Tara could feel stares as she made her way down the alley toward the Vanisher's Guild house. She wished she had gotten a cape from Sarn. The new clothes weren't as loose as hers normally were. She quickened her pace, eyeing the walls for a small opening. Shuffling behind her made her stop, her pulse quickening. The shuffling stopped with her. She started moving again, hearing the noise pick back up. Not daring to look over her shoulder, she started running down the alley. She could just make out the opening up ahead when a person slammed into her from behind. She cried out before his hand clamped over her mouth. They both hit the ground with a thud. Tara elbowed her attacker hard in the stomach, making his grip on her weaken. She crawled a few feet down the alley before he threw himself on top of her.
"Come on pretty. Just want a little fun.." The smell of alcohol on his breath nearly made her nauseas.
"Get off me, you filthy animal." She growled, digging her elbow into his ribs again. He grunted in pain, twisting her arm painfully behind her. Tara winced. He laughed as he ran his hand up her side from her hip to her chest. She shuddered.
"I got me a pretty--" His words were cut off as he was lifted off of her. Tara pressed her body close to the wall as the man was thrown farther down the alley.
"Have you got nothing better to do than terrorize pretty girls in my area?" Tara recognized the angry voice immediately. She glanced behind her to see Del fuming. He twirled a dagger in his right hand, his eyes narrowed as the drunken man struggled to his feet.
"I don't know who the hell you are, but I found her." He stumbled back to Tara, grabbing her arm and jerking her to her feet. "And she's mine for the taking." Del moved so fast only Tara knew what was happening. In seconds, he was behind the drunk, one arm wrapped around his neck and his dagger embedded in his back. Tara stepped to the side as the man dropped to his knees. Only then did Del pull his weapon out, pushing the dead man to the ground.
"Are you alright?" Del wiped the blood on a cloth he pulled from his pocket. Tara eyed the man for a moment, until she was certain he was not part of the King's men. She nodded, a wry smile as she looked up at her friend.
"It's been a while since I saw you in action, Del." She chuckled as his eyes widened. He raised an eyebrow and he reached up and took a strand of her hair in his hand. He opened his mouth to speak, but she reached up and put a finger on his lips. "No names. I need to hide." Del's muscles tightened, but he nodded a quick nod. He took Tara's hand and escorted her through the opening in the alley. Once inside, he shifted a piece of wood, making the opening invisible to those who didn't know where it was.
"What?!" Del roared, making Tara flinch slightly. His eyes flashed a deep purple as he stared at Tara.
"Calm down, Del!"
"Malas, the most corrupt magician in this area, is trying to capture my best friend, and you want me to be calm?" He paced back and forth. Tara was laid across his chair, her legs dangling over the arm. She sighed.
"I just have to figure out why he wants me so bad. Hopefully, the scout won't recognize me now." Del chuckled, looking her over again.
"It took me a minute." He smirked. "Though, you do look more like a woman now." He ducked as Tara threw a pillow at him. He walked over to the chair, leaning over the back of it. He watched her closely. "You said that one of the men had a crystal around his neck?"
"Yes. The taller one, Grodan. I thought it might be something of importance." Del nodded.
"I'll have to get information from some contacts around here, as well as down in Danshun. That's where Malas was prior to Andon appointing him advisor. The crystal could be a way for Malas to see what this Grodan sees, but..there are a plethora of other possibilites." Tara shuddered slightly, and Del placed a finger under her chin to lift her head. "Tara, I'm not going to let anything happen to you. You have my word." She stared into his eyes for several minutes before nodding. "Good, now go get in bed."