both demons taking hit after hit. After delivering a particularly nasty hit to Zakhas, one that sent him careening into the wall the impact causing him to slump to the floor. Rael looked around for the girl and saw stop frantic crawling as she heard the fight stop. Chuckling at the fact she was crawling away from the door, Rael silently walked over and scooped her up. She immediately began to struggle kicking and clawing at his skin, Rael continued to chuckle at her futile efforts. Sensing her efforts were not getting her anywhere Jo went limp, Rael rolled his eyes perfect she passed out, stupid human. Suddenly Jo let out an ear splitting scream. Rael surprised dropped her and clapped his hands over his sensitive ears. Jo struggled to her feet and blindly took off hoping to find the door. By sheer luck or by divine help Jo managed to find the door and flee into the hallway before the demon caught up with her.