It was definitely the cushiest job she had taken on in a long while, as well as the best paying, not that loads of money meant much to Ninaste anyway, it was nearly all spent before she left the city to go on to another. This was the way she was spending her life now, living from city to city, taking on an assortment of jobs ranging from slaying goblin hordes to escorting the well to do, as she was doing here, within Tsar. Well, finishing would be more like it; her latest job was coming to a close.
It had been far from strenuous, the man, traveling in the company of his young daughter, was fresh off the rails when he spotted the exchange of money between her and the last escort job before this; the sword at her side always seemed to draw attention, be it good or bad. She almost refused the offer, having not an hour to rest before he wanted to leave, but his insistence followed by a healthy salary ended up swaying her. It had been an easy trip, the man and his daughter kept mostly to themselves which Ninaste didn't mind at all, preferring her own company than having to entertain, and it was not long before they came to Neecan Quarters of Tsar. They were lavish, the buildings decorative and impossibly extravagant; it made her sick.
She saw the way of life beyond the gated utopia protected under the law of Mage Neeco. The diseased, the dying, filth littering the streets while robbery played out in the open alleyways. It had been the only time during their journey Ninaste gripped the hilt of her blade. But they made it through without incident. Mission completed and money in hand two things came to mind; to get out of the Neecan Quarters and to find an inn.
The inns near the port looked promising, high brow enough that perhaps the food would be edible and the beds at least somewhat comfortable, her only worry would be that some drunkard might take a fancy and follow her to her room. It was nothing she couldn't handle and being surrounded by people, as decadent as they were, was good enough cover for the time being. She kept to the large cities now even though she hated them; they provided a weak shell of protection in her own eyes. It would be harder for the remaining of the Four to come and find her.
As Ninaste walked through the Neecan Quarters she noticed several stares as she passed. Truly, she wasn't surprised, as disheveled as she must have looked. She wore men's clothes, the awkward sizing nearly swallowing the combination of fit muscles and fine womanly curves of her body, especially over her chest, as her breasts were bound tightly beneath. The belt at her waist was also that of a man's, more specifically, her father's, a "memento" given to her as a gift for her loyalty to the being she was trying so earnestly to escape. The thick leather was worn and beginning to crack, the weight of the sheathed katana causing it to tilt crookedly on her hips, only giving her attire an even sloppier appearance. Her hair was messed, colorless, and laid in uneven layers against her head, fine strands of the pale blonde clinging to her forehead from the light sweat of her skin.
But her face was entirely womanly, even though her expression was as stern as her eyes, the two honey brown orbs flecked with red glancing around distrustfully. And with good reason, she was being followed. She realized it nearly a block ago, a shuffle of feet, a whispered word, and a muffled chuckle. She sighed quietly, even when she made a point to look as undesirable as a woman could be, she always seemed to find the one group of men who didn't care, so long as she was a woman. It was best to be over with it quickly.
A dark alley came ahead and Ninaste made a point to turn there, much to the delight of her pursuers she was sure. She slowed her steps and glanced around at her surroundings. From the back it may have looked like she came to realize she had taken a wrong and turn and was lost, but it was far from the case. She was looking for bystanders, anyone who could be harmed if the situations turned hairy. She had no intention of killing them if she could get away with it but it was a precaution she took none the less.
Shadows moved and behind her rang the sound of metal striking one of the stone building sides that made up the alley; she turned to face those at her back. Six to eight men it seemed, a larger size group than what she expected. Her lips pull into a frown, inwardly cursing herself for not making sure of their numbers before setting herself up for attack. They ranged in size and stature, all wielding long, metal pipes. Their leering faces grinned like mad devils as they began to circle her and Ninaste noticed that one of the men looked a bit more anxious, more excited than the others. Perhaps it was his first time. Their calloused hands stroked the pipes and, with a single gesture, a silent nod from one to the other, they advanced.
Ninaste's poised herself for it, looking not to the men that could actually do her damage, focusing her attack instead on the weakest link in their chain. She crouched as they closed in but before the first pipe was swung she had already leapt over the charging head of the anxious man, landing behind him with a soft grunt. He had little time to turn, only enough to glance at her from over his shoulder when she placed a booted foot against his back, pushing him forward into the oncoming fray. A swung pipe, too late to pull back, crashing into his head, the skull cracking with a sickening sound that filled the nearly silent alley. The man fell to the ground, his body convulsed and then stilled.
The group turned in a wave and came at her again, leaving the fallen unceremoniously behind. The end of the alley was at her back, she was, for the most part, closed in, just another stupid mistake on her part. She ducked an attempted strike at her head and reached for the man's wrists, giving it a hard twist, slapping the delicate bones within. He yelped, the lead pipe falling from his grasp as he stumbled back, Ninaste aiding him with a hard strike of her elbow into his stomach. She rolled across the ground from a torrent of attacks and resumed a crouch position again, startled though to find at least one of the men ready to greet her. She felt the pressure of the pipe before the pain as it slammed itself into her arm, the block more instinct than reaction. The bones within were safe, the muscles, now bruised, strong enough to save her from a break. But the pain was there, racing through her body to her brain, warning her silently and otherwise, her lungs pushing out a loud cry.
Kelt hung his head, pulling his dark fingers through his white blonde hair. He wore it loose today, freeing himself from warrior braids to look like the ambassador he was supposed to be while here. Tsar. The Neecan Quarter. When his uncle told him he'd be coming here, Kelt could think of only one thing. Shanda. Last he heard, she was here, studying under a distant relative. Neeco himself. And he'd been so excited to find her. She was the only thing he thought of since they separated. Had he known this would be their conversation, he'd not have looked for her at all.
"You're sure about this?" His voice was already defeated. She was nothing if not determined. The little mouse of a human didn't look it, but she was as stalwart as a dwarf in her will and what she wanted to make happen. "Yes. Kelt. I'm sorry." Her voice was as always. Soft and kind and sweet to his sensitive ears. And it made his hands shake. "I really need to do this. My family needs the money. And Great Uncle Neeco has been quick to move me into important positions. He did, after all, pay for my schooling. I owe him."
"You owe him the price of your heart?" Tears threatened to puddle against the rim of his bottom eyelids and Kelt cleared his throat, such a masculine way of handling unwanted emotions when they started showing through. As quickly as he was saddened, Kelt let go of a hard exhale, shifting his shoulders. He was about as angry as he was hurt. "Kelt, it's been almost two years. We haven't seen each other in that long. Look… we were very much in love then. Then. But life moved us on. You're working for your uncle, I'm working for mine. And my work doesn't really allow me to have any relationships. Not now."
Kelt took a step back. Trying to steel himself. He had been willing, if she asked, to send word to his sister and uncle that he wasn't coming home, at least not as planned. He'd have given up his place, his home, so long as he could be with Shanda. But she would have none of it. None of him. When they started their relationship, they'd been passionate and deep. So deep, in fact, that Kelt turned down other potential lovers, unable to take another to his bed when he could only think of her. "If that is your decision, then I respect it. I'm not happy with it, but I respect it. However, I can't stay here anymore. I have to go." His hand still in his hair, Kelt turned away from her, his long legs taking several steps away before her voice came to him. "I hope you can forgive me." He paused and swallowed back the painful cry that wanted to come to his mouth, closing his eyes tightly as he gathered himself. "Someday. Kellis says the mornings bring humor. We'll just see. But- someday." His back almost bristled like a cat's before he started off again. Good thing he was finished with his work. Because it took everything in Kelt to not up and leave at that moment.
However, the night was setting. And he had some stifled anger and frustration to get out of his system. "I hope there is something going on tonight," he whispered to himself, his neatly booted feet finding their way back to his inn. Such a nice place. The floor was cleanly waxed, the mugs were made of glass, and the people usually wore clothing that Kelt saw only on weddings and funerals. Felt like a funeral to him.
Though he'd been more than cordial the first few times he entered and exited the establishment, Kelt found himself traipsing through the tavern without a word. His fingers found the key to his room in a fumbled motion and he opened the door to the lavish setting within. But he passed the large bed, the mirror and the table hosting the water pitcher and basin, going for his travel bag. His hands took to busily stripping the clothing from his body, his dressy vest and button up shirt, the black slacks and decorative boots. His young, lithe, muscled body moved in the work, muscles flexing and pulling, relaxing and snapping. His travel clothing was quickly put over that moving, breathing fluid of skin and muscle, covering his chocolate colored body with normal, plain, but not unflattering, clothing.
He placed each of his daggers in the sheath hidden under his vest and opened the window. Kelt's roughened fingers gripped the side of the building and, in the dark of the night, began climbing the side of it, pulling his well-trained body up and onto the roof. The moons lit the crowns of each building with a pale gold square. And Kelt's baby blue eyes, usually kind and smiling, searched the land, looking for a fight, for a battle, for anything that let him work his muscles and body until the pain of Shanda's rejection could be sweat from his skin. It certainly wasn't long. The ring of metal and Kelt already knew the attackers from the hollow sound of the weapon on stone. The Tribe of Benjamin. Out for another victim. Oh, how perfect.
He was in action shortly, running across the roofs, jumping the alleys. His sharp ears led him right to the fray and his travel boots skid across the scattered sand, blown atop of the building on less clear days. He landed with a soft, unheard thud, his booted feet softened on the ground by the way the muscles in his legs pulled the landing, cushioning it. His katana blade scratched the ally floor as he pulled it up to cross his face, two of the men turning to look at him. Sure enough, they wore the dark brand on their foreheads, a large, sharply designed B. Kelt let his free flowing hair fall to either side of his face, knowing that the starlight and shadows made him look like a larger than average drow. And he growled, a snarl that didn't usually come to his mouth.
The anger and hurt that sent him out here pulsed through his blood and, before they could turn to charge at him, he was up and running for them. He'd spare them nothing. They meant not to do the womyn any such favors. Besides, he wasn't in the mood. His sword swung up one body, cutting through his waist and spilling his guts to the filthy ground, so easily it was as if the muscles and fat and bones were never there to impede the blade. It was hardly enough and Kelt let go of his sword with one hand, bringing his fist out and beating the man in the jaw with his prepared knuckles. The first fell and the second ran at him with fierce determination, and no real skill.
Kelt caught up the pipe with a dagger, twisting the weapon and sending the makeshift club flinging from his opponents hand. With a dangerous glint in his eyes and his teeth grit hard together, beginning to hurt his jaw, he went 'to the hilt' with his weapon, bringing it down again and again on the man's head, quite meaning to leave him incapable of conscious thought anymore.