477 The King and the Witch
The slim man's dark eyes watched the market crowd as they moved about their business. A dark foreboding hung over the masked hero; even the most outgoing vendors avoided his gaze. Almost everyone wore a mask in Mocai; a bare face was much more uncommon. LuAnne had left him after taking him to the different hotspots within the city; the Gemini thief felt nothing but relief when she finally left.
A small body crashed into his hip from his blindside; Wind felt the telltale touch of a swift hand darting into his cloak.
"Sorry, Mister!" With a face covered in dirt and a shock of dark hair, the street urchin apologized quickly and then sprinted away with the group she was with.
Wind smirked at the back of the kid; a group of them had been working the market for the last hour. He wasn't good with ages, but he guessed them to be between 12 and 15. "That's just a loan; he'll come back when he wants."
The urchin fled down the only alleyway on the south side of the market. The rest of the following group splintered off one by one to keep an eye on the backtrail.
Token watched as his gang slowly filtered into the hideout a few minutes later. "Let's tally up so we can give Uncle his cut."
"He's not our uncle." The youngest of the group was a snaggled toothed girl with black hair. She was known as Witchie because of her having one brown eye and one blue one. As the only female in the group, the others went out of their way to protect her identity. Orphan girls didn't last long on the street; they almost always fell prey to miscreants and were either killed or sold off.
Token shrugged. "You'll follow my lead, or I'll box your ears for you." As the oldest, he had no problems disciplining his group. He hated it, but it was a necessary part of keeping everyone safe. "You can't just do whatever you like."
The group members started tossing out assorted items, a few managed to get money pouches, but most were watches, rings, or small things people kept in their pockets.
Token frowned at Witchie, who hadn't placed anything in the middle. "You marked that angry-looking man. Don't tell me he didn't have anything; his armor alone was worth more than anything in the market."
Witchie held out one grimy hand; a tiny gecko stood motionless on her palm as its dark eyes scanned the group. "He had a lizard. He's cute, right? Look at his little crown."
The group closed in, staring at the gecko in question. It scampered up Witchie's arm and stood on her shoulder.
Token swore under his breath. "It ain't worth nothing so that we won't show Uncle."
Witchie smiled happily. "Maybe he's a Prince."
Token laughed as he divided their bounty. Half to Uncle and half to them. "Kiss him then; maybe you'll turn into a princess."
Witchie's toothless smile changed to a little girl pucker as she kissed the gecko on its gold crown. She waited for a moment and then shrugged slightly. "Nope..."
"Stay here with the Prince while I make the delivery to Uncle." Token waved to his gang and then exited their hideout. He pulled up his mask and broke into a run. His small group of pickpockets didn't often have anything to smile about. Maybe the tiny lizard would bring them luck.
An hour later, he knocked on the back door of the Flaming Swan Tavern; an instant later, it was pushed open by a thin, bald man with a pistol belt. A slender hand rested on the pearl-handled handgun. "Come in, Token."
Token handed him the bag, pausing in the doorway; he was never asked to come in. He stepped in obediently and closed the door behind him.
Uncle dumped the burlap bag on the table and quickly went through the items. "Not bad... your team is doing good work."
Token nodded in agreement. "Thank you, Uncle."
The bald man scooped everything back in the bag before looking up. Uncle had the darkest eyes anyone had ever seen. They looked like tiny pools of obsidian. "Tomorrow morning, I want you to return here with Witchie."
Token knew a moment of dread but tried to keep his voice level. "Witchie? Why do you want to see him? He's one of my worse pickers."
Uncle scoffed at the gang leader. "Don't try to fuck with me, boy. Any fool can see that Witchie is a girl. Tomorrow morning... Or else."
Token swallowed his fear and forced a nod. "As you say, first thing in the morning."
When Token returned to the hideout a short while later, the entire group knew that something was wrong. As he always did, Token told them the truth.
There was a long moment of silence while everyone took in the news. The tiny girl was the first to speak.
"If I try to run, he'll take it out on the gang. I'll go with you." Witchie stared at the ground when she spoke; although she was scared, this was the only family she'd ever known.
Token shook his head. "Time to disband. I'll take Witchie and leave the city. We can all scatter. Uncle doesn't have the manpower to track us down."
"I'm staying with Witchie."
"Not going to do it."
"Let's just kill that rotten bastard."
One by one, they gave their opinions; Witchie sniffed loudly while trying not to cry. "I can't let you guys risk that for me."
"How fucking brave you are." A man appeared out of thin air, his bald head catching the torchlight. "Unfortunately, I'm not impressed with the rest of you." A blur of his hand was followed by the sound of a gun going off and a flash of fire.
Token was grazed on the shoulder; he spun around and fell to one knee. "Run, Witchie!"
Uncle pointed the gun at the young girl, causing them to freeze in place. "If you do, I will finish off Token and then kill everyone here."
Witchie took a step forward, locking her legs to keep her knees from shaking. "I'm coming."
"Stop... What the fuck is that?" Uncle pointed the gun at the tiny gecko that appeared on her shoulder.
The gecko patted the girl's cheek with a webbed hand as if to console her before it glanced at the gunman. It jittered loudly at the bald man.
[Fear the King]
Wind waited patiently just down the alley from the hideout, cussing under his breathe when a gun sounded. Sprinting toward the entrance, he stepped over the trip line and was reaching for the door when it was blasted open by a wild-eyed man who looked like he'd seen the devil. The Gemini thief stepped to one side and stealthed, his sharp eyes noting the man's path. A few moments later, a small group came out and headed in the opposite direction.
/Alpha: Wind: You guys awake?
/Alpha: Nix: Sure. What's up?
/Alpha: Wind: Group of youngster pickpockets running toward the gate. The King is protecting them.
/Alpha: Nix: Need a hand?
/Alpha: Wind: Just round them up while I'll clean up the loose ends.
Wind caught up with the gunman a few minutes later; the man had his hands on his knees and was gasping for air. His polished boots were covered in his own vomit. "I see you met the King."
To his credit, Uncle was a fighter. A gun appeared in his hand as he instinctively opened fire.
Double Combination Successful.
Wind appeared behind the gunman, his blade flashing out as it was impaled deep into the back of the bald man's skull. He fell lifelessly to the ground a moment later.
Tristan Ichiro has been assassinated.
Wind quickly went through the man's pockets, picking up the gun and a few other interesting items before he re-stealthed and disappeared into the darkness. A single key engraved with a swan gave him his next destination.
Token led the group through the gate while a plan started forming in his head. They could go to Free Trader City, caravans left daily for the four corner city. His thought process was interrupted when a shadow stepped onto their path.
Witchie stared at the large black panther standing in their way. She held up the gecko with one hand. "Get him, Prince!"
A man's laugh from behind them caused the group to spin around. "Did that girl demote the King?"
The gecko in question darted from the girl and ran up the side of the man's leg before coming to a stop on his wide shoulder. The panther padded past them, not bothering to give the group another look.
"Hey... Calm down." Semmi's gentle voice eased the tension as she stepped into view. "You've met King Lubo; he's one of our companions."
"King?" Witchie stared at the gecko; even though she was out of breath, her fear was fading fast. If they were friends with the gecko, then they were probably okay. "I knew he was royalty, " she muttered softly.
Token held up both hands to show he was unarmed. As the oldest and biggest, he figured the man would find him the most threatening. "We're being chased by someone very dangerous. It won't be safe if you stop us."
Semmi chuckled and shook her head slightly. "Follow us. Whatever problem you have is being pulled out by the roots."
Nix nodded, his hand resting on the panther's head. "This is probably where I should say something like... Welcome to the Thieves Guild."