287 A Name is a Nuisance
*Eldovian Era 1714, 20th day of the 1st month*
Rima could do nothing but stare, wide eyed, at Ziga's body on the ground before her. His throat cut, his eyes wide in shock, dead. Seven Gods in the High Realm, she'd never even seen a blade drawn. Had not heard it clutter anywhere. She did not see who had thrown or wielded it. It was as if the Gods themselves had reached down to aid her and Tigin.
It was about damn time too. They'd been struggling to keep that which they stole for themselves and not have it stolen from them by the various groups for the last three months. They were lucky to get a meal a day at the rate they were going. No matter what route they took, or where they hid this score, it was nearly always found and raided.
Still, Rima's celebration was short lived as another brush of wind blew past her, and Reni went sailing back into the shadows with a shout of surprise. Next was Harris, then Yato. Finally, shivering in shock and fear, and the acidic smell of urine filling the small back alley, Kessen turned and ran for the exit. Rima and Tigin watched him go, three metres before a figure in a black coat seemed to appear beside him, his arm outstretched with a blade that cut Kessen's throat so quickly that his body had barely started falling when the blade was sheathed and out of sight once more.
Then his red gaze turned to look at Rima and Tigin.
He looked to be perhaps in his early twenties. He had short brown hair on his head, and the start of a goatee below lips. He was wearing good clothes, so he certainly was not from this part of the city. But what would a Middle Sector be doing out here so late? He wore a long sleeve, tan coloured shirt beneath a dark brown leather jacket, and a strange scarf that was large enough to fall over his shoulders and come up to nearly his chin. As he shifted, Rima noticed the hood dangling at the back. He wore not apparent adornments or jewelry though, which made his business here all the more confusing. Was he here to see the Reishin? But at this hour? And how had he just appeared like that? Was he a shadow magician?
He tilted his head whilst he looked at Rima and Tigin before he spoke, "Little girls shouldn't be out this late".
Rima blanched. She'd hidden as a boy for a decade without so much as a peep from anyone. How had he known?
"I'm..I'm not a girl," Rima huffed.
He took a second glance at Rima, then at Tigin, "Want to tell me why I had to save you just now? Why are you out here?"
Tigin, still frowning from the girl comment, looked down at Rima, then at the young man, "Forgive us for disturbing you, Areishin, how can we repay you?"
The young man scoffed, taking a few steps to the side before he reached down behind a pile of old ropes and lifted up Reni. An unconscious Reni, but not dead by the way he groaned.
"No need, just get home will you?" he asked.
It was then that Rima and Tigin both noticed the chain hanging off his hip. The insignia on it. They immediately dropped to their knees, "Great Warrior Bloodthorn, we are terribly sorry to have disturbed you this night. We promise never to do so again, please, let us live!"
The young man paused, Reni half lifted off the ground. Then he dropped Reni like a sack of potatoes.
"What did you just call me?"
There was no anger in the tone, only curiosity.
Rima glanced out of the corner of her eye at Tigin who spoke up slowly for them both, "Great...Warrior...Bloodthorn".
The man's eyes narrowed, and his tone dropped, "Who did you hear that name from?"
Rima and Tigin both bowed their heads closer to the cobblestones, "Your name is famous throughout the city. You have sworn loyalty to Reishin Irons. You are owed respect and status by your deeds, O Great Warrior".
"How did you-"
"The chain, at your hip," Rima stated, "It is the symbol of Reishin Irons' highest and most loyal subordinates".
Rima risked a glance up as she watched the young warrior take the chain in his hand, looking at it closely, then ripping it away from his pants. The young warrior crushed it in his palm for a moment in a barely contained anger before he released a breath, then pocketed the chain and walked over to Tigin and Rima. Rima made to move back but he was there before she could, putting a surprisingly light hand on both hers and Tigin's shoulders.
"I am not loyal to Reishin Irons, frankly I wouldn't care one way or the other if he lived or died if he wasn't paying me 500 gold a day to keep him on the living side of the equation," said the warrior, "I don't mean to scare you, I just don't particularly like the idea of slavery".
Of course he didn't. If rumour was to be believed, he was one of the reasons that Herguard Island, the place where all slaves went at one point or another, burned to the ground. Now that had been a hit to the Shin's profits.
As Rima risked a look up into his eyes, she watched as they seemed to dim from red to a sparkling violet. They were so much softer, more playful. Nothing like the cold-hearted warrior she'd seen barely a minute beforehand.
"Tigin and Rima are your names, yes?" he asked.
He smiled, "Call me Aegin, please. I'm not overly fond of the name Bloodthorn. Now, would you like to tell me why you were out this late?"
Rima looked at Tigin who had straightened up, then back at Aegin, "You haven't been here long, have you?"
Aegin raised an eyebrow, "4 days, why?"
"The West is not like other continents, Aegin. There they have established governments and systems for law. Here, where Tribes ruled all lands up until a hundred years ago when the Triad Cities were built for Trade purposes, there is no ruler but they who are the richest, and it is rare that they become that way without a foot in both sides of what you would consider the law," explained Rima.
Aegin sighed, "I suspected as much from what I'd seen".
He stood, then turned and walked back over to the unconscious Reni.
"I'm sorry to say this, Aegin, but if you are under Reishin Irons, even with your rumoured skill I doubt you will be able to leave his side any time soon," said Rima sadly, "The Reishin are not to be trifled with".
To her surprise, Aegin chuckled darkly as he picked up Reni's body.
"I'd worry about yourself, Rima," said Aegin, "After all, one day someone's going to find out your a girl, and then Tigin massive body won't be nearly enough to make them think twice".
Then, his eyes turned red and two of his top teeth slid forth like long needles and punctured Reni's throat.
Rima gasped in shock, reeling back, but Aegin did nothing but stare at the both of them as he drank. Tigin didn't move, neither did Rima. Finally, Aegin pulled back, licked along Reni's neck, then dropped the body. With a sigh, he used his thumb to wipe away a drop of blood from his lips, then turned towards the alley entrance, "Come on, where are you holed up, I'll walk you back".
Where her initial instincts had been fear and cowardice, even for one like her whose short and petite stature were just asking for trouble, now they told her that this being was an opportunity.
Something told her that Reishin Irons had severely underestimated his sway over this warrior, and that once he took it too far, he'd pay the price for it. Rima stood, looking over at Tigin. After only a second of hesitation, the big guy stood too. They'd promised to stick together. Clearly the fact that she was female didn't bother him in the slightest.
"We're just a few blocks east," Tigin stated as he walked after Aegin.
"No problem. So what were you doing out this late..."
The conversation was surprisingly easy. Her nerves were still jittery, but Aegin had this way about him. She could tell that he didn't completely trust them. That he was using the conversation to fish for information. But she also figured that he seemed somewhat at ease. Like a burden had somehow been lifted from his shoulders.
He was not overly impressed by the tiny apartment with the roof half torn open that they lived in, but he let them be. Even throwing them a gold coin each on the way out, "Don't get into trouble".
"Feel free to drop by," Rima said.
She didn't know why, only that she didn't think she'd ever regret inviting him.