Cyril stared at the little thieves as they slept. He did not know how they could do it. If they were found staying aboard a vessel without permission in a harbor, the worst that would happen would be a day in jail. But they were not within any kingdom's reach, they were in the open, lawless seas. The punishment these men would dish out would either be death or they would have new additions to their human cattle.
Of course Cyril was not worried, he could handle himself. He knew everything path that might be walked by the crew before it even happened. His face twisted as if he had eaten something bitter.
Damned kids, getting me to throw away my free transport. It'll take me at least a week to find a new ship.
Oh well, I can't afford to lose that many coins, especially when they aren't mine. Why did I give them away in the first place?
He heard heavy steps stamper above him.
I have to strike soon. We'll be at the harbor sooner than later. I'll wait for sundown.
"Would you look at that?" A voice was heard from the deck.
"What do you think it is?" Another voice asked.
"I don't know, but the sky looks as dark as Ightorm."
"Is it a volcano?"
Volcano? We shouldn't be in eyes-reach of land for another day. Are we off course or had those thieves caused me to miscount?
He cursed to himself.
I have to strike now, before we reach a mass of people. But to take down the crew with my just my hands is suicide.
He moved closer to the motionless boy, eyes searching for his bag. He pulled the black blade from its new home, put it in his sheath, and moved towards the opening for the cargo hold. He checked from every angle, piecing together who and what was on the deck.
Once he pieced together a map, he moved, slow and careful not to make a sound. The crew's eyes were still angled at the sky, Cyril just out of their view. They talked amongst each other about what they saw while he headed for the captain who steered the ship.
He kept out of eyesight and aligned himself with the captain's shadow. In the blink of an eye, one hand clasped around the captain's mouth, while the other sent a nightly blade through his neck. Whatever noise he made was caught by his hand and the fresh corpse was silently lain down. He left the body mostly as it was, the only difference being a dull blade now in the cloaked man's possession.
He moved towards the rest of the crew just as silent as before and performed the same execution on a quiet man slightly behind the rest, gaining himself another blade. He plunged his new blades into the necks of two crewmen that were standing side-by-side, not bothering to hide the gurgled noises they made. He pulled the blades out and sent them into the eyes of two alarmed crewmen. He pulled out his dark dagger and approached the last member of the crew. Her eyes were bulged and she opened her mouth as if she was going to say something, but words did not come out. Instead she let out some sort of frightened wail.
Rather pathetic for her final words.
She pleaded for her life but that did not stop his walk towards her. As a last effort, she pulled out her blade and formed a frightened swipe. Cyril went through the attack and sent a swipe of his own just below her head. The dagger created a separation between her head and the rest of her body. Her mind and body fell, landing in separate places.
He wiped the black blade off and handed it to the boy that emerged from the cargo hold.
"I think this belongs to you," Cyril said, content he no longer had to whisper.
The boy looked around him, seeing the masterpiece Cyril had created. The blood of numerous bodies coated the deck, adding a wicked glisten.
"I'm not sure I want it back," Baltimore said.
"It's okay, I cleaned it off."
"Is that what carrying that blade around means? I have to do things like this?" he motioned to his surroundings.
"You told me to do this."
"I wanted these people free, but I didn't want others to die."
"What you thought I could just ask and these slaves would be set free? I know you don't think that way, you grew up on the streets. If you ask for something from these kinds of people, pain would be inevitable."
The boy continued to look at the bodies, their blood coming together to make a dark red pool. His expression was was anything but untroubled, he was horrified.
"Listen kid," Cyril said, withholding a sharpness from his voice, "my task is not to kill people. But if the time comes to end someone's life, I don't hesitate. Any second thought could mean my death, and my death would only cause more pain to others even remotely connected to me. Carrying around this blade is reassurance that pain will not be spread to those I care for, but to those that oppose me."
His arm was still extended out to the boy.
"Whether you want it or not," he continued, "this blade is yours. It's a little too late to turn back."
Slowly, the boy took the blade back from the cloaked man, his grip on it loose, as if he wanted it to drop.
He took it. Hesitantly and he was possibly a bit queasy, but he took it willingly. More or less. That's progress.
Cyril smiled and nodded to himself. "Good." he said. "Now wake up the girl. I want these footboards to sparkle when we anchor, which will be soon. I have to get to that port, the smoke is quite alluring."
Baltimore looked behind him, seeing a mass of shadowy clouds.
The two thieves swabbed the deck as Cyril watched with half of his focus. The other half was set on reaching the port as soon as possible. The source of Cyril's captivation was hidden in a labyrinth of structures that could only be seen far closer.
The bodies were gone, swallowed by the sea like it was starving and hungry for more. The freed slaves were eager to help clean the blood of their previous owners, but the boy would not allow it.
"I don't think we're going to get the footboards to sparkle like you said," the girl said.
Cyril raised an eyebrow. "I'm surprised you heard that. The deck doesn't have to be spotless, it just has to be passable upon anchor. Since this is essentially a floating murder scene, we'll be ditching the boat, so I suggest you all stock up on supplies from the cargo hold."
The belly of the ship had been picked clean by the time they anchored. There was a hint of red splashed into the floorboards, but there was no inspection. The port was surprisingly empty, the only noise being the water gently swaying back and forth.
"Where is everyone? Aren't ports supposed to be lively?" Baltimore asked.
"Have you seen the smoke?" Cyril asked in return.
He hesitated like it was a trick question. "Yes."
"So has every other Miciban in the city. We're in Miciba by the way. I assume they are going towards the smoke like moths to a flame."
"Are we moths too?" the girl asked.
"Is the smoke intriguing to you?"
"Well, yeah. I've never seen anything like it."
Cyril nodded. "And so we are moths." He motioned to the smoke. "We should not keep our flame waiting."
They ventured through the city, its population slowly growing as they went. And as the population grew, a silent depression changed to a vocal one. Through the sea of faces, a joyous expression was not to be found. They reached the source of smoke, surrounded by terrified eyes. A monstrous and elegant building had a fire trapped inside, blowing out particles of itself that floated to heights of the sun.
He knew of the large building, but the memory was just out of reach.
"What is that?" the boy asked.
"I'm not quite sure," Cyril said, "but I think it has something to do with royalty."
"The royal palace!" some woman screamed hysterically, tears flowing like streams down her face.
Cyril snapped his fingers. "That's what it is. I remember this building by the absurdity of its location. It's hilarious how close a royal building is to an open port. Do you have any idea how easy this makes an invasion?"
"You don't seem to be affected by the burning of a royal building." the girl said.
"What, like the rest of these people? Sorry, I have a different opinion about royalty."
"Can you at least try to be considerate?"
Considerate of a bloated, fraction of a man that has been spoon fed the single most important position a person can have just for being born?
"Do you think this was some sort of assassination attempt?" Baltimore asked.
Cyril rubbed his chin. "Possibly. Though the fire would not pose as a distraction, but it would immediately alert the guards and have them rushing to the king, queen, whatever this kingdom classifies as royalty. So either the royal person is already dead or he or she is probably surrounded by guards, fleeing to a safe location as we speak. All in all, there is nothing we can do now."
"Oh, and you were going to aid royalty?" Melodi said.
"Of course, we don't want another war on our hands now do we?"
The girl said something but his ears and eyes were focussed on something else. His attention was focussed on a tall, lean boy emerging from the immensely expensive structure that could be considered elegant. His face was a kind of pale that could only be accomplished by sickness, but perhaps his sickly expression was giving it away. Aside from the sickness, his face was a mix of guilt and fear.
Cyril moved towards him at an alarming speed, though his movements were casual. He could tell the direction he was going, and beat him to it.
"Where are you going at a time like this?" he said from the shadows.
The tall boy jumped upon hearing his voice. Cyril moved, allowing some of his body to be illuminated.
"Are you talking to me?" the boy asked, trying to prevent his voice from shaking.
"You are the only one moving away from this dreaded fire. How can you leave from such a troubling event? What if something happened to the king?"
"All the more reason to go home and tell my family of the fire."
Lucky guess. It could have been a queen, or an heir to the throne. Or they could have called their royalty something else.
"Oh I'm sure you're family has heard of the news, why don't you stay with us and mourn over this godly structure that will forever be stained?
"Uh, no. No, well my family lives far away and will need to hear of this news immediately."
"You're right, they need to know you're were in the building when it happened after all."
The tall boy shuddered again.
"I've been following you," he continued, "and I know what you were doing in there."
"It wasn't my fault." he pleaded. "That dish was not mine."
Cyril did not say anything.
What the hell is he talking about?
"Before I knew it there was a fire. I tried to put it out with a broom but it caught fire."
"Why are you telling me what I already know? The point is-"
"Cyril!" the girl thief called as she approached, followed by the boy thief. "Why did you just leave like that?"
Cyril sighed. "Because I assumed the two of you had a pair of functioning feet and could follow at your earliest, though I would have preferred latest convenience. But it doesn't matter, I got what I wanted."
His eyes caught a figure in a cloak identical to the one he was wearing, apart from it being in tatters. He or she was accompanied by a rather important woman from back home. She was nursing a boy back to health, with a look of annoyance on her face. His clothes were also in tatters but with a hint of blood tossed into the fabric. There was a little girl next to him and they were equally pail, and not the kind of sickly pale.
Finally someone I can trust.
"You two," he said to thieves, "see that pale boy dying over there? Next to him is a woman and a cloaked figure. Bring them over here."
"How? And Why?" the girl asked.
"Just mention my name and you don't need to know why." Cyril said. "And you, " he said to the tall boy that still looked visibly ill, "if you're going to be sick don't do it near me. And don't take that as an opportunity to flee unless you don't value, oh I don't know, your hands."
"Of course I won't run, I need my hands to cook."
Cyril shook his head. "You can cook with hooks for hands. I've seen it before, best meal I've had in years."
The thought of losing his hands must have been too much for the already queasy boy. He rushed off just before the thieves returned with expected company, along with the pale children, the older of the two was making some sort of a recovery. Every step the fair skinned boy made brought about pain.
"Omora, is it?" Cyril asked the woman.
"Yes, and I'm surprised to see someone of your... capability out in the open," Omora said.
"What do you mean? Aren't you traveling with-" He stopped and took a good look at the cloaked figure. Inside the hood was the face of a well grown, Dellorian boy. The boy's face created a spark, igniting the flame of an old memory.
The awful hair, the wonderfully stupid look on his face, that cloak, I gave it to him so long ago.
"Fenrir, is that you?" Cyril said, his voice quivering with joy.
Fenrir's eyes lit up. "Cyril?" he laughed. "I thought you were dead."
"What, I disappear for a few years and your first guess is that I'm dead?"
"A few years? This cloak was scratch free when you left.," he said, motioning to his tattered cloak.
"Speaking of, where's the rest of it? Are those holes from arrows?"
"Did you get those from Dellor?"
"You were trespassing in the battlegrounds again, weren't you?
"Well, I wouldn't call it that."
"I heard rumors of an archer joining the guard. I also heard a story of the same archer shooting down a cloaked, unwelcomed visitor."
"I didn't get shot down."
Cyril smacked the back of his head.
"Right," Omora butt her way into the conversation, "well I assume you're here to find the source of the fire."
The tall boy returned, the paleness in his face was the same as before. Cyril wrapped an arm around the boy's sweaty neck.
"Here's your source," Cyril said.
They had received a few glances before for being inconsiderate of this horrid event, but more eyes were upon them now.
"A boy did all this?" Omora asked.
They were being too loud. Almost all of the eyes around them staired their way. Stairs turned to glares and angered murmurs followed.
"Yes," Cyril said, "I believe it had to do with some of cooking incident. He will be put on trial and although there is no death sentence in Miciba, he will likely be murdered."
He could feel the tall boy shaking, his face resembled the fair skinned boy who also was not doing so well. From the corner of his eye, he could see a Miciban angrily talking to a guard, pointing his way.
"And so, I have a request for you. I assume you will be on your way to the festival before it ends, so I ask that you take these two," he motioned to the two thieves, "and I suppose this boy should go too, unless you won't feel too bad about his life being ruined."
"What's your name?" Omora asked.
The tall boy paused before answering. "Quincy," was all he said.
"Quincy, did you start the fire like he said?" Omora asked him.
"No, I swear. I was the first to see it and I tried to put it out-"
She put up a hand, motioning him to silence. "I will give you the option of coming with me, far away from Miciba, or you can stay and see if you get killed or not."
"You're asking me to leave my home and family?"
"No, I'm giving you the choice to either say your last words to your family behind bars, or live quite a bit longer."
"If I come with you, will I ever see my family again?"
"This whole incident should blow over, given time. Once it does, you can come right back."
The number of guards around them increased. The fire seemed to be more or less contained and Cyril and his group were the new spectacle.
"I - I guess I'll go." Quincy said.
"Excellent," Cyril said, "I can have you imbursed when I return, if the three of them prove to be too much of a hassle."
"Don't worry about it, I have three of my own coming with me."
Numerous guards, six to be exact, approached them, unsure if they should reach for their weapons.
"It seems we have company." Cyril said, motioning to the guards.
"You and your big mouth, I thought you were supposed to be a professional. You know this is your fault, right?" Omora asked, eyes on the guards.
"Of course. I just thought you would appreciate hitting something."
"I would actually."
"Then stop complaining. Can your group put up a fight?"
"Fenrir can, Aaron is still having trouble breathing, and the little girl is, well, a little girl."
"I doubt Quincy could put up a fight, even if he had the stomach. The other two aren't much of fighters, but they wouldn't get caught." There was a pause. "I have a plan."
"Oh, so you're going to order me around."
"I'm fairly certain I out rank you here, but feel free to pitch your own ideas if you feel we have more time to chatter."
"By all means, execute your plan."
"Fenrir, give the lady a hand."
Fenrir unsheathed his scythe and said, "I would have joined in anyway."
"Quincy, get the little girl out of here. You two," he addressed the thieves, "get the dying boy, Aaron, out of here."
Omora intercepted a guard's face with her fist, while Fenrir toyed with a number of them. Quincy was having an impossibly difficult time moving a girl half his size. And the thieves were struggling to support Aaron's weight.
At this rate, they will be overwhelmed by guards, even with my help.
"Omora!" Cyril called, "It's not going to work!"
Omora looked back at him, seeing how the others were struggling. She gave him a look that said this was your plan. Cyril emerged from the shadows, rushing to her aid.
"Get everyone out of here." he said and kicked a guard's knee in, causing it to bend unnaturally.
Omora nodded and called Fenrir back.
"I would prefer if you wouldn't kill anyone," Omora said.
"And I'd prefer if there weren't so many eyes on me. Looks like I won't be coming to Miciba in a while," Cyril said, breaking a guard's arm.
"What about the slaves?" Baltimore asked, barely within earchot.
"You're asking about that now?" Cyril asked back.
Without a follow up from the boy, Cyril continued.
"They'll be fine. The docks were empty when we arrived, remember? The slavers have cleared out by now. They probably set sail when the chaos started, knowing they wouldn't be searched among departure.
"But I can't just leave-"
"Dammit kid, the sooner you go, the sooner I can disappear."
Omora got everyone moving and they fled. A blade slashed dangerously close to his chest, returning his attention back to his own peril. Numbers overwhelmed him and he abandoned any attempts to attack. Instead, he ran. Blades slashed past him until he was out of reach. He headed into the shadows, his cloak making him practically invisible. Each step he took required the fastest guards three steps to follow. At that rate, any and all followers were following the wrong trail. He slipped into a friendly home in which he discussed previously scheduled business.