Nineteen years later


Liria - present day
Western Border city of Zalos

The caped stranger stopped at the tavern, sighing as he read the limited menu. The small mountain town was provincial at best, and given it was a double border town...he should just be happy it wasn't all military rations.

"Bored, stranger?" The big bellied tavern owner had grown used to him for the past few days. He murmured a vague reply, already tired of the casual banter. Adjusting the deep hood, he looked around for a seat.

He settled down to wait for his food, choosing the table near the window. Unclasping the leather belt around his torso, he set his sword beside him. "How long will they take..." Yawning, he stretched, wishing something fun would happen. Just as the thought ended, as a flurry of cheers broke out.

Close outside, barely a hundred yards away, guards rushed to stand below the 'historical' town bridge which to be honest was a joke to actual bridges, being exactly fifty feet long. Now, why were they surrounding that thing?

"Its them Jokers again." A tavern owner pointed, noticing his confusion. "The best thing around in this military peddled place. look up. There comes that bastard Pirdiga now."

The man cocked his head as he peered out. A rather fat man he recognised as the town official was walking around yelling amidst the commotion.

"Catch those troublemakers! There they are!" the red face town official roared as guards rushed to surround two masked figures above on the bridge's parapet. "This time we will catch them for sure!"

The stranger narrowed his eyes as he saw what the guards were chasing. Nimbly balancing above the edge were two slim figures in what looked like peasant attire, wearing white jester masks. One one painted in an eternal smile, while the other depicted a growl with sleepy eyes. The figures twirled, bowing and making miming gestures. The caped man hardly noticed the food being placed before him, gaze riveted on the scene outside.

The crowd in the market started following the guards, cheering starting. The official pointed up at the masked figures, one of which clearly made a very offensive gesture at him. Below them the crowd hooted and laughed.
It was a common sight for the locals in the small town, but travelers were transfixed. In the tavern, the caped figure sat up straighter.
"Lord Pig! We are here for the miners issue today!" The two masked troublemakers spoke in unison, feet apart, heads bent in opposite directions. The stranger nocked his head. The two voices were high pitched, but he was certain they were young. Quite young.

Meanwhile, the cheering inside and outside trebled, a few people hooting.

The caped stranger grinned, digging into his pie. He'd always enjoyed entertainment with meals.

"My name is Lord Pirdiga! Not PIG!" the official grunted, his face even redder than his robes. "And its none of your business what I pay them! They should be grateful for Liria's employment!" He shook his fist, doing a weird jiggly motion which looked absurd.

Pig on a stick. The stranger thought, then snorted. They got it right.

The two figures cocked their heads in a single motion and in the next second, slingshots appeared in their hands. the official squealed, robes flapping as he stumbled back.

"Careful now Pig. Don't you remember the last time you were hit?" one taunted. The other carried on.
"We didn't say anything about their pay yet, Lord PIG. It appears that you know what you did wrong." they focused their aim on the man again. Lord Pig had taken a very defensive position behind his men, some of who were barely able to control their mirth.

"Gods damn you Jokers!" Lord Pig was sweating profusely as he peered around the men. "Don't you threaten me!" The masked figures leaned forward, shaking their head in unison. It looked intimidating as hell.

"You employed them sure, but only given them half their fixed monthly wage, keeping the profits all for yourself.
Not to mention you work them illegally overtime and on all holidays. Also, we heard that they often do more unpaid labour to keep their jobs. You not only look like a pig but act like one too!" the crowd cheered louder.

The caped figure kept eating. The atmosphere of the place had completely changed, a strange excitement had filled the air. Even the people looked different. Were the two masks the cause?

Several people were openly clapping.
"Good young 'uns!" an old man hollered. The town guards looked resigned. Some were even grinning. And it seemed ts wasn't over just yet as a few gasps filled the air. The Jokers seemed to be dragging something to the side.
"Worry not Lord Pig. We will make the choice easier for you." one of the jokers pulled shoved someone forwards. The young man was bound and gagged, and clearly terrified. His eyes widened as he took in the sight.

Huh, the stranger thought. Make that a someone.
"We have here Piggy Junior!" The two announced with a flourish, presenting their hostage with a undignified push towards the edge.
"My son! Not again!" the man howled. "Don't you dare harm him, you rascals!"
"Come now. Our demands are very simple. All you have to do is publicly revoke the illegal work order and promise to pay up fairly," or, they both leaned forward towards the trussed up youth, announcing malevolently, "Piggy junior here will pay the price!"

The stranger almost spat out his ale.

These kids were something else alright...
"Alright! Alright Jokers! Just let my son go. I agree to your demands!" the official ground out, furiously mopping his face.
"Alrighty! Don't you forget! Or we will find you again..." there was a huge bang and smoke covered the figures.
"Get those brats!" Lord Pirdiga screamed. "And save my son!"
The crowd was cheering wildly. "Those boys really are our town's treasures!" a man exclaimed. "The Jokers of Justice always prevail!"
"I agree. If not for them, half of us would be penniless and forced to join the army!"
"We should always help them whenever possible!"
"They always get away safely. Look!"
The caped stranger watched as the guards escorted the lord's son down. Of the two masks there was no trace.
In the tavern, he was joined by two more caped figures.
"This place sure is interesting..."
"Sir." one of the other figures bowed slightly. "We have confirmed the reports. Xuza forces were seen moving outside the borders. They haven't engaged in any hostile behavior yet."
"Internal response?" the figure stilled. "Anything?"
The other shook their heads. "The capital is too concered with its own problems to worry about this threat. We should be on our guard."
"The clashes have been escalating for the last two decades. This type of behavior worries me more. Let us observe for now."

Two riders galloped furiously out of town, slowing down to a trot only after reaching the starting of the mountain trails.

Finally stopping at the foothills of a certain trail, the two masked figures atop said horses looked behind for signs of pursuit...and started removing their masks. Neither saw the figure hinding ahead behind one of the trees, clearly overhearing them. His green eyes narrowed as he took in the masks, mouth flattening.

"That was a tough one." Removing his mask, the copper haired boy smiled, green eyes dancing. "Thank the gods we had the smoke bombs ready!"
His companion unclipped the mask, and the face which stared back at him was wholly identical to his own. Unlike him, her hair was a black so dark, it seemed almost blue.

She laughed exhuberently, punching the air with her hands. "This time was a roll! We owned Piggy's ass! This make it...victory 14!"

The boy nodded, his smile a little more strained.

"We need to plan better for next time, Reya. It was too close. If he finds out -"
"If who finds out?" a voice called out. Both jerked their horsed to a stop, blanching.
Behind them stood a young man with long blond hair and the same green eyes. "Yes, do tell me, my dear younger siblings. If who finds out what?"
"Ummm..." The raven haired girl seemed to make a decision, eyes wide in panic. "Run!" The twins spurred their horses into flight.
The man before them whistled sharply, and as one, both horses ground to a sudden stop, throwing their riders down. The two hit the ground hard, yelping.
The twins groaned as they looked up to see their brother's frowning face. He was angry all right, his eyes darkening as he pointed to their masks.

"Aw shit." They muttered in unison before recieving matching hits to the head.
"You. Did. It. Again. Didn't you?" they were being dragged up the path by their ears.
"Ouch! ouuchh! it hurts Rus!"
Their brother twisted their hears more painfully, pulling them both, turning to the girl.

"Enough Reya. How many times have I told you to be careful! Don't you understand the danger? And you!" He turned to the boy. "You should have known better than to help her!"

They were literally dragged back by the ear all the way up the trail into the valley. "You both are so hard headed." Rus kept repeating. "This better be the last time..."
By the time reached the clearing close to their house, they were very sorry indeed. Both sighed in relief when their small but secluded house came into view. It was a mountain lodge, with a small makeshift stable. Life was not easy, but neither was it difficult at the moment. However, it was clear times were changing.

"We have to do something Rus! People are suffering! We can't just stand by and let Pig rob us blind!"
Rus sighed, gripped their ears tighter, steering them towards the house as they winced. Before going in, he released them, face grave. Voice much softer, he continued.

"You have been lucky since Pirdiga is an idiot. Aside from that, things have been changing for the last few years. You cannot do as you wish any more."
Outside the door he turned to face them. "Mother is tutoring, so do not disturb her. If she finds out, don't look at me for help. After they leave, we will talk about this."
The twins watched him disappear inside.
"I hate the fact that he's always right." Rey looked around, voice lowering, he spoke. "They say that all men over eighteen might have to enlist."
Reya turned, eyes flashing. "This is so annoying! Its always the people who suffer when the rulers create a problem. Why is our King so scared of Zilandra? Just because one princess didn't want to marry, the Zilandrans break the military treaty! Some friends they were."
"Hush!" Rey looked around nervously. "Thats treasonous talk."
"I dont care." Reya huffed, flipping her hair back. "Going to war against the Xusa I understand, but Zilandra just pisses me off. Who needs enemies when you have friends like these?"


Hey there! Thanks for reading! Please feel free to post opinions on the story! Would love feedback!