Afien’s Howl Extra – Kateti & Her Rangers Part 2
- Shotput of Power - ready to launch.
- Antis - ready to launch.
- The Mist Thief - First draft writing.
- Forged in Magic - structural edits
- Wandless - plotting.
- Forbs - 3rd draft rewrites.
- The Stars of the North - that's a secret...
Walking across the cobbled pathways of the city, the ranger watched their surroundings curiously. The capital of Sizael was busy, bustling with an energy she hadn’t expected to see so soon after the druids leaders had been killed by their own plot and the Deabition, Boxien. The pirates were walking confidently again – almost on the verge of being in hiding at the end of Alfendyr’s reign; the ranger could see several strutting around trying to sell recently gained loot. Lucky Rodaki’s spits, thought Kateti, Anyone else steals and it’s theft. Them? Legal loot. Stupid legal things. Why can’t there be legal protection for rangers? “Roberyt?”
“Has Nathaniel Galen woken from his coma yet?”
“Not that I’ve heard. I believe Kenton is doing his best though, why?”
“Nathaniel would pass a law or an act or something for the protection of rangers, right? He was pro-Reputable Assassin Laws after all.”
“Maybe, if someone came up with a good explanation to why rangers should be protected and how to prevent druids from exploiting it.”
“What about a registry? Like with assassins?”
“What’s to stop a druid getting on it?”
“I don’t know. He’s the Elite Sorcerer. He should figure it out for me. His job is to help citizens of Sizael Kingdom!”
“Kateti, stop being a child,” warned Roberyt, quickly buying two apples from a fruit stall next to them. He handed a green one to the ranger. “He’s very unlikely to wake up – it’s a magic induced coma.”
“But he’s an Elite. He has to wake up.”
“In the event no Elites remain to govern Sizael, their advisors are legally entitled to take over the Elite Sorcerer Coalition’s responsibilities, and recruit new magic-users to assist them. Kenton Anders will be in charge, being the only one alive and all.”
“He will be too distracted to do anything. He likes to study useless things, like how magic particles are formed in sorcerers’ lungs.”
“I don’t find that useless, being a sorcerer…” Kateti chose to start eating her apple, mostly because she couldn’t think of a good comeback. Roberyt huffed from his nose at her silence, then pointed towards a nearby building with a new paint job. “That’s where he’s waiting. Come on.”
“Why my guild?” Kateti glanced at Roberyt, waiting for his answer. They were in the Pesky Pirate Inn, the newest inn in Caften City, and run by a retired pirate captain called Rhonda. She and her patrons were paying no mind to those sitting nearest the door with the human, Hanjour Rouche. The Unreputable Assassin didn’t have the tall stature of his famed cousin, Shane Rouche, only just reaching five foot eight. His tanned skin was marked by spots he had pinched at some point in the past, and his eyebrows were distractingly bushy. He wore commonly available cotton clothing with the buttons made from bone. For his meeting with Roberyt, he had opted to wear a blue shirt with cuffs and a collar, paired with black trousers and boots. The boots, like those of many successful assassins, were scuffed at the curved toes. The most distracting thing for Kateti when she viewed the older man though, was not the eyebrows, spot scars or the greasy short black hair that reach his ears, but the wide gap between his two upper front teeth.
“Why shouldn’t I ask the Unreputable Rouche Assassins? Must a sorcerer’s guild always be expected to go to your cousin?” Hanjour frowned.
“Shane is methodical, silent and cleans up nicely, but my guild can terrorise better, not to mention spill a lot of blood everywhere just because we can. We want the work too, we’re not as fussy. So, why us for you?” parried Hanjour, his voice thick with a Deabition accent. Roberyt glanced at Kateti. She shrugged, smiling slightly.
“I hear your guild has an eighty-seven percent success rate, and your rates are affordable for me.”
“One of the best success rates for an Unreputable Assassin guild, I’ll have you know,” grinned Hanjour. He scratched at the unkempt stubble at his jaw. “Who’s the target?”
“It’s a rival sorcerer, Adair Ragnar. He’s causing problems in Swelithi City, for the knights and for my guild. He’s-” Hanjour waved a hand to quieten the anubian.
“I don’t care why. You came to an Unreputable Assassins registered guild.” Hanjour rolled his eyes, before grinning at Kateti. “I wish Shane and Uncle Seamus had chosen, ‘Questionable’ instead of that Rodaki’s spitting word. I have a solid reputation.” He gave a shrug. “My reputation is I and my guild don’t care, but we get it done. Now, Roberyt, did you need it done quickly?” Roberyt nodded. “Did you want it to be an obvious assassination?”
“A public one would help the knights out quite a bit.”
“Are you setting up a distraction for the knights? I take it you’re not technically here on their behalf.”
“I am here more for my own,” admitted Roberyt. “But no, there’s no distraction planned. Kateti here is a ranger. Perhaps she can help you.” Kateti punched Roberyt’s furred shoulder, but with the depth of his long fur, she suspected it was gentler than she had intended. He turned his snout towards her and stared at her in response, ears flattening against his skull.
“I’m not part of this at all, Hanjour,” stated Kateti firmly. The assassin shrugged.
“Fair dos. You realise your ears have been on view since we sat down?” Kateti glared at Roberyt.
“I warned you it was tiring,” he stated, giving a shrug. The ranger made a point of sighing loudly.
“Ok, so your lovely friend’s help aside,” stated Hanjour, “This is a little expensive. You’re paying for an assassination, at the public rate, plus an in-guild distraction, guild preparation, and a timeframe of less than a week. No cleanup. Anything else?”
“Can you escort Kateti to Swelithi while you’re at it?”
“Considering the time we’ve got to get ready, we’ll go by two return envelopes, which you’ll pay for – the Lemoriens recently introduced a new ward across the Sizaeling-Lemorien Border Wall – it prevents magic transportation when you don’t carry a ward seal, which they’ll give us at one of the gates.”
“How much?” asked Roberyt bluntly. Hanjour shrugged.
“All those pieces of the puzzle, plus my assassins’ hourly rates… one thousand and six hundred siz, and no, I don’t take rens, and yes, I take fifty percent deposit now.”
“Why’dya think he was gonna give you – rens?” asked Kateti, leaning forwards slightly at the table.
“His accent is Lemorien, and he said Swelithi, and I already know his guild. I’ve done work for Roberyt’s brother before.”
“Hm. That explains the recommendation,” muttered Roberyt. “I came with siz.” Hanjour and Kateti frowned, viewing the anubian’s body curiously.
“But you don’t have pockets, unless anubians have pouches like kangaroos,” said Kateti. Roberyt smiled at the two of them, his jaw opening wide to mimic the smiles humans and jateri would give. He showed a hand so that the padding on it (where a human would have a palm) faced the ceiling. More blue and purple magic motes blinked into existence around his hand, and slowly, a coin bag appeared on his hand. He gave it to the assassin. “I should have known,” sighed Kateti. “So, Hanjour, when do we leave?”
“In an hour. Come with me, sweet girl. Roberyt, would you like a lift? The return envelopes will take you too, assuming you’re not super heavy, but you look thin enough, even with your fur.”
“I am not a sweet anything.”
“I promise you, she’s got a tongue on her that can make milk curdle. I need to go to Sizael Palace and see if I can get an audience with Kenton Anders. I’m hoping I can assist him in helping Nathaniel out of his coma with my magic somehow.” Hanjour shrugged.
“Just us, Kateti! And three of my other assassins, but I guess we’ll just have to make do.” The assassin stood up, smiling at the ranger. “Let’s go… Roberyt, it was nice doing business with you. One of my assassins will collect the final payment once the work is complete, or I will. Depends on my mood.”
Kateti led the way out of the inn, but hesitated once on the cobbled pathway outside. Hanjour’s silent steps brought him to stand beside her, and he gave her a grin. “This way,” he said, pointing to the right. They fell into step beside each other, neither feeling inclined to move out of the way of others. “How are you finding being a ranger?” Kateti frowned. “Well, you can’t be a druid. Most of us don’t know much about them, so I could be wrong, but you’re mingling. Druids don’t mingle. They kidnap and steal.”
“Is that really how druids are looked upon by you non-druids?”
“It’s my opinion, from observation,” replied Hanjour with a small shrug. “Am I wrong?”
“Those are the main things druids do when they enter settlements,” admitted the ranger. She frowned, then tugged on Hanjour’s dark blue cloak, which he hadn’t been wearing in the inn but instead had had folded on his lap under the table.
“Why are assassins so cloak-happy?”
“It can help hide who we are from behind. A big part of being an assassin is getting away with murder.” Kateti rolled her eyes.
“I would imagine that’s in the job description. Hanjour, how long have you been an assassin?”
“Most of my life,” he replied. “My cousin and I were the children of respected, though not overly famous, assassins. They were based in Lemora in those days. My father was purposefully what we call nowadays an Unreputable Assassin, and his guild followed his example. My uncle was essentially a Reputable Assassin. His little band of men too. My cousin and his father created the Assassin Laws, did you know? We were all listed of course, and certified by our guilds, but they have done much to change the profession for the better. We’re not all fighting one another for scraps.”
“How many people have you killed?” Hanjour’s footfalls faltered, and he took to leaning against the wall of a gentlemen’s club they were beside. He viewed Kateti quietly for a moment, brown eyes twitching side to side as they watched the ranger’s eyes.
“Enough to be a master,” he said in a quiet voice. Kateti watched as Hanjour stepped into the gentlemen’s club. He had sounded tired all of a sudden as he spoke. Was that something you didn’t ask an assassin? The door was just starting to swing shut, when its movements paused, and Hanjour peeked out at her. “Get in here.”
Kateti stayed quiet as Hanjour led the way through several small round tables. Unlike the few men dotted around the dark room of the club, Hanjour paid no attention to the three women serving drinks in skimpy tops and shorts, and nor did he pay any attention whatsoever to the three bouncers and the two women wearing nothing as they jiggled around on stage. The ranger’s neck, chest and ears flushed when she caught sight of the dancers, and opted to keep her eyes firmly on the assassin. He led her through a guarded doorway to the right of the bar, and then another door on the right beyond that.
She blinked hurriedly at the well-lit, small room that greeted her. The room was lined with a few shelves, but most were empty. One, however, had a few stacks of various papers on them. The centre of the room was occupied by a dark wooden desk and two chairs. Hanjour gestured for her to sit down, which she did, blinking up at a floating blue orb of light above the desk. “I had a sorcerer friend put that in,” stated Hanjour, taking the seat opposite her. He repositioned his cloak, but kept it on this time. “He refills it with magic particles every few days. I have to keep the window boarded up for my clients’ privacy.” He glanced at the spot where the shelves were.
“What are we doing here?”
“This is my guild headquarters – the whole club. Many assassin guilds own at least one property – my family firmly believes in buying properties that can pay for themselves, and their assassins should we see a decrease in assassinations.” A smile crept to Hanjour’s face. “And watching the ladies, knowing full well they’re assassins, makes our customers very happy. I have been trying to get some rangers in though, if you’re interested. It turns out our customers want rangers. We did a survey.” He gave a shrug, but the smile was still present.
“Well, the offer stays.” A woman stepped into the room. She loitered behind Kateti. The ranger turned to view her, partly because the woman was so close that she could smell she was an anubian, and partly because she didn’t like it when people took to standing behind her; she couldn’t watch them from there.
“Everything ok, Mr. Rouche?”
“Everything is going smoothly, Aleera. Go and grab whoever is due for the next two contracts, and take them to the back room. You and they are going to Lemora with Kateti and me. We have a nice public contract.”
“The full works,” assured Hanjour. “Kateti and I need to do some paperwork for insurance purposes first, so give us about ten minutes or so.”
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