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The two hunters closed in on their prey. Just an hour ago, the… 
12th-Jun-2006 12:30 am
The two hunters closed in on their prey. Just an hour ago, the fires had been burning brightly in the small campsite where the mage-woman slept. Now, they were long out. Draken had wanted to strike quickly, right when they went to sleep, but Mephi had held him back, warning that it would be best to wait to make sure the quarry was out. Draken had grumbled at this, but accepted Mephi's ruling.

Draken Kran was a beefy man, with a thick chest and a thicker skull. His companion, Mephi Stofles, was far more cunning and lithe. His beady little eyes peered dangerously down his nose and he was always chewing on his cheeks thoughtfully, lending them a haunted look, like they were hollowed. Draken tested his axe against a tree while they waited while Mephi sharpened his rapier. One quick thrust - whish! - and she'd be gone. Then Draken would remove her head and they would take her back to Yalin for the reward. The smaller man smiled darkly under his thick mat of hair. He turned to his companion. "Come along, you idiot," he spat. "Before  dawn."

"Don't complain to me about waiting," Draken thundered back lowly. "I've been wanting to kill her all night; you were the one what wanted to wait."

"Keep your trap shut, Drak," Mephi hissed. "You don't want her to hear us, do you?" He removed the rapier from its covering. "Come on; we've wasted enough time here as it is." Draken growled bitterly, but didn't say anything as the two of them slipped quietly down the small bluff towards the campsite, using the trees to support their trek down.

At the bas of this incline, Mephi stopped his companion. "Now, remember, I know I heard a man's voice down here. More like 'n not, she hired herself a bodyguard. We'll want to avoid any confrontation with him, eh? Nice and quick. Grab her head and we're out. Got it?"

"Yeh, yeh," Draken responded, feeling the blade of his axe. "This is it, Mephi," he said, a tinge of excitement entering his voice. "After tonight, we'll be rich men, rich! And we'll be free again, what's more!"

"That's right, Drak," Mephi replied coolly, a smile etching on his face. "We will be, once we kill the little bitch. Let's get to it."

Silently, the two of them maneuvered into the camp. Mephi held his blade straight up so as not to attract any attention. Draken took care himself, though his bulk made it so that he brushed against a tent or a tree now or again. Finally, they found the mage, wrapped up in a bag, sleeping away. Mephi grinned wickedly, levelling the sword for her heart. That's it, boy, that's it!

Before he could deliver thr blow, however, Drak stepped on a twig, snapping it. Instantly awake, the mage saw Mephi right before her and opened here mouth to scream. Mephi clamped ahand over her mouth. "Feisty one, Drak; we got a feisty one!" Draken laughed stupidly in the dark, clutching his axe. "You know what, Drak? I think that now that the little darlin' is awake, we go with our other option. Rather than kill her outright, we'll have some fun, eh? You like that, Drak?" Drak made a sound that indicated that he very much did.

"And now, missy," Mephi said, evil light playing in his eyes. "There's no one around to protect you. You're all alone. Whose gonna save you now?"
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17th-Jun-2006 06:58 am (UTC)
Keaira heard the snap of the twig and opened her eyes. Suddenly she felt a hand come over her mouth before she could even let out a scream.

She eyed Mortimus's sleeping form. He wouldn't wake up any time soon. Then she realized she had the sword he'd given her. Thank you, Mortimus, she thought.

She waited for a moment while the two men babbled before giving a hard bite to one of the fingers of the man holding his hand over her mouth. "Ah!" he cried out as softly as he could, pulling his hand away from her mouth. Once his hand was away, she reached toward her belt and pulled the sword out, moving to try and stand up. Once she stood, she immediately brought her blade up to meet the blade of the man she had bit, their swords clashing together.

"Ah, we've got ourselves a li'l fighter," the man whispered. "You're just a girl. Do you really think you can last against me?"

"You'd be surprised," Keaira said. She pulled her blade away, stepping back.

When she stepped back, she felt the arms of the second bounty hunter wrap around her waist tightly. One arm tightened more as the other raised toward her neck, holding a small dagger.

"Make one sound, and your throat is cut before your next blink," the second hunter said.

How stupid was this guy? She still had the sword Mortimus gave her. She jabbed the blade in to the hand of the man holding on to her, making him cry out and let go of her.

She turned on her heal to look toward where Mortimus was laying- how had he not heard anything? He must have been a very deep sleeper- and started to run toward him, only to feel something fall over her and come around her waist. A piece of rope tied in a circle, with a long piece of rope leading back to the hands of the other bounty hunter. He pulled her closer, making her trip as he pulled.

"Mortimus!" she called out as she was pulled closer. Once she was close enough, the bounty hunter raised a foot toward her hands, knocking her sword away to the ground, too far for her to reach.

"You've been quite the little trouble maker, missy," the bounty hunter snarled in a whisper. The second bounty hunter came toward them, holding his injured hand.

"The little brat nearly tore my hand off," he said. "Tie her up to the tree. I'll see if I can find anything else to steal from here."

The bounty hunter holding the rope pulled a handkerchief up to Keaira's mouth, holding her head as still as he could while he tied it in place before pulling her to the tree and tieing her up to the trunk. The bounty hunters then proceeded to go through Keaira's things, trying to find anything worth taking.
17th-Jun-2006 07:44 am (UTC) - Part 1
Mortimus waited until it was quiet outside before moving. He knew they would never kill her outright; the reward was more for living mages, anyways. Although he wouldn't put it past them to kill her if she drove them mad enough, which, from the sounds of things, was a very real possibility.

Finally, when he was content that the brief scuffle had stopped, he rose quietly. Carefully removing his long rapier, he went outside into the moonlight, pulling his mask over his face as he went. Best not to let them see his face.

He encountered the two of them, backs toward him, as they went about their businesss of ransacking the camp. The small, flighty one was shuffling through Keaira's things while the large man stood guard over the mage, brandishing a large axe, although he did so awkwardly; he could see that this one was nursing a wound on his other hand. So, Keaira fought back? He smiled to himself.

From what he could see, this could only be Mephi Stofles and Draken Kran, two of the deadliest and dumbest in the business. In fact, if it weren't for Mephi, Draken wouldn't know which end to eat from and which to sit on. Mephi, meanwhile, for all his scheming and plotting was a braggart whole always forgot tiny little, important details that often cost him the hunt - usually, he forgot just how thick his companion was. Nevertheless, he was a coward also. This wouldn't be any trouble.

"Excuse me," he purred into the night.

Mephi and Draken jumped a mile hight before rounding on him. Their anger disintegrated into surprise and, he noticed, Mephi took a few steps back. "Fox!" he exclaimed. "We didn't know you had caught this little darlin. Why, we wouldn't have messed around with her if we had. This little miss cried out some name and we thought it was some bloke what was enlisted to guard her."

"Nevertheless," Mortimus replied coolly, "you are messing with here now, Stofles, and I'll kindly ask you to turn right back around and leave."

Mephi grinned in the moonlight. "Well, see, the thing about that is, she's caused poor Drak here an awful amount of pain, hasn't she, Drak?" The large man lifted his right hand, swaddled in a torn piece of cloth that was now blood stained, murmuring. "So you see," Mephi continued, "I think a gentleman like yourself would seek to repay two fellow gentlemen the trouble wrought on them by habding over the bounty."

Mortimus lifted his rapier to arm's length. "You touch her," he growled, "and I'll impale you right here."

"Now, Fox," Mephi replied, raising his hands defensively. "You wouldn't harm a fello man of fortune? Especially not one so armed," he added, suddenly going for his own rapier, "as we are?"
17th-Jun-2006 07:45 am (UTC) - Part 2
That was the straw; in a flash, Mortimus lunged. Draken howled in pain as Mortimus' blade went through his shin. The large man dropped his axe and fell to his knees. Snarling, Mephi gave him a kick, which sent him sprawling. "Get up, you oaf," he growled.

"This is between you and me," Mortimus said, lunging again with his sword. Mephi parried and responded in kind. "You're a fine swordsman," Mortimus observed. "But you've met yout match. Stand down."

In response, Mephi struck again, succeeding in making a gash on Mortimus' leg. Mortimus thrust his sword toward the chest, but Mephi dodged deftly. The two exchanged heated blows, moving back and forth. Mephi led the battle around the tree where Keaira was tied. He made to strike her, but Mortimus averted the blow. "Drak!" Mephi called to his ailing companion, who had gripped his axe. The large man swung at Mortimus' legs, but the hunter leapt over the blade and plunged his own into Draken's heart. The man gulped and wheezed as he fell backward, spasming.

Seeing his friend fall, Mephi began to lay into Mortimus, first with a surprise attack as the hunter was recovering from killing Draken. The battle continued for some time until, once again, Mephi had Keaira at his mercy. "Stop right there, Fox!" he simmered. "One more step and I slash her throat."

Mortimus stopped cold, his mind racing. Finally, his hand fell to a small dagger in his belt. A grin seeped onto his face. "You were right about one thing, Mephi."

The other inclined his head. "And what is that?"

"I wouldn't harm a gentleman," Mortimus replied. Then he arched his arm back and flung the dagger square in the Mephi's throat. Any thought the other might have had of using his dying breath to slay Keaira was driven from his mind as the surprise and shock took him. "Fortunately," Mortimus breathed, coming upon the dying man, "you are no gentleman." And he slid his blade across Mephi's throat, hearing the wind whistle out of it for the last time. Then, blood stained and tired, he rushed over to Keaira.
17th-Jun-2006 03:25 pm (UTC) - Re: Part 2
Keaira watched helplessly from the tree as Mortimus fought off the other bounty hunter. When Mephi's blow at her came close to her head, she muffled a cry and moved her head just as Mortimus blocked it. Before she knew it, yet another blade was held up to her neck as she stood against the tree, defensless.

She breathed a sigh of relief once the bounty hunter was dead. The other was too shocked to try and do anything more. She watched as Mortimus ran over to her and began untieing her, first untieing the handkerchief across her mouth before untieing her from the tree.

Once she was free, she rubbed at her wrists, unsure of what to say to Mortimus. She glanced down to see the gash in his leg.

"You're bleeding. Here, let me help you," she said. She looked around and found the water bucket used for their horses. She ran over to it, picking it up and bringing it back to where Mortimus was. "The water will be clean enough to wash it with at least."

She waited for Mortimus to sit so she could nurse the wound. Once he had sat down, she pulled at the handkerchief, which was long enough that she could still use it, and ripped it. She put the smaller piece in to the water, squeezed it out, and began wiping away the blood. Once the blood was gone, she tied the rest of the handkerchief around the wound.

Her gaze narrowed, focusing on fixing the wound the best she could. She knew she had to thank him for saving her life. Swallowing hard, she finally spoke. "Thank you...for saving my life," she said. A small smile came to her face as she allowed her eyes to lift up to his. "That lesson you gave me ended up coming in handy. I don't think I would've been able to fight them off nearly as well without it or the sword," she said, hoping that a little humor would lighten the mood a bit.
20th-Jun-2006 01:04 am (UTC) - Re: Part 2
He smiled back at her. "Self-defense is a necessity for anyone traveling the countryside, mage or no." He wiped his rapier blade down using the tattered edge of Mehpi's robe. "I worked with these two before; dumb as door nails. Uttetly brainless and arrogant to boot. Yes, the world is a better place for having killed them.

"In the meantime, I suggest we take some rest. I doubt that these two were alone; other must be nearby. We'll want to get an early start."
20th-Jun-2006 01:26 am (UTC) - Re: Part 2
Keaira sighed softly, moving to stand. She turned her back toward Mortimus and put her arms up to her chest, resting her hands on her arms. Her gaze lifted up to the sky, watching as the stars glowed above the two of them.

"I don't think I can really sleep, not after this. I..." she said. She blinked and found herself blinking back tears. She pulled her gaze from the stars and looked down at the ground. She missed her brother. She couldn't come right out and tell him that she missed her brother, because it would be giving him even more information. "I want to go home," she said softly.
20th-Jun-2006 02:24 am (UTC) - Re: Part 2
His heart went out to her; he knew what it was like to be alone, far from home. He stared into her eyes, losing himself in their infinity. She gazed back, her obvious grief overwhelming her. In that moment, he wished more than anything to be able to comfort her and tell her it would be well. But he knew he couldn't even begin to promise that. His own eyes began to water slightly; the more he thought about it the more pain it brought.

He took her hands in his, noticing how soft they were soft. Why hadn't he seen that before? She kept looking at him, nearly as surprised as he felt. Why was he doing this? The great Foxhound - he was supposed to be inhuman, a thing. A hunter.

Yet this solitary beauty had cured the rampaging demons in his heart. He would have never guessed it.

He leaned in slowly, unsure of himself, moving by no will of his own. How could this be happening? He didn't understand. It wasn't him. It wasn't! But there is was; and before he knew it, he had taken her into a kiss that resounded in his brain and sent him fluttering. They held together for a moment, lost, before he regained himself. Pulling back suddenly, he appraised her in shocked eyes.

What had happened?
20th-Jun-2006 02:29 am (UTC) - Re: Part 2
(Oops, forgot about this.)

As he drew back, he noticed that she winced slightly as his hand passed her shoulder. Concerned, he placed a hand on it. "What happened?" he asked.
20th-Jun-2006 03:33 am (UTC) - Re: Part 2
Keaira swallowed hard as she found herself looking in to his eyes. It was hard to resist looking in to them. Before she could say anything, she found his lips coming together with hers. She couldn't resist making the kiss deeper by pressing her lips harder against him.

When he pulled away, she was breathing heavily as she kept her gaze on his face. His hand still held her hands. When he finally spoke, she blinked, realizing he had asked her a question.

"I...one of the bounty hunters that managed to find the temple shot an arrow. I was at the window they shot the arrow at," she answered. She avoided making any sort of eye contact with him now, thoughts going through her head. What did that kiss mean? Was he just trying to trick her? What would she tell Icthus? What...? "These two bounty hunters must've grabbed my shoulder the wrong way. I didn't even notice it..."
23rd-Aug-2006 06:35 am (UTC) - Re: Part 2
(GRAW!!!!!! *Rises majestically from the earth*)

"I'm sorry," he said, turning away. "I - I should't have allowed that to happen." You're stronger than that. Aren't you? The man who knows no love, no caring. Aren't you?

You're better than all that.

Aren't you?

"I'll do what I can to return you. But I have to understand why this is happening. If I don't, I could die." Fool! Why admit that? To this one, no less?

Aren't you?

What if you're not?

He turned back to her, his heart heavy with regret and with determination. He would not let himself be lured again. But looking into those eyes, he knew that wasn't a promise he could keep. Desparately searching for something to divert his attention, he looked to her wounded shoulder. "I'll help bind that wound if you like."
23rd-Aug-2006 07:13 am (UTC) - Re: Part 2
(-SQUEE!- I think I love you. XD And I know Keaira loves you now.)

Keaira narrowed her eyes as he spoke, turning her back toward him. "I...thank you."

Thoughts of returning home began to cross her mind. She missed her brother, and a tiny little part of her missed Grace. Tiny. Microscopic, she mused inwardly. These thoughts were really just a distraction to avoid thinking about what had just happened.

She turned back toward him, keeping her eyes to the ground as she waited for him to start binding her wound, biting her lower lip.

"A lot of people could die, Mortimus. The other mages could die if I don't get back there to help them. It's happening because the man who claims to be a king is an inhuman monster and wants to see those who are different from him destroyed," she said. "If you bring me back, it probably won't be with welcoming arms, and certainly not if they somehow find out about...well, you know."

(And now I must go to bed. >.>)
24th-Aug-2006 11:31 pm (UTC) - Re: Part 2
He smirked to himself. "Not much incentive for me to return you, I think. Gods, Keaira, but I saw what your leader did to those other mercs back at the temple. You want me to go back and face that?"

He grabbed his bow. "At any rate, you're right about one thing: the longer I keep you here, the more dangerous it becomes for everyone involved. I will not detain you any longer; you're free to go. I, however, cannot go with you."
25th-Aug-2006 01:48 am (UTC) - Re: Part 2
Yes, she wanted him to go back and face it. For her, for them if there was even a "them" between them. She knew Icthus well enough to know that he would not do what he had done to those hunters unless provoked. The only provoking she thought Mortimus had done was kidnapping her, but if Icthus saw that she was safe...

On the other hand, she knew her brother's temper, and knew that it wasn't something to play with. "My leader wouldn't do anything to you, not if he saw that I was safe. He would need provoking...such as seeing me attacked, or being attacked himself. He does have a temper, though." When he told her that she was free, she looked up at him and gave a small, almost sad smile. "Leaving right now, in the middle of the night with very little protection and few fighting skills would be suicide, Mortimus. You saw those bounty hunters- they won't hesitate to capture me because I'm a mage. I'd actually be protected if I were to stay here, at least until day, because you're a bounty hunter and know how to fight. But even during the day, it's suicidal."

She thought about the last thing he said and sighed, narrowing her gaze again. "You could go with me, if I was able to butter my bro...leader up to the idea of you being in the temple, as well as the other mages, or at least convince them that you're not the heartless monster the other bounty hunters that are after us are. Having a bounty hunter as an ally would be a great asset to us...of course, that's only assuming you'd be willing to even be allies with the mages. You want answers...my leader has them. If I can convince him to talk to you, will you come back with me?" She paused before speaking up, looking up at his face, her dark blue eyes glistening in the light of the fire. "I know that part of you wants to react to your bounty hunter instinct...but deep down, there's a different side to you. You're not just any bounty hunter," she said, almost half whispering as she swallowed hard and waited for an answer.
5th-Sep-2006 05:18 am (UTC) - Re: Part 2
"Bloody hell," he muttered. "Impossible woman. I suppose you make a point, though. Life is likely far more dangerous in the wilds these days." He sighed grimly. It was against his better judgment, but, after all, the thought of answers was far too tempting. He'd been looking so long, he had nearly forgotten just what it was he was trying to find.

He rounded on her, right hand planted on the bow, which he held like a cane. "I will bring you to your temple, but if it looks like things are turning nasty, I'm out of there just as quickly.

"An agreement?"
5th-Sep-2006 12:05 pm (UTC) - Re: Part 2
She put her lips together as he spoke, waiting only a moment before nodding, "Agreed. I'll bring you to a spot fairly close to the temple that will be safe, and I'll return to the temple by myself. Once I'm able to talk to...my leader alone, I will explain everything, and wait until night time to bring you in to the temple. Most of the mages will be asleep by then, and I can bring you in through the back without anyone noticing. My suggestion would be to leave your bigger weapons behind you when you come in, and only bring small weapons, just to show that you mean no harm," she said. Although, it would be better if you came in unarmed, but I doubt you'll agree to that."

(I'm going to continue this in the post where you've been replying as Icthus.)
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