Lady assassin is hired to retrieve the daughter of a priest from her captivity in a well to do brothel. Expect sex and violence.
It was always the same. No matter the place in the world, no matter the job, it always began in a similar fashion: in a tavern or a temple. The location was always different, but their purpose was the same nonetheless.
The pub was loud and busy, as most were at such an hour. There were thirty or forty men at least, mostly townsfolk: farmers, butchers and the lot with only a few scattered soldiers telling their drunken tales of battles and wars gone by. Maiden’s Keep was the name, at least if the wooden sign hanging over the door could be trusted.
“I cannot ask you to complete this journey with me. It will be far more difficult than anything I’ve asked of you before.” Miri stated plainly, making certain to meet the gaze of her companions with her steel grey eyes. “Once it begins, you cannot fail me; you cannot turn back and once done it cannot be undone. You understand this, both of you?” Miri spoke in the common tongue of her people, the Ithowi.
“Save your breath Miri. We go together or not at all. That has always been the way of it, and that is the way of it still.” Kara spoke into the darkness. “We are here and we are going.” Her green eyes sparkled in the starlight against her pale, freckled skin. Kara was as brave as any, but it was not Kara she was worried about.
“And you Hazirah?” Miri spoke to the third and youngest of her group.
“I am yours Miri, you know that. Where you go, I go.” Hazirah said on a voice just above a whisper. She was devout, this one.
“You are no one’s but your own Hazirah, from now until the end of days. Are you certain of this?” Miri chided.
“I am. You will not change my mind.” Miri simply nodded at her response. She did not imagine she could persuade either woman to leave her to this task alone, even if she had no need of them. They had peered deep into her eyes, both of them, and had not come back wanting. Her two companions never left her, not for long. Lifetime after lifetime, she would always find them, or they her.
“Well then, let us find the daughter of the priest that we are being so well paid to locate.” The payment mattered little to Miri. She only cared for two things: justice and vengeance.
Miri’s band of three walked meekly into the tavern, not at all surprised by the sudden hush that fell at their entrance. This was not unusual whenever the three arrived in some place new. Three women not accompanied by any man, often garnered attention, mostly the unwanted type. That would suit them well this night.
“We’ll have wine and a meal if you have it.” Kara spoke in her native tongue. This was, after all, the great Western Kingdom from whence she came. Kara was tall, lean and strong. At nearly six feet, she definitely stood apart from the brood, but was not at all hard on one’s gaze. Her long, bright-red hair tied in a high bun, with feathers of her silken curls, cascading lazily down her neck. Her green eyes were bright and playful, perfectly framed on her heart shaped face, sprinkled with red freckles that made her look soft and feminine, if her size did not. Kara’s dress was lavender and all in lace. She wore it well, as if she were born in such a dress. In truth, she nearly was, being nobly born to a knight and Lady of royal blood.
“A lady should not be out alone at night, it isn’t safe.” One woman worked up the nerve to say only part of what everyone else was thinking.
“That is true, we are a bit lost I’m afraid. I was hoping to find boarding and a meal for the night until we could be pointed in the right direction,” Kara spoke just loud enough to be overheard. “Though I’d hoped to find an establishment better suited to my station.” She was well aware that reminding others of their lower class was no way to make friends in villages such as these, but Kara was in no mind to make friends.
“Now,” Kara began again, unlacing her purse from her belt and dropping it on the table so that the coins clanged loudly together, “Is there not a servant willing to feed my companions and I?”
“That I will, Love”, a portly older woman responded. Her brown hair was tied in a knot at the base of her neck, making the plumpness of her cheeks all the more evident. “The name’s Lyella, but most calls me Ella. This is my place and I serve both Lord and peasant in my tavern, and all that fall between, so long as they have a purse and a thirst.” The woman said pleasantly enough.
“We have both, if it suits you.” Kara said with a gentle smile, and a much gentler tone. Her good breeding was showing.
“It suits me fine dear one, and gods bless you for it. Just so happens I got ducks turning over the fire just now, with onions and potatoes straight from my garden. That should fill you right well.”
“You are most kind” Kara responded.
No sooner than the lady of the tavern stalked off and barked at her boy to serve the wine, did the tavern return to life. The three women still garnered glares from all over the room, but it was expected. Strangers were most often regarded with suspicion, where ever in the world they traveled. This place, however, seemed overly glad for such strange company at such strange hours.
“You have yet to say why we are here. This does not seem like what we are looking for. This is no more than an average tavern, with below average wine.” Hazirah murmured into her glass, knowing full well a place so small could not well hide a missing girl for long.
“Patience Hazirah, the one who seeks us will find us, Kara has made certain of that. Our presence has not gone unnoticed.” Miri stroked the girl’s hair tenderly before reaching down to gently squeeze her hand. Miri had no desire for Hazirah to accompany her here tonight. Her sleep would no doubt be troubled, if it came at all. Her bronzed skin was but a few shades lighter than Miri’s, but enough to show their very different parentage. Hazirah haled from the East, with her deep brown eyes and sleek brown hair that fell bone straight to her waist in a single silken flow. Her silken trousers hung low on her narrow hips and her wrap fell over her center, leaving both sides, from breast to waist, bare, in the tradition of her people, held together around her waist by only a silken scarf.
Miri was something else altogether. She haled from the south, further south than many knew existed, from a land of deserts and hills and plains and grasslands and knowledge and death. She’d seen land upon land. Some were amazed by the deep copper of her complexion, others appalled, and some, hardly even noticed, but it was clear that here in the West, it was a sight unseen by most, especially when seen against the sky blue pools that were her eyes just then. She ran her fingers over the many braids that were intricately patterned against her scalp that let out and a long poof a kinked and twisted hair that hung down to the center of her back. Her breeches were loose cotton that stopped at just above the ankle. Her tunic hung well past her waist and was cinched by the single strap of a leather belt. A V was cut in the front and far lower in the rear, revealing much of her strong shoulders and back down nearly to her waist. The tunic was hooded. These were desert dwellers clothing, the likes of which the Westerners new little of.
“Now that is a very pretty sword you have there Miss. Can you use it?” a small group of curious soldiers had wandered over to their table and stood about gawking. He pointed to the Khopesh hanging from the leather strap of Miri’s leather belt.
“I am sorry ser, but she only speaks the language of her people and I’m afraid she cannot understand you.” Kara answered in her place. “It is a pretty thing though, if only ornamental. According to my father, it was gifted to her by her mother and used only in the dance of the maidens in the palace where she was born. It is quite sharp though. She is well trained in that dance to not sever her own arm while doing it, I say.” Miri only looked on silently.
“Dance of the maidens, you say?” Another of the men asked.
“Oh yes, it is performed on the night that she weds, I am told. She and her servants dance the Maiden’s dance for her new husband before consummating their bond. You must understand, my dear Miri is a princess in her home land. My father is kindly fostering Princess Miri in our home, to learn the courtly ways of the West before she weds and takes a Prince.” Kara blathered on like the proper witless girl she pretended to be. It would serve her purpose.
“And this other? Also a ward of your father?? He asked kindly.
“A hand maiden to the princess, of course ser. No proper princess goes far without a servant, not even one from the savage lands. It wouldn’t be fitting at all for a lady of her standing now would it?”
“Yes, you are quite right Miss. It is a wonder your father let you three travel alone, the roads can be dangerous.” Another man offered his opinion. The crowd around them was growing with kindly onlookers.
“That wasn’t our intention at all. This was meant only to be a bit of a ride, but my Hazirah is not much on a horse. She lost control of her steed and we had to chase her for miles through the woods before we could catch her.”Kara frowned. “We traveled a road that I thought led to home, but that was two days ago, and I am still quite lost. I can’t say that I’ve ever been so far away from my father’s land.”
“Oh you poor dear” Ella said as she pushed through to refill their goblets. “If my daughter were lost I’d be in shambles. Your father must have a party out searching for you by now. Don’t you worry sweet love. We’ll keep you safe and warm here until they do. You can have my word.”
“You are too kind.” Kara smiled sweetly.
It did not take entirely long for the food to be brought to their table. It was a single bird, roasted well with large chunks of potato and onion. The night waned on long and slow. The locals grew weary of watching the three strange women eat and drink quietly and the tavern began to empty.
“We’ve got beds upstairs girls, and don’t you even think to pull a coin from that pretty purse. You are my guest until your father finds you. We’ll send word that we’ve a lost Lady, and her Princess boarding here, and he’ll find you right off. ” Ella said, retrieving the remains from their meal with a kindly smile. Her sweet words quieted Hazirah’s disease. They were certainly in the right place.
“Your kindness will be rewarded tenfold, I am sure. I will see to it.” Kara smiled.
It did not take them long to settle onto the large mattress in the room they were given. There was naught but a lantern on a wooden stand and no windows. It was cozy enough, but sparse.
“You did well Kara,” Miri began “but this is where the tides will turn. It is too late to retreat.”
Hazirah blew out the candle and the room was illuminated only by soft copper glow of Miri’s sword and the accompanying copper glow of her eyes. It only dimmed when she let them slide shut.