The city of Trahyrst had stood for ages as a beacon of might for the Mengresian household. In its years as the capital of the house, it had housed several kingly lines and seen several momentous changes. It had developed and destroyed power, killed beggar and noble alike, and weathered both siege and storm. Trahyrst was an unconquerable bastion to its owning house, and though it was the only land the Mengresian house could lay claim to, so long as they could declare the city theirs, they remained a force to be reckoned with. It was, by all rights, the "Lord's City."
A city so invested in politics, in the game of power, made it the haven of choice for assassins, for thieves, and for corruption. Though Trahyrst was a jewel of the world, it too was not without its heart of darkness...
Gimladhir Aramor hated carriages. He hated the enclosed feeling they provided, the way they jolted and clattered across every dip or rock upon the road - give him a saddle, a horse, and an open road any day over riding at a snail's pace through Trahyrst. Though he understood the necessity to remain hidden throughout the day when in transition, Gimladhir did not enjoy the process any more because of it.
Today would be the day he would step from an initiate of his order to a full member, given the the rights and privileges thereof. He had been training for this moment ever since he could grab and hoist a blade in both hands. He had spent countless hours perfecting his craft. He had spilled blood, sweat, and tears to see himself to this moment and with its arrival so close, he could hardly quiet his anticipation.
Time passed slowly as, impatiently, Gimladhir awaited the carriage to come to a halt. When at last it did, he sprang to his feet and didn't bother waiting for the driver to hoist the door open for him. Rushing out in a billowing trail of cloth, Gimladhir made his way into the cathedral the carriage had halted before. Around him, the city continued at its own pace, but for Gimladhir, time froze around the stone monstrosity before him. Trahyrst had always believed that a strong society believed in the gods, regardless of what form those gods might take. Though the cathedral before him was dedicated to Bariel, the goddess of warfare, beneath it rested Bariel's sister goddess.
Years prior to Gimladhir's birth, his order of killers and thieves had been forced out of the city as its people grew more and more intolerant of open acceptance of hired murderers. Whereas before, Bariel's cathedral of iron and black stone had once stood beside her sister Erdarwen's own temple of plain, uncut and untreated stone, now there stood but one temple above and one, hidden from the world, beneath.
Two servants opened the doors to permit Gimladhir into their cathedral. Striding briskly through the iron-shod doors, Gimladhir made his way left to a statue of Erdarwen allowed to stand in honor of her original place among the pantheon of Trahyrst's deities. He knelt before it, sliding an ornate dagger from his sleeve into the base of the goddess' left foot and turned it once. With a low thud, the wall behind the statue gave way to a dimly-lit passageway. Rising to his feet, Gimladhir entered the passageway and inserted the dagger into another keyhole, shutting the doorway behind him.
Ten minutes later, Gimladhir was at the end of the tunnel, entering a spacious chamber lined off with several, smaller sections for those who lived beneath the cathedral permanently. None save his superior and the other initiates were within the chamber. From there, they would be called in pairs, given one last target as their formal selves, and then transcend into full order members of the Order of Erdarwen...
There was little Kyra liked about the city. There were the stuck up nobles in their ivory towers, the peasants bowing and scraping like the worms that they were, and there was the constant, overarching smell of shit. Why did their headquarters have to be situated in such a vile place? How on earth could there be a holy place in such a mire of corruption and general disgust? It made far more sense for any sepulchre to be situated somewhere peaceful and clean, devoid of the awful blight that was humanity. At least she was doing her bit to slim out the herd.
Her walk through the dank streets had been a carefully orchestrated one - as it always was. Although assassins were not able to walk as freely as once they had, there were ways and means of traversing the city without attracting unwanted attention. The first tool of the trade was a little bit of grime, which was definitely not the most savoury of tactics, but there were only two types of people in this world that did not smell of some sort of muck. The first were the aforementioned nobles and the second were those destined for an initiation ceremony. Assassins were stringently managed, and due to their historic position, they did tend to stick out like sore thumbs if they were not careful to ensure their inconspicuousness.
Pairing a few days of dirt with a heavy cloak that hid her face, along with a carefully selected ensemble that avoided any hint of metal. No peasant or vagrant would be in possession of steel, and so her ceremonial dagger was kept well hidden, along with a vial of poison that was less for murder and more for suicide. Kyra would never be taken alive.
The small woman made her way to the temple of her God, sticking to the back routes that were rarely traversed by anyone but the desperate, and so definitely not on the radar of the city guard. It was with these simple but effective tactics in place that Kyra arrived in plenty of time for the ceremony. She was always a cautious woman, preferring to wrap herself up in a disguise or well thought out plan, rather than leave anything to chance. Needless to say, it was this that had allowed her to survive with little issue for the past two decades, despite her background in the gutter of society.
There seemed to be an age of waiting for the initiates to gather and form up into a neat line, although this was most likely simply down to the impatience of the woman that situated herself safely at the tail end of the group. From here, it was a matter of waiting as certain words were spoken and their superior steadily drew names in pairs, the group waiting in trepidation for their names to be called and their targets to be named.
Finally, after around half the names had been called, her name came up. "Kyra the Southerner, paired with Gimladhir Aramor." The female had no last name, as it simply wasn't necessary, so the others had taken to addressing her as such where distinctions were needed between her and another woman that had joined their ranks at a similar time. This was of no consequence, of course, as the iciness of the Southern girl was swiftly pointed squarely in the direction of her partner.
The two of them stepped forward as they were bidden, where another name was selected at random. "Tornac DeLatour. A foreign merchant." They would need to discover the rest themselves, and Kyra wasted no time, as she knew that the way to success lay through the Goddess. She would pray, and that would grant her insight, whether that came as a vision or a stroke of luck in the real world.
Though Gimladhir had understood that no job, no matter the relative ease, was completed in a day and that preparation hardly ever started on the day of assignment, he still found the woman's incessant need to pray over it agitating. He had gone along with the motions, knelt before one alter or another, but ultimately he found the entire task useless. Gimladhir believed as where a child spun a top, so did the gods rule over creation: they had created the world, the sun, and the moon only to watch them all spin together and wobble about Creation. Others, like Kyra, believed that their gods were always watching. That one deity or another was prepared to reward those for their good deeds or slap them upside the head for their failures.
Still, as Gimladhir knelt in false prayer, he admitted that at least the act gave him a chance to sit in silent contemplation over what the first step towards success would be. Experience told him that often, the best first step, was to assess the man's image throughout the city: was he in good standings with any of the nobility? Did he keep a concubine? Was anyone already out for his blood? Then, naturally, the next step would be to approach the target under a disguise to gain a general understanding of his surroundings and schedule. A fellow merchant with interest in his business, perhaps. Not one from the city - the risk of meeting one who would know everyone was too high.
Having decided on a loose course of action, the assassin stood and crept towards where Kyra knelt, still in prayer. Though he had attempted to make his footfalls as silent as he could, to avoid disturbing others, the chamber was too wide and his boots too heavy; anyone with their ears half functional would have heard him coming. Kneeling beside the woman, he turned to face her and spoke softly, his voice carrying a good deal less than his footsteps had.
"When you are finished with your prayers, meet me above ground. I believe I have our first move planned, though your input would be valued," it had almost sounded sincere.
Before the woman - Kyra the Southerner - could respond (if she had heard him at all), Gimladhir had risen and quickly ushered himself out of the chamber and back to the world above, making no effort to conceal his steps. Above the temple was where he was meant to be, not stuck beneath the earth praying to a deity long-since outlawed. He had tried to find other work, tried to start his own ring of killers-for-hire, but none could compete with the Temple itself. And if he couldn't beat them...
Her prayers were silent and earnest, her supplication to the Goddess continuing intently as she hoped to feel a connection between herself and the ethereal. It was something that had been practiced by every generation of assassins, and in this place of worship it was clearer than anywhere else. The place in which the devout knelt was actually worn away into two smooth ruts in which countless knees had been placed. Of course, it had been purely down to chance that all had chosen near enough the exact same spot, but now most everyone chose the same location, and so the process only quickened, or perhaps only maintained its pace, given the decline in assassins that had occurred in recent years.
Just a few minutes had passed before the partner Kyra had been assigned to interrupted her prayers, his footsteps seeming rather heavy and oafish as he approached. His words did nothing to ingratiate himself, as the very fact that he was speaking to her when she was attempting to converse with her chosen God. It was wrong of him to interrupt, even if what he said was purely in relation to the task they had been assigned. No doubt, she would need to remind him of the importance of privacy and holding ones tongue when she finished here.
Finally, once she was certain that her prayers had been heard, Kyra stood herself up, stretching her arms high above her head before grudgingly making her way up to where her new partner would be waiting for her. Gimladhir was waiting for her, looking a little bored, if truth be told, but that was no concern of hers. Maybe if he took the organisation and its founding principles a little more seriously, then he'd have no reason to be bored. But, now was not the time for a lecture. They were clearly different, but they had a job to do, and Kyra was not the type to shirk her duty.
"We need to hit the streets, show a little coin. That will open the path for us." It was a simple enough solution, put abruptly to the male, as the curt woman was not wasting any time on pleasantries. "What were you thinking of?" What could he possibly have come up with? As far as Kyra was concerned, he may as well have been dead weight, as he was not a true assassin in the sense of following their God. She was certain he was good at the physical side, but this didn't seem to be a calling for him, as it was for her and a smattering of the other recruits.
This Kyra the Southerner, a name slowly beginning to agitate him as much as the woman's pious nature, was certainly to be commended for her faith in her own deity. With ill humor, as she stated her idea with about as much warmth as a noble out to avoid taxation, he wondered whether or not she would understand the difference between belief in the gods and faith in them. No, clearly not, as her eyes began to say more than her words ever could.
Not so different, you and I...
"Coin is of little concern, I would say, though it is nonetheless important," Gimladhir began. Their temple had amassed vast wealth over the years, since most believed payment was an afterthought, but they were still told to use the treasure horde sparingly, "though money tends to make people talk quicker than any threat. I had a similar thought as well, though after we gather information I believe we must contact our target under the guise of those interested in taking his business. Easier to remove him once he develops a false sense of security."
The woman would disagree, Gimladhir wagered as he waited for a response. She would state something along the lines of "a plan without my goddess is not a plan at all." No matter, that he could work with eventually. Strict piousness for the sake of piousness was an agitation, but even priests were known to reason at times.
Although the two of them were different in many ways, and their lot was hardly enviable, they had no choice but to work together and hope for the best. In this case, it seemed that Kyra's prayers had been answered, as although they had entirely different world views, they had at least arrived at the same conclusion as far as greasing the wheels with a bit of yellow oil went. However, this was where their similarities ended.
It might have seemed odd to some onlookers, but to Kyra, the idea of skulking about and approaching the merchant in some sort of disguise was utterly abhorrent. Of course, the woman wasted no time in voicing this disgust, "I am an assassin, not a thief." She snapped, glaring at her companion with clear distaste as she continued, "Erdarwen favours the bold, not the dishonest. We will find what we need to know, and we'll strike at him during the night. That is our time." They were creatures of darkness, but they were honest men and women. Kyra wished for a return to the old days, where assassins lived openly, and she would not perpetuate their pariah status by sneaking around like some lowly pickpocket.
With this implacable and somewhat idealistic outline to a plan stated, the blonde kept her eyes trained on Gimladhir, daring him to defy her, unfortunately full in the knowledge that he would not simply roll over and do as he was told. Even so, she was determined to make it clear that they would fight for dominance tooth and nail, it just remained to see who would give in first, as they would eventually need to put the job before their own philosophies.
"Merely a suggestion," Gimladhir replied. "No doubt an arrow or blade through the neck will kill him as swiftly as a poisoned cup from a presumed friend. Dead is dead."
Though her accusation of cowardice agitated the man, he could at least commend Kyra's outright belief in her goddess. The notion they were to face their target was unsettling, but then, this was all a way for their order to regain the credibility to stride throughout the city above all but their own. While Gimladhir believed it was exactly that mentality that destroyed the old order, the thought that the order would rise again in his lifetime was hardly a possibility.
"How do you suggest we go about the act once we gather all that we need?" he continued. "Are we to fight our way through his estate? Or will we infiltrate it, as you said, under the cover of darkness?"
He knew this battle was lost, but there would be others. The pair had years to continue with their own jobs, their own tasks: this was hardly a fair test of her willingness to accept new ideas. Rather than continue a conversation that would have lasted hours, with neither side willing to trade ground, he had taken the step to ensure they would begin the task without a unnecessary delay. Besides, they were still a day at least from their assault on the target, and a day to think on swaying the unshakable Kyra the Southerner was far preferable to nothing at all.
Well, on the positive side, at least this man knew that fighting over the method of their targets death wasn't really worth it. She didn't really agree that the method of killing didn't matter, as she had made abundantly clear by her abhorrence to the idea of deception. Sneaking was good in her book, as was boldness, but outright lies was in her mind the domain of thieves, not the righteous assassins that she believed they could be.
"Do you have a death wish?" The shrewish woman questioned in a somewhat irritated tone. She was making it very clear why her fellow recruits had never really bonded with her as they might have, as her attitude was harsh and as implacable as stone. "We'll sneak in, and if we run into trouble, we'll face it. But I see no reason to put ourselves in harms way if we can help it. We're not warriors." She seemed to be listing everything they were not at the moment, which was probably somewhat annoying.
With a sigh, Kyra ran a hand through her hair before speaking again, "Come on, we had best get started." The legwork would be slow going and painfully annoying, especially as she daren't separate. They were meant to be a team, and so it was best to stick together, not to mention the fact that the powers that be would probably not enjoy their coin being wasted on information that had already been obtained.
The woman left towards the market district, moving at a brisk pace as she wound her way through the growing crowds of the early morning. It was a mile or so to the main hub where they would be most likely to find idle hands in need of a little silver, more than willing to perform for those that flashed the right amount.
Ignoring the paradox that boldness and avoiding a fight produced in Gimladhir's mind, the man consigned himself to beginning the infamous first leg of any operation: information gathering. Bribery, blatant threats. Everything about appearances mattered on the streets, he knew that much, but the act of wandering around with very little prospect of a major tip agitated him. Time spent with merchant lords and other nobility under the guise of an interested third party would solve the matter sooner than...
Than asking a pathetic peddler what he knew about Tornac DeLatour.
"A foreign merchant," Gimladhir explained again, "one of relative influence. Have you heard of him?"
"I sell you copper plates and-" the peddler replied in broken Common.
"I don't want plates. I want answers."
Realizing the peddler would be no use to him, the assassin continued on his way through the crowded market streets. Though he was to meet with Kyra within the hour in the square, he wished to have something that accounted for his time spent searching. Already being on thin ice with the woman, he did not want to give her another inch of high ground to strut upon.
Another twenty minutes passed as he methodically searched, finally coming upon a merchant who bore news worse than any of the nothingness that had come from hushed and wary lips: "He's out of the city."
Gimladhir had confirmed three times with the man, a richly dressed merchant from the east, and three times the man had stated that he was indeed the partner of Tornac DeLatour. Tornac DeLatour was out of the city. Out running a caravan. Convenient.
"I am quite certain I have something of his wares that you might need. I am more than willing to offer a bargain for the inconvenience of DeLatour's absence," his partner continued.
"No, I must speak with him directly," Gimladhir stated, turning to leave the merchant to his wares.
And then explain to Kyra the difficulty their task had acquired.
Although known as a somewhat unsavoury woman, Kyra was at least sensible enough to know that she needed to keep certain reliable contacts sweet if she wanted to get anywhere in this business. Although she trusted in her Goddess, it was up to her as the mortal on the ground to ensure the prophetic guidance of the deity was able to come to fruition by performing all these tangential tasks to the best of her ability.
"Sorry to tell you this, but no one in my circles gives a damn. He's not in the city and his people aren't preparing his lodgings, so I'd get yourself some good walking boots." It was what Kyra had been hearing from each of her contacts, all of whom were part of the lower echelons of society, ranging from a street urchin to a local catspaw, unfortunately no one that would be useful in this particular case. But, they were the beginnings of a network that she envisioned becoming a large spiders web on which the entire guild could sprawl. At least, that's what her dreams saw for the organisation that she envisioned rising to its former glory.
Unfortunately, none of that hope did anything for her now, and so it only remained to begrudgingly pay the tavern wench and stalk her way back to Gimladhir, in perhaps even a fouler mood than before.
The female found herself loitering for a while, amusing herself as she purchased a steaming skewer of honeyed meat from one of the street vendors that were common in this lower part of the city. Few of these people could afford a permanent site of their own, and the taxes that entailed, and so they peddled their wares throughout this quarter, a convenience for Kyra, at least.
As she awkwardly bit into the somewhat stringy meat, warm honey sauce dripped to the cobbles and onto her chin - a decidedly undignified moment, though this woman clearly didn't care all that much as she simply raised an arm to wave her comrade over.
"Did you find anything? I've found the people decidedly unhelpful. Apparently a wealthy merchant isn't nearly as easy to find as one might think." Kyra stated plainly, though a part of her was embarrassed at her obvious failure. Even so, she was not going to allow herself to appear weak.
The walk back to the square had been a long one. Gimladhir's search had taken him well to the outer edge of the perimeter Kyra had established earlier, and he was by no means in a hurry to return to her. Though he had no interest in anything any of the peddlers, merchants, and shops had to offer, he feigned interest, attempting to squeeze what information he could along the way. None of the details could lay claim to sources of reputable knowledge. From their mutterings, supposedly this lord had traveled north, or east, or west. That he was currently dying of pox or visiting a dead relative. That he was being driven out for carrying goods deemed illegal or otherwise gathering new stock to sell.
Never easy, this part.
Though whatever the rumors said, one certainty remained: this man was no longer in Tyrahyrst. Whether it be for any of those reasons, which he doubted the legitimacy of very much, or for an entirely different one, it did not matter. Now their search for the merchant went beyond street talk: it went to guards, to supplies, to every other viable connection the man might have made in his time here. If time had been of no concern, the pair might have waited for his return, but as matters currently stood, there would be little tolerance for such a tactic. Regardless, he doubted Kyra the Southerner would find the notion of such cowardly waiting to be of anyone's best interests.
At last Gimladhir had reached the square, meandering aimlessly for his counterpart, finding her working over a choice cut from one of the more trustworthy-looking street vendors by the center. Truth be told, at least cooked meat that appeared fresh was better than stale meat, even if he knew what the stale meat was: one could never be too sure with peddlers.
"Did you find anything? I've found the people decidedly unhelpful. Apparently a wealthy merchant isn't nearly as easy to find as one might think."
"He appears to be out of the city, as one of his contacts told me," Gimladhir began, "the reasons why are more numerous than ticks to a rabid dog, but regardless, he has left this city. None were so kind as to offer me which direction he was headed in, so that is left to our ingenuity to find. Did your search produce a reason for a direction, even if it was out of context? Any mutterings here or there?"
"We agree on that, at least." Kyra murmured as she finished a bite of her delicious and somewhat questionable meat. The people around here were not helpful at all, and it appeared that the lower echelons of society didn't particularly care to keep tabs on a man so far out of their league. It made sense, when one really stopped to think about it, as this particular merchant served those in the upper city, providing high quality products such as rare spices and fine cloth, rather than the usual fodder that those in this district would be familiar with.
However, despite all this, a merchant was a merchant, whether he be rich or poor. It was most likely for this reason that Gimladhir had at least had some modicum of success in his search. A confirmation that the man was out of the city was something, a starting point from which they could build a trail. It wasn't much, given the vast world and the unfortunately open borders that a time of relative peace brought with it. However, Kyra still firmly believed that her Goddess would aid her, though the troubling presence of someone as blasphemous as her companion did concern her somewhat.
Thinking on the various levels of inane chatter she had heard during the course of her search, Kyra did at least hit on something that might be of some use. "South." She stated with sudden certainty, determined that this had to be correct, a boon sent from the Goddess to lead her to her task. "There's talk of an abundance of precious metals having been uncovered. I wouldn't be surprised if Tornac wishes to get his hand in early. That's what made him successful, is it not?" The details were scant, but it was something more than what they had had previously, even if it was potentially a glaring red herring.
"Wherever this man is, we'll need good horses and plenty of provisions." No doubt the guild would be able to help them out with that, but once outside the city they would be on their own. They would need to maintain themselves through the vast swathes of desert tundra that stretched between this pleasantly warm clime and the sweltering heat of the deepest south. Kyra had grown up in that area, of course, though her body had never been overly suited to it.
Already Gimladhir was beginning to dread the prospect of leaving the city. What good did it do? The man was a merchant. He would return, Gimladhir knew he would: a city so central to its own little pocket of reality like Trahyrst was too valuable to pass up. Too profitable. Leaving indefinetly was like leaving your arm behind - certainly doable, but not comfortable or wise.
And again, this was not a battle he had no desire to fight. Now was the time to put actions before words.
"Aye," he agreed, "horses, perhaps we might seek transport down the river until we hit the first village or city that lurks southward of here. Do you know the area well?"
Your name would suggest it. No, that was too prone to ignite the short-tempered woman's fuse. Though Gimladhir had no doubt that the Southerner possessed some inert meaning, he could not help but feel that the woman was ill-fitted to it. She looked to be far more accustomed to the north and west than she did those lands far to the south, but what did he know? Without the goddess' light, he was as useful as a blind beggar to her. Bumbling around, asking for everyone to do everything for him.
"A guide would be most useful," he added as an afterthought, attempting to bait her.
It would come as no surprise that the woman rolled her eyes as her unwanted companion asked what she deemed to be a ridiculous question. "Have you any idea how vast the South is?" She questioned with some bite, her eyes full of a pointed fire that was so often at the brink of spilling over into outright rage.
"But, I traveled many of the larger cities, on my way here, so I am fairly well abreast of the main trade routes." She paused, proceeding to mention, "I grew up in Drazir, so let's hope he's there." He would inevitably be in one of the larger settlements, or else traveling to one of the outposts that served the mining communities. It narrowed the search down a little, but it was still a huge undertaking that could take many months, if not years, unless they struck extremely lucky.
Considering the suggested passage by river, Kyra did nod, feeling that it was sensible to minimise the risk to themselves and whatever mounts they ended up with. Of course, they missed the opportunity to follow the trail and search for any morsels of information from the small villages dotted along the road, but the likelihood was the man had passed too long ago for any decent information.
"We'll take passage down river to Azmarin, and see if any of the sailors have anything worth our time." The port city was bound to have a few of Tornac's vessels moored at the moment, and with them would hopefully be a few loose tongued shipmates. From there, it was impossible to guess at where their course might lead them, only that they would most likely descend yet further into the baking heat of the southern climes.
A pause followed before the man cleared his throat, a gesture lost to the din of the marketplace around them, "When are we to leave? I feel the evening to prepare would be well warranted. Unless you fear this man may capitalize upon a day's break in the chase, I believe it is our best move."
And how could a merchant take advantage of their delay? The possibility of the man knowing two killers had been contracted to tail and murder him was low on his list of likelihoods. The South was, as the Southerner had pointed up, a vast territory. No doubt, vast as it was, the man had left a footprint of some sort along his way. Trade contracts, ships, caravans. Men out for money seldom left profitable cities for no potential gains, Gimladhir knew that much.
Personally, he hoped the woman would allow this night to prepare. If she did not, Gimladhir would know her to be hot-headed and not worth much as a logical thinker. Any job hastily done ended in unnecessary risks and costs. While their operation was not strictly timed, a slow job for something deemed so trivial would seem...Unprofessional, repugnant, and befitting of the goddess' wrath.
"The first thing is to secure us a place on a ship. We leave when the ship does." It was doubtful that any reputable vessel would be leaving this evening, as the peak tide had already turned and would not return until the morning. Kyra of course hoped for a suitable transport to be available for them come sunrise, but there was no guarantee. Even so, there was an unfortunate chance that they could be waiting for someone to accept a pair of shady assassins onto their ship.
The female was quite happy to take the lead, feeling that it was her place to do so, as the only true assassin in the duo. Of course, whether or not Gimladhir was happy with that set up didn't even enter into it. "We'll need to gather some supplies, and acquire a little coin. I say one of us can do that, and the other ought to find a captain willing to aid us." She made no decision just yet as to who should do which bit of legwork, although logic told her that Gimladhir was probably going to be more adept at gaining entry onto a vessel.
The male was not as easily riled as his female counterpart, and he was also a little more wily, less direct and bullish in his dealings with people. He was far more likely to garner some success, and perhaps at a far quicker rate than what Kyra would have been capable of. There was also the issue of women being bad luck on ships, something that they would have to deal with when the issue cropped up, although already the blonde had decided she would make herself a little less feminine when they boarded, just to stack the odds in their favour.
"A step in the right direction," Gimladhir nodded as if that somehow cemented the statement into reality, "I will make one round through the docks, use our few remaining hours of sunlight to chance upon a captain or two. So long as I do not draw too much attention to our task at hand, I doubt we will encounter any issues. A man with a ship wishes to earn coin, in any case, not to question what he carries. Expect to meet tomorrow by the temple."
Before Kyra could retort, the man spun on his heels and disappeared into the crowd, pushing and shoving his way past anyone who stood in his way. The walk to the docks under any other circumstances could have taken the assassin little more than two or three minutes. As the market district stood, still crammed with a mass of individuals crammed shoulder-to-shoulder, the journey took him the better portion of half an hour to finally stumble to the docks...
The docks of Trahyrst were a mediocre sight. For being the ports of the Lord's City, the docks were left to decay and collapse under their own weight. Though individual segments were kept in working condition, often the ones that held the most impressive vessels, the rest were rickety segments of wood, crumbling piers of stone, and, on occasion, simply outcroppings of sand that held six or seven fishing ships at a time. Masts were as common a sight as seagulls and often the two blurred together into one, pillowing white mass across the horizon of the outstretched strip of land.
Gimladhir scanned through the docks for one captain, any captain, that still lurked the docks. He was dimly aware of every passing second sending the sun closer and closer to the horizon, each passing moment taking more and more of its light as it descended. He had found sailors, whores, cutthroats, but not one captain.
For twenty minutes the man prowled the port, doing his best to avoid detection: clad in obvious clothing identifying his rank among his Order, any city watchman would be more than eager to see him clad in irons. None had quite received the fear and respect to avoid the law. Not yet.
When at last Gimladhir gave in and asked for directions from a passing sailor, he had been met with a blank stare. Twenty coppers later and the sailor's rough tongue had adopted an overlay of decency as he spoke, "A cap'n this late? There's one, 'ole Markus. He'll be right there, by the Gallant. Small ship, but she's without cargo or passengers for a week or so."
Of course. Captains are incapable of naming their ships other than singular abstract ideals.
Still, he supposed singular abstract ideals were better than names such as Our Lord's Hammer or the Wrath of Aeris. Those were insulting even to those that followed the Lord or prayed to Aeris: surely the god would want a more subtle, meaningful means of worship?
"My thanks, but before I speak with this Markus, is there anything I must know?"
"Most say he's a bit craven, but even he won't turn down coin when he's 'outta profitable work. Most ships 'o his size'll rent themselves out to transport."
Gimladhir nodded and proceeded up the port, clumsily knocking into the sailor as he began, catching himself by one hand upon the larger man's shoulder, his other deftly slicing at the man's purse as he pulled away. He'd been a street urchin once in the various crews of the under warrens of the city and though his knife had changed from slitting purses to slitting necks, the motion came almost as naturally as breathing when prompted with an opportunity as golden as an unintelligent, bumbling sailor..
"Willing to rent out my ship, 'eh?" Markus mused, running a hand through his salt-and-pepper beard. It was, in truth, more an ugly, mismatching spread of irregularly shaped patches than continuous hair.
The captain was a large man, hair receding, cheeks beginning already to sag. When he moved his head, his second chin wobbled to rest wherever his first did, and his beady brown eyes watered over with every blink. He was a disgusting man, but Gimladhir knew better than to bring light to it.
"That is indeed what I said," the assassin drummed his fingers against the hard wooden table the two sat at.
"'And you're willin' to spend one hun'durd crowns today for promise of sailing tom'arraw? It'd be more 'an generous."
"No, payment upon understanding that you will be at port, ready to sail tomorrow morning upon the break of dawn. Only a fool hands gold out in promise a stranger will keep his word."
"And if I don't?" Markus questioned, raising an eyebrow, chins wobbling as he looked Gimladhir up and down.
"You know who I am and what I do..." Gimladhir let the statement hang in the air for a moment before continuing, "The fish hunger this late in the evening, and no doubt you will provide them with more than enough food to last well into the morrow."
Markus' face paled. He nodded ferverently, many chins bouncing up and down as he did so. When at last he spoke, it was a squeak that emerged from his pudgy lips, "Ye-Yes, tom'arraw...Tom'arraw..."
The assassin stood and offered a hand to shake. Nervously, the merchant took it, eyes straying from Gimladhir's own, "I am glad we could come to agreement."
It was no great difficulty to secure a small sum of money with which to ensure their job was completed. However, they required a little more out of the coffers if they were going to have enough to go chasing all around the Southern regions in search of their current target. Even so, Kyra was certain that she would be able to state their case with enough gusto that they would be given all they needed. And if not, then the Goddess would of course ensure their safe passage through the strange journey they were embarking on.
"You want us to fund a wild goose chase?" The rather prim treasurer spoke with some incredulity. The two assassins had very little to go on, and that broad a search was not going to come cheap. Even so, the treasurer was well aware that there was little to be done, unless these two assassins wished to sit and twiddle their thumbs while they waited for their target to come back to the city. That could take months, if not years to come to fruition, and that was not something that would suit anyone.
As she watched the wizened old man mull over the proposition further, Kyra pursed her lips, keeping back a deluge of annoyed tongue lashing, thankfully managing to keep this at bay long enough to allow the man to give her a straight answer. "We will grant you a certain sum, to be collected in one hour. You will also be given any contracts we may have in the area, provided they are suited to ones of your station. Besides that, you will fund your own travel, in whichever way you see fit."
It was a better outcome than could have been expected, and Kyra was honestly shocked to find that they were willing to supply them with more than just a pittance to see them down the river. But, the young assassin bowed her head respectfully, "Thankyou, Sir. I will return, as you say." It was a little annoying to be sent away again, but at least her time in the interim would not be wasted, as she could return to market and buy a few provisions out of her own pocket, rather than whiling away the time doing nothing in particular.
The first items to collect were packs in which to carry their supplies, followed by the salted meats and other such food that was both cheap and long lasting foodstuffs that would keep them from starvation, no matter where they ended up in the desert wastes. While she was there, Kyra was also prudent to go to her one useful contact, a scholar that kept a dusty old bookshop, and was known for his willingness to perform less savoury tasks.
"I need a writ of passage, and maps of the Southern regions." As always, she wasted no time in getting straight to the point.
The man known affectionately as Art responded, "Kyra, that could take months. And you know just as well as I do that the Southerners have the most intricate documents in the empire. I can't work magic."
"Just, sort something out for me, would you? I'll make it worth your while, I promise." She flashed a smile for once, a display of the fact that the two of them had enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship. "See what you can do, and leave them in the usual place."
With that done, it was soon time to return to the treasurer, collecting the pittance he was willing to afford her. It wasn't much, and what she had already spent on provisions was far more than that already, but there was little to be done aside from hope that the reward was worth the risk. The three contracts the blonde was also given were a positive step, at least. They were easy marks, and although the pay would be little, it would tide them over.
The following morning, just as the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon, Kyra found herself leaning casually against the stone wall opposite the temple. At her feet were three cloth sacks, sadly only half full with what they needed. She thumbed through a rotting leatherbound book of maps, the tome sadly nearly a century old and hellishly out of date. But, it was the best that could be done in such short notice.
What was more important was the writ, something that would allow them passage into the city proper, should that become necessary. It was an extremely valuable document, and one that poor Art had worked hard on into the early hours of the morning. Kyra made a mental note to thank him for the work upon her return to her home.
But for now, it was just a matter of waiting for Gimladhir, though Kyra had to admit that on this occasion she was rather early. Even so, the woman was eager to get going, just wanting to finish this job and get back to this city where she could better save her Goddess. Perhaps as she became a fully fledged assassin, she would be able to assist in changing the fortunes of the guild and the celestial being they served. It was little more than a girlish dream, truth be told, but it was not something she was likely to ignore.
Gimladhir was slowly being cooked alive. In the sweltering heat of summer, combined with the moisture carried from the river, the air clung to the man as he strode forward in leather armor over thick cloth all beneath a billowing brown traveling cloak. Once upon the river, with the wind and faintest traces of spray from the breaking water, he knew the heat would dissipate into a memory.
But until then, he sweated.
From the assassin's dwelling, the temple was a short walk between alleyways and other shortcuts he had learned in his years cutting purses on the street. With the temple standing a good deal taller than its surroundings, it made an ideal point of reference for any newcomer to the city. For Gimladhir, it was home, symbol, and employer all in one. After a five minute walk that felt more half a day given the heat, the man arrived in the temple square and began searching for Kyra.
Given that the sun was still low in the sky and the square empty, the search took little over two minutes. Arriving before his opposite, Gimladhir offered a formal bow.
"I have procured a means of transport as far as the first city we cross. I have the funds to pay for his journey, nothing more. Were you successful in scrounging up the rest of the required materials?"
Although she was an impatient woman, she did not make a very good look out in this instance. Kyra was far too busy being annoyed to keep an eye out for her comrade, instead choosing to tap her foot and glare at the stone cobbles that would soon be baking in the heat of the long summers day. Her apparent infatuation was such that the presence of Gimladhir came on suddenly, almost starting out of her grumpy reflection.
The blonde looked squarely at the male, proceeding to narrow her eyes in clear dislike as he addressed her, his question seeming rather inane and insulting, something she wasted no time in pointing out. "Of course I was. What do you take me for?" The woman also glanced down at the packs at her feet, the two canvas bags clearly not full of roses and puppies. But, rather than make too much of an issue of the situation, she simply hefted the first of the supplies, feeling there was no time like the present to get going.
"I have salt meats and maps, along with enough coin to see us mounted well." Or so went the plan, anyway. The woman spoke as she walked towards the harbour, in a hurry, although her haste would unfortunately do no good in in persuading the captain to take to the open river sooner rather than later. "Is this captain of yours trustworthy?" She asked, though she followed up with what she saw as a far more important question, "Is he actually capable of doing his duty?" Any number of captains would accept the coin, but only a few were capable and willing to do what they had been contracted to do.