The first thing Sam felt when he tumbled out of the darkness of the portal was his elbow slamming directly into the ground. His relief was at the fact that at least the wind didn't get knocked out of him for once and that his glasses didn't shatter to pieces. Pushing himself off the ground, Sam dusted himself off while rubbing his tender elbow and looked around. All around him were people -- more like, beings.
Big and small shuffled around him, some garbed in heavy looking cloaks while others walked around in attire straight out of a fashion maganize. A group of feminiate creatures wandered toward him, giggling as they did while their tails swished from side to side as they moved, multicolored fur glistening in the sunlight. Sam watched them go, green eyes widen with awe as an elderly man with dark, ashen skin walked past with a small beast perched on his shoulder that snapped at him as he shuffled away. Everywhere he looked there were creatures, shops and sights. He felt nothing but pure joy.
"Sam! Over here!
Turning quickly, Sam saw Lilli a few feet away waving at him as he dodged around a large horned man with a goofy grin spread across his entire face, "You promise me this isn't a dream, right?"
Lilli arched a brow at him, obvious amusement glittering in her dark blue eyes. Gently, she took his hand in her own and shook it so his entire arm wobbled, "It's not a dream. But you are shaking. ..you really are like a little kid." Sam opened his mouth in attempt to make a retort but the blonds gentle smile told him enough that she was just teasing him. Letting him go, Lilli turned away and began to wander down the sidewalk, waving to those who greeted her as she passed. Sam followed closely behind, bowing his head respectfully as he passed his gaze darting in every direction.
The street was lined with shops, some squished between two larger buildings while others took up entire street corners. Many of the signs were written in languages Sam couldn't even comprehend; many of them strange looking symbols while others appeared in hasty scribbles. The rows of windows of every storefront held something different and as they walked, Sam tried to get a glance at them all. Weapons and tomes and hanging, dried plants decorated one doorway where a young woman was sweeping dust while cheerfully singing to herself while others had the curtains drawn or decrepit looking body parts out on display. Sam shuddered as he passed and glanced at Lilli who finally stopped in front of a neat and tidy store front where a bulky suit of armor stood in the sunlight, the afternoon glare reflecting off its rusting surface.
"Raz, are you awake?" Lilli asked, arms crossed.
Sam blinked and looked around them then at the armor in front of the shop door. Who was she -- "Yeah, yeah, dear, I'm awake." a raspy voice replied, coughing loudly as the sound echoed around them.
"Lovely! I'm here on behalf of Cyarocya. She was supposed to be picking up her soulbound blade today, but I, Lillisandra Almastris, will be picking up the order in her stead." Lilli eplained.
The voice cleared its throat and with a squeal, the suit of armor shifted its helmet to stare directly at the pair. Sam jumped back with a cry of surprise as the rest of the armor began to move with a shudder as if it were shaking the rust off its limbs, "And does Krevudd know you're coming in her stead?"
Sam jumped back a hair in shock, looking over the armor. Half rusted and clearly dated, the metal moved in wide, shuddering sweeps as a gentle glow shimmered between the separation of plate. Having only read about magical creatures, Sam wracked his brain for an answer to the animated piece of metal but couldn't find an appropriate name for the apparition. Lilli and stepped between him and the armor, standing to her full height, "Krevudd has never had a problem with me picking up Cyarocya's orders. You can ask him yourself, if you want to risk your job little pixie."
The voice within the armor gulped and with a squeak its helmet shifted from side to side before stepping away from the door, "Fine, fine. You better not tell anyone I was givin' you trouble or I'll go and posses your purse lil' Magus."
Lilli smiled sweetly at the armor, tapping it as she passed by. The spot where she touched shimmered, the rust beginning to fade away. Sam followed her, watching in awe. The armor let out a hollar of glee as the two of them disappeared into a well lit store and Sam felt his excitement turn to temporary horror as he dodged around a spear pointed straight at the enterance. Rubbing his neck, Sam gulped nervously as he looked around the rest of the shop. Weapons hung from every corner of the shop; some hung off of the ceiling by thick chains while others sat neatly in glass cases upon velvet cushions. Dangerous looking tomes lined another wall and a set of daggers that seemed to have an eeriee orange glow around them rested on a shelf.
"This is awesome…" Sam breathed, turning every direction he could.
"Krevudd is the best blacksmith in the Underground, and rightfully so. Those daggers over there," Lilli motioned toward the pulsing orange glow, "It's said he had to fight tooth and nail with a dragon to forge those. No one dares ask how much they are worth though." she chuckled, moving past another display that held a thick longsword inside that appeared taller than Sam.
"I guess that's why Cyarocya asks him for stuff?"
"He has a certain specialty that Cyarocya requires for her weapon, that's all." She said quietly, reaching a tidy looking desk in the back corner of the store. Hitting the bell, she stepped back and looked around, "Krevudd! It's Lillisandra. I'm picking up a delivery for Cyarocya."
There was a loud grunt and a large shadow appeared before the figure stepped out into view. The man who appeared reminded Sam of his leathery faced guard from the Board's holding cell; broad in height and length, Krevudd towered over Lilli by at least three feet. A large curly black beard concealed most of his face and busy brows drooped over his green eyes. The only part of him that didn't appear to be covered in hair was his bald, tattooed scalp. Glancing between Lilli and Sam, it took a moment before Kervudd reacted by bursting into a smile and patting his chest, "Well, well, I always enjoy seeing new faces! Who is this you have brought with you today?"
"This is Sam. He's Cyarocya's new assistant, so you'll be seeing him here often." Lilli motioned for Sam to stop forward.
Nodding, Sam stepped toward the burly man and bowed his head slightly, glancing up at the broad, bearded man, "H-hey, I'm Sam. ..Nice to meet you."
"It is nice to be meeting you too Sam!" Krevudd chorlted and turned back to Lilli, "I am thinking you are picking up the darling today, mm? She was quite a handful this time but I was able to be making the repairs." he added, lifting up a thick, metal box to hand to Lilli. She took it, frowning slightly.
"She always is picky, isn't she? Just like her master though. But I guess that's why Cyarocya is able to use her so well." she replied quietly, turning on her heel, "As usual, Cyarocya will see to your payment and we will call you when your services are required."
"That is the making of the deal. Also, boy," Krevudd waved to Sam with a grin, "When Lady Cyarocya sees that you are ready for the killing, I will make you special weapon. It will be very good!" he began to laugh in a booming tone as Sam followed Lilli outside feeling apprehensive. The magic barrier must have been working well if the blacksmith wasn't able to sense that he was a human. To think he could kill… Just the thought sent a shiver down his spine!
Stepping outside, past Raz's suit of armor that had grown quiet since they had gone inside, Sam looked at Lilli who was holding her phone, flicking through screens with a nod," At least our major chore is done. If we go up the block from here and loop back around we can stop for lunch and be home before Cyarocya begins to miss us too much. How about it Sam?" the blond woman inquired, turning toward the male with a small tilt of her head.
"You lead, I'll follow." was his reply. At that, the two of them made their way up the sidewalk.
Stopping in various shops, Sam talked to Lilli about every little thing he could imagine. He questioned her about every herb they inspected when they stopped in a small alchemy shop and what languages were written in some of the tomes he inspected at a scholars bookshop. When they waited outside a small clothes boutique, he asked about her cell phone and what other technology the Underground had and failed at hiding his surprise when she told him about her proficiancy with computers. Even Lilli was able to ask him about his life outside of the Underground. Walking beside him, holding a haldful of bags, she laughed when he mentioned his mountain home.
"That sounds actually incredible. Living so deep in the mountains. I'm sure Cyarocya had a good time admiring the views. I wish I could have gone with her." she chimed dreamily.
"I don't really see her as the 'wilderness' enjoying type, but maybe if they let me out of this place I'll take you." he replied with a small smile.
"Don't think of this place like a prison so much and perhaps you'll get pardoned early. Humans aren't exactly the most respected in this world but that doesn't mean you're going to be treated like a monster." Lilli mentioned, adjusting her grip with a small sigh, "You'll prove your worth and you'll earn your rights. We all had to do it at some point."
Sam glanced at her and the sad look that clouded her expression for a moment before she rounded the street corner with a happy sigh, "And here we finally are! You'll love this bakery. It's got the most amazing brunch and even better sweets! You can pick something to bring home with us. I have to bring those little cakes home for Cyarocya anyway…"
Sam couldn't help a snort as Lilli continued to gush about the bakery. The closer they got to the busy storefront, the more excited he could tell that Lilli was. She was pratically jumping out of her skin when they entered the bakery. Behind the counter, a thin male with dark hair and tanned skin was taking orders from a gaggle of girls who all giggled when he looked in their direction. Looking up when the door jingled merrily, he blinked at Lilli and Sam and then looked at the girls and proceeded to walk around the counter toward the assistants.
"Hello Damon! The usual table for two this time, please." Lilli sung excitedly, waving to the man.
"There is someone here for you. They are from the Board. Do you still want the usual…?"
Sam looked at Lilli as her expression from ecstatic to grave. Lowering her waving hand, she looked up at Damon, "Who is it?" she asked, lowering his voice to a whisper.
"It is Lady Maerria. She was holding something when she came back. I figured it was important. She has only been waiting a couple minutes. ..I will bring you your lunch once you are settled." Damon replied in a low tone before turning back to the counter and walking away.
Lilli sighed and turned to Sam, chuckling weakly, "Looks like our day off has expired. Work is always calling."
Sam could only nod and follow Lilli out a side door to a small outdoor patio to a table tucked under the awning where a young woman with dark hair that shimmered green when the sunlight caught it. They both stopped and looked at the girl who peeked up at them from the cup of coffee set before her. She smiled, though to Sam it almost looked apologetic and sad and didn't reach her amber gaze.
"Lillisandra. I apologize for ruining your day off. It looks like the two of you had fun…" the dark haired girl said quietly, picking up the coffee and sipping from it.
"Lady Maerria. ..you remeber Sam from his Trial, I'm assuming." Lilli greeted stiffly, sitting in front of her. Sam took a seat from a nearby table and sat beside her, swallowing hard.
This girl, who didn't look any older than Sam, was from the Board. She had particpiated in his sentancing. It took his every fiber of will to not throw a fit and he swallowed the bile that rose in his throat, "Yes, I remember. I could tell that he was not guilty. Though the rest of my fellow judges are set in their ways and still hold onto their old predjudices. I apologize on their behalf, though I know it cannot forgive their behavior."
Sam swallowed again, trying to fight the urge to be angry. He wanted to accept Maerria's apology. Her words seemed sincere and her expression matched the serverity of her confession and yet his fury still churned hot in his stomach. Under the table he clenched his fist in attempt to calm himself down. Sam suddenly felt another hand cover his own and he glanced at Lilli who wasn't even looking at him. Taking a deep breath, he nodded and picked his words carefully.
"Thank you, but, I can't really accept your apology. Not right now at least. Maybe one of these days…"
Maerria watched Sam as he spoke and she bowed her head in response, "I understand. But now that you are assistant Cyarocya, I hope you will listen carefully to my request." Sam nodded and looked at Lilli who made a motion for Maerria to continue, "As you know, there is someone who is attempting to smuggle dangerous weapons into the Underground. I believe we have found someone who has been supplied with a weapon of a more magical sort; a spell to steal souls."
Sam felt his blood run cold as the hand around his fist tightened and he shot Lilli a look of worry but her face remained static, "You're talking about high level necromany. Those spells have been banned for hundreds of years -- locked away even!"
"Lower your voice Lillisandra. But yes, you're correct. Which is why I am here to request Cyarocya's assistance." Maerria continued, taking a folder out of a bag and sliding it across the table, "We think we have found the person who is in possesion of the spell. Everything you and Cyarocya will need is in the file. Please read it over. I know Cyarocya usually likes to determine if the job is worthy enough on her own but…"
"I won't make a judgement call on this sort of this my Lady. You are indeed correct though; Cy is very picky about what sort of jobs she takes," Lilli dared, picking up a tea cup as Damon came outside with a pot, “I will be sure to bring it to her as soon as we see ourselves home. In the meantime, I think we would like to continue with our afternoon, wouldn’t you Sam?”
Lilli glanced at him, her free hand sliding the file toward herself. Sam nodded slowly, looking at Maerria’s crestfallen expression. She hesitated a moment before nodding and standing up, “I understand when I am no longer welcome. Please at least allow me to pay for your meal. I do wish you both have a lovely shopping trip.” The Judge finished, walking past the table with a shadowed expression before she left. As if she were a balloon, Lilli suddenly deflated with a puff of air as she slid a fraction in her seat.
“Oh geez, this is going to be quite a busy evening…” Lilli murmured to herself, waving at Damon as he set down a plate of cakes beside the teapot.
“Is this the sort of thing that happens a lot with you?” Sam dared to ask, hesitating picking up a cake from the tray as his companion nodded.
“Yes, yes; all the time actually. It’s a little bothering when it’s random strangers seeking our help but when it’s the Board or one of the Judges…” She trailed off, gaze flicking away from him, “It’s no matter. It’s still up to Cyarocya. There’s a reason why she’s the boss.” At that, Lilli sat up in her seat, and piled her plate with cakes and tarts and began to devour them. Sam felt a wave of amusement come over him as he watched her.
With only idle chatter filling the silence between them, the two left the bakery with another set of boxes in their arms and walked back to the plaza from where they entered. Muttering quietly, Lilli opened another gaping portal in front of them. This time Sam felt a little more confident as he stepped through beside Lilli, ignoring the awkward lurch that his body felt as he was dragged through the darkness. Stumbling out into the living room, he ignored the tingle of his limbs and the flips his stomach was performing as he set his bags down with a sigh of relief. Looking over at Lilli, he couldn't help but notice the shadow of worry still hanging over her expression as she sat herself in the nearest chair. Her eyes were cast down and faraway, as if she were looking at an invisible stain in the carpet. He understood her worry, even if he hadn't understood the entirety of the situation she'd been presented with.
"You're back already? I didn't expect you both until nightfall." Cyarocya's voice cut through the silence as both of them looked toward the demon woman. She appeared relaxed as she looked over at Lilli, completely ignoring Sam, until her brow crinkled at the dark emotion swirling through her face. Cyarocya narrowed her exposed eye and crossed her arms, "What happened?"
Lilli shifted in her seat in hesitation before she reached into one of their bags to pick up the file. Holding it out to Cyarocya, she paused before explaining what had transpired over lunch, "I'm sure she understands the process of requesting your assistance but this seemed urgent enough that you would understand. She even spoke about it in front of Sam so it must be of import --"
"Lilli. Your respect for my rules is admirable. ..your decision making in this situation is more impressive," Cyarocya finally said after staying silent throughout Lilli's recollection, “I will see further information Maerria has for me. I'm sure there is something she was keeping from you. Or that she wasn't able to speak about in public…" Cyarocya muttered, thrusting the file into the hands of Sam with a growl, "Here."
"Wha-me?" Sam blubbered in confusion, gripping the file tightly when it was shoved into his hands.
"There's no way the Board, or myself for that matter, would allow you to stay on the sidelines unsupervised. If this is a real mission, you're going to have to do some studying, you worthless ingrate." Cyarocya jeered irritably as she turned on her heel, heels clicking as she walked down the hall.
"Not by choice!"
Sam's throat suddenly felt dry as he looked at Lilli who only shrugged despite the concern that blurred her normally bright, blue gaze. His heart thudded in his chest, but Sam couldn't tell if it was excitement or fear that coursed through his. He gripped the folder tighter and looked down at it. My first job… And it's probably the most dangerous thing that could have happened too!