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The Jade Dragon

1617, Spanish controlled Peurto Rico...

Cassandra entered a smoke filled tavern, hidden away in the deep shadows of the dockside. An instant flash of light greeted her, momentarily blinding her as her eyes adjusted to the torchlight. The din of the crowd - and, loudest of all, the cry of a newborn babe - reached Cassandra as she took her first steps into the tavern. Not a soul turned to look, and her presence was barely acknowledged by the common folk of this port city. Why should they have noticed her? She was just another woman draped in a cloak, easy to miss and difficult to recall.

She sauntered up to the bar, and called out for a cup of rum. The barkeep glanced at her poor attire, scum-covered boots and dusty old cloak, sneering at her as he said, "Sorry, but in this tavern you have to pay for your drinks". His sneer was rapidly replaced by a gleam of greed in his eye, as a silver coin rolled across the counter towards him.

"Is this more to your liking?" Cassandra said with a devilish grin. The coin was swiped off the table before more prying patrons could take notice, and the man bit it just to be sure. He grabbed a bottle from a shelf behind him, and slammed a tall cup of rum down in the silver's place.

"Enjoy the drink, ma'am", the barkeep muttered back. Cassandra passed the drink from her left hand into her right, and glided across the room onto a stool, seated by a small table in the darkest corner of the tavern. She slid her eyes across the room, giving a short, cursory glance of the other patrons. They were your usual crowd, the small town yokels that stopped in for a drink, settlers from the east who looked to gain their riches in the New World, even some shady businessmen, looking to ply their trade. Her gaze settled on a small family sitting close to the door, a Native American woman with her European husband, and a wailing babe that sat in her lap.

A poor match for the European, Cassandra thought to herself. While most Europeans had grown accustomed to the ways of the native Caribs of this island, she saw them as leeches, parasitic in nature, and that they existed only to steal the technology and wealth of the great Spanish Empire. For more then a century the Natives had been oppressed and integrated into modern society, and many had still not learned how to cope.

The European walked forwards towards the bar, just as Cassandra rose from her seat. She swiftly dashed behind him, and with a roll of her wrist and a slash of her knife, the European's coin purse fell into Cassandra's deft hands. She abruptly turned to her left, slipping out the door of the tavern, and left the din of the other patrons behind her. However, she was not the only pickpocket in the night, and her movements did not go completely unseen. A tall man with a scraggy beard, who had sat in the opposite corner of the tavern, watched as she made good her escape. Unnoticed by Cassandra , he followed her into the night, shadowing her every move through the dark alleyways and empty city streets.

Cassandra came upon a crossroads, with two alleyways spanning before her. If she moved to her right, she could continue her journey to the Thieves Guild, where its master awaited the arrival of her loot eagerly. All the loot and spoils of the night would be counted and divided amongst its members - albeit not equally. But to the left, all the riches jangling in her coin purse would be her own, and she could be a wealthy woman, for a time. After all, they would not grow to call her the Jade Dragon for nothing. Why should she share her loot? She would become the greatest thief Puerto Rico would ever know, and already many a man missed his coins while she stalked the night. Alas, she turned to the right, with a clear purpose in her mind. Tonight, she would steal from many a drunkard, and even the wealthiest merchants would not be safe from her thievery. These riches would need to be counted in the Guild Hall, a donation to the Master for his blessing and protection. But she would not be joined only by shadows.

The twists and turns of the dockyard alleyways were hard for her to follow at times, as she disrupted the stillness of the night. Her cloak acted a dual purpose, as it shielded her body from the cold, and camouflaged her deeds from prying eyes. She worked swiftly, breaking into the most likely houses, two, sometimes three stories high, and would grab everything of value - well, the small things at least. Gold necklaces, jeweled bracelets, silver baubles all flew into Cassandra's pack. And one shadowy stranger waited through every heist, silently, patiently biding his time to strike.

Cassandra vaulted over the windowsill of the last building she would steal from tonight, landing easily onto the street below. A cloaked stranger darted from the shadows, a knife blade in his hand. Cassandra dodged sideways, narrowly missing the fatal downward strike, and lashed out with her fists, pummeling her assailant - however slight these blows may have been. Her assailant jabbed her in the nose, causing her eyes to water and rivulets of blood to trail their way from her nostrils and into the corners of her mouth. She staggered backward, reeling from the blow, and her opponent wasted no time in his follow-up. He slashed out with his knife, cutting narrow, jagged cuts into her stomach, and it took all of Cassandras skill to step back from these strikes. The man ended his flurry with an upward jab of his blade, burying it into her left bicep - her good arm.

"Santiago sends you his regards," The wiry man whispered, taking a step towards her.

Before Cassandra could recover, he kicked out her legs, sending her crashing onto the cobblestones below. The murderer bent down, drawing one deep, ragged breath, as he lowered his knife point to his victims throat. But he hesitated too long. Suddenly, Cassandra came alive once more, unsheathing her boot-knife rapidly with her right hand, and sliced forward with adrenaline-fueled speed. She hit a superficial cut on his left cheek, and he gave a start. Though he tried to jab down quickly with his blade to end her life, Cassandra was the swifter of the pair. She stabbed upward with her blade, this time burying the knife deep into his throat. Her would-be assassin sputtered, spraying blood onto her face, and then his lifeless corpse collapsed on top of her, trapping her.

Cassandra took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves before she attempted to roll his body over, but she could feel her strength ebbing away already. Her left arm throbbed in pain, and she could do nothing but lie and wait until daybreak. Slowly, her eyes slipped closed, as she drifted into unconsciousness.