Part 1

Asher's life is uprooted when strange men come to town searching for her guardian.

Asher stares at the candied pecans displayed on a market stall, twitching her fingers. The lady standing behind the stall was looking away, distracted by a group of people playing instruments near the market place fountain. She could easily reach out and snag a couple of the candied treats without her knowing. Though the thrill of doing so and not getting caught was tempting, Asher puts a couple copper pieces on the spot where two candied nuts were before she had eaten them. As she walks off the lady was again watching her wares, sparing her a brief smile.

Turning away from the lady's stall Asher bumps into two larger men. "Watch it!" One of the men says in a gruff voice. Asher watched as the two of them moved through the crowd. They were looking around the crowd, scanning faces. They must of not found who they were looking for because they went to leave the market square. They were muttering to each other, their faces contorted almost in grimaces.

Asher decided to head home and tell Ava about the strange men. Ava was the closest thing she had to a mother. She has looked after her for the past couple years after she stumbled into her camp the night her parents were murdered. Her mother and father's lifeless faces flashed before her eyes. Shaking her head to clear her vision, Asher heads home in a hurry.

"Ava!" She yells as she runs through the front door. Ava was in the kitchen, cleaning. As Asher came in, trailing dirt behind her, Ava raises her eyebrows giving her a stern look. Before Asher could say another word and tell her about the strangers, Ava stops her. "Look at the mess your dragging in." She hands her a wet wash cloth. "Go outside and clean yourself, and while your at it, collect the clean linens."

Knowing better than to argue, Asher takes the wash cloth and heads outside. She cleans her hands and face the best she can. Her boots she didn't mess with, instead planning to leave them at the front door. After collecting all the clean linens hanging outside the side of the house, Asher goes to head back inside, but just before she turns the corner to the front of the house a noise stops her. Someone was knocking on their door.

Asher edges up to the corner, peaking around straining to listen as Ava answers the door. Instead of closing the door in his face or telling him to leave like she expected, Ava greeted the man like she knew him, though in a surprised tone. She could only make out words here and there but it sounded like the man was telling her about people that were looking for her. Leaning around the corner more to try and hear better, Asher dropped the bucket of clean linens. The man turned his head, his hand going to his sword on his back. Ava peaked out the door and seeing Asher whispered something to the man calming him. Ava waved Asher over and the three of them went inside. Ava closed the door behind them, locking it securely. She lead them to the sitting room, offering the man some tea.

Asher sat across from the man eying him suspiciously. The man could be with those other men for all she knew. She didn't like the way the man would look so casually at Ava.

"So they have finally caught up to me." Ava said in a tired voice. Her usual cheerful face was now lined with worry. Asher didn't like seeing her like this.

"I am afraid so Avalyn." The man said. He referred to Ava as Avalyn. Was that her full name? Asher had always wondered."It wont be long before they track down this place. I've come not only to warn you, but also offer you somewhere to go that is safe. I have joined a guild where we take contracts to help people. You get to choose which contract you want to take on, and the other members treat you like family, watching your back. It's rather nice, and sometimes reminds me of the old days."

The man was talking about leaving, with Ava, and going to join an adventuring guild. And from the look on her face, Ava was considering it. "What...?" Asher sputtered.

"There is a lot to explain." Ava said, laying a hand comfortingly on her shoulder. "It is all stuff from my past catching up to me. I never thought it would get to the point where I had to involve you in any way." She goes on talking about finding a neighbor that would take her in. "No!" Asher shouts, standing up quickly. "Where you go, I go."

"The guild is no place for a child." The man said to Ava. She looked at him then back at Asher. "It will involve danger, and adventuring is not an easy life."

"It doesn't matter, I can handle it."

"That you can." Ava hugs Asher. With leaving decided, she sends her upstairs to gather her things. When she came back downstairs with everything she could fit in her pack, Ava and the man, Marcus as he introduced himself, were discussing how to leave. "Night fall will be soon." Marcus was saying to Ava. "It would be better to wait till then and head out of the city through alleyways and side streets."

Ava was chewing on a lock of her red hair, a habit she has when deep in thought. "They will be expecting that. The farmers and traders from the outlying towns should be gather their wares from the market. Traffic will be steady enough we could hide ourselves with the crowd till we are beyond the city walls."

A few minutes later Asher, Ava, and Marcus left the house heading toward the market square. Asher looked behind at the house one last time, and all the memories she was leaving behind. Reluctantly she turned back around and followed Ava, moisture gathering in her eyes.

The fastest route to the market place involved them going through a couple alleyways which Ava and Marcus would hurry Asher through. They kept looking around them, expecting at any moment to be attacked. Asher looked around nervously, the adult's cautiousness rubbing off on her. Several times she caught herself jumping at shadows.

As they were passing through an alleyway close to the market square, a banging sounded behind them. Marcus stopped and drew his sword. Ava came over to Asher standing in front of her. Marcus walked slowly toward where the sound came from. When he got close a cat ran out from a crate, scurrying off. Asher laughs nervously while Marcus sheaths his sword with a scowl. the three turn around to leave the alley but stop in their tracks. Two men stand at the other end, blocking their path to quickly emptying market.

"At last we find you Avalyn Itori." One of the men says as they slowly approach. "And Marcus Daenir? Oh the master will be pleased." Both men drew their weapons, the man who talked armed with an axe, the other with two cruel looking draggers.

Marcus quickly draws his sword charging at the two men. Ava sets her pack down hurriedly, deftly untying a wrapped bundle, revealing a long thin blade. Though the length of a normal two handed sword, from the way she hefted it Asher could tell it was much lighter. Ava, expertly wielding the sword in one hand, rushes quickly to Marcus' side stepping in to fight the two men he was holding back.

Asher backs up slowly watching the fight unfold. She is surprised and amazed by Ava's skill. She never knew that Ava was so skilled with a blade or that she could fight in the first place. The two men must be very skilled as well, for Marcus and Ava were hard pressed. Both their faces were furrowed in concentration as they blocked and parried blows. To Asher it looked very evenly matched, wondering if the outcome would be decided by who tired out faster.

It looked to be Marcus, as he let out a small cry of pain when the man with the axe managed to cut his leg.  The wound looked deep and Marcus had a hard time putting his weight on his leg. Off balanced the man had the upper hand pressing Marcus back and putting him on the defensive.

Ava was fairing better against the man with the daggers. They were both quick, each striking and blocking one another's blows with shower of sparks. Sometimes they moved so quickly, Asher couldn't see their movements. She had a hard time following the fight. It was like a foreign dance, one that Ava knew well. She flowed gracefully through her moves.Soon the sun was setting, and visibility in the alleyway was dimming. It was getting harder for Asher to see. Evidently it was also harder for the man with the daggers to see as well. He was squinting his eyes, his movements slowly slightly. It was just the advantage Ava needed. Just as the man moved a dagger up to block her downward swing, she stepped in, pivoting her foot outward, moving her blade mid strike and changing direction. Swinging around in a circle she swept her blade at the back of the man's legs. He fell to the ground, screaming in pain. Ava quickly cut the scream off, knocking the man out with her hilt.

Raising his axe to deliver a killing blow to Marcus, who had fallen unable to stand on his injured leg, the man looked back as his partner screamed. Marcus rose up on the knee of his good leg, stabbing a dagger into the man's hip. The man backed away holding his side. Ava turned her attention to Marcus and the man with the axe, approaching with her blade in front of her. Glancing at her, then Marcus, the man decided he was out matched. He turned quickly and ran off through the market square, disappearing into another alley.

Instead of following the man, Ava turned her attention to Marcus, pulling out first aid supplies from her bag and tending to his leg. Asher peered over her shoulder, watching worriedly. She may have just met the man, but he was a friend of Ava's and she could tell that she cared for him.

"The wound is not deep," Ava was saying. "You will have trouble walking or putting much weight on your leg for a few days but you will live." She smeared some foul smelling ointment on his leg, to fight infection she informed Asher. After binding his wounds, Asher and Ava helped Marcus stand up and walked him out into the market square.

The square was almost empty except for one trader on the far end, who was finishing up packing his wares. Setting Marcus down on a crate to rest, Ava went to go talk to the trader while Asher stayed by Marcus' side. When Ava reached the trader he turned around in surprise. Some words were exchanged, as well as some coins. When Ava returned, she helped Asher pick up Marcus on their shoulders. With him walking on his good leg, they helped him get in the back of the traders wagon. "He is going to take us to the next town." Ava told them. "From there we can rest the night and find a way to this guild of yours." Marcus nodded his head, the pain too much for him to speak. Squeezing his shoulder for comfort, Ava went to the front of the wagon to sit next to the trader.

Asher climbed in next to Marcus, staring outside the back as they left the city. She roamed her eyes over each stone they passed as if to memorize every detail of the city. She had a feeling this would be the last time she would see the city she had come to call home. "Things are never going to be the same will they?" She said heavily.

"No girl,” Marcus said gravelly. "I am afraid not."

The End

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