Monday, July 11, 2011

Ch12: Beautiful Woman Hunter

The next town came into view at about thirty miles.  At least that’s what Azzen figured by how much time had passed.  The sun had risen eight fingers above the horizon, which should come out to about two hours, and he knew that with the training he’d gotten at the Master’s, he could run at Olympic class speeds for long distances.  Fel was even faster, but she kept pace with the slower boy.
    The gates of the city weren’t as massive as the ones in the first city had been.  Fel explained that they were headed away from the Human capitol.  Towns farther away would gradually become smaller and more rural.
    “So what are we gonna do here?” Azzen asked.  “Money and connections again?”
    They had successfully burnt the bridge to their last connection, but Azzen didn’t mention it.
    “Yah,” Fel said.  “But first, you need sleepy powdah.”
    “You go berserko again en iono ‘ow to stop you.”
    “Oh yeah.  Right.  I guess that’s a good idea.  Where do we get it.”
    “Magic shop.  Not cheap.  Need money.  No steal from magic man.  Bad juju.”
    Azzen was glad to hear they wouldn’t be stealing.
    “So where to we get money?”
    “Steal, borrow, or work.  Same same everywhere.”
    “I vote for work.”
    “You lame.”
    “Where can we get a job?”
    “NahNah.  We find a score.”
    “What’s a score?”
    “Score big.  Make bank.  Always a score to be found in a city.”
    Azzen didn’t argue.  He figured they’d figure something out.  For some reason, he found it hard to worry about anything when he was with Fel.  Maybe it’s because he already had what he wanted.  He wondered if Fel felt the same way.
    “I doubt it,” he muttered to himself.
    “Nothing.  So do you have something in mind, or are we just gonna wing it?”
    “Well we use our skills,” Fel said.  “We can fight.  I can steal.  I can be pretty.  You make good servant.  I can catch animal.  Whatever somebody want, we can do.”
    “Oh,” Azzen said.  “So we’re whores.”
    “I’m no whore.  Yousa whore.  I’ya entrepreneur.”
    Azzen smiled.  “Businessmen.  Whores.  Same thing.  We should call ourselves something.  Make us official.”
    “Naw.  You crazy.”
    “How about The Runners.”
    “Sound like delivery service.”
    “The Temple Deserters?”
    “Already taken.  Buncha witches.”
    “The Tree Smashers,”
    “We a drug ring?”
    “The Troll Killers?
    “The Master’s Kids.”
    “Too amateur.”
    “How about The Crazy Catgirl and her Doonkah Doofah.”
    Fel stopped in her tracks.
    “Azzennnnn?” she said sweetly.  “What have I told you about calling me crazyyyy?”
    Azzen kept walking.  “You aint told me nothing.  But it seems like every time I do, you totally flip-”
    Azzen’s head exploded.  At least, that’s what it seemed like from his perspective.  Fire enveloped him and he flew forward onto his face.
    He could smell burning hair and flesh.  He rubbed the back of his head and groaned.
    “Owwwwwww…” he whined.
    “Ehhya.  Not bad,” Fel said as she casually strolled by the boy who was still on the ground.  “You’re still awake.  We add new skill you have.  You can take a hit.”
    She stood in front of him and winked while offering a hand up.
    Azzen grumbled unintelligibly as he took her hand.  Fel pulled him forward fast.  There was a glint of light and Fel pressed one of her knives against the boy’s neck.
    “Azzoh.  Don’t call me crazy.  Yahokay?”
    Fel laughed maniacally.
    “I swear you do this on purpose,” Azzen muttered.
    “YOU GOT SOMETHIN TO SAY, PUNK?” the catgirl shouted.
    “I SAID YOU’RE CRAZY!” Azzen shouted back, surprising her.  He swatted the knife aside and took off, sprinting away towards the city.
    “YOU BETTER RUN!!” Fel shouted after him. ~I had kicked his ass so many times at that point that I was trying to figure out better ways to freak him out.~
    Azzen was in a full charge, not slowing down to look back and centering his balance ahead of his feet so that he had to keep his speed up or fall forward.
    He knew he wouldn’t get away if Fel chased him.  And as soon as he wondered if she would, he felt the slightest nudge on his shoulder.  His momentum was so high that the little bump was all it took to send him rolling in the dirt.
    “Hehehe,” he heard Fel giggle.  “You so slowww, Azzen.”
    The boy rolled over once, slammed his hands down and popped up in a spin, facing Fel.  The catgirl’s palm was already speeding at his face.  Azzen threw up an arm and knocked her shot off point.  He punched back at her, but Fel casually leaned back out of reach and kicked up at the same time.
    Azzen twisted his body to the side, catching the foot to his thigh, rather than it’s intended target.  As his body turned, he swung another fist at the girl.
    The agile catgirl ducked under the blow and let the blade of her knife slide against the boy’s forearm while she lunged forward in a classic take-down.
    She pinned Azzen in a quick move.  The boy had no idea how to get out of it.
    “You too easy Azzoh.  Just strong, no skill.  You needta learn how to fight.”
    Azzen said nothing.
    “Oh look,” Fel said, looking forward.  “We’re here.”
    Azzen craned his neck to see that they were right next to the city gates.  A couple of guards were eyeing them uncertainly.  Fel flashed them a bright smile and they relaxed.  She got off Azzen and offered him another hand up.
    “I was the best at school,” Azzen grumbled.
    “Noh, you were the best of the Rats,” Fel corrected.  “Rats just brawl.  No know how to fight.  You react good.  You’re fast.  But you don’t know how to fight.  To fight, you use your head.”
    Azzen noticed his arm was leaking.
    “Ow!  Hey!  You cut me??”
    Fel laughed.  “Oh you just now notice?  No brains.  Come on.”
    Azzen inspected his arm.  The cut was long, but not deep.  He decided Fel must have known what she was doing.  Or at least he hoped so.
    Maybe she’s just crazy, he thought to himself.
    The cut didn’t hurt.  Azzen knew it should.  He could feel it, but it didn’t hurt nearly as much as he would have expected it to.  And when he thought about it, the first time Fel hit him, the momentum had sent him flying like he got hit by a train, but he was up and walking just fine.  Something strange was happening to him again, like how he had gained strength really fast.  Fel was right.  These days, he could take a hit.
    The two kids passed by the guards without any hassle.  Azzen wondered why they were even posted there if they weren’t stopping people.  He mentioned it to Fel, and she said, “To keep out Monsters.”
    “Like what?”
    “I don’t know.  Ogres.  Harpies.  Nagas.  That stuff.  The things that don’t communicate so well.  They cause trouble around here.  Only live near Goblin towns.”
    “Oh,” said Azzen.  “Those things can’t talk?”
    He knew a little about mythology, and he knew all those things Fel named were partly humanoid.  And usually in the legends, they were somewhat intelligent.
    “Yah, they talk.  They juss think they bad.  Too stubborn.  Always cause trouble.  Either that or they just don’t care to follow rules.  I don’t know.  No communication.  Nobody tries.”
    “That doesn’t sound right.”
    “Might is right,” said Fel.  “Come this way.  All towns set up same.  Magic shop this way.”
    “Don’t we need to make a ‘score’ first?”
    “We check price first,” said Fel.  She took Azzen’s hand and began walking fast, pulling him with her.  Azzen wasn’t sure why but didn‘t mind holding hands.
    It wasn’t long before they were in a town square similar to the one in the other town.  There was another temple and a fountain with a marble statue in it.  This time the statue was of Luvalla.  Azzen recognized the patron goddess of Violet magic.  She was fluffing her hair and smiling prettily.
    “Temple always there,” said Fel.  “But only in cities.  Towns just have church.  Towns smaller.  Magic district this way.”
    The catgirl pulled Azzen towards a roadway.  As she did, she jerked her thumb in different directions.
    “Weapons and armor, that way.  Food stores, over there.  Theater, down there.  All Human cities this way.  Towns are same, just smaller.  Only village don’t have to be same, but usually are.”
    “That’s weird,” said Azzen.
    “Well villages are so small that they don’t always have everything,” explained Fel.
    “No, it’s weird that all the towns are set up the same,” Azzen expounded.
    “What you mean?”
    “Well you would think that stuff would end up different, you know?”
    “I don’t know… Uh…”
    “Cities aren’t all the same where you come from?” Fel asked.
    “No, not at all,” said Azzen.
    “What??” Fel exclaimed.  “Now THAT’S weird.  How do you know where stuff is?  Doesn’t your king have any sense?”
    “Well, we don’t really have a king.  We just kinda set up the city however we want.”
    “No King?!  How do you have order?  Who makes laws??”
    “Well we have a president.  I guess he’s kinda like a king.  Except we change him every four years.  And we have Mayors and Governors and stuff.  And police.  They’re like guards, I guess.”
    “Oiyohhh.  Change every four years?  No wonder your cities are crazy.  No wonder YOU crazy.  Your whole world must be crazy to be like that.”
    Azzen laughed and agreed with her.  Sometimes things did seem crazy back home.  He was mostly just glad Fel took him seriously about being from another world.  And besides, they had arrived at the shop she was looking for.
    “This one should have,” she said.  “Indigo shop.  Charms.”
    The place was very classy.  Quaint, but comfy.  It reminded Azzen of an antique shop.  There was only one of any item, like each one was special.  And Azzen supposed they all were, considering it was a Magic shop.  He was excited to be here, but ended up being a little disappointed.
    He had expected a magic shop to be full of fantastic things, but this was all just normal stuff.  He was sure that it was all charmed and special, but he didn’t know what any of it did and didn’t want to touch anything.  It just looked like normal candlesticks.  Normal forks.  Normal vases.  Suits of armor, chairs, pillows, towels, pens, feather dusters, bottles, mirrors, a toy rocking horse…  Where was all the cool stuff that he read about in Harry Potter?
    There was nobody in the shop when the two entered.
    “Oi oi oi!” Fel shouted.  “We need sleepy powdah.”
    Nobody answered.
    Azzen spotted an old wicker broom leaning against a wall, he walked over to it and picked it up.
    “Please tell me this flies,” he said to Fel.
    “Better!” a voice said.
    Azzen turned to see a bespeckled man tromping down a spiral staircase in the corner of the shop and carrying an urn.  He looked fairly normal, except that he was a little pinker than usual and his nose was slightly upturned, reminding Azzen of a pig.
    “Forgive me, I was having my lunch.  That broom right there will has the special attribute of reducing the intelligence of whoever‘s holding it.”
    “Really?” Azzen asked.  He didn’t feel any stupider.
    “Apparently,” laughed Fel.
    The older man smiled.  “Nah, it’s just a regular old broom.  Now, you said sleeping powder?  It’s one silv a gram.  ‘ow much you want?”
    “Whaaa??” Fel gasped. “Ohyoosa johkstah fahshoh.”
    The man chuckled.  “’ellwe candall maykuh livin bein honess.  Mosly rich brats comminin.  ‘ow bout tree cops.”
    “Eh, nomoney. Chweewanna maykuh deal.”
    The old man raised an eyebrow.  “Oh?  What kind of deal?”
    “I donnooo…” Fel said with a smile.  “Whatchu need?”
    “I need money,” the man said flatly.  “Though I suppose you could do some chores for a few hours if you just need one gram.”
    “Noh, we need a lot more.  Nuff to knock this one out,” Fel said, gesturing towards Azzen.
    “Oh?” the man said.  “Not for recreation, eh?”
    The man sniffed the air a few times.  “He smells funny,” he said.
    Azzen was a little embarrassed.
    “And he’s bleeding,” the man said, moving towards Azzen.
    “Eh, it happens,” said Fel.
    “Your blood smells funny,” the man muttered coming closer to Azzen.
    The boy backed up a little.  The man was looking at him a little too intently.  It was unsettling.
    “Where are you from?” the man asked.
    “What color are you?” the man asked before Azzen could answer.
    He grabbed Azzen’s bleeding arm and brought it to his piggy nose, taking a long whiff.
    “I don’t…”
    “He doesn’t have a color,” said Fel.  “No magic.  And it doesn’t matter where he’s from.  And unless you’re gonna give us some powder for that sniffin you’re doin, you better back off.”
    Azzen yanked his arm away and backed up.
    The shopkeeper seemed to come to his senses.  “Yes of course.  I didn’t mean to alarm you.  It’s just that your robes are… unusual,” he said eyeing Azzen’s hoodie and jeans.
    “Oh yeah… Uh, my dad was a special clothing maker… or something,” Azzen stumblingly explained.
    Fel rolled her eyes.
    “Look,” she said.  “Whatchu want for whole urn?”
    The man turned his attention back to her.  “The whole thing?”
    He weighed it up and down in one hand, judging how much was in it.
    “I’d say it’s worth about… Five golds, altogether.  But you said you had no money.”  He eyed the catgirl.  “I’m generous.  We could cut that down to three nights.”
    Fel bit her lip, looked down, and then glanced sideways at Azzen.
    Azzen didn’t want to work for three nights, and looked despairingly at Fel, catching her eye.  A brief expression of shame flickered across the catgirl’s face, confusing Azzen, but then she hardened her eyes.
    “Noh,” Fel said flatly.
    “Eh?  Pity.”
    Azzen wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but he was starting to feel uncomfortable around this man.
    “Then you have nothing that I want.  Go away,” the man said and heading back towards the spiral stairwell.
    Fel leaned over to Azzen and whispered in his ear, “No way we’ll earn five golds.  We need to cut a deal.
    Azzen didn’t like him, but they needed that sleeping powder.  He didn’t want to hurt anybody if he went berserk again.
    “I’m Black,” he shouted.  He wasn’t sure why, he mainly just wanted to buy time.
    “Huh?” the man said, stopping to look back at him.
    “My color,” Azzen explained.  “It’s Black.”
    “Noh.  You’re not, boy.  I’ve smelled plenty of Black, and you’re something different…”
    The man seemed to hesitate for a moment.  He looked over at Fel again.
    “Naw,” she spat to the look he gave her.
    “There is… one other thing I might want…” the man said gingerly.
    “What?” Fel asked sternly.
    “Hush Merca, this has nothing to do with you.”
    Fel glared at the man and her hair began to raise.  Azzen saw the slightest light begin to stir in her veins.  He touched her arm to calm her and quickly cut in before there was any incident.
    “What do you want?” he asked.  “And don’t be rude, or you’ll have no business.”
    “I want your blood,” the man said simply.
    Azzen hesitated.  “What do you mean?”
    “Your blood smells funny.  I’m curious.  I want to find out what it is.”
    “Okay…” Azzen said.  “So…”
    The man cut him off.  “I’ll give you a one to three ratio in volume, fill up some urns and I’ll cut your powder and send you on your way.”
    “Fine,” Azzen said.  It sounded simple enough.
    “Wait,” said Fel.
    Azzen looked over at her.
    “You give us some healing cream too.”
    “Yes yes.  Fine.  That’s fine.  Enough to heal the cut.”
    “Plus some on his head,” said Fel.
    The man looked over at Azzen.  The boy shrugged and showed him the back of his head, where Fel had hit him.
    “Fine.  Deal.”
    Fel smiled smugly.
    “Deal,” Azzen agreed.
    The shopkeeper left to go get some urns.  He brought back three.
    “Just fill up as much as you want,“ the man said with a smile.  “All three to get the whole urn.”
    Fel rolled her eyes.  “Yah, let’s kill him,” she said sarcastically.  Got the cream?”
    The man nodded and handed Fel a small jar of what looked like Vaseline.  Fel rubbed some on Azzen’s head to make sure it worked.  Azzen felt the same cooling sensation that occurred when Celeste had healed him, and soon, any residual pain that had been in the back of his mind faded away.
    It seemed simple enough.  Azzen wasn’t sure how much blood he could lose but Fel told him to just go until he felt woozy.  She said he could probably fill up about one urn.  It would have to be enough.
    Azzen let Fel do the honors.  She seemed to enjoy punishing him anyways.
    “Everybody wins,” he muttered as she made the cut.
    He clenched his teeth, preparing for the pain.  But it didn’t hurt more than a scratch.  There was no way she had gone deep enough to pierce an artery.  But to Azzen’s surprise, blood began squirting out of his arm in the rhythmic pumping of his heart.  He got it all over the floor and counter that the urn was on before getting the angle right to catch it in the container.
    It was a slow process.
    “Sooo,,,” Azzen said idly.  “Is this kinda stuff normal here?”
    Fel gave him a warning eye.  Azzen understood.  He shouldn’t advertise how little about this world he knew.  Luckily the shop owner didn’t think anything of it.
    “Nah, not really.  I study blood sometimes, but usually from magical creatures.  Like Dragons, or Pixies.  Unicorns if I can get my hands on it.  You’re actually the first Human I’ve taken samples from.  But you smell like a magical creature, is why I’m interested.  Where did you say you were from?”
    “He’s from Rydell,” Fel said.
    “Hmm, never heard of it.”
    “Small town,” the catgirl said.  “Near the plains.”
    The man grinned at Azzen.  “Guess that explains what you’re doing with her,” he said.
    Azzen didn’t understand the implication.  The man opened his mouth to say more, but then seemed to think better of it and just shook his head.
    “So are you fully Human?” he asked.
    The first urn was nearly filled up.  Azzen answered while the man swapped it out for the second one.
    “Yeah, as far as I know.”
    “How are you feeling?” Fel asked.
    “I’m fine,” Azzen said.  He wasn’t feeling woozy at all.
    “No reptilian ancestry?”
    “Uh… Not that I know of…” Azzen said uncertainly.
    “I’m sorry, I mean no offense,” the man apologized.  “Have you ever been bitten by a Dragon?”
    “Definitely not.”
    “How about a Hydra?”
    “Basilisk?  I know it’s rare, but there are some survivors.”
    “Noh.  Nothing like that.”
    “Why?” Fel asked.
    “Well don’t take this personally, but that’s the closest thing you smell like.  Dragon, that is.  It’s interesting.  You said you were a Black?”
    “Well you don’t smell like one.  You smell like someone with multiple colors, but that‘s extremely rare in Humans.  In any humanoid for that matter.  A Dragon can commonly be two or three colors, some are even four.  That’s what you smell like.  But I can’t pick out which color.  Every time I think I’ve nailed it, I get a whiff of something else.”
    “Weird,” muttered Fel, glancing sideways.
    “Yeah…” agreed Azzen.  He tried not to look excited.  Could this be more proof that he was the chosen one from the prophecy?
    “Now that’s weird,” the man said.
    “Nothing,” he said, swapping out the urn for the last one.  “You should have passed out by now is all.”
    “Oh,” Azzen said.  He felt fine.  His blood was still squirting away.
    “Are you okay?” Fel asked.
    “Yeah, I’m fine.”
    “You sure?”
    “Yeah, I feel great, just heal me if I pass out, I guess.”
    “There’s definitely something special about you,” the man said.
    The three stood in silence for the rest of the time, each lost in their own thoughts while the third urn filled.  When it was done, the man thanked them and handed over the urn of sleeping powder.
    “You earned it,” he said.  “If you want, stop back by sometime and I’ll let you know anything I discover.”
    “Yeah, we might,” Azzen said.
    Fel demanded that they be given some leather pouches to keep the dust in, rather than carrying around the large urn.  The man grudgingly obliged, and they transferred the contents over.  Fel made Azzen stuff most of the pouches into his pockets and kept one for herself.
    “Actually, if you want to earn some money, there’re some experiments I’d like to try out on you,” the man said.  He glanced at Fel and then back at Azzen before adding, “It would only take one night and I could pay you up to three golds.”
    Azzen wasn’t sure about the money value, but he was interested.
    Fel decided before he could speak though.  “NohNah.  We going.  Ahdrehy, orrmah,” she said rudely, then grabbed Azzen’s hand and dragged him out of the shop.
    “Frohpah, aszhmah,” she muttered as they left.
    “What was that?” Azzen asked, not understanding her words.
    “Nothing, that guy was just a jerk.  Come on, let’s get something to eat.  And you should probably drink something too.”

~God, can you believe the nerve of that guy?!  What a fcking pig.  And Azzen’s stupid ass just sits there completely oblivious.  Why is it that some guys are just clueless to subtleties and the guys that aren’t only use it to be complete assholes?  I remember that sometimes I just wanted to scream in Azzen’s face how much of an idiot he was.~

    Azzen agreed and the two headed towards the food area of the city.
    Even though they had gotten what they wanted, Fel seemed to be in a darker mood as the smells of seasoned roasts began to waft through the air.  She wasn’t holding Azzen’s hand anymore.  He tried to catch her eye, but she wouldn’t look at him.
    “What’s on your mind, kitty cat?” he asked out of the blue.
    “Haw?  Nawthing,” she responded, still not looking at him.  Then her ear twitched and she turned to him with a smile.  “So whatchu want to eat?”
    “I don’t care, but we still don’t have any money.”
    “It’s fine, let’s go here,” she said, directing him into a crowded bar.
    “Wait here,” she ordered.
    Azzen stood at the entrance of the rowdy establishment while Fel wedged in-between a group of fellows and disappeared.  He wasn’t sure why Fel picked this place, it looked a lot rougher than anywhere else.  Azzen crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, knowing his clothes made him stand out.  For the first time, he considered finding some local threads to wear.
    It was at least comforting that this city seemed to be mostly Human.  He had noticed that earlier.  While the first city had seemed very eclectic as far as different species, this one was almost entirely Human.  He had mentioned it to Fel earlier and she explained that most Human Cities were this way.  You were allowed to visit if you weren’t Human, but to live here, you would have to get a seldom issued permit.
    Azzen had asked why he had seen so many non-Humans in the other City then.  She said that the segregation laws were left up to the Mayor, and that in the last City, heavy pressure for integration was probably put on the Mayor by the High Priest.  The Temple people were always working for tolerance between races; it was one of their core beliefs.  And with the High Priest living there, he had much more influence than the Mayor, so naturally, the City he resided in would be open to all species.
    But the men in this bar were drunk and rowdy.  Azzen had seen several of them eye Fel hungrily when the two had entered, and even though he couldn’t see the girl, he could hear whistles and catcalls that he was sure must be directed at her.  The word “Pussy” was used in more ways than one.  Azzen would have almost preferred Trolls.
    As soon as the boy thought it, a white Troll ducked in through the door and brushed by Azzen.  The two Trolls Azzen had fought had been green, but this one was powder white and about a foot taller too.  Azzen wondered if that had any significance.
    The bar went quiet.  Loud talk shifted to angry mutters and all eyes turned to the new intruder.  Azzen could smell trouble and moved into the bar to fish out Fel, but when he got into the crowd, she found him and grabbed him by the wrist.
    “Come on,” she said.  “Let’s go.”
    “HEY!” a man shouted.
    “Krish,” Fel cursed quietly.
    Azzen thought it was funny that the man would call his money bag a “purse,” but didn’t think it was so funny when several large armed men began pushing forward through the crowd.
    “Let’s go!” Fel hissed at Azzen.
    The two hurried towards the door.  Azzen bumped into the tall Troll as he passed.  The thing looked down at him and scowled.  Somebody reached out and caught Fel by the arm.
    “LET GO OF ME!” Fel shouted.  She turned and smacked his arm away.
    “Shut up, you thieving little slitch!” the man shouted back.
    “Hey, don’t call her that!” Azzen said, catching the tone.
    The men ignored him.  Fel’s veins began to glow, but Azzen didn’t like their odds.  It seemed like everyone in the bar was turning against them.  Several men blocked off the doorway, and everyone else had their hands on their weapons.
    The perpetrating man reached out to grab the catgirl by the neck.  “Come here, Merca!”
    Fel swatted his hand away and stepped back.  “Don’t touch me!”
    Somebody pushed her hard from behind and the girl sprawled out onto the floor.
    “Strip her down!” a drunk man shouted.  “We’ll get your money back!” he laughed
    “One way or another,” another added.
    Azzen clenched his fists.  His blood was pumping.
    One man lunged forward to pin Fel down, but Azzen quickly shoved him away before he made contact.  Another man ran up to kick the girl while she was on the ground, but without warning, he was suddenly raised high into the air and dangled while he twisted and kicked, confused.
    The man squirmed as he was held up by the wrist, not sure what was going on.  The tall white Troll had plucked him up easily, while casually sipping on a drink with the other hand.
    “There’s no need for that,” the Troll rumbled in a low dangerous tone.
    The bar went quiet again, but Azzen sensed that it was the calm before a storm.
    “Get up, Pria,” the Troll ordered Fel.
    Fel stood up cautiously, keeping her head cast down.  Azzen knew her well enough to know that it wasn’t because she was ashamed.  It was to enhance her peripheral vision.
    “Give the man his money back,” the Troll said.
    “I didn’t take it,” Fel said back.
    Azzen hoped to the gods that she was telling the truth, not that it would help any.
    “Don’t be proud,” the Troll said.  “Give him his money back.”
    Fel looked up at him and glared sharply.
    “Are you stupid??  I told you I didn’t take it!”
    The Troll curled his lip and glared back at her.
    A moment passed and everyone held their breath.  Waiting on the big Troll’s judgment.  The two non-Humans stared each other down in a sort of intense blinking contest.  Finally the Troll lifted his lips into a cruel smile.
    “Then run along… Little Pria.”
    Without warning the Troll hurled the still dangling man hard at the doorway.  He flew so fast that he knocked the other men over and smashed through the entrance.
    There was outrage, and then utter pandemonium.
    Fel flashed the white Troll a quick surprised smile, and darted off before anybody could snag her.  A few men chased after her, but Azzen knew she would get away.  There was no way they would catch her on an open street.  As for himself, the boy was able to slip out through the ruckus.  He was Human and nobody was paying attention to him.  Everybody wanted a piece of the Troll.  The monster had invaded their city and taken away their prize.  They wanted blood.
    Azzen was torn.  The right thing to do would be to stay behind and help the Troll, but after only a few seconds of fighting, it was clear that the Troll wasn’t the one that would need saving.  These men would be lucky to get out with their lives.
    The white Troll swung a heavy long kick and swept aside seven men like rag-dolls.  He punched a man in the chest so hard that he flew back and knocked over three more.
    Any time a man came even close to striking range, the Troll would lash out with his whip-like limbs and slam them aside.  Moving with fluid speed so intense that Azzen’s eyes could barely follow him, this Troll was far more dangerous than the two the boy had encountered.  He roared a horrifying war-cry and seemed to relish in the battle.  Azzen decided he should leave before he got mistaken for an enemy and quietly slipped out.
    It only took a few minutes for Fel to find him.  The boy wandered around the city, back in the direction they had come, and Fel startlingly dropped out of the sky.
    “I’ve been following you on the rooftops,” she said.  “Just been waiting for you to get far enough away from those guys.”
    “Oh, that makes sense,” Azzen said.
    “So what now?”
    “Well it’s still early, but I say we lay low for the day.”
    “Come on,” Fel said smiling and grabbing Azzen’s hand again.  “Let’s go.”
    “Where to?” Azzen asked, allowing himself to be led.
    “Outside.  Inns that allow non-Humans will be right outside the city wall.  We can get some food there.”
    “But we still don’t have any money…”
    The catgirl flashed Azzen and mischievous smile.
    “You didn’t…” Azzen started in disbelief.
    “Don worry so much Azzoh.”
    Azzen sighed.  “You’re unbelievable.”
    “Thankee Azzayyy,” she said smiling.
    “That wasn‘t a compliment, but at least you’re in a good mood,” Azzen muttered.  “Poor Troll.  Hope he doesn’t pay too much for helping out a thief.”
    “Ayyy now.  I no thief.  I’ya entrepreneur.”
    “That doesn’t even make sense this time.”
    “Oh whatevah.  You a Poonah.”
    “I aint no Poonah!  You a Poonah!  What’s a Poonah?”
    Fel laughed and the two joked around until they were out of the city.

That night, Fel’s mood seemed to die down with the sun.  They had spent the day lounging around, enjoying each other’s company.  But come dinner, the catgirl seemed to fall into a sullen mood.
    She stirred the soup that the Inn served, while the two ate at a table near a comfy fireplace.  The stars were coming out and most of the other patrons at the Inn were already in their rooms for the night.
    They ate silently together, listening to the critters of the night.
    “Azzen…” Fel muttered, very softly, like she almost didn’t want to be heard.
    “Yeah?” he replied calmly.
    “Are you mad that I steal?” she asked.
    “I don’t like it.”
    “Do you think that it’s bad?”
    “Yes, Fel.  It is.”
    “Oh…” the catgirl fell silent.
    “You should work for what you have.  Taking somebody’s money is like taking their life away.  You took their hard work.  Anything they did to earn it…  Stealing makes it pointless.”
    Fel said nothing.  She stirred her soup slowly.
    “Do you think that I’m bad?” she asked quietly, looking down.
    Azzen knew that this time, it wasn’t to gain an advantage in peripheral.
    “No,” he said honestly.  “I think you’re amazing.  I’d just like it if you didn’t steal.”
    The boy smiled at her, but the girl didn’t look up.
    “So you like me?”
    “Yes.  Of course.”
    “What if I didn’t just steal…” she said almost inaudibly.  Azzen had to lean in to hear what she was saying.  “…what if I did things that were worse?”
    The girls voice cracked on the last word, like it was difficult to get out.
    Azzen looked at her carefully, studying her downcast face.
    “Fel…  Whatever is on your mind…  People can change.  And I’ll like you no matter what.  It sounds to me like you’re having more trouble liking yourself.”
    Fel kept stirring her soup for a while and then stopped.  She looked up at Azzen with a great big wide smile and laughed.
    “I’m just kidding with you weirdo.  You’re so serious.  You’re wayyy to easy.”
    Azzen smiled back at her.  “Well maybe you’ll never change then.”
    “Damn right I won’t!” Fel said.  “You’re stuck with me this way whether you like it or not!”
    “Yup!” Azzen agreed.  “And you’ll always be crazy.”
    Fel smiled and looked off to the side and her ear twitched.  “Yup,” she said quietly.  “I guess so…”
    Azzen smiled expectantly and then ate some soup casually.
    “WAIT A MINUTE!” Fel shouted.  “WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?!”

Later that night, Azzen nursed his wounds in their room while Fel laid on the single bed.  The cut on his leg wouldn’t stop bleeding.  There was a small lantern in the room that was flickering.
    The catgirl relaxed on her back, on her bed, with her fingers laced together, placed under her head.  She closed her eyes and thought about truths, thought about lies.  What was it that Azzen thought?  What did he want?  What was his prize?
    What did she want?
    “Azzo,” she whispered in the night.
    He had settled on the floor, being polite.
    “Yes, Fel?” he replied
    “You can come sleep here, if you’d like…”
    “That’s alright,” the boy said, not knowing why.
    Azzen drifted off while Fel couldn’t sleep.  She slipped out of bed and curled up next to he.

~I hope you’ve been noticing all these poems I’ve been weaving into the story.  If you haven’t, you better read it again and love me.~

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bleed by E.A. Skanchy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.