Black Sea

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Quick Decisions

The room echoed with a loud smack as the other Black Sea members stood perfectly still and wide-eyed. Tirral had a reputation of being sarcastic but level headed, but the Tirral before them now was lording over a young woman a full head shorter than him, his fist shaking, eyes bugling, and face turned an ugly red as his mouth popped open and closed like gold fish, trying to find words to express his anger.

Conversely, the young woman slowly unfolded herself from the chair so that she was standing prim directly in front of him. Her form fitting black stalker’s outfit perfectly outlined a lithe figure that for all its mature curves, looked childish compared the large, lanky man sputtering at her. A mask hid the lower half of her expression, but her silver eyes blazed and her fine black brows were furrowed as she met his glare.

“Tirral,” she said flatly, “Where’s Ly’on?”

He glared at her in silence for what felt like eternity before settling down into her chair with a groan. He swept his salt flecked hair back out of his eyes, then dug in his pocket and pulled out a steel ring with a dozen or so bronze metal balls threaded through it like beads. Each of the balls had tiny engravings that would be impossible to read without magic.

Ly’a’s confidence waned as he searched through the balls. Finding the one connected to Ly’a’s slave collar, he held it up in front of her, his knuckles white from how hard he clenched onto it.

“This is proof that I own you. No matter where you go, it will suppress your magic when I want it to and force you back to me. If you travel further than five miles from me, it will strangle you dead in the street. This one,” he flicked away her ball and displayed the dull one beside it, “is your brother’s. I don’t know or care how, but you are going to drag his ass in here in an hour or you’re dead.”

Ly’a was taken aback. “What? Why? Where is he?”

Tirral slammed a fist on the crate, smashing the rotted board to splinters and making Ly’a jump.

“WHY DOESN’T MATTER!”

Ly’s shrank back, her brows as high as she could raise them and her hands searching out the hidden blades at her wrists. Tirral noticed and sighed.

“He’s on the Lasarette ambassador’s ship. Our mark was sailing with them, and stupidly, I sent him on board to scout it out. His collar-key went cold not too long after. They must have one of their priests on board. This collar is top dollar, no random priest can break it or take it off, but they can overpower it for a while – at least until their mana runs out. And all too often the Lasarette Emperor is fond of messing around with our… business… on this side of the mountains. I’d as soon not be pulled around by the nose over a slave, however specialized he may be.”

“Ly’on… is being held as a bargaining chip then? By the Lasarattians who were protecting the mark you are trying to kill.” Her voice had shifted from angry to confused.

“To sum it up nicely,” he spat back at her. “Get out. If both of you aren’t back before the hour mark on this candle is reached, I’ll kill both of you. GO!”

Ly’a didn’t sit around to be yelled at further, and instead slinked out of the seedy mercenary base into the night. Her mind was numb as she journeyed down empty alleyways and over rooftops. After their step-father died and had sold them both into slavery in his will, Tirral had purchased both twins with the intent of using them against each other. If Ly’a refused a dangerous heist job, Ly’on was locked in isolation without food, if Ly’on protested killing a mark’s servant because they were a witness, Ly’a would get ten lashes, and so on.

Tirral had to be desperate to even consider asking her to act against her brother’s best interests to defend hers. True, Ly’on was still under someone’s control, but if the two of them were separated, they couldn’t be used against each other anymore.

She was almost tempted to laugh in joy at Tirral’s lapse in judgement, but she didn’t have time to revel. Her feet had reliably carried her not to the docks, but to the garden wall of the merchant Jarwik’s manor. She guessed she only had about forty minutes left, and Tirral hadn’t lifted any of the magic suppression effects of her collar.

“Bright Enos, please let them still be asleep from the dream powder,” she whispered, then climbed over the garden wall and scaled up to the balcony, lurching herself over the wide lipped rail and landing on the balls of her feet. Flipping her long black ponytail back over her shoulder, she crept into the familiar bedroom.

The naked girl on the bed was still present, and joined by the merchant. Lightly checking their pulse and breathing, she felt confident they were still drugged. A servant or guard must have moved their master to his bed. A quick glance in the sitting room confirmed that the other girl has been moved to the sofa, with the help of a blanket to preserve what was left of her modesty.

Ly’a softly shut the door to the sitting room so she’d hear if anyone opened it, then turned her attention to the chest at the foot of the bed. She opened it in record time and swiftly removed the shoes and bottom panel, swiped the bangle, and left as quickly as she came.

Whether or not the merchant knew someone had broken into his rooms no longer mattered to her. In fifteen minutes, dead or alive, she would be free from Tirral.

She dropped down into the garden below and headed for the supply shed. When she had done scouting for this heist, she’d determined it was a good emergency hiding spot because it was empty and unlocked during the night. After all, who would break into a wealthy manor to steal water pails and hedge trimmers? She pushed a cart in front of the door then sat on the dirt floor between the work bench and shelves.

She delicately held up the bangle in front of her to inspect it. The gold of the bangle was dark and worn, but beneath the wear and tear, she could make out the etchings of Old Lyran characters. Her understanding of the language of ancients was weak at best, but her mother had made sure she could at least sound out the characters.

“Baa, Ball, no, that’s not quite right.”

As she muttered to herself, the moonstone opal glimmered with sparks of violet and turquoise light.

“This character is the same as the pause in my and Ly’on’s name isn’t it? So then, Ba’al?”

The moonstone flashed with a bright blue light, making her see spots. She blinked them away, and when her vision cleared two bright blue eyes and a crooked smile met hers.

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